Why Do We Doubt Ourselves?
It is often said that “change is good”, and “new things are exciting”. But I would have to disagree, because three months ago I started a new job.
Maybe disagree is a harsh word. But I can definitely conclude that the above statements are entirely subjective. Quite frankly, there is nothing “good” about not knowing how to do anything in your new environment. And there is nothing “exciting” about being entirely useless without the guidance of the person training you.
Or at least, this was my way of thinking prior to becoming independent, after a long, tiring, and frustrating three months’ probation.
For weeks on end, I would watch my coworkers as they performed their daily financial retail tasks. I looked on as they would open their tills, close their tills, and balance their tills by counting and ensuring all the money was there. They would “request money from the safe”, “float money back to the safe”, and a whole bunch of things that I had a hard time believing I would ever really understand how to do.
Despite dying to be on my own, so that I too could do all the financial retail stuff, and having a sickening desire to be free to work without someone peering over my shoulder, there were a lot of things I was dreading doing without someone leading the way.
The truth is, I’m always the girl that knows what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Every job I’ve ever had I’ve mastered in just under a month. My social skills and urgency to learn and be independent is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing when you are free to flourish, a curse when seniority is priority.
So you can only imagine the horror of waking up every day and heading to this job where each shift lasts 8 hours and you’re the youngest one there. Every day you learn something new, not from an organized manual but from someone whispering “by the way” to you every time you mess up.
If there is one word that just about sums up the last three months of my life-in-training, the word would be “humbling”.
According to the dictionary, the definition of humbling is:
“Marked by meekness or modesty in behavior, attitude, or spirit; not arrogant or prideful.”
I’ve come to learn that humbling experiences are often the things we fall upon by chance. Striking up a conversation with a stranger whose life tells a completely different story than yours can be humbling. Being the victim of a natural disaster can be humbling. Starting a new job and being rather disabled, in the sense that you are at an absolute disadvantage in terms of knowledge and ability can be, rather, is very, very humbling.
This last week, I had a closing shift. My heart didn’t start racing at lightning speed until I realized that for the first time, I was the only one closing. Usually my manager partnered me with a senior teller, but this time, it was just me.
Closing, prior to recent, was hands-down the sum of all my fears. I had dreaded this shift from the very first day I watched as my trainer shut down the store, while still serving customers, and held the responsibility of thousands and thousands of dollars at once.
Despite being a bit familiar with the process, although I still felt it to be a foreign territory, I was entirely unprepared when my manager said:
“Tuesday you’re closing by yourself. No one will be in the store with you. Are you ready?”
“No,” the voice in my head said. “Yes,” I said out loud.
So on Tuesday evening, I stared at the clock. Time went by so slow. But one thing I know about time is that it never goes slowly enough to make the moment you are counting down to never happen.
Be it the death of someone you are dreading letting go of, your wedding, or the birth of your first child. The moment always arrives.
Right before my last coworker left, she looked back at me and said,
“Hey Steph, don’t worry. You can do it.”
When she said that, I eased up a bit. Actually, I eased up a lot.
For so long, I felt like I really could do it. But I felt incomplete without having a certain threshold of self-doubt.
Truthfully, these were the words that echoed in my head all day long. In fact, they had echoed in my head for the months leading up to this Tuesday. But for some reason, I hadn’t been able to relax the way I was able to when the words were said in another person’s voice.
That night, I closed the store perfectly, and on my own. I ran into no hiccups, no bumps in the road, no alarms went off, and I wasn’t escorted home, to the hospital, or to my grave in an ambulance. (Don’t ask why I imagined this being the end of my night, my imagination is quite vivid)
I wrote down a list of 5 steps that simplified the closing process for me. A list that I, and only I could understand. Essentially, a list that would get the job done.
I followed each step, making sense of my messy handwriting, mish-mashed sentences, and strange order of preference.
And I did it.
Driving home that night, I thought about my experience. I reflected on how I felt now that I had done the one thing that I influenced myself to believe that I couldn’t do on my own.
I had come to realize that we doubt ourselves for two potential reasons. The first reason being because if we doubt ourselves and succeed, we are extra surprised. The second reason being if we doubt ourselves and fail, we’re not surprised at all because we didn’t believe we could do it in the first place.
Really, I’m not sure why I doubted myself. But I am sure that as I watched the time go by, so, so slowly that day, I wasn’t afraid.
Anxious, maybe. But not afraid.
Deep down inside, I knew that I could do it. I had my list of 5 steps. I had my messy handwriting to guide me all the way through. But moreover, I had faith in myself.
The main objective at my work is twofold. The first thing is to keep the customers happy. This means being happy yourself. Emitting an energy that is welcoming, genuine, and reflective of how we feel inside. The second thing is to balance.
When you think about it, it sounds a lot like life.
Be happy. And be balanced.
And when I left that night, I was not one penny short. I was not one penny over. I “balanced to the T”, as my coworkers call it, a phrase which I now use and understand. As a matter of fact, I use and understand all the phrases I once didn’t.
In life, you have to find your way. Sometimes people will show you the ropes, other times you’ll find them for yourself, and in some instances, you might have to form your own ropes, attach them to the appropriate places, and just swing like Tarzan in the jungle.
But if you find your own way, and believe in yourself, at least partially, then don’t you think you will succeed?
It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s definitely okay to need it. You can’t expect to be a master of everything, because you can’t become a master without being a novice at one point.
It’s even okay to doubt yourself. Especially if you only doubt yourself to get twice the surprise when you succeed. But it’s not okay to doubt yourself and plan, expect, or hope to fail simply because it’s easy.
And really, failure is always the easy option.
That’s why people give up. That’s why people quit. And that’s why people walk away.
Because it’s not always easy to believe.
Things take time. I know a lot more than I did three months ago, and a lot less than I will three months from now.
But one thing I knew long before three months ago, and one thing I will know long after three more months pass is that I can do it.
I can do anything, really.
I am just as able as another person, perhaps even more able than another person, simply because I believe. I didn’t always, but I do now. And that’s about the only tool I need in my toolbox. That's about the only tool anyone will ever need in their toolbox.