If you had met me ten years ago I would have said: "I don't like change". Its a mindset that kept me in a career that I knew wasn't right for me within 12 months of starting work. It had been the culmination of a four-year degree, it meant financial stability and making my family proud of me (where all else seemed to have failed). It meant I was paid a salary, not hourly. It meant I was an adult, or so I thought.
I recall a telephone conversation with a parent which went something along the lines of "I really think that I don't want to stay in this job..." and being told, "No-one likes their jobs, it's just something we have to do."
The shame that I experienced in that brief exchange shaped my life for the next ten years. It kept me in a job where I felt belittled, denigrated and patronised for the majority of my time there. And yet, I stayed. I toyed with the idea of leaving many times. I even got external job offers. Yet something held me back. I wasn't able to make the jump from the unpleasant yet familiar place that I had come to depend upon for my self-esteem.
That's a common occurrence when we are looking to make change - the fear around "Who am I if not .....x?". For me, it was who am I if I'm not an IT Consultant. Feeling important and working 5 days a week in London while my personal life took a back-seat. That might be fine for a few months, but we are talking 10 years. 10 years is a long time to umm and ahh about a decision. And yet sitting here on the other side of that decision, and reflecting upon the courage, hope, optimism, and often wavering self-belief that it took to get here, I only wish that I had done it sooner. I'll come back to self-esteem and the limits that we put on ourselves next week in Part 2.
I've been reading this article in The Guardian about teachers' experiences and burnout. And I can relate. Plus I have a number of friends who are teachers - or should I say I have a number of friends who were teachers. Being in a toxic work environment has a profoundly negative effect on our lives, and it's not just limited to the time we are at our desks or in our place of work.
Now we take our work home with us, we have a mobile phone that our employers "kindly" provide. Similarly a laptop. We are always on, permanently connected to the prospect of work, stress, anxiety and worry. Some of us use work to fill a hole in our lives. The irony is that if we had a different job that demanded less of us then we might fill that hole with something else. Something true to us and more purposeful.
If I've described anything here that you relate to, the good news is there are a few things you can do right now which might help.
In fact, I've done this myself only recently.
Turn all of your smartphone app notifications off.
I mean completely off.
If you have the genuine need to be contactable - for example if you have children attending childcare, or perhaps a sick parent - or if you just feel like not being reachable would be too anxiety-inducing for you then, by all means, leave the ringer and text notification on. If you need your phone for your business leave it on. I'm not suggesting we regress here.
But no app notifications.
No, not even eBay.
Try it for a day and let me know how you feel in the comments.
Laura is an online talking therapist and writer specialising in working with millennials and the LGBTQI+ community.