One moment

I’m so excited to be starting my diploma in transformational coaching with Animas Coaching today! I’d started to write a post this morning reflecting on why I’ve been drawn to this course and what I hope it will bring to my life but, in a moment of reflection, I wrote down all the things that had brought me to the point of starting my studies. And this feels like exactly the right thing to share with you today, dear friend.

So I scrapped what I’d written and hope it’s ok for me to share with you what I identified as key to starting my studies:

  • the coaching I did in 2015-2017 which helped me to identify the life I want to live and how I wanted to be equipped to give back through coaching other people
  • the kindness I’ve cultivated and shown to others over the years which has built my desire to coach
  • the joy deep inside me that blooms when I listen to people, make them feel important and learn about their lives
  • the bravery I had in asking work to sponsor me to do this course

Out of all these actions, I thought ‘what am I the proudest of?’ and I knew instinctively that it was the bravery in asking my manager, 6 weeks into my new job, to pay for the course.

But then again, boiling it down to one moment of bravery didn’t feel right.

It felt like something the ‘old’ Amy would do – basing my success on a decision made by someone else.

Sure, it took guts to ask for what I wanted in that moment, but really I was only able to stand up for what I wanted because of of all the hard graft I’ve done over the past years. The tears and pain I’ve shed, the discoveries I’ve made, the grit I’ve shown in owning up to hard truths, the courage, truth and love I’ve cultivated for myself.

So it wasn’t really one moment, but actually a million different moments that led to me having the courage to ask for what I wanted – to start this course.

These moments weren’t glamorous or victorious, and during these years of growth I frequently fell back into old patterns of comfort eating, retreating away from the world.

But they prepared me, bit-by-bit, for that all-so-important moment where I felt worthy to ask my manager for the financial support to do this course. And where I knew that I had the resilience that, if she had said ‘no’, I’d have been ok.

So I’m going to keep on appreciating the little moments in life that actually are so much more important than what they seem in the moment.

And I want to encourage you that although life might feel tough, and you may feel like you’re getting nowhere, chances are that you’ll look back one day and know that it was in the moments of hardship that you built the foundations for something much bigger in your life.

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The F word

Yes, the F word…it feels a bit dirty to use it, many people don’t like it, I wasn’t too sure if it was for me…but now I’m starting to embrace it.

Feminism

Ever since my friend, Heather, introduced me to the pool, an online platform with interesting, inspiring, original content for women, I’ve started to dip my toe in the world of feminism. And day-by-day, I’m becoming more intrigued with what this means for me and am seeing thing from my life in a new context…

What do I mean by feminism? 

I wasn’t too sure about what feminism was for a long time. I mean, sure, it’s about equality between men and women, but I didn’t really see what was unequal in the world. Women in the west can vote, we can have a mortgage of our own (until fairly recently women wanting a mortgage on their own needed a man – husband, father or brother – to co-sign it), we have access to contraception that allows us to choose when we give birth, laws to protect our rights.

But then I read a really helpful book by Caitlin Moran which opened my eyes to the inequality that still exists. 

Take, for instance, the thoughts you might have if a woman returned to work 2 weeks after giving birth to her child. You might be thinking:

“how could she cope?” “what about breastfeeding?” “it’s not fair on the baby” “why have a child if you don’t want to spend any time with it?”

Now replace the woman in this story with a man. What are your thoughts about him going back to work?

“it’s normal” “someone needs to be earning money” “why would he stay at home?”

There’s no reason why we should view the choice of these two people any differently, especially in the UK where paternity leave allows men as much legal rights as women to take time off work to care for a child.

Regardless of whether you (or I) would want to have the year off to care for a child, there is inequality in how we view men and women.

And there are so many other examples I can think about. Imagine if you went to a woman’s house and it was a hovel…dirty and uncared for, the bed unmade and dirty dishes left around the kitchen. What would you think about her?

Would you have the same level of disgust if it was a man’s home?

What about if a man didn’t remember any birthdays of family and friends…ignoring them, sending cards late and, if confronted, not being that apologetic?

Then think about how you’d view a woman who did the same thing.

You may not have any different reaction…and if this is true, good on you! However, I know I have different expectations of people which is based on their sex…and I don’t want to.

Yes, we may vary physically and our brains have some differences but this shouldn’t determine the different standards we put on people depending on their sex.

