Quarter life crisis!
I am from a broken family. My father treated my mother and I quite badly, while my 2 sisters were treated decently. I was beaten when I used to cough (it sounded like whooping apparently) and it drove him mad. My father left when I was 8 - literally left us with no money - so we had some hard times.
I have always looked for father figure types in every aspect of my life and now feel it hinders me professionally. I am now an interior designer (of sorts) and I got a job through sheer luck. I constantly feel self-conscious and have low self esteem. I feel like I am almost at the stage of burnout. I feel very undervalued, isolated, and inferior to those around me. I get very depressed on Sundays, dreading Monday morning and the week ahead. I hate it!
I want to take control of my life and not constantly seek approval. I do not like my job in its current state, I want to do something that I can really excel at and throw everything into, but I do not know what, or where to go to find out. I know I am young but I feel time is running out for me to do a career change. I am panicking ridiculously but can't help it. I am also in quite a lot of debt (manageable on my current salary) so training for a new career seems impossible, as I need to earn the same amount. Please help me find direction/happiness.
You are not alone in experiencing a Quarter Life Crisis. Many other people your age do. Good for you for recognizing the situation and trying to do something about it.
It might help to realize that what you're experiencing, while it's not pleasant, is actually valuable. You feel "undervalued, isolated, and inferior" as well as depressed when you think about going into work. Those feelings are a feedback mechanism that is letting you know, loudly and clearly, that you need to make a change. If you didn't have those feelings, you might stay in a career in which you can't really live up to your full potential. Those feelings are the incentive you need to take a risk and make a change which will ultimately lead you to a job that is right for you, one in which you can experience joy.
The reason you don't know where to go to find out what will really excite you and motivate you in a career is that there's only one place - within. You need to look within yourself and ask, what do I like doing? What am I good at? What do I naturally gravitate towards and enjoy? Often looking back to childhood and your interests at that stage of life is a key (because that is when most people are in touch with their dreams and "true inner self," before they have submerged that knowledge in order to pursue what they think they are "supposed to do," or what their parents or other significant people in their lives want them to do).
There are books that can help you in this process such as What Color is Your Parachute? and Zen and the Art of Making a Living. They include exercises designed to put you in touch with your own talents and innate abilities.
Once you have identified what it is that you really want to be doing, you can begin to think more practically about how to translate it into a paying venture. It may require a big leap or change of career, or there may be smaller steps that you can take to move towards your goal gradually. It may be that you know the general direction in which you want to be headed but you can't necessarily point to one specific job and say "that's the one that I want." In that case, you may need to do more exploring, such as volunteering, doing internships, or taking jobs that are in the field of your interest to help you define more closely what you want. It's a process and a journey, and it will require patience on your part.
It may take a while before you are able to transition into your new career, and you will need to address practical issues such as paying your debt and deciding what your salary requirements are. Suze Orman has written several wonderful books on financial planning such as Nine Steps to Financial Freedom and The Courage to Be Rich that address not only the practical aspects of handling money but also help you to see the ways in which your emotional issues with regard to money are being played out repeatedly.
The issues with your family and father are complex, and I am certain that they play a role in your current situation. You were abused as a child, which has left you with feelings of low self-worth, and it is likely that on some level you don't feel that you deserve to be happy in your career and in your life. Working through these issues would be very helpful to your overall happiness and your ability to achieve greater satisfaction in your career. Your best bet is to seek out a therapist or counselor in your area with whom you can address these issues. The therapist will help you to examine the family dynamics and how they have affected you, and you can also discuss your career ideas and plans with him or her.
Best of luck to you on your quest.
Susan Maroto, LCSW
This question has been answered by Susan Maroto. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker working out of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She uses an eclectic approach to holistic healing, mind-body relationships, life transitions, depression, and anxiety.For more information visit: http://www.therapywithsusan.com/