Is your career keeping you single?
I’m absolutely in favour of healthy ambition and of achieving our full potential at work but in my case, my previous career ruined my love life. Read on if you think yours is too.
In the past two weeks, I’ve sat in radio studios alongside high-flying female political journalists. Only I didn’t talk about politics. I waited silently for them to finish discussing the government reshuffle - and then I talked about relationships and how to fall in love.
I could have discussed politics during my recent interviews on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and Talk Radio. After all, I used to be a political reporter. But that career led me to burnout and breakdown and, I now see, kept me single for years.
There was a time when I loved my first profession. I relished the excitement and the adrenaline of working in news. I travelled the globe with prime ministers, and covered earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.
Only I gave too much of myself, fuelled by a deep-rooted sense that I wasn’t good enough. My binge eating disorder, which had first developed in childhood, also flourished in the hectic environment of a newsroom. I ate to mask my fear of being found out. My loneliness increased too - every time I arrived home from a foreign trip, I walked into a silent, empty flat.
I’d hoped I’d meet a partner through my work – a fellow globe-trotting, adrenaline-seeking journalist or perhaps someone in government, banking or the Law – and I dated a few colleagues, but nothing worked out.
Now I understand the reasons why. Let me share three of them, in case you can relate.
1) My career was completely misaligned with my authentic self
By my late 30s, I’d begun to heal from my eating disorder and I’d started to mature emotionally. As I did so, I got in touch with my true self – and my true self was tired of sitting for hours in front of a screen, of sacrificing my personal life to work weekends, of surviving on adrenaline and of writing the same political stories, day after day.
My true self longed to have more freedom and to spend more time outdoors, doing the things she loved. She also longed to write creatively.
So my career and I were no longer a good match - and that meant I was dating in the wrong pool. I was meeting news junkies with chaotic lives, while really I longed for a slower, more peaceful existence.
As I slowed down and as I made time and space to camp, cycle, hang out with my outdoorsy friends and write creatively, I met my now husband – on a cycling trip in Cornwall.
2) I had no time or energy for dating or romance
I was always rushing from pillar to post, chasing news stories and deadlines. I missed parties and days out. I created online dating profiles half-heartedly, with only a fraction of the effort I put into updating my CV. And then those profiles languished. I rarely sent messages or managed to meet people face-to-face. I was too busy.
Of course, my career was also my first line of defence. I was scared of love, intimacy and commitment, so I deliberately kept myself busy. Sound familiar? If so, join me for a Facebook Live on Psychologies Facebook page on February 14th, Valentine's Day, at 1 pm GMT. We'll explore how to face our relationship fears and change our patterns.
3) I wasn’t someone I’d want to date
I don’t want to put myself down here but I wasn’t taking good care of myself in my years as a news journalist. I wasn’t loving or valuing myself. I wasn’t spending time doing the things that made my heart sing. I was working myself into the ground. As a consequence, at times I was depressed, by my job and by my life. I may have looked good on the outside but on the inside, I wasn't an attractive prospect.
The process of transformation
Once I became aware of my reality and accepted it, I could start to change it. I began to carve out more time for healthy, outdoors pursuits and for my friends. I began writing creatively, first on my blog and, eventually, I fulfilled a dream and wrote my first book, How to Fall in Love. I filled my life with the things that made my heart sing and I became someone I wanted to date. Then I followed my heart out of London to live on the coast.
I emerged as the woman I am today: an author, a relationships coach, a wife and a woman who walks on the beach and swims in the sea more often than not.
Over to you
I know some of you will be reading this thinking that your career is keeping you single. I know this because I've met women and men like you in my coaching practice.
If you can relate to my experience, firstly don't panic. I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a career. You may be single with a huge mortgage to pay or a high monthly rent. You can’t see a way out. I felt the same once. But know that there is a way out.
Next, consider taking some or all of these five steps:
1) Vocalise your intention to change your career
Start talking about your desire to have a different job or a different life. Discuss it with your friends, with your colleagues and even with your boss, if he or she is enlightened - most bosses understand that an unhappy worker is an unproductive and costly worker so they may be willing to support you to move sideways or to find your way out.
You could also write about your desire for change, in a journal or perhaps on a blog (anonymously or otherwise). I blogged about my desire to leave London for the seaside two years before I actually made the move. It took a while, but I believe the very act of writing it down and sharing it with others gave my dream momentum.
2) Reconnect with the things that bring you joy
Carve out time for singing, dancing, painting, drawing, cycling, swimming or whatever floats your boat. Fight for this time as though you were fighting for your life – because ultimately you are. You’ll need good boundaries to create this space for yourself. You’ll need to love and value yourself enough to leave work on time or accept that your 80 percent is good enough (because it is). Explore activities that help you to feel like your authentic self. Allow your true self to come out of hiding.
3) Try on new professions for size
Do a short training course or find someone who’s doing a job that interests you and invite that person for coffee or ask to have a phone chat. Perhaps you could shadow them for a while? When you’re working in this new area, check in with how you feel. Are you authentically you? Does it feel good? If it doesn’t, try something else.
4) Take an inventory of your transferable skills
Remember, nothing is wasted. The skills you’ve developed to date will serve you wonderfully as you go in a new direction. It turns out the writing and communication skills I honed during 17 years in journalism transfer brilliantly to my new career as an author, coach and retreat host. I write fast and I write well. I know how to get featured in the media (hence the radio interviews). I ask insightful questions and listen for the meaningful answers. And I know how to communicate complicated ideas (such as dysfunctional relationship patterns) clearly. You haven’t wasted any time. You’ve simply been preparing yourself to take this next leap. Take heart from that - and then analyse the valuable skills you have and think about where else you could use them.
5) Work out your true priorities
You don’t have to give up your ambition. You don’t have to stop using your intellect. But if you want to be in a happy, healthy relationship, you may need to make some courageous choices. So what are your true priorities? Where do you want to be in five years or in 10? I have a free Design Your Dream Decade Workbook & Webinar available here - they may help with clarity.
Let me finish with a quote from Chapter 10 of my book, Make Bold Choices:
“I meet too many women and men who desperately want to make a bold choice, who want to change their lives, leave their jobs, move out of the city to the seaside or move from the countryside back to town. I meet people who are tired of dancing to someone else’s tune or of paying the price of being too nice. I meet women who take their tears to work, who feel their soul go to sleep as they switch on their computers and who bury their lostness in bottles of wine at night. I meet people with wonderful dreams and amazing ambitions for their lives who don’t have the courage, yet, to stand up for themselves and to fight for what they really want.
I know what it feels like. Believe me, I do. I have been there. But life is short. You know that. So don’t wait until you have a health scare or a breakdown or the light inside you goes out to change your life.
Please, promise me you won’t.
***Free Resources, Courses & Upcoming Events***
* Join me live on Psychologies Facebook page on February 14th, Valentine's Day, at 1 pm GMT for How to Fall in Love - Face Your Fears & Change Your Patterns (recording also available).
* Download the first chapter of my book, How to Fall in Love, here.
* Join my free Facebook group Being Real, Becoming Whole for life and love tools.
* How to Fall in Love - Laying the Foundations small group course for women with group coaching and optional 1:1 coaching. Starts Monday March 23rd.
* Valentine's gift: take £50 off my How to Fall in Love - Laying the Foundations self-paced course. Use the code valentinestreat at checkout
* How to Fall in Love Dorset Retreat, May 1 - 4. Earlybird now available.