update: I messed up at work and I’m so ashamed

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer who was struggling with feelings of intense shame after messing up at work? Here’s the update.

I think I have to start by clearing up something that caused confusion in the comments section: The thing I shouldn’t have said was something positive I had read about the person I was talking to, in a report that I was given to file. I was allowed to read it, but she was right in thinking I shouldn’t have. I’ve learned from this and no longer read documents I can file without reading first. When you’re prone to blabbering, it’s best to be as uninformed as possible.

As for the manager who confronted me, she’s never mentioned it again and we’re fine. The employee still doesn’t like me, but I do my best to be completely neutral in my interactions with her. I hate being disliked, so obviously the very sight of her makes me feel bad, but I have come to terms with the fact that not liking me is her problem, and not handling it well is my problem.

When I read back my letter, it’s very dramatic. Someone in the comments section said something to the effect of me acting like a victim when I was the one who had done something wrong. Someone replied that this might be the case, but that it’s an unintentional coping-mechanism when dealing with shame. I found this helpful because the first commenter forced me to own what I did, while the second made me feel less terrible about my reaction.

I was surprised by the number of people who mentioned ADD as a possible cause for my verbal impulsiveness, and to learn that being very sensitive to criticism and rejection is part of the diagnosis. Someone suggested I look into techniques people with ADD use to avoid speaking without thinking first, and I wish I could tell you that I did and no longer do. The truth is that I did, and still sometimes do. But I’ve gotten better, because I’m much more aware of it being a problem.

As Alison pointed out, being so sensitive to criticism might be a bigger problem though, and I still struggle with it. Recently someone unfairly criticized me (even my often quite critical mother – you were right about that one Alison and various commenters – thought so), and still my reaction was to worry about the possibility of unwittingly being a terrible person. Something that happens to me too often is that I speak up about something, and then I regret it deeply if it leads to a disagreement. I have the confidence to be outspoken, but not the self-esteem to handle the reactions. I wonder how common it is to be like that. I know that I can come across as quite thick-skinned, but in private, I’m more of a hairless cat than an alligator. Maybe offices are just like youtube, full of cats in shark costumes.

I have struggled to come up with a good ending to this update, and I suddenly realized why: Because I can’t tell you that it’s all good now. I’m worried I’ll disappoint you because I haven’t seen a therapist or figured it all out on my own. I’m still the same person, but thanks to the advice and comments, I can feel my brain moving hesitantly in new directions, and maybe even towards a therapist’s office. If only I can get my lazy feet to cooperate.

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. Oof*

    This IS a good update! You did NOT let anyone down! Progress is progress, and you’re not working against a secret AAM timeline. (Though to think of it, I’m sure we can all think of a few who should be put on a secret AAM timeline!)

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Agreed! Sometimes it takes a million grains of sand to tip our scale, but each grain of sand is progress.

      (I acquired my millionth grain of sand on the “see therapist” scale last week, after starting to collect grains years ago, and have my first session Thursday.)

      1. JanetInSC*

        Yeah! Therapy can often be comforting and validating…it’s not as weird and scary as it sounds. Kudos to you!

      2. SansaStark*

        That’s such a great analogy! Mine happened two years ago and I felt like I had been “putting it off” for years, but now I see (thanks therapy!) that I needed to be READY to face everything before I would have gotten the results I did. Realizing how much readiness played a part helped me to let go of the feeling of shame that I should have gone earlier or that I was lazy for not making myself do it.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Yeah, I actually like this update a lot. Growth happens over time, and at the pace people can handle.

      If it helps, OP, I assess whether I need to head back for professional help with ‘is this seriously impacting my life?’ So, the intense feelings of shame / difficulty going to work? I’d have called my company’s EAP if I didn’t get over it in a couple of weeks. But the current, ‘not a huge problem, but something I don’t like’, I wouldn’t.

    3. pancakes*

      Yes! Updater, you’re being too hard on yourself. There is no timeline for moving on, and you’ve made some interesting and beautifully captured insights about yourself and your situation, of interest and help to yourself and others. The idea of being “more of a hairless cat than an alligator” will resonate with a lot of people as being familiar, if not relatable. “Maybe offices are just like youtube, full of cats in shark costumes” is funny and seems similarly on point!

