Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is Being Strong a Weakness?

Back in 2001 scene of my first 'real' job, my first performance review was an unmitigated disaster.  I was blind-sided.  I had thought that I was an asset to the team, outspoken and respected.  Yeah.  Well, the review blindsided me with reflections that I was too outspoken, too passionate, too. . .everything.  I was devastated.  How does there exist such huge problems for a YEAR without telling the employee, who also happens to be a friend?  It was a craptastic day, to be sure.

In the ensuing years, I have received criticism feedback that I have a "strong personality" several times.  Each of those times, I have worked determine what this means.  The truth is I felt all defensive and sad inside because surely this feedback was only meant to be negative.  I also was at a loss for how to censor myself, to turn off what is so offensive about me.  I beat myself up, asking "why can't I be easier?," "why do I say things the wrong way?," "why do I push too hard?" Bleh.  Well-trodden territory, comfortably uncomfortable.  

I was recently turned away from a promotion because I'm "too passionate."  Isn't this saying "strong personality" in different clothing?  I am trying to cling to the cliff, refusing to slip into the valley of self-hate.  In my new-found maturity (?), I am trying to simultaneously accept the truth and maintain my sense of self.  Not so easy a task.  I am trying to feel the defensiveness, observe it, accept it and move on--not to assume that I'm one of the more annoying people on the planet.

I know that I can be too emotional.  I cry when I'm angry--this isn't quite productive in a business situation.  I also know that when I'm told that this can be perceived as "being manipulative," that is more about the other person looking at me through their lenses than it is truth.  I know that I can be pushy when I believe an injustice has been meted out.  I also know that it has more to do with the confidence of the other person that they cannot push back with equal gusto.  I know that "picking my battles" is not my strength and something I seem to only find success with my preschooler.  Heck, I'm still working on that with children with behavior problems in therapy.  I know that the people who (supposedly) said that they can't work with me have never really tried. 

I am strong.  I have personality.  I am passionate.  I cry.  I push.  I resist change, but eventually come around.  I am self-aware.  I am intelligent.  I am a quick study.  I am intuitive.  I am honest, to a fault.  No really, it's a fault.  I have recently realized or accepted that to some people I can be intimidating. . .or at least I'm working on accepting that concept.  The truly irritating thing is that the people who are stuck in their perceptions of me are also mired in their own crippling self-confidence issues.  I am still trying to reconcile the fact that to succeed, I have to modulate me.  I know this is life; I just can't figure out why my strength is a threat, why someone else's weakness must be catered to?  

All of this leads me to this:  my acceptance of this feedback makes it up to me to be successful.  To find a way to still fight for a cause, to retain my passion, but in a way that is more palatable to others.  Now the real work begins.  

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