Who am I kidding, of course I did.
Here’s how things are supposed to work;
You grow up, go through school, study, learn, get the certificate(s), work, work some more, gain the traction, get the “results”; the pay rise, the promotion, etc, and then you’re allowed to be you.
Once you’ve pushed through all the shit, waded through the sludge and pushed to the point where you’re exhausted, you’re supposed to get to the top of shit-hill, look around at all the gold stars and accolades that you’ve collected, and be happy with your lot.
Or, you realise that despite all that work, all that effort, all that pushing, and winning and gaining, you’re fucking miserable and you pretty much hate yourself. There’s nothing about you, or your life, that you love. You know you’ve done well, and you’ve checked all the boxes, but really? Deep down? Nah, not so much… you don’t like yourself, you feel underwhelmed with who you are. You feel like you’ve let yourself down. But it’s OK, cos you’ve done all that stuff you needed to do, so now you’ve earned the right to do the things you want to do, and be the person you want to be. The person you really are.
So where did I fuck up?
Well, I did it backwards.
I couldn’t show up in some weird, bored, fake-ass way where I wasn’t being fully me.
I couldn’t just “do what needed to be done” in order to tick the appropriate boxes, by doing whatever I could in order to get from a-to-b-to-c.
I can’t just “do this for now” until I feel ready or allowed to be me.
That’s why I left work, I wasn’t invested, I felt shit, I ended up on anti-depressants, but why? Because I knew it wasn’t right for me. (Not at the time, I realised that much later, after beating myself up about it too much)
Did I have the vision or idea of being the high-flyer? Yeah, of course I did. That was the whole fucking plan! Be the best at doing what you do, do the work and kick its ass on the way up the ladder. Then break free and do your own thing. Simple. No problem.
I hated that version of things. The drudgery of it all, the shit I felt I needed to do weighed on me, it still does from time to time… that little voice of should and must in order to gain or deserve whatever is there or next. Bleurgh.
Why? Because I realised I was always playing myself down. I do it all the time, I do it with most people in my life. I downplay who I am, how I am, what I can do, what I want and what I expect of life.
I’m not allowed any of that, so tone it down, hold it back, keep it quiet, don’t do this, don’t do that. Apologise. Play small. Sit quietly. Be a good little nobody until someone gives you permission to speak.
But then it all went to shit.
Speaking up, doing my own thing in my own way, having my ideas, implementing my plans, my whims – they’re all the things that helped me.
They’re all the things that got me that little bit further ahead, and yeah, at work that was being the person who could knock together a spreadsheet in a few minutes that would save hours of work. It was a simple spreadsheet that saved my department over £15k in one quarter (ridiculous! I know)
It was stepping up and calling out department heads at Uni for unfair treatment of students, and throwing in my own ideas of ways to improve the study day (yeah, I worked before Uni, it was my way) – Also fobbing off proper break times to head to the coffee shop whenever I fancied may have caused minor havoc, but it was worth it.
It’s always been me being me, and doing whatever the fuck I want that got me ahead! That’s also when I feel I’m at my best.
It’s also what stopped me from showing up in a weird way that I couldn’t deal with in order to “succeed” because it felt fake and phoney.
It was listening to people who were successful on paper, talking about how miserable and unfulfilled they were in life, and how despite everything, the pushing, working, trying, box-ticking, achieving, etc etc, they were still unhappy. They were miserable, they hated parts of themselves, they couldn’t think of one thing in their life that lit them up – they’d just followed the idea, the plan, the one thing and the next followed the next logical step, took a little turn, or pivot here and there, and worked tirelessly to shed a little more of the mask, the parts that weren’t them, and either settled with never being fully satisfied, were now too exhausted to care, or desperate for change and lost on how to achieve it.
Why would anyone want to put themselves through that?!
That’s too much effort. It’s too draining.
Even my ONE biggest takeaway from 12 weeks of professional counselling wasn’t anything more than “just do what you want, and fuck the rest”
Ticking boxes, staying within the lines and following the plan has never appealed, and it’s never worked.
I’m too fucking stubborn for that.
It’s not interesting.
It’s not fun.
I don’t want to do it, and therefore, I won’t.
Make of that what you will…
Why would someone want to spend their life being someone they’re not, and doing things they don’t really want to do? It makes no sense!
