In which I am a social failure


Art: Anxiety, Tom Atkins

I am a freaked out corporate drone. I feel so done in. We unexpectedly got half the afternoon off, so I’m home with a bit of energy to write. I find work so hard. The social aspect of course. Plus my actual task has a social component to it also, as I need to run and set up meetings, and try to herd people towards particular deadlines.

I have been coming home and having these frantic mental conversations with people at work, entirely in my mind. So ridiculous. Like my mind is trying to solve things for me, when it really can’t. I know it’s trying hard.

Part of the trouble is I’m switching a bit at work. It only happened once where it was really noticeable though, and I felt deeply ashamed the rest of the day. The person I was talking with must have thought I was super anxious I suppose. But this week, anytime I have an unexpected social interaction, I end up answering in this kid voice. I think I’m feeling uncertain there, and unanchored, and so perhaps am switched into kid space anyway, but I don’t notice until someone talks to me.

I am scared no one will talk to me. That’s what happened in my family. Mostly that’s what happens at work, though it’s not targeted at me – it’s more the situation. But I could develop little work friendships, but don’t, because I think, I answer people in this startled little girl voice, which may put people off. I’m trying not to hate myself for it. After all, it’s not something I do on purpose. But people don’t understand about parts, of course. How could they?

There’s this whole issue of ‘good writing’ too. Arggh. My boss has said several times, in my hearing, that I’m a “great writer” with better writing skills than anyone here. I guess he’s trying to be nice. He hasn’t actually read anything I’ve written yet. The problem with this is, his, and the other manager who’se working on my project, ideas about what is ‘good writing’ are the opposite of mine. In their minds, the document they’ve produced before I got there is great writing. It’s the kind of writing where no one dares correct or change anything, because they have no clear idea what it’s trying to say. It’s convoluted, it’s trying to get across ten different concepts in every sentence, it’s using all kinds of legal terminology. To people who work in management, this seems like great writing. No one will ever read that document voluntarily, because it’s so much work to try to understand what it’s trying to say.

I hate that kind of writing, and I don’t agree that it’s good. So I feel I’m a major disappointment, with my plain short sentences and two sentence paragraphs. This particular manager has simply re-written most of what I’ve written so far. It’s OK – the document is coming along, and she does a decent job. But I’m certainly not living up to any fantasy they may have had about great writing. I want to communicate, and to explain – I don’t want to show off how intelligent I am and what long sentences I can produce.

So I feel bad, as if I misrepresented myself as a writer. I’d like to have a bit of a talk about this with my boss, who might understand my point of view actually, even if he does not agree with it. But he’s become too busy to talk to lately, and I haven’t seen him for a week or two. The manager I see more often, but we just don’t get along very well.

And if I have no skill, I feel useless. I’m socially useless anyway. If I have no skill, why are they paying me?

The manager that re-writes everything condescends if we talk. She’s a lot younger. I guess she’s being a manager – managing me, instead of talking with me. Fine. She’s not my boss thank god. However, my boss is leaving end of month, and she’s staying, so she might take over as my boss, which I would hate.

Here’s a stupid social mistake I made. I was eating my lunch in the lunch room, a little early, to beat the rush. As I was half way through, the team I’m theoretically with came in and sat at the next table. They never say anything to me, so I ignored them and tried to read my tablet. Then my boss came in and sat down with them. When he saw me, he said hello, did I want to sit with them? He’s nice like that. He said he’d pull over another table so we’d have room.

So I looked up and was startled. Then I said, oh, I’m almost finished. I actually meant – you don’t have to pull over a table, don’t worry about me, and I’d thought I’d sit for a minute there before the rest of the team got there. But he took it to mean, no, I’ll eat by myself, I’m almost finished. So I stayed and ate by myself, and continued ignoring them.

I really want to integrate a bit more with these people. So what do I do? I’m semi rude to my boss’ friendliness, and I ignore everyone. Stupid. I left as soon as I could. I’m sure it looked like I couldn’t be bothered being friendly. This group is not particularly friendly to me, but I’m not taking advantage when someone is.

