Take it easy on yourself..
September 14, 2015 1:11 PM   Subscribe

Feeling anxiety/paranoid at a new job. Help.

I just started a new job that I'm pretty psyched about. I'm utilizing my artistic abilities for the first time at a job, and I find it enjoyable. It's a retail environment and I'm mostly in the back office working on projects and requests. Sorry if I'm being vague, but I don't want to give too much away. I started almost a month ago. As with retail environments, everything is fast paced. Deadlines and such. I work with three other co-workers in my department. They're really nice people and they're encouraging and friendly.

For some reason, I've been struggling a little bit to push out work. I've been taking my time to get illustrations and work done but compared to my co-worker (who's been with the company for 10 years) - it's incredibly show. The interview for the job was incredibly positive and they seemed to have a lot of hope for me. But now I feel like I'm letting them down. Whenever I feel I'm going too slow, or feel they're underwhelmed with my work - I take it out on myself. My co-workers assure me that over time I'll get better but I still feel bad.

The negative thoughts berate me and sometimes can be overwhelming. I don't like feeling like I'm letting people down. I start getting paranoid about gossip that might be happening, or feel that I'm going to get fired. It's really hard to stop these thoughts. I shut down and becoming noticeably quiet. What's worse is that whenever this happens, I become more prone to mistakes because I get really distracted.

I usually go through this whenever I'm at a new job. It's a really horrible feeling. It's a little bit worse now because I like who I work with. I don't know why I treat myself like this. I went to therapy but stopped for a little bit because of money issues.

I just need tips on how to feel more confident about my job. I want to get better and feel like I'm helping out. I just feel like a head case who's making mistakes. I hate making mistakes.

Any help would be appreciated. Thank : )
posted by MeaninglessMisfortune to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've been taking my time to get illustrations and work done but compared to my co-worker (who's been with the company for 10 years) - it's incredibly show.

Imagine how fast you'll be with a decade of practice. Until then, just repeat this:
Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.
It's a mantra that military trainers use to remind their trainees (and themselves) that A) most of the time, doing it well is better than doing it now, and B) you will speed up as you get more experience.

Also, have you talked to your boss about this? It's entirely possible that your boss loves your work and doesn't want you to get faster if it means a loss in quality. Or your boss might want things more now than well, and you can adjust to those requirements.
posted by Etrigan at 1:22 PM on September 14, 2015 [10 favorites]

One thing that I read in another Ask was that you can get a lot done by psyching yourself into doing a mediocre job. Perfectionism can be paralyzing, you can give yourself permission to do a just-okay job. The best part of that is that your skills and talents don't just disappear, so what you agree to as "mediocre" is often just as good as, or better than, your usual work.

Another thing that I learned only when I became a manager myself (and speaking from a non-retail perspective, so take this with a grain of salt): I could care less whether the work is done quickly; I just want it to be good. When the work is good, I don't have to take valuable time from my day to correct it. When the work is fast, I get suspicious and it's usually a red flag that certain details have been fudged. I also don't care too much if someone is late, provided we don't have a meeting or anything. Timeliness is a much lower priority, IME, than turning out high-quality work.

And yeah, just take it easy on yourself. You're new, you're trying; the fact that you are stressed about it means you're approaching your new role thoughtfully. That is very much a good thing.
posted by witchen at 1:37 PM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Man, do I feel you on this. I'm hitting the six-month mark in a couple of days and am just really starting to settle down now.

If you can find a staunch friend or confidante who will tell you consistently, "Your thinking isn't reality" when you call or text with the fear o' the moment, that might be helpful.

Weekly checkins with your boss will help as well, although I wouldn't advise a "How'm I doin'" sanity check each week.

