It irks me that I am sitting down to write this post so early on in January because I feel like this should either be a look back on 2018 (summary: professionally productive, personally it sucked eggs) or my goals for 2019 (make it out alive).
However, it`s purely a coincidence that I am posting at the start of year.
I am still struggling to get back into any kind of groove of writing about HR…not because there isn`t an abundance of things to talk about, but because there are others who are way better at discussing it. So, I look at my own life for inspiration and I am overwhelmed and limited by things like what to say about PTSD, a challenging relationship with my son, and a growing unease that I will never be alone in my own home ever again.
These all sound depressing, and on certain days I would agree with you; however, I am actually doing well in spite of these…or maybe because of them.
Along with this reflection on topics, I have been re-thinking what platforms I want to continue interacting with and using…in 2018 I easily deleted my Facebook account and haven`t looked back, I continue to love/hate Twitter, and while it`s a bit dusty now, I will likely always have this blog.
Throughout all the struggles, I have had one of the most productive years of my career. Many of the things that have held me back (my confidence, my “voice“, my lack of commitment) all clicked this year.
And while I may have done the leg work, I have to credit my colleagues and friends with making sure I got it done. I don`t consider myself an overly proud person, but I certainly don`t ask for help unless I am really stuck. And even then, it`s done grudgingly and not without giving my self an ass-kicking for needing it.
I am so over that – I had to be. I was at a point where I could not move forward without help and I was too mentally and physically exhausted to care what it looked like or any judgement that I thought was going to come my way. So I asked. And I asked some more. And not only did I get help, but I also got stronger. Not only did people not judge me, but they respected me for asking.
With respect to the “voice“ thing – I really hate the expression “finding your voice“ because I have never lost my voice – I hear it…ALL. THE. TIME in my head. My issue is actually using my voice…I have a lot going on in my head and want to say so much, but I have this filter that prevents me from just saying what I think…it analyzes what I am about to say, considers how it will land, tries to predict what the response will be, anticipates what I will say next…gauges whether the conversation is worth the potential fall-out/ reaction/ value…and then allows a diluted version of what I really wanted to say out, if I actually decide to say something.
And it is because of this entire process that I have been coached to speak up more at meetings and to share my opinion. It`s even been linked to my introverted personality. The truth is, I never shut up. The reality is that most people just can`t hear what I am saying. Seeing how it`s in my head.
So, being able to over-ride this filters means putting myself out there in an uncomfortable way, being vulnerable. This is something that sounds weak, but is actually very powerful. Speaking up and sharing with people you concerns, your uncertainties, your worries, your struggles…once you start doing it…is actually quite liberating and connects you with people in ways that wouldn`t have otherwise.
At work, we talk to our managers about being more vulnerable at work. This scares the shit out of a lot of people. Truthfully, as an HR person, the thought of what “being more vulnerable“ might mean to some people at work scares the shit out me too. And that`s the problem isn`t it? We associate being vulnerable with sharing our darkest secrets, about breaking down crying, or admitting to something that might not be workplace appropriate. And so we shy away from it because it`s messy and we don`t want to get involved.
While there is always the potential for these situations, it is more often about admitting when you don`t know something or being honest about when you are struggling. I have become pretty good at this – to the point where I actually hold myself back from over-sharing things rather than forcing myself to do it (because sometimes the best answer to “how are you doing?` is “fine, thank you.“).
Putting yourself out there is very hard – it was very painful for me to sit across from an employee and admit that my relationship with my son has deteriorated to a point that he no longer speaks to me. Why would I admit this? I did it because the person was struggling with their own personal challenges and was concerned about the impact it was having at work, that it was distracting and exhausting. I wanted to let them know that they were not alone in feeling this way and that it was okay to admit things are not great and to accept support, if they need it.
Contrary to what many may think, this didn`t make future interactions awkward. In fact, it improved them because we had a mutual understanding of what it feels like to struggle to build a better place at work while another part of your life is crumbling. It allowed us to check in with one another in terms of how are things and be able to admit it was a rough weekend, without having to explain further.
I went through similar scenarios with my manager and my colleagues…each required a mentally draining admission of what I was dealing with and in each situation, I came out the other side with new resources and support. I learned more about them as they shared their own experiences and I felt less alone.
And this is also why it was ridiculously easy for me to walk away from the wonderful world of Facebook. I felt like I was experiencing life in Pleasantville every time I logged in…everyone had smiling, happy families that did awesome family related things like hay rides, trips to the beach, and singalongs that were just extra. Even when people shared their trials and tribulations, it was always written like some fable where there was a lesson to be learned and shared with the rest of us.
Rarely did anyone post anything remotely “real“ and if they did, it was at their own peril. Can you imagine if my status update reflected what actually was happening in my life…I might have been offered “constructive“ parenting advice, criticised for what I was or was not doing, or just as bad…no comments at all and completely ignored.
Somehow this is acceptable in social media – hiding behind a keyboard, whether you are anonymous or not, gives some people a platform from which to proclaim their judgement on others and decide who is deserving of praise, ridicule, or even acknowledgement. And to this, many people will say, if you don`t like it, leave. Well, I did.
This is really not a viable option for the real world. It is important for people to feel supported and not alone. And to get there, you have to be ready to put yourself out there…trust that most people are good and will see what you are trying to do…and because no one is watching and judging, they may just respond in kind .
It took me some time to realize that what I have always been trying to do on my blog – share what I was going through – was what I needed to do with the people in my life. I have never shied away from admitting that I make mistakes, that I suffer from uncertainty, or that my life is perfect. But I was always able to do this with because I didn`t have to deal with the filter that stops me from saying what I am thinking.
That and the benefits of draft mode.
Making myself vulnerable, one spell-check at a time.