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Emerging from lockdown social anxiety & imposter syndrome in your career – with Grace Sodzi, CEO

Guest: Grace Sodzi
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Grace is CEO of PAPER Arts CIC based in Bristol. The organisation supports young creatives between the ages of 18 and 30 to establish careers. She has a degree in Business and Entrepreneurship and set up a social enterprise aged 18 to raise awareness of the importance of mental health after suffering from anxiety and depression throughout her teenage years. She is currently co-designing a new alumni network service with young creatives in Bristol. She strongly believes in doing what you love for a living.

Do you feel like you’re not good enough at work? Do your insecurities hold you back from taking opportunities? Or perhaps you’re worried about keeping up as the world returns to some form of normality after a pandemic?

In this episode, we’ll be exploring imposter syndrome in your career, social anxiety and emerging from pandemic restrictions as the world begins to open up again. Our Special Guest is Grace Sodzi, Social Entrepreneur, Wellbeing Facilitator and CEO of Paper Arts CIC where she supports other young creatives to establish careers.

Grace shares with you what she’s learned about social anxiety and overcoming imposterism in your career, and she also discusses challenges and helpful tips for emerging from lockdowns and pandemic restrictions as the world begins to open up again after the Covid-19 disruption.

This is a delightful conversation with a heart-centred entrepreneur and a leader. Grace shows us that we can all overcome the fear of not being good enough and our fears do not have to hold us back in life…

Transcript

Hayley Stanton: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to the quiet connections podcast. Do you feel like you’re not good enough at work? Do your insecurities hold you back from taking opportunities? Or perhaps you’re worried about keeping up as the world returns to some form of normality after a pandemic. I’m Hayley. And in this episode, I’m joined by Grace Sodzi, who is CEO of Paper Arts CIC based in Bristol, where she supports young creatives to establish careers.

As somebody who has run her own social enterprise and has long been supporting people with mental health, Grace is here to talk about what she’s learned about social anxiety, overcoming imposterism in your career, and emerging from lockdown and pandemic restrictions as the world begins to open up again.

This is a delightful conversation with a young entrepreneur and a leader. Grace really is an inspiration, and she shows us that we can all overcome the fear of not being good enough and our fears do not have to hold us back in life. I’m really excited to introduce you to grace.

Welcome to the quiet connections podcast, grace. It’s so lovely to have you here.

Grace Sodzi: [00:01:28] Yeah, it’s nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

Hayley Stanton: [00:01:32] If we could just start by you sharing a little bit of your story and how you might be able to relate to people who feel so anxious and not good at all.

Grace Sodzi: [00:01:41] Yeah, I think I I’ve always sort of suffered a little bit. A little bit, a lot with anxiety for my whole life, really. And it caused quite a few issues for me when I was in my teenage years. Mainly because people didn’t really talk about it then. And we didn’t read anything about mental health in school. So I really struggled at today. I’m was lucky to get the help I needed which really turned my life around in a way I think and really inspired me to just help young people in regards to mental health recognizing the importance of it.

So then went on to start running mental health workshops. Specifically for young people to help raise awareness and, and start these conversations around mental health. And I’ve kind of always wanted to make a difference in some way around that. But also still struggled with it myself. So  it’s  interesting, it’s been an interesting time.

But yeah, I mean, that’s why it’s really, I really love Quiet connections and everything that you guys do, because I didn’t really know of any other organization that really recognizes The effects of social anxiety and really works around that. It’s something that is kind of really unique and I always feel a sense of comfort. Whenever I let read your posts and they come up on social media, I will like listen to bits of your podcasts because it’s something that I feel people don’t talk about necessarily that much.

Hayley Stanton: [00:03:11] Yeah, it’s something that we tend to want to hide away and then we don’t talk about it. But in reality, so many of us experienced it and it’s just nice to hear these stories and hear that “me too”. And that was really what changed things for me as well, realizing that actually I wasn’t broken and alone and weird, and this was something that lots of other people experienced too. So I’m really, really pleased that we’ve been able to support you in that way.

Grace Sodzi: [00:03:35] Yeah, definitely. I think you’re right as well in that for me, especially, it was definitely something that I see as very private because you know, when I was in social situations and interacting with people it, wasn’t something I talk about. I’d sort of pretend to be like how I should, how I thought I should be, but it was always then when I was by myself.

