A Workover: A High Performer Feels Inadequate

Advice I gave to a caller to my NPR-San Francisco radio program.

Posted May 11, 2015

Dave Hogg, CC 2.0
Source: Dave Hogg, CC 2.0

On my KALW-FM (NPR-San Francisco) radio program, I do Workovers: People phone in with their work problem and I try to help.

Here, I've been posting edited transcripts of Workovers that might interest my PsychologyToday.com readers. Here's today's offering:

CALLER: I’m in computer security--I advise companies on solving security problems. It’s my dream job and I’m kind of a rock star but I’m working in the 60 hours a week range and I'm still not meeting all the deadlines. I’m making mistakes. And this week, I had to work even longer—I wanted to go to this motorcycle race with my boyfriend but I had to say no because I hadn’t finished this project I had to do.

MN: You call yourself a rock star, which implies you have the skills. Do you need to ask for less work?

CALLER: No. Others are doing as much.

MN: Are you good enough and simply need to accept that you’re not the best, that good may sometimes need to be good enough?

CALLER: I think a lot of it comes down to that. Even if I make peace with that, how do I change my automatic reactions of self-hatred?

MN: All beliefs reduce to memory neurons. If, in fact, you think you’re being too tough on yourself, maybe you need to constantly remind yourself that you’re doing well enough to deserve your job, a tough job. Maybe if you say that aloud, with feeling, every time you’re feeling crappy about yourself, you'll start to change your memory neurons and move toward self-acceptance, with your beauty marks and your warts. Every rose has its thorns. Honestly, do you think that will help?

CALLER: I do. It’s not the sort of thing I’ve been saying to myself.

MN: You sound like you have plenty to be proud of. Maybe for the next few days, just try that, perhaps replacing some of those limitless striving neurons with self-acceptance neurons. It certainly has no negative side effects.

CALLER: I will definitely do that. Thank you.

MN: I have a lot of respect for people like her—who work hard. The great accomplishers do a lot of beating themselves up, worrying they’re not good enough. I’m more worried about people who don’t accomplish much but keep rationalizing it, the complacent types.

Marty Nemko's bio is in Wikipedia.