Career 23 July 2018
I have a confession: I've never really enjoyed working for other people.
Why? Well, for starters, I'm selfish. If there's a final bite of shared dessert on the plate, I'll eat it. If I go even one day without hitting the gym, I'm resentful. Once the coffee is made, I pour myself a cup of coffee before I offer it to my husband. I hoard time the way others hoard possessions. I'm selfish with my thoughts. I like to be alone. Sometimes, I stick my daughter in front of a cartoon just so I can hear myself think.
Because here's the thing: How I control my time determines how I live my life. I want to spend it providing for my family, sure. But I also want to make sure I'm doing what I really want to be doing—the type of work that has me bounding out of bed excited, not exhausted.
And for me, that kind of passion has never been found in an office. As I hurtled through college, collecting a writing degree, a valedictorian stamp, a publishing deal, and a ton of freelance projects, I realized I didn't want to work for anyone else.
But I also wasn't interested in starting a business either. So, what's out there for those who don't necessarily want to die in a 9 to 5 under the thumb of a boss, but also don't have the desire to open a brick-and-mortar store, worry about growing a company to such monstrous proportions that you need teams, insurance, office space, and employees?
Enter the life of the solopreneur.
Entrepreneurial in spirit, the solopreneur focuses on his or her art, makes money from it, but doesn't necessarily depend on others to grow her business. You can collaborate with people. You can work on other people's projects. But when it comes to your own craft or business, it's all about Y-O-U. You are the brand. You are the product.
While I dabbled in content management and editorial roles, penning four published nonfiction books, blogging, becoming a trainer, co-owning a gym, etc., I realized that all I'd ever wanted to do was to write books. Not nonfiction books, novels.
Because I am someone who loves urgency, I finally felt the push. I was ready to take every skill I'd collected from my odd jobs and pour them into doing the very thing I'd always wanted to do. I finally got clear. Not about what I wanted, but by answering one simple question: If I could do anything in the world every single day, what would excite me the most? We all have those “activities" we succumb to where time stalls, you feel that you are living on purpose, and you literally can't wait to tell whoever is within earshot about what you're working on. Because it's not really happiness we're after, it's excitement. And writing novels, despite the solitude it requires and all the work it takes, is the most excitement I've ever felt.
You have to find your own excitement, whether that's in the office, on a yoga mat, helping other people, or traveling the world. And when you find it? Act on it immediately. (Trust me, there's never the perfect time. The perfect time is the moment you decide to take the risk.)
When I finally thought of the right idea last year, I immediately quit the two extra jobs I was working and decided to use the last two months of a corporate contract to write an entire novel.
Because I believed in myself and gave myself the space to create, I wrote it in just four weeks.
I then secured a literary agent. The book was sent out to editors, got into a bidding war, went to book auction, and landed me a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press, one of the largest publishing houses in the country.
I did my due diligence. And then I got it done.
Now, the real work begins. Finding the right publicity team. Repositioning myself as a novelist and not a Jill of all trades, which, let's face it, as kick ass women today, we have all become.
Because I am still a mother. I am still a wife. I am still a director of content for a branding agency. I am still a ghostwriter for clients' blogs. I am still open for opportunities, but at the end of the day, my new path is about focusing on doing one thing really well. It's about putting all of my energy into being a novelist and not getting distracted with all of the other sideline projects, money woes, and opportunities that are dangling within reach.
Being a solopreneur is about keeping your focus. What is the real goal you are trying to reach? Define it. What happens when you reach your own personal pinnacle of success? What happens if you don't?
What comes next?
In an age where community is key, there is magic to being a solopreneur. This doesn't mean you're a selfish byiatch. It doesn't mean you can't someday help others generate jobs or even join forces with a pro you admire and respect. It just means you are focused on your own initiatives, your own goals, and not the minutiae of everything that goes into keeping a corporation alive.
Is that selfish? Or is that the stuff dreams are made of? I'm forging my own way to find out.
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."