Word to the Wise – with Lucy Atkinson

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Why did you want to take part in this interview Lucy?

Recently, over the past couple of years, I’ve learned to start saying yes to whatever opportunities come my way. Saying yes opens doors, it leads to other opportunities and I had a feeling it would be a lot of fun.  

How would you describe your work Lucy?

I am a hypnotherapist and a life coach and I also teach The Wise Hippo Birthing Programme. I love all of those things, they all fit together really nicely. My work is really enjoyable; it’s interesting and fulfilling, and I have the most amazing work life balance.

What essential steps did you take to get where you are today?

I think I’ll be ages thinking about this, a great question! 

I’ve had a lot of luck along the way. If you feel that you’re lucky you look out for opportunities and you take them. So, I think that’s been really important, to keep that positivity and say yes to opportunities. My journey, certainly over the last eight years since I left teaching, has changed dramatically. I have embarked on a whole new area of my life and it’s taken me in lots of different directions; they have all contributed in some way to where I am now.

I’m not sure what the essential steps were because everything I’ve done has had something that I could learn from. I think the underlying essential key ingredient has been keeping faith in myself and what I’m doing. It’s been really keeping that vision of what I have to offer. It’s about trusting the Universe and really enjoying where I am right now, and what I am doing right now, but also keeping my focus on where I want to be.

It’s all felt very organic and it’s all felt very right. What you said about trusting in the universe is so true Tamara. It’s only in the last eight years or so I’ve come to trust that though.  

What was the most significant thing you did that got you into your current position?

The one thing that really was the catalyst in my life was getting pregnant and being utterly terrified. I had this huge terrifying thing in my life and it felt so wrong to feel that way. And then I found the answer to it – I discovered hypnobirthing, that there was a different way to feel, that I could trust my body and had power and control over the process. And that’s what started me on my path; that is what then led to me leaving my job as a teacher and everything else just organically grew from there. But that was absolutely the key moment, and that’s when I learnt to trust myself and trust the universe. I knew that having a baby would-be life changing but I think I was very naïve too. I thought I could just carry on with my life as it was, work and also look after my baby. I knew that I didn’t want to work full-time, but that wasn’t an option in my job because I was in management and they very much didn’t like people having babies – ah, the corporate world! – and that really surprised me. With hindsight it was obvious it was going to be that way but at the time I thought I would be able to just do what I do and having a family wouldn’t change that. Emotionally that was a lot to deal with, in terms of that belief being shaken for me at this stage in my life.

That was how I’d seen my future just plodding on. But it was also nice because it shook me out and then opened up the doors to so much more. It really empowered me as a mother, as a parent. The birth itself was amazing. You know my birth did not go to plan, it was the absolute deviation from the home birth that we had planned. And through it all, I just had immense faith in myself and my body. I felt able to speak up for myself to make the right decisions. I totally felt I had the right birth on the day and that empowered me to go into this next part of my life. It also just gave me this enormous faith in myself, to be self-employed, to do all these other things, to expand my life, to empower other women as well. So, it was huge.

In teaching I actually got a lot of satisfaction out of my job because I worked with children with autism; I managed a big group of staff and we supported children on the autistic spectrum to cope in a mainstream school. And so, a lot of it was about empowering the children – and the adults working with them; it was about working with emotions and taking control and self-esteem. I loved it but I didn’t like the negative stuff about working in our education system. Essentially that shift that happened allowed me to take all the good bits about what I’ve been doing and then do it in my own way with the sort of people I want be working with, it was amazing really. Becoming redundant was an awful experience to go through, but it taught me resilience. It taught me how strong I am and in hindsight I’m so glad that it happened. Well, these things happen for a reason don’t they?

What was the greatest challenge you faced on your journey? And how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge through my journey and especially through being a new mum was not having any family support nearby. So, I think the biggest learning was learning to trust people and to ask for help. I had not been good at accepting and asking for help when I needed it before and I learnt to look beyond me to get that wider support. It took me some time to find my Mummy tribe but I was very lucky that while I was finding myself as a parent, and finding that tribe, I had immense support from my husband.  Finding the Wise Hippo and the amazing network of women who are there makes me feel like I have so many women around me that have my back. In terms of business and even the personal stuff that gets posted, if you’ve got something that you really need some help and support and advice with you post in the Facebook group and you just get so much love and support. It’s amazing! I’m finding out that women can do that for each other. The strength of the Wise Hippo community group is enormous.

What was your greatest light bulb moments?

Oh, I love light bulb moments! The most important I’ve had over the last few years is knowing that who I am is enough. As a parent and also as a businesswoman, and as someone who empowers other women, and I’m really getting deep inside understanding that what I have to offer is valuable. People’s lives are changed by it, so I have also learnt that charging money for my services is okay. I am worth it! That’s so very important. 

