It's that time of year: the time when people are looking back with a small degree of distance at 2012 to assess their performance. Over the last few weeks, my husband has done his self-assessment and has moved on to evaluating his direct reports. Inspired by this, tonight at dinner I suggested the girls do an impromptu assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses. Their initial reactions were more interesting - and telling - than any thoughts they offered on their performance: B was immediately defensive and then starkly rattled off weaknesses, K effusively offered her strengths and A was hesitant but honest in offering thoughts on things she should work to improve.
After initial reactions, I asked A to give me some of her strengths. In the pregnant pause that followed, J observed that A was a lot like him in that it was easier to list her weaknesses than strengths. I agreed and offered that I thought 4 of the 5 of us at the table found our weaknesses more readily apparent than our strengths. The exception? K, of course. I'm not sure whether it's her age or her personality that enables her to proudly state that she is good at reading, science, math and organizing (the last a blatant lie), but she clearly doesn't have self-esteem problems.
Our dinner conversation left me pondering the idea of evaluating my own performance. And then I read a blog post by a friend of mine that made me wonder whether I would even be able to provide a semi-accurate self-assessment. I say that because I read my friend's post and nearly glowed with pride in her hard parenting work and thankfulness for her success and gratitude that her children are blessed to have her as a mom. I know my friend T isn't perfect, but from where I stand, she is a great mom. But what if she were to do a self-assessment? I'm betting she wouldn't give herself an A+. Nor would I give myself stellar marks.
Tonight as I put B to bed, we talked about the start of her day. After I showered this morning, I went upstairs to check on she and K. I was surprised to find B still asleep since she normally sets her alarm on tutorial days and is one of the first ones out of bed and into the shower. But today she was sound asleep until I walked into the room and whispered her name. Upon hearing me, she bolted upright and said, "What time is it? Why didn't my alarm go off?" She still had plenty of time to get ready, but it broke my heart when tears sprang to her eyes as she realized her clock hadn't done its part to get her day started right.
At bedtime, I told B how sad it made me for her to cry over a missed alarm and asked what she had been thinking. Her response? That she was thinking about how stupid she was. She tried to continue, but I cut in. "That voice in your head is a liar," I said vehemently. She looked surprised at my tone and insistence, but I continued, "There's another voice that tells you true and good things. There's a voice you can trust and one you can't. The sooner you learn to know which one is which, the better. You can save yourself years of pain if you learn that now." I didn't go on to tell B this, but I call that untrustworthy voice in my head my inner critic. No matter what I do, the critic is not satisfied.
But there's another voice I hear as well, one that is so much like my own, but more quietly confident. I think of that voice as the Holy Spirit, but I suppose you could call it lots of things - a conscience, a higher consciousness, God. The point is that I know I can trust that voice. It's the same voice that's been encouraging me to see myself through the eyes of others in an effort to see myself more clearly.
I don't know whether it's possible or profitable to try to assess the work I do daily. There's no matrix for laundry, homeschooling, cooking and chauffeuring, all of which fall within my jurisdiction. And I'm inclined to think I would be harsh on myself if I sat down with a rubric to assess what I think I should do versus what I actually do. Yet the truth of the matter is that I am trying. I cook when I don't feel like it. I drive hours weekly to enable my daughters to pursue the things they love. I mark history and science papers when I'd rather be reading my own book. I fail them daily, but I am trying. I am working to (nearly) the best of my ability. Surely I can admit there is room for improvement?
I want my daughters to see themselves with eyes that see clearly - eyes that are spared the filters of familial expectations, society's pressures or shame heaped on by others. And if I truly want that for them, I need to model it for them. I need to graciously accept their enthusiasm for a meal that I feel is second rate. I need to admit I am actually good at some things because they already see that with their own eyes. In fact, I'm sure it would do me some good to try to see myself through their eyes. Their assessment of me might be far kinder than my own would be.
The final thing for you and I to keep in mind with any assessment is that we aren't really the ones who determine our own importance or value. God has already done that. And he thinks we're all priceless.