“Don’t dumb yourself down to make others like you.”
What is your definition of being fearless?
Feeling the fear but not letting it stop me from achieving my outcomes. My goal has to be bigger than my fear, if my fear is bigger, then my goal isn’t BIG ENOUGH!
And your definition of an inspiring leader?
Someone who has gone through adversity but has come out the other end empowered, full of gratitude and wanting to help others succeed. Individuals who are resilient and refuse to see the world as half empty.
Who are the role models that inspire you?
Oprah, Princess Diana, Tracey Spicer. These women have diverse backgrounds and upbringings but at the same time used their branding and influence to make an impact in their own unique ways. They overcame obstacles, were resilient and determined to not let their past and failures define them but instead empower them.
What have you found is the best way to silence the little voice that tells you “you’re not good enough”?
That’s a good question: considering I’ve spent my entire life with that little voice in my head, the best way to silence it is to be conscious of the little voice, recognise it as fake news and look for past experiences and areas in my life where I’ve disproved that fake belief.
What would you say are the biggest challenges girls/young women face when deciding on a future career or when entering the workplace for the first time?
The biggest challenges I see with girls entering the workforce is their lack of self-confidence: in themselves and their abilities. Women can also be their own worst enemies so there can be a bit of same-gender bullying in the workplace, for whatever reason. So girls need to empower themselves to really understand their identity, their values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses and embrace everything about themselves.
Only then can they be self-driven leaders and become more confident in themselves and their abilities. That’s why I help all the girls I work with to create a leadership mindset.
What is Imposter Syndrome, and do you find many young women suffer from it?
Impostor Syndrome is generally a symptom of high achievers in both men and women alike. Impostor Syndrome sits within the Fear Zone. When we’re forced to move out of our comfort zones we come up against three challenges:
- Lack of self-confidence as to whether we have the skills/abilities/competence to perform the task,
- Our own excuses because we’re afraid of what failure will mean, and
- Being affected by other people’s opinions around us, especially those that don’t believe in us.
Paula Dunn and some of the young women she's helped through her Leadership Academy.
You have experienced bullying both at school and in the workplace: what are three practical tips you could give to girls/young women that could help them deal with challenging situations?
Yes, growing up wasn’t easy… I was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate so I automatically looked different at school and couldn’t change the way I looked. I got bullied a lot for looking different, being called names like “Fat Lip and Train Tracks” so it really took a toll on my self-esteem. On top of that, because I was bullied daily, I found it really difficult to take in learning to develop and flourish like the other kids. So teachers used to think I was dumb and put me in slower learners’ classes for English and Maths. So I grew up thinking that the problem was “Me”, because everyone was happy to point the finger my way for how I looked and how I learned in class. The irony was that as I flourished in high school and beyond I ended up excelling in my career. As a result of that, I got bullied from others that perceived me as a threat. This time, however, I was being bullied for my achievements, not my looks. So three things I would tell young girls would be:
- Be yourself: be proud of who you are.
- It’s ok if not everyone likes you, they are not your people.
- Don’t dumb yourself down to make others like you.
What has been the most gratifying moment during your career so far? The moment you realised THIS is why you do it, as tough as it sometimes may be?
The proudest moment of my career was when I stepped out to start my own business. I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I never intended to ever start a business, nor did I ever think I had the qualities to do so. Another limiting belief that I defied and proved wrong! So it’s enabled me to step into my own power and strength and really own who I am as an individual. To be this role model for others and to help them get to where they want to be in the future… I love it!
How do you keep going when the going gets tough?
Of course life has ups and downs in equal parts, so what keeps me going when the going gets tough is to:
- Remember why I started in the first place,
- Surround myself with people and mentors that will help me circumnavigate those lows, and
- Look to famous people that were told they wouldn’t amount to much in their passions and who then defied those comments to actually become more powerful in those passions.
When I fail at something I always look to the lessons learned so I can improve for next time. If I dwell on all the negativity then I’m more likely to quit.
What have you learned about yourself while pursuing your career?
Choosing to become an Entrepreneur has been the hardest challenge throughout my entire career to date. Entrepreneurship is not just about having a logo, a business name and a product. It’s also about understanding who you are as an individual and ensuring that your identity is consistent and congruent throughout your entire Ecosystem. There were many times along the way that I failed or had setbacks and felt like giving in and giving up. But I kept going because I knew that I loved the journey I was on and the personal evolution I was creating for myself, which I know I would never have had the opportunity to develop while working in corporate.
I think I was always innovative and creative at heart and Entrepreneurship has given me that outlet that working in corporate stifled.
So my advice to all the young ladies out there is if something terrifies you and it’s hard work, then it’s most likely where you need to be… Keep going!
And what have you learned about young women through the work that you do?
A lot of young girls are ill-equipped to handle the real world and real life. It’s not their fault – working with them takes me back to a time when I was in exactly the same situation. However, I had the luxury of finishing high school, getting into uni, completing my degrees and getting a stable job. I was fortunate that my past experiences of being bullied and overcoming adversity had given me the determination, resilience and grit to tackle the uncertainty of life and what it throws at me. A lot of young girls, especially if they’re attending selective and private schools, are sheltered from this instability until they migrate into further study and the workforce.
Who is Paula Dunn?
Paula Dunn is an accidental entrepreneur, international award-winning Speaker, Organisational and Leadership Expert best known for helping young women and girls conquer life with a confident mindset and the courage and certainty needed to thrive while making the right decisions for their future success.
Paula is passionate about creating self-driven leaders within our next generation and believes this is the best way to tackle issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, bullying and self-doubt in women.
After 20 years working in a corporate environment in the medical and scientific industries, Paula recognised that key problems in the workplace included bullying and corruption, along with globalisation, AI and the gig economy. These technological advances created a scarcity mindset among workers, which resulted in feelings of insecurity and the uncertainty about the future of work. This also impacted the biases women face as Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs, which lead Paula to create The Limited-Edition Leadership Academy that sits within her consulting practice, No Limits Consulting
Paula has been featured in ABC Illawarra Radio, Illawarra Mercury, Inner West Courier, Business Woman Media, Women's Agenda, Business in Heels and She Does This. Paula has also received various accolades: 2018 Regional Finalist category "Superstar Start Up Awards" NSW Business Chamber; 2019 Inner West Regional Finalist for Local Business Awards and recently awarded the Prestigious "Women of Excellence" for her Leadership Program for year 10 girls at the Women Economic Forum in India 2019.
Paula has worked with hundreds of clients. Find her here: www.linkedin.com/in/pauladunn/
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