Balance has been on my mind. I accept that I have created a life that includes working for someone else. I understand that I put myself through University and CA classes in order to become of member of the Chartered Accountancy profession. I wanted to be a professional. I wanted a stable career. I wanted these things because I wanted to provide for my family. I wanted to be a responsible member of society. These are not bad things. Nothing is good or bad. It really depends on your perspective. I understand that too. I imagine that an artist would probably despise the path I chose. They would not understand the choice. To an artist, this life would be torture. Then, they would make a different choice. The choice they would likely make would be one I would find scary, unknown and I would not have been able to make that choice in the past.
Career and work life balance
My career choice has a lot of benefits, but there are also elements I do not appreciate as much. Lately, I have allowed work to take over my life. I work long hours and, for the first time in a long time I worked all weekend last week. I had a report to write that was important, not only to our office, and to the client, but the report was important to me. The one thing I love most about my work is helping the client and working with a team. Our team is a good team. The people are brilliant. However, there are also politics and a way of doing things in my firm that are simply the reality of the many people that work for the firm. There is an unspoken rule about how many hours we should work. If you want to get ahead, you just work, day, night and weekends. There is hardly ever an eyebrow raised when this is discussed. It is the norm. Expected. The way it is.
Perception of reality
That is «their» perception of reality. It is clashing with mine now. I do not believe in working this way. I want something different. I just do not know what that is right now.
This year I truly believed would be my year to thrive. In October, they had spoken of a promotion for me and I latched onto that. I imagine this was a good step for me to attain. The title would reflect appreciation for my work and that I had succeeded in some way.
To that end, I took on many projects, with the goal of proving I could do it. I wanted to prove I was capable of multi-tasking so many projects for a large client, I wanted to prove I was able to coach our team, deliver, and manage the complexities that come with a large global client and their politics. I wanted to prove I could do all of that – and of course, I may have gone overboard. I was told that I was 85% there – I was told what I needed to work on to make it. So my goal was to be 100%. Perfection.
Whose perception of perfection?
Perfection is a lofty goal. In making the choice I made, I ensured that I could not attain it. I have come to realise that I was relying on other people’s perception of what perfect is. In striving to attain this promotion, in making my choices based on other people’s perceptions, I forgot about something – myself. What do I believe is good enough? What do I believe perfection is? I also forgot the most important question – why do I want this promotion and does it really prove success? Whose definition of success? What do I believe now?
I was asked to work with a new client, with a team outside my department. This is supposed to be a good thing. I was happy to learn something new, get different experience and add that to my portfolio of clients. My department told me it is good to work with other departments, but then followed that with a message that I may be putting my current clients at risk. In their view, I have little time to spare until my vacation and I will most likely work nights to make all this possible. They were very concerned about this report I had to deliver. I responded that I was already working nights and this was not an issue – like a good little worker.
In my department, there is no room for any mistake, it would appear. For every good thing I achieve, I am always told of something to work on, to improve. The idea is to keep people striving to be the best, compete, and keep getting better. From where I sit, after 9 months of working this way, I do not feel appreciated, I feel overworked and overwhelmed and I find myself wondering what I am doing this all for?
That report, I gave my 100%. I know I did. I re-read that report, I ensured no detail was missed, I ensured all the links were made, I ensured I covered the major points for this client. The client is what was most important to me. I also knew my report would be reviewed, and changed, modified, ripped apart by the senior people in my office.
Then something happened. I stopped caring about what they thought. It was very uncomfortable this week. I was told this and that about my report. Some of the advice was good and I took it, but I never once believed I was not good enough and that my report was not good. I did not listen when the conversation got negative and in my opinion, of no value. I remained professional and calm. I watched as the person rewrote my sentences to fit their view. It was then that I knew – I would never be 100% for these people. I would never be perfect and they would always do this. So I surrendered and I have stopped wanting to achieve perfection in their eyes.
I started to relax a bit. I decided that I would question other people’s perception of me. Just because someone believes something about me does not make it true. They may believe I am lacking in some way, but I no longer do. I have decided to be happy with the way I am now. I am always willing to improve and be better, but not at the expense of my self-esteem, self-acceptance and self worth. I have decided to pat myself on the back more often for every little thing I am able to achieve in a day. I have decided to provide even more positive feedback, more frequently to my team. I have decided to let the water roll off my back – like a duck. I am tired of trying to please and achieve in order to receive validation from other people where my work is concerned. I have decided that my validation is important. My perception of myself is key. These decisions did not come in anger. I feel no resentment towards anyone. I just gave up on trying to get their approval. It is no longer necessary. I have given up on the promotion as well. It is no longer my goal. My goal now is to be happy with me, do the best I can and try to improve on myself, for myself. If they appreciate my work, that is a bonus, if they do not, that is not my problem. I know I have a generally good relationship with my clients. I was told by one partner that the client was impressed with our conversation. I was happy with it, and so that comment was received with appreciation. It confirmed for me that I am not crazy, that I do know what I am doing. I already thought that the conversation had gone well and then I received confirmation. Not validation.
I came to all this realization stuff because I have been thinking of my mother. She always thought the best of me and was proud. I never accepted that fully, until now. I imagine she would not be happy to see me doubt myself and place my beliefs about myself in the hands of other people. Therefore, I am going to make her proud and love myself as she did. In this way she lives on. I am also happier as a result. Not perfect.
There will be more consequences to thinking this way – my goals will be to learn about balancing my work with my life. I will re-invest in myself as I had started doing in early April – re-implement my routine of training consistently, and not haphazardly as is the current situation. My vacation is coming up and I have made the decision to go away, by myself for 7 days. I will ensure self-care is part of my daily routine. They say it takes 21 days to break or make a habit. The 14 days remaining of my vacation will be to implement my strategy. It is my year to thrive – for myself, not for other people. I get to define what thrive means for me. I get to decide how I want to thrive. Progress, not perfection. Life and living, not slaving away for other people’s validation. If I choose to work hard, it will be for me, or because I choose to do so to help a client. I will no longer struggle for some promotion or to get approval or validation. I have proof that this does not work and I have decided to stop the circle of insanity- doing the same thing over and over expecting different results.
It is time for me to set goals based on what I love and my perception of reality. You know, all this unpleasant, stressful stuff is not fun, but I persevered and never give up, and got through it. I see the lessons that were to be learned. It is time, to let go of resistance and struggle, it is time to reap the benefits of these experiences. Self-care is more important than anything and that is now my new goal. I am now thankful for the experiences that led to this conclusion. If it were not for that, maybe I never would have realized that I was imbalanced and not really taking care of me in all the ways that really matter. Life really does happen for me and not to me. I can remain positive and optimistic. It also helps that my vacation starts in 21 days. I will keep visualizing the ocean where I intend to be, on my own, for 7 days YaY!!!! Have a great week!