2 Ways You May Be Self Harming By Staying in the Wrong Career

‘My heart sank. My boss was talking about new clients he wants me to work with and a course that would be good for me to do and every fibre in my being wanted to yell out ‘no way’ but instead I found myself smiling and saying ‘OK’, I found myself confiding to a friend.

The tension I felt was palpable as whilst to all external appearances I was good at my job and was a high performer internally I knew I was in the wrong career and yet I needed to ‘play the game’ in the role to pay the bills whilst I worked out what to do next.

Yet the longer I stayed stuck in a career that no longer suited me the more I risked harming myself.

Here’s why.

Cognitive Dissonance

Self-harm might seem like a strong statement to make about staying in the wrong career but it applies here in terms of the feelings we suppress and the behaviours we engage with when we deny our inner experience to conform to an outer reality that we know we have outgrown.

Psychologists have called this experience cognitive dissonance which describes the psychological stress we experience when we hold contradictory attitudes to our behaviours. The mental discomfort we experience then compels us to make a change to return ourselves back into harmony or cognitive consistency.

But when it comes to career change this original dissonance is then compounded as we often struggle to make a decision to change things – commonly our heads fill us with all the reasons why change is difficult, all the pitfalls and fears holding us back, whilst our heart and soul may be calling us forth to the next stage of our life.

So if we don’t take steps to reduce this double dissonance how does it manifest in our behaviour and potentially harm us?

Offloading Emotion

1. Numbing

This is where we try to make our discomfort go away by numbing the pain with whatever provides the quickest relief: alcohol; drugs, food, sex, relationships, money, shopping, gambling, care taking, and the internet. And staying busy! Living so hard and fast that the truths of our lives can’t catch up with us.

Filling every moment of our lives so there’s no room or time for our discontented emotion to make itself known. But when we numb the dark we also numb the light – we have less joy and positivity in our lives and just feel like we are existing


2. Stockpiling 

This is where we firmly packing down the pain and discomfort, until our bodies decide that enough is enough and we become unwell physically and mentally. The body’s message is always clear: shut down the stockpiling or I’ll shut you down. The body wins every time.

In ten years working in a Psychological Therapies Service people would recount how they just ‘kept everything inside’ until they couldn’t sleep or eat, or they became so anxious they couldn’t focus at work or grew too depressed they couldn’t do anything but stay in bed. Depression and anxiety are two of the body’s first reactions to stockpiles of suppressed emotion.

So if you recognise yourself in the above reactions how can you turn things around?

Face up to your inner truth and take action

As Jessica Huie says in her book Purpose: ‘the biggest disservice you can ever do to yourself is to compromise on your own truth and calling. If you have built a life in which you feel you no longer fit, it’s not too late to begin chipping away at it until you’re ready to rebuild an existence that honours your true self.’

Coaching is one way to ‘chip away’ at your old reality and quieten the noise of your job, roles and responsibilities long enough to get in touch with the calling that is just waiting to be given the space to reveal itself. It will help you to formulate a new vision for your life and career and translate that into bite sized action to move you forward to create your desired new reality and bring you back into harmony.

It doesn’t matter what your purpose is – it matters only that you are doing exactly what lights up your soul. Suppressing it leaves us unfulfilled, living a lie and ultimately sick.

Your unlived life literally equals insanity – surely this is too high a price to pay?

Over to You

If this sounds like you I’d love to hear from you – and I want you to take heart – there is a way forward. I have successfully used coaching to navigate this path and have helped many other women to do the same.

Ready to take the first step?

I offer a FREE, no obligation, 45 minute Career Clarity and Confidence Consultation where I will help you get clear on the blocks that are in your path; create a vision for where you want to go and explore your next steps. You can fill in the form here to take this forward.