You’ve left the corporate setting, but you may still be lugging around that clunky corporate mindset.
If that’s the case, you’re likely working with outdated notions of what it means to be a “good worker,” and how to “fit into corporate culture.” Let’s change that!
Below I’ll share the four mantras I used to clear the toxic residue of the corporate world from my thoughts and create a new, self-honoring mindset about work.
Mantra #1: “I won’t suffer for money.”
How many times have you been on a gig that’s causing you to suffer, but you reason that it won’t last forever, or that you can tough it out? Maybe you justify your silence with the trusty corporate catchall that says, “well, they’re paying me. I guess I can’t complain.”
That was me during a recent project. The creative director wanted to work together-but-separate on Zoom. All day long. After a few weeks, my eyes, posture, creativity and mood were all suffering. And so was I. Like many employees, I was afraid to express my needs, but eventually I had to ask myself: Just how much am I willing to suffer for money?
Our culture has come to equate money so closely with our actual worth that we often end up demeaning ourselves and treating ourselves as if we truly have no worth just to get it. In fact, it seems that having high self worth is taboo in a capitalist culture that depends on our low self worth for both labor and consumption of goods. In this paradigm, having money is a virtue.
So, where does our worth really come from? Cliché as it sounds, it comes from inside of us. That means we get to decide what we’ll tolerate and what we won’t. And, yes, drawing that line in the sand means we have to speak up, make requests and sometimes even make the completely unorthodox, and wholly radical decision to turn down money. Let that be ok — you’re worth it.
Mantra #2: “I am not required to be or act stressed out in order to do my job.”
The idea of “grinding ”— like a gear of a machine — has become a modern euphemism for work ethic, productivity, and success.
Paradoxically, it’s actually our rest that’s tied to our productivity — not our ability to “grind.” We’re creatures of rhythms — not machines — and when we allow our bodies to guide us back to our more authentic pacing, we experience a sense of flow. As a result, both work and homelife begin to make a lot more sense.
As independents, we get to challenge the corporate norm that says work comes before everything — including mental health. This means refusing to be pulled into someone else’s anxiety in order to signal that we’re “passionate enough,” or to be considered a “team player.”
It also means questioning unrealistic timelines, and figuring out what a reasonable workload means for us — and then learning to communicate that, no matter how the communication is received.
Unfortunately, some people will become enforcers of the status quo when faced with someone who demonstrates a level of freedom that they don’t allow for themselves. Don’t let this deter you. Consider yourself a model for them, and when they’re ready to work differently, they’ll remember that it was possible for you, and it’s possible for them, too
Mantra #3: “I am my own boss, no matter what my job is.”
When I started freelancing, I got to experience how I felt about myself when I was in the outdated, top-down hierarchy model, versus when I wasn’t on a job.
What I found out: when I had to put others on a pedestal — and thus think less of myself — my whole life would fall apart. My schedule didn’t matter. My body didn’t matter. My sleep wasn’t important. Life sucked.
When I put myself in charge of my needs, I reclaimed the right to make decisions on my own behalf, rather than relying on the company to look out for me.
Recently I was working with an ad agency led by one “really important” guy. (You know him, right?) Smart as he may have been, the hierarchy model made it so that the rest of the agency was left to work after hours, chasing him around to interpret his feedback and get his “approval.” It was a mess.
I soon felt the familiar pressure to take my place on the corporate ladder, and in doing so, I watched my sense of self-worth begin to dwindle. This was a choice point: would I submit myself to the outdated employer-knows-best model, or would I step in and manage myself as my own boss? A week later, when the agency asked if I was open to extending my contract, I simply said, “no, thank you.”
It felt powerful, but also weird.
In a culture that teaches us to “fall in line,” simply doing what’s best for ourselves can feel like we’ve done something wrong. When we become our own bosses, we no longer wait for permission to meet our own needs, because we’re always in charge.
Just as any good dating expert teaches that our primary relationship is with ourselves, in work, as in life, you’re always your own boss. You’re the one who gets to decide if you’re doing a good job, if you need support, how much pressure to put on yourself, when to take a break, what your standards are, and so on. You’re it, baby.
Mantra #4: “I can live and work in the way that works best for me.”
A turning point in my full-time career was when I realized that I didn’t HAVE to be there. Yes, I needed the money to live, but at the end of the day, working that way was a choice. I could go live in the woods. I could move into an ashram. I could deliver the mail. I didn’t have to do these things either, but I could. I was allowed to make work work better for me. A revelation.
Coming up with my own version of a “successful career trajectory,” has meant wrestling with what I “should” be striving toward, versus what feels most aligned for me. With time, I came to see my freelance career as a beautiful block of clay. Unbound by the structures of the corporate world, I could play with the shape of my career. I could see what worked and what didn’t, and I could incrementally mold it into something that worked better and better for me, over time.
For me, that’s meant establishing the right time-on-to-time-off ratio, revamping my portfolio to do more of the work that I like, and eventually choosing to not work in corporate offices at all. Sometimes that means being willing to turn down work, but it also means that I don’t force myself into situations that don’t work for me.
If any parts of the old corporate structure do work for you, that’s great. But if they don’t, you might consider simply accepting that they’re not a fit for you.
What if it could be that simple?
What if we all truly are unique?
What if my ideal is different than yours, and what if that’s actually ok?
Michele Jaret is an award-winning copywriter. She’s penned ad campaigns and TV commercials for some of the world’s biggest brands, and picked up some of the industry’s highest accolades along the way. Today, she focuses on bringing greater consciousness to the way we advertise to women, and shares insights from her path of awakening on Instagram.