Question 1: You’ve made your move from the city to the countryside so do you think a big move necessitates a change in personality to help you adapt to your new environment and if you do, why? and if not, why not?
As a psychologist, I believe that our personality doesn’t change too much over time. What I think tends to happen is that as we age, we become better at knowing what we like and what we can do. However, we definitely need to be able to adapt to any new environment. I definitely had to adapt to this environment coming from inner city London to Ludlow — a move that happened almost by accident really. My partner and I fell in love with Shropshire about four years before we moved here and because it was impractical to commute from London to Ludlow, we initially wrote off Shropshire. We have friends in Sussex and on the south coast and it would have been easy to commute into London when I needed to. We found a property down south, but when the sale fell through it gave us the freedom to reconsider our options. Soon after, we fell in love with a lovely house in town.
Although I had been a chartered psychologist and a business consultant since 2007, I had also been working hard to launch my own natural skin care brand. Despite winning an award, having 5* customer reviews and global magazine coverage, it become clear that it was going to take several more years and lots of investment to make it a viable business. Having moved to Ludlow a couple of other things happened: both of my parents passed away in 2017 and by the end of that year I realised that skincare wasn’t my ‘zone of genius’. I was less focused on how the products made us look, and more interested in how we feel more confident when we’re wearing makeup or when we’re using our skin care products. This led me down the track of focussing more on what increases our level of confidence, and, perhaps more importantly, what makes us feel under confident: the inner critic.
While setting up a skincare brand was a strange digression, it lead me back to my passion as a psychologist. I began to explore my own Inner Critic and how it’s tried to hold me back from achieving things. I also wanted to help lots of women feel better about themselves, but didn’t quite know how to, now that I lived in the middle of nowhere. And then I had a brain-wave! Literally, about four months after closing the skin care business I created ‘Tame Your Inner Critic’, which is a free five-day online challenge. Participants receive daily video training, challenges, downloadable worksheets, guided meditations, and can opt to join a private Facebook group where I share a lot of love and support every day during the challenge. There are over 250 women in the group who also support each other.
I hired a business coach, a techie guru and designed everything myself. I’ve since spent a lot of time delivering women’s leadership coaching and I run the Tame Your Inner Critic every quarter (next one is in June 2019). I travel a lot for work, to deliver my keynote the Impostor Syndrome and talking at business and wellbeing conferences encouraging people to tame their Inner Critic.
Question 2: Sounds like Kismet, making the move to Ludlow, would this have occurred do you think if you stayed in the London area?
I don’t think I would have pushed my online presence as quickly as I did. There is always a slight concern of being‘out of sight out of mind’ so I try and do things that are useful and help me stay relevant in the field of women’s empowerment. For example, I am a regular contributing author for a woman’s magazine, Modern Woman, and blog for an industry magazine, HR Zone. And, I have been interviewed in BBC radio recently, so I must be doing something right.
Question 3. How do people ready themselves for the emotion of dealing with loneliness? What would you say to other people when they’ve left their tribe behind? Or moved not necessarily for themselves but for their partner?
I think having very honest conversations helps. My partner is a psychologist, we talk about and over analyse things all the time, especially about how we feel. When we go on long walks we tend to talk openly and freely, which really helps. I do miss my tribe back in London but I make every effort to Skype or see them face to face when I can. I think it’s important to acknowledge that change isn’t a comfortable place to be. And we often under-estimate how long it can take to feel settled. It already feels like home here though.
Question 4: Moving is plainly an opportunity to remake yourself, to forge a slightly different path as you did. That’s great for some but for others a move here can be a bit like of falling a cliff. How do you get beyond the idea of feeling stuck?
I think it comes back to mind set. I come back to Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ” There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. We can choose how we want to see things. For most people moving is the opportunity to try something different. I would say review your skill set and draw on your talent, abilities and your experience, because you probably have a lot of transferable skills. You may not find the right job, organisation or company but you may be able to transfer in to a different industry, or even think about starting your own thing.
Also look for likeminded people around you. If your interest is Zumba then go regularly and get to know people that way. Look for support. I’m glad I found the Women In Rural Enterprise group. I go to Ludlow events as often as I can. And the other thing is to ask what can you give to your community? I began by delivering my Empower Yourself workshops in Ludlow, not knowing whether anyone would turn up, and they did. It was wonderful to meet other women and to help them in some small way. Rather than ask “What can this community offer me?” ask “What can I do for my community?” Be brave and try new things. It’s a cliché but why not step outside of your comfort zone? Try not to allow your inner critic to control how you feel or what you do there’s no fun in that!
Jess Baker, chartered psychologist, is speaking at WIRE event on Thursday, 4 April at the Rose and Crown in Ludlow and is running a one-day hideaway on helping women to “Stop sabotaging and find your focus”. Find tickets here.
Contact Jess Baker