I was intrigued by a recent article where Stefanie, a 29-year-old, took Talia, a 25-year-old, “to town” regarding her personal choices. Choices that, per the article, appeared to be the culprit behind Talia’s lack of professional opportunity. Stefanie sited her own very personal experiences concerning job searches and abandoned pride and dreams then applied those experiences directly to Talia’s life and situation.
When I finished the article I was like, “you go girl.” But after a few moments of reflection I thought, wait a minute… Where I appreciate the choices and sacrifices Stefanie made, the struggles she endured and the success she achieved because of them, in the end, that was her story. Those were her choices. Choices that – on numerous occasions throughout the article – caused her to feel humiliated or less-than. Not very different from what Talia was feeling and experiencing in her current situation.
I don’t disagree with all of Stefanie’s comments, in fact I feel there are some great takeaways that all young professionals should take note of and keep in mind as they consider their next steps – but I am not a fan of public shaming, or presenting one’s assumptions as truth. Nor do I feel one person’s experience should be held up as the roadmap for every young professional. We all have our own stories. We will all have our own paths. And where I am hesitating to, I am going to use the old adage, “we all have our own crosses to bear.” Especially as it relates to personal and professional growth.
Personal experiences – and how we address them – are what define our opportunities for growth and help us to discover our own paths. Had Talia gone through Stefanie’s situation, would she have made the same decisions, and so, reached the same level of success? Who knows, but I’d wager not. But given current circumstances, Talia will have to choose a new path, and regardless of where it takes her, and how, she will learn and grow from it.
I think as we look to provide guidance and support and a perspective, we need to be wary of bumping up against that line called judgment. I absolutely believe, when appropriate, we should provide personal insights, experiences, successes and failures to those seeking guidance – for crying out loud, it’s what I do for a living – but it’s just as important to provide that support and advice cloaked in genuine care and concern for the individual and their personal goals. If our goal is to advise so they choose a path that reflects our own, we’re doing it for the wrong reason.
This world was built – and runs on – the “average” of everyone’s perspectives. Perspectives that span a very broad spectrum. It’s imperative we remember our perspective is only a perspective, not the perspective. And when attempting to guide or support individuals who are trying to find their way, to avoid the temptation to judge or shame and always remind ourselves to be considerate – of them, their situation and their dreams.
Remember, we’ve ALL been there.