Top Trumps & Emotional Constipation
Welcome to *MY* world
Have you ever played Top Trumps? It’s a card game where you are trying to out do your opponent by comparing statistics. You might have even had a competitive friend or family member who tries to Top Trump you at all kinds of things. You’ve been to Tenerife, they’re going to Elevenerife types. They make conversations difficult at times. Especially if you’re going through something crappy and you’re trying to offload. I had a colleague once, who used to ask how I was getting on with XXX, then I’d perhaps mention that I was finding it difficult because of Y and Z. I quickly learned just to respond with ‘fine’ because what I soon realised was that it was a trick question. They just wanted an opportunity to say, ‘welcome to my world’ and then go into a lengthy diatribe of how difficult *their* job was and how I should be grateful I didn’t have as much responsibility as they did. Top Trumping every time. It’s quite tiresome.
You might be from the generation, like me, where you had to eat everything on your plate because there are starving children in Africa. Or where you were told to stop crying or you’d get something to cry about. There’s always someone worse off so don’t moan, just get your head down and get on with it. Growing up in a working-class family in a northern town, this was the norm. ‘Stop being so soft’ was a phrase commonly heard in many terraced houses at that time. One of my mum’s (particularly hard, with hindsight) favourites was ‘don’t cry it makes you look ugly’. I never saw her cry until much later in life and that was when one of the dogs died. She was the epitome of stoicism. Of course, I don’t know what her childhood was like, she’d been born during WW2, my grandparents had lived through WW1 too. I can’t imagine the impact of that. (What’s that poem by Philip Larkin?)
Emotional suppression or repression
You can see how, due to the societal and family narratives, emotions were swept under the carpet. Crying was wrong, shameful or a sign of weakness. Any upset or negative emotion was invalidated and there’s no outlet. So what happens when all those feelings are not dealt with? You may well suffer from emotional suppression (a one-off act), or it can become a habit and turn into emotional repression, an avoidance of emotional suffering, which people use as a coping mechanism. Some people may turn to drink or drugs to help them cope.
It can overspill as frustration or anger. I remember losing my shit in the checkout queue in Aldi when I was struggling with the reality of having a terminally ill mum. It was probably justified actually. The woman in front of me only had a few items on the belt. I’d got about 5 things too. Then from out of nowhere her fella started to push past me. Apparently, she’d been saving him a place in the queue! Which would be fine if he’d just nipped back for a forgotten item, however, he’d actually got an overflowing trolley full of stuff! I didn’t think this was fair, so I said as much. I asked if I could go in front as I’d only got a few things, they said no.
At this point I started to get a bit feisty, pointing out that their actions were unreasonable. This strapping 6ft something fella then started to raise his voice and try to intimidate me. I was not in the mood. The weedy wet lettuce of a security guard just stood watching as I asked him for help. Then a friend of theirs, a few tills down, started to get involved, shouting over at me. At this point I’d had enough! I shouted across the shop – ‘You can mind your own fucking business!’ I dumped my shopping, limbo’d under the security barrier and stormed past the wet lettuce. I got my shopping in Sainsbury’s instead and paid twice as much. I can laugh about it now, but I felt a lot of shame after this incident. I didn’t like the way I reacted, but this just tipped me over the edge when I was dealing with a lot and struggling to keep it together.
I’ve already done a lot of ‘work’ on myself over the years but I’m currently properly exploring my default shrugging off of things that have happened in my life that were actually quite traumatic. I’m realising that I’ve probably been more emotionally ‘constipated’ in the past than I realised and there’s quite a bit of healing to do. I’m curious to see how this plays out and looking forward to putting some demons in the past for good, rather than stuffing them down and ignoring them. I realise that writing this might make me seem like a bit of a weirdo in the ‘muggle world’. I’m super grateful to have curated an amazing community in my business world and be in the company of enlightened luminaries who get where I’m coming from.
Many of the women I’m connected to have chosen to be their own boss later in life. It’s often to do with just having had enough of workplace drama and the impact on their wellbeing. Throw a few menopause symptoms into the mix, like anxiety, loss of confidence, body shape, skin and hair changes etc and you’ve got the perfect storm. We are also often dealing with ageing parents at the same time our kids are leaving home...
“”Ain’t no place for sissies” is what Bette Davis said about ageing.
You could also apply it to riding the rollercoaster of self-employment. We have to have courage and self-belief to make that decision.
So yeah, middle age PLUS self-employment definitely ain’t no place for sissies.
We’ve been through storms already; we know that with each storm we come out the other side that little bit stronger. A bit more resilient and wiser. We are queenagers. We are strong.
We also get tired sometimes. We need support. We need somewhere to say things are shit without being judged. We need to have a circle of support, of other women who get it, to lean into when we are juggling all the balls. When women come together without ego, with open hearts and a genuine desire to be of support to each other it’s a beautiful thing. There’s safety in numbers. It’s empowering. It’s easier to put yourself out there more in business, live a fuller life, do things that take you out of your comfort zone but make you feel ALIVE, exploring and having FUN. It makes things so much easier when you are amongst your tribe. You AND your business benefit.
Your feelings are valid
Having the right support and community around you is game changing. I posted this in the FAB Business Club WhatsApp chat group recently. Because I *know* it’s relevant:
“I know sometimes when you're feeling crap you don't tell us or ask for the support you'd like.
I know it's because you are comparing your crapness to somebody else's crapness and thinking they're much worse off ...
If you are feeling crap for whatever reason, your feelings are still valid.
Sometimes we feel crap for no apparent reason and that's OK too.
Use the group to share all kinds of stuff - good and bad. No judgement here.”
And as a result there have been several members lean into the community, hopefully sharing will help them feel better and they won’t end up telling strangers in Aldi to fuck off.
I realise that to some, talking about this stuff could be seen by some as washing dirty linen in public but I don’t actually care. I think we need to be open and have these types of conversations more often. Perhaps our mental wellness could be improved generally if we feel like we have psychologically safe spaces to share these thoughts and feelings. I know what it’s like to live with long term stress, anxiety and depression and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy as they say. It’s so easy to just say we are ‘fine’ and wear the mask of okayness but at what cost?
Have you found your psychologically safe space to hang out yet? How do you navigate the rollercoaster of business and life? Perhaps the FAB Business Club could be the right space for you too?
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