Yesterday (and don't worry this isn't just going to be full of Beatles quotes) I really struggled in a work meeting.
I went into my shell.
I could feel myself doing it and I hated it, but it happens sometimes and it's a symptom of living with depression.
The MIND website days that with depression you might feel:
Yesterday I flipped from being in quite a good place to within minutes feeling down, completely worthless, an empty shell of myself with no self confidence about the things I believe in that I was talking about.
I felt like someone had turned on a tap and drained out all my value, all my confidence. It's a horrible feeling to be empty like that.
Fortunately I found some people to talk to after the meeting to help top up my value tank a little and make me feel like I am doing something worthwhile, that my views and experience are worth listening to.
I'd like to understand why I flip like this. Why when I get some negative feedback or criticism that it affects me so much. I think it might be because I am a people pleaser and I want to be perfect, so anything that someone else doesn't like feels like a personal attack on who I am and on my core values.
It's bloody horrible.
At the end of the meeting we were each asked to give a single word to describe how we found the meeting. I was last. I declined to give an answer.
If I had it would have been easy to choose.
Some people say its ok to fail.
But I don't want to if it makes me feel like this.
I'm my own worst enemy, but that's who I am.
I'm trying not to feel lonely
I'm trying hard not to feel sad
but sometimes I feel so alone
sometimes I feel like Jen without Brad
I'm working on not feeling down
I'm working hard on not feeling low
but sometimes I'm feeling the depths
sometimes I'm feeling I have nowhere to go
I'm imagining a brighter future
I'm dreaming of better days
but sometimes my imagination fails me
sometimes my dreams fade away
I'm crippled by the voice inside me
I'm paralysed by what he says
but sometimes he can't reach me
sometimes he doesn't get his way
I'm wondering how it feels to be happy
I'm wishing the daylight away
but sometimes the sunlight embraces me
sometimes the clouds aren't so grey
I'm hoping I'm laughing on the inside
I'm hoping my heart has not turned black
but sometimes I think it's broken
sometimes I fear there's no turning back
My mask is starting to show some cracks.
The cracks are letting out some of who i actually am.
I'm not pretending or acting so much anymore. Well not all the time like usual anyway.
I've started having a bit more fun at work. This is a good thing because I find that the fun can be hard to find these days.
The problem I am now facing is that following previous feedback about what the authentic me is like and the effect i can have on people I am becoming increasingly anxious that someone will get upset, offended or dislike someone I say or do.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not doing anything bad here, i'm just having fun, but the work world today feels like it can be hard to have fun and be your authentic self as there is always someone who may not like that you.
Fun is good for your health. It helps you connect, let off steam, laughter is good for you, you enjoy work and motivation levels stay higher.
So why is it so hard to have fun now?
I think the answer is fear. Fear that your fun will upset someone else.
The opposite is true too, and something I have been accused of. Being 'grumpy' and not having fun can upset people as well.
So it's a fine line and you can be walking a tightrope. I especially seem to have highs and lows of mood, i am more often really down, but if I'm up it can be a big up. So I'll probably be upsetting someone however I am.
Being my authentic self is therefore very difficult and can take an awful lot of energy to maintain some sort of middle ground where I am noticed less. The trouble is I don't do my best work in this place, I'm better at the extremes. I either want to be in the centre of the conversation or not involved in it at all. Playing a bit part is hard. The Oscar for best supporting actor won't be coming my way.
Hot desking doesn't help my authentic self. Neither does working remotely from the rest of my team. When you sit with the same people you get to know them, you know their good and bad, their highs and lows. Working remotely and at hot desks means that is hard. You're sat next to strangers, how authentic can you be?
So how much should I let the mask continue to crack?
How much should I be me?
And if someone doesn't like the authentic me is that ok? Does that mean I've actually done something wrong or that I'm a bad person. Or does it just mean that people are all different and some people just don't connect.
It plays on my mind a lot this.
