Find a safe place, step out of your shell, and open yourself to feedback - the growth is worth the risk.
When it comes to receiving feedback about ourselves, most of us have shells as hard as a lobster. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Consider a lobster’s life cycle and the role its shell plays. As it grows, the young lobster becomes too large for the shell that protects it. The lobster must then search for an area within the rocks on the ocean floor, where it can feel relatively secure from any predators. Slowly, it begins to shed the shell that is stunting its growth.
When the shell is gone, just consider its plight. Its new shell, which began growing before the old one was shed, is still soft and provides little protection. During this time, the lobster is extremely vulnerable and at great risk from predators. It is completely exposed to its dangerous world. Yet, the alternative would be worse. Without the periodic shedding of its shell, the lobster would not be able to grow.
Each of us has a protective shell. It’s called our ego. Just like the lobster’s shell, it protects us, but it can also prevent us from growing. Many of us, safe and secure inside our shells, are so worried about risk and vulnerability that we never grow.
Because we are afraid of what we might find, we avoid all forms of feedback and constructive criticism about our own performance. We reject information about our work, our interactions with others, and our abilities and weaknesses. Ironically, when we hide so successfully from negative feedback, we also miss out on the positive feedback that accompanies it.
You have to periodically shed your protective ego and open yourself to feedback, both favorable and unfavorable, in order to grow. Like the lobster, it is healthy and progressive to find a safe place and voluntarily leave your old, worn-out shell. Yes, you will be vulnerable, and the process may hurt a bit, but your potential growth and improvement are well worth the risk.
A few tips:
- What is your honest attitude toward performance reviews and other opportunities to receive feedback?
Do you find you become defensive upon learning how you are perceived by your colleagues?
- Are you open to feedback? The ego is vital to protecting us from all that life throws at us. It just needs to be managed. Feedback is very healthy—both good and bad—as it allows us to grow.