I was telling a friend the other day, that now that I am in my thirties, I am continually learning about myself, my personality, and my behaviours more than I ever have before. Just yesterday, for instance, I realized that as much as I like the idea of waking up early to workout, morning exercise just isn’t for me.
Today, another light bulb about myself went off in a moment when I wasn’t really expecting it. Sort of out of the blue, I realized that I really don’t mind people giving me advice (in fact, I actually appreciate it) but that it’s all about the delivery of how that advice is given. For anyone that knows me, it’s no secret that I’m extremely sensitive. So if the advice given is perceived to be harsh, a touch condescending, or the least bit critical, I’m more likely to take it personally. When this occurs, one of two things happen. Usually my stubbornness kicks in, my defences go up (admittedly pretty quickly) and I fight back with a lot of emotion and gusto – or, I feel attacked, sad, and defeated.
For instance, I decided to play ladies’ soccer again this year. I haven’t played in four years and even then I was just a beginner. I admitted this to my new teammates today when we met up for a scrimmage. I urged them to give me advice and teach me about the game and promised I wouldn’t take it personally. After all, I have a lot to learn and I’ll be the first to admit it.
And although today the girls were nothing more than friendly and encouraging, and I left with an overall drive to continue working towards improvement, I certainly had a few moments were I felt discouraged. As my teammates yelled directions at me (simply giving me the advice I had requested), fleeting thoughts such as “maybe I shouldn’t play this year” and “maybe I should quit now” passed through my mind. Most definitely their messages were not ill-intended, yet my sensitive personality took over and allowed me to doubt myself.
In this particular moment, I realized something else. When working hard at something or attempting something challenging, I do better if I am given praise, acknowledgement, and appreciation. It means a lot to me for someone to notice my efforts and to praise me for them. Usually even the smallest compliment is all I need to keep working hard and to achieve success.
Now don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I expected my new teammates, who are virtually perfect strangers, to realize this about me and to pull me aside for a sweet little pep talk. It’s just that I learned something about myself which I always find fascinating. I realized that I am the type of person that needs recognition. I need positive affirmation. As Gretchen Rubin would say, I need a “gold star” in order to achieve. I need advice that’s soft around the edges and delivered in an encouraging and positive tone.
This is not to say, I need to be showered in praise and recognition all of the time. And it also doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when I don’t want someone to challenge me and to push me past my limits. I can recognize that sometimes it takes firing up my stubborn streak to really get results out of me. But I think more often than not, if someone wants to help me, a soft and gentle approach is more likely to get me to listen and to accept the advice (especially in those times when I really need to hear it).
All this being said, I am very excited (albeit nervous) for this year’s soccer season! As I said, today’s first outing left me feeling motivated and eager to learn the game – it even gave me a few ideas for workouts such as sprinting and shifting my weight and changing directions quickly. I’ve already forgotten those couple of moments where I doubted myself and felt like quitting. I may be just a beginner but I’ve got a willingness to learn and an eagerness to succeed and that’s got to count for something. At least I can always find a “gold star” to give myself.
Are you the type of person who needs recognition/praise or do you work better when someone challenges you? Tell me about it in the comments below!