For the past few weeks, I’ve been chronicling my ongoing journey from freelancer to teamlancer. It’s been an interesting transition, in no small part because I still straddle both work worlds.
In discussing teamlancing vs. freelancing with friends and colleagues, there’s been one topic that comes up most often and one question I’m asked repeatedly: Don’t you feel insecure? Actually, I don’t. Though I’ll admit that the first weeks of teamlancing were a bit nerve-wracking as I tried to find my way within a team of people who had worked together for years.
And as someone with a healthy dose of self-confidence, it surprised me to hear from my freelancing friends that the main issue that would keep them from joining a teamlance setup would be fear of insecurity.
But let’s back up for a moment.
Feeling insecure at work? Understanding professional insecurity
My freelance writer friends have some of the thickest skins of any professionals I’ve ever met. After all, many of them pitch strangers on a daily basis and bare their souls in the form of story pitches and then wait anxiously for a response. And it’s not unusual for a freelancer to proudly show off a rejection from a coveted editor, grateful for a personalized rejection. I also think about my PR peeps who work to craft pitches about their clients only to be ignored, mocked, or rejected by journalists who are themselves so overwhelmed by work that responding to those pitches can feel like a full-time job. But it isn’t just freelancers who feel the ongoing nagging sense of insecurity.
In an article that ran on Harvard Business Review (HBR) about understanding professional insecurity, insecurity at work was linked with imposter syndrome. Most fascinating was the fact that this level of insecurity didn’t only plague people without professional skills — quite the opposite. Insecurity at work was sometimes linked with ambition and overwork and the nagging circle of desiring outside praise and then being unable to mimic the satisfaction within yourself. And here’s a fascinating twist; in another article on the topic on HBR, they identified “insecure overachievers” who are described in the second article as being “exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy.”
Where does professional insecurity stem from?
- Imposter syndrome: HBR linked insecurity at work with imposter syndrome, that awful feeling that you’re a fraud and that others can see through you. Rest assured that they can’t. And besides, if you really were a fake, you probably would never have gotten the job in the first place.
- Childhood issues: HBR also talked about how some people with childhood issues of insecurity and a feeling of a lack of love translated that need for validation in the workplace. If you’re worried that you’re too needy at work, consider setting up a goal buddy for yourself. Compare your work projects and see if there’s actually room for improvement or if you’re just being too hard on yourself. If you think it will help, keep a journal of the people or situations that set off your workplace insecurity and try to avoid them or be better prepared in the future.
Trying to fit into a team when your team is virtual
Those articles on professional insecurity were written back when a majority of people still worked in more traditional office settings. With working from home being the norm for the foreseeable future, many people seem to be feeling a new level of professional insecurity.
“As an extrovert, working from home has been super challenging for me,” shared Hillary, a senior public relations specialist who for professional reasons asked to be identified by her first name only.
“I remember two years ago when I was thinking of quitting my previous job that I would love working from home and contemplated going completely freelance,” Hillary continued. In the end, she didn’t think it was a great fit, so Hillary kept her old job. And then everything changed for all of us.
“With the pandemic, we have been forced to work from home, and challenges arose.” For Hillary, being away from other people somehow set off her insecurities:
“I thrive off of people’s energy, so living and working alone has been tough. As the months have passed, I have gotten used to it, but feeling insecure about my job and work has remained.”
Hillary often wonders if she’s doing enough or should she be doing more.
“I often wonder if my teammates feel similar feelings. Will I have job security? I sometimes feel like I miss deadlines, or I am missing content. Then, bring on the guilt! It’s been an up-and-down roller coaster ride during these unprecedented times.”
Are you being too hard on yourself?
Similar to the reports in HBR, Hillary admitted that the insecurity came from within. “If I am being frank, it is completely me and the pressure I place on myself,” she said. “Some days, I feel like I am motivated and doing so much! Other days, I feel unmotivated and feel as though I am not doing enough. What else should I be doing? Will I be fired? Will I disappoint my boss and senior leadership? Will my team think I am lazy? I run through these questions pretty often.”
The trickle-down effect of professional insecurity
Like many of us, Hillary also has side hustles including as a freelance makeup artist. And these days, insecurity preys upon her in both her jobs.
“It doesn’t just happen with my full-time job in public relations, it also trickles into my other side gigs, especially as a freelance makeup artist.” Since Hillary is self-taught “I am constantly comparing myself to other artists who (in her opinion) are better at their craft and are professionally trained.”
She takes it a step further into the teamlancing space: “When I am working with other artists at a wedding, I am looking over at their work and comparing it to my own. How did she get her skin to look so good? How did she make her eye look so wonderful?”
And in those moments, Hillary allows her insecurity to be exacerbated by making comparisons with her colleagues. “I think the comparison game is real, and in turn, it’s made me feel insecure about my skills as an artist. I am always learning and always growing, but I cannot help but feel like my work doesn’t always measure up.”
How do you cope?
We’ve all had to learn new ways to get through our ever-evolving workspace and team dynamics over the past few months and that means tackling insecurity.
“I have been trying to work on my coping mechanisms when it comes to my insecurity,” Hillary admitted. “Thankfully, I have a few close friends in my support network who remind me that I am good at what I do, passionate about the things I care about and that I am doing enough. They constantly remind me that it’s not healthy to compare myself to others; it’s something that I am trying to actively work on. In addition, since the summer, I have been turning to yoga as my outlet to meditate, breathe, and take an hour to myself to center myself. It’s been a great space for me!”
3 things to realize about insecurity when teamlancing
- It’s entirely possible that you’re being overly dramatic and imagining that you’re not quite as good as everyone else. After all, it’s not like you can check in daily to assess your success or failures. Or can you? Is there a way to make yourself accountable to yourself before facing your colleagues?
- Once you allow yourself to fall into a pit of despair over one of your teamlancing gigs, you might just be setting yourself up for added insecurity in everything else that you do. While we all need a pity party every now and again, try to avoid that steep slide that swallows all your confidence.
- Your friends, colleagues, and teammates know how amazing you are. If you’re having a bout of insecurity, consider confiding in someone on your team and ask them to honestly assess your work or productivity. Perhaps challenging yourself to do better will give you the boost you need instead of wallowing in misery. And who knows? It’s entirely possible that you’re already amazing and simply need someone outside of your head to remind you of that fact.
4 tips to curb anxiety before meetings
Meanwhile, what happens if your work insecurity only takes place during the at work/at home moments like all those Zoom meetings?
“If you have to run your first Zoom meeting, it’s pretty natural to get a little anxious,” said Tracy Bagatelle-Black, MA, a therapist who offered four tips on how to curb your anxiety before meetings:
- Take a dry run with your equipment beforehand. Send the invite to a friend to test it all out. You can even practice the presentation and presenting a slide show or whatever you are talking about. Knowing how to do it can ease some anxiety.
- Always make sure to log in early to make sure it all works on the day of the event.
- Power posing can help people feel less anxious before a meeting. This can be helpful to some people who suffer from performance anxiety.
- Dress in something that is comfortable but makes you feel good about yourself. Also, make sure you have flattering lighting to feel your best.
3 tips to banish insecurity when working remotely
Bagatelle-Black also shared some tips for feeling less insecure when working remotely:
1. Challenge being micromanaged.
If you feel that your supervisor is micromanaging you even from a distance, you need to take action.
“Handling this is about communicating to your boss in a way that makes the person feel assured that the work is getting done,” Bagatelle-Black said. “Make sure you find out what your boss is anxious about and address it. That may curb that person’s tendency to micromanage.”
And if all else fails, “empathizing with the boss goes a long way.”
2. Create distance when possible.
If your feelings of anxiety or insecurity stem from managing your kids while working in a teamlancing environment, Bagatelle-Black said, “You may need to bring in a part-time tutor or babysitter to help your kid do the work.”
And if possible, she suggests setting aside your own workspace away from the kids. It’s entirely possible that your insecurity goes into overdrive when you see your kids and feel guilty or overwhelmed and instead of becoming angry at them or the situation, your insecurity takes over.
3. Organization is everything.
Bagatelle-Black said that “Organization is key to helping curb your anxiety.” For Bagatelle-Black, that means keeping a Franklin Planner (for lists and notes) and also a weekly appointment book.
“I work now as a school-based therapist and in private practice, plus I have 2 kids, so I need to be organized. My lists keep me on top of all my paperwork and knowing that I am organized curbs my own anxiety about forgetting to do something!”