I receive a lot of questions from course members and clients on the topic of career anxiety: “How do I know if I’m at the right job? How do I know if it’s time to change paths? Have I missed my calling?” (If you’re struggling the myth of a calling, please read this post.) These questions predicate on one of ego’s most compelling beliefs, which is that there’s one “right” path and that if you find it you’ll feel fulfilled and alive. It’s similar to the belief that if you find the “right” partner you’ll be lifted above the messy pain of life and be transported into a land of eternal bliss. “A calling” and “the One” share a common escape-hatch fantasy fueled by a culture that is informed by a mindset of abdication of responsibility, one that says that your answers live outside of you.
When we shatter this ego belief we see that at the core of these questions is an invitation to grow self-trust, for self-trust originates from a full well of Self and when the waters in the well are full, we stop seeking answers and validations externally. Self-trust is the place inside that knows that you are worthy, deserving, and enough. Lack of self-trust indicates that you haven’t yet learned how to fill the inner waters and so you’re walking around holding a bottomless bucket in front of you, expecting other people or external situations – like work – to make you feel worthy and alive. So whether we’re talking about career, relationships, having kids or decisions around parenting, when your inner well is full and your self-trust is intact, you have a deeper trust in life and you can make decisions from this rooted place.
One of my long-term clients is at a threshold in her work life. As she sits in this liminal zone, where she’s not quite done with her current position but is uncertain about where she’ll land next, she’s marveling at her ability to surrender to the uncertainty and even enjoy it. She’s been on a self-healing path for years, decades even. She has thrashed through several dark nights of the soul and endured challenging moments in her marriage. She has watched as her loving inner parent has slipped on and offline, stepping into the driver’s seat then jumping ship. Over the years that I’ve known her, she has gotten married, moved, changed careers, gone back to school, become a mother, lost her identity, then reclaimed it. All the while she has remained committed to her inner path, even when the outer one was foggy. And in the last couple of years she’s been enjoying the fruits of her labor: a stable marriage, confidence in her parenting, clarity around her career, and, at the core, a continually deepening relationship with her self-trust.
For self-trust is the foundational stone upon which the other rocks rest. Through her inner work and growing both her inner loving mother and her inner father, she recognizes that her career is an expression of her core self, not a validation of it, and by resting in self-trust and trust in life she finds serenity even amidst the uncertainty of the liminal zone. As she shared (with permission):
When I drop into myself, even amidst the uncertainty of my career and raising a toddler and recently having moved into a new house and sensing that another baby is on the horizon, I see myself on a paddle board in the ocean. This is my ground, my anchor. The water is the in-between place but I have a board – I’m floating and I watch the waves lap my body and I see the kelp all around – but it doesn’t take me under like it did in the past. I can trust that I will hear the call for what’s next. I can trust that I can hang out in this still point that always exists even when life is chaotic. I don’t have to doubt. I hear the voices of self-doubt come in but I don’t latch on. I will know when it’s time to move and I will start paddling. I will hear the call and I’ll know which direction to go in.
After she shares this beautiful image of her self-trust in action, I say to her, “This is what self-trust looks like. Ego – the part that thinks it can figure life out and decide what’s next by making pros and cons lists and ruminating and pondering and obsessions – is out of the way. You’re settled into the core of your being.”
She smiles a knowing yes. From this place, from the rootedness of sitting on the paddle board in the ocean, she knows that she can handle anything that comes her way in this life. She trusts the process, she knows how to listen to the subtle layers, she trusts herself, and she anchors into something greater than herself. As she waits, so she trusts: I will know when it’s time to move and I will start paddling. I will hear the call and I’ll know which direction to go in.
Self-trust isn’t a mysterious gem reserved for a select few. It’s available to you, waiting for you in the center of your being, just as it’s been waiting for my client. When you learn the mindsets, beliefs, and traumas that caused your self-trust to rupture then learn to the tools for repair, you’re on your way to retrieving this crystal compass that allows you to chart your life according to your own North star. This is what I teach in Trust Yourself: A 30-Day Course to help you Overcome your Fear of Failure, Caring what Others Think, Perfectionism, Difficulty Making Decisions, and Self-Doubt. I’ve guided over a thousand people through this course, and I look forward to guiding you as well. This live round starts on November 16, 2019, and I very much look forward to meeting you there.