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Skeptical of my own abilities.
November 12, 2012 7:32 PM   Subscribe

The time is drawing near when I have to make a name for myself, put myself out there, promote myself as a capable, dependable, charming, motivated, talented, creative, expressive, innovative, hirable grownup. But I'm having a bit more difficulty with this than I'd anticipated. I can't remember the last time I felt proud of anything I've done.

Hello AskMe..
I'm a recent grad trying to get into a field that involves lots of analysis and some design. I should have a lot of feel proud of, like my peers have pride in their work or projects, but I don't feel this way.

Of course, I did accomplish some things in school. For example, I finished a research paper so that I could graduate. It passed. I finished a project last year with a team. The client accepted it and graciously thanked us. But I can only keep thinking about how I could have done things better. What I should have added to my analysis. How I should have started differently. And on and on. I don't know why, but trying to finish any project feels like such a struggle - no matter that I do, I always feel like there's something to be disappointed about.

You'd think I'd be able to better deal with the fact that projects are never "perfect" - I've done enough projects, seen enough critiques in studios, that it seems to me that this kind of work can ALWAYS be improved. I managed to get through schools with average or slightly-above-average grades, but in my few experiences with professionals (in internships and the like) I feel like I can't just coast anymore. I guess my problem is... how can I gain a sense of accomplishment in the things I do, when it feels like I'll never have anything done well and thoroughly enough to be able to wrap a ribbon on it and put it on my resume/portfolio and convince others I'm worth hiring or collaborating with? Are my feelings normal? How do people get past this kind of feeling?
posted by The Biggest Dreamer to Grab Bag (3 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm going to address the underlying issue, which isn't really about your career, but about your confidence in yourself and what appears to be anxiety. I understand this because I too feel like I'm an imposter coasting through life, waiting to be found out. It's taken a lot of therapy and positive self-talk to work through it.

The good news is that pretty much everyone feels this way, in fact, it is so common that it even has its own name: imposter syndrome.

Here is how to gain a sense of accomplishment: Stop the perfectionism. Of course it is never going to be perfect, because as I often hear around these parts, the perfect is the enemy of the good. You only need to be good, and you're just starting out. You will have many opportunities to improve: as a person, in your career, in your life. Trust me, you will never, ever reach a state of perfection--none of us do. Accept it with grace

Secondly, give yourself major props for what you DO accomplish! You finished a research paper that passed! You did work that was accepted by a client! That's great! You can definitely put that on your resume/portfolio. You've GRADUATED! Massive accomplishment!

Finally, how do you convince others that you are awesome and deserving? Your work will speak for itself, but you also need to believe in yourself first. Have confidence in yourself. You deserve it. When you start pitching yourself out there, remember, you've got to be on Team Biggest Dreamer FIRST.

Even if you don't feel it, fake it until you make it. Here's a little secret: that's what the rest of us do.

Good luck!
posted by so much modern time at 7:48 PM on November 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're asking a lot of yourself and it's unrealistic. You're expecting to come out of school fully formed and you're not, and no one expects you to be. Employers don't.

I'm in the business of recruitment and deal with hiring managers everyday. Even with experienced candidates they never know for sure what they're getting, no matter how well vetted. They won't know you're dependable until after you're on the job and you prove yourself to be so. Without a track record you're even more of an unknown, but they know that.

What you need to do now is put one foot in front of the other and go forth. Your school work is behind you and it is what it is; so put on a clean shirt, comb your hair, shine you shoes, and go on as many interviews as you can. The more you interview the better you'll be at it and the more relaxed, so interview for jobs you may not even want, just for practice.

The best advice I can give you is to try and find work where you're doing things you like for the greatest part of the day. You'd be surprised at how far that goes in taking care of everything else. As you mature and gain perspective, you'll likely get a handle on the perfection thing. You already sound motivated to do a good job, so as simple as it may sound, just go out there and do your best and don't worry so much about outcomes. Think process.
posted by PaulBGoode at 1:23 AM on November 13, 2012


Ira Glass has said some helpful things about this feeling:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
posted by staboo at 6:48 AM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


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