From performance reviews to lunch with colleagues, you are surrounded by insights into your reputation. It is easy enough to get caught up in a vicious cycle of, “am I good enough?” This is how to answer.
Performance vs Identity
The link between job performance and self-identity can form a self-destructive trap – if you allow! See Post #35 for details.
Job performance includes your output, your results, your production. It involves the steps, mistakes, and research you’ve done to produce your output. Performance also includes communications with others, something professionals can easily dismiss. If your wonderful work is not clearly communicated, how can it serve a purpose?
In contrast, your identity includes how you think of yourself inside your mind. It is the mentality that describes your state of being. Your identity is shaped by several external and internal parameters. Your identity includes the ways in which you choose to think of yourself as a human being.
Identities are fluid and always changing. Thus, you should never feel pressured to formulate a concrete description of your identity. Nobody gets to decide or choose your identity except for you.
So far, we’ve established that performance is doing; identity is being.
When people provide criticism or feedback, even if unintentional, it may be common to dwell or ruminate. Lingering thoughts may plague you, such as, “what am I doing here … what if I don’t belong … am I good enough, etc.”
Here is a helpful nugget (that might require some practice): Differentiate between being vs doing. You (the being) are separate from your output (the doer).
For example, someone may state, “You’re not good at communicating.” First, this is poor wording as it references your state of being, not doing. Second, it does not mean you, the being, are a bad communicator. Rather, it means you, the doer, have skills that might need to be strengthened.
Your being is completely adequate as is; your doing (skillset and output) can always use improvement.
Read more to understand why the answer to, “am I good enough?” is always YES!
Why You are Good Enough
You are good enough because you, the being:
were not hired to know all the answers to every problem
become smarter by facing challenges and tough decisions in a volatile, uncertain world
have a brain that knows how to be resourceful and figure things out
– That is what it means to be human in the workplace. As a human, you are good enough!
To be human means to embrace our inadequacies while striving to evolve. We know that mistakes are inevitable, that perhaps they act as our teachers.
Sure, it’s possible you can be replaced in your current role if you are too big a liability. But guess what? The next flawed human is going to bring their own inadequacies and weaknesses to the job. It is a cycle that will always continue because we are humans.
While skills, abilities and knowledge can always be improved, your humanness is good enough exactly the way you are.
The next time someone dare imply you’re “not a good so-and-so,” make no mistake: they have zero vote in your integrity as a being.
After awaking in a strange place with no memory of what happened, Frédéric Meuwly realized he had blacked out. His body suffered from severe burnout and exhaustion; his mind suffered from paranoia and instability.
The Gift of Disruption
Meuwly found himself asking clinic staff about his situation and when he would be allowed to go home. In his 2018 Tedx Talk,Burnout: A friend of a friend’s problem, he shares what he learned from this blessing of burnout and exhaustion.
“I realized that if I really wanted to get out of the hospital and reconnect with life, I had to welcome disruption. I had to fundamentally and quickly change my mindset so that I could welcome that disruption,” says Frédéric Meuwly.
“When I look back, I think that burnout has been really an incredible experience in term of learning, so it was a great gift in a way.”
Effects of Burnout and Exhaustion
Physical: Meuwly explains how the autonomic system automatically regulates our physiology. This autonomic nervous systems is broken into two categories: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.
The sympathetic nervous system stimulates your body; the parasympathetic nervous system slows your body down. We need both to function properly. However, burnout and exhaustion over stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which is the active mode of our bodies.
This condition becomes worse with chronic stress. The reason is because the nervous system gets itself into what Meuwly calls a ‘locked’ active mode. It is so over stimulated that it is always in the ‘on’ position.
Mental: The ego does not want to accept that you are becoming more and more tired. Frédéric coins the term ‘superhero syndrome’. Despite your tiredness, the ego wants to project a positive self-image. It wants you to believe you can still act like a superhero despite getting more and more overwhelmed.
Moreover, as the exhaustion progresses, you create a biased perception of yourself. This biased perception leads to tension between ego and the self. If severe enough, the ego dissociates with the self and you get trapped inside your ego, a state he refers to as ‘depersonalization.’
