“The person who says
it cannot be done
should not interrupt the person
who is doing it.”
How to choose your supporters.
Blunt and simple. This is what this blog post is going to be about. It’s about choosing and seeking out the right people to cheer you up, support you and get your head straight. Because when you are on your way to do something different from the classical lifestyle, people are going to judge you. They are trying to put their limits up for you. And there is going to be a lot of doubt flying in your direction. So to be really frank: Going your own way is hard. And it shouldn’t be a lonely road.
The Chinese proverb states it pretty clear: If you don’t think you can do it. Or if you have no idea about how to do it. It is what you think and what you are unclear about. It is your way of seeing the world. It is your way of thinking about the world, its opportunities and limitations. And by this, you are going to shape your world. You are defining the speed limits of your own and very personal development. Don’t make your limitations a limitation for others.
But a lot of people don’t reflect on this matter a lot. And they act in a different way. Here is a story about this difficult behavior, how it affected me and how a super-group helped me to get back on track.
The roadmap of life.
Let’s face it. Going from a corporate job to a career as your own boss or a freelancer is a ride without a standardized map. Figuratively speaking: For a corporate job and the classical way of life you can find the roadmap in every store. It basically says: Get a degree, get a job, work as hard as you can. If you feel miserable, ignore that. Find someone you might love or maybe not, but find someone to reproduce. And then buy a house. Try to climb higher on the career ladder. And career is very clearly defined. Get a “Chief of Whatever” on your business card. Get a company car. The corner office. Some people you can boss around. And earn more money while stretching yourself thin.
As a freelancer or bossbabe you need to write your own map. And define for you what success and career mean. For some, it is getting their message out and earn enough money to live a decent life. For others, it is getting a ton of money but working less. Others don’t care for money but want to promote a cause. Then there are so many questions. Do I want kids? Do I live to work? How can I expand my business? And so on and so forth. But there are always ways to figure out what the next destination on your personal map is. You just have to decide where your road trip is going to lead you.
Lately, I experienced something really interesting. I realized that I am surrounded by an awesome girl-squad. Or rather – because girl is a bit diminishing in that sense – a group of fierce supporters of my decision to become my own boss. I realized that I am surrounded by grown-up, super smart, very reasonable women. And they are all standing behind me and want me to move on. Now you might think: Why is that relevant? Or how is that helping me to grow my business or continue on my own personal journey? And furthermore: Of course your friends should support you. But these females are not just fans. They are my super-group. But we get to that in a sec.
Why it sometimes gets lonely on the road.
Before I dive into the topic of what you should be looking for in your super-group, let me tell you the story of why I need this super-group right now. Everything started with me quitting my day job and then realizing some weeks later that there is really no turning back for me to the conventional and comfortable path of a full-time employment. Before that I was always eyeing with going back to my old job – cause I am still official on my sabbatical – and using this as a safety net. Then clarity struck. In the future, I don’t want to work for someone else. I want to be my own boss. And I can do that.
Suddenly I was so aware of the fact that I can do it and things are going to work out, it was like a real epiphany. I was mind-blown. Less mind-blown was my boyfriend. We both had plans and didn’t really talk about them with each other. He loves safety. And he darn sure does not see the opportunities self-employment offers. And he has his roadmap of life. Which is very different from mine. And honestly: He doesn’t want to be his own boss, so why should he think about a way to get there?
Bottom line: His first reaction was the outcry of “how are we going to raise a family”. With me not having a corporate job. And only the dream of being my own boss. With no business idea in place. And overall: How do I think about financing a family life and all? How do I want to live? [Spoiler alert: We might have had a small to huge misunderstanding of each other. But still, at that point of time I thought he was totally against the idea of my rocking a small enterprise.]
I was shocked. And a bit disappointed. To say the least. My boyfriend should be in my corner. And support me. Not with an irrational “oh yeah, honey. everything’s going to be fine.” but with the same kick-ass attitude that I stole from the one and only Bruce Lee:
“To hell with circumstances, I create opportunities.”
