Feeling Stupid at Work

overwhelmed at work

Throughout my life, I’ve been known for a few things. I’m known for being petite, having wavy hair and usually for being smart. My parents raised me well and I worked hard to excel in high school, get into a good college and (try to) do well in life. So I did. But now that I’ve been in the “real world” for a few years, I can’t help but feel marginally stupid sometimes.

I currently work in the field of search engine optimization and online marketing, and I also do a lot of freelance writing as well. Some might think these are “easy” jobs, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. There are things I’m naturally good at, like writing, being creative, executing projects, etc.- and those are all huge parts of my jobs, which I love. I mean, those strengths I have are what got me my past and current jobs. But at the same time, there is the side of analytics, reporting, spreadsheets and math that I’m, well, not-so-great at. A recent semi-stressful project has brought this self-described weakness to my attention more than I would like it to.

You’d laugh if you knew I took AP Calculus in high school and got a 98 for an average. Or that I actually did well in math throughout school and college, despite the stereotype that women who are good at English are bad at math. But when it comes to calculating crazy formulas on large Excel spreadsheets to give upper management that magic number they are looking for, I can’t help but feel slightly stupid.

When a coworker and I have a similar task and his spreadsheet comes out perfect and mine lacks sufficient data, I feel stupid. When the big-shots are talking numbers and mention all these crazy acronyms I’m not familiar with, I feel stupid. I feel like I’ve failed as an employee and that everyone else looks down on me because of it.

I’m being hard on myself, I’m aware. I know I’m not stupid. I have many strengths that others in my field or office don’t, and I truly hope those strengths help me succeed and stand out. I work hard to ask for help when needed and to spend more of my time focusing on the areas I’d like to improve on. But you can only do so much when the constant negative s-word is floating around in your head.

Have you ever felt stupid in a work situation? What did you do to help fix this thinking?


  1. I hate feeling this way, and have felt this way a lot lately at work! I write about ALL of our products, which is over 20,000… so sometimes I have been known to mess up the facts about one product model vs. another. I shake it off because most people working here have been here over 10 years and I’ve only been here 2.5… I know a heck more about the products than when I started, but still am not to their level. Sometimes it is about creating relationships with others who have those strong points… I get my information from them, and then I have better product knowledge than just reading about products from our data sheets.

    Also, stupid stereotype about women… I am also good at English and probably even better at math. I was the top of my calculus class in college, a course I took with all engineers and was always in the top 10 of my chemistry courses (which included over 200 students). I guess sometimes in the workplace it is hard to feel “smart” sometimes because you don’t get a test back with a good grade! Keep your head up dear, you ARE smart and have a ton to offer (obviously 🙂 ), plus everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Like I’ve said, I’ve learned to work with and use other people’s strengths where I might be weaker!

  2. Ugh – lots of big numbers sounds terrifying! (I do fit the stereotype of being good with writing, but not-so-good in math). It’s never fun when you end up feeling stupid, especially in the workplace. I know how difficult it is to not be too hard on yourself – I am the biggest perfectionist. But it’s just a learning curve, you’ll definitely get the hang of it soon!

  3. I’ve always hate math and I probably will continue to do so! You are definitely not stupid! There’s a lot of pressure from upper management and the bosses, so I feel ya! I feel stupid when a boss asks me a question at a meeting and I’m not sure how to respond or forgot that he was going to ask that question even though I was supposed to look into it.

  4. I absolutely hate math and if I had to use it for my job I’d be terrified! I think in any job, it’s impossible to know all there is to know, even if you’ve been in the same position for awhile.

  5. SEO/search marketing is such a complicated field — you shouldn’t be so hard on yourself! i definitely feel stupid at every job i’ve had, but i think that just comes along with being a perfectionist. it’s better to be learning and growing than to be stagnant anyway. 🙂

  6. Ugh I think everyone feels this way at one point or another. Don’t sweat it, and use it as motivation towards improving your skills!

  7. Don’t even get me started on excel. Excel make me look stupid. Nope. Never working in it.

  8. I have most definitely had moments where I felt stupid. We are all
    constantly growing and learning – or at least we should be. I think the important thing to remember is if people are intentionally making you feel bad about a project or something else, that’s on them.

  9. I have had countless moments of that. Most times, I exhaust myself by doing research but then sometimes I arrive at nothing. But when I know or feel that a task is out of my element, I ask people for help. Hard lesson learned: Better to ask than to present the boss/bosses with something that is wrong. Lol.

  10. I landed a job in a law office doing real estate, and my brain just doesn’t process all of the things you have to know to be in the legal field. I’m a writer and a creative. I feel stupid pretty much every day and I make mistakes all the time, not because I’m stupid but because my mind is always somewhere else,thinking about the things I KNOW! I guess you just can’t be afraid to ask for clarification or just ask questions. Just make sure you ask them to someone who won’t make you feel dumb for asking!

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