27 Jun 2024

A fine line between acceptance and denial

I messed something up at work. This is a kind of mistake that I seem to keep repeating. It hasn’t been easy to forgive myself and move on. At one point, I started thinking if I should leave this job and move to a different team. “I am not anyway good at the skills needed for this role,” I thought, “so why not just find a different role?”

I have done this before—moving to a different role that aligns better with my existing skills. But in recent months, I have been thinking about the concept of “I”. In particular, the descriptions we give ourselves such as, “I am good at math,” “I am not very good with people,” etc. I have been trying to separate actions and behaviours from the person. Because of this, I almost immediately rejected my assumption/description that I was not great at my current job.

We change over time. I have gotten better at things that I was not very good at. I have started liking things that I used to dislike. It is only temporary that certain things are hard to do. I can get better if I tried. Understanding this has, thankfully, stopped the “I am bad at this” narrative in my own mind. However, now I am stuck at the next stop.

I agree this is just a skill. I agree I can get better at my current role. But why should I get better? Why not just take up tasks that don’t require so much effort?

What is preventing me from putting in the effort to get better? Hard to tell for sure, but 2 things come to my mind:

  1. Fear of failure. In the past, I have shied away from new things because (unconsciously) I was afraid to fail. If I never try something, I never fail at it, right?
  2. It feels futile. The “I don’t need to do this to prove my adequacy” narrative.

While reason #2 may sound like acceptance, it is, in fact, denial. Earnest attempts to improve requires accepting that there is room for improvement. Thinking “I am fine as I am” is denial. If I truly thought I was fine, I wouldn’t be brooding over the mistake I made at work.

Such denials are a hindrance for growth. But the good news is, awareness is (almost) all we need for shaking off such denials.

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