Emotional: You lose your ability to regulate your emotions. Thus, you get hooked into your negative emotions. And this creates what Meuwly calls an ’emotional black hole.’
Managing Burnout and Exhaustion
Burnout is like being a hostage. You’re a hostage to your: nervous system, ego, and negative emotional state. Essentially, you are holding yourself hostage by your nervous system that is locked into active mode.
To end his TedX Talk, Meuwly states you cannot get out of burnout and exhaustion on your own. His theory is that you need support, you need resources, you need a secure base. You need safe and secure bonds with other human beings.
One free resource I highly recommend is a youtube channel called Therapy in a Nutshell. It offers numerous self-help videos posted by a marriage and family therapist.
If you find yourself in a cycle of burnout, exhaustion, anxiety, stress, etc. and you can defeat this on your own, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, I welcome a conversation. Please send me a note under my Contact page and I can offer my best to you.
Four million people quit their jobs in July 2021, the year of the ‘great resignation.’ Of the 4 million, how many are unhappy with their jobs, their employers and their lives? Why you need to know the difference between the great resignation and the great escape from work.
In the context of this article, resigning is a productive, self-serving process wherein you seek self-improvement. It is an action one takes out of self-respect and a desire to evolve. A healthy resignation comes about from a coherent, calm mentality that looks forward to a deliberate future.
Escaping, however, comes from a desperate, urgent or resentful energy. It is driven by an urge to ‘get away,’ a desire to seek something better. The energy behind escaping feels more like a forcing function rather than a thoughtful, intentional plan.
Note that I am not advocating one method over another. Only you can decide what is best for your particular job situation. Without a doubt, I experienced many a great escape from work during my engineering profession. It led me to maneuvering my way through a job scavenger hunt (not fun!).
It is helpful to know which scenario applies to you for the following reason.
The Escape Cycle
More than likely, if you escape in search of something better, as opposed to a healthy resignation, you will set yourself up for another escape.
The reason is because you avoid the difficulties, the road bumps and the difficult people, thus,taking that same lack-of-skillset with you. By avoiding the situation in a great escape from work, you may feel instant relief and comfort. In the process, you close opportunities to grow and prepare yourself for future difficulties.
Running away may seem like the obvious choice, or the only choice. Yet, in doing so, you run away from yourself. Escaping a situation, in general, will not turn into a long-term solution. But hear me loud and clear: some of you may need that short-term solution now! I get it, I’ve been there!
If you choose to make a great escape from work, proceed with caution. Because next time you will be forced to decide: do I escape once more and start the cycle over … or do I do the necessary work on myself?
Again, I emphasize that one scenario is not necessarily better or worse than the other. If you feel the need to escape, recognize that it is a short-term fix.
Resigning or Escaping?
The table below offers examples of an escape mentality vs a resignation mentality. I hope it helps you understand the underlying reasons for your desire to seek other employment.
“My potential in this job has been maxed out”
“I want a better career”
“My values do not align with my employer’s values”
“My employer is terrible or unreasonable”
“I gained crucial knowledge and met fabulous people in this job”
“This job is not my passion”
“The things I’ve learned about myself and about life are priceless”
“I deserve promotions or more compensation”
“Despite management imperfections, I do my best”
“Management is incompetent”
“I’m familiar enough with this world that I know what I’d be leaving behind”
“I don’t relate to these people or to this environment”
“My performance here is truly good enough for me”
“They don’t appreciate my work”
The great escape from work is a temporary solution. If you run from something once, you will generally continue to run until the cycle is stopped.
What if it were possible to secure your professional future? To know that your career, with all its twists and turns, can withstand hardships and economic downfalls? This article will help you understand what it takes to insure your career security and avoid drifting along.
Don’t Do This
First, do not rely on external situations or other people for career security. For example, don’t count on that future job offer which may seem so obvious in the moment. Don’t count on that buddy to get your foot in the door. The reason is because outside circumstances and external people are very good at disappointing us. If possible, avoid any emotional dependence on things external to you (emotional needs, by the way, are best fulfilled by YOU).
