Life got real for Maialen at an early age. When she was 22, she got married. By the time she was 24, she was taking care of two young boys.
Suddenly forced to provide for a family, she abandoned her psychology degree and started working as a receptionist. Her career path had been permanently re-routed:
“When you’re in your twenties or thirties and you don’t have kids, you can make some professional moves, take some risks. But when you need to feed two babies, you take things as they come—you need the money.”
Maialen eventually joined a more established startup, where stable revenue was almost guaranteed and the work was less stressful:
“The office was close to my house. That gave me a break. I was more relaxed in my body, I slept better, I didn’t work weekends. My work-life balance was much better.”
And finally, she began to open up to a colleague about her problems. She told Maialen that what she felt was normal, and “what wouldn’t be normal is if you didn’t feel anything.”
For the first time ever, Maialen felt heard and validated at work. After the pandemic hit, she continued to explore her feelings. She remembers visiting a construction site where the company’s new office would be built:
“I had so much anxiety about the project: how is this going to work? Does it even make sense anymore? Will I lose my job?”
Maialen knew she had a tendency to worry. But now—thanks to a colleague she could trust, and more time reflecting at home due to the pandemic—she began to confront her unhealthy thoughts:
“Why am I feeling this way? Why are my beliefs about myself like this? I realised it’s about challenging yourself. My beliefs about myself were rooted in the past, as if I hadn’t evolved.”
<quote-author>Maialen Dominguez<quote-author><quote-company>Workplace Experience Manager at Veepee<quote-company>
Finally, she contacted a therapist. She told the therapist that she had two teenage sons, and felt like she couldn’t take care of them. And that she worried—all the time. They began therapy that same day, and started working through Maialen’s trauma-related issues.
Maialen is now working on how she talks to herself, and removing the guilt of saying “no” to people. Ultimately, she’s realised that she’s been living for others—not herself. And she knows that by working on herself, she’ll be in better shape to support others:
“Therapy is going to help me to be a better mum to my sons. We have a really open relationship—we’re like a team. They know I’m doing therapy, and some of the things I’ve been through. It’s the way it should be.”
“Like going to the gym”
By the time she was 24, Maialen was in a committed relationship and mother to two boys. She had no choice but to take on the responsibility of caring for others. As an office manager, this was as true at work as it was at home.
But in obsessively helping others, she neglected herself. She minimised, dismissed, and denied her feelings. This, Maialen says, reminds her of a typical parenting flaw:
“When kids don’t know how to manage their feelings, they get angry or sad. As parents, we tend to say: ‘don’t be sad’, instead of trying to understand or support.”
Companies often expect people in roles like Maialen’s—‘the culture people’—to bring the good vibes. But that’s a hefty burden for one person to carry—she now believes a positive work environment should be a shared responsibility.
She also thinks that companies should “create safe spaces for non-judgemental conversation around mental health,” including training to help managers guide people through rough patches:
“There are procedures for how to deal with physical injuries at work, but the line is blurry when it comes to mental health. What should I do if I suddenly have a panic attack?”
And on a personal level, Maialen—through therapy—is still working on nurturing a more supportive inner voice:
“Therapy is an ongoing process, like going to the gym. It’s something I want to do forever. It’s me being accountable for my mental health.”
Maialen now knows that to succeed, she’ll need to learn to help herself with the same tenacity she helps other people.