I received a really lovely note from a member of Leapers this week.
It was an endorsement on Linkedin, unprompted, praising my work within the community.
I was lying on my sofa in a really bad state, emotionally unwell, drained from a series of challenging interactions, and feeling like I wasn't worthy of the current projects on my plate.
It sort of knocked me for six.
My immediate reaction was horror. Oh god. People will think I've asked for some sort of statement to big me up! How arrogant! How self-promoting! How ugh!
Then I started beating myself up for being so ungrateful to the individual who wrote this, that I didn't immediately accept and publish the comment and shower thanks upon her.
This morning ... I took a breath and wrote a note back, thanking her for the comment, and explained why I hadn't "accepted" it yet.
Generally - i'm not good at getting positive feedback. I prefer to defer praise to the group - so I'll say "we..." instead of I (even if it was only me doing the thing), so I'm okay for Leapers to receive praise, but not me.
I'm also the last person to take my own advice - rest! look after your mental health! communicate what you need! All of the points we talk about in Leapers, I'm the worst at.
It made me reflect upon how unkind we can be to ourselves at times.
They say, if we treated our friends how we treat ourselves, we wouldn't have many friends. I'd not be my friend. Indeed, many of my friends know how difficult it can be to spend time with me.
In a team, you’ll normally build a relationship with others that you can turn to, for support, for guidance, for feedback. When you’re freelance - there often isn’t the opportunity to build those relationships, or know where you’ll be able to access that support.
Cheerleaders are an essential personality within that emotional support network.
Cheerleaders are the people who step up and remind you that the work you’re doing is useful, they promote you to others without being asked, they have your back and appreciate the work you do, sometimes from afar - and most importantly, they’re a voice to counteract against any internal negative narrative you might be dealing with.
But, when you're working for yourself - it's often unusual to have cheerleaders around.
The cheerleaders who get to know you well, find the ways to cheer without making you feel awkward, know what to say when, and importantly what not to say - so finding your own group of cheerleaders when you’re freelance, is an important task to undertake.
In time, perhaps you’ll become your own cheerleader, but before you take a leap to freelancing, or if you’re already busy working independently, spend the time to identify those in your network who might be your cheerleaders. Those who can give you some objective positive advice. Those who remind you that the work you do is having a positive impact in the world. Those who just check in from time to time and ask to see what you're up to.
Or perhaps you know someone who could benefit from you playing cheerleader to someone else. Don’t force it upon them, find their way of receiving praise in a way they can accept.
If you’re keen to find a cheerleader, or just cheer for others - we have a channel in Leapers called #littlewins. It’s a space for people to post their achievements, not matter how small, and a place for cheerleaders to shake their pom-poms, even for people you don’t know. It’s one of my favourite places on the internet.