I Doubt..

Doubt destroys lives.

You don’t think so? Well let me expand.

When you’re looking at moving outside your comfort zone, what’s the one thing that’s stops you from doing so?

Doubt.

When you want to ask that lovely new work colleague out, what stops you from doing so?

Doubt.

When you want to take up a new activity but have no one to go with, what stops you from going on your own?

Doubt.

When you want to ask for a promotion but keep putting it off, what stops you from asking?

Doubt.

Doubt robs you of a better life.

Doubt robs you of a happier life.

Doubt robs you of more rewarding relationships.

Doubt robs you of enjoying the things that make you want to sing!

Doubt robs you of pursuing your dreams.

Doubt robs us of so much of life’s enjoyment and the absolute shame of it all is, that very few of us are actually aware of its destructive nature or how it’s holding us back from living the life were meant to live.

Doubt is based on fear and more often than not it is based on the limiting belief that ‘ I am not good enough’ or on low self worth (I don’t deserve it). If you keep telling yourself you aren’t good enough, guess what, you will continue to (wrongly) believe that you aren’t good enough and doubt yourself in most areas of your life.

The only person stopping you from going to that evening class on your own is you. The only person stopping you from asking your work colleague out is you. The only person holding you back from that promotion is you. And why? Because you doubt you’re good enough. You doubt your self worth.

On a positive though – the only person that can get you that promotion or date is you. Most of us immediately come up with reasons why we can’t do something – some of us can shove these reasons to one side and ignore them – whilst many of us actually believe the hype! And guess what, the crap you tell yourself  – ‘I cant do that, what will people think?’, ‘I can’t do that, everyone else is so much better at it that me’ – is just that, crap!

So change your inner dialogue. Challenge your ego. Is what it tells you really true? STOP doubting and START living!

When you notice that you begin to look for reasons why you shouldn’t do something, STOP that train of thought and immediately look for all the reasons why you CAN do it. You could be amazed at just how many reasons there are to do something. And then focus on how you would feel if didn’t do it and explore how much better you would feel if you had the guts to do it (much better I am guessing).

When you begin to see that it is your own self talk (who’s is the voice in your head?) that prevents you from enjoying the things that you want to do, you can begin to STOP listening to the negative and start to list all the reasons why you can do it – and you can!

The first step in overcoming self doubt is noticing your internal dialogue that keeps you contained within that stifling comfort zone. When you notice it – challenge it. Is it really true? It it’s something you say to yourself all the time without questioning it – question it! And then talk yourself into doing what it is that you want to do. And besides, things rarely turn out as bad as you imagine them.

Last Saturday my local rugby team were playing their last game of the season and I usually go with my sons but both were busy and I’d run out of possible subs. I was gutted. I was going to miss the final game of the season and I was bloody annoyed! Going on my own didn’t even cross my mind – are you mad? Billy no Mates – what would people think?

So I blamed my lads for being to busy and began to torment myself about how I’d miss out. I was drowning in self pity and then it hit me. No one was stopping me from going to the game, only me. What a revelation!

I began to question my self doubt. Who said I can’t go on my own? Why would I be worried about what people think? And would people actually care if I was there on my own? I thought about how bad I was feeling about not going and how great I would feel if I did.  I could not believe that I hadn’t even considered going on my own.

I jumped off my bed and went! And guess what? Did anyone look at me oddly? Well I’m not too sure as I was totally absorbed in what turned out to be an incredible game. Did I feel uncomfortable? For a few minutes when I arrived but that quickly vanished. At the end of the game (they won!) I was lucky to get a photo with my son’s favourite player.

I walked away from that experience with such a buzz. I had stepped out of my comfort zone and whilst it seemed daunting for a very short while, I felt amazing after. I was so proud that I had taken the opportunity to do what I wanted to do, despite the fact that I doubted I could go on my own. Result. I felt amazing and I have made a promise with myself to continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone and to enjoy my life more fully.

So next time you stop yourself from doing something you really want to do because you doubt yourself, challenge that voice in your head. Sometimes it really isn’t your friend! And each time you push yourself outside of your comfort zone, it will get easier and you will feel better. Believe me I know.

