Compassionate Conversations with Ailsa Robson
Business, Motherhood, and all the hats.
Carly Thompson Barry and I have a history of instantly dropping into meaningful conversation and this one is no different. We discuss self worth, motherhood, holding high expectations of ourselves, and the reality of running your own business.
Carly wears an incredible array of hats, including leading the SA Woman Australia business network and raising her three children. Learn how sharing your own stories of imperfection can compassionately ripple out to others.
We had a beautiful conversation and reflected on various topics including:
- Self Worth
- Body Image
Find out more about Carly:
Click here to read transcript of the interview...
Hello, I’m Ailsa Robson, and I love to listen to people’s life stories. I’m a psychotherapist and someone who’s recognized that striving for perfection doesn’t make you happy. I now advocate for adding more compassion to your life while simply doing the best you can. This has brought me far more happiness and ripples out to those I love. I know through conversations with lots of interesting folks that they’ve also been exploring how perfectionism shows up for them. And today, I can’t wait to chat with the lovely Carly Thompson-Barry. Hello, Carly. Thanks for joining me.
Thanks for having me.
I’m so grateful for your time and your willingness to share with me, I know that as we’re talking about perfectionism, we both have a little bit of illness that’s been in our families and
Joys of parenthood.
That’s right. That’s right. I’m really pleased that you’re here. And we will just run with anything that appears along the way during this interview.
As you’re talking, I’m hearing elephants going down the hallway, which would be my boys. So there’s the imperfect, straight up. Well, I’m really honored to be here.
Yeah. Well, thank you, you are my very first interviewee. You’re the first person that I’m interviewing for this series of conversations about perfectionism, that will be turned into podcasts. So I’m so grateful. I’m really grateful. You have so many roles that you fill, in your life. And my understanding is of Carly, the founder of SA Woman, Australia. And I’d just love to know a little bit about what, what roles fill your days.
I feel like I change my hat a lot. And it depends on what day of the week he is. So obviously, in addition to SA Woman, so SA Woman is all about supporting, connecting and showcasing South Australian women in business. So through that I mentor a number of women, I connect to them through events, and that sort of thing. But I also have three kids. So the mum role is very important to me, and also takes up a considerable amount of my time, I think I totally underestimated the jump from two to three and how much more work and washing that was going to be. I’m also a wife. So, married to my husband, obviously, if I’m a wife, but we’ve been together since we were 16, which is going to be 20 years this year. So that’s another significant part of my life. And then we also have another business. So we have a personal training business as well that I helped my husband in a bit too. So not every day, he does the bulk of that. But there’s some days where I’m you know, I’m getting up in the morning and I’m got my SA Woman hat on and then it’s mum hat, and then I’m into personal training mode. And then it’s back to the mum hat and then it’s back to SA Woman hat. And then there’s just more – I feel like I have a whole hat rack at home of things that I’m constantly changing, to do. And sometimes I think because there’s so much I can feel like I guess I’m talking about the imperfect and the perfect side of things. But I don’t always do all of those things really well. I do the best that I can.
Well, that’s that’s it, the best you can is is all that you can really ask of yourself. Before we delve into that, I’ve just loved getting to know you over the last couple of years. In your words, what’s our connection?
What I love the most about whenever we get together, and it’s something that – I struggled a lot with small talk, so I can’t do the small talk, how’s the weather, I want to get to know people. I want to delve deeper. I want to find out more about them. I want to hear their philosophies and the things that they know so that I can learn from them. And I feel like every time we get together and have a chat, it goes deep. Like there’s always just so much we can cover we could sit chatting for hours. I especially, you know I’m thinking after the SA Woman awards a few years ago, and I came up to your apartment and we had that chat like we, I think we both probably could have just sat there It was a lovely view too, but also just sitting there chatting, just about, you know, life and you know, the things that resonate with both of us, particularly when it comes to bodies and that side of things as well. But also, I always feel like I learn so much from you whenever we talk as well, about myself and about how to engage with other people, too.
That is lovely and right back at you, I’ve been really fortunate to have entered into the family that is SA Woman, Australia, and I was very grateful that you allowed me the opportunity to become a connector in a couple of regions, you know, sharing the roles.
