Being valued for being you.

I remember being young and wishing my classmates liked my ideas. I was not a popular girl, but I was smart. I was also shy, so when I had an idea to share, it was a big deal for me to open my mouth and let it out. My mother once told my sixth grade teacher about this, and he responded by saying that all of the students liked my ideas, and I always shared good ones. So why was my perception of myself so different?

Fast forward about eighteen years.

At my current job, I started off working on second shift. Soon after I completed my training, I ended up in a leadership position because I was more experienced than the other people working my shift. I was the person to whom the newer employees asked all of their questions. I was the person they found when there was a technical issue, or someone made a mistake and needed help correcting it. I was the person who had the confidence and experience to answer questions that can change someone’s life. I took that responsibility on with great pride. I am a leader at heart, and I am always up for a challenge. However, I didn’t really think much about the fact that I was making a difference in my workplace.

I started working on day shift about three months ago. I was expecting to be treated like the new person, but to my surprise I was treated the complete opposite. Everyone was helpful and patient while I readjusted to my new hours and duties. It was during this transition when I realized I can be true to myself and still be successful. I can be quirky and silly, but still professional. I am valued for being me. For my entire life, I never really knew what I was capable of by simply doing what I enjoy and what comes naturally.

I have been in my field for four years now. Even though I do not consider myself very experienced, others treat me like I am. I have been invited to go to conferences and work on special projects. An experienced coworker even asked for my opinion on something she has expert knowledge of. In that moment, I realized I am being treated as an equal among my peers, my opinion is valued and my ideas are liked. I felt like I earned a place I never even imagined. And on the inside I was shouting, “ME! She asked ME!”

Self confidence is a hard thing to grasp sometimes. As humans, we are usually humble in our view of ourselves. I think more of us should shout out “I did it!” “I made it!” Or “look at me, I’m awesome!” Holding back on who we are will only hold us back in life. We must be true to ourselves and keep moving forward. The realization that others value my opinion and ideas is truly a milestone for me. I feel like this is a new beginning, so there is an unfinished end to this post. But I wanted to write about it because it is uncomfortable and new. This is a perfect example of a transition in life, and I’m sort of in the “wow, this is really happening” stage. I think it is amazing how much I have grown as a human that I am able to recognize that something in my life is changing. I just have no idea where it will go from here!

Melissa Rafalko

Her dream job is to be a princess, but for now, she sticks with being a scientist who has a big imagination. Melissa is from Scranton, Pennsylvania and currently calls Nashville, Tennessee her home. Her family is her life. She loves her dog, Jodi, and her cat, Johnny Bear. Oh, and she is reading the Harry Potter books for the first time, and she thinks they are amazing!

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