  2. Adrienne*

    Dear OP,
    I now realize that I might be a nekkie cat in an alligator costume. Thank you for this,

  3. PSB*

    I have the confidence to be outspoken, but not the self-esteem to handle the reactions. I wonder how common it is to be like that.

    I can’t tell you how common it is, but I can tell you that you’re not the only one.

    1. TL -*

      I don’t know for how many people this is a dominant personality trait, but I can say that everyone – everyone – has days or moments like this.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      Me too! Somedays I am super sensitive, others not so much. Somedays I stress about things that happened 20 years ago.
      Give yourself a pat on the back for recognizing what is going on and working on it. I think that is the biggest part anyway.

    3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      Yup. It’s also more common and understandable to feel this way in situations where you don’t have (or feel like you have) as much power as the other person/people you’re dealing with.

    4. Chloe*

      It’s common, and FWIW it’s a common trait shared by people with ADHD. I would definitely continue to explore that if you feel like you relate to it.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, this followup makes me feel even more strongly that the OP should consider looking into ADHD.
        Especially the last line where they refer to themselves as lazy. FWIW I remember seeing an article about how no one is really just lazy, and I thought “I dunno, I think I am.” And then less than one year later I was diagnosed with ADHD lol. It turns out my inability to do things like research and call up therapists in a normal, timely manner is truly not just laziness and it’s possible that is the case for the OP too.

        For the OP, I hope if it does turn out this is the case it can help them forgive themselves more easily. Like most things, ADHD is not an excuse and is just an explanation, but it has been really really helpful to me in having that explanation. It helps a little in not heading too far down the “ugh, I just suck as a person” path of destructive thoughts.

        Even if you don’t see a doctor about it (it’s worth it if you can, but getting a diagnosis as an adult can be extremely difficult anyway) I really recommend looking up common adult symptoms because they are so much different than the little hyperactive boy stereotype and I was shocked at how much I related to pretty much everything on the list.

      2. Quill*

        Another thing I share with the ADHD cousins, though I think in my case it’s more a case of conflicting “you have to be the responsible one and that includes being the one with the answer” and learning late that when people do not like the answer it does not matter if it’s right, they will yell at you anyway.

    5. OrigCassandra*

      *waves at the commentariat*

      I cope better than I used to, but yes, this is still a thing for me.

    6. Hazel*

      Right! I was in group therapy many years ago, and for a while, my assignment was to say out loud if I disagreed with something. I did it, and after a while I complained to the therapist that, while I was getting more comfortable with saying what I thought, I had failed to convince anyone to shift their point of view. She laughed a little and said that isn’t the point! And now I know that people don’t necessarily change their opinions just because someone else has a different one! I think being able to say what you think and being able to handle people’s responses are two different skills.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Soooooo true.

      Anxiety is my bane, not ADD; it scrambles the connection between my brain and my mouth. I sometimes feel like I have to say something and don’t stop to think about what it is, or something escapes that shouldn’t. If you read my book, I stuck my protagonist with the same trait—just so I wouldn’t feel like the only one, I guess, haha.

      Practicing mindfulness has helped me with it. Meditation has helped with the anxiety, although it’s not for everybody.

    8. The New Wanderer*

      My life story lately. I recently almost bailed out of a meeting rather than speak up about something that I had been openly speaking up about in other venues and knew I had support for my position, but this would have been different because of the high level attendees at this meeting. It took someone else telling me (essentially) that if I wanted to make a change, I needed to be able to say the difficult thing at the difficult time. I did and it went pretty well, but it was hard all the same.

      Also literally any time I get some kind of negative feedback, even the most gentle or misdirected/about something I cannot control, it takes up much more space in my head than it needs to.

      No ADD, ADHD, or anxiety diagnosis, and no family history of strict, punitive, or overly critical parents, but I feel it too.

    9. calonkat*

      I’d say this was me as well, but I’m not prepared for the possible fallout from the comment.

    10. OtherSide*

      This is exactly why I get banned from facebook groups. I hate injustice and I’m not afraid to point it out, but when people do a very stupid personal argument it gets ugly….and quick.

    11. Properlike*

      Came here to say this exact thing. I *do* have ADD only recently diagnosed, and never shy about speaking up, but any pushback makes me feel terrible and all self-doubty. A brilliant way to put it, OP! Thank you!

