Every day

Yesterday was a bit awful. I’d been focusing hard on a presentation for a while and was struggling to connect properly with the rest of my job. I’d lost sight of the priorities. It happens sometimes – no matter how good the plan, if I’ve got too focused on one thing there’s a point where I just can’t get a handle on the bigger picture. Then, of course, I get terrified that I’ll get into trouble. Because clearly I’m just not trying hard enough, right?

So I happened to have a one-on-one with my manager scheduled yesterday, but it went off on a tangent and didn’t talk about the things I needed. We had to have another meeting today. I was kicking myself when I asked for that: I’d completely failed to communicate what I needed at the right time, so now I was taking up more of my manager’s time which I didn’t deserve. I was supposed to be briefing a colleague on a project that day, too, but ended up being totally incoherent. Not exactly a confidence boost.

So another meeting today, clarifying expectations. This one went better, in some ways, and worse in others. But I’m struck by how much better I felt coming home from work today. Yesterday I struggled even to make dinner. I had a drink to make the anxiety pipe down, and managed to do the ironing in front of some bad TV, but couldn’t cope with music practise or emails or anything. But today, having sorted those priorities, I was able to do most of those everyday things. Just because we had this meeting and I didn’t waste so much energy on being scared.

Maybe I should focus on the positives. I’m really lucky my manager is willing to take that extra time with me. And it’s pretty powerful having a mechanism I can call on to turn down the anxiety like that. But I worry about the effects on my reputation if I use it too often. I do find myself rationing help: wondering whether I’m struggling enough that I really need it, or should I keep quiet and learn to deal with it on my own. (I never do learn, by the way.) It’s needy, and that’s badly perceived, even where confidence just isn’t reasonably possible. I also worry about the things that come out sideways – the conversations I don’t mean to have, where I say what I mean without having the chance to sanitise it in advance. I care too much about some things and it always shows.

I worry because I don’t get feedback that’s consistent or easy to understand. I worry that I don’t know what people are thinking. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of myself, and I hate me. How much of that is not understanding the expectations, and how much is suspecting those expectations are impossible for me to live up to, I don’t really want to know. I worry that people hide things from me, too; but I try not to worry there, and to ask questions, because really that’s all I can do. I just have to keep asking and try to stay hopeful.

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