Ready for take off…

I just had an amazing weekend. I flew to Aberdeen with Nigel to attend the annual festival of the company Enjo UK, one of my businesses. It was a brilliant event in a gorgeous castle-like hotel, working with some of the most genuine people I have ever come across. I was made welcome, embraced, gathered up and gathered in by this bunch of people, most of whom I have never met before, and I know that I have made some amazing new friends.

The weekend had an unexpected ending when our flight was cancelled and 7 of us chose to drive all the way home from Aberdeen in two hire cars, driving all through the night. It was an incredibly bonding experience, a real adventure! And despite being exhausted I have ridden the week so far on a wave of exhilaration, and I finally feel as though I have discovered my path – it lit up before me like a runway expecting the touchdown of a Super jet! Opportunities keep arriving! Exciting times ahead.

But back to the festival. Direct Marketing conferences are always very positive affairs. An opportunity for testimonials, recognition, appreciation and forward planning. What’s not to like? And there is always an element of personal development, which regular readers will know is something I love!

One of the features of our weekend was a couple of hours with a lady called Patricia Bacon. Patricia is a coach and a couple of things that she took us through rather took me by surprise. At one point she asked us to turn to our neighbor and pay them a compliment. That bit was easy – but accepting the compliment that they gave us? How hard was that? My lovely companion was easy to compliment, she is young, beautiful, passionate and very sweet. She threw compliments my way and quite frankly it made me squirm! And I think that nearly every other person in the room felt that way too! It is very, very hard to receive a compliment without joking, or brushing it off, when we should be just saying “thank you”.

At the beginning of this week, I received many accolades and compliments from lots of different people. For some reason it seemed to be “tell Penny how great she is” week. People were “impressed” and “inspired” by me, wanted to share things with me and quote me! I am not sharing this so that you can add your “but you are wonderful….” comments (you were going to, right?). But rather to tell you how I felt. I was feeling unworthy, embarrassed, uncomfortable and quite frankly a fraud! Worried that I would be found out because I generally do not believe that I am any of the things that “they” said I was.

Sure, I can always be counted on for an inspirational quote or a joke, I think I am great at understanding people so can be counted on to usually say the right thing at the right time, and I always try my best to help people when they need it. I have a good sense of humour. But, and it is a BIG but. I am not, or more accurately, I do not feel “successful”. I am a nice person but quite frankly I am not yet the successful businesswoman I need to be.

Anyway, I have been mulling this over and today I had a bit of a revelation (yes gentle reader, another one!).

I have spent most of my life feeling as though I was on the outside looking in. Whenever I enter a room I feel as though I have just missed the punchline, or perhaps I have walked in on some secret club and I don’t know the password. Or that I was too dumb to “get” it, that people were talking in some secret language that I was unable to translate. This even goes right back to school.

Now this feeling has definitely held me back. I am over-sensitive because I dread making a fool of myself, or offending, or being pushy…and it has definitely affected my “success” in my businesses because I hold back there too, reigning in my passion for my products, and my beliefs, terrified of overstepping the mark. I talk the talk, but definitely do not walk the walk!

I have developed strategies for coping with all this fear. I am a great bluffer, treating each social occasion as a theatrical performance – after all I am a Leo, and we love a stage! I have been a clown, a drama queen, the quiet one in the corner, the entertainer, the cook/kitchen staff and on occasion, the punch bag. Hiding in plain sight. But often dying inside at some perceived slight or exclusion. For many years I was the “jolly fat girl” hiding my pain and lack of confidence behind my weight. Wow, this is painful stuff!

Those of you who have patiently followed my slow, agonizing progress over the last few years know that I have discovered little bits of this along the way, but I feel as though I have turned a very significant corner this week. Although I am not yet on the home straight I have a glimpse of the finishing line, I think.

I am still not quite ready to battle my weight and my attitude to food. I am eating reasonably healthily and maintaining my weight. My blood sugar has settled down a little so I am feeling a bit better. The coaching I have invested in is helping my perspective. The new challenges in my working life, and my discovery of something new that I feel very passionate about, the new people I am working with, new friends – all of these things are contributing to me finding my way through the door that I have been frightened to open. The answer to my weight issues are very probably on the other side of that closed door.

I need to discover my brave and wear it proudly on my lapel. Wave it high in the air and just believe that I have every right to join the club I have felt excluded from. Or that I have excluded myself from.

In recent years I have been helped by the lovely Nigel. Corny but true, he has been the “wind beneath my wings”. He has an unwavering powerful belief in me that never falters. But at the end of the day, the only person who can cross this particular finishing line is me. Better limber up!

Post Script: I was writing this blog tonight and then came across the senseless savage news of the murder of Jo Cox. She seemed to be a courageous, feisty lady who fought hard for everything she believed in. My thoughts are with her husband and children. RIP Jo.runway

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