• The Key

Self-love in Early Years Leadership

Becoming a leader in the early years sector is something we often strive for from the very start of our early years journey. We look up to the leaders around us, room leaders, setting managers, even the area manager and think….one day I want that role. Ok, so maybe that’s not true for everyone, but leadership is definitely something most early years practitioners strive for at some point in their careers, whether that be leading a setting for someone else or opening a setting of their own.

Becoming a leader seems like the pinnacle of the early years career ladder, the hard work pay off, the destination and goal. But we all know just how hard it is when we get there. Practitioners don’t see the late night worries, the ever changing guidance, the early morning sick calls, the Ofsted complaints….I don’t need to go on.

We don’t share these challenges with them because we want them to feel safe and secure in their roles. We want them to see their leader is confident, can cope with these issues and has totally got this…there are no balls dropping with this leader – at least not in front of the team right?

We spend hours thinking about how we can support our team, show them appreciation, look after their mental health and wellbeing. Hot chocolate in the staff room, staff shout outs, prizes for practitioner of the month, they are all wonderful and no doubt your team love them. Well done, keep that shizzle up!

But what about showing yourself some love and appreciation? It is easy for leaders to give so much care to the people they work with and yet so often we fail to offer the same extent of love to ourselves. But how important is self-love in leadership?

We often talk about children being sponges, soaking up everything they see, hear and feel, replicating these experiences themselves and this is true of your team too. If you don’t take care of yourself, how do you expect them to learn to do this for themselves now and when they move up the career ladder? Do they see you so busy that you don’t have time for a lunch break or a coffee? Is this the leadership example they are experiencing? What I’m trying to say here is that you have a duty to demonstrate self-love in leadership. Not only to make sure you don’t burn out yourself, but also to show aspiring leaders how important they are.

In order to excel in early years leadership, we must firstly believe we have something amazing and worthwhile to offer to our children, families, colleagues, company, and the world! We have to believe in ourselves, recognise our strengths and uniqueness and embrace all the quirky and slightly weird aspects of ourselves… come on admit it, we can all be a bit weird! You are here to make an impact on the lives of little people, but also on the lives of those aspiring leaders who will step up and lead our sector forward. This is a huge responsibility and one which has to be grounded in self-belief, self-love and a passion for supporting others.

How many times have you felt ‘not enough’? Not good enough, skilled enough, quick enough, funny enough, strong enough, capable enough….insert any adjective you feel fits for you. The fear of not being enough even has a name: Atelphobia – Who knew I have been living with a phobia all these years! Have you?

When you don’t love yourself, you are allowing others to determine your worthiness. Think about it this way. How many times have you told yourself you will have a lunch break, but then miss it because a parent needed to speak with you or a colleague needed a chat? How many times have you stayed way past the end of your 10 hour shift so that someone else can go home or finish on time? Is their need any greater than yours? What does this lack of self-appreciation say about you to your team?

If we flip this and focus our attention on self-worth, self-confidence and self-love in our work in nurseries and childcare settings, what example are we setting? We are showing our aspiring leaders that our own mental health is also important. That when they become leaders, they too should believe in themselves and love themselves, whilst also leading others.

So, I hear you cry, this is all very well, but how do I do this when I am run off my feet managing a setting of busy little people?

1. Set Boundaries: You can say no. You can say not yet, not today or I can do that for you tomorrow. It doesn’t make you any less of a leader, in fact it makes you more of a leader by having boundaries and being able to say no. 2. Treat yourself with the same belief, compassion, empathy, love and support you would give to your team. You are as worth of it as they are! 3. Embrace all of your experiences; even the ones you would rather forget! They make you who you are and you, my friend, are truly amazing! Weve all made some mistakes in our time, but we learn from them, we grow and we move on. 4. Recognise your triggers; stress makes us behave in ways we might not usually do. Really think about your emotional triggers and think consciously about how you respond. When you get that ‘if someone asks me where the camera is one more time’ feeling, ask yourself what the real issue is. Maybe investing another camera, or having a box for the camera or even sticking a note on your door that states ‘no, I don’t know where the camera is, please don’t ask’ is the way forward? Whatever the trigger that makes you react without love and empathy, feel it, embrace it and do something about it! 5. Accept you own weaknesses and insecurities; we all have them and they make us exactly who we are. Find ways to work on these areas, and love yourself regardless of your quirky flaws. 6. Embrace new opportunities and experiences that can boost your confidence and self-esteem enabling you to become more resilient. Yes, that might mean putting yourself in a slightly uncomfortable ‘out of your comfort zone’ kind of place, but it will be worth it, I promise. 7. Join forces with others in the same situation; use our lovely new forum to chat with other sector leaders and share your experiences together. You are not alone. 8. Remind yourself every day that you are totally worthy of your leadership role. You are completely up to the challenge and you can absolutely reach out for help and guidance along the way!

Self-love is an essential part of leadership, both for yourself and those aspiring leaders that are looking up to you. Don’t let them down by letting yourself down.

Do you show yourself the love you deserve? Comment below and let us know how you will make a change to include more self-love in your leadership.

Kelly x

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