Good luck!

Mairead

Home Comforts

I am a fully qualified therapist and also a fully qualified teacher too. At the moment I am teaching at a pupil referral unit here in Manchester which is both challenging and rewarding, perhaps not in equal measures! Most students are placed in the unit due to behavioural issues though most are a result of some unmet learning issues in mainstream schools. These kids are usually very angry at not only a system that let them down but at others who they perceive as ‘judgmental’ due to their past conditioning.

The downside to the angry child is that they end up pushing the very people they need to help, support and comfort them away, leaving them feeling even more isolated and even angrier. They create an ongoing negative cycle built on low self esteem and anger and the cycle plays out daily…

But what if they themselves could see that they are more than their situation, that they had the ability to be amazing? What if they learnt how to change their mind set to a more positive and constructive one? Would this help empower these kids that society labels as ‘naughty’, ‘delinquents’ or ‘trouble-makers’?

Imagine if all kids were taught how to take care of their emotional wellbeing? Imagine if adults were taught how to take care of their own emotional wellbeing too – how much more peaceful would this world be? We are all more than our situation in live at any given moment and seeing this is an incredibly powerful and positive way to deal with disappointment, criticism and to be blunt, arses who judge without understanding!

There are many ways to help kids deal with their emotions and boost their self esteem such as:-

  1. Regular meditation – not only does this help to create a clearer mind, assist focus and concentration, it also gives us a sense of inner calm and well being – something which is much needed in the turbulent mind of an angry teen!
  2. Breathing techniques – by  learning to breath correctly ~(into the stomach and not just the chest) kids can learn to take control over their anger outbursts by focusing on their breath. Breathing in through the nose for the count of 8, holding the breath for the count of 4, then breathing out slowly through the mouth for the count of 8 is a great way to calm the mind. The more you practice this technique (not just when you are angry!) the quicker and more powerful the result.
  3. Visualization – seeing yourself as bigger than your problems allows you to distance yourself from them and gain insight. See yourself literally as big as you can imagine and look at the situation which is upsetting you. See and feel how much bigger you are than that event/person…..notice how the issue becomes less upsetting as you realize you are more than this event. Again practice this regularly to create a shift in how you view the world.
  4. Butterfly hug (see video ) – this is a great way to release upsetting emotions and to simply provide comfort after a bad day. The technique itself is incredibly comforting in itself but work through some negative emotions and it’s amazing.  If you have suffered a big trauma in your life I suggest you seek professional help to deal with this.

The thing about growing up is that adults expect kids to behave most of the time and this is a pretty unrealistic target! However by implementing a few of the ideas above into your daily life, you will feel more positive and less likely to respond to your emotions in a negative way.

We all do better with love in our lives so by ditching the anger response we can begin to allow more love into our hearts and less anger out!

 

 

 

 

How Big Is Your Chip?

I was out walking with my sons yesterday evening when the eldest saw a car pass which triggered a memory from the previous week.

He told me that he was on his way to the bus stop in the morning when a girl who lives round the corner and her mum drive past him. He said he became aware that they were looking at him so he tried to see who it was that was looking at him – if you catch my drift (or his!)

As they drove past he became aware of who it was and thought something along the lines of ‘why were they staring at me?’ He thought nothing of it until moments later the girl’s mum pulled over, wound down her window and shouted at my son, ‘why were you staring at my daughter?’ To say that my son was shocked, was an understatement. Thankfully he had the common sense to ignore her and to continue walking to the bus stop.

I too was shocked when he recounted the story and asked him how he felt. ‘Not bothered’ came his reply however he is quite a sensitive soul and I knew he would have been upset. His brother had caught the story too and I asked them how they think I would have reacted if I noticed someone staring in the car at us. ‘Nothing’ came their reply.

‘Exactly!’ I replied ‘because for starters how do I know they were staring at us and even if they were, is it really a big deal?’

‘No’ they replied in unison.

‘She obviously has a chip on her shoulder’ I commented, without much thought as to whether the boys understood the term or not. However my eldest son laughed and said that when he first heard that phrase he literally thought it meant that someone had a chip on their shoulder. I explained as best I could that it referred to a person’s lack of confidence or a fear of being judged.

