My clients include professionals in finance, marketing, design, insurance, operations and HR.
They are mums, step-mums, business owners, scientists, teachers, directors, accountants, coaches and specialists, and they range from middle to senior management positions in the business.
And they all have something lurking quietly in common.
At some point, they realise they’ve lost the essence of Who They Really Are in a never-ending pursuit of ‘do more, be more, have more’.
The term ‘mid-life crisis’ is one that most of us shy away from, thinking it means the proverbial guy-buys-sports-car-and-runs-off-with-au-pair story, but actually what I see becoming more prevalent is individuals who are running out of steam mid-life because they’ve given themselves, their dreams and their identities over to their careers. Their work has become the marker on which they define who they are, beyond a sense of purpose or meaning.
While job titles and other such labels are useful, yes, they don’t necessarily speak to the true sets of inner skills, strengths and wisdom that we have as human beings. The characteristics, traits and ‘essence’ of us, that people will remember long after we’ve left that company/ job/ place in the world.
I’m reminded of this whenever I ask said clients to do an exercise about recognising and acknowledging the multiple roles they play within their lives – so at home, at work, in positions of family, faith, leadership, friendship and service. It takes a moment after completing the exercise for them to say: “Ohhhhhhh, I see what you mean: I normally only think of myself by my job title/ the fact that I’ve accomplished XYZ/ my level of material success.”
We are so much more than our job titles.
I lost myself for years by trying to live up to the expectations of what I was told I should be [at work] than who I actually wanted to be. I allowed myself to be moulded by those in authority (more on that another time!) who told me it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ to be myself because I had a professional reputation to maintain and a departmental standard to set for the rest of the business. Yeesh, no pressure there, right!? Especially when Human Resources had a reputation for being The Police!
I remember being reprimanded for being ‘inappropriate’ when I reached out to support a group of employees traumatised by an external event. What a load of ego-driven rubbish that was, but I was too ashamed and too worried about being judged even further to challenge the reprimand, so I let it go. But the humiliation and damage stayed with me for a long time afterwards …
We lose ourselves in ‘trying to prove’ our very existence by being in competition with each other rather than living in harmony and cooperation. We are beset by notions of outdoing each other, comparing ourselves to one another and then wondering why we feel so shitty so much of the time when we find ourselves out of alignment with our values.
Say YES to it all but don’t believe we have to DO it all.
I say YES! to all of us who want to be the CEO and ‘the best’ at everything. I say YES! too to those of us who are happy on a less competitive path and YES! to those of us who are content with being ourselves by the very fact that we exist at all.
We all have a purpose and contribute to the world by becoming the very best version of ourselves, regardless of our job titles. Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of our intrinsic worth in who we are as people, whether we want to have an enormous impact on the world by creating a new product or service, contributing to a more harmonious world by working together in new ways, or just be being here as our authentic, real, very loved and fallible selves.
As writer Alan Watts said:
“This is the real secret to life – to be completely engaged with what we are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realise it is play.”