Pooky Ponders: How much of ourselves should we bring to the workplace? | Lisa Cherry

Today’s question is “How much of ourselves should we bring to the workplace?” and I’m in conversation with Lisa Cherry

Lisa brings over 30 years experience of working in Education and Social Work settings and a 30-year journey of personal recovery from a fractured childhood.

Lisa’s own recovery journey brought about her taking the time to qualify as a Holistic Health Therapist in 2005 which Lisa brings to all her work, creating a space for healing, recovery and good mental health and well being.

Lisa’s research in her Masters in Education looked at the intersection of school exclusion and being in care and the impact upon education and employment across the life course. In October 2020, this research will be carried out as a Doctorate at The University of Oxford. 

Lisa brings academic research, professional experience and personal stories together to create a holistic approach to working with vulnerability with a fundamental belief that with the right relationships, we have the capacity to recover.

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Lisa’s Links:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/_LisaCherry

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lisa_cherry_speaker/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lisacherryauthor/ 

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/lisacherryauthor

Podcast: https://link.chtbl.com/d2QY6Sx7

Book: https://amzn.to/3fDvis6 

It was being interviewed by Lisa that inspired me to start my own podcast.  You can listen to our interview here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/episode-twenty-one-live-webinar-with-pooky-knightsmith/id1474072018?i=1000479283835


Please note, the transcript is auto generated.

Pooky Knightsmith: hello and welcome to pukey ponders the podcast where I explore big questions with brilliant people. I’m Pooky Knights Smith. And I’m your host today’s question is how much of ourselves should we bring to the workplace? And I’m in conversation with Lisa Cherry,

Lisa Cherry: I’m Lisa Cherry, and I’m a, um, trainer and speaker on trauma recovery. So 

Pooky Knightsmith: the episode topic today is about how much of ourselves we should bring into the workplace, which is something we’ve talked about a little bit in the last podcast we get together. And we talked about it a bit on and off in between, but I think it’s a really big and thorny topic.

And, uh, yeah, I don’t know what your, your kind of opening tape is on it and how much you want to share about your journey and stuff in. 

Lisa Cherry: Yeah. I mean, God, it is a really big and thorny question. Um, and I guess I would start off by saying that we bring all of ourselves into our work, whether we do that consciously or not.

And I think that’s the key really that there’s this idea that somehow you can separate yourself out, but actually. I would be more inclined to feel that there is a conscious, a conscious nurse about what you do or there isn’t. And regardless of where you are on that journey, you’re still going to be bringing all of yourself to work.

So I think the more important question for me is how do you develop a consciousness about who you are? How do you get to know who you are so that you can bring your best self to work? 

Pooky Knightsmith: Ah, okay. That’s, that’s, that’s really interesting. And which parts of ourselves do you think are kind of relevant now?

Because I’ve come into this with a view on, you know, uh, You know, experience of sort of mental health issues or other adversities that we might be supporting, um, the people in our care with, but using your idea that that could be kind of any part of asking it. It might be. Yeah. Yeah. 

Lisa Cherry: So I think if I think about my own experience of working in, um, social work settings, uneducation settings are somebody who was care experienced, but not just care, experienced a whole range of things that came with that experience that.

I carried a lot of shame about in a professional context. So, um, so I’m very comfortable being this vulnerable with you, but I don’t want to do this without acknowledging that this takes a level of vulnerability that I’m comforted. Yeah. But when I worked in those spaces, um, I was okay. Also very aware that I had been homeless.

I was very aware that I went to AA meetings. I was very aware that, um, I. I had lived in residential homes and foster homes. And I was very aware that talking about any of those things was not likely to end up in a satisfactory conversation. And by satisfactory, I mean, the, on the odd occasion, when I did mention it, I felt that it just was a very uncomfortable interchange with the other person as if it was something strange or unusual.

But I was there in a professional capacity. I don’t feel like it was managed well, it was handled well. Um, and as such, it just silenced me and the problem with the silencing. And we talked about this in our conversation, on my podcast. Um, the problem with that is that. Uh, there are less opportunities than to confront those aspects of yourself that you’re bringing to work.

So it’s a kind of double-edged sword in a way that you can’t bring yourself to be in spaces that are appropriate to work with who you are, because you’re working with other humans. So by definition, you’re being, having your buttons pushed and there’s material galore. Um, and so what happens is you still bring all of that stuff, except that there’s not an explicitness about it.

And for me, I think I would say that there wasn’t necessarily the consciousness about it was that I didn’t want anyone to know about it. If that makes sense. There wasn’t a consciousness about the impact of it and where I was on that particular lit recovery journey. The consciousness was that. This doesn’t feel so, so let’s just stop it down, uh, not deal with it.

Pooky Knightsmith: Wow. So you were presumably inspired to do a lot of the work that you choose to do, which isn’t easy because of your experience, but yet you didn’t feel you could share it or is that not right? 

Lisa Cherry: Yeah, I’d say that’s. Yeah. I feel like my whole, my whole working life path was set in motion. Um, the moment I was born in a mother and baby unit, you know, I just, and I feel so grateful and lucky that those experiences created a pathway that aligned with my passion, the, you know, whatever it is that makes you do the things that you do.

Um, absolutely. Those, um, personal experiences offered me, um, I suppose career ideas, you know, I’ve never been around a social worker as a young person. Why would you think I want to be a social worker? You know, you’re going to have been exposed for some reason in some way to different types of work, uh, which is one of the reasons why education is so full of inequity, but that’s for another story.

