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9 Signs You Are Living a Career Lie (and what to do about it)

In my previous article “10 Most Harmful Thoughts Stopping Your Success and Happiness”, I wrote one of the most dangerous thoughts we have is “what will other people think?”. This thought is responsible for 87% of people choosing a career that looks or sounds good on the outside, but inevitably makes them feel they are slowly dying on the inside. These people are living what I would call a career lie. Pursuing a career that isn’t true to who they really are.

How do you know if you are living a career lie? Here are the top 9 signs that you’re most likely living a career lie – and some useful tips on what to do about it.

1)   Stress

Obvious signs of stress are feelings of fear and anxiety, heart palpitations and sweating. Less obvious signs are poor sleep, reliance on alcohol, food, smoking or drugs to calm down, persistent or frequent colds and infections, lack of appetite or upset stomach, and feeling like you are constantly running on adrenalin.

According to DISC theory, we have our natural style of behaviour and our adaptive style of behaviour.

“The adaptive style is how you behave when you feel you are being observed or how you behave when you are aware of your behavior. This style is less natural and less authentic for you or your true tendencies and preferences. When forced to adapt to this style for too long you may become stressed and less effective”. (You can take the DISC personality test here to find out whether you are behaving naturally at work or not.)

Stress could also be a sign you are working in a job that doesn’t play to your natural strengths. Perhaps you feel like you are constantly working outside of your comfort zone and not improving in any way. This leaves you feeling exhausted, drained and super stressed.

If you feel like you’re not being your authentic self at work, then you might be living a career lie. Maybe it’s time to figure out what job you could do instead more aligned to who you are and what you enjoy.

2)   Average or underperformance

When I worked in recruitment in London, compared to other recruitment consultants, I was distinctly average. Not only that, I had to work twice as hard as everyone else to be just distinctly average. Why? Because I was lying to myself. I wasn’t a recruitment consultant. It simply wasn’t a job that aligned to who I am as a person. I’m not a natural sales person. I’m not target-driven or money-orientated. I’m not super competitive. All qualities that many of the best recruitment consultants possess. Ultimately, I was living a career lie.

I want to make a difference. I want to help people take control of their lives and careers so they can have the life they want. I’m great at listening, problem-solving, seeing things from all angles, helping people view things from different perspectives. And the job I have now allows me to do all of these things.

Be honest with yourself – are you underperforming because you’re living a career lie?

3)   In it for the wrong reasons

Doesn’t matter if you’re staying in a job for the money, the status or the security. Whatever your reason, I can tell you this now – the real reason is fear. Fear of being rejected. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough, young enough or smart enough to try something new.

Fear is a funny thing. Its purpose is one of protection. It deliberately creates all of these imaginary worst case scenarios in your head to keep you where you are at. In your comfort zone. Where you are safe. It might not feel comfortable but it’s certainly familiar.

The problem is when you are consumed by fear, there is no room for happiness. Nobody experiences fulfilment when all of their decisions are driven by fear. You will simply stay stuck in a job you hate and slowly start to die inside. As I stated in my previous post, the pain of staying stuck is a thousand times more painful than making any change that could improve the quality of your life. If you know deep down you’re only staying in your job because you’re scared, it’s time to address those fears, make a change and stop living a career lie.

I want to add a note here. Sometimes we are are forced to take a job because we are in survival mode. Where the need for financial security is urgent. That is a different story. In this situation, all you can do is the best you can with the resources you have and seek guidance on how you can improve your circumstances. Nothing is permanent. Everything is temporary. Stay focused. Work hard and smart. And things will change as long as you continue to take action.

4)   Boredom

Clock-watching is a sure-fire sign of being in the wrong job. Lack of engagement, or desire to engage are also clear signs you’re not in a job true to who you are. This feeling of boredom might continue when you get home. And result in the opening of yet another bottle of red wine and your seventh night this week binge-watching Netflix. Look for ways to re-ignite some passion into your life. Maybe find a new hobby or part-time job. You never know where it might lead.

5)   Numbness

When the pain of being in a job we hate becomes too much to bear, we numb out. A general feeling of apathy takes over and we almost becomes zombies. Existing but not really living. This is a dangerous place to be and if left too long could lead to chronic depression. If you feel yourself slipping into this state, you need to make a change. Fast.

6)   Demotivation

The things that used to motivate you don’t motivate you any more. The money. Fancy job title. Having your own office. All the recognition and praise under the sun. None of it hits that sweet spot anymore. If you’ve found yourself feeling demotivated and unfulfilled, you are definitely living a career lie and it’s time to make a change.

7)   “You’re wasted in that job”

My ex-boss used to tell me, “You’re wasted in this job”. He saw my potential to add value to areas outside of administration and office management to which my role was restricted. Luckily, I already knew it. It was at this point I decided to come clean with him that I was using the job as a temporary stop-gap until I was ready to start my own coaching business. He was extremely supportive, as I knew he would be, and encouraged me to follow my dream.

The point I’m making is if you are consistently receiving feedback that you’re wasted in your current role or you have more potential than your current role will allow you to use, then maybe it’s time to start listening.

8)   Way over your head in debt

Being in debt is one thing. Being in debt you can’t afford is another.

I recently was asked to sit on a panel for Timeout Dubai to discuss expat living and finances. I was shocked to hear how many expats were in serious debt. So much so that many were having to abscond and leave the country through fear of being put in jail.

If you’re not being honest about the money you’re earning, and living beyond your means just to ‘fit in’ – you’re living a career lie. Chances are it’s all in your head. The people in your life love and respect you for you – not the pay cheque you take home. And if the people in your life only accept you because you’re earning a certain salary every month, do yourself a favour. Go out and find new ‘people’. You – and your bank balance – will be much healthier for it.

9)   You outright lie

If you lie about your job, or embellish it to make it sound better than what it is – chances are you’re living a career lie. I always say this – if you can be proud doing what you do, then you are doing something that it true to you. Whether that’s cleaning toilets at a school to prevent students from getting sick, removing trash so people can live peacefully in a safe, hygienic and pleasant environment or providing exceptional customer or medical care – whatever it is for you. If you can find a sense of pride in what you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be happy in that job for a very long time.

This then leaves the question – what do you do about it?

If you’re sick and tired of living a career lie, there are several things you can do. First of all – identify what is causing you to live that lie in the first place. 9/10 times it will be fear. If that’s the case, the only solution is to work on learning how to manage and overcome your fears. A trained professional, such as a life coach or career coach, can help. There are also plenty of online and offline resources about overcoming fear available. Invest in yourself and believe you have the potential to change your circumstances. Until you do that, nothing will change.

Secondly, you might need to identify what other jobs you could be good at. Or at least ways you can enjoy your current role more. My previous articles on finding your passion and getting out of a job you hate are good starting points.

Third – you then need to create a plan. What do you need to make this change? A new qualification? A bigger, more relevant network? Work experience? Better communication skills? Write it all down and then set yourself a list of actions you can take that will bring you closer to your new career.

If you would like to know more about how to set a clear and motivational direction for your career, please visit or email me at

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About the Author

Zeta Yarwood is recognised as a leading Career Coach and NLP Life Coach in Dubai, helping individuals across the world to achieve success in all areas of their lives. With a degree in Psychology and over 10 years’ experience in coaching, management and recruitment – working for multinational companies and award-winning recruitment firms – Zeta is an expert in unlocking human potential. Passionate about helping people discover their strengths, talents and motivation, Zeta lives to inspire others to dream big and create the life and career they really want.

For further information and inspiration, please visit or follow on Twitter @zetayarwoodLinkedin or Facebook