One day, you'll get over this
I wrote a really honest post yesterday about just how insecure I feel about my skills in the workplace. It comes from perfectionism and a fear that I'll 'get into trouble' if everything isn't done and done right. I think I've had this problem all my life to be honest. But here's where it got worse - in a previous job my boss decided to email HR about ways I could be 'managed out' - he sent the email to me instead of HR.
This moment changed me forever.
I'd already had a tough couple of years and then I was faced with losing my secure well paid job and it terrified me to the core. Being a catastrophiser I pictured myself jobless and living on the streets everyday until I made myself sick. Despite the fear I did manage to quit that job quickly, getting a new one within two weeks. I was gone long before the boss had a chance to 'manage me out' and it didn't sit well with some of my colleagues. I think they felt I over-reacted and the atmosphere was toxic until the day I walked out of the door. Since that day I've always been weak in the workplace, I let people walk all over me, take advantage, load me up with work, push me around, make me do the menial work like emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen, because I'm scared if I don't I'll be fired.
It's been almost 4 years, I've moved into a more senior role, I part own the business I work for, I've moved up in salary and have earned my stripes to be where I am but, I still live in fear. I also understand how irrational this is.
It got so bad this week that I broke down and told the main director how much I was struggling. He also knows my fight with anxiety and has offered to help me out with paying for some therapy. However, he said something to me that worries me greatly. He said - 'It's ok because one day you'll get over this'.
It doesn't work that way. You don't 'get over' anxiety, especially if it stems from trauma. You don't just wake up one morning and feel chilled and ecstatic to be alive. You learn to get a hold of it and manage the condition but you DON'T just 'get over it' Therein lies the problem. How many times have we heard this, feeling depressed? Just pull up your bootstraps. The vocabulary needs to changes around how we describe these conditions. Depression isn't just 'feeling sad' it goes much deeper than that. Anxiety isn't just feeling 'overly nervous' it's a basic instinct that was supposed to protect us from wild lions and bears. When you are trying to manage anxiety this basic survival instinct can take you down every time you receive an email or every time your phone rings. It's exhausting and you CANNOT just 'switch it off'.
For the first time I wish I could take it all back. I wish I had never admitted it, I wish I had never shared my afflictions with my colleagues now. Why? Because in a years time what if I'm off work again due to this? It's the perfect opportunity to show that I'm not up to the job. It's the perfect thing to use against me and light the flame of insecurity burning in my gut. She didn't get over it even after meds and therapy? What a loser. So I'm back to square one, back to being scared that this will one day be my downfall and my 'worst case scenario' will come true. I'll be jobless and homeless because I was a fraud.
It has a name - it's called 'impostor syndrome'. I talked briefly about this with another Sergeant Calm follower, someone who always comes to my rescue when I wobble and falter, thanks Ian, you've become a friend. We both know this syndrome well. It's a concept that describes high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalise their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a "fraud". I could have this tattooed on me - even while I write this my one persistent thought is - 'who am I kidding? I'm not a high achieving individual'. I don't know where this started, I may never see the end of it but, it's worth knowing that it's a thing, and it is very, very real. I also wonder just how many people feel this way without exploring it further. Letting it take over their lives and trapping them in fear. I know myself it's not real, at the very least I can blame it on my 'broken brain'. What if you didn't know? That you really believe you're worthless and you are 'faking it' and are living on borrowed time. Voila! You have yourself some serious depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. I honestly can't even give any advice on this because I don't have it figured out. I know I'm really good at 'faking it until I make it' but I'm not even sure it helps. It just heaps pressure on me every time I fake it a little better. So, I am going to go back to therapy. Therapy has been something I have done on and off over the past 5 years. And, now I've realised that each time I have sat 'on the couch' it's been for a different issue. A tragedy in the family, severe hypochondria and now impostor syndrome. This is ok. To use buzz words I hate, it really is self awareness and self care. I have an issue that's preventing me from living a full life and I'm going to do something about it. I've said it before and I'll say it again, self awareness is key. Self awareness might just save your life.
This has been a ramble, probably not helpful and definitely not all that insightful but I had to get it out. It always feels better when I transfer the toxins out of my body and onto the page. Maybe it will help someone else.
At ease x