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Mental Health and Ambition: How to work your way up

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So, you’ve got lots of ambition, you want to be successful and really make a difference in your world. You’ve always dreamed big BUT, you struggle with your mental health. 

Many people feel that once they get diagnosed with a mental health condition – that’s it. They must accept their diagnosis and probably only push themselves half as much and give up the idea of reaching their full potential. 

In fact, I think the opposite is true. If you can get past the medicalised approach to poor mental health, do your own research and take responsibility for what is in your control – not only could you achieve the success you’re after, but you may even have an edge over your competitors. Your mental health challenge could give you a range of other skills that aren’t taught in schools – you could be hyper aware of other people’s needs, have high levels of empathy and even learn to communicate more effectively since you’ve had practice becoming self aware and working harder at communicating to people who don’t understand your experience. 

Not only that, you may have been through the pain of cultural or workplace stigma, built your resilience through tough times and become adaptable by working in a range of spaces and teams. 

It’s time to understand your superpowers and put them into action. 

Here’s a few tips to get you started: 

  • Your work environment matters

I remember the time I resigned from a job after just 3 months of starting. The job was in a convenient location and seemed perfect – it soon became apparent however, that it was a toxic work environment. A blame culture, people disappearing randomly, extreme expectations and a psychopathic boss.  I’ve learned that my mental health comes first over any job. If I’m not healthy then it’s only a matter of time before things start to crumble around me and so, I had to leave. 

If you want to be successful and reach your potential, you won’t last as others in a toxic work environment and you may spend a lot longer trying to build back up your health and overall confidence. It’s not worth it. 

Find a work environment that is supportive and encourages individuality and creativity. 

  • Figure out what’s possible 

Sometimes we have to do work we don’t love in order to get to where we want to go.  It can be really easy to get stuck in the day to day of a diagnosis, medication, relationship challenges and worries about what others think of us at work or in life. 

This takes up a massive amount of energy and while, for some of us, this is a key part of our mental illness. 

So break it right down. Visualise where you’re trying to get to. You may not have a particular job title in mind, but you might have an idea of how you’d like to feel or what you’d like to create. It doesn’t matter how realistic it feels yet, but the more you have a vision for your future, the more you can deal with the tough steps it might take to get there. 

You might visualise one year from now or ten years from now – it’s really up to you. 

Then we need to figure out just 1-3 things we can do a day to help us toward that goal. That might be something to do with investing in your mental health, learning an additional skill or taking on an extra project at work. 

Whatever is possible for you – there is always something – slow steps build into big achievements! 

  • Become an expert in your own mental health

Passively listening to a doctor give you yet more antidepressants or a therapist ask you (again!) about your trauma may be useful for some people, but might not be the right approach for you. 

The more you can nurture your own voice and expertise the more you can find an approach that allows you to recover or move forward in your life in some way. 

This could include reading books on your diagnosis, experimenting with the tools that can help you feel balanced, learning from other people with a similar challenge, reading recent research or discussing things like psychedelics, movement therapies and other ways to challenge what you think you know. 

No expert knows you completely. So the more you learn about yourself the more you can help the experts to help and support you to build the life you want. 

Yes, it sometimes doesn’t feel fair that we need to do more work than others but once we can accept the challenge and the superpowers we can nurture because of our mental health, the more likely we are to succeed. 

  • Sometimes you just have to step out on your own 

It’s a wonderful world that we live in! 

We live in the information age where entrepreneurship is celebrated and testing out different business opportunities is no longer seen as someone who can’t keep a ‘normal’ job but rather the height of innovation and progress. 

If you can’t find a work environment to suit you and the people challenges in a workplace just continue to grate on you, then these days you can find an effective remote role in the comfort of your own home or you can set out on your own. 

This isn’t an easy route of course but it does mean it’s possible to continue to build a career and that vision of success in a variety of different ways.  Things to watch out for on this path are loneliness: make sure you visualise and invest time in building a social network and life through friends, networks and hobbies. This will help keep self-doubt in check and ensure you are living a full and well rounded life – which is good for our mental health. 

It’s important to continue to do the things to invest in yourself such as meditation, movement, therapy or coaching and connecting to others. 

These ideas are deeply personal. Not only have I qualified as a psychotherapist and coach but I’ve lived through these things myself. Raised in a cult with no education, I thought there was no way I would be able to build a successful life. I became a depressed and alcohol addicted mother, unsure of any path to any kind of success.  

I’ve tried and tested these tips and ideas, slowly building my life up from rock bottom to building a business myself. Not being able to find an environment that fully appreciatedappreciated fully my unique capabilities, I set out to build it on my own, priding myself on building a team that is psychologically safe and radically open about all things to do with mental health – and exceptionally passionate and good at our jobs! 

To find out more about Petra’s story and keynotes see: https://www.a-speakers.com/speakers/petra-velzeboer-keynote-speaker/

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