Let’s face it, life is…. surprising?
It can feel like a circus when we are reacting to our outcomes, but what if we chose them instead?
This is what I set out to do years ago when I had started my first business, Flourish Design. Trying to do this from where I was turned out to be a disaster. I was trying to live life on my own terms as an entrepreneur.
Nothing was turning out the way I hoped. I had no money, a bad relationship with my husband, less than ideal projects, and total frustration. I had big ideas, though, and drive.
The main problem was I was used to reacting to the world around me. I did not know how to create outcomes at the time, which can be easy if you’re happy, healthy, and whole. One major stumbling block was in my way; I would uncover a few years into my self growth in working with coaches.
I was a codependent.
This was news to me at the time and it came as a shock. First, I didn’t know what codependents were until I read the book ‘Codependent No More’ by Melody Beattie. Second, upon finishing the book I was stunned at how deeply dysfunctional I was as an addict to addicts.
I could see how my behaviors as a codependent were keeping me from everything I wanted in life. A loving partner, great client relationships, money, basic happiness? These things can often times be unavailable to codependents because codependents live life as victims. I was a professional victim, blaming and reacting to the world at large through a very needy, empty place of insecurity.
When I learned this I was ashamed. I only wanted to be good, do good things, and be happy, but I was hard wired to fail at this. Seeing it on paper made me feel like a bad person even though I’m not. It made me reflect on how I was creating toxic situations for myself and some of the people in my path. What hurts the most was I couldn’t be a really professional service provider until I cleaned up my act.
Some behaviors of codependents are as follows and I was all of these and many more big time:
- have difficulty making decisions
- have trouble setting healthy priorities and boundaries
- give up their truth in order to gain the approval of others
- an unhealthy dependence on relationships
- a compelling need to control others
As you might guess, these traits would not have magnetized many clients or admirable people toward me, in fact it attracted the opposite.
So what did I do with this information? I changed. I could not allow the integrity of myself and my company to be compromised by how I was being. I also saw how this type of lifestyle was creating most of the pain I felt.
So I went into warrior mode and turned my life
180, probably a few times over.
Was it hard? OH HELL YEAH.
Codependents are addicts, and getting out of addiction is well…really challenging. It is not impossible though.
I had to become ruthless, alone on my mission, dedicated to looking at what I didn’t want to see, and courageous enough to be the only one who believed in me except the professionals I paid to see me through it.
While personally I felt alone, I did keep my coaches and counselors on the calendar otherwise I would have never made it to the other side.
And what is the other side of addiction, exactly? It occurs to me now that there are many people for whom this place doesn’t even come up on the radar. Sadly, I learned the toxic world of addiction and codependency is very common in our culture.
The other side is to live as a creator. This is actual freedom, and that is what I believe most entrepreneurs are actually seeking. While it can seem dazzling to be able to expand your income however you like as your own boss, the real joy in this experience is the freedom to be, do, and have that which is uniquely you.
To be a creator and not a reactor was exactly what I was trying to do. I basically had to become an entirely different person. In fact some people who knew me at different times during this six year transition would not even recognize me after I had addressed my codependent behaviors.
Some of the things I had to let go of were friends, my home, all of my belongings, my neighborhood, many of my ideas about how to run my business, lies I told myself, and eventually my husband. I knew that I was so deeply prone to being in victim mode, and the only way to cleanse my life would be to change my environment entirely.
As a design professional it made so much sense that every thing, person, and place in my existence would have an effect on who I was being as a person.
Thank goodness I am more stubborn than I am tolerant and that I had planned to do anything to make my life and business a success. I made myself learn how to create my success because I realized absolutely no one else cares what I want like I do, nor will those things be given to me. It might sound silly reading it if you’re thinking to yourself ‘Well, I don’t really think people are going to hand me my success.’ I didn’t think I thought that either. But when I woke up to the many excuses I placed in front of me as to why I didn’t have great sales and happy people to hang out with I could see that I was responsible for every ounce of lies I was telling myself that was keeping me from where I want to be.
If you’re not where you want to be in life and you desire to be in a different place there is something that you are not taking responsibility for. Period. End of story.
Too many people are ok with tolerating pain, to the cost of lives left unlived. I realized I was ok tolerating vast amounts of pain because it was easier to deal with that which kept me small, than accepting the potential fear of not being able to succeed at all. The keystone in my potential coffin was an emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive, alcoholic husband.
‘Just gonna stand there and watch me burn
That’s all right because I like the way it hurts
Just gonna stand there and hear me cry
But that’s all right because I love the way you lie
I love the way you lie’
-Rihanna in ‘Love the Way You Lie’
Heck yeah it was hard to admit that I was the one making me very unhappy by blaming a man among other things. With him and everything else gone, I could see the piles of crap I created were truly mine.
Was my grueling transformation worth it? Abso freaking lutely.
I honestly did not think life could be this good. Yeah, I still cry, get stressed out, and get frustrated. But I know I can turn around those thoughts, I know that’s just me being in victim mode. Being a codependent my whole life, I actually didn’t know the joy of feeling in charge of who I am and being clear and connected with who that is. Knowing that and feeling that feeling is like being home.
I share this story because it still hurts me to see other people hiding from who they are even though I know how terrifyingly challenging and lonely it can feel to take the first steps. Now that it is trending more than ever to become an entrepreneur and because becoming an entrepreneur means taking a good hard look at who you are being this story needs to be told. I remember feeling stuck, stagnant, uncertain, and not knowing where to turn.
A real entrepreneur is constantly committed to taking steps especially if they don’t know where they’re going. A real entrepreneur simply knows who he or she is and that his or her gift needs to be seen and heard.
Nothing will stop me from connecting my gifts to the people who need them again. And gosh darn it if I don’t know how to smile every morning when I wake up from a real place and that is priceless, my home, the one I took responsibility for.
Michelle Andersen is an entrepreneur committed to helping people live a bold, confident, and brave life the best ways she knows how – through her coaching and design ventures. You can follow Michelle more closely by signing up for her newsletter at michelleandersen.com