A list of things said around me, and probably most other girls growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s Scotland:
- Stop showing off
- Little girls who ask, don’t get
- Don’t talk back
- Adults are talking
- No one likes a show-off
- Who does she think she is?
- They’re full of themselves
- If they were a bar of chocolate, they’d eat themselves
- (Sarcastically) I love me, who do you love?
- Good girls are quiet
- Oh she loves herself (that was NOT a compliment)
Lately I have had the pleasure of joining a group of intelligent, capable, hard-working, beautiful, thoughtful women on a confidence course. They work around the world and in all kinds of organisations. I don’t know, but I can imagine, they earn vastly different salaries and I know they are of different ages, stages, backgrounds and nationalities. And listening to this group of women has made me angry. So angry. The kind of angry that sparks hot tears and sets your stomach spinning. Not because they were saying anything awful, they were speaking truthfully. But because they were reflecting the deepest, darkest thoughts I have had, and my female friends and relatives probably have too. They were sharing how a lack of confidence was holding them back in aspects of their life. It is debilitating. It is destructive. It is devastating.
And here’s the thing that really drives me crazy – this lack of power is completely embedded across institutions in society to keep women feeling like this. How dare our childhoods do this to us? How dare society malign us? How dare we allow our gifts to be hidden away while mediocracy reigns? We are missing out on talented leadership, original thought and creative innovation that can solve the types of challenges that are really puzzling us in the world and we are owed the voices of these women, as much as women are due to be heard.
So, I am angry, but I am taking action. I am halfway through Lauren Currie’s Upfront course and it has my rapt attention. Lauren talks about finding a positive and joyful view of issues as anger disengages audiences. It makes a lot of sense. Especially when I think of the speakers I enjoy the most – they are charismatic and they give me hope. Thankfully, finding positives in a situation, focusing on things I can control and practicing gratitude for life’s gifts are things I have been working on for most of my adult life. I can find hope in many places, but I have been needing the final piece to take action and speak up – the audacity.
I think we have all discovered new things that annoy us this year. Change has been imposed on us and many of us do not feel the same control over our lives as we are used to. It’s no wonder that we are all feeling a bit more irritable.
Mostly I have stayed calm with all the changes. I started wearing a face covering before it became mandatory to get used to it, and I am now. I have followed the lockdown guidance and do my best to maintain social distancing. I leave my details when eating out for track and trace and I am fastidious about hand-washing/sanitising. I don’t like home working much but I have learned how to stay connected and motivated.
I see others around me struggling – either being uncomfortable or reluctant, or just being overwhelmed by the volume and speed of changes. Many are still too frightened or vulnerable to venture out. I can understand that, Coronavirus may have been suppressed, but it is still very much around. We can see that by all the restrictions still around us.
I am what you might call a ‘summer person’. I love light nights and going out without a coat. I used to feel dragged into autumn kicking and screaming. Wishing for one more day dashing about in flip-flops. But not this year. While autumn always felt like the end, this year it feels like a new start. Like a new term, but for family life. While I used to crave excitement, now I like order, routine and knowing my plan from one week to the next.
Our transition from spring to summer was sheer relief. Leo spent eight weeks of spring in hospital and he was discharged in May. He had been gravely ill – more so than I would allow myself to reconcile with at the time – and were just so grateful that he was well enough to go home. I looked up and noticed that the trees were full and green, the sun was higher in the sky and the grass was regularly overgrown.
Mice, rats, spiders, enclosed spaces and clowns are all things that people fear LESS than public speaking. I’d take my chances with a 60-second pitch at a networking meeting over being locked in a cupboard with a clown and I’ve been to some strange meetings… Public speaking is a common fear encountered in the workplace – people can feel very vulnerable and uncomfortable. Thankfully, organisations are increasingly supportive and provide training and support for their teams. As a well-understood fear, colleagues are generally sympathetic to glossophobia.