    12. Double A*

      This seems to be a highly desirable trait in certain political circles if you’re looking for a career change, LW.

      This being said… it’s not a great trait, BUT the first half is! I think being outspoken is great. Being able to take criticism is actually ALSO about confidence. Confidence in yourself. If you feel that you speak from a place of knowledge and confidence, and if you know you’re okay with admitting when you make a mistake and you learn from your mistakes.

      I admire people who:
      -Admit what they don’t know and are curious about learning.
      -Admit when they make mistakes, rectify and make amends for those mistakes to the extent possible/necessary, and change their behavior going forward based on what they learned.

      Admitting what you don’t know is, like, the easiest thing ever, and ironically it will make you look smarter. When someone criticizes you, if you can be curious rather then defensive, you will go far. Really try to understand the criticism, and take the time to reflect on it (you can even say things like,

      1. Double A*

        Whoops! Posted too soon. Was saying: You can even say things like, “I need time to think about this.” Then follow up. People will really admire you for that, because it shows you’re listening.

      2. Julia*

        I’m not sure that’s what they meant, though.

        To me, “being outspoken but then having trouble taking the reaction” sounds more like someone speaking up for an issue (e.g. a racist comment) and then not knowing how to respond when the other side gets angry.

    13. Traci*

      Me too! I’ve never been able to phrase it but naked actin an alligator suit is perfect lol. It takes work to not back down, and to be able to defend your position. Honestly, therapy helped a lot.

    14. AutisticMuseumPerson*

      Came here to respond to this quote exactly. I am autistic and relate to this so much because I am passionate and able to articulate my views and stand up for my values when asked to do something that goes against them, and I’m lucky my organization shares those values, but when I do speak up the anxiety spirals follow. Even if usually there’s nothing to worry about or positive changes are made to our work! I have trouble with taking other people’s perspectives and understanding how they see me. Honestly what has helped the most is meeting with a supportive employment counselor weekly and she helps me work through this. That helped my communication skills in turn as well. If the letter writer has access to mental health support with a focus on employment support, that may help.

    15. A Bit Witchy*

      I came here to say the same thing! It me! I’ve gotten better because of therapy and medication, but it still absolutely exists in my brain as a personality trait. It’s very difficult. I remember reading the first letter and thinking “this could have been written by me”

  4. Lalaroo*

    LW, I actually think this is a great update. It sounds to me like you came away from this process with some serious new self-insight, and that is always valuable. Overcoming our issues is usually a marathon and not a sprint, and the boring/frustrating/disappointing truth is that our brains don’t change overnight. I read a book about anxiety a few years ago when I had just been diagnosed with panic disorder, and the author said that the neural pathways in our brains are physical, and we have to re-train our brains to form new, healthier pathways. For a while it will be easier for us to take the same old path (towards anxiety, self-doubt, or shame), but with practice the new healthy path will become wider, easier, more convenient, and eventually the path your brain takes by default. I’ve switched from neurology to neurological metaphor, but I think my point still holds.

    I’m proud of you. Be kind to yourself and celebrate any progress, no matter how small it feels.

  5. Lacey*

    It sounds like you’re doing good work dealing with the problem.
    I hope you continue to do well and have relief from that intense response to making a mistake.

  6. Arachnia*

    “I have the confidence to be outspoken, but not the self-esteem to handle the reactions.” …Oh, it me.

    You’re doing just fine OP. And I really doubt you’re lazy- change is just hard.

    1. Ama*

      Change is hard and not necessarily a linear progression! Anyone working on new habits is going to have days when they slip back to the old ones.

  7. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

    OP this is actually a pretty great update. But I want to note this last bit you said here:
    “I can feel my brain moving hesitantly in new directions, and maybe even towards a therapist’s office. If only I can get my lazy feet to cooperate.”
    This sounds a lot like how my executive disfunction (part of ADD/ADHD) works. I know what I need to do, but there’s a block. So I would like to gently suggest that you a) stop using the word lazy about yourself and b) believe it or not, join tiktok and look for ADHD/ADD content there. There’s a FOUNTAIN of valuable information there and it’s honestly such a great resource that is easier to access/get started with than finding a therapist. I have really been empowered to understand myself better, be gentler to myself and find new ways to cope with my brain’s wiring.

    1. blue canary*

      I de-lurked to post this sentiment! I was only recently diagnosed with ADD and have been describing myself as “lazy” my whole life. Learning that executive dysfunction is a real thing has helped so much, both with my self-perception and finding ways to work around it.

    2. Jules the Goblin*

      First of all: hello, fellow Critter! *waves*

      Second: LW, I want to give you the biggest hug. What you described in your original letter and in this update sounds a lot like the RSD (rejection sensitivity disorder) that myself and several of my family members deal with. I have anxiety but have never been diagnosed with ADD / ADHD. And yet RSD strongly applies to me.

      I am working on it!! Very slowly!! I still call myself stupid and lazy all the time!! But please please as Pumat Sol said above, please stop calling yourself lazy (and I will try to do that too ;) Don’t berate yourself for not going to therapy. You will get there someday. Please have some kindness and compassion for yourself, when you make mistakes and also when you procrastinate / don’t do something. I think a lot of us could stand to be a lot kinder to ourselves.

    3. Kiki*

      I want to jump on this to agree that even if ADD/ADHD don’t apply to you, calling yourself lazy is unhelpful and probably not true. Things take time. A lot of people don’t try to work on themselves in this way, so no matter how long the journey takes, you are brave for making it happen.

    4. SansaStark*

      Hopping on this, too. It took years of therapy to stop labeling myself as “lazy” for not catching mistakes in my work and other issues that seem to be bothering the LW, too. Learning that I was probably ADHD was such a revelation for me. I don’t suck – ABC actually IS harder for me than someone else. The weight from years of shame has finally (mostly) been lifted from my shoulders and I can’t overstate what a difference it’s made on how I view myself.

    5. Holly*

      Jumping on this to say I thought I had ADHD/ADD because of the commenters on this site and it actually led me to some really great resources, so I do appreciate it, but when I actually went to a psychiatrist the traits were actually rooted in anxiety and I am now on appropriate medication which has CHANGED MY LIFE (note: medication that helps ADHD/ADD would actually have been bad for me). So I wanted to (1) second that ADD/ADHD resources are actually really helpful *even if you don’t have it* but (2) just make sure you get a proper diagnosis from a doctor.

      1. OP*

        I couldn’t agree more about the importance of getting an actual diagnosis. I don’t think it’s beneficial to self-diagnose to the point where you start identifying with it. Imagine the diseappointment if you finally get yourself to the doctor, who says No, you don’t have that, you’re just the worst (that last part would be added by my brain, not the doctor- hopefully). Also, it could reinforce the negative feelings you have about yourself . For me, if I look up ADD-traits, I start thinking I probably have most of them, it’s just that I haven’t noticed it about myself, because of, you know, my problems with paying attention.

  8. Observer*

    I really do think that a therapist will, when you are ready, be very useful to you.

    In the meantime, I would suggest an additional tactic to add to your toolbox. Every time, and I do mean EVERY TIME, you want to attach a negative descriptor to yourself, an aspect of yourself, or something you did ask yourself if the descriptor is TRULY accurate **and** helpful. If you can’t answer YES to both of those items drop the negative word. This sounds silly, but self talk definitely affects the way we perceive ourselves, and that in turn affects how well we handle stuff.

    For instance you say “If only I can get my lazy feet to cooperate” Are your feet REALLY lazy? I don’t think so. And even if laziness were the issue, what does that add to the conversation? Even your internal conversation? This is an easy one, because the term is neither useful (even if it were true) and also not accurate. But the point is to avoid negative self talk that does not absolutely contribute to something positive such as help you to clarify what you need to do next.

  9. Wisteria*

    Re: ADD

    Regardless of neuro status, Learning techniques to curb verbal impulsivity is a great idea. With regard to extra sensitivity to rejection, what stands out to me is that you say you are not used to being criticized. Failing is a skill. Getting comfortable with failing is a skill. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a skill. If you make it to a therapist, or even if you don’t and just want to work on more things on your own, look into getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

    1. OP*

      I think this is very true, that it’s a skill. I probably should have practiced failing more (not by acting stupid, but by taking more risks in general) earlier in life. Redefining failure as learning isn’t a new idea to me, but something about the way you put it made a lot of sense to me. Thank you!

