A few weeks ago I went to a short lecture about passion in the workplace. I had one of those „aha“ moments during this lecture, and following it I started to realize and accept some things that have been holding me back for a long time.
Since I was a little girl (well, smaller), I’ve had this inferiority complex. I always felt that other people were better than me in all ways. I always felt that I was less of a person than others, that other people’s opinions and actions were better, bigger and stronger than mine. I had this paralyzing fear that other people were always criticizing me, my actions and what I said and did. I feared that nothing I did or said was ever good enough, that I was dumber than everyone else. If someone was laughing or whispering close by I always believed they were mocking me because of something that I did, that I said something stupid or that it was for how I looked or behaved.
I didn’t believe in myself. Nothing that I did was ever good enough. As I grew older I gained a bit more confidence in myself but this inferiority complex never went away. It was always there, strong, and followed me into adulthood. And it affected me a lot at work.
This complex often made me feel horrible at work. In my mind I would never be as good a programmer as the others and I always feared that my colleagues looked at me as a less capable programmer. Or even an incompetent one. Yeah that’s it. I looked at myself as an incompetent programmer.
At this lecture I mentioned earlier about passion in the workplace, we discussed how passion works, how it can be earned or created and how some things or feelings can decrease the passion.
Then it hit me – my inferiority complex killed my passion!
In college some teachers noticed that I handled every work assignment related to computers very well so I took a course in programming and I thought it was fun, creative and interesting. It fitted me well and I enjoyed myself. I had a passion for creativity and envisioned that computer science would be a fun and creative profession. So I decided to learn computer science in the university.
In the university I made a lot of friends and acquaintances, a lot of great and intelligent people. And then it started! The complex hit me hard during the time in university. Surrounded by brilliant, fantastic people I always felt inferior to them. My passion for the profession decreased but I still graduated (I think mainly because of my stubbornness which is another story) and started working in the field.
I worked as a programmer at a few workplaces for a long time and had really good colleagues. All really nice people and a lot of them total geniuses in their field. But as my colleagues were more brilliant, my complex grew stronger and I felt worse. I was always comparing myself to them and I always put myself at least ten levels lower than them. I was never good enough and I always feared what they thought of me. Even though I was delivering good work I never felt it was good enough and I always felt bad. At one point I felt so bad that I started to see a psychologist who specialized in work-related issues. At that time my supervisor was a real genius. The psychologist tried to tell me that it was not fair of me to compare myself to him, as he had a lot more experience than me. I should rather embrace his brilliance and consider myself lucky to have the opportunity to learn from his actions and grow from the experience. But despite the psychologist’s efforts to open my eyes and even though this superior told me he was really happy with my work, my complex had grown too strong over the years and in my opinion, nothing I did was ever good enough. I never gained any confidence in the workplace. I just felt horrible.
This inferiority complex killed my passion. Cold-bloodedly killed my passion for this profession and it got to the point that I just couldn’t revive it. Without the passion I didn’t have the interest in re-educating myself and updating my knowledge in this constantly progressing profession. That led to the feeling that I was always getting further and further away from my colleagues regarding knowledge, experience and skills. Which made me feel even worse.
So what then?
For a long time I wondered what I could do. I wanted to change professions but I didn’t have any idea what it could be. I considered quitting my job as a programmer and just working as a clerk in a bakery or a toy store (both of which I have done before so I knew I would enjoy it) while I was figuring things out, but that was hard since the gap in salary was too big and my responsibilities and the economic conditions didn’t really allow me that at the time. So I felt I was stuck. But I still kept trying to find my new passion.
At one time I learned how to make hard candy. I loved it and started to hold seminars myself in hard candy making. Then I opened up an online shop selling supplies for making hard candy, which I did in my free time. But that shop didn’t appeal to me so I gave that away. I did enjoy the seminars, though, but not to the point of doing that for a living. But I have the knowledge today and if I want I know I can do a lot of those seminars – and I know that I’m good at it.
