I critique myself. A LOT.
When I speak, teach or sing, I want a DVD recording. I watch my “game film.” And then I immediately focus on the weaknesses. The things I could have done better or differently and should do better or differently next time.
This consistent self-evaluation and subsequent dissatisfaction with myself frustrates FirstHusband. He wants to know why I can’t see the good. Why I can’t EVER say to myself: “Job Well Done.”
I don’t know why I do this. I’m sure I have some unaddressed emotional problem I’m suppressing and it manifests itself in this constant striving to do better.
Compliments are difficult for me to believe. I used to deflect them, until a friend told me it looked like I was fishing for more when I did that. They said that deflecting compliments prompts the person doing the complimenting to repeat and expand their complement. Not what I was going for and I HATED the idea that my compliment deflection had that result.
Compliments are even more difficult for me in a church environment. Fellow church members don’t EVER tell me anything negative. Not even friends. That’s just not what you do in church. There is one person at my church who actively, consistently “blows rainbows.” The feedback from this person has become as irrelevant as a survey with every single criteria rated as “excellent.” Polite accolades can be untruthful. They can be a LIE. It is statistically IMPOSSIBLE that I am perfect every time. NOT POSSIBLE.
I want the truth. I can HANDLE the truth. It makes me work harder, not give up and sulk.
So I seek out objective third party opinions. People who don’t know me and have no reason to abandon the truth in an effort to be polite. That’s why I started seeing a vocal coach. That’s why I record vocals for student projects at Full Sail. Strangers who don’t know me have no reason to lie. In these two situations, the people I’m singing in front of have compelling reasons to point out my weaknesses. And thankfully, in both situations, they are (1) not shy about pointing them out and (2) offering suggestions as to how to improve.
Having my weaknesses identified by a third party is . . . scary. What if I DON’T have what it takes? What if the compliments have just been polite? I watch American Idol, I see all the people who actually believe they can sing. When Simon tells them they’re horrible and Randy says, “It wasn’t good for me.” and Kara says, “I’m sorry honey, it’s a No.” there are so many singers who desperately try to convince the judges they’re wrong because “Lots of people tell me I’m really good.” How does this happen?
People lie to them. In an effort to spare their feelings, people LIE to them. People who LOVE them, LIE to them. (Okay, some of these friends and family may be tone deaf.)
I don’t want people to do that to me and I won’t do that to my kids. I’ve written about this before. About telling my kids the truth about their skill levels and helping to equip them to improve so that they can feel confident they did their best. My daughter recently got involved with a new performing arts organization. It was a scary decision for her. But she was ready. I knew she was ready. Here’s what I said to her:
“MissSkye says you are really good, but she loves you. Mom and dad love listening to you sing, but we love you too. Are you ready to find out if you’re really good? Are you ready to find out what you need to work on? Are you ready to sing in front of people who don’t know you?”
It took her about three days to decide, but in the end, she wanted the truth. She’s almost ready to start seeing the vocal coach herself.
What a brave girl. And. She’s another one of my HONEST critics.
And you know what? I’m not going doubt my emotional health because I critique myself. I’m not going to stop working hard to improve. I admit it. I hate mediocrity. I hate “good enough.”
I’ve learned that I want to strive to do my best, yes. But even more than that, I want to do what is required – in order to do my best.