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SELF HELP

The Art of saying “No!”

Only two letters; N and O, but oh how hard they can be to put together and say out loud.

Through the feeling of social obligation, trying to prove oneself in the work place, not wanting to let a friend down, not being able to escape a role that we have played (the one that gives good advice, the nurturer etc.), or simply not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, we end up committing to things that can in fact be harmful to us. By harmful I mean by putting ourselves in a social situation that could be upsetting, by trying to take on too much and raising our stress levels, costing us sleep by fretting over it, and overall not putting our own well-being first. By saying “Yes” to something, are we saying “No” to ourselves?

Time is a limited resource we have, and one we can not get back. It is our choice how we use our precious time, and so we need to ensure we are investing this in areas that align with our goals and with us personally.

This is an area I have become stronger in over the last couple of years, and in all honesty, I have had to say “No” more to protect my heart with matters surrounding the infertility space. I have said “No” to baby showers, children’s birthday parties, and large group catch ups with groups of mothers. I have said “No” by unfollowing people on social media who only write about babies, or those who write comments that are highly insensitive and offensive to someone with fertility struggles. I have declined seeing people when I need some space and time to recharge. This is not easy. Feelings of guilt arise at not being there for other people, particularly for important milestones in their lives. I have had concerns of how I am making friends feel by me making that choice to not attend events, which again makes me feel guilty. I have wondered whether I am being too sensitive and actually silly at other times, and whether it is detrimental in some way to not be following certain people in the ‘wellness’ space. Then I remember how I am left feeling, the tears, and the upset phone calls to my sister (who will always tell me to unfollow them, leave their house, or tell them you are not doing it NOW) after these have taken place.

My well-being is affected.

I am not practicing self-love.

Saying “No” is done out of self-love.

To improve my art of saying “No” I have learnt the following things:

–          Don’t say “Yes” to things straight away. You can say you will think about it, get back to someone or simply take time to respond (obviously depending on the forum, this may be awkward standing there silently in a 1:1 conversation). Having this space to think about it will allow you to say “No” upfront, rather than a last-minute cancellation which does let people down, or going along with something you didn’t want to.

–          When saying “No” you do not owe an explanation! This is one of the hardest parts for me personally. This comes out of wanting to minimise the guilty feelings, and wanting to avoid other people thinking poor of me. You can of course provide an explanation, but you do not need to, “I don’t want to” is explanation enough!

–          Why are you apologising? This is linked with owing the explanation, and minimising the negativity towards ourselves. By all means, if you are actually sorry about something (there is a clash), then apologise, but if you aren’t sorry, don’t apologise.

So sorry, I can’t make the group dinner as I have something else on. Hope it goes well x”

–          Be proactive. By telling people what your priorities and goals are, what is upsetting and what you are focusing on for your own well-being it becomes easier to decline. This means being vulnerable, and may not be possible in every situation, but it also creates an army of sorts that surround and support you. I have been in very uncomfortable situations where I have had someone back my stance simply because she knew where I was coming from.

–          Practice makes perfect it easier. The more you say “No” it does get easier, the guilt subsides, the explanations and apologies dwindle. For me, this was because I realised it was coming from a place of self-love and not being mean or selfish.

–          Know your direction, priorities and bottom lines. Brainstorm these areas out for yourself. When you know where you want to be heading, and what you will not accept it is much easier to decline things that don’t align to you!

 

If this is an area you know you need to work on, maybe “I love myself enough to say No” could be a personal mantra or affirmation you regularly use.

I challenge you to say “No” in whatever form that is for you, as part of your self-love practice. Let me know how you get on, what works and what is difficult for you.

Say YES to YOU!

Mel H x

SELF HELP

The worst that can happen is failure…and I can deal with failure.

How did you react to the title of this blog? Did you agree, or did you react strongly with thoughts around how bad failure can be?

A common deep fear people have is that of failure. The thought of not being able to do something, at everyone discovering that we couldn’t do it, losing things because of our incompetence or just not feeling we are good enough in this space prevents many people from taking action.

