Tag Archives: self esteem

The workplace that almost completely ruined my life

For a long time I’ve been in a work situation that’s not suited me but I’m the type of person who just likes to keep my head down and get on with it. I don’t like to be noticed and my work is not my life so, I thought, if I could just go to work, get my work done and come home, I would be ok.

But things started to build up.

My GP asks me to keep a migraine diary and I realise I was getting a migraine at work every day that meant I was driving home with one putting myself and other road users at risk!

One of my colleagues said “I think you’re being bullied”, it took me aback, but thinking about it this was probably because, the person doing it was so manipulative I couldn’t quite admit what was happening.

I took on other people’s work (more senior than me), I wasn’t thanked by them, nor did I feel boosted, I felt more and more down trodden every single day.

I thought my request for reasonable adjustments was…reasonable but I was made to feel as though I was asking for the earth!

Occupational health asked for the same reasonable adjustments and pointed out I was covered by the equality act but still no adjustments were made.

I’d go into meetings feeling confident and come out feeling disrespected, belittled and devalued.

I started to open up about the struggles I was having to senior management but I ended up feeling incredibly vulnerable and felt like this was then actually being used against me.

This was jus the tip of the iceberg! Things build up slowly over time but little by little the toxic environment takes its toll!

No matter what part you play in an organisation, my opinion is that everyone has the right to be valued, but I felt as though I was being treated like the lowest of the low.

It wasn’t that my employers were passive un-listeners, it appeared that they actively had their fingers in their ears and were saying “no-no, we do not want to know about your needs, your needs are not important to us, it would be better for us if you didn’t have needs.”

I needed support but I felt like they didn’t care whether I was there or not, it felt like I meant nothing to them, it felt like they were saying “you are nothing” and the longer it went on, I started to believe it.

My self esteem has ended up in the gutter.

Something had to change!

I tried desperately to manage things from the inside, I had my union rep on my side. I had my GP advising me on what was best for my health and (eventually) I had occupational health recommending reasonable adjustments as I’m covered by the Equality Act.

Lady suffocating in plastic

But what do you do if at every turn, no matter how reasonable I am with my requests, I’m left feeling as though I’m banging my head against a brick wall?! At points, it felt like I was saying “please can I have air to breath?” and Senior Management replied, “It’s raining today.” Their sentence was accurate but completely unrelated to my request and made no attempt to solve the ongoing difficulties I faced.

I was left absolutely bewildered as to why they wouldn’t support my needs.

There are 3 main causes of workplace stress:

  • A mis-match in skills/knowledge—this is why the application/interview process is so important to match the correct people to the correct role. I may be highly over qualified for the role but I’ve managed this in previous roles by my unique capabilities being valued in other ways. I felt like the skills I offered at interview were ignored and I was left feeling completely exhausted by how they treated me.
  • Lack of support—no matter what level of the organisation you’re at, we all need support. I felt like, if I kept quiet all was fine but as soon as I found my voice (to ask for support), I was severely reprimanded.
  • Lack of control—autonomy is something humans desire for the good of their health. Organisations can become so process driven, they forget about the people doing those processes. I felt like a very small cog in a machine that wasn’t working very well. I have no problem being a small cog but sometimes I had ideas about efficiency or improving the process, not only was I ignored, I was made to feel as though I really shouldn’t have stepped out of line.

At one point, I attended a meeting to ask for reasonable adjustments, recommended by occupational health to be put in place. They were denied. I was slowly starving to death but the “choice” I was then given felt similar to being offered the one food to which I was allergic. Seriously, how was I meant to choose?!

Returning to work after some time off sick I was actually grieving after but I felt I had to hide this due to lack of support. Because I’m such a hard worker, no one noticed. I should never have been in this position!

At times, I wondered if I was losing my mind. Because of my disability I have specific needs. I was asked to work in conditions that I’d explained were inappropriate for me. It felt like my employers were deliberately trying to make my working conditions so impossible that I would choose to leave. Would they really do that? Surely not?!

The current climate is not one in which finding a new job is easy, believe me, I applied to 10s of job and went to a near equal number of interviews! Whenever I was given feedback it was always “we really liked you, there was just someone with a bit more experience…” or similar.

I found it really hard to pick myself up after each interview. My workplace were grinding me down, my self esteem was no where to be seen and at each interview I just wasn’t quite good enough. It’s really hard to go to the next interview and persuade them “I am good enough”!

