Professional Practice

Finding the Confidence to Be Yourself (Ep. 046)

Developing the confidence to be who you are can be a difficult process. In this episode, Cassie discusses some of the ways you can follow your passions and meet your own goals. Listen as she talks about why you should spend some time listening to your own feelings (8:00), how to set goals that truly work for you (10:45), and why you need to consider your own needs against the expectations of everyone around you (14:00). Full episode transcript below.


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So I’m gonna share something with you that I have to be a little bit covert about, and I don’t mean to be. It’s like I actually can’t tell you more than what I’m about to tell you, but time will tell, and I will be able to share with you all the details, so what am I getting to? Hold on, here I go.

I recently was asked to do something that was way out of my comfort zone, and I was excited to be asked to do said thing, but really, really doubtful. My initial reaction was just to say yes. That’s usually my reaction to things, and to just dive right in. But this time, I really hesitated, and I experienced quite a bit of self doubt, and in the end, I decided to just go for it, and I’m really glad that I did. I think that a lot of times we talk ourselves out of things. We possibly overthink things. I think that’s just our nature. It’s unfortunate, because I feel as though there are a lot of opportunities out there that either are presented to us, or ones that we just have to chase after, that perhaps we don’t, because we’re not comfortable with the idea of getting out of our comfort zone, because maybe, dare I say, we’re not comfortable with who we are. We’re still a little bit insecure, and uncertain. Those feelings that we experienced on those first days of school, or for me, it was the first day in eighth grade, OMG. Talk about stressful, and a lot of self doubt. My hands are sweating just thinking about it.

All of those kind of thoughts, they stay with us. They always seem to come back to us, and even those people who you think have a lot of confidence, and they could handle anything, everybody goes through it. Let’s talk about that. Let’s go to battle with that today, so that we can really take on opportunities, let go of those kind of thoughts and negative doubts that kind of bind us, and just dive right in. Let’s talk about it. This is Cassie Stephens, and this is Everyday Art Room.

So some of my most frequently asked questions that I get: number one is how do you have time to do all that you do? Which, for me, is very laughable. I’ve talked a lot about time management, and I’m the worst. The way that I have time to do all that I do is I drink a lot of coffee, as you can probably tell, thank you Starbucks. I don’t keep a clean house, I don’t have cable, and I don’t have kids. So that really does free up a person’s time. Another question I get a lot of is how do you keep your clothes so clean in the art room? If you guys could get within five feet of me, you would realize that no, this girl is not clean. I am covered with paint splatters, crusty glue, you name it. It’s on whatever garment I’m wearing, and usually, the colors are bold, crazy, and bright enough that you can’t even tell.

Lastly, one of the most frequently asked questions I get is how did you become who you are? Have you always dressed like this? Have you always been this wild and crazy? I understand the root of this question. How did you get to be comfortable with being kind of like weird, and wild, and wacky? Well, I haven’t always been comfortable, and I thought that that, me talking about that kind of journey today, would possibly help you and me, because I still experience plenty of self doubt, and questioning of what I’m doing on a daily basis. So I thought I would share with you my top seven tips to just being … finding out who your true self is, and then just being the most awesome version of that person that you are.

So the first thing that I would challenge you to do, if you’re feeling some self doubt, if you feel like there’s this person inside you that you want to become, but they’re stuck inside you, there’s some things that are kind of holding you back, some constraints. So thing number one that I would challenge you to do is to start saying yes to the things that scare you, and that’s exactly what I did not too long ago, with that thing that I can’t talk to you about, but I will be able to share more with you soon. I was scared. I was feeling a lot of self doubt, a lot of anxiety, a lot of I don’t think this is for me, I want this to be for me, but I don’t know that it is. Just say yes. Sometimes, when I’m a little bit doubtful, or a little bit questioning my methods to my madness, or should I do this, should I sew this dress, I really don’t know what I’m doing, and should I needle felt this entire coat? A lot of times, I just envision myself plugging my nose, and diving right in, because once you’re in the water, it’s sink or swim time, and you know you’ve got to swim, so once you just say yes to something, and you’re in it, then you just know you have to go for it.

When I was first approached to write the clay book that I wrote, and I was told that it was going to entail 52 clay projects, which is essentially like writing 52 lessons, and snapping all the photos for each, I knew that sounded daunting. It was daunting, trust me. My husband was like, “Are you ready for this? Are you absolutely sure? Have you thought this through?” The answer: No. I hadn’t thought it through, I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to do it. So I plugged my nose, and I dove right in, and I feel like just saying yes, just that knee jerk yes, that will help you kind of push yourself into it, and force you to take on whatever challenge that you’re feeling a little bit doubtful about.

