While it’s normal to question ourselves, not balancing it with a healthy perspective of our value can lead to burn out.

At some point in your career, you have probably questioned whether you are doing a good enough job. While it’s normal to question ourselves, not balancing it with a healthy perspective of our skills and value can lead to a number of unintended consequences, including burn out. 

The Underlying Cause & Impact 

When self-doubt starts to overwhelm you, you might not even realize it, but one sign is often over-working. The underlying belief of not being good enough decreases confidence, so instead of believing that the work you are doing is good enough, you find yourself on a never-ending treadmill to prove your value – to yourself and others. The desire to be perfect can set in, every request is urgent to you, and you may find it difficult to set boundaries and turn work off. You work endlessly, immersing yourself in your job because you don’t want to be seen as incompetent and incapable, while ignoring gradual signs of exhaustion, both mentally and physically. 

The ramifications of overworking in an attempt to prove your worth are far-reaching. You may be sacrificing sleep, time for enjoyable activities, and time with loved ones. The negative effects of overworking yourself affects not only your health and wellbeing, but also the lives of those around you.  

Overall, the net effect is that eventually burn out occurs, and you end up being less productive and unmotivated. You may find yourself easily distracted and unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Feelings of frustration and exhaustion can also lead to subpar work. 

Work Situations that are Triggers 

There are several scenarios that can occur that can trigger feelings of self-doubt at work and cause you to overwork. You may find yourself in one of these situations, but there are a couple of strategies to help increase your confidence so you can avoid the burnout. 

A New Role or Project:  

We have all been in a situation at work before where we panic because we doubt our abilities after being assigned an important task. Instead of taking it in stride, you begin to panic about failing or not getting it completed in time. You begin to doubt your abilities when given something you have never worked on before, or if you find yourself in a new job or role. Long hours might be necessary in the short-term or to bring yourself up to speed in a new role, but working long hours to prove “you’ve got it” indefinitely will only lead to burnout. 

To help counteract the feelings of doubt, focus learning the new skills to do the job as much as you do on celebrating the successes and skills gains in previous roles that can help you this new job well. These can be in the form of past projects that were successful, a promotion, or times that you were complimented for a job well done. By focusing on things you have already achieved, you can turn self-doubt into self-love.

Next, give yourself a realistic timeframe to ramp up and smaller milestones to achieve. This can help so you don’t feel like you have to know it all at once, and give you opportunities to celebrate small wins and progress in the new project or role sooner than later. Doing this will help boost your confidence along the way as you grow and learn. 

Finally, ask yourself what is making you not feel as competent as others—is it due to real events or due to you doubting yourself. Get support from family and friends or a work colleague or mentor can help build your confidence. Advice and reassurance can help keep you motivated while you’re challenged in the new project or role. 

When One More Task Gets Added:  

When you are already overwhelmed with your workload and feel stretched too thin and one more thing is added to your plate, it might be enough to send you to the point of no return. However, self-doubt will make you feel afraid to say anything but yes for fear of displeasing anyone. When you juggle too many tasks, you will reach burnout even faster so it’s important to ask questions about the tasks so you can prioritize your work and gain the confidence to say no. Before saying yes automatically, ask yourself and/or the other person: 

Is the task or project one I should handle?  And is it critical to get done right now

It’s important to ask these two questions because sometimes a task hasn’t been vetted before being assigned to you, and tasks aren’t emergencies although you might think they are.  If you find that the tasks aren’t critical for you do to, or to get done now, then the easy way to handle this is to say “no” or “no, I can’t do it right now.” 

And what if it is your manager that has added to your plate?  If needed, an honest conversation with management might be warranted to help to prioritize your workload. Lay out exactly what tasks you are getting done and how much estimated time each will take, then ask them to tell you what tasks are most important to get done first. It’s important not to make it an emotional-based conversation – give facts about your workload and allow them to weigh in on your prioritization of time and tasks. 

Setting Healthy Boundaries: 

As mentioned, working long hours to finish a specific task or project happens from time to time but if you find yourself habitually working way longer than you should be, it is time to do something about it.  If you are drowning in self-doubt to the point that you are not able to work smarter and not longer, set boundaries for yourself.  

#1 Get away from your work space throughout the day by taking a walk, eating your lunch away from your desk, meditating, or practicing some form of self-care.  When you return, you will feel recharged enough to be productive. 

#2 Determine your stop time for work. I know, this one might be tough but if you never turn off people will always expect you to be on. Outside infrequent work emergencies, what’s your cutoff time for working? Is it a certain time in the evening so you can spend time with family or enjoy a hobby? If so, communicate that so that people know when you’re not available. Create an auto-reply if needed that lets people know when you’ll reply to their email if received after a certain time. Remember the goal is to avoid burnout – so you’ll need to communicate your end time respectfully to others because they have no idea unless you tell them!  

You can say, for example, “I value doing a great job and being able to recharge so I can bring my best self to my role. I will be available by email until x time so that I can be ready to start working tomorrow energized and focused.”  

Overworking to the point of burning out is detrimental to your career and your personal life.  Take the time to address an underlying cause, self-doubt, so that you can be healthy, fulfilled and productive – both at, and outside, work. 

Want to find out how to say no without so much guilt? Stay tuned for next month’s blog article.