I even began to wonder, if there’s something wrong with me, even if I move workplace, I will take the problem with me, I will still be treated badly in the next place…

But, I have found a new job and it is with some really wonderful people. The are friendly and kind, I have been made to feel welcome and, although I am a very small cog in a machine, I am already feeling valued.

Reflection: Called to be humble

Being humble isn’t about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less.

Being humble is not about being right but being concerned with what is right.

Being humble is about appreciating team attributes, recognising contribution or promoting others rather than promoting self and wanting recognition.

Of course, most people can recognise humbleness is an admirable quality but we can all be a bit introspective, push our personal ideals and want to be recognised at times, we’re only human; anyone who denies struggling with humbleness is only deceiving themselves!

As someone who has frequent brushes with depression, my self-esteem is pretty poor at the best of times, that is – I think very little of myself. I sometimes find myself looking to others for approval or gratification because I struggle to know if what I’m doing is good enough or if who I am is acceptable but I know, through years of therapy, that seeking this from outside is unhelpful and generally, unfruitful. With a low self esteem, I’ve also unfortunately neglected my needs because I think I’m not worthy of care etc. But therapy has taught me it’s in these times when self care is most important. Self compassion and self care isn’t, as one fears, self indulgence, but in fact a vital part of keeping oneself healthy.

I have a quiet unassuming character and time after time what I do goes unnoticed, what I say gets forgotten or attributed to others, the polite requests I make are unfulfilled, for hours at a time even my existence is ignored even if there have been opportunities to notice me. At times my needs have been neglected (even if I’ve had the rare confidence to state them) to such an extent that I don’t know if it’s reasonable to ask for my needs to be met anymore. I have a strange belief about myself that to take up space or to be seen is improper so maybe I bring this treatment on myself? But, to be continuously treated like this, is it any surprise I think nothing of myself?

I frequently have the experience of someone asking a group of people a question, I answer the question but they continue repeating the question; it seems as though they’re more concerned with listening to themselves asking the question than they are the answer! Once someone (else) has managed to get them to listen to the answer, it’s rarely recognised that I answered the question the first time. I feel frustrated that I had the rare confidence to open my mouth and I needn’t have bothered; but if I was humble this wouldn’t matter.

People are so used to me blending into the background and going unnoticed, I was assertive a couple of times a few months ago in a environment where I’m not usually and this was so shocking to the people involved I’m still feeling the unpleasant after-quakes today!

Of course, this is not my only experience, there are plenty of people in this world who care about me and notice me – by default – if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably someone who cares, so I’ll use this opportunity to say thank you! This blog isn’t about having a go at the people who forget about me because, obviously they won’t be reading this! Most of them won’t even know I can write, let alone have a fairly successful blog; most of them, if they know my name, they won’t have a clue how important it is to me to spell my name correctly – to those who do, thank you!

Being humble is easier if your self-esteem is intact. I’ve been reflecting on humbleness and wondering where it fits in with my low self esteem. If I think so little of myself, how do I also think of myself less? How do I balance the self care and compassion that’s necessary to ensure I don’t neglect myself but then make sure I think of myself less?! I think the optimum word here is balance.

Being humble is also easier if other people notice you! But we can’t confuse humbleness with false modesty. Bringing up your contributions and achievements, so that you can be modest and humble about them is not the way to go! My naturally quiet character means other people won’t have a clue I’m being humble, but that’s not what being humble is about.

If I’ve managed to balance my self esteem issues, somehow and I’m now considering how being humble fits with other people – if I’m feeling forgotten and trodden on, if others are promoting themselves over and above me, as they do (because they’re more confident or down right arrogant) do I add to this and show appreciation for their attributes? Another one to ponder! Maybe it’s not about comparisons but simply about appreciating what is right.

So, while writing this, it happened again, I felt forgotten; in this moment I considered pointing out the work I’d done but it only took me a second to stop myself and realise I was looking for recognition from other people. I took a breath and realised, as a Christian, I’m called to be humble, it’s not just a nice-to-have. But, even when it’s hard, what helped me in that moment was that I remembered that God knows every action and every inaction of everyone on Earth. He knows how hard I work, he loves me just the way I am; he knows I wasn’t being humble in that second but he also knew I stopped myself and realised that humbleness was more important than recognition.

