Tomorrow marks 6 months since I left my stable employment to work for myself. Six whole months, I really cannot believe it. This time has flown by and it really is hard to believe how much has changed since then.
Half a year is a really long time considering I was at my last job for 4 (long) years. I had a love/hate relationship with my previous role which taught me so much, yet also required a painful amount of sacrifice to be made in order to continue to be good at my job. Working in the national health service will do that to you. You learn to work within a model and if you’re lucky (I gratefully was extremely lucky) you might be surrounded by people who are willing to teach you and support you evolve. However, after a while and especially in the role I was in, it became apparent that I was outgrowing my work. I wanted to work in a different way and I couldn’t. I was restricted both by the boundaries of my profession and those of the institution. For a while there, for quite a few years actually, the struggle to keep being inspired and motivated in my workplace became a way of measuring my inner self worth and my professional capabilities and fitness to do the job. I came to question whether I was fit to pursue a career in psychology because to be frank I was pretty unfulfilled. It took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t the problem and neither was psychology. I was simply unhappy working in this environment, under this amount of stress, while being asked to care for people. I wanted to give more of myself in a way that felt safe, ethical and holistic in nature.
Even after I came to recognise what was causing my feelings of burnout, I stayed in my job for another 18 months. I loved my team. I worked with a great bunch of people who really care about their patients. Which is what kept me there for that long. I was still getting to understand myself on a deeper level. Until I said enough.
When I finally handed my notice, it was not because I was unhappy or because I couldn’t do the job any more.
I didn’t leave because the NHS is changing for the worse.
I didn’t leave because I was tired.
I left because I knew it in my heart that I could do more. I can offer more.
I can contribute to people’s lives in ways that were simply not an option under an institution.
This feeling, of having the capacity, the talent, the skills, and the purest, strongest desire to make a difference, is what has kept me going for the past 6 months.
Even if I am still not 100% certain of the how.
Fast forward to now. I have felt a cocktail of emotions. EVERYTHING has been turned upside down. When you give yourself space away from what was difficult, your mind plays nasty games with you. Guilt for leaving, shame for taking long(er) to stand on my own two feet, anxiety for pretty much every aspect of my life, fear for the future, resentment for the past. I have procrastinated massively on huge projects that would mean big things. I have toyed with giving up, I have picked fights to cover up uncomfortable fears, I have denied myself things to compensate for ‘not making enough’.
January was probably the toughest time. 3 months since I left my safety, I felt I should have something to show for myself and despite everything that I had created, it didn’t feel enough. Combined with the start of the New Year, I found myself shaking at my foundation. As I stood at the start of another 12 months, the idea of rebirth, recommitting to my intentions, starting a new chapter, I felt the permanence of my actions. For the first time, I looked at the distance between my previous life as a ‘Psychologist’ and my new identity as a ‘Yoga Teacher/Coach’ and neither of them fit. I felt lost because for the first time I had to let go of hiding behind a title to define myself and gain others’ approval of my status. I started letting go of needing to prove my worth based on my qualifications, but I was not yet standing tall in showing up as ME.
January was a transition within a transition. I had to zoom out to see the bigger picture. It reminded me of a talk with Elizabeth Gilbert of Big Magic in late 2015, where she talked about being prepared to eat the shit sandwich. The idea that with each passion (and in my interpretation with each decision) comes a shit sandwich and how important it is to be aware of what kind of shit sandwich is in store for you if you choose to go with your passion. Are you prepared to eat your shit sandwich because if not, you will give up at the first sign of struggle. Leaving the safety of my job and my previous life of certainty meant not only financial insecurity, but also months and months of doubt, learning to find inner motivation and discipline to be my own boss, differentiating between resistance and really not being ready. My shit sandwich is a big fat self development journey which I can’t half be on. You’re either in or out with this stuff. And in January I was just swallowing my first bite. So I zoomed out; I had to. I had to see that what I felt was part of it, it was the consequences of my decision and what I had a few months ago declared ready to face up to. Well, my dear self, here you are: fear, ego and anxiety in a silver platter. Will you run?
The real question back then was and still remains now, are you willing to do what needs to be done to move forward with your decision? Because if you are, you need to learn that disappointment and challenge are not proof that you’re failing, they are evidence you are working your ass off to do this.
The truth is I have found it hard this time. It can be lonely if you don’t allow people in but you have to find the right people to share with. Often those people are not your partner or your best friends; for me it’s been a handful of women working through the same kind of stuff. You know by now that I try to see everything as a learning opportunity. This is by far my biggest learning curve and I think I have just gone over the first hump.
I am excited, I am inspired, I am happy and I am really well. Thank you for supporting me with your wonderful words and messages and emails. I sometimes wonder whether sharing of the hardest parts of my journey may put some people off, but then someone gets in touch and says thank you for my story and I remember it’s our stories that bring us together.
Here’s to the next 6 months….