Fear of failure, like many things, lies on a continuum. Rather than simply having the fear or not, most people have this fear to an extent, but the impact it has on their life and how they engage with it varies:

 

Embrace the failure

I have had clients who will admit they still don’t like failing, but they understand it is part of the process, it is where growth happens, and they don’t attach their self-worth to it. They view failure as a step towards amazing success and part of living. Although, as I said, they don’t like it and will still have negative feelings towards it, the feelings towards themselves are not altered, and they are quick to move into the positive space.

“I see failure as an opportunity”

 

Weigh it up

For many, fear of failure plays out in their risk aversion. They will look at the likelihood of failure, and weigh that up with the outcome, output or reward for taking that risk. They will be willing to take a bigger risk if the reward is bigger, or they may be more comfortable taking risks in certain areas of their life. Although they understand failure is part of the world we live in, it is still something they would rather avoid, and it can take some work to actually take the action required. These people can see that failure does not always reflect them as people, there are other factors involved, but they can be too hard on themselves too.

“It could be worth it”

 

Dragging their feet

This group of people will find any fault with the new piece, procrastinate heavily or look for ways to stay in the same position they are in, convince themselves they are happy where they are. They can often self-sabotage before even trying, ask other people to confirm their resistance, or will do things behind closed doors, so no one will need to know. These people believe that most failures are personal, that blame should be laid squarely on their shoulders, and they will struggle to not attribute it to themselves regardless of the evidence.

“But I guess I could actually like where I am at now”

 

Staying here

Those that have the fear of failure as their central fear, and have not challenged, addressed or worked on this will do almost anything to avoid failure. They will remain in unhappy relationships, unfulfilling careers that are beneath their capabilities and aspirations, and will not create or seek out new opportunities. Any failure is attributed to themselves, and they will seek to confirm this, while ignoring any contradictory information.

There is no point in even trying I won’t get it anyway”

 

This is by no means THE groups that you could fit in, as I said to start it is a continuum. You might recognise yourself in a few of these examples, or think you are somewhere between them.

As I am sure you have picked up by reading through the different examples of places along the continuum that I have given here, the fear of failure is linked to self-worth and self-compassion. Not attributing all external pieces to one’s self internally is part of our self-worth, while being able to say ‘I made a mistake’ or ‘that didn’t work out, but it is ok’ is part of self-compassion.

At times, we are all going to have that fear that something may fail and what that could mean for the company, for lives etc, but it shouldn’t become so strong that it prevents us chasing our dreams, or opening up new spaces for us. We shouldn’t sit, unhappily, in the same spot because this fear far outweighs the unhappiness we are feeling.

–          Where do you sit along this continuum?

–          Do you view failure as an opportunity for growth and learning, do you avoid it at   all costs, or are you somewhere in between?

–          Does the fear of failure affect your functioning or your direction?

If you can relate to this, or realise through any of these examples or questions that the fear of failure is affecting you, addressing your self-worth could be the place to start. Have a read through some of my other blogs, try journaling, read some texts in this space, seek out a counsellor, or reach out to me.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

“I am a fraud…”

Have you ever sat in a roomful of people and thought ‘Why was I invited, what can I add to this?’ or had lingering feelings of doubt around your own capabilities even when people were saying otherwise. Have you thought that people will ‘finally catch on and realise you aren’t even good at this’ or sabotaged yourself to avoid being in a situation where others will ‘figure it all out’.

Well, you are like so many other women!

Many women experience what professor Pauline Clance and psychologist Suzanne Imes coined as the imposter syndrome (Bell, 1990). They studied high-achieving women and found that although many of these women were functioning and achieving at a high level they felt as though this was not due to their own capabilities, it was due to external factors. They have a disabling belief that they are imposters.

Imposter syndrome is where you are unable to internalise your achievements, even when evidence indicates this is the case. Ironically, this often occurs after a positive milestone; a promotion, a new business, acceptance into a scholarship programme of area of study, the invitation to an event or group or winning an award. They often downplay their success, dismiss their abilities and this leads one to feel as though they don’t really deserve to be where they are at, and that at some point everyone is going to figure out they are not actually capable of the space they occupy.