What I have begun to observe amongst my peers is a growing incidence of scriptophobia, the fear of writing in public. As a social anxiety, this fear is rooted in worries about being wrong, looking silly or being negatively evaluated. While most people may not describe themselves as having a writing phobia, many will admit not enjoying it. Presenting information coherently in writing is a skill that often we do not need to practice once we have left school. Especially now that communication is often in text messages, email or social media. Long-form content, such as letters or reports, are rarer. Nevertheless, there are times when public writing is necessary, and it can cause stress and worry.
If you run a business, you will need to put your thoughts into writing. Tenders, case studies, award nominations, website copy, blogs, marketing materials and press releases are all forms of content that can help you grow your audience and increase sales. If you are running a small business you are likely to be trading services or products based on your skills, and these probably don’t involve writing.
I was feeling a bit frazzled this morning. I don’t know how getting two humans out the house feels like such an ordeal, but most parents would agree it’s a challenge. Leo was up too early, and he had to entertain himself just a little bit too long when I did unreasonable things like having a shower, drying my hair, tidying up, putting the washing on, getting all his stuff together for nursery and packing the car. His little toy giraffe was shouted at and the poor wee wooden animals were decanted from their ark. I do a lot of singing in the morning to keep the entertainment going while I try and sort things out. Leo’s little applause at the end of each song keeps me going.
Despite being up for more than two hours, I left without time for breakfast. That wee emoji with the steam coming out, that was me. As usual, once we are in the car, we both calm down. We chat about our day, sing songs and practice animal noises and arrive at the nursery. We are always greeted with a cheery welcome and Leo brightens further when he realises a fun morning awaits.
My Dad has a saying, ‘time solves everything’. When I am feeling cynical I think that’s because I will probably die before I get to the end of my to-do list and then I won’t have the to-do list anymore. When I am feeling more optimistic, I get it. The thing that is causing you to worry today will probably worry you less in six months’ time. The exception to this is DIY. Putting off a small leak will not be less of a worry in six months. It will lead you to the event that happened to me earlier today… getting a joiner in to replace the part-rotten bathroom floor.
Most businesses are at least on board with having a website now. Some will run their whole operation via a website. Others will use it as a place to find the address and contact details with maybe a brief description of what they do. I use business websites a lot in my work – I ran my website in my own business; when I was targeting some partner businesses in my last role I would research them beforehand; and as a buyer in retail, I used them to find suppliers. Websites I commonly encounter usually have a home page, about page, contact page and some sort of services page. There may also be a link to a Facebook or Twitter presence. Frequently now, though, we are seeing blogs on websites.
For this reason alone, other people are doing it; people are bolting on a blog to their website with some vague notion they will write the occasional article about their business. Your nephew might have told you, you need a blog. Your friends who know something about marketing all have blogs and you have heard that some businesses even have blogs that create their own revenue stream.
You think it’s worth a shot and send an email off to the web guy or girl to add a blog to the website or think about signing up to one of the many blog platforms and ‘have a go’. But before you do, I ask you to think about these points.
So much of what is good in my life I owe to books. Girl with personal blog reads books. Not a huge revelation really. I don’t have a cat, though! Got you there! My husband owns more books that I do. My best friend works in publishing. My book club girls are my gin-drinking buddies. Books lead me to what I truly love.
I remember when I learned to read ‘on the inside’, as my mum put it. Not having to be read to and not having to read aloud changed everything. I could read anytime, anywhere. Even when Coronation Street is on! Around that time, I would have been into Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl. The Worst Witch and Charlotte’s Web. When I was little and it was a ‘mum’ Saturday I would get something new to read in town. As a treat, I would go to James Thins but usually, I went to the library.
The first in a series, Girlhood.
If there is an age in life that most of us would not want to repeat, it is likely to be 14. Awkward, slouching, uncomfortable 14.
At lunchtimes, I would go to my Gran and Grandad’s house. It was convenient having them at the other side of the school gates. There was just the small matter of getting through the gates first. School gates were the domain of other girls. Smoking girls. Girls with lads. Girls wearing foundation. It was like walking through the lionesses’ den.