When I left my highflying corporate marketing job, I’d had enough.

I’d had enough of people pleasing, of struggling to fit into a corporate mould that never truly fitted and of working 14-hour days to hit someone else’s sales target.

At the time I was having difficulties sleeping due to anxiety related insomnia and barely able to look after myself, let alone my relationships.

At 35, I knew if I wanted a family and a future, I couldn’t continue like this. Something had to change.

So I quit.

I remember handing my notice in to my CEO. The look of relief on his face when he realised I wasn’t going to a competitor and a better offer; that I was going for myself. He shook my hand and told me how happy he was for me, that he admired my decision.

In that moment the newfound freedom my decision promised, crumpled right in front of me and I was racked with self-doubt. His words caused a spiral and the voices in my head started, their whispers turning into loud shouts over the next few weeks. “Had I ever truly fitted in? Was I the only one who didn’t see it until now? Were they all conspiring how to make me leave all along?”

When a dear colleague was immediately given my role, I realised just how replaceable I was; and truth be told it stung like hell. Even though it was my decision to leave, my choice, the dawning realisation of how much of my identity was interwoven with “work” was even news to me.

I jacked it all in with no real plan of what I was going to do at all. For my 15+ years corporate marketing experience, I left with nothing more than a vague idea and a few month’s salary to see me through.

I realised this was bigger than just a career move.

I needed to remember that without having to prove anything to anyone, I was enough. I was also my own biggest marketing project! I needed to completely re-discover my identity, find my own voice and launch myself into the world now there was no corporate role or brand logo to define me.

So what did I do first? Buried myself on my sofa binge watching Netflix and consoling myself with chocolate biscuits.

It felt like a break up. One I’d instigated but none the less, but I felt wounded, and I needed time to stop and just be me after years of being constantly “busy”.

Sometimes the world feels like a big rollercoaster, and its good to step off; to take the time to tune into yourself, to really listen and hear what it is you need.

At times I felt listless. Lost without the familiarity of constant busyness, the routine of “work” and borrowed sense of purpose. But slowly, the idea that was there at the back of my mind for the career I wanted started sparking into bigger ideas, ones I couldn’t stop thinking about.

Over time I found I was more tuned in to that, than worrying about what everyone else would think of me, or whether I’d ever be “successful” again.

Fast-forward a few years, and it has been a journey! I smile fondly at that “brave” girl, head held high marching out of the corporate world towards her freedom.

But, she wasn’t wrong.

I’ve built a successful brand and business and I’ve helped hundreds of start-up founders create their brand story, craft their ideas into feasible marketing plans, and invest their budgets wisely to generate the optimum ROI.

I’ve realised that I love working with people who are creating something for themselves. Their passion and conviction is contagious. But my true passion is in inspiring and empowering female founders to find their voice and share their story.

I love to see their confidence flourish as they start to believe in themselves and their ideas, as they see their brand and business start to take shape. This is what I realise makes my heart sing.

I know now this is the song it was always singing, even way back when I was in the corporate world.

Just at that point, I wasn’t ready to listen.

My hope for you is that if you recognise yourself in this story, you see that there is always another way.

Pressing pause can be a good place to start. Try to find the time and space to listen to what your heart is saying.

There are always times when we become trapped as a victim of our story or circumstance.

By taking full ownership of your narrative, your voice and your story, have faith that you can create the future you want for yourself. One that makes your heart sing.

The story, as they say, is truly in your hands.

Written by Lesley Stonier
Founder | We Mean Business, London
To discover your story, join my private Facebook group @marketing&storytellingforstartups