I’m a master at appearing stoic in the newsroom. I instinctively repress my true reactions, saving my feelings for when I’m home alone. Then, my real emotions surface: embarrassment, shame, resentment and rage. It’s hard to deal with criticism at work. Even the most well-worded recommendations can hit a nerve, especially as a perfectionist. I’m still learning the best, most authentic way to respond, despite my insecurities. In my experience, confidence is a game changer.
The Big Mess Up
Insecurities exacerbate negative feedback. Working in live TV news, any mess up can feel like the weight of the world. The studio is a very last-minute, high-stakes environment. Part of my job is to archive scripts. Once I accidentally deleted part of an anchor’s script while we were on air. Luckily, it was only a few lines, and the anchor improvised, but it was a mistake worthy of getting pulled aside by management. The executive producer told me that I should wait until the show ends to archive the scripts. I was humiliated. For a brief moment, I wondered if I should quit. But recently, I’ve realized that my own fears of looking stupid blew these mistakes out of proportion. He was right, I should take steps to avoid this in the future. Only when you’re confident in your abilities can criticism truly become constructive.
One of my coworkers was also kind enough to remind me that I wasn’t the first person to mess up, and I probably won’t be the last. But with a perfectionist mindset, anything less than flawless is a failure. Opportunities turn sour because room for growth distorts into an area where I fell short. But once I stopped hyper-focusing on my own failures, I quickly realized that everyone else fails too. Then, if they’re committed, they get up again. Then they fail again. Then they get up again. And the cycle goes on. With a perfectionist mindset, there is no room to learn. But experts and masters aren’t born; they’re made. Success, to me, is the act of getting up again. Persistence is a signal to the universe that you’re willing to fight for who you want to become.
Finding My Success
A few months and mistakes after the script fiasco, I had a big work week coming up. The week included a major sports tournament, elections, and a visit to our city from the President. Feeling anxious, but refusing to let anything keep me down, I started to journal. First, I listed a few lessons I’d learned from criticism at work: be quick on the phone, don’t hesitate with breaking news, don’t forget to ask follow-up questions. I also wrote and repeated three mantras: “I am strong.” “The universe is for me, and so is everything else.” “Everything is as it should be.” I went running before my shift to expel some of the nervous energy, and I made sure to drink lots of water and coffee. Each day was nerve-wracking, interesting, and fun, whether the big story was political, sports, or crime. My work performance wasn’t perfect, but I did my best. I received a little criticism and a lot of encouragement, and I don’t think they cancel each other out anymore. These simple acts of self care strengthened my perspective and balanced my confidence and humility.
Now, when a colleague tells me, “Susanna, we really need to work on this,” I swallow those words whole and digest them. I will not repress my emotions; I meditate on them. Then, I decide if this coworker has a point (they usually do). If so, then I make use of the wisdom that I’ve been given. I take these chunks of coal and crack them open to reveal the gems. It would be a mistake if I assumed that I’m past the point of improvement.