Another thing, and this kind of ties into that also, is to say yes to the unknown. Something that you’ve never done before, something that is just totally out of left field, you don’t even know how to do it, let’s say. Needle felting, writing a book. Say yes anyway, if it’s genuinely something that you’re interested in. Now I’m not talking about saying yes to your principal because she asked you to paint a mural on, oh my gosh, you guys won’t believe this, on a wall that involves you standing on a cherry picker. You guys, my admin, whom I love, recently asked me to do that. “Would you be comfortable with getting in a cherry picker and getting about 20 feet up and painting over the-” I said, “Let me just stop you right there. You had me at cherry picker. No.”

So guys, I’m not talking about those kind of things that don’t really get you excited. I’m not saying say yes to everything, because as you know, I’m all about saying no to certain things, but these opportunities that sound exciting to you but you’re a little bit doubtful, no, no, no. Go for it. Another way to help you decide whether or not to say yes to these things, saying yes to what scares you, is to listen to your gut. Take a moment, spend some time alone, put your phone down, turn off the TV, sit with your thoughts. I feel like we don’t really do that as much as we need to, myself included these days, with social media everywhere, if we’re not on our phone, we’re on our iPad, we’re on our laptop, we’re just got so much going on in our brain, so much visual stimulus. If you take a break from that, sit with a blank sheet of paper, and a pencil with a nice big eraser, and just listen to your gut, and maybe just write out some pros and cons.

Is it fear that’s keeping you from really going after what you really want? Is that fear self doubt? If it is, why are you listening to it? It’s just being a naggy B, and you need to stop. Or you need to ask yourself, is it what you really have always wanted, and never known it? Because that could be something also. When this opportunity for me came up, it’s not something I ever wanted, or knew that I wanted, until I did it, and it was so much fun, and so amazing. So maybe just kind of go in that direction. But also, you need to think, are these things that are presenting themselves to me that I’m thinking about saying yes to, is this possibly what society wants?

So these are things, I’m gonna be biased, and I’m gonna tell you things that I, personally, have felt like I should pursue, that was what outside influences kind of led me to believe, and then I had to take a beat and just kind of listen to my gut and realize, no, that’s not what I want. So I’m gonna say a couple of things that, just because I’m saying it’s not what was right for me, it could be the total opposite for you, ’cause y’all know, you and me, we’re not alike. For me, those things that I really was like thinking I should do, but decided against, was pursuing national boards. My hat’s off to those of you guys who have gotten those, because I know how much work goes into it, and that, right there, was my turn off. There was no fear there. I was just like, oh, that is not for me. But I really felt like that was something I, quote, should do in that next phase of my art teacherin’ career. I also felt that I, quote, should get my master’s. But you know what? That wasn’t right for me. If I listened to myself, I knew that that wasn’t for me.

Like I said, I don’t want anybody to be feeling bad, like “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t pursue this.” No, no. If that’s what you want, I’m telling you, go for it. But also, be honest with yourself, and think, “Is it what I want, or is it what I feel as though is the next phase in my art teacherin’ career?”

Another little bit of advice that I would give you is to make a plan to set some goals, to write up your bucket list, and then promptly ignore it. I feel like so many times people get caught up in their goals, and their checklist, and climbing that ladder of all the things they wish to accomplish, that they forget to stop and say, one, am I having a good time, is this right for me, am I enjoying this? Then two, is this what I really want? So sometimes it helps to kind of make that list, but don’t be afraid to update it. Don’t be afraid to let it grow organically, and change. I mean it’s great to have goals, and to accomplish them. I mean there is nothing better than that.

However, just kind of keep listening to your gut, and know that if that changes, it’s okay. Getting my master’s was always on my bucket list, and I felt really guilty when I didn’t go after that. I felt guilty for the longest time, but then when I realized it’s not what I actually want, it was so much more freeing. So make that plan, and then put it in a drawer, and ignore it. Don’t let it be that thing that just kind of nags at you, and drags you down. Those goals, those things that you want to go after, it should give you life, it shouldn’t squeeze the life right out of you.

