Here's the thing: in favour of the truth

In favour of the truth: be honest about how you feel for the benefit of your businessRecently, I popped a new logo up on my website. I really love it! And it got me thinking about the three words I’ve chosen to appear below my name: mentor, writer, and advocate.

I have so much to say about each one, but the one I’ve been pondering on in relation to this post is advocate.

I advocate for small businesses. I believe in them. I believe small is beautiful, and that small business has a unique opportunity to make a difference in the world. Don’t believe me? Note the unrest at Etsy about the pending Handmade at Amazon. Big corporates are now fighting over small business. Because they know they can’t replicate it.

So advocating for small businesses is cool, but I realised recently that I advocate for something more specific than that. I’m really an advocate for the emotional, mental and physical health of small businesses. I want to bust open myths of needing to be super productive, super organised, good at everything and otherwise perfect.

I want to encourage and allow you to be all that you are – and know that that is enough.

I want to be a beacon of light, letting you know that you’re not alone.

As a mentor, working one-on-one with talented entrepreneurs and designers and makers and plenty of people who don’t know how to describe themselves, I hear the truth. I don’t always hear all of the truth, because we all struggle with it. But I hear more of the truth then others do.

I hear the stories of struggle. I hear the cash flow challenges, the staff issues, the crises of confidence. I hear about the family health issues and personality clashes that take over working days. I hear the stories of day jobs that are soul-sucking.

I’ve heard so many of these stories that I can tell you everyone has them. No one is walking a smooth road, at least not in every aspect of their lives. That’s not what we’re here to do! We’re here to struggle and learn and get better.

And what I’m interested in at the moment is talking about the struggles.

We don’t openly talk about every struggle we go through, certainly not publicly, and that’s right. But while we’re worrying about coming across as negative, we’re bottling up a whole load of feelings and experiences that are affecting us. The longer we bottle them up, the more likely they are to come out in a big long stream of negativity.

I don’t want to encourage wallowing in negativity – far from it. I know there are plenty of negativity-breeding forums and places on the internet that aren’t productive.

But here’s the thing:

Acknowledging your feelings is productive.

Acknowledging that you’re struggling or worrying or feeling alone is vital. And it usually includes telling someone in order to fully acknowledge it.

It doesn’t have to be your business Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be a lot of people. I recommend that it’s not anyone you don’t trust.

Share your feelings with a person or small group who will:

  • see your struggles for what they are
  • acknowledge your feelings and sit with you in them
  • avoid trying to “fix” the problem immediately
  • keep it confidential
  • maintain trust with you, now and in the future

I know people, personally and professionally, who have a lot of struggle, but who shy away from sharing it because they don’t want to come across as negative or needy or failures.

And the thing is, they’re robbing themselves of getting the help and support they need. They’re shying away from admitting there’s a problem that needs attention. They’re keeping themselves small.

Women too often get labelled as “dramatic” or “needy” or “whiny” – which isn’t the case at all! And god forbid a man shows feelings that might be construed as weak or not having it all together.

Having feelings is not dramatic or weak. Bottling them up for too long so they come out as a huge long stream of unsolvable problems is unproductive and, in my opinion, unprofessional. When we dismiss feelings, shrug them off, try to pretend there isn’t a problem, we’re letting them take over. Which isn’t a great way to run a business or live a life.

Rather than trying to squash them, share them with people you trust. Rather than try to fix it with wine or chocolate or a bath, write down how you’re feeling. Get curious about what you’re feeling. Get down to the crux of it. Don’t censor yourself while you’re letting it out. Just let it be.

This is the step so many of us skip, for fear of being crazy or dramatic or weak. This is the step that allows us to actually process feelings, so that we can move past them. This is the part that makes us feel alone.

Please allow your feelings.

Please share them.

You know where I am if you don’t have another trusting place to share them.


PS My Small Creative Business Retreat 2016 is now open for booking! Now there’s a place you can be yourself…

Here's the thing: you're so worth it

YOU'RE SO WORTH ITLast Friday, I ran a day retreat for some of the women who came to the Small Creative Business Retreat in March. It was a brilliant day of catching up, meditating and talking about looking after ourselves. It reminded me that we need reminding, often, of what we deserve.

This blog is dedicated to the women who came on Friday, and to anyone else who needs to hear it.


You’re worth a delicious breakfast.

You’re worth calling it a day and going to bed before 10pm.

You’re worth the effort it takes to drink a glass of water for every caffeinated drink you enjoy.

You’re worth three deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed, or like you can’t make a decision, or when everyone wants your attention.

You’re worth a new pair of cosy (even cashmere) socks.

You’re worth a walk in the park, or just a bit of fresh air every day.

You’re worthy of connection with people who really get you, whom you can really trust.

You’re worth the time, effort and expense it takes to really care for yourself.


You deserve whatever it is that will really serve you, will really allow you to do your best work and feel good about it.

You deserve a massage, or just half an hour by yourself in a darkened room, if it will allow you some form of release.

You deserve a delicious meal, cooked by someone else, with no washing up – if that’s what will feed you.

You deserve to be at the top of the list, especially your own. Only you can put yourself there.

You deserve to take time off – even when you’re not making money or getting everything on your list done.

You deserve the praise and acknowledgement for showing up, every day. For keeping going, any way you can. For getting this far.


So here it is:

I see you. I see how much you’re trying, how much you’re putting into this. I see how hard it is, how much it challenges you. I see how you’re doing great, despite the million ways it could all fall apart.

You know what I see? I see anyone keeping it together, even if it’s by the skin of their teeth, I see that as winning, as success.

