Tracey knows the importance of self-belief more than most. Having had a challenging early start, and unable to read until she was 14, she has built her career – and life – on the foundations of a strong sense of self, rising to become a power player in the retail and beauty industry.
This journey has included building the Aveda Brand in the UK, working as a commercial director of Urban Retreat in Harrods and Harvey Nichols and as an advisor to Marks & Spencer, where she helped redesign and develop the beauty department. She’s a fan of having a plan and of being accountable for your own self-worth – so listen in to gain more insight into how she uses her inner and outer resources to drive herself forward positively.
Anna: Hello and welcome to the everywoman podcast. I’m Anna, editor of everywoman, and every month from January 2018 we’ll be bringing you the stories, insights and opinions of inspiring women in business on a wide range of topics. Today we’re looking at the subject of self-belief, what it is, how to get it, and why you need it.
Anna: In the studio we’ll be joined by someone who knows all about it, CEO of Aromatherapy Associates, Tracey Woodward. Tracey Woodward, welcome to the studio. It’s great to have you with us.
Tracey Woodward: Thank you. It’s good to be here.
Anna: We’re here to talk today about what may be the most fundamental asset to success, self-belief. Some might say it’s the key to all meaningful success, and certainly, without it, we can’t progress as far as we should. I wanted to start out, Tracey, just by asking you what is self-belief in your view?
Tracey Woodward: I think it’s what it says on the [inaudible 00:01:06]. It is actually believing in yourself. But I think that what has helped me through my journey is that looking at self-belief by setting goals and achievement. It’s one of those things until you start setting objectives for yourself and achieving them, you lack self-belief. So start small and build … You know, the world is your oyster.
Tracey Woodward: I think it’s something that we internalise. We challenge ourselves as to whether or not we can do it. But I would say to every human being out there if you want to achieve something you have to start with a plan, and that delivers and fuels self-belief.
Anna: Did you always have self-belief? Do you feel that it’s something that you have innately? You talk about sort of setting goals and having a vision. How innate is it and how has it played out with you?
Tracey Woodward: So you’re kind of saying is it nature or nurture? I think that self-belief was all I had growing up. I found myself in a very difficult situation as a child, underprivileged through circumstances. I had dreams and I turned those dreams into small goals and they became a big reality. So I think that through challenges in life people have to build their own trust and faith in their own ability.
Tracey Woodward: For me, yeah, I think that’s how it came around really. It was one day at a time, one goal at a time, from not being able to read and write at 14 to learning to read and write and what was next, and what was next, and what was next. That’s how I’ve always lived my life, and today I still keep a cosmic shopping list of things that I want to achieve, as I did when I was 11 years of age.
Anna: That is quite … Coming back to what you were saying, you had quite a challenging upbringing. Not everyone makes those choices. Not everyone has that sort of innate knowledge that they want to move forward and how to move forward. You talked about the cosmic shopping list.
Tracey Woodward: Yeah. I think that they went to school. They had an education. They were told how life should be, so the expectations were set. I did not have that. I used to go shoplifting with my mum. The thing that she used to say to me is, “How can we get two quilts and sheets out of that shop,” because that’s how we survived. Am I proud of it? No. But what were the choices? I was a child and my mum was a grownup. So for me, it was all about okay, that is the life I could have. I’m not getting an opportunity to go to school. We changed our names. We moved.
Tracey Woodward: Things were very different then. There was a record, but it was a paper process that you went through. They didn’t punch somebody’s name into a computer and everything came up and you knew everything about them as we do today, so life was very different. For me, I had to … Okay, this is not the life I want. I know it’s wrong. It feels wrong. It’s not where I want to be. Where do I want to be? I wanted to be Joan Collins in Dynasty.
Anna: Don’t we all?
Tracey Woodward: Don’t we all? That’s the reality of it. So they were small changes and small steps. Thankfully I met some amazing people along the way that believed in me and helped me and supported me, and each time I did a little bit more.
