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Is your job worthwhile? Saturday April 22, 2017

Many years ago when my children were school aged, I worked with children with disabilities at their school. People would often comment how patient I was, how they admired me for doing something worthwhile. I used to say that I was no saint. I did feel good that I was doing a job that was valued by others and seen as being worthwhile.

Ask people what they want in a job, and meaningfulness is often ranked their number one priority — above promotions, income, job security, and hours.

Many people feel their jobs don't matter and don't have a lasting impact on others.
According to surveys, there are jobs that are highly meaningful to virtually anyone who holds them: eg. kindergarten teachers, surgeons, firefighters, ambulance workers, midwives, adult literacy teachers.

They all make an important difference in the lives of others. They hold a purpose for the people doing the jobs and for everyone else who admires what they do.

Fast forward to the last eleven years where I own and manage a book and gift store. I tell myself I am helping people with their reading, helping customers to buy quirky presents but in reality in this consumer obsessed society I am asking to people to buy more things they want but don't need.

I used to feel a bit embarrassed when I told people what I did.

One day a friend told me she felt I was wonderful for running a small business when I had a mental illness and I would encourage and offer hope to other people.

Often the chance to help others can be what makes our work worthwhile. I had never viewed my work as encouraging others and offering hope.

I think if I see a value and a purpose in what I do, others will too.

What about you, do you value what you do whether paid or unpaid?

Do you look to others to find worth in what you do? Why?

Is it important that others see your work as being worthwhile? Why?

Does having a job that helps others seem more meaningful to you?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Jane SG Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 1:26am

Hi Leah, looks like I'm first today as I cannot sleep. In answer to one of your questions-yes I do feel my job is worthwhile and helps others. I also do feel that you are an inspiration. Keep up the good work, both with your lovely shop and your blogs here on Moodscope xxx

Jane SG Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:32am

Hi Leah , just wanted to add that your shop and surroundings look stunning and just looking at the picture makes me smile xxx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:47am

Jane, Thanks for your reply. Your kind words are appreciated. I wonder would you work in a job that you thought wasn't worthwhile but you liked the people you worked with. The agapanthus are not flowering now so I thought that photo looked better.

Orangeblossom Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 6:54am

Thanks for your blogs Leah. I always enjoy reading them. Most times I feel that I do a worthwhile job as I support students with disabilities manage their lives and their courses. I do love my job which took me ages to find. It can be discouraging for many who try constantly to find a job. A friend or two encouraged me by saying, somewhere there is a job there with your name on it. It encouraged me to persevere.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:57am

Orangeblossom, Thanks for your reply and your words of encouragement. I think your job sounds worthwhile but it is important that you feel like that. Looking for a job does need lots of encouragement

The woman whose feet don't touch th Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 6:58am

A book store is such a gift, you don't even have to buy, just to go and be in a book store is a good feeling, to be surrounded by all the stories. It has warmth and homeliness that gives pleasure. You are an inspiration to run a book store with or without a mental illness.

Sometimes I struggle with having my identity tied up in my job. I get a lot of purpose from my job and feel that it is worthwhile and important, helping the world if in somewhat of a small way. But then when my job is taken away, has my identity gone. Logically, I know I am the same person, but somehow when the title, or label is gone, feel I have less value. It took me a while to detangle the two.

Jane SG Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 7:51am

I can relate to this wwfdttg. I recently had to take a drop in 'rank' and pay cut, due to no fault of my own but it has been hard and really impacted on my identity. So I can see the importance of separating the two but not easy. So many things make up who we are I guess x

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:59am

Twwfdttg Thanks for your thoughtful post. It is a very pertinent pint that many of us have our identity tangled up in our job, When one is doing unpaid work like bringing up children one need to feel what one is doing is important. I am glad you have detangled the two.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:01am

Jane It is hard when we define ourself by our work and then when it changes or when it is gone, it makes us question who we are,.

