Pursuing my curiosity-Running: Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50 Series introducing Katie Holmes

When I started my blog at the age of 50, I was setting off on a journey with curiosity and excitement. Curious to find out more about the experiences of older female runners and their participation in running. Excited about learning new skills and developing my writing, adapting it to a different format.


Why write about older women? Women over fifty are not often in the public eye, in fact it can feel that we are invisible. We don’t know much about older women’s experience of participating in sport or their attitudes to exercise. 


I started by interviewing female runners over fifty because I wanted to share and give value to their storiesand to celebrate their achievements.


The six women I’ve interviewed, aged from 50 to over 70 have diverse running biographies. Two of them have been runners for most of their adult lives, four started running after the age of 40. Their motivations for running vary but they have all found a community of friends through running. By continuing to run into their fifties, sixties and seventies, all six women could be said to be exceptional. Society’s expectations are that older women, and, to a lesser extent, men, will become less active and enfeebled by ageing. Instead these women have become more active and stronger. They are also making themselves visible by running at parkrun, at races, on the track and on the streets.


Another way in which I give prominence to older women’s stories is through my curated list of blogs by female runners over 50 from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia. I’m always on the lookout for more blogs to add to the list.


Quite early on I branched off into a new area of interest. After hearing interviews with pioneering female marathon runners on the Marathon Talk podcast, I became interested in the history of women’s endurance running and have published several articles about this on my blog. For decades women were excluded from endurance sports on the grounds that they did not have the strength, that their gynaecological health would suffer and that getting hot and sweaty was unfeminine and unbecoming for women. Women were prohibited from running more than 200m at the Olympics from 1928 to 1960, and the women’s marathon was not added to the programme until 1984. 


My aim is to find out about and record the stories of the trailblazing female runners who challenged the status quo and showed what women could achieve in the face of limited opportunities and prejudice. They built the foundations for women’s running today and their history deserves to be better known. 


Along the way, I’ve developed a network through social media, connecting with people I would otherwise never have reached. Their areas of expertise or interest overlap with mine in one or more ways. I’ve connected with academics in the fields of sports history, sociology and sports science; with campaigners raising awareness of the perimenopause and menopause; with physiotherapists, nutritionists, athletes and coaches; with lots of runners including world record holders and Olympians; and, of course, with many active women over 50. These connections have enriched my writing, especially in the area of running history, and encouraged me to continue.


Five years on, where will my blog journey take me now? Turning 50 did not feel like a big milestone for me but turning 55 has. I feel more keenly aware of the limited time that I have left to achieve what I want to through my blog. I feel that I have something important to say and that what I am doing is worthwhile. I am not sure whatmy destination will be, but I do know that I’m going to pursue it.


Katie Holmes,




Pandemic Anxiety or Imposter Chatter?The potential impact of the Imposter Phenomenon during the current crisis- Kate Atkin- FemaleLeadersAt50-Women Behind The Network

In the current situation of a global pandemic we are all finding ourselves dealing with internal and external challenges.  Whether it is how to home-school, or keeping the kids occupied, worrying about older relatives, sorting out online or in-person shopping and that’s not to mention the worries, stress and anxiety that Covid19 may trigger from a health perspective… and then there’s the logistics and psychological impact of working from home.  Or if you are with one of the essential services and a key worker then you must be experiencing vastly different challenges from the rest of us, but challenges none the less.  If you are a key worker reading this, then I give you mywholehearted thanks for all that you are doing.

This blog will address the issue of the imposter phenomenon (IP), or imposter syndrome as it is often, though erroneously, referred to.  First of all a little about what IP is and where it might come from.  Then I’ll look at where it might show up, especially in the current circumstances and I’ll close with some suggestions that you can follow if you experience imposter feelings or if you manage others with those feelings.

The Imposter Phenomenon is an internal feeling of not being good enough, that you will be exposed as a fraud, even though the external evidence suggests you are really successful at what you do (Clance and Imes, 1978). Research indicates that these feelings increase can increase stress and trigger procrastination and maladaptive perfectionism – among other impacts.

The imposter chatter varies from person to personand from day to day or even minute to minute. It is not a constant feeling, nor is it at the same level all of the time. It can be experienced on a continuum from light to intense, and it is the moderate to intense feelings which create more issues and anxiety.

