Career Insecurities: What do they really mean?

Why are we scared to start something new?

I remember the folklore surrounding sorority rush. I went to a University with a very large sorority population and there was one particular sorority that was known all over campus to have the legendary “circle of fat”. Legend has it that’s where  girls were placed on a pedestal and the other girls would draw on their bodies with a sharpie.

As aweful as that sounds, it didn’t actually happen – urban legend. No one ever experienced it first hand, but every single girl on campus “knew” someone who had a friend who it had happened to.

The very thought of experiencing that kind of vulnerability made even the most beautiful girls on the entire campus tremble with fear.

Anytime we step into a new role, we expect to learn a lot, right? Of course we do. When you accept the new position, there is a lot of uncertainty as you leave the old position/division/company. That’s to be expected. but after awhile, even those who are accustomed to starting something new can get a little stuck – especially when we think the stakes are high!

Why?

Because we have insecurities.

Some people just mask them more easily, but we definitely all have them. We all think someone is going to draw circles around our imperfections with a sharpie.

As I’ve made career moves over the last few years, I’ve seen some of my own and those of others around me who were also making changes. When the situation you’re leaving is really good (like my recent move), I understand a little more. What’s harder to comprehend, until you’ve made it through it, is when the situation is bad. It’s like battered spouse syndrome (hopefully not as violent).

Here are a few insecurities I’ve noticed:

  • Insecurity (I): I’m scared to make a move!
  • Masked as (M): “I really like the people I work with…” or “This job really isn’t a bad gig…” or “I really do like parts of my job…”.
  • Reality (R): Change is hard but it’s how we grow. You’ll like the new people. No one is saying you have a bad gig, you’re just lying to yourself and really saying you don’t think you can get a better one. You’ll like parts of your new job (maybe even more).
  • (I): What if I can’t do it? 
  • (M): “I’m not experienced enough for that job…” or “They probably wouldn’t consider me…” or “I’m just not at that point in my career yet…”
  • (R): Everyone feels like a fraud. The difference is successful people make a move anyway!  I know people learn from failure. I talk about it all the time. BUT (man that’s a big ol’ but), it’s much harder to do when it’s me. Read this out loud: “So what if I fail? I’ll learn. I’VE GOT TO MAKE A MOVE!!!”
  • (I): What if this isn’t what I want to be when I grow up?
  • (M): “It would be great but it’s a little more of X than I want to do…” or “This doesn’t exactly take me towards the career goals I’ve set…” or “I’m not sure it’s a great fit…”
  • (R): Everyone looks around and thinks everyone else has it all figured out. They don’t. They’re likely thinking the same thing about you. I’m convinced very few people draw out a career path and stick to it. It’s tough to see in your 20’s, but ask someone successful who’s in their 50’s or 60’s and they’ll tell you most likely that they didn’t see things working out the way they did…and that they’re very fortunate.

The trick is to recognize that you’re not the only one who doesn’t have it figured out. At it’s core, I believe that’s the number one insecurity people have. We want to be accepted for who we are…yet work so hard to fool others into believing we’re better than we really are that we can’t be.

That results in everyone trying to look better and we believe it. Vicious cycle, no?

What are the insecurities holding you back? A way to tell is to look back at times you’ve made a change. Think of when you signed up for a new volunteer organization, new committee, got a new boyfriend/girlfriend (or met their parents), took on a new project at work, changed churches, etc. Remember how you felt?

Whatever they may be, I promise you aren’t the only one with them…even though it feels like it. Don’t paralyze yourself over an imaginary “circle of fat.”

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