Chronic Communication at Work: Since My Diagnosis, I’ve Lost My Confidence

Receiving a medical diagnosis can result in a loss of confidence. And, loss of confidence can impact how you feel at your job. Here are a couple of examples:

A client I’ll call Nicole recently learned she has a chronic condition, requiring her to follow a strict medication and self-care regimen. Nicole is managing to stay on top of her responsibilities at work while she adjusts to her medication. So far. But she’s still figuring out what she needs to do to feel as good as possible.

“I’m afraid about the future,” she said to me. “About how this condition is going to affect me going forward in my career. I was doing well before my diagnosis, getting lots of great feedback, feeling really great about what I had accomplished, thinking about where I might go next.

“I have had a few bad days, and I knew I wasn’t my usual high energy self. Believe me, it was noticed. While I appreciated the concern, I also didn’t want the attention. I don’t want my boss and co-workers to start tip-toeing around me.

“I’m not as sure of myself as I used to be.”

Another client, Danny, has been living with his chronic condition for a few years. He’s been doing okay. He attributes his success in “holding my job together” to learning how to pace himself, so that he keeps his day-to-day performance on an even pace. “Still,” he adds, “I don’t exactly jump at the chance to take on an additional challenge that I know might be too much for me to handle, especially if I am hitting a rough spot with my health.”

And that’s what worries Danny right now. He’s at a point in his career where he should be moving up to the next level, and he’s not sure what that might mean for him. He’s back to the question of how hard he should push himself. “Now, I don’t know if I should just maintain where I am, or if I should try to go for the next promotion. If I push myself too hard, am I going to end up failing? That could end up in costing me my job.

“I’m just not confident I am up for that much of a challenge.”

Self-Confidence is a Gift, One That You Can Give to Yourself

Being recently diagnosed with a chronic condition can take a hit on your self-confidence. And so can living with a chronic condition over time. And what is one of the areas in life where you most want to feel, and show, how confident you are? Most likely, your job. After all, our careers one of the ways we most value ourselves, and want to be valued by others. And let’s face it, your career is your livelihood. You’re depending on it, and your loved ones may be as well.

It’s only normal for your chronic condition to impact your self-confidence at work. So if this is happening to you, you’re not alone. But there’s also something you can do:

Some acceptance is in order. I’m talking about accepting your diagnosis here. Life on life’s terms. You didn’t ask for your chronic condition. But here it is. It’s normal to wish your chronic condition away, and to feel frustrated with the adjustments you have to make in your life to effectively live with it. However, the operative word here is live with. Chances are, it’s not going away. So don’t waste your emotional energy fighting it or trying to push it away. When you give up the fight, you free up valuable energy to take good care of yourself and to make reasonable decisions.

And while you’re doing all that accepting, don’t overlook the certainty of uncertainty. Living with a chronic condition means living with a daily reminder that life is random, and the future unpredictable. Use your own understanding of the life’s uncertainty to empower you to make every day count to its fullest. As well as to be open to what’s possible, what you can control. And again, not to fight what you can’t control. Acceptance contributes to peace of mind, another ingredient in self-confidence.

Keep informed. And while we’re on the topic of decisions, let’s also focus on educated decisions. Being an expert in your own condition and its treatment is a great confidence builder. When you’re educated, you have a stronger sense of what you need to be doing to take the best care of yourself, including where you need to be self-protective and where you can push yourself. Without being educated, you are making guesses about how to best manage your health at work. That’s not acting from a position of strength.

Take your own inventory. Keep your own strengths, skills, qualities front and center in your own mind. This is your foundation, you’ve earned it, and it’s always with you, regardless of your circumstances. Review it when your self-confidence feels a little, or a lot, shaky. This is especially important in the workplace, where it’s especially important to project an aura of confidence in your own ability to step up and function at your best.

Assess your resources. If you find yourself in a rough spot at work, what resources do you have to rely on for help? For starters, some suggestions include your HR department, your physician, any local organizations related to your chronic condition that you might be involved in. Know where you can reach out for advice or direct assistance. Be confident in the knowledge that you have a solid list of resources at hand.

Stay close to your network at work. As someone living with a chronic condition, one of your best resources should be your network. People who you can count on to have your back, who can be there for you if you need them. While you’re at it, also be aware of the people at work whom you can also support. By the way, also stay close to your network outside of your organization, in case you find yourself needing to make a move.

Watch your self-talk. If you’re walking around in a constant dialogue with yourself about how you’re not measuring up, or acting as your own internal voice of doom, you’re going to project lack of confidence, as well as set yourself up for not performing at your best. Negative thoughts are automatic, but you don’t have to follow them down the rabbit hole. When a thought comes up that threatens your confidence, tell it to go away. Replace it with self-talk that builds you up. Start with: “I’m doing the best I can.” And go from there.

Keep an open dialogue with management. I’m not suggesting that you need to involve your boss or other leaders in the details related to your chronic condition. What information you share and don’t share is up to you. But I am suggesting the important of “managing up.” That means keep them informed of what you’re up to at work, advocating for yourself to keep your contributions and your skills front and center. Not in a grandstanding way, but in support of transparency and teamwork. Also maintain an open dialogue regarding their perceptions of your performance, and what you need do to continue to build your career in your organization.

Know your rights. I’m also not suggesting you announce to your company that you have an employment lawyer on speed dial. But times do arise when an employee with a chronic condition has to advocate for him/herself, and some additional muscle may be required, even if only to remind your employer of the rules. Which they may be unaware of or just not following. You might want to have a casual conversation with your HR representative, or do some Googling on state and national guidelines. Be our own advocate!

Always have a Plan B. Let’s face it. Stuff happens. And when it does, you need to be ready to make a move to protect your income, if not forward your career. Within your current organization or another one. Sit down with yourself and develop your own career strategy, also known as your own exit strategy if it should ever come to that. Take charge of your career. With confidence in your ability to chart your own course. In other words, always have your next job in mind.

You, your job, and your confidence. Sure, your chronic condition may take a hit on your confidence at work. Confidence begins from within. Designate yourself CEO. Of your healthcare. Of your career. Of your life.