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Digesting the Criticism Sandwich



"Do you have time for a quick call tomorrow?" - is what the e-mail said. It was a note from my operations supervisor for one of my writing/editing side hustles. I had asked about the status of a few clients a week prior. Instead of naturally assuming this call would be to catch me up to speed, I felt a pit of dread in my stomach. Was I going to be let go?


I had no concrete evidence to lead me to such anxieties. I loved my clients and felt I had done a good job to get them from point a to point b. I met each challenge with a smile and even earned internal kudos for my positive attitude and flexibility. So why did I feel insurmountable dread about this upcoming call?


Because my gut knows things before I do.


I'll spare you the gritty details but in the kindest way possible, I learned I was not meeting my clients' expectations. In fact, my self-perception was complete opposite of how others were perceiving me. I was shook. The supervisor decided to give me another chance, but my ego was badly bruised. How did I go from being a great asset to someone who doesn't care about projects? Maybe I should just quit. Maybe I'm not good enough to be doing this kind of work.


When I hung up from the call I cried. Granted, I think it was also a pent up emotional release from being isolated during a pandemic, witnessing racial injustice, having a front row view to protests, police violence, and yes...looting in my beloved city, and a myriad of other things. But I won't deny it, I was stung. That criticism was hard to hear and at the time, even harder to believe.


Once I got the emotion out of my system, I examined my interactions with these clients closely. I still found no evidence of my transgressions, so I dug deeper. That's when I came face to face with the monster within.


High School - I was elected president and vice president of many organizations (including my class), but besides putting on a good prom, there aren't many leadership achievements I can say were unlocked. In fact, I distantly recall some promises I made during my Future Business Leaders of America presidential campaign speech. I didn't follow through on a single one.


College - I wanted to do everything. I wanted to join every club and star in every show. So much so that when I was elected to become Vice President of my sorority, I couldn't even fulfill my duties to run our chapter meetings the second half of my term because I took a class at the same time. I also ended up leaving a service fraternity because I didn't have enough time to dedicate to the group as I was working as a supervisor at our campus gym, heavily involved with Catholic Campus Ministry, ran a weekly radio show, was in a sorority, and like many William and Mary students, I double majored.


Oh, and let's not forget I am an Myers Briggs ENFP...aka the personality type with shiny object syndrome. I LOVE starting things. I love spreading myself thinner than a piece of loose leaf paper. But when I give bits and parts of me to everything, nothing gets 100%.


Now, I still feel I gave those clients my all, but I can see how my track record of wanting to do all the things could lead to lackluster work. Cue ego bruising again. All of this is to say that sometimes we have to dig deep into that chest of failure and weakness to find some treasure that will lead to productive outcomes in the future. I'm now looking at ways to better prioritize my projects and time so all my clients feel they are my ONLY client.


So why do I admit these shortcomings on such a public platform? Aren't I scared people won't want to work with me? No, I'm not. Because I am human and we as humans are a constant work in progress. We also have deeply engrained patterns of behavior that CAN change, but they run DEEP. Sometimes it takes a little criticism to bring them to the surface. Then the real work starts.

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