Author Archives: Ashley Essel Poklar

AEP Colorado - poklar

Me…A professional?

AEP Colorado - poklarI just returned from a professional conference…not a big national one like the APA Convention, but a great statewide (Colorado) effort to build communication and increase collaboration and shared vision between a variety of different service providers (teachers, mental health counselors, the juvenile justice system, case workers, and academics) working with children and adolescents. I had the unique opportunity to provide a 90 minute workshop on managing vicarious trauma–best defined—at least in my eyes—by Figley (1982) as the cost of caring.

I was excited to have my proposal accepted, mostly because it gave me a reason to travel to Fort Collins, Colorado, but also because it allowed me the opportunity to engage in presenting a workshop on something I have come to be increasingly passionate about.

What I didn’t really consider, until after the conference, was how this was yet another step I have taken that leads me further down the road of becoming a “professional”.

I was struck with so many feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and pressure AFTER the presentation.

“What gave me the right to give this talk?”

“What did I really know?”

“Could I really be effecting change on some grander level by sharing these ideas and interventions?”

“Could this possibly lead to the type of work and systemic change I so desperately want to engage in post-degree?”

“Could I engage in it pre-degree…or am I really already at THAT point? Am I already a professional to some degree?”

That idea is scary to me.

The idea that I may actually already be able to bring something to the table is terrifying. With this idea comes some level of responsibility for my engaging in professional activities, for sharing and disseminating useful knowledge.  I want to laugh at myself and shake it off, but it is such a valid point.  At what point are we, as professionals in training, supposed to step up and do something with our vast level of knowledge, with our privilege of being in a place of educated power?

Who else feels this level of responsibility?

As you grow in whatever vocational field you chose, as you become a professional or an expert, what level of responsibility do you feel? Am I an overachiever–feeling a responsibility and need to act that may not necessarily be expected? Am I setting myself up for failure, or worse, putting myself in a position where I may be imparting knowledge in a non-helpful manner to others?

Have you felt this pull? This need to do something meaningful with your new found ‘title’ of “professional” or “expert”? If so, how did you reconcile the feeling? What did you do to meet your feeling of responsibility?


Editor’s Note: Ashley Poklar, MEd, is a doctoral student at Cleveland State University. For more information about Ashley, visit her blog: 3 Under 3 AND a PhD.



Overwhelmed, but let’s be honest: I did it to myself


What a small word to describe such a large feeling.

Can that one word truly describe the weight I feel right now? Can that word fully portray my stress, my failed attempts to prioritize, my feeling of being so far buried that maybe it’s not even worth attempting to dig out? Can that word express the fear that one more thing, just one more insignificant little thing, will break me?


Yet, it’s the only word I have to describe and classify these feelings.

A day when there isn't enough caffeine in the world! (Source: "day 300, clutching my morning coffee" by massdistraction, on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

A day when there isn’t enough caffeine in the world! (Source: “day 300, clutching my morning coffee” by massdistraction, on Flickr. Some rights reserved.)

The good news? Whatever my most overwhelmed moment was up until this point, I clearly made it through. So have you! You may have felt broken, trampled, and/or lost…but you made it. You survived. And, hopefully it made you stronger, more resilient, more ready to take on those feelings that are way to ominous to be embodied by one tiny word.

For those of you who struggle with feeling overwhelmed, who find themselves giving up when those feelings begin to build, let me share with you how I manage it.

Many people ask me how I do it. How I raise a very young family, work part-time, and work towards my doctorate degree. I usually tell them, I just do. But, that’s not the real answer.

I choose to fight the feeling of being overwhelmed in these ways:

  • I do my best to bar negative feelings from clouding my successes, erasing my hope… Granted, this is not an easy process, but I look at it as choosing to survive rather than worry over my ability to meet every demand.
  • I take my semester one day, one assignment at a time. I start each day with my girls as a new day. When I feel my patience slipping–which it seems to be doing by 8:30 am these days–I hold whichever one is starting to drive me crazy (if they allow me to) for a full minute, reminding myself that not every moment with her is a mini hell.
  • I remind myself–force myself, rather–to believe that there is an end in sight. That I am alive, that things can be so much worse, and that those things that are weighing down on me are actually things I am so very grateful for, that I would be lost without, that I could lose if I do not continue to fight and survive.
  • I take ownership. I am an individual who thrives when overwhelmed, who purposefully adds and adds and adds to my plate until it is at that point. I admit that am overwhelmed because I want so much out of life, and life wants so much out of me. It’s a give and take.

My plan, humble as it may be, is to not only allow life to take what it needs from me, but to give it my all. I have the hope that pushing into it allows me to receive more resilience and strength when it is time for the pendulum to swing back in my direction. And it always swings back.

When were you at your most overwhelmed? How do you manage? Do you see it as an obstacle to overcome or a learning and growing process? Talk about it in the comments.

Read more about raising three kids under three while pursuing a PhD at my blog.