Monday, August 25, 2008

Over-Achievers Anonymous

Well, I've done it. I emailed a group of friends and family and asked them for five words that define me. I came up with a list myself, but I think it's definitely a different twist when you get the outside perspective. Thanks J* for the "homework".

I was a little hesitant at first. I mean, who wouldn't be? What if my self-reflection was way off base from what others see me as? And of course, I cringe at criticism, even when I ask for it. I think it has to do with the fact that I suffer from "Over-Achievers" syndrome. I strive to be the best and achieve as much as I can. Like I said, I missed being the Valedictorian in high school by all of 0.18. Close like the Olympics.

It all happened since I started school -- not just high school, but grade school too. It's come from years of praise, starting in pre-school in France. Yes, France. When I was a little kid, my dad's job got moved to St. Etienne, France, about an hour outside Lyon, and about six hours south of Paris. I was about three and a half and not yet in school. When I started pre-school, I didn't speak a word of French, but being really young, languages just come naturally. I was speaking better French than my parents! When learning to read, I learned in French first, English second. My teachers were amazed that I was learning just as easily as the other French kids who were native speakers.

When we moved back to the US, I started second grade. I had a little trouble at first pronouncing some of the words in English, but for the most part, the transition was smooth. My parents were always really proud of me and I think it was that positive reinforcement that pushed me harder to succeed. I moved up to the top of my class and pretty much sailed through elementary school and junior high. But I think it was the lack of occasional criticism or constructive criticism that causes me to tense up and cringe.

I like positive praise. It's a lot harder for me to take criticism, I mean who likes it? It's tough because I know that criticism can be constructive and make me and my work a better person. I recently had my performance review at my job. It was actually the first performance review meeting that I've had since I started two and a half years ago. My first experience with a corporate performance review wasn't very positive. It wasn't that I hadn't done a good job, it was that my manager and I did not see my performance level eye to eye. Where I thought I met the requirement completely, if not above it, she said I "met minimum". This was hard for me to swallow. It was tough. After that, I decided I didn't want to work with her anymore and any bit of criticism that came from her, I took like a bullet. I was on a mission to get out of that situation.

However, from that first "real-world" job, I learned that, in a way, her review of my work and constructive criticism (even though I didn't see it that way at the time), pushed me to where I am today. I wanted to prove to her and my eventual new manager that I would out-perform and over-achieve unlike anyone else. I guess that's just my personality. While I'm not the most passionate about my job (and this is where my journey as a photographer begins) I do still strive to do well. So as I was saying, I had my performance review for the year with my current manager. It was a smooth meeting because, as intended, I met my goals and out-performed where I could. And I said to my manager, "I don't know if you knew this, but I'm kind of an over-achiever", he laughed and nodded and replied, "Yeah, I sort of noticed".

How does this tie in to my photography?

Well, I've discovered that I'm in an entirely new arena. I'm not the best. I'm not the most talented. I don't know everything. I don't have years of experience or formal training. I want to incorporate my burning drive for photography and achieve. I need to take what I do have, my personality, my honesty and candor, and my drive and in Tim Gunn's words, "Make it work." I will define me and build my brand.

Here is a sampling of the responses to my question:
tenacious, focused, honest, reasonable, authentic, funny, kind-hearted, dedicated, charming

I was really touched to receive these answers from my friends and family. These were honest answers as I didn't bribe anyone :) These will definitely get me on track with my definition.

1 comment:

Lydia said...

I just got my first set of words back from my sister. Still waiting for the rest from others. Then the hard part, figuring out how they play out in my brand!