Breaking free from my box


It had been a while since I’d dug into an entire pint of Ben Jerry’s ice cream.

It used to be a daily habit, back when my son was still a baby and I still carried the signs of the 60 lbs I gained during my pregnancy.

I wish I could say my teacher training course had ended on a more positive note.

There were many high notes about the program, not the least of which was the quality of the people who went through the program with me. I made real connections with some of these wonderful souls, and I’ll never forget it.

But yesterday’s session, which should have been a celebratory occasion, turned into what – to me – felt like a series of personal attacks when someone in the program decided they would make our final practical exam all about providing feedback they thought they needed to deliver – harshly.

This person was harder on some of us than on others, for a variety of reasons. With me personally, they had decided I was angry and I needed to let that go.

They then provided some pretty pointed feedback, telling me, in summary, to be nicer to people.

I wanted to point out to how wrong they had me pegged, that I have a LOT of defects, but unkindness is not one of them. The truth is, though, I decided in that moment that it was enough for ME to know they were mistaken about who I am, and given that they’re not anyone I want in my life anyway, I wasn’t willing to engage in an argument just for the sake of being in the right.

The other truth is that, while at least on the surface there was some value to the perspective (if not to the delivery), I stopped respecting their point of view when the “advice” turned into low blows. People in glass houses really shouldn’t throw stones, and it’s not effective to give someone feedback on kindness while being supremely unkind.

Most of you who stop by and read my musings on occasions don’t know me in person. You’ve never heard me speak or caught a glimpse of me as I sit at my computer or in a meeting at work.

I have been told in the past that I look like I’m angry at the world, so yesterday wouldn’t have been the first time. When I filmed myself practice teaching with my coworkers a few weeks ago, I confirmed that despite my having mellowed out significantly over the last few years, my resting face still makes me look like I’m constantly irate.

When I speak, I speak with certainty. Some people call it confidence. Others have told me my tone makes it sound like I’m barking. I know these things about myself, as do most people I’m close to, but I have the certainty that almost everyone who’s given me a chance and gotten to know me has come to realize there is no anger behind the sullen look.

But on occasion, there will be people who don’t give me a chance. They see the serious face and the confident tone and decide that I’m a type A personality, hyper competitive and cut-throat.

A perfectionist.

They put me in that box and won’t let me out no matter how much evidence they see to the contrary.

I know my demeanor sometimes makes me look inaccessible. So I go out of my way to smile at people, to make eye contact, to say please and thank you. I like to take the time to help people, to give compliments. I’m compassionate. I reach out, even when it’s risky. I enjoy doing things for others, and I generally put my own ego aside to try to make a connection.

Maybe this is not enough. Maybe some people still view me as scary and inhospitable, and of course increasing the dose of kindness you dole out on a daily basis can NEVER be a bad thing. But at some point it’s up to the people I interact with to let go of their preconceived notions and let me out of my box, too.

In my head and in my heart of hearts, I know how to take feedback, use from it what I value and let go of what I don’t. But complicating the issue is that I think when I signed up for this teacher training I may have secretly been hoping that someone would see through the cliche of the bitchy, type-A corporate female and recognize what’s really behind the stern resting face. I wanted some of the external validation I was taught me NOT to rely on in therapy, so I could come out of my “ball buster” box once and for all.

This program didn’t provide any of that, but that’s just as well. That will teach to try to pay for validation!

So I finished that Ben and Jerry’s (it was Peanut Butter Cup, in case you’re wondering), and with no yoga and no running tonight, I decided to get my writing back on track. Not only are my injuries getting worse (especially my hip injury), I have no motivation right now to get back in the saddle and put myself out there again.

I’m sure I’ll get over it soon (hopefully around the same time my shoulder and hip injuries heal), but in the meantime I may as well use my time productively and dive back into the written word.

Good night, my friends! Thanks for listening, as always.

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