I’m Still Standing

–better than I ever did

Have you ever thought if you could go back to your younger self what would you tell yourself?

It’s the 1980’s I can’t remember which year, (1984 maybe) I’d be about 7, I discovered Elton John.  If you’re old enough you’ll remember the televised Montreux pop festival (youtube it for a laugh), it was probably watching that and I would pirouette around the living room in a pair of red shiny hand me down shoes from my sister. In our house we all loved the song ‘I’m Still Standing’ but I was even younger when that was released so I doubt I understood anything about what its message would mean for me many years on.

Fast forward to 2019 and I am sitting in the cinema watching Rocketman.

As not to be a spoiler I’ll stop there but as everyone will want a takeaway… Tip 1- if you have not seen it go see it, the acting is amazing and it is such an amazing film and -with a bit of artistic license no doubt ……. it is based on a true story.

I realised through watching the film that I shared a lot with Elton John – you might think that is a grandiose statement to make but I mean in the sense that he spent a long time finding himself and being comfortable with himself; he met his husband when he was older who is his rock and he had some difficult times trying to be/find who he was and gaining the acceptance of those around him.   Thankfully I did not turn to alcohol or drugs – the closest I got to that was chocolate but I have hit rock bottom and importantly I bounced- hence the apt title ‘I’m still standing (better than I ever did’). The 80s had tough female icons -fierce, no-nonsense women (Madonna etc….) I have no problem with that but it is not the only way to be and it isn’t me.

Whenever I was exhausted I’d just push through it.  I thought I was one of those people who could just do that- keep going on fumes.

This is not a tragic story or an ego lift, I hope it is a source of help. To share my journey I will share 2 ‘me’s – the first is the up to 2013 and the second is me now.  Prior to 2013 my body was telling me to slow down.  I’d developed cluster headaches and I was constantly exhausted; I was motivated by work goals and validated by very little else; I enjoyed family time but I’d often talk about work; I’d be asleep by 9 pm; I’d feel anxious on holiday in-case I had not done something- I saw this as conscientiousness.  Whenever I was exhausted I’d just push through it.  I thought I was one of those people who could just do that- keep going on fumes.  Up to the age of 36, I was successful at it so why would I think anything else?

In 2013 the petrol ran out.  I was planning for my wedding, the happiest day of my life in September the following year. I was happy. I was however getting lots of colds and I became obsessed with ridding of any illness (mainly colds) as they made me less productive, more tired.  I was reliant on stimulants, coffee, energy drinks, high sugar etc….sound familiar?

I developed vertigo in August of that year, my balance was gone, I needed to stop working for a while,   there was no quick fix for vertigo that was obvious. It was a waiting game. I did not know how to wait. The vertigo went eventually thankfully but I’d read stories of people with lifelong vertigo on the internet. Tip 2 don’t do that! As the vertigo subsided the fuel in my brain totally ran out……and I had severe anxiety and depression, that’s all I want to say about that because if you’ve had it …you’ll know and if you haven’t I just can’t explain it. There are just no words.

The 2013 me had an enemy…. and that enemy was me.  The first thing now I’d say to my 2013 self is that there were so many signs that I just ignored or made excuses for as they did not fit with the ‘image’ I wanted to present… but this is not a sad story…..  Quite the opposite.

The happy ending came in 2014 I got married (I still am) and I was well again- it was fab and by now I was a little wiser but never ever complacent.  I’d now got a list of things that I enjoyed – my 12 Rs. Without fail if the petrol gets low these become affected and they are precisely the things I need to turn the ship.

  • Read
  • Relaxation (mindfulness)
  • Religion (or spirituality a better description)
  • Refreshment
  • Rest (sleep essentially)
  • Recreation (social)
  • Recipes (healthy ones)
  • Rhythm (or music)
  • Radio (chat)
  • Restoration (exercise)
  • Responding (giving something back)
  • Reflection (but being kind to myself)

All of these things I am sure I or others will talk about in my blog. They all involve being in the present and being mindful.  Tip 3: what’s in your toolkit? Is mindfulness? My mindfulness teacher is Richard Harper mentioned below.

Later I’d started to think about what I needed to avoid or what did not work for me (Tip 4) and 5 years later I still need this (my toolkit) and there are many versions of it because it is individual to you, but if I could tell my 2013 me 3 things I would say (tip 5):

  • Be open-minded and tap into the creative and not just rational parts of your brain e.g. creativity could be craft, art, gardening, singing, amateur dramatics, colouring books…. you get the idea.
  • Your energy dips could be your warning light and if you need to write down what is triggering you, you can work out what you can do
  • Reach out to people who can be your support network who can improve your strength and resilience both professionally (a coach/mentor) or personally (those in your camp- they don’t have to think like you but they do need to understand and respect you for who you are).

… so back to Elton and the killer line for me

‘And if you need to know while I’m still standing you just fade away’… that is me speaking to my 2013 self.

I hope Leaders and Managers read this because a lot of our self esteem is wrapped up in work. That’s all for now but finally my Tip 6– a few people to follow on twitter as they are just amazing:

You’ll hear more from these I am sure – Hope you stay with me…don’t worry if it’s not your thing and let me know if you intend to see or have seen Rocketman.


Michelle Harte
Michelle Harte
Michelle Harte is the Founder of HREsQue, an organisation committed to bringing the best out of people at work. She is both MBA and FCIPD qualified and has over 20 years experience in both HR and OD. Along with undertaking largely culture change assignments Michelle regularly blogs and interviews thought leaders from across the leadership space as a committed networker to help build and share ideas in the collaborative space.

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