Meditations on Pressure

Originally published in Misplaced Identities

It’s hot. I’m sitting outside on my deck with a bowl of cut up peaches and a bottle of beer. Today was great. I was actually woken up by my alarm, feeling fully rested, something which hasn’t happened in months. Before today, I’d always wake up 15–30 minutes before my alarm, anxious for the day. That’s how my days would begin.

Today was busy, I had meetings after meetings after meetings, plus I had to run some intensive tests on the products my company builds. It’s been like this for the past few weeks, where I barely have a moment to sit down and catch my breath. I had a meeting with my boss today, and those meetings always make me nervous. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, and he’s a great manager, but I get anxious when I have to talk to him because I’m the newest guy in the group (and the company) and I want to give a good impression all the time so he doesn’t feel like he hired a chump. I’m no chump, I’m just so scared of being seen as a chump that I put a metric tonne of pressure on myself to get everything done. That pressure drains me of energy and positivity by the end of the day, which carries over to the next, and the next. You get the picture, it’s been rough lately.

Something was different today, and it started from the moment I woke up. I just felt relaxed, and that feeling carried throughout the day. I got my testing going, managed to make my meetings, and crushed my meeting with my boss. Seriously, the meetings with him are rough on me. Last week, I didn’t exactly give him what he was looking for and he gave me some actions for the week to improve, but the disappointment I felt after leaving last week’s meeting was immense. I couldn’t believe I let him down (I didn’t, it’s all in my head). This week, I gave him everything he was asking for and all of it was good news too.

I think the biggest take-away I have from it is that I’m very hard on myself. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be like the other members of my team, all of whom are at least ten years older than me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be this perfect version of myself and I know it’s not healthy to do that. I’m the only reason I’m getting so anxious at work, having sleepless nights, and coming home feeling worn out.

How do I fix it? I’d like to get back into my meditation, I’ve got to be more mindful, and keep my thoughts in check. I don’t need to outperform anyone but myself, and at the very least maintain the level of quality I’m giving. I’m new at work. I haven’t even been there 3 months. Of course I won’t know everything. So instead of beating myself up for now knowing, I’ve got to calm down and change my perspective from “you’re doing the wrong thing” to “how can I do the right thing?”. Really, I just need to stop being so hard on myself, and keep going.