I remember it well. The day that I finally realised that I just couldn’t keep going in my new job without help.

For my entire life, I had suffered from a lack of self confidence and an abundance of self-doubt. However, I had also coped. I had done reasonably well at work, had some great friendships, a wonderful family, and was basically enjoying life.

I had learnt that my biggest issue appeared to be with uncertainty. If I could make the uncertainty as certain as possible, the doubt was kept at bay. So, I employed strategies. For one, I would push myself to understand every last aspect of a new situation because if I understood it, I wouldn’t be uncertain and I wouldn’t doubt myself. That worked well for me.

And then I ended up in my career year from hell.

I had applied for and accepted a job where I didn’t have any direct reports. I turned up to my new place of work to find my new manager on leave, and confusion around the job that I was doing. After a couple of weeks, I learned that the job that I was employed for and the job that I was going to be doing were two different things. For a start, the new role had me managing many staff.

With uncertainty about why this change had happened, no handover (because the handover had occurred with the person everyone thought was going to be doing the job that I was now doing), and a tonne of self-doubt, I tried to tackle this role. I had no idea of the past, current or future direction of the role, and was being expected to make permanent decisions around staffing with people who also didn’t really know what was happening.

To me, this was pretty much my worst nightmare. I was in a job that I was certain that I couldn’t do, and I was an emotional wreck. People were starting to not take me seriously, and I could see why. My self-confidence, self-esteem and self-everything, really, had taken a huge hit. To cap it off, I had started the year with the death of my father at the same time as dealing with my own health issues and was still mentally recovering from all of this.

I no longer felt in control of who I was being at work. When I didn’t feel in control, I didn’t feel competent and, when I didn’t feel competent, there was nothing there to help me keep that self-doubt monster at bay. My strategies no longer worked;  my job was too big for me to understand everything to the detail that I required in order to feel in control. It was too much effort and not sustainable.

My world was becoming increasingly uncertain. For a perfectionist with a fear of failure, uncertainty did not feel like a great place to be. When you fear failure but are uncertain about how to make the perfect decision, which road do you take? My confidence hit rock bottom, and it didn’t feel recoverable. I was an emotional wreck, spending most days of my life in tears. This wasn’t my best look, and it really didn’t help my case at work. The self-doubt at work spilled over into the rest of my life and my thoughts were not really a pleasant place to be.

At this point I realised that my future, if I chose to continue along my current path, would include a career and mental health that were both in jeopardy.

It was time to make a change. It was time to ask for help.

Upon Reflection…

Sometimes when we are caught up in situations where we feel as though we may be sinking rather than swimming, we can feel as though it is impossible to recover from that situation. We feel helpless and don’t know where to go.

Although I didn’t analyse my actions at the time, I now understand that this situation started to turn around because I decided that things were going to change. It was, however, more than that. I didn’t only decide that things were going to change; I declared that they were going to change.

So, what is a declaration?

In language, we use declarations to bring about new results in our world. We have seen declarations used throughout history: The declaration of American Independence; JFK’s declaration to put man on the moon; Churchill’s declaration following the battle of Dunkirk. In everyday life,
examples might be a New Year resolution, or a manager telling a team member that “we are going to do it my way”.

At the point where we make a declaration, we are putting forward a new reality; things would have continued as they were until that declaration was made. As a general rule, I don’t think that we consciously consider how we use declarations within our own lives, which can mean that we make declarations without even being consciously aware of the reality that we might create.

I didn’t know it at the time that I made two declarations that allowed me to go forward into a new future; a future that wasn’t about placing my career and mental health in jeopardy. They were:

  • A declaration that things were going to change; and
  • A declaration that I would seek help in bringing about the changes that were important to me.

Points to Ponder…

  • If you are reflecting on your role as a leader, what declarations could you make right now to bring forth a different reality for your team and organisation?
  • If you are reflecting on life in general, what declarations would help you in moving forward?
  • In either case, what are the declarations that you are making that you are not fully aware of? Are they creating the reality that you want to create?

I am a leadership and life coach, available for coaching and facilitation services. If you feel that it would be useful to have a conversation with me, please feel free to view my services on the Leading and Being website.

2 thoughts on “When Self Doubt Becomes Destructive

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