Last week a seasoned minister I admire greatly asked me, “Where did you learn to put yourself and your work out there like you do?” He described my approach as confident without being arrogant, and then he used the J word: he said was jealous.
I was knocked back on my heels. While I was gratified to hear my presence characterized this way, I had no idea how to answer the question. After some silence and sputters, I replied that my output is the result of constantly wrestling with my crises of confidence.
It was an honest answer. I am a perfectionist by nature, and I am terrified of failing or being misinterpreted. (Actually, allowing myself to be seen at all, even at my best, takes a lot of prayer and deep breathing.) But upon reflection, I realized my response was a very incomplete one. My work and I, such as we are, are the product of many forces. I have two parents who have encouraged me relentlessly my whole life. I have a spouse who supports me consistently, prodding me to pursue the whims of the Spirit. I have a community of clergywomen – including my coachees – who show me every day what excellence in ministry looks like. I have mentor coaches who help me think through complex situations. I’ve had teachers and ministers and lay leaders galore who have shaped me and cheered me on. I have doctors who help me keep my anxiety in check. I have barre instructors who strengthen my body and toughen me mentally.
(I acknowledge that my network of people, access to good healthcare, and ability to take advantage of an admittedly bourgeois exercise routine are largely thanks to the systems and institutions I benefit from. So my colleague’s out-of-the-blue question was an opportunity to remember that as a person of privilege, it’s on me to work against inequities perpetuated by these same entities.)
In my own heart and mind, there are some personality quirks that affect the way I interact with the world beyond me. As an extreme internal processor, I don’t put anything out in the world until I have worked on it for a while. I have a stubborn streak that won’t let me quit, for good or for ill. And my love for my work and my belief in the power of clergy and congregations to do much-needed good drive my will and my creativity on a daily basis.
So yes, I do daily battle with my self-perception, but it’s really all these other factors that allow the persona you see – however you feel about her – to emerge. Thanks, friend, for the prompt to reflect and be grateful and for the reminder of my responsibility to push for opportunities for others.