  10. Kes*

    It sounds like you’re making some gradual progress on analyzing and adjusting your own reactions, and you realize it’s something you still have a ways to go on.
    I would suggest reading the book Thanks For the Feedback – it addresses reasons we struggle to accept feedback, including feeling that this threatens our identity, which it sounds like is what you’re feeling, and also suggests ways to avoid some of this.

  11. OhBehave*

    This really is a good update.
    One of the commenting rules is to NOT diagnose issues. But it seems to have struck a nerve with you. Our past experiences inform our present day. You asked for advice and you are trying to follow it. That’s great. It sometimes helps to read what others think about your problem. We often need to see things through other eyes to truly understand.
    The fact that this employee doesn’t seem to like you is not on you. Maybe they had a bad HR experience (we’ve read enough of those letters here), is an unhappy person, is really Oscar the Grouch in a suit. Who knows? Continue to be professional and you can be assured it’s not you!
    Bottom line is that you are learning from your mistake!

  12. Peanut Butter Vibes*

    This is so candid and human. This was an incredibly relatable update, thank you LW for taking the time to write it.

  13. LisaD*

    OP, look into rejection-sensitive dysphoria if you haven’t already. It’s such a common part of ADD that some practitioners consider it almost diagnostic (because it is typically ONLY seen in a life-limiting way in people with ADD). It’s not something you can medicate away unfortunately, but it might help you understand yourself if it feels true to you.

    1. RagingADHD*

      This is somewhat misleading. RSD is a cluster of symptoms that some ADHDers experience. It is not part of the diagnostic criteria for the very good reasons that

      a) Only some, not all ADHDers experience it, and

      b) There are many other issues that can cause or contribute to RSD, such as trauma, abuse/neglect, childhood attachment issues, or hypercritical parenting/authority figures, regardless of whether the person is neurotypical or neurodivergent.

      RSD can also easily be confused with other mental health issues that intensify emotional reactions – like general anxiety or social anxiety.

      1. RagingADHD*

        The analogy would be a fever. If you have a stuffy nose without a fever it is more likely to be allergies or a minor cold than a serious infection.

        If you have a fever with the stuffy nose, it changes the possible/likely diagnoses.

        No responsible doctor would use the fever alone to diagnose anyone with anything.

  14. Amber Rose*

    “Lazy” is the word most frequently used to shame people who are struggling, and is one of the reasons people don’t seek help. Because we don’t need help, we need to stop being so “lazy.”

    OP, you’re making progress. Even that much requires so much effort. Try to give yourself credit where credit is due. Very few things in the world are as hard as asking for help, especially when you’re dealing with emotions like shame and guilt.

    You’re doing pretty darn good.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The nuns used the word a lot in my experience.

      OP what if there were no such word as “lazy”, then what?
      Well once the word lazy was out of commission, I found I had thyroid- heart stuff going on. I met some B vitamins and some other stuff and my life got better.
      I also had a couple toxic people. Picture going through life with a boat anchor or two on your back. Set the anchor down (remove the toxic people) and all of the sudden navigating life gets easier. I’m not actually lazy like I was told when I was younger. Ironically, the truly lazy people were the ones who did not think about underlying issues I may be having.

      Improvements come in increments, OP. What’s up with that? They should all come in one day, right?
      You may look back years from now and find that some of your best growth is happening right now. I can’t fully explain that except to say, there’s a “breaking free point”. Breaking free sometimes feels worse with what feels like random moments of success mixed in. Those moments of success are the most powerful things imaginable. If you can have one then you can have many more, in time.

  15. Working forward*

    I too deal with feelings of inadequacy. Mine is rooted in the dysfunctional belief that I am not good enough. I wonder if you are dealing with this too. You may know you did all you could to remedy this situation, hell you probably did all the right things following your mistake and may grow exponentially resulting in a more successful career. But you still FEEL bad. Very simply put, humans have trouble connecting their right and left brain. Logic and emotion. I may logically know that I work hard, I try my best, I’m successful and people like me – I am good enough but I still FEEL not good enough. My therapist says that connecting these two concepts so that I feel good about the truth will take some time and is a skill I will build over a lifetime. I also see you telling herself what you SHOULD do verses what you’re capable of doing or wants to do. You shouldn’t do anything. Focus on what you want to do. I would look into these two concepts with a therapist when you’re ready. Or do some reading on your own. This title helped me The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety: A Guide to Breaking Free from Anxiety, Phobias, and Worry Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Edition 2
    John P. ForsythGeorg H. Eifert. Mind you I didn’t understand a lot until I got help.

