Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The critic in my head is alive and kicking


So I'm freelancing, right, in control of my time, my work. Yes, I need to please the clients, but so far everyone has been very happy with my work. *I* am happy -- mostly -- with my work, although sometimes I have to cut a story more than I'd like to meet word requirements, or omit details that I'd like to work in because of said requirements. Or sometimes the story takes a completely different turn than the one I'd envisioned.

I'm feeling good about myself. Today brought a satisfying meeting this morning at which I got good feedback and made good contacts; did a good interview with a resource for an upcoming column.

So why does the inner critic immediately assume something is wrong when a client wants to meet with me?

My reaction:
what's wrong?

Answer: absolutely nothing.

I'd like to drown that little devil in my head. No, I'd like to stuff him into a dumpster that is about to be emptied into an enormous landfill far, far away from me. How about the Terminator?

I know why he's there, and I know why he reacts as he does, at least in part. Most of my jobs have been fairly rewarding -- my work has made a difference, it's been well received, and my managers have been happy.

But there was one job -- which shall go unidentified -- that just about did me in physically as well as emotionally. And I think the critic got really, really fat and happy from that one.

One manager there took me to lunch to hand me a plate full of criticism from my peers (two of them, both of them with serious control issues which had been documented in HR). Much of it was unfounded or terribly one-sided, and to top it off, it came only a few months after my father had died unexpectedly, and I was still reeling with grief, although I was showing up and doing my job.

But it hit me out of the blue, it did. I'm not good at hiding emotion, either, so I ended up in tears at the restaurant, thoroughly embarrassing myself. Actually, the manager thought he was softening the approach by taking me to lunch. I don't do well when I'm blindsided, I told him, and to his credit, he never did that again.

But it made me gunshy. It made me paranoid: I saw criticism everywhere from then on -- and even though my peers and I mended fences and worked successfully together on various projects, I never really trusted any of them after that -- nor liked them much, for the most part. But then that trust thing is a whole 'nuther issue, I suppose.

And later, a not-very-well thought-out reorganization gutted my whole department and separated the few remaining creative types into different departments reporting to different managers. Our instructions were to take marketing "to the next level," except that nobody -- including the managers -- seemed to know what that meant. It was awful. It was chaos. There was no way I -- or most of the rest of them -- could please anybody. There was little or no communication about anything: we were just "supposed to know" what to do, I guess. Reviews were a joke: my manager relied on third-party hearsay to let me know what I was doing wrong, and I wrote my own action plan which he approved, but never asked about.

Eventually -- predictably -- there was another reorg and we were all let go (I was THRILLED). Several of the managers caught it in the reorg after that. I don't know what the company is doing nowadays -- probably outsourcing to India.

I am 60 years old. I do not have to please anyone but myself about my work, and I'm my harshest critic anyway -- always have been. I refuse to allow this angry little demon to cause me one more moment of angst about who and what I am, and the quality of work that I do.

I swear it. No more.

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