Guest Kween: LAURA BOUCHET “I’ve Felt Like An Imposter For Most Of My Career!”

Guest Kween: LAURA BOUCHET “I’ve Felt Like An Imposter For Most Of My Career!”

As I sat on the stage, my heart was thumping so loudly; I was certain the whole auditorium could hear it beat through my microphone.

A prickly heat rose through my body, my face was flushed and my eyes stung. I felt like if I took a breath, I was going to throw up right there in front of hundreds of my industry peers.

Let me digress for a second: I’m fully aware that so far this sounds like a middle-aged woman’s version of Eminem’s Lose Yourself but truth be told, I did feel very ‘8 Mile’ at the time. Okay, snap back to reality, I mean, back to my story!

Why was I, of all people, chosen to speak at this conference? “For god’s sake, don’t lift your arms, the sweat marks under there look like you’ve absorbed a swimming pool” Shit, I’ve been asked a question. “Why me? WHAT THE HELL DO I SAY NOW??!!”

This moment was meant to be the highlight of my radio career. I was supposed to sit in front of these people and speak about what I knew.

In a hazy blur (kind of like the camera work on The Blair Witch Project), I fumbled my way through the conference. People applauded, some even thanked me afterwards. Liars. That was a train wreck. I was a total imposter!

The next evening at the industry awards night, the same fools who asked me to speak on stage decided I would also win the highest accolade I could achieve for my job, ‘Best Show Producer’.

It was a huge honour but there wasn’t a single part of my soul that could enjoy any of it. I woke up the next morning with a feeling of dread and a terrible ache in my heart. I couldn’t stop thinking someone was going to knock on my door and tell me there’d been a terrible mistake. That I’d have to hand the trophy back. That I didn’t deserve it.

Hi, I’m Laura and for the past 12-ish years, I’ve been producing radio. Award winning number 1 radio.

Yep, but before I got here, I worked my butt off. From barbecuing sausages at promo events to stuffing prizes into padded envelopes; I got dirty, I woke up early, I stayed back late and I often did it for free.

I’ve now spent over a decade working with some of the most successful and respected media personalities in Australia and won ‘even’ more awards. I’ve also mentored young producers who have gone on to have their own brilliant careers.

Yet no matter how far up the ladder I climbed, that familiar waft of barbecued sausages from my first day would follow me. I was constantly waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder, rip me down off that ladder and say out loud the words that were continually taunting me in my head “You don’t belong here”.

What I had was a giant, crippling dose of Imposter Syndrome.

To save you googling it, here’s the Wiki definition of ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon, impostorism, fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’.

Doubts their accomplishments.  Check.

Fears being exposed as a fraud. Check. Check. Check.

Did I just win Imposter Syndrome Bingo?

Did you just call out “Bingo” too?

Imposter Syndrome is more common than I ever imagined, and it is particularly prevalent among women. Why? Well, probably for many, many reasons.

Here are some of the reasons I’ve identified based on my own experience:

A tendency to shrink around men. I really want to preface this by stating I love the industry I belong to, and the opportunities it’s presented me with. Like so many industries though, it is heavily dominated by men. Strong men with big personalities. Men who shine and command attention when they walk into a room. Have you ever shrunk yourself in the presence of a strong, shiny man? I sure have, countless times. These men, by the way, have every right to shine but it does not mean we have to shrink. Shrinking yourself only fuels Imposter Syndrome.

Common messages we hear, we think, we even say about other women.

They must have slept their way to the top.”

“They’re wearing their ‘close the deal’ skirt today.”

“Grow some balls.”

“You have to be more of a bitch to get ahead.”

You get the idea. Quite often it’s said in jest. But these shitty words are telling us that it’s unusual for women to succeed through hard work, intelligence and a career plan. This too fuels Imposter Syndrome.

Comparisons with other people. For me, that ‘other person’ was my own husband. (Yes, we are the clichéd product of a chance meeting by the office photocopier).

For a number of years, my husband and I were professional rivals, producing the #1 and #2 radio shows in Sydney; from within the same building.

It was a pretty sweet arrangement for the most part. Until my show beat his to the #1 spot.

