Friday, February 13, 2009

Secret 6: Conquering Saboteurs

“A critical skill for many creative women is discernment – knowing whose advice is from the heart and really meant to be helpful, and avoiding folks who pull you away from your intentions and may be trying to undermine your achievement.”

I can thank my mother for my self-confidence. Self-doubt and self-destruction, saboterus that Gail McMeekin discusses in her sixth chapter of the 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women: A Portable Mentor, are saboteurs with which I do not grapple. I speak up for myself and have been dubbed aggressive in the workplace. I would, however, argue that I am assertive, as opposed to aggressive. Writer Rebecca West’s quote really resonated with me:

“People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that distinguish me from a doormat.”

My assertiveness hasn’t stopped from seeking the approval of others though. Through the years, I’ve learned that it’s important to hear other’s opinions, especially those who have expertise in your field of study. I’m confident but not arrogant enough to think that my work and ideas are perfect. So, I typically seek the advice of and input from others before making a major decision. Bouncing ideas off of others has been invaluable in my professional and personal life! What I’ve also learned through the years though, was that some people are quick to criticize and undermine your work/decision without explaining why or offering ways another/better suggestion... saboteurs as McMeekin calls them.

I remember being super-excited about a workshop I conducted. I received really favorable feedback from my attendees. I shared this with my Director and explained that I would like to talk to her about conducting future trainings, especially since I received requests from other agencies to train their staff. Her response: It’s such a small piece in the larger scheme of things, Erika. I guess it’s something we can talk about. However, she proceeded to change the subject. And before I knew it, I was dismissed from her office. Miss Confident Erika’s feelings were crushed. All I could think of was my child running into my room and saying, “Mommy, look what I did! Can I make another picture?” and me responding, “I guess. It’s not that big of a deal though.”

I sulked for a minute (ok, a day or two) and decided I would continue with the workshops with or without the support of my Director – outside of work though! In fact, I’m conducting the same workshop for another agency after hours in early March. Yes, I will continue to seek the advice of others, but like McMeekin points out, “we can listen to everything we hear, but then it’s important to sort it out realistically, learn what we need to do, and discard the rest. Not everyone is going to understand what we’re up to.” My thought is my Director failed to recognize the value of my work and creative expression through the workshop. I refused to allow that to stop me from doing what I love and what I deem as important in helping others in their work. Discernment meets determination!