Thursday, June 29, 2017

The times they are a'changin'

I had two interesting conversations today at work. Both surprised me - and I'm not often genuinely surprised by the things people say to me, or about me. So here I am again...

Humility, true humility, is something I think many of us struggle with. I know I do. I know that I am capable in many areas of life. I hesitate to say I am gifted because I know many people who are far more gifted than I am. I'm more of a generalist. I do a lot of things really well, but nothing really excellently. There are few things that I am not capable of doing well if I really apply myself to them (of course, I'm too lazy & selfish to really apply myself).

In addition, growing up I was thin, tall and stereotypically beautiful. Given all this, I felt guilty. I felt guilty that I was blessed with so much, while others were not. I felt guilty for other people feeling uncomfortable around me. I felt guilty for being so much better at things than others, for things coming so easily to me. So I developed a habit of always downplaying myself, never accepting compliments. And as we all know, bad habits stick.

Why do I tell you this? Because today I was reminded of how far I have come, and how far I have yet to go. I've learnt to accept myself more, but I still find it hard to overcome my learnt responses. I still struggle to accept compliments. Now, however, it's not because I am trying to downplay my own abilities, but rather because I see myself more truly than those who see only the outside of me, and I find myself wanting.

Today I was given a compliment that I have the ability to write excellently phrased letters to parents seemingly effortlessly. I caught myself trying to deflect - I know I don't get it right all the time. Before I could though, this person told me I should blog, because I write so beautifully. Well! Blogging is a TOTALLY different skill to drafting letters - there I go again, trying to deflect (even though it's true). But the comment got me thinking. Why did I stop blogging? If I'm honest, I stopped blogging because I felt I had nothing to say. I didn't want to just rehash things everyone else was talking about - there are others who said it first and so much better than I ever could. I also felt curtailed in writing about the things I really wanted to say and reflect upon, because of professionalism. That left me with nothing much to say.

And there is nothing worse than reading a blog post that has neither substance nor direction, that skirts around the issues, or says nothing in particular and everything in general. If I wrote, I wanted it to be because it was genuine, heart-warming, thought-provoking, life enhancing, pleasurable, something, anything other than boring and mundane. I may not write for others to read - I write so that my children can look back and get to know the real me, and so that I can look back and see how (hopefully) I've stopped being quite so pretentious - but I do like to be read, acknowledged. And if people are going to read my writing, I want it to have some sort of meaning.

I suppose the lack of writing, of feeling I had neither something to say, nor something worthwhile to say, was actually symptomatic of a much deeper issue - the fact that I was bored with myself; that my life had become narrow and grey and lifeless.

It was into that context that the second conversation took place. The second person also complimented me, by saying that I have been a different person this year - glowing with inner beauty. (Wow! Really??) This person asked what I'd changed. Initially I had no answer, but as we chatted I realised that what had changed was my attitude. When I went to the Global Leadership Conference last year (I try to go every year. It is an incredible event!), I realised that I was burnt out, and that unless I made some significant changes in my life, I was going to end up on medication for depression, possibly suicidal.

So I found myself a mentor, and she has been holding me accountable for implementing the changes I identified that I needed to make. As I've made the changes, and tried to stick with it (some months are better than others), I've found that my life has been richer, happier, broader.

And so maybe it is time to see whether I have stuff to say again. Maybe my first colleague is right - maybe I should be a blogger again, in practice, not just in name. It may well be that what I want to say and reflect upon I can't really, for professional reasons, but maybe I've recovered enough of myself to have other things to talk about. The times they are a-changin'...
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