He was gracious in defeat (at least to my face), but it was the innocent comments from other people that triggered old mate ‘Imposter Syndrome’ to flair up again.

“How’s HE doing?”

“Is HE okay?”

“I bet you’ll be cooking him his favourite dinner tonight!”

I couldn’t allow myself to enjoy that success. All I felt was that HE missed out on something that he deserved, therefore I didn’t deserve it at all.

Maternity Leave. When I returned to work nine months after having my little angel/spawn of Satan, my Imposter Syndrome was at an all-time high.

It didn’t matter that I had a supportive employer and a team who eagerly welcomed me back with open arms. This stupid stigma around getting knocked up and taking time out to birth a child remained, at least in my head. I felt like an Etch a Sketch. My career had been shaken clean and I had to prove myself all over again. And how on Earth was I going to fool them a second time?! Changing my identity from career woman to mother, to career woman/mother was a complete head-fuck.

Imposter Syndrome is an exhausting beast. It held me back from taking on new challenges. It stopped me from growing. But, the good news… Imposter Syndrome is totally unnecessary and surprisingly simple to let go of.

Here’s how I’m doing it:

I started doing massive cannonballs into swimming pools. I’m being extremely literal here. I used to be the ‘cautious, ease myself up to my waist then stand on my toes and gasp as the cold water hit my ribs’ kind of swimmer. Until I realised I was letting irrational fear and a bit of discomfort get in the way of my swimming time. So, instead, I took a run up and bombed the shit out of that pool. You can see the symbolism here, right? 

When I stopped timidly easing myself into the water, I stopped timidly easing myself into life. I realised I was never afraid that I was not good enough. I was afraid of my own freaking success. I was scared to make a splash. I was scared to shine!

I CHOOSE how I feel. This will freak you out but, an extremely wise woman told me that the physical feeling of anxiety (refer to the first lines of my Eminem-style prose) is the same physical feeling as excitement! Whenever I’m in a situation where I get that response in my body, I change the label to excitement. And it works for me every time.

I celebrate my wins. Big or small wins, it doesn’t matter. I reward myself with a beer, a fancy dinner, or a new pair of shoes. And I make sure I enjoy every delicious moment of it. Not because it might not happen again, but because I earned it.

I repeat weird little mantras to myself. Like this one (you’ve probably seen your grammar pedant friends post a similar line on FB) ‘With Imposter Syndrome, you know you’re shit. Without it, you know your shit’.

This is not a modern day, happily ever after fairy tale by the way. In fact, there’s probably no ending to this at all. I still have many moments where that dreaded feeling kicks in. But it doesn’t control me anymore. I’ve decided that who I am is more than good enough AND if I need a reminder, I find myself a swimming pool.

Bombs away. xx

Laura is an award-winning radio producer who has worked with some of Australia’s most loved media personalities. She met her husband at the work photocopier and together they’re raising a mini-copy of themselves, little Juliette. Laura once got busted asking a colleague if she was ‘prettier than Giuliana Rancic’ by none other than Giuliana Rancic. 🤣

Laura also enjoys making drunk purchases on Ebay, because it feels like Christmas every time the delivery guy knocks on the door with a surprise package.

📸: @laurambouchet

Guest Kween: SIMONE WHALAN “What Happens After You ‘Wait’ Till Marriage!”

Guest Kween: SIMONE WHALAN “What Happens After You ‘Wait’ Till Marriage!”

Having someone you love and know really cherishes you is special and rare but greater than that, is having someone who loves and cherishes you, when you are going through your toughest times.

This year, I will be celebrating 12 years of marriage to my husband Andrew.

We wanted to build a life-long marriage of 50-60 years, so we knew we needed to build strong foundations from the start and not just get swept up in the excitement of a new relationship. I always wanted my first time to be with my husband on our wedding night. For me it meant that I was completely in this relationship; that my whole heart was in it.

We had both been hurt in relationships before and hurt others too. I had spent time healing, becoming confident in myself and with being on my own before needing another relationship. I had learnt to love myself more than ever and wasn’t reliant on needing that love from someone else to be ok anymore.

I was drawn to Andrew’s joy and quirkiness; which seem to fit with me perfectly.

