The other day, Silicon Valley Bank ran into some problems of the bank-run sort; Peter Thiel told all of the people who listen to him about things to pull their money out, and the way banks work is if even a surprisingly small amount of people do that, they run out of money to honor deposits with. Once Theil’s people pulled out, other people panicked and pulled out, and it got to be an
What a great articulation of why talking things over works. I think it's human nature to go to that worst case scenario. I'm sure this is a difficult time to be in tech and love the way you extrapolated from your own situation to something universal. I think you definitely have some unique skills employers are looking for, because I've never seen these issues described in this way.
Glad I read all the way to the end of the 3rd footnote, because that was my favourite bit. Perfectly nailed one of the many ways in which a situation can turn into 'How on earth can both the people in this argument be so convinced of diametrically opposed versions of what went down?'
Virtually my entire career has had the pattern
1. I have a job that pays well
2. Surely TOO well - this is silly especially given what a bad employee I am
3. Get a (sometimes large) raise
4. [Calvinism intensifies]*
(*I'm not actually a Calvinist, it's just a reference to that dog cartoon.)
The result is that I NEVER feel I could get another job making as much as I do now, but as far as I can tell, since I keep getting raises, that's not true? I don't know. Jobs are confusing. But I'm also clearly an unreliable narrator about myself, at least in terms of how I appear to employers on the outside. Somehow.
I have this in other areas too. Ugh.
I also have a continual fear of being fired, but talked it over with my therapist and got some insight that has helped me a lot. He made me realize that I was judging my job performance on a completely wrong scale. I was judging each day by how good a job I did relative to how good I thought I could, or should, have done. If I knew I could have done better if I'd just been more focused, smarter, etc, than I'd judge myself a failure and immediately jump to "And I'll probably be fired."
But that feeling was *entirely* based on things internal to me. No one else could see that I didn't live up to my own expectations; no one else even knows what I expect of myself. Others judge me based on external factors only.
So we went over those external factors. Does my boss tell me I'm doing a good job? Yes. Has he said anything negative? No. Would he have any reason to deceive me? No. Are there metrics in place for judging my performance? Yes, and they all say I'm doing great. Is there a general process in place for when someone is having performance issues? Yes, and that process has not been started for me. So by all external indications, I have nothing to worry about.
And now that I type that out, it does sound remarkably similar to what you said :). The key insight for me was realizing that I'm *not* actually a bad judge of my job performance. I was just measuring the wrong thing entirely (my internal expectations), and using that instead of my actual job performance to predict if I was going to get fired.
Now that I realize my expectations don't matter at all, I've been much more able to push my irrational fear of firing aside.
This kinda sounds like depression, yo. And boy howdy, do I ever know depression. So, y'know, might be worth checking that out with a professional of some sort.
Something I have to tell people who're seeking jobs a lot, especially women and especially minority women, is that their calibration is off. They tend to fall into one of two traps. Sometimes both:
1.) The entire world is against me. The forces arrayed against my success are so vast and all consuming I have no chance of getting ahead.
2.) I'm not good enough. Everyone else is super impressive and adds a lot of value while I just do something stupid and low value and easy.
They often slip into self-sabotaging behavior which they then use to justify that worldview leading to a vicious and unproductive cycle. Both ultimately boil down to a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem, a sort of neuroticism. Weakness and want might not be pleasant but they can become comfortable. And if you gain something valuable you can lose it. Especially if it's your first pot of gold.
Now, some of them do genuinely lack skills. But you can determine that with a simple skill assessment. Almost none take such an assessment and update their position. At which point it's purely an internal issue. Simple things like telling them about imposter syndrome often doesn't work. And people tend to get defensive when you ask pointed questions. ("Why don't you deserve to have this job? What makes you think you're smarter than your boss or hiring manager about their needs?") So I often recommend them to go to therapy or coaching or consult with a priest. Someone who can help them work on their self-esteem and self-worth specifically.
If that's too much I tell them to do personal affirmations. "I am a great writer." "I deserve a good salary for my skills." "I contribute as much as anyone on the team." "My bosses are direct people and will tell me if something's wrong." "If I lose this job I can get another at similar pay." Etc etc. I don't believe personal affirmations "put energy into the universe" or whatever. But they work wonders for self confidence, for underlining the "I am worthy of this" part of your brain.
