It’s so easy to lose yourself in the journey of parenthood, and in the intensity of caregiving, and in everything else that goes with it. I remember my mind feeling so full and yet so empty of inspiration. I love my children so much, but I needed to work out what I loved beyond them in order to be a better, stronger mother who could then treasure my time with them so much more.
I don’t think the sense of isolation comes from not being around others. I think it comes from a lack of connection with our true selves. This lack of connection with ourselves then leads to connections with others that don’t feel authentic—where people don’t see or understand the true you. So we need to start with ourselves before others can connect with us. We need to know our true self and bring this into the world. Then any connection, whether online or face to face, will feel fulfilling.
By connecting with yourself, you start to unlock your values. Your values have always been with you, but they may have been slightly tucked away over time for various reasons. I have always found working in a kind and compassionate way fits well with me, and yet when I entered the workplace, I was told that I couldn’t be both nice and successful in business. At one of my early jobs in a large PR firm, they told me that I would either sink or swim. But I now find myself really aligned with my truest values; they are a core part of who I am.
I had never really thought about my dreams and personal purpose before starting this journey, but now I can see how incredibly important they are in our lives. They guide us, set us free, fill us with joy, and connect us to others and ourselves. Only when you lose the connection with yourself do you realise quite how important it is.
When I first started BeyondTheSchoolRun, I found very few people talking about the subject of women and equality. But each time I read an article or saw someone doing something in this area, it took me a step closer to believing in my vision and, ultimately, myself. I remember when I first tweeted Anne-Marie Slaughter and she responded so positively to BeyondTheSchoolRun. You may not be connecting with someone face to face, but the connection with their words and thoughts can help you connect with yourself. These connections, whether online, face to face, or just an awareness, are so important in supporting us in connecting with ourselves. I soon started to see an industry emerge with more and more people speaking out and supporting and empowering mothers and parents.
What I realised is there are no barriers to us following our dreams—the only thing stopping us is ourselves. The labels we put on ourselves and on others are what stop us. As with everything, we need to start with ourselves, without judgment for others. When you start with yourself, the world truly changes around you. When you focus on your own self-growth, you no longer compare and contrast because you understand that we all have our own stories; we all have our own journeys lived and yet to be lived. When you are kind to yourself, you are kind to others. Start with you, and the rest will follow.
The more you can connect with your true, authentic self, the more you will empower others to do the same.
As part of connecting with yourself and your values, I think finding your true voice is really important in supporting your growth and your work. This, for me, means speaking from a very authentic place and not compromising my values.
I think that as a woman, there is no doubt that communication is so important, but taking the time to look at what information you share through words is also important. Really starting to speak based on your true values can feel very different from just speaking. This means speaking from an authentic part of yourself and sharing your ideas, views, and intentions with a clear voice.
How do you find your values? Many of us have worked for organisations where we take on their company values. But this is about finding our own values, which can then guide our work moving forward. Your values have always been with you, but I have found they have often become tucked away over time. For example, I was always passionate about supporting others, collaboration, and kindness. When I entered the workplace, this was always seen as a weakness, so I tucked it away. Now I am very clear that this is a core part of who I am. On this journey, I have also unlocked values I was never aware of consciously. For example, authenticity is important to me—people speaking their truth, being open and honest and true to themselves—and I apply this to all of my work. Once we start to align with our values, I think our work becomes much clearer and who we work with becomes clearer along with our vision.
Take time to notice how you feel when you are speaking your truth and are aligned with your values. You will find it feels right and that you don’t leave the conversation questioning anything you said. When your voice is out of alignment, it often feels strange and lacks connection. Test your voice out. It may take time to find your authentic voice, but once you focus on it, you will see the difference. I only gradually started to speak out. It was daunting to me. I would feel so nervous every time, but the more I did it, the stronger I felt. And what was amazing was that people connected with me when I spoke about what I believed in and my intentions with BeyondTheSchoolRun!
I didn’t need to pursue or convince; I just spoke from the heart. The more you share your message and the more you find your voice, the more you find out about yourself.
▶▶ Work out your values. Think back over your career and look at the values that have been important to you.
▶▶ Look at your behaviour and when you are most comfortable with yourself. This may show your values.
▶▶ Make connecting with yourself a key part of each day. Find the ways that help you do that.
▶▶ When you start to find them, write them down, focus on them, and stay true to them.
▶▶ Start connecting with your dreams. Write them down. Create a vision for yourself.
▶▶ Speak daily about what you believe in or are working towards.
▶▶ If you don’t connect with a particular conversation, don’t engage; just listen.
▶▶ Don’t engage in gossip.
▶▶ Put your hand up at lectures or talks. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you are doing or ask questions.
▶▶ Don’t be thrown off course by people who don’t get you or what you are saying. Focus on the ones that do.
Excerpted from A New Way For Mothers