You know how at job interviews they always ask you some variation of the loaded question "what are your weaknesses?"
Well, let me tell you. When you start working for yourself, you figure out the true, deep, scary, vulnerable answers to that question REALFAST.
Hi, I'm Anna and I'm a recovering workaholic, control freak, and perfectionist.
How do I know I'm a workaholic? I don't use that term lightly. Whenever I’m going through a period of life where I feel particularly vulnerable or am struggling to define my identity, I use work and the concept of “keeping busy” as an escape mechanism to avoid confronting what's REALLY going on deep down. I learned this the hard way during my senior year of college, when Ben and I were dealing with a long distance relationship. I went through some major separation anxiety and threw myself into classes, jobs, extracurricular activities, and grad school applications as a way to avoid facing my feelings. I figured if I stayed busy I’d distract myself from missing Ben ...but obviously it backfired and I ended up burning myself out over and over and over again.
Well, apparently I didn’t learn my lesson the first time around, because I have been dealing with THE EXACT SAME WORKAHOLIC SCENARIO over the past year and a half. Instead of a long distance relationship though, I’ve been struggling to figure out my place in the world. Instead of missing my boyfriend and feeling scared about the future, I've been feeling scared to be myself.
The past few months have been intense, and I haven't been giving myself credit. I’m slowly figuring out how to be a “successful” small business owner and entrepreneur, and I’ve been testing my limits and pushing my boundaries. The downside of going out of your comfort zone is that sometimes you push a little too far, but on the other hand it's ok to break your limits, because then you learn and grow.
What I'm learning: I spent 2014 into 2015 in a mode of desperation.
And you know what squashes creativity and joy? Desperation.
Which is kind of a bad thing when your business, values, and ultimate self-acceptance revolve around being able to freely express your creativity and joy.
All last spring and summer I was desperate to quit my job and coach full time, and I let that desperation pull me along and give me an excuse to spend every single waking, sleeping, breathing moment obsessing and stressing about my side business. When I finally did quit, I was like a balloon cut free. Drifting and floating, tossed by the breeze, out of control. No one told me that quitting your day job to “live the dream” doesn’t automatically make you happy and fulfilled. Instead, I found myself dealing with even MORE self doubt and anxiety because I no longer had structure or the safety of a regular paycheck. Hellooooo overwhelm!
So first I was desperate to quit my job, then I was desperate to earn money and prove myself. If quitting my job wouldn’t make me fulfilled, would I EVER feel good enough? For a good six months after I quit in August (up through this past winter) I still lived under the mentality that “more work = more success = more happiness.” I let my ego control me, and set goals based on achievements like income and money. I told myself "you'll be successful when you can make X dollars/week." I didn't know how to take time off because I was used to the weekend hustle. Hustle, hustle, hustle. I assumed that the more I worked, the more quickly my business would grow and the more stable and secure I'd feel. I'd be able to prove to myself that I could make this work!
The thing is, when you let desperation and money control your motivation, your ego flips out and starts putting all these negative voices in your head.
You’re not good enough.
You’ll never make this work.
You are stuck forever.
You are worthless.
And you have to work really really hard on yourself to build resilience to that inner critic, to learn that it doesn't speak truth and is only out to sabotage you. I knew something had to change if I wanted to actually feel complete and good enough so I finally stopped to get out of my own head and ask myself, what does success even mean to me?
Ultimately, to me, success feels like freedom. That's why I quit my job in the first place!
Freedom to create
Freedom to relax
Freedom to travel
Freedom to spend time with family and friends
Freedom to be present
Freedom to have fun
Freedom to be ME.
I DID NOT QUIT MY JOB TO KEEP THINKING AND OBSESSING ABOUT MY BUSINESS 24/7! I don't want a lifestyle driven by work, and I don't want to have to work 40+ hours/week. I want less hustle, less desperate striving, less overwhelm and anxiety. I want more ease, more space, more confidence, more flow.
So I slowly started to work on making that happen.
In February I wrote this blog post on carving out work/life boundaries, and signed up for Jess Lively's Life With Intention Online. I started to immerse myself in learning about the ego, intuition, resistance, and everything that holds us back from accepting who we are and feeling "enough" and fulfilled. I started to establish my values, and I learned how to release my addiction to GOALS! and lead a more intentional and purpose driven life instead of depending on achievements and outcomes for self worth.
In March I started working through the book The Artist's Way, which is literally a 12-step recovery program for blocked artists, perfectionists, and workaholics. OMG life changing. I've started brain-dumping three pages of stream of consciousness writing every single morning, a habit called "morning pages" meant to process all the negativity and crap we hold in our subconscious. I'm on week 5 and I already feel a major shift happening in my mindset. I'm painting more, writing more, and feeling a lot less guilt and overwhelm.
I also signed up to do Marie Forleo's B-School through two incredibly big hearted, creative, and supportive Australian life coaches, Rachel and Tara, who have proven to me that you CAN create a thriving creative coaching career by leaning back and putting self care before hustle.
All of this intensive personal development (and a few more happenings) have combined to bring me to a really really really really freaking good place this week. It might be hormones, it might be the nicer weather, it might be the fact I'm going to Cancun with Ben tomorrow, but I think it's deeper. I think I'm finally learning to trust myself, accept my place in the journey, embrace the mess, and nurture my own creativity before giving my energy away. I'm accepting that I don't get paid for hours worked anymore! I get paid for being ME, and therefore need to invest in myself and my creativity first and foremost if I want to have a bigger impact. It's the most exhilarating yet terrifying realization I've ever confronted.
Something I'm learning from The Artist's Way is to keep an eye out for synchronicity, or signs from the universe that you're on the right path. I hit a pretty major work/life/ego speed bump last week over Easter weekend and went through some anxiety and guilt for deciding to slow down this month to focus on my priorities over work, but then this popped up on my Instagram feed. Oh hey, a sign! Then these two blog posts (do more of what brings ease + pushing through) popped up in my blog reader. More synchronicity! I think the Universe is telling me to slow down...
Rest is good. Slowing down is good. Unplugging is good. Not immediately responding to every single message or email is good. Long walks in the sunshine are good. Journaling is good. Facing the BIG PICTURE projects instead of getting distracted by the nonessential yet urgent to-do's is good.
The ironic part? All my striving and hustle from last year earned me this free all-inclusive trip to Cancun, which is coming at perfect timing. So there's another lesson--there's no such thing as mistakes. Every piece of the journey is important and meaningful, even the rough times. Sometimes you just need someone to validate what you know deep down inside. Someone to say "it's ok" to slow down and be yourself...that you're good enough already, and don't need to read any more books or take any more e-courses. If you can relate to the "desperate hustle" and are craving a more fulfilling and freedom filled life, just keep doing your thing, sister. But please stop and smell the flowers.
“Relax to go fast” is advice I heard from a runner. The harder you work and strain and push, the more resistance and walls you’ll face. But when you can relax your mind and muscles and simply breathe into the present moment, you’ll be able to enter this state of flow. Surrender.