Second, do not search for ‘stable’ or ‘secure’ jobs, companies or industries thinking you’ll be in ‘good’ shape. Nothing is guaranteed and nothing is stable (unless you appointed Supreme Court Justice or a tenured professor – those are quite stable). Again, if you are emotionally dependent on what you think is a stable or secure external, be prepared for disappointment at any time.
Third, do not blend your job identity with your self-identity (see Post #35). This is a dangerous and toxic combination. You are not your job. Your job is not you. Think of your job as a tool you use in life. It is a fluid, flexible, unpredictable resource that will help you attain your next endeavor. You are a living being with beliefs and energy; a career is simply a learning experience.
The Secret Ingredient
Plain and simple, your self-worth is the catalyst for your results, experiences and career security. That’s what it comes down to: self-worth. The degree to which you are confident, happy and fulfilled is proportional to your level of self-worth. Allow me to explain with a simple example.
Person A and Person B both work as designers with Company X. One day, they are unexpectedly laid off. Both must gather their personal belongings and be escorted out the building in front of everyone.
Person A is devastated. Person A has never thought about their skills, talents, offerings, or branding. In addition, Person A always knew deep down it was a possibility they could be laid off. However, it was a scenario too painful to consider. It was too uncomfortable to be proactive and anticipate undesirable future events.
Therefore, Person A must scramble in a desperate attempt to find a new job ASAP while dreading the interview process … not a fun thing to do from a feeling of panic and low self-confidence!
Person B, however, has taken a much more proactive approach to their career journey. They regularly work on their wellbeing, admit personal strengths/weaknesses and recently completed an online professional development course, “Overcoming Career Constraints – What College Doesn’t Teach You.”
Person B understand that it’s not necessary to freak out or act in desperation. Person B knows they possess skills and talents other companies need and they are not afraid to speak highly of themselves. They have increased self-confidence and calmly understand the layoff was nothing personal … and they look forward to coherently finding the next open door!
Moreover, Person B has insured their future due to their willingness for self-exploration. They can confidently apply for jobs, interview, fail if necessary and continue the process with a drama-free mindset. They will not be discouraged by rejections, failures or mistakes. Person B also knows, thanks to my online course “Overcoming Career Constraints,” that employment is not required in order to fulfill career purpose.
In conclusion, the same situation produced a completely different experience for each individual due to their mindset around self-worth.
Do you want to know more about insuring your future? ALL are welcome to attend Class 1 for FREE on Sept. 15: Why You Are Held Back. Register now on my Events Page!
People talk at work. The boss is unreasonable. Your customer complained about you. What do you do? If you are lacking self-confidence, it can haunt your professional life in myriad ways. Here are three pivotal reasons you should work on building it.
Blending Self and Job Identity
This is an insidious combination of two separate items that people tend to not recognize.
To blend the self with the job identity implies your job is part of your being. It means your existence is reliant upon your duties, job title or employer. When this occurs, life is grand if the job is going well. However, it also means that when the job goes south for whatever reasons, so does your life.
There are two problems when we blend work with our self-identities. First, you are relying on externals, almost completely out of your control, to feel confident. When we rely on external situations to make us feel good or confident, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
The second problem is that you tend to forget that careers are only one slice of life’s massive pie. People who depend on careers for their wellbeing are likely to forget there are significant, more important things to life.
Think of your job (and your career) as a tool. It is simply a tool that changes over time, morphs into something you may or may have anticipated, and acts as a springboard to your next job.
Jobs and employers are not the end all be all, as much as they may seem. If you suspect you are blending self and job identities, answer the question, “In what ways am I lacking self-confidence?”
Job identity is not self-identity!
Failure and Leadership
You are a leader. It does not matter if you started your first job today or if you’ve been at it for years. Despite your role on the organizational chart, you are a leader and I will tell you why.
First, others depend on you. Your colleagues and your management depend on your results and productivity. You are filling an important void the company needs to thrive so it can serve its customers. Therefore, your employer is heavily dependent upon your good judgment, which leads to reason No. 2.
