Megan Leigh McDonald
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'Don't make me think.' Steve Krug

Megan Leigh McDonald

A Sheep in a Wolf’s Clothing?

I was thinking about this metaphor all day today and as ‘black and white’ as it is, it is a starting point for looking at how we perceive ourselves in contrast to our coworkers at times. I have to be honest here, I’m a Sheep…not in the sense of following the herd but in the sense that I am a genuine, gentle and open person. I’m huggable, which may not be very professional in a large corporate environment but in most of the circles I’ve been in the past, it was an asset and, to be frank, a nice part of living this life.

Feedback from coworkers is that I’m sensitive, responsive and attentive. I’m ‘there’ – 100% solid there at all times. The flip side of being sensitive though is that I’m, well, sensitive. Occasionally, I encounter people whose viewpoint of the world is so different and opposite of mine that they would describe me in ways that are inverse to the above. And sometimes, people see me accurately and find my buttons and proceed to push them liberally. Me, being the sensitive and responsive type, will give them exactly what they want. This is the part of myself I want, maybe need to change.

But change is a tough process and some argue that we never really change. I mean, for example, I might learn to control my response to someone who is rubbing me the wrong way whether purposefully or not. But I’ll probably never eradicate the pain that I feel when someone harshly criticizes me. I think, in me, there is a sense of justice and fairness and I believe somewhere down deep, maybe under the very bottom of my soul, that if I play fair so will others. It’s idealistic more than naive.

So what I’m really experimenting with in bringing up this metaphor is that if the Sheep and the Wolf are metaphorical roles we sometimes act out with each other, then I’m a Sheep donning a Wolf’s skin to walk amongst the tougher, more thick-skinned individuals. However, in taking on the Wolf’s skin, I question, how much of the Wolf will I eventually take on. Will I, in turn, lash out at another Sheep in order to toughen them up and remind them that a Wolf is always around the corner somewhere? Is there a transformation from Sheep to Wolf or vice versae? Will a Wolf who takes on more of a Sheep’s qualities in turn become more gentle and sensitive given time?

I don’t mind the Wolf or its hide because in some ways it offers protection, but I’m a Sheep underneath it all and I happen to love that. In the end, I know the real concrete psychological solution to my problem lies not in this metaphor of the ‘Other’ but in muting the pitch of the incoming criticisms, softening the blow and reducing the intensity of my own sensitivity to it. Result? I react or respond less. But then again, maybe the metaphor still works…I should just grow my woolly fur a little thicker so that the Wolf can’t find a firm claw-hold.

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