The problem with me – well, I actually don’t think it’s a problem, but my employers probably do – is that I like to do things in my own time. That may be perceived as lazy; I see it as intuitive. Because sometimes it isn’t the right time to make a decision and to act. Sometimes you need to let a ‘problem’ or a challenge settle in your mind for a while. Sometimes you need to forget about it altogether and the answer will come to you when you least expect it (often on the toilet!). And, as is often the case, sometimes the problem goes away and you thank yourself that you didn’t waste your time worrying about it and acting on it when it didn’t need dealing with in the first place.
I think I have that gift – of intuition. Somehow I nearly always know whether something needs dealing with urgently or not, or even not at all, partly through being able to read others’ behaviour and having learnt from past experiences, and partly just through a gut feeling that can’t really be explained (and trust me, don’t try explaining it to your boss – it doesn’t go down well!)
What I’ve realised recently, however, is that I got into the habit of foregoing my intuition in favour of meeting other people’s expectations of me. And that was very damaging. Last year in particular (although this is certainly a trait I’ve always had) I allowed others to influence my actions, and even my beliefs, to the point I felt I hardly knew myself anymore.
Just as a quick disclaimer: I speak here largely in terms of professional context, although the same behaviour was certainly apparent in my recent romantic relationships. And before I go on, let me say that no one is to blame here: not the people I work with/for, not my ex-boyfriends; not my parents and others who’ve influenced my personal development; and not myself. The purpose of writing this is just to make the observation of a pattern of behaviour I saw developing, and to move on from it, without resentment or judgment.
So, what happened?
Having usually been able to deal with work pressures, at least externally (I’m not one to cry in front of colleagues), by mid-last year I was really not coping in my current job at all. Nothing had really changed in terms of my responsibilities, but my confidence had vanished. I didn’t want to get up in the mornings, I was suffering from insomnia, and I constantly doubted my abilities and my value to the company (or to anyone).
I felt so overwhelmed with all the decisions I had to make, and felt so under such pressure to GET THINGS DONE NOW, that even the simplest tasks were starting to feel impossible. I found it increasingly hard to make decisions, fearing that I’d get it wrong, and that nothing I did would be good enough. Soon this descended into a near constant feeling of anxiety – something I’d never really experienced before, and it was horrible. It was all-consuming mentally, and often took its tool physically too – and times making me physically sick. I lost weight (which ironically attracted lots of compliments around the office), lost my appetite, and often felt like locking myself in the toilets and crying, or simply running away.
What I realise now is if I had conviction in my decisions then I could have nipped all this in the bud very early on. If I had relied on my own internal voice of reason to judge the path I should take at work (and in my personal life), then what would I have had to feel anxious about? I wouldn’t be disappointing anybody, I wouldn’t be in fear of getting in trouble for having done the wrong thing – as I would be confident that I did what was best according to my own wisdom and judgement.
It is certainly a lesson in my own self esteem to have realised this. Because I know deep down that I am wise, sensible, intelligent and capable; I have just spent a lot of time convincing myself that I am not and allowing others to take advantage of or exacerbate that.
Shame really, as I think I have a sensible and balanced approach to living and working which others could benefit from. As they chose not to, I chose to move on. That is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. (I’m leaving my job in just a few days and I cannot tell you the relief I feel!)
But as I said, it’s not my intention at all to blame anyone – there are thousands of factors which coexisted to cause the ‘breakdown’ I allude to above. But I have definitely realised now that this working environment is not for me, as it does not allow me to act on my intuition and to truly be myself.
When I really realised that I wanted…needed…to change my life, was when I realised there was little to no time in my day that was scheduled for me. I don’t attest to have the most challenging job in the world – there are people out there working much harder and longer than me (poor them!). My work took over my mind however and that’s when it became dangerous. It stopped me thinking about my own wellbeing and my own passions; everything was about ‘them’ instead of me. I lost myself. And that is not ok.
Now I feel I’ve finally broken free from the horrible sense of obligation and duty to work in a company, role and industry, that never was and never will be, me. I’ve known this always, as the niggling self doubt, daily frustrations with the ‘system’, way of doing things, ethics, priorities etc constantly attested to. But it’s only now I’m really acting on it.
How does it feel? Like a big fat relief off my shoulders…. a feeling of saying ‘ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!’….. something akin to walking down a beautiful beach and feeling the sand between your toes, the sun beating down on your shoulders, with a cool breeze in your face…. it feels bloody AMAZING!
Now the real journey begins folks… And I cannot wait!