Op 09 juni 2016 kreeg ik de kans om in 7 minuten mijn “zo moet het dus niet” verhaal te vertellen, op de Fuckup nights in Antwerpen (http://fuckupnights.com/antwerp/). Voor diegenen die het gemist hebben of die graag de presentatie een keertje lezen, je vindt ze hieronder.
I suppose I have always been self-employed, although I did not come from a family of entrepreneurs. It all started at age 14, after I placed an ad in the paper. Suddenly there was a man sitting at my kitchen table, learning Dutch. My mother did not understand how I’d managed to do that, at all.
As the years went by, I always had weekend jobs and even found student jobs for my friends. At age 20 I decided that Belgium had become too small. I quit my translator study, gave up the idea of seeing my name on a television screen behind “subtitles by” and left for Spain, to work for timeshare. It seemed like a great career move at that time.
But, imagine going to the nicest place on earth, just to discover it is the coldest winter ever, there were no sunshine and no tourists to live from. After a few weeks I ended up working in a Belgian pub, on commission, so without tourists, my income stayed very low. Eventually, my ex-boyfriend had to pay for my bus ticket home.
Since my impulsive decision had not led me far, decided to go work for the government. Great idea, because with 70 paid holidays a year, I could easily study for my bachelor degree in marketing. After I graduated, I found a job in human resources.
My life was quite normal, I met someone, we bought a house, had a baby and one year later we sold our house and separated. And I was a single mom, almost full time.
But I have always thought of myself as a strong & independent woman, so I just went on. And when in May 2007 the training department of the company I then worked for closed down, I saw it as a sign and I jumped. I started as a freelance consultant, trainer, assessor, recruiter, … . In 3 weeks’ time, I was fully booked until the end of the year.
But working full time, 70 hours a week, still being a single mum, means there’s no time left to plan ahead. So in 2008, I had to start looking for new assignments. Especially since I’d bought a house on Christmas Eve.
Financial stress makes you lose focus, so I took on every freelance job I could find, regardless how much it paid. And I found myself working even more hours, for less money.
The financial stress, the care of a little child, the sleepless nights, … . It became a vicious circle. I had to stand still, but I didn’t, not even when I hurt my back by lifting a coffee table the wrong way. It hurt like hell, but I had learned to be strong, to not give up. So I took very strong pain killers, with morphine even, to make sure I could keep on working. Which became impossible after a while, because I could no longer lift up my left leg. I needed surgery. And I had forgotten … to take care of an income loss insurance. Well done Karine.
Since then I believe in guardian angels. Mine is called Ingrid Verduyn. A business woman I had met several times during my career up till then. She called me, asked if I could set up an outplacement department for her company and, when she discovered I wasn’t mobile, she suggested I’d work from my couch. I just needed a laptop and a phone, didn’t I? So I took that chance and when after three months, she found out I needed an operation, she offered to hire me part time, so I did not need to worry about money. So she truly must be an angel, she really saved my life. Without her, I would not be running my own company now.
I recovered and started studying again. I took coaching courses, studied 4 years to become a therapist and got more and more involved in stress management and burn-out therapy. I combined that with freelance training assignments. And although I am a high sensitive person, the high sensation seeker part of me was calling the shots. Life seemed good, but I was racing through it.
Have you ever felt like you were playing a role in someone else’s play ? Up until then, I was actually sure that I was in control. That I was the director of my life. So I was shocked to discover, I was just an actor, not making my own decisions.
It happened on my daughters 10th birthday. I missed it. Why ? Because the company I was freelancing for had hired me for a training course, far away, at that same day. I even had to spend the night and socialize at the business event afterwards. I felt sick, I felt sad. I swore I would never miss a birthday again.
But I still didn’t slow down. I became more and more tired, got sick quickly, had no social life and wasn’t quite feeling like myself anymore. My energy was drained.
Your body tells you when it’s enough. And when you don’t list, accidents happen, So I needed to be hit by a car. It happened in May 2013, when I was standing still in traffic. I was out for a few seconds, went to the hospital, had a severe whiplash and was not able to sit up for more than 10 minutes. I was not able to work.
It finally hit me (just as the car did), I had been flirting with burn-out myself and now I could no longer escape, I had to face the facts. I had no energy left, I had lost focus along the way. I had forgotten why I had chosen to be self-employed. I took a three months break. No income, no plans. I stayed in my house by the sea. I needed silence and time out.
There I was, a stress & burn-out specialist. Suffering from stress & burn-out. I had failed. I realized it can happen to really everyone. I went to a coach myself, I needed to figure out what I really wanted. I had to make choices. And I did. I started all over again, with focus, with work-life balance and doing only the things I love to do.
Before, I worked too many hours a week, without focus. Now I run my own job coaching company, I even have a team of freelance job coaches working for me. I am still active in therapy & coaching. My training department is growing rapidly and organizations find me when it comes to stress management and burn-out prevention. And I only work 25 hours a week !
My advice to you is, don’t do as I did. Don’t wait until it’s too late, accept and reach out to people, find help. You only live once, so participate in it, feel it, and really live it ! My mission is to empower people, but I’ve learned that I can only do that when I empower myself first.