Returning to work - dealing with self doubts and fears

Returning to Work – Dealing with Self-doubt & Fears

Last week, we heard Ananya’s story on why she chooses to work. She is very clear that her professional self is a significant part of her identity. To her, it means that she is independent in many ways, including financially and that she and her husband are inter-dependent in ways, that say ‘respect’ in words and actions.

For Ananya and people like her, there is no dilemma – “should I work? Should I be a homemaker? Should I be a career woman and homemaker?”. It’s a comfortable place to be, because the mental energy can now be channeled to other areas. For women, who are still debating the choice, to be or not to be (a working homemaker), there are fears and self-doubt to set aside, before they can focus on getting ready to return. Maybe Charu’s story will strike a chord with you.

When we asked Charu, why she chose to return to work, here’s what she said,
“When I was on a career break for 5 years, I felt reluctant to spend my husband’s hard-earned money on small luxuries – gifts for family and friends or even to take a taxi. I want the freedom in my mind to do that, without a lot of thought”

Charu had completed her MBA HR and had specialized in Compensation & Benefits. She had worked for a little over 8 years and was considered a domain expert in her area. She had even delivered talks at a few HR conferences about the then emerging discussion on pay parity. When Charu’s second child was born, she decided to take a year-long break to cope with the responsibilities and to enjoy her children.

The one-year break became 5 years and when I first spoke to her, she had more fears than she could articulate. She was worried that no one would want to hire her, that she may no longer be as high a performer as she used to be, that her skills were outdated, and so on. One day she would be full of enthusiasm, determined to return to work, the next day all her doubts would be back.

are you also transfixed with these fears

We asked her to identify three things that bothered her about not working. She thought for a while and said,
  1. Not having my own income
  2. Hesitating to spend money on comforts, like thinking three times before I take an Uber
  3. Thinking about gifts from the perspective of cost

She explained further, “for so many years, I had money in my bank account, my own cards, etc. Once I quit work, I had to dip into our joint account for everything. Full credit to my husband, he never once asked, “is this expense necessary?”. But I felt and still (after 5 years) feel awkward about it, especially when it is a non-essential spend – should I take the bus or an auto, instead of a cab? Should I spend so much on a gift for a friend’s baby? Is it okay to go out for a coffee with friends once a month or should I cut it down to once every other month? Should I pay for a gym membership, or should I just walk and work out at home? Every single thing becomes a debate in my head.”

We asked her if she saw a downside to going back to work. Her response was instantaneous, “absolutely none. My kids are grown up enough and are encouraging me to get back to work. They know that I would be happier. It’s just self-doubt and the fear of being rejected, fear of failure, etc, etc”

Charu’s mentor recommended a course that she could take which would address her skills gap and make her feel more confident. The course is well regarded in the industry and would help her to brush up on subjects that had already handled at work and also bring her up to speed on changes in the space. Charu went through the website and was excited – by the completeness of the curriculum, the time that she would need to spend and the fact that it was certified by some of the top HR firms. Until she got to the fees 😕. She said, “objectively, I know that the fee is not large. I also know that I’ll recover the amount within three months once I start earning. BUT. What if I don’t complete the course? What if I can’t find a job? I would have wasted the money.”

How upskilling programs bridge career breaks

We suggested that she share this with friends and get their opinion. She did. All three of them said, “Go for it”.

Still Charu hesitated.

We suggested she talk to her husband. She took a week, and then showed him the site and asked for his opinion. He insisted that she sign up right away.

Still, Charu was not sure.

We had one more discussion and said, “let us write down all the worries you have” and made a list. It all boiled down to the same thing. Finally, at my wits’ end, I asked, “if someone were to gift you this course, would you be ok?” The smile on Charu’s face lit up our Google Meet screen, and she said, “that’s a great idea! It can be my advance birthday gift instead of a dress or jewelry!”. And she signed up!


Charu completed the course and the certification. It took a couple of months for her to find the right company and position, but once she did, she settled in and is now considered one of their star performers.

Our Perspective:

Doubts and fears can paralyse us and prevent us from moving forward. Intellectually, all of us know that there are no guarantees in life. We just have to jump in and do our best to make it work. Sometimes there may be false starts. Something that looked appealing, we may find boring as we delve deeper. Sometimes, it takes more mental effort and application to learn a concept. But no one can do it for us. It is solely in our hands. So let us adopt the Nike slogan, and “Just Do It”.

Just Do it - indePenn

Another way to look at it – we have two assets: money and time. We tend to protect our money fiercely and we’re always alert to make sure we are not being robbed or cheated But often, we allow our time to be stolen. By self-doubt, inertia and what-ifs that cannot be answered. Ironically, if we invested our time better, we could be adding to our corpus of money.

What do you think? Do let us know in the comments. 

If you’re a reader of our posts, you already know that indePenn brings women on a career break back to work. If you’re wondering whether you can return to work, reach out to us by signing up at – we’ll handhold you through the journey of getting back to work.

indePenn coaches and prepares women on a career break to return to work, to be and present themselves as confident professionals.

Tags – #ReturningToWork #CareerBreak #SelfDoubt #Fears #WorkLifeBalance #FinancialIndependence #SkillsGap #CareerTransition #ProfessionalDevelopment #ConfidenceBuilding #OvercomingChallenges #Mentorship #SupportNetwork #JustDoIt #TimeManagement #InvestInYourself #CareerCoaching #WomenInWorkforce #CareerReentry #WorkLifeIntegration


Do share your thoughts

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: