Around four years ago I found myself at a huge turning point in my life. On the surface my life ticked all the boxes. I had a successful corporate job in London, my own home, plenty of exotic holidays, a wonderful circle of friends and an active social life. But underneath the facade I was struggling with an increasing sense of despair and stuckness. I was fast approaching fifty. I felt lost. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted or where I was going anymore.
It hurts not being you.
l was in a job that should have given me all the satisfaction and inspiration I needed. I chose a career in Human Resources learning and development because I wanted to help people discover and develop their talents.But as time went by I felt more and more constrained and disillusioned by the constantly changing priorities and cost cutting decision making I witnessed in the corporate world. Added to this I had become used to working in environments that consistently assumed I was straight. Although I was more confident about being openly gay than I had been 20 years ago, I still found it hard to let go of my fear that it might affect my professional relationships. My workplace often felt like a place where I filtered myself to fit in with who I thought I needed to be to belong. It hurts not being fully ourselves, not living in the truth of who we are, like a dull, won’t-go-away ache in your belly.
My personal life had been drifting directionless for way too long. I was allowing life to happen to me whilst secretly hoping that something would come along to catapult me into action. I relied on alcohol and food, my long-time crutches, to numb out the frustration, the inertia and the feeling that I should be doing something, taking some sort of action. I just didn’t know what it was. My pushed down, numbed out feelings of unhappiness and confusion couldn’t stay buried forever and I began to suffer with overwhelming anxiety and panic attacks, until I had to take time off work. I withdrew from my friends and family. I felt like I was unravelling, bit by bit. I was exhausted and on route to a serious breakdown.
No more pretending.
Then one day when I found myself careering into yet another situation that deep down I wasn’t comfortable with and had been too fearful to speak up about, I made a life-changing decision. I made a choice to speak out, to finally stop pretending that my life was ok when it wasn’t. It was scary. It was painful. It meant facing and feeling difficult emotions. It meant having to accept and take responsibility for the messiness of my life. But today I am grateful that I got a glimpse of rock bottom because now I know what it’s like to feel as though you are getting pulled into a vortex of despair - I also know that I can recover from that feeling.
What followed was lots of therapy with a kind, deeply insightful woman who helped me get back on my feet. I had the space to reflect and rethink my life. I rediscovered what lights me up and inspires me, helping people see that they are capable of achieving incredible things and supporting them to do it. I’d always loved it, I just lost sight of how much! I trained as a transformational life coach and I felt more alive and full of purpose than I had ever felt in my entire life.
Owning my stuff.
When I first started working with my own amazing life coach she asked me what I would most like to achieve from our work together. My reply was “to live with all of myself in the light.” I wanted to have the courage and confidence to stop hiding and filtering myself. To be free to be me. To live in the truth of who I am. What followed was really getting to know and understand myself and why I do the things I do. It meant holding a mirror up and facing some difficult truths about how I had been showing up. To learn for myself how I was getting in my own way of happiness and success. It meant owning my stuff and not shying away from my uncomfortable feelings, judgements, assumptions and negative thoughts (along with some heartfelt banter, deep understanding, trust and compassion from my coach - no-one ever said this life coaching gig was easy!)
I learned what it felt like to live in alignment with my beliefs and my values and I started to trust and love myself in ways that I had never done before. I’ve learned that being vulnerable is brave and essential to real connection with others. I’ve learned that by hiding the parts of me that I felt were my weaknesses, my fears, shame, disappointment, grief, and insecurities, I also hid the most creative, inspirational, imaginative, free and fun parts of who I am. I quit drinking alcohol and learned that I can feel my feelings, not avoid, hide, run away (and dance sober!)
Ultimately, I found the confidence and courage to go for what I want. I started my own business, downsized my home and left my corporate job.
Knowing who I am.
Today I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I love my life. Don't get me wrong, I didn’t get here overnight and I’m still a work in progress and learning all the time. And just because I’m a ‘Life Coach’ doesn’t mean I’ve got it all worked out, far from it! I still get scared. I get anxious and stressed out and sometimes doubt myself. But I’m learning not to beat myself up when I find life hard, because I’m human and I’m not perfect and that’s okay because none of us are.
My clients sometimes tell me they feel selfish or self-indulgent for investing in themselves. I remind them that as human beings we have a limited amount of energy and resources within us, so by prioritising our development, we have more of our self to give to the people, projects, and work we care about.
We only have one life. And we have so many choices and decisions to make along the way. I decided to do the work. To re-evaluate and rewrite my story. To own my life and to step into the fullness of who I am. Are you ready to do the same?
Life is like a great big coming out story really isn’t it!