Well-Being//

Unhappy at Work? Your Belief System Might Need an Overhaul

I would hide my personality and be super serious at work, which worked for me... until it didn't.

Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/ Getty Images
Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/ Getty Images

Back in 2007 when I started my marketing agency, I was totally disconnected from myself and I didn’t even realize it. I started an agency during the biggest recession in American history, with one year’s work experience under my belt and virtually no capital. And when I was in the midst of my sob story those were the factors I’d point for my lack of success—even though several of my contemporaries started businesses under the same conditions and went on to thrive. But when I look back, it’s crystal clear to me: the reason I didn’t get to where I “wanted to go” had nothing to do with my “constraints” and everything to do with my beliefs, my connection to myself (or lack thereof) and my headspace.

While I was smart, savvy and had a natural aptitude for the work, I felt totally insecure compared to my more seasoned colleagues. I had one year of experience compared to their 10, 15, or 20+ years. I didn’t have the on-the-ground knowledge that they did, so I created this story in my head that because I was younger, I wasn’t good enough and that this endeavor would be an uphill battle.

In short, I had set myself up to fail before I’d even begun. So, to make up for my perceived shortcomings that I had cemented as beliefs, I over-rotated. Instead of leaning into my gifts, embracing my youthful creativity and the fact that I was a “digital native” in a time when that was oh-so-valuable, I attempted to look and sound like my older counterparts because I was convinced that my own way of being wasn’t good enough. I occasionally lied about my age to offset any perceived notions of me being “too young.” I would act very serious, never revealing my real personality, except for moments where my true self would sneak out and surprise us all. I went on and on in this mundane performance, secretly yearning for something to pull me out of hiding. Then I got the wake-up call that I really needed. I was so stressed out from this on-going performance as well as a need to please, that I developed two autoimmune diseases, lost a lot of my hair and was having memory troubles by the age of 27. I hadn’t built myself a business, I had built myself a trap based on limiting beliefs that was slowly diminishing my life force.

We spend more of our heartbeats at work than anywhere else on earth; our time at the office often eclipses time spent with our loved ones, significant others, playing sports, traveling and more. In fact, over the course of our lifetime, we’ll spend an average of 90,000 hours working! Making sure those hours feel as good as possible should be paramount. But for most of us, that can feel like a pipedream.

According to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey (Deloitte, 2010, page 8), over 80 percent of employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. While no job is perfect, a bit of soul-searching is often required in order to find one what aligns with your talents and your passions in a meaningful way. Having coached dozens of individuals from college seniors to people in the fourth decade of their career, I believe that the biggest challenge lies not in identifying the right career, but in getting abundantly clear on what we actually value and enjoy as individuals and what we hope to impact in the world in a broader sense. When it comes to our careers, we are often operating from unconscious belief systems projected onto us from our family systems. These beliefs are not ours, but they often inform every decision we make. In the words of Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, “until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” And that’s what happens to most of us. We’re impregnated with beliefs that are not our own and the process of discovering our gifts is a journey of unbecoming to find what’s actually connected to our truth.

Oftentimes what we perceive to be our proficiencies are actually a reflection of what others value based on their belief systems. Perhaps, in your family, math and science were highly valued and because you were good at it, you sought that out as a career. But you may also have talent and affinity for the arts, but it was believed to be an inferior career choice in your family system, so you believed it wasn’t for you. It’s very easy to get swept up in our families’ beliefs and neglect to evaluate our own. We can land ourselves in a job, organization and industry that feels like a complete misfit because it’s actually aligned with someone else’s values that you’re still operating from.

If we want to create work that lasts a lifetime, we need to make the unconscious conscious.

So next time you’re sitting at work loathing your job, scrolling endlessly through LinkedIn looking for your next role, ask yourself:

    1. What are your innate gifts?
    2. What do you value in the world?
    3. What do you want to impact?
    4. What do you believe is possible for
      you and your career?
    5. What do you believe isn’t possible
      for you and your career? How might
      that be a limited or old belief system?
    6. What are the new and authentic
      beliefs you want to operate from?
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