Posted by: Andrea | April 3, 2008

Do ambition and confidence go hand in hand?

After a few days of feeling completely incompetent at work, I’ve once again started contemplating my choice of career. This is something I do approximately, um…every other day, mainly because I’m constantly worried I’ve made the wrong choice in choosing the job that I have. It’s not that I actually am incompetent at work, in reality I do very well. I was very well trained in my master’s program and my boss regularly tells me in my supervision that I’m doing a good job. At which point I secretly think, ‘wow, have I fooled her!

I have no idea why I do this, or why I constantly feel inadequate in my professional life. I know I’m smart, I’m very knowledgable in my field and I’m actually doing a job that several hours of personality tests determined was the best job for me. But I constantly feel like I don’t know enough or I’ll make a mistake. I crave more responsibility but worry that I won’t be able to do it even if I get it. These last few days at work I realise that I’ve been running things by my senior that I probably don’t need to, just because I want to be sure I’m doing the right thing. Why can’t I just trust in my ability to make decisions? This is my job. I spent two years studying this extensively, I should be able to do it without double checking with someone else all the time!

I’ve always been like this. I remember as I child I used to contantly ask my parents questions that I already knew the answer to, just to make sure I was right. They indulged me and would just say, ‘that’s right honey’ or something else equally complimentary. I never even realised until a family friend looked after us for a weekend when my parents were away. I asked her another stupid question and she said, ‘why are you asking me that? You already know the answer.’ I just stared at her, thinking, wait…you aren’t going to validate me?! What is wrong with you?

I’m just feeling so lame at work right now and it’s really made me look at myself and where I want my career to go. I just seem to lack that ambition to make it go anywhere at all right now. But is that because I lack ambition or because I lack confidence? I really don’t know at this point. Can a person be ambitious without believing in themselves and that they genuinely deserve the professional responsibilities they get? A good career isn’t just going to be handed out to you, you have to work for it. Along the way it’s understandable that you’re going to have to advocate for yourself and convince someone that you’re the best person for the job. I don’t think I’ve ever been ruthlessly ambitious, but I do want to do a good job and be respected for it. But I think maybe I lack something that makes me able to express that in a way that will give me more opportunities in my job.

The weird thing is that I feel like a pretty confident person in my personal life. I used to be crippled by insecurities about everything about me, but I’ve come to really love and appreciate who I am. So what is it about my career that I’m once again plauged by insecurities? I’ve been described by a friend as resembling a magpie when it comes to other people’s jobs, constatly seeing what someone else is going and thinking, ‘ooh, shiny!’ and wishing I was doing that instead. I think it’s because I always wonder if maybe if I was doing that job I’d be just naturally great at it. And that I’d then naturally believe in myself.

I don’t know, is this just me? Is thing something that’s sort of normal when it comes to jobs? Or to people relatively young in their careers? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who has doubts about their abilities. Or maybe it’s not too late, maybe I can still figure out something else to do ‘when I grow up.’ I’ve been watching the tv show Bones recently and that whole forensic anthropology thing seems pretty cool. Ooh, shiny!

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