You’d think I’d be incredibly happy while accomplishing one of my life-long dreams. Well sure, I was happy. But I was also blindsided at the same time by some pretty deep feelings of self-doubt.
Dreams don’t always show up quite the way we imagine.
The journey to my dream started twenty plus years ago when I read a book called Do What You Are: Discover the Perfect Career for You Through the Secrets of Personality Type by Barbara Barron and Paul D. Tieger. My boyfriend at the time suggested it to me when I expressed some confusion over which career direction to take next.
OK I’ll be honest. I was actually in the middle of a major identity crisis at the time. After having just quit a very unsatisfying sales job.
When I say unsatisfying I mean it was the kind of job that made me utterly sick to my stomach. Every Sunday night I would anxiously bite off all of my fingernails as I contemplated my upcoming work week (I kid you not).
Clearly I was not born to be a sales person. But who was I and what was I good at? Or more importantly.
What was I meant to do with my life?
That was the real question.
In fact it’s what I’ve always wanted to know. Ever since I can remember I’ve been asking those big kind of questions.
Who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?
After graduating from high school and wandering the globe for a few years, I decided to return to school for a Marketing and Sales Diploma. At the time I believed it was a very good fit for me. I was after all upbeat and people-oriented. And great at promoting things I believed in.
And besides, the personal coaching field (a much better fit in hindsight) was nonexistent at the time. So marketing and sales it was.
But taking a job as an outside sales rep turned out not to be such a great idea.
I hated working alone. Driving around the city. Hauling cumbersome bags of product in and out of my car. And being constantly turned away. Stood up. Or rejected by potential customers.
I was way out of my comfort zone. Waaaay out.
I felt insecure, nervous and completely frazzled most days. Quitting that sales job was a lesson in self-preservation if ever there was one.
During my big identity crisis that followed though, I was completely lost. I had absolutely no idea what to do next.
So when my boyfriend suggested I read Do What You Are to discover the kind of careers that suited my particular personality type best, I gobbled the book up. Then several more on the same subject.
Discovering the world of personality types was a big turning point in my life.
I was introduced to a whole new me.
I learned a great deal about the way I operate in the world. That I get my energy from people and taking action. I love working on teams and need harmony in my work environment. While l love freedom and variety, I also need some structure. And I’m passionate about lifting others up and inspiring them.
Most importantly though I learned I don’t need to be anyone else but me.
That there is no right or wrong way. Or better or worse type to be.
Embracing my own type helped to set me free. To step out of the box. To just be me.
Over the years whenever I got off course career-wise (or any-wise for that matter!) I would often revisit those books. And be reminded of who I was at my core. What I was naturally good at. And what I wasn’t. So I could let go of those pieces with relief.
Inevitability I would always feel better.
Fast forward another couple of decades (and a few official Myers-Briggs assessments to confirm my type) and I’m still reaping the benefits.
I know my type (an ENFJ in case you’re wondering) almost inside and out. And I know when I’m acting from my strengths versus my weaknesses. And how to course correct.
It’s been a great self-awareness tool to have. One that has guided me along my path.
And the added bonus?
As I’ve learned about others’ types I’ve become far more understanding. Far more accepting of the differences that sometimes lie between us. Far more encouraging of others to just be themselves.
I knew that one day I wanted to take my passion for Myers-Briggs personality types to the next level. To become a Certified Myers-Briggs Trainer. In order to help others learn what I had learned: how to uncover and embrace their own unique ways of being in this world. And to let go of any self-judgement.
So it was surprising to me that after all these years of loving what Myers-Briggs personality types have taught me, so many raw emotions were triggered while completing certification earlier this month.
Sure there was the fact that the training took place just a few blocks away from my ex-boyfriend’s apartment. Where I’d spent many lovely weekends the previous year. Memories of our time together came flooding back. Along with some intense feelings of sadness and loss.
But still. That wasn’t all of it.
Somehow I’d imagined that sitting in that classroom with 30 other like-minded individuals would completely inspire me. 100% of the time.
That I’d feel on purpose. And would come away from each day feeling rejuvenated and revved up.
Nope. That’s not how it went down at all.
Instead of feeling lifted up and inspired, I often felt insecure and self-critical.
Instead of fully embracing my own natural preferences and strengths, and reveling in my own me-ness, I found myself doing something far less compassionate.
I kept comparing myself to others. And feeling crappy when I didn’t think I’d measured up.
The very opposite of what Myers-Briggs is all about!
Ironic, I know.
One minute I felt high with excitement discussing a subject I was passionate about with others that seemed equally as passionate about it. The next I felt low with all kinds of self-doubt and self-judgment.
My inner critic whispered: You’re too sensitive, Kerry. Too emotional. You’re not logical and rational enough. You have too much energy. You come on too strong. Why can’t you be more like him or her (pick almost anyone else in the room)?
Ugh. I left one day feeling exhausted and close to tears.
As I sat on the bus home that night I wondered what the heck was wrong with me. Why was I always so darn sensitive, so emotional? So worried about what others think?
Why was I trying so hard to be something I wasn’t?
Why couldn’t I just embrace me? All of me? All of the time?
And then it hit me.
I was once again learning a valuable lesson from the Universe. That we often end up teaching what we ourselves need to learn.
That my greatest gift (and yes perhaps even my purpose on this planet) of encouraging others to love themselves just as they are, comes from my deepest pain.
My own lack of self-love and self-acceptance.
In order to help others love and accept themselves – to embrace their own imperfections and be gentle on their own souls – I have to learn those same lessons myself.
Again. And again.
I wish I could say the rest of the training was a lot easier as a result of that light bulb moment on the bus. And maybe it was a bit.
The emotional triggers still came. As did all of my self-doubts.
But I was far more aware of my inclination to bash myself over the head. And I was far gentler with myself, too.
And maybe that’s all I can ask for.
More kindness to myself in those moments of imperfection, and moments of self-doubt.
And more willingness to embrace all sides of myself. Even the ones that are hard to love.
Especially those ones.
As long as I’m open and willing to learn how to be kinder to myself, I’m moving in the right direction.
(Now it’s your turn. Can you think of an example from your own life when you were kinder to yourself? If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.)