I’d worked incredibly hard and had been forgotten again. Recognition would be nice, yes, I felt hurt, I felt crushed, I felt let down, but in this moment, I chose to be humble and by turning to God in my pain, I’m choosing to deepen my relationship with him.

God made me, just the way I am, I’m a grafter, not many people know what I do or how hard I work and I certainly don’t get the gratitude most people would expect. But what makes it all worth it is that, I can turn to God and he knows exactly what I’m going through. Being a Christian isn’t about having an easy life, it’s about having a human life, serving the will of God in relationship with Jesus Christ.

Multiple speech bubbles

Thinking about suicide? Are you stupid?

TW – Trigger Warning – suicide theme.

Apologies – this title is deliberately provocative. Please be reassured, this is a carefully considered blog looking at the language used when talking about suicide.

I was recently listening to a podcast where someone was talking about their experience of mental illness and they said this:

People say “did you want to commit suicide?”, well, yes, I did want to but I never, I was never at a point where I was stupid enough to think that if I go then my family and stuff is just gonna be like, “oh well, he was alright weren’t he, let’s crack on”. I always knew that, even when I was in my lowest places.”

(We’ll gloss over the fact that “commit” suicide is no longer used since that’s related to when it was a crime, there was a disclaimer at the beginning of the podcast apologising for this language!)

I know he’s not suggesting suicidal thoughts are stupid, he’s admitting he had them, but he appears to be showing a lack of understanding about what actually happens inside the mind of someone when they’re seriously contemplating suicide and it’s language like this that perpetuates the stigma surrounding suicide.

I know it was probably a flippant, off the cuff remark and I don’t want to target him but I feel when talking on a podcast, you’re in a position of influence and I want to use this example to talk about the wider subject, we all need to carefully consider the language we use.

When someone’s mental illness is so severe that suicide feels like the only option, they have got to a point where their mind is not able to think with their usual clarity and logic. From an outside perspective we can see plenty of reasons to stay alive but the chemicals in their brain have altered in such a way that their thoughts are not their own.

When in the depths of depression, your mind persuades you that your family and friends would be better off without you. You may think you’re a burden or you’ve become a person no one would want to live with. So, far from it being a stupid thought, it feels prudent to consider your impact on others and take yourself out of the picture.

The pain of depression has been described, by some, as one of the worst pains a human being can experience. Suicide is not just as easy way out but it may feel like the only option to escape the unending agony.

It’s incredibly sad to think about a person at such a low point but I’m being blunt about the reality because this is how powerful the mind is, it grinds down your self esteem and suicide feels like a legitimate (even logical) way out.

Speech bubbles with question marks in

Sometimes suicide is spoken about as selfish, as though the person is only thinking about the relief they will gain, that they are not considering the hole they will leave behind. Knowing incredibly beautiful, compassionate people who’ve died by suicide, selfish, is not a word I was use to describe them.

If you find yourself feeling anger or bitterness towards a loved one who’s died at their own hands, this is natural; it may feel logical to consider them selfish to have escaped the situation, leaving you to pick up the pieces. I’m not saying your feelings are wrong, if you’re feeling them, by nature of the fact they exist, they are acceptable. However, it may be helpful to consider whether these feelings are keeping you stuck and whether forgiveness maybe a step you need to consider in order to free yourself.

I have also heard people say they “don’t have the guts” to complete suicide. It is very unhelpful to use this language. Talking from experience, it is difficult to think about deliberately putting yourself through pain but, as previously explained, thinking clearly and logically are not possible at this point. It can feel as though it takes bravery but when I’ve got to the point of carrying out a violent act, it’s been a case of reluctantly giving up the fight for life and giving in to the voices telling me to end my life. This was not in a passive way, but in an active “I can finally take some action, do something about my situation, to make it better for everyone”.

It did not take bravery or guts, nor was it selfish, it was simply a symptom of my mental illness.

I know, we will all, on occasion, be clumsy with our language, make mistakes and say things that are less than sensitive, I know I will! But it’s important we’re open to considering how our language impacts others and how we can improve what we say to lessen stigma and improve communication.

If you, or someone you know, is feeling suicidal or expressing suicidal thoughts, please seek help from your GP or other care provider. In the UK, you can call the Samaritans on 116123.