We met in Melbourne. Andrew asked me out while I was living there but I felt I wasn’t ready to commit. Andrew waited and asked me out again once I moved back to WA.

Long distance relationships can be tricky but also really great. We spent the time getting to know each other by writing letters. Each week we would ask questions and answer them in the next letter. Some questions were fun and silly but some were also tough: like what were our strengths, weaknesses and insecurities. We were honest and vulnerable but we were invested in trying to understand each other.

Eventually, Andrew moved over to WA to spend time getting to know my family as well and boy, did he romance me. There was no denying this man truly adored me. He spent a whole night filling up my room with balloons (which he blew each by mouth) just to surprise me, he took me on picnics, and he asked me to marry him one morning, after a beautiful walk along the beach. Those times were amazing and we married in May 2007.

We moved back to Melbourne and began our life together. There were some big adjustments.

Let’s be honest, I was not great with having my own house, living with someone 24/7 and suffered some serious home sickness. But it wasn’t until two years into our marriage, that we had our first big test.

Just before our wedding, I had found out my dad had died. I hadn’t seen him since I was little, so I shut down my emotions and said I would deal with it later. I was ok to never look at it again but I became withdrawn, unhappy and just not myself; this grief was trying to come out and it was scaring me.

Andrew was also struggling with the fact that this person he married, wasn’t the same person he fell in love with. But Andrew gave me space and didn’t try to fix me or change me. We went on a road trip to outback South Australia and met my dad’s family, visited his grave and I finally grieved.

I knew there would be a time when I would return the favour and be strong for him too.

Following on, we continued living in the city of Melbourne, running our own cafe for a couple of years and enjoying married life once more.

In that time, we had three children in four years and needless to state, life got busy, really busy. I struggled after the birth of our second child (later to realise it was PND) and at the same time the pressure was mounting for Andrew.

I had noticed that Andrew and I weren’t talking as much and he didn’t quite seem himself but at the end of the day when the kids were asleep, we were both exhausted too, so I would put it down to that. This went on for six months (maybe more) until we finally talked and I learnt that the heaviness of life and fatherhood was affecting him.

This was now my time to be brave for him, to listen, give him space and help him get the support of family and friends.

From these difficult times, things needed to change: like making sure we both have a ‘time out’ from the kids, see our friends and do things we both enjoy. We acknowledge that these are simple things, but they’re also the first things we both drop or forget when life gets a bit too much.

It’s easier writing all this down now but as someone who has always struggled to open up about her feelings, it can still be a challenge. I guess, I grew up believing this lie that no one really cared about what I thought or felt, so I shouldn’t express it. I now choose every day to speak up and be honest instead of letting this lie rule my life and relationship.

Learning to communicate freely with each other, without fear of judgement has been the greatest tool we have.

If we hadn’t spent that time at the start of our relationship to really get to know and respect each other, would things be different? I’m sure there are always going to be misunderstandings and rough times in a relationship, no matter how strong your foundation is. But I do believe, building our strong foundation, gave our relationship the best chance it had to succeed.

For my children, I hope they will see what a relationship of love and honour is like from us directly and that they will not settle for less. I want my children to be able to build life-long relationships too and to become the men and women who know who they are and what they are worth.

In these 12 years there has been a lot of laughs, and yes, at times many tears too. We have had some incredible years together and some years, we are just happy we managed to survive. We know that with children, the daily routine of life and being human, there will always be trials. But I am thankful every day that I have my best friend and my partner for life by my side, ready for whatever life throws at us next.

Simone is a 30 something living in Melbourne. She is a wife, mother of 3 and lover of all things bright and colourful. Is there such thing as too much colour? Simone doesn’t think so!

📸: @me_as_mum

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: CAITLYN FAIRHEAD

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

Happy 1st Birthday #STFTL! I can’t believe it’s been a year. We’ve had some good times, haven’t we? All those mornings reading your posts in bed instead of getting ready for work… I’ve treasured every one. You’re a breath of fresh air out here, girl, and we love you. Keep doing your thing!

When Carmela asked me to write this ‘one year on’ piece, I felt like a bit of a fraud, because very little has changed since this – I’m still very much the mother/wife/teacher/whinger I was a year ago. But I’m a whole year older now, so some things must have changed, surely.

