A year ago, I got overtaken by stress and I told no one about it…

🚨 A little over a year ago, as we all went into lockdown, I got overtaken by 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐬 and I told no one but my wife about it. I feared that revealing my vulnerabilities would label me as broken and that it would get in the way of future career opportunities. My stress was driven by a decade of corporate life trying to always be strong and by the realization that my identity was completely dependent on my job. If I didn’t have my job, if I didn’t have to go to the office everyday, who was I? COVID was my stress trigger and for a great part of 2020, I struggled to get myself back up.

I have gotten back up and I feel better than I have in years as I’ve managed to redefine who I am. That being said, I wanted to share my story, which I do in the article below ⬇️ . Please read it! Why? Because we shouldn’t be so scared of being vulnerable and we need to be better at not holding other people’s struggles against them. Everyone talks about mental health and psychological safety at work but we don’t talk about the immense courage it takes to be vulnerable and to admit we are not fine. Sometimes it helps to put a face to the struggles, so here is my face. I struggled, I got back up and I am ok. 😊

Growing up, I have always admired friends and acquaintances of mine who didn’t have a strong need to conform. You know, the eccentric friend who dares wear out of fashion clothing or the one who dares say their opinion even when it’s controversial. Growing up, I admired these people as I envied their courage to stand out. Growing up, I was the exact opposite as I was ruled by a critical need to fit in and a great fear of standing out and being judged for it.

To fit in, I pretended for many years. I was tough when I needed to be tough, I wasn’t really sick even when I was sick, I said that I was feeling good even when I wasn’t. It might have looked like I was strong from the outside, but I wasn’t, at least not all the time. I was simply hiding my vulnerabilities and trying to control what people would think of me so I wouldn’t get hurt.

Over 10 years ago, I entered corporate life and as I did, I assumed my best rehearsed performance of confidence and strength. I felt great even when I was stressed, I worked even when I was sick and I was confident even when I felt lost. My need to fit in has defined me for years.

I have always wanted my peers and my managers to see me as a strong performer as I feared any vulnerabilities would be interpreted as weaknesses and would prevent me from advancing my career.

I was in this dark place for a while, a few weeks to be honest. Besides my wife, no one saw any of it. I hid my stress from my team, my peers and my friends. I cried quite a few times, worried to my stomach that I had lost myself trying to fit in, trying to be strong and that I had built my identity solely on my job. In between the stress and the tears, I continued to smile through all my online calls, I showed up for friends who needed my support and I just continued to pretend I was fine although I wasn’t.

Why didn’t I tell my team, my manager or anyone?

I didn’t want to be seen vulnerable or for others to think Laurence was broken. I feared this would impact future opportunities at work, promotions or even worse, would lead me to be let go during the pandemic. I continued to pretend and I hid my vulnerabilities.

It’s been a little over a year since my identity crisis took place and it took me a great part of 2020 to find myself back, to redefine who I am and figure out what my identity really is if it isn’t my job. I started writing, I got a coach and I found other hobbies than work to occupy my spare time. This need to fit in, to be strong, to hide my vulnerabilities and to attempt to control what people think of me consumed me for years and at the end of the day, it hit me right in the face when COVID hit… COVID was my trigger, but it could have been anything else.

Now, some might wonder why I would write such an article and publish it here. Why should we care that I had stress and hid it from everyone?

Why should we care that I woke up in a pandemic petrified to lose my job and my identity?

Over the last few months, I have promised myself to be more authentic and to be vulnerable at work and all around, and I have. I have written about my impostor syndrome, I have shared my struggles with people and I have started to talk openly about my dreams, something I have never dared to do before. From this new experience where I embrace my vulnerabilities, I have learned that being vulnerable is powerful. By being vulnerable, I am a better person, a better leader and someone people can relate to.

Everyone talks about mental health and psychological safety at work but we don’t talk about the immense courage it takes to be vulnerable and to admit we are not fine.

Almost all of us want to fit in and that’s innate as that’s how humans have survived for centuries. We need others to survive, we are all programmed to find our tribe as humans need each other to survive in the wild. That being said, in today’s corporate world, we continue to try so hard to fit in, this time not to survive, but so we don’t lose our job and so that we don’t miss out on the next opportunity. That being said, fitting in shouldn’t get in the way of mental health and we should all feel safe enough in our lives to ask for help when we need it. In addition, our current job shouldn’t become the core of our identity, we should learn to build who we are on a multitude of facets and remind ourselves that we are whole with or without our current employment. If you are reading this article and you aren’t feeling great, reach out to a friend, a colleague or reach out to me. I will be there and I will listen.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

#mentalhealth #leadership #burnout #resilience #covid #motivation #coaching #culture



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