I swam with my kids today, and heartbreakingly they said they couldn’t remember when I last swam with them. I’m a great swimmer, used to be a junior lifesaver, even trained with a swim coach for a brief time.

So why don’t I swim with my kids more often?

The ‘excuse’ over the past couple of years has been Covid and more recently my broken foot. But the ‘reason’ is deeper.

I was fat-shamed a lot as a kid. There’s a gene on one side of my family for what used to be called ‘puppy fat’. I can see where this has shown up in four generations of my family. Me included. One unaffected family member used to call me “Ten Tonne Tessie” … making it ironic that I chose Tess when I changed my name at 18.

Today I realised that I haven’t liked my body for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of what my body has achieved, having two huge kids relatively later in life. But I really haven’t ‘liked’ my body.

I’ve always felt “too something”.

Too ‘fat’ when I was 10. Too tall in my teens. Too clumsy. Too big-boobed. Always too something.

I’ve gone through phases of only buying clothes from ‘larger lady’ stores, even when I wore an average dress size. Even today I’m (totally) rocking bathers from a designer known for flattering the ‘fuller figure’.

Why am I sharing this rather personal confession with you?

It’s not because I need validation or comforting comments. It’s because we all do it. We all feel inadequate (or “too something”) in our own skin. And it’s bullshit!

On a rational level we know we look fine. But ‘fine’ isn’t the same as body-proud. It’s not body-positive. Or even body-satisfied.

And being body-dissatisfied lets us hide from ourselves. And then we hide from fun.

Crazy, right!

So today, on my holiday, I’m giving myself a bit of a talking-to. I’ve worn my bathers all day, without sweating in ‘cover up clothes’. I’ve swum with my kids. And I want to make this a more common thing.

I hope it means more swimming. I hope it means more fun!

Let’s agree to cut ourselves some slack on the body issues stuff. Life’s too short to keep hiding from fun!

Much love,
Tess x

It’s true what they say about the power of self-care. After three months laid low with a broken foot, I’m finally out and about and able to get my hair cut.

It seems like such a small, indulgent thing, to get a haircut. People do it everyday. But there’s a reason why psychologists focus on self-care and personal hygiene as part of an overall emotional well-being program.

When we can’t look after ourselves in even the smallest ways (e.g., regular showers, freshly made beds), it can impact our mood.
For me, not being able to attend to my hair meant it became ratty, overgrown and lank. Coupled with the weight gain associated with my immobility, it was starting to mess with my head a little. Just a little, but the boost I got from having my hair done today was enough to remind me how important self-care is.

So I encourage you to be okay with taking the time you need to keep up your personal self-care routine.
It might feel self-indulgent, especially during times of stress, but it’s an investment in your overall well-being. And that’s always good for business!

Much love
Tess x

I’m gonna give it to you straight … Those “what ifs” won’t save your business.
You’ve identified what’s not working and even how to fix it … but now one four-letter word is holding you back from taking action.

Fear.

Fear of criticism, failure, loss of reputation, reduced referrals, fear you’ll kill your business…

Whether it’s a fee increase, changing your employment model, or a targeted marketing campaign … these are big changes, and tend to trigger the “what ifs” big time.

It’s natural to have these fears. Of course it is. But it’s not WISE to let fear call the shots. In fact, FEAR DOES NOT GET A SAY! Because, let’s face it, allowing fear to stop you making essential changes in your business is bonkers.

You know your business better than anyone. You take on all the risk. YOU get to decide what changes need to be made.

I can’t promise everyone will embrace your changes with glee. Not everyone will. I’ve certainly faced pushback from staff, colleagues, and even friends when I’ve announced major business changes in the past.
We don’t love it when our ideas aren’t met with universal agreement and applause. But sometimes we have to do what is right, not what is popular. (Where have I heard that phrase before? *wink wink*)

Remember two simple facts:
1. Your business, your rules.
2. You get to change the rules as you see fit.

You know that things can’t stay the same or you’ll burn out, go broke, or simply stagnate. Without you taking action to make the changes you know you need to make, things are guaranteed to stay to same. When you allow fear to call the shots, when you give in to the “what ifs”, you are choosing to stay with what’s NOT working.

Or put more harshly … You are essentially saying you are prepared to fail rather than risk success.
Are you? Really? Of course not! That would be crazy, right?
Change is hard, but so essential for the longevity of your business.

