Redefining yourself? Define yourself first!
Change. This happens from time to time to everyone. Maybe you are beginning school, graduating, leaving a job, starting a new one, or are ending a relationship. It surprises me how often we are caught in a new situation, and we don’t know what to do or where to begin. Even if we knew it was coming for a while, and there was time to plan, we could struggle with our changing situation and identity. So, if you are going through an upheaval of sorts, and are not sure what to do next, it is time to take a good hard look at yourself, so you can get clarity and start redefining yourself.
Examining these four areas of your life will help you see yourself more clearly, what you have to work with, and identify your starting point. These points are not static, but fluid, so it is not difficult to make minor changes that can result in significant consequences. OK. I am about to get all Bourdieuian up in here:
Know your financial capital.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- How much money do you have in your bank account, and how long will it last?
- What is your income?
- What is your outgo?
- How much debt do you have? (Total and monthly/minimum payments)
- What are your assets worth, and how long would it take to liquidate them? (if needed)
- How much credit do you have available? (In case of an emergency)
Taking a hard, honest look at these questions and answers will give you the information you need to move forward. You will be able to see how long you can sustain your life as it stands. If you have faced a changing job status or loss of an income, then you will likely need to take stock of other areas of your life.
Know your social capital.
This is one that most people overlook when facing change. But, if you have enough quality social capital, you will recover from setbacks faster than if you do not. I’m not saying that ask your friends and family to help you out with your finances, but appreciate the support that they do give you. They are your network who can put the word out when you are looking for new lines of work. Most people like to feel helpful. If you want to test this, post a question asking for advice on Facebook. Make it something noncontroversial that most people have an opinion about, such as something related to diet or what to do about a pesky sore throat. If you don’t know what to do, consider trying the following if you aren’t already:
- Get to know your neighbors. Just smile and say hello. That’s all. Don’t ignore them. Don’t get discouraged if they aren’t that responsive.
- Make sure that you have profiles on social media. Connect with people you know.
- If you are single, you may want to seriously consider having a dating profile if you don’t already have one.
- Go to meetups.
- Have lunch with colleagues.
- Reach out to your close friends and family members more often and have real discussions about life and aspirations. Some may give a new perspective.
Don’t underestimate your social capital when you are going through a life-changing event. If you are looking for a job, this is especially important. Most people get jobs through networking, not sending out resumes, and not all jobs are listed. Also, rumor has it jobs obtained through networking pay better than those obtained through cold applications.
Know your cultural capital.
For some, this might be a bit hard to hear; others have this down. Anyway, it might not be how things should be, but it is how things are.
- Think about what you have learned. Do not focus just on the degrees earned, but the knowledge and skills that you developed and honed during your education. Think about the specific classes that you have taken and their content. Make a list.
- Reconsider how you present yourself and your surroundings. I’m not going to get into this one too much in this post, but it is a component of cultural capital. Is it genuinely congruent with the person you are or want to be?
Know your symbolic capital.
What have you achieved that holds value to your community?
- What are your educational credentials? Your degree is not worthless, although at times it may feel so. You have credentials of expertise in a field that you can apply in numerous, fulfilling, creative ways.
- What are your professional credentials?
- Are you a veteran?
- Have you won awards?
- Have you held an office?
- Are you an activist?
If you can take a look at each of these, you will have an idea of where you are right now. By framing it this way, you also have the tools to develop your weaknesses in these areas and redefine yourself.