So I’d be thinking, you know? Oh, that was terrible. I really didn’t want to go to that as well. Cause it’s all in your head. It’s quite a private thing that, that people don’t talk about unless you talk about it. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton: [00:04:11] Yeah, it’s difficult. It sounds like you were trying to put the extrovert mask on and pretend like everything was okay in social situations?

Grace Sodzi: [00:04:20] Yeah, absolutely. Which is an interesting yeah, interesting choice. As the years have gone on, I’ve tried to now actually see the value in just being open and honest about the fact that it’s something I suffer with. So when I’m feeling courageous, I do say to people you know, I was really anxious about meeting you today or something like that, or being on zoom all the time. I wrote a LinkedIn post about zoom anxiety a few months ago to try and get the conversation out there, but it definitely doesn’t come naturally. It’s something I have to say, like, Most people actually really value you being vulnerable and opening up about your struggles. So it’s. Best to be real about it rather than feel like you need to pretend not to, but, but yeah, it’s much easier said than done.

Hayley Stanton: [00:05:17] I agree. And I think in my experience when I’ve done that, and when I’ve shared that I’m feeling anxious, You can see the other person or the people in the room suddenly relax. And it’s like, it’s that sense of, oh, okay. Then, you’re like me.

Grace Sodzi: [00:05:34] Yeah. Exactly. And I always try and think about if someone had said that to me, I would feel so much more relaxed and it would just be so nice.

Hayley Stanton: [00:05:44] So I love that and I totally honor your courage for doing that. Okay. So tell us what you’re doing now.

Grace Sodzi: [00:05:52] Now  I’m CEO of a community interest company that’s based in Bristol. And we support young creatives to establish careers. I sort of was brought in at a bit of a crossroads for the organization really and was tasked with providing a new strategy and essentially a bit of a new lease of life for the organization.  Paper Arts, which is the organization, it was originally set up in 2014. And since then it’s gone through quite a few transitions. And obviously the landscape has changed since then. And especially, I think particularly in this past year with the pandemic the issues for young creatives. And young people’s employment generally has really been exacerbated.

So I’ve kind of got this this year, I guess, to focus on the research and development of a new service that we can provide to kind of meet that new need. So yeah, it’s, it’s an exciting time. I’m bringing in new ideas, making them happen and supporting young creatives, which is something I’m really passionate about.

Hayley Stanton: [00:06:57] Yeah. That’s so much that I want to talk about with you. Where do I start? I wonder,  as an introvert who experienced  social anxiety, what it’s like to take on that kind of role?

Grace Sodzi: [00:07:10] Yeah. It’s I think. It definitely challenges the way I view leadership,  especially when I sort of took on the role and now I have to say, oh, I’m CEO.

It seems very sort of, you know, Alan Sugar, go be an apprentice, which I absolutely am not. And so that’s been really interesting actually recognizing my own views on those roles. Trying not to feel like I have to fill those shoes, but to actually be myself.  To be honest, I listed, when I, when I first came into the role, what does a CEO do?

Like what are the actual jobs that, that involves? And then basically said to myself, I can do that. I can do that. I can do that. I can do that. So I can do the job!  And so I tried to ground myself in that whenever I feel a little bit overwhelmed and just recognize the value in being me and that I do bring things to the table. And there’s certain aspects of my personality that are actually really good for this type of role. That’s brilliant.

Hayley Stanton: [00:08:16] I love that idea of just breaking down the role and then seeing bit by bit, you know, can I do this? Yes, I can. I think it’s really easy to look at the title and be like, I can’t do that. It’s such a big, powerful role. And I know I, this was sort of my experience as well. Setting up quiet connections. And I had this idea in my head that we have to be very extroverted and outgoing and chatty in order to be successful in a business. And, you know, actually going through the process I had, so really look at those beliefs and challenge them. And I came up with lots and lots of examples of very introverted reflective, quieter leaders. And that really helped me to go, okay, I’ve got  lots and lots of quieter qualities that can really, really support me in this role. Yeah. It’s, it’s just a simple reframe. So I’m really glad you’ve been able to do that.

Grace Sodzi: [00:09:07] Yeah. Yeah, me too. I think I needed to, to be honest, otherwise I would’ve really struggled. But I think what also helps is that actually a lot of the young creatives that I’ve seen or worked with in the past I don’t know if there’s something about like being creative, but lots of introverts are also very creative, so actually value in me understanding what it’s like to be an introvert within this space. I can think like actually, what are all the barriers that would stop me attending that I need to think about? Because I know there’ll be a lot of people who feel similarly to me. And so actually there’s real benefit to me understanding that so that they can access the support as well.

