This past week, I have been especially perplexed by my self-talk. It seems to be all over the board. One minute, I’m telling myself I’m going to win not just my class, but the overall, and then the next minute, I am wondering what the hell made me think I was ready to compete so early! What is going on?
I have realized a few things. First, I have always been an “under the radar” type of overachiever. I just keep my head down, stay quiet, and work my ass off. I figure that my accomplishments speak for themselves, and if they are worthy, they will be noticed. I value humility as a personality trait and have always been annoyed by people who engage in blatant self-promotion. I believe that if you truly are awesome/great/successful, it should be readily apparent to others without you having to tell them so.
But, I also have a lot of confidence. In fact, sometimes I am downright cocky. Competition tends to draw that part of my personality out. But you know what my immediate reaction is when that cocky voice starts to get too loud? I shut it up. And then I feel a little bit ashamed for even having those kinds of thoughts.
Why do I do this to myself? I don’t think this is about being humble or about being cocky. I think this is about my fear of criticism and the shame that accompanies it. Flying under the radar means at worst, I am not noticed. At best, someone does take notice and praises me, not just for what I am accomplishing, but for doing it in such a humble manner. Even I’ve engaged in this preferential treatment. When I used to be a manager, I always had a soft spot for the “under the radar” types that I didn’t have for the ones who were more outspoken about their success, even if the significance of their contributions was the same. In hindsight, that doesn’t seem very fair.
On the other hand, if I exude confidence, I make myself an easy target for critics. No one likes to kick someone who’s down, but there are many who can’t wait to take a shot at someone who is successful in an effort to make themselves feel better. Criticism cuts me to the core, even when it’s constructive and tactful, and although I tend to do everything I can to conceal this, I am actually quite sensitive and easily wounded. So, I mostly live quietly at the risk of never being noticed in order to avoid being criticized or disappointed. And in doing so, I rob myself of greatness.
I’ve decided to stop allowing an aversion to criticism to obscure my significance or to use humility to sidestep my successes. I am a champion!