“You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path –
not your successes or failures.” Elizabeth Gilbert
Hi I’m Nikki, and I am a quitter. Well, this is what I would have told you if you’d met me earlier this year. You see, I have left two full time jobs in the last 18 months. I would have told you the reason I had quit for the second time was because I had failed, that it was too much responsibility for me and I wasn’t cut out for it – and there is absolutely truth to this – I was not coping in my role. But today, with the benefit of hindsight I have a different theory, one that is kinder and has a teensy bit more perspective. This is largely thanks to me being ready to listen to my inner voice, who, bless her heart, has been fighting through a swamp of self-doubt and fear to reach me. Soz babe.
When I first decided to hand in my resignation back in December 2016 and hit the road travelling, I did it because I had a strong desire for change. I could feel myself being pigeonholed into a career path that had a clear road to success, but lacked the heart and creativity I wanted deep down. Quitting felt reckless (I had been working and studying solidly since leaving high school), but I knew I needed to properly ‘detach’ myself from my current path to give myself a good chance of finding a new direction.
Nine months, four countries, a pile of books and 7,000 soy flat whites later, I was ready to go back to work and find out what my next adventure would be. Unfortunately, the employment market wasn’t as excited to see me as I thought it would be. After weeks of applying for jobs, I wasn’t getting a single interview. I panicked, and my ego, who did not like the idea of going from #travelling to #unemployed helpfully pointed out “If we don’t get a job soon, people are going to start judging us”. And so I ended up back with my previous employer, (who, thank god, were happy to have me) and in a job that was a great opportunity with a great team and everything was great great great!
You know where this is going don’t you…
Sigh. Every day I felt like I was walking through wet cement and my mind was foggy and unreliable. Initially I shrugged it off as ‘holiday brains’ (of course it would take time to adjust!) but instead of improving in the role and finding my feet, I started to feel more and more out of control and was constantly in a state of distress. This lasted for 6 months, and for most of that time I felt completely disconnected from myself and the world around me. I withdrew from family and friends, utterly confused as to why I was struggling so much when I had so many things to be grateful for. Mortified, but feeling like I didn’t have another choice, I quit.
The beauty of having a friend like Nikkola, the founder of Conscious Living Project, is having someone who helps me see things from a different perspective. Nikkola sees growth instead of failure, and opportunity instead of endings. She helped me to understand that this was not about me failing at a job, or being a quitter. It was about having the courage to listen to my inner voice, show myself some freaking compassion and have the courage to make a really difficult decision.
Over the years I have become a master at ignoring my inner voice. This has resulted in me ending up in a career that doesn’t use the best parts of me, staying in relationships that I didn’t want to be in and generally being pretty shit at backing myself. I don’t think I’m alone unfortunately, and that’s because the reasons for us to ignore our inner voice can seem really compelling when we’re in the thick of it all.
You don’t deserve it
When we see our colleagues working horrendous hours for little or no joy, our friends putting up with unhappy relationships or family members dealing with serious health or financial issues, our own problems and desire for change can seem trivial. If everyone else can put up with feeling this way, why shouldn’t we? On we trudge.
The thing is – you don’t take anything away from anyone else when you reach for something you care about, or show yourself compassion. By stepping into your purpose and choosing a path that actually means something to you – you’re only going to enrich the lives of those you care about. Don’t forget, your ability to be there for people with empathy and joy only increases when you give those gifts to yourself as well.
You might fail
“You girls expect to know everything right away! It’s absurd!” My Mum often laughs at the way my sister and I beat ourselves up when we make mistakes or don’t have the answers. If we can’t do something perfectly the first time, we think we have failed.
The jury has long been out on this one – I think everyone can accept that failure is a necessary part of the road to ‘success.’ But it’s still such a scary thing for many of us, especially when we are thinking about trying something new or making a big change. When failure comes up as a blockage for you – ask yourself, why am I worried about failing? What do I think will happen if I fail? Will I regret failing more than I regret not trying at all? Remember, making mistakes, starting again, changing direction, these aren’t signs that something is a failure, they’re signs that something exciting is happening!
What will people think?
It can be really scary to let go of ideas of who we think we are and make space for other parts of ourselves to flourish. Personal growth or change is often just that – personal, and the people in our lives might not know we’re going through something transformational until we have a breakthrough (like quitting one’s job for the second time! LOL).
Worrying about what people will think of our choices is really normal, but I think it’s important to stop and reflect on if it’s really what other people think that is creating barriers for us, or what we think of ourselves. The answer might surprise you.
Fear told me I didn’t deserve to take my time to find my path after such a long holiday, and that I would probably fail in my search anyway. Fear told me people were looking, and judging me on what I would do next. Fear, I learned, wasn’t actually super helpful in the end.
I’m Nikki, and I am getting better at listening to my inner voice
Even though it was traumatic, I realise I had to go through my experience to really learn the lesson of backing myself. I know my inner voice has more delightful teaching moments in store for me and that she won’t always lead me down comfortable or easy paths, but I trust her enough now to know that what is at the end will be always be worth it.
So what do I want people to learn from my experience? The next time you find yourself faltering at a crossroad, instead of consulting your fear, give your inner voice control of Google maps and see where life takes you. After all, if you never never go, you’ll never never know!