Finding My Power and Growing a Multi-Million Company

By: Linda Mbagwu, speaker, coach, and consultant who helps leaders find their purpose and build impactful businesses

As the second eldest, and the eldest girl, of seven siblings, I had a lot of responsibility from an early age. When I was 6 years old, my father began to face problems with his businesses. He was uneducated and was afraid of not being able to educate his children if he lost everything. So he suggested to my mum that she move to the UK with us. My mum was born in the UK, and through his travels he knew that as citizens we would have access to free education.

At the time, she travelled with me and my two siblings whilst pregnant with my little sister. She went from being in a country where she was surrounded by family and wealth to being in a foreign land, as a single parent with no support.

She was a teacher, but her qualifications were not sufficient for the UK system, and she had to do a year of study to bring them up to the country standard, but with no help and four young children, it was almost impossible.

She found out that she was able to work as a substitute teacher, but work was intermittent. When she did not have a placement, she used credit cards to cover our expenses and that eventually caught up with her.

Our family finances were so dire that bailiffs came to our apartment and took possession of all the contents to cover her debts. Electricity and gas were out for months at a time, and we often went without food for a few days in a row.

One stormy day, my mum asked me to follow her to the grocery store. It was raining heavily and windy. On our way, while we were fighting to keep our umbrellas up, she stopped. When I turned around to see why she had stopped, I noticed her dropping to pull up her sock as it had fallen through a hole in her shoe and was drenched. That sight broke my heart. That was the defining moment that changed the trajectory of my life.

As an eight-year-old, I remember thinking that my mum didn’t deserve to go through that, and my family didn’t deserve to suffer as we had been. I decided in that moment that I had to become rich and look after my family. This decision changed the trajectory of my life and I signed my childhood away.

Giving My Power Away

In the years that followed, I worked and helped my mum take care of my siblings. The need to step into a motherly role was intensified when my stepdad became schizophrenic three months after marrying my mum and her attention was then directed at caring for him.

When I wasn’t babysitting and braiding hair to make money, I was doing house chores and caring for my siblings. My commitment to working and raising money to care for my family followed me through university and my early career – until I hit my breakdown at the age of 25. I became clinically depressed and had two failed suicide attempts. That was the rock bottom that lead me on a journey of transformation. I worked with a coach intensely to uncover the limiting beliefs that had lead me to a place of hopelessness and I realised that I had a lot of anger towards my mum and my family for taking so much from me and not being appreciative of what I was giving them in time, money and love.

I realised that this pattern was playing out in my intimate relationship, friendships, and my career – and I was tired. After complaining about what others were, and were not doing, I realised the common denominator was me.

The moment I saw my mum pulling up her wet sock, I made a decision to dedicate my life to supporting my family. Now that I was depleted, I was blaming them for accepting my generosity. It became clear that I taught them how to treat me. Rather than complaining about everyone around me, I needed to change me.

With that, I started creating boundaries, saying yes when I could, and no when I couldn’t. I let go of some of the friendships and the relationships at the time that were playing into the unbalanced dynamic I had created.

It completely turned things around for all of my relationships but most importantly, my relationship with myself. I learnt quickly that life was reflecting my beliefs, and if I wanted to change the outcomes in my life and my relationships, I had to first turn within to establish what was going on with me and how I was contributing to my results.

I Realised that Being Stuck was an Illusion

A number of factors led to my breakdown. I ended the relationship with my childhood sweetheart 4 months before our wedding day. As a partner in a recruitment firm, I was given an ultimatum from the Founding Partner to either keep my opinions to myself or leave. So I left and moved in with my mum (who I wasn’t getting on with at the time).

After my second failed attempt at taking my life, I decided to move into my car whilst trying to get a council house (government assisted housing). Whilst homeless, I started my recruitment business. I eventually got a place to stay three weeks later but struggled to make money in my business for 18 months, despite my best efforts.

I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I was able to make a lot of money for the companies I worked for and yet, on my own, I couldn’t even cover my basic needs. When I ran out of all the excuses why things were not working out for me, from being a black women in a white male dominated industry, to not having investment or a team, I looked in the mirror.

It became clear that I wasn’t stuck – which is how I often described myself. Instead, I had created a pattern of making money and giving it away to my family. Now that I was not speaking to them, in order to work on my well-being, I had no one to make money for apart from myself. I had never done anything for myself, so I was therefore unable to yield the results of my efforts.

I realised that it was more comfortable for me to suffer and struggle than turn things around for myself. This lesson has continued to serve me along my journey in the years that follow. Being stuck is an illusion. The reality we are recreating serves us more than the fear of stepping into the unknown. Although we may take actions to move forward, our subconscious intention is to stay the same, because it feels safe.

Once we become aware of the illusion, is it easier to make a new commitment and produce new results.

As soon as I gained this new awareness I began working on loving myself – as cliche as it may sound. I knew that if I didn’t love myself and feel deserving of success, no amount of hard work would result in any type of abundance.

Just two weeks after doing some mirror exercises, I closed a contract for 45,000 euros. I established partnerships that had never been established in the market with public health care organisations. I created a company culture where my employees were encouraged to bring their most authentic, powerful selves to work and in return I gained committment and loyality from them. With the support of my team, I was able to take my business from generating no money to making over £2.4 million-pounds in under 4 years.

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