So, I’ve had a rough week. It started with a near miss accident, which I wrote about, here. As a result, all my symptoms of C-PTSD flared up, which I wrote about, here. So, understandably, I was already feeling tender when later this week, I started a new job. I work in an extremely competitive field, and my colleagues are all brilliant, highly respected, and accomplished people. So, you know, no pressure to fit in. Blerg.
I am not worried about the work. I’m more than qualified to be there. I’m worried about how sensitive I am. By reverse-engineering how I relate to the world over the last year or so, I feel particularly raw and vulnerable. I don’t want to fall into my old ways of overachieving to prove myself to some uncaring, never satisfied, construct in my brain. I want to be real. But, being real right now comes with a lot of anxiety. Having to prove myself to others comes with a lot of traumatic emotional memories that I’m in the process of unraveling. I wish I could stand firm in the confidence of who I know I really am, but I have to admit that right now, I am nervous and fearful of being discredited and misunderstood.
The last couple days I have been in many new rooms, meeting many new people, repeatedly having to respond to an extremely loaded question. “Tell me about your background.” In my field, the subtext is almost always asking, “How important are you? Are you more important than me? Where are you on the food chain?” It almost always involves a lot of name dropping and swagger. And, of course, inevitably, how one answers determines how one will be treated. In so many circumstances, I feel this question gets people off topic from a much more relevant, important topic: What can we do today, collectively, to make our little corner of the world a better place?
Because I hate the implications of “tell me about your background” so much, my knee-jerk reaction is to underplay it. I would much rather have people respect me for being a kind human being than a mover and a shaker. I’m honest, but I refuse to self-inflate, so it sounds like a comparably humble answer. Some people blow me off, and it hurts.
Surely, I’m not the only one who bristles when asked this question. For all the brilliance and accomplishment of people in my field, there is also a shitload of insecurity and emotional baggage. What I’ve found is that many people just haven’t dealt with their issues. They don’t realize how much their egos are driving them. I do my very best to respond to a person’s character, not their resume, but there are so many in my field who are driven by the opposite.
I am kind and soft-spoken. I smile and make a point to make eye contact. I am firm, but nice. I am approachable, and I am at my best when I am leading and mentoring others. I like these things about myself. But unfortunately, I find myself in a position with some colleagues where I feel belittled and put down for being this way. I don’t know if it’s my extreme sensitivity or their lack of emotional intelligence. I don’t know if it’s me projecting my experience of narcissistic abuse, or if they are true narcs. It feels complicated to sort it all out right now. All I know is that by the end of the week, I was physically shaking from nerves and exhaustion.
My rational brain is trying to coach me. It’s normal for a new job to be stressful. It’s normal to feel nervous about new situations. My reptilian brain isn’t listening, it’s just spazzing out. This weekend, I will pull from my big bag of tricks to try to manage and calm down. Encouragement and good vibes welcomed.