Causes of the phenomenon vary too. For some the cause can be hyper-critical parenting where you are never quite good enough and there is always room to improve, while for others it ishyper-supporting parenting where “you can do anything, darling” has been misinterpreted as “you must do everything, darling”. It can be perceiving yourself as different from others around you, whether that is in upbringing, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation – to give just a few examples. Societal expectations and messages weight heavily on others and for some it can be a misinterpretation of a childhood message such as “don’t get too big for your boots”, or “pride comes before a fall”. (I have unruly curly hair and my mum would often recite the rhyme “there was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid”. As a child, I subconsciously interpreted that as “I must be good, because I don’t want to be horrid”, so feared making mistakes).

If you experience the imposter chatter, take a moment to reflect on what your own causes and triggers might be. Are they true? Are they still valid? What has changed? How have you changed?

You might like to take some time to reflect and re-write your own story.

Success comes with its own triggers.  For someone experiencing the imposter chatter, being promoted or performing well in a task or in a role can create an initial euphoria, closely followed by a sinking feeling or “oh dear, now I’ve got to live up to that”.  Indeed, Clance & Imes noticed that the more successful people were, the more prone to experiencing the phenomenon they were.

Given the current circumstances of the global pandemic, there are other triggers that may be causing imposter chatter in people. For those working from home, it can be the fact that you no longer have the chance to run your ideas past your boss or co-worker in a casual “what do you think of this…” manner. The isolation of home-workingdoesn’t provide a chance for someone to walk by your desk and break you out of a reverie, or tocheck whether you are ok when they see a frown upon your face. Or you might be juggling with home-schooling, and feeling that nothing you do is good enough, feeling guilty about not spending more time with your children, yet equally guilty about not being able to focus on your work.

If you are a key worker, especially within the NHS, you might be enlisted to perform a role that you used to do and are qualified to do, but haven’t done for some time.  You might find yourself promoted from student into a front line role.  You might worry about knowing what to do at the right time when treating a patient with Covid19. You might experience IP feelings in some, all, or none of these situations – and I’m sure there are many more instances where the imposter chatter can rear its head that I haven’t mentioned.

So if you are experiencing the imposter chatter – and please note I say experiencing, not suffering from (“suffer from” is somewhat disempowering, “experiencing” gives you the option of choosing a different experience) – there is something you can do, both to support yourself and others.

Before I get to what to do, one thing not to do, counterintuitively, is to tell people experiencing imposter feelings that they are amazing. They may be doing amazing work, and you may see them as amazing people, but pause a moment… if you tell them they are amazing, while that might be true it could exacerbate their imposter feelings as now they feel like they have to be amazing all of the time to live up to expectations. So be more explicit, give praise by saying WHY you think they are amazing and cite specific examples. And look out for the dismissal of “oh, I’m just doing my job” or “It’s nothing really” or “anyone would have done it…”. Encourage the person you are praising to accept the praise by gently reinforcing that they did that piece of work, dealt with that patient, calmed that customer down… Be explicit about their actions, the impact they had on the situation, and the impact their actions had on you and the team.

Research indicates that an effective way of combatting your own imposter chatter is to gather positive feedback and to talk about your internal feelings with others (Lane, 2015).  Both of these you can continue to do, even if you are remote working, or in isolation.  Gathering positive feedback is about noticing; noticing when someone says something positive or you receive a positive email, tweet or text, and then noticing your reaction to it.  While you can collect any number of positive emails or texts, how many you have, or what they say, won’t matter a jot if you a) don’t review them and b) believe the praise when you do review them. So start to collect the positive feedback and notice your reaction.  Are you saying “thank you” out loud because you know that’s polite, but in your head you are making loads of excuses not to accept the praise?  Instead of internally saying “yes, but”, try saying to yourself “yes, and…” or  “yes, and I learnt this while doing that work”  or “yes, and I used this skill”, etc.

Knowing and using your strengths can also be of great benefit when combatting the imposter chatter. Taking an online strengths profile, such as this one, can assist you. So can simply asking friends, family and colleagues to tell you your strengths. Or may be able to spot them yourself by looking for the commonalities in the positive feedback you receive.

Key tips for Leaders and Managers

At this time, more than any other, remember theimportance of regular communication. Everyone is busy, everyone is adjusting, and each person will be coping in their own way.  Keep in contact with your staff, by phone, online catchups, one-to-one meetings, a short text message as well as through the more formal (virtual) gatherings. Be a listening ear, even if you have heard it before.  

Don’t try to solve the issues, unless specifically asked to do so.  It might be easier or quicker, but it can easily undermine someone’s self-confidence.

