With a promising career as a nurse ‘snatched' away from her after a violent knife attack Tanya Whittam found herself in a dark place but was able to turn it around, break free from a ‘victim' mindset and build the life of a dreams (as well as helping thousands of other people to do the same).
Show Notes & Resources
Tanya, tell us about your life…
- I was born on a council estate in a mining village Yorkshire, so I certainly didn't come from a wealthy background.
- Decided from a young age that I wanted something different for myself (I've always been ambitious).
- I started my journey in the fitness industry, qualifying as a fitness professional.
- Ended up going into the workplace for around 9 months, rather than pursuing fitness.
- I didn't feel authentic working as a fitness professional as I had suffered from eating disorders and body dysmorphia from a young age.
- Eventually decided that this work life wasn't for me and decided to go back to University.
- My Auntie was a nurse and I decided to become a mental health nurse. While at University studying mental health nursing, I ended up working at a mental health hospital.
- The day that I had to hand in my last paper for the year and everything seemed to be going wrong that day. I was late that day, my papers were missing a signature, etc.
- Later that day (starved of sleep, due to four back to back shifts) I was waiting for my bus home when I suddenly felt as though I was being punched in the back.
- Turned around and realised that I had been stabbed four times with a big kitchen knife.
- A nurse who was nearby ran over to help, stopping the bleeding and cutting my clothes off.
- An ambulance arrived and I was taken to hospital, passing in and out of consciousness, but I did hear a paramedic say “It looks like we'll have a murder investigation”.
- When I got to the operating theatre, the surgeon seemed unsure he could do anything to help, but I gave him a pep talk, inspiring him that he could do it.
- I woke up after nine hours of life changing surgery, with two blood transfusions and was told that I would never be able to use my arm again, which would bring my nursing career to a close.
- I've never been one to stay down, although I did go through a dark period with post traumatic stress disorder.
- Nine weeks later I started my first business and began the journey of turning my life around.
How do you even start to turn your life around and bounce back from something like that attack?
- The darkest time for me wasn't straight away, it was an accumulation of things over two years.
- I got pregnant pretty quickly and, as a 21 year old, I had suddenly become a Mum and disabled in under two years.
- I suffered from a massive identity crisis, trying to work out who I was (and who I wanted to become).
- The biggest turning point for me was realising who I was and being unapologetically me.
- I went on a big mission to empower women to realise that they don't have to be perfect to love themselves and go after what they want.
- Women don't just have to be ‘Mum' or ‘Wife' or ‘Nurse' or whatever labels they stick on themselves – they can go after anything that they want.
You're passionate about helping people get out of a ‘victim' mentality'. What does that really mean and how does it hold us back?
- With everything that happened to me, as you can imagine, the people around me started to really ‘wrap me in cotton wool' for a long time.
- If you've been in a position where something bad has happened, people wrapping you in cotton wool doesn't actually help.
- It stops you from growing, it stops you from questioning “what can I do next?” and it helps you to blame other people.
- For a long time, I was passing the blame for everything onto other people and I used what had happened as an excuse to not do the things I really wanted.
- Whenever you pass responsibility and don't take the responsibility for yourself, you're holding yourself back.
What are the symptoms and signs that someone is chained down by a victim mentality?
- They start to pass blame and start passing responsibility for everything onto other people.
- It's easier to do that than it is to take some kind of action and action is scary, if you're going into an unfamiliar zone.
- By blaming outside sources, you're giving the power and the control away.
- When you take responsibility you're taking back the power and the control.
- It's difficult for people to say “The reason I'm stuck in this position is my fault”.
- Accepting that the reason you're not moving forward in life is your fault is probably the most powerful (but difficult thing) that you can do.
- Listen out for yourself saying things like “I can't do XYZ, because…” or “I am…”.
- Question it when you say things like that. Are you saying empowering things or disempowering things?
How do you build a good support network around you and make sure they are handling things right?
- My first support network was actually my first business.
- The catalyst for changing my life was when someone who didn't know my past and my story attacked my excuse making, by saying “Stop being a little bitch! Just get on with it”.
- No one had ever dared talk to me like that before, so that really woke me up and made me sit up and decide I didn't want to be someone who made excuses.
- This got me into a mentality of wanting to go out and do all of these different things (like running races, fitness photoshoots, and anything the doctors had told me I could never do).
- I wanted my scars out on show, I wanted people to see what had gone on.
- I would look for people who have got interests that you have.
- If you need help, look for local communities in the area that you need (there's lots of communities for PTSD and knife crime, etc).
- I would recommend you get involved with something personal development focused.
- It could be something business related or a hobby/activity group – but ideally something built around personal development.
- Get yourself around people who will encourage you to go out, step up and do things.
How does someone give themselves permission to break free from a victim mentality?
- For me, it was all about taking small steps forward.
- The biggest thing in my success was having those people who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself.
- So I started by saying “YES” and taking an opportunity, even though I didn't particularly want to.
- The first step isn't to give yourself permission, but to take a step in the direction of something.
- Use the community who will help you to do that and help you to grow.
- Eventually you'll become the only person who needs to give yourself permission and be proud of myself.
- You'll reach a point where you'll just do whatever you want (as long as it's legal and ethical!).
- It all starts with that initial step. Start making small changes that move the needle and find ways to just be a little bit better today.
- That might be that today you get up and brush your teeth. Or you have a bath for the first time in a while. It might be that you're going to head out for the first time in a while.
- For me when I was bad with PTSD, I needed people to take me out and encourage me to leave the house, otherwise I wouldn't have done it.
- It's all about taking small steps and keep progressing forward.
What about those people who are thinking “It's different for me. I'm not as strong as Tanya, I couldn't do that”. What would you say to them?
- “Stop being a little bitch” (laughing)
- It's no different for anyone else. You can find hope and move towards your dreams.
- All you have to do is to make a decision to actually try. Just decide to try.
- Unless you're happy to keep making excuses and passing off responsibility.
- Ask yourself the question, “Are you happy with being stuck where you are or do you want to make a change?”.
- You have to sit up and just take responsibility and realise that if you want things to change you're going to have to change.
What are the top 3 things we should do next?
- Go and sit by yourself, somewhere happy that means something to you. Then ask yourself the question, “If money was no object and I wasn't afraid, what would my life look like?”. Think about the big picture vision for your life.
- Write down everything that you're afraid of. What are your fears? What's holding you back? Ask yourself, “What is the real worst case scenario?”.
- Then re-write everything and change your fears, negative beliefs and the things that are limiting you to positive beliefs and affirmations that will support you in a day-by-day journey moving forward.
And into the quickfire round…
What is the best self-development advice you've ever received from someone else?
- “The amount of pain that you're in right now will never be too much for you.”
Can you give us a personal ‘habit’ or personality trait that you think contributes to your success?
- I almost live in my own little bubble. I ignore the bullshit and turn down the noise from people who negatively affect me and my energy. I remove people from my life and do more of what makes me happy.
This podcast is all about building a more successful life. What does SUCCESS mean to you?
- Being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want, with whoever I want!
Where can we find out more about you?