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The Perception Gap

Self employed life sure has its twists and turns. One minute the roller coaster is gradually moving up to the top and you feel exhilarated, the next minute you are staring at a black hole reminiscent of the Oblivion ride at Alton Towers.

Last night I spotted a social media notification from somebody I worked with thirteen years ago. Both of us were in our 20’s at the time. I was just about clinging onto mine and he was in the early stages of his. He wrote me a message saying how inspired he was that I had left a profession he felt I was very skilled at and had publicly embraced something totally different. He described me as brave. He said he was proud to have been part of my ‘career 1’ and wished me luck for ‘career 2.’

The timing could not have been more significant given that I have been seriously wrestling with whether I can achieve the things I set out to do when I embarked on ‘career 2.’ Can I become as accomplished at this career as the last one? Is that necessary to make it work or is it a hang up I cannot shake off? How do I motivate myself day after day when I am so used to being in a big corporate environment with people, ideas, and buzz around every corner?

His kind words got me thinking about the perception gap. Just as I was doubting myself, he was looking at me from afar and feeling inspired. Strangely enough, just a few hours earlier I had met up with another former colleague, from more recent times, who I still miss every day. Seeing one and hearing from another made me realise that one of the things I am struggling with is not being part of a team as I have been before. A common purpose always fired me up. And brought out my leadership skills which border on bossy but tend to get the job done in a fun and creative way.

So, I am now left with a slightly different puzzle. Not whether I can achieve the things in my plan, but whether I can either get over the image of team worker Caroline or find a new tribe to succeed alongside.

I will end with two quotes from C.S. Lewis which I have displayed in my house. The first has been a firm favourite of mine for years and comforts me when I am going around in circles and being tough on myself.

“Have I gone mad? I’m afraid so, you’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

The second is a more recent find and the perfect quote for the office (bedroom) wall of a relative newbie to the self-employed world.

“You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Thank you to those special two people who lifted me up. They know who they are.

To those reading this, look outside of yourself and think about how others see you. The perception gap could be bigger than you think, and that is a good thing. Stop the self-doubt and try approving of yourself instead. You might be surprised.

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