Starting over in the same place? Feeling discouraged.
March 16, 2017 6:36 PM   Subscribe

I feel like I want to leave everything behind me and start over. Like I have embarrassed myself, and the only solution is to never have to see any of these people again. Yet, I know that won't fix anything and I'm tired of being a quitter. How do I get a fresh start when I feel like I blew it already?

I have been in my city and at my job for almost 3 years. It has been a mixed experience, and I've definitely had some successes in my career so far...but there have been problems. A while ago, I posted about the supervisor who didn't like me--my feelings of dread, unfortunately, were not misplaced, and it turned into an immensely stressful situation for a while (some of which was definitely my fault, some of which I think was made way worse by her going scorched earth on me when I would have responded to a direct, but more relaxed discussion of her expectations). I also dropped the ball on a few things during this high-stress time and know people were talking shit behind my back, but I don't know how far that went, in terms of who in the organization had (or still has?) a problem with me. As of the past year, I am no longer on that team, thankfully, and now have a chill, older supervisor who does like me and is always there when I need her without making a huge deal out of things.

I still feel discouraged and like I'm a nobody at my workplace. People are friendly enough when I talk to them and we laugh about stuff, but I spend a lot of time hiding in my office. I feel like I have some people that like me, and I have a reputation for being good at some things, but also that I have a reputation for being unreliable, antisocial, and perhaps unhelpful. I don't think it's a 100% FAIR reputation, despite having a basis in reality--I have seen people do MAJOR screw ups with no repercussions, way worse than anything I did, that if I had done them I would have gotten major shit. I have some resentment over that. I also resent when other people dump things on me without even asking or appreciating it, even though early on, when I needed help, I got shit talked for asking for help. I often feel like I'm back in high school and I'm this annoying, uncool person no one wants to deal with. I'm also procrastinating a LOT and worried someone will notice how unproductive I am sometimes.

I want to make things better and I actually really like my job when I get over the psychological barriers and get absorbed in it. I am afraid that people will never see me differently than they already do. Confirmation bias is really powerful. Even if I never mess up a single thing again, I'm still, "Ugh, HER again." I know some of this is social anxiety, but there is also real stuff that happened. I had a friend at work for a while that I felt comfortable talking to about what was really going on with me, and that was helpful (especially when the drama with the first supervisor was happening), but we're not really friends anymore (no hostility, but I don't want to resume the friendship).

How do I start over and become a person who doesn't suck, when I feel like I already blew it with these people?

If it's relevant, about 75-80 people total work at my organization in a range of roles. Small enough so everyone knows everyone a little bit...gossip is a thing but some are worse offenders than others. I do like pretty much everyone, aside from my fear that everyone hates me.
posted by picardythird to Work & Money (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
How do I start over and become a person who doesn't suck, when I feel like I already blew it with these people?

Dude, your brain is telling you a series of mean things and positing them as reality.

I know a fair amount about this. In fact, I know a lot about it.

Do two things: one, remind yourself you don't 'know' any of these things. Two, resist the urge to act on literally any of them. Send no emails. Make no waves. Step back. Take some deep breaths and dig deep, deep, deep for the power to do nothing. It actually takes a lot of strength. Got a therapist? Get one. If nothing else, just agree internally to do no harm. Go for a run, clean the bathroom, meditate--whatever makes sense to you.

I know it's hard. I'm suffering through it too. 'Nothing' is an action, and sometimes the best thing, and almost impossible thing, to do.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:50 PM on March 16 [16 favorites]

Even if I never mess up a single thing again, I'm still, "Ugh, HER again." I

Also, this is so fundamentally untrue I'm swooning from the can't evens. Just take a break for a few months--no worries, it will be paved over in the Grand Drama of Corporate Life. You'll be forgiven and it will be forgotten. Your real concern here is your reactions to this crapola.

Get some sleep, eat okay, pet a cat, allow yourself some comfort. You are not a big weirdo.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:53 PM on March 16 [13 favorites]

We've all been there. I got divorced a few years ago, in Utah, and all of my coworkers LOST. THEIR. SHIT. Like, the way they talked about me, I could have murdered someone and it would have been less of a scandal. Two months later it was like it had never happened. People are going to talk, and maybe they're going to talk about you, maybe a lot. Those people have are bored, have bad professional boundaries, and they can really make going to work suck. But you'll get through it because people forget and move on.

^^ Take A Terrible Llama's advice above because they nailed it. Therapy, deep breaths, and let it all roll off because in the long run it's what you think about yourself that matters. Sending you all the good feels.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 6:56 PM on March 16 [11 favorites]

As of the past year, I am no longer on that team, thankfully, and now have a chill, older supervisor who does like me and is always there when I need her without making a huge deal out of things.

