During August and September we are focussing on how to balance being big hearted and generous with looking after yourself and prioritising your own needs. In light of this, I decided to interview a number of inspiring people from different walks of life to seek their views on how to prioritise yourself, your needs and desires.
Today I am excited to have Jennifer Armstrong from The Beauty Bank on the blog to share how you can be big hearted and generous, but still prioritise your needs, desires and dreams. Jen juggles so many balls – she is the founder of a not-for-profit that provides luxuries to those in need, a mum, a student, and a survivor of domestic violence. As a woman on a mission to help others and change the world, I couldn’t wait to read what she had to say on this topic. I hope you love her responses, honesty, and value as much as I do.
Many readers juggle lots of balls and are so busy caring for others, that sometimes taking care of themselves doesn’t come as naturally. What advice would you give those who are big hearted and generous, but need to learn to balance this with prioritising their own needs and desires?
Figure out the things that get you excited in life and then figure out how to meld them together (easy right?!).
My hard and fast rules are: kids first, then my studies, and then The Beauty Bank, oh and then me!!
I still struggle with finding/making time for myself but I also do what I love and after a few years of hard work, am now starting to see the rewards.
As well as being a full-time Mum and student and Beauty Bank founder and volunteer, I recently started working part time for the Cronulla Sharks as their Stadium Operations Coordinator. I love this aspect of sport and have been fortunate to obtain a job with a club that is committed to changing the culture of football and who are also passionate about education and community involvement. The Beauty Bank is now their signature charity partner and I am on the way to combining my professional ambitions with my social responsibilities.
I have also learnt the hard way to set boundaries and find a balance. Don’t say yes to everything just because you feel obligated. Be selective with your time but at the same time make the most of every minute. Unless there is a game day, I do absolutely no study, work or charity on the weekends or before my children go to bed at night. I don’t feel guilty that they go to childcare during the week as they learn and enjoy it so much and the time we do spend together is of real quality and free from distraction.
My one guiding rule is to roll with it and seize opportunities that are offered to you. If they are not offered, go out and make them for yourself. I was afraid of failure for too long but if the worse thing that can happen is that someone says no, well that’s better than never knowing!
Given how big hearted and generous they are, many readers dream of becoming ‘world changers’. What tips would you give them on how to be ambitious, motivated and driven in making their dreams become realities – whilst also nurturing and taking care of themselves?
Whatever you do, be passionate about it and take calculated risks. Also remember that every little bit helps, you can change the world one small good deed at a time. I started by washing clothes for the charity that helped me, Dandelion Support Network, before starting The Beauty Bank. Surround yourself with like –minded, inspiring and dynamic people. The Beauty Bank would not be moving in the direction it is if it wasn’t for people like this, especially Denise who is the backbone of our group.
Understand that it will take hard work and some failures to get to where you want to be, where’s the sense of accomplishment if you don’t sweat a bit first?! I also try and remind myself to not pre-judge people and to be open minded about everything. Simple things like smiling at others also makes your world a much better place and costs nothing.
I have learnt that unless you have clear priorities that you will accomplish nothing! Yes you will make some personal sacrifices or trade-offs but as long as you have a clear idea of what you want to ultimately achieve then you won’t mind missing out on that party, that TV show or sometimes even sleep!
It sounds corny but once you start making time to help others the knowledge that you are in fact making a difference is extremely rewarding – much more than a mani/pedi. From a work and uni perspective, the rewards for hard work are the subjects you pass and the associated opportunities you are offered thanks to your passion and dedication. As I write this, I am sitting in a hotel room in Manila, Philippines, as I was selected to attend Harvard University’s conference on International and Asian Relations. This is a great opportunity for me to learn from world leaders in their fields but at the same time I am going to treat myself to a couple of hours by the pool!
How do you personally ‘find time’ for yourself and what do you do with that time?
This is still something I struggle with! I love my kids, my study, my charity and my job so I am very lucky to be enjoying what I do every day. Despite this, deadlines, assignments and two toddlers can get you down from time to time!
Every uni break I do make a day to just do nothing and not feel guilty about it. I turn my phone on silent and refuse to look at any emails or work and spend the day either lying on the couch watching trashy shows or wandering around op shops. I also find painting rooms and upcycling things very relaxing!
What books and/or resources would you recommend to readers that will help them identify their needs, desires and big dreams– and/or ‘find time’ and prioritise them? (Please feel free to include any of your own resources where relevant)
The only books that I have read in the last few years have been textbooks!
I have relied very much on my domestic violence counsellor Penny who has given me an outlet to vent my stress, frustrations and fears. Having a capable resource like her has empowered me by helping me rebuild my sense of worth and confidence after it was shattered through my experiences as a victim of domestic violence. There is no shame in having an impartial (make sure they are qualified) third party counsellor to help you through your moments of self -doubt and help guide you to the next chapter of your life.
If it wasn’t for Penny, I honestly feel that I would still be in an abusive relationship as I wouldn’t of had the self-belief, direction and determination to realise that I deserved better and could achieve anything I wanted to if I put my mind to it. I now consider myself a survivor.
Jennifer Armstrong, Founder of The Beauty Bank
The Beauty Bank – Proving life’s little luxuries for those in need.
The whole idea of The Beauty Bank came from me receiving an anonymous gift of ‘fancy’ body wash three Christmas’s ago. I had just left my violent husband with nothing but my ten month old daughter, very few possessions and I was six months pregnant.
I was scared, broke and didn’t know where I was going to live or how I was going to cope. It may sound silly but that body wash made me feel appreciated and luxurious and gave me strength when I felt like giving up.
Three and a half years later I have two beautiful children, have two TAFE diplomas and one year from completing my University degree with great marks and am part of the Advanced Business Leadership program at UWS.
It’s still a tough road ahead but my children and I are safe and it had a lot to do with random people donating something that to most of us would seem inconsequential.
The Beauty Bank distributes it’s gift packs through multiple organisations that aid and assist women (and men) in need and all clothing and makeup is dispersed via numerous women’s refuges, organisations across Greater Sydney, and since it’s inception two years ago has assisted around 2,000 women and men.
As a survivor of domestic violence my motto is stolen from a poem, ‘YOU WILL NOT DEFINE ME, I WILL DEFINE ME’. It reminds me that every day is an opportunity to not only better yourself, but to help others in anyway you can despite any obstacles.