Even as I write this today I’m still amazed this silly woman pulled over to have a go at my 11 year old son who was happily walking along to the bus stop, minding his own business! All I can think is that this poor woman has it bad when it comes to believing that ‘everyone is out to get her’ and her poor daughter won’t be far behind her either, no thanks to her confrontational behaviour. No wonder people have a go at her if she behaves the way she does!!

I had a friend a while back who apparently had been banned from most of the pubs and clubs in her area due to her rather ‘in your face’ behaviour. She had a huge chip on her shoulder and before anyone could have the chance to judge her or indeed even welcome her or say hello – she was on them. She made sure they knew she was no ‘pushover’ and that she was ‘good enough’ so don’t mess with her! What she didn’t see was how her behaviour invited confrontation.

Yet these people never see how their confrontational behaviour is what’s responsible for people ‘getting at them’. Why a full grown woman would feel intimidated by an 11 year old boy looking in her car is one thing but to stop the car and make an issue out of it is quite another thing! Seriously – some people really need to get a life!!

It is down to us parents to set and example to our kids and whilst I am no perfect role model, I always instil in my kids that other people’s behaviour is about the other person and not them. What people say to others will always say more about them that it will do about the people they are saying it too. I tell them to ignore rudeness as it’s not about them but the other person and thankfully they seem to have taken this on board.

So to the mum’s who abuse kids because you don’t feel good enough – shame on you! And to the mum that shouted at my son – keep your problems to yourself and don’t pass them on to my son – he doesn’t want them – he has his own problems to deal with!

Smile!

A very simple yet powerful way to lift your spirits, to make you feel happier and more positive about who you are is to use a mirror and smile!

It may sound crazy and may feel completely awkward to begin with but keep at it and you will notice you begin to feel happier and better about who you are as an individual (and so you should because you are incredible!)

Every morning (and every time you pass a mirror if you can) take a couple of minutes to simply smile at yourself. That’s all you have to do – just smile at yourself. Appreciate it may feel weird to begin with – but keep doing it. If you can then tell yourself how amazing you are too – that you love yourself.

Again if that feels strange just go with it and before long you will feel comfortable smiling at yourself and telling yourself how great you are (because you are great!)

After a week you will begin to feel a little better and after a month you will feel a whole lot better and all you did was smile at yourself it the mirror and tell yourself how awesome you are!

Try it out – I mean how long does it take? And if you can do this exercise 3 times a day – in the morning, during the day (if you have the bathroom free at work) and at night just before you go to bed. You will notice that you do feel good whilst doing this exercise – and that’s great isn’t it?

You may notice that you begin to laugh too – and that’s great too as laughter is a powerful medicine and one which many lack. So Smile and be Happy!!

Say NO and Mean It!

Reading an article yesterday I felt compelled to write on the subject of saying no. No is a simple two letter word. There is nothing complex in it’s pronunciation or interpretation. No is the opposite of yes. No is a full sentence and does not need clarification or justification. No means simply no.

So why do some of us have difficulty saying no and meaning it? Whether it’s saying no to the PTA or your kids or your boss at work who seems to have singled you out for extra work and unpaid hours. When you say no it should mean no and not ‘well I might be able to’ or ‘you know that I really don’t want to’ or even ‘I hate letting people down and they will probably not like me if I say no’.

People soon get used to the ‘weak’ no and consequently will try and force your hand based on past experience however isn’t it time you stood up for yourself, for what you want and for what you mean? Yes it is!

If you have problems saying no to people then try this simple exercise below and soon you will be saying NO in an assertive way that everyone will understand and no-one will doubt!

