It won’t take all of us to go through a miscarriage, the loss of a best friend, and the passing of our dearest parent, to help us evaluate what our business world really wants and needs.
But it’s exactly how a transformation in her career approach unfolded for Natalie South*. She shares her story so that your new year can benefit from her crystal clear hindsight.
“I was laying in a hospital bed, recovering from a miscarriage, coupled with sheer exhaustion and grief, when the penny finally dropped.
For 20 years, everyone around me had known me as this ‘ballsy’ kind of business focused woman who just seemed to want a career and a name in the professional spotlight.
I look back now and realise that I’d switched off much of the ‘personal’ side of myself, avoiding deep friendships, and always being pretty terrible in romantic relationships – to the point I stopped dating with any considered intent.
From my early 20’s until my early 40’s, I’d managed to develop this tough persona, of someone who ran her business ruthlessly and was, by all accounts, successful.
What people didn’t know about me was, I was the shadow of who I felt I ought to be or wanted to really be.
Very few knew about the softer side of me, the fact I still longed to be a parent, the fact I hated living on my own in my fabulous apartment and being seen out at all the ‘right events’ in my Reiss and Karen Millen dresses, and with the perfectly matching shoes and bags.
It was like my cover, my armour. It was the distraction from who my authentic self was and wanted to one day show the world.
Then, on New Year’s Day three years ago, having lost my best friend in a car accident two weeks before Christmas, and watched my beloved mum give in to her cancer fight just three weeks before that, I was then laying alone in a hospital bed as a result of a miscarriage.
It was exceptionally early stages in a pregnancy which was unplanned, accidental, and had happened as a result of a drunken night with a business acquaintance who I know – to my shame – is married and has his own young family.
I’d only realised I might be pregnant days before, but all the same, it was a deep blow at my age, and something which brought so many things crashing to a head.
There in that hospital ward, I knew life had to change and that it was time to switch the persona of this aggressive accomplished businesswoman, for someone who could be authentic, and realise what she truly wanted to bring to the world – and to herself.
It was amazing how quickly the answers started to unravel that day. I knew that stopping my current regime and ‘way of life’ was the only way to live a happier and healthier life.
That afternoon, I called my brother – who I saw very rarely – and humbly asked him to buy me some supermarket jogging pants to leave the hospital in. I left my work suit on the side of the chair when I walked from the ward that day, and it was as if I had started to shed my uncomfortable skin.
I’m not going to say the next few weeks and months were easy, but I took medical advice to rest more, I accepted more help from friends and loved ones, I welcomed people to be hosted by me with my lousy cooking skills (something I was deeply ashamed of), and I explored all kinds of ideas and options for my future self.
My business life had always been in property and with investors and financiers. It was cut and thrust….and there’s not one thing I can really say I liked about it.
What it had taught me, however, was that there was way too much disconnect between those who could afford a LOT of property, and those who can’t afford it at all.
My heart had always been most hit by stories of women who had had to escape domestic abuse, or children who had ended up on the streets because of broken homes and disadvantage.
I decided my future would like in a social enterprise designed around finding housing for those in such circumstances, and in educating them to be able to pay for the demands of home-owning, to run a home, and to continue to give back to their surrounding community.
Today, I’m proud to say that that project is really motoring – although there’s still some way to go.
Urged by a coach to do so, I wrote a letter with true authenticity, to so many of the former financiers and property investors I’d met throughout the years. I explained my mental health experiences and my desire to make positive changes and to be true to myself in a greater quest.
Their response was phenomenal.
Today, I’m not rolling in money, but I’m in the early stages of a social enterprise which really makes me want to get out of bed in the morning, and which truly makes me feel glad of who and what I am.
Now, when it comes around to the period of New Year when we’re all making changes, I think back to that time and am grateful in many respects for the ‘moment’ which allowed me to find my authentic self.
I’d highly recommend to anyone who is going through that frustrated sense of being less than authentic, that they reach out for someone they can work with as an authentic coach or confidante to help steer them.
Happiness comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and I’m so pleased I’ve finally connected with mine.”
**Names have been changed to protect identity.