On Saturday, June 2, Auckland business woman Paula Gosney will be staging a women's event that she's unwittingly spent her whole life preparing for. The event, Courage, Connection and Badassary is an afternoon conference which encourages women to celebrate who we are, right now, broken parts and all.
Last year, at almost 50, the personal development coach and mother of three began questioning where women's 'inspiration' was coming from.
"There are lots of women's events but where are the events that celebrate real women for all they are, perfectly imperfect?" says the founder of The Belief School.
Paula's Courage, Connection and Badassery brand and event was formulated, which celebrates "our enoughness" and sets out to empower women.
Paula believes a lot of personal development content for women at the moment is about "fixing" them and it was this observation and her frustration with the status quo that inspired her to create Courage, Connection Badassery.
It showcases speakers such as Australian burns survivor Turia Pitt, Anika Moa and Lizzie Marvelly, among others. Paula will also be speaking, and what's surprising to know about Paula is that while, on the surface, she presents as a successful middle-class business woman and mother, she actually has quite the story to tell about how she became the person she is today.
Paula is a former drug addict who spent her twenties in Sydney nightclubs wearing leather, shooting up heroin and looking for trouble.
Life threw her a couple of curve balls as a young woman. At the age of 11 she was sent to boarding school, never to live at home again.
Then in her teens she was raped. Paula was left with a sense of shame and didn't tell anyone about what happened for 10 years.
She set upon a path of self-destruction, firstly abusing alcohol and then moving to Sydney and discovering drugs. Over time the drugs she took became harder and nastier.
Yet, the bizarre thing was that at the same time she had a successful career in sales and marketing.
People think of junkies as the dregs of society, holed up in abandoned buildings and lurking in shadows, but Paula - who considers herself a former junkie - and many of her friends were "high-functioning" with good careers and good salaries. She had one foot in each world for close to 10 years before her double life became impossible to sustain.
When Paula finally hit rock bottom in her late twenties she realised that if she carried on the way she was, she would end up dead. She packed up her flat, sold all of her belongings, and moved back to Auckland. She didn't even say goodbye to her friends.
Once home she made a point of distancing herself from anyone who was even remotely associated with drugs. She cleaned herself up, met and married her husband of 20 years, started a family and rebuilt her career.
Looking back, she says she called on many sources and mentors to clean her life up - attending every event, reading every book, and slowly building a routine of daily actions and philosophies that resulted in her creating a life without fear and shame.
The Paula of today could not be more different than the Paula of 30 years ago. But the old Paula is still very much a part of who she is today.
"At the foundation of my coaching practice is the belief that we have to own our stories and understand they are part of the incredible tapestry of who we are today. The person I am today - the wisdom, the empathy, the courage - is all because of my life, I wouldn't be this person without my past.
"It's when we start to own our stories and own our part in them that we can grow. The hardest part for me was acknowledging to myself that, yes, I was raped but I then spent 10 years doing far worse things to myself. I know I was doing the best I could at the time with what I had — as messed up as it was"
Paula believes "positive psychology" has helped her most in her journey to self-acceptance.
"The turning point in my healing was discovering positive psychology… understanding that we get what we focus on. Often we think we're focusing on the positive – getting well or finding a great partner, for example - but all we're actually thinking of is the lack of it. Women say, 'There are no men, no good men... they think they're looking for a good man but what they're reaffirming for themselves with every breath is that there are none."
She hopes that the take-outs from Courage, Connection and Badassery will be "quite simply, that women walk away feeling they are smart enough, creative enough and resilient enough to have the life they want."
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