I think it’s also important, and I learned this the hard way, I guess, in my 20s. I think it’s really important to ignore the, quote, life checklist, and create your own, unique life checklist. I remember when I first got out of college and I moved to Tennessee, I noticed that the other women in my age bracket, they seemed to have this checklist, and it was a checklist that I didn’t even know I was supposed to have. The checklist looked like this, to me, as an outsider: Graduate from college, check. Get married, check. Have 1.2 children, check. Become a stay-at-home mom, check. That was kind of where the checklist looked as though it ended, which, kudos if you want to be a stay-at-home mom. I think that’s fabulous. But for me, that checklist wasn’t for me, and I could see a lot of people pursuing that checklist, marking things off that list, and I could see a lot of those people loving it, and flourishing, because that was what was the true gut.

Then I also saw a lot of people who were unfulfilled, where after they checked the little thing off their list, it wasn’t quite scratching that itch. It wasn’t quite as satisfactory as they’d hoped. Perhaps it was because that was society’s checklist, and not necessarily their own. So I think it’s important to consider that, when you’re coming up with your own life kind of checklist, keep in mind that yours may look different from your friend’s, your college roommate, the people that you work with, and that’s okay. Don’t let them convince you otherwise. It’s okay.

Now let’s talk about focusing on you. As teachers, we often spread ourselves too thin, and we say yes to everything, like I was saying earlier. I did say to say yes to everything, but make sure those yeses are for you. I mean, I’m not saying be uber selfish, and just tell everybody no, but in a way, I kind of am. As a teacher, you already are giving so much of yourself. You’re already saying yes to all of your students’ needs, as you should, as much as you can, on a daily basis. But that doesn’t mean that you have to say yes to everything. You don’t have to decorate every back stage set for every play. You don’t have to decorate the school completely, by making every bulletin board perfect. At some point, you need to make sure that you stop saying yes, and start saying no, to focus on you, and what you really want out of this life, and how to be your best self. You can’t do that if you’re constantly helping others be their best self.

Lastly, it’s great, like I said, to get in over your head, navigate those waters, and figure it out. It’s sink or swim time. Why not? It took me a long time to become comfortable with who I am, and I’m still not, and to just put on wild and wacky stuff, and just go for it. I would say my first 10 years of teaching, maybe not quite 10, I wore a lot of jean jumpers. I wore a lot of the, quote, teacher uniform, because that’s what I thought I should do. I tried out a lot of teaching techniques that I’d seen other classroom, and other art teachers do, because that’s what I thought I should do. Now, with influences like social media, and Instagram, it’s so much easier to kind of fall into that trap. Doing things because, oh, this other art teacher does it, man that looks amazing, I should be doing this. That’s when you need to set down that phone, and take a breather, and really listen to your gut.

There were times, and there still are times, when I’ll find myself in places surrounded by people where I feel inferior and the old stutter that I developed in college, due to insecurity, it’ll flare up, and it’s frightening. I have to really just stop and take a deep breath, and tell myself, “Be your best self,” that’s really all you can do. These people that you see, they’re not better than you. Maybe they’re better at listening to who they are, so they seem a little bit more in tune to that, and maybe that’s the takeaway there, maybe that’s when you realize, that’s what I need to be doing. Not trying to be more like that person, but be more like myself, and better at listening to that inner voice.

I literally feel like I have taken a long and winding road in this here podcast, but these are just things that have really been on my mind, and I’ve been kicking around quite a bit, in my head. There wasn’t a lot about art teacherin’ here, in this episode of this podcast, but I feel like there was a long, winding road of a lot of stuff. Stuff that I kind of wish I’d known a long time ago, to just take a beat, listen to myself, and be totally cool with the person that I am. Thank you guys for joining me on this really long and windy road.

Tim Bogatz: Hello, this is Tim Bogatz, the host of Art Ed Radio. Thank you, as always, for listening to Everyday Art Room, and if you missed the announcement last week, we are happy to tell you that contemporary artist Jen Stark will be the featured presenter at the Art Ed Now Summer Online Conference, on August 2nd. You can learn more about that presentation, and see all of the other presentations, at You can also listen to the interview with Jen Stark at Now, let’s let Cassie go ahead and finish up the show.

Cassie Stephens: Let’s take a little dip into the mail bag. I’m still going through the amazing questions that you all threw my way on my Instagram post not too long ago, and I’ve got lots. So I thought I would try to answer some here, in mail bag section, ’cause why not? I’m gonna share with you guys the names of the handles that presented these questions. That way, you can go and follow these amazing art teachers on Instagram.

