Receiving feedback is a gift of wisdom that calls humanity higher. It provides the means to go further in life with others’ input than we ever could on our own.
Feedback comes from different sources. Perhaps you have a friend who knows you well and will always tell you the truth. When you improve, they praise you; when you make a mistake, they encourage you. Their feedback is important, and elevates your awareness about the impact your actions have on those around you. Perhaps the feedback you have experienced has only been in professional settings from those in positions of authority. Whether in a performance review or meeting with your superiors, feedback can be extremely helpful. However, when it is not from people we know well in our personal lives, it can be intimidating.
This summer I was a camp counselor. I spent my summer with children, brushing their hair and tucking them in at night. I greeted them in the morning by pulling the blinds wide open so the sun could peek through and lift their young, sleepy eyelids. My job was to provide high-quality care to the children who had been entrusted to me. With this responsibility came meetings and performance reviews with camp directors to ensure I was doing my job well. Each meeting took an affirmative approach, pointing out what I had done well and making suggestions on what I could improve. At the end, I even got a slip of paper to take with me with notes from the meeting. That was valuable feedback in a professional setting.
But the most valuable feedback I received did not come from an authority figure, but a dear friend of mine, in whom I confided everything. She knew me and noticed my successes and mistakes in everyday life.
We were both busy, but when we got to talk amid the busy days of being camp counselors, it turned into long hours of sharing experiences, advice and opinions on how the other was doing with the campers. In those moments, we called each other higher. Often my friend would point something out that was completely unknown to me. I remember when she told me I did well in teaching a young camper to properly clean the table at dinner. She copied the way I did it: “Go up and then down with the cloth and scoop the dirt into your hand like this.” I did this without thinking in the moment, but she noticed it. Hearing her feedback encouraged me and inspired me to be more intentional about teaching the campers patiently. On another occasion, she told me how my feelings were written all over my face when our leader spoke to me about a plan I did not agree with. This feedback made me more aware of my facial expressions. Her feedback enlightened me to the ways I impacted those around me.
Often, humans are afraid of asking for feedback out of fear that it implies some sort of criticism or shortcoming. Feedback, when given properly, should encourage us. Feedback should reveal harmful blind spots in our lives, strengthen our natural abilities and make us more aware of the impact we can have on others for the better.
Perhaps I have heard it best from a motivational speaker: “What’s it like being on the other side of me?” Direct this question to those who know you best. Doing so is an act of maturity and resolving to live higher.
Written by Emily Shumaker