Discovering my identity and self-worth

By Nadia Taylor

Like a lot of women, feelings of self-doubt and low self-worth have been a familiar feature in my life over the years. People who know me might describe me as confident and self-assured, traits which I’m sure I display well on the outside but internally, I do frequently question my capabilities and compare what I have achieved with others around me. I wonder if this desire to do well and be recognised stems from childhood? I had a slightly unconventional upbringing where I moved around a bit when I was younger. I moved with my family to a rural part of Ireland when I was 6 years old and whilst this is where I think of as home, I never felt fully integrated or accepted in the local community, like one might do if you were born there. That sense of ‘otherness’ or even perhaps ‘inferiority’ has stayed with me and certainly had an impact on my sense of identity and self-worth as well.

I was always a spirited and driven young person but I wanted so badly to fit in, be popular and part of a ‘gang’. I compared myself to others and wanted to feel like I belonged. Sometimes, I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb. I had come from this alternative background, had a different accent to my peers and because of that, experienced instances of xenophobia when growing up. It led to a conflicted sense of where I was from and who I was and I’m sure had an impact on how I viewed myself and my place in the world.

It makes total sense to me now, that back then all I wanted to do was be an actor. It was a way of receiving everything I felt was important… social inclusion, affirmation, validation and sometimes even adoration and it was a great way to express myself and try on many different hats. I went on to study drama and theatre studies in university but that sense of otherness and self-doubt also followed along. I wasn’t part of the ‘popular’ group in university and so largely did my own thing – separate from my classmates. Looking back, I regret not involving myself more and being more confident, as I feel my aptitude for acting, writing and directing would have developed and improved a lot more than it did. I graduated with high grades but with no better sense of who or what I was and I doubted my capabilities as an actor immensely.

I gave up on my dream of being an actor pretty much straight after graduation – I just couldn’t handle the constant rejection that comes with the profession and the financial insecurity wasn’t appealing either. I think it was down to a need for convention and acceptance that meant professionally, I hopped from pillar to post and didn’t really commit to any industry or career path for many years. I felt envious of people who had a clear idea of what they wanted to do but for me, the only thing I’d ever felt strongly about was acting and I had convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough to do that. I adopted the mindset that I was unlikely to get much fulfilment from work and so I filled that gap in other ways such as travelling, meeting new people, doing new things and building a strong and committed relationship with my now husband.

I’m now coming to understand that this was ok and that we don’t all have to have clear paths or fit perfectly into square boxes. I may be a bit of a late comer but that’s why finding my sweet spot in events management has been such a revelation. No two days are the same, everything has a purpose and each project is different. It’s not that I have a short attention span, it’s that I thrive in an environment where things aren’t repetitive or mundane, where projects come to a planned end point and then I get to start all over again putting everything I’ve learned into practice – much like a theatre production! It’s taken a while to get here and I’m still learning about myself but now at least I feel I’m on the right path.

A defining moment for me was about two years ago when I ran in to some health issues and was diagnosed with IBD. I had taken on a lot of extra responsibilities at work and was also studying for an events management diploma two evenings per week – everything started to feel unmanageable and I was burning out. The experience forced me to completely re-set, but it also meant my confidence took a heavy knock. I couldn’t bear the thought of my newly diagnosed medical condition defining me and I felt cripplingly scared and worried about my future. I agonised over what I might or might not be able to do or achieve in life and as an aspiring event manager, I was concerned about my ability to manage stress which invariably comes with the job.

I realised that to get better and do what I wanted, it would be vital for me to practice self-care and consciously look after my mental and physical health and wellbeing. It was a powerful lesson in perseverance and resilience, one I sometimes forget to give myself proper credit for getting through and over coming. This is not to say that my self-doubt has gone away now. It comes back to visit in varying degrees – especially in moments when I’m feeling vulnerable or anxious. For instance, I’m coming to the end of my work contract now and so looking for my next job. This time, I’ve not only doubted my own capabilities but also due to the Covid 19 pandemic, I’ve doubted the events industry itself. The moment I had decided to put myself out there and really follow this as a career path, the pandemic hit and the whole events industry disappeared over night. I’ve applied for a couple of non-events roles and not been successful which is hard, especially when you feel overqualified in the first place. I recently came across this fantastic Steve Maraboli quote “Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being re-directed to something better.” I love this quote so much and it has really helped me look at rejection in a different and more philosophical way.

Identity is also strongly linked to self-worth and I don’t think you can have one without the other. The last role I applied for suited me down to a T and I knew I would be brilliant at doing it. I was so excited by this role that I applied – ignoring the entry level salary. But then, I was offered an interview and subsequently the job and it all suddenly hit me. Identifying with my job wasn’t enough – it also needed to support my financial situation and ambitions for the future. Would I feel resentful taking such a big pay cut? Would I again feel on the outside – like my efforts weren’t being recognised? Was I ultimately setting myself up to waste more time doing something that wasn’t going to propel me forward or fulfil me in the long run? I had to listen to my gut and put my self-worth first and so I turned it down. When I called the hiring manager to let her know my decision she said that my events experience was so brilliant, I could definitely find a more senior events role and that I should be incredibly proud of how well I came across at interview. This gave me the confidence boost I badly needed and helped me realise I can set my own boundaries and salary expectation is an important part of how I should value myself.

The best thing I can do for myself is to be authentic to myself. All my experiences have got me to this point - I just need to make that jump now with all my bells and whistles on of course! I know I have so much to offer and I know that the right job for me is just around the corner. I’m starting to feel excited rather than anxious about the future. Whatever will be, will be and reaching this new level of understanding when it comes to my identity and self-worth has been a truly empowering experience. I don’t need to be just one thing – I’m many things and all those things are bloody amazing. I have nothing to be ashamed of – I am as good as anyone else and I deserve the best.

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