Yorkshire grit, selling frocks and Legally Blonde. Discussing age and relevance, Michele Yeoh and the nature of completion.
This is What I’ve Learned From Women, a podcast for creatives, business owners and choir rebels. I’m your host, Claire Coupland, a certified coach specialising in helping women find their inner rebel and live life on their terms. Each episode will share stories and empower and support each other. This is episode one.
Hello and welcome to the first episode of What I’ve Learned From Women. This is the first guest in a inverted commas episode because it’s going to be me. I kind of thought it was a good idea for me to have a go first before I asked anyone the same questions. And I thought it might be interesting for people to kind of hear some of the things I’ve learnt from women before we kind of move forward and invite some wonderful guests on the show.
Yes, it’s going to be me asking the questions and me answering them. So it could be interesting, but we’ll see how we get on.
So the first question is, what’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? Now this question took me ages to think of an answer for because I think we hear advice all the time and people give us advice and you know, you kind of take it on and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad and I think you forget it. But just the very last moment where I was thinking, oh, I’m going to have to leave this for today, something popped into my head that I think I’ve lived my life by since, I don’t know, 20 years old. So when I was kind of early twenties, I was 21, I was working in House of Fraser. I was managing a concession of the Brand Coast back when we did bridesmaids dresses really and wedding outfits. It was a really beautiful time to work at that particular company and I had a really fantastic area manager and she was fantastic in the way that she was so inspiring.
And yeah, I just absolutely loved her.
She was just amazing and you know, sometimes she was a bit tough and sometimes she kind of, you know, have something to say about the way I was doing things. And I always took that with grace because I really respected her. And I remember one time I had a particularly personal problem occur where I had to take a bit of time off work and my first back to work meeting with her, she said to me, we only sell frocks.
And I just thought, wow, what a piece of advice, what to think about. We only sell frocks. And I’ve carried that through every job and every business I’ve run since that actually it’s not that important. You know, we can pretend or we can aspire to and we can think it’s important. But actually it’s just something we’re doing with our time. We’re not necessarily making it into our sole purpose. And actually, I think if we make it into our sole purpose, that’s probably quite damaging for us as humans because we need the things that are outside of running a business or having a job. We need the connection. We need those other things like going outside and seeing the flowers blooming and connecting with our friends and petting our pets or talking to our partners or getting in touch with our family. All those things are really important to make up life are actually super beneficial to us. And if we’re just concentrating on the work we’re doing, whether that be for ourselves or for somebody else, then we’re really missing the point. So we only sell frocks is just honestly the best thing I’ve heard. I can’t think of anything better. I’d love to hear what you think of it, though, because everyone I tell it to is like, oh, love it.
OK, this is so hard because 10 years is a huge amount of time. But unsurprisingly, I’m going to say I’ve changed an unbelievable amount. I think we all do in 10 years. But I think the one thing that really came to mind when I was thinking about this question was I was so scared of hitting 40.
Not in a, oh, I’m old way, but in a I’m going to be irrelevant way.
And I think that feeling sort of in my 39th year into kind of my 40th year, the first half of it or so, was just so terrifying to me that people would think I was irrelevant. People might think that, you know, I was past it.
I mean, all this narrative is really negative, but it just felt like that would be really sad because people who were younger might think I was one of those people who when I was younger, I was thinking, oh, I’m not sure whether I want to be kind of best friends with this person.
Not that I want to spend time with them, but just different like feeling towards them. And I was just really concerned that I was going to become that person. I was really concerned that people would think, oh, who is she? And she’s old now. She needs to go away kind of thing.
And something just kind of switched in me and I kind of felt, oh, what if being the age you are is a representation of your experience?
I know that’s like a weird thing to say because it’s obvious. But what if that was the case? What if that’s how we saw ourselves? What if our age was completely irrelevant and it was just that we’re just a person?
And ever since that kind of thought process came into my mind, I’d just forgotten about it. And now I’m a bit like, oh, yeah, I’m going to be 42 in September. Oh, yeah. Well, that’s what it is. And it’s almost like taking that power back out of being 40 and saying, that’s fine. I’m cool with that. I’ve done all this stuff that goes with my age and gives me experience and makes me feel like I can make better decisions, for instance.
So, yeah, I mean, how else have I changed? I think I’ve become a calmer person.
I think back to my early 30s, they were quite frantic and I’ve always been very determined. I’ve always had to be doing the next thing. And I think I’ve managed to calm that down a bit. Like I still want to keep progressing and furthering my kind of knowledge and experience. But it’s in a less desperate way.
I think I felt so eager to, I don’t know, please to have an outwardly good-looking life. Whereas now I’m not so bothered about that because I feel like I’m happy with it myself. And that’s good enough. What else was I like in my early 30s?
I was suffering a loss. My father passed away when I was 31. So that was quite difficult, obviously. And I think that had a big impact on those first few years of my 30s, probably adding to that frantic nature. But it did also take a career change. So I decided to become a teacher in my early 30s. And although that was great, that didn’t help with the work life balance. It had a major impact on my health and chronic health issues that were always there in the background. But I think I was managing before I went into teaching.
