Q. I am a 43-year-old man trying to make a change in my career. My brother and some of my friends are successful professionals. I am a slow starter and haven’t had the best of luck getting my new career going. Recently I applied for a new position in a company, but didn’t get it. I knew some of the other employees and found their goals and vision to exactly match what I was looking for. I was very anxious while attending the interview and then when I didn’t get the position, I felt like a failure. I woke up with dreams of being in some rural area and I felt as if my tribe had moved on without me. I felt very sad. I don’t know how to deal with these feelings of shame and loneliness.
A.The new position did indeed mean a lot to you, and it seems to have symbolized some deep needs for you. Having friends and relatives who are doing well in their professions can be inspiring and burdensome. Most of us start comparing ourselves to others and end up in a kind of trap. If you come out on top, you feel afraid that you’ll lose your edge soon. If you are not doing as well, you feel like a loser and criticize yourself a lot. It’s easy to use work to bolster one’s sense of self. Without this, one might feel empty, worthless and lost. Do you identify with any of these conditions or feelings?
Your dreams are relevant. I am glad you’re writing about them here. Historically, humans have lived and worked in groups. Whether gathering, growing, hunting or cooking food, building homes or raising children, it was all done within a community setting. This was quite intimate and at times people desperately needed each other to survive and raise families. Is there a hunger in you to have a tight-knit community or family? If so, you might want to make that a priority in your life. This is not easy, as people are so mobile today, and more individualistic and less group-oriented. You may need to seek connection in other parts of your life. You can try to foster a closer relationship with family, with a spiritual group, by playing a sport, or by pursuing volunteer opportunities. This way, you can get out of a competitive setting and enter a meaningful or playful one. It might take away the pressure and with that, the anxiety and loneliness will slowly disappear. This kind of meaningful engagement can also put your career interests in perspective.
Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. Visit www.wholenesstherapy.com