Growing up, I was bullied. I had a weight problem which made me an easy target, I was told I wasn’t very smart by teachers, and everyone told me I wouldn’t really go far in life. The worst thing about this was that over time, I started to believe them. The bullying was so bad, that I started making up excuses to either not go to school or stay home. By the time I was 13, teachers were setting me up to drop out of year 10 in high school and I was advised to study a trade. I didn’t understand why my appearance and my bad grades were such a point of interest for the school bullies. But then again, I was a kid.
Bullying followed me all through primary school, and into high school. I lost a heap of weight during high school, a whopping 55kg, but the taunting and teasing didn’t let up. It felt like a never-ending cycle I couldn’t get out of. The relentlessness pulled me into a downward spiral of depression, and I was constantly at war with myself. My self-worth plummeted.
Like so many others though, I pulled myself through the dark cloud of depression and trudged through high school, finding my stride by believing in myself. The dark days still came around every so often, but I had developed strategies to help me make it through, one day at a time. These strategies of resilience developed from periods of sadness and depression, turned out to be part of the foundation used to build my PR firm, Millennium Communications, at just 22 years old. Here’s what I learned:
1. I learned to trust my intuition
Trusting my intuition has led me towards fantastic partnerships, clients and huge wins. When I listen to that inner voice, always tells me who to trust and who not to trust. In the moments where I’ve brushed my intuition aside, things haven’t worked out and I’ve learned valuable lessons.
Intuition doesn’t lead me blindly, but it acts as a guide.
It steers me towards my passions rather than settling to work on something or with someone that doesn’t align with my values.
2. I learned the importance of self-belief and valuing myself
After years of being bullied, I’ve learned how and when to challenge people, and when to stand up for myself. Not in a nasty, confrontational way, but in situations when I’m being taken advantage of or overlooked, I know I can have my own back. This confidence has also helped me value and treasure other people more too, as I can give them my energy as well. This energy gets transmitted to my clients and my team at Millennium PR. And don’t forget:
Starting a business takes a huge amount of self-confidence.
Even taking the step to start a business means you value your skillset and feel as though you can make a real difference in society. My new-found confidence helped me take ownership of my abilities and execute the huge undertaking of starting a business, even when I wasn’t certain about the outcome.
3. Kindness and authenticity get you so much further, ego doesn’t
Being bullied made me want to be someone else. I thought if I were different, maybe they wouldn’t pick on me, but nothing I did seemed to make them give up. Trying to be different left me feeling empty and even worse about myself.
Being able to value my true self took many years, but now I know authenticity is key to my business.
It helps me build genuine relationships and they’re the ones that have been there to support me at all stages of business. They’re also key to my reputation in PR, as genuine relationships with everyone from media to influencers is central to being a publicist.
Kindness is another a key pillar of my business arsenal, as I’ve found leaving a good impression is a key to developing good relationships, even when things don’t go well. Even after a meeting where both parties aren’t happy, being kind and thoughtful to find a solution has always worked in my favour. Leaving a sour taste in people’s mouths never works, and leaves everyone feeling awful.
4. Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s ok
This was the hardest one for me to accept. Being bullied turned me into a people pleaser when I was younger, but as I got older that attitude left me empty and tired. As humans, we want to be liked and accepted and it can be really hard to handle if we aren’t. Now I’ve changed my tune.
Rather than worrying about if people like you or not, just aim to be yourself and accept things how they are. Whilst one person may not like you, there will be dozens out there who do.
You can’t always get across the line with everyone in the room, so instead, aim to impress yourself and leave a positive mark, whether it’s meeting someone for the first time or presenting in a board room
5. Business isn’t personal, it just is
Bullying was personal, and each taunt targeted my flaws to make me feel less than. Thankfully, business is as far from the schoolyard and has very little to do with anything personal. It’s not about you as a person, it’s about the work.
At the end of the day, business is just business. There are highs and lows. As an entrepreneur, you’ll celebrate milestones, then experience times when you want to hide under a desk and cry (guilty as charged) It’s about owning your personal magic and knowing that you’re amazing at what you do despite the bumpy ride, otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing it.
Bullying affects one in four Aussie kids, but as my journey shows, it doesn’t have to haunt you forever. In fact, surviving relentless bullying at school will make you a more resilient, self-assured person in later life if you let it. Now with five staff and a client portfolio of international brands, I wouldn’t change my past as it’s what brought me here. OK, maybe I might change a few rough days here and there, but overall, my past is what shaped me and my business success, and I’m grateful for it.
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