Although imposter syndrome occurs across the board, women have been found to suffer from it at a much higher rate. In her research, Bell (1990) found that men were more likely to attribute their success to their own capabilities, while women were more likely to attribute it to external factors. Bell (1990) commented that the socialised gender role expectations in society create conflicting messages to women about their achievements, which consequently make it difficult to internalise success.  These social constructs suggest that women should be secretaries and nurses etc, and not in leadership positions. This can lead to women who are ‘breaking the mould’, to have feelings of not fitting where they should, they feel they are imposters simply because of their gender. The socialisation of gender also means many women hide their capabilities to avoid being targeted, to avoid jealousy and envy, to not appear ambitious or bossy or career focused etc.

If you find yourself feeling like a fraud and struggling to internalise your success here are a few things to help:

–          Not setting excessively high standards. I am not talking about having goals and striving to achieve these. It is the excessively high standards, the chase for the myth of ‘perfect’, having to be the best at everything you do. It also means not setting these ridiculous standards for your children, employees, colleagues or loved ones. This often sets people, including yourself, up to fail which causes negative self-talk around your own capabilities. When you do achieve one of these items it becomes the exception and so it is difficult to internalise this.

–          Stop with the comparison. I feel like I could put this bullet point in pretty much every blog I write, and with good reason. Comparison really is a killer. Comparing your own life and achievements to someone else is comparing roses to orchids, we all bloom in different seasons. If your baseline of success is based on what someone else has achieved, nothing will ever be good enough and someone will always ‘be better’ which leads to similar thought processes as having excessively high standards.

–          Evaluate yourself. Really engage with yourself and evaluate you. What are your strengths, what are your capabilities, areas to improve on, blind-spots, areas for opportunity etc. Try and be specific with your evaluation; “I am good at presenting information to an audience in a way that is easy to understand. I am also an engaging presenter” rather than “Good presenter”. Ask other people what they think for the areas I have suggested too.

–          Link your evaluation to examples. After you have done the in-depth self-evaluation, think of the times you have achieved something and use this evaluation to explain it e.g:

Example Evaluation points New explanation
I was asked by my manager to present to the whole staff.

 

I am good at presenting information to an audience in a way that is easy to understand.

I am also an engaging presenter.

I am reliable.

I have a strong work ethic.

I have strong research skills.

I am good at developing presentations.

I am able to think on the spot.

I can articulate answers well.

I am a good learner.

I am thorough.

(you get my drift!)

My manager asked me to present to the whole staff because she knew I was competent, and had the capabilities to do so.

 

–          Be a good boss/friend etc. This means not micro-managing people. You are sending the message that you do not trust them or think they have the required capabilities by doing this. When they do succeed then, they will not take any internal credit as they will not feel they did it anyway. It means to give people the chance to show their capabilities, provide help and training where it is needed and let them achieve themselves. Be supportive and empower others in their success, think about how you acknowledge or praise others, does it allow them to internalise success or are you creating ‘imposters’ by saying they were lucky to be given the opportunity, were able to do so because of the structures in place, or without their team they would have struggled etc.

–          Use specific affirmations. Use affirmations that highlight your capabilities “I am good at..” etc.

It really saddens me that so many of us women (I was definitely one), have these feelings of being an imposter. So, let’s change this! Own your capabilities, celebrate your success, walk with pride knowing all you have achieved, and it is ok to acknowledge external factors, but be sure to internalise it ladies, because you are awesome!

Mel H x

 

Bell, L. A. (1990). The gifted woman as imposter. Advanced Development Journal, 2, 55–64.

THOUGHTS

Being authentic matters to everyone…

I recently was in a situation with a group of friends, where via a group chat they were discussing a group catch up. Without going into too much detail, it turned into a discussion around the catch up becoming one where all the children would come too, rather than just a girls brunch. It went on about how cute it is when the kids are together, and a lot of other kid talk. As each message came in to my inbox, I got more and more upset (we have fertility issues and are unable to conceive naturally), I even shed a few tears. It is that constant reminder of what we are unable to have, and how it impacts all facets of our lives, like wanting to avoid hanging out with my own friends! I wrote out a few responses, and then deleted them. I felt that any response I gave was either not going to be my authentic self, or I was going to hurt my friends’ feelings by being honest, and vulnerable.

