I help women move from feeling overwhelmed, stuck and unhappy in their careers, through to a life of clarity, confidence and in control. When we are miserable in our jobs, it seeps into other areas of our life and impacts everything from our self-worth to relationships.
Many women come to me because they want to change careers but don’t know where to start. Others want to become confident leaders and have a bigger impact in their organisation, yet are scared of saying no and putting boundaries in place. I work with them to become the best version of themselves and come alive again.
I’m passionate about helping people to be authentic, honest and courageous role models. We often feel like we have to be on top of everything and have all the answers, when in reality that’s impossible. Leadership isn’t about showing how great you are and always being right – in fact it’s about inspiring, caring, being vulnerable and admitting failures. Culture starts from the top and cascades through the whole of the organisation – so we need leaders to be human. That means being honest in how we’re feeling, asking for help, openly learning from our mistakes and celebrating our successes.
My earliest memory was on the beach in Australia – we moved when I was 18 months old and lived there for five years. I remember making sandcastles in bare feet with my parents and brother. It was such a happy time. Still to this day I know that I will eventually live on the coast – there’s something free and easy about being near water and sand that makes my troubles melt away.
We moved back to the UK where I started school with a “strange” accent and from then on I always tried to fit in. I was also tall growing up which I didn’t enjoy – from the age of 11-15, I towered over most of the boys and because of that I often tried to shrink down into the crowds. Standing out scared me because it meant being different. I really loved school though – because of my need to fit in, I always tried my best and was generally popular.
I went on to university and got a job on a graduate scheme in London. Like many people that age, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. I followed the masses into the corporate world and ended up in HR, which I continued in for six years. Parts of the job I enjoyed, but I struggled with the anxiety of imposter syndrome and always having to be “switched on”. I was the classic people pleaser – if I was liked then I’d be good at my job and wouldn’t be found out.
In summer 2016, I had just got engaged and started a new job all within two weeks of each other. To the outside world I was happy and successful, but deep down I was completely overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, getting engaged was one of the most magical moments that I’ll never forget, but organising a wedding and starting a new job (plus buying a house!) meant that I was constantly on the go.
Two months into my job, I knew that I’d made a mistake in taking the role, but I couldn’t admit it to anyone. I’d wake up with a sick feeling every morning but just told myself that I’d worked hard to get here – I’d got my HR qualification and was on a good package with lots of opportunities. It was a fast-moving environment and often reactive, which only amplified my people pleaser tendencies. I would worry about work and what people thought of me constantly, to the point where I was never really present with my husband.
The turning point was when we started to receive all of the RSVPs to our wedding. We had lots of friends and family travelling from Australia and across the world, many of whom had young children and we’d just assumed wouldn’t be able to come. I know it sounds clichéd, but even as I write this it brings up lots of emotions for me – I was totally bowled over, grateful and humbled that people would travel that far, all because of us.
I realised then that I was unhappy in who I’d become and the lifestyle that I was living. I was generally a positive person, but my job was making me miserable and I wasn’t proud of myself. I didn’t want to have to put on a show anymore. I knew categorically that I wasn’t going to allow myself to feel like this on my wedding day and that something had to change.
I had started the CTI Co-Active coaching course and that was pivotal. I remember crying throughout one of the early modules – half tears of relief because I now understood why I felt the way I did, but also tears of fear as I felt so far away from the person I wanted to be and didn’t know how to get there.
I knew that coaching had the power to transform people, like it did for me, and for people to own their self-worth and not shy away. So I finally quit my job, took the summer off to get married and became a certified coach.
I’d never really experienced significant failure before and it was something that petrified me. I thought I’d be judged and rejected by people. I did once fail one of my HR exams and I was so ashamed that I didn’t tell anyone.
But quitting my job and starting coaching from scratch meant that I had to begin all over again, and believe me I have made plenty of mistakes! Setting up my own business and putting myself out there has been a huge learning curve and it’s made me take courage in owning my story. Before, I never wanted to stand out or be seen and now that’s what I’m trying to do more of – even if it means being judged. Because when it’s your story, then it’s your truth so you can’t worry about what others think.
I’m trying to get better at embracing my failures and seeing each one as a gift. When something goes wrong I remind myself that everything happens in service to us, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. I always use the Gareth Southgate analogy: when he missed that England penalty in 1996 he felt like he’d let everyone down, yet fast forward 22 years later and it’s made him one of the most kind, compassionate and caring leaders of today.
This is a hard one as I feel like I’m constantly learning and I hope that I will continue to throughout my life. One thing I know is that mind-set is powerful and it can impact how we choose to view and react to things. It’s easy to be the victim and blame others for “what’s being done to you” but actually we all have a choice in how we respond to situations.
This is especially true for me as I’m going to become a Mum for the first time in July (we’re excited and equally daunted!) and there are going to be lots of unknowns that come our way. I often used to think that I wasn’t good enough at my job and it impacted my confidence. But now I’m the one that tries to dictate what is good enough (even though it’s still hard!) and the same will go for when I become a parent.
I’ve been asked if I regret any of my experiences and the answer is always no as I wouldn’t be doing what I love today. It’s helped me to listen, be open and understand that everyone has a story. More practically, I now know the importance of boundaries and saying yes to things I enjoy and no to things that I don’t.
Exercise is essential in getting out of my head and into my body. Our bodies are designed to move – even if it means going for a short walk outside. I play netball which I love and being part of a team sport means we support and champion each other. Plus, it’s helped me to embrace my height – being tall is an advantage! I also adore dancing – whether it’s out somewhere or just around my kitchen – there’s nothing better than my favourite song coming on and busting out some moves!
My object is a mug that my friend made for me 13 years ago. We lived together for a year in the south of France when we were students. It reminds me of all the people I met and the adventures we had. I was also out of my comfort zone in moving to a new country and speaking a different language when I was just 20, so it reminds me of the reward we get when we cross that edge and do things that are intimidating or scare us a little.
Most of all, it’s my prompt that a cup of tea can help you to see that things aren’t always as bad as they seem. Getting out of your chair and away from your computer screen to make a drink forces you to take time out even if it’s just for 5 minutes. And sitting down to connect face to face with a friend or loved one over a cup of tea is one of the best forms of healing in my view.
I wholeheartedly believe that we can achieve more with others than going it alone. I am blessed to have my incredible husband who is always there for me and who I talk to about everything. I am beyond grateful for my supportive parents and brother who inspire me to be open-minded and make the most of opportunities, as well as my amazing friends who each teach me something different. Community is so important: connecting and feeling like we’ve been heard is essential for our sense of belonging. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my own community.
I also want you to know that you are good enough. We often feel as if we have to live up to others’ expectations or conform to what society wants us to be. When we start living a life that’s in line with our values and we are clear in what feels right for us, then we no longer question ourselves. We uncover the trailblazer within us and glow with confidence. And that’s when we kick ass.