One aspect I love about being self-employed is the freedom to grow and develop new ideas. Sometimes these work, sometimes they don’t, which can be hard, but I really value the space to be able to try and the space to be able to think creatively. Over the last couple of years, I have realised that I really enjoy the creative process of thinking and developing new projects/ resources and I am learning to be braver about trying to push these forward and see if they can grow and take off.
Over the last year I have been working with my husband and 2 close friends on developing one of these new ideas, it started as an idea for a children’s illustrated book to explain Bipolar to children and then developed into the idea of making this into an animation as well as a book. Over the last 5 weeks, we pushed forward a crowdfunding project to fund this idea. We knew we were being highly ambitious in the amount we were trying to raise and we were really unsure if it would work ,if anyone would want to back it. We didn’t raise the full amount we needed, but we did have pledges for half the amount .
When you try out a new idea, you often don’t have a sense of whether it will work, it can feel really risky, you’re putting yourself in a vulnerable position of risking rejection and criticism and that is very hard. The flip side of that is people do support you and you discover that people love you and believe in your idea. That has been my experience, as a group working on the Mummy’s got Bipolar project we have all been deeply touched by the support we have been offered, the generosity of people. Alongside this the incredibly moving comments from strangers telling us that they didn’t know how to tell their children about their Bipolar, messages of encouragement from people living with Bipolar telling us there is a great need for this project.
This morning I went for my usual Sunday morning walk around the meadow at the back of our house. This is a space where I can think and reflect. This morning I noticed a small horse chestnut tree sapling growing on the edge of the meadow. I loved noticing the beauty of this tiny new tree and the possibility of the great tree it might grow to become. We have been really encouraged by the support we had through sharing the idea of our project with others; our project feels a bit like that tiny tree, I still don’t know quite what it will become, but we are going to try and continue to see if we can make it grow.
It is the last week of the school year for my nurture work, this is a week to say goodbye to staff who I have worked so closely with all year, a time of final sessions with the children who have become very important to me and will also leave a little of themselves in my memory. It’s a time to tell staff once again what an amazing job they have done, to remind them of the progress they have made with the child; and it is a time to tell the children for one last time this year that they are special and how much I have loved working with them.
The end of the school year is a time to stop and reflect, my main reflection has been how important support is. In our nurture role, we are in an unusual position that we can work with a school and child for a year, we can support them by visiting them weekly, by being there, not just advising and telling them what to do but also by being hands on and modelling the work. One teacher told me she appreciated having someone to rant to, others have said they were grateful for having someone who they knew was there for them and supported them through some very stressful times.
We all need people in our lives to support us, people, who will come alongside us and tell us we can do it, to encourage us. A week ago I and a small team launched a crowdfunding project for a children’s book and animation project called Mummy’s Got Bipolar. When we initially planned for this I had not anticipated the strong feelings I would have with it. I wrote the children’s book, drawing on my own experience of my Mum having Bipolar and my experience of working with other families and children over the years. I foolishly didn’t really realise how brave I needed to be to do this project!. I find asking for support in this project quite hard, I am not a natural promoter or marketing person. Also because it is a subject that I believe in and I care about it has brought up feelings of vulnerability and fear of being rejected. Earlier this year I read a book by Brene Brown called Daring Greatly, I didn’t realise at the time how important her words were going to be to me. Brene talked about having the courage and being brave to step out of your comfort zones and take risks. That is definitely what I have done this last week, but this has only been possible by people supporting me. It has been a very scary week! but various family and friends have been there, given me encouraging words, supported the project, offered ideas and suggestions. Without their support the last week would have been a lot harder. There is still another 3 weeks of the campaign to go and I know that ongoing support is going to be vital to get us to the end.
If you’re interested in looking at the campaign a link is here
I think the idea of being vulnerable and being open to being vulnerable is a challenging one. Often being vulnerable is seen as a failing. We are often led to believe we need to be strong all the time, we can’t show our true feelings, raw emotions or our vulnerability.
But I have found working with children who are finding life difficult requires us to be vulnerable and to recognise how vulnerable they are being. When we are working with children directly we need to be emotionally stable, calm and resilient, but when we step away from the child, and we are reflecting on the work with colleagues, it is ok, in fact, it is good to be vulnerable, and to be honest about how the work is making us feel. Inevitability the work can touch us in unexpected ways and we need to be able to acknowledge that.
I have been thinking about vulnerability quite a lot recently, partly prompted by a book I have read, ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown. She believes it is vital that we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, allowing ourselves to recognise what we find hard, what scares us and what barriers we put up to stop us really being in touch with our feelings. This has made me think a lot about what makes me feel vulnerable. She proposes that by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable we are daring greatly and living wholeheartedly. The last couple of years has been a massive time of change for me, started by being made redundant from the children’s charity I had worked with for 20 years. I chose to become self-employed, I felt and still do that I was putting myself in a vulnerable place, waiting to see if anyone wanted me. More recently I have been asked to write a book, in many ways this is terrifying and I am aware it is making myself very vulnerable; the messages in my head are saying it won’t be good enough, I will be judged as being a rubbish writer. Brene Brown suggests we need to make ourselves vulnerable, to be daring, try new things, realise that there will be negativity but we need to give things a try.
I know the 4 yr olds I see each week are being vulnerable each day at school when they try something new that terrifies them when they manage to sit in a lesson when inside they don’t believe they can do it. I am hoping 2016 will be a year when I allow myself to be more daring, to allow myself to try more things that make me feel uncomfortable.
Book referenced: Daring Greatly- how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead. Brene Brown. Penguin