Don’t let fear call the shots.

Much love,
Tess x

We’re back from our summer breaks, but none of the business clients I’ve spoken with this week feel refreshed. No one feels they’ve had a proper summer break. We’re all still tired. Me included.

We’ve seen this before. In 2020, on the back of the bushfires. And again in 2021, on the back of 2020’s shock and awe.
Each of the past three summers everyone has felt their summer relaxation swallowed by worries and a national sense of helplessness.

Each year we swore we’d have a “proper” break at Easter. We could limp along until then. But then we kissed winter holiday plans goodbye and worked through. We promised we’d rest over Christmas.
We dragged ourselves, exhausted, to the finish line of 2021, knowing in the back of our minds that 2022 wouldn’t magically make it all better. But that’s what we told ourselves anyway.

But then Omicron. So we’re still worried and exhausted.
That’s two Christmases we’ve kidded ourselves that summer would fix everything.

So here’s what we’re going to do about it.
1. We are going to simplify business processes and create structured support around us #getacoach
2. We are going to work smarter, not harder (as cliched as that sounds)
3. We are going to schedule REGULAR breaks and TAKE them ... That includes blocking out public holidays (too many of you forget to do this!)
4. We are going to observe and monitor early signs of not coping and ACT on them
5. We are going to take care of our physical AND mental health
6. We are going to seek help when it’s needed, AND accept it when it’s offered
7. We are going to allow ourselves time to just think
8. We will be strategic, not reactive
9. We are going to watch out for each other

Let’s carry the wisdom we gained in 2021 into 2022 and pace ourselves.
Let’s not bullshit ourselves again.
Let’s PLAN rest, PLAN self-care, and PLAN time for working on ourselves and on our businesses. And then let’s follow through on each of those plans.

Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make these changes.
Take care of yourself and each other.

Much love,
Tess

When you feel like setting goals is putting too much pressure on yourself to “achieve”, it tells me you’re already overwhelmed by all that you have to do in your business.

You feel pressured from all sides.
You feel there are a thousand decisions (big and small) to be made.
You feel isolated within your own team, because no one else quite “gets” the pressure you’re under.
You feel like you’re always chasing your tail.
You feel hamstrung financially, trying to be wise for the future while knowing you need to meet the needs of today.
You feel guilty because you want to offer more to your team, but you just can’t.

You feel guilty because you want to offer more time to your family.

But here’s the thing. Taking time to nut out a bit of a forward plan will help you with the overwhelm. It will help you become more strategic in a number of ways.

Know the difference between what is your role and what to delegate.
Know what can wait.
Know what is strategically aligned to your goals.
Know how to recognise someone else’s distracting priority (so you can say no).
Know in advance the general structure for your days, weeks, and months.
Know you can take time out for your family.
Know your business will survive if you turn your phone off while you do strategic planning.

Know your inbox can wait.

Treat goal-setting as a navigational mission. Your big picture goal is your ultimate destination. Your medium and shorter-term goals are your navigational aids.

Take an hour with a coffee to set yourself some goals that can act as your guide, your scaffolding, your structure to help you reach you bigger picture vision.

And if goal setting seems too big a task, start with a simple ‘brain dump’ to declutter your mind. You can always come back to your notes later and sort them into something tangible.

Much love,

Tess
I was thinking this morning about my younger self, wondering what she’d make of who I am today.
What would she make of the creases around my eyes? My mummy tummy? What would she think about me as a mother? A wife? What the hell would she say about me being a psychologist and entrepreneur?
I can’t tell you what prompted these vague wonderings, only the feeling they evoked. Pride.
The twist is, what I felt wasn’t pride for who I am now and what I’ve achieved, it was a warm gentle pride towards my younger self. How brave she was. How independent.
And then a wash of gratitude to her.
I may no longer be the professional actor I once was. I miss it so much, but my life is a million miles away from that these days. But I have carried that independent, young-artist streak well into my “grown-up-ness”. And thank god for that!
That independence allowed me to u-turn to university at the “old” age of 25. It afforded me to frequently raise a middle finger at those who didn’t believe in me. It pushed me to pursue the less-well-trodden path.
Entrepreneurs need to be a bit free-thinking and creative. They need to be able to withstand criticism and those who would whisper “surely not” and “who does she think she is”. We need to be visionaries, of a sort.
Entrepreneurs need to learn to fall and rise and fall again. Just like actors, really.
When I was young and wild and free, how marvellous it felt, that strength I unconsciously drew on. The strength to withstand my tendency towards people-pleasing, to withstand my own doubts, my need for approval. The strength to take risks and to learn from mistakes. The strength to be creative.
What a marvellous, strong, courageous young woman she was!
I’m grateful to her for her strength and courage. I carry it with me still, it’s what drives me to show up and take risks and to help you on your business journey.
I may be a lot “straighter” now than she thought I’d be, but I think we’d get along famously, she and me. And I know she’d laugh if in the end I didn’t give a fuck whether she approved or not … and for that she’d be proud of me!
Don’t be afraid to tap into the many facets of who you are, or who you’ve been. They make up the fabulous mirror ball that is you!
Much love,
Tess x