I sat on this for six days, and I really did stew over it. I was weighing up if it was worth saying something, what was the point when it was only going to hurt people’s feelings, and this was something I just had to get accustomed to, and basically just harden up. I also did not want to say anything, which would lead my friends to feel awkward, or created an elephant in the room with all future interactions. However, after writing my thoughts and feelings out it became clear to me that I had to say something:

          How did I expect this situation to change in the future when my friends had no idea it was upsetting to me? If they were unaware of my reaction to this conversation it was highly likely that similar conversations would occur in the future, which was not good for anyone.

          It was not ok for me to feel this upset in a casual conversation with some of my closest friends, and I did not want to lose these friendships because I was avoiding any contact that led me to be so upset.

          These are girls who actually love me and although I know they would hate to feel they had upset me, I know they would rather know for future reference, and so they could understand my feelings and consequent behaviours.

          It was not ok for my friends to not have the truth from me. To not have the authentic, vulnerable me. To not be honest with them.

I sent them all an email, outlining my feelings around the situation. I highlighted that it was not about hurting anyone, and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for the conversation, but this is how I was feeling. I suggested that in future I am happy to be left out of these conversations (which people probably feel like they can’t do). The responses I got back were amazing, of course they were, these are my girls! I love them, and they love me.

The whole situation highlighted to me how important being authentic really is. By being authentic I have created stronger connections with loved ones, I have saved myself future heartache, and allowed my friends to understand me and my situation further.

It can be scary at times to open ourselves up like this, because the fear of rejection when it is our true self can hurt. However, by being authentic we are being true to ourselves and those that love us will recognise this and love us all the more. Most importantly, you can walk with peace in your heart and your head held high as you know you have spoken your truth.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

Self-worth: are you out-sourcing it?

One of the common things I hear in coaching and in general conversation is “I will be happy when..” “I will be able to… when…” and the ‘when’ is almost always based on external items or situations. When you out-source your own self-worth nothing will ever be enough, the shine wears off the new thing that you ‘needed to be happy’ and you are still the same you; the you that is not happy.

A common external focus for people is appearance, on what they wear, their make-up, nails, tan, lashes, and most commonly their weight. Not only do people end up punishing themselves with gruelling exercise and not nourishing their bodies they will never be happy with their appearance anyway, if they are not happy with who they are. I am by no means saying that you should not have these things, I love getting these things done, but your self-worth should not be attached to them. Your self-worth should not fluctuate with regrowth, clear nails, natural blonde lashes, or a change in the bathroom scales.

Out-sourcing self-worth to other people is another common occurrence. People take their self-worth from what other people say, which is all subjective and often just opinion. Nobody else dictates your worth, and seeking their approval often leads to doing things that don’t align to your goals and values, and consequently you end up feeling worse about yourself. You can end up running yourself ragged just to please other people, while you are not pleased about anything for yourself.

The new house, the boat, trips overseas, and all the new gear also don’t determine your self-worth. Logically, this is obvious. Objects do not say anything about our value as humans, but still we hear ‘retail therapy’ and even with a quick scroll through social media we see that people do give weight to the objects in their lives, as if these things are a reflection of them. When they are no longer new, ‘the high’ of the purchase has worn off, or the newer model is released what happens then? If your self-worth is attached to these things, then purchasing needs to continue to feel worthy.

For me, it was status, my achievements. When I was receiving external achievements and recognition I felt my self-worth increase, and this continued until my mid-20s where I changed careers and for a few weeks lost some of that (self-imposed) status. This was the best thing for me. It was the realisation I needed to happen, to really stop and reflect on where my value came from. I was still the same person with the same characteristics, personality, strengths and weaknesses, and I was still loved. I realised then, that my self-worth had been out-sourced to external achievements and the status that came with this; the salary, the title, the awards. I was embarrassed. I had never thought that these things were actually important, nor did they reflect another person’s value as a human, so why was I giving it value to myself? (If you read my previous blog on unmasking the insecurities you will see exactly where this has come from).

So, what did I do? I stopped and rediscovered my internal self-worth:

          I read, listened and watched speakers on topics around self-worth, shame, guilt, love etc.

