Everyone feels insecure at different points in their career. When I first started my job, for example, I was nervous about doing well. When I began to take on more responsibilities, I was unsure of how many questions I could ask without annoying my boss. And when I went out for drinks, I was scared I’d say something dumb as the youngest team member.
The thing is, I’m probably not the only person who’s dealt with these moments of doubt, uncertainty, fear, and confusion. And I certainly won’t be the last.
So, if you’re worried your insecurities are showing at work, you should probably know you’re not alone in your thoughts.
1. Saying Something Dumb
As much as I’m concerned about bringing up something that will make me sound 12, most people fear the things they say (both in and out of the office) will make them look stupid, or unprofessional, or just plain weird.
No one’s perfect. We don’t always have the inclination to censor or rethink the things that come out of our mouth. Rather than worry about saying the wrong thing all the time, be proactive and learn how to reach when you do—whether that means apologizing, elaborating, or just brushing it off and making a joke out of it.
2. Having Zero Good Ideas
There’s nothing more terrifying than entering a meeting and having nothing to contribute (OK, there are bigger fears, but roll with me here). I mean, you don’t want to be that employee who “doesn’t add value.”
But great ideas come organically, not when they’re forced out of the need to feel included. Not having a good idea in the moment isn’t the end of the world. I promise your next big break is right around the corner.
3. Not Understanding Something
Maybe you’ve sat through a company meeting before, and as the speaker starts rambling off in buzzwords and abstract concepts, you nod your head in understanding, but secretly you’re thinking “What the Hell is he talking about?”
Well, just because everyone else is nodding their heads doesn’t mean they necessarily understand, either.
Which leads me to the best advice you’ll get all day—just ask. Mythbusters doesn’t need to tell you that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. The speaker’s probably thrilled to clear up confusion, meaning you’ll be able to institute the changes quicker, while also looking smarter, while also ensuring the entire team’s on the same page. Win-win-win-win.
4. Accidently Offending Someone
Sometimes, we say dumb things that can affect our reputation, and other times we say dumb things that actually offend people. If you’re afraid of hurting someone, that means you’re a good person—and shouldn’t be insecure about it.
But, for good measure, there are always fixes. Before you crack a joke in your next presentation in front of a group, you can ask one person to give you their honest opinion on it. If you sent out a memo that ended up upsetting your co-worker, you can apologize. And in general, you can avoid the situation altogether by staying away from sharing any comments that you’re unsure about.
5. Not Getting Everything Done on Time
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, it’s easy to assume that you’re the only person who can’t seem to get a grip on your workload.
The reality is that you’re just having an off day, and tomorrow or next week will get better.
And if it doesn’t seem to be improving, the smart thing to do is be honest with your team on what you can accomplish, and what you need help on (Psst—templates here for having that tough conversation).
6. Not Being Recognized for Your Work
After you’ve worked so hard on something, there’s nothing scarier than feeling like all that effort will go unnoticed (or worse, the credit will go to someone else).
A good manager and supportive team won’t let that happen—and there are even ways to subtly hint at ways for your co-workers to appreciate you.
And if this happens more often than not after you’ve made attempts to fix it, it’s unfortunately safe to say you might not be in the right workplace for you.
7. Getting Radio Silence After Sending an Email
Whether it’s a follow-up after speaking with an important client or an important email asking to speak with your manager about a potential raise, it’s pretty nerve-wracking to just sit around and wait—and even more stressful if they don’t respond right away.
The first question to ask yourself—if this happens a lot—is if you’re sending the right kinds of emails. Then, if you’re checking all the boxes, figure out if this is actually the best form to communicate with someone.
Maybe they’re more responsive over the phone or in person, or maybe they rarely check their inbox and prefer instant messaging. And finally, accept that some people are just bad at keeping up—and that’s not your fault.
8. Coming Across as a Wise-Ass/Pushover/Suck-up
No one wants to be seen as weak, obnoxious, or incompetent by their peers. The thing is, this all rides on you. You have the power to be liked and respected at work. Do your job to the best of your abilities, be nice and helpful to others, don’t miss deadlines, avoid gossip—and there’s no reason to ever worry about getting this label.
It’s normal to experience bouts of insecurity in your career. But if you’re getting positive feedback, being included in important decisions, and overall feel good about your work, there’s really nothing to worry about.