Help

I was at a friend’s house yesterday. She’s got a little boy the same age as Jenson and has really hurt her back. She’s in agony and I’ve come over to help her during the day.

I’m not saying this to get brownie points for how awesome I am, I’m sharing this because it’s given me a lovely glimpse into what a gift it is to accept the help of other people.

When she was in the most early agonising moments of her injury, I offered to come over to do what I could do help her and she was reluctant to accept the help. She said she couldn’t accept my help. Like me, she’s a strong, independent and giving person who is more used to being the helper and is uncomfortable needing to lean on other people.

She’s probably even more strong, independent and giving than I am. I’ve practically lived at her house since our boys were born and she has invited Gregg and I over for dinner so often. Honestly, she’s cooked for us more than I have cooked at all since giving birth to Jenson! She’s been super thoughtful in sourcing special breastfeeding remedies for me to help with the troubles I’ve been having and is one of my biggest cheerleaders on my journey as a Mum.

So when she injured her back, I wanted to support her as best I could. And it was, to be honest, really frustrating to have her reject my offers of help due to her discomfort at needing to lean on other people.

My help was a gift I could give back to her in the face of all the kindness she has shown me and I was delighted when she messaged me to take me up on my offer of help.

It was a lovely day. Catching up, talking about our hopes for the boys, dreaming of travels and helping her, here and there, to lift her son or soothe him when he needed a jig around the room.

Helping someone I want to help is a pleasure.

So if I turn this around and think about how I often turn down help because of the discomfort I feel being ‘needy’, I see that I’m depriving people of a chance to feel special, to give back in and to get closer to me as they see me vulnerable and in need of a helping hand.

I’m sure this experience isn’t going to bring about a massive shift in me overnight and I doubt I’ll feel absolutely at ease accepting help going forward. But at least I’ll have a very good example to draw from about how good it feels when someone allows you to help them and I hope it will allow me to say ‘thank you so much, I’d love to accept your help’ more often.

A day for women

Here’s to International Women’s Day. A day celebrating all that is means to be female and all that we’ve accomplished towards equality over the centuries. Despite being a day late – hey, I’ve got a baby and no longer work to my own schedule, I wanted to spend a few minutes to celebrate the brave and strong women I know.

The mamas

Here’s to my mum friends. Those who are standing side-by-side with me on this journey of motherhood. Struggling with lack of sleep, babies with colic, the dreaded witching hour, breastfeeding issues but showing their bubba and fellow mamas nothing but love and support.

My hotties

Here’s to my university girls. Hotwells Hotties (named by the area we lived in when we rented in Bristol during our uni days) who’ve stayed in touch for over a decade and still support each other through so much. I love how we talk about everything and anything on our whatsapp group – trying to find our path in the world of work, parenting, holidays, small successes, hilarious antics. Your support and presence makes my days happier and I can’t imagine a world without you.

My Newnham ladies

Here’s to my mum and sister who have known me for all (or much of) my life and who’ve supported me through some of my darkest days. You know that you’ve got good women in your corner when you can face hard truths together and can disagree about much together but still love each other fiercely. As my sister said yesterday – you’re both strong, independent, vulnerable, kind and really funny.

And to my Newnham cousins and aunties in Australia, I also want to honour you today. For the love you have shown me when I’ve visited and for the friendships that I feel are just blossoming now as you reach out to me with such love and support as I take my first steps as a mother.

My female friends all over the world

Here’s to you, all my women friends across the world. From Japan to Austin, Norwich to Norway, Perth to New York, you all teach me much about what it is to be a strong woman in this world. Serving others above self, striving to find your path in this world, going all in for love, pushing forward with amazing careers. You’re all so different and I take so much from each of you and am so thankful that the online world allows me to keep in touch more than ever would have been possible.

To women in the past

Here’s to all those who have battled in the past to allow me to be able to vote and who gave me the freedom to choose who I wanted to marry, to work, to receive an education, to be taken seriously as a human being and to have access to free contraceptives so that I have control over my own body and a choice about when I want to start a family. There was an excellent episode of the guilty feminist to celebrate the centenary of women getting the right to vote in the UK and it showed me the lengths to which you went to bring ease, choice and freedom to my life. Some of you died for me, went through hardships unimaginable and I’m forever grateful to you.

And here’s to you, amazing and talented women who have pushed the boundaries of science, politics or society in the pursuit of excellence. Ada Lovelace, Malala, Amelia Earhart, Michelle Obama, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Hamilton, Serena Williams…the list could go on and on. You’ve paved the way for other women to step forward into brilliance and I want to honour you for that.

To women of the future

Here’s to you, women who will come after me. The small babies and young girls I see in my friendship groups – Anwen, Hilary, Nora, Julia, Martha, Faith, Esmé, Emily, Robin, Sienna, Elise, Evie, Hannah…and all those my mummy brain has forgotten! I hope you are brave and courageous in going after what you want, that you knowingly choose your future – whether it’s to be a badass full-time mum or to follow your passions in the world of work (or a mix of the two). To know you have choices and that you don’t need a man to be complete.

My son

Here’s to you, Jenson. Yes, you’re not a female (although as a baby you are so beautiful and I think you could rock a dress!) but I still want to honour you and what I hope you will grow up to be. A feminist. Someone who believes in equality for all people, regardless of gender. I hope you know that everything is for everyone, that you are free to play with my little pony, polly pocket or to wear wings and a tutu if you like…or stick with Mighty Max and Thomas the Tank Engine. None of these things makes you any less a person. And I hope that you grow up respecting all people, regardless of background, gender or race. I know you have been born into good fortune – being white, male, in a developed country – and I hope that you use these privileges to amplify the voices of those who would otherwise not be heard in society.

