• Joanna Rawbone

Holding yourself back? Flourishing starts with a decision.

When I reflect on my life’s journey and where I am now, I can see so many occasions when I held myself back. And, if you promise not to say anything, there are the odd times when I still do.

There seems to be a pattern with me in that I hold myself back in a really significant way and then have a spurt of courageous action. I refer to this now in my business values as me being Quietly Gutsy. I don’t make a song & dance about things, but I do pick myself up, dust myself off and step into my power again.

This has really felt like a roller coaster ride at times, and yet other times, it feels more like a gentle merry-go-round ride. All the fun of the fair, I guess.

I’m feeling suitably open today, so I’ll share a few of my ‘fairground rides’ with you and I hope it will encourage you to look at your own life’s journey with curiosity and a tender, loving gaze. After all, there are plenty of critics out there, so we don’t need to pile on our own judgement.

Here are three standout moments from my journey.

1. I got married at 19, fearful that if I didn’t seize this opportunity, I’d be left on the shelf. I feel immense sadness for that younger me now and there is so much I'd like to share with her. As you might imagine, the marriage didn’t last long and although my mother said on my wedding day “Well your father and I are paying for this one, you can pay for the next” she never once said I told you so! It took me some time to realise that I was worth more than the abusive marriage I’d been in. That's when I was able to figure out what I really wanted, probably for the first time in my life. And what gave me some of my power and self-esteem back was buying a book on do-it-yourself divorce and I did just that! And that's something I'm really proud of.

2. Then there was the time, early in my career at BT, when I declined the invitation to apply for the Engineer of the Year Award, despite plenty of pressure from the senior managers of my department. My inner critic led me into a bout of imposter syndrome, during which I feared I’d be found out! I countered that with applying for a place on a week-long Woman into Management course sponsored by Shell and the Industrial Society. I wrote my submission, my application was successful, and that experience started my passion for personal development. It also put my inner critic on the back-burner for a while.

3. Perhaps the most significant was when my mother died and I didn’t stand up to my sister and her family. This was a painful experience, and I was guilt laden as I knew she had subjected my mother to years of cruel behaviour. I countered that by choosing to disconnect from my sister completely and whilst I still felt guilty that I didn’t call her out on her behaviour earlier, I was now keeping myself safe from being subjected to the same treatment. I realised I would only stay in the victim mode she was trying to lure me into with my consent. And I wasn’t consenting. I still refer to and share widely Tony Gaskin’s quote “You teach people how to treat you by what you allow, what you stop and what you reinforce.” That is such a powerful reminder for me.

In a recent podcast episode, I listed 20 ways in which we hold ourselves back, as shared by my clients. It probably won't surprise you to know that they included ways I’d held myself back, as shown in my examples above; poor boundary management, negative self-talk, not knowing what I really wanted, believing everything my inner critic says.

If you haven’t listened to that episode yet, take a listen here because, as well as listing 20 of the ways, I also share my process for reframing the problem or situation, so we can free ourselves from the ties that bind us.

After all, flourishing is a choice and a decision that we make on a moment-by-moment basis.

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