But there were things that I was exposed to that showed me that I wanted to do those things. Um, with that wonderful youthful arrogance of, I will go into the system and I will fight it from the inside rather than fighting it from the outside. Um, as, as, as one feels when we’re, um, younger, you know, now I feel like that now.

Um, I guess it’s a different energy, of course, I’m still him wanting to make a difference. That’s what gets me out of bed. There’s no question about that, but is it still driven with that kind of, I can’t fight it from the outside. So fight from the inside. Not really, um, for restart, I don’t necessarily see myself as fighting.

Um, that energy has changed. Um, And that might just be a perception, might be the other people, see, see what I do as fighting, but I don’t, it doesn’t feel like that. Um, but yeah, I mean, certainly creating, making things be better is that, is the key driver still? Absolutely. 

Pooky Knightsmith: In terms of your experience and how that has sort of shaped the route that you’ve taken, then it sounds like it’s about your experience.

Not necessarily having been wholly good. And you wanting it to be different for other people in that situation, or was there some off, you know, you had great experiences and you would like to echo those. 

Lisa Cherry: Um, no, I think there was a real understanding from a very young age in the system that systems themselves were not necessarily, um, in a position to heal support healing from trauma and actually often added to trauma.

And that was something that I think I understood really very quickly maybe by about 16 actually. Yeah. Um, and that felt very wrong to me, that felt, um, and I think I recognized that there were people within the system that were really like amazing people. Yeah. Um, despite the system, it’s a really difficult one, isn’t it?

Because when you start talking about systems, it’s almost like you forget that there are humans in that system. And I guess it’s always a balance. And sometimes I think. Systems are more powerful than the people in them. Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And did you ever experience anyone who kind of touched your life because they did bring that own experience into their work?

Lisa Cherry: Oh, that’s a very good question. No, no, no, I didn’t. And I think social work was very caught up in separating personal and professional. This idea that you’re somehow don’t have a personal, uh, and also not really, uh, a structure and framework for how you bring your personal safely into work. Um, I didn’t meet other people like me.

Even though I’m very aware that the most been other people like me milling around, who also felt that the world, other people like them. But no, I didn’t 

Pooky Knightsmith: really, that’s interesting. Isn’t it? I think so you must have, you must have, did you feel a bit alone? 

Lisa Cherry: The experience is very full of isolation and, and again, I think that’s, that’s down to the system and I was talking about that this week, um, in a project that I’ve been doing in collaboration with the colleagues association and the department for education, which is very much around thinking about how you create sustainable.

Long-term. Relational opportunities for young people so that there can be those connections and that people don’t have to feel so alone. And I do think things are a bit better with social media now, but certainly when I was coming out of that system and for a number of years afterwards, I didn’t know people like me know.

And I think when I think about that, there’s something really, really powerful about wandering around the there’s just you and even going to uni. I think the statistic back then was 1% wow. Of people who’d come out of care, went to university. Um, that that statistic did not make me feel. Connected. It left me feeling very alone.

And when I talked about the experience of being cat at university, nobody really knew what I was talking about. Um, and, and I don’t think that’s changed massively. I think, unless you’re speaking regularly to lots of people with different life experiences, it’s very difficult to know and understand what that experience is like, what the experience I think the most defining element of that is just being separated from your birth family, in whatever context, whether that’s because, um, you’ve been, um, Had to be separated or because you’ve been relinquished or whatever terminology you want to use.

There is something incredibly defining about that experience that feeds a whole range of narratives, about your worth, about your value, about how important you are, about how lovable you might be. And we carry those narratives then into adulthood and they take a long time to unpick. Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And that, there’s a, there’s a massive challenge in there.

Isn’t there. I it’s just sort of triggered a thought for me. My, one of my daughters is adopted and, um, there was recently a situation at school whereby she’s at quite a new school and it all, our friends kind of suddenly found out in one day that she was adopted and it had just never kind of come up before.

Um, and it was really. As her mom, it was so hard to manage, not because of actually any of the distress that that day caused for her. And it’s always difficult when you know, these things happen and all our friends were asking her questions all at once. The thing that really got to me was when I said to her, well, do you mind your friends knowing don’t you want them to know?

And you, and I don’t want them to know I’m adopted. And that broke my heart because I didn’t know what have I, you know, it just brought a lot of questions and I guess it makes you think about yourself, doesn’t it. And it made me think, well, what, what if I would have I not got right here that she recognizes that as something that she wouldn’t want people to know and to be proud of.

And do you know what I mean? Yeah. It’s 

Lisa Cherry: challenging. Yeah. It’s challenging. And I think. It also speaks of how curious we have to be with each person, because each person is going to have a completely different kind of interpretation of those events and what they mean for them. And I think the challenge of course, is that when it comes to policy, there’s a keen desire to speak about people as homogeneous groups in all sorts of ways, you know, and of course that’s really unhelpful because we’re all very different.

And actually the curiosity about those experiences is where the richness lies. And to be that curious, of course there has to be a relationship and that’s, that’s really, that’s really challenging. Um, when those. Relationships are predominantly in systems rather than like for, in sample where you are in family.

It’s much easier to have that curiosity. Yeah, 

Pooky Knightsmith: I guess that’s, that’s true. Do you, do you think that kind of having experienced that, the thing in which you’re working, it makes you better at your job? Or do you think it ever gets in the way? 

Lisa Cherry: Um, I think it’s, again, it’s a mixed bag. I think it can get in the way.

