After becoming a birth and end of life doula, Imogen Bailey is now running women’s circles.

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Before women’s circles both my career and personal life looked a lot like a swing high and swing low graph.

I went through stages of over achievement, being completely lost and fluttering around like a butterfly looking for the next vibrant flower to land on. The consistent element was my lack of self worth and low self-esteem. This meant I could only be successful in increments.

Eventually, the lack of self worth would win and I would ultimately contract again. I would move out of the light and into a safe cocoon or cave, a safe place away from everyone.

Despite a somewhat successful career in the entertainment industry, I always struggled with my self-esteem. My weight goes up and down depending on how I feel and it’s not necessarily directly related to food or exercise. If I feel like I want to hide or feel nervous or stressed my body begins to swell.

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Before women’s circles I found myself tumbling around in a constant swirling ocean of questions like: “Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I confident enough? Will this be enough? Will I be enough? Surely there is someone better at this than me?”

This would happen with every job, every project and every relationship. I struggled with eating disorders and anxiety and those who know me well would tell you my social skills in crowds could be far from great. I would be able to talk myself into giving a speech in front of five hundred people as long as I didn’t have to speak to anyone one on one.

My fiancé and I have a little in-joke about this that involves my arms suddenly looking like robot arms and me not knowing what to do with my hands in social situations. It is very awkward but also very funny. Women’s circles have taught me how to laugh at myself.

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LISTEN: Rebecca Sparrow and Robin Bailey discuss the life changing magic of not giving a f*ck about what others think. Post continues after audio .

I awkwardly hid behind my career for a very long time. The entertainment industry allows you to create buffers and protective boundaries. It also becomes an easy way out of social events. “Sorry, I am so busy” was a line I used a lot. This was in the early years of my career when it was at its peak. The peak was lost (several times over) because my lack of confidence helped my career to bottom out.

I wanted to do more acting but I wasn’t great at auditioning and I once had an agent tell me that it was painful for him to see my lack of self-esteem sabotage what should have been a flourishing career. At the time this hurt immensely but in retrospect his honesty helped me change my direction for the better.

Women’s circles have helped me get my confidence and self worth so high that I will now pick up a phone and talk about work that progresses me instead of doing what I used to do, which was connect friends to contacts rather than backing myself.

I finally dare to call myself an actor again and I finally booked a lead role in an indie film. Now I just have to get the casting agents to agree to see me again. Which, I know they will because I finally have self-belief and the confidence that is required.

This is why I am so passionate about women’s circles. For many women they are a soothing balm. They are a place of deep connection where they feel free to communicate with out inhibition. They feel seen, heard and appreciated. They begin to believe in themselves again if this is something they have lost.

I believe this is also the case for men who go to men’s circles. There is something undeniably magical about being in a circle with people that hold a shared intention to offer each other compassion, non-judgement and focused in person connection and intimacy.

In circle we speak with intention, we listen with attention and we are all there to uphold the well being of the group. This isn’t therapy it is a returning to being part of a tribe. If the term “tribe” causes you to feel sceptical, I want to ask you if you ever have moments where you crave real connections and a returning to simplicity?

How many of us are craving deep connections and how many of us are now seeking ritual in our lives? One of my great mentors said to me a ritual is an outer expression of our inner reality. A women’s circle is a ritual in itself. It is an outer expression of our inner reality. Most women want to connect deeply with other women. They want to feel free to express their most vast and vibrant thoughts and dreams. The women I meet in circle are lit up by the purity of our time together.

In circle we share our deepest fears and frustrations and also our wildest and most creative desires and dreams. We don’t give each other advice. We don’t judge each other or offer better ways we have done things ourselves before. We just listen. We witness and we allow the moment to be.

In circle we meditate, sometimes we dance, we laugh and we cry and we will create things. This time together is rejuvenating. There is a peaceful simplicity to circle that helps us to slow down, to reconnect with ourselves and with others.

Women’s circles are an ancient ritual. One of the most common understandings comes from the story of the red tent. Where women came together during menstruation. There are sacred circles, healing circles, men’s and women’s circles for sharing. These are all based on the ancient traditions and rituals and now we are seeing offerings that are a combination of ancient ritual and what is needed now.

We are now seeing circles pop up in cities and communities everywhere. We are even seeing them introduced in the corporate sector and being used for a variety of intentions from group relaxation to conflict resolution in the work place.

Circle has taught me about how we can contribute to our community by simply being. By sitting with each other and slowing down. By creating fun and playful environments and giving people a much-needed refuge from social media and fast pace.

I now facilitate my own circles and I train women to create, launch and sustain their own. It’s something I have become deeply passionate about. I am meeting and watching these women grow their own circles; circles that are an expression of their life journey and the skill sets they already possess. No two circles are the same. I am seeing women come along who previously felt this kind of thing was too “woo woo” and spiritual and they end up saying, “This is exactly what I needed”.

Perhaps we forget or deny how lonely we truly are sometimes or how we are beings who need “in person” connection and intimacy for our growth. I have witnessed my own personal growth and I have seen the women who have come to me bloom over and over again.

This work is an extension of my work as both a birth and an end of life doula. Through this work and education I have learnt how to hold space for people safely and responsibly. I know how to be there for someone, to be present, to switch off the monkey brain and all its chitter chatter and to be focused on another human in the moment.  These are skills that are serving me well.

I have never felt this good or connected in my life. Incredible women surround me. They are all committed to elevating each other and I can also say that my relationships with the men in my life have also benefited from my attending women’s circles. When I take care of myself I am a lot more capable of showing up for others.

For more information about women’s circles and women’s circle facilitation training go to www.honouringheart.com or their Instagram page.

Please note: Circle is not therapy and absolutely not a replacement for therapy. If you suffer from anxiety or self esteem issues that lead to depressive thoughts, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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