Friday, February 3, 2012

An Unexpected Ponderance from an Unexpected Compliment

My direct boss is an interesting individual.

I didn't meet him until I'd been working at Target for nearly two weeks as a result of him being on vacation, and my first reaction was to think he was a bit of an ass.

(Sorry.)

But as I've worked with him more, I've come to the conclusion that he's not really an ass, but rather just doesn't always manage to have the best people skills.

(Some other coworkers have not formed that opinion of him. But I still like my version that they just don't know him very well and he just sometimes accidentally rubs people the wrong way at first.)

However, there is one thing that is unquestionable about his personality and leadership style. He doesn't give out much praise.

He expects you to do your job at an acceptably competent level, and will certainly let you hear about it if you don't, but he also doesn't stop and say you're doing well for merely meeting those basic expectations.

And that's ok.

Admittedly, I'm a total sucker for positive reinforcement, but I understand and respect the position he holds and it makes the praise he does give matter that much more, as it's unexpected and genuine.

And a few days ago he said something to me that simply left me floored.

He and I were put to the task of moving the daily candy delivery (it comes in it's own special refrigerated truck every day or three so the chocolate doesn't melt) out onto the shelves, which really can be quite the chore depending on the delivery size, and is one of the few duties I occasionally have that also allows for me to talk with my coworkers.

My specific job is really cool in the part where I get to go all over the store and say hi to everybody, but sometimes lacking in that I don't actually have the ability carry on a conversation of any length because I'm always moving onto the next thing so quickly. 

However, while we were pushing candy my boss took the conversational opportunity to ask me what my plan was for life.

As I don't have one, I just said something ill-conceived and blabbering about liking working at Target.

And he told me I was too smart for here.

In addition to it being surprisingly high praise, it also made me a bit troubled.

You see, part of why I enjoy working at Target is exactly because nobody there expects me to be particularly smart and any indications of higher than sub-average intelligence are seen as something completely out of the ordinary.

So much of my academic life was spent feeling like I was just pretending to be smart and being surrounded by people ever so much smarter than me.

I did the International Baccalaureate program in high school, but I never felt like I was actually as smart as any of the other students in it.

Each time I apply for a (real career) job, I feel like I'm ranging from just making stuff up to seriously exaggerating my capabilities with my cover letter.

Because I don't actually feel like I'm truly capable of much of anything. Certainly not these things I say I can do because I kinda sorta did them 6 years ago, much less things I tried and failed to do 6 years ago. 

I'm marginally capable of many things, and have enough stubborn determination to usually winkle my way through complicated tasks people assign me to do, but I still don't feel like I ever actually know what I'm doing or that the success is earned in any way beyond being for a demonstration of problem solving willpower.

And so, my boss (who I feel like a fool referring to merely as such, but as I have mentioned before, I was told no names....) thinking I'm this truly smart person is a problem. Because someday he just might expect me to be able to do something smart. And then I'll go right back to feeling like I'm about to fail at any moment.

So, my physical self-confidence is doing great these days. My intelligence self-confidence, not so much.

Perhaps I should work on that one of these days.

5 comments:

  1. you're good enough, you're smart enough, and gosh darn it, ppl like you! : )

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  2. You know, a lot of smart people feel like that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome (including me). But trust me, we would not enjoy hanging out with you nearly so much if you weren't actually smart/witty/however you want to put it.

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  3. a) what Heather said
    b) *problem-solving willpower* matters much more than "being smart" in work and other parts of life
    c) yes, there will probably be a "life after Target" for you ;)

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  4. Being successful in life is a combination of many things. From what I know of you from your blog, you are smart, motivated, well-balanced, funny, thoughtful, personable and ambitious. That's a powerful combination, and a rare combination -- I'm sure you'll succeed in your post-Target life. Also: mmmmm...chocolate...

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  5. I feel like an imposter when I have to write out my qualifications or update my bio. It's hard not to feel like a braggy asshole when simultaneously trying to make yourself sound the the best person for the job.

    Maybe Target Corporate?

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