I first came across Lauren Currie in 2016 when I was feeling a bit lost. I had just closed my retail business, my dream that had not worked out as planned and was looking to the next opportunity. Dealing with failure is hard and exposes vulnerability, and in my case, in a fairly public way. My first encounter with Lauren is documented in an old blog post written at the time. We tried to get an in-person Upfront course going in Dundee a year or so later but unfortunately, we just couldn’t get the numbers to make it viable.
I continued to follow Lauren’s progress on social media and enjoy her blogs. An entrepreneur, yes, but with a mission. To do things better. Her content and attention were increasingly about the visibility of women on stages and panels, in board rooms and in public discourse. She absolutely walks the walk and started the Upfront movement. Allowing people to experience stages. Building public speaking skills. Ultimately, helping people, specifically women, find their confidence.
2020 has brought lots disruption and necessary innovations and I was delighted to see one of them was Lauren taking her Upfront course online. In some ways my confidence has improved since my teens. I don’t fear public speaking, I can contribute in meetings and I can advocate for myself. But it doesn’t feel comfortable and I know I can be much better. I don’t think I allow myself to fully explore my potential and I often pause from sharing or publishing what I really think. I worry far too much about others think about me.
I signed up for the six-week course. I took the four payment instalment option and for clarity, I paid full price and have not been given a discount or incentive to review or recommend this. (I can provide a link to get a discount, so ask me if you want it! It takes the course from around £385 to £308). I paid personally and did not approach my employer in this instance. I signed up before my son was back at nursery, knowing that we would be spending a week in hospital for planned surgery, that we would spend a week on holiday and with the commitments of work. I know there is never a good time to fit learning and development in – there is only making time.
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.
In the 17(!) years I have been working I have had many, many jobs. For the purposes of this post, I will list them.
- Avon lady
- Weavers Café Saturday girl
- Debenhams Sales Advisor
- Debenhams Supervisor
- WH Smith Sales Assistant
- Libra/ Jenners Sales Assistant
- Waitrose shelf stacker
- University of Dundee jobs
- IT Receptionist
- IT Clerical Assistant
- IT Communication and Information Assistant
- Innovation Portal Marketing Assistant
- Dundee Clinical Academic Track Administrative Co-ordinator
- IT Communication & Information Officer
- Time Lifestyle Boutique Founder & Director
- Discovery Credit Union Marketing & Communication Officer
- The Circle Facilities & Services Development Manager
Alongside the first half of this list, I accumulated qualifications: Standard Grades, Highers, Advanced Highers and an Honours Degree in Biological Sciences.
Let me start with the conclusion, that each of those experiences has shaped who I am today. I have experience, skills and knowledge that I use every day that I started accumulating a very long time ago.
My friend Laura is the master (mistress?) of calling us out on the lies we tell ourselves and the unnecessary rules we create that stop us reaching our goals and feeling great. We sabotage ourselves because we fear what will happen if we really do live our dreams. We back ourselves into the corner of the safe zones that stop us doing what we want to do. We believe our own stories – tales where people might laugh at us, we might look stupid, we could fail? Some of these are as likely as encountering a tiger at the bus stop, others might just happen. So we live our lives being 75% of who we are, with 25% tucked up safe at home never to see the light of day.
What do clothes mean to you?
Now this is quite a philosophical start to a post about fashion. If you believe that clothes exist to keep you warm or cool, dry, safe or covered to a degree that society finds acceptable then this post isn’t going to appeal to you. But if clothes mean more to you – appearing professional at work, getting dressed up to attend a wedding, packing different clothes for a holiday than you would wear at home, buying a new outfit for a night out, dry-cleaning suits, appreciating how a garment fits and creates a silhouette for your body then you might just be interested in shaking things up a bit.