I was invited to write a blog for  sencowellbeing  . You can also find it here https://t.co/QC0ddb1lYq

Julia is based in the Midlands and is the founder director of Boundless Learning. She has held three headships across three very different communities. Her MA in education focussed on nurturing emotional intelligence and literacy has underpinned much of her development as an educator and leader, encompassing  curriculum and leadership development,  including in her roles as an SLE, an evidence lead and as a network lead for  Royal Shakespeare Company Associate schools. In her current work as a consultant, Lead Mentor, coach and supervisor she supports embedding oracy and emotional awareness at the heart of learning, develops creative approaches to embedding this in all aspects of provision for learning and ensures that wellbeing for all is a key priority in terms of enabling positive climates for learning.

This above all: to thine own self be true

This above all: to thine own self be true


What shoes are you wearing today? Your choice will have been influenced by fit, purpose, weather, and the way you feel, or how you want to present to the world in light of your understanding of context. How confidently or purposefully you step forward in them is underpinned by your unique sense of identity.

If we delve into our decision-making, who we are, our identity and the layers of complexity in how this has formed will be influencing every decision we make. While we may have developed knowledge and understanding to inform our decisions, how we take our steps, and much of how we stand in our shoes, our Leadership Presence, relies on our identity and how everything we encounter interacts with this.

Let’s consider how we shape and create new meaning in terms of what we already believe and know to be true. Who we are, or our understanding of this, is intrinsically linked to how we see the world, how we feel and experience everything. This influences what we do, our sense of purpose and how we make authentic decisions with integrity, with an understanding of ourselves, others and the environment we’re navigating.

It’s not always comfortable. As the world has undergone a range of seismic shifts over the last few years, at a global, national and personal level, I’m increasingly drawn to the concept of identity and how this is shaped by our environment, or what endures amidst the changes. Each change and challenge can unsettle what we believe to be true, but when we stop the noise and when we sit with ourselves, the question we need to ask ourselves is ‘who am I?’

I wonder if this changes and shifts, or whether our essential flavours are constant. Would the same words run through us, irrespective of what shifts around us? What do we rely on when the ground is rocky? Or maybe it makes a difference if we know the words we would hold on to. irrespective of change. If we were to choose our values, or a statement to live by, would we be prepared to tattoo this onto our life and take it with us through everything we move through? Certainly, knowing what drives us, what matters to us and what our strengths are can help us when we’re faced with difficult decisions to make.

I’ve spent a number of years exploring emotional intelligence with children and adults. What underpins this is the way we feel, the way we see ourselves and our self-concept, and the resulting sense of self-worth. This impacts on our self-esteem and confidence, as well as our motivation and how we interact with others, and has implications for what influences our perceptions.

We might explore a range of factors to express identity, such as our values and beliefs, relationships, memories and experiences, our heritage, gender, class, sexuality, appearance, age, sense of achievement or ability, or whatever we develop in terms of classification in our identity story. How we validate and recognise these define and shape how we walk in our world. This affects our choices, or metaphorically, the shoes we choose to wear and make our steps with. This can also determine our direction and speed of travel. If we don’t have a sense of who we are, we may find ourselves wandering barefoot in circles, or walking in someone else’s ill- fitting shoes, making decisions based on ‘shoulds’, influenced by others.

Knowing who we are, distinct, yet intrinsically linked to what we do, and having a clear sense of purpose can be a challenge. We can lose sight of our core, or it can become so obscured in what we do that we feel far from knowing our authentic self. We lose our alignment, and this can often lead to burn out, or loss of purpose. In extreme cases, living with toxicity can compromise our sense of identity and impact on our ability to make robust decisions without external validation. This is often where Imposter Syndrome kicks in and we lose confidence in our sense of direction, or we experience adverse physical and mental health symptoms. Spending time to connect with self, gaining a clearer sense of identity can enable us to claim back our confidence and connection with what matters.

If we can harness a clear sense of who we are and what we do, then we can free ourselves from egotistically-led decisions, or those influenced by values instilled in us by others or by a need to belong. We can gain a sense of what we absolutely stand for as ourselves. It’s here we can gain clarity in terms of our authenticity, integrity, and purpose.

This is where we go to when we need to reconnect, refresh our sense of self- worth and make our confident steps into our chosen landscapes, wearing the shoes that were made for us.

Let’s make sure we’re wearing the right shoes, make sure they’re comfortable and suited to our purpose, and we can stride confidently, singing the words of that well-known song, “I’m marching on to the beat I drum, I’m not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, THIS IS ME!” (The Greatest Showman)

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