Hayley Stanton: [00:09:52] Yeah, absolutely. And I know that there’s lots of research around introverts and extroverts are very good at leading different types of teams. So if you’ve got a very proactive creative team an introvert is definitely the right person for the role,

Grace Sodzi: [00:10:08] that is good to know, I’ll tell my team that I am actually perfectly placed to lead you guys just saying, okay.

Hayley Stanton: [00:10:18] So we’re at a really strange time and we’re just sort of re-emerging from this pandemic and all the restrictions that have been in place. How are you finding that?

Grace Sodzi: [00:10:30] Yeah, I think I’m finding it more difficult perhaps than I thought I would. I think it’s strange. There was those, this whole atmosphere of Oh, I can’t wait until things get back to normal. And the idea of, you know, when they mapped out the various steps and how the restrictions would be lifted gradually, it was like, oh, that’s ages away. And by the time we got there, like, oh, I’m so glad that this is happening. Without realizing that, you know, being told for a year that you have to stay at home socially distanced from everyone. You know, that has, that takes it toll a lot and it feels like there’s a whole extra level now to my social anxiety, that isn’t just about socializing, but just generally being around people in like closer proximity or even not even just when there’s lots of people around, because we’ve been used to not busy streets not busy shops for the past year. So I’ve kind of had to recognize, just recognize that and be kind to myself I suppose, and set realistic goals.

So I think the first time I realized this was the first Friday when I think hospitality was open outside and me and my partner decided  let’s go out for dinner. Be really nice. So we didn’t book anywhere cause everyone’s booked up. I was like, that’s fine. Let’s just go see what’s out there. Just walked into town. And it was packed. Couldn’t find anywhere to sit, just lots of people around. And I just couldn’t deal with it. I really, really struggled and got very stressed and pretty emotional to be honest about that, which, which was quite a shock because I was like, you know, this is just what used to be like when it was normal. Why am I feeling this way? But actually like, My partner is really good at this. Actually, he was just like, you know, it’s okay. Like, I think he understood that it is overwhelming and extra overwhelming for me. But that’s was okay. So that was almost like, okay. That that’s a bit much for now. So then I kind of got back and decided. I’m just going to work within my constraints at the minute, which may be, is just to book a table. You know, if I want to go and eat, just maybe do that. And then I know that there’s a place for us to set when we go in that someone will show us too.

So I can get used to the idea of being around people again and being around busy-ness and just have to focus on that one aspect of it. So it’s kind of been like, okay, actually break it down to baby steps just again, and just take it easy.

Hayley Stanton: [00:13:17] Yeah. Yeah. I really value what you’re saying there. I think that there is this expectation within us that we will just go back to how we were before the pandemic hit. And I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think for all of us our  levels of comfort have changed and  we’ve been talking to people from behind screens and not interacting with people face to face very much. We’ve lost a lot of that resilience for the stimulation that we get. And interactions are really the most stimulating thing that we can have. And I think when we’re more introverted, Socially anxious or highly sensitive, this particularly is going to affect us going back out there. And we kind of have to train our bodies gently to deal with the stimulation, again, all this noise and everything that we’re going to see rather than just someone’s face and shoulders on a screen.

Grace Sodzi: [00:14:12] Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t think I could do a group right now.   One-to-one is okay. And that’s what I’m comfortable with because it’s just you two and you can kind of chat. Whereas  I think if I met up with a group at the minute, that would be quite challenging which I’m actually doing for the first time this week. So we’ll see, we’ll see how that goes. Because that’s even more of the stimulation, cause you’re kind of focusing on different people And yeah, just so you know, that’s more people to kind of think about, “oh, what are they thinking about me now? What do they  think about, what I just said” so yeah, it’s just taking it slowly and, and yeah, you’re right, just getting used  to that stimulation again.

Hayley Stanton: [00:14:50] Yeah. And with what you said about, we’ve been told to stay away from people, you know, connecting with people is dangerous, then that’s really put us in this self-protective mode and we’re going to be hypervigilant coming out, and it does feel like it’s all opened up very quick.

Grace Sodzi: [00:15:06] It does. Yeah. It’s weird to now sort of measure the risk ourselves or particularly with, from next week, you can meet with people in doors and sort of it’s up to you to decide whether you want to socially distance from your family and friends.

