It’s not something we often hear people admit. “I’m bad at my job” isn’t something your friends bring up over text. It’s always other people who are bad at their jobs—never us.
These other people are usually incompetent wait staff who get your order wrong on purpose. Or they’re your obnoxious coworker who never does their job. You, meanwhile, are the person who’s worked hard for your job, who is great at what you do, and who doesn’t get enough recognition for it.
Not me. I’m bad at my job.
I’m not proud of it. It’s a huge source of shame that I carry around with me. I want to do better, and actively work toward learning to be better. But at the end of the day, I often feel overwhelmed, confused, and unable to remember things that I’ve been told countless times.
I’m an intelligent person. I did well in school, and I have skill sets that make me truly accomplished. Unfortunately, those skills just aren’t called for in my workplace. I’m not sure what makes me feel worse—to know that I’m genuinely a hard worker and talented person who’s just in a field where I don’t flourish, or to know that I’m in a field where I don’t flourish because my talents and skills aren’t enough to get me into a field where I could.
Regardless, the result is the same: I leave each work day in a state of perpetual mortification, and quit the office with a feeling of dejection and overwhelming self-consciousness.
As someone who never struggled with self-esteem problems, entering the workforce has been a sobering experience. But there are positive things that have come out my job incompetence. I’ve learned to be far more patient with others. The employee at the opposing firm who hasn’t gotten me records yet might not be lazy—she’s probably just overwhelmed. The waitress who’s forgetting my drink order three times may be learning, or juggling nine other tables. I’ve become less arrogant. Before, I was always assured that I was in the right, and lived in a state of constant annoyance that others didn’t recognize that I knew what I was doing. Now that I actually don’t know what I’m doing, I live in perpetual shame of my earlier actions.
I’m learning to not tie my self-worth into my job performance, and remind myself that I’m better than the collating mistakes I make daily. I’m reevaluating my skill sets, and reconsidering what truly comes easy to me and where my actual skills lie. And most importantly, I’m constantly trying to learn, so that when I do find a job I’m successful and happy at. I might be bad at filing Motions or understanding legal jargon, but I’m a good writer, a better editor, and a great collaborator.
I took my current job when I was at the end of my rope in my own industry. I was burnt out, depressed, and doubting that I belonged. By taking a job so far out of my comfort zone, I tried something new. And even though I’ve failed at it, it’s reaffirmed that I did spend seven years of my life on the right track, that the writing industry is where my skills lie, and that I truly love it more than I realized.
I’m learning to accept my own failure, and acknowledge that failing is a lesson, not an embarrassment. I may break the fax machine again tomorrow, but at least I know I’m learning—and constantly working toward my larger goals.