And sharing with other people and not being afraid to do so is a beautiful part of learning and growing. Rebecca Lever
It was 2016 when I began cooking professionally, as a gradual rehabilitation back into working after a period of burn-out from my previous job, followed by a wave of deep depression.
Being a people-pleaser can work for and against you in this industry. I found that opening myself up to criticism and intense competition was hugely daunting and often paralysing. The new responsibility I had to make beautiful dishes as a self-taught Chef was both incredibly exciting and terrifying. I often wouldn’t sleep as it triggered my childhood OCD condition and acute anxiety.
Overwhelmed by comparing myself to others and low self-esteem, I would block things out with unhealthy relationships, partying and general self-damaging pursuits which added to further lows and paranoia.
I felt like I was almost about to just give up, when I received unexpected encouragement and support from several established and respected Chefs who remain dear friends today. This lifted me up and made me feel I was doing ok. I found that creatively, I had to almost ignore what everyone else was doing and dig deep to keep faith in myself.
After time, I realised I couldn’t keep wearing myself out. I tried to find some balance. I looked inward, I realised I wasn’t flourishing in some of my work responsibilities and I tried to accept these things and delve into my creative resources.
My career as a Chef has so far taught me more about myself than any therapy I had previously paid for – although that is something I think I still need for support. It also brought my awareness to other people and their personal and daily struggles. I tried to show compassion and encouragement when I sensed one of my team was struggling. I don’t think I was the best Head Chef management-wise as I struggled with my ADHD and organisation, but I don’t let it get me down anymore. Keeping a healthy perspective is a daily challenge but I have learned more tools to help myself. I noticed a gradual change in myself and stopped giving myself such a hard time.
Trying to do things to build my confidence is really useful in dissipating my neurosis and self-doubt. Looking at my achievements and keeping aware of my self-esteem by doing things I consider to be esteem-able also helps. And sharing with other people and not being afraid to do so is a beautiful part of learning and growing. Bit by bit, change is possible.