A few years now I have been a moderator of the LeanIn Circle Düsseldorf, I have had the honour of meeting Sheryl on her last visit to Europe and I also very much liked her new book she wrote with psychologist Adam Grant. It’s called “Plan B” and deals with crises and how to a) get through them and b) help others get through them. It opened my eyes for many mistakes I had made in the past, by avoiding friends who were living through a crisis, simply by not knowing what to say and gave me good advice on how to help people who are going through tough times.
There have been quite a few existential crises in the lives of my friends and family. Burn Out, Break-Ups, severe illnesses, Unfaithfulness, you name it. I am quite surprised how much goes wrong in everyone’s life. I feel like I have been lucky so far, no major break-downs or strikes of destiny in my life has made me to think about what Option B would look like to me. The atmosphere in my first real job was really toxic and nearly made me sick. (If I were going through the same mobbing today, I would treat it with much more self-respect and determination, I am sure) But I somehow found the energy to power through until I had found something else.
Recently though, due to changes at my workplace and also a fight with a friend, where I felt I had let him down, I have been dealing with low self-esteem, feeling like I can’t do anything right. Like I have learned nothing useful from life and self-doubts and negative thoughts have been crippling the joy every day could have given me. Funnily enough the resources of what I learned about coaching and mediation and in my happiness-class in Berkeley helped me to not sliding into total crisis mode. There were times I cried, and more times when I just felt paralysed, but my resources have helped me go through that. And while I am not totally back on track I would like to share those insights with you, as I hope they can help you, too.
One evening after work, when I felt especially useless and small, I sat down, determined and made a list. Of all my achievements at school, at university, what I had learned apart from those, how I went through the troubles I faced in my first job, how my volunteer work helps others, how my customers always give me great feedback and assure me how my work has helped them evolve.
I also made a gratefulness-list. I was grateful for my boyfriend, who goes with me through thick and thin and I know would always be there for me, even in times of illness, unemployment or whatever comes our way. I have the unconditional love of our dog Lisek, who makes me smile and helps me forget about my troubles in the most charming way. I am grateful for my friends who simply are the best people in the world and who will always be there for me. My family also, will always be there if I fall and this is so good to know. Last, but not least I am grateful for who I am, for what I have learned and for what I have experienced so far, even the hard times.
Getting away from everything is also a good idea to clear your head for a while. Take a trip, leave your ordinary life for a few days. We are lucky, we can just take the campervan and go hiking in the surrounding areas every weekend. And this is what we did. It felt great to be exploring and being outside, even if I had very little energy all in all. That’s another point of this crisis I am going through, my energy levels are so low, I could basically fall asleep all day, every day.
Meeting with a good friend always helps boosting my mood and it was one of those great meetings that motivated me to write this blogpost. I described how down I was lately, due to tough changes at work, not really knowing what I was worth, what to do with my life and doubting my abilities. She responded “But look at you, you have a great university degree, you write a blog, you moderate a Lean In Circle, you read with a refugee kid, you are writing your PhD and you are such an active, outgoing person. If you cannot be proud of yourself who can be?” BAM! Yes, why wasn’t I more proud of myself? Where did those nagging doubts suddenly come from? Where was the self-confident young woman I was while giving a presentation in front of my whole class of 2004 in the first year at university? Always speaking up and feeling ambitious? Taking responsibility and standing up for myself and others?
Where was this woman and what had changed?
I have not found all the answers yet and I am certainly not my old self again, but something has already changed. My trust has come back, and I believe now that whatever may come my way, I will be able to master it. Also, I want to find out how I can be more of the woman I used to be when I was so strong-willed and it felt like the world was my oyster.
I hope that by reading this you might have gotten some ideas what to do in the face of crisis and how to empower yourself by using your own resources.