026: Overcoming the Power of Public Perception: Finding a Path That’s Authentically You
In today’s culture filled with constant noise and connectedness, it can be difficult if not impossible to filter out the external distractions and expectations that prevent us from being in dialogue with ourselves. Yet quality time with ourselves is so important to understanding who we are and our true desires in life.
Thirty years into a corporate career, Jennifer Arthurton hit rock bottom. Enduring divorce, joblessness, and constant exhaustion so profound she could barely get out of bed, she realized that she needed to figure out what she truly wanted in her career and get to know herself from within, not as defined by the roles in her life.
Now a successful entrepreneur, writer, podcast host, and coach, Jennifer joined BOSSTalk host La’Vista Jones to share her story of burnout and rebirth and remind us that it’s never too late to pivot into even our wildest dreams.
Introducing Jennifer Arthurton
La'Vista Jones 00:03
So, welcome to another episode of Boss Talk. I am your host La'Vista Jones, and today I am joined by my guest, Jennifer Arthurton. So welcome, Jennifer. I'm so excited to have you here.
Jennifer Arthurton 00:15
Thanks for having me.
La'Vista Jones 00:16
Yes. So let me tell our listeners a little bit about you. So, Jennifer is the creator and founder of Old Chicks Know Shit, which is a community and podcast that is designed to inspire and support midlife women in chasing their dreams and creating their kick-ass next chapter. In addition, Jennifer is an empowerment coach, podcast host, writer, and speaker. Having made her midlife course corrections, she is a passionate advocate of the inherent power and knowledge that women possess at a time when they often feel overlooked and doubt themselves the most.
I love your bio, and based on conversations that we have had, I think it is an absolutely perfect description of you and what you do in the marketplace. So, I want to start off, Jennifer...I ask every single guest this initial question when we get started, and it's: how do you personally define being a boss? I'd love to hear what you have to say.
Boss as Big Picture
Jennifer Arthurton 01:24
Being a boss, um, it's a really interesting question. And I actually have a little sign that's on a shelf in front of me here that says “CEO Boss” on it to remind myself to be in the CEO mindset. And really, for me, that is all about like, zooming out beyond myself to see my business almost as its own entity and what does my business need, as opposed to, like, what do I need right now – which is still very important, and I'm going to talk a lot more about that – but like, in the CEO mindset, it's, you know, you can see things a lot clearer, a lot more objective. And then it's like stepping up and taking responsibility for those things, which may or may not involve you personally. Right? Like, it might mean hiring somebody to do something or, you know, having a conversation with somebody, but really kind of stepping, like, beyond yourself to see your business as a whole. Because I think a lot of us, especially, like, entrepreneurs, we and our businesses become very, very intertwined.
La'Vista Jones 02:28
Very true. Very true. Yeah, because there are things that need to get done but don't necessarily need to be done by you, the CEO of the company. So, for me, “BOSS” is actually an acronym that stands for Battling Overwhelm with Systems and Self-care. And so, during each show, I get the pleasure of having candid conversations with bosses like you that have faced and battled moments of overwhelm in their businesses and lives, specifically by leveraging systems and practicing self-care. So, with that, Jennifer, are you ready to share how you are walking out your BOSS Talk?
Jennifer Arthurton 03:01
Jennifer’s Burnout Experience
La'Vista Jones 03:02
Alright. So, I want to dive right into your experience with burnout. Because we had a chance to talk before, we actually got on the mic and you shared, you know, some things with me. So, give us some insight into that experience. And what was that pivotal moment when you knew that you needed to come to terms with what you really wanted in your own life?
Jennifer Arthurton 03:25
Yeah, so I had a very long 30-year career, almost 30-year career, in corporate. And for the most part, I did love my job. It was a very busy job; I ran three different departments, numerous teams of people. I was traveling a lot. And, you know, and I put a lot into it, like I worked really, really hard. And then what happened for me was, I stopped sleeping. There was a point where I would go to bed and I would be, like, so tired but so wired at the same time. Like, where I would be lying there, but my eyes would pop open, and my brain would, you know, keep spinning things. And I was sleeping maybe two or three hours a night. And the weird part about it was I would wake up the next day and be able to just keep going. Like, I wasn't actually tired. And for me, you know, this went on for like a few months.
And at first I was like, ‘Well, this is great. Like, I just need less sleep, right?’ Like, I could just get less sleep and get more done. But over a period of time, you know – and there was other symptoms that started popping up as well, too, which at first I didn't quite relate to it. Like, I was having heart palpitations, headaches, like, various different joint aches, and I was very physically active at that time, so I was getting injured all the time doing, like, the silliest things. And then at some point I was like, ‘Wait a minute. Not sleeping and having all of this energy is not good. Like there's something wrong here.’ And so, you know, I really had to come to terms with okay, like, I need to do something. I need to, like, figure out what to do.
So, what I did was I decided to take a leave of absence from my job for a couple of months and just focus on my health. And I, you know, I had a timeline and a spreadsheet for exactly how this was going to go, right? I was going to take this time off. It was going to be like step one, step two, step three. Hey, I'm gonna come back bigger and better than ever. Well, anybody who's ever tried to heal anything knows that healing does not go to according to a schedule.
La'Vista Jones 05:26
Yes, like, your healing does not care about how beautiful your Excel spreadsheet is. It's like, “Uh, okay.”
