Once upon a time, back in those days when I had a j-o-b, I filed a harassment claim. It was one of THE scariest time periods in my life. I worried, every day, for the duration of a months-long investigation that I was going to lose my job. I was always on edge, I was exhausted and worn out - my nerves were SHOT. The worst part, however, was the isolation - particularly for this extra-extrovert. My colleagues, even those that told me behind closed doors that they supported me, distanced themselves during the investigation.
Their message was clear - if I was going down, I was going to have to go down alone.
I didn’t go down. The investigator found that I was an “overly-sensitive female” and then my harasser resigned. And you read anything you want in-between those lines because I certainly did/do.
It took me a long time after the investigation ended to feel safe at work again. Even longer to shake the feeling of betrayal.
Shortly after it all ended I had a school assignment where I had to invite a group of colleagues to give input on my emotional intelligence. I did it because I had to, but I had no intention of actually reading their input. I was still so angry and hurt that I gave zero fucks what any of them had to say about me.
But then came the day when their feedback was delivered to me by my school-assigned coach. I pushed it aside for a long while, but eventually curiosity got the better part of me and I opened the report. I, of course, jumped right to the “What does Ursula need to do to improve?” section…
“Ursula needs to be less emotional.”
“Ursula confuses her emotionality with emotional intelligence.”
“Ursula needs to keep her emotions in check.”
“Ursula needs to better control her emotions.”
Ironically, almost every single one of them had identified my empathy as a leadership asset in another section of the assessment. Moral of the story, it was okay for me to feel their feelings - it was just inappropriate for me to feel my own.
I was incensed. I sat down with my coach, Anita, and ugly-cried for an hour. “Why are you so upset?” she finally asked me. “You have a choice. You don’t have to accept this feedback.”
I already knew I didn’t accept their feedback. I don’t want to be less emotional. I spent the better part of a lifetime trying to eat, smoke or drink my feelings away and that hadn’t worked particularly well. Feeling all the feelings is important to me now.
I was upset because I had betrayed myself… These people, irregardless of who they had once been in my life, had long since lost the privilege of giving me input and *I* had invited them back in.
I say it all the time at the SheHive - feedback is almost always more about the person delivering it than the person getting it. And that’s not to say that feedback isn’t important because it truly is. However, we need to make damn sure that those we solicit input from are those that have earned the right to give it to us - people who know us well, have our best interests at heart and have a vested interest in our success. Otherwise all we get is a bunch of how others want us to show up in life - a big ol’ boat load of shoulds.
In Daring Greatly, Brené' Brown writes, “I carry a small sheet of paper in my wallet that has written on it the names of people whose opinions of me matter. To be on that list, you have to love me for my strengths and struggles. You have to know that I’m trying to be Wholehearted, but I still cuss too much, flip people off under the steering wheel, and have both Lawrence Welk and Metallica on my iPod.”
Who’s on your small sheet of paper? And what is it they have to know about you before their opinions matters? I'd love to hear more: Shoot me an email or drop a comment below.
With much love and gratitude,