I sent my boss’ boss a report I had been working on for weeks. He finally replied to me today. His email read, “Hey Charlene, this looks good…” Up until this point I was proud of the analysis and recommendations I had put together. In my mind it was a home run that would lead to more interesting and challenging projects. I joined this company two months ago so I thought this was the report that would allow me to establish myself; to make a name for myself in my new role. And the response I got was “Hey Charlene, this looks good….” I was expecting “this looks really good” or “this is awesome.” Or maybe a little more detail such as, “You did a really great job on this report. It’s really thorough with a lot of great information.” But since all I got was “this looks good” I immediately assigned a meaning to the brevity and lack of emphasis in the comment. “Hmm. I guess I didn’t do as good as I thought I did. He must have not been impressed. I’m doomed.”
The truth is I have no idea what the true “meaning” of his feedback was and I never will unless I ask him. Everyday we go through life assigning meaning to things, events, people, etc. This meaning is from our own perspective and experiences. Giving meaning to everything that happens to us as colored through our own personal and sometimes self-conscious lens is dangerous. It can kill your spirit, demotivate you (like it did me) and damage relationships. Have you ever assigned a meaning to something someone did or did not do and allowed that meaning to upset or discourage you? Did you treat that person differently? Maybe you had an attitude or avoided them because of how you perceived their actions? Maybe you became hesitant to take action on something? Maybe it hurt your self-esteem?
I for one have a problem with assigning meaning to everything. For example, I asked the guy I’m dating if he wanted to accompany me to a dinner party I was invited to. He and I already had plans that night and I thought maybe we could stop by my friend’s party before or after. He hemmed and hawed over the question without ever giving a definitive answer. I concluded he didn’t want to meet my friends and my mood turned sour for the rest of the night. At times I reluctant to ask a friend out to lunch or share an inspiring message because if the answer is no or if the message isn’t greeted with acknowledgement it means something to me. Something disheartening.
As I’m on this journey of maturing from a caterpillar to a butterfly I’m working on growing in this area of my life. I know it’s cost me many opportunities. I know it’s cost me my confidence at times. It’s cost me my peace. Unnecessarily. And I’m no longer willing to pay the price.