Or maybe I have an integrity that refuses compromise.
Let me start by saying, that I believe my work ethic is tied to my belief in working for a cause or a vision. I have this tendency to not do things just because someone asked me to – I have to strongly believe in either the purpose of the task or the person who’s assigned it. When I can find neither foothold of belief, it’s like this innate stubbornness just kicks in, and I can’t bring myself to do whatever it was I’ve been asked to do.
Let me give a proper example here. Not too long ago I volunteered at this organization whose vision and mission I think are pretty cool – they are in alignment with some my own beliefs and convictions and I figured it would be a good avenue to exercise my passions. However, as time went on, my excitement for the position I had taken failed to build up – if anything, it dwindled considerably. For this reason, I could not motivate myself to accomplish in a timely manner even the littlest tasks I was assigned. Coupled with the fact that I had a lot going on mentally, I could not bring myself to focus on the little jobs I was given. Because without a vision which I could see, those jobs just became banal unrewarding tasks – and as far as I was concerned, I might as well be reading a book or visiting friends!
I have been told by someone with whom I had just had a disagreement, that he admired my integrity. At the time, I wasn’t sure if to take that as a compliment, or just a politically correct way of saying “stubbornly strong-willed.” I have now come to accept it as a deep compliment that says a lot about my character. But I still sometimes feel like I need to explain myself.
There are a lot of debates in this world that I know for sure to which side I lean, although I remain somewhat flexible pending a greater understanding of those matters. There are even more issues/debates upon which I have not yet decided which way to lean. So, when I arrive at certain convictions after broad considerations, I am usually very sure of myself, and it would take a paradigm-shifting experience – or maybe even more – for me to change my mind on those things.*
For someone who hates confrontations, and would do whatever it takes to avoid a heated debate (unless, of course, I was sure I would win), sticking to my convictions and remaining agreeable at the same time can be a bit challenging. So, over the course of my life, I have mastered the art of silent stubbornness, whereby I will refuse to argue with you, or say much on whatever is our subject of disagreement. Meanwhile, I will still go ahead and do whatever it was I intended to do in the first place.
I remember, back in secondary school (SS2/11th grade) we had this Food and Nutrition Practical exams, where we were each assigned a partner with whom we were supposed to plan a three-course meal for either a hypertensive or a diabetic person. Now, I went into the brainstorming session with some pretty good ideas for dishes we could make, and a long list of options which I was very willing to tweak according to my partner’s preferences. But, when I met with her, she had already decided on exactly what she wanted to make, and I thought some of them were horrible choices, so I let her know very nicely we should consider changing them.
My partner was one of those very vocal girls, who on one hand could be nice, but who also had physically beaten quite a few people (mostly male) in school to earn herself a nice little reputation. So I wasn’t about to start arguing with her for fear of encouraging a physical or maybe even just verbal confrontation. I figured, at the end of the day, she would still need my money and my approval to buy any ingredients. So, while she vehemently declared her faith in her menu, I quietly sat down and planned a menu I felt would make us both happy.
It was during this episode that one of my friends first told me that I was “very stubborn o! But in a quiet way.” At first, I felt scandalized that she would call me – of all people – “stubborn,” because I considered myself nothing if not pliable. I didn’t have a lot of strong opinions back then. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized just how right she was! Any other non-stubborn person would probably just agree with my intimidating partner – after all it was just for a grade, and she may end up doing most of the work anyway – but not me. Let me just say, I was probably happy with what we ended up making, because if I wasn’t I would still remember how that episode ended, probably with some bitterness.
My discovery of this trait in my person was not a recent one, however I lately recalled that experience back in secondary school because of some recent happenings. A couple months ago, I took up another volunteer job, where I could not only see the vision, but could make it mine – and guess what else? I’m in charge of this new project…well, for the most part, which means that I’m not just performing empty tasks without a greater understanding of their purpose.
My reaction to this position in terms of my work ethic has been nothing like how I was with the one I took up last year. Since most people won’t understand what difference between the two positions make me work harder at one than the other, it just seems as if I like one better solely because I’m in charge. While this is partly true, it does make me feel like I might just be a whining brat who just wants her own way – and I felt the need to explain myself a little.
I have even more recently discovered that I am not as motivated by money as some other people are – it sure took me a while to arrive at that. I mean, I studied English in the University – that’s not a course aspiring billionaires would willingly choose!
So, it’s not about money, being in charge, or getting my own way – it’s about working towards a set meaningful vision, preferably based on a personal conviction.
* This may just have something to do with my personality, I’m not sure. I recently took a very detailed personality test that happened to be eerily accurate, so I’ve been trying to find ways I fit into the description and ways I don’t.