When you look head on in a mirror, is the image you see a familiar one? Unless you have others around you blocking your body, it should be you in the mirror. However, there are times we doubt what we see. The image seems distorted, or you don’t look like you remember, or the mirror seems wavy. Often, in our professional lives, our self-image is tied to our careers, our last job, our businesses, our contracts, our contacts, our financial and spending abilities, our years of experience and so on and so on. So, when those situations change, our mirrored reflection can seem to alter as well, become wavy even. It appears distorted and we begin to doubt everything from our looks to our physical existence. We begin to question whether we’re looking as “tight” as we are used to looking. “Is my hair alright?”, “My tie crooked?”, “My makeup smeared?”, “Do I still seem confident, successful, in charge, in control?” “If I don’t recognize me, will anybody else?”
It is human nature not to trust what you can’t see. Many, if not most of us, would be challenged to wake up blind one day. You’ve dressed yourself since you were 5 years old, but take away the ability to see what we are putting on or to see if we’ve captured the buttons correctly, well we’d be self-conscious all day. We are the same way when our jobs or our businesses are removed. Many of us know who we are because we see the job, or the home we purchased because of that job, or the car we are driving for the same reason; if that’s taken away, we are left stumbling. Like a person in the dark, even when someone is directing us down the path, we have a hard time trusting our feet, trusting the path, or trusting a voice giving us direction.
It is with this wavy image of ourselves that many of us enter the job search. We’re often not sure how job opportunities in the market mesh with us. Frequently we don’t know how we’ll make ends meet with the money being offered by companies. Additionally, we’re not sure how we’re going to relate to or be perceived by friends and family with a new job title if it is not what you or anyone else thinks it should be. Some of us have to take a “demotion” to work back up to a promotion. Some of us have to change industries completely to ensure career and financial security. Some of us have to get another job while we own our own business, just to keep our dream alive. These deviations from what we consider our normal can again affect the image we see of ourselves.
Well the truth is, just like the wavy reflection in the mirror doesn’t change the person who is in the straight reflection, the type of job you get will probably not change who you really are. If you are a team lead, you will always be a team lead. If you are a process thinker, you will always be a process thinker. If you are artistic, if you are a math whiz, if you are a motivator; nothing can or will change that. The mirror doesn’t create the identity; it just helps with the perception of it. If you close your eyes right now and believe that your features haven’t changed, your heart hasn’t changed and your passion hasn’t changed, then also believe that in that new job or role, you are still you. And if you are stuck in your current job, desperately waiting for your next career opportunity, you are still you. And if you are currently not working (and that “current” has stretched on more than you are comfortable with), you are still you. And if you are working in a job that you did not expect to have to show up at your high school reunion in, you are still you. Know that if you decide, “to heck with working for someone else, I’m going to work for me”, you will still be you!
If we begin to hold on to that one constant- our title, job, industry, or situation does not define you, then amidst an incredibly inconsistent world the wavy mirror won’t set us back or even stop us from using a better mirror to see ourselves.
Tanya Taylor Dingle, JD
Chief Strategy Officer
M³ & Co. Global