Yes, yes, you did hills and south for a while there.
I am a people-person I like hanging out. You know, me.
You did amazing.
It was it was so easy to work with the other connectors, and to meet the other women in business, I think because you’ve just established such an authentic network of women in business, and we’re all about collaboration, not competition, and I think the imperfection, the idea of imperfection, is probably one of your key strengths is that you talk imperfection all the way through, like in your own personal experiences, but also, because you’ve worked with so many people in so many different businesses and yourself you’ve had so many different businesses. Yes. I think you know, coming in as a as a newbie, for me, it was really important to find my tribe that were willing to accept my failings as well as celebrate my successes with me.
I don’t think that’s done enough. In business. I don’t think enough of that is spoken about, about the real things behind the scenes, and I know that whenever I do a post, that’s my real and raw journey of business, they often get a lot of interaction, and a lot of people coming and going, Oh, I understand, I feel that thank you for sharing that. I feel less alone, because it’s not talked about when it comes to business, it’s so much we’re talking about, you know, the perfect Instagram feed, making sure your tiles match, you know, what are you gonna wear to the next networking event, you know, making sure you’re all done in the right way or whenever, you know, then there’s people they talk and they were constantly worried about saying the wrong thing, and, with SA Woman, I want women to know that they can be real. And if I’m not being real, and I’m not opening up about that, how can I expect other women to do the same. So I think it’s so important for that, and I’ve had a few people lately, you know, want me to chat about, you know, help them to build a community or this kind of thing. I’m like I actually don’t know, the specifics of what I’ve done. It’s not as though I’ve had a plan, and gone I’m going to do step ABCD. And build a community, I think what you said perhaps, is one of the big parts of it, I’ve just been myself, I’ve been real, and I’ve been, you know, as open as I can possibly be with the women in our community, which I think has helped create that space where they feel the same, and it’s created a really supportive encouraging space – bit like a sisterhood, I guess, in some ways, you know, we all have each other’s back as much as possible. I hope that when women join, they feel that warmth around them as soon as they step into, you know, an event or the Facebook community or that sort of thing.
I’m pretty sure that they do from all the feedback that I’ve had over so many different events that I’ve been to in the last couple of years. And you’ve got, you know, long standing members of your community that have the fine minds that you have, in this group are just incredible, and you’ve kind of got these pillars of incredible women that are welcoming in the newcomers as well. And then I know for me I get blown away by how many incredible women in so many different areas of business, you know, just we’re banging, in South Australia.
We are. That’s why one of our core pillars is showcasing because I don’t think people understand what talent we’ve got here amongst women in South Australia, I think there’s been a lot of emphasis perhaps on the eastern states with what women are doing over there. and I think in South Australia, there’s a bigger emphasis on, you know, the tech space, or what’s going to bring the most money into the state as a, you know, as a larger sum. But it’s very much missed the contribution that women every single day making, whether it’s in their communities, whether it’s in their small business, whether it’s in their medium businesses, their family, businesses, their partners, businesses, all those facets. Women are contributing so much to South Australia, and that’s part a big part of my mission is that I want people to understand that.
And when women make money, we invest in people, and we invest in community. So our small businesses or medium businesses or large businesses are probably all sponsoring a sport team.
And we donate to fundraisers, and charities
We’re buying from other women, we’re all you know, quite often women jumping the groups that I wanted, it could be something as simple as I want to buy some skincare, I want to actually, I want something for my business, or I want to renovate my home, and women are reaching out because they want to support another woman and their family, or their, you know, their local community, so they know the benefits of supporting one another, which I think is great, and I know it very much, so I’ll try and support, particularly, even if it’s not a female business, in my own business, I will try and support something locally, as much as possible. I think keeping it in our local areas, that whole circular economy concept, is something I’ve learned a lot more about over the last few years in particular.
Yeah, because I think in that context, we have probably all made mistakes in the past where we, we haven’t sourced locally, and we’re just, we’re learning a little bit more and about that, so yeah, I really I appreciate the SA Woman, the whole community and context about being authentically yourself to showcase your business. Now I’m going to get a little bit personal with you.
