Picking ourselves up again after our self-esteem has been beaten down over and over in a toxic work environment is not easy.
The negative remarks made by our demanding bosses, the rumours spread by backstabbing colleagues, or the burn-out from dealing with difficult work challenges may have left us so scarred emotionally that we’re considering a complete career change—anything to avoid going back into that field.
However, with a little time to rest and refresh, coupled with a bit of love and warmth from the Son, we’ll soon be back on our feet again. Recovery isn’t going to be immediate, but here are a few things you can do to reclaim your self-confidence at work.
1. Take time off to rest and refresh
It might be tempting to start job hunting right away, but it’s crucial that we take some time to rest and recharge, so the wounds of our broken self-esteem won’t bleed into our new role.
If your finances allow for it, take a short break. If not, set aside time after work or on the weekends for some quiet time. Use this chance to run to the feet of Jesus, who says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
As we bring our brokenness to Him in prayer, allow Him to gently lead us to green pastures and quiet waters to refresh our souls (Psalm 23:1-3), and work in the areas of our hurt as He mends and binds our wounds (Psalm 147:3).
2. Reflect on areas of growth
We left our toxic work environment vowing we’d never speak about that place ever again as long as we are alive. But stuffing our memories at the back of our minds may not be the wisest or the healthiest. As painful or traumatic it’ll be to reflect on what we’ve learned from the experience, it’s also an important step towards healing and recovery.
You can ask yourself questions such as: What did I learn about myself in the last workplace—maybe the work environment wasn’t quite a good fit? What were the challenges I faced? What truths can I hang on to should this happen again in the future?
Or, if this is the fifth “toxic” workplace we have quit, perhaps we might have to admit that the problem lies with us. Was there any consistent issue or feedback that we’ve seen emerged from our previous workplaces? What’s blinding us from accepting their feedback? What can we do to change this damaging behaviour and grow from it?
This is when a trusted friend or a mentor comes in, whether it’s to help us untangle the mess of our toxic work environment, build us up when we have been trodden on over and over, or to lovingly but truthfully point out blind spots we need to change. We can also invite the Holy Spirit to help “search and test our hearts if there’s any offensive ways in us” (Psalm 139:23-24), and let Him show us how we can humble ourselves and grow from the experience.
3. Continue to hone your skills
Our toxic work environment may have left us questioning our abilities and doubting our passion. Perhaps we were in the wrong field after all?
Well, now we’re free to explore other potential career options that could be a better fit for us. Why not spend some time honing and rediscovering your skills in a safe environment—such as volunteering?
If the local animal shelter is looking for someone to do their accounts (and we’re good with numbers) why not give them a bell? Or perhaps, we’ve always enjoyed teaching, and this could be our chance to teach new migrants/refugees English.
We never know how these pursuits might lead us to new friendships, a renewed sense of purpose, and perhaps, even a new job.
4. Push on and press forward
Hooray! Our time spent resting, debriefing, and volunteering has been very fruitful, and we’ve now landed a new job, with a better pay and better hours to boot. Alas, the trauma of our last workplace reared its head, and we’re now reduced to a pile of nerves, worrying our new place might be as toxic as our last.
The great news is, the past has no hold over us. Scripture exhorts us to forget what’s behind, and to instead strain forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13). So embrace this new challenge with a quick prayer to ease your nerves: “Dear God, thank you for a new start. I’m a bit nervous, but I know You’ll go before me, and You’ll be with me in this new place”.
If things start to get overwhelming, do some breathing exercises and take stock of our surroundings to remind ourselves that we are in the here and now.
5. Surround yourself with prayer and support
We’ve passed our three-month probationary mark, found a group of new colleagues to have lunch with, and for once, we are doing really well in our new role.
But instead of jumping for joy, we find ourselves paralysed with fear and self-doubt, wondering if we’re capable of pulling off such a feat. To make things worse, the negative comments from our old bosses starts creeping back into our minds.
When this happens, surround yourself with prayer, surrendering your fears to God, knowing God’s grace is sufficient in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We can also challenge our thought patterns and silence those critical thoughts by taking them captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, family members, and loved ones for prayer support and advice too. They may be able to offer insight and wisdom that could help us begin our new journey well!
But we know that with the help of God and trusted loved ones, we can recover in time and regain our confidence at work.