Post-College Blues Part One
Contrary to the title, this isn’t meant to be a depressing post. It’s more of a self-realization, coming-to-terms-with-adult-life post. For those who have jobs, and even for those who don’t, the end of an era (aka college) can leave you confused, uncertain, and nervous. I think the best way to cope with these feelings is to realize that a) you’re not alone, b) there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel, and c) you will overcome it. Eventually.
One of the most important things you can do even before you start your “adult life” is to develop a solid sense of self. Without a solid sense of self, how do you expect to meet your goals, surpass your dreams, and live the immensely fulfilling life you’ve always wanted for yourself? There are four things to take into consideration:
Eliminate self-limiting beliefs- Consciously acknowledge the limitations you may be setting on yourself. To do this, brainstorm and think of all the general beliefs you have about who you are, beliefs through which you filter all your experiences. For example, you may filter your experiences through general beliefs about yourself, such as “I am so lazy” or “I’m a fast learner.” In other situations, you may use more narrow thoughts such as “I know nothing about investing money” or “I am really good at event planning”. The major difference between these two thought processes is that one is generalized about who you think you are, while the other is more specific to the situation you are in. This can be very harmful in the sense that you are making a negative global judgment. Judgments such as “I’m not smart” may be true in one area of your life (let’s say investing), but not in other areas. So, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you “aren’t smart.” This can undermine your self-esteem and set up a negative belief system about yourself that is not in line with the reality of who you are.
- Grab a sheet of paper and mark a line down the center of the page. Write “Empowering Beliefs” on the top left-hand side and “Disempowering Beliefs” on the right. Write down all the beliefs that come into your head for 15 minutes.
- Circle the three most empowering and the three most disempowering beliefs. For the most empowering beliefs, ask them how they help you. How do they give you strength? How do they enhance your life? How do they make a positive impact on you? Continue to look over this list and make a conscious effort to strengthen your hold on these empowering beliefs. This will “integrate” them into your psyche. Repeating them to yourself will increase your sense of certainty that these beliefs are real and true.
-Now, let’s look at the negative nellies. You need to get down to the root of these self-limiting beliefs. Where do you think they are coming from? How do these beliefs affect your life? How do they limit you? Do they enhance your life in anyway? When you begin questioning the validity of these self-limiting beliefs, you will soon see that many of them are not based in reality and are the result of irrational thinking. Find their antithesis and write those down instead!
We all have moments where we feel down and out. But knowing and believing in your sense of self will guide you even more brilliantly than the brightest light. You can always finish what you started and start what you haven’t already begun.
Silence the pathological critic. This critic makes you feel bad about yourself, especially in your twenties, because the loss of college structure combined with the instability of the working world can make you feel uncertain and helpless in your new environment. You start feeling bad about yourself because you have this distorted way of thinking. This distorted thinking cuts you off from reality by causing you to not only misperceive yourself, but also the world as a whole.
Control what you think and feel. To stop the critic mentioned above, it is essential to always stay aware of the fact that how you feel about yourself is ultimately dependent on how you filter and interpret your experiences. Before you can fully experience an event, you have to process it within your head first to give it meaning. Then, before you can feel something about an event, you first have to develop an opinion of whether it is good or bad for you. If your understanding of what is happening is accurate, then your emotions will be normal, rational, and appropriate.
Stop Cognitive Distortions. To stop this destructive way of thinking, think about a situation that has been causing you to feel bad. Write down what your pathological critic has been saying about the situation and the cognitive distortions it has recently been creating. For example:
Self Statement: No one will want to hire me.
Distortion: Mind Reading
Rebuttal: There is no way of knowing what they will think of me. It’s up to them and all I can do is show them my best.
Self Statement: I’ve already been rejected by so many jobs. I am just not good enough.
Rebuttal: The people they’ve hired may have known someone in the company even though I was the better candidate. A few rejections doesn’t mean that I am unqualified.
By doing this, you can get a more accurate picture of what you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, and what you can do to change it.
Thank you to M.R. Salazar for the inspiration to write this post.