my story

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from burnout to balance

Hi! I’m Frieda – the face behind
Braving Boundaries

I am a life coach who specialises in helping legal professionals who are struggling to ‘have a life’ while juggling work demands. I help them to create a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life by finding a balance between the professional and the personal.

I’ve been a practising corporate lawyer for over 15 years. I’ve navigated my way through the legal world from trainee to in-house counsel to partner.

I now run an international practice from my home in Cape Town, surrounded by my dogs and with a magnificent view of Table Mountain.

Today, I have a balanced and fulfilling life.
But that wasn’t always the case …

Seven years ago, nothing about my life felt balanced.

I was the archetypal workaholic: driven, dependable and dedicated to my working world. A geek at heart, I loved the complexity and challenge of cross-border, transactional work. I excelled at it, and I soon became the “go-to” person for the most prestigious projects.

For many years, I thrived off the recognition and praise, even taking on more work whilst volunteering for committees, and organising social and charitable events. I had a unique identity within the work place and I loved it.

But the rest of my life was in free fall.

My health was a shambles. Over-work had caused a bout of serious illness, and I was permanently exhausted and stressed.

My romantic life could easily have been the source material for Shonda Rhimes’ next award-winning TV drama.

My family life was non-existent, unlike my friends who were all married, and most with children.

My social life was spent apologising to friends for being late for dinner or for having to work during our weekends away.

But I ignored all the underlying problems in my personal life. After all, it wasn’t many people who could say they’d achieved all that I had by 30: a great job, an international lifestyle, an identity, and financial security.

Maybe this was just my compromise?

In reality though, I was like a fighter jet burning on one cylinder: capable of flying high, but in a precarious state. No back up if that last engine failed … which, inevitably, it did.

Finding the courage to make the change

I look back at my younger self and want to hug her and shake her in equal measure. How could I have let it get to that? Anyone could see that my life was completely unsustainable.

I had no boundaries. No balance. No self-preservation.

It’s not that I didn’t see the imbalance. It’s that I was scared to change the status quo. I feared losing what I had in search of something that I might get.
  • What if I tried to find a stable and loving relationship, but no one wanted me?
  • What if by spending more time with my friends and family, my work reputation suffered?
  • What if in putting my needs first, I was no longer seen as useful?
  • What if I took time off to travel, but no longer had the financial security or a job to come back to?

Eventually, my desire for change grew stronger than my fear. I finally understood that while the cycle of hard work was feeding my deep-rooted need to be praised, loved and validated, it left me starving for happiness and health.

Something had to change. I didn’t want to be in the same
place (or worse) in five years’ time.

So, I stepped into the unknown…one baby step at a time…and I began braving boundaries.

I’m not going to lie, change is never easy.

The trick to creating long-term change is to start small…

I began with committing to a run during lunch, or dinner with friends without my smartphone, adding more change as the benefits became evident. There were setbacks, but settling for what I had was no longer an option.

I pushed on through and braved the bigger changes: ending friendships and relationships that no longer benefited me; travelling; moving to Cape Town; even meeting my future husband.

With my life in balance, I felt alive, happy and proud of myself for having the courage to go after what I wanted. I’d learnt to re-prioritise my time to make room for the things that were important to me. I’d learnt to say “no”. I’d learnt to value myself.

I now actively protect my work-life balance and am happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.

And now it’s your turn …

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