Um, I think about certain examples, certainly. I mean, I haven’t done any direct work for about 10 years now, but, um, I recall something, uh, interesting. I wrote about it in my book, the brightness of stars that I wrote quite a few years ago now. Um, and. I can’t recall a situation whereby moving a young person from one place to enact the next and all of their things were in Ben banks, which were then put in the back of my car and I should have been dealing with why that young person, how do they stuff in Ben liners, but actually what happened was it triggered something in me.

And I remember vividly my eyes welling up with tears. And I remember vividly saying to myself, I am not going to let that happen to myself again. Wow. And I think that. That’s that balance where there’s a hindrance. Yeah. I wasn’t able to be present in the way that I would have liked to have been and actually the space and the platform by which to have the conversation about that wasn’t available either.

And that’s where we have a real difficulty about what we bring into our work and whether that is therefore going to help or to hinder. Does it mean the, you know, I have a different lens through which to view the world. Absolutely. It’s um, it’s a defining experience when people talk about defining experiences, they’re usually talking about things that I don’t, that it means anything to me, you know, whether it’s, you know, meeting a husband or a 21st birthday party or.

The not defining for me, you know, whereas I think can I, what came after has, has been very defining for me and it’s been a really, um, weight weight-lifting experience, uh, to be in a position where I’m very open about that. It’s not that it defines me more than any of my other experiences. Um, professionally it’s not the most defining experience, but personally it is very defining.

Pooky Knightsmith: Is that true? Even now, you know, as more time goes by and that becomes a smaller chunk of your life, if you like, does that make any difference or is it, you know, it was so formative. 

Lisa Cherry: I think I have children and they’re adults now. And when you have children, your watching them each year and. You know, children are really triggering, right.

You know, parenting from a place of trauma is a podcast in itself. How, how, how you parent is so shaped by your own childhood experiences, whether it’s, I will do the opposite of what was done to me, or I will repeat what was done to me, or I haven’t got a clue what I’m going to do, because I’m just going to pretend nothing happened to me, you know, whatever it is when you have your children each year that they present themselves, they are showing you a mirror of, of, uh, of, of you where you were and feelings you had and traditions or not having traditions that you have.

And I don’t think that’s talked about enough in the whole parenting arena. Um, So, is it defining as much now? It’s just differently. So, because I’m so aware of things that I’ve done with the best of love and intention that I now see playing out with my adult children, if that makes sense. And it’s not all doom and gloom, you know, it’s not all the bad stuff.

There’s some great stuff in there, but, um, nevertheless I know where it comes from. Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s hard, isn’t it? Anything where you’re trying to kind of break cycles or make change. And obviously you’re doing that on a, on a big level with kind of trying to address a system that maybe doesn’t work as you might want and hope for the child that you once were, but equally within your own home on a kind of much more micro level.

And I don’t think. I don’t know. I’m sure you’ve put as much energy probably into both, I would guess. 

Lisa Cherry: Um, yes, I would like to think so. Um, although one of course is harder than the other, you know, your own, your own raising your own children is just such a difficult thing to do. Um, and anyone who says it’s not, um, either has a huge amount of support, knowledge or wisdom that I didn’t have that’s for sure.

Cause I found it incredibly, um, hard graft really, 

Pooky Knightsmith: and the stakes feel so high don’t they? I think for me, that’s always the challenge that I don’t think. And it sounds so incredibly naive. I don’t think I realized what it was to really love someone until I have my own children. I’d never experienced that degree of, of love and something where somebody else’s welfare mattered quite so much.

And so suddenly you have this thing and you can’t put it, you know, once the genie’s out, the bottle is there, isn’t it. And it really matters. Everything you do really, really matters and their pain is your pain. Isn’t it. And I don’t know, I spend a lot of time feeling I’m not doing it well enough. Um, yeah.

Lisa Cherry: And I always said that my children taught me how to love and I still don’t always think I’m doing well enough. I, you know, I wonder how much of that is just part of the package of parenting from the minute you get pregnant, you know, there’s this kind of whole, you know, you can’t eat cheese. You can’t, you can’t have Bree, you can’t, you can’t smoke fags.

You can’t drink which coffee, you know, whatever it is, there’s all these things, all of a sudden, but if you’re doing it, you’re somehow harmed and you know, that’s really alarming if you know, um, the one thing you don’t want to do is cause harm, you know, um, But yeah, I mean, God, we’ve gone deep into a really intimate, vulnerable conversation with Wiki.

Pooky Knightsmith: We have a little bit, sorry about that. You bring it out, 

Lisa Cherry: like bore me up for God’s sake. Take a message straight to the heart, all call. 

Pooky Knightsmith: This is what happens when you have someone who’s autistic during the interview. I’m not interested in the small talk. Tell me about the kids. They told me off about this the other day we were talking about, uh, uh, him supporting me through like a really tricky time in my life when I was suicidal.

And I think about three minutes in, we went right in there and he, yeah, he, yeah. Sorry about that. Are you, are you proud of what you’ve done? What you’re doing? Do you think your, your childhood self would look at you and go, yeah. Lisa you’re you’re making a difference. 

Lisa Cherry: Uh, yes. But even you saying that to me, I feel emotional.

You know, I find that a very difficult kind of thing to think about, to say to own. I think we, we often, and by that, I mean, lots of those. Yeah. Um, don’t appreciate how amazing we are. I think we are all far more amazing than we think we are. So I often tell myself that sentence. Um, I know that people, I know that I’m very highly regarded in the work that I do and that’s such a lovely thing.

