Just like everyone has experienced in any field, I’ve had some pretty freakin’ shitty days even at a job that I genuinely enjoy. These are the days where we feel like we can’t do anything right, where we receive negative comments from coworkers or maybe managers, where we look at the clock every two minutes hoping it is time to leave, or where we get on the computer to search “job opportunities for ______” because we’re upset, frustrated and “just want to work anywhere else but here.” It happens. It happens in every career, in every field, at every stage and at every age. Therefore, we need to find productive ways to cope with tough days at work. First, let’s change our perspective. We can look at the fact that this is going to happen throughout our lives in two ways. 1. This is how it is and each time it happens it’s just going to suck, or 2. This is an opportunity for growth and development within ourselves. Guess which one I’m continuing to work toward? YOU KNOW. Read on.
First off, I want to mention that #1 was my original coping method for the situation. I walked into my therapy appointment after a string of three challenging days on our unit. Quick context. I work at a child/adolescent inpatient psychiatric hospital. In this particular string of days, I had been caring for three 6- to 8-year-old children that were all at the unit for increased aggression at home and at school. I was told by a couple of coworkers that I handled two escalating situations poorly, I was having a difficult time helping these kiddos manage their anger, and the minutes on the clock felt like hours. I showed up to my appointment exhausted, hurting, and ashamed. Before my therapist could even ask how my day was, I burst into uncontrollable tears. I described my work week in detail which included my thoughts that maybe I wasn’t good enough for the job. Her response? “Did you do your best?” I looked at her in disbelief responding with, “what?” She kindly looked at me and repeated her question, “With your knowledge, resources, and experience, did you do what you were able to do today?” I knew exactly where she was going with this, and I think of this question every day that isn’t ideal. It’s simple. It’s easy. And it’s f&^%$in powerful.
As I stepped back, I realized that sometimes I get so wrapped up in what I need to do to be “perfect” at my job, what I need to do to be a “perfect” coworker, and what I need to do be a “perfect” role-model for the kids that I work with. I forget that I’m human. I forget that I’m still learning. I forget that I have the right to make mistakes.
On the topic of “negative comments from coworkers/managers,” I want others to think that I am doing a great job, but the truth is that I can’t satisfy everyone. It’s not possible. It’s not going to happen. People will continue to believe that they could handle a situation, stressor, assignment, presentation, etc. better than what we did. What we can work on remembering is that other people’s feelings and takes on the situation are theirs to cope with. It’s not our problem.
What we can do is remind ourselves that there is LITERALLY only so much time in a day. There is only so much we can do with the knowledge we have, training we receive, and resources available. Therefore, if we are able to answer yes at the end of the day to the question,“did you do your best with what you had?” that is good enough.
My goal this week is to practice self-compassion by answering this question when I have a rough day at work. It is a reminder that I am growing and learning. It is also a practice of paving my own path and practicing self-confidence without the need to compare myself to how others believe that I am doing. To me, that sounds much better than “just another shitty day.”
Have a wonderful week,