Second, you are not just a leader in the workplace. You are the CEO over your own life. And do you know what CEOs do? They:
make decisions even when it is terrifying
are future focused and do not dwell on the past
view mistakes as information, not failure
try, fail, get up, try, and fail again until they figure things out
do not need a checklist, instructions, or directions; they eagerly learn as they go
Defeating obstacles and challenges helps you remove barriers that block you from knowing how exceptional you are. If everything were easy, you would remain stagnant.
Learn to lead yourself before you attempt to lead others!
Do you work extra hard or extra-long to keep others off your back? Do you say “okay” when you really mean “no?” People-pleasing can take many shapes and forms in the workplace; this is a sure sign you’re lacking self-confidence.
It is tempting to overwork or create perfectionistic tendencies when the pressure is on. After all, what will others think if you don’t do a great job? But here is the people-pleasing dilemma: you either satisfy others, or you satisfy yourself. Which is more important?
A people-pleaser would rather make others happy over making themselves happy. The root of people-pleasing is fear: “I might be the next to go; I need this job; I have to do everything they tell me to do; it’s too hard to find another job right now, etc.”
It’s not difficult to imagine how a people-pleasing mindset can enable toxicity. Confident people know how to choose themselves and their wellbeing over others (yes, including the boss). The person with high self-confidence realizes their employer needs them more than they need the employer. Confident employees know how to set boundaries and gracefully say “no.” Perhaps most importantly, the highly self-confident person is not beholden to their employer!
People-pleasers choose to not please the single, most important person alive: themselves!
Are you lacking self-confidence and ready to do something about it? Visit my Events Page to register FREE for Class 1 of my upcoming fall course starting Sept. 15, which teaches confidence and life skills for a healthy, sustainable career!
Why is it the boss likes to laser in on your shortcomings and ignore your accomplishments? Your performance is above average, you’ve made a few silly mistakes in the past, and everyone has a major screw up. Despite the situation, project or your output, you tell yourself “my boss doesn’t like me.”
And it drives you mad because you don’t know how to fix it.
The Boss Function
Let us start by diving into some fundamentals of the boss role. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it serves as a useful reminder especially if you are a boss:
One, your boss exists to help equip you with the tools and resources necessary to perform your job. They guide you to help yourself resolve issues should you not have all those tools and resources. (By the way, many people do not have all required necessities to do their jobs, it is not just you).
Two, a boss acts as a compass to point you in the right direction. They are not there to solve your problems. Rather, bosses create a healthy, unobstructed environment for you to try, fail, innovate, and blossom through a consistent feedback loop.
Three, your boss must answer to their boss. If your boss wants to perform properly, it requires you to perform properly. Thus, your boss evaluates your performance to determine if you’ve met your goals. (Ideally, this process would look like an objective performance review).
As an aside, a performance review can be quite the emotional roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, I’ve heard and seen many people walk out of their reviews feeling defenseless, like they were ambushed. Nothing should ever be a surprise to the employee during their performance review. That is the power of a feedback loop: the employee is consistently made aware of expectations, strengths and ‘areas of improvement.’
Whether your boss performs the functions listed above, whether your boss is present or absent, is good or bad, etc. is not the point. The point is that a partnership exists between you and your boss. The two of you share a common goal: perform your best so the company can thrive.
“But, my boss doesn’t like me,” you exclaim. Now, where does that leave you?
It Helps to Know
1. By telling yourself “my boss doesn’t like me,” and by believing this statement at face value, you make the situation personal.
It is as if you are telling yourself, “the boss does not like my being, my presence or my humanness. I am not good enough because I am not liked. Since the boss doesn’t like me, perhaps I am unworthy of fair treatment. Maybe I should not be in this job and I should change myself. I want to be liked and accepted because I want to continue working here.” The self-narrative can spin out of control if you do not keep yourself grounded.
A critical detail here: anytime you believe “they don’t like me,” it implies a personal attack against your being and your existence.
