I’ve been working for the Georgia organization of the National Alliance on Mental Illness since September 19. It’s only been about 3 1/2 months but I’ve been thinking about my relationships and how I feel about things. The word that comes to mind is that I feel accepted. My boss has been very supportive of my ideas and we have great conversations. I feel that her confidence in me is growing as she is giving me more responsibility, which means I will need a larger hula hoop. I am working well with my co-workers. Since there are so few of us, we work together quite often. I serve a number of local affiliates and I feel like they have come to respect me for my dedication and for doing what I say I will do. The employees at the National Office in Arlington, VA have been easy to work with and they have been happy to see what we are accomplishing here in Georgia.
For most of my career, I worked for large corporations. I have held jobs in many different departments and types of organizations. Feeling like I was accepted was usually a challenge for me. In some jobs, there was competition which impacted the type of relationships we had. In other jobs, the employees with more seniority felt threatened by the younger employees. Then there were the jobs when entire organizations were divested or merged into others and one group thought their way was the only way. Alliances needed to be built, politics had to be played, turf had to be protected, empires had to be built, who you knew was more important than what you knew. Corporate America at its finest.
So, for most of my career, I didn’t feel accepted. Now I do. So what’s the difference? It may be because I work in a small group. It may be because I work for a non-profit company. It may be because we all are living in recovery from a mental illness or are supporting a family member who is. I’m sure all of these factors play a part.
But the real reason I feel accepted is because I can, and have, shared my own vulnerability. I no longer am trying to convince everyone how talented or smart I am. I no longer am trying to outdo others so that I will get promoted. I no longer have to pretend to be strong and confident when I am not. I can say that I feel overwhelmed. I can say that I am nervous. I can admit that I am not good at developing plans or planning events. I can ask for help when I need it. I can simply say that I don’t get it. And nobody thinks any less of me.
In one of my favorite TED talks by Brené Brown on vulnerability, she said that “Acceptance comes as a result of sharing what’s in our hearts, regardless of the outcome.” As Popeye used to say, “I am what I am and that’s all that I am”. Being all that I am and sharing the real me with others is freeing, stress-reducing, and helping me to feel like I belong.