Still. I kind of caved-in and let me get into the spider web of his thoughts, limitations, and beliefs. But I felt off. But my relationship is important to me. And deep down I want us to have a future. So if he is not on board then maybe I should change my plans? Maybe I am really totally unrealistic and with no future as a boss babe?
Can you give me some support?
My mind started to rattle. I mean I know I want to live an unconventional life. If you ask me what I really want? Taking pictures and helping women to get some balls and stand up for themselves. Not in a “women against men”-way, because that’s just pointless. But in an “I stand for this and I find the courage to stand up for it”-way. Like standing tall. Finding self-assurance. Grow. Become the best version of oneself, whatever that means for that individual person. I am not here to please my boyfriend and support his idea of a perfect life. I have dreams and thoughts too. And guess what? I am a kick-ass worker. I am really good at achieving something and walk down uncomfortable roads.
It took me four f***ing years to finally find my voice and find out what I really want. And then this perfect, sweet and until then supportive boyfriend comes around and undermine my new found clarity? What the f. [Again. It might have been a small misunderstanding here. Bottom line: Don’t just talk to your friends. Also, have a very clear and down to the point talk with your SO.]
But still, you know. There is this one part of me who really wants this relationship to continue. And then there is also the bigger part of me, being a businesswoman. The part that is really convinced she can do it. But that conviction kind of started to crumble. And doubts were creeping up. So I did what I’ve always done. I talk. I ask. I look around. And there they were. All of the members of my super-group.
Let’s start with fear and doubt.
Hearing from a person that you respect and love that he doesn’t believe in your ability to make things work out is SO hard. I can’t stretch this enough. It. Is. SO hard. Especially when you understand his point of view. Because you have experienced and believed in the same doubts and limitations for years. And even when in retrospect that person was misunderstood.
For the last years, I asked myself if I can really make money and support myself with my – then – fuzzy business vision. I saw so many roadblocks. And I had this idea of “I can’t have everything”. Growing up in a household that had a more or less frightening atmosphere – because everyone was out to get us in one way or another – I craved for safety and reassurance. Especially when it came to my work life decisions I had always gone down the “better safe than sorry”-road. Studied business and then applied to one of the safest companies in Germany. Safe but dull. And doing something I didn’t like, feeling bitterer by the hour.
But therapy sessions and some new experiences made it pretty clear for me: I AM SO CAPABLE. I find opportunities and solutions. So my mindset shifted. But that was just my mindset. And entering a relationship with someone who has a different, less risk-open approach to things can be difficult. It brings up my old fears and doubts. Creating a dystopia instead of a utopia. But I am stubborn. And I am absolutely unwilling to sacrifice the achievements in regards to my own personal growth and happiness over the last years. So I knew where to go.
What was on the table.
To be really clear and make you understand why my super-group is so important to me, let me explain what I was – and still am – struggling with.
As you already know – because this blog is for freelancers and fempreneurs – I want to be my own boss. A 9-5-job is not a solution for me because I hate wasting time so I don’t want to get paid for simply being a certain amount of time at a certain place. I want to be paid for an achievement, not for simply spending time. Time should be used not wasted. I also don’t see the point in working towards someone else’s dream. I have dreams too. So why not work towards them? And then I feel the prospect of having to be in an office with a strict timetable that is not dictated by me pretty unfulfilling. Not to foster the “free-spirit”-myth but I really like to be flexible in my working schedule. And I don’t like rules just for the sake of having rules or being controlled.
I started building this business in the incredible city of Berlin. For now, it gives me everything I need. Inspirations, my network, people I can learn from and ask for support and guidance. I have my friends there. My sport – beach volleyball – is available during winter and summer and you can find amazing beach volleyball coaches and courses. So I can train. It is a lot easier to find fempreneurs in Berlin. So networking can actually happen. My work life and my business revolves around and is based in Berlin. To some degree living in Berlin is essential for making my business sustainable.
