self-blameI’ve been working a lot lately with junior and mid-level executives, most of whom completed business or law school somewhere between 2007 and 2011, and who have really been hit hardest by the recession.

These bright, smart, talented folks entered graduate school at a time when all was well in the global marketplace.  What they found when they got out was something entirely different.

Some of these people have yet to land a full-time job.  Others are in jobs that are far from fulfilling.  Still others have had to detour from their desired career just to make ends meet.

Most of us look at this state of affairs and know immediately that the economy is at fault.  Not so with some of my clients.  They’ve adopted a different explanation that goes by one nasty moniker.  What is it?

Self-blame.

You heard that right.  Notwithstanding the fact that we’ve been in a global economic meltdown for the last five years or so, most of my junior executive clients who are on the job hunt seem to think that if they had just done something differently– gone through on-campus interviewing, or found the right recruiter, or attended one more networking event– they’d be flying high on the corporate hog in exactly the right position now, to the love and admiration of all they know.

Now don’t get me wrong– we all need a certain toolkit of job hunting skills to make our job hunting effective.  And there is always room for improvement, no matter how good we are at the hunt.

But looking backward at your job choices in a global downturn, and holding yourself entirely accountable for the job market in which you find yourself, is a powerfully destructive line of thought.  Not only does it have truly negative consequences to your health and well-being, it also has the potential to destroy your career prospects NOW.

Why?  Because beating yourself up and telling yourself that you should have known better about x, y or z, leads to only one conclusion: that because of those past choices, you have gotten what you deserve in the form of a horrible job or career path.  That shame spiral is not only pointless, it’s also (and here I’m calling it exactly as I see it) self-abuse.  It results in devastating destruction of your self-esteem, at a moment where you really need it.

There’s nothing like negative self-esteem to keep you from putting yourself out there to network with new people, from stretching for career transitions that might land you in a better place, and even from sending in a job application for something you’re entirely qualified for.

The long term results are really quite obvious: if you don’t unload the kind of toxic thinking that I’m describing, and unload it right now, you will never land in a better position.  In my experience, it’s very, very difficult to stay motivated in a job hunt if you continue to blame yourself for past choices that you can’t do anything about anyway.  And while you might eventually land in another job, as long as you believe that you are deserving of something less than ideal, that is in fact what you will get.

So how do you escape these kinds of disabling, self-abusive thought patterns?  It takes some work, but here’s where you start.

1) Forgive yourself.  Now, I can hear you saying “Ha! Easier said than done, Elizabeth!”  But here’s the thing: we are all only doing the best we can with the information we have at the time.  The fact that you might have done things differently looking back over your career gets you nowhere.  Own the fact that you did the best you could, give yourself kudos for looking to improve your situation now, and let yourself off the hook.  IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT that you didn’t know more at the time.

2) Take care of yourself.  That means get your exercise, do your meditation practice if you have one, and take necessary steps to nourish your physical and emotional self.  If you are inundated with negative self-talk, you need to prove to yourself that you are worth something better.  Self-care is mandatory to that process.

3) Take action.  The thing about toxic self-blame is that it is incapacitating.  That incapacitation then becomes a part of the same cycle, e.g. the thought “I can’t believe I didn’t apply for that great job five years ago.  I’m such a screw up.  Why would I even bother applying for anything now?” leads to the more of the same in the near future, as in “I can’t believe I didn’t apply for that job I saw two weeks ago.  I’m such a screw up,” and so on down the road.  Here’s the thing about taking action, despite that negative voice in your head: you are telling that voice that you will no longer let it control your behavior.  You are telling that voice that it can rant all it wants, but it is powerless.  So take action on your job hunt– whether through applications, networking events, or reaching out to people who can help– and do it NOW.  You will find that, almost instantaneously, your pride and self-worth will start to return.

You may need to repeat this process many times before the message sinks in, but it is imperative that you keep at it.  Make the decision today that you will no longer allow yourself to be your own worst enemy.

You do in fact deserve better than where you are right now.  You can and will move on to greater career success if you give yourself permission to believe it.  Get to it!

And know that I am wishing you loads of self-love and self-respect this week, wherever you may be.

XOXO E

PS.  I’d be honored if you’d share this post with someone who needs it.  Thanks!

 

 

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