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Ability Activate! Valued Member of Society

Updated on November 16, 2011

"Don't think about the things you can't do. Instead, think about the things you can do."

This was said (I'm paraphrasing, of course) in the second Care Bears movie to two kids who seemingly couldn't do anything right and didn't fit in at summer camp. Finding something they were good at and enlisting their help in doing lifted them out of their despondency and raised their self-esteem. They could ignore the teasing from the other kids and focus on what was truly important to them. As with all lessons we learned from the Care Bears, they mainly only work in these types of situations that children find themselves in. For adults, it doesn't always work that way, especially now when work is hard to come by.

Playing to your strengths and downplaying your weaknesses is a wonderful message and a valuable life lesson. Adults do it in their resumes all the time. However, not everyone is successful at it depending on what those strengths and weaknesses are and how they are perceived by others like potential employers. Certain skills are valued over others, so not everyone can get all the jobs that are out there, if any. Skills you have in one field may not also translate to another if the potential employer cannot see them doing so. For example, I was a library intern in high school and got a Bachelor's degree in Information and Library Science. While I have no retail experience, many of the skills I have as a would-be librarian are not so far afield from what retail demands (except handling cash transactions). Unfortunately, what most people are looking for is the direct formal experience, not a translation of skills. The fact that most people have a bias against library science (either seeing the institution as worthless or myself as better off trying to look for a job in one even though such jobs are even scarcer than mainstream retail ones) certainly doesn't help.

People often derive their sense of self-worth from what they can and cannot do. Therein lies the rub - perception. We have to be of service to others in this world, and when people no longer require our services, what are we to do? This is perhaps another reason suicide rates go up when unemployment rates do - a sense of not belonging or of not being needed or wanted by society or even by those we love. Especially in this economy when jobs are scarce and aid even scarcer, people's hearts harden as well. The mentality that "If you aren't working then you don't deserve to eat" is common but unacceptable. There is a dissonance between expectations during a good economy and the reality we live in now. If we cannot reconcile the two, progress will not be made and thousands will continue to suffer.

The light at the end of the tunnel is finding where you belong, where your skills are valued and of use to people who appreciate your efforts and you as a person. When that happens, you truly can focus on what you are able to do instead of the areas in which your skills are deficient. This may require retraining, but going back to school after graduating with a degree that doesn't seem to be getting you in any doors is expensive and not a possibility for everyone. You can't force people to accept you, though, and it may take a long time to find your place - time some of us are running short on. However, you mustn't stop believing in yourself. It's hard to when no one else seems to believe in you, but at least find someplace, even if it's only in your mind, where you can be happy.


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