I hate to fail. And it’s not just that, I don’t even like to look like I don’t know what I’m doing, regardless of what it might be. School, hobbies, any sort of physical endeavor- if I’m not a superstar right out of the gate, then I don’t like to participate. There are lots of reasons this is the case. 1. I’m the first born of four children. 2. My father was a first generation immigrant with very high expectations of what his children would accomplish. 3. I showed some natural talent when I was young in both academics and athletics which made both pretty easy for me. 4. I was never taught a growth mindset and instead lived most of my life with a very fixed mindset approach to learning.
When you combine all these factors, it’s the ideal environment for creating a perfectionist with a larger than life impostor syndrome complex. And that is exactly what happened with me. I have spent most of my life pleasing people and going the extra mile ALL THE TIME to keep anyone from finding out that the real Betsy isn’t the superwoman she projects. The real Betsy wants desperately to be able to put herself out there and try new things, even if it means she might look silly or not be great out of the gate, but fear of being found out a fraud holds her back.
As many of you know, that whole superwoman thing is really, really exhausting and after I graduated from vet school and finished my internship the fatigue was starting to take a significant toll on my health and well-being. Fortunately, one of my dear friends and mentors is Dr. Kathy Ruby, one of the founders of the Veterinary Leadership Experience curriculum. She invited me to participate in the event in 2005 and my whole world was rocked (in a good and positive way). I suppose the rest is history as I have attended every VLE since then, first as a facilitator and now as the Executive Director of the Veterinary Leadership Institute.
I wish that I could say that my years of involvement with the VLE and VLI have erased all my superwoman tendencies, but even as the Executive Director of the VLI, I still hate to fail. If I’m not careful, I can very quickly slip into perfectionism and people pleasing. I avoid being authentic (something that requires a willingness to be vulnerable- but this is a topic for another post) and I stop taking risks. Essentially, I play it safe so I can continue to look like I have it all together. Oh, I can talk the talk, for sure, but it is much harder to walk the walk.
Thus, you can imagine how I responded when some students started asking me to take part in one of the evening actives at VLE- Karaoke Night. Remember the beginning of this post- not only do I hate to fail but I also don’t like to look like I don’t know what I am doing. So, I’m sure you have guessed that there is no way in H-E-double toothpicks I would EVER do karaoke. First, I am not a singer. Two, as a non-singer I would NEVER stand up in front of people and sing. Three, I am not a singer. I got out of it for a couple days with various excuses, but as time went on and my own self-awareness grew, I realized that I had to do it. I had to put my money where my mouth was. I was nervous, no, I was scared out of my ever-lovin’ mind but I did it anyway. The “I hate to fail, superwoman Betsy” got up on stage, fumbled with the lyrics, was saved in large part by her incredible back up dancers, but channeled her inner Vanilla Ice and had a ball. It was what my husband would call “awfulsome” or that cross between something that feels awful in the beginning but ends up being an awesome experience.
Here’s the key- I really had fun. So much fun, in fact, that I got up on stage and did it AGAIN the next year. Was my performance Grammy worthy? No. Were talent scouts knocking down my door and telling me to leave veterinary medicine so I could become the next rap star? Of course not!! Did my less than perfect performance lead others to think any less of me? Actually, just the opposite happened. Did I learn that putting myself out there and being vulnerable in a safe environment in front of my peers was a positive thing to do and not something to fear? Absolutely.
Because of moment’s like this, I will always be the VLI’s number 1 fan. VLE pushed me out of my comfort zone and into growth for which I will be forever grateful.