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When I was a child, I loved to read and to write.
I thought about becoming a journalist, or going into publishing, but became a lawyer instead. I was a good student but I wasn’t interested in science, so I couldn’t be a doctor. Besides, my dad was a lawyer, so it was a profession that I knew. And I loved and admired my dad.
Not only a lawyer, but a finance lawyer. Me, the most literary of people. Even worse, I left law to structure investment funds. What was I thinking?
Despite all that, I was good at my job, but my career was going nowhere. I spent my time comparing myself to everyone else. Why were their careers so successful? What was I doing so desperately wrong? What was wrong with me?
I created an Excel spreadsheet, which organised my life down to the smallest detail—when I would exercise, when I would pay the bills, even when I would sing. I was struggling to perform. I was struggling to be okay. I was struggling to find out who I was—although I didn’t know it yet.
Then we adopted our second child, and all hell broke loose. When he was about two, I took him to the paediatrician for a routine visit. He refused to be examined and hid under the examining table. She said, “He needs to see a psychiatrist.”
I was convinced that things were getting better, except that he kept on hitting me, kicking me, biting me, provoking me, and refusing to do anything that I asked. How could someone I love hurt me so badly? I seemed to be crying a lot more often than I was laughing. That’s when I finally reached out for help, for him and for me.
I started to work with a Gestalt therapist. The first thing she got me to do was to delete my “organise-my-life-to-the-last-detail” spreadsheet. Then she wrote the names of all the people I was comparing myself to on a whiteboard—and wiped them all off again. She helped me to see that my career was going nowhere because I wasn’t interested in the jobs in financial institutions or law firms that I could have been applying for. And, to my astonishment, she told me, “you’re a creative,” and encouraged me to write.
I started a writing course in a dingy basement room at the bottom of the rue Saint-Jacques in Paris and felt as though I had walked into a whole new world. It felt like coming home—connecting to the person I had been when I was a child and an adolescent.
I went on to write two one-woman shows. My first show was a combination of songs and texts inspired by those songs, which I performed for 20 people in our living room. My second show consisted of nine texts on the history of the world. I performed it in front of over a hundred people in a theatre near Montparnasse in Paris. A friend I had known for a long time said: “Until I saw your show, I didn’t know who you were.”
For five years, for a full day once a month, I was part of a Gestalt therapy group. It was nothing but a few people in a third-floor room with a small balcony—but it was also some of the most intense, creative experiences of my life. I learnt so much. That I loved the intimacy of going deep. That I was a leader. That I feared speaking in public because I craved to be seen and recognised for who I was. That I leapt at every chance to be creative. That all those negative thoughts I had about myself were nothing but that—thoughts. Nobody else judged me as harshly as I did. In fact, they admired me.
I learnt that we are all creative, and that our creativity can express itself in a multitude of different forms. That our education system has overdeveloped the left-hand, logical side of our brain, and virtually ignored the right-hand, creative side—so that many of us are literally only using half our brain. When we tap into our creativity and our spontaneity, we strengthen the right-hand side of our brain, and become happier, more balanced, less critical of ourselves and others, more innovative, less anxious, and less stressed out.
Where am I today?
I now know just how much I have to offer. I can be quietly confident because I know who I am.
I work with women who want to have a massive impact and earn a great living, but are stuck, like I was. I love the coaching conversation, which feels like stepping off a cliff into thin air—every time. Nothing is planned, but I know that all that I have learned throughout my life will make itself available for my client at exactly the right moment. I run a podcast called “Brave New Women,” to showcase women who are already standing up and making an impact.
I don’t worry too much about the future—I just do the next thing. I build my business. I write my book. I sing. I look after my children.
My son still hits me occasionally, but once every couple of months instead of once every couple of hours, and I can pretty much cope with that.
If you are like me, or at least the way that I was, I would love you to learn what I have learnt:
>> Find what you love to do because that is where you will be the happiest—and the wealthiest. Don’t accept anything less. This is common advice, but it can be extraordinarily hard. It takes time and effort, and a willingness to go deep—but there is no more important work to do.
>> What we think about ourselves is often just plain wrong. Other people are generally far more compassionate and loving toward us than we are toward ourselves.
>> Confidence means being prepared to stand up and say what you think without having to check it out with someone else first.
>> What you fear is what you crave. Learn to master your fear and lean into it, because that is where fulfilment lies.
>> If you live your life by the rules, look for spontaneity.
>> If your life is chaotic, learn to develop structure.
>> If you’re looking for perfection, try doing things badly.
>> If you don’t already have a creative endeavour, get creative in any way you can.
>> The more comfortable we can get with being ridiculous, and the more we remember that it’s okay for adults to play, the better we will perform.