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feeling overwhelmed by work

Am I Capable? How to Cope When Feeling Overwhelmed

I have this habit of quitting when life gets too hard. (I also quit when the work does not align with who I am as a person and my passions. #SorryNotSorry) And in that moment, when feeling overwhelmed by work, my breathing quickens because I’m having a mini panic attack. Through the whirlwind, I hear an internal monologue. I ask myself, am I capable? Can I handle the workload? Will I understand the processes? Can I put the pieces of the puzzle together? Do I even see the damn pieces? 

Am I capable? 

Getting to the Bottom of Feeling Unworthy

There are different variations of this question, including, am I good enough? Am I smart enough? Am I…enough? Our self-worth is triggered when we believe narratives of ourselves that were formed in childhood and continue to be reinforced in adulthood. For me, the internal messaging of feeling incapable is triggered when I’m feeling overwhelmed by work. This narrative is directly tied to the messages that I heard as a kid. 

Mami, a helicopter parent and nurturing worrywart, constantly worried about my health. She treated me like a fragile bird that needed to be rescued, often saying things like, “Mi hija, yo te lo hago, tu no puedes.” Direct translation: Daughter, I’ll do it for you because you cannot. 

Although she meant well and simply wanted to nurture and help her middle child, I internalized her words and translated them into: 

  • Things are too hard for me. 
  • I’m too weak to do things on my own.
  • I need to be taken care of because I can’t handle things on my own. 

Hello, codependency! But that topic is for another day.

Even now, Mami asks if I’m feeling overwhelmed by work. With an urgency in her voice, she reminds me to take it easy because of “lo que te paso!” Ah, yes, my subarachnoid brain hemorrhage. My body literally turned on me a month postpartum and it has only fed into this narrative and Mami’s role of helicopter parent and nurturing worrywart. She’s more worried than ever that if I’m feeling overwhelmed by work, I will fall ill. 

In all fairness, Mami didn’t know she was conditioning me to feel incapable. It’s actually cyclical. As an asthmatic, my mother was spoken to in the same manner that she speaks to me. She wasn’t allowed to do much as a child (no heavy lifting) and was always tended to by my grandparents because she was a sickly child. So, when Mami gave birth to me, a quiet (who would have thinketh?!) Aries that developed anemia and a small case of lead poisoning (oh, the 80s!), she parented me in the same way that she was parented. 

Moving Forward When Feeling Overwhelmed by Work

So, what now? How do I – you – turn this around at work and in your relationships when feeling incapable?

You gotta work through it. And by the way, I’m also speaking to myself. That means we do not run away from the discomfort. We acknowledge it and do not react because of it. However, we also don’t force ourselves to stay if the discomfort is crippling us. When our feelings of unworthiness and feeling incapable are triggered, there is a time and a place to work through it.  Not all spaces are safe spaces. 

Do the opposite. I usually shut down, so I’m working on speaking up when triggered. I now try to ask for help and share my frustrations, or anything else that comes up. I attempt to remedy the situation, but sometimes I still fold because I’m not ready. And that’s okay. 

Pinpoint triggers. Acknowledging that we’re feeling incapable and unworthy is half the  battle. When we turn inward we stop pointing fingers and take accountability for the shit we still (and will continue) to work on. 

Oh, this self-love thang is a journey, loves. That’s why we need to begin with us. Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed by work, in your relationships, and other aspects of life, ask yourself: why do I feel incapable? What narrative has been passed down? And how can I react differently so that I find personal and professional fulfillment even when shit hits the fan? Eventually, you’ll learn to ignore the Ghosts of Narrative’s Past when they begin to linger. You might even finish that damn puzzle. 

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