Sally Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 7:38am

It's a conversation I've often had with myself too, Leah. Am I worthwhile now I'm retired. I used to get a lot of congratulatory, I- couldn't-do-it comments, like you , about my job as a special neds teacher, and the fact that I'd brought up a son who has complex learning disabilities. Now that he lives in a care home, folk assume it's all done & dusted, responsibility handed over. ( Not true, we three in the family still heavily involved)
The problem lies with me, I think: most of my life ,I've felt needed, therefore valued, and that critical voice in my head, loud and nasty if I'm feeling low, will tell me I don't contribute enough, am not valuable, have too much time to do selfish pursuits. It is difficult to feel easy about having carefree times, I feel greedy and excess sickens me. Having said that, I love bookshops and giftshops, craftshops and galleries , boutiques and quirky dress shops.....and the impulse to buy frequently takes over. But then the guilt sets in.
Leah, I would love to visit your shop and discuss "Life " further! You have such great ideas . Thank you once again.

Jane SG Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 7:48am

Sally - I would like to come with you to visit Leah in her shop for that chat!!!!! X

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:07am

Sally you and anyone who comes to Australia are welcome to come to my shop. Thanks for your reflective post. Retirement is interesting isn't it- how we see it and how others see us. We need to value as just the way we are not dependent on other intrinsic factors. It sounds like you have done enough worthwhile activities for two lifetimes.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:08am

Jane The invitation is there- just save the airfare!!x

Tutti Frutti Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 11:37am

Hi Sally The research says many people find retirement difficult/wierd because they felt valued through their work so it takes a while to adapt. Not sure if it helps at all but you are not alone. Love TF x

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 12:20pm

TF I think that retirement also poses a problem because the time that work takes up is hard to replace. As well as feeling they have lost a purpose in life retired people also find they have many hours to fill. They miss the social environment of work.

Anonymous Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 7:45am

I have been struggling with this for a while now. I see my self-worth as totally connected to my 'usefulness'. Therefore, when I don't feel needed, wanted or useful I start to feel worthless. Last year I got a job providing maternity cover and it was such a rush to be told I was doing a good job. However, now that the lady has returned to work my mood has crashed, even though I've done a great job when it was needed. I need to find a way to disassociate the two in my head.

On a different note, I know from having worked with authors that EVERY book you stock is a mood boost to the author who wrote it so you're doing a very worthwhile job!

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:12am

Anon I hope this blog may help you to struggle less. You are the same person whether you are doing a job or not. You have skill and value wether you are using them or not. I am curious as to what work you did with authors- I think that would be a great and worthwhile job. Please tell me more.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:13am

PS- many of my authors are dead, I don't have many contemporary writers.

Angela Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 7:53am

I have felt guilty for years for not having paid work. I did work in a charity shop for 2 years which eased my conscience. Even then i had a "friend" who questioned my few hours volunteering which undermined my self esteem. Thank you for your blog x x

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:15am

Angela People can say things without knowing the full picture. When I worked part time people said why dont you work full time now your children are at school. Now I work 7 days a week , people say well its not that har all you all day is read books!- I wish. I think we need to value who we are not rely on others to give us meaning. Thanks for you contribution to the discussion.

Another Sally Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:31am

I feel utterly worthless unless I can be of use to others. I wish people would ask for my help. I tried volunteering but found it difficult to commit to the time needed. Won't go on just feel stuck. I love the sound of your shop Leah. Whereabouts in Aus are you? I have a sister in Fremantle W.A. But Aus is so huge.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:19am

Another Sally, Fremantle is about 3000km away so similar to London to Instanbul!! I am sorry you feel you only have value if you are helping others. Maybe we need to help ourselves as that is worthwhile if we stay well.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:20am

Thanks for your post as it brought up interesting points.

LP Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:53am

Hi Leah,
Buying gifts for me has been a worry and cause of stress. You may not be aware of the relief your customers feel to have found a suitable gift for someone.
I remember how I used to love getting stuck into a good book, a real page turner, or lost in a new world, not wanting it to end. I look forward to finding that again some day.
As someone has mentioned, the pleasure in browsing small gift shops or book shops is valuable to people like me, who can be anxious, sensitive or low, as it offers a peaceful relaxing mindfull space to a hectic life full of things to do.

