With every moment in life, we have an opportunity to defend and let our ego take over or a chance to learn, grow, and be stronger.
I was at the YMCA this morning swimming laps and had an encounter that made my heart warm.
First, some background, I have always loved swimming. As kids, I remember going to the Lake and pool frequently. All of us kids took swim lessons. Since my adult years, I have swam far more infrequently. After years of running and the toll it takes on the knees, I decided it was time to add a routine that I equally enjoy without impacting my joints. This led me to bring swimming into my workout routine.
Now, I’m no Katie Ledecky (Five-time world swimmer of the year winner), but I’ve always felt like a decent swimmer. I can hold my own in the water and swim good laps. After today, I recognize I clearly had more room for growth than I thought.
I’m in the pool and had about 15 laps in when I see the lifeguard walking up to my lane. This beautiful young lady squats down and says, I’m Carissa as she puts her hand out for a shake (this is huge to me), how long have you been swimming? Of course, my ego brain gets big thinking, “Oh yah Jen she’s complimenting you.” I respond, well, I’ve been swimming since I can remember but never as a professional sport or competitively. My ego continuing to grow. You are a good swimmer, don’t get me wrong. Shit, there goes the ego, quickly shrinking as I can hear the BUT. There it was, as she goes into a couple of minor technique changes that could help me.
Now the article's point has nothing really to do with the fact that she gave me some very impactful technique changes that made a big shift for the rest of my laps but the situation in a whole.
I can openly say if this had been 10-15 years ago, I probably would have been a bit taken aback, and maybe even a bit embarrassed, wondering who around me was going to judge the fact that the lifeguard came up and coached me. I know, hands down, I would have criticized myself for not doing or being better. This was a great reminder of how far I’ve come in my own confidence and self-worth to listen and use the tips she gave me. It was further reinforced when I asked her to watch my next couple of laps as I put her tips into action.
It would have been easy to go into defense mode, thinking, “who do you think you are”? It is such an empowering place when you can receive feedback, put it into action, and give gratitude for the person who gave it. I often see and hear the invisible wall go up when people take feedback to defend themselves, what they said or what they did. I think back to the years that my own ego put up these same walls. Friends, if there is only one thing you take away from this post today, use this one. BE OPEN to feedback. It may not always come from the other party the “right way” (whatever that is), but no matter how it comes, listen before making quick decisions. It may be a simple small shift that can take you from good to great or save you time and help be a stronger you.
Use what you think is helpful, leave what you don’t, and never take it personally.
Then, recognize your win! Self-improvement takes time, consistency, and a willingness to grow.
Now to this Brave young lady, Carissa. All of 20 years old (my son's age, oh my, I’m old enough to be her mom). How amazing, yes, I said amazing. This young lady demonstrated something to me that I hope other people see, model, and appreciate. She took a chance, not knowing how I would react to help me be better; that’s HUGE! I could have easily gone into a defensive, “who do you think you are” mode. I’m glad I didn’t, not only for myself but to keep empowering her to use her voice and her skills.
Let’s start with her approach. She introduced herself and asked about me in a very friendly, non-confrontational way. This kept me open and willing to receive feedback. I don’t remember entirely what she said after this, but it went something like, you are a good swimmer, but there are a couple of things that could help make it smoother and easier for you. She added, not everyone wants feedback, and that’s OK, then she just stopped and waited until I asked for the feedback. This, for me, was key. She didn’t just start going into what she thought or saw; she let me invite her feedback.
Her tips were simple and easy to follow. She told me what I was doing and what to do instead. Respectful in her approach, she only gave me more when I asked. Finally, she said something to the effect: I want to help people be better when I see something, but not everyone wants it. There was more to this conversation but in short, she showed a genuine desire and passion for what she does.
When I got done with my swim before I left, I made it a point to thank this young lady with the hopes of encouraging her to keep using her voice and speaking up. It was clear from her conversation that she gets shot down at times, and I truly hope it never holds her back.
I often hear and read things about our younger generations, and it continues to frustrate me. I’ve worked with some of the hardest working people of all ages and generations. And, I’ve worked with some well not hard-working people of all generations. Age aside we ALL have so much to bring one another if we open ourselves up, put the ego to the side, and be open to growth.
Encourage and be thankful when someone has put themselves out there like this young lady did today; you have no idea what it took for that person to speak up and use their voice.
And, be grateful for yourself in the moments that you receive information openly and use it for growth without self-judgment.
Stay strong, and Be well!