There is a blog that I love called Already Pretty. If you like anything related to style, specifically attainable style (not the runway kind) and how to pursue style everyday without wreaking havoc on your self image… you should check it out. Sal wrote a FAB post on Monday about self-worth and outside input, and I started to comment, but I got up to 600 words and realized it really just belonged on my own blog. So here we are. Feel free to read her post first so we’re all on the same page. I’ll wait.
Done? Ok, read on.
I talked a bit about productivity recently, and I suppose this is loosely related. I just want to talk about how I got from being crazy overscheduled and obsessive about high achievement, to the person I am now… in a job I love where I still strive for high achievement, but I don’t obsess on what my next step should be to “move up” in my career. I think about that, but not as much as I did years ago.
I did everything “right” in High School and college- graduated as valedictorian of the former, and with two bachelor’s degrees and 4.0 from the latter. I was an accomplished dancer and choreographer, had written for local and national publications, had 2 pretty hefty internships under my belt, and am still probably a favorite student of many of my teachers and professors. I am not ashamed of any of this (and I don’t think this is bragging, as many of you who are reading could say the same thing with an additional laundry list of accomplishments), nor do I regret that strove for success. It made me who I am, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished.
As college graduation approached (and I was burnt out, NOT ready to attempt grad school, and thank goodness I recognized and still recognize that, maybe one day) I got so scared. I went on a couple of interviews that led nowhere really and was constantly searching for jobs and not able to find much, even when I lowered my expectations to just look for a decent job not the perfect job. Still not much out there. I was flipping out! I liked school because as long as you did everything you were supposed to do (and for me, I was just good at school, so as long as I put forth at least a decent effort) you would graduate and probably make an A. And I was having nightmares about the fact that I could have the perfect resume and a decent amount of experience and yet STILL I might not be able to find the perfect job, or even a good job… this all went down in 2008, by the way… worst year EVER for college grads (ok, it’s not so great now either).
This whole conversation is a control issue for me. I wanted to be able to control what might happen to me. We get a lot of that in school… work hard and you will achieve what you set out to do. I believe that, but it doesn’t always play out the way we might expect. The workplace doesn’t work like school… you could do everything right and still get passed over for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with you… But we want more power than that don’t we? Or maybe it’s not about power or control for you. Maybe you’re just more comfortable identifying your worth with hard facts, numbers. Like grades, your weight, your salary, how fast you can run, how many recipes you’ve mastered, your high score on Guitar Hero- and who knows what else?
I fear for myself and anyone who judges their value by any sort of number- weight, GPA, salary… sometimes stuff happens and you get sick and your weight goes up or down, or your GPA sucks because you had to take a crazy class load so you can finish in 5 years instead of 6, or your best friend makes way more money than you because there simply is not enough money out there for us all to be millionaires! And yet, if this is what we use to gauge our value… eek!
Once I graduated I managed to find a lot of part-time work, but I also applied for a good 7 or 8 great, full-time positions over six months, got through 1 or 2 interviews at each, and was passed over… also I was planning my wedding during this time… I was a mess, and cried every time I got a rejection letter (or phone call). I questioned what I was doing and if I was as awesome as I thought I was. If all my work in school and in life would ever pay off. But I got through it. How?
I changed how I thought about life and what I was going through… Instead of thinking that I must be doing something wrong, or else I’d have an awesome job and a six figure salary, I thought, “I can’t control this, but that doesn’t mean I’m not awesome/great at what I do/valuable, that just means I’m not God (which I’m totally ok with).” So instead of crying about how the job market sucked and there was nothing I could do and I was going to end up unemployed and on the street (yes, I’m a drama queen), I started thinking…
“I’m doing the best I can, and the fact that this isn’t working out… well, that’s ok. I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m doing all I can do, in fact. So that’s it. I just need to keep doing all I can do. And maybe that means that I keep doing exactly what I’m doing, or maybe it means I change some things. Either way, I keep going. And that means I’m worth a lot.”
Surprisingly, this realization, instead of producing anxiety, brought me peace, because if I’m just doing the best I can, then whatever should happen, will. And how much easier it is to just focus on that rather than trying with all your might to control something that really has nothing to do with you? It’s also quite relieving because you realize that you are not in fact the center of the universe, and thank God for that, because if you were, that would be a lot of pressure would it not?
I have a second thought that relates to this idea as well, but I’ve given us (read: myself) enough to chew on for now, I think.
How are you effected when you don’t get something or reach a goal you’ve worked toward?