Casio watch

The Timely Art of Work

Early in my career, I remember a youngish senior director who worked from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. He rarely came in early or left late. You could almost set your Casio watch by his schedule.

This was a busy and fast paced company, and there was always plenty to do. But he rarely wavered from his schedule.

He always got his work done. He was no one’s bottleneck.

As you might expect, he was often the subject of snark and ridicule for his eight-hour day, mostly by his peers. The rest of us thought he was a rock star.

He was knowledgeable, accessible and easy to be around.

One time I asked him if it bothered him that people made fun of his seemingly slacker work ethic.

“If you stop and think about it, eight hours is a pretty long time to do anything,” he responded. “If you can’t get the work done in eight hours, you’re either not really working or you might be working for the wrong reasons.”


If I hadn’t been so young I might have paid closer attention to his comment. At the time, I just thought he was being clever.

You may think your bursting schedule and overflowing to-do list is a testament to your unwavering work ethic and commitment. But it could also be a subconscious effort to seek validation.

It’s easy to use work to prove our worth, not just to others but also to ourselves. We learn early on in life to validate ourselves based on our output or the accolades we get.

That’s not inherently bad, but if working yourself to near burnout is the only way you can feel good about yourself, it may be time to unlearn some deeply held beliefs and habits.

When you learn how to operate within your capacity, you leave room for creativity, growth and satisfaction.

That sounds like the right reason to me.

Insecurity - pointing fingers at yourself

What Your Insecurities Say About You

Feeling a bit insecure is something we all deal with from time to time. Who hasn’t gone into an important presentation, a big game, or a new support group with some butterflies about how you’re going to pull this off?

I would venture that even today’s most reliable standard bearers of achievement still struggle with those little thoughts that question if they really are this good, or if this is all just one big swindle they are foisting on all of us.

When these thoughts and feelings become a daily chorus, though, they can cloud reality.

Instead of keeping you on your toes in preparation for a good result, insecurity keeps you mired in the weeds of one metric — how you’re not measuring up and you never will.

Despite how many of your friends and coworkers extol your greatness, your thoughts constantly remind you that you’re just not all that.

That’s not exactly a recipe for accomplishment or feeling good.

Worse, if you’ve felt insecure long enough, you’ve become conditioned to hear those thoughts, so you believe them.

This, of course, may be keeping you from accomplishing your most important goals.

What does insecurity look like for you?

For many of us, insecurity is that nagging feeling of not being good enough, that accusatory voice in your head that whispers (or sometimes shouts), “You can’t do this!” or “They don’t really like you.”

It’s like having a persistent shadow of inadequacy that seems to follow you wherever you go.

I always pictured that voice as Lucy Van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip, that shrill voice berating me over my shoulder with all the things I probably can’t or won’t do.

Maybe for you insecurity is less of an animated voice and more of an action.

  • Maybe you take on more work than you know you can really do well because you crave approval from your boss.
  • Or maybe you micromanage everything — and everyone — in your life because if something doesn’t go according to plan you think it will be all your fault.
  • Perhaps you let others take credit for your good work instead of speaking up for yourself.

There are a zillion ways we let our insecurities hold hostage the things we value most in our lives.

Where do these insecurities come from?

In many cases, our past experiences, especially those from childhood, shape these insecurities. If you grew up in a less-than-ideal home environment, you might be more familiar with this shadow than you’d like.

Maybe you had a parent or sibling who constantly criticized you, or you struggled to get validation and approval from your family in spite of how well you performed.

We take notes about the environments we grew up in, and we try to draw some conclusions about ourselves based on that information.

  • If I share my authentic self with others, I’ll be made fun of or ridiculed. Therefore, my feelings and emotions are not important.
  • If I had been a better student, my parents wouldn’t have been so upset with me all the time. Therefore, I must not be good enough on my own for them to love me.

We go through our early lives in all our domains of home, school, and friends with this observational mindset of “If this happened, then this must be true.” In science, that kind of thinking can be helpful because you wait to see if the data supports your hypothesis.

But it’s not so helpful in non-science life. We can come out of childhood and adolescence believing some pretty amazing and inaccurate things about who we are that go completely unchallenged.

Perception becomes reality

Part of the problem lies in our perceptions of those early events. We took in the events of our early childhood with our five senses (six, if you saw dead people 😂), and we didn’t really have a frame of reference for what we were seeing.

We didn’t have enough life experience to see how similar situations might play out differently in other people’s lives. So we go with what we see in front of us. What else was there?

If you have a sibling, you may have discovered that they have a different outlook on how you grew up. They may have grown up in the same house with you, in roughly the same developmental time frame, with the same set of people.

Yet they may remember things you don’t, or they heard completely different words in a particular conversation. They may have come away from their childhood with a different perspective on the very same events.

That doesn’t mean the events were not dysfunctional or traumatic, if that was your experience. It just means the information your sibling heard and witnessed may have brought them to a slightly (or even vastly) different conclusion about who they are.

This alphabet soup of perspective is what we take into adulthood, and we may not give much thought to any of it until we start trying to challenge ourselves in meaningful ways.

Instead of achieving our goals, to our horror we watch ourselves trashing our good efforts with thoughts and actions that take us further away from success.

The observations of life are so ingrained in us that we don’t stop to ask if we even have all the information. We respond how we have always responded, even if we don’t want to.

That’s why it feels so hard to just make that voice go away or simply take a different action.

You have been living according to a kind of script where you think you have the whole story, but you don’t.

The good news is you can work with that.

The rest of the story

Once you see other stories played out in other lives, you begin to realize that your underlying script might have some real flaws. You start to understand that this script may not take you to the story you want to live out.

  • Maybe it needs to be revised in a couple of areas to get the story back on track.
  • Or maybe it needs a complete rewrite, with new dialogue and better story structure.

Either way, part of the process of dealing with your insecurities is understanding that those insecure voices or behaviors were just your way of dealing with the circumstances life brought you.

Your insecurities are not a character flaw, they are a life raft that you jumped into to get yourself to the next stop (the same way I just jumped into a different analogy there 😬).

Give yourself the grace to view your insecurities as part of how you coped with your past, and work on changing that script to focus on a new and confident story.