I’m still teaching (it’s going good, thanks for asking), studying (also good), mothering (it’s good/relentless) and I suppose I’ve grown a little bit. I still don’t feel like a grown-up though, it’s like any minute now someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me to step aside so the real grown-ups can take over.

Has anyone (a child, probably) ever told you they want to be like you when they grow up? I recently had this experience and I’m not going to lie to you, it was a bit of a shock.

Not that a five-year-old might look up to me (she’s five, she doesn’t know any better) but that I’m considered a ‘grown-up’. Not just an adult, someone who has literally ‘grown up’, A GROWN-UP!

I looked at her little face and, after briefly wondering why my own kids don’t say these things to me (note: do not pull at this thread), I chuckled pretty lamely and said something like: “Oh, wow, and I’m not done growing yet!”

I’m willing to concede that at 32, I’m possibly not getting any taller at this point. And I admit I’ve done some grown-up things. I got married and had kids (not necessarily in that order), sometimes I buy the expensive tissues instead of the 99c ones and I know my tax file number by heart. Those seem like grown-up things.

But in lots of ways, I’m nowhere near grown-up. I have the attention span of a goldfish and still have a lot of things I want to achieve. I still run late in the mornings. I think thongs go with everything and I drink the cheapest wine I can stomach. I still don’t know what half the settings on my washing machine do and I can’t do eyeliner to save my life. At best, I’d say I’m en route to being a grown-up, but still a way off.

After some pretty self-indulgent reflection on my part, I think I’m in this weird, in-between stage where I still feel like a young person, but at the same time am bloody glad I’m not one. I guess that cliché about growing old, not growing up, is pretty spot on.

I love that I’m not in my twenties anymore. God, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for my thirties. Going to bed when I’m tired! Saying no to things! Making time for myself! Taking risks! Having a career! Being wiser, smarter, sexier (‘cause of the smarts) and not caring what people think of me! (At least, not as much as I used to). It’s bliss. I’d honestly never be a teenager again.

I don’t know if this feeling is unique to me or what, but frankly, I’m really enjoying getting older. Granted, in the scheme of things I’m still young, but so far I’m only getting more comfortable with myself with each passing year.

Wrinkles? Gimme ‘em. Grey hairs? Sure. Retirement? Farkin’ BRING IT. I know, I shouldn’t wish my life away (or my kids’ lives, since I’m supposed to be enjoying every precious moment, woopsee woops), but you can’t bloody tell me Gloria Steinem wasn’t onto something when she said this:

To that little girl who may one day read this (you just never know): don’t worry a damn about growing up, my darling. Eyeliner is hard, girlfriend, and to be honest the cheap wine does the same job. And f*** that washing machine, too. Just enjoy growing older.

Maybe I’ll change my mind when I’m in my seventies, but this growing-up business can go jump. Growing older is where it’s at!

Caitlyn is a thirtyish-year-old teacher with a passion for good books and cheap wine. She has two children and an ever-patient husband, though her true love is Mexican food.

 

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

Happily Ever After? Guest Kween: RONNI SWINTEK

To celebrate #STFTL’s one year anniversary, we’re checking in on some of our favourite Kweens and Kings.

 

What are these gems up to now? And how much can really change in a year? So…

 

First and foremost, it’s a real honour to be asked to come back and write for this incredibly empowering blog. I also want to thank the founder Carmela (CC) for giving me the power and encouragement to continue writing and for starting my own blog: Confessions Of A Married Woman.

From the bottom of my heart Carmela, I thank you for inspiring me and giving me the confidence and strength to keep doing this. You are a true friend and a real game changer!

The last time I wrote for #STFTL I was talking about how difficult marriage is, and has my mind changed? No. Not at all.

I still acknowledge its difficulty. Living with someone that can drive you insane on a fairly regular basis will drive you insane, literally. But I must also acknowledge the fact that it works both ways. My attention to detail, my pedantic way of placing glasses in the cupboard, how the t-shirts should be folded and how the towels should be hung up after use could drive somebody crazy too (and in reality, that somebody is my husband).

