Why do we call it a comfort zone when it’s so uncomfortable? Or maybe our comfort zone was really comfortable for a very long time. But there comes a point when it becomes a very painful place to be – a tense, abrasive place, a place where our hopes and dreams rub up against our fears and limiting beliefs and a place where our awareness of the path we must take for the sake of our sanity contrasts so starkly with the path we’re taking that it makes us grimace.
OK, so this all sounds a little dramatic but I’ve just come back from another women’s networking event (I wrote the first paragraph of this blog in the early hours of this morning when insomnia set in). Now, if you’re familiar with this site and my writing, you’ll know these women’s networking events generally get me all fired up and passionate. I get to meet so many women who are doing their dream jobs or who have overcome the same hurdles and obstacles that often hold me back. On past experience, it seems the fire dwindles quite soon after the event and I slip back into my own comfort zone until the next women’s bash comes around, but this time I’m really hoping it’ll stay with me and I’ll be able to turn my feelings of anger and frustration with myself (coupled, as always, with a healthy dose of self-acceptance) into action.
So last night, I was at a Women of Westminster event hosted by the Westminster Business Council and the women’s networking group Ladies At E11Even. As things stand, I don’t actually own a business as such – I am self-employed, a journalist, journalism trainer, media consultant, writer and blogger. But I hope to have a business in the future and I hope this site will somehow lead me to that business.
As ever, I met a bunch of go-getting women who had some great tips on how to get a business off the ground, grow a business or create your own dream job or dream life. I’d met and written about some of the women before, but there were some new faces.
The inspiration for today’s blog title, in fact, came from one of the speakers: Carole Ann Rice of The Real Coaching Company. Carole Ann is a journalist, a co-author, a media expert and a life coach. Check out the videos on her site if you’re wondering what life coaching is all about or its potential benefits. I have to say I’m sold. Carole Ann made a lot of sense – she talked about our ‘secret saboteurs’ such as our inner perfectionist, people-pleaser, procrastinator or control freak – all things I’ve written about over the past few months. But when she said that staying in our comfort zone isn’t actually very comfortable, that really struck a chord with me.
I feel very angry right now – angry that I’m not fulfilling my potential, angry that I allow my fears to hold me back and angry that I continue to accept work on terms and conditions I know undervalue my skills and experience. Doing what I’ve always done seems like the safe, comfortable option but it’s actually the more painful one. I’m also angry that I can’t afford to fill my wardrobe with fabulous clothes and that I haven’t figured out a way of planning my time and work that enables me to exercise a few times a week. OK, so it’s progress not perfection and I know I’ll get there eventually but sometimes a bit of fire in the belly doesn’t go amiss. And the good thing about anger is it can stir us into action. So for me it’s a good thing – provided I don’t end up punching a wall or turning my anger inwards by overeating or acting out with other self-harming behaviours, which sometimes I still do. I have this image in my head right now of a bubbling pool of hot lava – yes, I actually kind of feel like a bubbling pool of hot lava. Hopefully I can use the energy to good effect.
Another speaker who really impressed me last night was Natasha Faith, co-founder of La Diosa jewellery business. She’s only 23! She launched her business just two years ago with her partner Semhal Zemikael and with the help of the Prince’s Trust. The likes of Alicia Keys, Leona Lewis, Naomi Campbell and Sarah Brown are now wearing her company’s funky designs. And Michelle Obama wants a piece! I hope to interview Natasha for this site so she can share her inspiration with us all. It just goes to show that sharing wisdom, inspiring and mentoring definitely works both ways – from older to younger women and the other way around. We can all learn from each other.
Natasha talked last night about how she never doubted herself, never ran away from challenges and was never afraid of failure. She took the first La Diosa jewellery collection straight to Harvey Nichols – nothing like aiming high – and they said yes. I like to aim high too, but I’m starting to notice that I give up pretty easily. I guess it’s a case of aiming high but if at first you don’t succeed, just keep on aiming, maybe a little bit lower, until something pays off. Natasha left us with an interesting question: if you knew you couldn’t fail, what three things would you do? It’s worth pondering but without even thinking about it too much, I know one thing I’d do would be to turn this site into a fabulous online magazine with stories of inspiring women and men from around the world whose lives are impacting others in a positive way. I’d also stop accepting work I don’t really want to do and I’d put all my time, energy and effort into the things I love and am passionate about.
Sonia Brown, from the National Women’s Black Network and SistaTalk, who I featured in my If you can dream it post, was also speaking last night. She told us that if you don’t like the job you’re doing, design your ideal job and then find a way of turning it into a reality. That’s what she did. “I can’t tell women to live their dreams if I’m still in a safe position,” she said. That’s very true and very relevant to me. Sonia also reminded me of the value of dressing to impress. I always loved the maxim: dress for the job you want, not for the one you’ve got. But Sonia made the point that dressing well is for our own benefit just as much as it is for our audience. I know that when I make a bit of an effort, I definitely feel better about myself and more confident. I don’t think it’s about letting externals dictate the way we feel – I think it’s just about giving ourselves the best chance. That’s why I’m very annoyed my wardrobe isn’t filled with gorgeous clothes and shoes and my bank balance isn’t healthy enough to support a shopping spree. Maybe my bubbling lava pool will help me do something about that!
And finally, I was writing the other day about that feeling of sitting on the sidelines and watching life happen to everyone else and how I’d been triggered by looking at all the fabulous things everyone else was doing on Twitter (by the way I’ve just changed my Twitter name to @From40WithLove from @Just_AsIAm40 – finally I got rid of the underscore!). But I was reminded by a reader – thank you, you know who you are – that Twitter and Facebook give a false impression of people’s lives. Not many of us actually post on Twitter or Facebook when we’re sitting in front of the TV in our worst clothes and feeling sorry for ourselves. So next time I look at Facebook and Twitter, I’ll remember everyone is posting their highlights and that the lowlights often remain behind closed doors.