As for point 3 I think you're right it's the same phenomenon but you've slightly misdiagnosed it. In both cases it's about pride and lack of willingness to surrender to the judgment of others. Both fundamentally come from a place of, "Yes, the whole world is saying X. But I know it's actually Y. And I know better than the world." It's putting your own knowledge above the knowledge of others. Above God in many religious traditions.
But this isn't how the world works! You don't get to determine if you're a good writer. The people who read you do! The depressed person who thinks their writing is awful and the prideful person who thinks their awful writing is great are both ignoring that the rest of the world gets a vote.
I spent a lot of time thinking that I was going to get fired at the job that I currently work. I've been there for about four years, now, and I started losing that feeling a year-and-a-half ago thanks to conscious effort spent on realizing my current situation. I'm good at my job, my company needs me, and I am financially secure -- so I should start feeling that way.
Where I am an unreliable self-information is in depression. There have been several times where I have been more depressed than I really feel. It takes a friend pointing out to me that my usual puckish nature has become more constant and feels malicious instead of funny.
I've been getting better at recognizing when that happens, but it still something of a blind spot. Since I am cognizant of it being a blind spot, I look there more and have been catching myself before it gets bad.
> Or who sit down and figure they can rewrite some centuries-old cultural tradition in a way that will work better, and can't imagine they aren't the right person for that and that there's a chance they will fail.
This stuff needs to happen though, as everyone feels business-as-usual is not cutting it. And there's no way to know if you are or aren't the right person for that, other than fucking around and finding out. I take a lot of inspiration from the videogame Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, where you just keep throwing yourself at seemingly impossible bosses until it finally clicks and you melt the guy. Another gem from that game:
'Hesitation means defeat!'
Sure, you have to be able to incorporate feedback, but that doesn't mean giving up on your cause, unless someone can convince you your cause is not righteous.
Think of the abolitionists: they weren't thinking of whether they were the right people for the job or not, (or that the presence of slavery for all history somehow justified it) they just saw an injustice to correct, and busted ass to correct it. The counter to that is the communists, for obvious reasons, but hey, just because some rockets exploded doesn't mean rocketry is impossible. As in, it is possible to change the world for the better, not that communism is doable.
I got a lot out of reading this, living through a similar situation myself. I feel "written at" (though given my particular brand of crazy, that also happens a lot).
Sometimes a situation is stuck right there in the middle somewhere: Partner A might be running from a really great partner in Partner B, overall...but maybe Partner B has a trait here and there that are legitimately triggering or even causes for concern over Partner A's safety and well-being.
It is fascinating to me how these issues so often seem to present themselves in both the arenas of work and marriage, albeit manifesting in different ways.
Job security and relationship security have common roots.
Thanks for sharing your crazy. One feels much less alone now.
Wow. Saw quite a few recognizable traits here.
"What is it about the lies I tell myself that makes them so believable?" is something I ask of myself; I know they're not true, but that doesn't make dismissing them easier. I readily identify with the cankering self-doubt you shared, despite most people telling me and acting like they think I'm pretty good.
Oh man, if only they knew.....
As someone who grew up poor and ended up with a higher income than I'd ever dreamed of, I empathize with the neuroticism around your situation being too good to be true. The higher you climb is just going to make it hurt even more when you inevitably fall.
In my case I think it took about ten years to get mostly past these feelings, but every time it looks like the economy is about to implode, I get to have a little reunion with them.
I think it helps to have a loose plan for what-if. This helps to prevent your mind from burning time imagining the horrors of no longer having that high income. Also if that loose plan reveals that you really aren't prepared to lose your income, it should hopefully motivate you to establish some emergency savings and figure out how to escape paying for things that aren't absolutely necessary.
In my case I have some emergency savings, some plans to part with expensive cars, a HELOC with ample available credit, the ability to draw a loan on my 401(k), and some other things.
I have this exact problem. I am a high school educated person in a union job that pays well and requires certifications. I have passed all these tests on the first try after diligent study but I find myself catastrophizing constantly about failing. It’s like a fires under my ass that never goes out and when I relax my ass burns and I remember the lie that I’m not cut out for this.