The Courage to Stand Alone

In this blog I reflect on some of the emotions I experienced when leaving my profession, as I took my life-leap last year. I hope that by sharing this journey, it may resonate with others who are deciding on their next step.

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A year ago I made the decision to leave my job as a GP, and since July I’ve been freelance, carving my new path as a life coach.

Something that I found really hard about making this change, was telling other people.  I worried that something I felt was important enough to pursue with all my heart, would be dismissed by other people as trivial.  I was hypersensitive to small comments, that were probably just “chat”, but to me in my vulnerability they felt hard to take.  I would have conversations where I felt the other person was questioning aloud my decision, and although I realised this might be more about them than me, I felt quite uncomfortable. 

I also noticed that I started to distance myself, and felt the need to feel different from other doctors.  It was as if I needed to feel that my chosen path was unique, that my different choices exposed some greater difference between us.  I noticed that I felt especially vulnerable when I came across another doctor who had become a coach before me – this seemed to challenge my sense of uniqueness and heightened my fears that I wasn’t special or unique enough.

During this time I've used mindfulness and writing to notice my emotions and my responses.  It's given me really useful information about the challenges I was experiencing, and also to moderate some of my reactions.  At times I've needed to talk to close friends or my husband, when I've felt derailed by comments, or frustrated that I felt alone and misunderstood.  I used self-compassion techniques to remind myself that I was being courageous, that I didn't need to know all the answers, that it was ok not to justify my decisions to everyone.  I needed to do all of this, even just briefly, on a daily basis and I've given myself a "pep-talk" in the mirror on more than one occasion!

A year on, I realise (with a wry smile) that the only thing special or unique about me, is that I’m me!  I’m doing my life in my own particular way, just as everyone around me is doing theirs.  I don’t need to create distance between us, and I don’t need to judge or feel judged by the different choices we all make.  It’s perfectly fine that I’ve chosen my path, which is enthralling to me.  It wouldn’t suit everyone and I don’t regret the twenty years I worked in the NHS, because that was all valuable too.

Allowing myself to be really vulnerable, by standing up and saying I wanted something different for my life and that I was going to make it happen, has allowed me to feel both more self-sufficient, and more connected with other people.  It’s not always been a comfortable ride, but it’s been all of my own making, and I’m excited by the possibilities.  Along my journey I keep asking myself my key questions:  “Am I living wholeheartedly?”, “am I allowing myself to be vulnerable?”, and “am I showing myself compassion?” 

It’s a journey, not a destination I seek, and I’m in it for the ride!

Nicola Harker

Coach and Mentor (ex-doctor) and teacher of Self-Compassion, Nicola Harker Coaching

Using neuroscience, self-compassion techniques and coaching as well as high-performance techniques I help my clients free their potential and get back to their true selves so that they can thrive in life.