‘Showing negative emotion is not the done thing. I pretend everything is fine’
‘It’s never my fault when things go wrong.’
‘I find it hard to make decisions. I just want to please everyone.’
‘I sometimes get headaches when things go wrong.’
‘I find it best to distract myself when times are hard.’
‘I just keep going as I can handle it.’
Do any of these quotes resonate with you? I am sure you have found yourself saying or thinking some of them in response to challenging situations and this is, of course, okay. Handling challenging circumstances can be really hard. However, problems arise when these responses become the norm and they start to impact your career progression, desire for a career change or search for a new job. It is at this point when it may be necessary to think of ways to overcome these responses to help you move forward.
Consider this scenario spoken by an employee:
“One day I was walking down the street and my boss passed me on the other side of the road. I called out to say hello, but she ignored me. I wondered why she was ignoring me and what I had done wrong. I come to the quick conclusion that I must have done something to make her unhappy with me. I am not doing so well at work at the moment and I think I am just not good enough. I returned to work and had to stay late as my work took double the time it should. I didn’t want to get anything wrong again, so I kept rechecking it. When I got home I didn’t talk to anyone and pretended everything was fine. I find it is best to distract myself, although I often arrive home with a headache. All I want is to enjoy my work, but I can’t see how this is going to happen. I was thinking of a career change but what’s the point? I don’t enjoy this job, and if I pursue a career change I might not enjoy the new job either. I have always been told that it is best just to keep going as the grass isn’t always greener.’
Now consider the psychology:
The way we see ourselves, the world and other people affects our thoughts which have an impact on our feelings and subsequently on our behaviour.
When something happens to us (a trigger) in the environment around us, we automatically think something in reaction to this trigger which will make us feel in a certain way and subsequently act in a certain way. Our thoughts, feelings and actions are all linked together.
How does this have an impact on me and getting a job I love?
Let’s link the psychology with the scenario above. The main thoughts triggered by the events on the street all stemmed from ‘I am not good enough’. These quick concluding thoughts (‘she’s ignoring me’, ‘what have I done wrong?’, ‘I am not doing well at work’) would have made this employee feel in a certain way. As a consequence of these thoughts and (currently unnamed) feelings their work took double the time. This negatively affected their enjoyment at work and behaviour at home as well as their ambitions for the future such as the option of a career change.
As an objective observer we can of course rationalise these events and simply conclude that the boss didn’t hear their employee say hello. However, for the employee, the lack of response from their boss supported their existing negative thought of not being a good enough which would have triggered negative feelings which then spiralled into negative behaviours/consequences at work and at home.
As this employee continues to react to similar scenarios in the same way, this vicious cycle continues, potentially stopping them experiencing or finding a job they will love.
One of the reasons these vicious cycles continue is because of our handling of our feelings during the cycle, often individuals respond to challenging events by ignoring the negative feeling triggered to provide them with short-term relief from the situation. In the above scenario, the employee used distraction as a means of coping and suppressed their feelings. However, negative emotions do not simply disappear. The more they are ignored, the more they continue to grow under the surface until things get so bad they burst out in an unhealthy or unhelpful manner.
These are six ways individuals can hide or ignore negative emotions:
- Acceptance of the views and opinions of others without question. For example, believing what you have always been told (‘showing negative emotion is not the done thing’).
- Blaming everything and everyone around you for things that happen to you (‘It’s never my fault when things go wrong’).
- Wanting to please everyone and meet everyone else’s expectations apart from your own (‘I find it hard to make decisions. I just want to please everyone’).
- Thinking your own emotions are not valid and so the emotion displays itself through a physical symptom (‘I sometimes get headaches when things go wrong’).
- Avoiding people or the situation (‘I find it best to distract myself when times are hard’).
- Wanting to control everything around you so that nothing goes wrong (‘I just keep going as I can handle it’).
These six ways can stop you from looking after yourself when you are feeling down and finding a job you will love.
In our scenario above, the employee used distraction as a coping mechanism and accepted the view that they must keep going as the grass isn’t always greener. There was no mention of what they were feeling, but they must have been feeling something. What will be the outcome for this employee? We already know that they were experiencing headaches and have given up on the idea of a career change.
Don’t let your negative emotions fester. Give yourself permission to feel negative emotions so that you can express them in a healthy and constructive manner in accordance with events happening around you. This will enable you to act on a career change or job search as well as find a job you will love.
Over the next few months I am going to cover each of these six areas in more detail, providing you with some guidance to help you move forward in your career and enjoy your job.