Discovering Self Compassion

Discovering Self Compassion

My life changed for the worse on the 2nd September 1986 when at 24 years old I suffered a panic attack whilst interviewing somebody. For the next 30 years I suffered in silence with my mental health and spent so many days in my career hiding from colleagues around me my constant battles with anxiety. I tried to find a cure for my panic attacks but eventually gave up, believing it was impossible.

In 2008 I finally gave up the fight and asked to step down from my role as a Regional Sales Director for Auto Trader. I had taken a battering from the CEO because I was unable to provide him with comfort and confidence that I was running my region with the right sales strategy. I spent the entire meeting battling with anxiety and it sapped so much of my energy that I did well to even get through the meeting without keeling over. I asked to be made redundant and was put at risk within a few months.

I spent the next eight years at risk of redundancy and was given work that I enjoyed however I had no responsibility for driving revenue or managing people. Everyone assumed I was happy but I knew that my career had peaked, my salary would be ring-fenced forever and that my talent would lay unfulfilled. I chose not to leave because while I remained at Auto Trader it was easier to mask my mental health than it would be starting somewhere else. The only clue I gave people around me was that I had started my journey to become a mental health counsellor. However not one person realised why I was treading this path and that I myself was a silent sufferer.

On May 16th 2016 on a Monday morning in Manchester, I did something that I thought I would never be able to do. I spoke for an hour to an audience of over 30 people without being filled by anxiety. My subject matter – my own mental health story. The vision for my business ‘Breaking the Silence’ was born.

Since then, I have delivered over 100 talks to audiences throughout the UK and not once had a panic attack. I have spoken in many boardrooms and whatever the setting and environment have been virtually free from anxiety. Understandably, the question I am asked most often is how can I do this when for 30 years I was unable to do so?

My answer is that I have discovered self-compassion. In my corporate career I thought that I had to be perfect and felt constantly judged. I now truly believe that it’s okay not to be okay. I say to myself if you start to have a panic attack then have one and share with the audience what it feels like. Ironically, because I am being kinder to myself and allowing myself to be anxious I am feeling so much more relaxed and therefore unlikely to ever have a panic attack. What is particularly rewarding is that you also inspire people when you show your vulnerability and this has been one of the key drivers for ‘Breaking the Silence’.

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