Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Self Doubt

I've been thinking lately about how hard I am on myself. Especially as I have evaluated my performance at my new job. Of all the times in my life, this is probably the worst time to be so critical and hard on myself. It's certainly not helping me gain confidence and I've no doubt that it's being perceived by others.

That tendency to over-analyze and mentally kick the crap out of myself has been pervasive throughout my life. I haven't quite figured out how to silence the voices in my mind that tell me I'm not good enough, not smart enough, not the right person for the job.

Lately, I come home at the end of the day and try to reason with myself. I say, "Self, you excelled at differential equations, a class many engineers/math majors hated. You were able to understand vectors and sub vectors and use them to solve systems of linear equations in linear algebra. You can price financial derivatives. You are not an idiot."

I try to rationalize. But I still go to bed at night wondering what happened to that confident, poised girl. The one who spoke up in class. The one who had an opinion about everything in her previous job. The one who tended to finished her work too quickly.

Where did she go?

My patience with myself is wearing thin. While I have moved up the learning curve, I'm not quite where I'd like to be. And it is wearing me down. My colleagues in my program keep assuring me that it will get better.

I know I need to be more patient with myself. More forgiving. Less critical.

I received a package in the mail this week from Emily Jane - I had shared some of my frustrations/worries with her and she sent me the book, "Traveling Light". While I do feel better about work than I did a month ago, I still feel weighted down by a plethora of worries. Worries of under performing. Worries of not fitting in with the culture of my employer. Worries of what my future will hold if it doesn't include a long career with my current employer.

I think this book is going to be a great first step in putting these worries in perspective.

Are you hard on yourself? If so, how have you quieted the voices of self doubt in your mind?


Kelly said...

This happens to me a lot too, and in teaching- there is always a parent (or a pain kid) to tell you what a bad job you are doing just when you think it yourself :) I haven't found a great way to get rid of the voices- but I do try to choose to do things at work, and outside of work that make me feel good about my abilities.

Hopefully since you feel better than you do a month ago, you can continue to move in the upward direction until you feel comfortable. It took me close to 2 years to feel comfortable with my ability at work, and like I mentioned- I still have my days where I need even more time and experience.

In the end, if your current employer is not where you want to be, that's okay too. You may not feel ready to try something else yet, but in a few years you might.

Charbelle said...

Have you been at this new job a year yet? When did you start?
The reason I ask is that the learning curve for any new job is about a year, at least 6 months.
It reads like you took a job that challenges you and allows you to grow and that's scary and it's easy to feel defeated and believe those voices in your head.
Just from reading all that you've accomplished it's really amazing! Not only professionally but with your running and you find time to read!
I believe writing it out helps. You write it out and put the thoughts out there and sometimes just reading them it helps you realize where and what your focus needs to be to make necessary changes.

I'maNolaGirl said...

Honestly, I think it is a sign of your character that yuou are hard on yourself. The employees who fail are the ones who are complacent in their their performance. You have drive and skills, and the confidence will follow. Just know that you will get there.

Lisa-Marie said...

I think that in a new, more demanding job this is a natural way of thinking. I think though, that you can use it in a positive way. It can be your to do list maker.

You should take your colleagues advice though, it sounds like they'e gone through the same thing!

I had these thoughts alot during teacher training, but you get to the good point eventually, and I know you will!

Jess said...

I have these feelings on a daily basis, by-and-large thanks to my Masters. (So, I know you can understand that!!) I usually just try to think about how worth it it will all be when it's finished!

I agree with the other comments. You have to cut yourself some slack (sometimes easier said than done, I know!) You're still fairly new at your job, you're still learning. Plus, you're have to allow yourself to make mistakes sometimes.

Will be interested to hear about the book and if you found it useful!

Becky said...

I too ask myself the same questions sometimes - "when did I become not so confident?" I've always been the opinionated one, the one who would say what she thought no matter what and sometimes that's not the case anymore.

Hang in there, and take heart in the fact that if you're better than you were a month ago you're on the upswing.

Mandy said...

You are amazing Lisa, please don't ever forget that. And incredibly smart and talented. I have no idea what a differential equation is and what a vector or sub vector is or does. In time you will find what suits you, just because your current position may not be the right fit, you WILL find whats best for you. One of the best (and perhaps scariest) aspects of life is that nothing is permanent. You can change and choose what you have.

