I’ve come so far in my career and yet I know that I’m running up against a wall. The reality is that leadership roles in my industry are largely about relationships — earned either through sheer social prowess, consistent results (often secured through social prowess), or a combination of the two — and, while I don’t want to impostor syndrome myself into a tizzy — I’m just TERRIBLE at many of the key things that go into succeeding in my role. I mean, I am good at a small smidgen of the requirements of my ever-evolving job title which are buried and bashed to smithereens by my social ineptitude that goes far beyond simple neuroticism.
If I were good at my job, I’d have hundreds of people to call up and ask for favors when I need them, because I’d have a solid network of people in my industry who I’ve done favors for in the past, who are not only colleagues, but professional friends, or maybe just friends, but people who I’ve created bonds with, who I’ve shared drinks with, stories with, who I’ve brought into my network, and who, despite being busy in their own right, are always open to help in an ongoing exchange of friendly favors throughout our careers.
Instead of nurturing such relationships, I’ve messed most of them up. I don’t want to go into details of how, let’s just say I either say too little or too much and leave jobs with few continued relationships. Some of it I think has to do with being female, but other woman can maintain professional relationships better than I can. I just suck at it. I can’t keep up. And that’s not all I can’t keep up with. I can’t keep up with the sheer volume of tasks and priorities of items that need to get done in order to be successful in my new job.
I mean, anyone would be overwhelmed in this role right now, it comes with the territory of joining a startup, but my ADHD brain is so overloaded right now I need to just go into somewhere quiet to sort everything out… it doesn’t help matters I’m back in an office where there’s no room to go somewhere quiet with no distractions at all. At the same time, I love the energy of a startup, I love having a lot of things to do, if I can just get myself to the point where I feel on top of things and I have a list to start checking off I can make progress and maybe it will be ok. Right now, however, I’m already drowning. And I’m not even at the end of my first week.
What do I do? I suck not just at my job but at my career. Not ALL of it but most of it. I’m a decent writer so occasionally I can put out some content that people go oooooh and aaahhh over but I’m a terrible leader and I can’t get people on the same page about anything. I just… feel hopeless already, which isn’t good. I want to switch to a positive line of thought and just focus on getting stuff done at least, so I can feel accomplished versus massively overwhelmed. But every time I start on one project my mind jumps to another and then another and I can’t focus on anything until I’ve thought through the details of how EVERYTHING will be done. Which is impossible. Because there are too many everythings. I think… I need a month-long vacation to do my work.
It just is so disheartening. The higher I climb the further I have to fall. Granted, it’s not the end of the world if I fall… I have a savings account. I won’t be on the streets. But I don’t know if I can take the humiliation. I always tell myself don’t even think about killing yourself now because that’s only a solution for later if it ever gets really bad (it’s not THAT bad now!) I don’t think I’d ever actually do it… I mean, I wouldn’t, I’m scared of dying, but sometimes I think about it because it seems more appealing than the thought of failing and having to face all the “I told you so-ers” and the “what happened-ers” and the “it was just the wrong fit-ers” and honestly I just CAN’T fail – it isn’t an option. I mean I’ve been laid off before after being at a job for years but only once did I go through the three months and being asked to resign — very early in my career — when I just couldn’t keep up with the world of blogging and my boss was like, no hard feelings but GTFO.
Back then it hurt and I fell into a dark depression. But I was 22. I was able to get another job for $60k, which was more than I was previously making at the job which I was forced to resign from. It’s going to be an entirely different story if I’m asked to resign from a job where I’m making over $125k. Where I’m a senior executive. Where I’m expected to do so well. Where I’m hired not just for my resume but for my brand. And especially knowing so many people are watching and just waiting for me to fail. I mean, they aren’t … watching and WAITING. Every second. Of every day. But they wouldn’t be surprised.
Meanwhile, I’ve drastically messed up really important relationships. I mean, I’ve gotten sloppily drunk and said some terribly stupid things to people because I’m rather immature and — who isn’t when they are drunk — and these are the same people who are going to lead the industries that I’m supposed to be playing in going forward. Well, if being socially anxious and not knowing an important person is a challenge for me, actually knowing them and having a history of being a total disgrace in front of them doesn’t make the situation any better. My fault, yes. And if I were put into the situation again after a few shots of tequila who knows I’d probably end up saying the same crap because alcohol is a damn truth serum and I have a potentially genetic inclination for literary types with mild autism, cleft chins, and piercing eyes, and if I were another person in another life I’d be some polyamorous free loving hippie with a thousand boyfriends and girlfriends except I’m not that at all and I only seem to poorly suggest that I am on occasion after my brain is flooded with red wine, and thus I make everything awkward and completely ruin important relationships of the future, despite the fact that I’m average looking and a bit on the overweight side and not at all attractive and it wouldn’t really matter and I just have a complex since I never really had the opportunity in life to be pursued by guys and so I feel ugly and undesirable so when I get drunk I get desperately emotional and want to feel like maybe someone who I respect might actually be attracted to me just a little bit but anyway that’s besides the point — that’s just why it happens — and it needs to stop and it has largely stopped because over time my relationship has gotten much more serious (we’re in it for the win now) but every once in a while I want to feel wanted and wish that I knew what it felt like to be the pursued….
On an entirely separate but quite related note, I had a conversation I had with an executive I know loosely discussed how some women are able to successfully sleep their way to the top. I couldn’t figure out if this person was just sharing a story or suggesting that I do this as part of my strategy as it is the only way that I could ever be successful. I mean, I wouldn’t do that, but maybe there’s truth to it. If I were intelligent or effective or sociable then maybe I could be successful over the long term but I’m only partially intelligent and not all that effective and barely sociable so perhaps my best bet is f*cking half of Silicon Valley – if they’d have me (oh my boyfriend would so not approve of this message.) That’s at least a strategy that works for some people. I won’t do that. But why not, if it’s a strategy that works. It’s A strategy. There are lots of strategies. I don’t seem to have one.
I can’t do this forever. Lucky, forever is never forever. But I’m 30. Is this my next 35 years? And then what? Am I in this for the money? Can I JUST focus on the money – eye on the prize – do whatever it takes to impress my boss, colleagues, network, connect, get what the business needs, be a robot, a nobody, just get what is needed, create what is needed, be a machine, adapt, have no emotions whatsoever, prioritize, everything, get shit done, get more shit done, get more more shit done, and more shit done, and then some more shit done, and then some. When does it stop? When does something else in life matter?