Someone recently asked me if I considered myself high maintenance. Before you’re offended on my behalf because we share an assumption that being high maintenance is a bad thing, let me say she’s a wonderful young women and I respect her a lot. I think she’s working on finding her place in this world and is interested in how others see themselves as she’s working on her own self-view. Her question really caught me off guard, however, because I do start with the assumption that being high maintenance isn’t a desirable trait. To me, it conjures up images of demanding whatever is best of you whenever it suits you. It’s complaining about not getting the perfect table. It’s whining about things not going exactly your way. It’s all about you all the time. Quite frankly, the thought of it being about me all the time is exhausting.
I thought about it and told her I didn’t consider myself high maintenance, but rather, I knew what I wanted and wasn’t afraid to go after it or ask for it. Perhaps that does make me high maintenance. When I’m excited, I want you to get excited to. When I work hard, I want you to work just as hard. When I prioritize something, I want you to do the same. And maybe that’s another definition of high maintenance. I think of it as wanting to share what I find interesting with someone else. And the people I keep closest to me do often share those same values, which makes it fun.
When relaying this conversation to another friend, he had a good laugh (clearly, I’m a little higher maintenance on his scale than my own). But he did think about it for a minute and reframed it this way – he said he believed I had high expectations. And unlike the label of high maintenance, having high expectations resonated immediately. Yes, I absolutely have high expectations of those around me. I expect you’ll be excited because I’m excited. I expect we’ll work hard together. I expect we’ll share similar priorities. I expect these things because we’ve chosen to come together in life – as friends, colleagues, or partners. We share a common purpose on some level, and that drives our expectations. I hold myself to those same expectations when it comes to you because you matter to me. Your excitement, work ethic and priorities matter to me. And I am more than okay with those expectations of me.
And sure, your high expectations may let you down from time to time. And that’s okay. But it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop expecting the best from people. I will proudly wear the label of high expectations, and I can’t wait for you to surpass them.
Catherine met a man at the post office today named Magic and is now seriously considering changing her name. She is the founder of Good for Her Soul and you can reach her here.
So often, we’re told not to listen to what others say about us – not to worry about what they think, pay no attention to their opinions. And while that’s good advice for some things, I think we miss out on some valuable intel. Set aside, for a moment, the notion of constructive criticism or looking for the gem of good feedback delivered in a mountain of shit. I’m not talking about those things (at the moment, anyway – I think we can get a lot out of feedback, even if it’s not delivered in the best way. But that’s another blog post from another day.).
What I’m talking about is what our friends and trusted advisers see in us. I wouldn’t have gotten into the type of consulting I do now if it hadn’t been for a friend who had a job and thought I could help her out. She described me as being good with teams and getting buy-in and consensus. These aren’t the primary ways I would have described myself, but she was right. I am good at those things, even if they don’t pop into my mind as the things I’m best at (they are now, thanks to her).
We know we’re usually our harshest critic, but why is it so hard to listen to those around us who have seen what we’re capable of? It’s easy to believe the bad things, but so much harder to believe we have talents we may not even know about or think of as strong skills. You value your friends’ judgment, so why not value it when it’s about you and your amazingness?
I was recently approached about a job opening and I believe I know the perfect person for it, so I connected the employer and the candidate. It’s not quite a job the candidate has done before, but there’s no question in my mind that she would knock it out of the park in this position. She was hesitant as we talked about it. As we talked through the skills and experience I thought she could bring to it, I think I was able to convince her, but it took some doing. From the outside, I don’t even see how that’s possible – this job was made for her. But the job title was making her uneasy. The job title was just the title. It didn’t get to the heart of her skills and passion, which were absolutely what the employer wants and needs. I’m happy to report they’re in discussions now, so we’ll see where it goes.
So the moral of the story – don’t listen to the haters, but listen to the people who have your back. They know your talents and abilities and want the best for you. And you have great taste in friends, so listen to them.
Catherine learned yesterday through a highly scientific Facebook test that she’s a Josiah Bartlett, which is a little surprising since she could have sworn she’s a CJ. She is the founder of Good for Her Soul and you can reach her here.
