What is one of the best methods to handle feeling as if you’re not meeting expectations?

I started a new job and my last position left me feeling like a failure. I recently lost my brother and dad within two months in the fall
Asked by Cindy

Hi Cindy! I am so grateful to see that you are reaching out for support at this time. It sounds like you are seeking out methods in which you can explore your feelings. Based on what you wrote in your question, I can see why you would be inquiring about ways in which to best manage your feelings. There are numerous therapeutic modalities and counseling interventions that can assist you in attaining your goal of handling the emotional experiences that you have been having lately. My hope is that I can inform you about these various interventions as well as help you in coming up with novel ways to better understand your feelings as well as manage them effectively.

First and foremost, I want to give you my sincere condolences for your recent losses. I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to lose your brother and father around the same time last year. It sounds like you went through a lot at one time having them both pass away two months apart. How are you doing with managing this sense of loss now? Where would you say that you are at in the grieving process? It may be helpful for you to take some time to check out the stages of grief by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. The five stages of grief, according to Kübler-Ross, include shock, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. Grief can be a circular process and is not necessarily linear. For example, an individual who is experiencing grief may go through more than one stage at a time as well as shift from one stage to another. There are free resources and worksheets online by Therapist Aid that could aid you in organizing your thoughts and concerns regarding where you are at in the grieving process.

In addition to reviewing the stages of grief and loss, I would like to encourage you to participate in a therapeutic writing exercise. If you have time and are willing to try, you can utilize therapeutic journaling and writing as a means to foster a sense of relaxation as well as process your experiences and express your feelings. There are countless journaling prompts on the BetterHelp platform. It could benefit you to write in your journal on a daily or weekly basis. Keeping track of your emotions in a feelings diary can be helpful for both short term and long term reflection.

In addition to daily journaling, you could incorporate ad libs into your writing. An interesting concept that I came up with when someone that I loved passed away is to create an ad lib about the bereaved person. Essentially, you could fill in the blanks for the following statements as well as come up with your own outlined sentences, as well: "The person I lost is (name). I love how this person would (verb) with (noun/ adjective). My favorite memories with (name) was when (describe memories). The qualities that I admired most about (name) were their (adjectives). If I could tell one thing to (name) it would be (insert thought/ feeling). (Name) will be known for their (adjective/ noun)."

Therapeutic art making is another way in which you can engage in self exploration and express your feelings. The benefits of art therapy can be eye opening, healing and incredibly inspiring. Gather your choice of art supplies and paint, draw, color, weave or sculpt your feelings. A well known art therapy directive derived from the Drawing Diagnostic Series (DDS) developed by Barry Cohen is: "Draw your feelings in lines, shapes and colors." As for art supplies, the DDS directive specifically calls for colored chalk pastels and 18 x 24 inch drawing paper. For more information on the benefits of art therapy, please check out the website for the American Art Therapy Association: arttherapy.org 

I believe that you are so brave to reach out for support at this time. I want to remind you that your feelings, thoughts and experiences are truly valid. Whether they are positive, neutral or even negative, your experiences are so important. As I mentioned before, you can survey your experiences through therapeutic journaling and art making. As another coping skill, I would like to recommend that you try out some mindfulness based techniques. Take some time to practice the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skill of mindfulness. Mindfulness essentially means being present in the moment. In addition to fully being present in this moment in time, another aspect of mindfulness includes relieving feelings of anxiety, stress and focusing on the here and now. Try to incorporate a sensory grounding exercise such as recognizing five things that you see, four things that you feel, three things you hear, two things you can smell and one thing that you can taste.

Regarding your concerns about meeting expectations and feeling like a failure in your line of work, I would like to encourage you to address this in one on one counseling sessions. The therapy process can give you an opportunity to explore more about your core beliefs as well as your reasons for feeling this way. On BetterHelp, you can request to be matched with a licensed therapist who is trained and specializes in career counseling. For now, I would like to recommend that you combat the negative thoughts you have as well as challenge unrealistic expectations through positive self talk. Simply remind yourself that you are not a failure and that you are doing the best that you can. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies can be beneficial for you to assay.

Thank you again, Cindy, for your time asking this really great question on the BetterHelp platform. I sincerely hope that my response has been helpful for you in some way. I want to wish you all the best on your therapeutic journey now and in the future. Take good care and have a good day!