I asked a woman in an interview today “What is a common misconception of you, and why is it false?” I still consider it the hardest interview question anyone has ever asked me (see also: interview eleven of twelve at Google in 2002) and I believe my answer – old age and spotty memory notwithstanding – was “people assume I’m always in a good mood. I have my bad days too, but try to keep that to myself so it doesn’t affect my work.” Good job, Aubrey of yore, how you pulled that one out of your ass is further reminder that you were much smarter back in those days. But, at least conceptually, it holds true. I’ve come to realize that I wear my heart on my sleeve, and know that if I’m having a rough day or are under stress or pressure, often the best thing I can do for the team that I manage is leave & internalize it. I know my demeanor is affecting and when I’m upset or stressed, they know it and it rubs off on them. Sometimes you just need to know when to leave (a rule of thumb I employ in many areas of my life.)
And yet. Sometimes it’s not that easy. Running away doesn’t help anything, and you find yourself in a situation where you’re upset, discouraged, uncomfortable. Angry. You’ll know you’re in these situations (or at least *I* know I’m in these situations) because your first inclination is to run. “This feels bad! Get me OUT OF THIS,” my inner pain-aversion mechanism screams. “Abort! Abort!” Then: “OOH, wine & oysters may help!” (Which, frankly, it does, for about an hour. Then…back to that feeling of “oh shit, I hate this.”) Having gone through situations such as this a mere one thousand sixty seven times in the past years, I’ve developed a strategy to try to keep myself on terra firma and avoid my Vibram Five Fingers* from taking me to my nearest watering hole. (*GROSS. As if I’d wear those.) But instead of fleeing, I try to figure out what I’m actually feeling. Fear? Insecurity? Pain? What is the situation causing and what am I trying to avoid? It usually then lets my Type-A, love-me-an-Excel-Spreadsheet-Action-Plan self to see the situation more clearly and come up with a plan on how to start to remedy whatever is happening.
And yet. Sometimes you’re just discouraged. Sometimes you feel like nobody is seeing you for who you are and what you have to offer, both personally & professionally. Sometimes you don’t want to Excel spreadsheet the fuck out of it, and sometimes you just want to be frustrated and hurt and hope that this isn’t in fact a midlife crisis but it’s just a bad day that you told your Google interviewer that you don’t let affect you. Sometimes you just need to let it affect you, and hope that tomorrow isn’t the Mondayest Monday in the history of all Mondays as today is.
And treat yourself to some oysters. There are worse strategies, after all.