Dear Dr. Norquist:
Lately I have been feeling miserably down on myself. I didn’t get a job offer that I thought would come through and I can’t seem to stop feeling like a failure. When I feel this way, I have trouble doing anything. It keeps me from trying again. I don’t like this about myself so I get down on myself for this too. I know I let my wife down when I’m in this state. I feel like I failed her as well. We are trying to save money for a home. I’m not helping enough financially. I do have a job, but I am definitely underemployed. I’m not much fun to be around these days even for myself. What can I do to get out of this funk?
Dr. Norquist responds:
Not getting a job you wanted is very disappointing, but it does not mean that you are a failure. It means that that job was not the right one for you right now. It says nothing about your worth. It gives you an opportunity to grow. The question is, what can you make of this experience that will serve you and your loved ones? You can use this experience to practice a more positive approach towards yourself and your life. In this way both you and your wife will benefit from it.
Suspending any judgment, can you just acknowledge that perhaps this door wasn’t the right one for you? You do not need all doors to be open to you – only the one that best serves your soul’s current growth needs. We are not privy ahead of time to the knowledge of how one closed door leads to the next, more perfect door or opportunity. This life is about so much more than the perfect job or house. No lasting satisfaction results from these goals. We are always students of life itself.
Can you use this life experience to practice kindness towards yourself? Try to find a place inside where you can be kind to the part of yourself that feels like a failure. This is likely a scared, lonely place that needs support and acknowledgement to let go and move on. This “failure” feeling is just one of many inner states that come and go. It is not you. This negative state is a circumscribed place. It can expand to the point where you feel “I am that” but it is always just an aspect of your experience. It isn’t you. You are much more than that. To move beyond your feeling of failure, acknowledge it with kindness, then with the awareness that it is a passing state – like a cloud in the sky – begin to focus instead on the sky behind this small cloud of “failure.” I hope this is helpful to you. Feel free to write again.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2011 Chaitanya Counseling Services