What happens to you, doesn’t define you

Have you ever had a major setback? A hit you didn’t see coming? Something that you thought only happens to other people but not to you?

I encounter people on a daily basis whose life didn’t go exactly as they planned. Like our clients in outplacement. They thought they would still be working at the company for many years. And there are the people who are climbing out of a burn-out. Or those getting fired for whatever reason. Or those who were out for 6 months with a hernia. Or people going through a psychological illness.

All of these are events you didn’t exactly count on. I spoke to somebody the other day at a network event. He worked for a recruitment agency. So in all my enthusiasm I asked him if I could forward people to him. His answer was extremely tough: those from career coaching yes but those in outplacement not. OK. Wait. Why not? The answer contained lots of prejudice: “people in career coaching are still employed and thus ‘sellable’, the others are fired, our clients don’t want them.” Ouch. Are there really still people around who believe that they are immune?? And how do you deal with it when it happens to you?

It’s an event, not your identity
I notice that people are often ashamed by what has happened to them. Because slipping up, getting fired,…causes a big dent to your ego and your self-confidence. They feel inferior for a while, because they couldn’t do it and others apparently could. But it does not define your identity. Turn it around: throughout your entire life and career you probably succeeded in lots of things. You got a degree, brought in a costumer, trained other people,… those successes are also part of your identity.

But aren’t they to blame a bit themselves?
Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. Never for the full 100%. When it comes to less successful events, or events that feel that way, I sometimes hear ‘ where there’s smoke there’s a fire’. Something must have been off. There were 2 times in my career were I no longer had a place in the team. And 2 times when I slipped and fell (they actually neatly coincided, but in the opposite order). It’s not something I’m proud of but I’m not ashamed of it either. Although I used to feel that way for a long time.

It’s about how you deal with it
I’m often most amazed by the resilience of people. How they deal with such an event. What they learn from it. How they reinvent themselves. And most importantly: they eventually emerge stronger and more self-aware. They learn what they’re worth and what does and doesn’t work for them. It can definitely count as an exercise in humbleness.

Karma is a bitch 😉
You will encounter non-believers and opponents on your path. Those who’ll judge you too fast, who think that you’re too old, or that someone who’s in outplacement is unsellable for a new job, or who think that someone who suffered from burn-out is damaged goods. Leave them be. I try to be happy for them. Because those who feel immune probably didn’t encounter all that much themselves yet. And karma can be  such a bitch 😉.

Whatever happens to you, don’t let it undermine your self-worth. You are not what happens to you. Your identity is shaped more by how you handle the things that happen to you than by some bad event.


Also looking to rediscover your self-worth after a setback? Contact us!

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