A friend of mine was telling me that I was better than a hole in the ground full of water. A deep hole. With a bucket. He meant well.

It’s an old joke, and very much one of my high calibre. But it illustrates something I’ve just experienced. A friend has said that she has faith I will sort out what I need ahead of my photoshoot next week. She said : “I know you will make it work. You are a perfectionist !” This is obviously meant to be a very encouraging comment, reminding me that I tend to strive for and achieve a certain competence in my photography. I am definitely not a creative genius, but I tend to have things in focus. No, that isn’t obvious, it turns out after a fine art degree, most of them didn’t care if it was in focus as long as the images represented the struggle of lesbian kangaroos in a modern society bent on making them conform. Or something.

Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

The problem is, I am not good at taking compliments such as that and instead see them as a form of pressure. That is, I expect X and anything less than X will be a disappointment. The classic example which lives in my brain is my driving test. When my eldest sister took her test, she came home with a pass and was met with a slightly “Are you sure ?” greeting. Everyone was pleased but wasn’t sure it was going to pan out that way. My middle sister failed the first time and that came as no surprise to anyone, I think, because she just wasn’t ready.

When I came home from my test, I said I had passed, my parents were pleased for me, and my father said he had written my congratulations card as I left the house because he was so sure I would pass. Now that should sit with me as a great vote of confidence, but I have tended to look at it as lessening the achievement somehow. I was expected to pass, so no big whoop that I did. My take is obviously not the correct one, and this is the sort of thing I need to be very careful about. I have the same reflection upon my exam results – I got good grades, but I was always expected to get good grades. To be fair, they weren’t great grades and they didn’t deserve to be because I have never been good at studying for exams. I learn well as I go along, and with a bit of practice, tend to perform well in tests. But I doubt the minimal revision I did really helped, and I could have got better marks in some subjects if I had simply worked harder throughout the years.

So, I perhaps need to learn to accept a compliment more graciously, or perhaps more…genuinely (?) and then maybe I will take more positivity from it.

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