Something funny happened at work on Saturday. A patron called asking for assistance with a database called ReferenceUSA, which people can access for free if they use our library’s website as the portal. The way this guy spoke, it was as if he’d used it millions of times before and knew it inside out. In fact, he sounded so assured about his knowledge that he automatically dismissed me before I even finished my greeting. And I believed him— I knew my limitations, the fact that I have nearly zero experience using the database websites because the situation never arose… Until now, that is.
So, without even giving myself a shot at the issue, I went to my manager for help. Turns out that this guy was wondering why he couldn’t figure out how to navigate our website to the database. After my manager hung up with the patron, I exclaimed, “What?! I could have done that! Why didn’t he just say, ‘How do I get to ReferenceUSA from your website?’ instead of saying he had issues accessing information in the database itself?!”
My first mistake was allowing my supposed lack of knowledge inhibit my willingness to at least try, which was exacerbated by this smarmy patron. My manager reminded me that it’s perfectly okay to answer questions with another question and you don’t sound stupid in doing so. Part of effective reference work is investigating precisely what your patron needs— because I’d believed the patron’s dismissal of my skills and my lack of confidence, I completely forgot about doing any sort of investigation.
As I walked out of my manager’s office, I was reminded of something my husband told me about tanking in WoW: “It’s not all about the skill or knowledge of your class or even gear that makes successful tanking. They’re part of it, but the most important thing is confidence. If you don’t have the confidence, you’ll never be able to tank.”
In my first forays into tanking, I worried incessantly about keeping aggro and how much damage I’d take. I was also worried about how I’d perform as a leader, since the tank usually set the pace for groups and issued most of the commands and strategies. I knew I lacked another me in the group to watch things at range, so I felt pressured to know everything that was going on despite staring at a boss’s crotch. On top of all that, so many people said paladin tanking was the easiest thing to do in WoW, which translated in my head as, “You really have to be some sort of idiot if you can’t do this.”
It’s the story of my life, you see— this whole lack of confidence thing. I’m petrified of ridicule when I make mistakes. I tend to expect the worst because that reduces my risk for disappointment later. It works well in some cases, but not when it comes to the self.
When a tank loses confidence in, for example, their ability to keep aggro on mobs, they’ll actually lose aggro. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? Because the tank starts overthinking and panicking about the consequences and what people will say instead of focusing on the act of tanking itself. And so what if you make a mistake? The group wipes and… you try again, of course. Part of having confidence is the ability to recognize and own your mistakes despite what people may or may not say.
Sunday morning, I spent a good chunk of time rendering a poster for my upcoming astronomy program at the library. I never took a graphic design class in my life and only rudimentary knowledge of the commands in the program I was using. But that didn’t stop me from turning on some music and giving it my best shot. The result was this:
It’s only now that I understand my manager’s surprise when I first approached her on Saturday. She hadn’t expected such reticence from me. In retrospect, I was surprised myself and quite embarrassed afterward. I don’t think I’ve shied away from anything at work, even in my first days on the job. This is just a humbling reminder that, while I’m constantly learning new things every day, I shouldn’t lose sight of the abilities I already have nor should I doubt myself in the face of an unfamiliar situation.
If I was like this in-game, I would have given up on WoW eons ago! Every major content patch and/or expansion has the tendency to turn class mechanics upside down, making players relearn their classes all over again. But that obviously hasn’t stopped me from researching and adapting to new abilities, stat priorities, and the sort. Endeavoring a new raid never stopped my guild from giving it our best.
My husband is right when he said it comes down to confidence. If a group lacks the confidence that they’ll (eventually) succeed against a boss, then they’ll never make any progress. I can’t count how many times we’ve beaten the odds despite inferior gear, enchants, gems, and whatnot simply because we trusted in ourselves and each other.
“You are absolutely capable,” my manager said before I left her office. “Don’t let anything make you think otherwise.”