Finding your niche

It’s peculiar what means different people find for achieving validation in their lives. What makes people feel worthwhile varies so enormously, and it’s one of the aspects I am working on changing in my own life.

I am sure that we have all met people who live their lives through their children’s achievement. This is destructive enough when it is all their children, but when it is only one of the children in the family, the toxic legacy is huge.

The other children will feel resentment, and also the other parent may feel this as well. The problem, of course, is that the parent feels that they have missed opportunities in their life, and insist that the children take these opportunities up so that the parent can in effect live their life all over again.

I draw a distinction here between the above situation and those families who through no fault of their own are landed with a prodigiously talented child.

You know, the ones who can play a Mozart concerto at age 8, or who finish high school by age 12, or who are just brilliant at a particular sport. The family’s life then revolves around ensuring that talent gets the support it needs. In may ways, a disabled child creates the same pattern in families. The child becomes the nexus around which the family revolves.

What makes you feel worthwhile is to a large part developed in your childhood and early adolescence. If academic achievement was important, you might feel lost in the ‘real world’ because no one is giving you a report card. How much money you have or your seniority becomes a worth substitute for many people.

If being part of a team was important in childhood, you might find worth in joining a service organisation in later life.

Those from large families feel more comfortable in large groups of people. People who were the only child in the family can struggle when they’re not the centre of attention in later life.

Think hard about what makes you feel worthwhile. Have you unconsciously taken on someone else’s values? It’s often a parent’s values sitting at the back of your head whispering that ‘this isn’t good enough’ or ‘I ought to be…’

What makes you feel worthwhile and what you are comfortable with will not always be the same thing. You may end up way out of your comfort zone. But being comfortable can be stifling too, and reduces your spiritual growth.

You need to trust your feelings. For example, feeling sick on weekday mornings probably means you aren’t happy with your current employment. Notice how you feel coming back from holidays. If work interferes with holidays or invades your family time then something is out of balance.

Bear in mind that changing what makes you feel worthwhile and adjusting your life, needn’t mean major changes. I’m not advocating running away to join a commune, for instance! Most of the time, very small changes can make a big difference to your well being, particularly if you haven’t been making time for yourself.

Here are some ideas which have made a big difference in my life:

  1. Hire a cleaner. Someone will be glad of the work, and you can use the time to go do something else.
  2. Go home from work at the time you are supposed to. Why work for free? Use the extra time to do something fun.
  3. Insist the person who made the mess clean up the mess. Being a slave to other people never made anyone feel good.
  4. Find what makes you feel good. Find a way to do more of it.

One small step at a time, your life will change for the better.