The values in what you provide can be unseen, not discussed or delayed, but are there all the same.
Do you sell children's books? The pleasure in reading is as important at any age as the ability to read.

You're right that on the surface society views caring professions as giving the most satisfaction ( yes it's hard not to care how we are perceived or judged).

Also many people in those caring professions are frustrated and demoralised by constraints, shortages, red tape, administration, politics and stress, that can be in the way of doing what really matters to them.
With a background in teaching and special education (in which yes there is satisfaction and value in helping others), the times I've been to little shops such as yours, or wellbeing spa type places and dreamt of working in such a peace promoting envirionment!
More than ever these days, the value in a sanctury such as yours is immeasurable.

Wishing peace and joy to you and all. LPxx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:24am

LP Thanks for saying many encouraging things about my shop. I suppose it takes others to point things out. It is true people in caring profession suffer burnout and frustrations. I do sell children's books and I can advise parents and children to find classic titles. Your blog yesterday evoked a wonderful response from people. Thanks for writing words that make us think.xx

LP Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 6:57am

Thank you too Leahxxx

Jul Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:10am

Hi Leah. I was going to make the same comment as one of LP''s above..about the caring professions often feeling very stressed, over worked and underpaid. I would love to own a bookshop without all the paperwork and stress involved which there must be some. I remember a book I read a few years ago called "you are not your job" or something like that.And maybe the same book which talked about the first question anyone asks you at a social event is "what do you do?" As if your job defined you. I think sometimes it does of course in the nicest possible way, like being a musician, writer or artist. The world of work is changing with more people working at home, the gig economy and the increase in robots! I think the thing I hated when I worked full time was working for someone who had absolute power over everything I did and also being on short term contracts and never knowing if it would be renewed. Your shop looks lovely. Julxx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:28am

Jul Thanks for your analytical and reflective Post. I wonder if one works in a job that isn't seens as being helpful but one feels good as the work atmosphere is very caring, would one feel valued then? Conversely what happens if one works in a job that is seen as worthwhile but is under so much pressure and is in a hostile work place ? Thanks again for your kind words.xx

The Gardener Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:30am

Leah, you cheat - thought the agapanthus were flowering now - but I can upstage - the bluebells in my garden, seen across the road from my bedroom, are the same colour. With golden wallflowers behind them, and the weeping willow fronds above the lot, it's not bad. Gap due to screaming point - neighbour came in - she will sit with Mr G and do patchwork - she does lovely stuff - go well in your shop, Leah - and, in return, somebody clearing her dead sister's house unloaded about 100 patchworks books on me - so neighbour delighted with bounty. Subject of blog? Forgotten - oh her - job - mine is a carer, thankless, hopeless - my retirement 'job' was research and book writing - now that did give enormous satisfaction and made loads of friends. And, like you, Leah, I love my shop.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:51am

Thanks Tg First time I have been called a cheat on Moodscope- in my defence I wanted the prettiest picture. Your garden and shop sound wonderful so you could send a photograph of yours too moodscope. I am glad you love your shop and you get a sense of satisfaction from preparing displays. Thanks as always for your contribution

Holly Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:34am

I volunteer on a website for young people providing emotional support. I love it and it gives my life a purpose. But at the same time I find it difficult to balance my own mental wellbeing. And right now, I'm at a cross roads trying to decide whether I want to be a teacher or counsellor and feel like I'm much better communicating online than in person.

You definitely do provide hope and inspiration to others :)

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:56am

Holly Thanks for your reply. It is good you have found something you find worthwhile . It is hard to make a decision for work that gives you purpose as well helping your mental wellbeing.

Tutti Frutti Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 11:30am

Hi Leah
I went from an obvious worthwhile profession (teaching) to one that I see as worthwhile but is rather more difficult to explain at a party. I am now a civil servant involved in costings. I think it's worthwhile for the government to be able to plan future finances as best they can but of course many people will not like the policies any particular government then comes up with.

