Job Loss, Self Image and Renewal

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Is your voice not heard over the noise of those who disagree and argue with you? Is not being heard lowering your self confidence, burning your physical and emotional energy away to ashes? Have you ever asked yourself is this person and/or situation worth all this energy, emotion and mind consuming time?

I went back to college when I was 38 years old with four kids under the age of 13. It took 7 years but I achieved my bachelor’s degree by going to school at night and week-ends while working a demanding full time job in a hospital dental department.

My degree was something my family told me I could never achieve either because I was not smart enough, not well enough and worse, I was ignoring my children (thanks Mom). Those negative comments only stoked the fires of my passion to prove everyone wrong and reach my goal of a college degree. My children were my biggest supporters and still are.

After receiving my degree, I was called by a dental company to be a regional manager to direct operations of several dental centers in the city. I was ecstatic! My degree and experience in dentistry had landed me a high position job with great pay. I loved the job and the people I worked with.

Within the time I was there, I got divorced, and moved forward into a new stage of my life that finally gave me the freedom to grow as a person and a woman. My job became my self image, it was what defined me. I had earned the degree, earned the title, and lived my life through identifying myself with this job. I finally had something that made me feel recognized and respected in my field and life.

Then 9-11 happened, and an already shaky economy was hitting the production of the dental company I worked for. Within a couple months I was let go with severance due to having to reduce their workforce. Who was I now? I had met a great man I fell in love with who supported and loved me for who I was. We decided to marry and had just signed the papers for a new house a few days before my termination. Now, in my own mind, I was nobody again. Self confidence and respect for myself plummeted. And 11 months out of work only increased the feelings of lack of self worth.

I would not back down on the fact that I had earned a previous job with high ranking and good pay. That hampered my job search since I was searching for something that was no longer there. I did eventually find work that had the title but not the pay. Eventhough this job held great opportunity for me; I was still in a time warp of grief in having lost my previous job with high title and pay.

Where I should have been happy with this new job, I was devastated at the big reduction in pay and insult to my ego. I felt taken advantage of in a time of high unemployment. Today we would call that being underemployed, and along with that came the low self esteem and humiliation of having been out of work so long. After 11 months of not working, I took the job, and it was not a mistake. I learned and gained experience in a new field that benefits me to this day and I do not regret taking it.

However, the bruising of having lost my last job and title was still sore. I could not let go of the grief of losing my past job, and the self identity I had gained with it. Although this new job held great opportunity and I worked directly with the vice president, it was an emotional roller coaster of ego, backstabbing and corporate bureaucracy. However, I did like the VP and when I was offered a new job and I took it, it was hard to tell her the news. We had also become friends and I know she felt betrayed. But I had to get out of a negative situation that was making my self-esteem wounds bleed constantly.

The years went on, I had other jobs that I liked, but never felt I was truly respected and recognized by the corporate bosses I worked for. My fellow workers and staff always respected me and liked me and I them. Even corporate sometimes did, but I was still frozen in my time warp of my own prison of low self esteem and worth.

I eventually decided I needed to be out of the corporate world and was offered a job in a group dental practice that was just a year old. I felt a breath of true opportunity to prove myself again with my dental operations experience that had been enhanced by my previous employers.

However, that was not to be. Although I was hired to be an office manager, I was really a glorified front desk receptionist. My boss kept all that responsibility and no matter what I did to try and help them in regards to operations and growth, I was slammed down. At one time I had worked with these dentists in a hospital dental department as a dental assistant.

When I vented my frustrations over their ranting at me when I tried to show them efficient ways of operations and business, my husband gave me a revelation. At the time these dentists last knew me, I was a dental assistant. No matter what my resume said, they only knew me as a subordinate without the education and experience I had brought with me. Plus, the principle partner of this group practice was used to being in charge completely and was not about to let go.

My frustrations and anger with these dentists grew as their misunderstanding of dental operations was taken out on me. No matter how I tried to help them, it turned into disaster. My life was consumed by my anger and lack of self respect.

After I began a very painful journey into the dark night of the soul, I realized I was the problem. I saw it with all my previous jobs before me and the mistakes I had made due to unresolved job loss grief.

