1st July 2020

The Lies We Tell Ourselves: What’s Holding you Back from Making Your Job Work for You?

You’ve probably had a conversation with a friend or coworker where they’ve told you they’d really like to take action, but they’re just “too much in their heads.” Or that they’d really like to do something you or someone else has done, but they just don’t know if they could manage it. Many of these conversations stem from the lies that we tell ourselves every day. The biggest four are these: “What if I’m not good enough?” “It didn’t work out last time, there’s no way it will work out now.” “I can control everything if I work hard enough.” “I can’t ask for recognition.”

As Rachel Hollis, New York Times bestselling author would say: Girl.

These lies are stopping you. They’re holding you back. They aren’t letting you be happy in your current job, in your current life. More than that, they aren’t letting you optimize that life. So we’re going to address each one and consider ways that we can really overcome the lies to move forward.

“What if I’m not good enough?”

This is the big one. Let’s start by considering the origin of this lie. It starts when we’re young, with a kid at school making fun of us for not doing as well as they did on a test. Or maybe it starts with a nitpicky parent. And then it festers. You see when we hear this lie extrinsically confirmed for the first time in our lives, it usually comes from someone we care about and trust. And we are usually young. We haven’t developed the skills or the maturity to deal with this lie, so we accept it at face value.

And then, we keep hearing it. We hear it from the college professor who says that “girls tend to struggle in this class” and then again from the boss who says our “ideas are a little derivative” and then again when we’re passed over for a promotion. Over and over again we hear that we aren’t good enough, and eventually, we have no choice but to believe it. Really.

I can’t tell you with one article or one book or two articles or ten books that you are good enough. I can’t make you believe that. What I can do is tell you that there are ways to reinforce to yourself how good you are. Because you are. I’m here to tell you that you are worthy. You are good enough.

And you’re looking for tools. The biggest thing that you can do to reinforce how good you are is to start allowing yourself to recognize it. I have advised clients to come up with one thing they did well that day at every stoplight on the way home from work. This can look different ways though. You could simply sit down and make a list of ten victories every night. You could come up with something you did well today every time you have a negative thought about yourself. Or you could stick with the tried and true stoplight method. Whatever works for you. The point is, you need to recognize how capable you are. That confidence is just about the only thing that really lets you to slam the door on this icky and painful lie the next time it comes knocking on your door.

“It didn’t work out last time, there’s no way it will work out now.”

This lie is the one that I absolutely can’t stand to hear. Okay, so it didn’t work last time. You’re a little older and wiser now than you were then. It’s time to try again.

I get it, sometimes you try and it just seems like there’s no way the issue can be resolved. That is a painful and difficult reality. But you’ve got to keep hoping for something better. You’d be amazed by how much you can do with a glass half full outlook. More than basic optimism though, you need to overcome this lie because it holds you back from even trying, and you can’t let fear hold you back that way.

The best way to overcome this is by trying again. However, since the lie is pretty strongly discouraging you from doing that, my recommendation is to make a pros and cons list. You’ll probably find that the pros are numerous and the cons are that there is a potential that nothing changes. There might be more than one con, but if you distill what you have on that side of the list, you’ll find that that’s all it really says. If the only con is that there’s a chance that nothing changes, you’ve got your answer: you have to try because if you don’t try at all you guarantee missing out on all the pros.

“I can control everything if I work hard enough.”

So you’re juggling two jobs and grad school and raising three kids and maintaining a healthy romantic relationship. You’re looking around and seeing that every other mom at the school seems to be making it work. You’re thinking, I’m just not working hard enough.

You are. And I’m here to tell you, chances are good that they’re feeling that exact same way about you. Here’s the deal: not a single one of us is able to juggle this much seamlessly. Working hard has absolutely nothing to do with it.

When you’re looking for ways to change things up and make your job work for you, make sure you aren’t striving for an ideal that doesn’t even exist. Chances are, your job will work better for you if you accept that there simply aren’t circumstances in which you can control every aspect of your life. We overcome this lie the second we accept our own humanity.

“I can’t ask for recognition.”

This last lie is often the most painful. We feel stuck because even though we know what needs to change, we feel like we’ll lose respect if we seek it.

Here’s the deal: if you tell people exactly what you want, then there’s no guesswork. People will appreciate this. It might feel like you’re being demanding or annoying, but the fact of the matter is that if you know what will make you the most efficient, happiest, and most effective person and employee, then asking for what you need to make those things happen is a true service to your employer. If they can’t see that, then it might be that the best way to make your job work for you is finding a new job. That’s okay too.

Once you’ve overcome these four lies, you’ll be well on your way to owning your job, loving your job, and making your job work for you. Let’s go!


Ready to learn more about your Productivity Style and productivity best practices that will work for you? Click here for our Productivity Style Assessment.


Carson serves as a consultant to executives at Fortune 500 companies. The author of Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, her views have been included in Bloomberg Businessweek, Fast Company, Forbes, Harvard Business Review blog, and The New York Times.