Midlife Debutante Blog

High-Performers Have a Hard Time Making Friends

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A lot has changed for the better. After over twenty-two years of being a marketing professional (corporate and freelance), I finally got the opportunity of a lifetime. To enter the “brass ring” of executive marketing as a Chief Marketing Officer.

I sat by and watched other colleagues get there first. I was always gunning for a D-Level or higher role. And I was a Director and Sr. Marketing Manager many times. But somehow in the past five years, going through everything I did health-wise (and the deterioration of my marriage) I guess I kind of gave up.

But it was more than that. There is something much more than that, which caused me to shun the leadership roles that I was qualified for. Now over a year and a half after I physically left my marriage and home, some healing and shifting have happened. Which has allowed me to look a little deeper into the “why” of so many things.

A combination of imposter syndrome (which I have in spades) and realizing that someone who is hardcore into their career, has an impairment. Socially. High-performers are super ambitious and excited about getting results. Motivated not just by salary, but accomplishment in their own career. Legit, I am that person.

And I built a narrative that people don’t (or will not) like me because of that drive. Socially sometimes. But also when integrating with teams. It’s easy to dislike a high-performer if you feel insecure about your job, or your own skills. But if you approached me and got to know me, you’d meet a woman who truly wants to help everyone look good.

Workaholicism Is Hiding Something You Don’t Know About

But what if you are a less ambitious person? How would you categorize me? Obnoxious? Maybe. I’m not telling you that you have to be like me. But deep inside me, I have a flaw that expects everyone around me to flow with the same dynamo vibe. Is that fair? Nope.

So imagine I join your team and I start flexing all the things (excitedly) that I know will improve the business. Help us all reach the goals of the organization and look good. To me, that’s a good thing right? We all win. I really just want to be liked. By everyone. Always. Even though I know that is an insanely idealistic and irrational goal. I don’t like everyone. I try. And everyone will surely not like me either.

But why do I want that feeling of being like everyone else? And accepted as not an intimidating shaker-upper, but just a really great asset? Someone who will bust her butt to make everyone look good, and make the boss happy? And the company prosper, which is the goal.

I left my previous role because of this problem. Being a high-performer in an inexperienced team. I am a teacher, a colleague and I like having positive work relationships. But building a marketing department from scratch meant change, and that change came with social resistance that made me feel like the enemy.

Ambitious But Not Competitive: The Hard Sell to Convince Others

I have always said that I am actually competitive; with myself. I never look at other people and think “I need to beat that person and be better than them”. It’s not in my DNA. I want EVERYONE to win and feel good. Kill it when it comes to the important things in life. Of which career, is only one part.

If you have a beautiful house, a great marriage, money in the bank, and no debt? I idolize you. Because I know those things come with a lot of hard work and good decisions. Sacrifices also. I’ve been that person several times in my life. I am not that person right now. And I feel deficient.

But not jealous. I admire you. And I try to surround myself with people who have the life I want so badly. I don’t shun them because I do not have those things. They inspire me to work harder. I ask questions and try to learn what they did to get ahead (or recover, again, in my case).

And what if you admire me? I’ll think you are crazy. Let’s recap. High anxiety. Five dogs. No house and am squarely in the rental trap as I try to recover financially from my three consecutive years of hospitalization. And fighting through the immigration system (don’t make a form error…seriously, it’s a nightmare that can result in deportation if you can believe it).

And then the bad marriage. Not a unique experience. Many have been where I am right now. Picking up the pieces in all domains; emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual. Post-divorce is this tornado of self-hate for me. Not guilt (zero regrets about ending it). But why did I miss the red flags? Why did I invest myself so vigorously into something that ended like an Atom bomb? I’m smarter than that, right?

Clearly, not so much. But for someone who thinks she has no poker face, apparently, I hide it pretty well. The self-hate. The shame of being back at square one (hey I’ve owned three houses… and I live in a 636-square-foot third-floor apartment… yay!). My credit looks like World War III (thanks to American healthcare).


Seeing Beyond the Facade to a Transparent Coping Mechanism

You think I think I am better than you? I find that shocking. If you only knew, most days, how little I think of myself. It would shock you. My great ability to seem “okay” on the outside when I am not. All you see maybe is an arrogant woman who is strong, flippant, and hardworking. Not your cup of tea huh? Most days, I am not my own cup of tea either.

I’m competing with myself. Not another soul on this planet. Ever.

So when I work hard and act like the nerd in the front row in class, it’s not about shading you. Or outperforming you. Trying to make you look bad or anything. Don’t you see? It’s me trying to validate my own worth in the one thing I haven’t failed at in life… my career.

It’s the only thing (most days) I feel I got right.

But if I was a man, would you be reacting this way? Or would you admire me? I can give any man in my field a run for his money, and still make less than he will. I work in a male dominant industry and sector. And struggle to prove my worth every single day. Knowing, that I have to work three times as hard as a man to keep my job; more is expected of me, for reasons I don’t understand.

If you work with someone who is a “keener” as we used to call them back in school, maybe this shines some perspective. Because they may not be trying to outshine you. They may be trying to prove to themselves that they have worth. In some verticals in life, particularly after failing at other more transparent measurables. The house. The kids. The great marriage. The big circle of friends and close family.

I just want to feel good about some part of my life. Until I learn to love the comedy of errors, and traumatic experiences, and accept myself as a human who plowed through it all and never gave up. Some days I feel that pride. But not often enough.

And I want to be whole, like you.



Midlife Debutante

A forty-something single woman, with too many small dogs. Marketing professional, creative writer, and culinary disaster (but always trying). You'll find me outdoors as often as possible, or on a patio people watching and writing.

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