how I learnt about myself from someone else

Some of the names have been redacted for privacy reasons at the discretion of the interviewee. Please do not mark this version of the video. You can find the video transcript on the next page.

As a third-year student, I am plagued by anxieties about internships, entry-level jobs and post-graduate study. As a result, I am constantly dogged by intrusive thoughts. They tumble through my head, muttering questions I fear, yet have no answers to… Do I have enough experience? Do I have what it takes to survive in the corporate world? Will I hate my job for the rest of my life?

These doubts ate away at me as I prepared to conduct a narrative interview with Jasmyn Connell.

For this narrative interview, I was to be an outsider witness, as defined by Carey and Russell (2003), to Jasmyn’s career story. An outsider witness is an additional party who listens for and gives agency to the preferred values and identity claims of an individual (Carey & Russell 2003). These value and identity claims frequently reside in the subjugated meanings or, as Michael White (2006) terms it, the absent, but implicit messages in the problem stories of an individual.

I knew that to simply hear Jasmyn speak would be too passive and too inadequate to fulfil the demands of a narrative interview. Instead, I readied myself to engage with the visible and invisible layers of her story, and adapt the conversation around the subjugated meanings we surfaced together. 

However, what eventuated was something that ran much deeper for me. I did not expect her narrative to resonate so powerfully with my concerns.

The interview

Jasmyn Connell is the president of the UOW Digital Media Society. She juggles this role with a massive lineup of responsibilities: a part-time social media management job, running her own graphic design business, and study at university.

As expected, through the interview we explored her tumultuous career journey. She showed me along the twisting path that she travelled to get to her current point, signposting each challenge of skill and personal mettle. 

I found the most memorable stories of work Jasmyn shared, to be the ones where she demonstrated vulnerability and perseverance in the same stride. I was taken aback when she told me that, upon receiving harsh feedback on an impossible task, she burst into tears in the middle of the office. I was surprised because this was something that I too would have done, and hearing this helped me to feel seen.

As someone who often finds shame in my sensitivity, I was pleasantly shocked by how this moment in Jasmyn’s story ended. One of the editors who made the comments came to her and helped her understand what she describes to me as “one of the most important lessons” that she learnt on the job…

“You are not your work.”

Until this point in Jasmyn’s career, she had been hinging her value as a person on the quality of her work. She thought of criticism on her work as comments on her self-worth. Upon hearing this realisation, I recognised that I think of my work and personal value as intrinsically linked in the same way that Jasmyn once did. 

With one small story, my eyes were suddenly wide open to one of the driving forces behind my anxieties.

In the remainder of the interview, we delved deeply into the values that underpinned various events in Jasmyn’s career. She showed me how she learnt that having the confidence to sometimes say no is more important than saying yes to everything. She revealed to me the times when she threw her caution and perfectionism to the wind and just worked unapologetically with what she had.

‘As an outsider witness to Jasmyn’s story, I noted how she developed this quiet assertion and advocacy for herself in challenging and unfamiliar situations. I also noticed how, over time, she began to develop her tenacity by having trust in herself and by pushing through the obstacles she faced. When I asked her about a value that might underlie this truth she identified the idea of “resilience.”’

— an excerpt from my presentation

I wish I had her resilience

As I reflect on Jasmyn’s interview, I realise that she transformed from someone very similar to myself to someone whom I have always wished I could be, but thought was impossible to achieve. That someone is confident enough to back themselves and isn’t weighed down by criticism.

By exploring the nuances of Jasmyn’s career story as an outsider witness, I have become equipped with the reflective tools to re-author my own narrative. No longer will I validate the thoughts of inadequacy and panic that cling to me. I will try to meet challenges with courage, and embrace each low moment as an exciting opportunity to learn.


Carey, M and Russell, S 2003 ‘Outsider-witness practices: some answers to commonly asked questions’, The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, no. 1, <https://narrativepractices.com.au/attach/pdf/Outsider_Witness_Common_Questions.pdf>

Workshop notes, 2006, Small group intensive with Michael White, Adelaide, viewed 31 August, <https://dulwichcentre.com.au/michael-white-archive/writings-by-michael-white/>

All images are sourced from the Canva library. The license does not require credit.

