Dani always knew she wanted her own business. As a shy and quiet little girl, she lacked confidence but loved anything to do with creativity and commerce. At school she was an all rounder – never quite top but worked incredibly hard.
From graduation she began looking for a “real” job but ended up working on a temporary project at her family’s business. It soon turned from temporary to permenant and from helping out to carrying out an MBO.
In 2009 she closed the business which, by this point, was 106years old. Dani went onto found her own business, FIB and develop GLAS as a framework to help not just family businesses but anyone looking to build confidence and clarity
Dani hopes to inspire others through sharing the honesty and vulnerability of her own life – as well as the successes. In her own words, part of Dani’s personal journey:
Stood in a room, I observed a little girl sat on her bed with an intense feeling of loneliness and isolation. I watched the tears rolling slowly down her young cheeks and as she held her teddy bear close and then, with all her might, she crashed her head into the wall. There was no conscious thought, the little girl repeated this over and over again. That little girl was me. This was my earliest memory of self harming, I was about 5 years old.
I didn’t want to be here anymore. I didn’t want to feel the pain inside but had nowhere to go with it. I was in a place of suffering.
I remember the enormous sense of guilt that I felt. I was a good girl that followed what my parents said, did and wanted. I was so confused by all of this but kept silent making sure no one knew. I loved both parents incredibly and wanted to be enough for them but feared I wasn’t.
I was the only child within my nuclear family at the time. It’s probably fair to say I had a challenging relationship with my mum, who was a stay at home parent, while dad was out working.
I was a well behaved, top of the class student but extremely shy girl. I knew how to work hard, that was how I achieved results. I hoped that achieving would result in being accepted. I wanted to be seen. I wanted to be heard. I believed that I was defined by what I produced, whether that was exam results, beautiful pictures or ice skating trophies.
I’m not sure how long it was after the incident in my bedroom that I then remember being stood at the top of the stairs at home. It was probably a matter of weeks. There I was, looking down the stairs and I recall thinking that no one would notice or care if I fell and died. What a thought for such a young mind.
With that thought came a wave, it was one which took over and forced me head first down the flight of 20 or so stairs. Like a rag doll I tumbled and crashed from banister to wall and eventually lay helpless at the bottom. No one knew. I was bruised but the true pain stayed inside. I eventually got up and scrambled to get upstairs before being caught and punished. Confused and broken I wept alone.
I went onto achieve at school but occasionally I would use scissors or compass to turn on myself as a way to release pain – of course it never did. My upper thighs would receive the punishment and the overwhelming shame I felt would deepen.
It wasn’t often. It was never planned. It never helped.
Fast forward to being within our family’s business. I had advanced through to CEO and completed a management buy out which included making family members redundant. I had also suffered through a broken marriage and was now a single mum to two beautiful boys. This was a conflicting time of professional success and personal devastation. Self harm was again at my side. It sat next to me as an old companion. In one week I was attending an awards evening as a finalist in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year while at home was cutting deeper.
Through support, going on to marry my soul mate and building our family to something I am incredibly proud of I managed to get to a far better place. It also meant I could reflect and realise self harm wasn’t just cutting but took other forms too. Just as one example, at the point of my first marriage I was 13st 7lbs (I’m 5’7″). In 2000 I weighed about 7st. I had a history of not being kind to myself.
When I closed our business after 106 years I did go back to my companion briefly. I know it stays with me and the skill is having awareness, removing judgement and sharing – hence this article. Post-administration, I was incorrectly pursued for two years by a bank for £165,000 under a personal guarantee – there were again very dark moments when the companion appeared but only fleetingly. Thankfully the bank action was dropped as they eventually admitted mis-selling.
There are always times that throw us out of alignment. Increasingly this becomes important to understand in an unpredictable, challenging world with less empathy and compassion. Knowing who you truly are (and want to be) as well as your purpose is the best way of focusing on alignment. I have never felt more balanced personally, although that doesn’t mean I don’t get knocked! I’m going through some things even now (as we all are) but I know that I am safe from the once dark companion in my life.
I believe that my experience has been a gift from which I can empathise in afar better way and seek to understand the challenges we all face.
Courage – giving the heart a voice; kindness – to myself and others without expectation or exception; purpose – which for me is to inspire others; these are my companions now.
From this and much more, I created GLAS – the Global Life Alignment System to help look at life, and components of life, through a new lens. Most of us self harm in some way, even if it’s just the way we talk to ourselves, so perhaps we should all be a little kinder.
Thank you my dark companion.
When you meet Dani you’d never see the scars, physical or emotional. She believe that they are something to be proud of and that they were the gifts that led to GLAS and being able to live a fulfilled and incredible life. Her story includes many fascinating lessons, from pregnancies that meant she spent a total of 12 months in a wheel chair, hiring her ex husband and firing her ex husband, being the only female on her degree course and facing sexual harassment…
She certainly has the t-shirt but wouldn’t change a thing.