There I was, with a clear understanding that I was in a dead-end job. Not from a career advancement perspective, but from a mental and emotional perspective. Sadly, as I climbed the corporate ladder, how I felt about what I spent time doing each day tanked in inverse proportion.
Again, I must make it clear these thoughts are my own - my opinions, point of view, and thoughts on my experience.
So there I was, in my holy grail of roles. Predictably, it was an incredibly busy time. Transitioning into a role with a lot of direct reports and in an organization that was undergoing change in general was a lot to take in, but generally I was excited and energized by the adjustment.
Before long, I realized I had taken on a very sick team. What had looked like success from the outside was actually a bizarre kind of denial that was hard to process. The most frequent comment I got at the beginning was some variety of "good luck with that" when they learned which team I had inherited. In addition to a couple of highly toxic people, there were a decent number operating a level that demanded being put on a professional development plan at the very least.
It was a highly frustrating fact of corporate life that among the sharp ones, there were a lot of people coasting through their days, operating at a breathtaking level of mediocrity that would have left me in a pile under my desk in a fog of self-loathing. I couldn't comprehend it. Most challenging of all was how badly it affected the high-performing, excellent associates who had a bigger burden to carry because they had team members who wouldn't carry their weight, spread their negativity like a virus and brought the morale down to the gutter.
The only thing I could do was focus on the people. My sense of justice and fairness demanded that I take care of them first, and that made me a target. Standing up for my team was viewed as a liability, because I didn't meekly comply with the orders as they came down. Privately, I was asked to tone it down and to be careful of the perception of myself I was creating. It was maddening. People were not viewed as people, but as resources. The fact that many of them had been high performers for years didn't seem to translate to any kind of respect or consideration for what they wanted for their own careers.
This awareness was unsettling. When I looked around at the leaders above me, my peers in similar roles and the folks on my team, I didn't see anything that I wanted. In fact, all I could see was what I didn't want. I didn't know a single person who described themselves as fulfilled in their work.
I had always wanted a role like this because I was excited about learning how to run a business, manage a team, innovate and get big projects to completion. I couldn't have predicted the reality, which was that a strange combination of low and unrealistic expectations from above coupled with no authority to make decisions on my own would effectively render me a useless cog in a massive wheel.
The 4th and final part coming up...
I knew something wasn't quite right. There I was, a little over 9 years into my corporate career, and something was...off. I was struggling with secondary infertility (a post for another time), getting ready to move into a home I had dreamed of, working for a mentor I adored, doing a job that was aligned with what I thought I always wanted, and my general feeling about my daily life was "meh." I didn't hate it, but I definitely didn't love it. And mostly I was bored. And if you know me at all, boredom is the WORST. Thing. Ever.
Are other people's expectations shaping your life?
You may not even be aware of it. Messages you've received from parents, siblings, colleagues, and even your really smart friends who genuinely want the best for you may not actually line up with what *you* want or know in your heart. This has the potential to be particularly damaging if you're not in the habit of practicing self-awareness.
To be totally transparent and raw with all of you, I'll tell you what my number 1 challenge is: self-doubt. And because it's literally my job to do so, I spend time examining my thoughts and feelings whenever that enters. First of all, I try to stay curious instead of going into self-flagellation mode. As someone who has experienced a lot of success in my life, I know that voice of self-doubt is full of $#%. So why does it keep coming up?
Here's what I've discovered about my own hang up. Since a very young age, I've been taught that showing up as myself is a problem. As you can probably tell, I'm a truth teller. A lot of people ain't trying to hear that. Truth makes them confront icky stuff and once they know about the icky stuff, they can't unknow it. That creates a discomfort, even if it's subconscious, that is actually there to force them to confront the inconvenient truth. It totally depends on the person how much discomfort it will take to do something about it, or how drastic the measures taken will be to avoid it (self-medicating with alcohol, spending, affairs, etc).
For me, it was always "don't say that" or "you're intimidating" or "your approach makes people uncomfortable." Here's the really important thing to know, if you get nothing else from this:
How people react to you is about their expectations, not about who you are as a person.
I believe this is a lesson we are all here to learn. That being you is where it's at. You just have to find the courage to keep on showing up even when it makes others uncomfortable.
I recently discovered that I was allowing the perspectives of others to influence how I was showing up with a business I decided to start before I left my corporate career. I joined a network marketing company that I totally believe in and is 100% aligned with my interest in helping people physically show up in a way that's authentic to who they are. But, there are so many misconceptions and stereotypes about network marketing that I was letting others' hangups on how to or how not to integrate that into my coaching business interfere with how I was thinking/doing/planning around it all. I had to take a step back and discover the solution from my own perspective. Now that I know what *I* want to do and what works for me, I realized I was letting others' beliefs guide me, which is why it felt wrong.
You are here to be uniquely you. Decisions and habits that run counter to that should be identified, examined, and honestly confronted within your own mind so you can make empowered choices that allow you to show up as you.
Hiding creates a sense of shame where none should exist. Are you hiding yourself?
First published on SheKC.