A big shift for me is that I don’t just bring in peanuts, I bring in a salary!

What key resources have been crucial to your success and give an example?

It has to be consciously focusing on the business side of things, and The Wise Hippo do this very well. Lots of us get into this kind of job because we’re really passionate about helping people, but we need to learn how to be successful in a business sense too. You can’t just sit back and rely on word of mouth – it’s only going to be enough to just keep ticking over. But actually, consciously focusing on getting your pricing right, trusting that you’re worth what you’re charging and really consciously focusing on all the business stuff is the thing that makes the difference, turns this into a job not a hobby. The support through the Wisdom Wheel for business growth programme I did with Dany has been really incredible at turning that around and helping me to get really specific about the ideal client. Knowing where to find your ideal client and how to contact them is crucial. I think the really important thing about that is that you stop trying to appeal to everybody and you focus on who you want to attract. Not trying to be someone else or trying to copy someone else is vital. Actually, being true to who you are is the advice that I would give and I think that really is crucial to becoming a successful business woman.

What are your thoughts on competition?

In Sheffield where I live there are around 20 hypnobirthing teachers of various brands. We’ve got about five Wise Hippo teachers. Every time someone has trained, regardless of what brand they’ve trained with I contact them and say ‘Hi. Here I am. Let’s work together. Let’s support each other.’ It can sometimes be a lonely business but we all want the same thing, we all want to make birth and parenting better for all. There are 7000 births a year in Jessops (Sheffield’s Maternity Hospital) – that’s enough for everybody. And when we work together we’re stronger. I try to get together with them every couple of months. We have one shiatsu massage therapist who specialize in pregnancy, there’s other massage therapists and there’s aromatherapists, and we all have these major skills that we that offer and then we refer to each other which is just lovely. Why would you not do that, work together and support each other?

What do you understand by leadership and how has it informed your role as a woman leader.

I think leadership means showing up in the world as befits your true purpose. I think it means having faith and confidence in yourself and it’s really about being the change that you want to see in the world rather than moaning about what’s wrong. It means accepting and understanding that some people aren’t in the same place to follow you for whatever reason; it might be that they don’t like you or they don’t like what you are offering and that is okay.

That’s like going back to what I said earlier about to finding your tribe isn’t it?

It’s about accepting that you have your place in the world and that’s not going to suit everyone you meet along the way. Having the confidence to follow what you really want to do will attract the people that are right for you.

What difference do you think is being made when we educate families? And give an example.

Education is amazing! I think this may be because I was a science teacher. But I think the first thing is simply understanding how your body works during labour and birth. That seems to make such an enormous difference, not just to the mum but also to the dad. It increases both of their trust in the mother’s body and the natural process of birth. ‘This is how your body works; your muscles are perfectly designed to do this’ is such a reassuring thing to learn. A lot of clients, particularly dads, have voiced complete disbelief that this isn’t included in every single antenatal class.

The thing that really frightened me is that as a biology teacher I could draw out the uterus and where everything was and I could explain how fertilization happens and the menstrual cycle – I could explain it all. But I had no idea how the baby got out of my body. I had no idea how my body worked to birth a baby. And so understanding how my muscles worked, what was going on, made me realize everything was just fine – I can do that.

Education also means following your instincts and asking the right questions and making informed decisions, even if it includes then handing over to the specialists if need be. So, I think that’s the really important bit about education – it’s about saying you don’t have to do what you’re told, you have choices and we show them what those choices are. 

What are your top three tips for women who want to be teachers in their field?

Great question again!

I believe you need to trust yourself and follow your path with confidence. Especially in testing times. It did take me a good two years to start making good money. I’m really glad that I kept my trust in myself and what I was doing; it just takes time and trust and faith.

My second tip is about collaboration, being really open about what you do – saying good things about people because the good news comes back to you. Magic really does happen in the room when we come together for a common purpose, so if we work together and collaborate we will reach more pregnant couples. My advice would be to get involved with things like positive birth movement meetings, getting involved with your local MSLC, making yourself known to other birth workers in your area and extending the hand of friendship and support.

My third tip is to just be yourself! Let your personality and your authenticity shine in everything that you do and you will attract clients who are right for you. It’s okay to be yourself. You don’t have to be like anyone else, you were born this way for a reason so just be yourself. And I suppose it’s just having that confidence to know that ‘I’m okay’….I might turn that into an affirmation!

Describe a teaching highlight in your career so far?

The highlights have got to be every beautiful birth story I receive where the parents share with me their right birth on the day. I feel connected to something bigger than me – and I also get paid to do this! It’s the best job in the world. By teaching this education we are changing the world in so many ways that we can’t even begin to imagine….what a privilege!

Lucy Atkinson

www.wisehipposheffield.co.uk

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