Does Your Career Own You?
by Jennifer Bailey, Live At Choice Starfisher
Can I ever be truly happy in my career?
Since my first job at age 15, I asked myself this question over and over again. I’d gotten to the point where I pretty much assumed the answer was no; work was work, and it wasn’t supposed to be fun.
But, somehow, I realized that answer wasn’t good enough for me.
I knew that it wasn’t OK that at every job I had, I inevitably grew angry, overly stressed, and resentful of the work I did. When I reached my threshold at one job, usually in a couple years, I’d move on to the next hoping something would change. I’d heard the stories about people who loved what they did so much it didn’t feel like work, and I wanted that so badly. What was wrong with me?
The funny thing was that I wasn’t just spinning my wheels; my career had actually skyrocketed. However, I couldn’t truly appreciate what I had because it lacked meaning for me, and I was buried in so much stress and anxiety. Something was in the way of my being able to find meaning in my work.
One day, I came to the realization that I wanted to do something that truly made a difference to others. I wanted to help people live in love and joy, and I also wanted that for myself. I came into the Live at Choice program with the intent of understanding what it was I really wanted out of my life and career. I needed clarity. What did I realize?
Quickly, I learned that nothing was wrong with me. The problem was that I’d been living my life with some beliefs that weren’t true, but I believed them anyway. I believed that the way for me to earn being loved had to be through the work that I was doing. In addition, I believed that I wasn’t really capable of doing the work. I felt like a fraud.
What an eye-opener.
Once I became aware of my deep-set beliefs, I started asking myself how they have shaped my life since I was a child, and the answers shocked me.
As a child, I felt such a need to achieve perfection in my schoolwork that I was on acid reflux medication in elementary school. My nerves had my digestive system all out of whack. During my senior year of high school, I was so exhausted that I avoided doing my schoolwork, which stressed me out even more. In college, I suffered anxiety attacks and depression, and even had to take medical leave.
This played out similarly after I became an adult. In my relationships, I would do, do, do for others until I wore myself out, becoming resentful and feeling like a martyr. In my career, I put a ton of pressure on myself to do it all, do it right, and ask for more. I would wear myself out and feel unappreciated. When I didn’t get the appreciation I was looking for, I would get angry, rebel, and go look for a fresh start somewhere else.
The roller coaster was exhausting.
What I discovered through Live at Choice was that there was something within me that had me trapped in this cycle, but I was not aware what was really going on. I was acting out these beliefs and resisting something that I didn’t want to experience. It became painful to stay in this cycle. Through the Live At Choice workshop, I became aware of my long-held beliefs, and I clearly saw for the first time in my life that I am free to choose a different path.
Suddenly, I saw possibilities all around me. I could relax knowing that my performance wasn’t an evaluation of my worth. I could do my best without continuously worrying that it wasn’t good enough. I became free to consider a new career because I genuinely wanted to, not because I was running away from something.
I made new changes in my relationships. I could freely say “no” to something a person wanted me to do without fearing I’d lose our friendship. I could be more me around my friends and family because I was no longer trying to be or do something that I thought met their expectations. I even shared myself more freely with my fiancé because I knew our relationship does not depend on what I can do for him.
Finally, I stopped trying to fix everything for everyone. I didn’t have to jump up and work on solving everyone’s problems (and offer annoyingly unsolicited advice) since I knew my value wasn’t at stake and I wasn’t being judged for what was going on in their lives.
No wonder I was so exhausted before.
When I stopped feeling the weight of all that on my shoulders, my life opened up. My stress level dropped. My anger and resentment abated. I felt a peace and groundedness I’d never experienced before but always dreamed of having. I stopped taking so many things personally, and I learned to honor my needs for a change.
Ultimately, through Live at Choice I gained the clarity I’d been looking for around what to do with my career. Moreover, I renewed my appreciation for my current job. I am genuinely excited about what’s next on my journey. Even more importantly, I felt truly free to finally just be.
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