Um, do I get up and think, you know, wow, you’re amazing. You’re making a difference. Um, No always no. Um, I think sometimes I’m like, wow, that is amazing, but I do need it, bear it back. I had a great conversation the other day, for example, um, with, uh, the lovely Andy Biley, who, um, is a great guy to talk to. He’s also care experience, criminal justice experience and works in criminal justice.

And, um, we were having a chat and cause I don’t know if you know, I’m not even saying this makes me feel really uncomfortable, but I’m going to do a doctorate in October. That’s amazing. Did you not know? Well, I’m supposed to know. Cause I keep saying it because I’m trying to, I’m trying to wear the cloak.

I’m trying to try on what it feels like. So I keep saying it wherever I go and it must be really annoying for people, but I think it’s, cause I don’t really believe I’m going cause I’m going to Oxford. Right? I know. So. I keep saying it in the hope that I will align with it in some way, from every aspect physically, emotionally, spiritually, et cetera.

I’m not quite there yet, but it is only July. So that’s okay. Um, and I, I sort of joked with him and said, you know, it’s not my academic prowess that they’re after, you know, um, that’s not what I bring to the party. And, and he was just like, really good at mirroring to me. Yeah. But they invited you to apply like, wow, you are, whatever it is you bringing, they want to have that.

And why can’t you just own it? And I just thought, yeah. Why, why, why can’t I just own it?

Yeah, come on. Yeah. I mean, um, yeah, so I think. That has been the case all the time, his son, just to share my amazement at everything, you know, that I get to do. Um, and I wonder if, if I ever stopped feeling really grateful and amazed and, you know, uh, if I stopped feeling all those things, then maybe that’s what it’s time to stop.

But as it stands at the age of 50, I still feel utterly grateful and kind of just amazed the people like to listen to what I’m saying. And I bring something that is valuable and yeah, I, I don’t, I feel quite humble about it. I don’t feel. Wow. 

Pooky Knightsmith: It’s so interesting hearing you talk because it, it, I feel a little bit like I’m listening to myself.

Um, like I can, yeah. I, I kind of empathize hard with where you’re coming from, but I find it weird hearing you say that because you know, we’ve not spoken for that long because I’ve been sitting on the outskirts of your well going, Oh my God. Lisa’s amazing. Lisa’s amazing. I’m feeling like so intimidated by your general awesomeness so that when you kind of, I can’t even remember how we started talking.

It was like basis. Talk to me, you know, and yeah, that, doesn’t, you know, obviously my interpretation of you and yours is perhaps a little bit different, I guess 

Lisa Cherry: I’m going to say, Oh, we all like that. You know, there, there is an L well, actually, no, we’re not Donald Trump, isn’t it. For example, he thinks he’s great.

So, you know, some people do actually get up in the morning. They just think I am so great. You know, but it’s so interesting when you say that because. And this is going to, we’re going to start getting all a bit of fun, girly, but I watch you and your output. I mean, I think my output is not bad. You know, I keep going every day, I’ve been self-employed for 10 years, every day, I’m creating something, making something, you know, writing something, trying to meet what people need, um, by what you and your output is like triple mine.

You know, and I think, Oh my God, how’d you even do that? You must be like, I’ve got visions of you at five o’clock in the morning and go, Ooh, that’s a program thing. Or I’ve just read a book and I read it in 14 minutes. Um, so I think we have to be really cautious. Don’t worry about what our outsides look like to people.

And like, I really want my outsides and my insights to be as aligned as possible. So for example, when, um, locked down happened, and every day I thought, well, I’m going to do 21 days of self cab. I call it even though I think the term self care is complicated. Um, and on the days I didn’t want to do it. I showed up and I said, I don’t want to do this.

I don’t feel like it today. I don’t understand what’s going on. Everything feels really uncertain. And the thing I wanted to do that because I wanted people to see that we don’t get up every day. Yeah, and we’ve got it all going on every day. I wanted my insights and my outsides to have some kind of resonance rather than people using their insights to compare my outside with.

Yeah. And I think, yes, we have a responsibility to show up and to be, be what we want to be, um, and to take responsibility for what we put out there. But I also think let’s do that with compassion. Let’s do that with honesty and integrity and, and show that, and I know you do this and show the parts of us that are struggling, um, in a way to kind of inform connection.

Human connection requires us to. Not be slick and perfect. And, um, these incredible people. Cause I know an incredible person, I’m just a person who is lucky enough to do something that I absolutely love every day and get paid for it. That’s it. 

Pooky Knightsmith: It’s pretty cool. When you think about it like that, do you still love it as much as you ever did every 

Lisa Cherry: day?

Really? Every day. I mean, no, that’s not strictly true actually when I think about it. Yeah. Okay. And it’s like coming out. Um, I think I have periods where I get very fed up, so I got very fed up towards the end of last year because I felt like, um, everything had gotten very tick boxy. Okay. And people were just talking about trauma and attachment and I’ve done trauma, I’ve done attachment, and I’ve done this and I’ve done that.

And I was like, no, no, you’re really missing the point of this. This is not a thing you do. This is not a folder. Um, and I don’t want to be part of that. I want to be engaged in something with other human beings where they feel slightly uncomfortable and I want to feel slightly, it’d be uncomfortable. I want us to come together and shift in our thinking.

I want us to, to feel safe in our discomfort so that we can talk about really difficult things. I don’t want us to. You know, real through some slides and then everyone goes home and cause they’re like, Oh, that’s great. That’s really good. And then they come back the next day and nothing has shifted. I want people to go home.

