We’ve all had those moments when we were handed some task that seemed, at least on the surface, to be completely beyond our ability. We might have put ourselves in the situation intentionally like perhaps accepted a promotion at work when we weren’t completely sure about our readiness. Or maybe something happens unexpectedly, a family member needs help in a way you’re not sure you can handle but you have no choice but to take it on yourself.
It might be referred to as a crisis of confidence or it could be a deep-seeded insecurity. Whatever the label, it’s hard to shake sometimes, especially if you want to succeed at something so much that you quite simply scare yourself away from it.
There’s also something that I was told is called, “imposter syndrome,” when we feel we don’t belong in a job but are fully qualified for the task. Maybe we’re intimidated by others in the workgroup, or perhaps we lack the level of confidence that they seem to exhibit. Most of it is imaginary, however.
We get in our heads that we’re not good enough, regardless of our qualifications or experience, and sink into the chair, hoping not to be noticed until we finally fail. And, at that point, our demise entirely of our own making.
As it turns out, insecurity is one of the number one career killers. Feeling you aren’t as talented can keep you from advancing in many ways. People who struggle with security at work also tend to worry about things like a lack of social skills, lower salary than their peers, or even feeling invisible.
All of this is common and fairly normal. Usually, once you get better adjusted to your situation, the feelings pass relatively quickly. But when they don’t subside, they can fester and grow and cause you to doubt yourself and make more mistakes out of a kind of panic.
I wish I could tell you that I have some deep and great solution to all of this, but I don’t. But, it might surprise you to learn that many very successful people have the exact same issues. Myself included. So, here are a few things you can do to help combat those feelings.
First, try to relax. No one is judging you, at least nobody that matters. If anyone is laying out judgments, they’re not worth your concern. It means that they too are incredibly insecure and seek to diminish others to make themselves feel more important. Don’t fall into that trap.
Next, try to get more involved with your peers, at whatever level you are comfortable. One of the first things that I tend to do when I feel like the outsider is put even more walls around myself. I have to fight that, and you can do it too.
Make an effort to be involved. Offer to assist a co-worker with a task or join a group for lunch when they ask you. I have often said no because I feel like I won’t fit in, but whenever I have managed to get around my own insecurity it always turns out well. Even better, ask others to go with you to lunch. Taking the initiative will make you feel more in control of the situation and, thus, more secure about the outcome.
Be patient. Don’t push. Let’s say you start a new job and you know absolutely no one. I just told you to involve yourself, but do it slowly. Get to know people a little first, particularly those you’re going to work with closely. Spend some time one-on-one with each person at first.
Good relationships, whether personal or professional, start slowly. Before you go to that group lunch, join one or two at a time first. Give yourself a chance to get to know them and them to know you. It’ll pay off.
Finally, have a little faith in yourself. We often put faith in God, or luck, or whatever, and don’t often enough give ourselves some of that credit. You might not feel like you’re up to the task, but you probably wouldn’t be there if you weren’t.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and public relations professional. More at www.gerydeer.com.