• Fiona Deehan

Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose - featuring me!

(This was originally published in February 2020, now being published on my blog in March 2021.)


Entrepreneurial Women with Purpose recently featured my story. It is written to loosely reflect the stages of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey. I believe that telling our stories empowers others, reminds us that ultimately, we are all human and have our own 'hero's journey' to share. What's your story? How can what you've learned help others? And how can you learn from others?

My call to adventure On reflection, my adventure started when I left Ireland in 2010 on what I thought might be a 12 month working holiday to ride out the economic crisis that had put the Celtic Tiger to sleep. 10 years later (we arrived here on 28th Feb, 2010), I realise that this turn in my life was the first in a series of choices and events that have made me who I am today. And who is that? A woman who has chosen worthiness and curiosity as her core values, who is learning everyday, who struggles, who does her best, who is a work in progress - we all are. While leaving Ireland was certainly what started my adventure, it really was just the beginning. The next significant one was almost 5 years ago, when my daughter Cara was born. Becoming a mother in itself is an adventure and presents it’s own unique challenges and questions about identity, worth, leadership, purpose and the meaning of life - simple stuff, right? Yeah nah… (do I sound like a Kiwi now?)

As I considered my role as a mother, I thought about what I wanted for Cara as she grew up, the world I wanted her to live in, the choices I wanted her to have and the skills I hoped would support her in making the most of her life. And then I thought ‘is that what I am role modelling?’ because if not, how will she know? ‘Do as I say, not as I do’ doesn’t cut it - regardless of what I tell her to do, my actions will speak a lot louder than my words. And so began a significant amount of reflection, learning, trying new things, change, emotional exposure, tears, joy, ‘aha’ moments and a few ‘why am I doing this?’ moments.


Recently, I had a discussion with a friend about my ‘why’ - yes, it started with it being about role modelling what I wanted for Cara, but now I have come to the realisation that I am worthy of making these changes for myself, not just for my daughter. Self-worth is often confused with pride and in both Irish and Kiwi cultures (and many others), it’s frowned upon to have too much pride in yourself. Think ‘tall poppy syndrome’ in NZ and ‘notions’ in Ireland or simply ‘who does she think she is?’. However, what I observe is that the people I know who have the most self-worth, are also the most humble. Interesting, right? (Disclaimer: I’m not saying pride is a bad thing!)

My trial and tribulations Change, personal development, challenging beliefs, values and assumptions - it’s hard, it’s painful, it’s emotional. Questioning these things requires reflecting on life experiences (from as far back as childhood) and for me that meant revisiting things that made me sad, like some experiences of bullying, for example. These experiences had contributed to setting my levels of resilience, my beliefs about my worth and my identity and the protective mechanisms I put in place and repeated that became habits eg constantly hustling for my worth, needing external approval, people pleasing, perfectionism. These behaviours became habits, therefore became norms and therefore became my identity. Revisiting these experiences and others throughout my life was painful at times, but I liken it to an emotional marathon or some other physical goal we set and work towards. It’s hard, sometimes you have to push through to get to where you want to go, but it won’t last forever and you’ll be glad you kept going. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster, but I don’t regret it.

My learnings and experiences One thing I’ve learned is to get really clear on whose opinions really matter to you. Brene Brown (my hero!) recommends creating a square squad to help us balance out how much or how little we care about other people’s opinions. The process is simple: Think about the people who push you to be better—the ones who care about you and are willing to give you their honest feedback. Then, fit as many of those people’s names as you can on a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper. The piece of paper is small to keep you diligent about who you include and who you don’t. This has been a great tool, but so has the ability to accept that someone’s opinion is a reflection of who they are and their life experiences and is simply their opinion, not fact - what I choose to do with that opinion is up to me. That’s not always the easiest thing to work through, but armed with the square squad and my curiosity (at its most powerful when I least want to lean into it - when you don’t want to, ask more questions!), I’m a little more prepared. And let me tell you, just like when you become a parent, people will have no reservations with offering their unsolicited advice and opinions if you are doing something that doesn’t fit their norm. Often, it’s because they feel that by doing something different from them, you are indirectly criticising their way.

My Future The future for me is about continuing to learn and grow both personally and professionally, to get better at being a human ‘being’, instead of a human ‘doing’, to embed practices and habits that support my self-worth, self-compassion and wellbeing, to strengthen my relationships with others by strengthening my relationship with myself and influence more people to be kind and to be aware of the impact of our actions on the world. The title of a leader is often thought about in a hierarchical and organisational context. I believe and want to influence others to believe that we are all leaders, someone is always watching what we do and say, and therefore we are all influencers. We can all ‘lead from where we are’ so based on that, we can all be the change we want to see in the world by taking small steps and doing little things because combining these small and little things will create big change!

My mission in my work is to help people realise their potential and grow their capability and to improve health and wellbeing in Aotearoa NZ and beyond. You can read more about this here. I volunteer as a Helpline Volunteer Counselor with Lifeline Aotearoa and seek projects that involve community and cultural wellbeing also. I’ve worked with an Impact Coach to get really clear on how my work and it’s outcomes connect to impact I want to have and the change I want to see in the world.

My call to action for you So my call to action for you is this - be kind, be curious, lead from where you are, take small steps and be the change you want to see in the world…….because you are enough!

https://entrepreneurialwomenwithpurpose.com/ https://www.deehanleadershipcollaborative.co.nz/

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