Rachel Green published under the umbrella of Confident Woman Australia. Until 2011, she wrote a series of interviews titled “A Confident Woman.”
Here she interviewed women to highlight their careers, and to answer a key question:
Have you ever lost your confidence?
If you have, how did you overcome that and become confident again?
In 2011, one of her final published interviews was with me, Lesley Dewar, in my new career at Stories My Nana Tells. This is an updated version the story I wrote for Rachel on being a confident woman.
Lesley Dewar – A Confident Woman
I am Lesley Dewar, a writer of children’s stories. After twenty five years as a financial planner, and forty years full time in the workforce, it is my new career. I live in Perth and am a world traveller. I am 67 years old (2011) – according to the calendar. My head tells me I am about forty and my heart says I am still twelve years old.
A frozen neck in Toronto forced me to cut my last trip short, and sent me home in a wheelchair. So, I sold my financial planning business, in mid 2009.
My Family and Authorities of the day
Both my parents have a long family history in Australia, and I was born in Geraldton. In 2011, my father was 93 and his own grandmother, Grandma Ridley, grew up in the Murchison.
Parenting in the 40’s and 50’s
I am the elder child with only one brother, and we grew up in Big Bell in the goldfields of WA in the late 40’s and 50’s. Life was very different for children then. Helicopter or Tiger parenting was unknown. Those in authority had respect and never questioned by children. We deferred to Policemen, school teachers and ministers. The lady next door or the dad down the road would give us a slap around the ears, much like our own parents, if we were out of line.
Early Education and childhood Tall Poppies
Our education was soundly based on learning the three “R’s” of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic. And, there was a high degree of competitiveness to be top of the class in mental arithmetic or spelling. At an early age, I received my introduction to the “tall poppy” syndrome. It still permeates Australian culture, today. I have a driving desire for knowledge and skill in written and verbal expression. This has led to me being “beheaded” as a tall poppy on many an occasion.
The natural advantage of being the elder
Almost before my brother was able to talk or walk, I had learned to read and write, and develop fine motor skills. By age five, I could ride a bike, and to swim, while he is three years my junior. This age gap creates a differential that is almost impossible to overcome. Especially when the elder one of you is a girl, because we do tend to mature earlier.
Marriage, motherhood, and back to work.
Getting back into the workforce did little for my self confidence.
Sex, sin and another eviction.
Later, I was secretary to the State Manager of a large multi-national firm for more than a year. My dismissal cited me as “not fitting the company image for the position”. Merely a euphemism for “you are sacked because you will not sleep with the boss from the Eastern States. Nor will you go to Rottnest for the weekend with one of our larger clients.” I still remember coming home in a state of shock. Liaisons between managers and staff were commonplace in that firm. Yet, I had never considered refusal to be a sacking offence. Oh, Mr. David Jones – where were you then?
After about three years, my ex-husband turned up unexpectedly and told me to go and collect the children. He had left his partner and I had to take them back. At the time, I had created the first Australian mobile bookkeeping service – PPTOS (Permanent, Part Time Office Services). I also had an offer from a client to expand the business and hire other women to work for me. Suddenly, I had a new business, a new car and a calculator on lease in the one hand. Three children aged 7-and-a- half and down in the other. So, I abandoned the business, sold the car, and took the calculator into my next job. In the car industry at Metro Motors.
In short order after getting the children back, my parents evicted me from the house I was renting from them. They would not condone me living there with the children while I continued a relationship of three years standing. That with the man who later became my husband.
Making the same money do twice
A week of hilarious and frantic activity followed. I could not get a State Housing Commission flat because I did not have legal custody of the children. So, I was told on the Monday. By Tuesday, I had a hearing for custody listed in the courts (without a lawyer), to be heard on Thursday. The children’s father was instructed to turn up and was served with his summons as he entered the court. I left the court on Thursday afternoon with my custody order granted, typed and ready to present. When I arrived at the SHC office on the Friday morning, they were somewhat astonished that I had achieved my objective in such a short space of time. The next morning (Saturday) a telegram arrived to say that I had been granted accommodation with my children.
With no money of my own, I had to borrow the bond and first fortnight’s rent from my Aunt Mary (my mother’s sister). In the circumstances, she thought it poetic justice. It was money lent by my Dad to one of her sons, and she was holding it to repay to the lender. We called that using the same money twice. I went straight into Perth and collected the keys to the flat. To this day, nearly forty years later, I still remember the feeling of gratitude and relief I experienced. To know I had a safe place to take my three children, who too were suffering. They all had varying degrees of personal emotional trauma from the dramatic changes in their short lives and over which they had no control.
My Fabulous Career
With two sons and a daughter to support, there was no option but to work full time. I have had a fabulous career, so far, although the hours have always been long.
