Sophie Johnson writes:

A brief article examining our desire to change and the resistance with which this is met by the people who know us. Why it’s often best to move on than to stay stuck in one (safe) place.

Yesterday I attended my daughter’s primary school Maypole dancing day. My daughter (I’ll be honest) is one of the more challenging members of her class. This is because she often seems to be doing the opposite of what her teacher is asking her to do. Not necessarily because she means to be naughty. She’s just often in her own little world and doesn’t immediately hear or register what is required of her in the classroom. For the Maypole dancing she was paired up with a boy who is unintentionally disruptive at school. He, too, doesn’t automatically understand how one ‘should’ behave at school.

The interesting thing about the Maypole dance is that my daughter and her partner DID NOTHING WRONG. They did everything right. However, the teacher, who is so accustomed to them doing the opposite of what she wants, stopped the dance halfway through and said that the pair were facing the wrong way.

I looked at all the children. They were all facing the same way. I was confused. I thought perhaps some were supposed to face one direction and some meant to face the opposite direction.

But all of them were facing the same way. The teacher took a while to realise this. She had stopped the dance because she assumed that my daughter and her partner had got it wrong. Perhaps they had got it wrong every time in rehearsals, so the teacher could not believe her eyes when they got it right on the day.

No harm done. Teacher apologised. Everybody carried on.

But if this assumption about these two children continues for long into their education, to what extent will it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? How often will these pupils hear that they never get it right before it becomes so ingrained in their psyche that they believe that whatever they do it will always be wrong?

And what about this tipping point when they have literally turned it around and got it right, but their teacher still perceives them to be wrong?

It’s like being new to a job. You are invariably going to make mistakes if you are going to learn and improve. But what about when you’ve moved on to another level of ability and you don’t make those mistakes any more – will your boss and your colleagues notice?

It will be hard for them to see the person you’ve become rather than the person they first met. At this point you need to make a decision: should you stay or should you go?

One of the great things about starting a new job is that you can be who you are now, not who you were then. This can involve wearing outfits you never wore at your old office, being more senior, dyeing your hair a different colour, being more confident and – most importantly – being treated differently.

It can be very hard to stay in the same place and to make true progress. Often you can develop to a certain extent, but then you hit a ceiling that you cannot break through because people still perceive you in a certain way.

I have known many people who have been hurt and confused as to why – when a vacancy came up that they were perfect for at the company they have worked at for years – they have been overlooked because their boss never even considered them for the role and would only ever recruit someone new from a different company.

I am a firm believer in moving on, no matter how hard it is and what the consequences are. You may fail but at least you know. At least you grew and you changed.

It is also a much faster way to grow and develop than to patiently wait in the same company for years for your time to come. And it’s usually a lot more fun and exciting, too.

Experience counts for a great deal, so what could be better than having many different experiences to make you the most valuable person you can be?

If you can’t change how people see you, change which people see you.


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