But despite all that, I’m still a little nervous today. It’s been a disastrously difficult month or two at work and at home. There are lots of new challenges and new stresses. And several old issues that seemed buttoned up have now resurfaced with a vengeance. So it’s a tough and busy time. And with all that so heavily in the forefront of our minds, it makes it a little difficult to discuss a whole year’s worth of performance.
However, there is one important way that I’m ready for this year’s evaluation: I’m honestly and truly proud of the hard work I’ve done and the great things that have come as a result. That’s a big change for me, since I’ve always been very down on myself and I’ve always emphasized my faults and downplayed my accomplishments. Especially when it comes to annual reviews. I get very caught up in what I wish I could have done better. And I get completely focused on my lingering challenges that seem never to get better (like my messy desk or my bursting-at-the-seams email inbox).
Last year my boss noticed this and told me in a very frank way that I needed to get a handle on it. She said she was surprised by how negative I was about myself and the work I do. She told me it was something I needed to fix by myself in order to be successful and happy since she couldn’t fix it for me, even though she wanted to. That was impressive advice, and typifies her direct and constructive style.
I’ve spent most of the last year working on my out-of-control self-deprecation. But I honestly didn’t make much progress until I heard the last session of LDS General Conference in October.
In this conference, Jörg Klebingat posed a rhetorical question: “Can you say within yourself that Heavenly Father is pleased with you? What thoughts come to mind if you had a personal interview with your Savior one minute from now? Would sins, regrets, and shortcomings dominate your self-image, or would you simply experience joyful anticipation? Would you meet or avoid his gaze? Would you linger by the door or confidently walk up to Him?”
He goes on to explain that many people who maintain their belief in God still somehow abandon any belief that they are acceptable to God. I find myself in this trap. I continue to believe in God. But I believe that I’m a disappointment to God, that I’m beyond real help from the Atonement, and that everyone else is doing much better than I am.
What a bizarre belief! And what a horrible trap.
The truth, as Elder Klebingat explains, is that believing all of this is unnecessary, painful, and unhealthy. But, just like my boss reminded me, he reminds us that “the decision to change is yours and yours alone.”
Klebingat recommends 6 practical steps for increasing confidence and assurance in our relationship with God:
- Take responsibility for your own spiritual well-being
- Take responsibility for your own physical well-being.
- Embrace wholehearted obedience.
- Become really, really good at repenting.
- Become really, really good at forgiving.
- Accept trials, setbacks, and surprises as part of your mortal experience.
Wendy and I have tried whole-heartedly to follow this plan. We’ve started exercising together several times per week, we’ve been more careful about what we eat and how much we eat. We are making better choices in our obedience to the spirit of the law instead of just the letter of the law. We both apologize more sincerely and more quickly than we used to, and we both pretty much sometimes forgive kind of a little bit sooner than we did before. Maybe I need to work on that one still….
Most of all, we’re trying to accept trials and surprises as they come. Lots of these come from our own mistakes or our own bad judgment. Some others have come just from bad luck. But they’ve come. And lately they’ve come a bunch. I’ve gotten down a lot lately because of these challenges, and I’ve re-read and re-reflected on Klebingat’s counsel to ignore a feeling that the world is against me and instead say: “I understand, Lord. I know what this is. A time to prove myself!”
As I’ve gotten ready for my annual review this week, I talked to Wendy about my change in attitude over the past year. I asked her if she could remember the last time I’d said something really derogatory about myself and the work I do.
Neither one of us could remember anything negative I’d said in the past several months about my own work. Because the truth is that I really feel different. I’m more aware than ever that my desk is still messy and that my email box is too full and that I’ve made lots of mistakes along the way. But I also know that I’ve worked incredibly hard, that I’ve made the best of several difficult circumstances, and that I’ve done really good work and helped others around me do great work as well.
I actually feel like a complete success this year as I get ready to face my boss tomorrow. Let’s just hope she thinks so too!