Even those of us who are typically considered assertive can have off-guard moments of self-doubt.
Psychotherapist, Jack Rosenberg proposed that we have two basic and unconscious fears:
- being invaded or violated; based on childhood verbal, emotional, physical and/or sexual abuse. Often, fear of being violated keeps us feeling vigilant and guarded.
- being rejected; based in childhood emotional and/or physical neglect. Often, fear of rejection keeps us feeling insecure and reluctant to say no.
Here is an excerpt from my book From Woe to WOW: How Resilient Women Succeed at Work describing an experience of self-doubt.
Soleiha Mahrcell loved her work as a professional server in high-end dining establishments. Given her restaurant experience and her managerial skills, a restaurant owner asked her to manage his two restaurants—to manage the staff, coordinate suppliers, and oversee the financial and accounting operations of the business.
Soleiha excelled at being in charge—delegating tasks, holding regular meetings and training her staff to be in service. She acknowledged and took into consideration clientele demographics, their likes, and dislikes. Soleiha put in long hours.
Within a year, her boss expanded the number of restaurants to three. However, he ended up dissolving his partnership in the first restaurant and Soleiha became the Comptroller of the remaining two. The second restaurant was doing exceptionally well and ended up subsidizing the third—robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Attending to the accounts and receivables for both restaurants as well as the 20 daily server cash envelopes made Soleiha’s workload time consuming and frustrating.
One day, Soleiha’s boss asked her to walk to the bank with $40,000 in cash, even after she had mentioned to him the bank would not accept that much cash. The boss was adamant that they would take it and insisted that Soleiha walk to the bank with the bag of money.
Typically, banks require business and fund transfer records when depositing large sums of money. When Soleiha arrived with her bag of money, the bank representative not only refused to deposit it, she called Soleiha’s boss to say, “We don’t feel comfortable having Soleiha walk back to the restaurant with this much money. Please send someone to accompany her back.” Her boss refused.
Soleiha recalls what happened when she returned to the office. “He didn’t ask how I was but was only concerned that the money had not been deposited.” The financial chaos continued to unravel with NSF checks, unpaid rent and not enough money to cover staff salaries. It escalated one day when Soleiha’s boss walked into her office, kicked her desk and yelled, “How dare you give the landlord the rent!” Soleiha knew she needed to quit her job.
Soleiha regrets violating her own boundaries, risking her own safety, working long hours and agreeing to carry around all that money. After she quit her job, she had an opportunity to re-examine her principles and concluded:
You can’t always act loving. Sometimes the most loving act is to stand in one’s own sense of inner power and move on. Carrying that $40,000 to the bank was only one in a long list of acts that were out of alignment with my principles. I betrayed myself when I took on the management of another restaurant and when I put my health and my family relationships on hold while I worked nights and weekends. I knew inside that I was overcome by fear of rejection and fear of losing of my job. Still, I wish I had refused my boss’s demands and said, No! The light-bulb moment came when I realized he wasn’t going to change.
Not long after Soleiha quit, the second and third restaurants closed. The first restaurant, now owned solely by the former partner, was the only one left in operation.
Soleiha began a practice of getting in touch with how she feels internally before making a major decision. She checks to see if she feels any form of vulnerability, tapping particularly into any fear of rejection which might make her vulnerable to inappropriately pleasing others.
“Rest of Herstory” Take-Aways:
- Believe how people act rather than their talk.
- If it doesn’t feel safe or right for you, don’t do it.
- Remember you are not responsible for other people’s businesses or life.
- Talking to yourself is not a sign of mental illness/breakdown if your conversation is from your wisest self.
- Pay attention to your gut and trust your feelings.
When has self-doubt caused your angst? How? How do you now handle self-doubt?
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