I have a problem: I like to be liked. It’s a problem because not everyone likes me, and that often messes with my head. Why can’t I be like those people who never miss an opportunity to point out, “This is who I am. I don’t care if you love me or hate me”?
Because those people are liars. I never believe them. Neither should you. Not when they’re talking about themselves or their work. I don’t think even they believe their own bullshit. Nevermind that no one utters such nonsense after hearing, “Great job!”
“I don’t care” is nothing but a passive-aggressive defense mechanism to hide the fact that we all care what others think of us. We all live for the applause.
So what happens when someone can’t see what you see in the mirror? How do you feel and what should you do when coworkers criticize your work? If you’re like me, you feel shitty, binge on chips, watch Vanderpump Rules, hate your haters, binge on chips, take an Ambien, write some loopy Facebook posts, bing on chips, and feel even shittier.
I’m thinking of negative feedback right now because earlier this week, I re-launched this blog, and some people dislike the design. Perhaps you, too, agree with my friend who insists that green is a terrible color and that my blog looks “like it was designed on a PC in 1999.”
Actually, a 1989 Commodore 64.
Regardless, you know the cliché about negative feedback. It’s a gift! Embrace it! That’s the sort of garbage that crappy corporate intranet articles spew about self-development. I should know. I’ve written those crappy articles.
Except, gifts make you feel good. Comparisons to ’90s computers, not so much. You also hug kids and pets. Nineties computers, again, not so much.
So when peers tell you that your work sucks, it’s easy to mutate into a smiling Stepford Employee as your mind races with self-doubt: Do others think I don’t know what I’m doing? Is that because I really don’t know what I’m doing?
There it is. Right there. The heart of why we hate negative feedback. It’s not because we don’t get trophies as much as because second-guessing our choices makes us feel incompetent. So how should you manage impostor syndrome?
It’s a gift! Embrace it! Run for President!
Or you can just ponder the feedback. Then apply it, or don’t. Either way, own your decisions and move on. Do what the devil does: “Even if you aren’t sure of yourself,” Vogue editor Anna Wintour suggests, “pretend that you are.”
Then stand by your convictions, and remember that a lot advice is subjective, and recommendations like “don’t use green” are really code for “this is not how we do things here” or “everyone knows that…”
Here’s what I know: You are not everyone. You are you. And if you do things like everyone, then you will ultimately be no one—at least in the sense of accomplishing anything great. Many of the world’s top visionaries achieved success by realizing that rules are for losers. (Wait, didn’t I just see that somewhere here?)
They used green!
Meanwhile, when giving and receiving negative feedback, it’s worth parsing the differences between what is good, bad, and different. I’ve seen leaders conflate especially the last two, causing them to manage away—intentionally and otherwise—an employee’s uniqueness.
Now, back to my site, which may or may not look like a relic from another decade. Believe it or not, I actually put a lot of thought into making this thing look a bit tacky—because I’m a bit tacky. In other words, I’ll let other bloggers make the best-dressed list while I have fun on the worst-dressed version. I’ll continue to do me. You do you. And let’s both do each other as best as we can.
(And for the record, color experts say that everyone likes green.)