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Well-being for me is critical. My own experience in life and my own ‘wellbeing’ journey has cemented my understanding that if I’m ok, I’m able to perform at my best – as a partner, a mother, a teacher, a friend and simply as a human being! This deep rooted belief has meant however that I’ve often felt extremely frustrated that well-being isn’t spoken about enough and isn’t prioritised within our Education system in the way that I know it should be.
So, with the help of Big Education, I’ve stepped into my power and created the course ‘I’m ok, you’re ok’ – aiming to support school leaders to prioritise their own well-being to enable them to then develop and embed a culture of well-being within their organisations. The first live session of the course focused on the participants themselves and while putting the course together I came across something I wrote in December 2020. Whilst rereading it, it suddenly felt so important for me to share this writing with the course participants, to be candid and honest but I felt hesitant, was I really going to share how I had felt, how low I had been? But I quickly realised that not sharing meant I would be part of the wider problem. I had to be brave and share, to open up the conversation, to usualise the discussion about our own well-being.
So I did and here is what I wrote …
“Wow things seem crazy. Are you ok?”
“Really, are you ok?”
This was a normal interaction at so many points last year. But a few noticed. They knew. And they probed;
“Really, are you ok? Really?”
Eventually I caved. I admitted what they saw.
Me: Actually, no. I’m not ok. It’s all too much, I’m running on empty.
It’s easy to say ‘I’m ok’ because we always should be, right? Especially in a position of leadership. That’s what leadership is!
But no, leadership is about practising what we preach. In every leadership programme I run, I talk about state. Talk about the importance of putting your own oxygen mask on first. Talk about ‘topping up your bottle’. Yet despite this, I forgot about it myself. I simply forgot. Meaning I wasn’t ok.
Some days at the end of last year it felt like I couldn’t breathe. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed, facing each day was a struggle. Yet I did.
Until, one week in December 2020 it became clear I had to stop. Actually stop. I had to admit things weren’t ok. That I wasn’t ok. That I was at rock bottom.
It’s no wonder. Life as a Head Teacher has been insane, barely a day off since February. So much responsibility …
Add to that three children (one aged just 1), some complex personal family issues and some extremely challenging unprecedented situations at work.
Despite being inherently resilient and incredibly strong, I really wasn’t ok. It took a lot but thanks to my incredible co head, an amazing coach, an extremely talented therapist, a couple of insightful friends and a patient husband, I could see and accept I wasn’t ok.
So, I took some time and prioritised what I needed. However hard it was, I did it. And things felt very different as a result.
I don’t normally talk about things like this but I feel like I should so others can see. It’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok, even as a leader! It’s ok to stop. It’s ok to get the help you need. It’s ok to put on your own oxygen mask. It’s ok and, in fact, imperative to practice what you preach.
I forgot I mattered, I stopped thinking about me. I wasn’t ok but I am now.
What happened as a result of sharing this? The trust within the group immediately grew, the conversation flowed, participants appreciated my honesty and shared their own experiences.
This is what needs to happen – now more than ever.
If you would like to come and join our network of like-minded change makers who want to put well-being at the top of our own and our organisations’ agenda, we will be running the course again in the near-future. Keep checking the events page for more information.
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