Turning Personal Pain into a Professional Goal
28th March 2019
There are times in life when we experience trauma. It’s inevitable. Whether it’s financial collapse, relationship difficulties or a chronic condition we will at some point, experience pain.
And when we do, there are 3 ways we can handle it.
1: Deny its existence
We can pretend that everything’s ok. That each of us is Superwoman, who doesn’t let a little thing like bankruptcy, divorce or illness get in her way. We push on, smiling through gritted teeth and causing excessive stress on ourselves that – at some point – will gradually take its toll on our health.
Not a good option.
2: Let it consume us
Alternatively, we can let our personal pain annihilate us. Seep into all facets of our lives, destroying our remaining relationships, damaging our careers and affecting our capacity to enjoy life. Essentially, we can wallow in self-pity; allowing pain to take over as our personal and professional lives take a beating.
Also not recommended.
3: Accept it, and learn from it
Option number 3 is a whole lot more attractive. Because what if we could turn pain – something we all have to endure – into a learning opportunity? Hell, if we’re going to experience it, we might as well get something positive out of it, right?
That’s my belief. And it’s something I’ve – finally – learned to do. To turn something that ruined a large part of my self-esteem, my confidence and my younger years into a professional goal.
For me, it was alopecia.
If you haven’t heard of it, alopecia is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks perfectly healthy hair follicles. The result is excessive thinning or bald patches – in some cases, complete hair loss – and a lot of anxiety.
I’ve had it for most of my life, with the first patch popping up after my mum’s death when I was 10. You can imagine what it was like for an already vulnerable and shy teenager to go to boarding school with this secret: not easy. And it did very little for my self-esteem.
In fact, the shame of my condition stuck around right into my mid-twenties. Until, sick of my pain having so much power, I decided to do something about it. I ditched the wigs and headbands that I’d been hiding behind, shaved my head and came clean about my alopecia for the first time.
Since then, I’ve used it to my advantage.
It started with the glowing response I got to my “coming out” post. And some time later, when a friend started making his living from affiliate sites, it took on a new meaning. I’m a freelance copywriter, and this guy couldn’t believe why I spend my time writing for other people. “Imagine if you could write what you’re passionate about” he said, “and make your money that way?!”
That sparked the idea for Lady Alopecia.
First and foremost, I wanted to support alopecians in a way that wasn’t available to me. (When I was growing up, there were little to no resources out there.) I wanted to show them that they weren’t alone, that the condition doesn’t always have to be heartbreaking, and to offer advice.
Of course, if I could actually make a living off the back of my alopecia…well, even better!
So my alopecia website is an affiliate site. And I make a small commission from some of the products I recommend – but I only mention ones I trust.
That way, my ethics are intact, I’m supporting others with alopecia and I’ve turned my pain into a professional goal.
Alopecia has actually turned me into a better businessperson!
Sure, I have a lot to learn – but my condition has:
• Made me more resilient: Giving me an inner strength and a confidence that I never thought possible. And shaving my head showed me there’s so much more to us than our appearance – it’s our values, and our actions, that count.
• Broadened my network: Having alopecia has introduced me to so many interesting and inspirational people. Many of whom I may never have met, had I been hiding behind the safety of my wig.
• Motivated me: My personal pain led to me setting up Lady Alopecia and continues to motivate me every day. So if I’m feeling especially down – which of course, does happen – I think of how to turn this pain into something of value. Like a shared story to help others struggling through the same thing.
Resilience, networking skills and motivation? Sounds like goal-getting attributes to me!
So whatever your pain, lean into it.
It might not seem like it now, but it could lead to you discovering the best part of yourself: personally and professionally. Who knows? It might just be the best thing that ever happened to you!