1. Think about a couple of past situations where you wanted to say no to someone but failed. You may have started with no but ended up with ‘okay if you want’ (what about what you want?!!)
2. Go through these scenes in your mind and find the point where your ‘no’ became a ‘yes’. Notice how you felt, what you said, what the other person said etc.
3. Now go through these situations again but this time change the end result to a positive outcome. When you get to the point where you gave in before, see yourself now saying no and meaning it. As you visualize yourself doing this notice your body posture, the tone of your voice etc and how much more assertive you look and sound. Go through this a couple of times and notice everything that is different about this new you that says no and means it!
(a few suggestions here would be seeing yourself standing tall, relaxed, possibly smiling (though not manically) whilst saying something like ‘Thanks for the opportunity but I really can’t right now, so I am going to have to say no’. And LEAVE IT AT THAT! No does not need to be justified it simply means no, however you can be polite about it which is more likely to appease the other person. Say no with a smile (creates a feeling of warmth) and simply say ‘No thank you, I am fine/I really haven’t the time right now/it’s really not something I enjoy/I do not accept what you say’ etc. When you have said no simply see yourself walking away or changing the subject.)
4. Next write down all the ways that you can say ‘no’ nicely, firmly and mean it. Read them through and practice saying them with conviction. This does not mean shouting or raising the tone of your voice, if anything lower the tone of your voice just slightly as this sends out a clear message to others that you mean what you say! (I use this technique in class with students and it’s far more effective than shouting which merely lets others know you have lost control).
5. Now practice saying no to people who take advantage of you, in front of a mirror preferably. See yourself looking calm and in control, maintaining eye contact (vital!) and smiling before saying no. And then practice defending that no – ‘As I have just mentioned I do not have the time……but thank you again for asking’. etc! Make sure the outcome is the one you want!

When you run through this exercise you will notice you begin to feel more confident about your ability to say no and mean it! If you have a situation that you know requires a no then practice saying no before hand and remember always picture a POSITIVE outcome i.e. the one you want!

Everyone has the right to say no and some say it more or less everyday whilst others fear the consequences of their no. Sometimes it is appropriate to say no – if it’s to the attention seeking child to the annoying friend or to the guy down the road who keeps you chatting for too long about his health problems!

From today make a commitment to say no and stick to it! Say no and mean it!

Pride, Respect and a Little Thought

Pride is a double-edged sword, too much and you appear pompous and false and too little and you appear unkempt and slovenly, so where it the elusive ‘happy medium’?

Pride is what lies beneath our self-esteem – pride in who we are and what we do and this pride is essential to both our self-confidence and self-esteem. However too much pride borders on the edge of arrogance and even aggression. Yes it’s great to feel pride in what you have accomplished but pride is not shouting about it from the rooftops or forcing your opinions on others!

Taking pride in our appearance (clean and tidy) shows we respect ourselves however spending hours and too many pounds on looking good indicates quite the opposite. It shows the outside world that we don’t accept or respect ourselves for who we are or even who we think we can become. Low self-esteem is tied into poor body image and the need to impress others and is reflected in those who ‘take too much pride in their appearance’ (and notice how they will always justify this by pointing our your lack of pride in your appearance!)

Respect is inextricably linked to pride. When we respect ourselves as human beings we take pride in what we do. Ultimately those who respect themselves are more than likely going to respect others too. Why? Because in order to accept and respect ourselves we need to accept the good with the bad (we all have things we’re no good at right? And that’s okay!) and by doing so we learn to appreciate the flaws in others too.

However those who refuse to accept their flaws will take every opportunity to hide them whether that be through appearance, arrogance or anger. So taking a good look at yourself and noticing that you aren’t perfect is okay. Because no-one is perfect are they and by being unique we create diversity amongst the human race?

So the next time you feel the need to impress someone – ask yourself what it is about yourself that you feel ashamed of? What is it that you wished were different? And if you can change it or improve it then great, but if it’s something that really isn’t that important or you feel you will only be doing it to impress others, then accept it as part of who you are and instead focus on those things that you do well instead!

So focus on what you do well and acknowledge that you are not perfect as this lessens the anxiety we place on ourselves to always be the best. Strive to do your best at those things that you wish to achieve and enjoy and leave the rest to those that can do it better!