Critical Point #1: Is your situation truly a personal attack, or is the boss attempting to criticize your output? These two scenarios are vastly different beasts. Let’s address the more severe of the two: My boss doesn’t like me for who I am.
2. Worst case scenario, your boss does make the situation personal, and they do not like you as a person.
It gets personal when management is critical of the things that make you uniquely you. Personal is when they use your personality or characteristics against you. For example, this might look like “you aren’t smart enough; you are too emotional; your spouse is annoying; the college you attended is insignificant, etc.”
If a boss makes the situation personal, they are faulty in two regards:
They fail to provide an environment that promotes self-reflection in the name of self-improvement
They are teaching you how miserable they feel about themselves
Critical Point #2: If someone doesn’t ‘like’ who you are, the translation is that they don’t like themselves when in your presence. On the contrary, people who appreciate and like themselves lift others up and facilitate self-improvement. They will not berate or criticize.
To Stay or Go?
Your employment isn’t about the boss being good or bad; it’s not about whether they like you. Your employment is about holding up your end of the bargain; it is not a personal relationship.
If you perform to the best of your abilities, learn from mistakes, and take initiative, there is nothing more a boss can ask of you. In fact, there is nothing more you can ask of yourself. While it is your responsibility to learn, grow and contribute to company goals, do not think you have to change yourself or your values … especially NOT for a boss.
If you believe “my boss doesn’t like me for who I am”, then it is possible they are taking their insecurities out on you. While this is their own internal problem to address, they unfortunately have some power to make employment more complex. Leaving this scenario for alternate employment can be tempting and sometimes justified. However, leaving the scenario may only serve as a temporary band aid offering short-term relief (which some people need in extreme cases!).
The reason leaving this scenario is not the best solution: you will always and forever deal with insecure people in your surroundings.
Leaving is the easy, temporary answer. Strengthening your mindset to deal with difficult, external situations is a much more sustainable, long-term solution (and applies to all areas of life). Ask me how!
“I hate my engineering job.” The results of this Google search were staggering to me. And according to an ASME article, engineering is the second loneliest profession (behind law).
This article is not the end all be all answer, because the answer is overly complicated and cannot be resolved in one blog post. However, as a recovering engineer myself, I can offer information to help neutralize the pain.
In the Trenches
Of course, I know there are engineers who ‘hate’ their current role. For crying out loud, that is a large reason why I started my coaching business in the first place!
But, the agonizing responses after searching “I hate my engineering job” served as a painful reminder of my past life as an engineer working in the trenches:
I just started as an electrical engineer for a consulting firm just over a month ago. At first I was ecstatic, because I got a job and now all of that hard work over the last four years to get the degree will finally pay off. However I just realized the other day that I hate my job.
This is such a cookie cutter job.
I don’t like my first engineering job and I want advice.
I’ve been an electrical engineer for 33 years and just left the profession 2 months ago. Technically, it’s an “early retirement” but quite frankly I just needed to get out.
In particular, I’m in agreement with it changing from engineering > management, now to engineers being yanked all over the place due to management / politics and finance.
My love of the profession and my hope that I would one day become like my heroes were gone. I wasn’t solving problems or coming up with creative solutions for customers and colleagues. I was pushing paper and, as a lead, using the lash of my tongue on others to achieve the same exacting standards.
There is not adequate time or space here to delve further into the endless pit of career horror stories. But, “I hate my engineering job” is a very real syndrome among the STEM population. Allow me to sum up the most common reasons I could find:
No impact/no pride
What’s an Engineer to Do?
For starters, here are a few things you need to know that I wish I had known back in the day.
First – Did you realize you are not alone? Engineers tend to (there are always exceptions) allow emotional career frustrations to linger and fester inside, which results in two obvious drawbacks. One, the pressure keeps building over time until you find an outlet. That outlet could spontaneously combust and turn out to be a major regret in life.
Next, you portray the image that nothing is wrong. That you’re just going about your business… that life is swell. And do you know why that is not a good idea? Because other people around you (either physically or on the socials), might be feeling the exact same way. Then, they believe they are the only ones feeling down and out about their jobs because the other engineers they know are putting on a show. It becomes a vicious cycle where all parties suffer in lonely silence.
