It’s real. When you think you have risen above the anxious nerves and stomach aches, suddenly someone is not happy with you, and your nerves of steel start to resemble a plate of half eaten jello.
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, then you must be a super human.
I thought I had it all worked out in my late teens. I adapted a rather typical 80’s child “F U opinion” outwardly, however inwardly, nothing ever changed. I hated disappointing people. Anyone. Be it an employer, friend, parent, or customer. This was the first blaring sign that I did not know how to accept critical feedback – be it constructive or not.
But how was it possible? If I said something enough, surely it would become true? This was a harsh reality, a plague of sorts, and it has followed me through out life.
I mentioned inwardly earlier and it is an important classification because if you were to ask anyone who knew me what I thought about someone’s bad opinion, it would be that I didn’t care! I clearly put out a good front to everyone – but to myself, there was no convincing.
So to resolve this ‘tick’ of a characteristic, I worked on myself. I started doing things that increased my confidence. I got my black belt, I made new exciting friends who had a good positive synergy, I dated different types of guys, and I even visited a local chapters for some self-help work books. Look at me go, solving problems left, right, and centre.
But it solved nothing. If I upset someone, I still felt nauseous. I worked out ten ways to solve a problem that was likely never a problem to begin with. I took differences of opinions and created scenarios where those differences were made into problems. All the while, I didn’t realize that maybe I, was the problem.
Why couldn’t I be like those people who truly seem unaffected by criticism? Do I really need to challenge myself and grow each time I receive feedback? When can I be satisfied with who I am, as a whole?
These questions swirled in the background for years. I succeeded in being the person that everyone could relate to and/or get along with enough to have a simple conversation. I skirted deep topics to avoid conflict and any “old” behaviours I might have traditionally sunk back into at the first sign of trouble. People began to seek me out because I was so easy to talk to. I thought I was doing great.
But I wasn’t. Being easy to talk to meant that I didn’t challenge behaviours, comments, or their opinions. I agreed or sidelined their topics that I knew would be hard to deal with. I avoided stomach aches at all costs. I let myself turn into the complete opposite of what I was always trying to be: outwardly confident.
It has taken me three decades (and a bit) to admit that this is not actually a “tick” of a characteristic – but rather, a human characteristic. This wasn’t a disease or disorder, it was just avoidance.
I want to make everyone happy. I want to do great work personally and professionally. I want to do it right the FIRST time.
Want to know who set those standards for me? Me.
I set the pressure so high that I didn’t give myself a chance to be “just ok.” There is nothing wrong with being “just ok.” For example, I am “just ok”at math. I am “just ok” with making new friends. I am “just ok” with trying new scary things.
Even braver proclamations: I am terrified of letting someone important to me down. I am terrified of doing a bad job on a project that I was being relied upon. And I am terrified of conflict.
And despite being terrified, I am OK with all of those things. I have finally cut myself enough slack to say that I am not perfect and that I’m allowed to be afraid of letting people down. I removed the expectations that I shouldn’t get stomach aches with conflict – I cannot help what my body does with stress.
I am removing pressures and doing my best not to avoid all the things that might stir up some dust. But a word of caution: This isn’t advice to take on your big fears all at once, as some of those things should stay distant. Keep toxic people and expectations at a distance and let the little problems, stay little.