This one comes from at Art Room Glitter Fairy, a great IG to follow, and she has a couple of questions. She asks, “What is your absolute favorite art material you’ve used in your art room?” Oh, girl, I can’t pick just one, now, because there are lots, but I’m gonna share with you a couple of my recent discover faves. If you follow me on Instagram, or my blog, you’re probably gonna know where I’m going with this one. Let’s see. Drum roll. Can you guess? Number one, if you said Bingo Daubers, then bingo! You’ve actually gotten that correct. That’s easily been my most favorite rediscovery. I’d had them in my cabinet for years, and I think, previously, I had put watered down tempera paint in my Bingo Daubers, and they didn’t work so well, and so I just put them in my cabinet. Recently, this year, when I got them back out, I filled them with diluted India ink, and that was the end of the story. It was love from there on out. So a Bingo Dauber, and I know, you’ve heard me talk about it before. Empty bottle, with a little fuzzy top, that you can remove with pliers. Fill with diluted India ink, and it draws just like the most amazingly thick marker. The best thing ever.

I’m also a huge fan of Sargent fluorescent oil pastels. Yup, those are my jam. I buy so many, every single year. I’m pretty sure my bookkeeper, who does my ordering, is like, “What, are you guys eating those in there?” Love those. Of course, clay is one of my favorite things to teach with, and anything sewing and weaving, me and my students, huge fans.

She also asks, “How do you manage your Instagram and Facebook notifications?” All right, so if you have an Instagram account, and you share a lot, then you’re probably going to get a lot of questions, and that sometimes comes in the form of comments, and it oftentimes will come in the forms of direct messages. It’s tough. I am on Instagram, and Facebook, and YouTube, and I have an email. It’s very difficult to stay connected with art teachers that way, because it can get very overwhelming. So, for me, I answer the best that I can, when I can. If I notice that I’m spending too much time answering, then I often will see that I cannot dedicate time to making videos, and posting and sharing on Instagram, so it’s a real fine balance. One that I have yet to figure out how to have a balance with. Those are great questions, and if you figure out the answer to the last one, let me know.

This one comes from Shawna, so sorry. She has a teacherin’ question. “How do you manage your time at school and at home? Is it a struggle to get all things done?” Man. It is hard to manage both home time and teachering time. The best way that I can find to manage it is to kind of have the two times overlap. Meaning, for me, and I can only speak for me, when I come home, and I need a creative outlet, I’m usually creating something that I can then use as some sort of teaching tool in my art room, and that usually comes in the form of an outfit. That helps me both unwind from school, and also continue to kind of work on school without having my mind absorbed in lessons, and things like that. So that’s kind of how I unwind, and kind of have that line.

Really, for me, there isn’t much of a defining line between home life and school life, just because I’m so bad about continuously working on things. But I also feel like I’ve gotten a lot better, because when I first started teaching, all of my focus was strictly on teaching, not on creating. I didn’t dedicate any time to creating, and that led to a feeling of bitterness towards teaching, and to burnout. So for me, having a line is having a line between not necessarily home life but teaching life and a creative life, and having those two things kind of become a gray area. That’s what really works for me. I hope that makes sense, and answers your question.

Is it a struggle to get all of the things done? All the things never get done. Never. Oh my goodness. Only if I have a deadline that I have usually passed, because I’m a procrastinator, do things ever get done. It’s very hard, because I like to do a lot of things, and I like to say yes to a lot of things. So it is very difficult. It helps to have a to-do list, and to really make sure you stick to it, this being the person who doesn’t, and having deadlines. For me, I will only get things accomplished if I have a deadline, which is no way to live your life, but that’s kinda how I do mine.

Those are awesome questions. I did a lousy job answering them, and you’re welcome. If you have questions for me, you should send them to me. You can find me at I did that. I didn’t even mess it up.

One of my favorite sayings is ignorance is bliss. The less you know, then the more you’re willing to just give it a shot, and just go for it. That’s kind of my MO for a lot of things. I’m pretty ignorant. I mean, that’s just how my first day of school was. I was going in blind, with a room full of kiddos, not having a clue, and I had a great time. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that I wasn’t covering certain things I was supposed to be covering, and I didn’t know that I was supposed to give assigned seats, and possibly have the kids raise their hand before shouting out answers, but you know what? I had a great time, and I’m pretty sure they did, too. Ignorance can be blissful. Just start saying yes, even if it’s something that you’re afraid of. Definitely make sure it’s something that you’re interested in, so take a beat, and listen to that gut, and I’m telling you, you’re going to have crazy, weird, strange opportunities happen, and you will be super excited to pursue them. Thank you guys so much for joining me on today’s podcast, and I will chat with you …I almost said see you, but I can’t see you. I will chat with you next week.

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.