Welcome to this uplifting anthology of true-life stories on the topic of belief. Each one is authentic, written with an open-hearted generosity of spirit by its author to inspire you, and other women, to face your fears and better handle life’s challenges.
Why did I decide to compile this book?
Imagine you are standing at a crossroads. You are faced with making a key decision. This decision will affect the whole of your future. Do you stay on the same tried and trusted road, even though it feels tired and worn, or do you take a different path? How do you react when faced with uncharted territory? What feelings do you begin to experience in your body? Uncertainty? Apprehension? Fear? Is there a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach? Or perhaps you feel a thrilling surge of excitement, or an uplifting sense of hope? Or, you may just feel numb. Most likely, you will encounter an unsettling mixture of positive and negative feelings fighting with each other to come out on top!
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What about your thoughts? What issues are flitting through your mind? Do you find yourself racing through a series of conflicting questions, asking yourself: “Can I do this? Am I good enough? Do I really deserve this? What will other people think?” Perhaps you begin to think positively about new opportunities: “I deserve a change, I’ve earned it,” “surely it’s time for me now…”
What happens when you talk to others? Do they encourage you to stay where you are, pointing out that you are ok as you are, that you are safe and secure, and not to risk making a change? Or do they offer to encourage and support you to do something new and different?
When faced with challenges and opportunities in life, the thoughts and feelings we experience can be overwhelming. However, whichever response you experience, you will most likely find it comforting to know that you are not alone!
As you read this book, you will hear from other women who have experienced the same thoughts and feelings as you. You will find yourself identifying with the challenges they face, and the choices they need to make. Each author has discovered their own effective strategies and approaches for managing change.
These heart centred women all have a strong desire to help you to benefit from their own experiences. They recognise how uncomfortable it can be to start again. They understand how valuable it is to share the support of like-minded woman who have been where you are now. Most of all, they understand the benefits of facing your fear, and coming out the other side with a new found confidence to claim the life you desire.
Choose to change
In late 2010, I experienced two significant life changes. For the first, I was required to make a choice. I was offered the opportunity of taking voluntary early retirement. After a number of years in a role that felt increasingly dis-satisfying, I chose to leave my job. It felt like a “no brainer” as my work had felt unrewarding for some time. My fear around staying in a job and completely losing all sense of myself had become far stronger than my habitual desire for security.
The second change was outside of my control. Almost immediately after I retired, my mother died. As you can imagine, these key events impacted me greatly. They were the catalyst for a journey of exploration, healing and self-discovery.
Some children grow into adults who spend a lifetime believing they are not good enough
Ironically, once I made the decisive choice to step into the unknown, I discovered that I had no real idea of who I was, or what I wanted to do with my life!
My mother had been an ever present influence in my life. As a child I had been very sensitive, and sought to please. Following my mother’s death, I became painfully aware of the extent to which she had been a central figure throughout my life. Although, ultimately, I know my mum only wanted to do what was best for me, the way in which she did so often felt controlling. A busy mother who not only needed to learn to look after 3 children under 5, to run the household and organise my dad, she coped by directing and regimenting us. There was no time for her to tune into and express her own needs and emotions, let alone to be fully supportive of ours.
Whilst I had left home many years previously to live a seemingly independent life, in reality, inside I was still seeking to please my mum, to be a good girl, and to live by her expectations and unwritten rules. My personality had been framed and shaped by someone else – and any inner knowing of who I really was had shut down over the years.
As I relate in the chapter, “Believe You Can Break the Cycle” I came to realise how my mum had sought to live her life through me. I merely adopted an inherited pattern of not feeling good enough, and of being unable to get in touch with my own emotions. At the age of 51, inside I was still an insecure young girl, unsure of what to do next.
Taking the first step
By chance, an email promoting a free 2 day life and business coaching course led me to embark on an unexpected journey. Listening to the speakers passionately presenting their strategies for success, I felt alive for the first time in what seemed to be an eternity. Fleetingly, I connected with how wonderful it must feel to love what you do. For a heady moment, I shared the speakers’ sparky enthusiasm. Feeling inspired by the vision and excitement of the entrepreneurial world, I enrolled on a more in depth course. This turned out to be the first of numerous courses and experiences that would fill my newly empty diary.
I also joined women’s networking groups, where I met encouraging role models and supportive new friends. Paradoxically, I also placed undue pressure on myself to find a replacement for work, as I struggled to get in touch with my own identity and desires. I blocked my ability to enjoy the flexibility, freedom and fun available to me by searching for an elusive business niche. I fell into the familiar pattern of believing that I needed to be defined by what I did, rather than who I am.
Carrying the pain of the past
On reflection, this is not surprising. As an extremely sensitive child, growing up in a household where emotions were not understood, and certainly not expressed, I developed a pattern over the years of stuffing my feelings down. I believed that it was better to “flat-line” rather than experience the highs and lows of emotion. This also led to my living very much in my head, over-thinking everything, and talking myself out of anything too adventurous, or that might carry a chance of criticism or humiliation. As a people pleaser, I also struggled to put in place clear boundaries, and avoided the possibility of relationships for fear of being overwhelmed by others expectations. My outwardly serene demeanour would effectively mask the turmoil buried underneath.