Jennifer Arthurton 05:32
Nor is it linear, right? So, I did end up going back to work even though I didn't feel ready. And then what happened in the next, like, basically, six months of my life was, I found myself – well, actually a little bit more than six months of my life – but I found myself divorced, unemployed. I actually got replaced while I was on leave. And was an empty nester. And so, at that point, the sleeping had gotten to the point where I was now so physically exhausted, I still couldn't sleep. But I was so physically exhausted that I couldn't get out of bed. So, all of the roles and identities that I had taken on in my life, who I thought I was, was now all stripped away from me. I was basically bedridden, no longer a corporate executive, no longer a wife, no longer a mother, and I couldn't go to the gym or work out because I was too tired. Like, I literally physically couldn't get out of bed. And at that point, I said to myself, ‘Something has to change, because if I want my life to be different, I have to show up differently in it. Because quite frankly, the way it's been working, like the decisions I've made, have got me here. So, I need to make a whole different set of decisions if I want my life to look different, if I want to be different.’ So, that was kind of, for me, the turning point where it was like, I was literally forced to stop, stop everything. Like everything that kept me busy, that kept me occupied, was stripped away.
And so, I was forced into this place of stillness. And looking back on it, honestly, I mean, I look back on it as a huge gift. But I can also say that, left to my own devices, I never would have actually got to that point myself. I kind of had to be forced there, you know, with this set of circumstances. So, you know, whether it's the universe redirecting me or however you want to look at it, it needed to be big enough to get me to stop so that I could collect myself in order to regroup and, you know, turn in a different direction.
La'Vista Jones 07:32
That is so good. That is so good. And the point that you made that, right, like, left your own devices, you might not have actually made those choices, but it was all of these circumstances kind of, you know, coming together at this one time that were, like, the major catalysts for you to be like, “Yes, I'm gonna change.”
Jennifer Arthurton 07:53
Something’s got to give.
And, you know, along the way, in my career, like, probably, you know, in the last five or six years of my career, there had been this, like, little voice that would come up inside of me every once in a while...it'd be like, “Is this it? Is this what I've worked so hard for?” Like, I've done everything I'm supposed to do, I've checked all the boxes, you know, went to school, got good grades, got into a good college, got a good job, worked my way up the ranks, you know, became a corporate executive. And I was at the place that I had been striving for for so long. And yet I would look around and go, ‘Is this it?’ Like, this is what I've worked so hard for, but then I would push it away. Because first of all, I was like, ‘I'm too busy to deal with this.’ And the other part underneath it was I was like, ‘I don't know what to do about it.’ Like, this was my life. And like if I acknowledged it, it meant that I would have to change something. And all of that was just far too scary a thought for me to even entertain, so I would just shove it away and keep on keeping on until I literally couldn't keep on keeping on anymore.
La'Vista Jones 08:50
Yeah, yeah. So, hearing your story, right, and just kind of, like, listening to, like, all the things you had going on and just kind of, like, the internal struggle, right, that you're kind of painting for us that was going on with you...you know, I call myself a corporate dropout. And so, when I was in corporate, I experienced some really quick and some groundbreaking success, right, as I developed my career. And so, on paper I was quite successful. But I don't think that I really ever stopped to ask myself, like, what is happening right now, really what I want to have happen.
Like, you know, I should, you know, go to school, and I should get this job, and I should be doing this, and I should be going for this promotion, and I did those things. But it's like, is this what I really want? Is this what really is making me happy? Is this what is really fulfilling me? And so, you know, it sounds like you, you know, similarly, you know, felt that way, but, you know, you wouldn't really let yourself kind of go there. Now in hindsight, right, you've dealt with that experience. You've come through it. How did you reinvent yourself in your life on your own terms?
Jennifer Arthurton 10:02
Yeah. And so, you raise a really important point that I think this happens to a lot of us is, like, you know, we go through life checking the boxes and doing all the things that we are supposed to do, but never do we actually check in with ourselves to say, ‘Is this what I want? Like, is this actually making me happy?’ And then we end up in this place of our lives, and you're like, ‘Wait a minute. I didn't actually make a conscious decision to be here, right? I just got here, right?’ Like, that was the case for me. Like, the path was laid out, I just followed along like la di da.
And like, getting to that point and then recognizing, you know, that, like, everything was stripped away from me. And I recognized that, first of all, I didn't know who I was if I wasn't a wife, a mother, a corporate executive, and, like, a gym rat at that time. I had no idea who I was underneath all of that. And the second part was, I had no idea what I wanted for my life. Like, I actually didn't even know what would make me happy, right? Because I'd never actually asked myself that question. I had never spent time with myself long enough to start thinking about it. And the beautiful part of the way that my set of circumstances played out was I was forced into a place where, like, I literally couldn't do much. Like, grocery shopping was a major ordeal for me. Like I couldn't go to the store, buy the food, and then come home and put it away without having to have a two-hour nap somewhere in there. Like, that’s the level of physical exhaustion.
And so, I was forced into this place of stillness where I had to go inside. Like, I had to get to know me. And that's, like, the very first step that I counsel everybody. Because we live, in this day and age, incredibly busy lives; we have long to-do lists; we are bombarded with thousands of pieces of information every second, right? And we become so disconnected from ourselves in the process of that, we're so busy fielding everything outside of us than the inside connection. And so, the start of my journey really was about connecting inwards in the smallest possible ways to start with. And, you know, getting to know who I was.
So, I would start with like, you know, really short walks. Sometimes I would just go into the forest and sit underneath a tree, right, and just sit there and just be, like, with my journal and be like, ‘Okay, what's coming up?’ And some days it would be random, you