I just get startled by things. I’m tense, I don’t respond in friendly ways sometimes. Other times I respond like an excited kid.

Anyway, I’m having social anxieties that are making my life a misery. There’s no built in social connection with this job. The one person I’m working more closely with I don’t click with at all.

I did go out to my ACA meeting last Saturday. It was quite good. I’ve decided I don’t want to go there a rumpled mess of angst and depression. So I wore my newish jeans and good top, I did not look depressed, and I talked just a bit, on not too downbeat a topic. This also is a social occasion, and I want people to relate to me, and they won’t if I’m a mess of depression. I have these stronger aspects of myself that I want to show also. I felt good about the meeting – just sitting there with others who are working on themselves was good. I may not work the steps, but I still am getting something from the meetings. I felt a kind of peaceful energy there at times, just going around the circle of people.

  1. Andi said:

    Social anxieties are so hard…

    • Ellen said:

      They are. This is one of the main anxiety problems for me, and it seems insurmountable sometimes. thanks Andi

  2. I think my head’s too busy to have anything that useful to say, but I’m sorry this is happening to you.

    I hate the kind of writing you describe (convoluted). It strikes me as disrespecting the reader. People are busy. They don’t have time to try to wade through imprecise language. Writing simply and clearly is actually more difficult.

    • Ellen said:

      It is disrespecting the reader. It’s all about the writer and their own self-importance. Thanks for agreeing – I’m hungry for anyone to see it my way actually – it helps.

      • Its one of those little things where it seems to me to be the only way to see it. (But I write plainly and people at work
        usually end up saying I am good writer.)

        • Ellen said:

          It’s actually a big thing, when your entire job is to communicate. Glad your work mates appreciate your skills. πŸ™‚

          • You’re right–it is a big thing. As teachers, we don’t need to write very much of any importance, but every few years we have to compile these enormous cumbersome documents for our school’s accreditation, and that’s usually where I end up having to write something. It’s the same kind of document you work on: They are meant to be easily understood by busy people. And someone always notices that the section I worked on is clear and easy to read. It’s not a work of fiction. I write very much the way you describe–as brief as possible, to the point, and with precision. Anyway, my colleagues would agree with you too.

            • Ellen said:

              I’m sure yours is – you write in a very clear way on your blog, always, even on highly emotional subjects, so I bet your work related writing is great. And educational writing, in this country anyway, is notorious for being full of jargon, so it’s great you don’t do that. I think front-line workers in my organization also totally agree. It’s more managers who like the convoluted style. To them it seems ‘professional’. Thanks – I enjoy hearing others experiences of documents. Hope your weekend is good.

  3. Grainne said:

    I relate to this entire post. You know, I think, that I have the same sort of issues with people at work. I do like to interact with them but not on a truly personal level. Can be difficult. Often.

    As for your writing, I also work in a world where the more words you use to show your intellect and education the better. I get so frustrated listening to it all….such a senseless waste of time. It gets to the point where no one reads anything through, knowing before hand that it’s just a wordy show of nothing.

    Xx. I love your writing here. I think you beautifully convey images, thoughts and feelings and you come through genuine and engaged. Just so you know. (Hugs)

    • Ellen said:

      You don’t come across as socially anxious Grainne, but I’ve read your posts where you struggle with people at work. I think it’s hard for lots of us.

      I totally agree re your description of convoluted writing – they are a waste of time. Especially in the medical field, where there’s a lot at stake and no time to waste.

      Aw, thanks for the kind words. I wasn’t fishing for compliments, but I’ll always take them. πŸ™‚

      • Grainne said:

        You didn’t come across as fishing. Xx

        I don’t write much about social interactions outside work because I don’t have any. I *cringe* at the thought of even visiting someone else’s home. It’s awkward and I’m awkward and I tend to avoid it. Maybe not the same as what you mean but certainly from the same species. πŸ™‚

        • Ellen said:

          Definitely from the same species. Thanks for clarifying. πŸ™‚

  4. Cat said:

    I also have those frantic conversations in my mind, which leads to chronic rumination. I am trying to sort it out, but have been confused about why I do this… you just offered the answer. It is as if we are trying to solve things in our minds. Your posts always offer me insight!