I am much happier as a civil servant than I ever was as a teacher. Many of my classes ran rings round me as a new teacher straight out of university, which meant i was constantly stressed. And although I would have been perfectly capable of teaching in a compliant class i think all i really achieved was to prevent most of the class learning much maths while I failed to get to grips with the rowdy pupils. So I left in my second year. Now I have work which is usually interesting and nice colleagues, and the junior staff want to listen to me when I explain stuff. Combined with the fact that i am comfortable enough with the purpose of what i am doing, what's not to like. Obviously I do get stressed sometimes with managing projects and staff and deadlines though.

I am nothing particularly special at this job (most people have been promoted higher by my age) and there are times when I get my head screwed up about that. But I do a competent job at my own level and I am generally reckoned to be a good line manager so except when depression has distorted my perspective on everything, I do feel i am contributing.

Like many others, I also love bookshops for pottering around in and finding hidden gems and anyone walking through those lovely surroundings into your shop is getting the start of their relaxing book shop experience already. So glad you posted a picture Leah. As others have also flagged you do lots of stuff to help others with mental health issues. Thank you Leah.

Love TF x

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 12:25pm

Thanks TF, Your post explains clearly how you have found meaning in work that others may not see. I think it is not the work itself that gives meaning but what meaning we give the work. You have shown how this has worked for you. Thanks for your kind words. Leah xx

Jul Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 2:04pm

Hello Tutti Frutti. I used to work in the civil service and enjoyed my job and the people I worked with. I subsequently went on to work in academia and that's when I went downhill. One would have thought that academia would be fair, tolerant and liberal in its views and treatment of staff but in my experience, this wasn't the case. The civil service excelled in its fairness and stuck to regulations and guidelines which served to protect staff. I am glad you are now happy and less stressed in your work and I can understand why. Julxxx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:47pm

Jul Thanks for your comment to TF. It is interesting perceptions people have of civil service. I know people here who have good or bad experiences there. Probably it depends on the department you work for and the people you work with. Maybe it is more about the work environment than the actual work- just a thought.

Sally Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 9:22am

That was really interesting to read, TF. Some of the good, worthwhile things we do are unseen and immeasurable. And just as valid -and valuable, as the superficially obvious good stuff! Read Le Petit Prince by St Exupéry, French author and pilot, marvellous, for that. ( I wonder Le Petit Prince is not better known in the English speaking world...)

Leah Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 9:42am

I like that book too Sally and have it in my shop.

Leah Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 10:18am

I even had socks that had a Le Petit Prince motif and they sold well.

Lexi Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 1:17pm

Leah, is that your shop? Can I come work for you? It is darling! I am an interior decorator and I work for myself. I love owning my own business and the flexibility it provides me. I am not solving the world's problems or curing diseases but I hope that I do bring joy in some little ways to people's lives. xo Lexi

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:50pm

Lexi I agree owning one's own business is great I could never go back to working for someone else. I like your line .."I hope that I do bring joy in some little ways to people' s lives." Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm.

Anonymous Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 3:12pm

I salute you, Leah both for giving hope to others and for running a small business in tricky times. I thank you too for your regular Moodscope messages, which provide helpful insight and scope for self-reflection.

Personally, I don’t believe it is useful to look to others for self-worth. People may be inherently unappreciative, undependable, or insincere, and opinions are ephemeral. I prefer instead to focus on becoming fully engaged with sundry obligations.

Whether in full-time employment as a teacher or latterly, as a volunteer for Foodbank, the doorstep library or parkrun, I have found that fretting about whether I am being judged by others to be at odds with the job satisfaction that comes from focusing solely on the needs of individuals. Thank you again.

Go well.

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:01pm

Anon 3.12pm Thanks for your very helpful post and your kind words to me. I am glad you have found job satisfaction .

