Self-evaluation

I have nearly always hated self-evaluations. Instead of your boss sitting down and telling you exactly how they think you’re doing at your job, they ask you to “honestly assess” yourself. Inevitably I end up trying to figure out just exactly how to say what I think my boss wants me to hear, rather than actually saying anything useful. I don’t mark myself too high, but I try to highlight my strengths as well. And then he or she comes back and says, “Well, three out of five is what I give all my employees, otherwise I would have to give them additional merit pay. Your 3.7 average score for yourself across this range of fifty-two metrics is a little higher than I’d like it to be. I only rated myself a 3.2, you see, and seeing as how I’m your boss, you can’t be any better or smarter than me.” (Note: I am not undergoing a review right now – this is simply illustrative – and this is not applicable to my current position.)

The reason I bring this up, however, is not to gripe. I bring it up to emphasize that the fact that I’m simply terrible at self-evaluation. Maybe if I had followed instructions and “honestly assessed” myself in the various ways my former employers wanted me to I would have learned this skill. In my current context this has to do with the big twenty-five page paper I turned in yesterday. My fellow students and the professor will give me their feedback next Tuesday, which is both terrifying and exciting. I worked hard on the paper, and I think at least my effort is apparent. But now I’m swinging from panic over my deplorable writing skills to thinking that I came up with some pretty polished-sounding sentences that cut right to the heart of my chosen topic. In short, I have terrible self-evaluative skills. 

This is probably not surprising, and I’m guessing it’s not terribly uncommon. Spending so many hours crafting the words on the page creates a sort of intimacy that makes it very difficult to honestly evaluate the coherence and effects of those words. Good writers, I imagine, have the capability to stand back and view their writing from a distance, check to see if all the pieces are fitting together correctly, and then plug any major holes or rewrite as necessary. I either lack that facility, or lacked the time to get away from the paper and come back to it with fresh eyes. Either way, sending this package of verbosity into the ether for critical review is frightening, as I have very little conception of whether it is good or not. Are my arguments strong? Do they make sense? Have I supported them enough? Is my style decent? Are my footnotes explanatory enough? Have I relied too much on too few sources? Is my argument even relevant?

And so I’ll do what any rational human being would do in this situation: try to forget about it, and hope that next Tuesday’s critique isn’t awful. But whatever my fellow students and the professor have to say, I can still feel good about the simple fact that I completed a project of such size and scope in such a short amount of time. 

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