I’m due back to work this week and I am TERRIFIED that I have lost my skills as a chef after so much time off. I have pretty much been on furlough the whole of the pandemic and previously wishing to get back in the kitchen ASAP, but now I’m just clinging on to my last few days in total fear. I am so nervous of getting sacked because I’m so rusty!!!

Feeling rusty, fearful and uncertain of your near future is a very normal reaction to 14 months of very abnormal circumstances. Naturally, you want to avoid any possibility of humiliating yourself or rejection from your colleagues or bosses, and any change is challenging. Even if the change is merely going back to an old way of life. Trying to predict what will happen when you return to work is just making you suffer more, as the thoughts and fears we have in these kinds of scenarios are usually worse than the reality. So, in order to tackle this, facing your fear and getting back into the kitchen is the best cure. Yes, it is that simple. Competence increases self-confidence (and vice versa) and that’s what you need…a confidence boost and to find your groove again in the kitchen. Here are few things that might help you to change your perception of this:


  1. You have made it through hard times before and you can do it again.


What adversities have you made it through before? Remember that us humans are super adaptable and as the saying goes – ‘what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger’ and I bet that walking back in to the kitchen won’t be the most difficult thing you have ever had to do in your life. If you learnt to adapt over the last 14 months then I bet you can do it again. Thinking about times of hardship reminds us how resilient we are and can put the current challenges we face into perspective.


  1. Stick to the evidence.


Often when you lack self-confidence, it’s difficult to bear in mind your past achievements. So, I invite you do this whilst you’re reading this. Making time to think what your successes are provides hard evidence about your strengths and capabilities. We tend to hold on to the negative things and forget (or ignore) all the positive things people have said and what we’ve achieved. As a result of this, it’s one of the reasons why we doubt our ability. Now on the flipside, what evidence is there to say you will be so rusty that you will get sacked? That’s your belief but what evidence is there to prove it? I bet there’s currently not much.


  1. Accept where you are.


Yep, you may be a little rusty, but so is pretty much the whole industry! Be realistic and have some acceptance of where you are right now. You are human and it may take a moment or two of bumbling around the kitchen to get your bearings and recalibrate. Nothing and nobody is perfect, so take the pressure off yourself and instead aim for ‘good enough’.


  1. It might not all be bad…


I wonder if you might be mistaking some of your fear for excitement? Sometimes we can mistake intense feelings to be plain scary and negative but some of it may be just also anticipation and excitement. Sometimes we can consciously think we don’t want something yet deep down we know it is what we do want and need.


  1. Add possibility in to your equation…


Fear breeds negativity and puts up barriers that we think we can’t overcome. It gives us permission to overly stress ourselves out and avoid things. But fear can be also very irrational and illogical. When stressed and fearful, we forget the yin and yang: that positive outcomes exist, as well as the negative. Make room for possibility that it might just go well…or even great… and perhaps enjoyable.


The bottom line is that you certainly won’t be the only one returning to work worried that they have forgotten ‘how to be a chef’ or ‘how to cook”. If you are worried about your performance not being up to scratch, then to me, that’s a sign that you are more diligent then you think.


However, if you are feeling absolute dread at going back or you are really unhappy upon your return, then this could be telling you something else. Other people’s attitudes or behaviour may contribute to your lack of confidence. If you have been / are subjected to bullying, unfair assumptions or microaggressions in your place of work, then do not brush this under the carpet any longer than it already has been. It may not feel like a good time for calling out bad apples at work / changing jobs or career but don’t live in denial and listen to your gut. For many, the pandemic has thrown up some big questions about what we want in life. If this is the case for you (or anyone else reading this) then maybe it’s time to think about the changes that need to be made.


Good luck! x




Hi Counteralk community,


You know that we’ve got you right? When you’re dealing with those big issues, you want someone who really gets it. Merly is an ex-chef, therapist, stress reduction coach and founder of @me_myself_inmind, which provides workshops, one-to-one therapy and group therapy for you incredible, hard-working, hard-caring people in the hospitality industry. Their mission is built around educating others on stress reduction techniques, mental health awareness and the importance of learning coping skills, emotional resilience and self awareness. Maybe you are working right now, or maybe you are at home learning to adjust. Those skills are still sorely needed to boost our wellbeing whatever we are up to.


Each week Merly is on hand to answer some of our community’s problems. If you would like to submit a problem, please email merly@countertalk.co.uk. All questions are completely confidential and kept 100% anonymous, now and always.

I’m so nervous of getting sacked because I’m so rusty

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