by Victoria Lister, Brisbane, Australia
In the last couple of months I’ve been exploring the option of setting aside my role as a self-employed consultant to return to regular employment, and have been looking at various jobs. My work had slowed down over the last six months and I was starting to feel the next step would need to be a practical one, to bring in more income.
I’ve changed jobs – and careers – many times before, but I’ve never brought to the process the kind of honesty I’m bringing to it now. In fact I’ve used this time to reflect on my working life as a whole, a chapter of which I’ve already written about in Celebrity Chef or Self-loving Chef:Where is the Love in the Work that We Do?.
For example, as explored in that article, I’ve only just realised I have never, ever taken on a work-related role because I knew it would sustain or nourish me, physically, emotionally, financially or personally. Instead, I’d start or swap careers and jobs for any other reason but, such as:
– career progression/ambition,
– professional development/prestige,
– out of a misplaced sense of responsibility,
– to satisfy an immediate need for cash,
– because it was close to home or suited my schedule,
– because I thought I needed something in a hurry,
– because it matched my ‘values’ more than the last role,
– because someone else thought it would be a good idea,
– out of curiosity,
– for the thrill of the challenge,
– because I was asked to help, or
– combinations thereof.
Again, as described in the article on my work as a chef, these poor choices would eventually take their toll on my health. In fact a recent role, one I now see I undertook for several of these reasons, resulted in years of what was little more than abuse and a subsequent physical backlash. This has shown me that although I have done much to raise my self-awareness, there are still areas I’ve yet to shine a light on: the ‘hidden drivers’ fuelling my work choices have been particularly tricky to grasp, perhaps because work has always been something I’ve had a really big investment in.
I had an interview with an organisation just the other day. Before the day rolled around, I (thankfully) identified a belief lurking behind my interest in this particular role: I had a very distorted notion that on some level I was there to ‘save’ the organisation. Having called it out, I looked forward to simply attending the interview in order to understand if the role and organisation would be suitable for me, rather than trying to ‘sell’ or shoehorn myself into a job or a place that didn’t feel right. Reading the excellent article Love, Quality and Integrity at Work beforehand really helped with this process.
The good news was, having no attachment to the outcome meant the interview was easy. Having done my research on the role in days prior and on the day of, I barely thought about it. When it came to the interview, there was work to be done in the minutes beforehand in developing responses to reasonably complex questions, but I found I was able to move through them systematically; come answer-time, I was fluid and confident in my responses.
Later, I reflected on what I learned when given the opportunity to ask questions of my own, and from other clues I’d picked up on before and during the interview. I found that it confirmed the feelings I’d had prior to attending: it wasn’t right for me at this time. In fact, it would in many ways have been a direct re-run of roles I’d chosen before, with no thought for myself. So although it was very attractive to me in terms of what my mind wanted, in my heart I knew if I accepted this job I would be starting yet another cycle of self-abuse, and my health – already vulnerable at this time, would have taken another beating. So even though I don’t yet know the outcome of the interview, I have already decided not to take the job if offered. This has been a big shift for me.
At the same time, I have begun to realise that my own small business is worthy of appreciation. I had been mentally running it down, simply because it hasn’t been ‘performing’. But what if things had simply lulled in order to allow me to address my health issues, to give me time to reflect and heal? What if it is in fact a wonderful reflection of me, of my creativity in business and in general? That it contains within it a special quality that I can then share with others? Fully appreciating that my business is an expression of me feels like a lovely confirmation of both me and the business, for in truth they are one and the same. In other words, it has been me that I’ve not been whole-heartedly appreciating.
Over the time all of this has been unfolding, I have received several calls; three from new clients with viable prospects of work, and one offering an almost unheard of opportunity to work in a collaborative and potentially very supportive partnership, which I’d initially failed to appreciate in my rush to apply for the big, exciting job. Now I can feel how supportive this opportunity is, and how choosing to stay with myself – and the business that is a wonderful expression of me – will allow me to work at a pace that sustains and nourishes me.
Nourish is a word I’ve never thought to apply to work. Yet if the time comes once more when I do need to reconsider my options, I will really question my motives and make sure my next choice is a self-loving and nourishing one – not the product of a bunch of ideals and beliefs that have little to do with the real me.