I’m talking about the people who feel they can’t fully be themselves.
The ones who feel like deep down they’re meant to be more, they need to be more, for their own fulfilment, happiness and success.
The ones who spend their lives downplaying one part of their lives, while embellishing another in order to be accepted by those around them.
The people who can’t walk around and declare “actually, yeah, I am that good, and I do know what I’m talking about, thanks” without it being portrayed as some overinflated ego trip – it’s not.
It’s like walking outside and saying “oh look, the sky’s blue” It’s just a matter of fact. No more, no less.
It’s the people too afraid to own that shit, to own who they are without putting up a facade, some version of themselves that’s acceptable to the outside world because being who they are might not be enough, or it might be too much, who knows, it’s all just a matter of opinion that’s internalised as fear and doubt. It’s just meaningless bullshit, and if people can’t handle it, handle you and all that you are, then are they really your people? No, I don’t think so.
So I did things “wrong”
I said fuck it to the idea of building my life and my business doing something I didn’t love. I could do it, I got results, and I was good at it, but it wasn’t me.
I remember so many times being asked what I do and freezing, the words stuck in my throat and clogged in my mouth, it felt like bile rising up, something strained, forced, a lie. For years, whatever I did felt wrong, like a straight jacket had just been strapped on me, and I couldn’t bust out of it.
And it’s one I wore for years because I felt I had to just to get the money in the bank, it was a stepping stone, something I could work with to get myself going, but deep down I knew it was wrong. I knew it didn’t fit, and I knew I didn’t want it to. I tried, oh boy, did I try… I spent thousands on programmes and training and coaches, I forced myself to sit in the damn chair and figure out the right blog post to write, and the package to sell, and the promotion to get it to work.
All of the little things, one at a time, one step, the next, the next, tick all the boxes… then I’d close down. I’d shut it off completely, I’d tell myself I couldn’t, I shouldn’t, I can’t. I’d distract myself with something mundane, or I’d fall into procrastination of the worst order – I’d put on the TV, or go to sleep, I’d do anything to avoid being that person. Yet, that’s who I was. And that’s what I did, and I sold, and I earned, and the more I sold, the more I earned, and the more I earned, the more I felt that unease rise within me; I can’t, I shouldn’t, this isn’t me, so I’d stop.
I started to believe there was something wrong with me.
That voice in my he’d saying “Jeez, you just can’t follow through on anything can you?! Not even something as simple as this? You’re not cut out for this. Stop being so damn lazy. Quit your complaining, sit down and just do the damn work, push through the resistance, and just get on with it. Fuck your feelings, your ideas and your beliefs. Just do what needs to be done! Then once this is working you can do what you want”
But I couldn’t.
So I stopped.
Stopping was the best thing I ever did because it opened me up to so much more.
While I wasn’t focusing on “just getting from here to there” I was focusing on me, I was focusing on getting better at being me, and knowing what I needed to do for my own sanity, not just a paycheck.
By doing it backwards and forgoing the “success” and the progression in the typical sense, I made bigger gains, faster.
My mind wasn’t distracted by what I felt obligated to do, I was completely free to do what I wanted to do, and what I needed to do.
And that’s something too many people don’t give themselves the opportunity to do. Not until it’s too late and they’re burnt out, stressed and miserable, and sunk so deep into a pit of desperation and misery that they feel they can’t actually let go for fear they’ll drown.
Like “giving it all up” for something they truly want is the mother of all failures. It’s really not.
By “doing it backwards” and forgoing the typical success route, you get to fully invest in who you are, and what you want. You get to really lay the foundations for what you want and how you want to do things in the right way, and you’ll not come up against that wall that so many people do when they realise that they want to give it all up and make a change, without looking like some kind of phoney, fake or flake.
You get to be fully you.
You don’t have to play nice or ease anyone into accepting a new version of you. You just ARE the only version of you that there ever should be.
You get to live without the facade, the mask, the character you may otherwise feel forced into being when you realise you might be too much of one thing, and not enough of something else.
And most importantly, you’ll feel happier and fulfilled faster than ever before, and that level of success that you’ve been craving will crash into your life faster and easier than it ever could have by endless box-ticking, shit-shovelling and trying to get there some other way.
So why waste your time doing it all the other way? The truly backwards way…
Be you first, the rest will follow.