Having a family would be a nice-to-have in the future, but I don’t see the point in me paying for it. Don’t get me wrong, but becoming a mother means a huge risk for a woman. Your partner can leave and you are on your own with the child. When that happens you are on your own. Financially and you also need to make it possible to work and have your child been taken care off. Being pregnant and giving birth is a risk too, a health risk. After giving birth your hormones go crazy and your body gets into a shape you can’t take back. There is actually new life you need to care for. And there are things men can’t do. They don’t get pregnant. Breastfeeding isn’t an option for them. So yeah. Having a family is not equal. And then my boyfriend has this amazing idea of me getting a fulltime employment so that I can pay for becoming a mother. With him not thinking about his fair share of the deal? Hmm. Let me think about that.
So these were the things that I thought he expects me to give up:
- Work-freedom and happiness
- My home and “point-of-life”
- Well. My finances.
I was so overwhelmed. And I wanted to be a good girlfriend and make him happy. So I totally neglected that I was first and foremost responsible for the happiness of one person: Me. And that I had needs too. Dreams. Wishes. Life expectations. In short: I was in a desperate need for my super-group.
Meet my super-group.
Before I introduce my super-group let’s go back a bit. Let me tell you why going to therapy sessions is a really good thing. When I entered my “get-out-of-my-hole-and-I-want-to-be-really-happy”-therapy sessions I had a group of friends that were just mind-numbing and emotionally painful. That might sound appalling to you but it is still true.
Some of them can be described as “energy vampires” – draining all your energy. They make you feel exhausted every time you meet them. Others were simple Askholes. People who constantly ask you for your advice because they are SO unhappy. But then they go and do the exact opposite. Leaving their emotional garbage at your place. Every. Eff-ing time. Just to come back in a month or so to ask you the exact same questions. There were the Dramaqueens, that spiced up their life by inducing unnecessary drama. (Like: “Why did he take good care of the kids instead of worshipping me?” Frankly? Because you asked him to!) People with no hobbies and passions whatsoever. In short: I felt really lonely and exhausted.
Then I entered therapy and one by one all of these people vanished. Some didn’t like to be around me anymore. Others I had to tell directly that things are not working out between me and them. And I started to connect with new types of people. More like-minded. With a similar set of values. They had passions and a goal in life they were working towards. I have realized over the past years that I was feeling a lot better when I am surrounded by these people.
What I did not realize until this morning: These people are my super-group. So let me tell you how I came to this realization.
Be honest. And open. And push me.
After I talked with my boyfriend about how we want to live the next years I kind of felt strange. I couldn’t really pinpoint on what was bothering me. My head was in a confused space and there were so many questions in my mind. And the clarity I had when I announced I want to be my own boss was totally unavailable. I wasn’t aware of everything I summed up under “what was on the table”. There was just this diffuse feeling of me not standing up for what I want and not holding up to my standards of being a modern female.
So I reached out to my super-group. I asked them individually what they thought on the matter. All of them females. Some super feminist, other with a traditional life concept, all of them in fulltime employment and a lot less risk-taking in comparison to me. I kind of expected them to put my head back in the right space. And the right space at that moment was “Sure thing, girl. Get a job. Don’t be self-employed. Give up your dreams because they are unrealistic. Go back to your former employer. It is an either-or-decision. You can’t have both, being a mother and self-employed. He is totally right. You are being unrealistic.” The right space at that moment for me appeared to be somewhere along these lines.
- 15 voice messages from my surfing-friend from Flensburg,
- A very long text message from my mother-of-three-friend from Ostfriesland,
- A three-hour-skype conversation with my feminist bestie from Hamburg,
- A very to the point statement from my art history friend,
- And a photoshoot with my future podcast-partner-in-crime
to make me realize: Boy, have I been wrong.
Putting my head back into the right space.
