Tuesday Tales: Do you know how awesome you are? Part 2 – Donna Thistlethwaite

This story is the second instalment of last week’s Tuesday Tales talking about the importance of seeing our awesomeness and applying for awards (part 1 here). The imposter syndrome, or feeling of unworthiness, I talked about in part 1 doesn’t just kick in at the award application stage, as I’ve personally experienced …

In 2019 I was nominated for the Career Development Association of Australia’s Excellence in Practice Award by an industry colleague. This national award recognises excellence in the design and or delivery of career development programs or services by a practitioner. My colleague’s submission highlighted how I had successfully used both my technical career skills and life experiences to support clients.

At the annual conference in Canberra that year I was surprised when I was announced as the award recipient. When the presenter introduced the award, and information about the winner, they incorporated a comment about my suicide attempt. To be honest I was thrown a bit by this. It made me start to wonder if I had won because of my recovery from suicide, rather than because I was an excellent career practitioner.

My mind imagined other career practitioners who had applied thinking that the decision was unfair because it was meant to be about excellence in career development. This thought intermittently barged into my mind as I went about the conference activities the next day.

On the last day of the conference, I checked out of my room and had the hotel stow my luggage until the event finished in the late afternoon. In one of the final sessions, a thought came crashing into my mind … I had left the glass trophy I’d been awarded on the coffee table in our hotel room. Thankfully reception was able to retrieve the box containing the award. The realisation that I’d inadvertently left behind an award that I didn’t feel like I had won fairly was not lost on me as I recalled placing it on the coffee table after the ceremony and having no inclination to touch it again.

I reflected on my reaction to the award at the airport and spent some time on the return flight challenging my thoughts and reflecting on some of my achievements as a career practitioner, which included:

  • Creating an in-person and online career development program for return-to-work mums and receiving feedback from some that the course had changed their lives
  • Successfully delivering career development sessions to women from disadvantaged backgrounds in Logan every six weeks for 18 months
  • Growing my client base and revenue year-on-year since starting my business
  • Developing and delivering 23 episodes of a podcast series called “Work It Out” to support parents in their career development
  • Receiving 5* reviews from 40 career coaching clients including comments like “Donna is truly worth every one of the 5 stars I have given her. I can’t recommend her enough. She is supportive, empathetic, knowledgeable and very generous with her time. My work with Donna has been instrumental in helping me make sense of what I was trying to do and taking the next big steps forward in my career. Donna is a very valuable member of my network (something she has taught me the importance of).”

I was making some real progress on truly accepting the award when I arrived back in Brisbane to an email from a client (a return-to-work mum from a non-English speaking background) saying:

“I wanted to give you an update that I will start to work from Monday. Thank you again for everything, your support and the confidence you helped me to build, I really really appreciate it.

By the way, I was wondering if I could do something for you, such as testimonials. Please let me know if anywhere I can leave a comment or my job finding the story.

Also, I got a little present for you. Next weekend I am going to Brisbane north with my family so I will leave it in front of your door if you are not at home.

Keep in touch and have a good week.”

It was just what I needed to reconnect with my awesomeness!

On a final note, I recently recalled a time in my human resource career when I really wanted the validation of an award and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t achieving that success. Interestingly now that I no longer seek recognition or validation it has shown up in my life.

This Thursday I may or may not win an AusMumPreneur award but it’s so awesome to know that I am making a difference whatever the outcome. You can watch the awards via the AusMumPreneur website or RSVP to the Facebook event and they’ll notify you when it’s about to start.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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