I want women to stop waiting for permission to be themselves

As she writes a new book, comprised of memoir, self-help and self-reflection, Virginia Foley, from Fairhill, catches up with EMMA CONNOLLY
I want women to stop waiting for permission to be themselves

Virginia Foley of Up She Rises

A CORK businesswoman is writing a book to help set women free from the life-limiting beliefs they’ve inherited. And she’s drawing from her own deeply personal back story to do it.

Virginia Foley’s mum was born in the Mother and Baby home in Bessborough and as a result she was separated from her birth mother.

“She had a poor and difficult upbringing,” says Virginia. “Despite her high level of intelligence she was denied an education and this had a huge impact on her life.

“As I later found out, through lots of soul searching myself, I also harboured feelings of low self-worth and rejection which I believe I inherited by osmosis,” said the mum-of-two.

“We tend to latch on to stories from our past or ones of those who came before us, and we allow that to form the narrative of what we tell ourselves to be true. These are where limiting beliefs are formed. It took me a very long time to figure that out so I want this book to be a guide to others, to fast track that process,” said the 42-year-old.

Virginia is the creator of UpSheRises.ie – a female empowerment community for woman who are building brands and growing their businesses. Through social media, educational events and online programmes, she helps women to learn and grow personally professionally.

She studied Marketing at CIT, and has a Masters in PR with new media in CIT where she researched the area of Brand Storytelling. She currently mentors on that Masters programme now and is a mentor at the Start Up Lab at UCC.

“While working with many female owned businesses over the years, there seemed to be a few common threads – imposter syndrome, self-sabotage, self-doubt and fear. 

"People with amazing businesses and business ideas were still afraid to step out and get visible and they were basically holding themselves back. I recognised in them all the things I had been working so hard to overcome myself, so, I felt obliged to share things I wish I knew much earlier in my career.”

For Virginia that included things like speaking on camera, leading events and creating her own opportunities.

“At the time I had no problem guiding others on what to say about their businesses and how to present in public and at events etc. But I was still playing small in my own business, based on the fear of what others would think of me,” she said.

It took a health scare a few years ago– a burst blood vessel in her body – for her to realise it was time for drastic change.

“I found myself at home, barely able to move or get dressed and unable to drive for a few weeks. It’s funny when nature makes you stop and take stock of things, it becomes clear what is really holding you back.

Virginia Foley of Up She Rises.
Virginia Foley of Up She Rises.

“It was at that time that I knew I had to transform my mindset completely in order to step into the confident person I desired to be. I became a bit obsessed with how the mind works and how we can train it to help us instead of holding us back.

“By sharing my own journey to figuring it all out and the tools that helped along the way, I knew it would help others to do the same. 

"I remember thinking ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me this stuff and why had I not figured this out until now.’ So I first created an online programme and then decided it was actually the foundations of the book.”

But Virginia, who lives in Fairhill, says the book isn’t about obvious like ‘believe in yourself’ or ‘stop stopping yourself.’

“My aim is to teach not preach – I don’t want to tell them, I want to show them, through my own story, what is possible if they can ignite their sense of self-love and self-belief. The more work I did exploring my own limiting beliefs, I realised that some of them started at a very young age. I can remember the first time I felt shame or self doubt; I was about five-years-old and I latched on to that story and the feelings that went with it.

“I look back now at times in my career when I worked in Fashion Ave in New York (a bit of a step away from Fairhill!) and the incredible experiences that I had there, meeting major fashion designers, all the while feeling deeply unworthy on the inside. But that motivates me to share what I’ve learned so others can benefit sooner rather than later.”

While she will share a lot of her own stories the book isn’t about Virginia. She describes it as a ‘self-belief bible of sorts.’

“It will be a hybrid mix of memoir, self-help and self-reflection. It’s about correcting the past and creating the future.”

She has felt huge freedom since detaching from the stories she inherited, and that’s what she wants for others.

“I want women to stop waiting for permission to be themselves. I want them to learn from my story and apply the learning in their own lives so they can stop holding themselves back and being crippled by fear. I want this book to be a catalyst in them waking up to their own purpose and pursuing it unapologetically.

“Underneath all of this though, I am determined to turn something bad into something good. Too many sad stories have surrounded Bessborough and other Mother and Baby homes around the country. Though the entire book is not about this topic, it is a major element of my back story. So, it is important that we can also get something positive from such a sad part of our history.”

Virginia hopes to have her book on shelves by the Autumn when she will also be delivering confidence workshops around the country; the first of which is happening in Cork on October 10, 2021.

See upsherises.ie/events

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