I was talking to my son the other day and it dawned on me what an a-hole I am. Intellectually, I am able to recognize what an awesome kid he is – how accomplished and talented he is at such a young age. When I look at some of the skills he’s mastered and habits he has compared to others his age, I breathe a sigh of relief. But somehow I can’t stop nagging him about doing more, being better.
I don’t expect him to be perfect, so it’s not that – I am not looking for some kind of uber kid. I’m just looking to not be annoyed. But really, whose problem is that? It’s mine – I can (or should be able to in theory) control how and when I react to things he does, but I struggle. And then I take it out on him. Instead of trying to change my needs and perspective, I try to change him. This needs to stop.
Let me assure you that I’m not beating him or constantly screaming at him in an emotionally abusive way, but there is a low-level undercurrent of general annoyance and that’s not cool. I can tell he’s frustrated because it seems as though I am always disappointed in him. I’m not, but I can 100% see how he might feel that way. So what do I do?
I like to observe him with other people – it helps me see that he’s not annoying to others; he’s personable and open, and while he sometimes gets a wee bit out of control with other kids, he also brings a joy and happiness to any interaction. I think I also care a bit too much of what other people think. I’ve observed that most parents seem not to care at all how their or their children’s interactions impact others; I think I’ve gone too far to the other side and have made that a driving factor in how I view his behavior. Fuck people (sometimes) – he’s learning and having fun and I need to let that ride a bit more (within reason).
Anyway, I’ve decided that his short-term less-than-desirable behavior should absolutely take a backseat to his long-term emotional health and well-being, that he should see me as an ally and not someone he needs to try to make happy or not disappoint (constantly). Support and kindness are just as important to encouraging him to be “a nice, smart, kind person that people want to spend time with” as are reminders about manners and self-control. After all, no one is perfect…especially me, and he’ll never be either. But if I change my behavior, I’m sure his will evolve beyond my own which is comforting. I will never be his friend – and as his mother, I really don’t want to be – but I can certainly be more friendly.
Libby and her family enjoy camping trips that help them appreciate each other and their running water when they get home. You can reach her here.
I was meeting a friend for lunch last week and my walk there took me through a park. It was a warm enough day in January that there were a lot of people out and about (or maybe it wasn’t that warm and people were just thrilled to be out of their homes after our big snowstorm. Either way…). There was a group of 7 people who caught my attention – presumably two mothers and their five kids. (Okay, after considering this last sentence, maybe it wasn’t that warm out. If I had multiple children at home during a snowstorm, I’d be out whenever I could, regardless of the temperature!) One child was being carried and the other four girls were running around while their caretakers kept close watch.
In their playing, the four girls were racing to an imaginary finish. The first one crossed and yelled out, “I’m first!” She was followed by the second and third girls who also eagerly claimed their places with shouts of glee. Finally, the fourth – and seemingly youngest – caught up and triumphantly shouted “I’m fourth!” with as much pride as the first three. In that instant, she made my heart happy with the way she viewed the world. She wasn’t sad about being the smallest or coming in last. Instead, she was delighted with her finish – she placed FOURTH, after all! And what struck me as equally impressive was that her fellow racers didn’t tell her she lost or correct her fourth place finish to a last place finish – they all continued on to whatever adventure was next, happy to have completed the race.
This whole exchange happened in the span of less than a minute, but stuck with me for the rest of the day (and into this week, clearly). I was delighted by the joyous statement of fact, free from any judgement along with it. It made me wonder when we lose that – when do we stop seeing fourth place and start seeing last place? Others may be quick to point out our shortcomings, but I so much prefer this girl’s way of seeing the world and her place in it. I think we could all stand to be a little kinder to ourselves. Focus a bit more on the facts and a bit less on the judgement. See a few more fourth place finishes and a few less last place finishes. This was a wonderful reminder to me and I hope sticks with me until I get the next reminder.
Here’s to all our fourth place finishes!
– Catherine Wemette
Catherine is pretty sure she’s the only person to ever move away from Minnesota and miss the winters. She is the founder of Good for Her Soul and you can reach her here.