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I decided that as part of my personal growth journey I was going to find out whether or not Jennifer Stoute was Jennifer Stoute or just a bag of hot air.

Trying to understand who you really are and what talents lay beneath you can be quite challenging.  You can go through life thinking you have it all sewn up and that people see actually what you want them to see. You can think you are what you portray. But is this completely true? Do our friends, colleagues and even family members see us in the same way as we see ourselves?

I was not sure at first how I was going to embark on my task or where to start from. I had an idea of getting an image of my brain and having a good look at how that works, and maybe list my skills and people around it to find the answer. Ha, funny, but I may still do that.

Then the idea just hit me. In order for me to get the result I wanted (the truth!) I would have to step out of myself, and put what I thought I was in the hands of others to tell me how they viewed me and what they thought my skill sets were or what I needed to improve.  Family or friends wouldn’t qualify as they would tell me what I needed to hear. I needed an established and successful individual, someone who knew me, but just on a casual bases. I made a phone call to an business man who’s daughter was in the same class as my daughter. He is a widower and has two children. I was very nervous. I explained my reason for the call and he complemented my openness immediately. He said he’ll give me FEEDBACK which will open me up to the good and bad side of peoples view. Priceless.

We met up a couple of days later. It was quite nerve wrecking to say the least.

He’s first question to me was why did I choose him. My answer: because I felt he was a higher achiever.  He immediately said “Wrong answer.”

Never look at anyone as better than yourself. Measure yourself as what you create, not what you are.”

He also explained how powerful feedback was and how effective he found it when he implemented it in to his work force. Feedback is not criticism. Feedback fuel to success!

He began to describe how he saw Jennifer. Neat, high energy, great enthusiasm like a dog with a bone (interesting), open but yet guarded.  Hmmmm,  I thought. Not far from the truth.

I then asked him what he thought I would need to change in order to move further in my life. He replied I should learn to be being calm and quiet. This would be more effective in negotiations.

“Take a step back and slow yourself down and observe, silence is powerful. The tone of your voice speaks volumes. Don’t rush.”

I have to say I do feel a little uncomfortable in awkward in silence. But I know being uncomfortable is a sign there is something important there I need to learn.

He then addressed the way I looked. He called it ‘bullish’  (ugh). He explained that whenever he saw me I always wore trousers and safe clothes and I didn’t use my feminine side enough. “Don’t be a afraid to be a woman” he said.  I laugh inside, as there was an air of truth in this, as somehow over a period of time I kind of became a safe dresser for convenience.  He agreed that the label of a man’s world can be intimidating, but I don’t need to dress like one to compete. (Ha ha I will brush that one aside for a bit.)

He then gave me a small exercise to do, which was very clever and it enabled me to understand personalities in my life, the ones who were dominant and others whom I felt at ease with. The sheet of paper was divided into four: Analytical, Driver, Amiable and Expressive.  I had to look at four main individuals in my life and explained where I saw them in the matrix.

One box or a combination of three whatever the case would be.  I had to then say where I saw myself. I described myself as a Driver, too Amiable at times and Expressive.  Then out of the four individuals I had to say whom I felt at ease with and why. This was surprising to me as they were totally opposite to how I was.  They were slow and calm, Analytical and Expressive.

There is your answer, he said.

What?  You have taken a persona that you have used in your athletic environment. It has become the persona for your everyday life.  Wow. Quite eye opening!

He then said I should step back a little. Allow people to want to find out who Jennifer is, and not to push it to them all in the first sentence in order fill the silence. (Yep, I noise up the silence to stay in my comfort zone.)  He said even now I was trying to fill in the gaps!

Oh Jennifer, I thought.

Hearing what he had to say was constructive criticism, feedback. It gave me a view of how my past life and mothering skills had almost limited my inner strength to a degree and explains why in certain situation I was always quite emotionally drained trying to keep the peace.

Yes it’s only his opinion, but I found it extremely valuable. I will take on board what I need now and park bits for another time.

I will seek other people who can give me feedback to hear more as I am finding this experience quite fascinating.

Have you been open to feedback from your loved ones or half strangers? How do you find it being exposed to constructive criticism? Have you learned something important about yourself? Please share your experience so we can all learn from each other. It’s called feedback, and it will take you far.

~ Jennifer

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