  16. Colorado*

    I am very similar to you OP, I’m not in HR and I believe I am older but your words spoke to me. Especially this.. I have the confidence to be outspoken, but not the self-esteem to handle the reactions. That is me to a T too and I’ve never seen it spelled out so eloquently. Thank you for that. I too had/have an extremely critical mother and at 48, with a very successful career, I still feel like a child in her presence. Just came to say you are not alone.

  17. PersistentCat*

    OP: good on you. Some progress is progress, and every baby step where you inch forward (or don’t backslide) is a step to be celebrated. Keep on your journey! I’m sure you’ll end up in a better place for it. Thank you for sending in your update.

  18. Sparkles McFadden*

    Oh LW, I wish I could have you over for coffee. Anyone who can a write a sentence such as “When you’re prone to blabbering, it’s best to be as uninformed as possible” is OK in my book.

    It sounds as if you know yourself pretty well, and that’s a great thing. I think personal growth starts there. Nothing happens overnight, so be kind to yourself and keep moving ahead. I wish you all the best!

  19. TPS reporter*

    I too struggle with intrusive, self-critical thoughts and replaying bad moments over and over. I would love to see a therapist but want to start when I can see them in person as I’m so sick of doing video chats.

    In the meantime, I downloaded a few Cognitive Behavioral Training apps. They help with little exercises to reframe negative thoughts. I do a few exercises before bed and it helps me sleep more soundly.

  20. brainjacker*

    “I’ve learned from this and no longer read documents I can file without reading first.”


    1. EW*

      It sounds like he would read all the documents that he was filing, and now has stopped doing that. So if the document is clear on where to file without reading it first, he doesn’t. If he needs to read it in order to file it, he does.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I do this also. I read enough to find what file it belongs in, I make note of the document and then I move on.

      I have been at my job long enough to know what I need to sit and read and what can be filed for the next user who will actually use it. So no, I don’t read everything I am handed.

  21. LGC*

    Hey LW,

    Add me to the chorus of people that are saying that you have changed and you have improved!

    And most important, you’re human and this isn’t something that is absolutely verboten at work. I don’t think the standard should be perfection (unless lives or legal consequences are at stake), but improvement. And it sounds like you’ve definitely improved.

  22. Peridot*

    A little belatedly, but you use the word “lazy.” I’m learning, slowly, that a lot of times when I can’t make myself do something, it’s because there’s some other problem. If I haven’t started writing this document, maybe it’s because I don’t have all of the information I need. Maybe I don’t know who the audience is. Maybe, when I get stuck halfway through it, it’s a sign that my approach isn’t working and I need to change it.

    I think you’ll find that a lot of stuff you chalk up to laziness is actually attributable to something else.

  23. Forrest*

    Something that happens to me too often is that I speak up about something, and then I regret it deeply if it leads to a disagreement. I have the confidence to be outspoken, but not the self-esteem to handle the reactions. I wonder how common it is to be like that. I know that I can come across as quite thick-skinned, but in private, I’m more of a hairless cat than an alligator. Maybe offices are just like youtube, full of cats in shark costumes.

    OP, I really love both your self-analysis here and your way of expressing it. When you have Figured It All Out, please write a self-help book and I will 100% buy it.

    1. Forrest*

      In fact, I would like this OP and “I suck at work but am otherwise delightful” to collaborate on a book. This OP’s prose and self-reflection and Delightful OP’s ability to separate her self-worth from her skills/performance in a specific job = self-help gold.

