Posted by fxckfeelings on November 29, 2010Share This Post
If you’re the kind of person who lets your job take over your life, then work can become like a bad relationship; you get totally consumed with pleasing your beloved, and while that devotion gives you great satisfaction of the kind you want, it seldom supplies the kind that you need. Don’t assume that work satisfaction is good for you until you’ve decided what else is important in your life, including money, real human romantic relationships, and, of course, not working.
I’m a competitive, hard-working woman who’s always been a star among my peers at work. My social life has been pretty good, too, though I haven’t been lucky in finding a partner. My problem is that I’m bored and discouraged by my current job—it doesn’t allow me to get the outstanding results I’m used to achieving—and it’s starting to put a dent in my confidence, my dating, and even my ability to look for a new job. I want to get my mood back to normal, I don’t care whether it’s through medication or psychotherapy, so I can again lead the work-pack and have more energy for my social life.
It’s nice to be a work superstar, especially when that confidence extends outside the office to every other facet of life. Too much hubris, however, and you’re starring in your own corporate episode of “Behind The Music.”
When you depend too much on being outstanding, as good as it feels, you’ll get into the special trouble that always happens to gifted people who need that special feeling of achievement (you, Leif Garrett, same difference).
For one thing, if you’re ambitious and good at what you do, you’ll always be recruited, and sooner or later, you’ll be recruited into a position that can’t work out. Your skills are still perfect, but your luck isn’t.
It will look good and pay well, but there will be no way to get the results you’re expected to achieve—like being hired to coach the Yankees when all of your star players have lost their hands in farming accidents (we can dream). At some point, every gifted person rises to a position of having great responsibility over something s/he doesn’t control.
You’d think that treatment would improve your mood, help you find another job, and restore your groove. Sometimes it will, sure, but when treatment goes up against bad luck, bad luck often wins, so get used to the idea that sometimes when you’re stuck, you’re stuck, no matter what your gifts are.
The other thing that is hard for high-achieving people is finding a partner. The confidence of high achievement that helps you get dates can later interfere with long-term partnership. Life on the road/outside of the office can be lonely.
It’s not just because you don’t have enough time for your social life but because it’s painful to take your focus off your work, cut corners, and stop before the job is done perfectly.
So restoring that achieving feeling is really not your first priority, particularly if it can’t be done. Instead, remind yourself that good careers often include bad jobs, at least for awhile, because life is unfair and the economy periodically sucks. Do your best in the meantime and respect yourself for doing so even when there’s no way to get special recognition.
After you learn to suck up your current work pain, decide for yourself whether partnering is worth the trouble and frustration of reining in your perfectionism and love of achievement.
Being a superstar is great, but having achievements to comfort you, as opposed to another person, won’t sustain you forever (unless you’re in Metallica, or A-Rod).
“I love getting recognized for being really good at what I do, but I know it’s not always possible, and I take special pride in working hard when there’s no recognition. If I want a partnership, I’ll also take pride in my ability to make tough choices, cut corners and do without some of the satisfaction in achievement I used to depend on.”
I loved my job and, working mainly on my own, developed work procedures my company adopted as standard practice, but after the company got sold a couple times, the new owners didn’t realize what I’d accomplished or how much they needed my work, and I’d never pushed for official recognition or a raise, so I got dumped suddenly and without severance. I have a terrific network of people I know because I’m a leader in my church and love helping others; but it’s very hard for me to push my own cause, so I haven’t told people I’m unemployed, and I’m getting more and more depressed. I also wish I could find a partner, but I’ve never felt comfortable asking girls out and my community work fills a social void. My goal is to feel less depressed so I can do better with my job search and maybe even get up the courage to ask for a date.
Being dedicated to your work, even as a selfless team player, can be too much of a good thing.
Obviously, it’s given you much satisfaction and, with the right boss in the right job, you would have received more appreciation, a raise, and satisfaction. So your immediate goal is to feel better and continue your search for a better job.
Living in this world, however, rather than in the fair outcomes universe that exists at the end of every TV drama, you know that good deeds at work will often do nothing but allow the boss to increase profits, pay you less, and make the company’s balance sheet look better for prospective buyers. You’re not a team player, you’re a self-deluding sucker.
As for finding a partner, your selfless instincts will further sabotage you by giving you a warm feeling for helping other people get together while making you feel guilty and anxious for openly pursuing what you want from prospective dates.
Instead of trying to feel better by satisfying that team-spirit, courtly-love instinct, define your legitimate needs, throw a Hail Mary pass, and go for yours.
For your job hunt, list your achievements, describe what you have to offer a prospective employer, and place a legitimate market value on your services. While you’re at it, write up a description of the personal achievements and qualities that make you attractive to a prospective partner. Don’t force yourself to sound confident, just let the facts speak for themselves.
Now for the most selfish part, and this goes for both searches: list the qualities you require in a prospective employer or partner, qualities like a record for decency and an ability to maintain respectful long-term relationships. You’ll be surprised how much the lists overlap.
Look for what you need, in addition to your need to be needed. It might feel awkward, and it might not feel nice, but you’re not being nice to yourself by ignoring your own legitimate needs. It’s time for a new game plan.
“I love helping others and sometimes that helps me make a living and win friends; but I also have a responsibility to define and pursue other personal needs, regardless of whether the process makes me feel guilty, selfish, or anxious; and now is an opportunity to do that.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname