Thea Jolly is a One of many™ certified women’s coach and a perfectionism coach. Through her work she helps mothers who are being held back by their inner critic. Although she has been in business for more than 13 years she has only recently made the decision to go all-in on her chosen niche.
In this interview Thea shares with us her experience starting out as a coach and offers some invaluable advice for coaches who are just getting started, or for people struggling with overcoming perfectionism.
Hi Thea, thanks for taking the time to share your story. In one or two sentences, tell us what your business does?
I’m a perfectionism coach. Perfectionism actually holds us back more than we think.
I work with mothers who know that their perfectionism – the harsh inner critic, impossible expectations, and need to control everything – is holding them back at work and impacting family life. It’s exhausting and counter productive. I help them reconnect with their inner wisdom and live from a place of calm and deep inner confidence.
How did you choose the name of your business?
I used to have a different business name, but I’ve got a big network who know me as me so I decided to take advantage of my name. Also it’s an unusual name which helps!
How important do you think a business name is?
I’m not sure how to answer this one. Probably I don’t think it matters as much as we think, but as a perfectionist I find it soooo hard to choose names for my business or courses.
When I first set up my company 13 years ago it took me months to choose a name, and in the end I chose Fireworks Coaching because I love fireworks and I had a tagline of Live your Life in Flying Colours. It’s a bit cheesy I know, but in the end you’ve got to choose something, and the main thing is for it to be something you like.
I think the reason my business name is now my name is because it’s simple, and easier to build a reputation if the company is just you. And makes social media easier to manage too.
What drove you to start doing this?
I had always wanted to be a mum, and while I knew that raising children would be hard I wasn’t prepared for how challenging, hard and lonely it was.
About 9 years ago I realised that what was making it worse was my perfectionist mindset – setting myself such high standards, needing to control everything so nothing went wrong, beating myself up for every little thing that did go wrong… it’s exhausting. Gradually I found how to overcome perfectionism and now help other mothers do the same.
I believe that every single mother is beautiful and amazing and my mission is to help them realise that – to acknowledge their struggle, value and affirm them and support them to understand, trust and celebrate themselves. Then they can be the mothers they want to be and make their unique difference in the world.
Who do you help, and how do you help them?
Most of the women I work with are strong, competent, loving women who are great mums, and many have good jobs or careers. But they feel like they are failing. They believe the voices in their head that say they are not good enough, not organised enough, thin, pretty, successful enough. They live in their heads, analysing, ruminating trying to do the right thing, striving – always striving – to be better. They’ve got to the point when they’ve lost faith that they can do it on their own, and are beginning to think that there must be another way.
I show them how to appreciate, understand and look after themselves. We work on upgrading their self-talk, nurturing their inner wisdom and changing their negative self-beliefs. They focus on what is important to them, and by making small changes each week, they build their confidence and inner strength.
I have a host of tools and processes I use in my coaching that help them overcome their perfectionism and be their authentic wonderful selves. It’s like shedding a suit of armour that they’ve worn for most of their life and the feeling of freedom and possibility is massive.
How did you get your first clients?
My first clients came from a business networking group for mums (Mumpreneurs) set up nearly 10 years ago in Sussex. It was a great place for support when I was first starting out and I was their Horsham Manager for 3 years which raised my visibility even more.
What impact have you been able to make through your work?
I think the biggest impact I have is to inspire my clients to become more self-compassionate. It’s incredibly powerful – and perfectionists are really, really bad at it.
What are some of the biggest myths or misconceptions you encounter?
The biggest myth is that perfectionism is helpful. It’s not. It’s counter-productive.
Perfectionism isn’t about being perfect – it’s really about not being, doing or saying anything wrong. It’s about not making mistakes, minimising risk and being in control so that no one will judge you and then (insert personal fear here) reject you, shame you, hurt you, leave you, not love you… etc. This means that we are ruled by fear. And when we are ruled by fear we shut off large areas of our brains. We shut off our love, creativity, problem solving, intuition and patience. When we come from fear we can’t be our best selves.