  24. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP you are on your journey to bettering yourself. You’re still not perfect but you are trying hard. You have recognised your fault – this alone is pretty wonderful – you have identified underlying reasons and you are working on all of this.
    Sometimes you need a change of scenery to truly make the change. Like, you have a label, which includes “sometimes blabs when shouldn’t”. If you were to move to a different place, you could simply decided that here, your label would include “utterly trustworthy, never blabs a single thing, confidential or borderline or even open secrets”.
    Like, I had the reputation of being the “eager youngster” in my first job. OK, I was only 20 when they hired me so it was quite normal. But I found that even eight years later, when I was in a wildly different, better-paid role with loads more responsibility, some people still thought of me as the youngster, who’d just managed to worm her way in. All the solid hard work I’d put in seemed irrelevant to these senior staff members. Then I moved to another place and was accepted as I was, with a good ten years’ worth of experience in the field, whose opinion was worth listening to. The new place was a different kind of shitty and I didn’t last very long there, but I did appreciate being accepted as someone competent rather than the eager beaver who hasn’t a clue.

  25. DiscoCat*

    I want to be your friend :-D This update gave me life, it’s like you put into words what I feel about myself- I am opinionated, feisty and strong willed, but can’t handle the echo. I enjoyed your writing,especially this: “Something that happens to me too often is that I speak up about something, and then I regret it deeply if it leads to a disagreement. I have the confidence to be outspoken, but not the self-esteem to handle the reactions. I wonder how common it is to be like that. I know that I can come across as quite thick-skinned, but in private, I’m more of a hairless cat than an alligator. Maybe offices are just like youtube, full of cats in shark costumes.”

    This update is good, because it shows that you have grown, and put a lot of effort into it- not many people put in so much introspection and reflection. Just a small bit of advice: Embrace who you are (awesome), learn from your mistakes but don’t put other people’s every word and utterance about your character and actions onto the same gold scale, or if you do- ask yourself what their motivation is.

  26. JelloStapler*

    As someone who has a perfection complex when it comes to other’s feelings about me (I must be perfect in their eyes and be a delight), especially at work. I really really feel you here. I have had to grow and change over the years and start to understand that my perception of me not being good enough is not at all the same perception others have and if I mess up, all I can do is grow and move on. I also have to accept that I am not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s not always easy, but it’s important and in the end, saves you so much mental and emotional energy.

  27. Quill*

    OP: Progress, no matter how incremental, is progress. Especially in breaking a habit that reinforces itself, i.e. blurting something out, feeling shitty about it, and therefore being even less able to engage the brain-to-mouth filter in the future because you worry about how people think of you after the last time.

  28. LabManagerGuy*

    OP, you are far from the only person who has the confidence to speak boldly but insufficient self-esteem to handle the fallout gracefully. That’s almost my life description right there, and I know a bunch of other people (all of whom have ADD or are otherwise not neurotypical, FWIW) that are in the same boat. I’ve gotten better at moderating both my speech and my over-reactions, though I don’t have a magic formula for it other than “repetition and self-talk.” I extend my sympathies, and wish you good luck!

  29. Van Wilder*

    Sounds like you’re well on your way! The only other thing I would advise is to google “fixed vs. growth mindset.” Changing from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset (a process, which itself is a work in progress) has made such a difference to me and how I handle criticism. From the language you use, I see you attributing things to character flaws, where really it just may be that you need more practice.

  30. Keymaster of Gozer*

    Dear OP: you have made progress. You’ve understood that there are things that you require a bit more practice at or help in the future to fully understand. It’s no great or otherwise shame to have not done stuff about them in a specific time frame. Especially this year.

    I’m saying this from the perspective of someone who ended up in a psychiatric ward this year because I ignored so many warnings that something in my head wasn’t operating at 100%. Figured the world was insane, not me (I own the term Insane because I literally WAS).

    You’ve got more self awareness. I dare say that if the future distances you from overly critical people you’ll find things easier to deal with but that is my personal experience and I’m not an expert on people :)

    You’re here, you’re ok, you’re doing fine in the worst year anyone could have imagined (I used to be a virologist and didn’t expect Covid). Give yourself credit mate :)

  31. Cygda*

    This is late but hopefully it helps someone anyways. One aspect that people with ADHD may deal with is RSD– Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria. Which can be summed up as you may have what’s considered a “overly responsive” reaction to perceived or actual negative situations or feedback.

    I do struggle with this personally and it was a relief to find out that it was a recognized and somewhat common thing. Having it defined for me made it easier to handle the instinctive responses I had.

  32. Lifeandlimb*

    OP, getting your brain to move hesitantly in new directions is a major positive characteristic of life in general. Some people never even make any movement on certain things. So cherish your gradual improvements over time, because each step is a valuable accomplishment.

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