Another idea of mine was event planning, focusing on wedding planning. I bought a few books on how to become a wedding planner and really threw myself in. I registered in a school for event planning and got accepted but for a few good reasons I didn’t go. I really do have a passion for planning events and really enjoy everything about it and enjoy myself every time I get to organize small events whether it’s at work, for friends, my childrens birthdays etc. Maybe I will follow that passion more later but this was not the time.
Yet another thing that I was really passionate about for some time was to be a goldsmith. I went to two courses where I worked with silver, made myself some jewellery and really enjoyed myself. I was determined to apply for the school but after a while the profession got less interesting to me. I still enjoy making simple jewellery at home and I would really like to have the opportunity to make more fine jewellery but I don’t think anymore that I would like to make it into a profession of mine.
Now let’s get back to my inferiority complex and me working as a programmer. The complex was eating me up inside. In 2012 it came to the point I was starting to lose myself. I had gone through a few really big and difficult situations in a short time and at that point my mask fell off. The mask that I had on to try and hide my distress. My colleagues started to notice that I was not happy, I wasn’t smiling anymore. My work got more sloppy and more bugs came out of my code (I used to be „the one that takes a little bit longer time to deliver but delivers bug-free code“ – and of course I couldn’t accept that as a good thing). I started to take sick days to just stay at home and when it got to the point that I didn’t have any sick days left, I started to fall apart.
In January 2013 I took one sick day for myself. I was really losing it at that point and decided that I had to do something about this immediately. Since I didn’t have the interest in working in this profession anymore, since my passion for it was dead, I needed to find something else ASAP!
I started looking around and then it came to me. A Facebook status update from my friend and former employer who was seeking a service manager for a temporary position, while the current service manager was on maternity leave. I thought about this for a week and then I decided to take a chance (yes I needed a week to think and weigh my options). I applied for the job and on January 31st I got it, and gave my resignation at my old job. It was time for me to take a leap of faith! In April I started my new job and it turned out that this was not a temporary position, since the employee I was filling in for would be taking on another position when she came back from the leave.
I still work there today and I really really love my job. I’m still technically working in the profession though I’m not programming myself, since this is a company which designs and builds websites. So my experience as a computer scientist is helpful. My experience from my work in JCI (Junior Chamber International) is also really helpful and I’m constantly learning new things. I look forward to showing up to work every day and the day passes by way too fast. If it weren’t for my family I would spend a lot more time at work – I wouldn’t mind being there in the evening or at weekends. But that time is for my family and I don’t want to give that up. My days are never the same and the job is diverse, creative, challenging, there is a lot of interpersonal communication and the job fulfills so many of my passions. I have some experience to build from and I have a passion to evolve in the job. I love my job and I feel good! I feel passionate about my work!
My inferiority complex is still there but it hasn’t affected me much in this job. And since I have now figured it out, I now know that it’s there, I can develop ways to identify it, overcome it and build myself up as a better person with more confidence in myself. It is my strong belief that well-being, both physical and emotional, is the most important thing of all – that you feel good at home, at work, in everything that you do. That you enjoy your life. It comes before everything else because it’s difficult to help or influence others when you don’t feel well yourself.
I certainly don’t regret my past even though I’ve gone through some times that I’ve felt really bad. I can’t change my past, it’s much better to learn from the past and look forward to the future. In the past I’ve met a lot of great and fantastic people and made friends that I might not have if my life would have been different. I would never want to change that! How my future turns out is completely up to me!
It may not be easy to find your passion but I encourage you to keep trying. If you are lacking passion at your workplace, you don’t necessarily need to change careers. My problem and complex may have been too deep for me to have continued in my former job but you might find your passion in your current work with small changes in your habits, assignments you receive or even just a little change of perception on things. If I had recognized my true problem sooner, maybe things would have turned out differently and I would have developed as a programmer and kept that passion.
I encourage you to find what makes you feel good. Find your passion. It will affect you positively and it will affect others around you positively. Imagine how the world would be if everyone was happy… start with yourself and spread the happiness 🙂