Fear and self-fulfilling prophecies

I’ve recently had reason to examine how I let fear influence the way I talk and think about my circumstances.

A little over a year ago, I took the big step of leaving my 9 to 5 office job. I took another half step forward when I landed a part-time gig at an environmental nonprofit.

Enter fear and doubt, my old friends. My crummy, passive-aggressive, vindictive friends.

Instead of taking the next big necessary steps forward, I got scared. I went from confident and optimistic to cowering and negative. Fear influenced my dialogue — both internal and external. Then I was shocked (and in a twisted way, vindicated) when my fears became reality.

It hit me how directly my choice of words and thoughts are related to outcomes — in all areas of my life. Applied to my career, here’s how this dialogue evolves:

Step 1 — Making shit happen

I say: Hello! I know what I want. I want to work for this environmental nonprofit. I have a lot to offer. I believe that you should hire me!

I’m thinking: I know what I want. I have a lot to offer. I deserve the chance to go after what I want. Let’s do it, Me, you big lug! Huzzah! Whoops, I hope that dried booger wasn’t fluttering around my nose during the whole interview.

Likely effect: She knows what she wants. She has a lot to offer. She is a delight and, frankly, we are mesmerized by her inner beauty and outward radiance. (Ahem. Right.) Let’s hire her!

Step 2 — Still in fighting form

I say: I’m here — let’s do this thing!

I’m thinking: I just took a big step. Whew! It’s a new chapter. Let’s do this thing!

Likely effect: She’s here — she’s going to do this thing!

Step 3 — Fear induced self-sabotage

I say: I’ve got my foot in the door and that’s progress. But there are a lot of challenges. I’m not sure I fit in. 

I’m thinking: Hmmm, the reality of this is much different than the fantasy. There are things about this that I don’t like. I’m not sure I’m good at this. What if they don’t like me?

Likely effect: Maybe she’s just settling in. But she never accepts our lunch invitations. Perhaps she wants to be left alone.

Step 4 — Down the rabbit hole

I say: I hate them. This sucks. I’ll never have any opportunities here, so why bother trying? I just have to stick it out until I find something better.

I’m thinking: I don’t think I fit in here. I’m not good at this. I made a mistake. Oh God, why do they hate me?

Likely effect: She is both unproductive and uncool.

Followed to its logical conclusion, this line of dialogue will lead to my slowly checking out, creeping one foot out the door, and then leaving for greener pastures. (Ha! As if. I know by now there’s a hot, moist pile of dog shit hiding on every patch of grass.) That, of course, is assuming I don’t get fired first.

It’s time to change the dialogue.

Step 5 — An alternative

I will say: Hi. Sorry I was being such a brat. Please permit me now to dig in and be awesome in your general direction. Excuse me? Why yes, I have been working out. Thanks for noticing.

I will think: As kids these days are wont to say, you only live once. Maybe twice. Three times MAX. But, you might come back as, like, an oyster or a garlic press. So, embrace this second chance to do it right. Buck up, doofus.

Likely effect: Cool.

14 thoughts on “Fear and self-fulfilling prophecies

  1. Haha! For a second, I thought I was reading an excerpt from my own life and mind. :-) I think I may be at step 5…..but since I said MAY, maybe I’m not. :-)

  2. This is a great post on inner dialogue. I love how you wrote it. Very entertaining and enlightening at the same time.
    I haven’t worked in so many years. I’m afraid to even try to apply for jobs; even volunteer jobs.
    I think: Why would they want me? My work history is so old, it hardly seems relevant anymore.
    I don’t even get to the part where I actually say something or they get to think and say something in return :)
    Oddly enough, I was considering looking for an environmental non-profit. Now, maybe I’ll go volunteer at the library. I know my way around books.

    • Thanks, Robin! It’s good to check in (even if it’s unpleasant) with our attitudes about ourselves. It’s amazing how just a little shift can help. Also, I was thisclose to enrolling in a Masters program to become a librarian. I worked at my law school library — and it was the happiest I ever was during law school. :) You should do it!

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