After a year and a half of working from home and over Zoom, many people are preparing to return to the workplace. However, they also aren’t feeling as confident in their ability to simply pick up from where they left off before the pandemic.
So much in our world has changed since Covid 19 waylaid our way of life. The combination of external and internal changes requires great adaptation and resilience from us. Work environments have changed in many ways: new coworkers, bosses, policies, and sadly, even new gaps where former coworkers may have passed on. This is on top of the changes we’ve experienced in our families, communities, and within ourselves.
All these changes can shake our sense of confidence and cause us to doubt our ability to function and thrive again even in known environments. If the life disruption you experienced was caused by a layoff or being given early retirement, then this can topple your self assurance. Confidence and identity are closely tied to career, and having a gap in one’s work history can exacerbate feelings of uncertainty about one’s ability to do the work again. This internal resistance to the fear of failing can wear us down which can further shake our self assurance.
To overcome this resistance to change, we need to rebuild our belief in ourselves and grow our confidence again. The following suggestions can help you get started:
Not being physically in the workspace among coworkers can cause you to forget your capabilities and your successes. And the human tendency to focus on current struggles and challenges makes it easier to overlook past achievements. It is important to take time to reflect on your past personal successes, and the challenges you’ve overcome so you can know your mettle. Recall and list your contribution to the successes of your team or the company and visit websites where products or services you helped create are on displayed to boost your self confidence. Connect with friends and former coworkers, managers etc. and solicit their feedback on what it was like to work with you, so that you can be reminded of your potential and successes. You could also ask their advice and even for introductions. Taking the time to remind yourself in this way is important for your wellbeing.
All of us have changed in little and large ways since this pandemic. Changes like the loss of a loved one, a job loss, loss of social status, and alteration in mood and temperament cause shifts in identity. For instance, if a spouse passed away due to Covid, the surviving spouse now has the responsibilities of both parents and sole breadwinner, and the stresses become greater. Acknowledge the stress that the changes are adding and give yourself time to feel your feelings. Remind yourself of your ability to adapt and cope by recalling past episodes where you survived and came out stronger after facing a challenge head on. Form a support network to help cheer you on and return the favor by supporting and encouraging others who may be facing similar struggles. Helping others is a particularly powerful way of growing confidence and relieving depression.
Watch your Thinking
Keep an eye on your thinking. Be especially on the alert for negative thoughts saying you can’t do it or you’ll fail or you don’t have it anymore and aren’t capable. The first step is becoming aware of them, and the second is actively changing them by challenging them with positive thoughts. Back up your counter thought with evidence from your life. Look at how you helped make a difference not just at the office, but also in your personal life, home life, and your friendships. Review how you’ve dealt with the upheaval and changes wrought by the pandemic, and then identify the skills you employed to help you cope. Maybe you are more flexible, resilient, and brave (identify other qualities you’ve noticed). Then when you begin to doubt yourself bring these valuable life skills to mind, so you can feel empowered to confidently enter the workplace and the world again.
Also bear in mind that everyone is going through similar challenges and feeling some level of anxiety and stress, (even if they are better at hiding it), so know that you aren’t alone in the journey to reentering the world feeling strong and confident.
May your journey back be filled with wonderful opportunities.