Self-defining: The Shortcomings and Lessons Learned

by - May 25, 2017

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A few years ago, young and naïve, I said goodbye to my first job, a year after I had graduated from university. I didn't predict it - I was doing my very best because I cared (which is more than I can say about any other job I've had since). I wanted to be great, to be acknowledged. I wanted to succeed. The moment I finally thought I was getting promoted, I was actually let go in ''an inevitable attempt to cut costs''. I remember my first reaction was confusion. Working five days a week, full-time, often staying late into the evening, the business was supposed to be growing. Then how could my role become so easily disposable? Who was going to take over my responsibilities? What about those unfinished tasks on my list? Those unanswered e-mails? The project I was about to lead? It didn't matter.

Shortly after the panic kicked in, the question of what I was supposed to do now settled into my anxious mind. I didn't spend enough time socialising as I was focused on work. I hadn't had a day off other than a brief holiday to see my family. I wasn't in a relationship. I had no pets. Not even a plant. I had other interests, like art and reading, but that's all I thought they were. My nine-to-five entry-level job was my main thing. I didn't love the job and now I'm not sure if I ever even liked it for what it purely was - an employment rather than for what it represented. So who was I?

First, I was a kid, then I was a high school student, afterwards an university student and a graduate. Then an employee. All of my self-definitions eventually had an expiry. I could not recognize myself. I was faced with an abundance of empty time and diminishing resources that scared me. Before I always had something to do, homework, exams, reports, dissertation. There was always something to aim for and achieve. Something attainable. But not anymore or not in the same way. I had to grow up.

It took me some time (years) to realize something I should have realized much sooner:

I had to stop looking for self-validation from my career, job, relationship or anyone for that matter.

To me the job held more than one meaning. It took over the other aspects of my life like family, friends and relationships. Investing all my energy and ambitions into one thing was not right for me, because it left me questioning everything, even myself. I had to find a way back to being okay not having a ''job to go to''. I had to learn not to feel like a failure, because something I worked hard for was out of my control. All of this took time and still takes time. I have had a few more jobs since and I still sometimes have to remind myself not to get overly invested, that it's fine if the contract finishes or the role doesn't lead to anywhere. There's more to life than a building with a computer, being told what to do. This negative experience helped me acknowledge other possibilities and being open to explore. It taught me to be more understanding of myself and I hope it helps you being more understanding of yourselves too.

I hope sharing a little about my own personal feelings shows that those of you who feel the same are not alone. Please don't be afraid to share your self-defining experiences and struggles in the comment section below! We can all learn from one another.

Inner Quiet is all about you. We will tackle the thoughts and fears of living in a world that keeps going even when you feel that you need a break. When a stressful life wraps you in its claws with no-way-out, we will try to show you another possibility, another solution, another way. No matter what you do or what you want to see yourself doing, we want to help you to shine through you. To be a human is hard enough without the constant pressure of being perfect and in this day and age we might feel it's impossible to live free of self-imposed constraints and others' expectations. Let's prove it wrong.

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