A girlfriend of mine worked on a big volunteer project recently, kudos! Lots of unpaid hours went into it. As well as things went, there were still a few glitches, one that led to her dealing with a particularly ungracious guest. Here’s what she said afterward:

Are You On Your Team?!

Are You On Your Team?!

 “I wasn’t even on my own team.”

While my friend handled her guest well, she judged herself for what she thought was her mistake. What she said to herself (the negative self-talk) made the situation worse. How did I miss this? I am so embarrassed! I am terrible at this. I failed. 

Taking responsibility for a situation or accepting blame are two totally different decisions we can make when handling a challenging situation. 

The words we use to the outside and to ourselves can make a huge difference in the experience of it all. 

Have you ever judged and blamed yourself — felt shame, guilt and inadequacy — before knowing the whole story? In my 20-plus years of counseling and career work, I’ve seen this happen a lot, especially by those who go to great lengths to please others.

People pleasing is one of the Giveaway Girl dilemmas.

Are you hating your job today? Perhaps you are doing or thinking in ways that are sure to make you feel less worthy, stress you out, and take away your ability to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Negative self-talk (NST) might be part of the problem. NST is quite productive in all the wrong ways. As described above, it can leave you feeling down in the dumps. It can also fuel the fires of resentment.

Resentment NST statements that make matters worse
“Why does so and so get to do that and I don’t?”
“F that. I hate this place!”
“I can’t believe they expect me to do_____”
“Such assholes!”

Feeling resentful once in a while is understandable considering the high level of work and personal stress people handle every day. Mistakes will happen for everyone at some point. However, if you are reading into every situation as an opportunity to hate your company, your boss or your coworkers, you are generating strong negative energy, stress and maybe even hostility. Spreading misery to others is just as hurtful as holding it all in. More later.

So, if you are doing nothing to stop yourself from feeling resentful and hostile, it will just cause more and more negativity in your life. Either get a new job, or change your thoughts about the job. In the meantime, try to catch yourself when you are thinking so negatively, and add a positive statement to lighten the load, or think of a neutralizing statement.

On the other hand, negative self-talk can make you feel down.

Self-defeating statements that make matters worse
“How did I miss this? I am so embarrassed!”
“I am terrible at this.”
“Why am I here?”
“I am a failure.”

Through no fault of your own, you may feel like an island where you work. You may work in an unhealthy culture where leadership and teamwork are lacking. Remember, you still have one person on your team who is a VIP. That’s you. Mistakes will happen, and problems will arise, no matter how hard you work.

Neutral statements that make matters better
If situations are challenging and stressful and problems come up, start with neutral approaches such as:
“Let’s get this problem fixed before we discuss it any further, okay?”
“Wow. This is a definite issue that I will look into and get back to you on, once I have more information.”
“I can see that you are upset. Let’s figure out a solution.”
“Here’s a way to resolve this…”

Neutral statements are usually helpful: for you, for others. They project a steadying, problem-solving attitude.

Coping with the challenges: How are you treating yourself? Others?

We get up and start each day with a set of coping tools—some good, some maybe not so good. Our coping tools are shaped by our life experiences, including how we grew up.

Once we’ve been pressed and pressured to our limits, we find we’ve exhausted our ability to cope. This is when situations begin falling apart by way of hostility, backstabbing, gossiping and the myriad other ways people act out when they’ve reached their personal breaking point. Just think about the unhappy (I don’t mean depressed) people you know, what they do, and the circumstances in which other people are hurt or negatively affected.

What can you do?

First, if work stress is weighing heavily on you, keeping you from sleeping at night or pushing relentless negativity, see if your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP provides a professional you can talk to about what’s going on. You can also pursue help on your own through a licensed counselor. Second, tune in to your support network, the people closest to you in whom you can trust to listen and who can help with the responsibilities you have outside of your work challenges. Third, take care of yourself first and give up trying to control what’s going on at work, a lot of which is really out of your control.