Is your self worth dependent on your job?
A story about the moment I realised my self-worth was 100% dependent on my career success
I was sat in my boyfriend’s childhood bedroom on the floor between the wall and the wardrobe. The rest of the family was sitting in the lounge room watching TV. I could hear the racing speech of the Italian news, but I was fixated on my phone and my empty inbox.
Every time I dragged my thumb down the screen, I would pray for the reassuring iPhone ‘ding’ and accompanying vibrate to reinstall faith in myself and my abilities.
Surely at least one of the dozens of jobs I’d applied for would be mine. Surely if I was a prize employee in Australia I could be a worthy candidate here in Italy? Surely I have some morsel of credit to offer?
For three months there was nothing. I was, *gulp*, unemployed.
When I left the security of my career in Australia for a new lusty-life in Italy I knew things would be different. I knew that I would have to make sacrifices and adjust to earning a lot less. I also knew that I would be removing my safety harnesses (aka Mum and Dad) and setting the entire safety net on fire –I couldn’t even speak Italian, meaning I couldn’t even work in a cafe.
I had done as much due diligence as I could before I departed Australia and managed to pick up a few writing jobs before hopping on the plane. However, these jobs ended right before Christmas and before I knew it I was chewing into my savings and hi-jacking public wi-fi connections to Google ‘ways to make extra cash’.
I was low.
The longer I was without work the worse I felt. Every day, chips of my self-worth and self-confidence crumbled to the floor and soon I was left with nothing but the withered foundations of who I used to be.
I had traded in my dream job, status and plump bank account for a life — free of regulated coffee breaks and monotonous daily routine, but what I hadn’t realized was that I was trading far more than the value I thought I obtained from my old life. I was also trading my self-worth.
I was naked, vulnerable, scared and broke.
I was unrecognizable to myself.
I would go to sleep at 10 pm because there was no reason to stay up. I also found myself sleeping in until 10 am because there was no reason to get up. I had nothing to contribute to the world and nobody wanted me. My thoughts were eating away at me and I swear I was becoming ‘dumber’ every day.
I used to be the successful businesswoman with the apartment in Melbourne, the brand new SUV, business class work trips and a gym membership at Virgin Active, now I’m the woman who can barely afford a new winter coat to whether my emotional storm.
After 3 months of struggle, my withered foundations finally fell after I was rejected for a freelance role replying to TripAdvisor comments for a huge hotel chain. I quoted the recruiter 10€ an hour and they replied with “sorry you’re out of our budget”.
That was it. I gave up and returned to Australia to temporarily re-calibrate while my boyfriend moved to Venice to start a new job.
I had to find my new voice.
I had been identifying as Copywriter for XYZ bank and Product Manager for XYZ insurance company for so long that I didn’t actually know who Tina Benias, XYZ was or what I could offer.
This magic space, just above total ruin, was where I found my feet. I was starring in my own daytime movie and in the wreckage of my old career and rejection emails I found the formula for rebuilding my identity and subsequently — my career, without the help of a calling card from a golden company to rest my name on.
Oddly enough, coming home was exactly what I needed to do to find my confidence again, without having to succumb to the cubicle life.
I’m now just Tina. And I’m ok with that. I can get by without the perks handed to me from my employer, because I’m more interested in finding success under my own name and affording my own perks — unregulated and undeniably deserved.
I’ve filled my cup from within and while it definitely still leaks there is enough in it to keep me and my insecurities afloat with a bit to spare.
‘More Than Just My Job’ Support Leader, Cup Filler, High Flying Perk Seeker