“I think you need to leave Facebook. It's killing you."
The words my wife had said to me during a couple's therapy session were devastating. She was right. And yet I was terrified about the prospect of leaving a role I spent the last 3.5 years pouring all my energy into. My entire identity had become synonymous with my role as "Manager of User Research" on the team responsible for all the features related to posting on Facebook.
On paper, I was the paragon of success. I was a rising leader at one of the most sought after employers in the world. My team was shaping the experience of 2 billion people daily. I was helping grow the careers of talented researchers, and sharing my social psychology knowledge with people across multiple disciplines.
However, internally there was another story.
Every morning I would leave the house at 6:30am and return around 7:00pm. I would often respond to messages and emails up until bedtime, cutting off good conversations with my wife to attend to work matters. Not only was I completely out of balance, but I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I was caught up in chasing an "exceeds expectations" performance rating every six months (which impacted my salary and bonus), and I was constantly looking for opportunities to prove I was worthy of a promotion. I was burned out, but Facebook was, in my mind, the apex of my career. There was no going up from there. And what would everyone think of me if I left?
Like many people, I spent most of my life seeking ways to fit in, be accepted, and be successful in all the traditional senses (prestigious career, wealth, relationships).
I had a desperate need to prove my worth to others, and to not stand out.
I also had serious “Imposter Syndrome”. “Imposter Syndrome” is where you feel like a fraud and that at any moment you could be caught out. You think thoughts like, “Someone is going to find out that I shouldn’t have been hired,” or “someone is going to find out that I’m not as smart as they thought I was.”
Here’s the funny thing about “Imposter Syndrome”: I know I’m smart, capable and a hard worker. I have a PhD and moved fairly quickly up the corporate ladder at Facebook and Microsoft. Still, those imposter thoughts - and resulting feeling - repeated for me.
So I worked harder and I achieved more - but none of it lit me up. I knew that I wanted to make an impact on the world, but following the path I was on was not it.