In a recent interview, a guest talked about replacing another volunteer and the difficulties that can come with that. I replaced another volunteer and I remember being told how good they were with languages.
“They were fluent in Jula. They were fluent in Moore. They were fluent in a Fula. They were fluent in French. Why aren’t you?” members of my community would ask.
I was a brand new volunteer who had recently scratched and clawed his way to learning the language. I was proud that I had learned so much French in only three months of training. My community was not impressed.
New volunteers are always judged against the previous volunteer, for better or worse. But you have to remember that if you are a volunteer currently in this position, your community remembers the former volunteer on their last day, two years into service, after two years of learning, struggles, and overcoming obstacles. That’s what you’re being judged against. So, yeah, it is going to be hard for you to compare to someone like that! But that’s OK.
You are on your own journey and path as a volunteer. You are your own person with your own skill set and that’s OK. Don’t worry about the other person that came before.
More importantly than being judged by your community is being judged by yourself.
I suffered from self-judgment a lot during my service and continue to have bouts with self-judgment in life after Peace Corps.
If that negative self-talk has turned up the volume in your head, here is how you can deal with it.
Dealing with Self Doubt
1. Stop and take a moment
Pause. Take a deep breath and proceed to number two.
2. Reflect on where you are, how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished
After you pause, reflect on where you are how you’ve come to be there. Remember the journey you took to get here and all that you’ve accomplished. I know sometimes we will look ahead to all the difficulties in front of us and everything that we’re coming up against, but remember you’ve made it this far so you’re doing something right.
3. Step away
If you need to step away for a few hours, the afternoon, or weekend, allow yourself to be away from your site and reconnect with yourself.
4. Practice self-care
Everyone should cultivate a practice of self-care. Take time for yourself because if you are not functioning at your best mentally, physically, and emotionally you’re not going to be able to provide for your community and the ones you care for. Don’t feel bad about escaping for a weekend to eat pizza, binge-watch TV, read, and relax. Take time for yourself so you can better help others.
5. Don’t suffer in silence
Lastly, connect with others. Lean on your fellow volunteers. They are going through the same stuff as you there’s no one better to understand the self-doubt. Yes, you have your friends and family back home, but they’re not going to truly understand your experience. Lean on your peer groups in whatever environment you find yourself, be it as a volunteer, with your coworkers, and community. Don’t suffer in silence. Whatever it is, whatever you’re going through, don’t do it alone.
More important than the stories we tell others are the stories we tell ourselves. Make sure that they are positive.