There’s a weird sense of comfort in knowing you’re not alone when you’re struggling with something. Granted, it’s a pretty cold comfort since you’re still left to grapple with your own stuff alone, but still…at least you know it’s not just you. Sorry…let me back it up and start over so what I’m trying to say makes sense.
As I wrote a few months ago (ok, like four months ago), the past few years have been pretty rough for me on both a personal and professional level…and I’m far from alone in this experience. COVID upended everything, personal and business, for everyone and even though life is largely back to “normal” now, this new normal really is anything but normal. Some stats that drive this point home:
- Fifty-three percent of Americans recently reported that they feel the pandemic will never be over. Yikes.
- Especially since the pandemic took such a huge toll on people’s mental health: 51% percent of adults reported that they or a family member had experienced a severe mental health crisis during the past few years.
- Many are still suffering lingering anxiety, depression, isolation and other things.
- Research even goes so far as to suggest that the pandemic may have caused mass personality changes including significant declines in the traits that help us navigate social situations, trust others, think creatively, and act responsibly.
- These changes no doubt play a part in the “loneliness epidemic” that continues to persist even as socializing has mostly returned to pre-pandemic status.
So yeah, for many people, life’s not exactly a picnic these days. I know my own sense of self and direction in life have taken a major beating, and it saddens me to know that I have several friends who are experiencing the same upheaval and resulting distress. Even though I’ve actively been working on navigating a path forward for two solid years now with the help of a great therapist–something many don’t have the benefit of and for which I feel incredibly fortunate–it’s still hard as hell and slow going.
This article, When a Major Life Change Upends Your Sense of Self, describes perfectly a big part of what I’ve been experiencing, which I didn’t even know had a name until I stumbled across it: identity paralysis. The article describes identity paralysis as the feeling of stuck-ness when struggling to move on from past identity to embrace a new sense of self, and emphasized that it often leaves people feeling angry, frustrated, and hopeless about their current situations. OMG YES.
Change is hard; we all know that. And changing your own self-view and life circumstances is no exception; to say it feels “deeply uncomfortable” is an understatement. But inevitable and necessary, especially when it comes to growth and moving forward. To me, identity-paralysis and moving past it sounds very similar to post-traumatic growth (PTG), something I’ve read a lot about and have been diligently working towards. The American Psychological Association describes/defines PTG as “what can happen when someone who has difficulty bouncing back experiences a traumatic event that challenges his or her core beliefs, endures psychological struggle (even a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder), and then ultimately finds a sense of personal growth. It’s a process that “takes a lot of time, energy and struggle,” I can certainly attest to that!
So anyway, back to my present reality: trying to get my professional life in order. As much as self-employment has been great in some ways, it’s also been extremely isolating and uncertain…things which have led me to consider seeking a full-time job. Just in time for mass economic uncertainty and layoffs in the tech world–so much for the dream job market of a year ago!
If you want to go from feeling down, dejected and insecure about your sense of self-worth to feeling REALLY down, all you have to do is jump into a job search right now. Even though there is no shortage of good job opportunities, the job search process–always a grind–feels especially brutal lately. In addition to the regular annoyances like never hearing back from employers (in spite of spending time crafting custom cover letters, a requirement which seems just ridiculous given the percentage of employers who actually reply to most job-seekers), possibly scoring one interview that seems promising only to never hear back again, and/or just the soul-crusher that is spending weeks or months of your life doing everything possible to position yourself as a great candidate only to be met with either crickets or crickets along with rejections–sorry that was long lol–now there’s the additional fun hurdle of an uncertain financial outlook and a job market saturated with seemingly every person ever because the pandemic also taught us all not to settle.
In short, it’s pretty much a nightmare in its own right; the fact that it comes on the heels of the whole we’re all reeling from the pandemic stuff cited above just makes things even more hilariously depressing. #Goodtimes
So who knows; will I find a job soon and move into the next phase of my new normal, one that includes more than just me, my pets and my house? Or will I decide that the universe is trying to tell me that I’m meant to stay self-employed and send a lighting bolt of inspiration to motivate me to get myself in gear and figure out some new ways of moving past my self-induced isolation and imposter syndrome? Let’s hope whichever it turns out to be, it happens sooner rather than later because this in-between zone is a serious bummer.
P.S. In case you’re hiring or know someone who is, here’s my LinkedIn profile and I will be your best friend forever if you hire me or find someone who will!