When meeting people for the first time, how many of us feel conflicted with the question ‘ what do you do?’
For me, it’s definitely created mixed feelings dependant on what stage of life I’ve been in, particularly as always felt it’s been a work focused question. Sometimes, it’s been easy, almost straight forward and I’ve found myself almost being able to predict the types of responses I’ve got from those asking. But more recently it’s become something I feel conflicted with, and I’ve begun to unpick why that is.
There are definitely a number of factors at play; firstly, meeting more people through my co-working space generally means more questions like this, but I believe the root of the issue is how I see myself, and how I want to be seen. Which comes down to how confident I am with my choices and level of fulfilment and contentment with life.
From early in my career, my response would usually be clear, confident when asked people asked what I did. Being proud of my achievements was definitely a contributing factor to how I handled those questions, but I also believe that the type of company/type of job also played a pivotal role, i.e. being a Bar Manager in my early 20’s, Managing a department at Chelsea Football Club, certainly did their own explaining than when I’ve worked for lesser-known brands.
Over more recent years, I’ve been channelling my efforts on more of my passions, those that align with my values and beliefs, and I’ve started to reframe the question, ‘what do you do’, to be more about who I am, rather than just the job that pays the bills.
In my recent talk to students as part of Give an Hour campaign, I spoke of how I’ve created multiple areas of my life, bringing skills together that I’ve gained to create multiple layers to what I do, rather than just the focus on the 9-5! I must give credit to Emma Gannon’s ‘Multi-Hyphen Life‘, as it’s had such a massive influence on me, and what I want for my life. It’s taken small steps, but I’m getting closer to life which combines a multitude of my interests and passions, some which may pay and some that may not, but most importantly when combined I feel like the best version of myself. Hopefully the one where I am able to connect and contribute on different levels, with different people.
Throughout my professional career, I’ve never had much confidence in selling myself. I’ve always found the line between selling yourself as a person, and arrogance to be extremely thin, but I wonder why at 44, I still shy away from praise, or talking up my achievements. I suspect much of it stems from my childhood, being the youngest of 4 siblings, it was a busy house, and often find you don’t get a word in, so in some situations, I wouldn’t be surprised if I just gave up trying.
Without the risk of over generalising, I also think it could be a female trait to not push for things, or talk up our achievements, especially in our careers.
I’ve been fortunate enough on my journey to my multi-hyphen life (thanks for the term Emma!), where I am getting better at saying, I’m a coach, an artist, a businesswomen, a mental health advocate, a runner, and depending on who I’m talking to the list can continue. I’m proud of the change I’ve created and although I believe it’s always a work in progress, I also value being present much more than I ever used to.
Flexibility, Determination and Resilience
I don’t believe I would have been able to navigate many of the change I’ve created, without the need to stay flexible. Life changes so much, and just because you had a view of where you were heading and what you wanted to do, there is a strong possibility if you’re too fixed on that view, it may seem harder to navigate if things don’t quite work out as planned.
The stepping stones of my career taught be to learn, develop, and then when I’d learnt the most I could I often made the decision to move on. This may seem very carefree looking back now, but it really did get me to where I am now, a place of freedom.
I believe my resilience and determination have paved a way to a place where I didn’t think possible a few years ago. Through coaching I began to look at things from a different perspective, and by trying things out, even if I was fearful of failing, I was able to move forwards.
As Thomas Edison famously said, ‘the most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time’, and I can’t emphasise this enough, even though finding the energy to keep trying can be so hard sometimes. I personally find the first 10 minutes in the morning are the hardest, and even more experiencing the pandemic with no partner for support.
Saying I’m really proud of myself, can feel a bit uncomfortable to say out loud, probably more to do with the fear of being judged, but I honestly believe the next step is learning to feel more confident saying it.
As novelist, journalist, and broadcaster, Elizabeth Day, would say ‘self-belief is the most powerful thing you own’. If you’ve not listened to it, I’d highly recommend her podcast, ‘How to Fail’.
I believe growth comes from stepping outside of our comfort zones, away from a life on auto pilot, and challenging the norm or what society expects of us. My dear friend Laura gave me the book Comfort Zones, for my birthday, which inspired me to write this post. The premise of the book is an opportunity for writers to write about things which break from the norm and push them out of their comfort zones. Which is exactly how I feel about writing about my achievements.
Starting a business, creating art, presenting to groups of people, or talking about myself and my achievements, can all feel daunting, but without challenging ourselves, what does life become? I love the quote from Comfort Zones ‘Obstacles are put in the way, not to cause you pain or trip you up but to uncover what you’re really made of!’
Speaking about my career to the group of students as part of the Give an Hour’ campaign, was a huge step for me, but one that I feel incredibly proud of myself for doing. It made me stop and think about where I’ve come and what I’ve achieved When you’re a parent, it’s part and parcel to feel proud of your children, and hopefully to tell them so, but how many of us stop and really congratulate ourselves and perhaps that’s even more important.
So, whether you’re a student, that’s trying to work out what you’re going to do when you leave school, or you’ve hit your 30’s/40’s and feel under whelmed or confused with where your life is heading. My advice would be the same, ask yourself what do you want to feel proud of? If you don’t know, perhaps that’s where you might need to start.
The Multi-hyphen life I’ve started to carve out, allows me to have the best mix of the things I value the most, so if the 9-5 is not suiting you anymore, perhaps it’s time to look for a different kind of life?
If you think you would benefit from someone supporting you take the next steps, why not drop me message!