by Brian Berry-Berlinski
There was a time in my life when work really felt like WORK.
I was always worried that I wasn’t in the office long enough every day, even though I was there as long as everyone else. I drove myself crazy over how there never seemed to be enough time in the day to complete what needed to be done.
I also desperately tried to avoid being late to early morning meetings. But, ironically, the more I resisted being late, the more frequently it happened.
On these days, I would quietly slip into my office, overwhelmed by the stress of what my coworkers might think about me. Did they assume I was lazy or uncaring? It made me sick to my stomach.
Without a doubt, I knew I was where I wanted to be in my career, and I was clear about my passion for the cause that I championed through my work. But I worried so much about feeling like I had to prove to them I was a productive and caring person that the stress took away so much of the joy I used to feel.
In fact, the stress just kept growing. Whenever a supervisor pointed out that I neglected to finish something, or I sensed that a coworker was dissatisfied with something I said or did, it didn’t matter how gently the feedback was delivered—I felt my heart pound, and I wanted to hide.
I looked for ways to fix the issue so I could appear sensitive and aware of others’ feelings. Sometimes, I even suppressed my voice when I had a strong opinion about something because I was afraid to lose my team’s approval.
The more I tried to compensate for what I perceived were my shortcomings and mistakes, the less I could just be myself at work, and it came across in my performance.
Before long I knew I was going to have to do something about this situation. I began to realize that everything that was upsetting me was going on within me. I was the one bringing the upsets into my life. The more I could see this, the more I began to connect with why I was so afraid and why I limited myself so.
Everything changed with a shift in my perspective.
When I learned how to see it from a different perspective, I experienced less and less stress. I used to think that all I had to do to reduce my anxiety was to adjust my environment so that I didn’t have to experience as much stress. I didn’t understand that trying to change my circumstances so that I could avoid experiencing painful feelings—feelings that I couldn’t seem to get away from, no matter how hard I tried—wasn’t getting me anywhere. That’s because I thought the cause of my anxiety was external.
Then, I learned that how we experience our feelings and our lives is a choice. I saw a pattern in which I had already decided – before going to work – what my workday was going to be like. I realized that approaching my workday with dread actually caused it to become dreadful to experience. Once I let go of my expectations of my work being stressful, then I was able to choose a new perspective of my work life. More important, I let go of my expectations of how I was supposed to BE at work. I no longer felt the pressure of having to prove to others how caring, responsible, or competent I was. I saw I could choose to simply be ME.
Now, I can say I have a stress-free work environment. I feel appreciated without needing any praise or acknowledgment. I find that now I experience a genuine sense of balance in my life and my work, and I live without the crippling fears that drive stress.
I truly see that I am a contribution to my work team and our clients. I’ve replaced stress with fun in my workday.