Hi there! My name is Lilly. I’m a Junior Digital Marketing Executive here at PFM, and I joined the team just about a month ago. On my second day as a PFM’er I had my first team meeting. Although I had an idea of what the company was like and had already met the team members, when the call started something hit me… Yes, I’m in the right place!
Now, this article was initially going to be about the importance of representation in the workplace. But I realised that wasn’t exactly what I wanted to communicate. I do feel represented by this team, but the point I wanted to address was the fact that this only is the case because I made a conscious decision to look for a work environment in which I felt welcomed. I enabled that – and that is the topic of this article.
The damned voices in my head
Making the decision to join this team – and taking the step to turn that into reality – was a huge milestone in my personal journey. Mainly because the voices in my head have been, for the most part of my life, pretty damn loud and consequently detrimental to my own progress and happiness.
So I sought help in all ways I could, and today I will share with you some of what I’ve learned so far in this ongoing journey. And if this article resonates with you, I encourage you to seek help too.
Where do the voices come from?
We all have voices in our heads, and to some extent we all let them be obstacles to ourselves. These voices start forming in early life.
As wee babies, we have an exceptional ability to absorb information. Sometimes, the information we are exposed to can be interpreted in a distorted way, since babies don’t really understand the world. And other times, the information is already distorted from its source: take John – Peter’s son. Peter hasn’t dealt with his personal issues and unfortunately takes it out on poor little Johnny by telling him he is worthless.
When we are children, some of the things we learnt – beneficial or not – are starting to solidify. We unconsciously seek information that confirms these things and avoid information that challenges it, even when it feels forceful and wrong.
So if John listened to his dad, the type of friends he’ll keep close are most likely going to be bullies who put him down. He will avoid potentially caring friendships, because even though they would probably be better for him, they challenge the information that he is worthless. It’s not familiar to him – and we tend to feel a sense of safety in what’s familiar, even when it’s not safe at all!
By the time we become adults, these storylines have been repeated for decades. We blindly believe and replicate them – it doesn’t cross our minds that our reality might be distorted and can be questioned and changed.
John won’t even question his marriage to Karen, he thinks he belongs in a relationship where he feels worthless. He also distorts information to fit his belief: when his boss congratulates him on a task he accomplished really well, he finds reasons to prove to himself that his boss is wrong. He seeks circumstances that enable him to ‘keep him where he belongs’, and anything that shows him differently, he stays away from.
Although John feels the illusion of safety by maintaining this storyline alive, he also feels pretty bloody unhappy. But how can he change that in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life?
Pop the bubble
In a nutshell, you have to stop the cycle. Obviously, easier said than done! So I broke it down into two steps to make it more digestible.
Step 1: build self awareness
Being aware of the problem is the first step to changing it. But if these long formed beliefs go unquestioned, how can you change them?
There is a song by the Brazilian group Secos & Molhados that says:
‘Those who have conscience to have courage,
Those who have the strength to know that they exist
And in the centre of their own gear,
invent the counter-spring that resists’
Whenever I hear this tune, I sing it at the top of my lungs. It serves as a reminder that as human beings, we were given the gift that is the ability to be self aware. It’s in our hands to use it to reinvent ourselves. That’s an extremely powerful thing, but one that we need to practise in order to expand.
There are many things you can do to build self awareness. Below you will see some of the things that help me:
- Seek to learn and improve
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Meet new people
- Be curious
- Identify your triggers
- Choose your role models consciously
- Go to therapy
- Question your thoughts
- Tune in with your feelings
- Talk and listen (for real)
- Trust your gut
- Understand your core values
Step 2: Seek out healthy environments
When we are living our dysfunctional storylines, we seek circumstances that enable them to stay alive. Once you are aware of what your storylines are (step 1), you will then need to make a conscious decision to create healthy environments.
That can be challenging because seeking healthier circumstances pushes you out of what you unconsciously consider safe, so you might feel scared to do so. But you have to push through that fear anyway… Trust me, it’s worth it!
Some of the main aspects of your environment are friendships, romantic relationships, family, work, places you go to, content you consume. In John’s case, he can either work with Karen to change their relationship dynamic or if she’s not willing, he can find a partner who doesn’t trigger his feelings of worthlessness like Karen does. At work, he will learn to allow himself to accept his boss’ compliments, and in case he is bullied by his colleagues, he can speak up or find a healthier work environment. With his dad Peter, John can choose to talk about how his behaviour has affected him, or if Peter is not willing to listen, John can choose to stop welcoming his father into his life (or whatever solution seems the best in his personal case).
The voices won’t go away
If you read the title of this article again, you will see that I didn’t mention anything about getting rid of the voices. They won’t go away. But that’s not a problem – when you are aware of them, it’s in your control to turn down their volume. If I’m doing it… You can do it too!
I could go on and on about this topic! – if you’d like to chat, please get in touch at email@example.com