*Note: Woman Wednesday is a part of our blog. Each Woman Wednesday post will feature a woman who would like to share information in the hopes of inspiring and motivating other women. Comments are welcome below.
Q and A with Jess, Howard County, Maryland
“If you have a setback in the process of achieving your goals, and you feel as though you’ve failed, take a moment to reflect on why you weren’t successful and what you can do to ensure that you won’t make the same mistake(s) again. Then forgive yourself and get ready for another try. Self-improvement is not an endgame; it is a constant process.”
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I’m passionate about self-improvement in all areas of my life. I am constantly reflecting on how I can become the best possible version of myself, the person that I visualize when I think “this is who I want to be.”
As a third-grade teacher, I am always looking for better ways to engage and instruct my students, whether it’s something small like using a magnifying glass to be “Story Problem Detectives,” or something big, like transforming my classroom into a tropical rainforest, complete with a humidifier and real plants. Every lesson that I teach, I ask myself, “What went well?” and “What could I do differently to make this lesson better?” The book that I’m reading now, “The Wild Card: 7 Steps to an Educator’s Creative Breakthrough,” is a great source of inspiration, and it also provides concrete steps to help me improve my teaching.
I strive for self-improvement in other areas of my life as well. I want to be physically stronger, I want to be more organized, I want to be more financially secure, and I want to be more fearless in pursuit of things that excite me. I’m always working on some part of myself.
It can be hard not to beat myself up when I make mistakes that put me further away from reaching my goals. But it’s something that I’ve been working on a lot lately.
Pictured: Jess in her classroom. She does whatever she can to make learning fun for her students.
Q: What is something valuable you’ve learned that you’d like others to know?
A: Striving for perfection doesn’t work. It’s an absurd amount of pressure to place on yourself, and it’s setting yourself up for failure. You are a human being. You’re not perfect, and you never will be. Perfection is an unattainable goal, and it’s unreasonable to expect it of yourself.
You can, however, always strive for improvement. I personally have started changing my mindset to think “progress, not perfection,” and that has done wonders for my stress level.
I wrote a lot about this in a post about my New Year’s resolutions on my blog, which you can find here if you would like to read it: https://averageadventuress.blogspot.com/2019/01/new-year-new-words.html
Pictured: Jess rock climbing.
Q: What were your younger years like?
A: One of the stories I’ve heard the most about my childhood is the one that my dad likes to tell: When I was about three years old, my family was getting ready to leave the house (we may have been going out to dinner or to the park, that’s the part that no one really remembers). I was sent upstairs to get my shoes. After several minutes, my dad hollered up the stairs that if I didn’t come back down with my shoes soon, I would be left behind. No response from three-year-old me. He came up the stairs to investigate, and there I was, on the floor of my room, silent tears streaming down my face as I fiercely struggled to tie my own shoelaces.
I like to say that this story sums up two of my three main personality traits: stubbornly independent (to the point of pigheadedness at times) and a perfectionist, holding myself to high standards (sometimes impossibly high). This simultaneously drives my desire for self-improvement and makes me very anxious.
Pictured: Jess at the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.
My third main personality trait: I’ve always been an introvert. As a kid, I remember feeling tortured every time my parents made me order my own food at a restaurant or introduce myself to someone new. Speaking to strangers was the absolute bane of my childhood existence.
I started playing the violin in 3rd grade, but I was hands-down the quietest in the entire orchestra until high school when the director decided he was going to bring me out of my shell. Throughout my four years of high school, he pushed me to take on leadership roles within the orchestra, and he even tutored me during the summer (to the point that I became concertmaster of the orchestra and played a solo in the spring concert my senior year). This was something beyond unthinkable to my ninth-grade self.
That one teacher had such a profound impact on my life. The confidence I found in orchestra spilled over into other areas of my life. It also cemented my desire to become a teacher. I want to do for students what my high school orchestra director did for me.
I’m still an introvert. I’m still stubbornly independent. And I’m still a perfectionist. I think these things are the anchors of who I am. But I’ve found ways to make these traits work for me, rather than allowing them to be obstacles between me and my goals; I’m turning them into strengths.
Pictured: Jess playing kronum (a hybrid sport of soccer, handball, and basketball, played on a circular field with 4 goals).
Q: What would you like others to learn from your story?
A: To become the person who you want to be, you must make a plan; it’s not just going to happen on its own. I start with the big goals I want to achieve, and I look for small steps to get me closer to achieving that goal, one step at a time.
For example, reducing the amount of trash I send to the landfills is one of the big goals that I’m working on. Small steps toward this goal include using reusable grocery bags and produce bags, using reusable water bottles and coffee cups, and saying “no” to freebies that I don’t need. As I master each “baby step,” I move on to another small goal. Big changes don’t happen all at once; the small changes add up to big change.
If you have a setback in the process of achieving your goals, and you feel as though you’ve failed, take a moment to reflect on why you weren’t successful and what you can do to ensure that you won’t make the same mistake again. Then forgive yourself and get ready for another try. Self-improvement is not an endgame; it is a constant process.
Pictured: Jess during her recent skydiving adventure.
Pictured: Jess surrounded by Legos in Copenhagen, Denmark.
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