Credit: Ava Gomez and Janika Gaona, January 2020

my experience interning in Spain… (minus the ‘S’)

The problem story

Last January, I transitioned from retail assistant in Wollongong to intern at a digital media start up in Spain, in the space of a few weeks. In this new role, I undertook digital marketing activities for the growing brand, We Love Martha. Conditions were not ideal; I was forced to work in what barely qualified as a co-working space, in the dead of winter. This “co-working space” was a half-converted factory with no windows, no heating, and no joy. Worse yet, my “mentor” knew nothing about the area in which I was supposed to be gaining experience. 

Needless to say, after weeks of the blind (mostly just myself) leading the blind (also myself) through research and analysis projects, a rewrite of the website’s copy, and the creation of a rusty social media plan, I was frustrated and annoyed. It didn’t help that my roommate snored all night, which meant I fell asleep at about 4-5am every day (lucky me!), but thats another story.

I had wanted to write about this aspect of my time abroad for months, but was always halted by my bitterness toward it. More than that, I felt so lost that I simply did not know where to start. However, when I came upon late Australian social worker, Michael White, and his work on what he terms ‘narrative therapy’, my internalised story began to unfurl.

You see, in White’s practice of narrative therapy an individual is encouraged to ‘seperate themselves from their problems’ (Walter 2018; Edwards & Walker 2019); and oh boy I had a problem—it clung to me like a parasite. My time in Spain was supposed to be a life-altering, self-reinventing experience that I would look fondly upon as the start of a successful career. Instead, it morphed into a memory of festering resentment that made my stomach churn.

White’s ideas are built upon by his contemporaries and successors who will also be referenced in this abridged version of a narrative reflection. The work of Carey, Walther and Russell (2008) is drawn upon frequently; two of whom were faculty at Narrative Practices Adelaide, the offspring of the Adelaide Narrative Therapy Centre opened by White in 2008 (Carey, Russell & Hall n.d.).

Narrative development

‘Every expression of life is in relation to something else.’

(White 2006)

The concept of the ‘absent, but implicit’ pervades White’s method of narrative therapy. It encapsulates the thinking that it ‘is not possible to talk about anything without drawing out what it is not’ (White 2006). For example, my problem experience interning in Spain was not one that catered to my preferences for structured, relevant skills learning in a positive and supportive environment. This hidden story of preferences and values is what Carey, Walther and Russell (2008) term ‘subjugated meanings’. 

To identify these subjugated meanings, a process called ‘double-listening’ must be employed (Carey, Walther and Russell 2008). This listening process gives attention to both the visible and invisible layers of the problem story, probing at the veiled ideas implicit in an individual’s self-expression (Freedman 2012).

According to Fleming (2003), by examining subjugated meanings an individual can ‘broaden their frame of reference, develop new meanings about their life, and become aware of new possibilities.’ Freedman (2012) expands on Fleming by describing this aspect of narrative reflection as a ‘gateway into that realm of experience where people’s most cherished hopes, aspirations, and commitments live and breathe.’

Thus, in surfacing the subjugated meanings which underlaid my problem story, I created fertile ground to re-author my experience for my future self (Courtois n.d.). I have revealed not only my preferences and values, but also possibilities as to where I can take my next steps forward (Walter 2018).

Upon further reflection, I had already been unconsciously attempting to re-author my professional identity since my problem experience occurred. This is evident as I relentlessly vied for another internship for months after my return, and I recently volunteered as the Vice President of the Digital Media Society. All of these experiences are ones that unconciously embody my values of positivity and creativity, and my preference for a comfortable working environment.

However, since I have now consciously deconstructed my problem story, I am better equipped with the awareness to answer a question that started rattling around my head when I left Spain in January…

“Where to next?”

Carey, Walther & Russell (2009) identify this moment as the final step in scaffolding narrative development because it connects a ‘person’s actions and experiences across the dimension of time.’ This step allows an individual to craft forward momentum in their life, and gives rise to an ‘experience of personal agency’ (Carey, Walther & Russell 2009).


Header image credit: photo of myself shared with permission from Ava Gomez and Janika Gaona, January 2020

Please find references on page two.