Humans are Hard

Claire Novotny
Feb 27 · 3 min read

As long as I can remember, I’ve been working on figuring other people out. I am data-driven — observing, gathering information, then anticipating possible outcomes, is my thing. Needless to say, I love preparation and not just professionally. This extends to nearly every aspect of my life, but I am not always successful at being fully prepared. My mind’s proclivity for hyper-analyzing and overthinking in an attempt to avoid making mistakes is my mind’s way of trying to bring order to chaos, to borrow a phrase from Star Trek’s Borg Queen.

I hesitate whenever I am not certain that my response is perfect in any given scenario. This self-doubt seems surmountable only when enough data has been processed but even that can lead toward blind spots remaining… blind. For example, at work recently, I was into a deep email thread with some very smart folks discussing ways to address an issue. I read every response, trying to think of something intelligent to contribute. Later, I responded to a smaller group in a sub-fork that elicited a response from my boss — just a single question mark — which prompted me to further elaborate before realizing I had been too “in the weeds” and missed the point of the original thread — a blind spot.

It’s hard to accept the imperfections that make us human. In order to see the blind spots, we have to shine a light on them, consider them, and move forward with that new information, adapting and growing. Easily recognizing the blind spots might be more intuitive and natural to others but for me, it is part of my data-gathering personality as I seek to know who I am and accept the results the data gives me or adapt if needed.

Focusing too deep on the wrong thing — the blind spot — and realizing it once it’s too late happens far too often and it makes me feel bad, reinforcing my overthinking the next time. This makes me hesitate even more, questioning if I’ve stopped my data-gathering too soon, letting my insecurities filter information out. I want to embrace the best parts of me while strengthening my weaknesses. What if I am filtering out information I need in order to know myself better?

Recently, I was in Marrakech, Morocco with a friend. One night we went out to a high-end Moroccan restaurant that had belly dancers. One of the performers pulled me up to dance with her and I was momentarily terrified. I wanted to dance but there were people looking at me. I didn’t know how to move standing next to a professional belly dancer — I was fumbling around, clumsily moving my arms and waist. But I stuck with it, forcing myself into the discomfort zone and I danced. I wasn’t graceful and I can only imagine what the audience witnessed! Haha! I was certainly uncomfortable, wishing I looked less foolish and more impressive. This is the recurring theme for me: being uncomfortable, feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing or supposed to do, and pushing forward to do it anyway. I am unpleasantly aware that this discomfort is where growth can happen. I have been working with a therapist for a while now who has helped me to understand, interpret, and make sense of my life. I can say without a doubt I am not the same person I once was. In order to grow, we must learn from our journey. At the end of the day, I guess we are all a work in progress. My hope is that reflecting on who I am leads me to better understand and accept myself.

I don’t love talking about myself. The battle that ensues with my imposter syndrome only reinforces my penchant to overthink, overanalyze, and underestimate myself. But there are reminders along the way that just like each of you, my story has value. So, even if somewhat reluctant to do so, I will continue to tell my story, pushing myself out of my comfort zone into the spaces that allow me to grow and to accept… me.

Humans really are hard but then, we are all human, right? To me, this means offering myself at least the same grace I would offer others. Doing so helps increase my self-awareness to make me a better leader, a better collaborator, a better communicator.

Claire Novotny

Written by

Executive Director of the .NET Foundation and PM on the VS and .NET team at Microsoft (she/her)

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