I’m not suggesting that you display a lack of humility, bragging about your abilities. That is clearly poor form.
But if you have struggled with self-esteem issues most of your life-if you have honestly felt like you weren’t good at anything-and then evidence begins to mount that suggests that you ARE talented in a certain area, is it okay to accept it? Is it okay to step out of the shadows and say, “Hey, I’m good at something!”?
I think it is…
I have faced this struggle for many years.
As a kid, I was frequently picked on and beat up by the neighborhood bullies, no matter where I lived. It seemed like whenever we moved to a new place, the bully radar would go off, and they would come flocking to my front porch.
When you consider that I went to six different schools between kindergarten and my senior year of high school, there were a lot of bullies who took their turns beating me up. As a result, I always suffered from low self-esteem…
And I never believed that I was good at anything.
This belief persisted throughout my youth and early adulthood, and well into my career as an educator. For the first several years of my career, I was a high school math teacher in Gary, Indiana. My students all liked me well enough, but I never thought my teaching ability was anything special.
Then I started teaching at a university…
What a world of difference that made.
Faculty members at universities are supposed to focus on three things: research, service to the campus community, and teaching. It is the utmost desire (read: requirement) of the university administration that each faculty member be very good to excellent in at least two of these three areas. Since I am not a researcher, I have focused on service and teaching.
Since we are “encouraged” to be very good to excellent in these areas, there are a number of metrics that are used to measure our progress toward these goals. We are evaluated every semester by our students, we are required to submit an annual report to the administration that details all of our service, teaching, and research activities for the past calendar year…
And there are awards…
In 2001, one of my students nominated me for the top university teaching award. I decided not to apply. I didn’t think that I could win. Awards were for the really great teachers…
A dear friend, Dr. Robin Hass, encouraged me to apply. She had won the award previously and was the chair for the teaching committee. She told me that she had heard good things about my teaching. Robin was an exceptional teacher for whom I had an enormous amount of respect. I applied, more out of respect for Robin than because I thought I could win.
I’ll never forget the day that I ran into Robin in the stairwell and she told me that I had won the “Founder’s Day Teaching Award.” I was stunned…I honestly thought that I had no chance to win. And I thought that it was probably a fluke.
But I was grateful.
A year later, I won another teaching award, and a couple of years after that, another. Other faculty members started asking ME if I could observe their classes and write a teaching recommendation letter…even some of the Ph. D.’s! And as I looked at the people who were asking me to write letters for them, I realized that they were people for whom I had a great deal of respect…because they were excellent teachers.
And now, these people that I believed were excellent teachers were asking ME to write THEM letters of recommendation as they applied for other teaching awards, as well as promotion and tenure. Now, I may not be the brightest bulb in the box, but even I could see that there was a connection here: good teachers don’t ask bad teachers to critique their teaching.
So I’m a good teacher…I accept it. And I am grateful for the abilities that God has given me.
And now I seek to serve others through teaching whenever I have the opportunity.
What about you? Do you have a skill, a talent, or a gift that you have never fully shared because you just didn’t think you were really good enough? Are you hiding your abilities from those you might really be able to help because of fear or insecurity?
Keeping our talents to ourselves is selfish…the greatest act of generosity is to give freely, expect nothing in return, and celebrate with the recipient when our gifts are received.
So will you be selfish? Or will you be generous?