I’m standing there in a bright yellow tank, fuchsia pink leggings with neon green leg warmers and obnoxious hoop earrings dangling from my ears. Wake Me Up Before You Go Go blasts over the speakers, and through the fog of the smoke machine, I see my friends having a blast on the dance floor – but I just feel dead inside.
I walk up to the bar. Standing next to me are Madonna and Michael Jackson, ordering drinks and toasting the two fighter pilots from Top Gun.
I was at the 80’s theme party on the last night of our National Sales Meeting. I’d always loved these meetings because it was a chance to connect with colleagues I didn’t see often. I loved being on stage. I loved presenting our strategy for the year.
But this time, all I could think was, What am I doing here?
I was a senior marketer at a big pharmaceutical company. I’d been there for over a decade and had worked hard to get to where I was. I took on interesting projects, worked with amazing people and had a great salary.
And yet, there I was, with this slow, leaky tap, dripping hot, burning drops of acid in my gut.
Drip drip…you don’t belong here anymore.
Drip drip…if anyone looks too closely, they will see you don’t have a clue what you’re doing.
Drip drip…you’re not on the streets, you don’t have a horrible disease, stop whining!
Drip drip…what’s wrong with you?
I wanted to scream, “Nothing is wrong with me!” But nobody was listening.
And that was part of the problem. I didn’t feel I could be open enough to tell anyone what was going on with me. Vulnerability meant weakness.
What if they judge me for wanting something different? What if it they think I’m ungrateful? What if I’m not successful somewhere else?
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was not living up to my potential. Work had always been the place where I was at my best, where I felt confident. It was where I derived my sense of worth, of accomplishment, of success.
But now, I felt empty. Lost.
So I waited until the song was over. Then, when nobody was looking, I ran to my room and cried. I knew I couldn’t pretend to myself any longer. It was time to leave. This was going to be my last sales meeting with this company. I cried again. Then, I pasted a smile on my face, went back to the party and got through the night.
I spent seven more months trying to convince myself that I should just suck it up, because I thought it wasn’t ok to want something different – or to ask for help.
Eventually, I realized I couldn’t keep up the façade and I couldn’t figure it all out by myself. With the help of a coach, I got clear on what I really wanted out of my career and my life, and then made it happen.
If you’re struggling right now – it’s ok that you don’t feel like everything’s ok. Even if you “think you should” – it’s ok.
And if you need help – asking for it doesn’t make you weak. It may make you stronger than you’ve ever been.
Thanks for reading! Have you ever felt like this? What’s your favourite 80’s song? Let me know in the comments below!