I was not the person I was 5 years ago when I was let go from my job I had put so much of my self identity into. I could not shake that all those years of attending college under tough circumstances, I could not get the recognition and respect I felt I deserved. And when the cruelty of the second termination hit just 3 years after the last one, I was destroyed emotionally. Who was I? What was wrong here?

The problem was me not the companies I worked for. Yes some had their warts, but the real problem was me trying to find myself and self identification through a job. I had a great career; I just did not see it that way. I was physically becoming ill and through these dark nights I realized that I was giving all my life energy away to people and things that were transient, had their place in my life for a time, and where now the past.

My anger and frustrations at these dentists were more of repressed anger built over a lifetime and I was blaming everyone but myself for my unhappiness, stress and eventual physical illness. I gave my life energy away with my full permission. Here take it; I am too busy being a victim to realize that I need to make a choice to move on with my life or not.

Those dark nights of the soul became light as I realized I was responsible for whom I was and that self respect and esteem had to come from within. I had to recognize this in myself, I had to learn to turn off the noise of my past, and learn to love myself and all I had achieved in my life. I learned of giving your energy away, instead of using it to better myself and others in my life.

I will never forget the day I decided to live without needing the approval or respect I felt I needed from these doctors and my past. I made the decision to dedicate myself to our patients and to let go of the control that was affecting me. I decide to keep my energy for good, not anger.

That day, at the first instance of something that would normally of set me off, I could see the dentist bracing for an argument. I remembered the energy was not worth it, I smiled, said Ok, and the look of surprise on his face made me realize how confrontational I had been to them. I was the problem and I accepted it and changed my attitude. I may not always have agreed with them, but it was their office and I was hired to do a job and I did it with a new frame of mind, spirit and attitude.

From that day forward, the atmosphere in the office changed for me. The doctors actually began to listen to me and I felt their respect. My work improved and I dearly loved my patients. I really loved the people and patients in this office and used my energy in a positive way that still blesses me when I think of them today.

This position taught me a lot and the situation made me confront the real problem, the demons of past jobs that weren’t worth it anymore. I also realized that I wanted to career and life coach, and eventually left this dental group to start my own business in coaching people who are struggling with job loss life changing situations.

Illness has slowed me down, but it gave me time to discover my life purpose and show me self awareness. The hurts of the past I can see at a distance now, detached from the stinging blows they used to bring. Even now when something negative happens, I meditate on if it is worth my life energy to deal with. Even if I have to, and with sometimes with teeth gritting, I stay as detached as I can from allowing it to swallow me in its negativity. I have found that my True Identity is made from within, not of my environment and other people. The negativity is their experience, not mine. I can help someone and guide them, and there may be a lesson in it for me, but it is their experience to learn from.

It is hard work, but the rewards and blessings have been huge. It has brought me a life of a deep peace where I have learned from the dark nights of the soul to always see the light.

Letting go of something painful takes time, it does not happen over night. Often you must let it hurt to heal. Sometimes, you have to decide if it is even worth the energy to hurt over it.

We always have choices. If you cannot change a situation, change how you respond to it. If you can change a situation, change it. Being a victim will always keep you in the problem you want out of. It is choice that is made by you and no one else, no matter how rough the truth of the matter is.

Gandhi said to make change, be the change. I have taken that path for my own mind, body and spirit. It takes courage and some rough paths, but I continue to walk them to see, hear and know the better Life.

I have been called an idealist and naïve and I take that as a compliment. Life is lived in how we choose to respond to it. I have a book where I read a quote that has helped me on my path to my True Identity, and that is from “Zen and the Art of Making a Living” by Laurence G.Boldt. It states,” The true idealist is no dewy eyed dreamer, but a committed foot soldier in the cause of his or her vision.”

I am committed to my vision and the woman I have become. And everyday and new experience helps me to grow and become more. I now channel my life energy where it is needed. Not in my own petty frustrations and angst, but in helping others realize they are not alone in this world with their struggles and pain. I have been there, and I will always have my hand extended to help you along the rocky paths of life.

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