Anna: I’m fascinated that … You know, you talk about how you didn’t know how it was supposed to be, which I think is a really interesting sentence because I think you’re right. We have these ways that we think in a certain mainstream way, which is a very narrow way actually to think about the world.
Anna: I’ve written here a question which sort of relates to that. It was almost like did you know that it was a challenging time? Did you know it was adversity, or did you just … It was just something that needed to change? Do you need adversity to develop self-belief? What’s your thinking on that?
Tracey Woodward: I think I knew that my life wasn’t normal and did I want a normal life-
Anna: Whatever normal is.
Tracey Woodward: Yeah, whatever normal is. I always say normal are the people you don’t know. Whatever normal is, I knew that I wanted a safe, nurturing, loving environment. As much as my mum loved me and I loved my mum, that wasn’t the environment I was in. There were people coming and going. We lived in the strangest of places, but I always found somebody to latch onto that I saw as being normal, and they helped me, so I learnt that process.
Tracey Woodward: But I don’t know, I think self-belief is in all of us. We just have to dig deep and find it and it comes out in different ways and different methods, and you’ve just got to nurture it. You find that seed within you and you nurture those goals or those objectives or who you want to be. I always say to my kids … Ava is 16 and Josh is 26 … Do whatever makes you happy. Know that you can achieve anything. I’m living proof of that because age 14 I couldn’t read or write. I lived on a very rough council estate that was really rough, drug dealers, prostitution, burnt out cars, to me very, very tough London.
Tracey Woodward: I live a different life now and the parallels are really interesting. Sometimes I see people and I think oh, my God, that could have been me. How did I do that? I had conversations. I set goals. I achieved. I was open-minded and I had to learn differently. I mean even today I look at things … Like I went to the cinema this weekend and saw Molly’s Game. That’s a great movie where you kind of think oh, my God, she said okay. She just fell into it, just fell into that situation. But she was talking about The Crucible by Arthur Miller.
Tracey Woodward: I didn’t know anything about The Crucible and Arthur Miller, so I’ve just bought the book and I’m going to start reading it. My daughter comes home this weekend, because she’s at Roedean, and she says, “Oh, I read that in year nine,” and you think [crosstalk 00:07:23]. I’m just reading it now at 52.
Anna: To me, that always strikes as something that’s essential to self-belief, is knowing that timing is all and you get to things when you get to things, don’t you? Like you’re saying about your reading this book now because that was the right time. How much do we have to trust that we know what we’re doing and we know what’s right for us? How much do we have to take that into ourselves?
Tracey Woodward: I think that we have to listen to ourselves and know what we really want and we have to be … The key to success is having courageous conversations, is admitting you don’t know, is being willing to learn, and to be able to put out there what you want. I always say that if I want to achieve something, if I have a goal, if I have a life goal, have something on my cosmic shopping list, I have to plant those seeds in as many places as possible to get that opportunity.
Tracey Woodward: I will always say, if I’m thinking about changing my career or if I’m thinking about moving house, or if I see an objective, something that I want to achieve line my Beyonce dance routine, I tell everybody, because to me that then creates my opportunity, and also I own it. I own that decision-making process because I’ll fake it till I make it.
Tracey Woodward: It’s a fact that if you want to do something you have to talk openly about it. So I list it first and then I start to have conversations. I think that allows me to own the process, and then you make it happen.
Anna: So you open up the energy?
Tracey Woodward: Yeah.
Anna: You own it. You’re accountable. A lot of people don’t do it because they don’t want to be accountable, which again might be because they’re not entirely sure that they can make it happen I wonder? So what we’re saying is that self-belief is not … It’s not about knowing everything? If anything, it’s about being willing to learn, which is … Everyone can put themselves in that space. What would you say the most important things to do to put yourself in that space are? Obviously, we’ve talked about telling everybody what your plans are, what your goals are-
Tracey Woodward: Researching it.
