I don’t usually share personal stories like this online, but this experience really resonated with me. I felt compelled to share for others who have gone through similar situations.
For the past two years, I have worked really hard on self-development. I’ve started therapy, rediscovered my love for writing, and learned how to translate all the craziness running around in my head… mostly.
The road is long but prosperous. Recently, I have been trying to branch out into professional opportunities that match my college major. I go to online school full time, majoring in creative writing with a minor in marketing.
I do this on top of working full time and converting a sprinter van into a tiny home on wheels! Some people think I’m crazy for taking on that much responsibility, but I love it and couldn’t imagine having it any other way!
Choosing Self Worth
I have been applying to different writing positions in the area and was happy to land an opportunity to meet with a local magazine publisher. It was very casual. We planned to meet for coffee and chat about the position.
I have worked in a professional setting for the past three years, but this was my first interview for a job that met my aspirations. I was excited and much less nervous than I thought I would be.
I got to the cafe early and was waiting for the publisher when he arrived. He was an older gentleman who had worked for this magazine for a number of years. We started with pleasantries and talked about where we were from. Then the conversation started to get personal.
He asked me if I was married and how old I was. This is actually not legal in my state and is considered grounds for discrimination, but I answered the questions with confidence. He took a look at my resume and looked at me with bewilderment.
He asked the question that was written all over his face.
“How are you so professionally advanced at such a young age?”
This question is usually very flattering, but I didn’t have the chance to answer before he shocked me into silence.
“You must have come from a broken home. You probably didn’t have much as a child.”
It felt like a slap in the face. I was here to discuss my qualifications for the role, and this man has already assumed he knew my entire life.
All I could mutter was “Yeah, something like that.”
Then he goes on to say that I’m a real go-getter. Everything I’ve accomplished is wonderful, but he doesn’t understand why I would be a fit for the position.
After that most of his words went in one ear and out the other. I knew I wasn’t being taken seriously, but after that display of entitlement, didn’t want to work for him, regardless.
I walked away with tears in my eyes.
“You must have come from a broken home” echoed in my head over and over again.
I cried when I got to the car.
Figuring It Out
As much as it enraged me to be belittled and demeaned by this man who didn’t know me, it also stung.
His assumptions were right. I did come from a broken home.
As a child, I spent all of my spare time dreaming up ways to get out of my situation. I dreamed of growing up and making my life everything I dreamed it could be.
I started work at the age of 15. I worked my way through the restaurant industry and tried over-and-over-and-over again until I landed an office job. At 21, I’m working in marketing for a national franchise allowing me to be financially stable.
But at that moment I was reduced to nothing but a broken home.
He made me feel like all of my effort was for nothing. I mean, if this man I had never met could see my past from a 30-minute meeting, it must be obvious to everyone.
I felt like it was written across my forehead. But at that moment, sitting in the car with tears streaming down my face, I chose to address the situation from a place of strength.
What that man didn’t know is that I have gone through months of therapy to separate myself from that broken home. I have worked every day to build my self-worth from the ground up.
The confidence to apply to this job didn’t sprout from thin air. I worked and hurt and cried for that confidence.
I allowed myself to sit in the pain. I felt it. Then I wiped my eyes, straightened my back, and continued on my way.
Achievement Does Not Equal Fulfillment
No matter how much his comment stung, this man does not define me. He was not there for the moments that built me. He was not there for the lifetime of hard lessons or the countless mistakes that inform who I am today.
Remember that self-worth I was talking about? Other people do not define that. You define your self-worth. Not your mama, your daddy, your GPA, or your job title can measure your worthiness.
I didn’t understand that for most of my life. I felt that I didn’t deserve validation unless I had accomplished something huge – like being valedictorian or completing a major professional project.
Once my goal was achieved, I would move on to the next one, never pausing to congratulate myself. I had to keep achieving for people to love me, or even worse, for me to love myself,
Choosing Self-Worth From a Place of Strength
I lived twenty years of my life burnt out and angry. I had no self-worth. When I realized that I was living my life for others, the real work began.
For the past year, I have faced every demon lurking in the back of my mind. I have grieved a childhood that I will never get back. I have forgiven those that hurt me and, even more difficult, I have forgiven myself.
The crazy part is that I’m not even close to being done. Self-development and the cultivation of self-worth is a lifelong endeavor that has taught me a valuable lesson.
I am more than what I’ve lived through. I am worthy of love and validation.
This is for Those Who are Clawing Their Way out of a “Broken Home”.
Don’t let the assumptions of others stop you from working towards who you want to be.
There will always be people who only see you as a bad situation. They will be there even when you’re a CEO or a famous performer. They will nitpick your accomplishments and turn them into something that fits there agenda.
My advice to you: let them.
When they come at you with sharp words and bold assumptions, walk away. You have lived through too much to let a stranger invalidate you.
Use that as another arrow in your quiver. Keep moving, keep applying, keep singing, keep dancing, keep writing, keep professional yo-yo-ing. It doesn’t matter what your dream is as long as you are pursuing it with your whole heart.
Use your hard experiences as opportunities for comparison. You’ve been through hell. All obstacles look easy compared to your “broken home”. Do not let your hard experiences define you. You are so much more than what you’ve lived through.
Above all else, learn to develop your self-worth. Whether that means walking away from a toxic relationship, starting therapy, changing your major, or quitting that job you hate. Figure out what makes you happy and do it!
Learn how to find love and validation from within yourself. You have all of the capability you need to be content and satisfied. Understand that your personal happiness is worth the work, even if you have to give up something that makes others happy.
Choose to work on yourself, that way when overly confident professionals try to tell you who you are, you can call their bluff.
Remember, there will always be someone who doesn’t see your worth. You better make sure that it isn’t you.