I got a job a few weeks ago working for a small publishing press not far from my town. The editor got my name and contact info from a former employer of mine and he emailed me, asking if I wanted a job as an office assistant. I wasnât really in need of a job, but I figured, What the heck? I donât want my degree to have been a complete waste of time, right? So I took it.
The job has been going OK. It mostly consists of me packaging mail for him and putting together spreadsheets on the computer. Decent stuff. Itâs a little awkward, though, because Iâm his only employee, so we I have to work alone together all day and weâre both rather dweeby. Itâs almost comical, if I stop and think about it: two introverts forced to spend entire days in a room together. We both sit there, on opposite ends of the room, plugging away silently at our keyboards and begrudging the other for having physical presence — for having bodies that make sounds and need to be fed. I know that he resents my being there, even though he invited me to work for him: I can hear it in his sighs when I ask him for the third time whether the “No Signature Required” stickers go on parcels being sent to P. O. Boxes: Oh-god-why-do-you-have-to-be-a-living-organism?
All thatâs fine, though, except for one tiny thing: my boss hasnât told me once, in the five weeks that Iâve been working there, that Iâm doing a good job.
He hasnât outright told me I suck, either, but I get the distinct vibe that he regrets having hired me. Iâm pretty sure he thinks my brains are made out of mashed potatoes. To be honest, sometimes Iâm pretty sure my brains are made out of mashed potatoes, but Iâm allowed to be hard on myself because I can always counter my self-criticisms with âWell, at least you have really fabulous legs that look great in tights and can recite the entire Lordâs prayer in Latin. Th–thatâs pretty rad.â
Iâve been feeling incredibly disheartened by the lack of encouragement, though. Iâm starting to wonder if I would have done the world a favour by refusing to be born. Iâve thought about telling my boss that if he fires me I wonât cry or anything.
But my boss left for overseas last week, leaving me and one of his business partners in charge while heâs away. Iâve had lots of time to myself, which is awesome, and other times I work with his 64-year-old friend Dennis. Dennis is really nice. He answers all my questions patiently, and chuckles and tells me that my mistakes are no big deal. Itâs a huge relief to be around someone who doesnât resent my need for oxygen and toilets.
The other day, when Dennis was sorting the mail that Iâd packaged in order to send it off, I told him to let me know if Iâd done anything wrong and Iâd fix it pronto.
âDonât worry,â he said with a reassuring smile. âYouâre doing a good job.â
I smiled. Then I had to turn away and get some more bubble wrap for the package I was working on so he couldnât see that I was almost crying. I was doing a good job? Really? I felt relief billow up inside my chest. I wasnât a complete disappointment. I was doing something right.
Nothing has meant more to me in the last few weeks than those five words.
* * * *
Iâve learned in the last few weeks how dependent I am on other peopleâs affirmation. I yearn for words of encouragement. I ache to hear that Iâm valuable, worthwhile, helpful. Otherwise I start getting stupid.
I should probably learn to be less dependent on these things, but it still would be nice to get affirmation every once in a while.
And if I need these things, chances are so do the people around me.
Iâve decided I need to make an effort to tell my friends and family that theyâre doing a good job at whatever theyâre doing. Because they are. Theyâre good parents, good friends, good siblings.
And I need to tell Ben that heâs doing a great job as a husband, too. He is. Even when heâs not doing a spectacular job, heâs doing well. Heâs enough. I canât ever let him doubt that.
Maybe I need to tell my boss heâs doing a good job, too. Who knows?
Maybe you might want to tell your spouse (and your parents and your kids and your friends) that theyâre doing a good job, too. Maybe theyâre like me and they need some affirmation, because they worry that theyâre so incompetent and nuts that the world would have been better off if theyâd never been born. And thatâs no good.
So tell âem, man. Tell âem now. I donât care how you do it, just let them know that their efforts donât go unnoticed. You might change everything for them.
Photo courtesy of BookMama.