Luisa Orza

Women’s Rights Advocate International Women’s Health and Rights Policy

“I work in an environment that is characterised by long working hours, big personalities, an ever-shifting political landscape, and strong competition for resources. I work as a freelance consultant for a number of closely allied small organisations based in different parts of the world. I put a lot of store in delivering to a high standard.

At the beginning of this year I found myself suffering a crisis of confidence, I didn’t have the energy to raise my voice. I was failing to set boundaries around my working hours, and feeling a sense of powerlessness in the face of ever growing demands on my time and resources, both from close working colleagues and other professional contacts/partners. On the recommendation of a friend, I reached out to Sarah to ask if she could help with some assertiveness coaching.

The first thing Sarah did was to ask me to articulate what I meant by “assertiveness.” This in itself highlighted to me the many areas of my work where things were actually fine as they were, and thus immediately stemmed the feeling of being completely overwhelmed. It also helped me to step back from the situation and identify and focus I needed to make changes: boundary setting, improving the quality of engagement, and taking the lead, especially in situations where I feel outside of my comfort zone.

Sarah’s approach was a) supportive and positive, with a focus on what’s already working; b) completely non-judgemental, and c) very practical. Most of all I felt heard, which was something I was not feeling in my work life, and we explored in some depth some of the emotional aspects of that, as well as identifying some potential actions. Her approach also utilised mindfulness techniques: noticing (without judgement) the circumstances around situations, and how my actions made me feel in the moment, both physically and emotionally.

At the end of four sessions, I was able to see a shift in the way I was working. I felt more able to identify areas where I would be able to make the greatest contribution, and move into them with leadership and confidence. I felt more able to broach boundary issues within closer working relationships, and overall I felt more excited about my work. I now feel better able to prioritise my work projects, and bring more creativity and energy to my work.”