I cried at work the other day.
I was in my weekly one-on-one meeting with my boss. We were outside, as we’ve taken to meeting outdoors when it makes sense since we rarely see the sky on busy school days.
We were talking about a hard parent meeting that had happened this week, and I was also expressing my concern about not getting materials to a co-worker at the moment they’d wanted it. Places, basically, where I felt afraid that I wasn’t doing enough, or that I wasn’t good enough.
And she said to me: “I see what you’re doing.”
I see how hard you’re working; I, and we all, see you as confident and competent. I see what you’ve taken on; I see great things for you, a bright future here. I see you as the superstar you are.
And, at some point during this monologue of positivity, I started leaking from my eyeballs.
“What’s going on right now?” she asked as she noticed I was crying.
“It’s just been really hard,” I said, “it’s been stressful, this time.” And she began again to say those positive, glowing things: We don’t want you to leave (not that I’d expressed to her that I was considering it), I see such great things, you’re doing awesome.
I had to put my hand on hers, as my tears were coming harder now, and say, laughingly, soddenly, “You have to stop”!
It was so hard to hear, to listen, as she was telling me these things. What was it that made the waterworks turn on? What was it that made it so vulnerable to hear words of praise and affirmation? What was so hard about being truly seen for the work I was doing… for work of mine to be acknowledged that, perhaps, I didn’t see as clearly as others apparently were?
What is it about praise for my work that was so painful, and so ecstatic, to hear?
I have been sitting with this question for the last two days, and haven’t yet had the time to dig deeply into it, but I do know that praise for my effort was not a tape I heard often growing up — or if I did, I’m sure I didn’t have the capacity or receptors to hear it.
My own myopia on performance and achievement precludes my awareness from the whole of my being.
Will this awareness broaden for me? Will I begin to consider that what I’m doing is not only “enough,” but more than f*cking enough?
I don’t know yet. It circles back upon the “Judgment Loosening” I’m attempting lately, because as harshly as we judge others, we do ourselves tenfold.
I am grateful for the openness of my boss to reflect these affirmations to me; it’s not every boss who would see or say such things. I’m grateful that she simply held the space as I processed trying to hear her praise, instead of shutting down or dismissing it (her or me).
And, I’m grateful for the chance to discover another ripe and rich place for me to grow.