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Identity loss is commonly seen in cases where a good status changes for worse after a long time.
How should the loss, the status loss, and the resulting identity loss, be handled? Some suggested remedies are given below.
Accepting the Loss – as mentioned in the last post, loss/grief passes through various stages before acceptance comes in. Let yourself pass these stages, don’t be hard on yourself, but don’t let yourself get washed away in the grief over loss forever. All status changes, other than death, can be reversed or improved. Acceptance is important to let go the episode and move forward.
Analyze the Past – go through the events leading to loss as dispassionately as possible. Try to find reasons and causes, not criticisms and blames. You were not entirely wrong, and your boss/employer was not totally wrong either. The realities lay in between somewhere. Try to reach the real things. It will help you to settle further.
Chart the Future – look at all possibilities, even the remote looking ones. Remember, the last long held position was more a matter of chance, rather than plan. Now you have time to look around and choose. In situations where economic compulsion is severe, this luxury may not be there, but it is okay. In many cases, where a person leaves from a senior position, the economic pressures may not be so imminent and urgent.
Plan the Next Moves – to me, this is the most important aspect. When people fall from a job position, they try to get up and run in the same direction again. I have observed that they have a second fall quickly, or even a third one in some cases. My understanding/learning that I have shared with several people goes like this.
When anyone loses a job unexpectedly, it is an accident. If it is not very sudden but things deteriorate quickly and end up in job loss, it is still an accident. The accidents occur because some thing(s) need to change fundamentally. We do not see that and insist on doing the same thing again in the same way. This is the basic error that leads to a second accident, or even a third. It is important to spend time and understand what might not have been right. It might have been our work style, work ethic, attitude towards job, attitude towards people, our work itself etc. It is important to know what needs to change, and then change it.
Planning the next moves includes internal and external moves. Internal is what I have mentioned above, external means questioning what we do and should we do more of the same.
Improve Skills – We carry a good feeling about ourselves, and it is okay. However, in such events it pays to review and improve our skills. All directly related skills should be reviewed first. If nothing else, our skills get rusted and needs some improvement work. Even at very senior positions, all is not well. Not everyone is constantly updating their skills, rather most people consider themselves so busy, they ignore this area totally. The silver lining in the loss is having more time to yourself.
Add Skills – learning new skills suffers from the same reasons as above. We must remember that the world changes every day and new thinking, new ideas and new practices are introduced at a fast pace. If we wish to sustain and grow, we must consider adding new skills. A time like this is a great time for adding skills. It will uplift the morale, brighten the mood, and benefit in many ways.
Fill Your Time – sitting idle is the worst thing we can do to ourselves. I read a study several years ago which said the IQ falls a few points after vacations. It is extremely important to fill your time with pleasant and productive activities.
Pleasant activities include socializing, sports, hobbies, and pursuing a passion which we did not find time to do earlier.
Productive activities are networking, keeping updated about your trade, improving skills, and adding new skills.
Status loss, particularly after a long time is a hard thing. The more time we had been there, the harder we fall. But it is not necessary that we take equally longer to regain. If we go through the episode consciously and systematically, we can certainly hope to come out stronger.
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Acknowledgement. The central idea came from an article by Susan Peppercorn, a fellow RExer, which was published in Fast Company during August 2021. [the link appears at the end]. Most of the content is mine.