Reassure your staff that their work is of the standard you expect.  If someone is worried how they will be able to replicate something they’ve done or live up to expectations, gently remind them of their skills and training, ask them how they’ve coped if they’ve been in a similar situation, help them identify what they have done in the past that will be useful in the current situation.

And please do not give in to the temptation to make minor, unimportant, amendments to work that staff have submitted, as that can undermine their confidence very quickly.

It can be very helpful to provide an opportunity for staff to network (online at this time, obviously!) so they can share their feelings in small groups – try to simulate the “water cooler” and “coffee machine” conversations that are not happening at the moment.

Finally, remember we are all experiencing a situation we haven’t been in before.  Give yourself a break if that imposter chatter has reared its head, and then tell it to pop back down again as it’s not useful at this time.  Stepping up, using your skills and focussing on what you can control will help you be the best version of you that you can be right now.  And that is all that is needed.  

Be you. Be safe. Keep well.


Author & inspirational speaker, Kate Atkin, is currently studying for a PhD focussing on the Imposter Phenomenon in the workplace (and battling her own imposter chatter in the process!) For more information see:

CLANCE, P. R. & IMES, S. A. 1978. The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15, 241 – 247.

LANE, J. A. 2015. The imposter phenomenon among emerging adults transitioning into professional life: Developing a grounded theory. Adultspan Journal, 14,114-128.

The F Word – Vivienne Porritt- Women Behind The Network Series- FemaleLeadersAt50

Photographs of my mother aged 50+ scared me when I turned the pages of the photo album. Tightly permed grey/white hair, frumpy shoes, boring outfits gave me a horrible vision of what I might look like when I edged towards 50. 

Maybe that was why I was a secondary school headteacher at 42, worked for the Department for Education and as a senior leader for University College London Institute of Education before I was 50. I had a successful career and believed it would continue in exciting ways. I hung onto shoulder length hair because I believed it made me look younger, even though all the advice for my face shape was to shorten it. I wanted to stay as youthful as possible and avoid those photos. Did you see similar photos of your mother? I think lots of us did as there are websites and YouTube channels dedicated to helping us avoid frumpy. 

At 55 I was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and what I looked like should have been the least of my worries. Yet my first question was whether I would lose my hair. As treatment progressed, and hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and a breast disappeared, I began to let go of my frumpy fears.  I realised I had invested too much in my desire to look younger.  My TEDx talk about this experience asks us to focus on what makes each person unique, rather than what they look like, the colour of their skin, length of their hair or their background. 

Ironically, giving up my fear of being frumpy gave me a new belief in what I could achieve. As my new hair began to grow, I made plans to work for myself after bottling two previous opportunities. I also wanted to pay it forward and support others to be their unique best. My radical side emerged again,and I watched with anger the way women’s voices were silenced and their ambitions trashed on social media. 

Connecting with other women on Twitter helped me so much when I was ill as, whilst I couldn’t read a book, I could manage 144 characters. I did what I previously thought onlyfrumpy women did and ranted on Twitter. I ranted about the inequity I saw for female educational leaders who weren’tallowed a view. Several of us ranted about why 75% of the education workforce are women yet more men are senior leaders. And when I saw the gender pay gap in education was nearly 20% my anger and that of my wonderful female colleagues gave birth to the joyous community that is #WomenEd.

We have grown from a hashtag to a global community of 29 networks empowering women leaders in 20 countries. We have written two books, have 31,200 twitter followers and are enabling women in education to be 10%braver. We are also influencing policy and practice for all women who can and will lead education in an ethical, strategic, and collaborative way.

I am nearly accustomed to my new face in the mirror every morning but, with apologies to Jenny Joseph, I don’t need a red hat to cover my short hair. I am proud to wear purple, however, as #WomenEd adopted suffragette purple as our colour. We had our 5th birthday on May 19th and are excited to move forward on our joyous, exhilarating journey. Most importantly, I am proud to use the F word again and I have never felt better.

Twitter:  @ViviennePorritt



Twitter @WomenEd #WomenED



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What Do Ex Chief Nurses Do All Day – Life After Being A Female Leader at 50|Annemarie Ingle |Women Behind The Network Series|March

Having now completed one year in the US ‘first year of firsts’behind me, I have been looking back on the transition from life as Chief Nurse at Addenbrookes Hospital (CUH) to life in the States. When Ciara suggested I write a blog post I wondered what I could possibly say that would be of interest to my busy peers still leading. I am regularly asked ‘what have you been doing with yourself all day long?’, and ‘do youmiss your old life?’. I thought I could use these questions as a guide, and hopefully offer a little encouragement if any of you are contemplating any big changes in your life.

