As seems to be traditional at this time of year, I have spent some time in the last week or so reflecting on my year.
It’s been a year of exponential change.
On the work front, I left my “successful” career as a tax litigator and established Louise Lewis Coaching.
Starting a business is a scary experience and that internal monologue we all have from time to time threw up its fair share of objections. Will anyone want to work with me? What if I am no good at coaching? What do I know about running a business? What if I walk away from law and then fail?
I identified and worked through (an ongoing process) many thought patterns and beliefs that weren’t conducive to the life I wanted to create or the way I wanted to feel. For example, I had a belief that “success” means working hard and that working hard requires a level of sacrifice and suffering. I now know that is just a story and it doesn’t need to be that way.
Underlying much of the self-development work I have done this year was the fact that burning myself out wasn’t something I wanted to experience again and so if things were going to be different, I needed to be different. I decided that meant working through everything that was getting in my way and letting go of all the stories I had been telling myself that were no longer helping me.
I now feel brave and delighted to have discovered a career that lights me up and gives me a sense of purpose that was previously lacking.
However, to get to that place, I have had to work through some pretty intense feelings of failure and shame.
Of anger with myself that I failed to take care of myself so spectacularly that I ended up being signed off from work with stress.
Of shame that I harped on about wellbeing and taking care of yourself and yet I didn’t do that for myself.
Of confusion that I had a “successful” job and life I “should” have been grateful for, but that left me feeling anything but.
Of worrying that others would think I had failed, that I couldn’t hack it – only to realise that that worry was simply a reflection of how I was feeling about myself – a deep seated judgement that I wasn’t good enough.
On a personal level, the best way I can describe the year is that it has been the start of a journey to return home to myself.
To understand who I am and what I want.
To remove the shackles that come with a fear of judgement, a need for approval and a longing to be loved and accepted. A year of learning to love myself again and to demonstrate that love in my actions and my thoughts (the thoughts required some work – I have a very loud inner critic that likes to tell me I am not good enough, that I need to work harder, to be more and do more).
I have learned to relax. To breathe. To practice self-care and self-compassion. It’s marvellous (and at the same time of course it’s ongoing – every day is never going to be sunshine and unicorns).
It has been a remarkable year.
There is a lightness to me that I don’t think I have felt before.
I am making a difference with the work I am doing – and that feels amazing. A sense of purpose is different for us all, but it’s essential.
Moving from a place where you have created a tick box version of success to a place where you feel successful is awesome. But it isn’t easy. Working with someone to help you navigate this can make all the difference.
On a practical note, giving yourself the ability to make choices in your life really helps. I saved well over the ten years I worked in the legal profession and had a buffer that gave me the space to be able to start again. Not having to worry about finances (even though I still did worry about finances!) definitely helped.
My words for 2020 are nourish and explore and I am curious to see what evolves.