          I journaled on what I had learned and insights I had to myself.

          I brainstormed what mattered in my life, focusing internally.

          I recorded what my strengths were, and made a list that was decent, not just a handful of things.

          I challenged negative self-talk. I recorded it, and used logic and facts to quiet it.

          I used positive affirmations daily.

When you out-source your self-worth not only does it lead to no change in your internal happiness but it lets comparison take a front seat also. When you have bought a new outfit, or are hanging on to someone’s compliment and then you see someone else with a better wardrobe, or get higher praise it can be crushing. It takes that away from you instantly, and your self-worth plummets.

This is why social media effects people differently. For those of us who really value ourselves, and have our self-worth tied up in who we are as people, our true internal self, social media is a way to connect to others, see cool pictures, watch inspiring videos, use it as a business platform etc., it does not touch our self-worth.  It can be harmful however, to those who have out-sourced their self-worth, and are therefore able to directly compare that (appearances, objects, status etc.) self-worth to others.

If scrolling through your social media makes you feel shit:

          Look at the accounts you are following. If there are certain accounts that are doing this…delete/block/unfriend!

          If it is more general then I would suggest you limit your social media use as a start, while you start looking at your own self-worth. Try some of the things I mentioned above, or contact me.

See, I know that lots of people have better bodies, better houses, products, more lavish holidays, and cooler stuff than me, but you know what? No one is me! My value is me.

Mel H x

SELF HELP

You’re toxic, I’m slipping under…

Firstly, I apologise for the Britney reference in the title, but it just fit so well. Secondly, the picture reflects what I think when I think about a non-toxic environment. Right, I will get on with the blog now…

We have all been in a toxic environment, whether it is at home, a situation with a group of ‘friends’ or most commonly from what I hear; a toxic work place. Sometimes we realise it immediately and will escape, like the frog placed in boiling water, but other times we don’t realise it slowly creeping up on us, as the frog placed in cold water remains in the water as it boils. (Apologies for the graphic analogy and animal cruelty, but I think it really highlights how we get stuck in situations and don’t realise it has happened, until it is “too late”).

If an environment is causing any of the following you need to think about why you continue to put yourself in it:

          Sleepless nights. I am not talking about when you lose some sleep because you have an important presentation/meeting/deal etc the following day. I am talking about a loss of sleep for no reason other than just having to be in that environment.

          Dread in getting out of bed in the morning (this is more particularly focused on a toxic workplace). Again, there are some days we just want to stay in bed, even when we are completely happy, but you know the difference I am talking about. It is that feeling of dread, and it is not a once in a year thing.

          Anxiety, anxiety attacks, panic attacks. This is your mind and body telling you, please do not put me in that environment. The way to stop it; listen to your body and get out of the environment.

          Your eating habits change. For some this means a lack of eating, while for others it is over eating, in particular sugary foods.

          You are exhausted. You get home from the environment and you have no energy to do anything. This can result in leaving exercise out of your daily routine, and poor food choices,

          You find yourself constantly justifying it; “at least I have these friends/this job/this relationship” “I have to stay here because…”. If you have these lines playing through your head, you have to ask why are you trying to convince yourself? If you were in a healthy place you would have nothing to convince yourself of.

          You don’t feel appreciated. We don’t expect medals and certificates for everything we do. But if you feel a relationship is one way and you continually recognise that, or you don’t feel your work place appreciates your work let alone acknowledges it, it is not healthy for you. We all need to feel valued.

You can see, even from the small list I have compiled here, that remaining in a toxic environment can ultimately impact your whole life, including your wellness. So, it begs the question, why do we stay in these environments? When I am working with my clients, and from conversations with friends and past colleagues the reasons that often come up are:

          Financial. People ‘need’ to stay in jobs for the money.

o   You will be able to get another role though, and even if it isn’t as much money, what is the cost of your wellness?

          The people. You build good relationships with others in the group, or certain colleagues.

o   Is your unhappiness, and poor wellness worth it for others? The people that matter will remain in your life regardless of whether you are still sitting at the desk next to them, or if you are attending the group meetings or monthly catch ups.

