african american woman upset holding a piece of paper with a red heart

During my over two-decades career, I have worked for great leaders, poor managers, and, frankly, people who should never speak to other human beings. But the worst manager would yell at me and call me stupid. The thought of facing another day with her made getting out of bed a chore. Worse, she knew all of my triggers, never hesitating to press them like the keys of a grand piano. Apologizing for her behavior or celebrating my wins? No, that was not a thing. Surprisingly though, I still love her. She is me.

My Aha Moment, To Spark Joy In Myself

Last year, after leaving my good-paying job in search of a role that sparked joy, I expanded my independent consulting business. My company was previously set up as a side hustle. I endeavored to find a position that would harmonize my unique experiences and unicorn point of view. As a multipotentialite, people [recruiters, hiring managers, etc.] are continually trying to put me in a box. They look at my experiences as individual sheets of music, rather than the symphony of beautiful sounds they create. 

As I went from interview to interview, I found it challenging to be seen. Invariably I would be cast as a risk because I demonstrated an aptitude to go from medical device to education back to life sciences. I would be deemed not a fit because of an answer to an obscure ‘gotcha’ question that had nothing to do with my expertise or the role itself. 

But when I finally made traction in finding my joy-sparking opportunity, COVID-19 came along. During this last year, I’ve spent time engaging in hours upon hours of personal and professional development. And it led me to an aha moment. As the sparker of my own joy, I can work for myself. But boy, was I mean.

When My Aha Moment Became My Oh No Moment

My leadership philosophy is one of servant leadership. As such, my primary principle is to meet people where they are. But, I didn’t meet myself where I was. I had a fantasy that I should be further along in my career, not only as a business owner but in my professional title as well. And as a result of shoulding all over myself, I would often engage in berating one-on-one meetings with myself.

Because I needed to pivot, I worked relentlessly. Rarely taking breaks, not even on the weekends. My website needed to be updated, I needed to learn new things, develop my brand, write contracts, and the list went on and on. Growing up as an athlete, I’ve always been remarkably disciplined. But I was burning myself out quickly. 

When I gave myself a break, I would feel bad about it. Lunch? Nope. Movie? Nope. And then my so-called break would end up with me sitting on the couch bad-mouthing my only employee, me. At one point, I started to manage myself out of the organization. 

The turning point, however, wasn’t a dramatic moment. The truth is, I walked by the mirror, as I do every day multiple times a day, and I looked a hot mess. My skin was dull and flakey, my hair was lifeless, and my clothing looked like I had been running from the walking dead for the last two weeks. Being in isolation was compounding the effect of working for myself. At this moment, I realized that I loved myself too much to continue working for this strange reflection of myself and immediately put myself on a PIP (performance improvement plan).

Holding Myself Accountable For My Behavior

Because I have been a remote worker and virtual employee for 12 years, my work and living spaces were already separated. The difference is now I have designated a time to stop working for the day and head back to the living space. Luckily, I was already doing a morning workout, but I no longer check texts or emails before exercising. On the weekends, I treat it as I did before, time to recharge. Unable to get a facial, manicure, pedicure, or hair done, I did these things for myself and declared self-care Sunday a thing. And I returned to treating myself with respect as someone I love dearly. 

Coronavirus is causing millions to pivot their business strategy. While it’s critical as an entrepreneur to work hard, be committed, and disciplined, you’ll never see the fruits of that labor if you’re a crappy boss to yourself. Plus, you’ll lose your number one employee, best asset, and first love, you. At my last check in, the PIP is going well, and I look forward to a stellar performance review at the end of the year.

Nile Harris is Life Strategist, Consultant, and Speaker working with aspiring entrepreneurs and transitioning professionals to transform their passion and purpose into P.R.O.F.I.T. by reigniting their warrior spirit and making the jump. Find Nile at @iamnileharris on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook