I Am Worthy, Because I Am

Art by Eliza Williams
Edits by Rachel Chopping

I was in a rut. I lost my job in June due to the pandemic and I have been relentlessly applying for work and summer clerkship programs for the past two months. As I faced rejection email after rejection email, the excruciating weight of feeling like a failure began to crush me. The countless hours I had spent painstakingly perfecting my application, the stupid apps I downloaded to prepare for psychometric testing and all the LinkedIn stalking of HR personnel all boiled down to… “unfortunately, you have been unsuccessful.”

I had applied for 11 positions, only to be knocked back and told I did not get the role. I felt embarrassed by my inability to secure a new job. I felt like a letdown to my parents, to my friends, and my potential. I was insecure that I didn’t have a job. Funnily enough, I was not worried about financial security, but rather my self-worth. My self-worth was so intrinsically linked to working, that losing my job utterly destabilised my sense of self. I did not feel like me, I felt like a smaller, more insignificant version of myself, even though nothing else in my life had changed. Although job hunting is undoubtedly stressful, it should not have debilitated my self-esteem to such a dramatic extent. As I was getting ready to throw myself a pity party, I began to dissect my feelings and reflect on exactly why I got so unduly upset over it. Putting on my Freudian cap and psychoanalysing myself helped me realise that migrant children like myself tend to link achievements with our self-worth.

Migrant parents are trying to set up a new life in a different country, which is especially difficult for non-English-speaking parents like mine. It was implied that being a good student at school was the bare minimum in helping reduce their burden and lessen their worries. From a young age, I would only be praised or given attention if I had hit a milestone. I only recall getting verbal praise twice in my upbringing. First was when I got accepted into an academically selective school at age 12. Second was when I graduated from aforementioned school with a 99 ATAR at age 17. Doing well in an end of term test and winning awards were not milestones that warranted verbal praise. I simply ought to get ‘A’s, play in a youth orchestra and be an award-winning public speaker. My parents seldom expressed pride in my achievements; I felt that I had to exceed their expectations for them to be proud and love me as their daughter. Intentionally or not, I had created a fiction in my head that their love for me was conditional.

As a young adult, I have carried that expectation within myself. Although my parents have grown to be disinterested in my university life, I have internalised their high expectations of me. I had created an external identity around achievement, goals, and milestones through rigid internal expectations of myself. I had set a standard for myself that I would get good grades, be in a leadership position at university and work in an area related to my degree. I was convinced I needed to tick off this checklist for me to be happy, successful and worthy.

When I did, I felt cautiously confident. When things went pear-shaped and I was thrown off course, my confidence plummeted. Tying my ‘success’ with self-worth was no longer productive, loving or sustainable. I cannot put myself down every time things do not go to plan. I do not need to tick off a checklist to like myself, nor derive confidence from it. It has taken me 21 years, and the ensuing challenges of a public health crisis for me to learn that I am worthy simply because I exist. 

 Realising this is liberating has empowered me to take control of my narrative. I can see my shift in mindset through my applications. My self-perception directly translates to how I present myself in job applications. My previous lack of confidence meant that I was often understating my experiences and qualifications for a particular role. Not only was this detrimental to my job hunt, I was also belittling my achievements — subconsciously putting myself down. My mindset of ‘oh I should’ve had this experience anyway’ was not conducive to selling myself as a prospective candidate. Once I let go of my mental gripe, I started using more assertive language and better framed my talents, which translated to confidence on the page.

Mindset shifts are immensely powerful. I feel much lighter, and much more grounded once I learned to separate my self-worth from my achievements. Although I am still trying to get comfortable with navigating changing amidst uncertainty, I have learned to embrace the unknown and trust the process. I am worthy, because I am. 




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We acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land on which Woroni, Woroni Radio and Woroni TV are created, edited, published, printed and distributed. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. We acknowledge that the name Woroni was taken from the Wadi Wadi Nation without permission, and we are striving to do better for future reconciliation.