          Fear of change. Better the devil we know and all that right?

o   I challenge you to change your perspective, see this is an opportunity. It is a chance to reflect on what it is you actually want, do things for yourself, and think about who you want to spend your time with.

          Lack of self-worth. People do not feel as though they deserve to feel good, they don’t feel they can achieve anything more, including their happiness.

o   You so are. You are unique, you have transferable skills, you deserve to be happy. You are good enough. You are  worthy.

I worked in a retail store years ago, was not on good money, and wasn’t following a dream of any sort, yet I was happier there than many work places I have been since. I felt valued, I was heard, I had opportunities ahead of me, and I worked with people who wanted to have fun, supported each other and worked for the team not the individual. The point is, it is not all about the status of the role or the salary paid, it is about being internally happy, so that we don’t accept an external environment that harms us in any way.

I have been in this position, and I know it is hard to get out of. Once it starts to drag you down and your eating, energy levels and sleeping suffers your self-worth often takes a hit. This then makes it even harder to remove yourself from the environment. Talk to someone, journal, do things that make you feel good, seek career help or engage with a life coach because here is thing…you are worth it! You are the star of your life, and you are too important to stay in a toxic environment. You are too important to not feel valued…you are worth more than that!

I encourage you to reflect on the environments in your life, are they healthy or harmful?

Mel H x

SELF HELP

Unmasking the insecurities…

Ever since I can remember I have been called an over-achiever. My teachers said it, my family made comments around it, friends laughed about it, I even gave myself this label. What I have realised later in life though was this description was masking my self-limiting belief, it was masking my deepest insecurity.

As is common for a self-limiting belief (“I am not good enough”), my brain filtered out anything that contradicted it, while accepting and warping any input so it seemingly confirmed this belief to be true. Having this insecurity made me strive to prove to everyone that I was good enough, so they wouldn’t know ‘the truth’. Consequently, I received really high marks right through school, did well at most things I did, and if I wasn’t good at something I either avoided it, or gave it up.

Self-beliefs are built from an experience, or experiences. Our mind takes this information in, and as I said above, filters help to confirm it. Let me be clear, these are not facts, they are beliefs. But the belief can be so strong, the mind takes it as fact. It is easy for me to see looking back where this self-belief came from. I do not remember the first experiences that built it, but I will tell you a story which will show the source of it, and how this was ‘reconfirmed’ throughout life. In 4th form (Year 10) I got 99% for a practice School Certificate (Year 11) exam. I went home excited to tell my Dad that I had got the top mark, and a pretty impressive result, right? The first question out of his mouth, his first honest reactions was “What happened to the 1%?” This was a genuine question. He was not trying to be funny, or trying to get some sort of a reaction. He just looked at things differently and what he saw was that I got 1% wrong. I got something wrong. This comment was filtered into my brain to confirm that I was not in fact good enough. That even with such an outstanding result, the top in the school, it was not enough, I was not enough.

The ‘not good enough’ insecurity is common, many of us have this fear, and it plays out in different ways. In some respect, I was lucky that for me it played out to give me positive outcomes, to bring me success through high marks, scholarships, qualifications, good jobs, two businesses etc. However, it left me reliant on external achievements to ‘prove’ that I was good enough, rather than looking inwards and realising my self-worth. The thing is, the achievements are never enough, because the limiting belief tells me so. I was in constant pursuit of something I was never going to achieve. If I didn’t believe I was good enough, nothing I achieved was going to make me believe otherwise.

“I am not good enough” manifests in other ways to, for some this is with addictions (drugs, alcohol, food etc.) to numb the pain of not feeling good enough. Some put on armour, or barriers, not allowing anyone to get close enough, this way they aren’t hurt, by someone ‘realising’ they are not good enough. Seeking out praise is a common symptom here too, because one does not feel good enough for themselves, they will do things to seek out others telling them they are (like I mentioned earlier).

None of these things will work. All of these are symptoms of the self-limiting belief. They are masking the insecurity. Sadly, it is often only the symptom that is addressed; the addiction, relationship issues, working too hard etc. We need to take the mask off, and address the insecurity.