But  it doesn’t feel like anything’s changed. I can’t feel it’s like this thing is still there actually. Like, it doesn’t feel like suddenly everything’s okay. Again. And I’m not sure whether that’s something that we’re going to have to work on, like internally, that we’ll get there eventually, or whether it is an external thing. Maybe it’s a mixture of both probably. Yeah, it’s really complex. Obviously we’ve never been through a pandemic before, so it’s a whole new challenge.

Hayley Stanton: [00:15:47] Yeah, definitely.  So what has helped you then you’ve spoken about basically taking comfort zone stretches and starting off with the like easiest thing and then working our way up to groups. So what else has helped you to move through this? You know, opening up again?

Grace Sodzi: [00:16:06] I think I’m leaving a lot of time to actually, like more time than I would to recover from social situations which is maybe now a response to a situation.  Last week, I sort of planned out my diary and had quite a lot of  different social things happening on the Thursday and the Friday. Well it felt like a lot for me. But I thought, you know, oh, these are all great things. Like, it’ll be fun to do, you know, to go out for drinks again, or to have meetings in-person and all that stuff. But  I realized then that actually I just need more time off to recover from meetings, spend with myself and kind of re-energize because by the time I got to the Friday evening I had to cancel a meeting. Cause I was just like, I can’t do another one.  I’m just so, so drained. And then to be honest, I needed the weekend to sort of regroup and spend time by myself, just doing things that I enjoy; going on walks, sleeping, all of that stuff. And so I’m definitely keeping that in mind now, moving forward just again, as we get used to seeing people in person just make sure that I don’t overload my diary with seeing people and give enough time to just look after myself.

Hayley Stanton: [00:17:32] Yeah, I think that’s a lovely tip in general. We can often overload ourselves and think, oh, I should be able to keep up with this person or that person. And not really honouring our natural way of being. So that’s a lovely, lovely thing.

Grace Sodzi: [00:17:47] Yeah, definitely. And I think, I almost feel I’ve struggled with it because being in this job, a lot of it is about meeting new people, like forming partnerships. And obviously in an ideal world, you’d have as many of those as possible so that people know about you and what you’re doing. And you’re building those connections, but it’s not sustainable for me to have five days packed for the meetings and have to be really strict with myself now and be like, okay, two or three things max a day which does mean that my diary then gets booked up. I just have to try and accept that and be like, no, that’s fine. This is for the sustainability of the business. For the organization, I need to have my mental health in check. And if that means spacing out meetings, then I’m just going to have to do that because I’m no use if I’m like burnt-out by the second week of the month.

Hayley Stanton: [00:18:47] No, that’s such a good tip and I’ve actually done the same thing. I’ve just started going back to face-to-face coaching in the last couple of weeks and I’ve changed my booking system so that it’ll only allowed two or three people to book rather than  several people throughout the day. So. I’ve also realized that I need to really manage the amount of people that I see and have that downtime as well. So I imagine there’s lots and lots of other people who are in the same situation with that. Shall we talk a little bit about imposter syndrome?

Grace Sodzi: [00:19:18] Yeah. I mean I could probably talk all day about it, but then we should, I think  the first thing to say is that actually A lot of the time, I don’t recognize it. And there’ve been a few times where I’ve had conversations with people where I’ve just felt like, you know, I can’t do this thing, or I’m really worried about this meeting and they’re just like, This is just imposter syndrome. And then when they recognize it, I’m like, oh, okay that’s what this is. So it’s not just me being flawed. It’s just the imposter syndrome.

Hayley Stanton: [00:19:49] Yeah. So for anyone who doesn’t know about imposter syndrome, how would you explain that to them?

Grace Sodzi: [00:19:57] Ooh, how would I explain it? So it’s just, when you feel as if you maybe don’t have the right to be in a position or doing a task; that you’ve sort of winged it or you are winging it you don’t necessarily have the skills. Maybe you’re sort of people are believing in you, but you’re not really sure why. And you think maybe you’re just having them on or you’re wearing this mask. No one actually those what’s going on and, and how rubbish you are beneath that.

Hayley Stanton: [00:20:36] Yeah. Waiting to get found out and kicked out. Yeah, I’ve been there too.