Do we argue about my anal retentiveness? Totally. Why am I like that? Because I just am. I can’t help it, but then again, I can. The question is: do I want to stop being like that? Sometimes I do, but then I wonder if I stop being so anal about one thing, then I will become lax about other things and then all the balls in the air that I juggle will come crashing down on me.

There seems to be a lot of balls and anal discussion, doesn’t there? 😉

Here is what I know a year on about marriage. Find your best friend to marry. Don’t marry a guy because he is rich, has a cool car, is good looking, is good in bed, looks good in a suit, seems like he comes from a nice family (but doesn’t). I know 95% of you wouldn’t be so superficial, but some people are.

If you do choose to marry somebody and it comes to your actual wedding day or the night before, week before, month before and you find yourself having second thoughts, don’t hesitate to call it off. I’ve had too many friends tell me that they had second thoughts before getting married but kept up the pretense because of silly reasons like, all the money spent on the wedding, not wanting to disappoint parents or family who have traveled such a long way. I’m calling bullshit. You were just too afraid to just come out and say it.

Of all the friends who have admitted to me that they wished they had called it off, 99% are now divorced. Yes that’s 99%! Not only did they enter into a marriage, they entered another family’s life (the bride or grooms). They created attachments and friendships with family members. They created children only to leave them all later and leave others picking up the pieces and everybody wondering ‘Why!?’ Just don’t do it in the first place.

Of course, you wouldn’t regret having the children, but you will always regret putting your children through that split-family situation. And perhaps a partner who you really don’t want your child exposed to.

Another thing that has happened in the past 12 months to my family unit is that my husband was summarily dismissed from his job. This was a job he dedicated more than 12 hours a day to. He was in management and loved by his team. When he came home before Christmas and told me what happened it was a shock to all: him, his staff and of course, us as a family.

I work from home mostly, so hubby now being home 24/7 has been a real learning curve for the both of us. It started out fun but then you realise you have no personal space and after about the 3rd month you want to kill each other. Figuratively, not literally. 😉

It’s nearly been a year. He too is working from home now and we have set out terms and conditions. Because I married my bestie, we are able to negotiate things reasonably well. We still have the occasional malfunction but mostly we respect each other’s ability to occasionally act like an asshole. No harm done, just stand back and wait for it to blow over.

Seriously, the better you know each other, the more you understand that you have to deal with someone you don’t like sometimes. That’s marriage. That why it’s called a partnership.

As I mentioned before, in my blog there’s a piece called Is it better to love? Or to like? where I write that I think it’s better to ‘like’ than it is to ‘love’. Love is temporary, it comes, it goes. But if you like somebody, you generally always will; even if they annoy you sometimes, because that is what a friendship is about. I’ve always thought the wedding vows should be ‘to LIKE in sickness and in health’, ‘not to LOVE in sickness and in health’ etc.

Obviously, I love my husband but over the years that love has changed and evolved. Sure, sometimes it de-evolves but more importantly, it also evolves. You can’t expect to feel the same way you did when you first got together.

Life changes, you both change, you grow as individuals, so your love changes too. I have his back and he has mine. Every marriage is different and different circumstances call for some creative thinking in what will make you both happy. Whatever works for you as a couple is what suits you as a couple. Don’t be caught up in the conventionality of marriage or partnerships. If it works, do it. Enough said.

When you are working, you tend to live to work and not work to live. You think you are building real bonds and friendships but most of the time you are being used to help others in your workplace. I know it’s hard to get your head around it, but trust me and my 45+ years of living; no one gives a shit about you once you leave your job. Maybe if you are lucky 1% will. Maybe.

The people who give a shit are the relationships you cultivate outside of work: your lovers, partners, husbands, girlfriends, family. They always will care about you, call you and love you. Most importantly they will ‘like’ you. Even if they call you an asshole, remember they’ve always got your back.

Ronni Swintek is a Mother, Wife, Woman of the World and Professional Media person.

@RonniFox

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

Guest Kween: JANINE PLANT “Life After A Toxic Relationship.”

I climbed into bed a few nights ago and my husband immediately shuffled close to me. He wrapped himself around me and got his body as close to mine as physically possible; every inch of our skin was entwined. I smiled and relaxed into him.

