For most of my life, I believed I was broken.
- My emotions were a sign of weakness; they were too intense and needed to be stifled
- My resentment at having to follow stupid rules or do meaningless assignments meant I was difficult
- I needed too much information before making decisions and cared too much about getting them right, so I was wishy-washy
I spent a lot of years beating myself up for being the way I was. I was constantly trying to hide those parts of myself and re-shape them into more acceptable traits.
Especially when I entered the corporate world. I felt like I didn’t fit, but I thought it was because there was something wrong with me.
Then, during my fourth traditional corporate job, I noticed I hadn’t made any progress with changing myself into a good, happy worker-bee.
I realized that giving myself some kind of lobotomy – shutting myself down so I wouldn’t care whether my work was fulfilling – just wasn’t an option.
I wanted more freedom. More sovereignty. More say in what I’d create and how I’d create it.
I knew on some level that changing companies and job titles wouldn’t be enough. By definition, a job (working for someone else to further their agenda, as noble as their mission may be) was never going to cut it. I’d have to build a business and it would have to come from my heart.
But what was really in my heart? After years of shutting off the parts of myself that didn’t fit other people’s views of how I should be, I didn’t know my own heart anymore.
And even if I did know, I had no idea how I could turn it into a business.
That was when I really started learning about myself. Connecting with myself so that I could know what I wanted and what I needed in order to be happy and thrive in my work.
I had tried to change myself to fit their requirements and it was a complete disaster. Not only did it not work, it created a hell of a lot of pain and self-loathing.
That was when I stopped believing I was broken.
Partly I stopped believing it because the belief itself was a source of pain I was no longer willing to carry around. It was a belief that was handed to me at a time I was too young to know any better.
But I really grokked the truth that none of us are broken when I noticed that so much of what I regarded as unacceptable about myself was actually just inconvenient for someone else.
- If you have a strong sense of self, you get called stubborn
- If you are highly sensitive, you get called needy and high-maintenance
- If you are an idealist who wants to make the best possible choice, you get called indecisive and wishy-washy
- If you bristle at stupid rules and busy-work, you have a bad attitude
Whether it’s inconvenient because it makes someone work harder to help us thrive, or asks them them to reconsider their own worldview, or maybe something about us simply forces them to feel something they’d rather not feel, the result is the same. We’re the minority so we wind up feeling as though we are the problem.
But here’s the thing:
Not only are you not broken, but the parts of yourself you learned to despise are most likely the very parts that hold the key to finding your Thing, creating work that you love and changing the world.
It took a long time, but eventually I saw that my sensitivity is what helps me to connect with my clients. And my intolerance for bullshit is what led me to the path of entrepreneurship. And my careful decision-making is simply part of the way I think and operate.
Those traits I was trying to squelch were all signposts leading me toward what I wanted to create and how I needed to create it in order to thrive. They were never flaws that needed to be banished or rejected.
Sometimes my “special traits” still bump up against life in a way that feels inconvenient and painful, like everything would be so much easier if I could just not be that way, at least for that situation.
But I’m learning that the more I meet all of myself with acceptance, compassion and curiosity, the more I’m able to build my business around who I am.
We’re born with a unique set of traits and characteristics.
And the traits that not everyone understands are the ones that get deemed inconvenient, unacceptable, not ready for prime-time.
It’s because those traits aren’t for everyone. They’re gifts to your Right People. (Is it any wonder why it’s so draining to hang out with Wrong People all day long?)
Maybe all of this is hard to believe right now. I get it.
How can something you learned to believe was a flaw – which caused you so much pain and kept you from fitting in – be a gift?
Suppose it were true just for a moment.
What would those unacceptable parts of yourself tell you about the kind of work you’d really like to do and the kind of people you’d really like to work with?
How would it feel to stop fighting against who you are and instead build your work around it?
What gifts are you withholding from your Right People?
(Image credit: Ellipsis-Imagery)