I believe we should all have the right to choose what’s best for us, regardless of our gender.

My family of feminists

I’ve never discussed feminism with my family, perhaps I will when they visit me over the Easter weekend, but the more I think back to my childhood, the more I can see examples of both my mum and dad sharing caring responsibilities equally and doing things that play to their strengths, regardless of their gender.

I wrote about my dad combing my hair when I was a child in my recent post about my hair and this is only one of countless examples of the *feminine* tasks he did to care for his children. Cooking us tea, doing housework, caring for my grandad (not his father) in his older years, walking us children to school.

And my mum, she is an example of a strong woman who is not confined to who she *should* be. She preached at church (a role mostly done by men until then), shared the household chores equally with my dad, gave similar household jobs to my brother and I and aspired to be a probation officer – a typically masculine job – when she was younger.

It’s only now that I can appreciate that they modelled a different way of being.

Don’t get me wrong, there were differences of expectations with my brother and I (he was granted more freedom and he still gets away with missing birthdays more than I would!) but I’m still appreciative of the different model they showed me of equality.

What this means for me

I wanted to share this with you – my baby steps of understanding into the world of feminism – to help put some order into what I’m learning about feminism.

I know I’ve navigated this world, especially the professional one, through being girly, friendly, gentle and helpful. Through being indirect with my ideas “…I don’t know about you, but what’s struck me about this is that maybe we should…X, Y, Z…I mean, I’m not sure…what do you think?” and winning people over with my kindness, lightness and smile. I know part of this is my personality, but part of it is also how I’ve managed to not be threatening or disliked for being too forward, too confrontational, too direct, too masculine which I think women get judged for. I want to being a bit more direct at work, to not present in a way that is ‘acceptable’ in this man’s world…

I’ve also caught myself, even on this blog, telling my story through the lens of the men around me. My post about my hair, for example, spoke of my dad combing my hair when I was little, my ex-boyfriend dictating who I could be and my husband accepting me exactly as I am, short hair and all…does this show that I view the world through the eyes of men…or that my life has been dictated and influenced so heavily by men? I’m not sure…but I will continue to keep asking these questions and try to live my life for myself. Not as I think men would like me to be.

I think feminism is a difficult word to embrace. One that gets wrapped up in images of women burning bras, hating men and being generally aggressive.

But for me, feminism is the fight for true equality. For us to be judged by what we do and who we are inside, not by our gender.

It’s about working to have a world where, if I have a baby, and it’s a girl, she has as many opportunities as she would if she was a male, and if it’s a boy, he has the freedom to pursue ‘feminine’ jobs, tasks, hobbies, without any stigma.

And that’s not too much to ask, is it?

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The journey to my new job

I’ve shared with you in a couple of blogs, dear one, that I’ve got a new job. I’ve been wanting to share my experience of getting it with you. So today, 3 weeks after starting, I want to spend a few moments reflecting about it. My start date seems like a million years ago and the job offer seems even further away, but I still remember what I wanted to write to you at the moment that I accepted this new role so I want to get my thoughts out there while there’re still vaguely in my mind.

I know that writing about this experience will consolidate what I learnt from this experience and I hope it will provide a little bit of wisdom that may be of use to you.

Acceptance

I think I had been ready for a new role for a good 6 months before I got the job offer that was right for me. When I started looking, I was open to staying in my current organisation or moving elsewhere, I just knew I needed a change. The only way I can describe how I felt is like wearing trousers that are slightly too small for you – you can still put them on, but there’s a level of discomfort in staying in them for too long.

When I started applying for jobs, I didn’t think that it would take so long for the right opportunity to come to me…I must have applied for over 20 different roles and I think this was a huge area of learning and growth for me – to accept and be ok with where you are and not take it personally when you’re faced with a tide of ‘no thank yous’.

It was uncomfortable and frustrating at times and often lonely but in the end, I found moments of peace where I said ‘if this job is where I am at the moment, I accept that’ and I let go of the urge to push forward, to move, to advance, in order to surrender to where I was in that moment.

I’m still wondering whether I should have started to apply for jobs at an earlier date when I was still growing in my old role instead of waiting to be ready for a move… That’ll be something that I dwell on for a while.