 

As a psychologist, my interest in perinatal mental health was born out of my experience of becoming a mother. It was not an easy transition for me. I was 38 when my first was born, 41 with my second. At times I felt my very atomic structure was being stretched to breaking. Some days I thought I would shatter to a million tear-drop shaped pieces.

Was I depressed? Some days. But not really.
Was I exhausted? You bet!
Was my relationship with my husband challenged? For sure!
But my love for my babies was never in doubt.

I look at this photo and marvel. So serene. My parenting journey was anything but serene, and yet here I am, calm, at peace, and so in love with my wee babe.
Life is full of contrasts. Light and dark. Tears and joy. Confidence and fear. Becoming a parent taught me so much about what I am capable of. Patience, compassion, empathy, courage, tenacity, joy.

Challenges stretch us. They let us know we’re alive. And above all they teach us. Life is like that. If we don’t step into the challenge, if we turn away from the difficult, what’s it all for?

Business is a lot like parenting, in so many ways. It stretches us and teaches us. It pulls us in all the directions, usually at once. The emotions are sharp and real and deep. The pride is equally so.

My passion for business coaching came out of my own 20-year journey as a business owner, coupled with being the latest generation of female business owners in my family. Like my children, my business has benefited greatly from the teachings of my grandmothers and all the life lessons I've picked up along the way.

Our businesses, like our children, are our legacy. They are the shining evidence that we were here.
So be proud of who you are and what you've achieved. Be proud of the way you rise to the challenge day after day after day. Be proud of the legacy you'll leave behind.

Be proud. You've earned it.

Much love,
Tess x

5 August 2021

  Acceptance Isn't the Same as Giving Up

As Victorians head back into lockdown tonight, and back to remote learning, remote working, it’s tempting to feel defeated. The strength we all need to draw on is that of acceptance for what is, rather than focusing on what can’t be.
Acceptance isn’t the same as giving up. It doesn’t mean throwing our hands in the air and yelling “fuck it” (although a good swear can help sometimes). Acceptance means drawing on our inner strength to be able to tolerate a difficult situation.

We don’t like the lockdown whiplash, but we can tolerate it. We can’t control it, or change it, but we can accept that it is what it is.

But it takes strength.

Wobbling in our strength is normal. Being scared that we won’t be able to tolerate it is normal. Dipping in and out of overwhelm is normal.
Acceptance includes being gentle on ourselves, acknowledging that we are human. Self-compassion is key.

Acceptance is like a muscle. We need to train it to be strong. Find a calm mental space, and from there identify what you can’t control. Let that stuff go. Then shift your focus onto the things you can control. Put your energy into those things.

To help find that calm mental space try this:

Take a few calming breaths.
Notice if you’re frowning.
Consciously relax your forehead.
Practice a gentle half-smile (like in this image).
Keep those gentle breaths and that half smile going under you feel lighter.
It helps.

We each have our own story about why another lockdown is devastating and intolerable. Focus on what you can control. Get help if you need it.
Be gentle on yourself. Be kind to each other.

Much love,
Tess x

Acceptance Isn't the Same as Giving Up

As Victorians head back into lockdown tonight, and back to remote learning, remote working, it’s tempting to feel defeated. The strength we all need to draw on is that of acceptance for what is, rather than focusing on what can’t be.
Acceptance isn’t the same as giving up. It doesn’t mean throwing our hands in the air and yelling “fuck it” (although a good swear can help sometimes).

Acceptance means drawing on our inner strength to be able to tolerate a difficult situation.

