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When You Look in the Mirror...

(First appeared in WRAL TechWire.)

“People don’t have to like you, people don’t have to love you, people don’t even have to respect you. But when you look in the mirror, you better love what you see!” This gem brought to you by Sheryl Lee Ralph from Abbott Elementary.

You better love what you see… that’s the true test isn’t it? It’s where it all begins and ends. Over the last two weeks we’ve been unpacking performance culture and our need to kowtow to it. The trend is so pervasive that I dare say we might be addicted to the behavior. But to what end?

When we’re under the influence of performance culture, our reactions to workplace pressure and violations of our boundaries are heightened and extreme. We can forget what’s really important to us and lose ourselves in the pursuit other people’s approval and validation. Cue Sally Fields… "You like me, right now you really like me!”

As we round third in this series, Let’s spend a little more time on the differences between a performance culture addict and a healthy high performer. Why? Because the lines can blur, frankly, with the distinction living in our day-to-day choices.

Take this quiz for more clarity on where you stand. Here we go…

Scenario #1: A major project is coming due at the end of Q1, and a new layer of information has been uncovered that needs to be vetted before you can cross the finish line. It’s going to require a superhuman amount of overtime to get done. How do you respond?

A. Desperate to get the coveted ‘exceeds expectations’ rating from your manager, your anxiety goes through the roof. Never fear. You simply pull out the ‘win-at-all costs’ playbook, self-medicate and scramble to save the project.

B. Exhilarated by the challenge, you strategize how to set aside less important life and family demands to make the impossible possible. You and your team band together to make it happen and you feel deeply satisfied.

C. Confident that you can create a pathway to the highest and best outcome, you meet with your manager and team to talk through the timeline and resources needed including a potential deadline extension. You facilitate calm communication and lead from all angles.

Scenario #2: It’s six weeks into the new year and you’re overcommitted in all areas of your life again. The plates are starting to wobble. Your home’s a disaster. Exercise… healthy eating… what’s that? You’re about to crack. Now what?

A. You can’t bear to let anyone down (or look like you can’t handle your life), so you skip showers, slap on extra make up, eat McDonalds, shove stuff under the bed, and smile extra wide so nobody knows you’re overwhelmed. You’ll catch up eventually, right?

B. You live for a challenge! You load up on caffeine, order Instacart while on your morning zoom call and schedule three follow-up calls on the way to pick up the kids. You keep telling yourself you’re in control and that you’ll reset this weekend… after you get back from the soccer field.

C. You reclaim your center saying, “the world will not end if I take a half day or a three-day weekend to take stock of all my spinning plates.” You recommit to working from a place of rest and adjust commitments as needed. You’ll be back in no time and everyone will be better for it. No apologies.

I could do this all day.

I’m sure we all have examples of how we fight performance culture and activity addition. But in the spirit of tying this up in a bow, let's walk through the answers…

If you answered A, you’re likely under the influence of performance culture. Your self-worth is wrapped up in presenting as perfect.

If you answered B, it’s a toss-up. You might be energized around the work and find fulfillment in the pursuit of excellence or you might be seeking validation in the wrong places. Keep in mind: a hit feels good to an addict, even if it’s ultimately bad for them.

If you answered C, you’re likely operating as a healthy high performer. Yes, you *can* knock it out of the park and love every moment of it, but you perform from a place of control and self-awareness. You set boundaries. You are confident in your worth. You aren’t desperate to please. Whew…more of that!

As a healthy high performer (aka anti-performance culture revolutionary) you move from a place of self-love and self-preserving boundaries. You know you are enough even if you aren’t perfect and can operate from a place of rest without guilt or shame.

In other words, you can look in the mirror, and love what you see!

More next week as we place the final piece in our performance culture puzzle. Until then, take a deep breath and look for ways to operate from a place of rest. 

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