Two years ago I quit my corporate career and started my own design company. Since then I have gone through a number of phases, mentally. I was prepared for anything possible because this thing of having my own business is new to me and of course I understood that I will come across a lot of things that I have not dealt with before and need to learn in one way or another. What I was not prepared for was how extremely shaped I had become by the working life I had lived in during the past 18 years. I knew that I wanted out of that existence, I knew that I wanted to decide on my own time and that freedom is more important than anything else to me. But I was not prepared for how difficult it would be to deprogram from all that is expected of you when you are part of a corporate culture. When the company in question is also an engineering and technology company with major equality problems on several levels, it is perhaps even more difficult to shake off what has been an everyday life for so long. I also belong to a generation that, even though a lot has happened in society during my lifetime, is nevertheless brought up in the spirit that you have to have a real job, that creative professions are impossible to make a living at (and a bit fuzzy) and actually that there wasn't much talk at school that it was even a possibility.
When the body talks
A few weeks ago I shared two posts on Facebook that received a lot of response. Nice comments, supportive cheers and not least recognition. In these posts, I first shared that I have barely had time off for the past two years due to starting my own business, and that the body and the soul are now protesting a bit. I then also told about how, after a day off in a sun lounger, I went home and told off some of the assignments I had been given. I said no, simply. I can hardly describe how difficult it was and I felt both stupid, relieved and confused.
The amount of reactions from my followers (friends) made me think about how things really are with the ability to set boundaries and what our (work) lives look like.
Patriarchal structures that limit
What I know for sure is that we live in a society with a patriarchal structure that rewards certain qualities and behaviors. Competitive mentality, performance and competition which often takes the form of many hours of work, little recovery and the pursuit of money and status. We also live with a form of work that is a holdover from the time when industrialism made its entrance. I heard somewhere that it was Henry Ford who introduced the 40 hour work week when he created his first assembly line. It's been a while now and there are many jobs that are not done on an assembly line and maybe it's time to understand that people function differently and that we also have a different freedom of choice today.
We are also beginning to see the consequences of our constant connection and the huge scam that you have to be seen on social media if you are to exist. As an entrepreneur, you easily realize that the only way to market yourself is on social media and nothing could be more wrong. Today, there are plenty of analysis tools and it's easy to see that even if you have tens of thousands of followers who see your posts, it's only a few per thousand that lead to sales. It's loud and messy and takes an extremely long time to create content that then disappears almost immediately. For many, it creates low-grade chronic stress, which in turn creates ill-health both physically and psychologically.
There is another way
Now this is nothing new and there are plenty of counter movements with people who have had enough and maybe moved out into the country and bought a sheep farm and are self sufficient, poor but happy.
There is also a movement that is about overturning the prevailing values and highlighting female entrepreneurship, leadership and sisterhood. There are those who want to run a business AND affirm their feminine soul. Who do not want to compete, perform and measure. Who do not want to fight to be seen and heard in the noise of colorful accounts but still mean something and create contact with those who will become and are customers. I have come to the conclusion that I am one of them.
I don't want to compete. I don't want to, can't bear to perform. I also can't bear to wear the armor I wore for so long to be able to fit into an existence created by men, for men.
I want to create out of joy, in contact with others, a soft, empathetic joy in what then becomes something that other people want to share. There must be different ways of living, working and existing.
The world needs both female entrepreneurship and leadership. The world does not need women copying a masculine form for this. The world needs women to lead with all the qualities we are equipped with. For example, responsiveness, lack of prestige and the ability to create relationships. Holistic view, understanding and interest in others. Intelligence, emotional expression and heart.
I talk daily with women and girls who in one way or another express frustration at not being taken seriously, wanting to work in a different way than what is given the opportunity and not least - ALL of them express some form of insecurity about their own abilities, knowledge and competence. And then I can promise that ALL of these women are extremely competent in many areas.
What would society (and the world) look like if we took advantage of this competence, which is in many ways superior to that of our male colleagues? Yes, it is, because many women not only possess the knowledge in a certain area, but also an ability to see the whole, think long-term and are better at relationships.
To find their fellow women
In the years since I unplugged, I've created a large network of other female entrepreneurs, mostly online for obvious reasons. I have almost unconsciously gravitated towards those who are quite low-key in appearance, heartfelt, genuine and vulnerable. When I am in their presence, in the forums that are connected, I have a direct and crystal clear contact with my own innermost being, my core, my glow. I know exactly what I want and I relax. Here, a way of being oneself is conveyed that is based on nurturing oneself, having respect for one's creativity and a knowledge that creative work is not linear nor can it be structured in the same way as other activities. That rest also is part of the work and that it is okay and necessary to sit on a rock and breathe in the sunlight all day.
This feeling stays with me for a while afterwards and I feel confident in what and how I want to do things. But the moment I start scrolling on Instagram, the softness hardens and the stress hits. I compare, evaluate and think that I am not doing enough. Why don't I have more followers? Do I have bad pictures? Too boring texts? Too few videos?