Some things you can do:

1.       Identify the beliefs you have. This can actually be difficult for some, as they can be buried so deep, and woven within every thought pattern that it is hard to separate out as being a belief, not a fact.

2.       Notice your negative self-talk. What are you saying to yourself? Try and write down what it is saying and this may help you identify these self-beliefs.

3.       Practice Positive affirmations. If you know what the limiting self-belief is, tell yourself otherwise “I am good enough” “I am worthy” “I deserve…” These can be this simple or more specific. Keep them short, and have a few of them that you say to yourself regularly.

4.       Routine. Add the positive affirmations to a routine; say them when you are running, maybe you sing them every time you shower, have them stuck to your bathroom mirror and read them when you brush your teeth. Practice these consistently by making them part of your routine.

If this is an area you need to address I encourage you to read more on this subject, engage in coaching (happy to discuss this with you, or find a coach that suits you!), or maybe for you it is counselling.

Once I took the mask off, and stopped just addressing the ‘overachiever’ I was able to really work on the cause. I was able to dig into the belief system I had built up, that I was not good enough. Doing this changed my world.

          I no longer seek approval from others, because I approve of me.

          I no longer need to have the continual external achievements, because I am the achievement myself.

How powerful is that? You are the same! We are all achievements, we are special, unique, and have the power to be all that we are and speak our truth.

What are your own reflections after reading this; Did something resonate? Do you know your own belief systems? Are you masking your insecurities? Feel free to email or private message me! I would love to hear your feedback.

Mel H x

Photo: me at my 6th birthday party.

THOUGHTS

Good v Bad…

Lately I have found myself reflecting a lot on the social constructs of labelling things as good or bad. It really frustrates me that we have to give things a label, and in particular in the following two areas:

–          Food. This one is really common, so much so that I hear it in everyday conversation, that we have good and bad food. Yes, some foods cause negative effects in us, however this is often with over consumption, it is our behaviour that needs to be addressed, the food itself is not bad. Chocolate is not bad. It is chocolate.

–          Emotions. Although we don’t verbalise this as directly as we do with food, we live in a world that tells us that certain emotions are good (happy, excited, joy, gratitude, hope, love, pride, amusement) while others are bad (anger, frustration, anxious, sad, guilt, fear). As with food though, these are neither good or bad, they just are.

These emotions that society has constructed as ‘good’ can also cause negative effects; love can cause someone to stay in an abusive relationship (I know it is not this simple, but you see what I am saying here), pride can stop someone from taking an incredible opportunity and excitement can cause people to lose control and be physically ill. On the flip side fear can prevent us from being in an unsafe position, being anxious can lead to us putting more effort into something, and frustration might mean someone creates something new and amazing.

My frustration with putting labels on these things is because of the consequences it can lead to for people. It can perpetuate issues with food; avoiding certain foods, cutting them out completely, creating a focus on it, rather than simply eating a balanced diet that is nourishing. I see this regularly with people labelling a food as bad, and therefore constantly telling themselves not to eat it. All this does is puts this into your head, you visualise it and create the craving for it.

With emotions, the consequences are wide ranging. We have been taught that we need to get rid of the ‘bad’ emotions, not have them or avoid them. This leads to people not learning how to deal with their emotions, to lean into that discomfort, grow and learn about themselves.

–          It leads to people suppressing anger and frustration, consequently reaching a critical point where one explodes.

–          Fear is never conquered if one does not lean into it, and so phobias and the avoidance of amazing opportunities can occur.

–          By hushing someone who is crying (think about what you do with a child, when you are with a friend in public), or trying to make a joke, what we are really saying is this emotion is not ok, we don’t like it, it shouldn’t be shown. What consequences will this have? What are we saying to people about expressing emotion? What are we telling others about sadness?

In looking at the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide the labelling of emotions is a concern. I am not diminishing the physiology of mental illness whatsoever, nor am I saying that it is simply the labelling of the emotion that leads to these consequences, it is all a very complex area. But, one has to wonder what role labelling certain emotions as bad has had. By labelling it as bad, have we enforced the suppression and avoidance of emotions, have we not allowed people to feel, not taught others how to live with feelings, deal with, learn and move on from them?

