A few weeks ago I had to make a tricky business decision. Nothing major, but I felt rubbish afterwards and – as is often the case when I am alone in my office – struggled to get perspective and spiralled into negative self-talk. The net outcome of this scenario is always that my work grinds to a halt. Hours of time and industrious creativity can be lost simply to feeling rubbish.
One of the things I dislike most of all about running KNITSONIK LTD. is how much of the job is invisible and goes completely unappreciated, and the lack of an outside perspective at tricky times: unless you build them in yourself (more of this momentarily) opportunities to recognise your wins and objectively identify areas for growth and development are few and far between, and it can far too easily beomce a self-bashing festival of ALL THE THINGS I’VE DONE WRONG/ALL THE PLACES WHERE I’VE FAILED. I think as a basic tenet of self-esteem we all need to feel recognised from time to time and thanked for a job well done. I can’t tell you what it means to talk to other folks running businesses like mine and just to hear a sincerely expressed “GREAT JOB!” – it means so much and is motivating in ways that can’t be quantified.
This reminds me of when I was broken and sleep-deprived and handing in my undergraduate thesis, in a spiral of I’M PROBABLY GOING TO FAIL; I consoled myself by buying a SUPER stamp – a way of recognising what I’d done even if it failed in academic terms. (That thesis won an award but I couldn’t foresee that on the sad day of handing it in after two successive all-nighters and the horror show I’d experienced in trying to get it to print out.) We all need affirmation.
Messages of appreciation for my work that come in from customers are golden and always make my day. Over time I’ve learnt to copy them into my KNITSONIK Bullet Journal where they save me on the worst days. They are a true salve when I am firefighting things like fearing I can’t cover my operational costs for the foreseeable future; chasing packages lost in the post (and knowing I will end up replacing them at a loss); battling with my accounts; or handling the occasional message that comes IN ALL CAPS and is hard not to experience as a personal attack: “I PAID FOR X AND NOTHING HAS ARRIVED!!!” I know it’s not personal, but sometimes – when I am literally the only person who sees these emails – it’s hard to remember that.
As a self-employed person, there is no office co-worker with whom to dissipate and joke away the horrors of these Bad Things though I am lucky to have a rich network of self-employed friends to whom I can turn for much-needed perspective at the worst times. THANK YOU, PALS!
But I’m also learning to build in more of the care and recognition I need for myself – that’s the trick about being self-employed: I am the boss and, as such, need to look after the wellbeing of my staff (also me!) and their/my mental health. If KNITSONIK is going to succeed, I need resilience and stamina – and morale is foundational to this. One of my aforementioned amazing friends also runs a small business and struggles to balance her work with disability and a long stretch of serious illness. One time many years ago she shared how, after a particularly difficult week, she had responsively sat down and created for herself an amazing badge of self-recognition, bearing the moniker EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH and a beautifully-drawn rosette. That’s the sort of genius, mischief and uplift that I can get behind!!!
You’ll know if you’ve done my KNITSONIK Bullet Journaling course that I try to build in a monthly VICTORY LIST (celebrating everything in the month) and a REVIEW PROCESS (kindly and objectively identifying areas for improvement); I’m prioritising these activities more, as the growing pains of building KNITSONIK LTD. stretch me – and I’m learning that the busiest months where it feels impossible to make time for self-recognition are also the ones in which I need it most. Because these are the months when things can easily slip from EXCITEMENT AT ALL THE PROJECTS into MAXIMUM STRESS AT ALL THE PROJECTS into TOTAL ANXIETY MELTDOWN. I do not have an external to me boss who is kind and caring and protective and who looks after my self-esteem, but I can try to be this person for myself. And so last month I made some investments in STAFF MORALE that have been amazing and that I really want to share with you – ESPECIALLY if you are self-employed.
At various online stationers – including Leuchtturm1917 – you can opt for a personalised embossing service to customise your journal. My KNITSONIK Bullet Journal is the palace of dreams wherein all work tasks and also self-care and also creative planning and also cheerleading take place: ensuring it is an extra amazing place of affirmation is of vital importance. So, embodying the benevolent and rewarding boss I need to have, I ordered this:
I also invested in a large stack of gold reward seals that seem to be evaporating into letters and notes to fellow small business owners; they are the gift that keep on giving: sharing them as love and uplift with my comrades almost feels better than happily sticking them into my own journal to celebrate, say, the VAT return being down before my accountant is on my case; or the completion of a very long but important stint of sorting out subtitles for videos in my online school.
If I see the things I do and say “WELL DONE” then those needs for recognition can be met, and the day-to-day adversities of self-employment more easily met from a place of strength and confidence.
Shout out to everyone feeling under celebrated in your work, and especially to my self-employed buddies with creative businesses; I know that in all your different ways, with the mountains you’re moving to try and keep afloat in this strained and broken economy, you too are EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH.
Shout it out loud on the pages of your calendar or your planner; or on your office wall; – I promise it helps x
YOURS IN THE POWERS OF AFFIRMATION X