Any Buddhist sanghas near you? If not, there's tons of free information on line. The more you can loosen the grip on the belief that your thinking represents reality accurately, ESPECIALLY your negative thinking, the better off you will be. Just about any Buddhist practice can help.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:24 PM on September 14, 2015

Be easy on yourself. Every job starts out like that. You have to build "muscle memory" for certain tasks and that takes time. The mere fact that you're surrounded by co-workers who feel positive about you must tell you something, right? When I started out in my current position as a post production audio engineer, I saw how co-workers were editing and I knew (wrongly) that I would never reach their speed of working. Several years later, I am now known to be ridiculously fast. But I know the dreadful feeling when starting with a new job. If it overwhelms you, I would talk to your family doctor. It may be a structural thing in your life that's bigger than your current job. At any rate, good luck! Trust the force!
posted by hz37 at 2:32 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Is there some way that you can objectively quantify any part of what you are agonizing over? Sometimes people really are getting more done than they think they are and just do not see it. Are there statistics available anywhere for how much is "typically" done by someone new or for what is expected of you in specific or something you could use to benchmark your performance?

Often, actual data is a good antidote to neurotic emotional stuff. Even if the answer is "Yes, I am producing less than I should be," it can tell you "But only by about 5% and it would only take me an extra hour per week to make that up...etc" and that can go a long way towards reducing The Crazies. Instead of being a source of despair and negativity, it can be turned into quantifiable, actionable goals for just how much better you need to get in the short term.

Handwringing of this sort is often rooted in just feeling like you don't know how much is good enough. Quantifying exactly what constitutes good enough can be very grounding. There may still be stress, but the stress is a different kind and usually a different amount.
posted by Michele in California at 2:40 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I find it helpful to use CBT tools for stuff like this. Three to suggest:

- Find a mantra that really defuses your anxiety. This takes some experimentation. ("I'm doing my best and that's all I CAN do, maybe?)

- Study the pros and cons of this anxiety and self-talk. How is it helping you? (It reminds you to not to waste time, for instance.) List those, then score them: how many "points" of value would you give to each of the ways it helps you? Then list, how is it hurting you or slowing you down? (For instance, the worry might distract you from focusing on the task itself. It might make you feel awkward around your co-workers.) How many negative points would you give to each of the ways it impedes you in your goals? Do the pros or cons win out? Can you alter your approach to keep the good and reduce the bad?

- Perhaps try to desensitize yourself to these fears by finding the one that stings the worst and really sitting with it for 5-15 minutes of meditation, maybe on a walk every evening or morning. Yeah, some people MIGHT be gossipping about you. Your worst fears might be true. This strategy might sound contrary to the others, but sometimes anxiety is more about what we fear in a fundamental way than it is a realistic assessment of the situation. Sometimes the worst anxiety comes from trying to avoid a fear, but when we face it head on, we realize we could actually deal with it if it were true. And by regularly sitting with the fear, it first becomes familiar, and then we become able to tolerate it without freaking out quite so much, and sometimes it shifts entirely. (E.g., my fear that "I let everyone down" shifted to an awareness that I was doing all this work on other's behalf, that I did my best, and that if they had a better approach, they were free to jump in and help at any time.)

Good luck. Anxiety can be so painful. I hope you find some relief.
posted by salvia at 3:18 PM on September 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

Just short of 1 year mark myself, and just hitting my stride.
posted by lathrop at 3:20 PM on September 14, 2015

I'm in the same boat as you. Started just over 3 months ago in a great job that I'll be able to grow in, and I hate myself for not being as fast and as knowledgeable as I was in the job I just left after 14 years. I know it's ridiculous but I can't help it. Learning a new job takes time, and there's no getting around it. Just be sure to check in with your boss from time to time to make sure you're prioritizing properly, and you should be fine.
posted by Koko at 10:00 PM on September 14, 2015

I know what you mean. I used to do photo retouching at a company for five years. At the end of the day, I'd finish hundreds of images and the new guys was still making clipping paths on the first image of the day. And that was fine because everyone knew I had been there for 5 years and he'd been there for a week. But another thing, he didn't know what little was expected of him. He still was working on perfection and I was getting things out: because it's doing the best possible job in the least amount of time.

When I started that job, I'd been making clipping paths for hours. Etc. You learn shortcuts as you go, and unfortunately, you can only learn those shortcuts after being there awhile.

Watch the more experienced team members work on some illustrations and see what decisions they make. They may know the clients more.

Maybe go to your manager and ask what are the goals of the day: how many pieces should you be realistically working on? Are you being too big a perfectionist? Are you thinking you're supposed to be baking 3-tiered wedding cakes when Betty Crocker mix cakes are perfectly fine?
posted by Piedmont_Americana at 10:11 PM on September 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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