By Rachael Clamp, Women in Defence UK Leadership Team
We’ve all learned plenty during the first nine weeks of lockdown; up and down the country and across the defence enterprise men and women have learned to be teacher, artisan bakers, hairdressers and maintenance workers. In addition we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves and have developed in ways we would never have realised possible. And now it’s time to share and more importantly celebrate.
Recently I delivered a milestone on a significant project I am leading. After much blood, sweat, tears, lost sleep and hour and hours of video calls it was a success. No, it was monumentally fabulous!
As I was thanking my team for the incredible job they had done, emails and texts rolled in thanking me for what I’d done and congratulating me on the achievement. I was grinning from ear to ear and feeling proud of myself. But then, when the notifications stopped pinging and the time came when as a team we’d be marking the occasion and basking in our shared glory, everything fell silent.
The feelings that started to overwhelm me were ones of self-doubt, emptiness and loneliness. My pride and elation disappeared.
Nothing had changed.
The milestone was still a success. I’d still lead the team to our triumph.
I, like many women, am my own hardest critic. And while needing external validation I struggle to validate myself and my achievements.
It was from then that I learned my latest lockdown lesson – how to celebrate my achievement and recognise what I had done. How many times have you, when given congratulations, said “it was a team effort”, or event “it’s why I’m here”! I know I have – many times – too many times. For me someone telling me I’ve done well has made me uncomfortable; but when also gave me the recognition that I, deep down, know I deserved. When there was no one to do that I had to feed my own deep down need for recognition, because after all I was the only well who didn’t think I deserved it.
It actually only takes a few sensible challenges to your own perceptions of yourself to recognise your achievements and celebrate them. I asked myself what had I achieved, how had I got the team to the milestone, what had I had to overcome, what impact had the process and the final outcome had on me, the team, my stakeholders, etc, and finally how was this achievement going to help me move towards what was to come next. The smile came back, the sense of achievement made sit taller in the armchair, and I toasted myself with my cuppa.
My feelings were not just from what I had achieved with the team but how I had also appreciated myself and my achievement. Possibly the biggest impact of all.
So my lockdown lesson to share? While you’re filling the gaps of teachers, cleaners, hairdressers and artisan bakers also become your own internal cheerleader – pompoms optional.