Tracey Woodward: Researching it and looking at the opportunities, seizing the opportunities for yourself, having the conversations, not being intimidated by the situation, finding somebody that’s actually been through that process already. By nature, we want to help others. I’ve met more people in my career and life that have been willing to help me than to hold me back, and I’ve had nothing to lose by asking because I had nothing.
Anna: Yeah. And because you don’t know-
Tracey Woodward: I didn’t know-
Anna: … What was the rulebook? Yeah. I mean intimidation is an interesting point because I think people do get intimidated. We’re all our worse enemies in that respect, aren’t we? We can create an idea of who we’re talking to that isn’t who they are, or a situation where we don’t go into the situation to find out what the truth of it is. What do you do … Do you ever feel intimated by anyone anymore?
Tracey Woodward: No. No, I don’t. I’m sorry that sounds a bit-
Anna: No, that’s cool.
Tracey Woodward: I don’t. I always say to my kids there’s always going to be somebody thinner, smarter, richer, more well-connected.
Anna: But that’s not the point.
Tracey Woodward: But that’s not the point. The fact is that there is always something that you can share with somebody else and there is always something that they can share with you, so go into this … We all come into this world with nothing and we all leave with nothing as far as I’m concerned, and what we do in between is our responsibility to make it work and make it right.
Tracey Woodward: So I believe that we have a duty of care to ourselves, to look after ourselves. I’m always saying … I drive my team mad and they go, “Oh, my God.” Everybody is talking about it now, but for the last two and a half years I’ve been saying that self-care is your healthcare. It starts with you. It starts with your routine, your commitment to life, and I think that we have a responsibility not to be intimidated by situations. What is the worst thing that could happen?
Anna: That’s true. It’s amazing the way that the mind can create those games though. You almost always have to sort of fight yourself I think in those situations.
Tracey Woodward: Yeah, you do. I mean I’m a bit nervous about social media as it progresses because I actually think that now we think aloud too much and actually we are our worst critic. I mean the things that we say to ourselves nobody would ever say to us, and we would probably never say to anybody else, except for now it’s a bit blasé on social media, so that bothers me. I think that we’ve got a lot of work to do there. Otherwise, it’s going to create a generation that is full of insecurities. My view is that don’t be a referee in your own life. Actually, I always say what anybody thinks of me is their business.
Anna: That’s fascinating. Yeah, and it’s so true, isn’t it?
Tracey Woodward: And I said that to my kids.
Anna: You can control it and you can … Yeah.
Tracey Woodward: My children can happily walk into a room and talk to a four-year-old or talk to a 94-year-old and they have really good social skills. They’re very confident. They’re really academic. They can read and write and they’re A star students. They’re amazing kids, and I think that that has come from saying don’t be scared. What is fair? We don’t know fair is. It’s a combination of hormones and stress and what goes on in our mind. I overcome that. Sometimes it’s a physical reaction that you have to stop.
Anna: What do you do to instil self-belief in your daughter and your son? Does it different than otherwise?
Tracey Woodward: Yeah. I think it differs … Actually, I’ve kind of … I’ve been a bit gender fluid with my kids. They’ve always had pink clothes, blue clothes, both of them. They’ve always had girl toys, boy toys. It’s never … My daughter has dressed up as a Thunderbird person as well as Wonder Woman, as well as Disney characters.
Tracey Woodward: But I’ve always said to my kids you can achieve whatever you want. You just have to be focused and you have to be confident and be polite, be respectful, be engaging, and don’t make yourself feel insignificant.
Anna: Do you instil in them that it’s their responsibility to have self-belief? No one else is responsible to give it to them?
Tracey Woodward: Yes.
Anna: I think that’s so important, that resilience, to build that in young people.
Tracey Woodward: Resilience is what you need.
Anna: In life generally.
