Last week I began talking about how being overly externally referenced can lead to a risk of placing our self esteem into the hands of others. As I mentioned last week we will have developed this style of referencing for very good reasons in childhood but how is it working now?
For some people it may be working very well particularly if most major relationships are with people who feel comfortable with this dynamic. For example, someone with an extreme external reference might well choose a partner with an extreme internal reference. This could be a great way to avoid conflict.
Remember a problem is only a problem if you perceive it as one! We may look at someone else’s life and see a problem but if they are content living that way then for them it is not a problem!
Some people however are not content with their experience and there can be feelings of dissatisfaction with life and general unhappiness for one or both parties in the relationship.
I found that I was externally referenced in specific contexts in my life and for many years I just accepted my lot. I didn’t know there were other options. For me it was about performance particularly at work and as a child at school.
As many of you know I am a trainer both of personal development and in the corporate setting. I remember when I first started out as a corporate trainer over twenty years ago how much importance I placed in the feedback forms completed at the end of the course.
I would feverishly collect them up at the end of a workshop and read them anxiously to find out how I had done. Often the comments and scores would be high and sometimes people would write things like>
“This is the best training course I have ever been on and Melody is inspirational”
I would be on cloud nine, floating around feeling brilliant! My self esteem would soar and I would feel that I was making a difference. That I was valued.
At other times I would get one person who would make a mediocre comment or score me below “perfect” and my self esteem would crash! Some of you may have already spotted my “Be Perfect” driver from how I described the comment.
I would disregard the positive comments and focus on the negative. I would become “depressed” and feel worthless. If I had ever bombed completely I dare say I would have been even more devastated.
Neither one of these reactions was healthy. Both the “high” and the “low” are unhealthy and unrealistic. I was also failing to take into account any other explanations for the comments or the scores.
For example, personality differences can affect how people fill in a feedback form. Those with a “Please People” driver might give me the highest praise even if they don’t feel it to be “nice” while I “Be Perfect” drive might believe that there is always room for improvement.
People might have been sent on a course by the boss, might be having a bad day or a score of other reasons. This is also true of positive responses. There is so much more going on than the performance of the trainer.
So how did I overcome this for myself?
Step one was recognising the problem as a problem. I had learnt about Transactional analysis personality types such as be perfect and please people. As part of my personal development journey I had learnt about my own personality type from a number of perspectives.
I also knew about the meta program discussed here and I began to get some insights. Insights can often be the beginning of change.
I made a decision about feedback forms. At the end of each course I collected them up and put them in an envelope without looking at them. I would go home and self evaluate and share my thoughts with my husband, Joe.
Here are the questions I would ask myself:
- What did I do well?
- What went well?
- What would I do differently?
- Where do I need to improve?
- What else was going on for me and for the group?
- What feedback do I expect to gt from my performance today?
I would then wait twenty four hours before reading the feedback. This gave me some distance and reflection time. Mostly the feedback would be broadly in line with my own evaluation however sometimes there would be some differences usually from an individual rather than the group.
I would then reflect on that person and ask myself “do they have a point?” and I would ask myself this with both unexpected positive feedback and negative.
If they did have a point I would treat it as data for improvement or confirmation. If I believed they were wrong I could just let it go.
Now I can look at feedback forms right away in a fairly objective way.
This is how I did it. Would something like this work for you? Let me know.
If you have a context where you would like some ideas on how to re-balance your evaluation leave me a comment or email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org