For a long long time I was a bit of a NO person.
When friends suggested things to do, or opportunities arose through work, my initial reaction was quite often all the reasons why I couldn’t or shouldn’t do something. My default was often to think about the worst case scenario or to convince myself that it would all end in tears, so probably best to stick to what I know.
So I said NO…or found an excuse to not partake.
Paint balling, horse riding, learning a new skill, a weekend away…. all sound great in principle but what if they don’t turn out how I expect? Plus, isn’t this all a bit self indulgent, shouldn’t I be working hard, thinking sensibly and saving for a rainy day?
I think this all came from a deep seeded belief that I didn’t deserve nice things, or that amazing experiences didn’t happen to people like me.
There were also further blockages about being able to afford to pay for such treats, I’d assume things were more expensive than they actually were, or worry that if I spent a large sum of money on something like a holiday, knowing my luck a week later a massive unexpected bill would come through the door.
As a side note I also had this ridiculous notion that when I lost weight (my weight fluctuated a lot during my twenties and thirties, but I was always considered big) these things would be more suitable, so I would focus on that first.
You could say in my early twenties I had a bit of a lack mentality.
I wanted a more exciting life filled with adventure and excitement, but I was too scared to actually change some of my beliefs and just make it happen.
This changed in the most bazar ways one evening one year in my late twenties.
I had organised a house party to celebrate my birthday, and around twenty or so of my friends came over to my place for drinks and food, including a girl called Natalie who I had spent a bit of time with back in my clubbing days, I didn’t know her very well at all, she was more of a drinking pal than a friend I spent any real time with.
In the early hours of the morning when we were all under the influence and talking rubbish, she told me she was going to visit her half brother in Colombia in a few weeks time, so me in my drunken state said,
I want to come
A few days later she called me and said
Were you serious about coming to Colombia with me? I’d love for you to come with me
And despite not knowing her or her brother very well at all, and having enormous fears about travelling to South America I responded
I don’t know what came over me.
A month later I jumped on a plane and I spent 3 amazing weeks in Cali having all kinds of adventures, and I also made a real friend for life….all through the power of YES.
That was a huge turning point for me, and I become much better at seeing opportunities for what they are, instead of filling my head with all the negative stories like “I can’t afford it”, “But what about work”, “I won’t know anybody there”
I booked a holiday alone to St Lucia one Christmas because I didn’t face spending it alone in the UK, I decided to start renting out my spare room, I set up a business as a consultant, I started going to night school to learn Spanish, I took myself off travelling around South East Asia despite having not lost the weight I thought I needed to.
I just decided I had held myself back for too long.
Now I have a resounding belief that opportunities come to me at the exact right time they need to, and that they have come about to teach me something about myself or the world that we live in that I really need to learn, so I am much more relaxed about international travel, meeting new people, having new experiences than I used to be.
Fear of the unknown holds so many of us back. Fear of judgement from others about the choices we make too can be a big problem, especially for women, especially for mothers who have to juggle being the caregiver to their child and fulfilling their own wants and needs.
I have just spent the most incredible 5 days in Israel on a press trip to review the Jerusalem Half Marathon. I had never been to the middle east, and I was to be the only journalist out of a group of 40 from the UK…plus the race itself has some massive hills on the course…all things which might put me off.
But do you know what? Life is too short to be turning down potentially life changing opportunities.
However, there is absolutely a place in my life too for big fats NO’s…I quite easily turn opportunities away which don’t feel right for me, a few months ago for example I turned down a trip to Switzerland to take part in a 3 day race across the mountains, this wasn’t a good fit…it was a busy time for me at work, my fitness wasn’t where I needed it to be…and I didn’t fancy being lifted off the mountain via helicopter due to a twisted ankle…it was too much of a risk in this case.
Be open to good stuff coming in to your life
Have faith that it is meant for you and will work out fine (better than fine)
Try not to stress about the hows, and focus instead on the whys
Practice saying YES to some small stuff to get you into practice, say YES to the colleague who invites you out for lunch. Say YES to the man who offers you his seat on the tube. Say YES to the distant friends who has a spare ticket for a gig tonight.
Who knows what it might lead to.
And who knows how it might help you prepare for even bigger and better things in the story that is your life
I love being a woman and I am of course a feminist.
Most of my work with the Too Fat to Run movement is about empowering women, encouraging them to prioritise their own health and happiness, and campaigning for equality for women in sport and health.
