Dear Therapist: I work at a startup which is a really fast paced & intense environment. I tend to be an introvert and struggle with speaking up in meetings (Zoom calls didn't make this any easier). I get really anxious trying to express my ideas and definitely don't feel comfortable setting boundaries with my boss' high demands. How do I work on speaking up?
~Anxious Tech Dude
Frame Therapist Analee Phang weighs in:
Hi Anxious Tech Dude! I first want to acknowledge how common it is for anxiety to show up at work and cause distress in an environment we could potentially be spending most of our day in (whether in-person or virtually). I want you to know that your experience is not uncommon. There are a ton of reasons anxiety can show up at work. Whether it is related to a stressful commute to & from the office, a lack of flexibility with WFH, a negative relationship with a boss or colleague, fear of being put on a PIP, concerns about making ends meet on your current salary, uncertainty about job growth, negative inner dialogues about your knowledge in a certain topic, or toxic work environments that reinforce sexist or racist systems. One (or all) of these things can be impacting you at work.
Dealing with all these stressors at work ultimately means you need appropriate coping skills for the work place. If we can't change the environment or the people around us, then we have to focus on changing our response to these stressful situations. Increasing our confidence through positive self talk, physical activities such as taking more breaks outside or working out before/after work, engaging with peers in the field that value your opinions and thoughts, or working on asserting your voice could all be really beneficial to feeling more confident in the workplace. Focusing on how you choose to interact in that space gives you back some control over these situations.
Recognizing that speaking up is a way to advocate for yourself and ultimately get your needs met is very important. You may want to try writing down your thoughts at the end of a work day, so you feel confident in what you want to say the next day. You could also practice deep breathing techniques that help with calming nerves before a big meeting. Assertive communication is also a great way to practice speaking up in a confident way.
About the Therapist: Analee Phang is a California based LMFT, who works with multiracial identifying women on building understanding of their identities and relationships.
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