Give Yourself Permission to Be in Charge
As a very shy person who prefers to blend into the background, it wasn’t until the fall of my freshman year that I considered making my thoughts known. I’m still shy, but I went from someone who just did what they had to do and spoke up as little as possible, to someone who takes the lead in a variety of ways. I mentor an amazing team in CM120: Publication Practicum, edit for The Compass, write for this blog, and more. Four years ago, I never thought I’d be in the place I am now. While I’m not saying I’ve suddenly become an extrovert, I have become a more confident, ambitious, self-assured person. And now, I want to offer some words to those who may be too afraid to speak up and do things they care about.
Things changed a lot for me when I signed up for Publication Practicum in the fall of my freshman year, which is a course where students are tasked with maintaining a lifestyle magazine, Loco Mag. Every student must make a tangible contribution, whether it be through writing articles, running Loco Mag’s social media accounts, or organizing events. Every week, we pitched content ideas, edited each other’s work, and most importantly, formed interpersonal connections that strengthen the quality of the magazine.
That was absolutely terrifying to me at first, but slowly, the editor-in-chief at the time, Kate Jock, would instill confidence in me by asking questions, easing my concerns about my content, and giving me responsibilities to show that I could handle more than I thought. I ended up loving the class so much that I signed up every single semester of my college career. Loco Mag fulfilled a need I never knew I had: the need to make a cool thing with people I cared about deeply.
Showing up is the hardest part, and it’s easier said than done, but once you try something out at least once, it gets easier and easier. I was able to dive in because of Michael Dwyer, my advisor and the professor of CM120, who urged me to take the class and do cool things around campus. I was interested in getting engaged, but my anxiety prevented me from becoming involved in the campus community. In retrospect, I cannot stress enough the importance of talking to people. Don’t want to talk to your advisor? Talk to a professor who interests you. Tell them about your goals and hopes and worries. Professors are an incredible resource with a wealth of knowledge not only in your area of study, but in leadership and the Arcadia community. Don’t get me wrong. Meeting with Michael is always anxiety-inducing, but it’s always such a fruitful experience that it’s worth the initial anxiety.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received actually came from Michael, when I was in the throes of imposter syndrome about leading Loco Mag as editor-in-chief. He told me: “Give yourself permission to be in charge.” People weren’t seeing me as the meek, anxious girl who never knew what was going on. People simply saw me as the one giving them stuff to do, and before I became editor-in-chief, I was just someone who’d write stuff sometimes. Realizing that everything wasn’t as big of a deal as I thought it would be, that people didn’t care about my flaws as much as I did, and that I should simply seize the opportunities I wanted, has been the hardest thing I’ve had to learn. I write things I’m not sure anyone is going to read, but I do it because I care about what I have to say (and it certainly helps on a resume). I’m not perfect, and I still falter when I teach the class and have piles of unpublished work, but I chalk up every successful class and published article as a little win.
Not every responsibility has to be a big thing, either – volunteer at your local animal shelter, or start going to club meetings and speak up. When you take on responsibility, though, it’s very easy to do too much. What helped me was setting healthy boundaries so I wouldn’t get burned out and resentful of my work and the people around me. I try not to talk about Loco Mag work when I hang out with my friends. When the semester started, I told the board members of the club I run social media for that I didn’t have any time to attend meetings and plan events. Setting up those boundaries ahead of time helped me enforce them later. What helped me was enforcing those boundaries right from the start.
It’s not easy to get there, but change is gradual and doesn’t have to be linear. The important part is taking advantage of the resources available to you and understanding that giving yourself permission to be in charge is both responsibility to others and above all, the ability to take charge of your own life.