A couple of weeks ago, I got a bit of… feedback from a friend. I don’t want to get into details, but basically they called me out on something I had done. It was incredibly polite, it was honest, and it was clearly heartfelt. Naturally, I took it terribly.
“Can you believe this? Can you even believe how passive aggressive this is? Plus, she’s wrong. That wasn’t even the situation,” I fumed to Jeremy, pacing in the kitchen and pointing at my phone like a cartoon.
“I mean… I don’t think that was passive aggressive. I think she genuinely meant it in a kind, helpful way. Also, I think she sort of has a point.” Jeremy responded, with the bravery of someone embarking on a suicide mission. Pardon me? Whose side was this kid on?
I thought about it a lot. And by a lot, I mean a lot. I’m a chronic over-thinker. This situation seemed to weigh on me more than usual, simply because I’ve gotten out of the habit of receiving criticism. Being sober in a city with few friends, I don’t exactly attract drama – not that this was drama. Plus, working for myself means I don’t get negative feedback from a boss. Why was I so indignant?
I remembered something I read awhile back. I’m sure I will butcher it, but it basically said that when someone is embarrassed, they can easily become a bully. Because embarrassment is uncomfortable, it can be easier to just get mad. It was like a light bulb went off – I was so incensed about this “calling out” because she was right, and I was embarrassed. That embarrassment was making me a bully.
The good thing, however, was that this friend “criticized” me about something that I had done with no ill intent. In fact, I had really good intentions. Because I had a crystal clear conscience about why I had done what I did, I was able to simply respond, “You’re completely right, and thank you for pointing that out.” I had nothing to hide and no reason to be ashamed. In the weeks that have followed, I’ve been able to change and improve my own behavior because she had the guts to say, “Hey Caroline, check yourself.”
The best people I know are the people who are able to say, “I’m sorry,” and, “I was wrong.” I love people who are so authentic that they can admit their lows just as easily as they can admit their highs, and they can take criticism and grow from it. Sadly, I have trouble being that person. I’ve been told that I “always have to be right,” and that’s not an attractive quality.
“Getting called out” can be a gift. In this case, someone believed I could be better, and they cared enough to let me know. I don’t want to be a person that can’t learn from another human being with a whole different set of life experiences. I don’t want to put up walls when I feel my comfort zone being threatened. Who would want to be that person?
I know it’s almost April, but I have a new resolution. I’m going to become an expert at being “called out” (though I truly hope I don’t need to get called out that often!). I will evaluate the situation. Am I genuinely angry because that person is out of line, OR am I angry because they’re right, and I’m a little embarrassed? If it’s the latter, I have to own it! We’re all humans and we’re all learning as we go.
The most important thing to me is that I continue to have good intentions with all of my actions, but I don’t get so attached to my choices that I can’t accept feedback. After all, it feels really good to have a healthy, loving conversation with a friend instead of just shutting down because I got called out. The moral of the story: don’t let a bruised ego turn you into a mean person. Listen up, and grow from it.