Essays & Thoughts, On Jobs & Careers, On Motivation

Creating a Compass for Joy

How to Stay Confident in a Sea of Comparison

 Take Control & Take Back Your Confidence.

Have you ever felt that no matter what you did, you just weren’t good enough? Whether it’s in your academic, professional, or personal life, there are days when you can’t help but feel that something is missing. We’ve all felt this way at some point in our lives. There are days when it feels like no matter how much time we took to prepare ourselves for what’s next, no matter how many tears were shed or how much sweat was spilled, the final result of our efforts just didn’t cut it. The realization alone weighs heavily over your head, makes your breath shallower from bearing the weight of it, until you feel your heart sink to your stomach. The disappointment knocks the hope right out of you. And in those moments of disappointment and despair, you find yourself wondering about the alternatives.

Everything seemed to be going right until that sharp pang of rejection. Up until that point, you were so sure that you were going to succeed. Yet you can’t help but wonder, what happened? What went wrong? What could I have done to make it better? What kind of qualities or capabilities does the other person have that I don’t?

Comparison is the thief of joy. —Theodore Roosevelt

It’s disheartening to constantly feel like you’re falling behind compared to everyone else. Like you’re walking backwards instead of forward, dragging your potential behind you as you shove your hands into your pockets and look down at the road, wondering whether you missed a sign on the way from point A to point B. You’re not sure whether to look up, turn around, and give the challenge another chance.

It does not serve anyone well — especially you — to sit around and mope all day about any combination of the following woes:

(a) why you’re still single while the rest of your friends are getting married
(b) that you’re not in love with your current job
(c) you’re still figuring out what your dream job should be
(d) realizing that you are not qualified for your dream job and have no idea how to get there
(e) realizing that changing careers feels nerve-wracking

Don’t shrug off a shot at redemption for fear of rejection. Do something creative. You’re on the verge of revising your narrative. Don’t let doubt dictate your direction or your destination.

Redeem yourself through reinvention.

Instead of dwelling on missed opportunities or regrets, focus on what you can do now to not just move along, but to move ahead and propel yourself toward other possibilities. You still have the power to turn these possibilities into potential opportunities for your future.

Redeem yourself through reinvention.

It’s okay if you still don’t know what your next step will be. Take this time to relax, reflect, and reassess your life. Travel to a different city. You don’t have to hop on a plan to travel an exotic city half-way around the world (but if you feel inclined to do so and you have the means, why not?). You can travel to a different borough or state and go sightseeing. Explore new territories (even if you’re going to a restaurant or a bookstore you’ve never been to before within your neighborhood). Eat new food at a restaurant you have not yet visited.

Go to the library or to the bookstore and pick up some books — perhaps a new novel, an inspirational memoir, a career resource guide (I recommend “Leave Your Mark” by Aliza Licht), or even a journal to jot down your thoughts. Sip some coffee or tea at a local cafe and start reading, writing, making lists, and mapping out your next steps.

It’s never too late to learn. 

Maybe you need more training to expand your skills, depending on which field and industry you are hoping to break into as your next dream job. Ask yourself whether getting another degree, such as a Master’s or a Ph.D. in your chosen field is worth it before investing in graduate school. Going to graduate school can give you the opportunities to specialize in your field, explore new areas of study, discover up-and-coming innovations, and make connections with a whole new group of people who can lend you support, guidance, and the chance to grow both as an individual and as a professional. While contemplating the infamous question “Should I go to graduate school?”, do your homework. Research schools and graduate programs online. Talk to people who have been in your shoes. Ask them what motivated them decide to pursue their degrees. Make a list of programs you might be interested in and then go to the open houses and information sessions to find out more about the admissions process, student life, degree requirements, and to meet with current students and faculty.

If you’re still on the fence about graduate school, or have decided that it’s not a path you want to take at this point, you still have options. Consider taking some courses and workshops to give yourself an edge and sharpen your skill set. Learn and master new tech, media, and business skills through organizations such as General Assembly, Skillshare, and CreativeLive. Whether you’re looking to just grow your skills as an employee, become a freelancer, or start your own business, it’s essential to learn to code, design, and create a memorable brand.

Follow experts in your industry across social media — you’re bound to find them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Get connected, ask questions, interact, engage. More importantly, have fun with it! Enjoy the connections you make, and grow confident with the valuable relationships you build with others. Sometimes the best way to discover and learn new things is to connect with the people in your network.

Make a decision. You don’t need to know what you want right away, but once you determine what your next goal will be, it’s up to you to shape the rest of your future. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing that your journey is unique and your dreams are within reach, as long as you make plans and do what you can in the time that you have. Each day brings the chance to choose new paths and the opportunity to create a compass on our roadmap to discovering meaning and joy.

Don't let doubt

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Mindful Memory Keeping
    August 17, 2015 at 4:14 pm

    Beautiful post. I love that you connected confidence and joy because it’s true. Inner connection with ourselves and interconnected with others (rather than comparison) is what creates that beautiful inner sense of joy and peace. This month I’m talking a lot about confidence and self-esteem over at my blog http://www.mindfulmemorykeeping if you want to check it out. =)

  • Reply
    Julianne Day
    August 17, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks, Marina! I feel it’s important to explore our inner confidence and reflect on what we want for ourselves so that we can do whatever it takes to make our dreams happen, which can lead to a more fulfilling and joyful life. I look forward to reading your posts about confidence and self-esteem.

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