2018 was a year of (rather unexpected) self-discovery.
I had just wrapped up a contract in March. But I didn’t have anything lined up afterward, so here I was again, unemployed and directionless. During a time where I was pretty down, I was incredibly grateful that I came across Brené Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability and shame.
I didn’t think much for self-help (I always thought the concept was kind of fluffy), but Brown’s no-nonsense attitude, humour, and skepticism of the aforementioned fluffiness really resonated with me. As a researcher with countless pieces of qualitative data, she really appealed to my inner academic.
Her talk helped me identify what I was feeling at the time: shame. I was ashamed of my lack of employment. I was ashamed that I wasn’t able to meet my expectations of myself: I had envisioned that at this point I would be in a full-time job with my own apartment, partner, and maybe a dog. Since I didn’t have any of that at the time, I felt awful.
More importantly, Brown’s insights also helped me repair my self-worth by detaching it from what I did in my career.
“And What Do You Do?”
We’ve all done it at networking events, and rather innocently. The most common question we open with is “what do you do for work?”
But work is merely one facet of ourselves, and attaching our entire self-identity to what we do at work can become problematic if we suddenly find ourselves out of work. I struggled with anxiety and depression during my unemployment because I felt worthless. If I wasn’t working, what worth do I have? What respect do I get from people? Linking my self-worth to my work wasn’t good for my health because it led to me being ashamed of who I was.
The key observation in Brown’s research is that people who feel a sense of love and belonging are those who believe they are worthy of love and belonging. By telling yourself “you are enough,” you stop comparing yourself to the world around you, and so you can focus on being the best person you can be.
Other Books on the Shelf
Thanks to Brown, I ended up going on a bit of a self-help kick this year to be a better person. I gained a deeper appreciation of my introversion as a strength instead of a flaw. I learned to frame setbacks as not being the permanent, pervasive, and personal things that I think they are. I learned to appreciate the differences between fault and responsibility, and that the one responsible for how I react to challenges is usually myself.
Not only has it revived my interest in reading, I like to think these books have helped me be a little more positive, confident, and authentic with my work and my life.
Has it worked? No idea. Has it made me preachy and insufferable? Probably.
But I certainly feel better now. And maybe that’s the important part.
I’ve made a few simple resolutions for myself for 2019:
- Stop asking “what do you do for work?”. Instead, I think it’s better to ask “what’s keeping you busy?” I want to open the conversation up to the human side and learn a little more about people’s lives outside of work. (If they want to share, of course.)
- Keep writing articles. Content creation has been a lot harder than I thought, but I hope that I can at least publish one new post every two weeks.
- Stop putting sugar in my tea. Okay fine, this one’s more straightforward. But I think my bank account will be happier when I stop visiting my dentist for fillings…
I am fortunate and grateful to have friends, family, clients, and colleagues who are so supportive of me during a rather rough year. Thanks to you, I think we can all take on what 2019 will bring together.