When I was in fifth grade, I was a perfectionist. So when something would go wrong in school, and a teacher was critical of me, I would cry.
Same in seventh grade. Mr. Sargent was the meanest man alive and if he so much looked at me the wrong way- tears. I would try desperately to hold them back, but the more you try and hold them back, the stronger they would try and leave your eyeballs (btw, Mr. Sargent would go on to become one of my favorite teachers of all time and later told me that he was hard on me because he wanted to push me to grow.)
Well, fast forward twenty-two years, to November 2012.
The last few days I have been in Atlanta, and had forgotten my power cord to my computer (hence the reason I have been postless the last couple of days- sorry!). This was my first training with the whole division in Atlanta. I have been a business development rep for my company for almost five years, but earlier this year I took a promotion into a division that works with much larger clients/companies.
Since I’ve taken the position, I’ve gone through phases of feeling confident (in getting the position), stupidity (when I realized I didn’t know what the heck I was doing), to shaky valor, to being comfortable in this new role. And then this week happened.
It started off fine- great seeing all the folks I never get to see. Meeting new folks. Having fun, learning new things. The training itself was intense- a formal (and I can imagine, expensive) training in C-Level Executive Financial Conversations. I was interested in the program, but didn’t realize that I would be called on nearly the entire session the first day. People were actually wondering if the instructor maybe had a crush on me!
While exhausting and a bit unnerving… I powered through day one, accepting whatever questions she asked, and answering to the best of my (albeit limited) ability. That night I went to dinner, got to bed at a decent hour, and prepared for the second eight-hour day of training.
And here we are. Day 2. We have thirty minutes until our shuttles arrive to take us to the airport, and four of us have to give a five-minute presentation. We are the last speeches in between everyone and the door home. I spent time drafting up my speech, carefully bullet-pointing and basing it on the three-part formula they listed for us. I was careful to include items that were asked of us.
It came time for my speech, and partway through, my Vice President, a lovely and boisterous southern woman, stopped me and told me I need to take that piece out and start all over again. I politely said, “ok” and started over. When I completed the speech (which was completely out of my comfort zone and felt as though I was playing a character), I was pretty much lambasted by my peers, directors and VP.
I could feel the sting in my eyes, but I held it back.
Instead, I got defensive. Not necessarily the smartest move in the book, but I couldn’t understand how I could have deviated ‘so far’ from the formula. I felt like an idiot. I felt like I didn’t belong. I felt alone. I held back those tears like I’ve never held them before. I know that once you cry in a work scenario, you can never go back.
I wanted to race to the restroom, but I didn’t have time as the buses were arriving. So I held them. I held those tears in all the way through the Atlanta traffic, the ATL security line, a beer with the boys.
It wasn’t until I was on the plane and saw my closest colleague and said, “I need to talk to you…” when they released. They just started falling, one after the other. Tears. People on the plane were shifting so I could be closer to my co-worker and talk with him. People were helping me. Complete strangers who nothing about my reasons for my total breakdown, moving seats and rearranging so that I could get a bear hug from my buddy.
Three hours of held-back tears came out like they hadn’t in years. Years.
My mind flashed back to fifth grade. To seventh grade. How could I let this get to me? I was silently thanking God that I didn’t get emotional in that training room. I was not proud to be defensive, but I needed to understand how I could be so off, when I thought I was in line with everyone else.
Did I lose my VP’s support and respect? I don’t know, only time will tell. What I do know is that this experience, if anything, only fueled me. The fact that something could get me to the point of feeling like a fifth grader only makes me more determined to absolutely destroy my sales targets and outperform in this job. I want to prove that I am capable of this job… because honestly, I was really starting to doubt myself. But more so- I want to prove her wrong. That I’m an amazing sales person that gets results.
Needless to say, I am emotionally and physically drained. I haven’t had an out-and-out crying breakdown like that in so long… and in a public way in years. I am just thankful my co-worker was there to support me and remind me why I am in this job, my capabilities, and my love for the job. All I can do is move forward. I’m not perfect, and I can be emotional. But I am proud of myself for not losing it in the work environment and am even more determined to move on and up.