How Not Taking Myself too Seriously Helps Me Stay Sane
If you’re ambitious, competitive, learn enough and do your fair share of work, chances are that you’re going to achieve some form of above-average success in your career, whatever that may be.
However, it’s just as likely if not completely inevitable that you’re going to stumble at times and see your fair share of failures, too.
If you’re anything like that and, plainly put, anything like me, then finding a way to navigate those ups and downs will gain importance as leaving them unmanaged can otherwise become a rather constant source of stress, anxiety and a general feeling of instability.
How do I mean? Take 2020 for example.
I started the year with a fully-booked even for Upwork freelancers, followed by a successful, also fully-booked TEDx event. Right after that, the pandemic hit, but I still went ahead and started my first eCommerce business with a local presence and appeared several times in the press for the first time in my life.
I moved my work into my first private office, close to home, well equipped and complete with things I really like to have around my work environment: a semi-pro espresso machine that makes great coffee, a sofa in case I want to take naps, a good webcam, and a podcast-quality microphone to impress clients with during meetings. A good start.
As the year went on, the challenges of the pandemic grew and the eCommerce business didn’t perform as well as I needed it to. In addition to my work-related challenges, I soon learned that my father had become terminally ill. His condition worsened quickly and later in the year, he passed away.
I made a choice to revert all of my attention back to doing what I knew best, which was marketing and managing remote projects. This meant taking the time I was investing in my new business and diverting it back to my digital projects.
The business couldn’t continue as a result, but my digital work took a significant leap forward with a great new role that quickly led to an even bigger opportunity. This continues to be my biggest focus today and my most engaging project yet.
2020 is kind of a fitting metaphor for how my career has felt like all along:
An often unpredictable series of ups and downs which I keep thinking will eventually stabilize but that never really seems to be the case for very long stretches of time.
Thankfully, the long-term trajectory is definitely trending upwards . But its stock-market-like pattern has forced me to come up with a coping mechanism in order to help me retain a general sense of calm and avoid having too much anxiety as I go about my week.
This mechanism really revolves around two simple rules:
Not taking myself too seriously and maintaining a healthy dose of humility.
More specifically, the goal is to maintain stability in my mind when stability in the outside world and the events around me doesn’t seem to exist.
If I were to be reactive towards all of the things that happen to and around me, I would probably have good reason to worry about my long-term mental health by this point.
For me, consistency of perspective is the key to navigating the ever-changing events around me.
It would be really easy to indulge, to take in, to really believe people’s most flattering praise when it appears that everything I’m working on is going great and a particular thing I’m doing (or did) brings about a new wave of compliments.
This is kind of a trap though. If I take myself as seriously as those complimenting me at times when all is going well, the fall will feel that much harder when suddenly, something goes wrong.
By not taking myself too seriously, by joking about the significance of any particular job well done, by staying humble and grateful for just having what I have, by considering myself lucky – not entitled - to have the opportunities I have, I can enjoy those successes without the undue stress of constantly living up to people’s overwhelming expectations of me.
This perspective also helps me get over failures quickly and keep moving forward because I have no high horse to fall down from. I’ve always allowed myself to fail. I’ve always accepted that I have to take a lot of chances in order to grow fast and perform better than average and, that taking a lot of chances will inevitably mean that I will also have to overcome more stumbles, too.
I didn’t always have this perspective and I’ve certainly felt better since I’ve adopted it.