Why I am setting up as a social enterprise.

When people meet me I know that they see a confident, bubbly, energetic, positive person who is very fit and healthy.

This was not the case 14 years ago when I was living in a women’s refuge with my 7 year old son unsure of what the future held and consumed by guilt (relating to my son), low self-esteem and uncertainty.

Before I met my abusive ex I was fit and healthy, I had been an active, sporty child. I was slightly unsure of myself and did suffer from low self confidence so had ventured into the self-help world and had dreams of becoming a life coach.

Then I met my ex – within a matter of months he had obliterated any self-esteem I had and had trapped me into a life of violence, fear, hatred, contempt and control – to a level I never knew existed. One pivotal moment came a year or so into the relationship, when I had unusually been allowed to go to a family gathering on my own (he would normally engineer it so that just before the event I would be unable to go). I got back that day to find every single one of my personal possessions completely destroyed, including all of my self-help books. I stood there, looking at the chaos surrounding me and my ex sitting on the chair with his head in his hands and I felt every last ounce of me drain away.

Fast forward 9 years later when I finally got away for good (after many other failed attempts where I had left and then let myself down by going back). My son and I ran away to a women’s refuge and this time I knew it was for good.

Life in a refuge is not easy but I had some lovely ladies in there with me which made my time more enjoyable. In the beginning all of my energy went on the court case and keeping myself and my son safe but once that was done it was time to start focussing on myself and making a life for us in this new city.

During the 6 months I lived in the refuge I started to get out jogging, making use of the stairs, hills and wonderful open spaces around me. I volunteered at the local school and started reading my personal development books again. I started to get me back.

The first few years after leaving the refuge I continuously pushed myself into new and uncomfortable situations, I had another child and had to work hard to regain a healthy weight (it’s much harder to do that in your 30’s than your 20’s I discovered !). The thing is though, no matter what I done, how hard I pushed myself I could not shake these deep-rooted feelings of not being good enough, of being less of a person than anyone else I met. Logically I knew these feelings were unwarranted but subconsciously it all just kept bubbling to the surface. As a result, any romantic partner I met would not treat me very well – in direct relation to how I was treating myself.

So I embarked on my healthy lifestyle, on working on myself to improve my self-esteem. I pushed myself into even more uncomfortable situations. I became aware of how I spoke to myself and I worked at focussing on and appreciating everything I had done rather than what I had not done. I became my own life coach. I exercised regularly, focussed on maintaining a healthy diet and got hooked on the light, fresh, clean, positive feeling that a healthy lifestyle gives you. My diet got increasingly more healthy, my body became stronger and I got to the point where I felt comfortable in my skin.

I noticed that each relationship I had got noticeably more respectful, loving and caring, as I became more accepting, loving and respectful of myself. I even got to the point where I realised that I was completely happy by myself, I was confident in my ability to be a single mum and provide for my boys – I had learned to love myself in a way that meant I was not looking elsewhere for approval.

That was the point at which I met my soul mate, my husband. He showed me what true, unconditional love and respect is. His love, support, respect and appreciation encouraged me to be free, to explore myself and investigate different opportunities. Our marriage, alongside the relationships I have with my children, is my most precious thing and I know how blessed I am to have found him – I do not call it luck because I truly believe that the work I done on myself brought him into my life.

All hunky dorey then right ?! Not quite ! Despite and maybe because of this amazing transformation of my life I became aware of a strong feeling of unfulfilled potential. This feeling that I had let myself down by allowing my ex to completely ruin the successful career I had been building, to stop my dreams and that because of my past I did not have the material / financial success that I felt I should have at this age.

As a result, with the support of my husband I gave up my job – a place where I was surrounded by friends, where I had full confidence in my ability to do my job and where I was respected and liked. I left my comfortable job to go self-employed and fulfil my potential. Oh my word, what a rollercoaster ! All those deep-rooted feelings that I thought had gone came bubbling back up as I began to feel vulnerable and out of my comfort zone. I was deeply troubled by feelings of not being good enough, of not being as worthy as others, that everyone else was better than me (and knew they were). No matter how hard I worked or how may compliments I got I never felt that it was enough – my blocks were just too strong.

Once again, I delved into self-help and personal development books and podcasts. I was aware that when networking, meeting new people etc. I came across as being confident and that made me feel even worse – it felt like I was lying to them, that they liked me – but the person they liked wasn’t really me (does that make sense ?!). Now, because of the self-coaching I had previously done I was and still am very aware of my thoughts, feelings, strengths and weaknesses. I realised at this point that I needed some help, that these limiting beliefs were holding me back from being truly free and truly me. So I worked with a mindset coach, who supported me to go for what I truly wanted – to support women to feel good about themselves from the inside out, through establishing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Through my self-coaching and being coached I also started to realise that my past and my success despite my troubles was something that could really help others, particularly women who have also been through an abusive relationship. I have recently become a certified life coach and am working towards my accreditation as a professional life coach. I am already helping women improve their self-esteem through adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle and working on the relationship they have with themselves. It has become my aim to help women be truly free to dream their biggest dreams and feel worthy and capable of achieving them.

And my social enterprise is my next step in achieving my dream and working in an area I am passionate about – supporting survivors with the thriving part of their journey. The part where they rediscover who they are, learn to love themselves again and build themselves up to start moving forward towards their dreams. As a result, the chances of them returning to the abusive relationship or getting involved in another one will be greatly reduced.

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