Because of things that have happened over the last year I feel like an empty shell a lot of the time at work, or perhaps hiding in my shell. Scared to come out for fear of upsetting someone. But the essence of the authentic me is to step forward, to volunteer, to push for change, to raise my head above the parapet. And if I'm scared to do that then you're not getting the best of me, and that's not good for me, or you.
Believe in yourself, unless it upsets anyone else, because in my experience you then get judged and labelled as a problem.
So it's better to keep quiet, and stay in your shell, and fix your mask.
It's not supposed to be fun.
I can't wait for 2019 to be over. It's been a(nother) shit year.
It's been another year where I have questioned who I am, what value I add and why I bother to try so hard.
It's been a year of snakes and ladders. I think i'm doing better and doing well then i tread on another snake and go sliding back down again.
It's also been a year of project 'I told you so'. Lots of the things I have been saying for a long time that I think need to happen (at work) have started to happen, this is of course good, but still makes me feel that I'm not valued as I was on the right path but struggled to be listened to, or not listened to enough.
Work has a huge impact on my mental health. It's more than a job for me, it's a representation and a reflection of who I am, what I do, what my values are and what I deliver is my legacy, if that's not too grand and conceited a word to use.
Valuing those who think differently, work differently, even behave differently is really important.
Perhaps changing how (and how often) we value those who (like me) have very low self worth is really important too.
Sometimes (usually / often) the people who think differently, who can't help but be passionate in meetings (perhaps over passionate) have value to add but sometimes (usually / often) they can find it hard for their voice to be heard, or the way they make their voice heard can be misinterpreted or shut down.
I'm rambling now I know, but you can probably tell this has happened a lot to me in 2019.
It's 22.50 and after unsuccessfully laying in bed for half an hour overthinking i'm now laying on the living room floor flouting all DSE assessment rules typing this.
I'm not in a good place today. I was until this afternoon when circumstances at work made my anxiety go 'crazy' and now I am overthinking, catastrophising and analysing everything in minute detail.
I genuinely believe I am a good person and the things I do are with good intent. But I can be and have been misunderstood because of how I have sometimes delivered my message. I can be blunt, I can be direct, I can be sarcastic and I openly admit to that but I never ever try and hurt people. I can get this wrong and it makes me feel terrible, really terrible.
And right now it is making me catastrophise, a lot. It is making me over harshly judge myself.
Evening time and nighttime is hardest for me. I live alone (apart from with my thoughts) and this the time they start to spiral, the time they start to scare me and the time I feel most lonely.
I have come to the following conclusions:
That's a tough mindset to be in at 23.05.
At this moment I can't see positives
At this moment I really want to cry but I can't
At this moment my mind feels foggy
At this moment I can't feel anything apart from the anxious churn in my stomach
At this moment I am surviving not thriving
I'm trying so hard everyday to be the best me I can be
Why do i get it so wrong
Why am I so useless
What is my point
It's international mens day today. It's also world toilet day but I don't think the two are linked, unless the toilet seat has been left up of course.
I have 2 boys, who will one day go from being boys to men, and I try my best to be a good example to them of what being a modern man is about.
I'm sure I do things wrong and have done, i'm sure I'll continue to but I am certain that by being as open as possible about being sensitive, not having to be the strong silent type and even (shock horror) crying that I'll help my boys turn out alright.
These are some of the things I have done recently as a man.
Um that's it really. Happy international mens day.
The result was interesting and i typed the scores she had given me up as we went along and then sent it to her at the end. It looked like this.
So within 10 minutes we had gone from "I can't think of any more of my good qualities' to the scores above.
We don't need to be perfect, but if we're not perfect that doesn't mean we don't score and don't have the quality and should not recognise it.
Thinking in black and white about things can be exhausting because life can either be good or a catastrophe. The balance comes somewhere in the middle with accepting sometimes it will be good and sometimes not so good.
Next time you or someone you care about is feeling down, try the scores approach. You might surprise yourself
I was chatting yesterday to a colleague who is a different thinker.
By different I mean he is in the minority at work. He is creative, he connects people, he innovates, he experiments, he tries different things.
