Living a life of change is not easy, EVER, especially when the change needs to happen from the inside, out.
Take yesterday for instance. I had a performance review with my boss. Before I get into the nitty gritty of that encounter, let me back up a few years…to a much younger me…
I was raised in a very traditional Catholic, ‘do I as say,’ spanks allowed, authoritative style of parenting household, along with one brother-5 years older and one sister-18 months younger. Yep, I was the middle child. And from the time my memories begin, I remember exhibiting ‘typical’ characteristics associated with being the mid-born.
These traits include…
- Shyness…extremely shy in the elementary grades…semi-shy in middle school…shuffling between having a voice, but not trusting it and continuing to be mousey in high school. Surprisingly, it wasn’t until college, when a professor I worked for and admired, told me during one class, to ‘Shut-Up.’ And because of my attitude towards him, I did not take offense but gradually grew from a shy gal into the extrovert I am today. It did not instantly occur overnight, but took years!!! Today, when I tell others about my ‘shy’ past, they roll their eyes, commenting, ‘NO WAY!!’ Occasionally, it is still a tad hard to elicit a conversation starter. But, through observation and listening, I have gathered quite a few. My favorite is ‘How is your day going so far?’ WARNING if you decide to use this one…you may hear a life story, so sit back, focus your ears, and enjoy the interaction. As for the one who used to be shy? I am not sure, what it is, vibes or intuition or whatnot, but no matter where I go, someone always engages in conversation with me. And, I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!
- Peacemaker…this one I am still learning to grow out of. I do not like conflict. Matter of fact, I abhor it!!! And confronting someone, OMG!!!!!!!!!! TOTALLY OUT OF BOUNDS of my comfort zone FOR SURE!!! As for speaking up for myself? REALLY!?!?!??! You’ve GOT to be KIDDING!!! Yet, life is not always a smooth sailing ride. It was only after I separated, beginning my journey on insight of self, I realized the emotional reaction I displayed when conflict came to play. I used to shut down, answering, ‘Nothing’ to the inevitable question posed, ‘What is wrong?’ Why? Because I put the other person’s feelings front and center ahead of my own!! After the silent treatment, I would get angry, REALLY angry, SOOOOOOOO angry in fact, no matter what the other person did or said, I blew a HUGE GASKET!!! But, the anger was still simmering, causing my heart to race a mile a minute, my face to flush, my fists to clench so tightly my nails left indents in my palms and the words, I should have used to begin with, instantly died. Yet, blowing up had not calmed me down. So, I would grab my keys, get in my car and drive. Which wasn’t good either since the anger was still harboring near the surface causing road rage to flare. I guess you could say, and I would wholeheartedly agree, I was a freaking a**hole!!! Thankfully, I knew I did not want to continue down that path so after I learned a few lessons, I put them to good use. Now, instead of silence and allowing the anger to get the best of me, I leave the situation, venturing to a quiet place by myself. In this space, I can think not only about what the other person said, but also about the words I need to say. At first, I let every single emotion, good or bad, rush to the surface, accepting each one for what it is. Then I release them, so my analytical side can ‘look’ at the situation with objective eyes. This may take minutes or hours or even a day, but when I come back to the other person, I am calm and able to reiterate my feelings in an appropriate manner. However, sometimes, depending on the person I have tangled with and as I contemplate the situation, I end up concluding it would be best for all parties involved if I keep my mouth shut and just move on. In these cases, despite my voice being silent, I still hold a conversation in my head and say EVERYTHING I want!!! In the end, I have accomplished staying in control and not overacting. The words? That continues to be a work in progress of which I am doing much better.
- Low self esteem…of which I had for years!!! I was not the type of child who ‘rocked the boat,’ ‘rebelled against authority,’ or ‘acted out.’ Yet, in high school, I used to drag race with friends, skipped most of my 10th grade year and got behind the wheel when my older friends encouraged me to drive. (I had a permit, but back then, only parents were allowed to drive with their kids.) So, despite my subordinate side, I was not a goody two shoes. Interestingly, my family still jokes…since I was the ‘quiet’ one, I was considered the ‘good’ child. As a result my parents did not become fully aware of my escapades until much later in my adult years. However, every time I stepped out of the perception others had of me, I felt SOOOOOOOOO guilty cause I wanted to be liked by everyone! Boy, was I living a life of illusion!!! It was not until I changed careers, when my ex argued over my decision, my inner coach came alive. From that day forward, I slowly, snail slowly, began living my life the way I felt it should be. My esteem reached a pinnacle the day I announced my divorce plans to my parents. I had talked about it, weeks before, with my dad who encouraged me to stay in the marriage. When I phoned them to tell them I was choosing to opt out of the relationship, there was silence. Without pausing, I defiantly spouted ‘And, you can’t talk me out of it!’ At that moment, I didn’t care what they thought of me nor did I care if they accepted my decision. I just knew I needed to do what was right for me, despite their opinions. As it so happens, their love for me far outweighed any judgment they had and since that day, they have been my biggest cheerleaders!!!
- The fatal traits…tied tongued, not liking myself, and silencing wars…put them all together and what did I get? The most lethal one of all…feeling unworthy. Throughout the years, I constantly questioned why others were nice to me, often resented others or their ‘worthiness’, secretly wished I could be ‘famous’ so I could be glorified with attention…leading right back to the heart of yesterday…
My performance review. Whenever, I receive a project to complete, I possess this intense obsession to get it done as quickly as possible!!! So yesterday, when my boss mentioned I needed to continue to stay on track and be aware of deadlines, but slow down instead of speedily racing to the finish line, I answered, ‘Yes, I know I do this. It comes from working in the printing industry. When jobs would get put on my desk, I would be told it needed to be done yesterday. So, I dived in and got it done. You know I did that for 6 years so it is kind of hard to break.’
Well, my boss is a VERY smart cookie. She replied, (and I paraphrase), ‘I understand. However, it is not like you did it for 20 years and it became an ingrained habit. Was there something you experienced as a child that maybe caused you to have the need to finish projects in the manner you do?’ Of course, because at that moment I was in denial, I said, ‘I can’t think of anything.’ She responded by mentioning maybe the rush of accomplishing things in a speedy manner caused my endorphins to rev up, leaving me with a great feeling. She continued on, reminding me of the need to find a balance of keeping the endorphins flying as well as toning down my work pace so as to be more accurate and catch mistakes before I finished a project.
Due to my soul searching and insight of self, the last couple of years, I walked away, feeling great about the review but going back to her question and thoughts. I pondered them so deeply on the ride home, I ended up exhausting myself, going to bed at 8 p.m.! Yet, I did not come to a conclusion till
This morning, in the shower, my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. It sang,
Using your past job experience is an EXCUSE!!! An easy way out as well!!!
You frantically race to finish every project because
YOU GET ATTENTION!! YOU GET KUDOS!!! YOU GET RECOGNIZED!!!!!!!!!
YOU FEEL WORTHY!! YOU FEEL APPRECIATED!!! YOU FEEL LIKED!!!!
HOLY COW!!!!!!!!!!! The weight of every single trait I carried from my childhood vanished from my shoulders. I felt elated and free!! How exhilarating to figure out, recognize and own the ‘why’ of me so I can become the ‘who’ I was meant to be.
Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to hear kudos from others. As for my Speedy Gonzalez side? For a while, until it becomes part of me, I will remember the conversation with my boss. For now I am happy to realize, just because I am in the middle I will not allow the traits to cause affliction in my life. And, I don’t need justification from someone else or an endorphin ‘high’ to know I am already worthy, appreciated and liked. I just have to look in the mirror.