Molly Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 4:33pm

I love the photo of your shop Leah, it looks so lovely and inviting. I would love myself to have a little shop. I have an obsession with cards, maybe I could open a card shop !! I have read all of the comments and have so much to say, I wouldn't know where to start but I found them all very helpful because I was made redundant from a job I loved. Very stressful at times but I felt needed, worthy, useful, etc. I didn't realise just how much the job did define me as a person and how it gave me a purpose in life. It involved helping people which was so very satisfying. Concentrating on other people rather than me, it became a shock to my system when it all ended. I don't know what the future holds for me now, but a very interesting blog and discussion xx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:08pm

Molly Thanks for your post and I am glad you liked the photo. I like the idea of a card shop or these days you could open a shop online. I suppose when you loved a job as much as you did, it would be so difficult when it ended for you to redefine yourself. I hope you can find a way to direct talents , intelligence , passion and creativity into something else. I appreciate your honesty in sharing your experiences. Xx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:08pm

Molly Thanks for your post and I am glad you liked the photo. I like the idea of a card shop or these days you could open a shop online. I suppose when you loved a job as much as you did, it would be so difficult when it ended for you to redefine yourself. I hope you can find a way to direct talents , intelligence , passion and creativity into something else. I appreciate your honesty in sharing your experiences. Xx

The Gardener Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 8:12pm

Leah, I realised almost immediately that the photo could not be current. It was envy, I realise - agapanthus die with me, whilst flourishing in the garden in front of the church. Posts above mentioned the difficulty in finding 'job satisfaction' in running a home and bringing up children - if you've done it well, you've turned out some nice little citizens. In the 1970's when our five were growing up (aged now from 50 to 61) you did not dare say you were 'just a housewife'. If you did not look after your kids, entertain hubby's important friends, be a director of the firm you worked for and Chairman of the School Governors you hid your head.What I see (may be warped) as a decade of dissatisfied women has probably led to a lot of heartache now they are themselves retired. When I worked as a temp (often in very big organisations) I knew I could never put up with the in-fighting which went on at every level. I agree, Molly, about Leah's shop - looks like a picture out of a fairy tale. xx

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:18pm

TG Thanks for your reply.I think as others have said and your examples show we must find satisfaction from within and not depend on others for it. The lovely photograph is the result of having a photographer for my partner!. Just a thought do you think that people are appreciating the difficult role of carer a bit more now than say ten or twenty years ago. ? Xx

Sally Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 9:23am

Yes, yes, and yes. I do think that.

Dragonfly Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 9:50pm

Your shop looks lovely Leah - so sweet and, as your friend says, it is a great achievement to be running your own business. As you mention above, I really dislike my job but my lovely colleagues make it bearable. I also volunteer, which does give me a sense of worth, but I also berate myself quite harshly and feel a failure for not having secured a job I like. Particularly as I worked hard, as a mature student, and studied for a degree. I'm not really sure what I'm looking for but I sometimes don't feel I justify my existence. I will join the queue to visit your shop though Leah, if I ever get as far as Australia! x

Leah Sat, Apr 22nd 2017 @ 10:29pm

Dragonfly, Thanks for your post wihich shows how much having a job we like affects our identity. It is good that you have good work colleagues. If you found a job you liked but you didn't get on with your fellow workers, would that be any better? I hope you find some peace and realise what a valued worker and volunteer you are. Xx

Sally Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 9:24am

Just a thought: have I missed something? Where have you all seen Leah's shop? I don't recall there being a photo...

Leah Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 10:17am

Sally, There was photo with the email. If you dont see it , maybe you can email Caroline and she can send you one.

Nicco Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 2:25pm

Thanks for this blog. I always have to be careful that I don't overdo things. Even things I enjoy can become a chore if I set myself goals of achievement that are too high with the stuff I do for work or in the house, so this has reminded me of some simple truths!

Leah Sun, Apr 23rd 2017 @ 10:46pm

Nicco Thanks for your reply. I am glad you have been reminded of something that has helped you. Overdoing things is something I must be careful about too.

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