The Lowlights of 2021
It's time to stop only sharing the shiny parts, the highs, so here's my real 2021.
Inspired by someone asking for my 'win for the year' to which I simply said 'surviving'.
Is it me, or has the world (and particularly the business world) become a place where we only share the highs, the celebrations, the wins and where everyone seems to try to 'filter' and mould everything into a positive?
Isn't it time to stop searching for silver linings, to stop always trying to find the 'up side', to stop striving for bigger better shinier things to share, and simply talk about reality as it is?
If you're new here - Hello! 👋 I'm Vari - Scottish Kiwi Hufflepuff and ICF Certified Life Coach - living in Melbourne. I'm here to help women take brave action with confidence and heart in their career or business, and to help break down the systemic engrained outdated world of work which is so biased against women.
So here is my honest reflection on 2021, I promise not to wrap things up in a convenient bow, not to put on rose coloured glasses and to share my real experience - in the hope it provides comfort, insight and maybe even inspiration to others.
Lowlight One - Business
One of the things that infuriates me most in the business, and particularly online business space, is the overly promoted (and false) idea that success can be overnight, easy for everyone, and a constant up and up exciting joyfully ride.
Now, yes sometimes some of these things happen for some people. For some very privileged people. Those with abundant connections, experience, time and money to invest.
The conversation I love and treasure most with my friends who also run their own business, is about business as a rollercoaster, and that growing your audience, your income and your impact is all about consistency and time. Time, time and more time. It takes years to build up.
So why don't we see that shared as much online? That raw honesty?
Is it because people want to make money from 'quick fixes' and 'secret sauces to success'?
I think it is.
I regret some of the investment I made at the start of my business in people promoting these ideas.
And if you need to peddle these concepts, and rely on 'good vibes' and positive thinking alone, I would seriously question the skill, the talent, the experience, the value and ultimately the real sustainable results of what you have to offer.
OK I think that's enough scene setting. So for me, the first lowlight of 2021 was that the initial success my Coaching saw in late 2020 and early 2021 did not continue to build and simply go up and up.
This was when I thought dollars directly indicated success. I now realise that's not the case at all, and will actively block anyone who focused only on '*** figures" and / or '$***k months".
Income is one line on a budget. I should know - I lead venues and teams with up to $11 million budgets in the corporate world.
We need to look at the bigger picture, and for me what's truly important - for me and my legacy - is impact.
And here is some honest raw data from my first year in business:
As promised I won't now be turning this into a 'silver lining', but I will say that one of the most profound and impactful things I have learnt to do is separate my work's worth from the dollars earnt from that work.
So business did not continue to grow in 2021, and of course this leads to feelings of doubt, confusion, and anxiety over this new chapter I leapt into in 2020.
It's so hard to keep going in the first 2 years of business, and doing so during a pandemic makes it so much tougher. There have been days (and even weeks) where I have wanted to give up, to stop, and give in to the self doubt.
And that's been a lowlight, and something I did not see coming in late 2020 when everything seemed to be going so well.
I have decided to keep going - knowing that this is the work I am on this earth to do - but I'm also here to say that sometimes the right thing, and the brave thing, to do is to stop, to quit, to try something else.
And only you know what the best, bravest thing to do is.
Lowlight Two - Lockdown
This is something I thought was "so 2020'.
How wrong I was.
Quick recap for those not familiar with what's happened in Melbourne - 4 lockdowns in 2021, the world's longest lockdown, 3 months of being in our homes 22-23 hours a day (and almost the exact same dates as 2020), a complete lack of stability, lack of being able to predict what's next.
And Melbourne lockdown means only leaving your home for essential shopping, 1 to 2 hours of exercise a day, only meeting 1 other person at a time, and not being able to travel over 5km from your home.
Only made more challenging for us who do not have a car.
And for a human like me who needs long walks, hikes, nature, new people and new things to feel alive, energised and creative, it is crushing.
I also had my asthmatic lungs to worry about - I've had to take a strong steroid inhaler twice a day every day for over 10 years.
While some people promoted the idea that "we have done this - we have got this - we can do this again', I found myself devastated that what I thought was a once in a lifetime lockdown was happening again.
I had just found an amazing new Pilates studio, reconnected in person with friends I had not seen in a long time, and begun to feel a little like my pre-pandemic 2019 self.
And now I was beginning to resent our home (we moved in May 2020 and so have spent SO much time here), and even to resent Melbourne - I love this city, but a lot of what I love doing is over 5km from my home, and involves being outside for over 2 hours, and being with groups of people.
I did not 'learn more about myself', and 'learn to appreciate the small things again'.
Yes I used what I learnt in 2020 to try and help myself, but mostly I was shocked, bored, restless, frustrated and desperate for it to be over.
And I was lonely. I missed real life connections with people, I missed working in a team, I missed seeing people's smiles - every time we stepped outside our homes we had to wear a facemask.
What impact did this have on business? As I said to my accountant, I would not expect to see results when I had so little energy, excitement, inspiration or creativity to put into business.
But I made it through, I survived, I am still here. And that's enough.
Lowlight Three - Life
Ultimately a combination of one and two.
Add to that living on the other side of the world from my family, and the physical impact that 2021 had on my body and my health.
The chronic manifestation of stress on my system which started in December 2019, the impact of less movement, less joy, and my lungs suddenly stopping responding to an inhaler I have taken for years.
One of the most frustrating things I heard was "take control, you know what you need to do".
Yes I do. But it would literally be illegal to do those things during lockdown.
Lockdown life became a new normal, the international travelling outdoor event filled life of before faded further and further away. It became harder to hope, harder to find optimistic moments.
And I think that's the ultimate lowlight - losing my true optimistic energetic joyful self to a year which just kept challenging me, in so many different ways, over and over.
I am of course not going to wrap this up in a silver lined bow.
I simply wish to say that life can be hard, and that's ok.
For all the highlights we see, there are so many lowlights we don't.
I'm trying to share those lowlights - to normalise this, to bring more balance into the world, and to encourage others to do the same.
The world does not need your highlights reel, we need your true raw self with all your ups and downs.
Thank you, Vari 💜