I want them to be going through the processes in their life. And they’re thinking, God, yeah, that came up when we were talking about that. An, Oh, I’ve just noticed I’ve just been really judgmental about that. Oh, that’s an interesting sensation going on inside my body, since I was thinking about that thing.

That’s what I want to be a part of. And so, yeah, I am really passionate and I, um, I do love it a few day, but there are times when, if I’m not careful, I, I slip into being part of the very systems that being self-employed affords me the freedom to challenge properly. Yeah. 

Pooky Knightsmith: And I think that’s an interesting part of this whole thing.

Isn’t it? About how, yeah. How we choose to be employed and what that means in terms of how much of ourselves we can bring into our work. Because at the end of the day, your Lisa Cherry, you’re employed by Lisa Cherry and you can be. Whoever you decide and no one above you is going to have anything to say about that.

Cause there is no one. Right. Um, and I guess that, yes, it might impact on how much work he do and don’t get and the kind of people that you end up working with, but it’s not going to ever be that someone sits you down and says, Hey, this isn’t okay. Have you been employed? Have you ever had a situation where you’ve had an employer saying actually you need to be different in the workplace?

Oh my 

Lisa Cherry: God. Yeah. It’s like my whole employment life. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Is that why you’re self employed now? 

Lisa Cherry: Yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Listen, I can tell you the party line to a degree. Um, I think one of the things I found most limiting about being employed was the lack of creativity that I could exercise my ability to be creative.

That. Gives me the most pleasure. I can literally write what I like create what I like. I can see a gap and I can offer something. Um, um, Mo nobody he’s going to have Lisa Cherry come and work with them unless they want Lisa. Yeah. I mean, literally nobody. Um, because people say to me, I’ve said to them, look, I might say things that are going to be really challenging.

And they’ve said to me, well, that’s what you’re doing here. You know, that’s why we’ve got, yeah, you just, do you say whatever you want to say, and I’m, I’m often just given complete free rein to do my thing. And actually it’s not, but I’m particularly challenging, but I certainly, I guess what people see is that they can see that I don’t have the chains around me that prevent me from being authored to and true to who I am and what I believe.

Pooky Knightsmith: And does that, do you ever have to kind of reign that in depending on you know, where your work is coming from or why you think it might come from next? So for example, you said you’re doing this care leavers project with the department. Does that, is that, you know, does the commissioner ever influence on what you do or are they getting you when they commissioned you?

They get, they 

Lisa Cherry: get me and depending on that audience, so, you know, I talk more about different things. So if I’ve got a very education audience, I speak very education. If I’ve got very social work audience, I speak very social work, doing stuff with care, the care leaves association, I’m doing stuff. That’s, I’m going to bring my personal more into it because it’s appropriate to do so.

Um, and you know, that’s the freedom that I have and also. You know, the broadness, I suppose the spectrum of experiences. If I need to get academic, I can bring my research in. Um, you know, so I can, I can draw upon all of those spaces. Listen, I don’t have to get personal at the end of the day. There’s enough other things I’m bringing to the party upon which to hang my hat, you know, but I think adding in the personal aspect, um, brings something else that people can connect with.

Uh, and I think. That is very connected and linked to where we started this conversation and where we are around, uh, being employed and how much you can say and how much you can’t. Certainly don’t bring my stuff into the space because it needs dealing with, I bring stuff into the space that is well and truly dealt with.

And we talked about that so beautifully. When we looked at lived and living experience, they’re two very different spaces and have different places, 

Pooky Knightsmith: I think not. And that’s one of the things I I’m struggling with personally at the moment is how much is it okay. To be honest about how things are right now, because I feel like.

There are increasingly role models around me for people with lived experience who talk about their past really eloquently and draw on that in a vulnerable way. And I find that really inspiring what I find. There’s less of our people around me who are still dealing with this stuff. So, you know, I today have spoken to my psychiatrist cause I’m having a bit of a bum.

I can’t eat, I’m too anxious to eat. That’s a problem. And actually being able to be honest about that and be out there about that is important to me because I know that there are other people out at me like that who will look at me and go, well, she’s managing and I need them to know I’m not some days, you know, um, what next do you know what I mean?

But then there’s another part of me that’s like, wow. But just that just look bad. Does it, you know, people can a judge and do any, uh, 

Lisa Cherry: yeah. Yeah. I mean that is a messy space and. People are well, first of all, people are always going to judge. I think one of the best sentences that anyone ever told me in my early twenties is what other people think of you is none of your business, uh, because you can’t stop.

Um, what other people’s view of you is going to be? No. Uh, and, and nor should you, you know, you just get on with your life, your beautiful, big Peaky life. Um, and I think. I remember saying, like, I often say that in a training event. Cause lots of people come up to me. They go, I’ve got to leave at such and such time.

It’s nothing personal. And I’m like, I don’t take it personally. You just, you just do you, you just live your life. And if you have to go and get your kids at two 30, then you go and get your kids at two 30 years. I don’t, I don’t look at people and think, is that because of something I said or is that because of something I did.

So I think first of all, yeah, it’s about understanding that people are always going to judge you regardless of how amazing you are. Um, and secondly, I guess I think it’s, it’s, it’s good. From the work that you do, um, to have that openness while at the same time looking after yourself, because of course the problem with being open about living experience is that lots of people will have an opinion about how you should do it.

And of course, that’s really difficult because you know, you’re working hard with your team around you and what you don’t need in a way. You’re not inviting people to give you lots of advice about what to do to help, you know, you’re sharing from a place of, Hey, I’m human and I’m struggling right now.

