The Absolute Worst Feeling in the World
The last few weeks have been really weird for me.
I’m sure they have been for you, too.
In the past few weeks, many of my friends have lost their jobs. That reminded me of times in my life when I lost my own job.
Years ago, I worked for a photographer and found out I was photographically colorblind, rendering me unfit for my position as a printer. It’s not that I can’t see color. I just can’t see it well enough to make the right corrections to the photos I printed.
So after three months on the job, I was let go.
I worked with one company for 17 years as a manager and a store owner. Then after a bad season that was too big to recover from, I was let go with a small severance package. That took me into a year and a half of stringing together part-time work to stay afloat financially. At one point, I worked from 3:30 in the afternoon until 8 AM the next morning five days a week.
That’s taxing for a man in his forties.
In the middle of all that, I got fired from a job at a call center. I got the news when I arrived at work. I was sent out the door with two days pay and an offer to interview for another call center job.
I declined and poured myself into my other part time job.
The one thing all these firings had in common was this: the feeling that I wasn’t needed anymore.
A punch in the heart
Lest you think my work ethic was subpar, it’s not.
In every job I held, the business either downsized or closed. On one occasion, I had a handicap I couldn’t overcome.
If all else had gone well, I might still be doing some of these things today.
But as life would have it, I’m not.
Feeling unwanted dogged me early in life. Maybe it started on the first day of school in sixth grade. I was in a new school. I didn’t know anybody. I can’t remember any gregarious kid breaking out of his clique to welcome me.
I went through the motions that morning with no memorable catastrophes.
Then I went to my third period. Bible Class. My teacher was Mr. Ford, a man in his thirties who looked like he took a wrong turn on his way to the accounting office. He wore a short sleeve, starch-stiffened white dress shirt. His tie was dark red, boring, and looked the color of dried blood.
“Turn in your Bibles to First Chronicles.” Mr. Ford instructed.
I reached into my jeans pocket and pulled out my crumpled Gideon New Testament.
“Let’s see if this Bible has Chronicles in it,” I muttered to myself.
“YOU BE QUIET!” Mr. Ford barked.
My body froze as those words blazed into my young ears. I looked at his grim expression and felt two inches tall. He didn’t say I was worthless. But he implied in my young mind. He made sure I knew I had disrupted his class and he would not tolerate any more of that.
I was in shock. I had no clue how to respond. So I just went inside my head and stayed there.
In just those few words, I heard, “You’re not wanted.”
The Worst Feeling Ever
There’s nothing worse than going into a room full of strangers and having no one give you the time of day, much less say hi or even pretend to notice you.
The only thing worse might be hearing people laugh at you, make fun of you, and go on about how stupid they think you are.
If I had been more mature, I wouldn’t have projected the traumatic experience in Bible class onto everyone. I would have seen how everyone isn’t like that. Bullies are fewer in number than nice people. Had I been more objective, I’d have known that — and I’d have had more friends.
I didn’t because the pain blinded me to the truth.
I felt unwanted when Mr. Ford verbally assaulted me.
When the bell rang and no one asked me how i was, I figured no one cared.
That feeling was the worst one ever because at some level it followed me all the way into my twenties.
How I Broke the Chains
Be careful what you believe, especially about yourself.
I’ve read a ton of psychology books over the years. I can tell you what my problems were and maybe even frame it in the right psychological vocabulary.
But I don’t want to put you to sleep so I’ll tell you what really happened.
I’ll also tell you how you can break your own chains if you feel you don’t matter.
I was studying photography. Since I was enrolled at a trade school, they made me take a job preparation class.
My teacher was a friendly young woman who wore business suits to class. She was friendly and professional. Our first assignment was one of those books my dad had tried to vain to make me read — Zig Ziglar’s See You at the Top.
I took the book home and read it because I wanted to make a good grade and have a job waiting for me when I graduated.
That night was as life changing as the day in Mr. Ford’s class.
As I sat down to read, the words leapt off the page and penetrated my heart. You’re not unwanted. You do matter. You do have something valuable to offer.
Zig didn’t know me, yet he showed me who I really was.
I read the whole assignment in an hour. I went on to read the whole book. And over the years, I’ve returned to it for a motivational shot in the arm.
The message of that book has stuck with me. You matter. You’re here for a reason. You have something valuable to offer.
I believe you do, too.
It doesn’t matter what anyone has told you. You have value. You matter because you’re a human being. You’re breathing. You have a hand to lend. You have the power to make a difference.
The question is, will you?
Interrupt your limiting patterns
What you believe determines what you do.
When I believed I didn’t matter and that no one wanted me, I stayed small. I hid. I deemphasized myself and what I had to offer.
The funny thing is when I was at home, I believed something different.
In my room, which was my creative sanctuary, I threw caution to the wind. I wrote whatever struck my fancy. I drew portraits and painted landscapes. I did celebrity impressions. And why not? When you’re alone, nobody is gonna tell you that you’re stupid, awful, or unworthy. You just have fun and enjoy it for all it’s worth.
Worry what other people think and you’ll hold back.
Follow your heart. Honor your convictions. Be yourself in all your glorious imperfection.
And if you can’t, do this.
Take time out to reset
When I read Zig’s book, I was alone in my dorm room. I had time to think. I could be totally honest. I could see how believing a lie was ruining my life.
But most of all I was free to fill my mind and heart with hope.
Hope is like fuel in your life tank. Go into your day without it and you’ll be drained out before lunchtime. Fill your tank before breakfast and hope will carry you into the night shadows.
What kind of hope am I talking about?
Standing on truth is like standing on a rock that is higher than the raging tidal wave headed straight at you. Truth will endure when people accuse you of the worst things. Cling tightly to it and words truly can’t hurt you like sticks and stones can. And when you’re slandered, you’ll have the courage to fight with all your might.
Or maybe you’ll be secure enough to know it will all blow over and you’ll still be standing firm.
The time to find your rock isn’t when you’re in the storm. You do it before the first raindrop falls. It’s like boarding your beach house windows to keep the hurricane from blowing them into a million shards. It’s the difference between entering a battle with your armor on and feeling naked and afraid in a foxhole.
Embrace your truth today
If you don’t have a solid rock to stand on, find one today.
When you do, you’ll be at your best when life hands you its worst.
You’ll be able to lift people up when they feel so low they’re ready to die.
And you’ll begin making the difference only your freest, boldest, most authentic self can make.
Are you up to the challenge?
The world will be better when you are.
Do it because you matter.