Two months into my new job, a former employee, I’ll call her Tammy, came back and took up her old position. She’d been away on sick leave for several months after having been with the company for nearly seven years. Aside from her long tenure, we hold the exact same position, with similar responsibilities. And our relationship’s been uneven from the start.
Without yelling or being pushy, Tammy has a way of commanding attention every time she speaks. Even when she’s simply talking about socks, she holds people in rapture. I’m in awe of the confidence she exudes when she speaks. Self-assurance flows through the cadence of her voice. And she talks a lot, mostly about herself. I both admire and have difficulty asserting myself around someone like her. Making myself heard and feeling deserving of being heard is something I’ve always struggled with. Even when I have fantastic ideas, I’m hesitant to share them. With Tammy, I rarely feel that there’s even an opening to get my words in as she talks continuously. It’s tedious at times, but mostly it makes me feel unseen. Every time this happens, I feel invisible, and this is one of my greatest sore spots.
These feelings of intimidation and annoyance are coming from me, not Tammy. She’s simply being who she is. I’m the one personalizing her behaviour. Having struggled with these feeling for the past few weeks, I’ve decided to change my focus and see her as a teacher. I want to learn to assert myself with confidence and Tammy’s a great model for that. I also want to transcend my fear of not being seen, and every day she encourages me on with her self-talk. The more uncomfortable she makes me feel, the closer I get to working through my true struggles, and the closer I am to freedom. This is what all great teachers do – they push you to your limit, daring you to fly.
There may be moments in the coming weeks when I forget this resolve and fall back into intimidation, but I’m committed and know eventually I’m going to succeed. It’s all about reframing a situation. There’s something to learn from everyone, especially those who annoy us.