Without consciously realising it, I once again allowed all my old patterns to kick in. I restricted myself by trying to force a way forward, rather than allowing myself the time and freedom to heal from my grief, and above all, to enjoy life. The deeper we bury our own feelings and emotions, the longer it can take to realise how they are subconsciously affecting us. I over compensated for my lack of self-belief by looking outside of myself for answers.
In turn, feeling somewhat like a child in a sweetie shop, this led to me spending much of my lump sum from retirement and additional inherited money on expensive programmes and coaching. I now appreciate how, whilst it was valuable to invest in myself and my personal development, I lacked real discernment. Although the eternal student within me enjoyed different learning opportunities, I lacked an understanding of how to tune into and trust my inner knowing of what is right for me. After a couple of years in which I kept hitting a brick wall through straining to establish a business that never quite felt right, I decided to let it go.
The Value of Following Your Intuition
As I participated in healing and creative activities, I uncovered a buried need for playfulness, fun and laughter. I also recognised that thoughts and thinking can be creative, as well as self-destructive!
I explored more light hearted or less structured approaches (including Laughter Yoga and writing the morning pages – writing anything and anything that comes to mind for half an hour each morning!). I uncovered a greater understanding of my true self, realising, for example, that laughter is a gift, and can help others to heal. I appreciated the lovely feeling when people thanked me for making them laugh. Through writing the morning pages, I also uncovered a playful form of expression when my words automatically emerged in rhyme!
These are two of the activities that worked for me in unlocking my sense of self, and my creative self-expression. You may like to try these, or explore the many other approaches and suggestions within the book. As Holly Worton notes in her chapter “Transform You Beliefs and Transform Your Life and Business”; when you find yourself attracted to new techniques, give them a try. Trust you intuition. If you’re really drawn to something, look into it some more.
Letting go of the sense of expectation around my mother took quite some time. I had been used to habitually viewing things through her eyes. The role of mother is so central to the lives of women. Whether it is through the relationship we have had with our own mothers, or the experience of being a mother ourselves. Unsurprisingly, the theme of motherhood features strongly in many of the stories in this anthology.
And, what about when life throws us a curve ball, perhaps even a major one, such as exposing a cheating partner, becoming pregnant unexpectedly with a fourth child, or facing the prospect of a serious injury to a beloved son? These are just some of the real-life experiences that are revealed in this compelling book.
Each woman generously shares how she has faced her own life challenges, and found ways of embracing the positives in them, so as to move forward with a renewed sense of purpose and self-belief. They also provide their own advice and recommended approaches so you can select those that resonate with you. These will provide you with an invaluable resource when faced with powerful negative emotions that threaten to stop you from living life to the full.
One thing is for certain. We are all unique. We all have our own journey and story to tell. Instead of focusing on where you feel you are lacking, I encourage you to take inspiration and insight from the uplifting experiences generously shared by 23 open hearted women in this book. I invite you to accept their encouragement to believe you can face your fears, and confidently claim the life you desire!
How to get the most out of this book
As you pick up this book to start it, be aware that it may be used in a number of different ways. If you feel so inclined, you may wish to read it from cover to cover, building an understanding of each author’s experiences, and the valuable insight and advice that they share to help other women to deal successfully with life’s challenges.
You may, however, want to open its pages at random, and receive a message that is right for you at any given moment. Simply fan through the pages, and open at whichever page you feel drawn to, trusting that it contains a message you need to receive right now. This may be to feel uplifted by one of the inspirational quotes that head up a new chapter, or by a sentence or phrase which catches your eye at random.
You may find that you open the book at a poem. This may express a mood, thought or feeling that you can relate to. It may stir your own desire for creative expression. Alternatively, you may be drawn to one of the many recommended exercises and strategies given at the end of a chapter. All of these have been found to have benefits by the contributors.
However you choose to use this book, our wish is that you gain valuable insights from sharing in the experiences, knowledge and generosity of the contributors. Their stories show that whatever your circumstances, believing in yourself has the power to transform lives. As in the lyrics of the song I Believe: “I believe in you, I believe in me.”
We are all connected
I continue to learn how to trust my intuition. It was through following my intuition that I recently made contact with two amazing women who are doing incredibly valuable work to increase the self-esteem of primary school children. The old “doubting, questioning” Sue would never have made this connection.
This is what happened
One Friday morning, I attended a networking meeting, at which a local printer was recommended to me. I casually clicked on his website to find out more information. As I looked down at the webpage in front of me, I felt a jolt of amazement. The words: “Give me the confidence to believe in myself” stared back at me from the colourful page that opened before me.
With a growing sense of anticipation, I clicked through to read the associated article. Stunned, I marvelled at the brightly coloured rainbow adorning their website. This had to be more than a coincidence – not only did we both have a rainbow in our branding, we were both doing work around belief! Without hesitation, I sent an email to them, seeking to explore whether there might be synergies around our joint projects.
This is how following my intuition led to a connection with Tammy Clark and Ella Norman who do wonderful work with primary school children. It makes perfect sense that we have come together in this way. As a woman in my fifties I understand what it is like to be raised in a time when it was common to shut down our emotions. We were often valued for meeting other’s expectations and by being quiet and conforming. Tammy and Ella are seeking to bring happiness, confidence and freedom of expression to a new generation, growing up in a world where the opportunities to find your own voice and to be heard are far greater than ever before.