The very nature of education suggests that educators dedicate themselves to the success of others. It is the foundation of everything educators do—the extra prep time, the out-of-pocket purchases for our classrooms, the research of new and innovative ideas to better reach students, the near-constant training in technologies we can use to better serve our students. We encourage and nurture our students, giving them our very best.
But, as a result of all of this dedication to others' welfare, we often ignore our own emotional well-being while harshly judging our inability to achieve perfection. As educators, too often we listen to our negative inner voices telling us that we are not good at our jobs if we do not get papers graded on time, that we are failing if we struggle with work/life balance, that we are powerless due to dysfunctional school environments, or even that we are inadequate because we believe we are too fat or too thin. These critical views of ourselves are unhealthy.
I often ask my students if they would ever speak to a friend in the same way they speak to themselves. Likewise, would we as educators ever speak to our students or coworkers in the same way we speak to ourselves? Of course not!
We are often far more gracious to others than we are to ourselves. In Luke 6:31, Jesus says, “‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’” (NIV). While it is important to be kind to others, we must begin to extend that same kindness to ourselves. So, I suggest that educators also “do to ourselves as we would do to others.” And this starts with the way we talk to and about ourselves.
However, positive self-talk doesn’t come naturally for most of us. Changing the way we speak to ourselves on a daily basis requires intentional effort, but it is worth it. We can find encouragement and change the way we talk to ourselves by implementing the following self-affirming practices:
- Start your day by thanking God for something in your life
- Compliment yourself out loud while looking in the mirror
- Spend time in Scripture and allow God’s truth to encourage you
- Give yourself a pep talk, just like you would give a friend in a similar situation
- Ask yourself for forgiveness and actually forgive yourself
- Pray when negative thoughts start to enter your mind
We will be more effective, stronger, and healthier educators, family members, community members, and people of faith if we change the way we talk to and about ourselves. God made each of us in his image and likeness. Cut His perfect design (you) a little slack and be kind to yourself.
Anne Davidson Kusmer is a former high school English teacher and guidance counselor who currently tutors for college entrance exams and coaches writing. Married to Jim for 30 years, she recently became an empty nester. Her youngest two children attend college, while her eldest are enjoying their professional careers. She spends much of her time with her Australian Shepherd, LouLou.
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