    I cannot imagine what it must feel like switching. Well, I do in a way, when I switch into rumination mode despite making a conscious effort to stay in the moment and then I catch myself mid-flow. It kinda feels a similar thing. A bit scary if it’s happening at work.

    As a blogging-outsider looking in, it sounds as if you are homing in on the negative options and not allowing time to consider the more positive ones. Is it possible they like your writing because it is not confusing legal jargon and maybe your manager compliments your work by merely adding the legal stuff rather than totally obliterating the basis of your document? As you said if you have no skills, why would they be paying you and why would the boss be praising your work? The facts and your interpretation of them do not quite add up. Am I saying too much here?

    • Ellen said:

      About the rumination in my case – my brain may be trying to solve things, but in fact, it can’t. For me, I think it’s a cover for feelings. The rumination doesn’t allow the actual feelings to surface.

      About switching – yeah, it’s a real problem. Luckily, I don’t switch completely – it’s more of a leakage. So if I’m surprised, I might reply in a kid voice for instance, but I am oriented in space and time. It makes me self-conscious about talking to people though. I think everyone switches – like you behave and talk differently in different situations – e.g., with a friend, with a therapist, with family, with a pet….Just with me, I get the switches kind of tangled up. From your blog, where I’d really see a switch, is when you sat in silence with Paul, in a bit of a different state from usual. For me, a real switch involves suddenly feeling a ton of emotion, not created by the current situation.

      As to the work situation – I think I haven’t explained it well, because I can see what you’re saying. I do think though whatever the case, that I’m being too negative and even a bit paranoid. The manager is not my manager – she’s just a manager there on the project. She is completely re-writing, not adding legal stuff actually. And her writing is not bad either, so I leave it, with a few edits. My boss has not yet reviewed the document, which at this point does not have my writing in it anyway. But I have organized it, which is very important in this type of work, plus edited. The boss is praising me, because he knows from my resume I have lots of experience, plus the journalism – he’s a good manager, and wants to establish with everyone that I do have skills – he’s trying to back me up. It may be obvious I’m getting railroaded by this other manager. He has not seen anything I’ve written, except emails. Anyway. This is all boring. It has triggered my paranoia and negative bias, that is becoming more clear to me.

      You never say too much. I’m more likely to go on at length. πŸ™‚ Thanks for taking an interest.

      • Cat said:

        Hi Ellen, well, you may well be paranoid and slightly negative over situations with colleagues, but as far as the manager changing these documents is concerned, I’d be pretty pissed about it. I wonder if this is something you can mention to the big boss, or maybe this would be a little complicated if he’s leaving. Do you get any supervision meetings?

        • Ellen said:

          Thanks for seeing my side Cat. Sometimes I just miss having someone to complain to, vent a little, and have them respond just like you.

          As to the situation – I could complain. However – I am a professional. As a consultant, no, I don’t get supervision meetings, though she does. We have the same boss. I decided her version was actually fairly good – she had some good points. She could have discussed this with me, so I could have added, instead of rewriting the entire thing. Anyway. I figure, if the document is better, I can’t complain too much? My feelings are not the issue, at work anyway. I don’t like her way of working though. If I could avoid this going forward it would be good. I’ll see if I can think of something. I find it a confusing situation, where I’m supposed to be my own boss and take the high road at all times.

          • Cat said:

            I wonder if there was some kind of office politics going on about writing before you arrived. Maybe this manager thought she could do the work, but her bosses didn’t think so. It doesn’t sound like a good way for any manager to behave with staff

            • Ellen said:

              Yes, I started wondering the same thing. Thx. take care.

    • Ellen said:

      Thank you! My battered ego is getting a boost today. πŸ™‚

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