Ask A Friend

One of the other tasks for the first week was to ask people to answer some questions about you, on the basis that we don’t see ourselves as others do. A questionnaire was provided.   After wasting far too long trying to format it allowing space for replies, I gave up and typed the questions from scratch. And still I managed somehow not to read them or think about them.

Avoidance.

Who to ask? Well, I’ve been out of work for over 20 years, so unfortunately there is no one who can provide answers about me in that context. I asked people who know me very well but don’t know each other – they see different sides of me I suppose. Although, in fact, all have seen me spend 90% of my time on the floor crying over the last few years.  One never knew me in happier times, before all the crying started; another has known me all my life.

The replies came in and I managed not to look at them at all, because the slightest peek made me cry. (Did I mention that I cry a lot? No longer 24/7, thank goodness, but still at the drop of a hat.) So they were put to one side and ignored.

One of the others doing this course posted online expressing disappointment – while some people seemed to be getting inspiration from the replies, he didn’t feel he was learning anything new.

I chipped in with: I realise that I am just dismissing the feedback I have had as flattery, or just plain wrong.
Quick as a flash there was a reply from one of the coaches on the course:
That’s interesting – what impact can you see that habit has on your life?
Oo-er! Instinctive inner response: It’s not a habit! It’s clear sightedness! Lack of vanity!
And when I admitted avoiding looking properly, one of the other coaches asked:
What is that view and the avoidance of looking at them costing you? And you can look at it the other way… How is that view benefitting you?

Oh, they are good.  They deserve for me to get somewhere with this course. Fingers crossed.

So I have the responses in front of me now, and I’m forcing myself to look at them.  What is the ‘take out’?

OK the consensus is that I am good with words (speaking, writing, editing), sensible and analytical. Research and pulling a project together. I accept that.  Sense of humour got a few mentions, seeing the funny side etc. I’ve been told that before.  They tended to agree, too, that they’d seen me happiest in my garden, with flowers, and that I was good with things like interiors, cooking, etc.   Not so good at turning ideas into action. So far so not enlightening.

I was surprised though, at remarks about my supposed people and listening skills, generosity as a friend, and ability to make others happy (one even going so far as to suggest that I must be a great lover – this is very wide of the mark but did make me chuckle!). Interestingly, one made the comment that I lived my life for others, and referred to the relatively early death of my father and his having been replaced as audience by boyfriends etc.   One articulated my own feeling as well, that I would be well suited to ‘adopting a cause and using every ounce of wit, skill and persuasion to win’. Although I am reticent (don’t want to connect with people on LinkedIn, don’t want to ‘sell’ stuff) – if I truly care about it I will. I would walk over coals, for example, for my children, exploit contacts etc for them. But not for me.  And I suppose I should not be surprised that the phrase ‘beating yourself up’ featured.

While I am delighted to (try to) accept that I am a better friend than I gave myself credit for, and that my supporters feel I could do a reasonable job of things if I cared about them, it does beg the question we started with, namely: what do I care about and how can I turn this into a way to make a living?  More work to be done.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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