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.
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