Tracey Woodward: My daughter always says to me, “Can you just be like everybody else’s parents and just say no? Do we have to debate everything?” I say, “Well if you can find a better way, if you disagree, I’m encouraging you to tell me because I don’t know everything.” This is the second time that I’ve been a parent. You don’t come with a manual. Everything we’re learning, we’re learning together, so I’m encouraging you, age seven, to debate that pink or blue sweater that you do or don’t want to wear.
Tracey Woodward: I’ve always encouraged my kids to have conversations, open conversations. So yeah, they’re a bit tired of that. They say, “Why don’t you say no like everybody else?” That’s the end of it.
Anna: Yeah. I will come around though at some point in their 20s and they’ll say, “Thanks, mum.”
Tracey Woodward: Well, Justin is 26 and he says, “You’re really great and very cool,” so I’m flattered by that.
Anna: Well, you are quite a big inspiration. I mean how could they feel not inspired by you? I just wanted to come back to the point you made about self-care. I mean Aromatherapy Associates is about the art of living well. Self-belief is about the art of living well I think.
Tracey Woodward: It is. It is.
Anna: How do you know if you’re living well? What are your metrics?
Tracey Woodward: I think fatigue is a good one, feeling anxious, not sleeping well, not really having any engagement with food or craving the wrong foods. I think that anxiety … I think all of those things. Generally, there are lots of preventative diseases out there today. I think that we don’t realise that. A lot of people don’t realise that, and that’s something that we’ve got to work on.
Tracey Woodward: But I truly believe … I’ve body brushed and face brushed with little wooden brushes for … Even on my face. They’re a different brush, a softer brush, not a hard brush. I’ve done that for more than 25 years, so I’ve always kind of been connected to my toes and my fingernails and my face, so kind of always thinking how do I feel this morning? How do I feel tonight?
Tracey Woodward: I used Aromatherapy Associates’ products long before I came in to run the company, so I’ve had a real love for them. I think that self-care is more important now. I think there is so much happening out there that people are saying now this is me and I am responsible for me. What do I really want out of life and how do I want to feel?
Tracey Woodward: I think that that’s where it starts. And of course what we’ve done at Aromatherapy Associates is we have the power to make you feel better for six to eight hours. Our bath and shower are clinically proven to do that. So if you need inner strength, if you need support, if you need to revive, if you need relaxing, if you need a good night’s sleep, Deep Relax. I’ve been using that product for 30 years and it hasn’t changed. The formulation hasn’t changed. It’s still fabulous.
Tracey Woodward: Now we have well-being experts and ambassadors that sit within our organisation that assist you in thinking better, because we can make you feel better for six to eight hours and clinically proven to do so, but if I can make you think better and understand the art of living well, how to de-stress, how to relax, how to feel revived and energised, that’s the first step.
Tracey Woodward: That is not just about applying a topical product. We have a professor of sleep, we have cognitive behaviour coaches, we have semantic coaches, we have a coach that is all about courageous conversations, how do you ask the right questions at the right time, whether that’s a pay rise or for a divorce or for someone to marry you.
Anna: This is in the company?
Tracey Woodward: This is in the company. So we do … Actually in our office in London we … And the rest of the world, we have lunch and learn. So we bring people in outside of the business to learn things. I love learning, because I spent many years not learning. Well, I think I was learning, but I wasn’t learning the conventional way.
Tracey Woodward: Our well-being experts, they’re going to spas, they’re going to organisations. We have podcasts. We have YouTube videos and workshops so people can really understand now that we are the brand that will truly … As I said, I believe self-care is your healthcare, so we can make you think better and feel better, and that is the power of our brand.
Tracey Woodward: Also the fundamentals of self-believe. It’s a very … I think quite hard to feel that sort of zing of self-belief if you’re really tired or you’re run down or you’ve depleted yourself, or even if your work/life balance is completely out of whack, and I think people underestimate that.
