By George, I think she’s got it!

3 years ago, I sat down in the middle of my life and refused to budge until I figured out why it wasn’t working.

I have learned a lot about myself since then.

I have learned that I am an introvert
(“No way!”
“Way!”)

I have learned that I’m an HSP, and what that is. These days, I think of myself as a “deep engager.” I’m not sure how much of that is introvert, how much is HSPS, and how much is my unique personality, but wherever it comes from, it’s a good description.

These days, I think of myself as a “deep engager.”

This improved self-understanding has allowed me to acknowledge without shame or apology that the following characteristics in a job make me miserable:

  1. Multi-tasking
  2. Frequent interruptions and/or changes of plan
  3. Deadlines
  4. Being watched and/or micro-managed while working
  5. Repetitive tasks
  6. Heavy interaction with a lot of different people
  7. Having to be nice to people who are not nice to me, or otherwise pretend to be someone I’m not
  8. Lack of recognition/respect
  9. A competitive, critical, blaming work environment
  10. Never being at a job long enough to develop expertise

Characteristics 1 through 7 on the list above might as well be the job description for my previous profession. Literally. Pick any 10 craigslist ads for my former job title, and at least three of the first seven characteristics on my list will appear in the job description for all 10 of them. All seven of the characteristics will apply to 9 out of 10 of the actual jobs, whether in the description or not. And as for items 8-9, they won’t be advertised in any of the ads, but they will rear up their ugly heads in at least 7 of the 10 jobs.

Obviously I needed to change professions.

But it’s the last item on the list that was taking the heaviest toll of all, though I was only slightly aware of it.

If I can digress here for a minute (try and stop me!), remember how I was surprised when the Achiever strength resonated for me recently? Always feeling that I hadn’t done enough wasn’t something I had really thought about, but as soon as I read it I knew it was true of me. What I didn’t identify with so much in the description for that strength was being a hard worker. Not that I’m a slacker but I just don’t think of myself that way (perhaps because I always feel like I haven’t done enough!).

Whaddaya know. I am a hard worker after all, if I truly own the project.

That’s in the past tense now.  For the past two weeks I have been working my tail off about 16 hours a day, building a website, writing content for it, figuring out tools and structures to manage client information and calendaring information, following up on client leads, and all the other million and one details of starting a business. I forget to eat. I stay up till 2 and jump out of bed at 7 to get back to my many projects. Whaddaya know. I am a hard worker after all, if I truly own the project.

If I’d thought about it, I’d have realized that I get this way about writing too, but with my work and financial situations up in the air for three long years, it’s been awhile since I could allow myself to become that immersed. I always felt like I should be doing something else (see, Achiever), some mysterious something that would still feel good, but with income attached. Well, now I am.

I’ve been working my way up to an epiphany of self-understanding for months, and here it is: Being undirected is poisonous to me.

I’ve been working my way up to an epiphany of self-understanding for months, and here it is: Being undirected is poisonous to me.

There have been signs that some new insight was in the wind. For example, a couple of months back, I cleared out all the clothes I never wear from my closet. I have no clothing budget so my closet is pretty bare now – I literally have nothing to wear. Not that I was wearing any of that stuff anyhow.

It seemed like a spontaneous act at the time, not related to anything in particular. But looking back, I can see the empowering symbolism of letting go of all the potential mes that I’m not, can’t be, don’t even want to be that were embodied in the clothes I never wore. I’ve been on the fence for most of my life, and I finally understand it’s the worst possible place for a person with my personality to be. There’s no outlet for my driven side, and without that, I don’t know who I am. And if I don’t know who I am, how can I respect myself?

While I noticed that leaving a job just when I was getting good at it was frustrating, I was more concerned about the effect on my resume and my wallet. But I got my priorities wrong there. The erosion to my confidence and my sense of having a place in the world was far deeper, more enduring, and more devastating, because it impacted my sense of identity, not just my situation.

I’ve been on the fence for most of my life, and I finally understand it’s the worst possible place for a person with my personality to be. There’s no outlet for my driven side, and without that, I don’t know who I am. And if I don’t know who I am, how can I respect myself?

It always seemed to me that men were much more concerned with having a professional identity than women are. Not that we don’t care, but there are other pillars to female identity besides our work. I even thought this might be one of the (IMO) few gender characteristics that is actually biological rather than cultural, since male animals of many species expend a substantial proportion of their energy on self-display and jockeying for position.

But I am now recognizing that woman though I may be, it’s vital to me to have a public persona that feels both true, and worthy of respect. It changes everything. I stand a little taller. I interact differently with people. I trust my inner compass.

I don’t think I mentioned that my new business is going well, did I? My perfect first client is now a return customer several times over. She is thrilled with what she has accomplished and I’m thrilled with her sense of accomplishment. I feel so useful. My constant Achiever consciousness of how much I have yet to learn is balanced, as she reflects back to me how much I already know.

I got my second client before I even had time to worry about whether that would ever happen, or to figure out how to market myself. It looks like I’m really onto something!

My constant Achiever consciousness of how much I have yet to learn is balanced, as she reflects back to me how much I already know.

And as for time to write, I dictated this post into my phone on my way to and from the grocery store.

My financial woes aren’t over yet. Money is already coming in, but not enough. I’m pleased to discover that I don’t need a new client for every session, but I still need a steady stream of them to make ends meet.

Yet I’m oddly unconcerned about that, half because I haven’t had the time to worry, and half because I can finally see the light at the end of the poverty tunnel, and believe, that I can earn money, and be happy, and be myself.

Everything else is just logistics.

A rising sun shines through trees to illuminate a path

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