He succeeds, but he does this often in spite of the structure around him, not because of it.
He displays a lot of the traits from top right in this.
I'm sure he does the others too but top right is his USP. That's the thing that makes him stand out from the crowd.
Unfortunately standing out from the crowd can take it's toll, especially if the structure around you doesn't nourish, support and value your USP. It can feel like you're wading through treacle, that no one 'gets' you and that work life can be a constant battle to get your ideas heard.
We chatted about this for a little while, sharing frustrations, because I tend to operate in the same space. Sometimes this is called Cognitive Diversity.
We can think about how we present our ideas to try and get more buy in, but unfortunately people can be within hierarchies that squash their creativity and don't allow it to do what it does best.
Innovation, improvement, efficiency all come from people with ideas. Whether that idea is for a new system, new process or new technology. There are some people who will get the job done, who's key strengths are not in improvement but lie elsewhere. We need them too.
But how do we make sure that the different thinkers are heard, the ones who may be seen and described as disrupters, who may say the same point over and over again in meetings to try and get it to land and who feel like they aren't part of the gang.
Life can be lonely in this space because you feel like you don't fit within the organisational norm. You can therefore feel like you're not valued for the talents, skills and diversity that you bring.
We talked some more about what we could do about it and how he could feel like the organisation valued him, had its arm around him and gave him the space and support to do what he does best.
One of the ideas was to fuel the debate so I found an excellent article by Deloitte on Diversity of Thought which covers the problem and the value different thinkers can bring. Have a read.
Some of us see a lightbulb, some of us see a fishbowl.
Take Care, don't be afraid to think differently
I've written about being a people pleaser before, or I think I have but don't have the time or inclination to go back and look. Which makes me feel bad because I'm not making it easy for whoever is reading this, so i'm not pleasing you, so I'm sorry.
It's bloody hard work being a people pleaser. It dominates my life. Although it might not seem obvious sometimes, like in yesterday's meeting where I tried to stand up for myself and not back down. I felt like I didn't please a colleague and upset them, I hadn't coz i checked today.
When you try and please people it can make it hard in the moment, and make it doubly hard after the moment when you're reflecting on what happened.
I'm trying to take a break from people pleasing at the moment which means taking space from some relationships / friendships in my life.
This is really hard. It is my natural in built DNA to try and people please. I'm used to it and others are used to it to. It makes it even harder to say no, even if that no is to myself.
If i don't feel like (regardless of whether I have any evidence) I have pleased people I feel like a failure, like i have less worth and that I need to try even harder,
Bloody people, always wanting (in my mind) to be pleased
Justin Bieber once sang
"if you like the way you look that much then maybe you should go and love yourself"
He's a wise man Bieber.
But what do we do if we don't like the way we look that much, or the way we act, or the way we are, basically if we don't love ourselves?
Vitamin D comes from the sunshine.
Vitamin Sea comes from the seaside.
Where does Vitamin L(ove) come from?
For many people it comes from within. They believe in themselves. They can look in the mirror and focus on the good things they see. They can find the positive in a situation. They answer 'how are you' with 'good' instead of 'not bad'.
For me I'm still working on loving myself (that always sounds smutty) and giving myself some Vitamin L.
But it's hard, and I'm currently in a real low, and when I am I need others to help me out of it, to give me encouragement, to lend me a hand, to help me believe in myself, to tell me 'you can do it' to say the right thing.
The trouble is I don't want to ask, because I already feel shit about myself and super needy, and to ask for some Vitamin L from others just makes me feel more shit and more needy.
So what's the solution? We unfortunately, it depends on others spotting that I'm down and in need of some Vitamin L and coming to me, making the steps to fill the space where I have withdrawn. If I've gone quiet it's because I'm struggling. If i've withdrawn it's because I'm struggling.
What I really need is someone to tell me I'm valued.
Someone to tell me I have worth.
Someone to tell me I'm loved,
And ideally, this to be a face to face conversation, and include a hug.
Take Care, and don't be afraid to step into that space if someone has withdrawn from it
Mr Paul Wyse