Grace Sodzi: [00:20:44] Yeah. Yeah, I try and take comfort in the fact that it seems to be something, a lot of people Suffer with particularly women I’ve learned. So it’s another thing that’s a really good thing to talk about rather than worry about yourself and just be like, is this something you suffer from and how do you deal with it? Cause it is common or at least that’s what I’ve found at the minute.

Hayley Stanton: [00:21:06] It is. Yeah. I think about 70 to 80% of people experience imposter syndrome.

Grace Sodzi: [00:21:11] Wow.

Hayley Stanton: [00:21:12] It’s the same in men and women I believe so it’s a huge thing. And again, it’s something we feel ashamed of, so we hide it away. And we’re just like in this job going, I’m going to get found out. I’m going to get found out. Was there an experience where this kind of really came up for you?

Grace Sodzi: [00:21:29] Yeah. Well, to be honest, getting this job because it was an interesting situation. The initial job that I got was actually as operations and project manager. And then when I joined there was quite a quick change of team just cause other opportunities came up and so we ended up having to, well, I ended up having to recruit a new team Basically back to the start. And the idea was initially that I would recruit as well for someone senior to me that would take on that CEO role. But actually a fundraising consultant I was working with at the time just said  “you’ve got the expertise, you’ve got the skills. Why don’t you just go for it? I mean, it makes sense.” And so I did, and I went to our board and sort of submitted the proposal and all of this fancy stuff to basically say, I can take on the role . And obviously they accepted my proposal and here I am now. But it’s a weird, because it wasn’t a traditional recruitment.

I was technically interviewed by them, but it, it didn’t feel the same. I felt like, oh, maybe they’ve just given me this job because I don’t know, like who even knows?! this is the thing you struggle to think, why, why else would they have given it to me if they didn’t think I could do it? But it was definitely one of those moments where I was just like, Can I do this? Is  this just because there’s no one else here that could do it possibly like I’m a last resort type thing. Which is why I then did that exercise of sitting down and just looking at the task and actually realizing. I can do each of these different things.

Hayley Stanton: [00:23:06] Yeah, I think that’s a really valuable exercise to do.  Yeah. I mean, why would the board put the company at risk by putting someone in a position of CEO, if they didn’t believe that you could do the job? And the same with any kind of recruitment really. My biggest experience was when I got onto the school for social entrepreneurs, startup costs, and it’s, you know, it’s a really challenging process to get onto the course. I was interviewed by Sally Heard, the CEO of the school of social entrepreneurs and Cornwall, and Then they do like a Dragon’s den type interview, which I was like, you know, red faced and anxious as hell, but I got through it. And then I was offered this position on the course. And I was really excited for about five minutes and then suddenly I was like, I’m going to be Sally Heard’s biggest mistake.

Grace Sodzi: [00:24:00] Yeah. Yeah. Definitely, I know this feeling.

Hayley Stanton: [00:24:06] What was really interesting for me. And you might’ve come across the same, was that when I was on the course and I was looking around at everyone and thinking, oh, they’re doing amazing stuff and I’m not up to their standard, but eventually started having conversations about this and they were like, oh, we were thinking the same thing about you.

Grace Sodzi: [00:24:25] Yeah, definitely. I think it’s weird when you hear other people’s perspectives, but that’s another reason why talking to people is so great. It’s so strange. Sometimes I do wonder, I wish I could see myself through other people’s eyes? And in fact, that’s something my sister said to me when I was job hunting, you know, last summer, and I was really struggling in the  pandemic. It’s not easy to get a job at the moment. And I just felt, like I was sort of rubbish. And she was just like, oh, I wish you could see yourself through everyone else’s eyes because I clearly don’t see that version of myself and I think that’s definitely something that’s really really good to remember when you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, actually think  what does everyone else see? They don’t see everything that goes on in your head. Do they? So what, what would they see?

Hayley Stanton: [00:25:15] That’s so true. And we do tend to focus in on the things that we believe in negative about ourselves, things that we think we can’t do, past failures or mistakes that we think we’ve had. And other people just don’t see that they tend to focus more in, on the good stuff, but, you know, we’re our own worst critics, but we just have a really poor self-assessment of ourselves.

Grace Sodzi: [00:25:40] We do. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton: [00:25:42] So what kind of advice would you be giving to someone else who’s dealing with imposter syndrome at the moment?

