Apologies for the absence, I ran away to the woods for a long weekend… and returned yesterday to 289 waiting emails.
Claire can I have a word with you?
Possibly the most terrifying phrase that could ever to be uttered, (to me.) Guaranteed to make my stomach tense up and my spine shiver.
As a mature, rational woman I usually handle these situations with great poise. Oh no wait….
Oh my God I’m getting fired! – what have I done? – clearly something awful has happened! – I then spend the next few seconds furiously scanning my brain for any sins that I may have committed. They know I shop online when I should be working (oh come on who doesn’t?) – my boss thinks I’m shit at my job – Maybe someone has complained? It’s my instinct to presume that the worst has happened.
I have Social Anxiety Disorder which flares up excessively during periods of stress or at certain times of the year. Ironically my fear of being social is not related to the situation itself, but rather how my body will react. My greatest concern is that someone might notice my anxious behaviour. It’s unfortunate because the symptoms change constantly so I can’t predict them. Sometimes I blush or twitch and others I sweat. At the moment my voice shakes during anxious situations, making me sound like a lost child! Those who have similar symptoms will understand just how frustrating and embarrassing this can be.
Picture this scenario:
Boss: Claire can you just talk us through the digital strategy?
Me: (OH HOLY CHRIST, EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT YOU!) Why of course I can!
Boss: *Silent but looks at me*
Me: Yes of course… digital blah blah blah – (Your voice is shaking, do something before everyone notices! Is it shaking? Yep.. that was definitely a quiver. Oh my God you look like an idiot. Freaking concentrate on what you’re saying, you just called the Publicity Manager Fred instead of Frances!)
I’m not worried about my voice shaking, but that someone might notice and think I’m strange.. and In a typical counter-productive response this makes my voice shake even more because it’s a symptom of fear!! How do I solve this? Trust me I’m working on it and will report back. It all relates to facing the fear.
I care too much about what other people think of me, particularly in the work environment. It’s a problem. I worry that others don’t think I can do my job well or that I’m not up to the challenge. For example, I recently had an incident with an external member of staff. He’s new and obviously well connected in the industry, but unfortunately ‘we’ didn’t connect so well. In fairness, I was my normal polite/slightly goofy self, where as he came across as cold and superior. Perhaps I’m being unfair, but that’s the impression I got… Oh and he doesn’t drink at parties. Neeeeeveeeer trust the person who doesn’t drink at parties (unless they’re in AA.)
You don’t speak loud enough – he blurted out during our first meeting, (I was mid-sentence and everything.) Naturally I was then very aware of myself and struggled to regain my composure. It was embarrassing, particularly as my boss was present.
Anyway, later in the same week there was an incident that I felt was blown well out of proportion. We spoke about everything on the phone and I found him to be patronising and incredibly resentful that he was required to report back to me. The more that I tried to solve the problem, the more he seemed determined to undermine me. In the end I just apologised in the hope that it would diffuse the situation.
I would like to say that I went home and didn’t spend the entire evening thinking about it, (but we all know that didn’t happen.) He thinks I can’t my job – what if he’s right? – What if everyone thinks that?
I decided that I needed to change my persona and be ‘tougher’ more ‘aggressive’ – but then I went away for the weekend and realised… you know what, that’s just not me, so F**K it.
From a CBT perspective I knew that I was being irrational. Mind Reading? YES? Fortune Telling? YES. Catastrophizing? YES.
So when I returned I did the mature thing and asked around about him (in a conspicuous way.) It turns out that I’m fine, he’s the problem. Woo!
I felt frustrated that I’d let the experience ruin an entire evening, but realistically that’s ok. Sometimes I need to feel things before I can solve them and chastising myself simply doesn’t help.
Well I do hope that this garbling mess has helped/amused someone!
Remember: You’re NOT the problem…. They are.
Next week: A more useful blog post. (I’m on email 129 ok, cut me some slack!)