“I so appreciate this about you that you always look within and are so willingly ready to take responsibility, but we have flaws in our process. This has nothing to do with you. You will not take responsibility when it’s to your detriment.”
My manager had no idea how impactful her comment was. It was a casual conversation between us, but it was a pivotal turning point in my life.
For days, I had been agonizing over a cross-functional project that has several moving parts and tight timelines, all dependent on our broader working group and the ability to deliver. Earlier in the week there was a hiccup that pushed our launch out and though we are a team, it turns out that I took responsibility for something out of my control – but I didn’t see it that way. I was beating myself up, thinking that I should have caught it and I should have done something differently – but that was not the case and it is a flaw in our process.
My body relaxed and I found myself rather shell shocked from the conversation. Life’s scenarios paraded through my mind as I sat dumbstruck – and waved at my past.
“Why do you work so hard? You do too much, when you don’t have to,” said a college professor. “You’re a perfectionist. Sometimes 70% is enough,” said a previous manager. “You’re too hard on yourself,” said many.
Forward I forged, working diligently and overachieving, personally and professionally. That wasn’t always the case, but the accumulative pain and disappointment I experienced from relations with the human race led me to a place where I could find true companionship and love – work. Whether it was formal schooling or my unexpected career, I found a home. It was where I sought comfort, satisfaction and joy. Working hard yielded results, a sense of achievement. I was valued, needed and rewarded for my loyalty. It was something I excelled at – it was my life.
Until the day when I transitioned from start-ups to hardcore corporate America. It was there I learned how harsh business could be. Power hungry individuals driven by ego. Underhanded colleagues who would do anything to get ahead. Politics galore. It was then that I lost my way. I started to doubt my value and my worth. I was in the midst of a game for which no one shared the rules. My hard work, competence and loyalty no longer meant a thing. My lover had betrayed me.
Balance has always eluded me – and it may continue to. This girl dives head first into any endeavor – planned, prepared and ready to conquer the world. But maybe that is too much. Maybe I do work too hard and strive for perfection, though excellence is more my goal. And maybe I am too hard on myself. Still. Yet fall short day after day. Maybe I should stop taking responsibility for everything and everyone. Novel idea!
I admit to being over the top when it comes to owning my feelings and emotions. If someone else is an a@#, rather than verbally regurgitate on the spot, I contemplate how I should move forward. I refuse to give them the power (so is this a control issue?!) and typically intellectualize my feelings, thus acknowledging and denying them at the same time or sweeping them under the rug. “I’m fine. This is ok. I understand where they are coming from. Maybe I’m asking for too much.” Until it’s not and I explode – taking action on the reactions that I’d buried long ago, leaving others shocked and baffled by the lunatic who went off on them – psycho girl, but not.
Today, I was released from captivity – I have been holding myself hostage without my knowledge.
Today, I was given the opportunity to look more closely at why I manage my emotions with such scrutiny and restraint – I might be trying to exude an aura of competence and control, when in reality I’m an anxious, sad wreck.
Today, I exhaled – and realized that I still have work to do in figuring out why I feel this need to nail myself to a cross in this life. It’s time to know when enough is enough – and giving 150% is enough.
Because I’m no longer going to be responsible to my own detriment. And neither should you.