Today’s guest post talks about the loss of identity. It often comes with losing a job, but sometimes, it can come WITH the job. This post comes to you courtesy of Mr. Flexcents who writes about personal finance as well as health and wellness over at Flexcents.com Let’s dive in with a personal story of his. – Milton
One of the first things that we ask the people we meet is “What do you do for a living?” This question can lead to an awkward silence, especially if you recently lost your job — or worse, your identity. I’m not talking about identity theft either.
Ever since high school, I always wanted to become a physical therapist (PT). It was a burning desire to help people recover from their injuries so they can return to caring for themselves or their family. In 2014, I finally achieved this dream after 7 years of rigorous study. To add to the thrills of graduation and passing my licensure exam, I was accepted into a competitive residency program at a non-profit outpatient PT clinic. While residencies for PTs are completely optional, I had the career goal of furthering my education to become an orthopedic clinical specialist and this residency was designed to provide my with the training to achieve my goals. However, my passion to drive my career forward began to fade along with a large piece of my personal identity.
The last thing I expected fresh out of school was to be told I was not good enough. These words came from one of my residency mentors. I recognized this residency was made to groom me to become a better PT. However, what I didn’t realize was that my was that my mentor’s teaching style was poorly aligned with my learning style. I figured I would continue to work hard regardless and eventually, it would pay off. Despite my efforts, all I received were negative feedback and insults. This lead me to feel incompetent, intimidated and powerless by my mentor’s mere presence. I now realize, I needed more guidance and positive feedback.
When things are not working, speak up rather than wait for things to get worse.
Instead of focusing on the details of how he made me feel this way, let’s focus on some dynamics on why my first professional experience made me feel so lost and how you can learn from my mistakes. To do this, I will refer to a model called The Wheel of Life.
The Wheel of Life
The wheel of life was a concept originally created by Paul J. Meyer. He is considered the pioneer of the self-improvement industry. Many have made modifications to the areas of life measured in this model. I will be using Zig Ziglar’s modification which considers intellect, social, family, spiritual, physical, financial, and career. Each area of your life affects another.
This is what mine looked like at the start of my residency.
You can see that I was heavily focused on my career. As the residency progressed, my focus shifted even more towards my career and studies. Of course, this took from other areas of my life such as spending time with my friends and family and spending little to no time in the gym. My life began to be thrown out of balance and was I was poorly equipped to deal with the stressors of unexpected events at work.
The unhappiness from my job began bleeding into other areas of my life. I began to isolate myself to avoid my mentor at work to avoid harsh criticism, I became agitated at home and I could no longer resolve familial issues with a cool head. I stopped working out all-together and just stopped taking care of myself. To make matters worse, I had to start worrying about finances since the public service loan forgiveness became more uncertain for my situation – I was already in over $100K in student loan debt!
Not only was I questioning my career, intellect, and financial stability, I was questioning who I was and who I wanted to become. I felt like I was stuck in a void with no answers and was just trying to survive. It wasn’t long before I felt useless to everyone around me. This was the most dangerous feeling I ever had.
My trajectory drastically changed after being involved in a hit and run while walking to work. The van tossed me into the air and miraculously, I only ended up with a few bruises and a broken leg. This accident made me realize how valuable my life is and how my life is much more than my career.
I took control of my situation and sought professional help to figure out what was wrong with me. I also reached out to family and friends to discuss my feelings and difficulties at work. They already knew something was up and was willing to lend a helping hand. I don’t know what took so long for me to reach out to others, but the support provided me with clarity. It wasn’t me that was the problem, it was my environment at work.
This lead me to leave the residency and determine that no amount of career success or loan forgiveness is worth my happiness. I transitioned out of this outpatient residency and went into a skilled nursing facility (SNF) to build up my confidence back up. Changing jobs also came with a 10% pay raise allowing my to put more money towards my student loans!
Fast forward a couple years later, I transitioned from an SNF to treating patients in their homes. I have learned to love my career again and enjoy the good people I work with. I have developed a better work-life balance, paid off over $100K of student debt and now I am pursuing financial independence so I can allocate my time and energy to other passions and spending more time with loved ones.
As you can see below, I am living a more balanced life now as I live a life that is defined by much more than my career.
The Lessons I Have Learned
You Are Good Enough
Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. My mentor told me I was fail without his supervision. I am now thriving in my current position and am making a difference in my patients’ lives. I learned that when people are unjustifiably mean or unsupportive of you, it is more their problem than yours. Spend less energy focusing on the negative people and more energy focusing on the people who matter.
Diversify Your Purpose As You Would Your Money
You don’t have to be a financial advisor to recognize how important it is to diversify your investment portfolio. The same can be said in where you spend your time and energy. Even if you are lucky enough to find meaning in your career, find purpose and develop goals outside of your career. This will help during times of uncertainty, like job loss and retirement.
Ask For Help
No one knows what is going on in your head. People knew things were not going well with me, but I denied any issues. Even though I was screaming for help inside, but too proud to ask for it. Prolonged sadness can lead to serious problems. If you have lost interest or pleasure in doing things, feeling down or hopeless, seek help immediately. There is no shame in reaching out to friends and family.
Own Your Future
My favorite quote I have hanging on my wall goes something like: “Life does not get better by chance, it gets better by choice” – Jim Rohn. Bad things happen to people all the time. While it may not be your fault for these misfortunes, it sure as heck is your responsibility to find ways to better your life.
We All Have A Unifying Purpose
The most important thing I learned is to shift my focus from career to relationships and experiences. I learned that I am so much more than a physical therapist. I’m a husband, brother, son, uncle, reliable friend, exercise enthusiast, financial fanatic, blogger, amateur photographer, perpetual learner and so much more.
In the end, we are much more than our careers and titles. We are the laughs we put on other people’s faces, the experiences we share with acquaintances and loved ones, and the difference in all the lives we touch throughout our lifetime.
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