Yeah. It’s okay. If that happens to us, not from a place of. Hey, I’m struggling right now. And I’ve really liked the 30 odd thousand people who are on my Twitter feed. Just give me some advice about that. So if I can figure out what to do, 

Pooky Knightsmith: incredible seeing one, uh, emotional impact. I mean, it’s, it’s not a bad thing.

I know you 

Lisa Cherry: got crowd sourcing, emotional input. I love it. But 

Pooky Knightsmith: I think some of it though is about. I feel like when we’re open and honest, we can change how people feel and that might change what they do. Right. So I think, like you said, you don’t need to bring your lived experience into your work. You’ve got so many other kind of places to, to hang that, that it’s not necessary, but actually that maybe your work is more impactful sometimes when you do that.

And I guess that’s the thing like this morning, I thought really carefully do I tweet that I’ve spoken to my psychiatrist and actually my main motivation for doing it partly is holding myself to account. Actually, when I feel myself slipping, sometimes it’s about being honest and saying, this is a tricky moment.

It’s going to be fine, actually, but much more likely if a bit like at home, if I talk to my family and say, I’m finding it a bit hard right now, I’m more likely to get through that than if I hide it. Um, but the, the main motivation for me actually was loads of psychiatrists follow me on Twitter. And what I needed them to know is my psychiatrist did an awesome job today.

And she did an awesome job because she listened because she was human. Cause she was compassionate cause she was practical. Um, and I needed people in my life to know that that matters because I’ve had some awful psychiatrists in the past. Um, and when they get it right, it makes, you know, this, this means that I’ve had one conversation with her.

I’m really confident that, you know, a couple of weeks time, it will be fine. It will be gone if I’ve not had that conversation or she’d not dealt with it in that way, then it might be three months time on him in an inpatient unit again, you know, it really matters. Yeah. 

Lisa Cherry: So you’re modeling aren’t you? I don’t know.

Yeah. I think you are. I think you’re modeling what a good relationship looks like with your psychiatrist, your, your modeling. That when we share something, it helps us. Yeah. So yeah, you’ve got an audience and you’re taking that very seriously, which is that, you know, you’re being watched and you know, that people are looking to you about how you’re doing this thing called life with all of the complexities and challenges that you you’ve got within and without you.

And I think that’s the most responsible way to use a platform, actually. 

Pooky Knightsmith: It’s okay. If you don’t agree, that’s the thing I’m always up for healthy challenge, but, uh, I don’t, yeah, I wish there was a manual don’t 

Lisa Cherry: you? Well, that’s an interesting, an interesting one. So that, that whole idea about, uh, this thing called life and how you live it.

Um, when I was 20, I found myself in an AA meeting. And I haven’t had a drink since. And one of the things that they talk about is you now, you know, you know, this is like the rule book of life and I’m actually, I really felt like I’d found the rule book of life, having not had any comprehension or understanding about how you do life.

Um, having said that, uh, you know, I still didn’t mean that I always understood how you do life. And I think I remember being very floundering around in my early thirties with two small children on my own. Wondering how do people do this? And it didn’t occur to me actually that most people don’t raise two children on their own without any family that actually, and work full time and do course, and you know, all the rest of it.

And I think I really gave myself a hard time about not being able to do that because I haven’t read the bit in the book about system connection community, how you do that. Yeah. You know, and that really impacted, I think on me and my kids. Um, but I got better at it. I definitely got better at it. Yeah.

What helped? Um, I think certainly becoming self employed helped because it meant that I have more control over my time, which meant that I could meet other people, um, who could form a support network, but trying to do that when you work as an employee full time, just meant that, you know, you’re away from the community.

For the whole day. So drawing upon community support just became something that I just couldn’t do, but I could do that once I became self-employed and also becoming self-employed, um, took me on the most incredible kind of personal development journey. Yeah. That sat on top of all the work that I’d already done previously, but it was much deeper because of course, when you work for yourself, you literally have no backup.

No, no, you, the buck stops with you and. That is incredibly a fronting. When you first realize there’s no HR department, there’s no department for, if somebody’s horrible to you, there’s no department for, if you don’t get paid, there’s no finance department, you know, so you kind of have to go on this really deep journey.

Um, that’s very strengthening and, um, growing, should we say great foundation? Really? 

Pooky Knightsmith: I think, yeah, it is. Cause I think you have to, no matter how you might feel about your self and your work, when you become self-employed, you actually have to become your own biggest advocate. Don’t you and. I think getting to a point where you begin sort of choosing your work, rather than assuming everything that crosses your desk, you have to do.

I mean, I think there’s a lot, there is quite a journey, isn’t it? I’ve certainly, yeah. Certainly found that. And now you’ll on that next step, doing the doctorate. Tell me about your doctorate. 

Lisa Cherry: Um, well what can I tell you really? Cause I haven’t started yet and I’m still trying the cloacal, but I’m going to be at the research center in the department of education.

I’m going to be continuing my master’s research, which looked at the intersection between school exclusion and being looked after, um, across the life course, the impact of that, which I did for my ma and there isn’t, it is a unique piece of research. There’s nothing that looks at that particular intersection through the lens of life course.

So I’m very, very interested. Um, In what happens to people, right. Interested in the adults that the children become. Yeah. Um, so it will be a piece on that. I’ll be yeah. Wolfson college, which is very exciting. Cause they do lots of stuff all about life writing, life story. Right. Okay. And I mean, Oh my God, you talk about looking at other people.