As a speaker I often get to speak to audiences of women about inequality and some of things we do ourselves to hold us back from achieving our full potential.
Yesterday was one of those days.
I was the keynote speaker at the launch of the Women’s Empowerment Month in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, an East London borough just next door to the one I grew up in.
As I prepared my 30 minute talk for this event I found myself reminiscing about time I had spent in the borough myself. As a child each year I used to dance at the Barking Assembly Hall (which is no longer), and the time I cycled from Upton Park to Barking aged 10 and ended up on the dual carriageway and had to be taken home by the traffic police…much to the embarrassment of my mum.
The event which of course coincided with International Womens’ Day was a fabulous celebration of women, with speeches from various high profile women from the borough, including Liza Vallence, who not only is the CEO of the boroughs leading arts organisation Studio 3 Arts, but she is also one of my clients at Too Fat to Run, as she prepares to run her first ever marathon next month.
There was a panel of outstanding women, with architects, councillors, entrepreneurs, business leaders, local historians…it felt incredible to be in a room full of such vibrant women (and there were a few blokes too, including the leader of the council)
I gave my talk which was all about setting and achieving Big Fat Stupid Goals and I told the audience all about how I overcome a childhood where not much was expected of me, and how I have learned over time to face my fears and to dream ridiculously big when it comes to my goals in life.
There was laughter, there were nods of agreement, and there was interaction in all the bits there was supposed to be…so in many ways it was a success.
I came off the stage though and sat in my seat thinking I could have done better and wondering if the event host was pleased with what I had done, if she believed I was worth the fee I charged.
And then I snapped out of it and had a whole heap of fun shaking hands, hugging and having selfies with the audience who all told me they loved my speech.
Why do we do it ladies?
- Does my bum look big in this?
- Is that really OK or are you just saying it?
- Am I ready?
- Will people notice I made a mistake?
- Will people realise I’m just blagging this (and of course we never are)
- Will I be identified as the fraud that I am.
Imposter Syndrome at it’s greatest. Even us speakers who talk on these issues experience them too. And that’s a good thing.
In my talk I spoke about not asking for permission before going out to do the things you want to in life, and not waiting until you are 100% ready.
I even admitted “I am not the best speaker in the world. I sometimes go red. I sometimes say um, I sometimes even forget what I was going to say next…but that is OK”
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BeBoldforChange and that is what we must be
Being bold involves being brave, putting yourself up for scrutiny and potentially ridicule, it means standing up alongside the so called experts and fighting for your voice to be heard too…even if you don’t have letters after your name or your voice isn’t as posh.
Yesterday was of course the spring budget announcement in the UK too, and as I took a break from my work yesterday and sat on the sofa watching it live (something I have never really done before), a few things struck me…
- Just what an impact the National Insurance increase will have on working women, many of whom have no choice but to be self employed to fit in with family commitments…this will be huge for me
- How annoying it is watching men taking lumps out of each other on the political stage, disguised as comedy or humour…I wasn’t impressed
- There was the announcement of the fund which will support projects to mark the passing of the 1918 Representation of the People Act and “remind us all just how important it was.” Something I didn’t realise about this at first though was that the Act of 1918 gave only some women the vote for the first time…working class and unmarried women for example wouldn’t have the same right for a further 10 years.
Today I am feeling a bit reflective about it all.
Last night at 9.30pm as I picked up my sleepy 4 year old daughter from the childminder she asked,
Where was you mummy?
To which I replied
I was speaking at an event sweetie, I was working.
And as I tucked her up in to bed a few minutes later she announced with a bit of a bee in her bonnet
Mummy, did you know it is women’s day today
To which I replied,
Yes Rose it is, but did you know it’s actually women’s day everyday…because women and girls are brilliant EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!!!
And with that she happily went off into the land of nod and I slumped on my sofa switched on the news and started to sort through the string of emails I’d received in the last few hours about things coming up in the next few weeks.
I am very very proud to be a woman, I am proud to be a working single mother doing the best I can with what I have to hand, and I am really proud to be an East Ender from a working class family full of strong, resourceful women.
(Thats my nan Sylvia on the far left holding one of my uncles, with some of her relatives at some point in the 1930s somewhere in the East End)
Remember folks #BeBoldforChange…today, tomorrow and every day until International Women’s Day 2018…then hold tight for further instructions
If you would like to discuss booking me as a speaker for a future event you are planning, please drop me a line to firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on my mobile 07961 374 772 so we can see if I am a good fit….if I am not I can normally recommend another woman who would be.