When I was suffering from my longest depression (2020) and PTSD (2014–2020), I didn’t speak up. I was silent. Afraid of being seen as someone who is not grateful, someone who complains. Worse, I was so afraid of getting ghosted or avoided by the people in my circles who wanted to keep conversations light. You know the type I’m talking about…
I co-founded a company, got newly married, and moved to a country and a language that were foreign to my husband. I faced covid (like everyone else), and the strange immigration mess that would come as a result (like a lot of people). I addressed all these dimensions together, for the first time, and they seemed like one hell of a Gigantic ugly beast that would eat me up alive. I had dreams of running and escaping wolves. Sometimes, they were bears. In one of my dreams, two huge bears — grey and brown — stomped on the roof of an uncontrollable car Leo and I were driving, and we almost died. Needless to say, that life was too much to balance and I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of decisions and mistakes I would experience.
Emotions like shame, fear, frustration, anger, and loneliness were part of my daily reality at that time. For example, I learned a concept called “Shame Storms” from Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly. Thankfully, I kept a good part of my sanity and heart because of sparks of light here and there throughout 2020: hearing my mother’s voice in the Whatsapp calls, seeing pictures of my nephew, feeling my husband’s affection and humor despite all the fights, visiting friends in New York and Utah, experiencing my teammates’ support and daily presence, and #LesBrown and #BrenéBrown. There were days when even a stranger’s smile or hello meant everything to me.
In the middle of this, I discovered the power of going back into my inner world, with therapy and life coaching. I want to give a shoutout to Amy Jin who helped me ask the best questions about myself and my relationships at work and at home. From her coaching over four months (and kudos to my cofounder Brian Liou who suggested working with her), I grew enormously and I faced the tough decisions I hadn’t had the courage to make.
Two of those decisions were very sensitive:
1) I wanted my home. Everything in me said, “stay in Senegal.” Yet I had already given my word to my husband and my cofounder that I would be based in Vancouver. It’s one of those decisions where your circumstances tell you A and you simply know B is better for your life. Do you jump or do you keep the people-pleasing?
2) I no longer felt connected to my work at Rora and I was simply not functioning anymore. I tried many shifts and a lot of the positive psychology and productivity hacks out there. Everything in me said “Step down. Find a new activity.”
Meanwhile, the ungrateful and tyrannical furies in my head were saying: “You are not enough. You have not done enough. You are not a quitter. You sit your ass down and keep going. You don’t disappoint the team.”
Amy Jin was there for me. No judging. Careful listening, pertinent questions, and guidance towards the inner truth. She helped me peel off layers and layers of shame and fear and people-pleasing. I love you, Amy Jin.
It’s been three months since I decided to be free and face my insecurities with compassion and wisdom. Since then, I have found new ways to express myself and my love of people and social impact right from my home. For example, I am working on a hydroponics startup with my husband Leo and we are progressing beyond our own expectations. It all started with decisions:
1) I deserve happiness and an easier life. If there’s a way to be happier and more fulfilled, I’ll always go for that option, no matter what people think.
2) I deserve to live in a way that I experience every day as a blessing, and I really want to wake up tomorrow. I want tomorrow to be my friend and not a place of dread, shame, and struggle in my mind.
3) I like advancing missions and touching people’s lives. I like living in complete truth and alignment with my heart, EVEN MORE.
If you are a female founder, especially if it’s your first time, reach out to Amy. Maybe you realize that you need the coaching. Maybe money is holding you back. She has a scholarship for BIPOC founders.
If you have great stories on how you have successfully dealt with people-pleasing, please share at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still a journey for me. I love you. 🌈 🌸 ❤️