Fear is an inevitable part of the human experience, and our fears are often amplified when we find ourselves in unfamiliarity and discomfort; for example, starting your first ever Co-op term. Having feigned a brave front during my job search, I breathed a sigh of relief when I fortunately landed the Communications Assistant position at SFU Public Square. However, that relief was short lived as I edged closer to my first day at work. New fears dawned upon me – predominantly a fear of incompetency.
Did I exaggerate my capabilities? Will they think I’m a disappointing hire? These were some of the questions that plagued my mind when I first stepped into the office. The fears worsened as I started to learn about my expected workflow, and I wondered if I was out of my depth.
Now here I am, writing this blog nearing the end of my Co-op term; having survived my doubts and fears. Hence, I would like to share some pompously-titled contemplations and realizations that made this feat possible, which will hopefully help you survive your own personal journey.
After some pondering, I eventually realized that the root of my fears was often fertilized by my ingrained habit of comparison. Starting my first Co-op term at the age of 23, I was comparatively later than my peers, who’ve by now gained much more experience, and achievements than me. I felt like I was lagging behind in an arbitrary lifelong race of success. This generated a great sense of insecurity for me, and deeply contributed toward my feelings of worthlessness. I often wished that I was more like them.
However, it was after listening to a quote from an interview with artist, Lizzy McAlpine, that I realized the toxicity and vanity of such thinking. The more I fixated on comparison, the more I hindered myself. After liberating myself from comparison and quitting this imagined race, I’ve come to realize that we all have varying intersections of circumstances and situations that have brought us to our current path; and as Lizzy said, “Everyone’s on their own path.”
Related to this, my mentioned habit of comparison was also fueled by my unhealthy sense of pride and ego. I insecurely urged to be acknowledged, recognized and respected. Though some sense of competition is beneficial to improvement, too much of it ironically limits you. Viewing everyone as competition hindered me from learning from others, and most importantly obstructed teamwork. I was hired to join a team after all! I eventually realized it was this prideful antagonization of others, that would ultimately render me incompetent. In fact, easing up my ego led me to the wonderous possibilities of being inspired by others. I learned to constructively admire the success and creativity of others, allow myself to be inspired and appreciative. Which then enabled me to implement these inspirations into my own work, to cultivate and generate my own imagination and successes.
On the note of pride, I (and many others) am often worried about coming off silly or awkward. However, let’s not forget that we are all human, and to me, to be human is to be wonderfully flawed. It’s what makes us relatable to each other. Mistakes are the cornerstone of growth and progress, so we shouldn’t fear it, but instead embrace it. Making mistakes means that we are trying, and often, others are too busy with their own burdens to even care about your awkward moments. Therefore, speak up and share your thoughts, and brave the feedback! When you do, more possibilities and opportunities will open for you.