And even if you feel like you’re falling apart, I know that you’re doing better than you think.


This week, get the care and support you deserve, especially from yourself.



PS Booking for my 2016 retreat will open up really soon. So if you’re feeling like the well of worthiness needs filling up with more than just a blog post, keep your eyes peeled.

Here's the thing: emotional health

EMOTIONAL HEALTHAs I write this, I feel nervous, a little shaky, and a little excited. It’s something I believe in, something I feel passionately about, and something I’m discovering to be true, in some way, every day.

You know when you hit on something you feel like you just have to do? And it’s scary because it’s outside your comfort zone? That’s where I’m at right now. It’s outside my comfort zone because it’s not the straight-forward “business advice” that I imagine a lot of people are looking for.

But it’s also inside my comfort zone because I know that, especially as small businesses, we have to function from a holistic place, a place of wholeness, where we see that we’re people as well as business owners, manufacturers, workers.

When I created and led my first retreat in March, it was this knowledge that I drew upon. I know that we need rest, rejuvenation, quiet, reflection in order to “function” at our best. I wanted to offer people a soft place to land. And it’s a joy to see how much it has allowed the retreat-goers to do since.

Now, as I think about my work and about planning a retreat for next year, I’m seeing that the holistic, personal approach is really important, more important than just running a weekend where I tell people how to market products, write product descriptions and take photos.

Because I know this to be true: human beings are emotional, feeling creatures.

Whether we like it or not, we have feelings. And what I’ve learned through extensive (and sometimes painful) personal experience is that feelings are meant to be felt. (Disclaimer: I’m still learning that lesson.)

Denial of feelings and experiences muddles us up. Maybe we don’t want to be sad that we were made redundant, or angry that someone did something. Maybe we spend a lot of time trying not to be hurt by someone’s comments or actions. Maybe we pretend to be someone we’re not, so we don’t offend people or annoy them. Maybe we avoid grief.

But all that denial and avoidance and pushing away gets in the way of processing the feelings. Which means that the feelings show up when we’re trying to make “rational” decisions.

If we haven’t admitted to ourselves that we’re hurt by that mean or dismissive comment, then the hurt tries to get our attention. The feeling creeps into thinking, subconsciously. Maybe we start hustling for approval from that person, to make up for the fact they didn’t like us the last time. And then we make decisions that aren’t truly our own.

When we don’t admit that we’re afraid of failure, of being judged, of being rejected, we can’t reassure ourselves. We can’t weigh up the risks in a true and authentic way. We let our fears run us, without really being aware of them at all.

There’s part of me afraid of writing this post. Afraid that there will be people who think it’s too “wishy-washy”, who don’t “get it”, who don’t want to feel the feelings – they just want to hear how to plan for a successful Christmas.

I’ve heard what that part of me has to say. And I know she’s scared of being rejected for having emotions as well as rational thoughts. I know why she’s scared of that – we live in a culture that doesn’t value feelings. It values productivity, output, rational, measurable, clear-cut, and dependable. Which feelings aren’t.

You know what’s dependable about feelings? Once felt, they don’t run the show.

I’ve allowed myself to feel afraid. And now I can bring myself – my whole self, with feelings and thoughts – to say yes to pressing publish.

Here’s the thing

The more you deny your feelings, the harder your brain has to work to compensate. Which leads to over-thinking. Which leads to decision paralysis. Which leads to depression and anxiety.

To break the cycle, you have to feel the feelings.

In this male-dominated world, we talk about “mental health”. I would like a re-brand: emotional health. Mental health speaks of the over-thinking, which is only a result of the under-feeling.

As women, we tend to be particularly susceptible to under-feeling, because it’s “weak”, “unprofessional”, and messy. It is messy, but it’s not weak. And when we’re running businesses, we try so hard to hold other people’s understanding of what it means to be professional, and I suggest that sensitive, feeling, and emotional can be essential parts of our professionalism.

So, to feel your feelings, you may want to try:

  • Creating a safe place to do so. It might be with a counsellor, therapist or coach, or a trusted friend or partner. You might need to carve out alone time, in a comfy chair, with no interruptions.
  • Free-writing. Once you’re in your safe place, start writing whatever you’re feeling. Just allow what comes, without censoring yourself. If you’re stuck, start with this prompt: right now, I really crave…
  • Breathe. If you’re used to pushing feelings down, breathe into being open to them. It’s not easy when you start. It can feel like the world will end. It won’t. Breathe.
  • Get the tissues out. Give yourself whatever you need to process the feelings, whether that’s a good cry, a secret shouting match at life, or writing it all down.
  • Go gently. Be very kind to yourself. Don’t rush back into thinking or doing. Notice what it was like to feel, and if anything has shifted for you.

You might feel like you’ve opened up an ocean of feelings. You don’t have to feel them all at once. You can be gentle with yourself until you feel strong enough to be honest even more. If you start feeling overwhelmed by the force of emotion, make sure you’re getting some help to guide you through it. The UKCP is a good place to start.

The aim isn’t to be a blubbering wreck the whole time, but to free up your energy to live your life, run your business, make healthy decisions, instead of spending so much energy suppressing feelings you think you shouldn’t have. You should.

And any feeling you have – sadness, fear, anxiety, shame, despair, joy, overwhelm, worry, love – I’ve had too, at some point. We’re human. Feelings happen to everyone. They don’t make you weak.

Just like taking care of your body, you have to take care of your emotions, too.

Take really good care this weekend.



Enter The Forge

Life's too damn short to chase someone else's definition of success. I'm here to give you the courage and tools to forge your own path.