Is it low self-esteem or something else?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-13-2009
Is it low self-esteem or something else?
Mon, 07-13-2009 - 2:03pm

Hi, I'm new but I've been lurking on here for a few weeks.

I have this issue and I am not sure how to explain it properly but please allow me to try:

I'm in my late 20s and essentially I am just getting started with my career. It took me a few years longer to graduate from college than most of my friends, when they were getting their first jobs, I was still babysitting and taking classes at night. Basically, I feel like I've had a late start in my career and I have some major regrets about that but that's almost another story. I am mentioning the late start stuff because I often wonder if I just never got the real lessons about a workplace and I feel kind of old to be in this dilemma.

The thing is, since I started to get those "real" jobs after college I was still trying to define what the heck is that I'm trying to do with my life career wise, since my degree was a fairly useless Political Science degree. So I bounced around from doing administrative jobs, couple of receptionist jobs and 2 jobs in sales. I wasn't;t too happy with any of them but the last two jobs in sales brought me a little more satisfaction so I think about a year ago I decided that I should "settle into that". It's not really a choice measured by a sheer passion but the fact that my first job in sales brought me a lot of success- I was always the #1 salesperson in my department, getting good clients, developing good client relationships, etc. But that was then. I left that job because I wanted to "better" myself.
I have a new job in sales and it's like a step up in a way because the company is more prestigious, I have a better title and my clients are more "high end". By the way, I sell advertising space for a national magazine associated with pretty high end stuff.

See, I think that's the problem, the "high end" stuff. I found myself working in an environment where I simply don't know if I'm a good fit. I mean, I have the "right look" for this, my manager told me this when I was hired. But that was then.

A few months into this job, I started feeling extremely insecure about my work and myself. I still think that I can "pull it off", I have the right presence, I know how to talk to clients... or so I thought. Recently, I question everything. My questions started out as fairly innocent in nature "I wonder if that person likes me", "I wonder if they think that I am a good salesperson?" but somehow over the course of a few months, they started to spiral out of control to almost an obsession like state, me constantly trying to figure out how I'm being perceived on the job by not only my coworkers but clients.

I cried when I read a post here a couple of weeks ago from a girl who couldn't get a Linkedin recommendation from her boss. I thought to myself instantly "that is so me", I have the same problem.
I've reached out to a couple of different bosses asking for a reference for my linkedin account and neither one of them responded! I am thinking of approaching them in person but now I am terrified that they just may say "sure" but never follow up with an actual recommendation.

The thing that doesn't help is that I work out of a home office so there's that minimum interaction with my coworkers and it's usually a brief conversation on the phone, email, monthly meetings. This is an ideal set up for someone who is as independent as I am but like I already said, I'm afraid it may also be hurting my self esteem because I hardly get any positive feedback. What I do get more is negative feedback and that's usually when things go wrong with clients. Luckily, I haven't had too many of those but when they happen, I can't sleep or eat for days. Like, for example, last week, one of my clients said that to another one of my clients that I was "ok" when asked to describe me as a sales person. I got a whiff of that story because one of my co-worker's was present for the conversation and repeated it back to me. That made me paranoid that now that co-worker will tell everyone about what the client said. But that's in my opinion, fairly minor stuff.

I had two separate incidents that happened to me recently that shook my self esteem to the core. One was when I found out that one of my co-workers said to another co-worker that she doesn't like me. No major explanations, just that. Or at least that's all that was relayed to me. Of course, I wish I wouldn't learn about that comment but the co-worker who repeated it to me has big mouth and I guess she thought she was doing me a favor by warning me about the co-worker who made that comment by saying "don't trust her, she doesn't like you".
I pretended like that comment didn't bother me but I spent a few night crying myself to sleep over this. Weeks later, I still think about that comment. I ruminate over "why doesn't she like me?", "did I do something?", was it because I was never overly friendly with her? Anyway, that's just one example. Different ones would be to obsess what other think about me as a result of that one co-worker's comment, is that really how every one of them feels? Did she spread the word about her dislike for me and poisoned everyone against me?

I've been losing a lot of sleep over this and other issues that this brought up. I started to see a therapist a couple of weeks ago but honestly, so far he's struggled to understand where I'm coming from and what my real issues are and all that he could come up with so far is that I may be suffering from a low self esteem and a possible depression that developed as a result. I have more sessions scheduled with him but I already wonder if he'll be able to "fix me".