So, what have I been doing with myself?

I finished at CUH in September 2019 and between then and the move to Florida on 10th November I packed in a few small tasks!! My husband John, had gone ahead of me by 6 months,and my regular 60-70 hour weeks combined with finalising a PhD thesis which had been following me around Addenbrookes for the previous 5 years, had left little time for any preparation. Consequently, I pretty much had 6 weeks to pack up a house, travel around the country sorting family things out and saying a few farewells … oh and the small challenge of submitting my post Viva amendments ahead of a graduation date of October 15th.

The week the house packers came I realised I had no idea of what I really needed to take to the US, what I should be leaving  behind or what to buy (particularly with the drastic change in climate I was about to be faced with) and my 12 years as an executive director had evidently not skilled me enough to manage the army of professional packers that appeared on the doorstep. In the blink of an eye my entire house had been packed into boxes whilst I frantically tried to work out what was going into each box and whether it really needed to travel across the Atlantic with me!

With all our possessions in boxes and shipped off to sea, I undertook a final marathon tour of the country to say goodbye to family and friends, sort out my two amazing children and our octogenarian parents. On the final leg to Liverpool my car began a screaming, cranking sound on the M6; miraculously I managed to limp on to Liverpool where I was rescued by my brother, and the need to sell my faithful and well-loved car was replaced by another goodbye and an expensive rental car back home and to the airport.

Eventually the 10th of November arrived and move day was upon me, the house empty apart from a few basics for visits home. My son and I stayed in a hotel near Gatwick and he saw me off in an emotional goodbye and that was it, hello Florida! I arrived in the heat and warmth of November and to life in a modern condo in the middle of a gated community. I dropped my two very large cases at the apartment andfamiliarised myself with my new surroundings. I then slept for what felt like three days!

What happens to your mind, body and spirit when you go from the fast lane with all cylinders constantly firing to a standstill is quite a story and one too long for this occasion! Suffice to say ‘stuff happens’ physically, emotionally and psychologically!! Definitely a blog on its own.

Having established fairly early on that condo life with its close-knit neighbours was not going to work for us, I began the search for a house. Despite previous intentions to rent we went ahead and bought a house, more commonly named ‘home’, with a small garden commonly named ‘yard’, and lovely pool, in a nice bit of Tampa called Davis Islands. This in itself was an education; forget estate agents and lawyers, here is the land of the Realtor, beautiful smiles, door to door service and what feels like the personal mission of the said realtor to find you a home. Absolutely no changing your mind!

And so, several months of searching on my own began as John, was utterly consumed in his new job. I learned quickly about Florida laws, lanai, lot sizes, flooding, hurricane and bug insurance … oh and did I mention sink holes?approaching each scenario like a good old Board meeting, i.e. reading all I could the night before, aiming to look calm and in control and paddling like mad underneath!

In March we took the keys to the house and the next phase of what do I do all day began. Having been determined to find a house which would require minimal work, (we’d had enough of this with our old house in the UK), it was somewhat of asurprise as the next few weeks unfolded that many of the jobs we anticipated wouldn’t be too extensive turned into a new kitchen, a complete new set of hurricane proof windows, a new pool pump, a full paint and decorate, removal of a 60 foot oak that began to churn up the drive, and a new drive to finish it off. Alas, my project and budget management skills did come into some use, juggling a few builders here and there, prioritising and setting measurable outcomes and watching a budget run a little off piste!

Whilst I had anticipated some cultural challenges being in anew country I had not prepared for the language barrier I soon understood I had with Spanish being the common language of the majority of labourers. So, school girl Spanish revision and google translation became my evening homework.

In amongst the sea of activity I should also mention the sea of travel, over the year I made four return flights to and from Gatwick mostly to be with my children and check on the house; and when I was not in the UK, we had 16 sets of visitors. Yet another of my career skills put to test with endless bed changes, cleaning bathrooms and catering, thankgoodness I did my nurse training in the 80’s!!

A challenge I haven’t yet overcome is driving on the wrong side of the road especially when there are sometimes six lanes of traffic and traffic lights suspended from the sky! I have therefore become a slave to UBER with the exception of the unbelievably normal and common activity of riding around our little Island on a golf buggy.

