I started as a blogger, and now I’m CEO of a media company. Here’s how I learned to embrace change and let go of guilt as my career took off.

Luvvie Ajayi   credit Kesha Lambert
Don't get stuck in a cycle of guilt when growing, writes Luvvie Jones.

We fear change and then attach the guilt of what we could lose to it, further making it harder to welcome with open arms.

When my first book came out and instantly hit the New York Times bestseller list, my life changed immediately. I went from being a girl who blogs to being an author in an elite club. I was already traveling a lot, but my inquiries tripled and my fees doubled. I basically lived on planes, in between speaking engagements.

What that meant was I stopped being able to write three times a week like I had been doing. As the side-eye sorceress of pop culture happenings, reacting to what was happening in the world with my commentary was what had built my career, and suddenly I didn't have time for it. Why? Because I barely knew what city I was in at any moment from the rapid pace I was on. And I carried a lot of guilt about it. As my audience asked, "Ooo I wonder what Luvvie will say about this," on news that was happening, I'd be running (late) to catch another flight, and I'd feel these pangs of fault, not being able to do my job.

9781984881908
Professional Troublemaker.
What I didn't realize was my job had changed, and that was okay. My job was no longer to be the person sitting at home every day in her pajamas, reacting to the news of the day. My job now was to take stages, telling people about my lessons, my mistakes, and my triumphs. My job was to make sure the book I had written, a manifesto of my thoughts about life, had the furthest reach it could have. My job was to ensure that a Black woman like myself could also get these doors opened for her.

It was a change I didn't readily accept because I was stuck in a cycle of guilt and fear that my audience would think I'd left them behind. That thing that got me to where I was? Turns out it needed to be left behind to get me to where I needed to go.

What I didn't realize is that the people who were upset that I'd "changed" and didn't blog anymore weren't the people I should have been speaking to. The ones who saw my posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and cheered these new adventures on were the ones who mattered. The ones who said, "I miss your blog posts but I LOVE this new season in your life" were the ones who fed my spirit. I was no longer the girl with the blog updating every day. I had evolved into the bestselling author, the international keynote speaker, the CEO of a media company. I had grown, and that was exactly what was needed, because it allowed my work to have more impact. It also ushered in more attention and scrutiny on my words, and even though that sometimes led to egg on my face, it also led me to being so much more thoughtful than I was.

What happens when we're given permission early enough to change, to grow? When we are told, "Listen, I already know you're going to have to be different from who you are today and that's okay. Don't feel guilty about it." How much does that free us, when we know that this isn't something to run away from, but to look forward to? When the people in our lives can say, "I know you have a book tour coming and you'll be MIA. I'll be here when you get back. Because the new life that you're leading is calling for you to be gone more often and I support you." Whewww! The freedom.

As I've leveled up in my career, I've had to be less accessible at certain points in time to people I love. Sometimes I'm so useless that I need my assistant to be the one booking brunch time with my friends. I could have been hit with the "Oh, now I gotta go through someone to see you?" And I have been. But the friends I am closest to are the ones who go, "I've already asked your team about your availability. See you in a week." Same goes for when I was writing this book and my husband said, "You're on deadline. Let me know if you need to disappear somewhere for a week to get it done."

Imagine waking up in the morning and not feeling shame because your friend knows change looks like us not having the same time we used to have on the phone together, or it means we might have to schedule the next time we see each other. Imagine not being worried about who we are offending with the change that is required of us. It gives us wings. We can now do the best work of our lives. We can be the best people possible without constantly being afraid of what we're leaving behind, who we're leaving behind, or who's feeling small as we're trying to be big. When the changes that I need to make aren't met with eye rolls of inconvenience but are met with affirmations of understanding, I have the room to stretch as I need. We have to learn how to change and how to grow without guilt.

Once we do that, we'll be freer in general for it because the fear of change will start to go away a little bit. We begin to learn it's a part of life and something we have to do. We know it might be uncomfortable, but we realize the most uncomfortable things are usually the most necessary things. It can be good to be in our comfort zones, but sometimes the comfort zones insulate us and keep us from doing what we're actually supposed to do.

Change: It's not optional. It's life's necessary and perpetual go-to that can break our hearts, make us scream, thrill us. It will challenge us and sometimes make us wonder if we can make it past the pains of it all.

From PROFESSIONAL TROUBLEMAKER by Luvvie Ajayi Jones, published by Penguin Life, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2021 by Awe Luv, LLC.

Luvvie Ajayi Jones is an award-winning author, podcast host, and speaker. She's the author of the New York Times bestseller "I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual," and her site, AwesomelyLuvvie. She runs her own social platform, LuvvNation.

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