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      This week many families are packing up their cars and driving their kids off to college. Younger students are buying school supplies. Stores are filled with fall fashion sporting rich autumn colors and warm fabrics. We notice the days are getting shorter and the nights are cooler.

   Whether you have children in school, are a teacher, or simply reflecting back on your own academic history, September represents a new start, a new beginning, a new year. Getting all “A’s” was everyone’s dream, if not goal. We began the new school year filled with excitement and a renewed sense of energy and commitment to academic achievement. We would try harder, study more, and be less distracted.

     Academically all “A’s” represents perfection. While no longer in a classroom, we adults may still have a strict “inner teacher” that constantly evaluates and criticizes everything from our complexion to our cooking to our careers. That relentless inner teacher often pushes us to impossible perfection and then, not surprisingly, our lives become stressful and unmanageable. Getting “A’s” in our adult life is not about perfection. It is about satisfaction. Rather than spending time obsessing over what is wrong with us, let’s shift to evaluating how we can bring a deeper sense of satisfaction into our lives.

       Attention – Are you receiving caring, compassion and concern? When someone pays attention to us in positive ways, it reinforces our sense of value. It lets us know we are on the right track.

       Acceptance – Is there a place in your life where you feel affirmed for who you are and know that whatever you say and feel is okay? Acceptance affords us a different experience than having to “walk on egg shells.” Rather than being self-conscious and restricted in our expression, when we are accepted, we feel a freedom to be ourselves. When we are free to be ourselves, silly and spontaneous or introspective and philosophical, we are more creative, more spiritual and more authentic.

       Appreciation – Are you appreciated in ways that include praise, compliments and pats on the back? Appreciation tells us that our contribution has meaning to others. It acknowledges that our behavior and our effort have valued.

       Assertion – Are you in relationships where you feel free to express your needs? Many of us find it difficult to express our needs in a clear assertive way. Are we in relationships where assertion is reciprocated or is aggression or passivity the more typical mode of expression? In healthy relationships, we feel free to share our feelings without fear of retribution. In any relationship, it is vital to ask for, and express clearly, what it is we are feeling and what it is we need. Without this kind of communication, relationships begin to unravel and eventually crumble.

       Affection – Affection is more than the physical gestures of touching. It also includes gentle play, non-sarcastic humor, loving acts and gentleness. We express affection through greeting cards, e-mails, phone calls and flowers as well as hugs and caresses.  Affection is not just conveyed through our human connection, it is also a large part of our relationship with our animalcompanions. Research has shown that the simple act of petting your dog or cat can be helpful to your health in many ways.

 As you consider the “A’s” in your life do so without judgment or negativity. While the “A’s” are about our relationship with others, they are also, and more importantly, about our relationship with ourselves. Be a loving, patient self-teacher and a kind grader to yourself and watch the steady improvement in your self esteem and confidence. Be aware of your needs and make a conscious commitment to bring more “A’s” into your life. Also take a moment to feel grateful for the “A’s” that already exist.

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One Comment

  1. Dawn on the 21. Aug, 2011 remarked #

    This particular post is so timely for me this week as I return to my classroom to prepare for the opening of school. You would think after 30 years of teaching I would be kinder to myself and not create anxiety about building the best classroom environment, the best lessons, being the superior teacher. But here I am again. I need to reflect on your “A’s” and focus on me. Wish me luck!

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