I recently received some confronting news from my doctor. Blood tests showed that I was Vitamin D deficient. Medically this is nothing significant – easily be addressed by vitamin D supplements.
So where’s the problem? The issue for me was one of identity.
You see I have always thought of myself as a country girl. Growing up on a farm in Gippsland I spent most of my time outside. My energy regenerates when I walk along a quiet beach, and camping in the bush is one of my favourite holidays.
Vitamin D is referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ and deficiency often results from insufficient time outdoors. How could I reconcile getting insufficient sunshine (ie not enough time outside) with my self-image of being an outdoorsy country girl?
A similar internal audit of self sometimes results when I facilitate Fearless Leadership workshops. When a participant receives feedback (either via their motivational profile** or from a peer) that doesn’t appear to support their self-image, the first response is often denial. After that, a self-aware leader will move to reflection and response.
In the case of motivational profiling, it’s self-assessed so it can’t be ‘wrong’. The three typical reasons people resist elements of their profile are that they:
- Haven’t understood the explanation.
- Don’t like the feedback (even though it aligns with their own understanding of themselves).
- Are confusing who they want to be (ideal self) with who they are (actual self).
When you receive any feedback that seems to jar with your sense of self:
- Ensure you understand the feedback. A further explanation could resolve your questions.
- Try it on. Imagine for a moment the feedback was true… What opportunities could that trigger? What could that explain?
- Ask yourself ‘What meaning am I making of this?’. In my case, the meaning I was making was identify and not medical.
- Decide if it matters. So you think you are strategic and your peers see you as operational – what’s the impact of that? Not all feedback is created equal and not all matters.
- Take action. Once you have understood the feedback, got clear on they meaning to you, and decided it matters, then take action.
It’s often said that ‘feedback is a gift’. Is it a gift that you are willing to accept, embrace and use to reexamine your sense of self?
What’s your experience of feedback and identity? I would love to hear your comments here.