My leadership experience this year was characterized by several difficulties. I experienced health complications throughout my 6 weeks, as my long term disability was acting up, which took time out of my already tight schedule. Furthermore, I often struggled with meeting my own standards for productivity and perfection of product. Altogether, I was feeling unproductive and the resulting frustration often led me to work for more hours than required by the programme, desperately trying to reach my own standards and scared that I might otherwise be perceived as lazy. I think I even started to forget why I found my project meaningful, so caught up in trying to do a good job that I lost touch with why I was doing it in the first place.
Talking to my ALS group helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one struggling with feelings of poor performance and they reminded me that I did actually get a lot of things done during the day. Being locked up inside due to the pandemic can quickly make one lose track of time and of completed tasks. I had to adjust my pacing while I worked as well as change what I usually do to organize to help establish a sense of normalcy and time. I was also advised to try and relax a bit, which is definitely advice I have received before but never really taken to heart. I have always had a slight overdependence on outside approval and the sweet relief of a job well done and relaxation doesn’t really give me either. Because of this, relaxation has never been as tempting a reward as completing a task. This is something I still have to work on, but this summer has helped realize the scope of the problem and that it is something I should take more seriously.
This summer has been important for my development of self-leadership skills, as I have been forced to learn how to enforce work-life boundaries and how to take a break. My discussions with my ALS group has introduced me to new views on perfectionism and productivity, and made me realize that working yourself half to death is not doing your best. Sometimes you need to stop working, and remember why what you are doing is important in the first place.
In a lot of ways, I think this perspective shift came exactly at the right time. Sometimes being an “overachiever” also means you’re not receptive to other people’s understanding of how and when you should work. It is difficult to assimilate these ideas into your own behavior. I guess the combination of quarantine and summer holiday forced me to re-evaluate my relationship with achievement, and being a part of the Laidlaw scholarship as well as the ALS groups, which added a more personal level, encouraged me to see my academic development from a new light.
I am extremely grateful to the Laidlaw Foundation and to Lord Laidlaw for giving me this amazing opportunity.