I was born into a family of high achievers and have been a high achiever myself. In school, I have always been doing very well in academics, co-curricular activities, and extracurricular activities. I shifted my school after grade 10 and got elected as the school head girl within a year. After high school, I got into a premier law institute in Bangalore and did quite well there, too. In my batch, I was the first to land a corporate law firm job in India. I was doing very well at my job for five years until my mental breakdown. After that, I was forced to take a break in my career.
Since my career break, I have tried multiple times to get back to a law firm and in-house role and have never been able to hold on to it. I was unable to take on the pressure due to my high anxiety issues. All the times when I quit or took a pause, I went back to the corporate world once I recuperated and gained stability. This back-and-forth kept happening. I had taken a wellness break for the last two months and resumed work on 2nd January. On that day, I had a massive mental breakdown and tried to commit self-harm. I felt like my life was a failure when I couldn’t work and felt like I had let down my family. I didn't want to continue living as I had not been able to make my family proud professionally. I am grateful for my husband's patient counseling, which helped me get out of that mental space and calm down.
Pushing my limits
Every time I have had issues with my job, I recuperated and went to the same field. My family and friends have advised me not to take up roles that will put unnecessary pressure on me. While I appreciated their concern, I never heeded their advice.
It was like a challenge for me to excel in the corporate world and prove to myself and others that I could do it. I believed that if I quit, then I would be a failure. I compared myself with my peers and family members and had a massive sense of inferiority complex as I believed I had fallen behind in the race. I was in a mad rush to catch up. I used to feel bad that no one spoke to me about my career and where I was, and that also gave me a massive sense of an inferiority complex.
As I am writing this, my eyes are swelled up, and I am feeling emotional about how much I have damaged myself in the process.
While I had my breakdown two days ago, it was a rude shock to me that I have defined my life and worth on how successful I am in my career. Throughout my life, I have seen people being appreciated for their academic and professional achievements and not for the person they are. My core belief was that I am what I do and what I achieve in my career. My self-worth revolved around how well I do in my job and how productive I am.
The day when I was pushed to a stage where I wanted to end things, I realized that there is more to life than professional achievements. I had forgotten that I am loved by so many for the wonderful human being I am and that there are people who love me and accept me for what I am and not what I do.
My peers may have done things differently or be ahead of me, but I need to remember that each of us has our unique journey and believe that I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. My existence is a gift in itself to my family and friends. I need to be happy and content in my skin. The hustle culture may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I need to find my rhythm.
Happiness and contentment are key to a living, not success and accolades. It may be time for me to move on and find my purpose in something else. I fear to change and don't like getting out of my comfort zone. But then I am reminded of Cory Allen's quote, “The courage it takes to leave behind what is not for you anymore is the same courage that will help you find your way to what is." I hope I have the courage to find my ikigai.
On that note, I would like to tell my dear readers that some of you have reached the pinnacle of your career, some may have just started, or some may have retired; wherever you are, please remember that job and career are just a part of who you are, and does not define your self-worth.