Today I was told that I don’t have to suffer to make myself fit into a mold that I don’t within the workplace. I believe the words were, “I don’t want you to be miserable while you’re here.” Oddly I’m challenged by that concept, as I am accustomed to the hard way.
This is on the list of the most freeing, life-giving statements I’ve heard. It was more than the words because friends have said it. But the position, the office this person holds made all the difference.
It’s someone in authority. I’ve dealt with intense hurt from authority figures so my interactions with that crowd can be awkward. I didn’t realize how deep into my thoughts the hurt went and how much I allowed it to fuel my smoldering self-loathing.
I come from the school of thought that you go through what you have to until you get to where you going:
“Do what you must until you can do what you want.”
So I would get a job, whether or not it was getting me closer to my desired path and do my best to get the job done. This has worked for a while but I’m not a kid anymore. Surely this axiom has an expiration date.
Unfortunately the damage is that it is hard for me articulate what my “dream” career looks like as I’ve made a career of learning what’s necessary, adapting to the environment and blooming where I’m planted. I’ve worked to support everyone else’s dreams.
But after this talk, I think something broke, in a good way. Now I have Questions:
1. What’s the big lie?
2. When did I begin to believe and repeat it?
1. The central lie is like an equation:
- Excellence = Perfection, Perfect execution, every time, no matter what, so
- Lack of Perfection = Failure, Failure is always bad and always fatal, thus
- Failure = Inexcusable
2. This equation became a rule so long ago I don’t remember when I began to believe it. As a result, I don’t think highly of or believe in myself. I don’t regard myself kindly or trust myself. For some odd reason, I think I have to keep myself on a short tether.
Lies, all lies. Vicious, malicious whirlwind of darkness and distraction to the point of filling my mind and heart with crippling self-hatred lies. I don’t even realize how harsh my self-criticism is until someone calls me out for it. If I talked to friends the way I talk to myself, I wouldn’t have any friends.
Today someone asked me what I wanted to do then called me out when I spoke negatively about my ability to make it happen. She took time from her busy schedule to help me. She told me to give my best everyday and that there was no expectation of perfection from me. She said that I could be free to learn from the mistakes I will make. Again not new words but definitely from a different source. She invested in me and gave me a reason to believe in me.
Those beautiful magic words that showed concern for my well being did something to me. I was given a new equation to replace the old one. I literally carry it on a note card in an envelope that says “Open in case of emergency”
Excellence, not perfection.
There is so much freedom in this simple phrase. It is a challenge to the lie. It means that everyday I will give my best and be teachable. I don’t have to expect myself to be perfect. It means when I do make mistakes that I don’t have to fear wrath. I’m not being measured against an impossible standard. I am allowed to fail forward when necessary.
I am free to learn, grow and flourish right where I am and for that I am grateful.