There is a pennant I have hanging in my daughter’s bedroom. I bought it because when she was really small she was diagnosed with a rare condition and yet was so bright and mighty, so bloody resilient, like nothing was going to mess with her, that I needed reminding that she was actually being extremely brave.
It hangs on various doors (because she likes to trot it around like an incredibly impractical handbag) and when I catch sight of it I always smile. ‘Be brave’ it says. And that one word — brave — is the word I keep coming back to right now, the thing I hope I can, will, be in 2017.
This is mostly because I am a bit of a wuss. I like to be prepared, to know my subject inside out. And this is fine until you find yourself in a situation where you need to step out from that. Like, I dunno… freelancing.
Today, on my first day back at my desk after the Christmas break, my husband sat next to me and told me that there was no such thing as being wrong, that no one laughs at people seeking opportunity. Mostly, I thought, because you can’t laugh at people if they aren’t putting anything out there to be laughed at. But also because people like a tryer.
And really, what is there to be scared of? As parents who work for ourselves, aren’t we already doing some pretty shit-scary things? Bringing brand new people into the world and, in many cases, getting them out of you is one of the scariest things you’ll ever do. But it’s also fucking empowering. And then you are home, responsible for looking after this tiny human with no manual and having had no sleep for three days and you just have to bring it.
I guess this means I have no excuses. This will be the year of being in it and hopefully winning it.
Sat in a National Specialist Unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospitals as my feisty, kick-ass daughter had major surgery at five-months-old, there were a whole load of really big important things to be scared about, like — Was it cancer? Would she haemorrhage? Would she wake up? And that, my friends, must be way harder than putting yourself out there as a professional, as a freelancer.
It’s very easy to feel like everyone is doing better, that everyone is more intelligent, more creative, more on-it than you. But if the recent ‘bad moms’ trend has taught us anything (apart from the actual fact that Kathryn Hahn is the funniest person on the planet) it’s that we are all winging it in some way, be it frantically Googling technical terms after a meeting, turning up to a networking walk with two toddlers and no buggy, or driving around Bath University at midnight with a colicky baby (*all things I have done).
So, if we’re doing all of that, how scary can putting yourself out there really be? Ironically, women who return to work report bottomed-out levels of self-esteem. Studies show that up to 60% of mothers find readjusting to the workplace challenging and then take an average of 3.8 months to get back into the swing of things. But really, we should be feeling the most confident we ever have been.
So I guess this means I have no excuses. This will be the year of being in it and hopefully winning it. I’ve started with a complete rebrand and design — or as much as I can with no budget and the goodwill of friends. And on that first day back, blinking in the cold hard light of a mince pie hangover it felt pretty bleak. But you know what, I cold-contacted an awesome company I really admired, and they said my timing was perfect and could they meet me. So there you go.
If I can’t take confidence from creating, pushing out and raising two highly amusing, smart (if slightly neglected) toddlers, then perhaps reflecting on all my other achievements will.
And if I can’t take confidence from creating, pushing out and raising two highly amusing, smart (if slightly neglected) toddlers, then perhaps reflecting on all my other achievements will. NotAnotherMummyBlogger Alison Perry recently wrote that she was taking more time to reflect on her achievements, and that was helping her to feel more confident in her abilities.
She says, “Regularly take time out to look back at what you’ve achieved — it’s so easy to get caught up in day-to-day life and forget to do this. I often find myself stuck in this cycle of negative anxiety where I worry I’m not doing enough or that I’m not good enough. Then I sit and look at what I have achieved and it’s like a light switches on and I realise I’m doing OK.”
It’s a good strategy and one I think I am going to apply in my #yearofbeingbrave. I remember that last year I finally learnt to drive, that I grew my business, scored new clients and renovated my house all whilst bringing up my kids.
And if I can’t banish the fear completely that way, well there is always this quote from the late, awesome, Carrie Fisher.
“Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”
I think I might get it printed on a t-shirt…
Photograph by Kelly Pike.