Tracey Woodward: I hate the word … I hate the phrase work/life balance … Work/life integration … I have a theory on work/life balance. I think that you have to find a job that makes you happy. I’ve never done anything for money. Money has always been a byproduct of doing something that I really felt passionate about and enthusiastic about and I believe in. I think that if you try and have your family on one side of the fence and your work life on the other side of the fence you end up being a referee in your own life, so anybody that says I’ve got this perfect balance is … I would hope that they’re all merged into one, because we live in a 24/7 world now, so it’s about allocating time.
Tracey Woodward: I think the most important thing to do is to allocate time for yourself, to look after your own, to care for yourself because then you don’t feel demoralised or angry or feel like you’re neglecting your own well-being for your family for your family or for your job.
Tracey Woodward: I have friends that go to bed on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m. and watch the TV because that’s their time for them, and I think it’s really important to have that. Don’t be a referee in your own life. And also know that you’re worth that investment. I think in terms of self-belief some people have a problem with that sense of worth, particularly women actually. They almost feel like they have to put themselves last and … Yeah, it’s the perennial thing, and I don’t know how we move that forward, but I suppose … You know, we were talking about responsibility. It starts with knowing no one is going to do it for you I guess.
Tracey Woodward: When I listen to people and they say how do you plan your life, well how do you plan your holiday? People spend loads of time planning holidays, getting the visas, finding the right clothes to wear, choosing the hotel of their choice, and yet they don’t plan what they want in life. It’s like this is like … This is the most important part, not two weeks of the 52. Plan your life. Have a plan. That’s really important.
Tracey Woodward: I think that … Yeah, we are the most important person in our lives. I know that sounds a bit narcissistic, but it’s true. I always think about the flights, when they say when the mask pops down, put it on your face before you help anybody else. If you are not capable, strong, calm and in tune, it’s very hard for you to support your colleagues, your peers, your family, your children, your husband, your partner. It’s challenging. If you’re the best version of you, then you’re giving off the best version of you.
Anna: Absolutely. Just talking about planning, I just wanted to just come back to your cosmic wish list, because I love this idea. Is it a running list? Do you sort of add things and cross things off or-
Tracey Woodward: Yeah. Actually, there were things on there that were … When I got to 50, I had one thing left on there which I can’t achieve myself. I have to be nominated or voted for that. We won’t talk about it, but it’s not government anyway. It’s nothing in government.
Anna: Will you come back and tell us if it happens?
Tracey Woodward: I absolutely will. I always wanted to work with the Prince’s Trust. I always wanted to work in Marks & Spencers. I always wanted to be in beauty, so all of those things are on there. There were things like I wanted a particular handbag, I wanted a mobile phone or a particular car. So those things were there as goals, stepping stones because it’s surprising when you have a plan of what you achieve you figure out what you need to have monetary wise, contact-wise, to do that and it comes down to the plan, right? Then you know where the benchmarks lie.
Anna: But you’ve got to know what the target is in order to hit it?
Tracey Woodward: You’ve got to have an eye on the prize.
Anna: That’s so true. Well, we’re going to have to wrap it up pretty soon. I could talk to you all day about self-belief. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you with us. I’ve got one final question, just a quick one before you go. Top tip for somebody listening that they can put in play today, right now when they stop listening to this podcast, for more self-belief, what would it be?
Tracey Woodward: Get a cosmic shopping list. I always used to say to my mum I’m going to do this, I’m going to be in beauty, I’m going to be a beauty consultant, and that’s all I ever wanted to be and I just progressed. But my mom always used to say to me, “If you think you can you will, and if you think you can’t you won’t, so you decide.”
Anna: Fabulous. Thank you so much, Tracey, for joining us today talking about self-belief, and thank you all for joining us as well on this everywoman podcast. We look forward to continuing the conversation with you next time.
Anna: Don’t forget in the meantime there’s a wealth of information, interest, and further talking points on the everywomanNetwork and app if you want to access on the move. So until we meet again, have a great day and keep on living your best life.