Second – Did you know that you don’t have to bottle up negative feelings and live a pretentious life? Let me guess … you never learned this in engineering school, did you. They don’t teach us that it is natural and human to experience a wide spectrum of emotions in our careers. We have not been told that it can be stressful and unhealthy to suppress one of our most basic instincts as humans: expression. In fact, I would argue, based on personal experiences, that the STEM world discourages human expression. You are to get the data … do your job … don’t cause trouble … rinse and repeat.
Third –Did anyone tell you that there could be a large disconnect between academics and professional reality? Both worlds can offer feelings of pressure and pride, and both worlds can offer opportunities for growth and challenge. However, the circumstances under which these features are offered can be vastly different. Some engineers do directly apply academics to their jobs – note, this is typically a given assumption for most young engineers. After all, why would you bust your rear end in college to earn a job doing anything else?
The sad truth, folks, is that many engineers do not require application of an engineering curriculum to be a successful engineer. Thus, you are left feeling bored, regret, hopeless, or worse. It’s no wonder you agonize over, “I hate my engineering job.” You should know, you must know, that there is often a disconnect between industry and academics.
Engineering school doesn’t teach you how to be an engineer; rather, it teaches you the skill of how to learn in the context of engineering.
Now what? Where does this leave you? For one, you can let me know about your frustrations and dead-end attempts at engineering happiness by sending me a note – let’s chat about it. For an additional thought-provoking insight into career despair, see Post #25, “How Long Will You Suffer from Career Despair?”
Do you feel misled? Are you getting more brain-dead as time goes by? Send me a note and let me know how you are affected by this industry-academic disconnect.
I spoke at a conference yesterday and struck a nerve. Attendees reached out to me with personal stories about career attachment, and how it caused havoc in their lives. They thanked me for the helpful information, and I gladly summarize here.
We work super duper hard to earn one of the toughest degrees around. As engineering students and as young professionals, we create visions of a fantasy career living life happily ever after. It includes wonderful images of promotions, accolades, benefits, and money. We start our first professional job ready to hit the ground running.
Naturally, you’d like to see your career thrive. You want to nourish it and feed it and watch it grow. This desire promotes a dangerous kind of bond if you are not cognizant – an emotional attachment to your career. It is as if your career is a child, which requires emotional bonding to thrive.
However, your career is not a child. You have possibly fostered an emotional bond to your career, and this career attachment grows with time (see Post #09). The problem? Your emotional health in this scenario is dependent on your job outcomes. In other words, your emotional quality of life is dependent on an external circumstance – your career.
This career attachment you have created can grow into a monster, because as the job rides a professional roller coaster, so does your personal life. It can lead to self-defeating activities such as overworking, lack of boundaries, burnout, or worse.
Self-Description is not Job Description
First, recognize that the things you DO in life are different from WHO you are. Your TITLE at work is separate from your IDENTITY as a human. Humans are uniquely authentic and inherently worthy. This means, despite your past, your successes, and failures, you are still a 100% worthy, spiritual human being.
Your career, on the other hand, is a tool to be used for the sake of evolving your life. It is fluid and unpredictable, you never know how it will morph from one day to the next. One thing your career is NOT: an indication of your worthiness in this world.
Secondly, breaking the career attachment habit requires high self-worth and self-confidence. This includes respecting and valuing who you are, despite your flaws and failures. It requires knowing yourself inside and out. The magic happens in life when you can learn to love yourself unconditionally!
Last, I offer my favorite definition of self-confidence: the willingness to feel any emotion. When high self-confidence allows you to embrace uncomfortable feelings, such as setting boundaries or saying No at work, your emotional health will vastly improve.
The main takeaway is that career attachment leads to an unhealthy, destructive dependency on your job outcome. Instead of relying on external outcomes to feel good, look to the inside and rely on your mentality.
Internal self-validation sets the stage for the way you experience life.
Are you attached to your career? Let me know what that creates for your life!