I Got My Dream Job and Still Didn’t Feel Good Enough—Here’s What I Did Next
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As a young girl I would tell anyone who would listen that when I grew up, I was going to be an “Oprah singer.” People would of course laugh and correct me. But from a young age I knew what my purpose was in life—I was going to be a professional opera singer and one day sing at the Metropolitan Opera. I had a dream, and my stubborn little Leo self was going to make it come true.
So I threw myself wholeheartedly into singing, and at first it was incredible. I loved the challenge of singing; every day I learned something new. I felt the most free and alive when I was on stage performing. I was pursuing my passion and it was just as amazing as they had said it would be.
And then I moved to NY to pursue my masters degree and everything changed. I looked around me and I convinced myself that there was nothing special about me. Everyone was talented. Everyone was driven. And everyone seemed to be doing “better” than I was.
I needed to catch up, so I got into hustle mode, which to me meant endlessly proving, doing and striving. I was constantly comparing myself, and no matter what I achieved, it never felt like it was enough. All I could focus on were the areas where I was falling short and the jobs that I wasn’t getting.
After 10 years of hustling, I had gotten incredibly far—I was working steadily as a singer not only in the U.S., but internationally as well. But, I was exhausted and on the verge of burnout. Not only that, singing, which used to be a source of joy, was now the number one cause of stress in my life. I was miserable. And it was of course at this exact point that I got a call from my manager—the call that changed everything.
What Happens When You Achieve Your Dream—And It’s Not What You Thought
“Shirin, are you sitting? The Metropolitan Opera wants you to sing in Carmen next season.” THIS. This was the moment that I had been dreaming of for so long. This was my exact dream come true. My dream role, in my dream opera, in my dream opera house.
The contract soon arrived at my house. I’ll never forget holding that thick envelope in my hands, the one with “Metropolitan Opera” written on it, front and center. I hurriedly opened it, and looked at my name in thick, bold font. This was the moment of which I had been dreaming. A moment that as a young girl I thought would be filled with so much joy and happiness. A moment that as a young woman in my 20s I thought would finally prove to me that I was good enough.
But as I looked at that contract, I realized that I felt none of those feelings. I looked at that contract and thought, “I am not good enough. And this is not enough.”
This was my greatest wake-up call. I realized in that moment that no external circumstance or goal would ever make me feel the way that I wanted to feel. I had convinced myself that I was just one achievement away from feeling worthy, happy and fulfilled. I was chasing goals hoping that the feelings I desired would be on the other side. But instead of the feelings, all I kept finding was another set of goals. I was in an endless cycle of goal chasing. I had to break the cycle because I was the only obstacle between myself and the way that I wanted to feel. I had to shift the focus from the external and look at what was going on internally.
So I embarked on a journey of self-growth and self-discovery. My guiding light was the question, “How do I want to feel?” I soon started chasing feelings instead of goals. I allowed my feelings to shape my goals instead of the other way around. I made the journey just as joyful and fulfilling as I imagined reaching the goal would feel.
How to Chase a Feeling, Not a Goal
Through this process, I found my love for singing again. And more importantly, I found my self. What I came to understand in this process is that when we chase after a goal, we’re really chasing a feeling. We’re expecting that our joy, our worth, or our sense of self will be the result of us reaching our achievement. But so often, we get the exact thing that we want, experience a brief moment of happiness and then fall back into the cycle of goal chasing.
The truth is, we can feel exactly how we want to feel right now. Regardless of whether or not we reach our goals, we are worthy, and deserving of feeling good in our lives. A year and a half after I got that call, I found myself on stage at the Metropolitan Opera about to take my first bow. The curtain lifted, the house lights came up, and the deafening applause began. I looked out to the sea of smiling faces and as I stood on that stage I knew that I was meant to be there. I was good enough. I was enough.
Interested in other career and mindset shifts? Read about how one writer turned her passion for plant-based living into a career, and how one brand founder learned to trust the little voice inside to make a huge life shift. You can also join us (and Shirin!) at WELL Summit 2019 in Brooklyn on October 18 and 19 to connect with like-minded women who are ready for change in their lives.