My super-group is super constructive when it comes to criticism. They are very straightforward, honest and brutally clear. Without being mean, condescending or totally anti-something. I expected them to tell me to be more realistic and that life as a mother and employee would be so much easier. And more realistic. And from a very twisted feministic-pov I thought they would say that, of course, I have to pay and earn (financially) as much as my partner. Because if that’s not equality what is?
I had the biggest myth-buster-experience ever. First things first. All, every one of them said something like “Anna, you are meant to be your own boss.” Which was super re-assuring. Not one of them thought of me as not having what it takes. One person laughed as I suggested the idea of me going back to being an employee. Because she never saw that in me. Another one said she would love to be her own boss but it wasn’t for her because she loves the safety net. But she doesn’t see me in that space either.
Then the super-group offered their opinion and view on me moving from Berlin to Saxony. Pointing out how much time I would have to spend commuting, the risk of losing clients and how much more exhausting my work life will become. Which turned into a discussion about why should I pay for me becoming pregnant and giving a family to someone else. Who in return keeps everything. His dream job, the surrounding he is used to, all his friends nearby, his living standard. With me making a lot of sacrifices and still have to make more money because in the future I would have to pay the same amount of money to keep our living standards high. Hmm. I haven’t thought of it that way.
And finally the biggest myth of them all: Being a mom and having an employer makes life so much easier. I was really shocked when the mom-members of my super-group all told me the same thing. Being a mom and being employed is hell. You are always at the mercy of your boss. You never have the certainty of working only in the mornings (=when childcare is provided). And you are super unflexible so whenever something comes up you are torn between living up the expectations of your boss – because you have to fulfill a work contract – and your life as a mom.
Networking in unusual places.
Up until this point, I never realized what an amazing network of super supportive women I have. I knew that my friends and freelancing buddies are amazing. But I never thought of them as a super-group. And I didn’t expect them to be so clear and direct about a lot of things.
I misjudged them. I misjudged their assessment of me as a person. Or how they would think about my lifestyle. And to be really honest: I totally undervalued the support they offer me. Because one part of the conversations was putting my head back into the right space. I was aware of the fact they can and would do that. And that they stand by my side. But aside from that they also offered valuable knowledge. It turned out that my mom-friend is a knowledge fountain for things like “Elternzeit”. My other friend was totally into digital stuff. And together they all give me the pieces of information and advice I needed to create opportunities. So that I can have the relationship and the business I want.
They are not just a super-group that cheers for me. They are the super-group with unlimited knowledge and real opportunity-creators.
My personal road-workers.
To go back to the initial question of this blog post: Why do you need a super-group? The reason is super simple:
There are going to be times when someone who thinks it can’t be done gets in your way while you are doing it. And when this person is interrupting what you are doing,
your super-group is there to
- Give your clarity (“putting your head back into the right space”)
- Shows you new ways to stay on your way and make this possible. Or to say it with Bruce Lee: They create opportunities with you. (“The opportunity-creators”)
- Clear the road for you. (“Cheer for you”)
They are there to tap into the part of yourself, the part that lies deep, deep down, that is convinced about the direction that you are going. Your super-group taps into it and make it available for you. They bring to light what you forgot. They re-tell you what you told them about what you want. And they point out your thinking errors. They offer you advice. And give you the pieces of information you need to make things possible. So that you can go forward.
When you on your way and someone tries to interrupt you, your super-group pulls this person from your road. To speak figuratively. They pull this person from your road so that you can continue your journey and live your life in the best way possible.
[And a small p.s.: Like I said in the spoiler alert it turned out that out of panic I misunderstood my boyfriend and kind of overinterpreted some of the things he said. Whoopsie daisy. But at least getting all the support from my super-group lead to me firstly gaining even more clarity and certainty about what I want and secondly it lead to me having a very clear conversation with my boyfriend. It turns out talking helps. Especially if you don’t hide behind fuzzy word-constructions. But rather become very precise in stating what you want, what you thought the other person said to you and how you like things to be.]