I’ve been feeling uninspired in my work, and want to figure out if there’s something I can do to shift this. I don’t know how to change this feeling, but I do know that the warm breeze that clings to my skin and the eruption of beautiful flowers blooming outside my house inspires me to think about the things I need to let go of.
It’s Spring 2018, and I’m doing some digital spring cleaning.
I’ve been clearing out my inbox. I’m sending old emails to the trash and unsubscribing from lists that no longer serve me.
Clearing out my digital inbox gave me the idea that I could also clear out my mental inbox.
I could use this same technique to clear my mental clutter and unsubscribe from narratives that were no longer serving me.
By taking my name (and my mental space) off of things that no longer served me, I could make more room for the things that matter. And it felt good. Like really good. So, I just kept going.
- Could I use the same technique and unsubscribe from the beliefs that have been holding me back?
- Could I just hit “unsubscribe” and let go of narratives that were no longer serving me?
- Would doing so allow me to feel more energized and connected to my work?
To get started, I had to get real with myself and reflect on the narratives that I had subscribed to.
Last year, I wrote about James Baldwin’s relationship to narratives. He wrote about how changing the narrative can also change your destiny. I started asking myself about the narratives I was buying into.
- What were the stories I was believing?
- What was I telling myself and others about who I am in the world?
- Which narratives did I think I had let go of, only to find I was still hanging onto them?
1.You have to have it all figured out before you start.
This is a hard one to admit. I generally have gone for things I believed in and taken the risk even when others doubted me, but every now and then it creeps back in. It’s brutal and can be so damaging. I’ve found that this narrative plays out even stronger for me as a woman in a male-dominated space. For example, although I own my own software development company, I have moments where I question my decision and the “you don’t know what you’re doing” narrative is so damn loud. I am unsubscribing from this one. Yep, done.
The new narrative:
- I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m going to do it anyway.
- I’m going to do it because I trust the impact I want to make in the world.
- I also choose to trust my background and experience, and use what I do know to propel me forward.
- The experience I do have is enough of a seed to move forward and start taking action.
I also shift focus: I focus on the impact I want to make, and not the job title I want to have.
think about the impact I want to make instead of focusing on the job I want to have. Every time I remind myself of the impact, then I am aware that I’m doing this work, taking this risk and going for it on behalf of something bigger than me. Knowing my why helps me a lot.
2. In order to find work you love, you can’t bring your full self to your work.
This one hits home. I’m a creative, which means I do many things. I’m a professional poet, own a software development company and sketch out design ideas as a UX Designer.
Does this sound familiar?
I’ve subscribed to this idea that I can only do one thing, and have to hone in on a specific career.
I’m not subscribing to that anymore. It is not serving me, and I’ve realized that not bringing my full self (and my talents) to my work diminishes the impact I have the ability to make.
The poet in me helps the public speaker in me feel confident on stage. The entrepreneur in me helps the poet focus on the business side of being an artist. The artist in me brings a unique perspective to web development. The former teacher in me helps me run a company and work with other people.
We all have nuances, and the issue is not to get rid of them. The challenge is to figure out how to leverage them to be of use and help us move forward.
The new narrative:
- The more I bring all of my nuances (professional and personal) to my work, the more effective I can be in my day to day work.
- The difficult experiences I’ve had make me even more equipped to tell a powerful and inspirational story.
- Bringing my full self to my work is about looking at everything that makes me who I am and deciding to leverage each experience and find a way to make it useful in my daily life. For example, the poet in me allows the public speaker in me to thrive. The entrepreneur in me motivates me to become a professional poet and think not just like an artist, but also like an entrepreneur.
3. You have to be fearless.
I love seeing quotes about “fearless” women, especially as we celebrate Women’s History Month right now. And I used to think I wanted to be fearless, and that being fearless was an important ingredient for my creative work.
This does not work for me. I realized that I do not want to be fearless. Any major work I’ve done has been done on the heels of fear. Fear was staring me down and asking me “what you got.” When I started my poetry career, I always had fear sitting with me each and every time I hit the stage.
Fear was never the issue. I needed my work to challenge me. I need my work to be sprinkled with a dash of fear.
This is what moves me toward the work I’m meant to do in the world. Fear tells me that I’m taking a creative risk and headed in the right direction.
The new narrative:
- I don’t want to fearless.
- I want to own my fears and use fear as an ally.
- This means that sometimes I talk to my fear. Sometimes I write it down and ask “what’s this really about.” Sometimes I ask it to be with me, to show me where I need to do next. I thank it for showing up, for pushing me and for reminding me of what’s important.
What we believe about ourselves and our capacity affects our work. There’s no way around that. For many years, I’ve felt like there were narratives I was believing that were holding me back. I didn’t know what I could do about it until I started cleaning out my email inbox. I had a huge number of email lists to unsubscribe from. I loved how unsubscribing made me feel. I felt lighter . I also felt like there was more space in my inbox for the things I actually served me now.
I decided to apply this same practice to my mental clutter, and ask myself these important questions: What were the narratives that I was unconsciously believing? How were they holding me back as an entrepreneur, as a poet and as a creative person who believes in bringing my full self to my work?
The hardest thing about this was admitting that I still subscribed to some of these narratives. But, I had to take James Baldwin’s approach and say “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
So now I’m learning to unsubscribe each and every day. It’s a daily practice. I have not perfected it yet, but I’ll let you know how things go.
Which narratives will you be unsubscribing from starting now?