Responsibility Versus Blame…….Let The Race Begin

Responsibility and blame line up at the start of the race – both look on top form and both have their own band of supporters. They are on the starting blocks………..and then they are off. Blame gets off to a good start, with responsibility close behind. It’s a close battle at the beginning of the race and blame,fueled by anger and self pity, steams forward inching away from responsibility, however responsibility has maintained an even pace and manages to overtake and surpass blame, sprinting towards the finish and with a clear vision of success in mind, crosses the line and takes first place. A race well run with the only true contender winning.

As a therapist I deal with many people who suffer from a myriad of issues ranging from lack of self esteem to bad habits to excessive eating and before I can help any of them, they need to accept responsibility for there issue and for any subsequent changes. This does not mean that they are to ‘blame’  for their issues it simply means they need to acknowledge that in order to change they have to accept that they can not keep on going the way they are going.

For example, I often hear from clients who are overweight that it is because of ‘hormonal issues’ or ‘it’s in their genes’ or that they ‘love food’ or ‘they kids love this food’ but they do not acknowledge that it is anything that they are doing that is causing them to be overweight (research also shows that that very few people have what is often referred to as the ‘fat’ gene). So how can I help someone who blames their genes or the fact that they love food and don’t wish to change their eating habits? I can’t!

However if an overweight client comes in and admits that they have several issues with food that they wish to address then I can certainly help them and they can help themselves too because they have admitted responsibility for their weight. They have chosen to overeat or to eat unhealthily, and it may well have been something they were ‘taught’ as a child, but as an adult they can choose to change or continue to blame someone else for their being overweight. It is a choice. We can take responsibility for who we are and who we wish to become and we can acknowledge that what we do is not working therefore we need to change something to make it work.

Taking responsibility for our lives is incredibly empowering and instead of blaming God, the kids, your parents etc for what is wrong in your life, isn’t it about time you took responsibility for how you behave? Of course you may well suffer from anxiety or low self esteem if you lived with domineering or critical parents, but is you continue to blame your parents for your low self esteem you stay in victim mode and you maintain your low self esteem. So does blame really improve your life in anyway or does it give you the easy option of staying where you are and avoiding change?

Yes your parents could have contributed to your low self esteem however as an adult you have to accept responsibility for yourself for who you are now. That may mean that you can acknowledge that events or people in your past contributed towards your lack of confidence or anxiety etc however as an adult you now have the choice whether to continue blaming the past or move forward qand improve your future.

Responsibility features very much is all adult relationships too and I quite often see clients who wish to increase confidence or feel  better about themselves after years in an abusive or controlling relationship.  In any adult relationship be it love, work or friendship you have to accept 50% of the responsibility for that relationship.

Yes it may be that your partner is physically and emotionally abusive and he/she may be the ‘bad’ one in the relationship, but by staying in the abusive or controlling relationship and allowing your partner to continue the abuse you are just as responsible as they are for the state of your relationship. Both parties are equally responsible however for the victim it is very important that they realize that they have a choice. They can either allow the abuse to continue and blame the perpetrator for their awful life or they can  refuse to allow the abuse to continue and either leave or get help and thus accept responsibility for their life and their well being.

Whilst you can change who you are you can not change other people unless they accept your help and in order to do this they need to accept responsibility for where they are in their lives too.

Anger is another great excuse for people to play the blame game and I have come across many angry people in my life! (I too have given in to anger but at least I can see who is to blame!). Anger masks another emotion, usually fear, and  is used as a defense mechanism to protect against emotional hurt and in some cases too, to avoid the individual acknowledging that they are unhappy in their lives. How many times do you hear people blame others for losing control? ‘It’s your fault that I am angry!’ they shout but is it the other persons fault that you lost control? Absolutely not!

We control how we feel and if we chose to let someone upset us then we are to ‘blame’. We can either ignore hurtful words or respond to them angrily, either way it is our choice how we react. We can stay in control or we can let the other person take control by responding negatively.

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, anger, negativity, worry – then take responsibility for how you are feeling today and tomorrow you can change your life by changing how you feel. Your thoughts make you who you are and only you (with some help if you require it) can change your thoughts. Stop blaming your mum or partner or siblings or work colleagues and take the initiative to take back responsibility and change your life. You will feel so much better! It may take time but believe you me, it is well worth it!