We all need to be careful with how we are labelling things, how this effects both our own perceptions, behaviours and beliefs, and those of others. Let us just leave things as they are; food is food, an emotion is an emotion. I guess this is my main point, why do we need to label these things, rather than just letting be? Let us all have a range of both these areas in our lives; feel all emotions, and eat a range of food!

Mel H x

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Feel with me, not for me…

I recently watched a YouTube clip of Brene Brown, and in it she discussed the difference between empathy and sympathy. This is something that really resonates with me of late.

Often, I share with people the fertility struggle that we have been going through for the last two and a half years and the first response is one of the following:

          Try and fix it (have you gone to see… have you tried…)

          To minimise it (well at least you have…)

          Offer me an example of someone they know (their cousins, uncle’s, neighbours, doctor’s, friend’s daughter) who has gone through something similar (note: not the same) and how well things turned out for them.

          Tell me it will happen when the timing is right.

I don’t want to seem horrible, but please don’t do this! This is sympathy. It is standing from afar, and feeling FOR me. I know that it is coming from a place of good intention, but it means people can keep their distance. They can keep their barriers up and not let their own vulnerability show. By ‘making me feel better’, they don’t have to really feel the space I am in, they don’t have to deal with my feelings, and possibly their own. At a time when I am sharing a very personal, emotional and frankly bloody hard piece of me, the last thing I need is emotional distance. When you repeatedly get sympathy from people it makes you feel really lonely, because it seems as though no one understands what you are going through. In this particular example, this loneliness adds to the loneliness I am already feeling that society has created for women without children, and the loneliness I am feeling when I can’t engage with my friends in this space.

What I need is connection. I am sharing this with you because I want you to be with me, to feel this with me, to be angry with me, to cry with me. I want, and need empathy. Rather than feeling for me, I need you to feel WITH me. It doesn’t mean you have to have gone through what it is I am sharing, just walk beside me, stand with me, be present in my feelings. Brene Brown talks about how the simple gesture of touching one’s hand without speaking is more powerful than a sympathetic verse, and I agree. It is ok, to just say how shitty this is, that you don’t know what to say, to shed a tear with me, or to simply provide an affectionate touch. I will feel that you get what I am going through, that you are with me through it.

I also understand that no one wants their friends being upset and feeling shit, people want to make it better, but here is the thing…you can’t. Just as a friend who is going through a relationship break down knows I can’t change his behaviour, or the cousin who has a child going through sickness knows I can’t make the child better, you can’t change our situation, and that is not why I am sharing it with you.

I am of course only speaking my truth, and others may feel different, though I suspect there are many who would agree with this. But for me, here are some simple tips to remember when a loved one is being vulnerable with you and sharing something causing pain:

          Be present. Obviously don’t be on your phone, or checking other devices, but also don’t be thinking of what to say, what questions to ask. Just listen and be present.

          Avoid comparison. This is similar to being present, but something I have noticed a lot which frustrates me. Situations are unique, and so comparing could make it worse, it could remind the person of how much harder their situation is, how ‘hopeless’ it is for them.

          Match the vulnerability. If that means crying with them, or showing other emotions then do that. You don’t need to ‘be strong’ and try and make the person feel better all the time, because in all honesty there are no words you can say to me that will lessen this heartache.

          Don’t offer an “at least..” comment. Brene Brown talks about this too, and I have to say I laughed out loud when she said it, as I have heard it many times. “At least your marriage is strong” “At least you are healthy” “At least…” Really. Not. Helpful. This again avoids the vulnerability, minimises the experience of the person and although I am all for gratitude (and practice it daily), it really pisses me off. Please just let me feel what I am feeling.

I know this sounds like: just don’t be positive, but it is not about positivity or negativity. I am actually a really positive person, contrary to what you may think after reading this blog. It is about being with people, feeling with people, being vulnerable and letting me feel all the range of human emotions that come with life’s struggles. I know this is hard, it is hard to let people just feel, and often it is hard to just let ourselves feel (this is something society has drilled into us, but that is a whole series of blogs on its own!)

But if you really do this with others, really let them feel, and feel with them you will give them what it is they want and need at this time…to connect, and isn’t this what we really look for as humans?

Mel H x