I have joined the Davis Island Garden Club, average age ‘old’and average company outstanding, delightful elderly ladies who share Florida ‘yard’ stories, have steered me away from kitchen gardens in the flood zones and unpredictable winds,and opened my eyes to the most beautiful flowers, birds and trees of this part of the world. Sadly, along with the beauty are the beasts, and the bugs out here are truly hideous. I have managed to control my desires to scream and have also sadlymoved away from the gentle homeopathic approach to bugs and bites to anything legally purchasable that won’t kill a man but destroys anything that flies or crawls. I am now a pretty good source for information on palmetto bugs commonly known as flying cockroaches, termites, love bugs, silent mosquitos, ants that bite and nasty little bugs that you can’t see aptly named ‘no-seeums’!

In contrast to my gentle garden club ladies I have also joined a ladies networking group for career ladies. This has also been fabulous and informative and less about nature and more about strong women, making success from a whole range of businesses, from the beauty industry, (no surprises how big this is here) to candle making, sex counselling with hypnotism, children’s authors, travel agents and of course realtors!

Now being well into my second year of Floridian life, with my pattern of spending time with John here and time in the UK with my kids more settled, I thought I should take on some more formal work and I applied for a voluntary job on a Board of Directors for a charity which provides a home for abused girls aged 13-21. The home is in another beautiful place called St Pete, about 40 minutes from where we live. I began my new role gently, trying very hard to listen and observe and work out process (pronounced like goddess) from the systems in place. However soon after I arrived the long-standing Exec Director of the home decided to retire after 42 years and the Board needed a little help getting into the world of recruitment in this sector. So, I’ve been firing several cylinders again, sorting adverts and interviews, role profiles and contracts, all of which have different names and functions… and as for the Safeguarding world I have had to learn a whole new language. I thought the CQC and NHSI had been a regulatory challenge; I now found myself knee deep in local state and federal agencies, all with an army of regulations assessments and conditions of licence. 

The good news is that much of what I had stored away over my 38 years in the NHS has been of use and transferable skills are something our roles and responsibilities give us, albeit a little tricky at times! I have never had time to do voluntary work before apart from my stint on the PTA and setting up an after-school club (largely for my own children) so it has been a strange and exciting experience.

It has humbled me so much meeting other Board members some still with huge jobs balancing this work, and others like me, happy to give their time and everyone keen to learn from each other and respect the very different attributes we all bring.

I struggle hugely at times with the language and words for things – we may very well speak the same language as our American friends but our cultural use of the English language is often very different.

The girls in this home have made an enormous impression on me; what they have experienced in life has shocked me to the core. All my years as Executive Safeguarding lead at Papworth and CUH has not prepared me for the lives some girls are dealt. I am thankful for my own life, for my children’s and their friends and for the fact that people care enough to try to help. I am therefore throwing myself into non-executive management getting way to hands on and I’m sure annoying the staff, despite frequently recalling the times I’ve been on the receiving end of eager non-executives trying to do the executive’s job for them! But in my defence, you can take the girl out of the Chief Nurse post……

The other great interest in my life has been observing the US health system first hand that John has come to work in. Having struggled with many black winters, bed shortages, elective surgical cancellations and social care deficiencies in the UK, I have taken great interest in acute versus elective care, and how this expensive but incredibly efficient health system works. I’ve busted a few myths witnessing the poorest of people get good care and meeting some amazing nurses who like those I have had the privilege of working with over many years in the UK are hands on kind and forward thinking for the profession. The best of our two systems combined would be a health service beyond our dreams.

Coming now to my second most frequently asked question, 

Do I miss my old life?

It is a hard question to answer, I miss the nearness of my children however our time together now is fantastic quality time. I miss my friends but we are having wonderful times when they visit. I worry about both mine and john’s 83 year-old parents but they’ve both been here, my father for 6 weeks,and they are both planning this year’s return trip. 

I miss the wonderful people I worked with  and the responsibility and challenges my working life held but I can see how these skills will move into a new place here.

I absolutely do not miss doing my PhD but having it is a great thing here, and I am currently writing up some articles in the time that I now have.

But I do miss England, Cadbury’s chocolate and our home in the countryside free of bugs! I look forward to coming home eventually – which we will do. And meanwhile I will continue to embrace this exciting and fulfilling chapter of life in my 50’s.