I had a look at some of the bio of the people that, and I was like, Oh my God, I’m going to be like talking to these people. Um, they honestly just incredibly well-read well-traveled people. Um, I mean, I have a real humility about going, I know what I know what I’m bringing and I’m, I’m not devaluing that, but I also so know that I’m going to be hanging out with some incredible.


Pooky Knightsmith: they’re going to be hanging out with you. 

Lisa Cherry: Well, yes, that’s lovely. But, um, I, I, I feel very open to learning from them. 

Pooky Knightsmith: Yeah. Well, I think that’s, that’s important. I think the thing you’ll find though, I might be wrong about this, but I’ve often found when I, when I’m in those kinds of situations, I do find myself in them often where I feel like, you know, why am I in this room that you’ll be surrounded by human beings?

And that if you bring yourself there will be connection there. And yeah, 

Lisa Cherry: I don’t, I don’t, I don’t feel, um, intimidated by any of it. I’m not sure that I wouldn’t have maybe 10 years ago. So I think it’s come at the right time for me. You know, I feel very, I’m very, I think I feel clear about what I’m bringing.

Yeah. Um, why are you doing it? Um, that’s a good question. And it’s multilayered. Um, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say because it would be great to be Dr. Lisa Cherry. So there is that in there? Yeah. Why am I doing it? Because it’s a really important piece of research and because, um, it’s will serve, I hope to inspire people who think the Oxford isn’t for them, that it is that it is.

Um, so yes, it’s three pronged. Wow. 

Pooky Knightsmith: I’m going to be interested to hear how you find Oxford, because I, um, went to Oxford as an undergraduate. And, um, I, they asked me every now and then to be part of their sort of like outreach programs and stuff, because I, you know, grew up in poverty and, um, ended up going to talks with, and I can never be involved in those things because I just wouldn’t recommend it to someone like me.

I just, I, you know, if I could go back in time, I’d have told myself to, to go, go to Guilford. That’s where you really wanted to go you to fit it in there. It would have been great. And I wouldn’t change it because I met my husband there and it was the start of, you know, brilliant things for me career-wise but I was deeply uncomfortable there and I I’m sure you won’t be your fully formed battle and you bring so much to the table, but as an, as a, you know, 19 year old with no money and no background there at all, like, I mean, wow, it’s a, it’s a unique 

Lisa Cherry: place.

Yeah. And hats off to you. And I’ve not spoken to anybody who. Is, you know, has a different background than the predominant one at Oxford who said they enjoyed it. I really, really, um, and of different ages actually. Um, and I think that’s what I mean, being 50, not needing it for a career, doing it for its own sake, I think means that I can arrive into it, uh, and be an alarmed by that, which I find disdainful.

Um, it will be a very different experience. And I think, I think you’re amazing your 19 year old self to go through that when you’re carrying. The weight and shame of poverty, um, is phenomenal. And I couldn’t have even walked through the grounds at 19. I just slept in the grounds. I was, yeah. You know, I’d have slept in the grounds.

Could it 

Pooky Knightsmith: have to do it? Yeah. I, I had an interesting experience a few years ago when I got asked to go and teach at, um, there’s a school that’s right next to the college that I went to. And, um, I went to teach the staff there and it was weird cause I’ve been back to Oxford since, but I haven’t kind of allowed myself, I guess, to be sort of fully present and walking down, you know, exactly the places where I’ve been.

And I was not my, my best self when I delivered that training because I just had all these echoes of my past and it was, it was really challenged, you know? And that’s the thing I did. I did it. I wouldn’t change it. I’m really delighted that I met my husband and all those things, but it was, yeah, it was hard.

I went to university. It was the only way, um, I could see of moving on. So I’d done this job during my gap year and I realized, um, X months into this job, I was a cafe supervisor in a theme park. And, um, it was like the treatment show everyday was the same. And the aim of each day was at the end of the day, you wanted to get everything back to exactly where you started.

And then the next day you started again. Um, and the person who, whose job I got promoted into had done it for 30 years. And I had this realization that I will do this for 30 years, unless I take up the university place, my leave this town, and I make a new life. Um, and I did go and I never went back, but that was why not any other reason, really?

I just needed a way out. And it offered one, I 

Lisa Cherry: guess. Um, yeah, and I remember I went to Goldsmith’s to do my undergraduate, um, degree and I went because it felt rustic enough for me. So it’s really interesting, you know, what, why we choose the spaces that we choose? 

Pooky Knightsmith: Oh, how they choose us? See, I only ended up at Oxford.

This is ridic and this, I hate my children make better life choices than I did. I literally, so I flipped a coin to decide what course to apply for. And I applied for Oxford just because I was curious about whether I could get in. I think I was very convinced. I couldn’t, and I wanted to know if I could and my best friend was applying and I knew she would because she’s like the cleverest person I’ve ever known.

Um, I didn’t think I could. I just wanted to know, you know, and I, and I, and I did obviously. Um, and, and so then, and that’s the other thing, then? There’s expectation. Isn’t there, there was an assumption. Well, if you’ve got that place, of course you’ll go. Of course you will. But 

Lisa Cherry: yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Did you enjoy 

Pooky Knightsmith: Goldsmith?

Lisa Cherry: Um, yes. Well, yes, it did. I loved it. I mean, God, I loved education and I love it. I mean, consider not been expelled from every school I went to. I absolutely loved going to Goldsmith, Goldsmith. Um, I, they loved the courses that I chose the modules. I mean, I was working for a lot of it. I had a flat I’d love to see court road, uh, and.

