“How Do I Get Over My Fear Of Being Revealed As A Failure?”

Coral’s spent years working hard in a respected field, but long hours and added stress are grinding her down. She knows it’s time for change, but she’s struggling to believe she can make her next move a success. How do you create a new and fulfilling career, when you’re terrified of being unmasked as a failure?

What’s your career history and current job?

I’d always wanted to work with children in healthcare, so I originally qualified as a paediatrician, working hard to obtain an extra clinical science degree.

I was initially enthusiastic about my work, but over time I found paediatrics more challenging than I thought. I began to doubt myself to the point where I felt it would be better to retrain.

For the past year, I’ve been working as a consultant in clinical genetics, which diagnoses and investigates inherited medical conditions.

How do you feel about your work?

I enjoy being able to spend more time on individual cases, and making a new diagnosis feels like an achievement.

I’m also grateful that my current role still allows me to work with children.

I love explaining medical terms so they can be clearly understood, and I produce easily readable documents to help families and their doctors manage the care process.

However, I often feel that patients and their families would benefit from someone who will simply listen, and help them navigate the different medical options presented to them. Unfortunately, most of the time there is no provision for this, as everybody’s workload is too intense.

Each case involves a lot of preparation and admin, including ‘box-ticking’ exercises that not only feel unfulfilling, but mean I regularly have to work during evenings and weekends.

Some of the complex cases I’m working on have been ongoing for years, which is frustrating, and since I work in a highly competitive field, there is constant pressure to do more research, and complete extra tasks.

I’ve worked hard to get to this point in my career, and I’ve always wanted to learn as much as I could. But after studying for so many years, then going straight into a demanding environment with an intense and pressurised workload for so many years, I’m exhausted and resentful.

It feels like I’ve been putting my life on hold.

What would you like to be doing instead?

While I’m not sure what form it would take just yet, I’d love to do meaningful work that means I can empower others to take ownership of their health.

I’m passionate about coaching and alternative medicine, and I’ve had thoughts about training as a nutrition coach or yoga teacher.

I’d also love to travel, so I can really get under the skin of new places and cultures. I dream about hosting long wellbeing retreats overseas!

What’s the biggest obstacle in your way?

I’m scared of being revealed as a failure.

I’ve always struggled with impostor syndrome, which is part of the reason why I work so hard. I know I seem successful to people outside my profession, but inside I’m always comparing myself unfavourably to others, knowing I’m not capable of achieving the same things they have.

My colleagues effortlessly take on extra tasks that I’ve struggled with, or combine other work with their clinical careers. Meanwhile, I tried taking a coaching course alongside my current role, but I had to stop because juggling my work with the demands of the course became too much.

Some of the friends I’ve opened up to have told me I should just leave, because then I’ll have the time and space to explore different options, and plan some next steps.

But if I do leave, I’ll be throwing away years of hard work in a respected field, which I know other people will judge me for. I feel I would have to prove to them - and myself - that the new career I’m leaving for is worth it. But I can’t, because I don’t know what it’s going to be yet.

I’ve got no evidence that I could even achieve anything in another field, since my CV is just a long list of medical jobs. After not knowing exactly what I’m going to do, my biggest fear is finding out that I’m not good enough to make the changes I want, and being left with nothing.

I keep thinking I should just carry on, and be grateful for the career I have. But I honestly don’t know how much longer I can continue feeling so unhappy.

How do I ditch my fear of failure, and convince myself that I can find a fulfilling new career?

Can you help Coral?
  • Have you been in a similar situation, or are you in the same boat right now?
  • How do you think Coral could move her shift forwards?
  • Do you know anyone she could talk to?

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