Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An even uglier truth

Apparently, on top of being OCD about my schoolwork, I am also a complete schizo. Let me explain.

Part of my online class is to participate in an online forum where we are asked to review one anothers assignments and evaluate them and discuss. This week, our assignment was to create a handout for a bible study course over the historical background of Philemon, and we were instructed to "Be creative!" When looking at the work of my classmates, I came across a handout that was very creative, but the author had placed various images throughout the paper, sometimes placing them behind the text, so it was almost impossible to read the text itself. She used multiple fonts, various spacing conventions (single in places, double in others, etc.), the margins varied in width, and sometimes the caption to the pictures was separated from the picture, so it just suddenly appeared in the middle of the other text. So, when I reviewed her work, I noted that I liked the illustrations and that the content of the text was great, but that I had a hard time reading the text because of the placement of the pics. I stated that I thought the concept was great, but that the end product needed a bit of tweaking to make it more readable and that the inconsistencies in font/spacing/margins were a distraction to the great text she had written.

This was the response I got today: "Angela, You could have said something other than than tearing my project apart. I thought we were supposed to be kind in these things. I am an artistic person and liked my project. Sorry that you didn't."


So here is the schizo part. In the 5 minutes after reading her response, I go through this:

First of all, the lawyer in me wants to argue my case. "Objection! I didn't tear your project apart!" 

Then, I feel HORRIBLE for making someone feel that way, when my sole intent was to offer constructive criticism in an academic setting. 

Then, I am aggravated. Did she really want me to just say "Good job, it was great!" when, truth be told, it wasn't? If the point of this entire academic exercise is to learn from one another, then should I just spare your pride and tell you what you want to hear, or should I actually tell you what made it fall short, in my opinion?

And then, I am embarrassed. Everyone in my class has now read this and probably thinks I am a big fat meanie that made the nice girl cry. I am feeling like a schoolyard bully now.

Then, I am ticked off, because part of me feels like emotional reactions like this are what give women a bad name in the academic and business realm, and I don't want to work in a world where men tiptoe around women and treat them like fine china because they are afraid of setting off an emotional atom bomb. 

And then, I am back to feeling awful, because regardless of the purity of my motives, if this girl feels like I've picked on her, then I have somehow failed in my communications with her, and I need to fix that. 

Then I feel convicted--here I am in seminary and I've hurt some girl's feelings and am I really doing what Jesus would want me to do??

And then I feel like, well, Jesus didn't tell people what they wanted to hear, he told the truth, so I shouldn't feel convicted! I feel righteous!

And then my stupid conscience sets in, and I realize that being all righteous and prideful is about the worst thing I can bring to this situation, and boy, am I sure I am heading into the right career field??

And then I compulsively re-read every comment I wrote to everyone else in my group last night and wonder if everyone else also thinks I am a heartless *&^%$.

Then I feel totally insecure--could that be read to be an insult?  Wait, does that sound too harsh?  Hmm, should I have really used that word there? 

Then I feel completely defeated and resolve to just write blanket statements of praise on everyone else's work from now on so this NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN!

Then I kick myself for being such a self-conscious ninny about this entire thing. I didn't write anything mean or inflammatory, so I should just stop beating myself up.

And the conversation in my head goes on, and on, and on. In fact, it has gone on all day and all evening and I still am no closer to working this thing out in my head. I long ago wrote a response to the girl, apologizing for hurting her feelings but re-stating my initial desire--to simply offer constructive pointers for how her handout could have been more effective. I re-stated my praise, explained why I wrote what I did, and apologized for failing to communicate that to her in a way that wasn't hurtful. I also told her how frustrated I was with the process of having to have these discussions via email, and that if I had been able to talk with her face-to-face, with the benefit of body language and inflection of my voice, there would have been no doubt in her mind that I admired her work, but that I was simply trying to offer advice on constructive ways to improve it, not tear it apart. But even after all of that, I am still fretting and worrying and obsessing about this entire exchange.

As I said yesterday, I must be crazy.  BUT...I don't think I am alone.

I am pretty sure that there are other women out there that do this, too. We obsess about little things, like conversations or social situations, wondering whether we have said or done the right thing. We wonder what others think of us, we criticize ourselves mercilessly when we make a minor error, and we refuse to just let it go. When I think of how much energy I waste on beating myself up and questioning my every comment or social interaction... I can't help but beat myself up about that, too!! So, I just keep praying that the Jesus living in me will lend me a little of his grace. That He'll pinch me every once in a while, so I can remember to silence my earthly tongue and let His words fill my mouth. I put my hope in Him, that if I can just clean out a few of these negative thoughts and give Him a little more room in my head, He can stretch out in there, get comfy, prop His feet up on the coffee table and teach me how to be little more like Him.   


lent said...

Oh, Angela, I go through this a lot. I make minor errors at work and then worry that my boss will hate me and fire me and what will I do... etc etc. Then I meet with my boss and she says, ok, just do it again. And we just move on. Its hard to silence the voices in your head that tell you that you are of little worth, though.

Becky said...

It is not your problem that she can't separate between criticism on a project and her self worth. You didn't attack her or her efforts, you were merely giving her constructive criticism.

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