Perception Doesn’t Always Match Reality

My sweet old boyLast week marked the passing of our beloved dog of 12 years. It was very sad to realize at the start of last week that the time was quickly coming to make that “final visit” to the veterinarian.

I have worrying tendencies, so I was concerned for my children all week long. Because he had been sick for some time, I had been talking periodically with my five-year-old daughter about the concept of death. She was very curious about what it all meant, but she didn’t want to talk specifically about our family pet. So I worried that she would be a wreck when the time came. My three-year-old is too young to really grasp the idea of death, but he is also the bigger dog lover of my two children. I pictured him wandering around the house, despondent that he couldn’t find our dog.

If you have been notified that you are going to be included in part of a layoff, you may be going through something similar. Granted, the emotions you feel when being told you are losing your job are on a completely different scale than when you realize you will be losing your pet, but the base feelings are the same because you need to deal with the fact that something that has been a mainstay in your life for a while is no longer going to be there.

When you first get the notice, panic may set in. Your mind is flooded with a million thoughts — Why is this happening? How will I pay my bills? What will my family say? What will friends think? I can’t DEAL with this! The initial reaction is just so overwhelming that you can barely breathe. (I remember it all too well from when my husband was laid off last year.)

And so you fret and stew and worry about what is to come. You imagine that family will blame you for what happened and friends will shun you. And because you’ve heard the stories about this “jobless recovery.” You fear that you will be out of work for a long time.

It’s definitely terrifying to have those thoughts. When they start popping into your brain, you may be afraid to share them with anyone because you think they may actually come true. It’s bad enough to have the thoughts, but it seems like it would be even worse if they play out in front of your eyes.

Is that what really happens every time? I’m not going to say it never happens because, yes, it does sometimes. Some people are out of work for a long time. They lose their houses, their livelihoods. Some folks have people in their lives who are not supportive, and some families are not able to withstand the strain of a job loss. That is one reality, unfortunately.

But it’s not the only reality. There are other realities that involve having people who offer help during this difficult time, whether it be a meal, babysitting while attending a networking event, or an important introduction. Folks who had been strangers prior to the layoff may have a good bit of wisdom that gives clarity and direction.  Some people do find another position in a short amount of time. Others discover that getting laid off was the best thing that could have happened because it gave them the time to pursue a new path or start working for themselves.

The thing is — you will never know what is going to happen if you keep all those awful thoughts bottled up. Really, you end up feeling more alone because you aren’t sharing what’s happening inside, which does push people away. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Try this instead: talk with those you trust the most. Share your fears with them. See what happens. More often than not, the reality will be different than your perceptions.

What are your stories? Have you discovered a mismatch between perception and reality?

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