The Worst Feedback I’ve Ever Received

Feedback is such a nice way of saying “here’s what you’re doing wrong” isn’t it? If you’ve had a job, you’ve received feedback. Several years ago, at a job I absolutely loved, I received feedback at my annual review that did more than just make me aware of something. It really devastated and confused me.

It didn’t matter that 95% of my performance review was glowing. The one line stuck with me. I remember calling my Mom after, choked up and confused. Had I been wrong about myself my whole life? Or perhaps had my mother been lying to me?

Here’s what my boss told me. “It took you longer to learn a lot of things than it should have.”

He’d called me, ME, who’d always believed herself to be a quick-to-pick-things-up kind of person, a slow learner.

I’ll never forget it and I truly think that I lost a lot of confidence because of it. I felt like I’d been wrong about myself my whole life. I know I’m not a genius. I’m smart. I went to a good college. I try hard at the things I care about. But I also had to re-take Calculus after I got a D and I graduated with a Communication degree. No offense to my fellow Comm majors, but come on, it’s not biochemistry.

For the record, Archie thinks I'm a genius.
For the record, Archie thinks I’m a genius.

So I kind of started to believe that I was a slow learner, even as my family and close friends insisted that this wasn’t the case. When I interviewed for my new position, as I did interview prep questions, I knew I couldn’t use “quick learner” as a strength. It would be a lie, right?

But then…

I started my new job. And within days nearly every one of my new colleagues had told me what a fast learner I was. My new boss complimented me on my memory tricks to remember where things are in the hospital. She told me I was picking things up very quickly. I was stunned.

I came straight home after work that day and told N about how everyone thought I was a fast learner. “Well of course,” he said, “You are!”

And that’s when I realized that I’d really let one persons perception (and expectations) shape how I thought of myself. My boss meant well when he gave me that feedback. He didn’t (and doesn’t) know that it affected me so much. Maybe what I was doing there didn’t come as easily to me as it had to others. Maybe my bosses expectations of me and my expectations of me did not align. Maybe that job was just harder.

I’ve felt redeemed, happy, and confused again. But I’ve realized…

To a toddler, I’m the fastest person in the world. To a runner (or pretty much any adult human), I’m slow as hell. That is their perception of me. It does not have to be my perception of me. It should not change how I feel about myself. Because I’ve had 26 years to get to know me, and you know what? I’m pretty quick.

With the learning stuff, that is. Not so much with the running.

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