On Tuesday, I was 1 of 1,000 laid off from my role as a product manager at Coinbase.
At first, I felt shock. Even though the industry was struggling, things felt like they were going pretty well for me. I was pretty surprised when I attempted to log on at 8:30 and was met with my macbook rebooting endlessly. Even then, it took me a couple minutes and a few “Hey, are you doing okay?” messages to process what was actually happening (thank you to those that sent those messages, I appreciated it).
Since then, I’ve had some time to process my feelings. The things that everyone fears when you get laid off were at the top of my mind: what was I going to do next? how will I make money? it’s a bad job market right now, will I be okay?
I felt feelings of uncertainty, fear, and a little bit of excitement for what’s next. And yet, there was a lingering feeling that I was really struggling to process.
This is hard for me to say, but I didn’t really want to leave the house. The thought of going to the gym suddenly felt a lot more anxiety inducing than before. I love playing volleyball, and for the first time in forever I skipped an opportunity to play. I didn’t even want to go to the grocery store, or go out to dinner with my girlfriend. I couldn’t really figure out why.
At first, I thought it was because I was feeling sad, and that it was only natural. Of course I didn’t want to do those things, I’m sad— I just got laid off! But in reality, I wasn’t that sad about it. Yes, I loved the job, and I truly loved the coworkers I got to spend the day with; but some part of me knew that this was something outside of my control and that I would just have to move forward.
What I’ve come to realize is that the deeper cut the layoffs gave me is a loss of identity.
I had landed my dream position at an amazing company, and things were going really well. I was given responsibility and trust, and I was succeeding at it. I was proud to be a 22 year old product manager in a trailblazing space. It was cool! And It was something that I’d convinced myself gave me self-worth; it made it easier to walk into places and not feel a spike of anxiety because — yeah, I belong here: look at what I’m doing with my life!
Without realizing it, more and more of my self-esteem started to crystallize around my work identity. I was able to do things because I felt confident in who I was there. I was trusted, responsible, and intelligent at work: so why couldn’t I be in the rest of my life?
One day I was one of the youngest product managers in the most cutting-edge space, and the next day I was not.
Now that I’ve realized how my identity got to be in a fractured state, I’ve reflected a bit on how it got here. Some of it is natural, when you spent 9 hours a day doing something— of course you’re going to associate your sense of self with it to a degree.
Another part of it is realizing that I wanted something to cling on to give me more confidence. I hadn’t felt like I had done many things since high school that I was genuinely proud of (too high self-standards), and getting this role was something I really worked at and achieved.
And yet, I now realize the risk of that kind of thinking. I don’t think I want my work identity to be what gives me my sense of confidence. I would like to be proud of the person I am and the traits I possess: kindness, curiosity, and ambition. I would also like to be proud of where I am right now, and the person I am trying to become.
I would like to be able to think about myself and go “I am who I want to be, so I should be confident.”
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Thank you for reading, and some of my normal audience may have noticed that this isn’t typically what I write about — but it was something I want to share.
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And you can continue to read my blog! I write about the Algorand Blockchain, and I try to make it beginner friendly and easy to understand. Read my post Algorand Explained: Without Using a Single Crypto Term