I get so caught up in myself.
An unhelpful thought pops into my head and the next thing I know, I am off living in the future. I had been concerned about having my work email on my phone.
Finding excuses and reasons why I could not get it set up gave me control over my relationship with work.
This past weekend, I was working with a customer and decided to add the work email to my phone in order to follow up on the responses from a buyer. This resulted in the woman having her problem solved. That felt great.
I really enjoy solving customer problems within company policy.
Being able to do that was one of the reasons I left retirement and went back into the workforce. I am good at making a difference. I am good at solving problems. I am good at helping others. Doing this builds up my stores of positive energy and makes me feel great.
But now the work email is on my phone.
And reading it to make sure that the customer’s problem was resolved, I saw an email about my department. It was written by a supervisor who reports to me. It shared his concerns about the schedule for the upcoming weekend. And instead of hearing “we need to be on top of this,” I heard something completely different.
I heard “you are a complete failure; you can’t manage your department.”
What he said was lost in my own insecurity, my own self-doubt about my value. What I heard was about me. And the email was not about me. It was a clear, if somewhat dramatic message to alert me and others to potential issues for the weekend leading up to Labor Day.
As I think about it now, it could be an “about me” for the person who wrote the email, because he is the one who wrote the schedule. That is his job. But I am the one who ultimately is in charge of the department and I own any failures or shortcomings. Any successes I give to my employees and the managers and supervisors who work for me.
The result was that I obsessed about that email and let it cloud my thinking.
I did not have all the facts. I did not know how others felt about the email. I did not know what else was going on at work that morning. I couldn’t put the email in perspective. I made it personal. And in the end, it wasn’t. I obsessed about this all the way to work. It’s a good thing I have years of driving experience, because I was so caught up in worry about this email, that I barely remember the drive to work.
Arriving at work, I took a deep breath and walked through the door.
Almost immediately, I spoke to my boss. It turns out this email was not unexpected, that I and others had communicated about this issue in advance, and steps had already been taken to fix the situation. It turns out this email that I had stressed about, worried about, felt like I was a failure about, was not about me.
Depression is still trying to win me back.
It is using the tools that have worked in the past. It knows I am still working on my self-worth. I am still working on seeing myself, with all my strengths and shortcomings, as valuable. I sell myself short, never to others, but very often to myself. I do not appreciate myself and who I am.
So, when depression offers fortune telling to deal with this email, I make it about me. And then my mind develops all kinds of endings to the story before I even know all the facts. I am making up what the email means and jumping to my failure as a manager and a human being.
Wow, depression sure has me trained.
By the end of the day, the email was only a very small piece of everything that I, my team, and my boss had to deal with. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t even as monumental and career defining as I was telling myself.
How is it possible to jump from, we need more help to “you should be fired for not having already fixed this?”
For ten years, I have been teaching job seekers that their resume, phone screening, and face-to-face interview are not about them. This is obvious to me based on everything I have learned and my personal experience reading resumes and hiring people. Yet when I go to apply this thinking to myself, I find myself wrapped up in unhelpful thinking.
So once again I am refocusing and using my list of questions to challenge these unhelpful thinking styles. It did only take me 12 hours to figure it out this time, so I am getting better at it. I am thinking now about a better way to have the tools, the better questions to ask, and the decision-making worksheets more available as I deal with these thoughts.
Just the facts.
Staying with those until I have new information would keep me more in the present. Being a time traveler is not a healthy way to live. Spending almost all my time in the past or the future leaves little time to enjoy the now, the present. What is happening right now is what’s important.
For example, after using the bathroom this morning, I looked out the window towards the backyard. I could see the corner of the deck, with its birdbath on the railing and the squirrel proof birdfeeder hanging from a metal arm over the deck. As birds feed, they drop seeds down to the ground.
A rabbit, a squirrel and a morning dove walk into a bar.
Ok, so they are not walking into a bar, but from the window I could see they were around the seed that falls from the birdfeeder to the ground. Yesterday, I was so distracted, so fearful of a future that I was creating in my head, that I do not remember if I even looked out the window. Today, I was treated to quite a show. I watched them for several minutes. The dove soon felt it had to leave and took off in a flash of wings and gray feathers.
The rabbit didn’t seem phased by the dove’s departure, but the squirrel shot several feet up the post holding up the deck. As soon as it realized danger was not approaching, the squirrel returned to searching out and eating the sunflower seeds that had fallen from the feeder.
Had I been fortune-telling this morning, I would have missed the rabbit, squirrel and morning dove.
Being in the moment, not making everything about me, gave me a chance to enjoy nature. We picked these five acres nestled up against the Skyline Drive and the Shenandoah National Park because we wanted to share our home with nature. We have bears, deer, fox, skunks, raccoons, opossums, rabbits, wild turkey and the occasional bald eagle, plus several types of hawks and owls, blue heron and of course, hummingbirds.
And did I mention the Canadian geese? As I sit on the front porch, writing on my laptop, several groups have flown low over the house, honking their hellos as they head towards the lake.
Today I feel more equipped to take on unhelpful thinking if it should appear.
I know that I am a work in progress and will be honing my new skills for the rest of my life. And I am happy to do that as I learn how to live my life in the present, where everything is not about me.
Your shares, comments, and likes (if deserved) are appreciated as I continue my journey.