Existential crisis & finding meaning through social work
Existentialism happens to be my most favourite school of thought in psychology ever since I had started exploring the subject. This school of thought believes that one’s life satisfaction depends on how meaningful their experiences are, in my understanding. Existential crisis is a situation where one starts questioning their worth and relevance on this planet, although it’s a normal part of everyone’s life some people resolve it effectively while others end up sinking. It is one of the biggest causes of depression.
Our generation, I feel is the one that is very far away from finding meaning. The definitions of relationships, friendships and family have changed drastically, we are struggling in the tide to keep up. The result is a lot of negative emotions that we do not know how to cope up with. Our lives end up revolving around weekend parties and we spend the rest of the time counting down to them. This kind of a lifestyle can not give us a lasting sense of contentment, that we are longing for so deeply.
I have been a fairly melancholic individual since my teenage, my brain, at times just refuses to let me experience stability and happiness. Luckily or unluckily enough I don’t seem to enjoy most things that my generation loves. I have grown up to be an eccentric individual who seems to get no pleasure out of most things, only to find some contentment in meaningful experiences.
When I was about 17 years old, one of my friends who was working for an NGO, asked me to join hands towards the cause of educating underprivileged children. I still remember that level of excitement I had, but I was also crippling with anxiety, whether I was capable enough to make any real difference in my limited resources. As time progressed and I got more and more exposure as a social worker I realized the kind of power intention has, a positive intention coupled with some hard work goes a long way.
I am 22 now, working a fulltime job at a great company, it gets a bit easier when the instability of teenage fades away. My NGO happens to be very close to my office, our center is known as The Khwahishein School and it always happens so that when I have my lunch break the children too have their breaks. Last week, I was sitting in a small restraunt near office ,having my lunch when the kids from my NGO saw me,they screamed “ddiiiiddddiiiiiiiiiiiii,hhhiiiiiiiiiiii !”, I am not even kidding. They had the biggest smiles on their faces and their eyes were gleaming so purely. Up until that point, it was a rough day and I was feeling extremely negative because life had been harsh lately, but after seeing their joy,on seeing me I was complete somehow, my melancholy couldn’t touch me. We sat together, discussed school and studies,even had lunch.
I struggle to see my own worth, I feel useless at times even when I am on the peak of my productivity, I am sure a lot of you who struggle with similar issues will relate to this. Then I remember these precious moments, and I realize how investing a small amount of my time gives me something so precious. Each time I see them on events, or randomly somewhere in a market place they hug me so warmly, that is the biggest validation one can ever need. These little children make me feel so loved and valued even in my darkest moments, even when nothing else seems to make me smile. I wouldn’t give up on my cause for anything in the world.
This has been my journey, I started off as a volunteer and it’s been 4 years, now I am an executive board member. No matter how many achievements I collect along the way on my journey, this one is the most valuable to me. Even when I have to give up my weekends, or when I am finding it extremely difficult to get out of bed in the mornings, I would do it. I read this quote on a colleague’s social media feed, “ count on discipline and not on motivation”, which made complete sense to me, motivation depends on one’s emotional state, and emotions are hardly reliable.
So the key, to battling existential crisis is simple, try to engage in as many meaningful experiences as possible. Social work is one of the best ways to get at it because it is selfless, small efforts result in huge changes in the lives of those who are less fortunate than ourselves. When I talk to those little ones or their family members, I realize how small and insignificant my own everyday problems are, and that reality check is something all of us need from time to time.
You have so much power to transform and heal others only if you try to, and while doing so you end up healing yourself. So next time when you find yourself struggling to find meaning, think about this. Think about how you can contribute and remember that small efforts do go a long in the lives of those who have nothing.
Counseling psychologist and Executive clinical operations with Mom’s Belief
Executive board member with Khwahishein Foundation