It was April in 2020 and the conversation with Errol, my coach, went like this:
Paused for a second..
What seemed like an innocuous question quickly plunged me into a “quarter-life crisis”. The type where existential questions began to gnaw at my soul at any opportunity.
“Who am I?” when scrolling through social media.
“What’s my purpose?” when working.
“What am I doing with my life?” when deciding what I’d have for afternoon tea.
It’s only now I see why I found myself in this position. It stemmed from not feeling like I was enough.
It’s a situation that threatened to derail my life.
Losing My Enough-ness
I trace the roots of the feeling back to when I failed to live up to my potential as a sporting talent. My identity hinged on my ability as an Aussie Rules Footballer as a teenager. However, after failing to realise my dreams I lost this sense of self. Unbeknown at the time, in an attempt to replace it, I began seeking validation in the people around me. I started shapeshifting to their needs and expectations.
Around my family I was the type of brother who’d provide a shoulder for their sister to cry on after a breakup. At footy the person who brought the energy. Around friends the jokester who’d do anything to create a laugh.
While I felt I was living my best life, problems began to arise when my personas became conflicted or I faced major life decisions.
A conflict between my social life and my relationship led to a breakup that left me with a shattered heart and wounded soul. My desire to be validated by my mates saw me do nearly anything for a laugh. Whether it be diving off the roof at Taylor’s rooftop bar, forward flipping into the Ivy pool or jumping through a table. Eventually, my wild and reckless behaviour drove a wedge into the relationship I cared most about.
Identifying the Deep Rooted Problem
It wasn’t until a few months later in New Orleans that I realised a deep rooted problem existed. It was the first time I’d experienced solo travel and I awoke to a feeling I couldn't quite put my finger on. It wasn’t until I sat at the breakfast table it struck me like a lightning bolt.
It was the first time in my 22 and three-quarter year existence that I was deciding what to do without any pressure or expectations from anyone else.
Until that moment my days were always influenced by the needs and expectations of those around me. However, here I was in a city where I didn’t know a soul. There was no people pleasing persona to adopt.
Usually the quintessential extrovert, rather than go exploring, I decided to perch up on a beanbag and read my favourite blog ‘Wait But Why’. I felt weird. I had become so accustomed to acting to impress others, I felt I was doing something wrong. Was doing this enough?
Consequences of Not Believing I Was Enough
A few weeks later I returned to Sydney to start what I thought was my dream full-time job. A venture-capital company I interned at throughout my final year of university study. However, after the sugar-high of the first few weeks, something felt wrong. There was something missing. I quickly realised the role failed to provide any sort of fulfilment.
Only a few months earlier as an intern I loved this role. What changed?
A realisation struck me. In those moments that I was grinding away, I didn’t love the work I was doing. I loved the thought of the tasks leading to a full-time role. Now that I had the role, the tasks left me disinterested.
I’d mistakenly become intoxicated with attaining the role because of the status associated with it. To say I worked at a VC would gain approval amongst all my friends and family. I’d be enough.
By pure luck, as I began to realise this misalignment between career and fulfilment, I met Errol. A gentleman in his 70’s whose wispy white hair wrapped around his head in a way reserved for the most wise. In what has become one of the greatest gifts of my life he offered to be my coach. This conversations dates back to our first session:
My inability to answer led me to realise I’d never set my own ‘north star’. I’d followed a pre-defined checklist. Went to school to get to uni, uni to get internships, internships to get a job. I never questioned it. It was the safe option.
However, past that point I had no roadmap. I realise now I never set my own North Star because I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t believe I was enough so I let my identity and my path be defined by the environment.
I pursued career opportunities based on ego and behaved in a way incongruent with my true self. My life felt like a game of Jenga, where in order to rise to the occasion I had to take bricks from my core and place them on top. In the process weakening the structure and my sense of self. In hindsight, it was only a matter of time before the tower collapsed.
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