“You are more important than me.”
Somehow, this was a warped philosophy I used to live by. Not consciously. I didn’t think I was worthless. In fact, I thought the opposite was true. I believed that I was important. That’s why you needed me.
My actions however spoke another truth. I said yes to everyone and everything. I put other people’s needs ahead of my own, all the time. And it was killing me inside.
I believed that someday good karma would reward me for all my generosity and goodwill. I had so much time and energy to give. I would keep giving and giving and giving, because at some point good fortune would knock on my door.
Over the course of a decade of failed entrepreneurial ventures, I could see the equation of my plan was seriously unbalanced. I always gave more than I got back. I grew bitter. But I kept that to myself. To the world, I needed to be desirable, not miserable.
My positive demeanour attracted people towards me. The demand for my time kept growing. I am an optimistic, bubbly and charismatic person. I’m the guy that is always hustling and working on cool projects and doing amazing things. You would never meet me and say “oh that guy has got self-esteem issues”.
In reality, I was spinning out. Working more than I could handle and not being remunerated properly for my efforts. On top of all that, I was fighting a major internal battle.
I said yes to everyone and everything, because I was addicted to their approval. Yet each time I sought belonging, it made me more desperate. My obsession with being needed, overpowered my ability to say no.
“You are more important than me” is exactly how I was behaving.
It got worse, before it got better
There was a second personality trait compounding my situation for the worse. I was exceptionally bad at confronting people. I would go to great lengths to avoid unpleasant situations and conversations.
It was very clear in my personal life. I would never send back terrible food, complain about noise, or stop people from cutting lines in front of me. Instead, I came to believe that these things didn’t bother me. I successfully convinced myself that I can get on with my day, optimistically, despite this slight hiccup. No worries, man.
My professional life was taking a harder knock. It paralysed me when it came to things like asking for a promotion or resigning. This is where it really hurt.
It hurt my pocket, and it hurt my pride. I felt like a wimp. A coward. And as much as I bottled it up, eventually I found myself in situations where I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I became overloaded with rage.
I would direct this anger at my clients. Not actually at them, physically. They had no idea I was upset. I would do it while I was alone or even worse at home with my family. I would curse the clients and deem them abusive. Could they not see how much work I was putting into their project?
Only it was I who didn’t ask the right price for my time.
It was I, that put more hours in than I should have.
It was I, that didn’t tell them I could not do their project in the first place.
It was I, that didn’t tell them when they were now stepping on my toes.
It was I, stewing in my own anger, because I was angry at myself.
Are you like Dean?
I have come leaps and bounds from the person I just described to you. Over the last 6 months, I have entered an incredible transformation process.
I have dived headfirst into conversations I would have otherwise avoided. I am more focussed. My work life is satisfying. I have better relationships with the people in my life. I am physically and mentally healthy. I feel calm and stable, rather than blindly enthusiastic and hopelessly optimistic.
If you are perhaps still struggling with the things I have described, then let me give you an overview of what helped me change.
The recipe to my transformation
There was no single thing I did that made the difference. Instead, it was a combination of 4 actions that were integrated into my lifestyle. They were:
Accountability & Support
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is, and it has become enjoyable to have these things be regular in my life. Let me give you an overview of my history, approach, and change in each of these aspects.
I have not read many books since I left school. The few I did were mediocre fictional novels and “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”. It was not that I did not enjoy reading, I just did not prioritise it and I certainly did not value it as an source of mind-food.
Upon joining ikario we set up a book club for the team. Once a week, one of us would present a book we had recently read. The pressure to keep up with the team sent me head first into the first book I had read in 4 years.
I read “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” by Jarion Lanier. It was one of 6 books recommended to us by Shane Melaugh.
It was fantastic. I was enthralled. My presentation went well too. Seeing as my turn was up to present another book in a couple of weeks I picked another off the list and got straight into it. I read “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. The best thing I ever read in my life.
It was followed by another perfect fit: “No More Mr Nice Guy” by Dr Robert Glover. Likely the most impactful book I will ever read.
And on it went. I am currently reading my 7th book this year. The difference between before, and now, is that I am reading the right books for me. Also, I had help getting kickstarted with accountability. More about that just now.
The next major turning point for me was making use of writing in my journal. As a team we committed to a 90 day challenge of writing regularly. I opted to write about my problems and struggles and to document the progress I was making along the way.
I had always been an advocate of writing. I would recommend it to people that were struggling (including my partner who has been struggling with anxiety).
Yet somehow I was dishing out advice that I was not practicing myself. When I started putting pen to paper for myself, I went on the most marvellous journey of introspection.
In combination with the books I was reading, this was progress compounding progress. I have since started publishing my writing in its raw, unedited form on a blog called Burnout. (You are welcome to read my full journey HERE)
The start of my change for the better coincided with the Corona Lockdowns of the world. I had no access to a gym. I couldn’t even exit our front door and go for a run. I want to state that right up front, so that anybody without access to sporting equipment and facilities doesn’t come with a counterargument that they can’t do this.
I committed to a simple exercise of 20 pushups a day. That was it.
I set an alarm to go off twice a day and I would drop and do 10. At first I could hardly do 5 pushups. But in less than 2 weeks I was adding a third set of 10 to my daily routine.
This became a sticky habit quickly. I looked forward to doing it. The rewards were astounding. Better focus at work, no neck and back ache anymore and over the course of 2 months my body starting to take better shape.
40 Pushups - Done for today
Without a doubt this simple process kickstarted something that has grown momentum. I’m still only doing small regular exercises, but they have grown to 40pushups, a short run or walk, a 10minute full body workout, a stretch routine and a regular intake of water.
Despite having had a gym contract for a few years, I have never been physically and mentally healthier than I am now.
Accountability & Support
And finally, the glue that holds it all together: Accountability. Each of the three topics I have mentioned, were supported by a team of people.
The book presentation to the team kept me going.
The writing was also done as part of a group challenge. Each of us submitted our our work to each other. Being the only one not delivering was something one just didn’t want to let happen.
The physical exercise was done as part of a 1on1 accountability challenge with Abhi from the ikario team. We would call each-other and spur each-other on to keep going.
Humans are social creatures, we rely on interaction to thrive. Being supported by other people is a vital part of making actual change and progress in your life.
Seeking out supportive people and accountability partners truly can be the difference between knowing what you need to do and doing it.
Make Your Change
Overcoming things like people pleasing and avoiding confrontation can be done, but it required deliberate action. For years I was living hoping it would one day get better on its own. I would have wasted my entire life waiting for better things to come. Pouring my heart and soul into other people and never supporting my own needs.
I have a passion for helping people, but know I know I can only help people after I have truly helped myself. My goal was always to live a remarkable life, today I am closer to that goal than I have ever been.
Building a system that allows you to take action is what ikario is all about. With us you are never alone on your journey to change and success.
For me the first step to make my change was to identify my problem, so that I could begin to work on it.
If you are unsure about what it that is holding you back from your full potential, then read this article and learn more about the others on the ikario team, and what their troubles were.