My fiancé and I reached many professional milestones together. We got our Bachelor’s degrees, started graduate school, and got our Master’s degrees at the same time. For years, we were always at the same level of our career development. But that ended when he received a job offer nearly six months before graduation, when I’d still thought that it was too early for me to even start my own job search.
Of course, I was happy for him. Not only did he get a job, he got a job that he had really wanted. That spurred me to start my own search, but when graduation day rolled around I still didn’t have an offer. He consoled me, saying that at least we weren’t in our worst-case scenario: that neither of us got a job and we’d both have to move back in with our respective parents. Still, I was upset. And, secretly, a little jealous. All throughout college, I’d worked hard to gain related work experience through internships and he hadn’t, so I had never expected that it would be so much harder for me to find a job than for him.
Graduating without a secure job offer definitely bruised my ego. I’d always thought of myself as a great professional catch, and it was a rude awakening that a Master’s degree and relevant work experience just hadn’t been enough. Aside from that, being on uneven career footing with my fiancé was hard on me because it had never happened before.
If the tables were turned and he was the one feeling insecure about his accomplishments, the Internet would have easily provided me with a nine-step guide to boosting his ego. But as the situation stood, the Internet had nothing to offer for me. We seem to live in a world where men have egos and women have to stroke them lest they feel emasculated, and there is no reciprocity. I was at a moment in my life where I really needed someone to build me up and make me see that I did have a lot to offer to the job market, but the world just seemed to think that this wasn’t an important need in a woman. Aside from my parents, I felt like no one asked me much about my job plans once they learned that my fiancé had landed a great job, almost like one great career between the two of us was satisfying enough. I realized that if I wanted to feel more worthy and competent, I would need to take matters into my own hands.
I’ve always found articles about “boosting your man’s ego” annoying because it seemed to me like men should find ways to feel good about themselves on their own. Sure, some of the advice in those articles, like complimenting your partner, is just thoughtful things we should do in a relationship anyway, but I don’t think any man should depend on just these things to feel good about himself. Since I think men need to find ways to manage their own egos, it only made sense for me to walk the walk and find ways that I could mend my ego myself. Here’s what helped me get through my rough patch:
1. Admitting and validating my feelings
Another societal expectation made it hard for me to even admit that I was upset by the situation: the idea that women should always be supportive of their partners. Maybe it’s less of a one-sided expectation, but still, the well-known phrase is “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and not the other way around. If the man in your life is great, you’re supposed to be happy for him, not thinking about how well-qualified you are for a job, too. It took me awhile to realize that burying my emotions was just making me unhappier and taking my energy away from my job hunt. A huge weight lifted off my shoulders when I gave myself permission to say that I have a great professional background and that it makes me sad when others treat it as secondary to my fiancé’s career.
2. Reminding myself that I am talented
It sounds narcissistic, but it’s necessary. If I wanted to pitch myself to potential employers, I needed to remember why I would be a great asset to them. This doesn’t mean that I lounged around complimenting myself all day. I just started doing things that used my professional skills. I started a blog where I could write about my area of expertise, and I volunteered at a local organization that could use my skills. It felt great to spend time doing something I was good at, and it was a helpful reminder that I have the potential to make valuable contributions to an organization.
3. Reframing the conversation
We moved across the country for my fiancé’s job, and initially I dreaded the moment when people would ask me why I’d moved. I felt like people were sizing me up and jumping to the conclusion that my career was indeed secondary. While that may just be in my head, it still makes me uncomfortable because a lot of thought went into my decision to move. Before I packed my bags, I considered how my career would be affected by the move, and the prospects in our new city seemed a lot brighter than if I had stayed in my college town or returned to my hometown. So now, whenever I speak about my move, I do mention that my fiancé found a job here, but I also focus on the reasons why I wanted to move to this city. I feel more confident when I remember that I chose to move.
We deserve to feel good about ourselves, and we owe it to ourselves to look after our egos. These past four months of fortifying my self-worth have made me stronger than if I had relied on someone else to do the task. I’m happy to report that a week ago I finally accepted a job offer that I’m really excited about, and if I hadn’t been working hard on building myself up from the moment I graduated up until now, I’m not sure I would have been able to keep my intensive job search going. I would have been too sad and insecure to continue facing the big, bad job market after so much rejection. Whether you’re feeling down over your career or another aspect of your life, it can only help to realize that it’s okay to feel this way, to fill your time with activities that remind you of your value, and to reframe the conversation in ways that make you feel more confident.
Do you think it’s important for us to maintain a healthy ego? Do you have any other tips for building up our egos? Share with us in the comment section!
Written by Sully Moreno
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