The Perfect Picture
- Successful career woman (award-winning manager in a huge multinational company no less!)
It was all so perfect.....so what circumstances could possibly have been extreme enough to make that decision to smash the perfect illusion?
Well, the clue is in the question - the word "illusion". As many magicians will tell you, it's the quick turn of hand and the story you tell that makes all the difference to making the trick work!
In career terms, wear the right clothes, express the right opinions, use the right words and you're half way there; you're 50% ahead. The other 50% is made up of hard work, tough decisions, office politics, and the luck of the draw.
That's 100% of being a manager. The challenge for me was that I was never content with being 100%.
I had to give more.
So the extra 50% was made up of an "always-on" mentality which meant that I worked evenings, weekends and days off because I believed I had to always "be there" in case something went wrong.
Now even Wonder Woman waits until she is called, but not me, I always had to "check in".
So that was 150% of being a successful career woman and when you do the math, it doesn't take Einstein to work out that I was leaving the other aspect of my "perfect life" short by a large percentage.
To use the phrase from Top Gun my
"ego was writing checks my body couldn't cash"
For fear of failure, letting down my team, my manager, my company or worse still, not living up to the expectations of my "perfect" label, I ended up in a position whereby "my work schedule was writing checks my body could not cash" .
And so it started, the downward spiral into poor health. I had constant back and neck ache, severe headaches, intolerences to almost every food I ate which brought on a skin condition which caused me to be both self concious and embarrassed by my appearance.
My career was also writing checks that my family couldn't cash because at this high point of my success, I really didn't know my children anymore. As people, their little personalities were developing at such a rate that, at times, I honestly thought; "Who is this little person? How did this happen? Where is the baby I had?"
My children were spending 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, in creche/school; they were basically being raised by strangers.
And all the while, the illusion continued that we had the "perfect life".
And then it happened, ironically from the one thing I had invested the most time and energy; my job. What was, in my opinion, a poorly thought out company reorganisation, led to chaos and deeply unhappy team members.
Instead of driving me into the ground, as these situations tend to do, it actually woke me up! Like the smell of coffee on a cool Spring morning, my senses were alive with clarity and wow...what a picture it painted!
The illusion shattered piece by piece:
- My family life was a shambles and unless I did something, and fast, there wouldn't be a family left.
- My parents were getting older, my father was on the eve of his 80th birthday but because of work, we were rarely able to make the 4 hour journey to visit. I mean, did I honestly think they would still be waiting for me when I retired at 68 with open arms and a hot cup of tea?
- My health was deteriorating at an alarming rate, both mentally and physically and despite the best treatments, consultants and holistic therapies that money could buy, nothing would change unless my mindset did.
Ever the responsible manager, I looked for a solution - this was the biggest eye opener of all. I said to myself;
"If I take this situation at work and all the problems that go with it, realistically, can I solve them or am I destined to "put up and shut up"? And if this is the case, how can I confidently stand before a group of people as a manager and not be true to my values, my beliefs, my true self?"
I couldn't - that was the simple answer. I had "outgrown" this chapter of my life and there was no turning back.
And that was it, the chapter closed, but the book didn't end.
True to my beliefs that everyone should have the opportunity to be successful and that talent should be allowed to shine, I did a review of myself.
It was on the basis of this "comprehensive self review" that I decided to set up my online business from home; Welcome BE.
I help professionals who are non native speakers of English to become successful communicators because, in my experience as a manager, communication is the key to showcasing your talent in the best possible way.
So the new chapter has started and the picture looks very different now:
- My health has improved immensely, now that I have time to exercise every day.
The Moral of the Story?
Often, what you consider to be the perfect life is actually just an illusion.
It takes strength of character to break through the illusion, lay bare what's really there and create a reality that's true to you and your values.
It is possible to take your talents and make them work for you in your own business.
When you are strong in your resolve, confident in your abilites and faithful to your values, anything is possible.