The other myth is that you are either a perfectionist or you are not. In my opinion it’s a spectrum and while we may sit at one place on the spectrum, the pressures, triggers and fears we are feeling at any particular moment will determine how strong our perfectionist mindset and behaviour will be in that moment. It’s not all personality. Most of it is learned behaviour and that can be unlearnt with practice.
How long have you been focused on your business / organisation?
I’ve been coaching for 13 years but only really focussed on perfectionism over the last year or so. I used to be a Happiness Coach, then an Inner Confience Coach. Then finally, I was brave enough to own my current Perfectionism niche.
What have been your biggest challenges in that time?
My biggest challenges have been my own perfectionism. Perfectionism wants to keep you small, bland and invisible, so no one will judge you. That’s not a great way to build a business! So I’ve had to do lots of inner work on myself about being comfortable in the limelight, expressing my opinions and being proud of what I have to contribute. Also, that ‘Who do you think you are?’ voice is just beneath the surface for many perfectionists, including me, so that hasn’t helped either!
What have been the proudest moments in that time?
My proudest moments are when a client makes a massive breakthrough. She finally knows in her bones that she’s OK whatever happens. Or she discovers the real reason – usually a deep limiting belief or fear – why she’s been getting the results she’s getting in her life, and can now see the way out. Or she sets boundaries around an important issue and stands her ground with a deep self-belief. Or she realises that she does have a choice and more importantly feels powerful enough to make a choice in an area of work or family life that has been intractable for so long. And always when they are kind to themselves. When they are kind to themselves I know that I’ve done my job and that everything else is a bonus because it all comes from this self-acceptance and self-compassion.
What keeps you going when things get hard?
My belief that this work is needed. Especially in our increasingly curated and perfect-seeking culture. I think perfectionism is an hidden epidemic, especially with the next generation – the pressures these children have at school and on social media. It’s a minefield. They need to be taught the emotional resilience skills that I use with my clients, at school. I believe it should be a common language in our families, schools, politics and business. Things are changing, but it’s very slow.
What sort of support do you have in place to keep you moving towards your goals?
My husband is really supportive and I’ve got a great set of entrepreneur friends who I’m close to. I’m a member of a couple of mastermind groups for accountability and ongoing support. Also, I’m an in-house coach for One of many, and we have quarterly team meeting where we get support and development. I also delegate household chores to my kids so I’m not doing it all myself!
What knowledge might you share with someone starting out?
To believe in yourself and trust yourself. Know that you aren’t going to please everyone so you have to focus on those you can most help – or those who you most enjoy helping.
It’s all an adventure and don’t take yourself too seriously! Perfectionists are good at taking themselves so seriously!
How has working with The Good Alliance helped you?
My website was designed by The Good Alliance and I love it. I get lots of positive comments about the clean and light look and feel of it, as well as what it says.
The Good Alliance also built my ‘Are You a Perfectionist?’ Quiz for me which has been such a great thing for my visibility. It’s quick and fun, but also enables people to learn about perfectionism. It is also a great tool to build my mailing list and community.
Have you edited your site since it was built (if so, what have you added and how easy was it)?
Yes, I’ve done a lot of editing. Mainly changing the copy on various pages, and writing blogs. But I also did a revamp of it all a couple of months ago where I added new pages, and changed some of the images. Most of it I can do myself, but sometimes I’ve had to call on Brett to make some small technical changes that I can’t do. He has done these as part of my maintenance plan, and it’s such a relief to have that kind of support. And when I wanted to create a Quiz for my site, the techy side got a bit much for me and so Brett did all that for me, linking it to my mailing list etc. for an additional cost, and I’m so happy with it. It’s a great tool to start the perfectionism conversation with.
Would you like to share a free resources with our readers
Try the quiz for yourself and see if you are a perfectionist.
Do you have a recent article or feature you’d like to share?
Where can people find out more about your business / organisation?
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Brett loves nothing more than getting things done. A creative at heart, he can usually be found working behind the scenes bringing ideas to life. He uses his varied skillset – which includes everything from photography to coding – to help good people do more good.