If you are interested in Annemarie’s work at Brookwood follow this link:

If you would like to contact Annmarie her email is

Women Behind The Network Series- FL@50- Runstreak Rav

Runstreak Rav day 584 – my 1st Half Marathon. Royal Parks Half 13/10/19



My journey from someone who didn’t even own a pair of flat shoes let alone trainers 3 years ago to someone who is now at almost at 700 consecutive days of running a minimum of 5k a day and is training for my first marathon in London this April!

As someone who has avoided all forms of exercise for almost my entire life, I cannot recommend daily exercise enough. To be honest it’s not really been about losing weight or being able to eat what I want. I don’t view exercise as a form of punishment and nor do I see food as the enemy anymore. After almost starving myself for most of my teenage and university years, I don’t believe in fad diets at all. The impact of daily exercise is far wider reaching than just the physical changes we hope for. 

I had 3 kids by the time I was 30 and it wasn’t until I was almost 37 that I finally decided to reclaim back my body and I joined a gym. I started to strength train and was attempting to run on a treadmill about 3 times a week and swimming 4 times a week too. After a few months, I could see my body was starting to change shape and I felt much better mentally too. My self confidence started to make a come back.

On the 7th May 2016 I took the plunge and decided to do my first run outside in over 15 years. This photo is of the Instagram post I did. I’ve struggled with body confidence my entire life so I wore a baseball cap, an oversized loose T shirt and running leggings and prayed that no one in my village would recognise me and mock my silly attempt at running. To my surprise no one batted an eyelid. I was slow, I was full of nerves leaving the house but I enjoyed it so much! There’s not many things that can beat the post run buzz! 

So why do I run everyday? 

So many reasons!

 I am leaner, fitter and stronger than I have ever been 
 The positive impact it’s had on my mental wellbeing 
 Body Confidence – I finally like the way I look. I’m not skinny, I’m just proud of my body for doing what it does.
 Thinking space that allows me to work through work scenarios without being distracted
 “Me” time – being surrounded by people all day, I crave this half hour of silence.
 Sense of achievement – I’ve never stuck to a fitness routine before!
 Hopefully I’m nicer to be around too! 

I feel better about how I look. I’ve found a space to allow myself to reflect and cry instead of bottling it all up. For the first time in my life I have been able to stick with an exercise routine and I feel quite proud of that. I’ve found loads of routes even where I live I knew nothing about and it’s given me a whole new love for being outdoors and nature. These are just a few of the many things I could say about running. It’s impact it’s had on me has been immense.


My fitness has improved. My resting heart rate has decreased. My moods are far better. My ability to find a quiet space to think through complex business issues is amazing. I problem solve on a long run as I have the time to go through different scenarios, working through pro’s and con’s as I go along. I am a Management Consultant so often get parachuted in when things go wrong. Running helps to release any build up stress from the day. 

I am now a Business Partner in two different running related businesses and this for me is the perfect blend of mixing up all of the things I love. Runners Heal is a social enterprise with Chris Cooper. Each shirt we sell provides a months worth of school meals to a child in Kenya. And the other is RunningMrJones with Alistair Jones, an award winningblogger who has just won Book of the year for “Run A Book For Real Runners.



One of the best things about running has been the shift in attitude to exercise that I have been able to bring into my childrens lives. Being a positive role model to them is one of my life goals. I have one son who is football obsessed and two daughters. One of the highlights of last summer was when the girls laced up for the first time and started to join me in what we ended up calling “Run With Mummy Day”. The photo below shows them embracing the idea of running outside. We use it as our quality time together – away from the boys. They’ve learnt about some local trails they’d never been on and a trip to the swings always seems like a good idea on the way home. I always try and make it as fun as possible. The idea that exercise is fun and not a punishment is something I wish my parents had encouraged. Then maybe my bad relationship with food may not have occurred? Who knows.


Body confidence

I have always been a tad over weight. My parents worked long hours and discouraged the idea of any exercise that meant I had to be away from home outside of school hours. So the only way I could control my weight was to not eat. I think this is why I have a real issue with fasting now. I did it for years. It lead to body dysmorphia that I can truly say has only started to dissipate over the last year. I have found a new respect for my body and what it’s capable of. Who cares if I’m not size zero? I’m size WonderWoman and that’s far more awesome 😊


One of the questions I get asked the most is how do I find time to run everyday? I have a busy career, I’m a mum and I commute across the country. My answer has always been, we always find time to do things we love. I’d rather miss half an hour of TV and lace up instead. So would I recommend that everyone is more active? Yes! Not only will you feel better physically, the positive impact on your mental wellbeing is amazing. Healthy Body. Healthy Mind. 