Grace Sodzi: [00:25:49] Yeah. So, I mean, I suppose I would say first that you’re obviously not alone and it’s definitely a thing. So try and remember that when you’re having those thoughts sort of you’re not good enough, someone’s gonna find you out, that recognize it as imposter syndrome. It’s not, it’s not just you thinking that, it is a thing that people suffer from. I find that helpful because it’s sort of, for me, it’s me, that I can kind of see recognize it. And in a way sort of compartmentalize those thoughts as, okay, this is imposter syndrome.

And. I always find it helpful to get feedback and just support from friends, family,  work colleagues to kind of counteract those thoughts and just double check and be like  how is this, how am I doing would you say, to stop me just getting inside my own head too much and to get those other opinions so that I can try and understand these different perspectives.

Also I’m pretty sure what I do a lot of the time, it’s just watch Ted Talks. Like a hundred percent that’s one on imposter syndrome, what it means, and definitely finding other people on the internet who suffer with the same thing is so reassuring. So yeah, there’s lots of resources out there. I’m sure that can help.

Hayley Stanton: [00:27:04] Yeah. So there’s the fact that you’re not alone. Recognizing that you’ve got this little imposter monster in your head telling you lies and getting some feedback to counteract that and then really finding out more about how your brain is actually working through Ted talks and things.

Grace Sodzi: [00:27:19] Yeah. I would just say that something I find really helpful, which  someone gave me this tip was at the end of each week or each day or however often to just write a list of your accomplishments. So everything that you’ve done. And so for me, this is everything from like a meeting, or it will be today, be a podcast or to like sending off a difficult email or to actually completing tasks, like I’ve designed a workshop or whatever. And that really helps me when I feel that imposter syndrome, because I can literally look back on the list and say, look at all these things I’ve done.  That was actually quite a lot. And you so quickly forget all of that. And you forget what you’ve achieved. And so, and it’s often the little things that actually amount to the big things. So Yeah. That’s, I’d say that’s a tip to recognize, help recognize what you’ve accomplished and all the positive things that you do.

Hayley Stanton: [00:28:20] That’s so good. I think that’s a really good way to start boosting your confidence as well and training your brain to focus in on the positive things rather than the things we think are negative.

Grace Sodzi: [00:28:30] Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And then when you feel, cause I’ve definitely done that where I’ve sort of had a look at those and gone into a meeting or any sort of social situation, really feeling like  myself and feeling confident. And then it’s just such a nice feeling when you feel that. It’s definitely something that’s relatively new to me in the past few years , but yeah, it’s so great when you get that little taste of confidence.

Hayley Stanton: [00:28:55] Yeah. What are the key things that you would like to share with anyone struggling with social anxiety right now?

Grace Sodzi: [00:29:02] I guess. It’s so what I’ve always found really helpful is that I have a creative outlet which for me, is writing. And then they, different people will have that different outlets that kind of help them precess where they’re at and things. And I really like being creative and particularly writing because I can sort of sit back and reflect on how I’m feeling and the emotions, and it really helps me process them. But also then I end with the really beautiful piece of writing or poetry that otherwise I wouldn’t have produced had I not actually been struggling with my emotions or feeling down.

And so I really like that sort of creating something beautiful out of a really difficult emotion. And it also helps me recognize the fact that you don’t always have to be up and super happy that actually there are like benefits to counteracting that, and sometimes you do feel down and that’s just a normal part of life rather than feeling like this is everything’s going absolutely wrong. And definitely  if you’re feeling down, as I have done in the past, for a long time. And it goes on for weeks and maybe even months then that definitely that’s like when you need to get help and extra support. But when it’s just the sort of fluctuating, sometimes I just have short sort of depressive periods or particularly after I’d been super anxious for a while. I try and create through that and just write and it really helps me. So I think I just say have a look around and find potentially an outlet for you. Whether that’s something creative. I obviously am really passionate about creative things so I’ll always preach about that. Or it could be anything else.  I would definitely recommend that to anyone that has sort of struggled with their mental health at times.

Hayley Stanton: [00:30:59] Yeah. What you’re saying there reminds me of completing the stress cycle. So we have the stresses in our daily life all the time. And it’s actually more than we’re designed to handle as a human being. And then we have this internal stress that we feel, but we need to do something with it because. Even when the stressor has gone away, our bodies don’t know that the stress has gone and it stays within us. So we need to do something.

And for someone that might be getting out and going for a walk or doing some exercise. For you, it’s obviously creating and writing and you know, it might be meditation or something. But it’s finding what works for you that way to kind of really process that stress and allow it to be released from your body.

