The Story Behind The Story
Originally from Germany I have lived in Australia and the UK before, in 2004, I decided to leave the corporate world behind, move to Spain and turn a dream into reality: to combine two passions of mine – sewing and flamenco – as a dressmaker for flamenco artists, creating made to measure costumes for professional flamenco dancers, singers and flamenco enthusiasts from Andalusia and all over the world.
If you’re now wondering how on earth a German girl ends up in Andalusia making flamenco dance costumes I’ve written about that over at Flamenco Dressmaking.
That’s what you may have read about me but it’s only part of the story. Even if things look great from the outside it’ll be some time before the business becomes a success.
It’s the last Saturday of June, 2012. If we run into each other in the street and you casually ask me how I am I burst into tears. I’m at the Chumbera, a well known theater here in Granada, watching the end of year performance of a flamenco dance school. I made all the costumes the dancers wear on stage.
I’ve literally not slept in the last 3 days and 2 nights. I only rested for 20 minutes, on the stone floor of the sewing studio, next to the dog, worried that if I pick a more comfortable spot I’d fall asleep and won’t finish the costumes in time.
I’ve delivered the last costumes minutes before the dancers were due to step out onto the stage. I don’t know yet that several of the dancers will head off into their holidays after that performance and not pay for their costume.
I’m too tired to care. The feelings of resentment – for my clients, for anyone really who seems to have “a life” will be back tomorrow.
If you’d offered me a job, any job, that day I would have taken it.
How Could the Dream Turn Into Such a Nightmare?
When I was born dad hadn’t finished uni yet and mum had to go back to work just weeks after so I’m sent to live with my grandparents. Once I’m old enough for day care, 3 years later, I return to my parents but my grandma will always be the person I love most in the world, and who gives me the feeling that I’m loved, no matter what.
My parents think that over time I’ll forget the grandparents if I just see them less and less. It doesn’t work. I get sick often (when I’m sick I’m allowed to stay with the grandparents ..) and otherwise cry a lot at night and count the days until the school holidays when I get to spend at least some time with my nan, every year a little less.
There seems to be tension between my parents and my grandparents – the grandparents claiming their right to see their only granddaughter, the parents feeling they’re not being respected and taken seriously.
What do I make of this? I feel I’m a burden and my best bet is to be a “good girl”, not to cause any trouble, not to disappoint anyone.
I’m an excellent student, exceeding expectations, getting on with everyone.
Fast forward to when I’m about 13. Dad walks in and announces that he’s had enough and will break off all contact to his parents. I have no idea why (I’ll find out years later that it had nothing to do with me).
I’m expected to take my parents’ side and not allowed to see my grandparents anymore. At all. I feel powerless, insignificant and alone, and I miss my grandma so much that it hurts. The thing is we don’t have a telephone and the grandparents live in a different town so I can’t just visit them behind my parents’ back.
Dad will never speak to his parents again.
What’s my interpretation of what happened?
- Nobody cares about what I want.
- Doing something that upsets people has drastic, irreversible consequences.
- Even the closest family relationships are not guaranteed and cannot be relied on
I’d go to great lengths to avoid any kind of conflict or confrontation.
My life isn’t horrible. From what you could tell I’m doing great – I’m easy going, quick to make friends, easy to get along with, considerate and helpful. I love making things, anything to do with fabric, thread, leather. I play sports. I’m independent, resilient and resourceful. I do well at school and get selected for one of the few places that lead straight into university.
I start my working life as a translator but quickly find that translating is fun and interesting but not something easy to make a living with. Especially in Sydney, Australia where I’d moved a couple of years after finishing uni. Soon I start looking for alternatives and find one I love when I stumble into software development. Initially I wasn’t sure whether I’d be up for working in a male dominated industry but I loved it.
My fears around conflict and trust didn’t come into play at work. Work wasn’t personal.
Romantic relationships were a different story. It’s a topic for another day but there was a clear pattern: I’d accommodate what ever he wanted, I wouldn’t speak up about things that bothered me and silently resent him, after what felt like way too long I’d end the relationship without him ever understanding what happened.
When I had the idea of moving to Spain and start a sewing business I expected challenges. I wondered whether Spanish flamenco dancers would get a German dressmaker to sew their costumes, I wondered whether I was a good enough dressmaker, I wondered whether I would be able to make a living sewing.
