Today I wanted to share a more personal post when it comes to career growth, attitudes in the workplace and especially when growth comes at the expense of your own sanity, as well as how I’ve changed my attitude in regards to that. Last week I lost a client and while it was disappointing news, I know I did everything I could o keep them around and the circumstances that led to it were rather out of my hands. Surprisingly, the loss of the client did not come with huge personal remorse and given how I used to perceive such situations in the past, it’s a big stride forward for me so I thought I would share a bit more insight into my story.
Another reason for sharing this is also because I don’t want to paint that getting ahead at work is all rainbows and flowers. Being good at what you do or being a high performer does not mean that everything behind runs perfectly. There are setbacks, there are disappointments and there is self-doubt on the way. The key is to keep pushing through it, become better at how we handle ourselves and focusing on what matters.
I’ve long battled with being personally attached to the outcome of my work. This means always putting in long hours, feeling personally responsible for everything (and not only the results I produce) and stressing out beyond measure over all of it, all while setting incredibly high expectations for myself. Generally, it’s very hard for me to feel like I let people down or that I have not done everything I could in a given situation – and as you can imagine, this translates to work scenarios very well. Add to this the fact that I am in a client-facing role and let me tell you, the pressure is real. Luckily, I “handle” stress pretty well and do not let it affect my impact when it comes to getting things done, nor do I let it become too visible to those around me. However, the internal feeling of stress is something that I don’t like and I simply don’t think it’s healthy in the long run.
Nonetheless, I attribute my attitude to two things 1) I am responsible beyond imaginable and 2) I am definitely a people pleaser. Looking back, I see that both things are heavily rooted in my childhood. I was a very responsible and pleasing child by default and that got exacerbated with having to become rather independent and responsible for my own wellbeing quite early on. I had my first job at 14 and had to start earning rent money quickly after in order to support my family, and of course I mostly also put myself through university. Just to be clear, I don’t resent that. I am rather thankful for it and I generally like how it contributed to who I am today – independent, trustworthy, earning my own money and living life on my own terms. However, as with everything, there are also downsides to it and a lot of unlearning that needs to be done.
On the up side, this allowed me to be a high performer and rewarded as such when it comes to promotions and internal recognition and positioning – at the end of the day, I’ve always been on the early promotion track. However, five years into full-time work life, my tolerance for unpaid overtime and heavy stress for things that don’t really matter has definitely diminished. I am no longer willing to put up with stress especially when it can quickly overflow into my physical and mental health – which, by the way, I am the only one 100% responsible for safeguarding. At the end of the day I have to remind myself that I am exchanging my work for a salary, nothing less and nothing more. Often, I also love to remind myself that if I would get sick or anything would happen, at the end of the day I am just another number on my company’s sheet, whereas I would have to live with the effects that stress brings for the rest of my life, and this is just not worth it to me.
Luckily, I’ve also had a very supportive partner throughout my journey. On the days when I would literally come home exhausted and crying because I didn’t think I was doing a good enough of a job or I could not control a certain outcome 100%, he always reassured me. He usually reminded me that 1) I cannot be responsible for other people’s work, 2) I am genuinely doing a good job and 3) people’s lives are not depending on this so there is no need for me to over stress.
This topic is still very much a work in progress and truth is, I am also thankful to work from home. Every single day I need to make a conscious effort to not let stress and a heavy workload overtake my full day, energy and mental health. I like to think that I’ve come a long way in terms of how I perceive my work and its outcome and I am in a much better place in terms of attachment to it.
Over time and with some more experience I also realised that assuming that other people are better than you or doing a better job, is not a good way to go. The more you tend to assume that, the more it means rather the opposite – you know who are the people that talk the loudest. I am generally pretty confident when it comes to the quality of my performance and the outcome of my work, however, I can’t avoid doubt creeping in. I think this overlaps a little with impostor syndrome, but let’s leave that one for another day.
Breaking free of these mental limitations and the over-stressing when it comes to work, it’s something that needs to change. I love to work hard and that will always be the case, but I don’t love to feel stressed all the time. Treating work with a bigger dose of objectivism and less emotional attachment is definitely something I keep working on and can only encourage everyone to also do so.
Curious to hear if you’ve been in a similar position and how you dealt with it. Let me know in the comments!