I had a sudden flashback to about four years ago, it was my nightly mission to get as close as possible to my edge of the bed; as far away from my ex-husband as I could. When I heard him approaching our room or falling in the door after a ‘work dinner’ at 2am, I would almost stop breathing in an attempt to keep my body still; so he didn’t think I was awake.

Amazing what can change in four years.

I met my ex-husband at the ripe old age of 21. I was naïve, immature as all hell, vulnerable, amenable and easily influenced. I had just been dating a guy who suddenly decided he was into someone else, so I was craving love and affection.

My ex-husband was 11 years older than me. From the moment we met at a mutual friend’s wedding it was go, go, go.

Ever heard of the term love bombing? It’s the practice of overwhelming someone with signs of adoration and attraction. It’s never ending flattery and attention.

-It’s constant text messages, a day after you’ve just met.

-It’s tokens of affection, elaborate gifts and surprise international flights to swan around in a hotel, while he attends work dinners.

-It’s talks of having children together, when you’ve only known each other a month.

-It’s taking you away to a secluded beach shack, for your second date.

-It’s flowers delivered to your work, so everyone knows what a ‘great’ guy he is.

-It’s surprise appearances that are designed to have you spend more time with the love bomber and less time with others or on your own.

You get the picture.

Love bombing is intoxicating at first, it’s all encompassing. Reading the above paragraphs now, I just think ‘woah, creepy’ but at the time, it was charming; I felt special, amazing, loved.

Now, not everyone who whispers sweet nothings in your ear is a narcissistic jerk, but if you’re feeling that something just isn’t quite right about the person or the relationship you’re in, you should trust it. Yep, if your partner is constantly telling you ‘how good you are together’ but your longest, dearest friends disagree, if your gut is screaming at you that something is just ‘off’ and you’re so anxious you’re grinding your teeth in your sleep and chewing the inside of your mouth, then there’s a pretty good chance something isn’t right.

Love bombing feels great, until it doesn’t.

It feels great until….

-You are endlessly confused because nothing you say or do seems to be right, even when you’re pretty darn sure you didn’t say or do anything wrong.

-There are so many seeds of self-doubt planted in your head, that you’re growing a fucking tree of self-doubt out of there.

-You’ve given up your dream job, which you went to uni for five years to work towards, because you think you’re too dumb to do it.

-Your boyfriend proposes to you in front of your family (knowing you won’t say no that way), and you find yourself curled in a ball crying yourself to sleep on your engagement night.

-Your husband (who earns a lot of money) sits in a bank and manipulates you into taking out a $16 000 personal loan under your name because he has a ‘bad credit rating’ and then somehow convinces you in the car park afterwards that you’re a bad person for thinking it’s a little weird.

-Your 35 year old husband starts coming home on weeknights at all hours of the morning and spends his Saturday nights playing online poker with his mates, getting wasted and you get in trouble for being upset about it.

-You find endless webpage listings for ‘Perth escort services’ on your fiance’s computer and he lies to you and tells you it was his cousin, and you believe him.

Yes, love bombing feels awesome, until you actually don’t even know who you are anymore.

Enter: gas lighting.

Gas lighting, to manipulate someone by psychological means into doubting their own sanity. A malicious and hidden form of emotional abuse, designed to plant seeds of self doubt and alter your perception of reality.

Love bombing morphs into gaslighting pretty quickly. You are so bound up in the love bomber’s web of manipulation that you literally don’t realise it’s happening, until things start to feel really, really wrong.

Some days I just didn’t speak at all, because it seemed easier. We had no money, despite him earning an annual salary four times what I could ever dream of earning. I knew he was using drugs but the couple of times I tried to confront him about it, he laughed in my face and made me feel awful for even thinking it.

So the day I finally plucked up enough courage to leave my ex-husband was hands down, the most invigorating and empowering day of my life.

I had just spent a weekend away for a girlfriend’s wedding. My husband did not enjoy hanging out with these particular friends (I see now it’s because they were smart enough to know better).

I was sitting with my girlfriends, listening to them talk about their experiences as occupational therapists and suddenly I sat up straighter in my chair. I heard the passion in their voices and I remembered that I used to talk like that!