You know, I love going deep.
Oh cool, excellent. All right. So ,how has perfectionism kind of shown up in your life, if you can think of maybe something like, what’s the first thing that’s kind of popping up for you now,?
The first thing and I think if I look back from a perfectionism point of view, would be my schooling. That is where I think I’ve first recognized my perfectionism, and my, I mean, I guess it goes hand in hand with determination as well, and having a goal and wanting to achieve it. But I do look back at the huge pressure I put on myself, particularly through secondary schooling, you know, back then it was the TR and also have changed since then. But, you know, to get the right TR and to get into university and to have a career and to I guess I had a lot of pressure on myself. Not that, you know, my dad was a business owner, my mom had a job, but I had, I was the first one that had the opportunity to go to university. So I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself almost to like, step up in the family kind of thing to take that next step, and Year 12 particularly, you know, obviously my husband and I were at school together, and if I compare our experiences, you know, he was off on a Sunday, dirt karting, and out with his dad, before a test on Monday, and I was home studying madly because I wanted to make sure I got those top scores. Now, if I look back now as an almost 36 year old, that year of my life, was such a small part of what has played into my career now, and even my university studies very much the same. I’m using pieces. And I believe that, you know, you never completely cut off a career path or anything like that, because you’re always taking with it, what you’ve what you’ve gained, or learned in that experience and applying it somewhere else. But I’m certainly not, you know, doing now… I thought I was going to go into law and I’m certainly not in law now. And I’m very grateful. I didn’t go into law, but that was my plan through year 12. was to get into a law degree. So yeah, my year 12 was very much about study, it was getting up early and going to math tutoring so I could get a better mark for maths, it was very much. If I didn’t get a good mark, I would be devastated, and university as well, and there’s some other things I’ve been thinking about how that ties in, you know, I’d submit an assignment, I’d be certain I was going to fail just, it was terrible. I’m going to fail, and it would come back as a distinction. So those you know, there’s some stuff there that I haven’t probably unpacked completely as to what ties into that, but it’s very interesting for me, the perfectionism, how it’s gone through, and then now as a mother, a lot of feelings of, I guess, if we get super personal about feelings of not being a good mother or failing as a mother, because they don’t fit the mold of what I thought, being a mother should be so not that I’m doing, you know, for other people looking in, I’m not doing a bad job. But in my head, I guess, as a young girl, always wanted to be a mother, a mother was what I always wanted to do, now, and at that space, and I have this torn between business and my passion on that side of being myself, but also being too and then feeling like you’re not kind of perfect at either of them. So I think the perfectionist now comes into that point, that’s my long answer.
And it’s such a familiar answer, like, you know, that our mother’s guilt is such a familiar story for so many of us that I don’t know how you kind of, you reckon with it, there’s a lot of a lot of self discovery that you need to, you know, you need to go down that track and find out about, you know, where you learned about what the perfect mother was, and all of the messages that are coming through and, particularly how you can protect yourself from, some of those messages that might be a bit pervasive, you know, on our social media feeds, there’s always these kind of, as you said, picture perfect, you know, Instagram feeds, and picture perfect examples of parenting and businesses, but, we all really know the truth behind them is that we’re all clunky, and, we’re having tough days, and, you know, that behind all that it’s smoke and mirrors.
Yes, yeah, definitely, and especially, I think, with social media, now, if I think back to my mum, you know, when she was growing up, you know, the only examples of parenting she would have had would have been to look at her mother or the women immediately around her. Whereas these days, exactly what you said, you know, we’re not just getting that from our own parents, but we’re also getting it from all the content that were being fed, whether it’s in movies, whether it’s on social media, whether it’s on TV shows, and even TV shows now aren’t what they used to be, because you’ve got Netflix now. So, you’re not even just, you know, being able to see, you know, what is actually on your TV, you can choose what you want to watch. But there’s so much content out there to see and I think sometimes it can be very hard to pull yourself back from that, and separate yourself almost from being that is, you know, what is on social media or what is on TV, but this is my real life, and this is what I want to be and then I think, you know, it comes back to your values and what’s important to you, and then that goes down a whole other rabbit hole.
But it’s but it is, it’s vital information when you really break down what your values are, and stop looking externally for confirmation that you are good enough, and, to start reminding yourself internally, you know, like, how well have I done today? You know, I was faced with sick children and deadlines and, you know, my husband and I had a bit of a tiff for something, you know, and then bad news on the news or something else happening and dishwashers broken down? How have I managed to get through all of that and so weaving that compassion and kindness, and realism into your life so you know, you realistically appraise what’s happened in your days. It takes practice to do that. I’ve noticed certainly that within some of your posts, you’re very reflective, I wonder is journaling or writing quite cathartic for you?
Yeah, it’s my therapy, and I actually said to someone last night, she sent me a screenshot of some words and I was reading I’m like, Oh, yeah, totally resonate with that. I didn’t realise that it was my words. And she’s like, not that I’ve been stalking your feed. I’m like, that’s why they sounded so familiar, but actually, in that reply to her, I said, writing is my therapy. And it’s the way I process my thoughts and the way I get through things, you know, that might be going on in my life, and, you know, I’ve got my She Nurtures page, which is more my kind of personal blog and I guess, you know, some people are like, why would you share that? Why would you open up, but I’m not actually writing that for other people. I mean, I know that sometimes when I write that it’s going to resonate and I did a post last night that I felt other mothers needed to hear but, for the most part, it’s me making sense of what my head is telling me and what’s going on and trying to, and I think when I do tend to write, I usually come out of it, for the most part with some kind of resolution or something at the end of what I’ve written, so I sort of take myself on a journey, I guess, and anyone reading it, and then come out the other side. So yeah, and as we were talking before, I was just thinking about how perfectionism is really, to me tied up in my self worth, and even thinking back to school, like I’ve always put that external value on yourself on something like marks on doing well at business, or doing well as a mother very much ties into that perfection side of things and the self worth and how you feel in yourself. Sorry, that’s kind of like went back a bit. But I’m like, this is something I’ve just, and this is what happens when we have conversations, I feel when I have these deeper conversations with people. Um, it’s just you have those moments of brain sparks. And that’s why I think it’s important to be real, to open up and share these things, we can learn so much from each other, just through sharing our thoughts.
It’s totally great. Well, I mean, I’m with you, clearly, you know, my book that was all, you know, private blogs, just like yours, was so helpful for me, especially when the children were smaller, and I still write to myself, same. It’s the same thing, and I noticed for me, what’s come out of each and every time that I’ve written, is gratitude. Do you think that that’s similar for you, you know, you have an opportunity to look at what’s troubling you, but as you kind of break open, you know, the horrible stuff, you know, the light shines through and that’s what you’re grateful for that? Reflection.
Definitely, I think what you said about breaking through, and then a light shining through is spot on, and that’s what it is, I think, when you’re someone and everyone I think finds ways to explore that differently. But for me, it’s differently through words and writing, and yet definitely, spot on with that opening. Yeah, as you open up and you work through that light begins to shine, I think it builds a level of resilience within myself, as I’m going through that as well, because I’m reflecting on what I’ve been through what I’ve overcome, but what I’ve learned from the process, which I think can also help for me dull down some of those doubt thoughts that I might have about myself, which, again, that self worth stuff. But I think that can dull those down a little bit and quiet them a bit because I’m like, Oh, well, you know, yes, this was awful when this might have happened. However, as a result of that, I am now here. So I think there’s always a way to kind of move forward and take steps forward. And I often talk about the concept of babies, you know, I think we’re very hard on ourselves. If we look at babies they’re born, they can’t do anything for themselves. We’re looking after them. And they start with, you know, they roll on to they’re usually on tummies, they’ll roll onto their back, and then they’ll do a full roll. And then they get upon all fours and then they crawl and then you know, they pull up on things and especially with you know, watching my young my daughter now and having been able to really soak up that journey that she’s gone through over the last 15 months, I think has made me be a little bit more gentle with myself because I think sometimes, you know, I can expect that I should be here now but I should be like, you know, over there already. Why am I not already over there? And that’s that perfection inside of me I should already be doing that I should already know the answers to that, is it taking those baby steps to get there?
That all or nothing thinking, you know that you just need to have it now, but yes, you do need to take those baby steps you do need to have the falls, as you go, get yourself back up, appreciate what you’ve learned, you know, find gratitude in those lessons. And, also, I love hearing about your when you were talking about the self doubt and that kind of I’m imagining like a bit of a voice you know and our inner critic, you know that is so relentless. I’ve just got so many different ones, but you know, particularly my inner mean girl, gosh, she’s a cow, you know?
So is mine. They must be friends.
Yeah, must be friends. So, it’s giving them space and the voice, you know, it’s giving them the opportunity to be noticed, because our inner critic doesn’t like being pushed away, it actually wants to be heard. So it’s validating for those voices to say, I hear you, I hear you, I know you, you know, you’re freaking out. I know that you you want this to be right right now, but I am going to make a mistake, and it’s going to be okay and I might be embarrassed, and I might, I might do something silly that I’ll regret later. But I won’t ever regret trying.
I think when it comes to women in business, so many women hold themselves back because they’re too scared for all those – like to be wrong, or to do the wrong thing or make the wrong step. And, it makes me sad how many businesses I see that don’t even see the light of day or ideas because of this fear that women have about putting that out there. And that’s what I hope with having a community, and also for me to share the times that I messed up as well. And also just say to people, like, I don’t have all the answers. I there was definitely some instances last year where I got heavily criticized because I didn’t have those answers, but I just don’t know, I don’t know all the things, and I tell my kids that all the time. I’m like, Mum doesn’t know all the things, maybe Siri does, but off the parenting, or your teacher go and ask your teacher at school? Maybe she’ll know the answer. But I think you know, yes, not knowing things all the time is a big… there’s something on that as well.
I think that’s actually a really healthy way to feel about it, because we can be so down on ourselves, but we’re all learning. We’re learning and we’re un-learning, and we’re learning and we’re un-learning. And it’s just staying in the room, staying in the room.
And giving ourselves and each other some grace, I think give ourselves and each other, some grace to make mistakes, because I think if people see, oh, they made a mistake, and the world didn’t crumble, and it was okay. Oh, well, maybe I’ll have a go at that. Yeah. And then more people, you know, particularly if I’m thinking about women, more women will begin to have a go at trying a new business or putting out an offer, because they’ve seen someone else do it. And nothing bad has happened.
That’s it. That’s exactly why I’m starting these conversations and interviewing, you know, wonderful folk like yourself, because it I’m hoping that this gives people their own, they’ll give themselves permission to try and they’ll give themselves permission to fail, as well.
The book you’ve written, I think, as well is fantastic in that, because I read through that, and from a, you know, a body journey point of view, particularly for me. I think it was so great to read the experience of you and just go, I feel that, I understand that. Okay, well, you know, if she’s made it through these things, well, then I can as well. And I think we’re seen that in more parts of life at the moment, too, aren’t we with the whole, you know, you can’t be what you can’t see; side of things, too. So, just wanted to add that.
Thank you, I do appreciate that. I think that there’s so much more coming out these days, that real authentic stories about all sorts of experiences that people have had in their lives and their vulnerable stories are empowering other people to speak up. So yeah, the work that we’re all doing in our small ways adds up, it’s a collective universal light, you know and love, really. I’m so pleased to have had this chat with you. I just wondered, like, what gold has surfaced for you out of this chat. Anything that’s kind of stood out?
I think all the time we have a chat; something will stand out. I definitely think for me that connection between perfectionism and self worth. That light bulb moment for me, as we’ve been chatting, I’m keen to unpack that a bit more. And see how that might also be holding me back in other areas, particularly with business because I know that being very introverted, I do struggle a lot to put myself out there. And so yes, I’m interested to look at that a little bit more post our chat today. You’ve given me more work!