*Do you remember your Avon lady leaving a note in your meter box with the latest catalogue? Saying when she will be back to collect your order? Or, today, asking you to lodge your order by email? I invented that.
*After being the first woman stock controller in a GMH Dealership, I was Australia’s first car saleswoman. I negotiated the payment of commissions for fleet sales on delivery, rather than when the customer paid the Dealership. Also, I introduced the concept of fixed costing for supply and fitting of accessories for new car sales.
*In my first year as a life insurance agent, I qualified for Membership of the Million Dollar Round Table, in 1985. I am the third in Australia to be accredited as a Certified Financial Planner. The Challenge Bank (formerly PBS) briefed me to create, implement, and manage their financial planning service, in 1986. I later established Financial Wisdom in Perth, for Prudential.
*As a practicing financial planner, I created a unique analysis programme for measuring and comparing the performance of managed funds, and I sold that research to other financial planners.
Upper Quartile was a runner up as Business of the Year in the Swan Chamber of Commerce Business Awards. Outshone that year by The Midland Railway Company, a multi-million $$ business. In another year, in a different category, Sandalford Wines put me into second place. The Swan Chamber voted me Business Person of the Year in 2003. I have been a finalist in several other business award events.
*I have been around the world three times and my hobby is flying IN helicopters. Every time I get a chance, I do it. I have flown up the Grand Canyon, over volcanoes, landing on glaciers, over rugged mountains, through the Bungle Bungles and across the skyline of Perth. I love helicopters.
Love, loss and fresh starts.
The death of my beautiful daughter Annette, in 2001, was a significant event in our lives. Followed by the loss of my husband Robbie only eight months later. For me, my sons and our extended families.
Emphysema made Robbie an invalid for eleven years before he died. My business was our sole financial support.
It is no surprise to me that I have finally commenced my full-time career as a writer. In 2009, I sold my financial planning business. A pinched nerve in my neck cut short my overseas trip and I came home in a wheelchair from Toronto. On ANZAC Day in 2011, I set off on a six-week tour of the USA and Canada, by myself. To showcase my new business Stories My Nana Tells after giving it a global launch at an Expo in Los Angeles.
Tall Poppy Bullying
I lost my confidence when I endured a massive cyber bullying attack on Twitter (in October 2010), which led me to change my Twitter name. An aggressively vocal group who regarded themselves at the “twitterati” of Perth unleashed a “tall poppy” attack on me. They thought they had the right to determine how Twitter should be used.
They attacked after the Press named me as having a high degree of influence within Twitter, during the Federal election campaign.
Their hate campaign was very personal and vicious, after my interview by Kerri-Anne Kennerley. With my new Stories My Nana Tells logo clearly displayed on national TV.
It was something that shook me to the core, because it was the most overt and public act of jealousy I have ever suffered. Several well-known users of Twitter in Perth came to my public defence.
Recovering my confidence
I overcame that loss of confidence by the support of good friends, online and in my networks. They helped reassure me that my reputation is held in high regard, and my skills are highly respected. I am also aware that, in some ways Australian culture has not progressed much in the past sixty years. There is still low regard for personal success and achievement not derived through sport. “Tall Poppies” can be an easy target for bullies and those whose own sense of self-esteem is not high.
What has helped me rebuild my confidence is making sure that I network widely offline. Continuing to build my relationships and share the experiences of my friends on LinkedIn and Twitter. Although these days, there is less of LinkedIn and far more of Facebook.
We can learn to be self confident. I was a lady who could not stand on a chair to change a light globe, such was my fear of heights. Now, I can do treetop walks through the jungles of Sabah or bungy jumps in New Zealand. This was a personal journey of creating self confidence in my own ability. Largely the outcome of using the wonderful tape “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Susan Mitchell also wrote “Be Bold and Discover the Power of Praise”. Self confidence can be taught. Learning not to be afraid of heights marks a critical time when I learned that.
She also wrote “Tall Poppies” – a wonderful book about uppity women and why they should be celebrated.
I stay confident by seeking out those who are supportive and encouraging. Those who will always give you a helping hand. Because paying it forward is a great philosophy by which to live.
© Lesley Dewar
I can only guess at the dates for this story because her website no longer exists. I am guided by my own age and that of my Dad at the time of writing. This is an updated copy of my submission to her, revised for web content.
My confidence continues to grow.
In the Winter 2013 Issue of Connect 2 Mums, Peace Mitchell followed up with an interview which clearly shows my confidence was not lacking. My interview is on page 59.
I chose to republish this article today (December 20, 2018) as a testament to my confidence. Stories My Nana Tells is now accepting customers from overseas. In addition to Australian customers, we accept orders from Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, UAE, UK and USA. Our website is Stories My Nana Tells