Working mum of three

Figuring it out as we go along. Blogging is cheaper than therapy.

Room for improvement

2015/03/img_2328.jpgI’ve had a little bloggers block lately. I usually find it a relief to tap out my thoughts and put them into order. But it’s all been too much of a muddle recently to even do that. Big worries. Little worries. Medium size worries. I’ve started doing work in my sleep, literally dreaming out answers to emails, planning out meetings, it’s weird. The weeds we are in have been thick and wild. The plates we’ve been spinning are highly stacked.

We’ve both headed into 2015 with new jobs. For me, it’s exciting and vindicating, but you can imagine the anxiety. More pressure, more trips away, more guilt. I’ve blubbed the first leg of each train journey away from my family. Three hours to wallow in it all, drowning in worry and guilt, trying to muster up some professionalism.

It’s a new team for me and a whole new area of work. I’ve been wracked with self doubt and nervousness. I’ve gone from being the ‘go-to’ person to the ‘knows nothing’ person. We do a lot of self reflection at work; training on self awareness, assertiveness, management techniques, personal impact. We do team building to find out our Myers Briggs and we are learn to be leaders and not managers. Yup, I buy into all this. I try to think about it both professionally and personally. There’s a lot of good stuff, but it plays to those who think they aren’t quite good enough. I’ve spent a while in my organisation worrying that I’m not smart/worldly/posh enough. Turns out, there’s a name for it; imposter syndrome. And stuff you can do about it.

The imposter‘ applies in any industry I expect: that constant internal narrative that you aren’t meant to be there, not good enough. In a meeting, I angst over whether to ask a question, rolling the formulation around in my head, trying to judge the right moment, worrying that it will make me sound stupid, often deciding not to ask it. So I’ve been doing a bit of research into all this, and learned some psudo-psychologies (links to TED talks below…).

I’ve realised I’ve got this other person in my life. She’s pretty ruthless. You probably know her. She’s the saboteur. I used to think she was my best friend. We went everywhere together. We’ve had a good relationship and I always thought of her as a realist. She told me not to bother applying for that job; or go for promotion. She laughed at my kids’ wonky birthday cakes and tutted when I forgot their superhero costumes. I took her seriously, she knew me well, she was usually right. I can’t remember when she came into my life but it’s time she fucked off.

I’ve made a new friend, ‘the observer’. She’s a realist, and keeps the saboteur in check. She’s an internal narrative that helps me get on with it by reminding me that it’s all in my head. We are still getting to know each other (sometimes she doesn’t turn up when I need her most).

I’d like to be able to switch off all those voices and be in the game. Be present and mindful without the niggles. There’s one piece of advice that’s really changed my days: fake it until you become it. Isn’t that what everyone is doing? How you become confident? So I’ve been practicing. Faking confidence. Faking the calm to ask a question or engage in the debate. Faking the whole performance until one day you ask a question in a meeting without thinking about it. And then you realise that you’ve become it. In that moment.

Going into a new job is a good time to test it all out. Yup, sometimes I’m faking it, but sometimes I’m damn well doing it. I recently corrected a point made in a meeting, I was more than sure I was right, and I was. Then, almost immediately, I failed to say anything when someone mispronounced my name. I’ve rolled those two situations over in my head for days, my saboteur niggling away. So I’ll always be me I think, I’ll carry the self doubt, the anxiety, the introversion, the niggles, But I’ll also just get on with it.

Over all these busy months, I’ve unfinished several new blogs (all added to the guilt list). I’ve kept coming back to this point about individualism. I can ‘self-improve’ but I still want to be me. Kids, colleagues, families, they are always going to do their own thing. They’ve got their own motivations. And their own demons. Can you ever really understand someone else’s perspective, however much you try?

I’ve been thinking about the other individuals in my life. It’s been a bumpy road for Rich managing the home front while I’m away, new job and all. He doesn’t handle it all in the way that I would, he chooses some chores over others, he organises differently. Of course he does, he’s an ENTP and I’m an ISFJ – what? Haven’t you Myers Briggs-ed your relationship?

And as for the three other individuals, still developing their personality types. Ask an adult to do something and you accept they they will do it in their own way. Ask a child and expect them to do it your way. So I’m trying to think that I live with people (not kids). As I mull over my anxieties about what will become of my three boys, I’ve found some peace in the idea that by respecting their individuality now, they will know that they each bring value in their own way. If we can think about them as people, and embrace their personality types, then by the time they are teenagers then adults we’ll all be in a more balanced place. So when they are faced with whatever trials and tribulations, they’ll each be confident in their own individual way of handling it. And so will I.

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