“You are very analytical and you come across like you know it all.”
Maybe those were not precisely the EXACT words that were delivered to me, but they’re pretty close. Along with explicit statements that I am perceived by [unnamed but insinuated] “others” as arrogant, obnoxious, condescending, judgmental and elitist. Basically, all around objectionable. No beating around the bush or sugar-coating. But, according to this feedback, I shouldn’t take it personally. Or change who I am.
That’s kind of hard to hear about yourself on a Friday. Or any day, really. I’m not ashamed to admit: I stumbled for just a moment.
Look, I’m a big girl and I can handle constructive feedback. Actually, I thrive on it. None of these revelatory statements made me cry or even choke up at all. I took the comments in stride and I’m kinda proud of myself for having had that response in the moment. Why? Because I know there’s truth in it. And I know it’s not the absolute truth. I know that I am also helpful, self-effacing, generous, compassionate, knowledgeable, creative and kind.
It does have me wondering where the line is drawn, though. Where do I write off the “bad” stuff with, “Well, that’s just their perception of me, it’s not really who I AM”? And where does the part start that says, “Hmm… They may have something valuable to offer me in the way of growth if I'm willing to get out of my own way and listen”?
I’m ready to listen, to hear what the High Priestess has to say. Why a High Priestess? (read: What are you talking about?) The High Priestess was the Tarot card chosen to represent the third day of the “Writing the Wisdom of Your Soul” challenge by Lyn Thurman. This post is part of that challenge. The High Priestess can reveal a person's potential and, boy, has she ever been revealing today! I entered the conversation referenced above with the goal of getting a commitment from a co-worker to accept questions from me without getting defensive. Did you spot the problem there? I was only thinking about what I wanted and from a very limited perspective at that. Even though the feedback sounds a bit harsh, I ended up coming out with a guide to how I can improve my side of all of my interactions in the workplace. Because, honey, if nobody holds the mirror up to your face and shows you how you APPEAR, you ain’t never gonna know, no matter how self-aware you think you’ve gotten.
I never thought I was sitting on a pedestal until I was smacked down off of it, fell myself falling, and landed – SMACK – right on my butt. Throw a cherry on that bitch and call it a day. I might be a little bruised, a little dusty. I might have to figure out where I’m gonna sit now (don’t really want to shimmy back up that pedestal, for heaven’s sake). And I might have needed that push in order to see, really SEE, where I still had room to grow. I was never so arrogant that I thought I had nothing more to learn – yes, even in my ever-arrogant college days. I might even have needed the kerplunk at the bottom to make my skin just a little tougher, to learn just a bit more discernment about when to take things to heart and when to discharge them to the wind.
I think my anthem for today will just have to be Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave.”
Stop holding your tongue…
Say what you want to say
And let the words fall out
And so I have, let the words fall out, because at my core I am a challenger, a questioner, an inquisitive and curious individual. When I feel resistance rising to meet my questions, my initial response is generally defiance. Not the greatest stance for getting your queries answered. Then it mutates to something softer as I get some time distance from it. But/and someone else’s general discomfort is still NOT reason enough for me to stop asking WHY. That’s where the wires can get crossed, though, because I see the process as discovery… They can see it as nitpicking. I can be unnervingly outspoken and sometimes even as brave as amazing women like Elizabeth Gilbert, Leonie Dawson and Taryn Brumfitt (founder of Australia’s Body Image Movement, a site that's beautifully NSFW). I can lay it on the line then weather the repercussions. I know that because I have done it, even if my monkey mind tries to trick me into believing that nothing that has come before this moment really matters. Screw that! Yes, it does – that’s exactly why it matters that our stories are shared! So that we don’t repeat all the stupid foul-ups that we’ve made. Or if we do, there are people who’ve also been through it with whom we can commiserate.
So what’s my potential? To keep learning, to keep expanding my perception beyond the limits I have placed on it. To sometimes exchange my microscope for a telescope. To occasionally lift my eyes from the ground and search the infinite sky. But to never lose contact with the earth, my roots, or my connection to myself.