Many doors shutting 

When I was looking for new a job, it was really hard going. I was constantly being knocked back with ‘sorry’, ‘we regret to inform you…’ and ‘not this time’. It was really hard to keep going.

At times I felt helpless, at times I felt not enough and at times I felt so undesirable – I didn’t know what was wrong with me. But I kept on telling myself that every ‘no’ was just one door closing so I could move closer to the door that was opening to my perfect job.

It was the letting go, the surrendering, the small steps of accepting my situation as it was, that let me continue on with my job hunt. It took guts and patience and so many moments of surrendering to the situation I was in…but it was the right thing to do and I’m so glad I kept going because of where I am now.

Be yourself

I remember going to the interview for the job I’ve now got in a polkadot dress and gold shoes.

Yes, I looked a bit different, but I remember thinking “if this job is right, they’ll accept me for me“. I’m so glad that I rocked up there looking exactly as I love to be – pretty dress, bright shoes, limitless enthusiasm and a deep hunger to do some good in this world.

Life is too short to be anything but yourself.

I’ve learnt this through the amazing role models  I’ve had in my life who have demonstrated such courage in being themselves and I am slowly feeling this message sink in.

I just want to be me.

Reflections

So this is my experience…and 3 weeks into my new role I’m so glad I persevered to get to where I am. It took so much energy and stamina and hope. Endless supplies of hope. But I’m now in a job I love, that is pushing me further than I could ever have dreamt. And I know indeed that all the doors that were closed – all the jobs I didn’t get – were indeed moving me towards the one that was exactly right for me.

And for that, I am so thankful.

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What’s next?

I’ve been feeling for a little while that my role at work is no longer enough for me, dear friend.

I’ve not shared this online with you until now because some of you may work in the same organisation as me and I just didn’t know what revealing this truth could mean for me. But I believe in being honest, sharing from myself and trusting that you will know that this truth will in no way detract from the effort I put into my job until the next step is revealed to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working in local government, getting to serve the public, making a difference on a daily basis, but I’ve felt that I’ve arrived at a point where I’m no longer on an expansive learning journey that I have been up until this point in my career. And that’s not enough for me, I don’t want to stand still…I want more.

I wasn’t sure what to do about this when the realisation came over me – I’m still not sure what to do if I’m honest with you. I’ve been mulling over the question of ‘what’s next?’ for a while now.

I’ve been writing daily in a journal for the past couple of months about what my ideal job would be to energetically bring opportunities to me and this is what I’ve discovered:

  • I want to manage a team and make a difference in their lives
  • I want to continue to be in a role that is varied and intellectually challenging
  • I want to have deep connections at work, like the connections I mulled over in my recent post

As much as these realisations are helpful, I still felt a bit lost with the ‘what next’ question.

It was only when I was sat on a bench in Wales whilst some friends were hurling themselves down a quarry (yes, really! Look at the photo below!) on a recent weekend that this thought hit me…

img_2435I can’t control my position at work or magic up a team of people to manage (although I can be proactive in progressing if I really desire this).

I can’t make a difference to the work I am given (although again I can put myself in a position to receive as much variety of work as possible).

But I do have control in fostering deep connections – juicy, full, authentic, honest relationships with the people I work with.

Connections that make my heart sing.

This transported me, dear friend, from a place of ‘stuckness’ and powerlessness to the surety of knowing that I am able to actively increase my feeling of joy at work and take a new expansive journey of courage, truth and love until a role change comes my way.

It made me aware that I have choices…we all have choices, even if it’s just the attitude we decide to take to our own circumstances.

And you know what, dear friend?

These really small decisions about our attitude can make the world of difference.

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Reflection

On my way up to Derbyshire for the second Local Government Challenge, I read Heather Storey’s post about lessons she learnt from the first challenge. It was a great reflection on what she might do differently and, besides reminding me of the unsuitability of my footwear choice (wearing suede shoes for an outdoor-based challenge – eeek!), it really prompted me to reflect on what I will aim to do more/less of in future challenges.

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How do you want to feel?

In 2015, I organised a talent programme at work to support staff who had ideas about how to improve the organisation but didn’t necessarily have the contacts or clout to put them into action. It was an amazing experience and such a privilege to witness the growth of so many members of staff.

Yesterday was the feedback session; a time for these people to get together and consider how they could keep the momentum of growth going in their personal and professional lives. In this session, I introduced the participants to Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map.

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