Moving Beyond Perfection

Just Do It

Posted in Uncategorized by Kathy on July 9, 2009

When I first enrolled at Harvard, I also began to stop speaking out in class. Okay, granted, there was one math class that was frustratingly difficult, that I decided to sacrifice myself and ask all the stupid questions for the rest of the class, but the TF was young and Chinese, and I didn’t feel intimidated by him. But in most classes, and especially in classes based on history or reading, I began to stop voicing my opinions altogether. I was constantly worried that I was interpreting the reading incorrectly, or that I had missed some critical detail that everyone else had noticed. The readings assigned were long, and I was never sure of my own opinions anymore. This was quite a contrast from high school, when I always felt comfortable in the classroom.

Initially, I told myself I would start speaking out in class again, once I felt more comfortable with my surroundings. But the longer I remained quiet, the easier it was to stay that way, and the harder it was to raise my hand. In fact, the few times I did raise my hand to say something, I remember feeling my heart beating quickly and my face flushing. I was always worried about saying something stupid.

I became so accustomed to being worried about the accuracy in what I was saying that it became hard for me to speak out during training sessions at my summer internship last year too. I knew I was being evaluated on whether I spoke or not during these training sessions (during Q & A), and yet, I never felt like the questions in my head were good enough. However, I often found myself becoming frustrated when I heard other students asking the same dumb questions that had popped up inside my own head. I guess it turns out my questions weren’t so dumb after all.

This past year, I realized something.

Sometimes, you just need to do it. I love Nike’s slogan. Just Do It.

When I think back on it, I didn’t always speak up in high school either. I only started speaking up in class after I had an epiphany after freshman year that the teachers just weren’t going to notice me in class if I didn’t start talking. I wasn’t one of those kids who had gone to the school since kindergarten. I had moved there just a year ago, and I knew I had to let teachers know who I was. And I knew that studying hard and getting good grades were never going to be enough, so I forced myself to raise my hand and speak. Eventually, speaking out became easier and easier, and teachers began to notice who I was. There were lots of smart kids in my high school. What allowed me to get in Harvard? I’m still not sure yet, but I think a huge part of it was probably just making myself heard in the school.

This summer, I have made myself ask at least one question at each training session during the summer. Just one.

It has seriously helped. It has become easier with each additional question I ask, and I no longer feel flushed when asking questions.

I plan on taking this same approach back at school. I started doing this somewhat last year, but I want to make a conscious effort to make it continue. I’ve also found that it is much easier to speak out in class if you start making it a habit at the beginning of the semester. If you wait too long, then you begin to feel awkward speaking because you never spoke out loud before. I think it’s really important to become more comfortable with speaking in a professional environment because that is the only way other people are going to notice you and want to give you a job in this kind of economy. Although the classroom is not necessarily a professional environment, it is an environment in which you are evaluated by our peers and teacher, and that is a great start to practicing.

So in sum, sometimes you have to just do it. Trust me, telling yourself that you will in the future will not get you anywhere. I’ve told myself this countless times, and it just does not work.

Just Do It :)

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One Response

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  1. gymratfoodie said, on July 13, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    I totally know what you mean.
    I always feel dumb at duke ;p


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