Lessons from Discomfort

Apr 14, 2022

Even with spring now in full force and with mask mandates lifted, a palpable sense of grief still persists. For many of us, this grief presents itself through multiple emotions are requiring us to manage various layer of discomfort simultaneously. Personal loss; pandemic uncertainty; the fear of economic toll; the geopolitical volatility; the anxiety of reintegration through anticipatory grief; the loss of connection over the last two years. 

I recently had a friend go missing. Since receiving the news, my head has continued to spin and my heart has been puddled on the floor. 

How could this have happened? How could I have prevented this from happening? Why didn’t I see it coming? 

Even as I struggle to make sense of it all amid the mental fog, there is one truth that even this hard-to-fathom event has helped to clarify. While we might not be able to fully control some of the things that happen around us, we can control how we cope with them. By naming our emotions, perhaps we can better manage the discomfort. 

Here are some strategies that have helped me to manage some of these uncomfortable feelings. Hopefully, they will help you to name and move beyond your emotions, as you look for meaning in your search and career. 

1. Balance the bad with the good.
It is easy to let our negative emotions get the best of us. I often hear the following from jobseekers: There are better candidates out there, I can’t compete. I’ve been unemployed for x months and maybe this is all that I’ll ever be or maybe even I was turned down by my dream employer; maybe I’m just not cut out for this type of job. 

The goal is to find balance in the things you’re thinking about. If you feel the worst image taking shape, make yourself think of the best image. I have faced fierce competition in the past and worked through it. Not everyone is a better candidate than I am. Maybe no one else is better for this role, there was just an internal candidate that was in consideration before me. 

Neither scenario should be ignored but neither should dominate either. 

2. Focus on the present.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, it is important to focus on the present. There is a red hot job market that awaits you. You have an education to rely on and valuable work experience already under your belt. It’s that simple. Realize that in the present moment, nothing you’ve anticipated has happened. Focusing on the present will really work to dampen some of that pain. You might have been rejected from things in the past, but they are not a predictors of the future. Remember: today is a blank slate that is yours for the taking. 

3. Let go.
Acceptance, as you can imagine, is where the power lies. This is where you can find a sense of control. What your competition is doing is out of your control. What is in your control is your investment in networking and crafting the strongest application possible. Focus on that. 

4. Stock up on compassion.
I was introduced to the concept of lagniappe through a colleague of mine, Lida Citroen. As she shares in her book, “Success After Service,” lagniappe originates from French-Louisiana or Mark Twain, and it means when you go that extra mile for someone else just because. As she describes, "It’s that extra donut in the baker’s dozen." 

Consider adding lagniappe into your schedule today to do a little something extra for someone else. I promise you that giving more than what is expected will never feel like a waste. One day, you might discover how what you perceived to be a small action changed another person’s world for the better.

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