If you are inspired by Rav you can contact her

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Meet and Beat Your Thinking Enemies-Women Behind The Network – Zoe Lewis


As we enter the New Year, it’s a great time to consider which parts of your self-talk support and empower you and which hold you back.

I thought I’d share a few parts of my own self-talk that have tried to derail me over the years. Just take a look at the pictures that accompany this blog and you’ll see I’ve been on (and still am on) a journey to enable self-talk that empowers me. 

In this blog I aim to inspire you to challenge and derail any limiting self-talk you might have. Here I’ll share 3 of mine.

“I feel guilty”

My guilt has been in many areas of my life from family, to work commitments, to living the life I live. I have thought “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum & I feel guilty about not being there for my kids”, or “I should not postpone this coaching session, even though something sad just happened to me, I feel guilty that I’m letting my client down” & “I shouldn’t separate from my husband, as it will make him unhappy”.

So, how do you stop the guilt?

I recognise it and I now challenge my unhelpful thinking.

Take for example, “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum.”

There are so many assumptions in there, that when I unpick that thought…there’s no actual evidence to link the two statements – just very limiting self-talk, that I can change – based on facts or alternative thinking.

This thought re-designed now sounds like Ok, they don’t get me home once or twice a week, but what they get instead is almost every school holiday off with me. They get quality time as opposed to my misguided thinking of ‘time=love’. They have their lives and interests and I have mine; some intertwine and others are talking points when we’re together. In many ways they are more independent than many of their peers – and that’s a good thing!

My coaching tip here: The key to success is in managing the inner critic that tells you ‘You’re a rubbish parent’ or ‘You should be doing x, y, z with your kids’ – my go to phrase is ‘I’m doing just fine’.

I’m not good enough

So this, I guess, comes from a conversation I had over 10 years ago with a colleague with whom I shared that I could never run my own business as “I’m not good enough”. Her response was “You can do whatever you like Zoé” – I ran like the wind – she was way more confident than me and she had the audacity to tell me that I could do something, when what I was actually looking for were backers to support my insecurity campaign!

Have you ever been in that mode – you know that place – where it’s safer to believe you’re not good enough rather than run the risk of having a go and then being shame-faced if it doesn’t work out? 

Well, the fabulous Bréné Brown, author of “I thought it was just me”, “Daring Greatly” and many other best sellers, shares that we need “courage in the culture of shame”.

Don’t get me wrong I have had many scary moments; doubts, fears and failures, but like Bréné says in her book “Daring Greatly”…

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

My coaching tip here: Consider what it would take for you to step into the arena and be prepared to learn along the way. We are fallible human beings and that is okay. 

I couldn’t do that!

As you’ll see from my pictures I have battled with my weight and used to be a binge-eater. I’ve been on most diets;slimming world, weight watchers, slim fast, no carbs (lasted a day!) and like many people yo-yo dieted for years. 

At my heaviest I was 16stone 10lbs, needless to say, I was ashamed of my weight, but felt trapped, food was the only comfort – I thought no one knew, as it was all eaten behind closed doors, but clearly what’s eaten in private shows in public! I used to chunnel away the chocolate bars, cakes, batter mix, crisps, chips, etc. I could hide and comfort myself, I didn’t know any other way.

I knew it didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t see a way out. My lowest ebb was when I ordered a size 26 skirt for work – my manager had to sign my uniform request – I can still feel the burn in my cheeks as I recall that moment now – shame.

For me, this is still a work in progress journey. I have made significant progress in the past few years and I’ll share with you how I’ve done that, BUT the reality is that like my Brénéquote above – I’m in the arena – I have setbacks but the shift is in my perception of those setbacks and moving past them.

I gradually lost and gained weight over the following years and then made a decision 5 years ago to start on a non-stop journey, where I would accept the ups and downs but be kinder to myself and do stuff that I liked to help.

Here’s what I did

I went to watch my daughter learn to skate. I thought “I couldn’t do that” and found myself giving excuses of poorly hips as a child and a slipped disc, etc. 

Guess what? I challenged myself and for 3 weeks I fell over almost constantly and then gradually I learnt to roller skate – I now spend 2-3 hours every Saturday bopping my way around our local roller disco and I’m so glad I stepped in to the arena.

