As a member of the armed forces, daddy was a rather stern individual with extremely high expectations.
I vividly recall as a young teenage girl, and well before that too, always working so hard to impress my insatiable father. I wanted to be top of my class. I wanted to be the best. I studied daily, spent countless hours after school with teachers asking never-ending questions, and redoing my homework multiple times even when there was no need to. All that, was simply to make sure there were no errors whatsoever in my work. I even submitted extra assignments for revision. I desperately wanted a clean grade. I needed it to make father proud.
After the completion of our exam, I raced home excited, skipping all the way to the house. I halted abruptly, a huge smile across my face, my report card in my right hand, outstretched to my less than enthusiastic father. He took it from me, opened it and then grimaced. He looked down at me and mattered “middle tabler”, with a light chuckle.
That particular statement, those two words, how they tortured me. For the larger part of my teenage-hood, those words tormented me. I wanted his approval but he never gave it.
He may have been joking. Maybe he even hoped to have encouraged me to work harder. Instead, it bothered me immensely. He had pointed out a weakness I firmly refused to recognize. It was true. To a certain extent I was a “middle tabler” . I was not the top of my class. I was always above average but I never had the highest score.
He must have meant well. But I certainly did not see it that way. I was in my teens, already vulnerable and yearning for approval. His casual comment made me feel inadequate. Like a disappointment. Those words never left me. I often could hear those two words in my head when I did not do as well as I had hoped. And for years, even after getting into high school, it crossed my mind. I swore I would not be labelled average ever again. So, thanks to my father I sort to be my best. He was always my worst critic, but in that unique way, he taught me not to settle for mediocre. Although I do not recommend that anyone should follow his example, ensuring your work is as error free as humanly possible is critical to fulfilling one’s ambitions.
Have you ever received criticism that was really hard to accept, yet it was accurate? How did hearing it make you feel? What was your reaction at the time? And what is your take on that criticism now?