I know that in some ways this seems like a big expectation to place on someone so small, but in a way that shows me how far we have to still go in our fight for true equality. And how I hope you are part of that journey, little one.

So yes, I’m a day late to the International Women’s Day party, but I still raise my (non-alcoholic) glass up to you all, my sisters of the world.

Showing up

I had my final coaching training last weekend and, as always, took something from the coaching I received from my peer coaches. This weekend’s ‘aha’ moment came from some coaching given to me by a lovely lady called Fatima and I want to spend a few minutes sharing what I realised with her help.

So here it goes!

In the morning of the first day, we had 30 minutes to talk in groups about all the successes we’ve had on our coaching journey. I was really excited to share that I had just about achieved my 40 hours of coaching practice and was on the way to completing my coursework to become an accredited coach. This is really big for me as I’m keen to get all the work done before my baby comes along. I was really pleased and encouraged to hear about the successes of other people too – we’ve all grown so much over the 6 months of training.

But I also felt sad that so many people shared how they were talking to their friends at length about coaching when I rarely talk to my friends and family about it. Even when I do mention this stuff, I hold back as I hear a voice inside me saying “Why are you talking about this? You’re boring people. They don’t want to hear about this stuff. What’s wrong with you?”

And so I invariably keep quiet, write about my experiences avidly on this blog but only share a little of what is important in my life when I’m face-to-face with my closest friends and, even then, I often wait for them to ask me questions before opening up and sharing more with them.

This realisation prompted me to open up in the coaching session with Fatima and I explored with her why I share so little face-to-face with people.

I realised that I often feel ashamed of what makes me light up because I feel like I’m a bit much. A bit different. A bit unacceptable.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that my friends or family do anything to make me feel this way. And in my most bad-ass moments, I feel like an Amazonian warrior in my difference. I feel like an outlier in a Robin Hood-type way. I feel unique.

But then other times, I feel like a child in a playground, left out and different from the normal children.

Fatima was great in the coaching session – she gave me all the space I needed to explore my thoughts about this area. Thoughts that are so often unsaid even to myself. But then she asked me a surprising question:

“How do you know that people would be bored by your interests? What tells you that they’d think less of you for what lights you up?” 

I told Fatima that I often tentatively drop something into a conversation. Perhaps a comment that I’m going on a coaching training weekend, am spending time this weekend writing a blog post, have just got a new coaching client. And unless the person I’m talking to shows complete enthusiasm and interest in my comment by their tone of voice or by asking me questions about what I’ve said, I’ll assume they’re not interested in what I have to say and will deflect back to them and away from me.

And so the circle continues of me feeling unimportant, an outcast, different. And then I talk less about myself or, if I do talk about me, it’s areas where I know we have common interests. Safe topics.

But then Fatima asked me another question:

“What do you do to show people you want to talk about your topics?” 

And this had me stumped.

In that second, I realised that I wait for people to bound towards me with unabated enthusiasm to show that they’re interested in me, that they want to hear more, but I don’t show them that I want to talk more about coaching…my blog…whatever it is that I’ve mentioned.

And so if I want to share more of myself, I need to start doing this. I need to start showing, in whatever way feels right (my tone of voice, my enthusiasm, my willingness to share) that I want to talk about these things with other people. 
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Yes, it feels scary – putting myself out there. It could result in me being rejected or having my heart trampled on by others…but like this amazing quote by Brené Brown, it could also lead to me feeling truly and completely seen in my life, it could lead to me living a more courageously, it could lead to me connecting with those I love on a deeper level.

And so I’ve started to give it a go – I’ve started to share with others my experience of coaching. And I’ve been really surprised by the result.

People have been interested, open, curious, willing to listen. And although I’ve found my words stilted sometimes and I’ve doubted what I should say…have been unsure what I’ve wanted to say, I feel less like I’m on a desert island all by myself.

I see that I’m surrounded by people who care for me and love me just as I am. And I see that it was perhaps my own fears that were making me feel different, alone, an outsider, when the truth is that I’m anything but that.

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Going deeper

I had a coaching session this week and had chosen to talk about how I want more boundaries in my life. Not set rules that govern my life, I suppose I was looking for a greater awareness of what I wanted for my life and the ability to keep to it.

One of the things I discussed with my coach is how I want to have my priorities based around what I’ve spoken to you about in the past, dear friend – close family and friends, the work I love (both coaching and my HR role) and this blog.

I shared with Helen, my coach, how I prefer spending time with those who I have a deep relationship with instead of getting together with a huge group of people and was honest with her that I think judge myself for this sometimes. Because I’m not at ease being in a large group – it’s not where I shine my best or where I feel like I can truly be myself – and I’m sometimes not ok at not being ‘the best’ in every circumstance. Because I can sometimes associate ‘not being at my best‘ with ‘not being enough‘.

But today, a day that I’m sharing with my dear friend Nadine who’s visiting me from the States, just reminds me why I prefer spending time with those I can go deep with. These 5 hours with her have passed in the blink of an eye. We’ve laughed together, shared together, dreamt of future plans and it has been blissfully easy. Deliciously uncomplicated. I’ve just been myself without doubting what I’ve said or wondering if I’m ‘enough’ for her or for me.

And so why wouldn’t I chose these types of relationships over being in a big crowd? Why wouldn’t I follow what feels right, what feels beautiful, what sets my soul alight?

And I see that it’s not a case of not being ‘good enough‘ for a big groups. It’s a personal preference to spend time in smaller groups, with people I know really well. Easy as that.

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