Well, no. I’m not Jean Valjean, though I totally love him and the amazing musical Les Miserables. But in the past couple of months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who I am. And perhaps just as importantly, I’ve been reflecting on the way I’m being perceived by others. For intention means little in the scheme of things when they say that perception is ninety percent of reality.
Part of this is likely due to current events in life; events that force a person to re-evaluate what is important and focus internally on what will make one’s own life better. Lately, I’ve felt a little selfish as I’ve made decisions for /me/. I’ve spent more time alone and doing things to take care of myself– praying more, exercising more, blogging more. Ha. Perhaps what they say about ENFJs is true; we do tend to be hard on ourselves and feel guilty about taking time for ourselves. It’s good to know that even while I’ve been feeling selfish for taking that time, others have been recognizing a deeper truth.
Others are at the center of my universe. I often make choices based on how it will affect the important people in my life. And, as I am realizing and those around me are recognizing, I look at the world through a relationship-oriented lens. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses. I’m not a perpetual optimist. My glass is almost never half-full. But I do view the world from a perspective that focuses a great deal on other people. While it’s become more apparent, I’ve known this about myself for a long time. What has been rewarding in these last few months is the way others are seeing those things in me, too.
I went to a training in January that focused on the concept of sustainability. It used a game or fishing demonstration to illustrate the risk of depleting resources. While I certainly understood the exercise, most of my contributions to the discussion post-activity centered around relationships. When given an assignment to conserve resources, it’s easier to take a turn sacrificing when you /trust/ the others involved to do the same. Therefore, I find it easier to practice the type of lessons learned from the activity about sustainability when working with a common group with which I already have a relationship. When you extend this principle to the world, or even a larger group of lesser known individuals, there is a fear that sets in and a lack of trust if not a sense of distrust. At the end of the two-hour activity, the facilitator spoke with me briefly and asked, “You brought up a lot of relationship-oriented thoughts in our discussion. Is that your lens? You seem very other-centered.” My colleague, standing beside me, answered on my behalf “Yes. That’s totally her lens.” Thank you, Mr. Facilitator and my Dear Colleague, for picking up what I’ve been trying to throw out into the universe.
This seems to further validate the concepts of the book The Secret or Sinek’s TED Talk, each of which I previously reflected upon in earlier blogs. Here I am putting out these relationship-oriented, other-centered vibes. And I’m indeed surrounded by folks who have or have-adopted similar views and offer those same warm-fuzzy vibes right back. I supervise a staff of twelve student paraprofessionals. Their responsibilities are many in number, often time-consuming, and occasionally quite heavy. As their supervisor, I need to hold them accountable and make sure that they’re adequately meeting the expectations of their position. Yes, I use excel sheets, evaluation forms, spreadsheets and other tools to help me stay organized. But I find that there’s a great deal less worry about holding my staff accountable because there is such a positive working relationship that was established from the very beginning. We’ve spent a good deal of time getting to know each other and learning each other’s expectations. We’ve built enough trust that they feel comfortable telling me when they’re struggling. This allows me to comfortably afford them extra time on tasks that are less time-sensitive. It also allows me to more easily give them a slap on the wrist when they’re not performing to the level at which they should be without fear of how they will receive the reprimand or reminder. So while others around the table may like to judge the way that my office is like Grand Central Station with the comings and goings of a large number of my twelve staff members, I am quite happy with the boisterous afternoons. While occasionally distracting, I find them extremely valuable– both personally and professionally, as it is these relationships that encourage their hard work and productivity. Oh, and of course I love to hear that they love their staff and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else! Who doesn’t love happy staffers, right?
So, what about you? How do you define yourself? And do you think other’s would describe you that way? If not, why?