I also completely went the other way. From taking a study job and teaching, I stayed there five years. I then went into basically going to the other side of the world. I basically decided to go and live in Malaysia for two years to do the exact opposite, not work. I read, I wrote things, I cooked things, I travelled. I basically had the opposite experience to being what I was, a D&T teacher, where I’d spend 90 minutes in a classroom without being able to leave. So it was almost like I had to do the opposite. So I was a bit rebellious. And that’s only grown, that rebelliousness. I think I’ve always wanted to stay inside a box. I’ve always wanted to be the good girl. I’ve always wanted to be the person that everyone likes. That everyone thinks is doing a good job, etc. I think as I’ve got older, I’m not as bothered about that. I really want to do a good job. I want people to be happy with the work I’m doing. I want to show up and turn up as a good coach, a good executive virtual assistant. I want to be good at what I’m doing. But to me, it doesn’t matter as much. It doesn’t mean as much to be the perfect one, to be so perfect. I think I’ve let go of that as I’ve got older. So I think I’ve changed quite a lot in the last 10 years.
Most inspirational woman. So again, it’s so hard because there’s so many people that are inspiring. But I think for me, it’s Michelle Yeoh. Her Oscars speech, she said,
Ladies, don’t let anybody tell you you are ever past your prime. And I think that just really fits into the question I’ve just answered. And my general feeling that are we ever going to be past our prime? Is time ever going to be up? Do we need to worry about that? Can we just take each day as it comes? Can we just live in the moment and can we still work towards our big dreams and goals as we’re getting older? Yes, of course we can. We’re not irrelevant because we’re past a certain age. In some ways, we’re more relevant for various reasons. So, yeah, I love that. It was just one of those moments where I actually watched the Oscars live and I was tearing up as she gave that speech. Her family were also in Malaysia, which obviously got a really big connection for me because I love Malaysia. So, yeah, that’s my favourite inspirational woman. Favourite quote. OK, so I’ve got two. They’re quite similar, similar meaning anyway, and you’ve probably heard them before, but they’re kind of ones that always come back to me. So first one is we are all the same. But we are also all different, and I love that. I love that by saying we’re the same as somebody else, we’re not going to compare.
We don’t feel the need to make ourselves different. We don’t feel the need to, you know, just be something that we’re not because we’re just all the same. We’re all the same. We all are human beings walking this earth doing the things that we need to do. And those things are different and they make quite a big difference to our lives ahead of us. And yes, we all have different opportunities. We all have different privileges. And those things are really important things to discuss and to be aware of. But at the very core, we’re all human beings. And that to me feels quite empowering.
But to say we’re all different accepts that we can all be different, like we can all have differences. We can all have differences of opinion. We can all feel differently about things. We can all do different things. We can all be different. And then my second one is what’s meant for you will pass you by.
And I kind of believe this without going too wooh. You know, I do like thinking about the moon and, you know, I’ve got the odd crystal and I like things like that. But without getting too into that, I genuinely believe that if we’re supposed to do something, it will come around or it will happen for us. I genuinely believe that what happens when we decide we want something or when we do a vision board or when we do some kind of meditation or future pacing exercise, which is a kind of NLP/ coaching exercise where you look at the future and you see what it looks like and you work backwards. When we do those things, we’re actually giving a part of our brain to that thought and it stays there. And then every time something happens, we make decisions. But that thought is still there. So if we want something, for instance, my big dream is to live in a particular place in Cornwall and the house prices are phenomenal. But one day I’m really, really, really thinking that’s going to happen. And what that does is every time I make a decision about big purchases or every time I’m thinking about should we move house, I’m thinking, how does that fit with that big decision? Does it work? Will it work going forward? Will it get me to that one day? So it’s there as a thought and it’s in my head. So I kind of believe that what’s meant for us, what passes by.
Do I have an ultimate life tip?
So in that, I also kind of think that we should try and buy as expensive as we can afford. So if you’re looking to buy, I don’t know what I’m going to say, a hoover.
Buy one that’s probably going to last five years, not one year, because the difference in costs for replacing those things is huge. So we buy a decent hoover for, let’s say, 80 quid and it breaks in two years. So we have to replace it again. Whereas we buy one that lasts five, 10 years, it tends to be better for the environment. But it’s also better for our purses because we are not having to reinvest money into the same product again and again. I come from Yorkshire. You probably can hear it in my accent, I don’t know. But yeah, we’re quite renowned for being a bit tight and I don’t see it as being tight. I see it as I hate waste and I like to buy things. I’m not kind of like one of these people who doesn’t do that. But I do think that from an early-ish age, I kind of realised that if I invested a little bit more money, and sometimes it is just a little bit more money, I can get much better product or quality of product and it will last much longer and it will save me money in the long run. And I know it’s not possible for us all to do that because we’re on a budget or… But what I’m saying is if there’s an option that’s just slightly more expensive, my life tip is it will probably cost you less in the long run to buy that thing.
Big lesson that you’ve learnt. Again, this was a difficult one because it’s such a huge question.