I actually really like my job when I get over the psychological barriers and get absorbed in it.

These parts sound great and are key.

As for the rest of it - I am in complete sympathy with those uncomfortable feelings, but remember that people think about you far less than you think about them thinking about you. Show that you consistently care about your work and about your colleagues - be professional and respectful - and that will shape how people think of you in the office.

The people I've know who have really blown it have done so by throwing their colleagues under the bus to save face, by openly just not giving a shit about their work, or by being *really* unprofessional, not as a one-time mistake but regular every day poor behavior. Every single human being who is working has had ups and downs, wins and losses. It's okay for you to be a human.

Go ahead and get absorbed in your work and enjoy it. Cultivate your positive relationship with your supervisor. People will remember when you solve a problem or save their butts or stay late getting shit done or show appreciation for their hard work or give them credit for their ideas. Their perception of you - even if it is as negative as you think, and it almost certainly isn't - is not frozen in time.

[Side note: I started feeling so much better about myself at work when one of the golden boys of the department started confiding in me about some of his mistakes and I realized I was in fact pretty typical. Chances are good that if you could see other people's insides - their mistakes, the stuff they worry about - you'd feel very differently. In the meantime, don't compare your insides to their outsides]
posted by bunderful at 9:47 PM on March 16 [2 favorites]

This is a lot of stress and anxiety, whether the triggers for it are real or imaginary; it seems like dealing with this / managing your anxiety has the potential to take up a lot of your energy if you stay in this place. If it is hard to find another job in an equally good company without disrupting your life or damaging your prospects, sure, stick it out and work on the anxiety. I agree with the others that you are probably fine and the main work you need to do, if you stay, is reframing what you think is happening. But if you can just leave, I suggest you leave and start over somewhere where you don't have to do this much work to keep your mental health.

It's true that you take yourself with you wherever you go, and you may need to think about how you manage your anxiety in general, but it can make a huge measurable difference to your happiness to just leave an environment where you have baggage, and where it's a struggle to be happy, and just start over. This isn't a marriage, where you have promised in some way to stick with this employer for life. It's fine to walk away without guilt if that's the most efficient route to a happier life for you.
posted by Aravis76 at 1:10 AM on March 17 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like you are very much in a situation like I was a few years back--you went through some growing pains at a relatively new job under a boss who chose inflexible negativity over constructive criticism and now, even though the crisis is past and you're working well under a different, more helpful person, you're still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Fun fact: it won't. And if it does, you need to get the heck out of there, because any organization that'll rehash any minor indiscretions from your first year or two on the job is not a place you want to be.

There are people at my organization that, even after a TERRIBLE (or, conversely, unusually great) first impression, I have changed my mind about over time because my continued positive (or negative) interactions with them eventually overwrote my initial opinion. If you're especially concerned about a certain person or persons (rather than just the workplace as a whole), making it a point to go just a little bit above and beyond with any interactions you have with them might help you feel a little more in charge of wiping out your perceived negative reputation.

Key word there: PERCEIVED. It sounds to me like you are doing good work you enjoy with a new boss that you like and any feathers that might have been ruffled from the stressful time you describe before have probably long since been soothed by your continued competence and professionalism.

What I might do in this situation is this: pick a date on the calendar (start of a month, new fiscal year, important milestone date, etc.) and declare that that will be the day that you turn the page and embrace your new reality where you love your job, you interact positively with your coworkers (with no suspicions of duplicity), and start the next chapter of your life at your workplace.

Once that day is on your calendar, make a list of everything you need to take care of/address/delegate/wrap up in order for you to feel like you've tied up your loose ends from before. Close as many of your "open loops" (to use Getting Things Done terminology) so that you're able to take these issues off your plate. You might also use this time to make a list of the new priorities and practices you want to work on once the date arrives.

Then, when the date you picked rolls around, mentally flip the switch somehow. Treat yourself with a new decorative item for your desk or something, go out for a nice breakfast before work, rearrange your office--just something to commemorate the occasion or visually serve as a reminder that this is a new time and a new you.

Will this work forever? Heck no. I probably start a new productivity hack about every month or so and it only sticks like half the time and then I get sucked into the slacker shame spiral like pretty much everyone does from time to time. But even if it is not a perfectly clean break with the past, having this artificial milestone to point to and go "that was then, this is now" can be a powerful tool in helping you to see how far you've come and hopefully help you divorce from your worry about any past workplace grudges a bit.

I'm going to leave off with one of my favorite Eleanor Roosevelt quotes: “You wouldn’t worry so much what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” Keep on killing it! You're doing great!
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:26 PM on March 20

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