Just do the best you can, thats all anyone can ask of you. As for not fitting in with the culture there, thats ok. You don't have to fit in. Remain true to yourself. You'll be ok what ever you do, I fully trust that.

B and B said...

I agree with Charbelle. The further up the ladder, the longer the learning curve? I feel for you. My first year of teaching, my principal gave me some advice I thought about often as my career progressed. It seems silly, but it helped. He told me I had to strive to get as thick of skin as possible as soon as possible and then I would be able to enjoy what I had set out to do. It does help to have a person with compassion as a superior. You have accomplished so much. Deep breaths. More steps forward than backward. And, don't let the turkeys get you down. See you next week?

Abby and Ryan said...

You were able to speak up and felt total comfort at your old job, because you were totally comfortable with it. You weren't being as challenged. Now, you are in a new industry--so it's totally normal for you to feel weak on the learning curve.

But you are exactly right! You need to look at the positives and things you are amazing that. Lisa, your capacity for knowledge is incredible. And more than knowledge, you are one of the most motivated people I know!! Keep positive, and soon you'll feel "natural" at your job!

I too am extremely hard on myself. It took me an entire year of nursing school to start speaking up. For a year I was the girl with her head in the text book and I never talked. All b/c I felt inferior. So I can kinda relate!

Nora said...

Um, yes, I'm hard on myself but you already knew that. I think part of my issue is that I don't want to let myself down much less the others around me (and it's even harder when I work for my dad! Disappointment at the office is a whole different ballgame when it's family). I'm working on letting the small things go, cutting my to-do list in half, ignoring the rest of the office when I need to. And when I don't think I'm good enough or when I have self-doubt, well, I just try to work that much harder to prove to myself, if no one else, that I can do this.

So can you. I know it!

Amber (Girl with the red hair) said...

I had to giggle at Mandy's comment, I also have NO CLUE what those math thingy's you were talking about mean. My mind kind of glazes over at words like that.

But, I do know that you are very smart and awesome. Not many people could handle the workload you do and would have cracked under the pressure by now. And I know you FEEL like you're cracking under the pressure, but you're not, you're getting up every day and going to work and trying your best. And that's all anyone, including yourself, can ask for.

I agree with whoever said that a learning curve at a new job is 6-12 months. I think that by the fall you will be starting to feel more comfortable.

And, if that doesn't happen, and the 18 months is coming up then you'll know in your gut what to do and if your gut is telling you to look for somewhere else where you'll be happier then go with it!


Kyla Roma said...

Oh miss, give yourself some time to fit into your work - people can be so strange & learning a whole new set of skills is hard, hard, hard. I've worked places where the rule was you basically didn't talk to the new hire for a couple of months until everyone was sure they would stay- its isolating to know that you're not quite fitting in but it's okay. Go for walks at lunch. Listen to podcasts and read books. Do anything you can to pull yourself out of your internal monologue and if you can pick a couple of tasks that you rock at to end the day it will make a huge difference in how you feel about everything.

The way that I look at it is there's a difference between being discouraged by a hard task and beating yourself up over something. Being discouraged is natural and you can move through it but when you move into beating yourself up? For me that's when I get paralyzed. I stop being able to learn, I stop being able to pick things up on the fly, I stop acting like myself. When I beat myself up I become ineffective- so I've made a huge effort to try and talk myself up when I'm taking on something new. I don't think that it's about false confidence it's about being kind to yourself- you're the only one who can be on a day to day basis. <3

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

I think there is such a thing as a healthy dose of self doubt. It's what motivates us to do better, learn more, be kinder and so on. But, when self doubt begins to interfere with your true potential, that's definitely when it's become an issue that needs to be addressed. I hope you find your voice again.

Marlys said...

Such beautiful, thoughtful, inspiring comments! Lisa, I agree with Nilsa that you can't let self-doubt interfere with your potential! This may seem elementary, but remember the little train story - I think I can,I think I can, I KNOW I can! And like Barb, said, a thick skin is definitely a must! I know there is one place you can go and that's to your inner room where you can let out all your fears and trials and trust that they will be relieved! Prayer helps! It is through trials tht we find our true self. Know you are loved!

