Six years ago, I found myself five years into a job that was making me ill. I was stressed, exhausted and losing weight, and as much as I'd heard the “you're lucky to even have a job”, “it’s the wrong time to be looking for a new job” etc., I couldn’t shift the unhappiness, longing and frustration that I felt. The job I once loved had become unrecognisable, and I was screaming inside.
Six months later, I finally found the courage to apply for new jobs, and was offered a post in a similar field. Momentary delight soon followed acute concern. Alarm bells crept in, and I was confused; why do I feel the same way?
My concerns were short lived as fate played a hand. Two weeks after I'd started my new role, the company went into liquidation, and I was out of a job.
After initial numbness, blaming and cursing, I was overcome with an incredible emotion that I had not experience for some time; relief. Yes relief.
Her actions are well intentioned, and she is in fact, wonderful at keeping me safe. But, sometimes she gets in my way.
Imagine living each day with the recognition that your authentic nature, vulnerability, passion, creativity, and everything you are effortlessly, is not only enough, but amazing. What a release. What a relief. There was nothing wrong with being you in the first place.
But what happens when the people closest to you don’t want you to change? They are comfortable with the masks that you’ve learned to wear so well. They like the edited version of you. Perhaps acceptance of yourself, highlights disapproval within themselves, and they resent you. What if being your authentic self, means some relationships change for the worse?
How many times have you been told how to be? Or how not to be? Possibly hundreds. You may have learned to act a certain way to avoid disapproval, make decisions that make someone else happy, and that it was not ok to have your dreams, your opinions, and be you. If you were like me, your response may have been to either try to fit in, or hide, or both.
In the past, I spent a lot of time hiding, like I was walking around in clothes ten sizes too big for me, swallowing me up and rendering me invisible. Nobody could see the person underneath; no shape, no form, no strengths, no details or intricacies that were individual to me. I blended in, which was the plan; but it came at the expense of hiding myself for so long, that I also started to forget what ‘me’ felt like.
When I wasn’t hiding, I tried to fit in; be ‘normal’, conventional and surrender to what felt like everybody else’s expectation of me. To not fit in, meant I stayed weird, odd, and different; I was sick of hearing that.
But rarely feeling allowed to be me, came at a cost.
Physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.
This is how I felt after six years in full-time disorganised chaos. The incessant interruptions, unrelenting calls, back-to-back appointments and the black hole that was the open plan office, all pulling me in and draining my energy.
A significant attraction for introverts to work for themselves is the retreat from the energy vampires that an extroverted working environment often contains, towards more autonomy and opportunity for solitude that we require to rebalance.
Six months into my business, however, I’d suddenly found myself exhausted again. Immersed in both offline and online interaction, networking, learning how to run a business, learning how to use social media, writing blogs, extra training, building a website; all of this before the main purpose of my job, my clients!
Self-employment also means self-management. Without boundaries and self-care, burn out can continue to be a familiar and unwelcome visitor.
Here are five tips to help you work with your natural way of being: