The message from her was simple and straightforward:
“I almost didn’t share because I was afraid – and then I assumed everyone would just would just pay attention to you because you’ve done so much more. I assumed I’d just disappear into the background!”
Honest and vulnerable, from a place we’ve probably all been. And my first response?
“Oh my gosh, you’re insane.”
No, actually I was more graceful than that. A little. But that was certainly my gut reaction, because I simply couldn’t fathom where she got off feeling like this.
We had been part of a group of people sharing links to some music projects we’re working on or have done in the past. Her stuff was so polished and professional, her voice outstanding, her heart unmistakable even on recordings. I listened to some of her songs over and over. To be honest, I wanted to be jealous. Here she was young and still fully pursuing her dreams, with beautiful work to show for it. I couldn’t make it bother me, though. Her humility in spite of her talent was refreshing, her expression of self-doubt and fear surprising. Truthfully? It was nice to come across someone with such great potential, talent and reach who still needed a bit of encouragement. I don’t know many people like that.
So in what had to seem incredibly random and a bit like stalking, I messaged her on Facebook. I sounded like a fangirl , telling her how impressed I was with her work and how stupid those darn voices of doubt were. I told her the truth – that I was inspired by her and her incredible gift.
The message I got back is the one in question. How absurd that she would find me at all intimidating! I have so little to show for myself, and the stuff I had shared was – just being honest here – crude scratch recordings done in my study when I had literally 20 or 30 minutes to spare. The experiences I had shared (Global Rhythms work, choral tours, etc) were simply my reflections on the opportunities God has blessed me with, and not at all a testament to anything I’d accomplished on my own – something I hope had been clear in those interactions.
There’s another woman who hates me – I know, because she’s told me in every way possible – and it breaks my heart. At one point, I thought it did so simply because I want to be liked (don’t we all?). Over time though, as I learned more about her indirectly, I was sad because this was someone I think I have so much more in common with than she’ll ever know.
You guys? This is what I’m talking about. We compare ourselves to one another with benchmarks that are often only important to us. We stand back envious, even resentful, of people we hardly know. Do you know how often we despise and reject people because they intimidate us only to find out sometime down the road that we did the same for them?
That woman you think has it all together might long for your ability to roll with the punches. The man with your dream job might live his life full of regret that he isn’t doing something he truly enjoys. The coworker who seems lazy and unimpressive might be doing the best they can in the midst of heart-breaking circumstances outside of the office. Or maybe they’re just lazy, in which case that infuriates me, too. Carry on.
How do we fix this?! I ask not because I have the answers, but because I need to know. I have missed out on too many relationships – having been on both ends of the deal – and I imagine you have, too. Maybe you are thinking of one now. Maybe you have no idea what opportunities and encouragement you’ve missed, but this stuff doesn’t happen only in my life.
My facebook inbox is proof. The conversations I’ve had with people about this post and others is proof. We all want to know we aren’t alone in our fears.
But today, let’s focus on the flip-side. We all want to be acknowledged for something we do well, or something we’re trying to do better. We all want to be appreciated.
Even if it’s about “the little things” – make it a point in the coming days to call out the good you see in people. Acknowledge the extra effort, the encouragement someone has been perhaps even when they didn’t know it. Congratulate someone on a job well done – even if it was something they did better than you. Send someone a quick note letting them know you appreciate them. Call out a mom of young kids and tell her you notice when her little ones are being polite. Thank your husband, your parents, your roommate for a task they did, even if (especially if!) it has come to be expected of them.
I can’t for the life of me figure out why it’s so hard for us to do this – why we often feel uncomfortable or downright weird for complimenting people. Perhaps the only way to fight this is to practice.
What is something you have done today to call out the good in someone as you see it? If you can’t think of an opportunity you’ve taken yet, take a minute to plan it out – sometimes that’s necessary. There is no shame in having to be intentional when trying to create new habits and break old ones!