I went to the gym – I recall thinking “I can’t do that”  I had pre-conceived ideas that they’d all be fit gym bunnies and Ifound myself mentally comparing me and them. The reality was, no one cared, they were all on their own journey andnow if I see someone who is new in the gym, I always smile – in my eyes they’re already awesome for being in the arena!

I watched a Zumba session and I thought “that looks so much fun” but “I couldn’t do that” and then I Googled to find my local one – I went along and for the whole class (at the back) and felt like I just couldn’t get the moves. I went back week after week and gradually, I got the hang of it. A few weeks ago, the instructor was running late and we needed a volunteer to lead the warm up – I got up on that stage and threw myself into it! Even more awesome, my 15 year old daughter followed in my steps a few weeks later – what would I have role-modelled if I’d listened to my self-talk of “I couldn’t do that”?

I speak to my counsellor and he is helping me think about eating food without shame – that’s a new concept to me, I’m re-learning how to eat as an adult and I’ve stopped labelling myself as a binge-eater, as that’s in the past.

Guess what I learnt from the above?

“I could do that!”

So what’s next for me?

As I mentioned earlier, today sees the launch of my new business The Leadership Coaches – a team of fantastic leadership coaches who work alongside people of all levels in organisations and with individuals to help them achieve their unfulfilled goals.

I will continue to recognise and challenge my unhelpful thinking and turn my negative self-talk into empowering self-talk.

I’ve also discovered my joy of helping others through volunteering and making a difference where I can, so that will continue to feature heavily as I live my values.

So what’s next for you?

I hope that as you’ve read this, you’ve connected with your own self-talk. Your thoughts are so powerful, so as you move into 2020, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of taking back control of those unhelpful thoughts and feel empowered to be the awesome individual you are!

May 2020 be a wonderful year for you all!

Love and best wishes

Zoé x

The storyteller- Deborah Humphrey – Women Behind The Network

It was the 8th April 2019 and I was terrified, it was my final day in the NHS as a mental health nurse and a service leader, I was taking early retirement and intended to develop my own business. The change from working full time for 36 years, for an organisation that I was committed to and in my speciality (mental health services for older people) was extremely daunting. My inner critic, became my best friend in those first months, he (always a he) is still there but visits, slightly less often. In terms of knowledge I felt as though I had gone from full to empty in a few weeks and had many questions rolling round my head, asking ‘who was I to do this’ ‘what did I know about people’. Friends helped reassure me over coffee and cake and things began to make more sense; The Wellbeing Story was born. 


On reflection I can see how my own story that has brought me to this point. My love of stories from being a child; my father is still a raconteur always ready to tell a story about his family and some of their interesting histories. My career as a mental health nurse, needed skills of listening to, and hearingpeople’s stories, and in my Master’s degree I researched life stories…so it was no surprise that I wanted to develop this part of my life. 



I love working with people and a few years ago undertook a Diploma in coaching. In this we were encouraged to develop or own model and for me it was about creativity and stories.So here I was trying to bring all of this together, and I was completely unskilled in business, business development. Luckily for me, I met Jacqui Thorndyke  ( who has helped me thinking about business, marketing, use of social media and is working with me to build a website. 


My seemingly impossible starting point of how to bring, stories, wellbeing, coaching, mental health and creativity together has started to fall in to place, albeit slowly. I am now working individually with clients, supporting WritingSpacean online community organised by Moving Maps ( and I am looking to work at an organisational level using stories and poetry for wellbeing and development. I had some very good advice from my mentor for my poetry therapy training and that was to write from the heart. I now try to keep that in mind for all my work. 


The first six months have been unexpected, tiring and exciting. I learn every day and some of the things that I have learned from others and from my own experience include, don’t be afraid to experiment, if only one person turns up for a workshop that is fine, you will learn.  Advertise yourself, don’t forget all the skills you have and network. As I write this I see how many of my skills from the NHS are and how I can adapt this to my new business. 


Even though the inner critic lurks regularly, I am getting good feedback from friends and colleagues. I am learning how to work by myself and not to feel I have to spend every hour of the day looking for opportunities, they come, slowly and unexpectedly, but the power of networking is invaluable. When my confidence dips, I find myself scouring job pages, however, when I see something interesting and compare it to what I have now, there is no comparison. I am loving this experience it is freeing and creative and I have met some wonderful people (in person and virtually). A colleague told me, that I am now my human capital so I need to invest in myself and my development, I think that this is crucial. I am feeling very lucky.

Deborah Humphrey

The Well-being Story