Make that hypothetical critical voice stop- Work Filter
September 16, 2020 6:57 PM   Subscribe

At work, I have this continuous feeling that after I do something that isn't super great, or average or whatever, my 'higher ups' are talking crap about my performance. I visualize this in my mind. It makes me nervous, impairs my work and makes me hesitate and slower at work. What's a good way to reduce these thoughts or let it less impact me?

I work in tech consulting where pretty blunt evaluations about people are (to my perception) tossed around frequently ("they suck", "they're good"). The frequent visualization in my head to me are a couple higher ups on zoom calls saying "sandmanwv is pretty disappointing, I was expecting more from him". Eventually it gets to "sandmanwv, what are we going to do about him, we should find a replacement". Sometimes it doesnt get that bad that's where it goes.
posted by sandmanwv to Work & Money (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have copies of positive-to-glowing compliments and reviews of your past work, whether that's formal performance reviews, or just emails saying "nice job"? Compile all the ones you can find into a document. Save that, look through it whenever you find yourself starting to agonize, and it might help counterbalance the negative internal thoughts by a little bit.
posted by eponym at 9:01 PM on September 16 [1 favorite]

When I feel that way, I hold on to my metrics to get a realistic feel of how good I am. I am usually better than I think.

For instance, a client will ask for more of X and I'll immediately infer that they are displeased at the lack of X so far and will soon cancel their account because they are disappointed by my work. Then, to interrupt this hazy feeling of burgeoning panic, I'll look at what I've actually produced so far, and the numbers are not bad at all. In fact, at random points much later, the client will praise me to my boss and I will find out that way that client is a reasonable person who is super pleased. He just wanted more X!

I guess my advice is to find some objective way to measure your own success, that will help you bypass your brain's unhelpful catastrophising.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:33 AM on September 17

Oh, and I would assume that unless you are a rockstar, most of your work will be average, with some results above and some below? The more above average, of course, the better for your career and you should aim for that. But is there a reason to suspect that average results get trashed by your managers? That would be weird.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:38 AM on September 17

Once upon a time, two of my clients (tech co-founders) had a detailed email conversation about how much I suck at my job, and then one of them decided to just go ahead and forward that conversation to me with "FYI" as the subject line.

I share that anecdote because the mere inkling of something like that happening to me would have absolutely shaken me to my core... until it actually happened. Then I realized, well, they are not the ultimate authority on my worthiness! And also they suck as people.

YMMV, of course, but maybe there is something to actually letting your brain go to that place where they are talking sh*t, and then realize that even in that total worst-case scenario you will still be breathing in and out, and you will still have people in your life who love and appreciate you.
posted by gold bridges at 8:14 AM on September 17 [5 favorites]

Work on making the narrative voices in your head personalities. Have one that is old and grumpy. Have one that is shrill. Have one that is inexperienced and dumb and has no idea what your job is or what you are doing. Make them complain because you are not doing two contradictory things, eg. not calling the customers back merely because it is outside of their work hours, and calling your customers back outside of their work hours and annoying them. Play it up and make them unreasonable.

Then add a fourth voice of the reasonable boss telling them to knock it off and pointing out how you are doing quite well.
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:48 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]

I can suffer from this kind of anxiety, and a good way for me to reframe it is to think about whether I put in my best effort. If I tried my best then what other people think doesn't matter and even the quality of the work doesn't matter. I try to focus on my own personal effort level and process and if I feel like those are place, other things will follow. And if my best effort consistently isn't enough then I need to formulate an exit strategy from the situation, but that's a good, clear, important thing to find out--that even if I give my best effort, it's not going to work out. (again, this is assuming that like me, you err on the side of being too anxious about the work and what people think about it, so this is a reframing corrective. Of course the quality of work matters and what others think of me matters, but for me I usually need it to matter a bit less)
posted by Kwine at 4:57 PM on September 17

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