Very Average

Last week I received some feedback that really disturbed me. Someone had written on an evaluation form that my training program was “very average.”  Admitting this in public feels awkward but I learned something that I feel compelled to share.

As someone who strives to do everything with quality, average is not an assessment that I’m happy with. Especially since I was proud of how the program had gone. And somehow, the word “very” just made matters worse. Why add emphasis to the word average? That just felt punitive.

The feedback ruined the rest of my day even though it was but a single comment among a dozen glowing comments. Do you know that our brains have a negativity bias? We are wired to perceive negatives roughly seven times more strongly than positives. Well, I sure did! I couldn’t concentrate on my work. I picked a fight with my husband. And I had “very” unpleasant thoughts about the person who’d written the feedback (even though it was an anonymous comment!)

After a couple days of stewing, I suddenly realized that my thoughts were causing the misery, not the person’s feedback. Sure, it would have been great to have all positive comments. But what had happened is that the person’s feedback had activated my saboteur, also known as my “inner critic.” My saboteur, whose name is the Wicked Witch, is fond of saying “Who do you think you are?” And guess what answer that person’s comment had offered? “Very average”!

If my saboteur hadn’t been vigilantly scanning each evaluation form for something to put me in my place, I might have taken a more philosophical view of the comment. Instead, I spent days dwelling on it.

This is my lesson: If you find yourself reacting strongly to something your rational mind tells you is fairly trivial, ask yourself, “How is my saboteur contributing to this reaction? What do I need to do to get some perspective on this situation?” For me, sharing this experience with you has helped.

If you’re interested in exploring your saboteur and how he/she is impacting your life, Taming Your Gremlin by Rick Carson is a great resource.

The book opens with this statement:  “This book is not intended to guide you to enlightenment, to eternal bliss, or to riches. It will, however, help you to enjoy yourself more and more each day. It is simple and practical and I hope that reading it brings you much pleasure.”