Carolina John said...

confidence is the key. Anytime you want to wallow in self-doubt know that I am only a phone call away. I've been dealing with it really bad this week. only 1 workout and tons of comfort food. and lots of crying (yes i'm man enough to admit that). it's been a tough week.

but we are both smart rational people who can understand struggles and overcome them. i often get overwhelmed by a technology that I just can't understand but everyone else seems to pick up quickly. seriously, call me anytime you need a pick-me-up. i can tell you stories in a funny southern accent that will make you feel better. and i'm sure you can do the same thing for me (without the accent)

qwerkyqook said...

I think successful people are always hard on themselves. Being critical helps you achieve. That is however, until it starts to eat away at your confidence. Then it's time to reign it in. You recognize this, which is more than half the battle. New jobs, new situations, new responsibilities are difficult and naturally uncomfortable, regardless of your performance. I think that leads a critical personality to start trying to figure out how/they feel this way, and sometimes they determine they must be failing in some way. Usually though, they are not. Right now you are chugging up a hill, and you never really know how high the hill is, but you will reach the top at some point and start flying. You are one of the smartest, most accomplished, determined and organized people in my life. Think about things you've accomplished already and had much less "life proof" that you'd be successful. You started college with absolutely no idea how to function as an independent person and totally succeeded-which is a hard transition in the grand scheme of life. You nailed your MBA while maintaining a full time job-I cannot even manage to wash dishes while in school sometimes;) You ran a marathon-which is an insane physical and mental accomplishment. You scored an amazing job and an incredibly impressive company. Now you have all these successes in your past to lean on. If you've done all this, it's very unlikely that you are not able to excel in your current job. that's why they hired you! Keep up that positive self talk, in you its well founded! And get some extra rest this weekend, go for a nice run, vacuum, and you'll start your new week out strong! And if that doesn't work, call your mom. She will tell you you are amazing and she believes in you, and sometimes thats all you need :)

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

I know EXACTLY how you feel. When my previous company closed and I started work with my current employer it was a difficult transition. With the old company I knew everything about it like the back of my hand. I could call up the CEO to ask a question and that was know big deal, because she knew me. Now, I am starting at square one. I do not know anyone above the regional manager and sometimes I feel very small. Starting a new job is very, very hard. Establishing yourself and building that confidence is not an easy thing to do.
I think it is good that your hard on yourself. I like to have people on my staff that can see their faults because they are harder then themselves then I can ever be and they are my very best employees because they genuinely WANT to succeed!

Sarah said...

I think I'm beginning on the road you're currently on. For me it's from being totally out of my depth. Like you, I have to keep telling myself that I'm not an idiot - that I am, in fact, an intelligent person and am where I am because I've got here on my own.

Hopefully things will improve for you. I know that you've been really stressed out, and that's not a nice way to live, nor is it a nice thing to have to face every day.

J said...

I think i go in phases. When i started my new job i was pretty hard on myself to succeed but now I have let up a little and become more relaxed. I tend to put subconscious pressure on myself to be the best and it can be overwhelming so I try to take a step back.

I think since you are feeling better you will hopefully continue to move in that direction. Just remember you are great! And we are all hard on ourselves so your not alone!

Anonymous said...

I've always been SUPER crticial of myself and it is by far, the most sure-fire way to self destruct. I too have started a new job with a HUGE learning curve. But recently at a conference, I learned "Rule #6"- Don't take yourself too seriously.

I think it also helps that I have an incredible manager; I mean, INCREDIBLE. He's called me to say, "Okay, I think I might be micromanaging; do what you think is best and I'll back you." He calls if he's not heard from me in a couple days; he's just awesome. I think it helps when you have a manager like that. I also have a co-worker that is about my same age (which is refreshing! Most of my colleagues are closer to retirement)-- we frequently talk, email, go out for lunch and routinely let each other know, "I'm glad you're here." I think having a support network at work helps- I feel less like a moron and more like a newcomer.

I'm thinking of you-- it'll get better. Look how much it's changed since your first day on the job! I'd be more worried if you knew everything when you first walked through the door-- I think the challenge is a good sign; and, as my manager put it, "If you're not asking questions or already know all the answers, I'd be more worried than if you didn't know and stopped to ask questions."