Today I would like to share with you another insight that I have only gained through my burnout: As soon as I showed myself with my weaknesses (in this case my illness), other people opened up to me in a whole new way. Showing my weakness was just not seen as weakness, but by the vast majority of people as a great strength (see this great video by Brené Brown). And because I showed myself, the others opened up and I was allowed to see behind their backdrop.
And what did I discover with astonishment and fright? That almost all of my interlocutors invest a lot of time and energy in giving others (and probably themselves in particular) the impression that they are doing well: we constantly send out selfies where we stand radiant in beautiful places, we put a lot more effort into cleaning up and cooking when guests are there and then, at dinner, we tell them how good our house/child/car is, we put on a good face at work so that nobody notices how frustrated we actually are, etc. What is the point of all this? Because we are ashamed of not being able to be what we think we need to be. We are not great at our jobs, great parents, great partners, and great friends. We expect way too much from ourselves if we want to fulfill all these roles perfectly. And why? Because we have the feeling that others can do it too and we are therefore not normal if we don’t succeed. What we do not recognize: The others don’t really succeed either, but like us, they invest a lot of time in creating this impression in their environment. That’s why dealing openly with a crisis is so helpful: it allows others to (finally) show that they are not as well off as they seem. And that is very relieving for all parties involved.
Do you know where the word “sympathy” comes from? From Latin and it means compassion. When someone opens up to me, I can sympathize with her/him and that makes us sympathetic to each other. Give it a try. But believe me, there are few things that require so much courage! And that is why showing weakness is an absolute strength.
Do the following thought experiment: A man is highly appreciated by all people, he is successful and popular. But: He is the only one who does not like himself. Another man is not appreciated by anyone in particular and he is not successful by the usual social standards. But he likes himself and is satisfied with himself. Which of the two is happier?
Why am I telling you all this? Because I know that you have good reasons to want to go into business for yourself. These reasons are probably related to unpleasant experiences with your working life, which you cannot talk about openly with the environment without (supposedly) harming yourself. It is also likely that many people will critically question you when you report your ideas and thoughts: “Don’t do something like that, you have a secure job!”, “The risk is much too high!”, “You have invested so much, you can’t throw it all away!”
These are the above-mentioned voices of the social norm. And it is probably also the fear of the others that someone is jolting this image and they feel that they are actually affected themselves, but that they themselves would not have the courage to take such a step. Count on many well-meant defensive reflexes in your environment. It is also good to listen to the arguments, because there may be good clues in them that will improve your plan. But don’t let it dissuade you, because the issue will keep coming up again and again until you face it – even if it is due to illness.
But I do not advise you to rush blindly into the adventure and quit right away. For some, this is the right way, or perhaps the only way. However, it is much wiser to use your employment as a “launchpad” and only quit when you are convinced that your new path is the right one for you. I will write on how to do this step by step later.