The Department Managers hashed over a sticky problem that needed a solution. Mostly men with far more corporate experience than me, I felt dwarfed. I kept pushing aside an idea for a possible solution.
As my boss and I left the meeting, I said, “Instead of going through such complex hurdles, couldn’t we…?” I described the idea I’d been swallowing.
“Amy! That’s brilliant. Why didn’t you suggest this in the meeting?!”
“Well…I decided if it was such a great idea, you would have thought about it already.”
“It’s an amazing approach. Get a memo to those managers immediately before they start spending money on George’s idea.”
“It would be more appropriate if it came from you. You’re the Vice President. If I hadn’t gone today and had told you about it, would you have suggested it?”
“Then go ahead. They’ll pay more attention if it comes from you.”
He shook his head and made a bee-line to his secretary.
No surprise, in my next performance review, he wrote, “Become more willing to share creative solutions, in writing and verbally, to benefit the greater good of the corporation.”
At the time, I believed those more experienced managers would surely have thought of the idea. Since none of them suggested it, I figured there must be something wrong with it.
I paralleled this approach in my personal life. “Amy, the way you look at life! How do you come up with these insights?”
“My mom had a rare combination of intelligence, common sense and wisdom. You can thank her.”
It was true, my mother did hold a triumvirate of talent. As a teacher, she knew the value of helping people formulate their own answers. Besides my siblings and me benefiting, so did her students, new teaching staff, friends and family. Even the Anglican clergy came to our home for regular visits with Mother.
A church person once said, “As hard as I try to minister to your mom, I end up being the one more served!”
In other corners of life, I’d work diligently to remember sources of any degree of help found while I whittled mindfully at an idea. When a concept was ready to be shared, I’d give the source full credit – no matter the degree of contribution.
A few years ago, I realized I was diminishing myself. I didn’t want to be a person who deceitfully took full credit, but I began to see the injustice I’d been serving myself.
Finally, I began catching myself. As I was about to sing the praises of another, I would stop. But I didn’t know how to fill the empty space.
It took a while to find my language. I still wanted to lean on the crutches of others so I became determined to figure out this tendency and clean it up.
A few months ago, through a University course, I uncovered the nub (click here to read about the course at Operation Blind Spot). I exposed the sensitive core, the open wound that caused me to flick the spotlight elsewhere: I was petrified of being criticized. I didn’t know if I could defend myself. I wasn’t sure I could trust myself to respond with calmness and sound thinking.
My sagacious teacher-mom had a way of helping me without criticism. She formed relevant questions that allowed me to dig out my own assessment or evaluation. Though it was one of her qualities, it meant I was ill-equipped to handle criticism so readily offered by a judgement-oriented world.
After years of denial, I saw how my big-heartedness i.e. giving credit to others, was not my true motive. I was actually placating my fear of being criticized.
Did I change my behavior immediately? First, I had to accept there are very few ideas formulated without a great deal of influence from all sorts of sources. I realized it was okay to take credit for my willingness to gather, assimilate, percolate and punctuate data. I was given the seasoning, but I had given birth.
Then, I discovered the Thrive program and signed up for an integration process. It meant discovering and lovingly reassuring this 4 year old part of me, my “orphan” or soul fragment, that I would always protect her. At that fragile age of four, I’d experienced two significant lies being told about me – by other children. Two different mothers on two separate occasions confronted my mother. They each repeated the lies told by their children. Each time, I became terrified that Mom would believe them. Lies were foreign; they didn’t compute in my young brain. The only defense I had was my word. Both times I stood silent, full of shock and horror, and didn’t hear my mother’s responses. The minute we were alone, I could only cry my innocence to Mom.
Both times, she assured me, “I know you wouldn’t do that, Darling.” I melted into her with relief.
Both times, she gave Dad the same message: She told each mother it would be beneficial to discover the reason her child found it necessary to fabricate blame and lay it on another child.
May I be this kind of blessing to my integrating “orphan”. What a delight to bring her home where she’ll handle criticism just like a big person.