“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” -Joseph P. Kennedy
Allow me a moment to spill the tea on a professor I had during college. But before we can even get to that story, I have to give you a little background.
You see, I have always been an extremely introverted and shy individual, meaning that I have never been good with public speaking. During every presentation I have ever given, I have forgotten everything on my slides, felt my face burning bright red, and experienced that horrible pit in my stomach the entire time. And this isn’t something that struck me as a teen — I can recall not presenting my project at the science fair simply because I was terrified.
However, as I grew throughout my college years, I had begun to adjust to presentations. Since I am getting my Master’s in counseling, I eventually graduated from not only presentations, but role-plays (oh boy, those are fun!). As I watched myself become more and more comfortable with presenting in front of my peers and as I became more comfortable in my profession — believing that it is the field I am meant to be in — I became ecstatic. We all have a desire to improve and to find the place where we belong, and I had finally done that!
Well, call it fate or call it the devil but something in my life realized I was doing well and sent in a stumbling block.
Enter: My professor.
Note: I will not mention any names, nor will I offer any hints as to who this individual is. Although I am using this individual for the purposes of this post, I do not hold any ill will towards her and do not wish to slander anyone. But I will say that this professor truly acted more as a road block than a stumbling block in my life.
During our first presentation that semester, I ended up being the person to go last. I was nervous, but I had presented a thousand times before and everyone in my class was getting excellent feedback from the professor — I wasn’t too worried. But after I had finished my presentation, all that positive feedback changed. I cannot recall exactly what comments she made regarding my presentation, but I can tell you that none of them were good. I presented on a very popular intervention for therapy, but she acted as if it were something she had never heard of it before. She asked questions I couldn’t answer, showed her disapproval, and humiliated me in front of everyone.
That was strike one.
Next, we had to present case videos. During our internship we record videos with clients and present them to our professor for feedback. Once again, everyone got pretty good feedback. When it came to me, I got the comment, “You just sat there”. Now, I’m not sure if you’ve ever been to therapy, but no therapist in the history of the world has ever just sat there while someone talked. Even if a lot isn’t accomplished in a session — or in a 10 minute snippet of a session — you do not just sit there. Rapport is built, active listening occurs, empathy is shown… something is being done. But she had no positive things like that to report on.
That was strike two.
And now we have arrived at one of our final strikes. Over the course of the semester, we had to send these video recordings to our professor. If you know me, you know I’m not good with technology. But over the semester, I thought she was receiving all of my videos. Well, guess what? She wasn’t. On the last day of class, I was greeted by my professor telling me I was failing because she hadn’t received my other videos. Did she email me to notify me of this? Nope. Had she ever mentioned this in a prior class? Nope. After telling her about the mistake and requesting if I could drive home to get my computer, she responded, “If you’ve actually been doing them”.
Now, if that isn’t enough to make you crazy, you should know that we had to do a role-play before ending our final class. Role-plays weren’t a big deal — I had done a ton of them! But my professor chose to give me the most difficult role-play of them all. Sure, other people in the class had some challenging stuff, but she even mentioned that mine was the most difficult and she didn’t think I’d know what to do. During the role-play, as I was clearly struggling, she noticed. Afterward, she said, “Yeah, I could have stopped you but I just thought I’d let you keep going”. And then she proceeded to tell me that I did nothing and listed all the things I did wrong.
You can bet your money that I was ready to leave the program at that point. By that final point in the semester, I felt like I was no longer where I was meant to be. I believed that I was a terrible counselor and would never succeed. I believed that everyone in the program was smarter than me and better than me.
I was defeated.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. My amazing fiance reminded me of all the good work that I have done, of the good grades I had earned, of the positive comments that had been previously made on my performance — he reminded me that one person’s crude opinions didn’t change who I was meant to be.
And today, I am finishing up internship. My site has offered me a job and I am thrilled to begin working as a licensed counselor.
I did it.
Despite that roadblock — despite all the negativity towards me — I made it. And do you want to know how? I just kept going.
Yes, my feelings were hurt.
Yes, I wanted to quit.
Yes, I had begun to believe lies about myself.
But I never stopped. I kept working. I kept researching techniques and collaborating with clients. I kept asking my supervisor questions. I kept responding positively to feedback. I kept praying. And I made it.
No matter who you are or what you do, you will face stumbling blocks in your life. We cannot control the people around us, but we can control how we react to them.
So, when the going gets tough, keep going! Never give up.