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Making Friends With Feeling Incompetent

April 3, 2012

As many of you know, I recently left the security of a 9 to 5 job with a bi-weekly paycheck. That decision has opened the door to a variety of blog topics that weren’t even on my radar when I was guaranteed a steady income and going in to the same place at the same time every morning.  I suspect something about that regularity gave me a (false?) sense of security that lately seems to disappear in about a nannosecond.

Last night I had a melt-down after spending hours trying to figure out financial record-keeping for my business.  So today’s blog is about what I’m learning about how I handle change.  I’ve learned that when I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing, my emotional default move is to feeling pathetic.  I know, HUGELY unattractive isn’t it?!

A wise friend of mine once told me that a guy would use the word incompetent for the default place he
goes to when he screws up.  So whether you’re male or female, find the word for that place you go to when you’re feeling like an ass.

And then consider this.  Feeling pathetic or incompetent doesn’t mean that we are!!  Or that we have to act out of that feeling.  The moment that distinction became clear with the light of day, I sort of magically morphed from feeling small, and frightened, and angry at myself and the world, into a woman who is very capable of figuring things out.

I remembered that I have a network of friends and service providers who are experts at what they do.  Which means I don’t have to be an expert at everything.  And if I haven’t met the expert I need today, he or she is out there somewhere just waiting for me to find them.  It’s okay that I don’t know!  Knowing everything about everything isn’t  my path.  I get to benefit from the expertise of all these amazing people, which means I can focus on getting better at what I am an expert at.  (Which still seems to be unfolding…)

Anyway, my point is that this career transition of mine has poked at places that haven’t been poked at in a long time, if ever.  It’s uncovering parts of me that are not at first blush my favorite things about myself.  At the same time, by letting them see the light of day, by making friends with them, they seem to very quickly morph from big hairy monsters into little annoying gremlins.  Annoying gremlins can be handled.  And occasionally, like this morning, I’m noticing that when I drop the resistance, opportunities arise where a moment ago there were only gremlins.

Anybody else working on making friends with parts of yourself that aren’t necessarily your faves?

P.S.  We’re experiencing some glitches with our comments section.  So if you’d like to leave a comment but aren’t seeing any text by the boxes, the top box is for your first name, the second box is for your email address, ignore the third box, and put your comments in the larger box, and click on ‘post comment’.  We should have it fixed shortly!


  1. Julie says:

    Oh, those meltdowns about dealing with life on life’s terms….how I loathe them! I would not go so far as to say I am making friends with the scared little girl that appears when I have to face change or challenges. However, I feel like maybe I am on my way to accepting her, maybe beginning to really know I need her in some way to force me to “connect” with other human beings, rather than stay in my safe, somewhat isolated life. I say somewhat, because when I am at work, living purposefully, being of service, doing a job I love, I am a completely different person than when I have to deal with change, when I have to deal with “me”. And, what I am learning and re-learning is that no matter how hard I try to contain the meltdown, that feeling of being in a pressure cooker is what forces me to reach out and experience some really intense emotions….and, ultimately to experience the incredible relief at being “connected” in the world. The biggest hurdle for me is treating myself (and that terrified little girl) with kindness and compassion, to not loathe myself because I don’t have all the answers and need help. And, when I reach out, amazing things happen to me and have happened time and time again. I am grateful for the reminder, because I forget so quickly when life is running smoothly.

  2. Cathy Dempesy says:

    When I decided to pick up my life and move to Buffalo I had NO IDEA how much I relied on my professional reputation in Chicago. Suddenly, 600 miles away from what I knew and away from people who knew me, I had to re-invent myself. That re-invention process continues. But I am healthier and happier than I have ever been. The gremlins lurk, but, as you said Robyn, as long as they don’t become MONSTERS we can handle it. I can handle it. I have handled it and I will handle it. That doesn’t mean I don’t have moments of disarray, feelings of incompetence and worries galore. But i no longer have days of it. That’s growth.
    May we never stop growing.

  3. robyn says:

    Thank you so much for this reminder Julie, “When I reach out, amazing things happen to me and have happened time and time again”. I’m going to remember this the next time I’m scared. xoxo Robyn

  4. Robyn says:

    I suspect you just nailed it Cathy. We’re looking for progress–from days of discomfort to moments–not complete extinction of our emotional lives 🙂 Love, Robyn

  5. Jackie says:

    My word is ‘idiot’ but we are all on a journey and learning is a critical and fun part of that journey.

  6. Stephanie says:

    Saw your blog this morning. It really hit home for me that it’s okay not to know. For me it’s insecurities in motherhood. Sometimes, I know I just need to give myself a break that I will screw up! It likely won’t be the end of the world, and I might learn something in the process. And, my kids might learn something from my mistakes, too, which if that keeps them in some small way from repeating the mistakes that I made maybe it is worth it. Know what I mean?

  7. Robyn says:

    Totally, totally think I know what you mean Stephanie. It doesn’t really matter what the ‘issue’ is. It’s about how we treat ourselves around the reality that we’re human. Best, Robyn

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