Soulful Simplicity

Excerpted with permission from Chapter 22 of  Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver.

Creating Soul-Centered Work

When I was diagnosed with MS, I didn’t think I would eventually quit my job. In fact, to prove to everyone I was okay, I dug my heels in a little deeper at first. I was worried about potential medical bills, long-term disability, and again, what other people might think, so I made sure work was a priority—stepping outside of myself to prove my worth again. As Mark and I paid off our debt, focused on fewer ends, got rid of our stuff, and began to reject the idea that what other people thought about our life mattered or should influence our decisions, I started to consider the idea of working for myself. I knew I didn’t want to be tied down to an office space or local business, and I wondered if sharing my simplicity journey through a blog could be the start of something. I wasn’t sure, but I was excited to try it anyway. In May 2010, was born. I even registered my business as a way to say to myself, “I am doing this. This is possible.” I was still working full time, but doing something I really cared about made the work I didn’t love a little more bearable.

Instead of Becoming Your Work, Choose Work That Becomes You

When I think about why my jobs always wore me down, I can’t entirely blame the jobs. Some of my employers were great, I loved my clients, and some of the work was enjoyable. The real problem was me. I became my work instead of choosing work that becomes me. I used to think I was an extrovert. People who know me well laugh about that. My former boss and wonderful friend Diana saw it. She thrived at big events and client lunches while I used to try to leave early whenever I could. I showed up, though, and pretended I liked it and because I was good at it, most people didn’t know how miserable I was. The work I did was very high energy and demanded constant interaction with lots of other people. I became the person I thought I was supposed to be to do my job. I was what author Glennon Doyle would describe as shiny. She says, “You can either be shiny and admired or real and loved.” Being shiny means not being you. Shiny doesn’t last, or feel good, or matter. Loved is always the better bet. When I was working, I was shiny. I remember one of my shiniest moments when Mark and I were attending an event at one of my clients’ photography studios. I knew it would be a schmoozefest and wasn’t looking forward to it. In the car on the way over, I wasn’t very talkative. I was exhausted and not feeling well and took it out on Mark with short answers, sarcasm, and feeling sorry for myself. When we walked through the door of the studio, I turned on my shiny work-self and was hugging and mingling and appearing to have a great time. When we left, Mark was hurt and confused. “What just happened? I thought you didn’t feel well,” he said. I responded, “I have to show up for work.” We never talked about it again, but I’m sure he was thinking, “I’d like you to show up for me.”

Now that I know I’m an introvert, it seems more obvious why my work wore me down, why I got sick a bunch, why I dreaded the obligatory networking events, and why I felt completely depleted at the end of every workday, meeting, or event. I never took the time to be alone, to refuel, or to soothe my heart. Instead, I kept pushing, proving, and trying to thrive. There was always more to be done, more to prove, bigger goals, and higher hoops.

Books like Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain encourage introverts to be who they are. It’s in that place where we are who our hearts want us to be that we can be all the way alive. Becoming my work and acting like an extrovert for a really long time was part of stepping outside of myself and forgetting who I was. I lost myself. I forgot who I was and what I needed to thrive. I didn’t need a personality test to tell me I was an introvert. I needed some space and breathing room to remember. I had to say, “enough is enough.” I had to be still and listen.