As the entrepreneurial journey got going, I had to ask and answer a few fundamental questions:
Who am I? Why do I think and behave the way I do?
There was much digging into my childhood. Tell me about your childhood. Hm! I can’t remember anything really traumatic or off from my childhood. If I had to pick one word to describe my childhood, it would be ‘happy’.
The question kept coming over and over. I realized it wasn’t just ‘bad’ things that taint our subconscious thinking. Little words said in love or repeated had a way of waiving a story I was tangled in.
Tell me about your childhood … I have dug, and dug and dug … kept wondering if I am missing something big …
A couple of months ago or so, I was reading yet another self help book. I couldn’t really tell you what the chapter was about but it made me pause and think.
Then, all of a sudden, like a tsunami, it hit me. Holy shit!
The first thing that vividly came to my head was this picture – the corporate and entrepreneurial me side by side. The second thought that swished right in were the words of an awesome astrologist (don’t judge!) I work with – https://astrohoroskopi.com/
I found her “randomly” online through a Facebook group. The first time we spoke was like we had been childhood friends; she knew exactly who I was. One of the very first statements she made about me was:
You are a child of movement, air and sunshine!
Aw, I like that statement. It stuck with me. Feels so right. Feels so me. I had never thought about me that way but wow, she nailed it. I love to move, I love the outdoors, I love sunshine. I am a free spirit.
Holy cow! The next thought that came to mind: imagine this free-flow loving child – in a suit and a pantyhose. Just the thought itself made me feel uncomfortable. I felt my body wiggle around as if to free itself from the image. I have never minded the suit look or the pantyhose, but in this one moment, those became a symbol of my oppression.
And just like that, my childhood flashed in front of my eyes. I was the kid who wants to play and run outside all day long. My parents would beg me to come home and watch TV. I was way too busy having fun and being sweaty.
I remember a turning point conversation. I was maybe in 4th grade. I had received my grade report. There were A’s and B’s there. That was a conversation with my parents.
“Maria, is there any reason all of these can’t be A’s? You are smart and if you give it your best, you can do it. Look at your friend, she is making all A’s. Are you not as smart as she is?”
I don’t know what this conversation did. From then on, it was all about the A’s…. in middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate school.
I also particularly remember piano lessons. How I despised those! Why on earth do I need to study piano? I have no desire to play an instrument. We had a piano at home, and every proper child should play an instrument. I love to sing. I want to sing. I want to dance. Sing and dance? What are you going to do with those? Well, I guess the same thing I am going to do with the piano. Oh, no, piano playing is prestigious. Society said so.
Focus on the academics. That is what will help you make it in life. Proper and good education. There were the private lessons: Bulgarian language, Bulgarian grammar, Math, English, Russian. Non-stop. School or lessons.
My mom came from a family of professionals.
Her grandfather was a respected lawyer, and her grandmother was a (strict!) school math teacher. My mom’s parents were dentists. Mom rebelled and didn’t go to dental school even though she was accepted. She rebelled into Biochemistry.
My dad came from a non-professional family.
Both of his parents came from small towns. My grandma was a chef in the school kitchen. My grandpa was a photographer. He moved to the big city to create a life of opportunity for his family (and he did!).
The union of my parents was the union of two different cultures. The very first gift my dad made to mom was a pair of hiking boots (I find that very symbolic!). At that time, mom was a proper city girl with long, red, perfectly manicured nails. It is a family joke the comment my mom’s grandma made about the gift: Where on earth is he planning on taking you?
Both my parents are heavy academics – Ph.D. in Biochemistry.
We were closer to my mom’s side of the family. I grew up the academics route. However, as I am in my 40ies, I find myself intrigued with photography, for example. I wonder: how come I never learned anything from grandpa about photography?
I grew up very happy, loved, encouraged and supported. I firmly believe these have given me confidence into adulthood. Artistry or sports in Bulgaria didn’t use to be a cool thing… or maybe they didn’t use to be a cool thing in my family. Study, make A’s, work hard.
I was in one of David Neagle seminars where he spoke about societal expectations and norms.
Go to school, get a job, be safe. We are conditioned to think that a corporate job offers safety. Does it? Do we have more control over what happens in corporate versus in entrepreneurship?
Now, please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying everyone should quit corporate and be an entrepreneur. What I am saying is that I realized I was conditioned to do a job that wasn’t me. I was at the crossroad …
Corporate = safety, respect, expectations
Paycheck, benefits = safety
Entrepreneurship = not safe, risky, losing “status”
Entrepreneurship = not suitable for a girl who grew up in communism (where there was no private business), not suitable for a girl of academics
Who on earth defines status?
We allow society to tell us what is ok and not ok for us, what we should and should not be or do. However, we are all different. Have you ever been asked – tell us about you. I am a mother, I am a wife, I am a CEO, I am an entrepreneur….. blah, blah, blah.
No, tell me about YOU – who are you, what do you like, what makes you excited, what makes you feel fulfilled, what makes your heart smile, what makes you get out of bed eager to seize the day? We all have desires and a unique purpose.
I made this grant discovery! Now, what?
This aha moment somehow unlocked yet another massive area of awareness, another area to explore.
Who am I naked of societal expectations and should’s?
I am a child of movement, air and sunshine. I am a rebel living my purpose to inspire others to love and respect their body, mind and spirit.
I think my parents did an outstanding job raising me. They knew what they knew and did the best that they can in light. I am grateful for the opportunities and discipline they thought me. I am grateful for my experience in life. Those are all serving me well as an entrepreneur and have brought me to this point. There are no mistakes on our journey.
With my new awareness, I have conflicting moments being a parent.
I hear myself sound just like my parents: Now, what if you pushed yourself a little bit more to get an A? Are you sure you don’t want to play the piano? Your friend plays the piano. (Shoot! No, shut up.)
Then my head gets loud – do I do this or do I do that? Shut up, breathe. Who is she? Let her be. But give her boundaries. But not too many boundaries. But give her some boundaries. It’s good for her development. But she doesn’t want to do it. But what does she know at this age? Ay, ay, ay! Parenthood is a challenging job, if you ask me.
We are responsible for not only not screwing ourselves up but also these little human beings who trust we have all the answers.
How about the 17 years in corporate? I have wondered … why did it take me so long to figure it out? This piece of the journey is to serve me into the area of workplace wellness!
It is priceless to have first-hand perspective into the issues corporate employees and leadership deal with on a day to day basis, and I have now been on both sides of the fence.
I wanted to share this piece of my story to hopefully inspire you to dig in to finding more about who you are. Maybe you already have done the work, maybe you are just beginning, maybe all of this sounds super crazy to you. Wherever on your journey you are, keep on, tune in and listen….
And I can’t finish without reminding you that self care is a must tool to quiet down and inner connect. Move, breathe, live.
Stay rebellious, my rebels!