Elaine Aron (in “The Undervalued Self”) writes about linking and ranking. Linking is making a connection with someone, includes empathy and care, and is and based on
equality. Ranking is about status, competitive, and not based on equality. You can see both of these dynamics happening in interactions between people. Her theory is that we are born prepared for a certain amount of ranking, but her definition of trauma (paraphrased) is when we expect linking from a person or a group, and instead experience ranking (social defeat), in a manner that is shocking to us.
Why is this important to career choice? Even the most “independent” people will do in life and career what gets them love, what allows them to feel connected to others. If a given life path risked social isolation by your family and friends, would you take that path?
So when you know you need a change, but feel that you risk isolation by making the change, you have a couple of choices. You can go the self-improvement route, try to make yourself strong enough to stand completely on your own. I allow for the theoretical possibility that it works for some people. However, there are many it doesn’t work for, and some even go deeper into multi-thousand-dollar personal growth courses only to realize (if they can even acknowledge this to themselves) they have little to show for it. The best I can say about self-improvement is that it can have some effect, but it’s maybe not worth the struggle, time, effort and money.
Alternately, while you are on your career change journey, you can find a supportive community who will value you for who you really are at all times (not just when you speak the leader’s lingo, or have a “positive attitude”.)
How about you? I would be interested to hear from people who feel they really did “improve themselves” via self-improvement.
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