I didn’t expect issues with clients. After all I was a “people person”, I’d never had serious problems with colleagues, bosses or clients at work.
Things looked promising: I soon got my first big order, 12 costumes for a flamenco dance group, and follow up orders from those 12 girls and their friends followed. “Word of mouth” was working for me.
I was excited and happy to provide the best possible service to my clients. Whether someone asked if I could deliver an outfit on Sunday, go and do a fitting at their home or where they performed, meet late at night .. whatever it was, my default answer was YES:
It didn’t end there. I was putting up with clients
- not showing up for appointments
- showing up late without notification
- making me deliver a dress and then tell me they “forgot to withdraw money”, etc.
What made things worse was that Spanish clients don’t hesitate when it comes to asking for what they want, even if it is something foreigners would consider entirely unreasonable.
I was scared to say no. I feared that if I said no to one dancer she’d tell everyone else about it and nobody would ever order anything again and I’d be going hungry.
My dream of my own sewing studio had turned into a nightmare: I felt stressed, had no time, no money, I was procrastinating and constantly worried.
I kept accommodating everyone and everything until that last Saturday in June, 2012.
Starting to Ask Better Questions
On that day I realized that I couldn’t bend any further. I hated my clients, I hated the way Spanish people would just demand whatever they wanted, how they wouldn’t respect me and my work. But even then I knew that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t want to) change them.
The only person I could change was me and over the next few months I started to reflect.
What if this wasn’t personal? What if my clients didn’t go out of their way to make my life difficult? What if they just went about their lives and this wasn’t about me?
I was at the point where I no longer cared if I upset anyone. If that meant I wasn’t going to have any more clients then so be it.
What do I want? Who do I enjoy working with? Questions I had never asked myself before.
I started to say no to things I didn’t want to do. To my surprise clients usually just accepted it. Did that mean that I’d suffered from my own made-up story the entire time?
For the first time I sensed that having my own business and working with clients could be fun. I just had to find the way there. And I knew that the answers were inside of me so I went on a journey of exploration.
How does our mind work? Why do we do the things we do?
The more I learnt about how the mind works and that the answers are inside of me the more time I seemed to have, the same clients were no longer difficult and I spent more and more time “in the flow”.
So much so that I went “back to school” to become a coach so that I could help other people out of similar kinds of dilemmas.
As I learnt about coaching skills, tools and strategies to help someone overcome a challenge or reach a goal I realized that the search wasn’t over. There are so many approaches, so many techniques and it felt that they all helped but every time I thought I’d found the “one” I stumbled across something else.
EFT, taichi, meditation, hypnosis, Tony Robbins, Bob Procter, The Lefkoe Method (getting rid of limiting beliefs), Steve Chandler, Marisa Peer, Byron Katie, Silva Method, Law of Attraction – you name it, I explored them all.
It was really one understanding, or rather the clearing of one misunderstanding that changed it all around.
Once I deep down understood that my feelings of stress, worry, overwhelm had nothing to do with my clients, my parents or anything outside of me, that every person perceives his or her world through the filter of thought, that every thing we feel is a reflection of thought in that very moment, nothing more and nothing less, things shifted.
Nothing had changed and everything was different.
If a person’s experience of life is created from within
- it makes no sense for me to try to control a person’s reaction to anything I do or don’t do
- I have no way of knowing whether something I say or do will or won’t upset a person
- worrying is just imagining the future in the worst possible way. The future hasn’t happened yet, right now it’s just a thought I’m not obliged to listen to
- If someone gets upset it is a reflection of their thoughts in that moment and doesn’t say anything about me or my worth, I’ll be ok anyway.
The pressure was off.
And people feel it. I still work with most of my old clients. They just aren’t difficult anymore. I don’t hesitate when it comes to asking to get paid. I don’t procrastinate.
I have more time, I earn more money and, most importantly, I finally really enjoy my work.
It’s Not About Sewing
My initial motivation to become a coach was wanting to help other sewing professionals. But when I started to speak to people it quickly became clear that it’s never about sewing.
It’s about whether you come from a place of fear or inspiration.
Whatever issue you’re facing, whatever is between you and what you want in your life – the answer is “below the surface”, inside of you.