We don’t like the lockdown whiplash, but we can tolerate it. We can’t control it, or change it, but we can accept that it is what it is.

But it takes strength.

Wobbling in our strength is normal. Being scared that we won’t be able to tolerate it is normal. Dipping in and out of overwhelm is normal.

Acceptance includes being gentle on ourselves, acknowledging that we are human. Self-compassion is key.

Acceptance is like a muscle. We need to train it to be strong. Find a calm mental space, and from there identify what you can’t control. Let that stuff go. Then shift your focus onto the things you can control. Put your energy into those things.

To help find that calm mental space try this:

  • Take a few calming breaths.
  • Notice if you’re frowning.
  • Consciously relax your forehead.
  • Practice a gentle half-smile (like in this image).

Keep those gentle breaths and that half smile going under you feel lighter.
It helps.

We each have our own story about why another lockdown is devastating and intolerable. Focus on what you can control. Get help if you need it.

Be gentle on yourself. Be kind to each other.

Much love,
Tess x

Shout out to all my business-owning clients and colleagues, but especially those who've ever been called "difficult", "bossy", "intimidating", "opinionated", "ambitious", or had other leadership qualities weaponised against them. I hear ya!

We spend too much of our energy trying not to offend others, trying to keep everyone happy, and still somehow making all of the difficult decisions our businesses demand of us.

I've embraced my inner "difficult woman" over the years, firstly as a young woman inspired by my fabulously "difficult" mother-in-law, but more recently as a boss who has had to make the tough calls sometimes.

I've learned that my team functions better when I'm clear and decisive, even if they don't always like what I'm being clear and decisive about. Equally, I love them for feeling safe to disagree with me. Mutual trust and respect is what matters.

I've stopped worrying about being liked, and focus more on being respectful, inspiring, and providing strong leadership. And no, I don't need to be an arsehole to be a decisive leader.

Sure I can be difficult. Because I might disagree with you. Or I might have an idea that challenges YOUR comfort zone. Or because I don't tolerate non-constructive criticism, abuse, or judgement from those whose opinions don't matter.

I've found solidarity in working with other "difficult" leaders making the tough calls while also caring deeply for their staff, their clients, their families.
I've found unity in standing tall with others who won't let fear of judgement and criticism hold them back.

Because leadership is disruptive.
Inspiration is loud.
Change is often unpopular.
And these things make others feel uncomfortable.
And that's okay.

Love ya!
Tess x

*Mug from QVWC

31 July 2021

Many of you are in Lockdown right now, but whether you’re in lockdown or not, I know many of you, like me, are business owners wondering what the impact of this rolling chaos will be.

And many of you, like me, are separated from family and friends because of border closures, restrictions, or lockdowns.

Like me, I bet you have days where the sadness weighs down on your shoulders. Days where the tears just roll silently down your cheeks. Days where you feel suffocated by the seemingly unending stifling of our lives. Days where fear for older family members takes your breath away.

And some of you have already lost loved ones. Lost businesses. Lost jobs.

We’re all losing so very much. But we’re also trying so hard to keep our smiles bright and our chins up. And like me, you no doubt have days where the sun is shining and you can’t imagine why you felt so bad yesterday.

It’s a rollercoaster. For each of us it’s different, but the same.

It’s okay to call what you’re feeling grief, even if you feel unjustified to use that word. Even if you are “only” afraid of losing something or someone. As a psychologist, I have spoken to many, many people over the years about anticipatory grief.

It’s real.
It’s valid.
It’s okay if that’s what you’re feeling now.

So be gentle with yourself on your sad days. Do what brings you comfort and relief.

Fresh air, sunshine and flowers work for me. For you it might be something else. Calling a friend or watching a comedy.

Don’t let anyone make you wrong for feeling your feelings. They’re yours. They’re real. They’re valid. And, you’re not alone.

Much love,
Tess x

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Dr Tess Crawley

Tess is an Australian clinical and forensic psychologist with over 20 years' experience in such diverse areas as community mental health, the prison system, perinatal mental health, university lecturing, and private practice.

Tess has a PhD in clinical psychology, has published one business-related book and is in the midst of writing a second. She is also a former actor, which some say explains a lot! In fact, she met her husband of 30+ years while they were involved in a Melbourne stage production of Macbeth (also explains a lot!).

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