Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Pitfalls of Feedback and Being a People Pleaser

In my interactions with others, during, before, and after the actual face-to-face encounter, I've always worried what they were thinking, and if they felt they were getting their needs met the way they wanted. Such is the plight of being a people pleaser. The uncomfortable awkwardness of trying to be whatever it is that you think others want to see, while simultaneously realizing somewhere deep down you aren't being authentic to yourself.

I think the desire to please and help others is so innate in the HSP DNA that we don't even stop to think that there is another option. Especially when we're coming of age and don’t know ourselves well enough yet. Until a friend points it out to us during one of those soulful conversations. Until someone asks us what we think or what we want and we can't come up with an answer because we didn't think that was a relevant possibility. We want everyone to like us because the sting of conflict is like a hard slap in the face that ends up metamorphosizing into guilt within our spirit.

We're also the ones who hate performance evaluations, who pace in nervous anxiety while waiting to get grades back on our school assignments, who consider "constructive criticism" to be an oxymoron, and wonder why others can make such unwarranted, hurtful comments towards others. Feedback isn't easy. We want the good stuff, but deep down we don't believe it's true. We wonder why the negative stuff is even necessary. Giving it is even harder. We don't want to criticize someone else. Praise, sure, no problem. Don't ask us to point out someone's shortcomings though. We're more than tentative. We're avoidant. The last thing we want is to hurt someone's feelings, let alone find ourselves faced with another source of potential conflict.

So, imagine finding your sensitive self amidst an organizational culture that thrives on negative feedback, "continuous improvement" (i.e. "you're never good enough, no matter what"), and the philosophy that its talent is expendable. Needless to say, the idea that the Universe has an anonymous way of teaching us the lessons we need has never been more apparent for me than during the past four years. Yes, I was drawn to my current job and company for the wrong reasons. Yes, I should've listened to intuition's "no." Yes, I take full responsibility for the decision. And yes, I've tried to reinvent and make changes. Still, it's kind of difficult to make inroads when one side isn't really willing to listen to new perspectives. Pay lip service, but not take any action.

Despite all of this, I'm still somehow grateful for the experience. For the first time, I learned how to recognize what I wanted and what I thought. Rather than following along with whatever mantra was being chanted at the time, I learned to question it to see if it really made sense for me. And if it didn't, I wouldn't chant along. For the first time, I found the conviction to face conflict, although still anxiously the first few times, by standing up for myself, my perspectives and needs. For the first time, I learned to stop worrying about what others thought. Well, ok, I still worry. Just not as much. That voice has gotten more silent as a new one has started drowning out its sound. It’s the voice of authenticity. It’s the voice that says "I'm doing it my way." The voice that says being true to myself is more important than who someone else thinks I should be.

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