Paul McGee’s excellent session at the UCISA Support Services Conference highlighted one of the challenges of dealing with the inner critic. As Paul (the SUMO guy) pointed out, we each spend a lot of time thinking and asking ourselves questions as we go about our daily business. Those thoughts and questions can be positive but equally they can introduce self doubt and anxiety – your inner critic.
The session reminded me of a time when I had been invited to do some work at another institution whilst working at City University. The institution concerned had carried out internal reviews of each of the sections of their Business Systems Department – what they wanted me to do was to act as an external assessor, to look at each review to see if there were any lessons learned, interview members of the department, discuss the department’s performance with members of senior university management and deliver an overall report back to the head of department and those senior managers.
It was a department pretty much like my own. The processes and services offered were like our own. But when I opened the file containing the reviews, my inner critic came to the fore. “You can’t do this” it said. “You don’t know what to do. Why on earth did they pick you”? Not really positive thoughts. These thoughts went round and round in my head for what was probably five minutes. I was reading the words on the page but they weren’t going in. Then I stopped. Had my own SUMO moment. Shut Up Move On. Deep breath. “Idiot – of course you can do it. They’ve invited you here for your expertise. They value your opinions. There is nothing here that you don’t know about from your own organisation”.
Deep breath. Back to the first page. Big change. The words made sense, I was picking out themes, identifying risks, recognising good practice. I carried out the interviews with confidence, reviewed the information with the senior management and delivered my report. Even found some nuggets to take back to my own institution. Of course I could do it. I just had to give myself a bit of a talking to first…