What inspires you?

Sunday 9th July was the official start of The Inspire Tribe, a group of women working together to support each other grow their own tribes, their confidence and their future plans, all supported and coached by Lauren from laurenbarber.co

The first week has been all about finding our “why” – what are the reasons we want to do the things we want to do and how do we want to feel, beyond the obvious finding our purpose and feel fulfilled.

Part of the way we’ve been working that out is thinking about who and what inspires us, as well as what success looks and feels like. I talked about how much my definition of success has changed in a recent blog post and I think my inspiration has changed a bit too over the last few years.

If you’d asked me a few years ago to list the people who inspired me I’d have listed a bunch of celebrities – strong, confident women who look like they’ve got it all – and some high flying women at work, who also looked like they had it all. They all had really successful careers, six figure salaries (at least!), big homes and families. I thought that was what I wanted and thought I had to basically be them in order to get those things.

But that didn’t work out for me. I started struggling with the whole idea of what I wanted, where my career should go and what was genuinely important in 2013. Being the kind of person that wouldn’t sit around doing nothing about a problem I decided to ask one of the female directors where I was working at the time to be my coach and mentor for a few months. Looking back now I know that was a good decision – she helped me see how important integrity was to me and that trying to be something different to who I really was just wasn’t in alignment with that. Pretending to be someone else can only go on for so long. At the time I thought the mentoring wasn’t really helping me because I didn’t get to the answers I thought I wanted – I didn’t come out of it with a career plan, or even a next step plan. I told people it was useful because I’d discovered career paths I didn’t want to take and how helpful it was to at least rule things out, but in truth I was frustrated I wasn’t getting anywhere and I felt stuck.

I then threw myself into health and fitness, becoming obsessed with exercise and food and quickly developing a really unhealthy relationship with both. At that time if you’d asked me who inspired me I’d have listed a bunch of health coaches and trainers who were “ripped” but still had a “day job” and some even had families. You know those women who post work out pictures of them with their children? I wanted to be one of them. I was one of those people that weighed and measured everything, wouldn’t eat carbs unless I’d done some HIIT training and planned my entire life around when I could go to the gym and what I was going to eat. Each occasion I went “off plan” I felt terrible, like I was cheating. I was never going to be one of those super fit people I thought were inspiring back then.

I got sick after that, and CFS/ME gives you plenty of time to reassess your life. In fact it forces you to re-evaluate what is important. As I’ve said many times, I’ve been one of the lucky ones because my health has partially recovered and going back to work has been possible, even if its only part time.

Nowadays the people who inspire me aren’t celebrities. They’re not unrealistic role models and they’re not people who “have it all”. They’re all real people, some I know in person, others I talk to online.

They’re the student with CFS/ME and a bunch of other chronic health conditions who set up a charity to help other people with health problems. They’re the reiki master that unknowingly started me on the path to recovery. They’re the spirit junkie coach who taught me to listen to my intuition as it usually knows best. They’re the emotion code healer who helped me work out how to let go of some old “stuff” that was holding me back. They’re the people I work with on the Fatigue Network who help me support 100 people manage fatigue related conditions and work – all as volunteers. They’re the women who have woken up, realised they weren’t happy or fulfilled in their careers so changed their lives and are now living their dreams. The thing all these people have in common? They help people. Every one of them is doing something that makes a real difference to people’s lives. That’s what I want to do too!

Nobody is perfect, and I think my past habit of putting people on pedestals was doomed to failure from the start. I was trying to be someone I’m not and getting more and more frustrated that I wasn’t achieving those same things, whilst pretending to the world that everything was fine. I might not have seen it at the time, but right now I can say I’m very grateful to my mentor from a few years ago, even if it took me a while to see what she was trying to teach me – just be me. I’m going to stick to looking up to and being inspired by real people, without the rose tinted glasses from now on! And those people who inspire me nowadays? I can be like them too 😊