Grace Sodzi: [00:31:45] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think with that comes it can help you accept when you do have those difficult feelings. Cause I feel like a big issue with mental health is the whole shame aspect of it. And either  just feeling ashamed or maybe you feel a bit weak for feeling this way and that you can’t cope with the normal stresses of life. But like you said,  we’re exposed to more than we should especially in the world of social media all the time. So actually sometimes it’s just a natural response is that you will feel low, we’ll get stressed and accepting that I think. Is actually really helpful. And just that classic be kind to yourself, which as someone who’s really struggled with mental health in the past. Every time I have to remind myself of that, it’s never inherent. It’s always my go-to is to sort of be really hard on myself and You know, pull up your socks, get back on it. Like, why are you complaining? All this stuff. Every time, like without fail, I have to tell myself, be kind to yourself. Almost like be kind and then be even kinder    works for me.

Hayley Stanton: [00:32:56] Oh, I love that. Be kind and then be even kinder. That is so good for like those of us who do have that harsh inner critic.

Grace Sodzi: [00:33:04] Yeah. Yeah, it’s a tricky one. And then  thinking about what I would tell a friend to do, I always find super, super interesting that perspective because I’m a very caring person and cause I’m such an advocate of mental health. That’s always a priority when I’m talking to friends or they’re talking to me about theirs and so I definitely need to check in with myself every so often and be like, what if I was my friend, what would I be telling them to do. That’s when I come up with like, oh, okay, I’d be telling them to do this. I just find it really helpful.

Hayley Stanton: [00:33:40] That is really helpful getting out of your own head. Sometimes it can help to even picture yourself as a child and then talk to yourself as if you are that child that just needs that support and reassurance. It’s another nice way of doing it, but definitely I think, especially right now, emerging from this pandemic, with all these restrictions and things, we need to be really, really self compassionate with ourselves. Just accept the things are going to be hard. It’s going to feel rough like you were saying. And yeah. Yeah. Slowly.

Grace Sodzi: [00:34:09] Yeah, absolutely. And like, recognizing that we haven’t we haven’t lived through a pandemic like this before. And so there’s no like normal reaction or way to transition back. I think whatever you’re experiencing and however it’s challenging for you is totally valid and that’s fine. Just do what works for you and kind of get back to wherever it is  you want to get to in your own time as nothing that you need to  measure yourself against .

Hayley Stanton: [00:34:42] Okay. So one final question. If you were to send a message back to little Grace, what would you be telling her?

Grace Sodzi: [00:34:53] Ooh.  How little Grace are we talking?

Hayley Stanton: [00:34:55] How little would you like to send a message?

Grace Sodzi: [00:34:59] Okay. Say maybe like ten-year-old grace. Yeah. I think, I would say things just the things are going to get really challenging and that you will have a tendency to struggle with your mental health and it’ll just make your life a little bit more challenging. But that that’s okay. And actually it’s something that you’ll learn a lot through. And through the experiences that you go through that will actually make you really strong as a person and able to deal with all the issues life throws at you. And just to not be ashamed of the fact that you find certain things difficult that maybe other people don’t, there’s like plenty of value in that. And, and how you can then help people through your personal experiences. So yeah, I’d just say don’t worry too much about… don’t worry too much. That’s such a classic. Maybe I wouldn’t say that. But just like recognizing the value in you, just as you are.

Hayley Stanton: [00:36:04] Yeah. I like that. And there’s a little bit of reassurance there that there is a bit of a gift within the struggle, which kind of makes it more bearable.

Grace Sodzi: [00:36:13] Yeah, definitely. I always think that, I think yeah, there’s always some sort of good whether that’s helping, being able to relate to people so you can help them. I think that’s been the main one for me. And being able to use that. Use my struggles as an opportunity to start conversations that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have been started.

Hayley Stanton: [00:36:33] Fantastic. Okay. It’s been a right pleasure talking to you today and so lovely to see your face again. Thank you so much for coming in and sharing your story.

Grace Sodzi: [00:36:43] You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

Hayley Stanton: [00:36:47] Thanks for listening to the quiet connections podcast. If you would like to get in touch with Grace Sodzi. You can find her at paperarts.org.uk. Please do remember to subscribe to this podcast so that you can hear from all of the amazing speakers we have lined up for you, who all have lots of messages of encouragement and tips to help you with anxiety. .

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