Real Women, Real Lives
Who inspires you? Who do you use as your motivator to get things done or to make valuable changes to your life?
There are thousands of women who stimulate our need for greatness. They appear on our television and movie screens, we listen to them on the radio, or we read their encouraging stories in articles or books. It’s easy to put a celebrity on a pedestal and desire their lifestyle, skillset and strength of character, but we don’t need to turn to the glossy magazines, or the big screen, to find inspirational women who can motivate us to succeed. They live next door, work alongside us, and talk to us at the supermarket.
The Real Women, Real Lives feature highlights the incredible individuals who have succeeded on their chosen path, or turned misfortune into positivity. Ladies who have conquered illness or gone above and beyond to help others, and made a difference. Women who have stepped out of their comfort zone and launched a business, or ventures that have an impact on their environment, or community.
These remarkable women are your friend, co-worker and neighbour and I’m delighted to be able to share their stories with you.
Today, I am delighted to invite Personal Stylist, Sarah Gray to share her story.
Tell us a little about you and your story.
Funnily enough, I never envisaged a career as a stylist. In fact, if I could go back in time and tell the teenager struggling with confidence because of a severe skin condition that she’d be where I am now, I know she wouldn’t believe it!
I studied Business Admin at Uni and pursued a career in the City which led to many happy years in the ‘corporate world’. I soon learned that I loved being a people person and channelled those strengths into what I thought was my favourite job: working for an international firm as their Trainer for the UK and Scandinavia where I spent 80% of my time working face-to-face with clients, building relationships. It was a job that I loved. But it was also a job where personality and appearance counted for everything.
Like many, running my own business was a dream during my corporate years. A way to escape the rat race and enjoy the freedom of being my own boss while making a difference to others…except I didn’t know what that role would be. However, a personal move from London to Leamington Spa made me completely rethink my working life and gave me the opportunity I needed to re-evaluate.
“I think you should do the styling thing” … this was an off the cuff remark made by my sister during a conversation about my next steps. “You put outfits together so well…you shop in shops I’ve never heard of and you always look stylish” were a few more of her reasons. I’d never considered myself to be someone to admire until my younger sister chipped in with “Well, don’t you remember your 6th form days – you had a unique style and others copied you?“…what? this was a far cry from the teenage girl quietly going about her business, doing everything she could to hide her sore and broken skin. Their perceptions of me were a thousand miles away from how I viewed myself…which just goes to show how important it is to have a second opinion! And their comments were all it took to plant the seed of my career change.
In a ‘now or never’ moment I took the opportunity to step off the 9-5 treadmill and retrain. My ethos runs deep. I believe that we are all individuals and should be treated as such. Our clothing, hair and make-up should reflect our personalities and we should be proud to express ourselves for who we are.
Don’t be fooled though. I’m just like you, I juggle various areas of life alongside my work. I thrive on helping women with their confidence having learnt to build my own to where I am today.
What’s your biggest dream in life?
This is a question I always used to avoid because I never really knew what my dreams were, never mind the biggest one!
Having embarked on a personal development journey over many years, dreams become clearer for sure. I do think they change though. So, I’d say currently, my biggest dream is for our two boys to remain happy and healthy as they grow into young men and pursue their dreams.
On a business level, I would love to become a published author and be able to help many more women to build their confidence and own their personal style.
If you chose a power word for this year what would it be and why?
Ooh, I think I’d say “Achievement” – because I always set out goals for the year but somehow never seem to meet them and often feel deflated at the end of a year. This year, however, feels different. Perhaps that’s better planning or that the stars are aligned. Either way, it doesn’t matter, I have already achieved some of my goals and I continue to achieve, one step at a time. Never fast enough but then I am learning not to rush!
Who inspires you and why?
I love paying attention to people and as a result, am inspired by lots of different characters.
However, I’ll start with the person who inspired me to set up my own business: my Dad. He is retired now but he and my mum took on a business back in the late 80’s – it was tough for them but Dad always had faith in what they were doing. Dad instilled in us that business did not have to be the ruthless place it was often portrayed to be. Doing the right thing always prevails in the end. And, I continue to live by Dad’s way of thinking.
I am inspired to work closely with my clients to discover their authentic selves. In turn, I am inspired by women in the public eye who are authentic yet have a down to earth confidence for example; Mary Portas, Viv Goskrop. Dame Kelly Holmes.
Similarly, fellow women business owners who I meet daily, provide inspiration as I witness their ongoing journeys.
What, in your experience, motivates you best? Can you give an example?
Knowing that I have made a real positive difference to the wonderful women I work with, is the best motivation I can think of. It is always an honour to be asked to help and the more women I help, the more I am motivated.
I suppose what I should also mention in this answer is the fact that I want to show our boys that it is OK that mum works and that there is another way other than working for someone else 9-5.
What actions/events/environments would adversely affect your motivation? Can you give an example and how you coped?
Practice makes perfect is a phrase I lived my whole life by until relatively recently. In everything I did, I always was striving for perfection. It caused me nothing but anxiety, to be honest. I never felt good enough and I never felt I had achieved or succeeded. In the end, the adverse effects on motivation couldn’t be ignored.
With personal development over the years, I began to realise that striving for progress, not perfection, is a far better way. And as a result, I have chilled out and become so much happier!
How do you ensure that your personal level of motivation is high on a daily basis?
In all honesty, I don’t. 90% of the time, my motivation is high. My days are centered around our young family and seeing to them first. Secondly, it is to make a difference to a client’s life by helping her regain her identity. On days when I am not seeing clients, it could be something much smaller being ticked off that week’s list of actions. On that note actually, I use a FLOW system – good old pen & paper every week, to write a realistic list of items that must be achieved that week – this includes family, health, business. I write this on a Sunday evening and when I see it on a Monday morning, I am instantly motivated because my thinking has already been done!
However, I’d be fibbing if I said every week was like that. There are times when motivation is nowhere to be found. Those times are tough but have become a lot easier now that I allow myself to have those times without getting annoyed at myself! I give myself time out and do my utmost not to feel guilty about it.
To find out more about Sarah you can connect with her here: