Claire Pestana tells us that, “I am a wife, and a Mum of two teenage children and an Authenticity Coach for women juggling motherhood and livelihood who are in need of renewed spirit, energy and purpose after devoting their life to their children, families and employers. My coaching supports and empowers them to manage yet another shift in identity as they consider who they are now and what comes next for them and to embrace their next chapter of life with positivity and potential.”
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I grew up in Surrey in the suburbs of London, UK with my mum, dad and brother, and had a happy and loving childhood. I was brought up with strong family values. As an Italian immigrant my mum and her somewhat larger side of the family, who moved to London from the Amalfi Coast in the late fifties, placed a great importance on coming together every Sunday afternoon to catch up and be together. My supportive and loving family have made me the kind, giving and passionate person I am today. I have always been proud of how I have upheld my Christian morals, values and beliefs, but it’s only more recently that I’ve discovered how these can also hold us back in life if we don’t reflect on them to see how we have interpreted them and how they are or are not serving us. Through my own journey to burnout and back, I have seen how our inherited beliefs can prevent us from understanding and appreciating our real worth and showing up as the best version of ourselves. From societal expectation and infrastructure I learned that I had a pretty pre-set path in life. I would get an education, study for one particular career, get a job, work my way up, get married, have children, raise a family. And I was also taught that: I was here to serve others first and foremost and that serving myself would be seen as selfish; that what other people thought about me was most important; that my worth and success would be dependent on my productivity; that gaining the approval of others would keep me safe and accepted; and that playing anything other than small and safe was too much of a risk. So I did all of these things and I prided myself on them. But there seemed to be this fire in me. This passion and ambition to be someone bigger and better, and to make more of a difference and more of a mark in life. The fire blazed at home a lot with the people closest to me – with whom I knew would accept me regardless – often in the form of defensiveness and frustration. But for the world on the other side of my front door, my sensitive self would be the one on show and my non-assertiveness, diplomacy and empathy would come in handy at winning approval and being accepted. Through my life I became more and more addicted to needing and relying on that approval. Until one day I crashed, and burnt right out, and couldn’t afford to ignore my self-neglect any longer.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say YES, go for it!”
My corporate career overall was fulfilling and successful. But it was when I chose to procreate and become a mother, that things started to become problematic! I graduated in 2000 with a degree in Corporate Communications. I held Marketing roles within creative agencies, a Chartered Accountancy Firm and a Housing Association before taking my maternity leave to have my first born. I went back to work part-time in a newly created role, but was made redundant on my second maternity leave. I felt rejected and knew my professional capacity was in doubt. And if there was any reason to doubt myself, there it was – on a plate. That was the first message I had that it would be tricky to be anything more than mum. After taking a year out dedicated to my baby and toddler, I started to search for part-time roles that would enable me to split my time between growing my professional skills and career, and tending to the needs of my family. The part-time job landscape was abysmal and I ended up signing on to government job-seeker allowance – something I never believed I would have to do, as a graduate with my skills and experience. I was incredulous that society would encourage and support me through further education, but then let me down so hard and fast once I wanted to bring new life into the world. It made no sense. With lots of drive, energy and effort and very little choice, I spent the following eight years in three marketing/events roles that enabled me to keep my managerial title on a part-time basis. My priority was always to protect my time and presence with my family whilst having clear boundaries between work and home, so as to manage people’s expectations of me. But my priority was never me – and what I needed. It didn’t feel like it could be. It was in 2020 that everything came crashing dramatically into question when a senior leader from whom I’d been seeking approval – someone who made me feel very insignificant – uttered four simple words coldly and curtly to me, that changed my life. I’d been working flat out in an Event Manager role at a school that allowed me to be part-time and flex around school runs and holidays. It was every mother’s dream job on paper, but the role was isolated, laden with expectation and with no support. Being a member of ‘support staff’ it seemed, meant being non-entitled to anything. And it was the first role I’d ever held where I felt a total disinterest in me and what I was doing. It was killing me softly and slowly. So when I was sitting attentively in a staff conference regarding the ethos of the school, I knew I probably shouldn’t get too comfortable. Standing with his arms folded at the side of the room, he called my name out between speakers, whilst curling his index finger at me. Claire?” He said tilting his head as if he were trying to figure me out. His voice was low and spine-tinglingly cold. “Why are you here?” I knew in my gut that he was questioning my presence to reiterate I didn’t belong with the wider group. My innermost self was floored. Brutally wounded, and my upright, rational self could no longer ignore her pain. I didn’t have the answer in that soul-destroying moment and I didn’t stand in my power because I had none. I had freely GIVEN IT ALL AWAY. I mumbled something about thinking it was relevant to me, before dashing off back to my office, where the uncontrollable torrent of tears began and two years of smiley perseverance unravelled spectacularly. I quit that job the very next day and at the time it was the breaking of me. But now I see it differently. I see how it was the making of me. Because it led me to question myself, my worth, my values, my truths, my fears. It led me to respond to my true calling – to coach other women to be more self-empowered, inspired towards a vision for themselves and passionate about their own potential.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
I have experienced and acknowledged the limitations placed on me by society and now aim to help other women past those to step into their full potential on their journey to self-actualisation. I believe that when a woman becomes self-empowered, it has an influential impact on the people around her, and that the long-suppressed feminine energy traits by society are very much needed now for the positive progress of humanity. I work on a one-to-one basis with women who have started to experience a shift in their sense of identity, and a feeling of ‘loss-of-self’ over recent years. It’s usually this feeling of grief or absence of self that calls them back and prompts them to re-establish that connection again. The lack of inner-awareness has resulted in feelings of self-doubt, lack of confidence and lower self-esteem. I coach women into their positive action towards goals that will help them to thrive from the inside out. They find that deeper connection with themselves, reaffirm and re-establish their identity, bring themselves back into alignment with their core values, develop their authenticity and cultivate positivity and potential for who they are, and what comes next.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
My most treasured outcomes of my work are when my clients message me personally after finishing a coaching series to tell me what a difference my coaching and support has made to them. I also believe that empowered women make a positive and influential example to their children and I see my work impacting much further. Despite coaching women into their full potential, I am passionate about coaching young people to appreciate their worth and inspire them towards self-awareness, connection and empowerment. One of my first talks was to a room full of 13-year-olds on ‘How to be your own BFF’ (Best Friend Forever).
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
My vision is of a world where women and all those who identify as such, are free to be themselves, to honour & love themselves with no limits. And where my coaching & communication for women’s authenticity & empowerment stimulates positive change at both an individual & societal level. I work towards this by holding safe and brave space for clients to feel just that. I promise to be a source of light, love and possibility to women wanting to live by their truths and to express themselves comfortably and with confidence. My core values both personally and professionally are Truth, Connection, Compassion, Courage and Brilliance.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?
For the world to become a better place for all, it will not be enough to simply see each other as equals. Not enough to spout the term diversity, equity and inclusion. And not enough to consider it merely a tick box exercise. We need the support and encouragement of our male counterparts to go way beyond that and start actively advocating for women in business; to start speaking up for ourselves and others when being talked down to. We need to step up and own our potential and what positives and differences we can make. Women have been taught to play small and now it is time to play bigger, and better and ditch the rule book we have abided by, in favour of ourselves and what we can contribute. We need to take off our masks, use our voices, our presence and feminine energy to balance out the masculine energy and allow compassion, creativity & communication to flow and feed our relationships. Then, as our contribution and commitment brings positive results, we can start to carve out space for ourselves within the leadership hierarchy. And because we won’t be concealing our truths and trying to be someone we’re not, or drawing upon all the masculine energy possible to get there – we will avoid burnout, build our legacy, remain there, flourish and see the fruits of our labour. In order to do this a woman needs to commit to her personal growth and development. She will need to work on her sense-of-self, her identity vision and values, her mindset, and her self-worth and confidence in order to feel empowered and intrinsically motivated. And once she is thriving from the inside-out, wonderful things will happen for all.
What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Make the commitment to yourself for your personal development to shape and set your own goals and dreams outside of those that may have been dictated to you. Don’t be afraod to be YOU. Continue your journey of self-awareness and development whilst moving in positive action towards your full and glorious potential. I’m with you all the way. You can find out more about me and the coaching packages I offer on my website www.clairepestana.com. Here you can also download my free ‘One True Self’ workbook that will help you develop a positive and healthy relationship with yourself AND sign up to my monthly loveletter Wild Whispers which aims to nudge you closer to your inner-self whilst you navigate work, and family commitments and meet the needs arising from other relationships.