Like, okay, if you’re running a marathon, that is a competition. Bad kind of example. But I mean like, you know, buying a house, buying a new car, I mean, you know, going on holiday, what you do in your business, what you do for your job, what books you read.
None of that is a competition. And I think in my early 30s and definitely my 20s, I spent a lot of my life thinking about, you know, oh, if I do that, that will be better than. And not necessarily comparing myself in a negative way, but just wanting to be better. And yes, mainly material things. But I do think there are other things like relationships you can compare. Nobody knows what’s going on inside a relationship, really, other than the two people involved. And sometimes they don’t know what’s going on inside their relationship. But life just isn’t a competition.
We don’t need to accumulate things. We don’t need to have the biggest house. We don’t need to buy the newest car. Like we can do and it’s lovely if we can do. And I don’t begrudge anybody doing that because, wow, why not? But we just don’t need to. And I think taking away that idea that we need to was the thing that kind of stopped me from needing to.
Which sounds obvious when you say it, but yeah, that would be my kind of biggest lesson. I don’t need to kind of be in competition with anybody else.
Best way to spend a spare afternoon. Oh, my gosh, so many ways. I love reading. I love knitting. And this is where it starts. So for me, if I have spare time, there are so many things I’d like to do with that spare time because sometimes I don’t have lots of time. So I want to really make sure I make the best of it. And that in itself is my downfall because I can’t seem to sit with one activity or one thing. I have to be multitasking or I have to be doing this one quickly to get on to the next one.
And I think, you know, as I said, I like to do knitting. I like to read. Obviously, I can’t do those two things at the same time. I could listen to an audiobook and knit, but I really have to concentrate on the knitting because I struggle with remembering the stitches. Something to do with my dyslexia. I kind of have to really check the stitches every so often. It takes me ages to knit a scarf. Oh, my gosh, I’ve been knitting one since September last year, but I enjoy it. So that’s fine.
So that’s two things I would probably do. I thought about the idea of going to a spa and I love that idea, but it’s not really realistic for every day or for, you know, once a week.
That would be nice. That’s one of my favourite things to do. Taking myself out for coffee or lunch. That’s something I love to do, just to go on my own. Sometimes with a book. Definitely not with my knitting. I won’t be able to do that.
I like watching box sets as well, actually. Knitting with a box set. Then I might read a book, go for coffee and have lunch. Who is your favourite female character in a book, film or TV series?
So I thought about this a lot. There was someone I really wanted to mention, but it’s super regular and I’ve got a guest lined up that I think might bring this person up. So I didn’t want to use it just in case. But I think it’s Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, which I know is just a proper retro thing. But she is amazing. It’s a really kind of throwaway film in some ways and it’s a bit kind of girly pink and all that stuff. But she’s amazing. She is absolutely determined. She will not take no for an answer. She gets what she wants. She’s ruthless but with kindness. Perfect combination. And she’s got a dog. I mean, I love dogs. So yeah, she’s my favourite character. She’s really quite inspiring.
OK, the final question is, what things have you learnt from women?
So first of all, I thought so much, too much to mention. But then I started going around the women that I’m closest to, the ones I spend the most time with, the ones that I enjoy spending time with, the ones I love. And I sort of made a little list. So kindness and that ability to show kindness. How to rest and the importance of rest. How to tend a garden.
So how to look after one and nurture one. How to look after yourself, myself. How to care for myself.
She is a proper Yorkshire woman. You know, you get on with it. You don’t complain. You make the best of things. There’s always cake in the afternoon with a cup of tea. She’s just a fabulous woman. And I remember being about 18, 19, early, sort of really young. And I broke up with my kind of long time boyfriend at the time. I think we’ve been together about three or four years, which is quite a long time. I think we’re older. That’s probably like maybe 21 actually. We didn’t get together till I was 19. So I must have been about 21. And I was devastated, you know, as you are, absolutely devastated. I thought my heart was going to come out of my chest and I rang her in tears. And she’s very nice and she’s very kind. And towards the end of the conversation, she said to me, Do you know what you need, love? You need some Yorkshire grit. You need to pull yourself together and just get on with it. There’s nothing else you can do about this situation now. I just thought, wow. Yeah. I mean, you’re so right. At the time, I was like, yeah, OK. I thought afterwards, I was like, OK.
You can ride it out with grit, a cup of tea, cake, if you’re my auntie, and me. Yeah. So, yeah, Yorkshire grit, a big one for me.
There’s some women I’m thinking of right now who have shown real strength, especially recently. And to be yourself. I mean, a lot of the people I spend time with, a lot of the people that I love really are themselves.
They really are individuals. And that is what makes us unique, which takes me back to that saying, we’re all the same, but we’re all different.
So I hope you really enjoyed that. It was really interesting to record kind of that question and answer thing. Yeah, I’d love to hear what you think. You can find me over on Instagram at grow underscore with underscore Moxie, or you can email me at hello at Claire Cooper and Docker dot UK. I’m also on Substack and Moments of Moxie. The podcast will also be hosted over there, as well as in all the other places that you can find it.
Thank you for listening. And if you like this, press subscribe so you can get the next episode straight in your feed. I hope you’re having a really wonderful week. I’ll speak to you soon.