You know, I had to work as well. Um, I was 21 when I started, so I’d lost three years, I suppose, in that sense. But the, the 18 year olds, I couldn’t connect with them at all. The privilege was phenomenal. I don’t just mean financial privilege. I mean, relational privilege, the privilege of being at university at 18, the privilege of talking about how you’re only there, because your parents made you.

Whereas I was like, wow. Oh my God, I’m a university. You know, I didn’t believe that they would have me, you know? And, um, yeah, no, I, I, I loved it. Um, I got so actually about the same time. So I started a personal development journey. And it was an incredible time, you know, it was my early twenties and everyone else was slopped up against the wall in the student union.

And I was reading Louise hay books and, you know, women in psychiatry. So it was, it was fantastic and amazing image to mind. Yeah, it’s amazing. And I just, I really hope what I read the hope is that this experience, um, But I’m about to have from October is as enriching as stimulating and as challenging, I want to be challenged.

I like being challenged. Um, 

Pooky Knightsmith: how long were you doing it over? What’s your kind of three years. Oh, so you’re doing it full 

Lisa Cherry: time. Well, yeah, I mean, yeah. I mean, obviously don’t tell anyone, but I am going to have to work, you know, I’m not, I’m not a lady what launches, but yes, it is. It is full time. So, um, but at the top, the terms of ridiculously small, so 

Pooky Knightsmith: I don’t know.

So because you get stuff done. So I found when I did my PhD, um, And I hope no one I studied with is listening to this. I was really productive compared to other people. Cause I have, you know, a full-time job and two small kids and stuff, so I had to fit it in. Um, but, but I did. And um, and, and you do, you know, we just get on and get stuff done and you won’t, I reckon you’ll be similar.

You won’t waste any of your time. Like some people who are starting on their PhD, like they, I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that they love it, but it takes up every minute of every day, but they don’t necessarily produce stuff. Whereas I think you sound hyper-focused and 

Lisa Cherry: yeah, yeah. I will be working. I will be writing.

I will be reading and I will have different days for doing different activities. I would just structure the way that I do things. Um, I’ll have days where I am only studying, um, and days where I am only working and I’ll just make it work. Like that. And actually having a lot of my work online now really supports that model, uh, which is what locked down has 

Pooky Knightsmith: brought.

I’m so envious that you were at the beginning of that journey. I mean, you’re not at the beginning because it see a building on what you’ve already done, but that you’ve got wow. So I’m so excited for you. What would you, um, you you’ll be able to hear it when I finally get around to publishing it soon, uh, I’ve got to, she’s not my niece, but I, I like to be her on official auntie, a girl called Kira, who is a recent Kelly for, in Jersey.

And I interviewed her recently for my podcast and she is going to be one day, the director of children’s services in Jersey. Her plan is to come over to England and study social work, um, and work her way up through, and she’s finding this challenging because it’s not the expectation for. Kids in her circumstance to be coming away to the UK.

And she’s got no where to live and doesn’t know practical stuff like where, well, she put her things when she doesn’t have a home, cause she’s kind of half living in the UK and maybe going back home and there’s loads of questions and I’m really sure. Um, and particularly because I really will make it my mission to try and help her.

I’m really sure she will actually fulfill this dream as long as her dream space the same. But what would you, you know, what would you advise her? Because she seems to me maybe like 18 year old you in many ways. I don’t know if that 

Lisa Cherry: yeah. I mean, I love the fact she’s thinking about her things. I mean, I just wouldn’t have thought about my things I’d have just been like, right.

I’m going, and that’s what I’m doing. So I love the fact that she’s organized enough to worry about some of those questions. Um, she sounds incredible. And I would say to her, you know, you can to be whatever you want to be. All you have to really do is think it okay. If you think that is what you want to be, if that’s the expanse of your imagination and that’s where it has taken you, then you can be that.


Pooky Knightsmith: And do you think that, because obviously there’s this whole thing about being a care leaver and then wanting to go into the system too. I mean, it’s very similar than your aspirations were and she’s entering a different system than the one that you entered at the beginning of your career. But I mean, is it, do you think she will find that fulfilling?

Is it likely to be a good path for her? Or would you say, do you know what, maybe 

Lisa Cherry: go do something who knows, who knows? I mean, I’ve had, I’ve had a great career. Um, and, and, and there’s still plenty of it. That makes me sound very old. Um, but Oh, that’s really difficult. Isn’t it? You know, if you go with your passion, you will never have to work a day in your life.

If she truly has that Clive. Cause let’s not try to leave all this, you know, the end of the day I’ve had enough of all this. I trained in holistic therapies. I was just going to work with that, that, and you know, I was, I literally was pulled back in, um, and I, now that leaving this work is not an option ever.

This is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. This is where my heart is. And if you, if you do work from your place, it’s not, it’s not work. You know? And that’s what I would say to her. It doesn’t in a way, it doesn’t matter if it’s, um, you know, the right thing or the wrong thing. What matters is.

That you’re doing something from a place that’s driven from within you and I, and I know that we’ve spoken a bit about Eunice. Um, and you know, she, she regularly says to me that there is no surprise that I am who I am from the 15, 16 year old that she met. And that fills me really with warmth and happiness, because it means that despite everything I got to be, the person I was meant to be.

Yeah. Wow. What 

Pooky Knightsmith: thought would you like to leave people with what Nate, do we add this on? 

Lisa Cherry: I guess just remember how amazing you are. You know, if you’re listening to this, just remember that. You know, you’re amazing. And the do do what it is that is in your heart to do in this lifetime. Do what it is that is in your heart to do.

And you will do what you are meant to do. .