They were the most destructive four words I had ever heard, and brought me down a path that eventually landed me in a psychiatric institution. Please understand that I am not blaming one person - that would be unfair! I had a lifetime of experiences at age 30 that contributed.
The point of this revelation is to 1) let you know you are not alone if words have hurt you and to provide encouragement, and 2)help you to understand how important your words are.
It was 1992, and I was student teaching. Being an uber perfectionist, I was also working a part-time job, had 2 children under the age of 4 and was pregnant with my 3rd, AND I was taking a class to complete my teaching program.
Every night I would come home from school/work, take care of home and children, and begin working on my lesson plans. It was torture. I had no confidence in my abilities, low self-esteem, and inadequate training. Most nights, I would stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning, obsessing over these plans.
The next day, my cooperating teacher would not ask me for my plans. I would breathe a sigh of relief (after all, I just knew they were terrible), and I would not offer them up to her. The cycle would repeat itself each day.
A couple of weeks into my stint, my university supervisor came for a visit. As we sat at a corner table to meet, she said to him, about me, in front of a classroom of students:
She has no initiative.
She went on to compare me to a student who was there observing, saying that woman was doing far better than I was.
These words cut deep and have had a 31-year effect on my mental health. Let's explore why. During our exploration, think of words that have had long-lasting effects on you.
Firstly, let's define initiative. Initiative is the ability to take charge and be proactive. It's the drive to identify problems and come up with solutions. It's the willingness to take risks and try new things. Having initiative is a valuable trait to have. It implies that you care.
Now, imagine being told that you have no initiative. She essentially told me that I lacked drive, creativity, and problem-solving skills. That I didn't care. And, of course, my mind went further to believe I was worthless. It was a blow to my self-esteem and left me feeling like a failure.
A range of negative emotions ensued, including anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. I felt a sense of hopelessness and more deeply questioned my abilities in all areas of my life.
Maybe for you someone said you weren’t smart enough, attractive enough, funny enough, strong enough.
So, what can you do if you've received these kinds of words? Here are a few tips:
Take a step back and evaluate the words objectively. Is there any truth to what they said? Are there areas where you could improve?
Talk to the person if you can. If you're unclear on what they meant by, for me, "lack of initiative," ask for clarification.
Seek out support. Talk to friends, family, or a therapist about how you're feeling. Having a support system can help you process your emotions and gain perspective.
Focus on your strengths. Don't let these words overshadow all the things you're doing well. Make a list of your accomplishments and remind yourself of your strengths and skills.
Take action. Refuse to be defined by words of condemnation.
Read/study resources that lift you up and help you move past the hurt.
Until recently, I honestly did not realize how much these words continue to haunt me. Often, I realize that I refuse to have down time, take a break, or leave the house, especially if I have an upcoming event where I'm speaking. I mean, Geez, if I’m not working every waking hour does it mean I don’t have initiative?
Now that I realize these words are still with me, it's time to get busy and stop letting them live in my head and affect my life!! Join me!
I’ll leave you with two things:
You’re identity does NOT rest in someone else’s opinion of you.
As best you can, choose your words carefully when delivering difficult feedback. Kindness is always the best starting point.
Love & Hugs!