See this little girl? She’s on the pier at Southend-on-Sea, the place she grew up.
She had a mother who taught her that what’s on the inside matters more than what’s on the outside; a father who made up stories and skipped up the road with her whilst wearing his business suit; and two older brothers who taught her to stick up for herself (and stuck up for her when needed). She’s always been grateful for this loving, solid start to life.
This little girl lost a lot of schooling to asthma that wasn’t diagnosed until she was 21. In the 1960s and ‘70s asthma was treated with cough mixture and strict instructions to not laugh too much, run too much or get over-excited.
She struggled with Maths, feeling unable to put up her hand and ask for things to be explained again. She left school with mediocre exam results (minus Maths), and careers advice to become a beautician. She later discovered that was the advice given to everyone who wasn’t ‘clever enough’ to go to university. Remember how this little girl’s mother taught her that what’s on the inside matters more than what’s on the outside? Being a beautician was never on the cards.
A few months of answering phones and filing taught her she wanted more from her future. Still not knowing what, she went to college and collected a Business Studies qualification, some dear friends and (by chance) the man who would become her husband and soulmate. She also went to evening classes and doggedly earned the Maths O Level that had eluded her.
Sometimes we need to work out that we’re not stupid. We just need things presented a different way.
Fast forward 37 years… this little girl kept on discovering. She saw that it was interacting with other people that lit her fire: customers to reassure, colleagues to achieve with, managers to manage. This led her to the world of people development, working with others on their own self-discoveries.
Yes, in her 40’s, this little girl finally worked out what she wanted to be when she grew up. The good news is that everything that went before paved the way and made it possible.
Finally, when she was 40, this little girl decided to get that degree. It irritated her that she had discovered a good brain and she wanted to see how far she could stretch it.
Six years with the Open University earned her a First Class Honours in Literature. Once this intellectual muscle had been stretched it wasn’t going to shrink back. A Postgraduate Certificate in Business and Personal Coaching followed, supporting her preferred career trajectory. At 58, what’s next, she thinks?
This little girl, shyly playing with the buttons on the cardigan her mother knitted, is me. Today you find me in my own business, working with people I enjoy, answering to no one but me and my values.
This is my contribution to the #thislittlegirlisme campaign, marking International Day of the Girl 2021 on 11th October. Reading other women’s stories helps today’s girls and young women to greater success. To my female connections, why not use the hashtag and add your story?