The convulsive social media
There are many women in my network who have completely or partially stopped using social media. There are also many who testify that lately it has become much more difficult to reach out on Instagram in particular. The algorithms, which everyone now knows what that means, change all the time and you should not forget that what the Instagram people want is for you to create content for them, nothing else. When you have a business account, there are also a thousand unwritten rules for what you must do and what you absolutely must not do to drive traffic to your business. It is a slightly different thing to have a private account where you actually use social media for what the name suggests.
All of this is part of the competitive work environment we live in. It fuels it. Creating new and fresh content on social media is time-consuming and takes a lot of energy. Performance anxiety is triggered all the time. Constantly looking at oneself and one's creation from the outside is not only extremely tiring, but also inhibits creativity.
But as I started writing - oh how hard it is to actually do and THINK differently, not to feel inept after that day on the rock. I'm almost fascinated by how tightly programmed I am in what is work and what isn't. What makes me capable and not. Although I feel one hundred percent better about managing my own time and existence, I have a hard time feeling that it's okay. Sometimes thoughts such as "soon this honeymoon will be over and you have to go back to your old job" swosh by and then it becomes pitch black inside. We don't know anything about the future, but the troubled times we are in also mean that thoughts easily end up where it's not so nice to be. Why would anyone want to buy my fabrics if they can't pay their electricity..?
We can heal
I recently found a website called soulandself.com . It is an Australian woman who works with business coaching for women and who also calls it feminine healing and business coaching. (Some English expressions and names are difficult to translate into Swedish without it sounding strange). Healing can easily be interpreted as vague, but I think that it is a lot about us needing to heal ourselves as women, that we have been downgraded for so long that we need to actively work on healing ourselves - and each other - in order to dare to take the place that belongs to us. And to be fully women. Being a woman fully means many things and it means playing with a register that men don't have. We have abilities and qualities that men don't, they know that and that's why they fear us. They come together and press down. We see daily evidence of this, in large and small ways, all over the world, East and West, rich or poor countries.
I am as passionate about women's rights as I am passionate about creativity and artistic expression. For me, everything is woven together and I want to draw patterns, sew pillows AND create conditions for other women to heal and dare to be in their own light. There, in our own light, we can practice feminine entrepreneurship, leadership and friendship. But we need to practice this. We need to practice alone, together with other women and together with men. I can promise that when you start looking at your behavior from this perspective, you will see pretty quickly that most of what we do has patriarchal and masculine overtones. The world needs our feminine perspectives. The prevailing patriarchy is clearly malfunctioning. I need to practice a lot! I am used to adapting, being good, delivering, impressing and constantly accepting what my inner self protests against. I'm not used to showing myself vulnerable, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I've always been rewarded for being strong, fearless and often saying what I think.
A woman who is a constant source of inspiration and whose sphere I get to be in is Anna Lovind who is the creator of The Creative Doer. One of the wisest people I know.
Saying no to something is saying yes to something else
Speaking of my facebook posts about daring to say no when you realize that you are on your way into destructive behavior, I think that saying no to something is saying yes to something else. When I say no to things that trigger a lot of performance anxiety or feelings of meaninglessness, I say yes to following my heart and continuing on the path I have chosen. Two years ago I made one of the most difficult and upsetting choices I have ever made. I said no to continuing to work with something that didn't feel meaningful and that drained me of energy and zest for life. That no was as much a resounding yes to devoting my time and energy to what makes me feel desire, joy and pride.
Saying no to things you don't want to do instead of saying yes, out of fear of not being liked, is standing up for yourself and with that you become a clearer person. You get a little sharper in the contours. It is not only pleasant for oneself, it is also easier for others to relate to. A person who constantly does violence to his feelings, who says one thing but signals another, is tricky to understand.
While I draw and create, ideas emerge about how I can turn these insights into something concrete that more people can share, perhaps a forum where we can practice together. I'll get back to you on that. Feel free to sign up for our newsletter if you want to be sure to find out more! The easiest way to do this is on the website, madeleinewideland.com
In the near future I will practice what I have written about here. I do this, for example, by writing blog posts about things I think are important or funny or otherwise worth writing about, instead of spending lots of time on other marketing. It may seem like a far-fetched way to sell my fabrics and cushions but I think that there are plenty of cushions out there in the world, but cushions and fabrics that have a lot of love and care behind them, where every little part of the process is made by me and a few people who are also passionate about this, there aren't that many! Having a pillow to hug in the autumn darkness that you know is made by hand and of which there is only one, that's pretty nice...In that hug we can practice our insights!
All the best to you!
A warm welcome to the webshop where there are huggable pillows in all possible patterns and colors! If you can't find exactly what you're looking for, maybe a size you can't find, contact me and we'll sort it out!