I'm reaching out to you guys for some real insight, hopefully. I don't have a very close friend that I can talk to about this. All of my friends are rather "superficial" in a way that when I connect with them is to acknowledge that things are okay and "we should hang out soon". Maybe some of them would understand my problem but then again, I am pretty scared to open out to them out of fear that they will think less of me. I think the image I've created for myself is that I am this fierce career oriented Amanda. The truth is that I feel like I am one tortured soul with a fragile ego.
And I am not sure how I got this way.

I wonder if life simply hasn't sent enough rejection my way? I'd love to hear from other people in demanding careers, maybe even in sales and marketing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-05-2008
Tue, 07-28-2009 - 4:00pm

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-26-2009
Sat, 07-25-2009 - 12:45am

I felt similar to you at that time in my life. Here are some of my reactions to what you said.

1) It sounds like this job/career path is not really something you are passionate about. I think when we do something that is not realy in sync with what we really want in life we are very strongly (if only subconsciously) negating ourselves. It's as if we are telling ourselves on a deep level that we don't deserve to get what we really want in life. Then whatever we do while in this self-negating state works against us because at our core we aren't being honest about what we want and who we really are. That was a very verbose explanation, but maybe you see what I'm saying. At the same time, often we can't just go follow our dreams. But maybe there is a way to get more in touch with what you really want in some areas of your life and then slowly work towards moving into a career that is more what you really want. I think even acknowledging what you want and need is a big step.

2) I also work at home, and I think it has been hard on my self-esteem. I think we need face to face contact with others, especially others who like us not because we are perfect or high performers or because we please 100% of humans on the planet but simply because we are who we are, to really be happy. You say you are independent, as I feel I am, but you probably still need those damn other human beings to really be happy and actually to really be your best, truest self. Maybe actually getting a job where you have to go to the office wouldn't hurt.

Just some thoughts . . .

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-13-2009
Fri, 07-24-2009 - 7:25pm

Your advice is well taken. And yes, I have heard that thing from my parents that "not everyone will like me". I understand what it means, yet, I still have a hard time accepting it. My job truly is very complicated in a way that the dynamic between the coworkers is so strange: I can't never figure out if I'm being liked or not, there's a lot of "whispering" behind the scenes, so many strange alliances being formed, I feel like an outsider because I don't feel as I'm privy to what's really "going on". My boss makes "kissy" faces with me at times and comes off so fake doing it (she has that fake smile plastered on her face at all times) but then I hear that she says negative things behind my back. I wonder if that's just my work environment or is that atmosphere something that is more common.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009
Thu, 07-23-2009 - 11:27pm
Our experiences contributes to our self-esteem and yes, partly your work causes you to have low self-esteem but we can combat the negative feelings that is associated with it. Like on myself, I used to read some self-help e-book like the "Fabulous Self-Esteem" by Amy Twain. THis is one of my favorites because It's really uplifting. The words are encouraging and it helped me understand my inner self and other people. Its simple step is easy to understand but its meaning is deep that heals those scars from your childhood that came from your bad experiences.
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-12-2006
Tue, 07-21-2009 - 3:41pm
i worked in sales while i was in college, and i know that it can be a rather draining career path because you're always worrying about your image. what you're really like on the inside doesn't matter as long as you seem polished and confident and put together, right? it's so exhausting because you're consistently trying to please other people; your own priorities go straight to the back burner. it might be that you have low self-esteem but i have a sneaking suspicion that it's the nature of your job that is really getting to you. can you or do you take any time for yourself to do things that you enjoy? i like n2's suggestion about volunteering but i think that you may have to do a little self-nurturing before you feel up to helping other people.
iVillage Member
Registered: 08-03-2008
Thu, 07-16-2009 - 6:18pm
I have the same problem. I also work in sales. I work for my aunt who is very demanding and very rarely praises me. She often finds negative and hurtful things to say to me. I don't feel like I am able to be productive in this career and am currently looking for something else. It is hard in this job market but am applying for jobs that I believe I would really like and enjoy. Maybe you just haven't found something you really want to do yet. Or maybe the people you are working with really don't appreciate you. It could also be low self esteem making the situation worse because I know when I get a negative comment I beat myself up as well. but, then people say "You haven't done anything wrong." And they are right. As long as I did the work to my best of my ability then that's all anyone can ask of me and all I can ask of myself.
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-01-2006
Mon, 07-13-2009 - 5:36pm

First of all welcome tortured_soul, to the self-esteem board.