Sorry, sorry, but it’s helpful work and the why’s, the why’s, that you’ll ask yourself, you know, when those voices come up, when the inner critic comes up, and, and she’s making statements, that are very clear about, your self worth, and when you’re overstepping the mark, and when you’re too big for your boots, and when you’ve got to be fearful, when you’ve got to be, you know, whatever she’ll say. Just keep asking her why. Just keep asking her Why? Because, you’ll go down through the onion layers. And, and it’s quite interesting what you find. Do it with compassion and generosity and gentleness. I think that this exploration is really key work for ourselves but we also need time out, so is there maybe one technique that you use, like a compassionate technique that you use in your life to kind of self soothe or soothe yourself, when you’re kind of doing this work?
Not necessarily, but I have noticed in terms of the self-work for me, it’s a bit of a spits and spirts kind of thing. So I was only thinking about this the other day was that from 2017 to 2019, was quite a deep time for me in terms of the self work, self exploration, finding out more about who I am, you know, what I’m about and working through some of the past traumas, and all that kind of thing. And then I feel like it’s taking me a few years to almost like, compress that and to work through consolidate is probably a better word to consolidate all that. And I’m feeling like I’m coming out the other side, now that I feel okay with. I’m feel like, I’m ready to now delve into some more self work. So I think from a compassionate side of things myself, it’s not expecting to get (again, that baby steps) that not expecting to get all the answers right now, and to find out all the things from just, you know, one or two therapy sessions, or just from doing one course, or reading one book, but it’s about, you know, going through that and giving that myself time to process that and being okay, that it’s going to take time, and I’m a very impatient person. So it’s not easy. And the whole SA Woman rebrand has been an extremely frustrating process, because it should have happened yesterday, because I should have just known, but it’s taken time. And so I think, yeah, my compassion side of that in terms of it’s not a tool as such, but it’s time it’s giving myself time, giving myself space being okay, that I’m not going to have all the answers right now. And letting that consolidate and work and weave into my life before I then take the next part of the journey. In my self work story.
Yeah, great. I like that. So take a breath, allow and know that you’re consolidating on the knowledge that you’ve already tapped into and it’s not a race. Oh, it’s not a race to become a perfect, perfectly enlightened person that has all the answers about all the answers.
I have felt sometimes, like, haven’t I done enough already? Like, surely I’ve done enough of this, like, you know, working a bit more on myself, but I just think you evolve as a person, I think for myself, especially with having a third I’ve noticed with each child, I changed a little bit, and I evolved a little bit more, as you know, and it’s been okay, well, who am I now, because I’m not the same person I was, before I’ve had my daughter. so, yeah, having to then go through that process again, and then re-find myself again, and who I am. And then I think, you know, there’s that big turning 40. And then I think that for a lot of people changes things again, and that’s what four years away from me, so I kind of feel like that’ll be another momentous time in my life where I’ll be like, right, well, now I’m 40. Now what and then when I turned 50, and you know, all those kinds of things. But I think we have those little moments in time where we change and we’ve got to go back and self reflect and be gentle on ourselves.
Yeah, absolutely gentle. Evolve is one of the loveliest words, I use it myself a lot. Personally. In fact, that was my blog’s name Ever Evolving.
Ah, love it. So spot on, though, because aren’t we; we are ever evolving. There is no end point in, you know, not why we’re earth-side anyway.
Yes. Well, look, I thank you so much. I appreciate the fact that we have had this deep dive into a conversation; I’ve loved every minute, and of course, we could be here for a few hours. So, I really appreciate it. And, Carly, I’d love to have all of your contact details, information, links to SA Woman Australia, and your business nurturing page as well. And I’ll have that all down below, because I know how to do all this technology stuff that will be below.
Thank you. Thank you so much for asking. I feel so honoured to be the first face on here. And also thank you to you for being so gentle with me too, because in terms of that I’m this is not something I do a lot of so it’s been so nice to just come… this is exactly how I love to do things. Where we just have a conversation. This has been absolutely beautiful. And yeah, I hope to do more. This has been great. Thank you. We need to catch up again soon. We need a coffee.
All right. Well, I will speak to you in a while but for now. Thank you so much
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Ailsa Robson has a private counselling and psychotherapy practice in Adelaide and consults with clients in Stirling and Glenelg, SA as well as online. She has a Masters Degree in Counselling and Psychotherapy and is the author of Perfectly Imperfect.