My first job out of uni was working in an acute stroke rehab ward; where I would use my knowledge of the nervous system to help people relearn how to brush their teeth and dress themselves. I thought I knew how to make a difference in people’s lives but my ex-husband had been very encouraging when I said to him one day, “I’m not cut out for this job. I’m just no good at it.” He supported me into leaving the profession I loved so much and then made me feel bad about how little money I had.

It was in that moment, sitting with my girlfriends, that I knew I had to leave. So many things had happened in the lead up to it but somehow it was witnessing that particular conversation, and feeling like an outsider (when I should have been right there in it) that made it all fall into place.

I drove the five hours back home, told him it was over, packed a bag and spent the next three months living in friends’ spare bedrooms.

I share this story not to have a good ol’ bitch about my ex-husband or to shame him in any way; I hold no anger towards him (anymore). I’m sure we both really believed that we loved each other at some point in our lives. I don’t believe he had a malicious intention to inflict so much pain and hurt. We were just two very different, very incompatible humans.

I share this story because I know how easy it is to be manipulated and not realise it’s happening.

I share this story because I’ve met countless other women who took 20 or 30 years to get out of these toxic relationships; amazing, incredible women who are still healing and trying to remember who they are.

I share this story because you can find yourself in an absolute shit storm of toxicity, manipulation, debt, loneliness and yet still have the strength to stand up to a narcissist and remove yourself from the situation.

I share this story because it happens ALL THE TIME.

If one person who is in an emotionally abusive relationship reads this and finds the strength to take the steps they need to remove themselves too, then that’s all I can hope for.

Today, three and a half years after shutting a door and opening a new one, that giant tree of self doubt has reduced to a seedling.

Don’t get me wrong, the voice is still there. If I spill my coffee, drop something or forget to do something at work, an automatic voice in my head is triggered immediately, “You fucking idiot, you’re so useless Janine, sort your shit out! Of course you spilt your coffee, of course you did!!”

Thankfully, I now find myself in a real world of love, kindness and simplicity with a man who won’t let me talk to myself like that.

Four months ago I married my soul mate. I asked him to marry me, in a very normal, non-dramatic kinda way; there was no grand gesture. It was just us, together, camping in the pouring rain (as you do) and I said “Hey Kimbo, wanna marry me?”

He appreciates the simple things in life.

Every Tuesday we have tacos for dinner and every single time it’s like he’s never eaten tacos before. Every night as he rolls into bed, he sighs in absolute bliss about how comfy our bed is. He lives authentically. Appreciating every moment for exactly what it is. Nothing is ever a drama. Ever.

For a while, this was hard to get used to. For five years of my life, I lived in an environment of confusion, lies and drama. Oh the drama. So much drama!!

With Kimbo there are no over-the-top declarations of love or ridiculously expensive dinners or gifts. There is adventure, there is fun and there is of course, love. There is an appreciation of the things in life that actually matter.

I remember the first time he got me flowers, we hadn’t been dating all that long. He got home before me and put them in a glass on the kitchen bench; they weren’t in plain view, just chilling near the sink. There was no mention of it. No begging for recognition. Just a simple act of appreciation. I looked at those flowers (lilies, my fave) and watched him walk around my kitchen, drying my dishes and wiping down my bench tops and felt so genuinely overwhelmed with love, I nearly passed out.

I guess that’s another reason why I’m sharing this story, to show how recovering from a bad relationship can make you so appreciative of the good ones.

It’s the days that break you, that make you.

It’s the tough things that happen to us that help us grow and put ourselves on the path to the best things that will ever happen to us.

I believe that everything we encounter in this life really helps to pave our journey, to build our character and teach us lessons.

Ladies, if you’re in a relationship that feels wrong, it’s wrong.

Trust your gut.

Listen to yourself.

Do what you need to do to find out who you are again, because you’re so worth it.

Janine Plant is a Bunbury gal. She’s a proud mumma to her feather babies (chooks), step-mum to a beautiful little boy and wifey to her soulmate, Kim. Known amongst her friends and family as the resident tree hugger, she’s also a yoga teacher, vegan, nature and animal loving free spirit. With all this in mind, still never get between her and her morning triple shot Bonsoy latte!