A few months ago, I’d seen the advert online for WomenEd looking for workshop facilitators. I flagged the form for that evening, resolving that I would register and move from TeachMeets to a workshop attended by hopefully more than four people (as my first national conference delivering on ‘making the most of meetings’ had been). It would be a test for me and the 10% braver I needed.
A day from hell ensued and by the time I sat down to the form in the evening, there was no way I could do this. Who was I kidding? What would I have to share with anyone?
By the end of the week and after a session of coaching (arranged through WomenEd), I submitted my form a little after the deadline and this would be my topic. I did have something to share – I would share my journey towards taming my critical inner voice.
But there were months to go yet. My inner voice told me that no-one else shared my journey. They all had this mastered and what did I really have to share? I hadn’t totally conquered it and there were occasions when it was most definitely still getting the better of me.
But here I was because when you make a pledge to 10% braver, you can’t go back on it. Especially as my name was now in black and white on the programme.
Fear lead me to several weeks of me promising to write my presentation and failing to do so; leaving it all until last minute and then changing it all again 48 hours before because I’d had some better ideas, inspired by Naomi Ward.
My workshop began with participants filling out their sticky note of what had made them proud that day and eating a sweet. I wanted to begin the workshop in a positive way. I also allowed time for them to share why they wanted to be at the workshop. I had planned to preface this with a hope that they hadn’t ended up in mine as a last resort because none of their favoured options had spaces left but as mine was one of the full workshops, I knew this wouldn’t have been the case. Hurrah!
I then shared what participants could expect from the workshop and here’s what you can expect from this blog – lots of ideas, not all the answers. Elements of experimentation and I would be sharing my journey. I had heard other women during the day apologising for sharing the personal journeys, stories and perspectives. But how can we share anything else? I’d find it pretty hard to share someone else’s journey and whilst this presentation didn’t share much research or data for people to grapple with, it did share my truth.
In exploring issues around what holds women back, it’s important that we don’t neglect to consider the important part we may be playing in our own sabotage.
Click here to read the full speech containing the above quote from Meryl Streep.
I then asked all participants to sketch an object that would sum up who they were. We’d be returning to it later. I shared that mine had emerged as a sunshine over time and I had turned it into a motif I could use to give me strength when I needed it the most.
I began to share how my journey into leadership had progressed. This gif seemed to sum it up perfectly…
Early on in my leadership journey, I had read this in an ‘Insights’ report about myself –
‘She may underestimate herself and either takes anything she does well for granted, or regards it as no great achievement at all.’
This statement had resonated with me. It felt true and I recognised where it had appeared in my life until this point. The issue was that I took it so to heart that I became fixed mindset about it and saw it as unchangeable aspect of my own personality. I soon learned this wouldn’t be the way to view my critical inner voice but in the meantime, I did the following things-
Ignored the problem and hoped it might go away of its own accord-
Berated myself; believing that I was the only one experiencing this problem-
And that’s where part of the issue lies. We all wander around believing that we’re the only ones who experience a negative inner voice… but more of that later.
I then shared three of the approaches my old manager, Graeme Hathaway had been able to share with me.
Part of the battle in the shift from teaching to leadership is that your impact is not quite as visible and immediate and I was struggling with this. One approach is to consider an action you’ve made and begin to observe it as a ripple moving out from that moment and the sphere of influence it has led to.
There’s a great deal to be learned from this little lady about how to start a day right. Daily affirmations work by helping to remind you every day of your strengths. Your values. The things you will prioritise. Shape your own 3-4 statements to begin with and see how you get on with these.
At the end of every day, I would write down 5 successes, however small. Graeme would write his down too to establish the habit, there was some accountability there. There are plenty of journals and diaries out there that can prompt you to do just this. The advantage is to seek the positive in every day, no matter how bad it has felt.
My favourites are these Inner Truth journals (available on Amazon).
After sharing these 3 strategies, I also shared how WomenEd #10%braver had helped me to take those small steps to be bold, brave and see how my confidence was positively affected. When it went well, my critical inner voice was nowhere to be found. When it didn’t, well… my gremlin was to be found everywhere.
I knew that I needed to tackle this at a deeper level and that’s where my coach, Naomi Ward, comes in. From a recent session with her, I was able to form 3 guiding principles of gremlins to share at this workshop-
- Your gremlin’s voice is not yours. It’s not even a part of yours.
- Your true voice is of value and deserves to be heard.
- Imagine what you could achieve if your gremlin’s voice could no longer be heard?
A Twitter poll I shared in the days leading up to the conference made it clear that it wasn’t just me who was tempted to listen to my critical inner voice. Whilst not everyone who answered the 1st question answered the second, it gives some indication of how frequently we might be giving our gremlin more airtime than it deserves-
One other aspect of women holding themselves back, is frequently referenced by members of the WomenEd community – Imposter Syndrome. I shared my belief that this is driven very much by our gremlins as it is by other social constructs that exists for us. Our gremlins often mean we put other people on a pedestal; we believe them to possess all of the skills, knowledge and qualities we don’t.
The School of Life’s book, On Confidence, has a chapter dedicated to Imposter Syndrome and this is a quote from it-
Once the room agreed they were ready to move into crushing their gremlin, I revealed the first part of my workshop title by playing a clip from Bridget Jones and asking a couple of questions –
What does Bridget reveal about her inner voice? and How does it affect her relationship with Mr D’Arcy?
The room concluded that she deflected the compliments and it was clear she had built up some defences based on her perception of herself, or at least the one informed by her gremlin. One participant made a great contribution in that it’s actually rude for us to behave in a way that deflects other people’s compliments or praise of us. Are we suggesting that people we like and respect are incorrect? Are we so arrogant that we really know better than everyone else?
We then worked through stages of a reflective activity that involved individual reflection and paired discussions at points-
- Visualise a recent time when your gremlin was present and prevented you from doing something you wanted to do.
- What things does your gremlin say to you?
- What did the gremlin look like?
- Where was the gremlin positioned?
- How did the gremlin make you feel?
- What did your gremlin stop you from doing?
- What evidence do you have that the gremlin’s voice was accurate?
- What was your own voice saying to the gremlin?
- How would it have felt to do what you wanted to do instead of giving in to your gremlin?
Now was the point at which we returned to our image created at the start of the session. We fleshed it out a little more; noting down how it embodies our voice and values. I then asked participants to consider-
- What would your object do to crush your gremlin?
I was then about to take a risk and hope that the room was with me. I had forgotten the tape I was going to bring to make a line on the floor so instead we used the doorway.
I stepped through the door and told them what awaited. Their values. Their true voice. Freedom from their gremlin. When they were ready, they were to join me on the other side of the door, which I promised was a totally awesome space. Luckily, everyone came through and I could sense the smiles on some of the faces around me as they stepped into this space.
I shared how since being introduced to this strategy by Naomi on Thursday, I had searched for lines I could cross during my day. I now already look forward to stepping over the top step at the train station I use every day, walking into my office and other rooms in my workplace. It’s a way of me noticing how my gremlin is speaking to me and allows me to press reset. Before my workshop, I had a wander around to find suitable lines I could cross over to feel free of my gremlin as I knew I’d need this to counter the nerves that inevitably accompany the facilitation of a workshop for the first time.
Then came the challenge of encouraging the group to go back into the space where we’d just left our gremlins…
Once we were back, we explored how actually having a greater awareness of other people’s struggle with their gremlins might help us with our own. WomenEd is an incredibly inclusive community of people that allows everyone to share their stories with one another but I still felt we could do more to share the truth of success and the gremlins involved.
I challenged everyone in the room to go away and write a letter to me that I could share more widely via my blog. A letter because the art of letter writing is lost, and it would be a letter that could-
Remove the gremlin’s power for women everywhere.
Send to: Hannah Tyreman, The Sheffield College, Granville Road, Sheffield, S2 2RL
The workshop ended with Billy Joel’s lyrics, some of which have helped me to accept my strengths and myself just the way I am. In the world of education, eternally driven by what’s next and what else is going to be improved of developed, it’s not easy to achieve.
As we listened to the song, participants shared pledges and I handed out their workbooks and letter headers to take away. You can find all links to resources used in the workshop and those for further exploration here. I will also be adding those recommended by workshop participants too –
Was my gremlin heard during the workshop? Absolutely! Did I step over a line to escape the voice numerous times during the workshop? Absolutely! Was it rather loud a few hours ago once the workshop had ended about what I could and should have changed about the workshop? Absolutely! I chose nice food and a Lush bath bomb instead. A future day will allow me to consider with logic and perspective what could have made my workshop better should I choose to run one again in the future but for now I would celebrate –
- I had managed to get the workshop together after leaving it until last minute.
- I had been 10% braver.
- I had facilitated a packed workshop to 29 participants, many of whom have now made year long pledges to tackle their inner gremlin as part of the closing call to action for the day.
- Other participants spoke to me afterwards and tweeted out what they had gained.
- I am immensely proud of myself for being bold for both myself and others.
I hope that I receive some letters so that I can begin to share stories of conquering our gremlins. I hope that all participants commit to their pledge and we can stop allowing our inner gremlin to hold us back from smashing ceilings and being our authentic selves.