Are you living your life authentically?

It can be very easy to slip into an inauthentic way of living over the years. Perhaps you have noticed that you say yes when really you mean no, or perhaps you do a job that you hate because you feel it carries more status than the job you would really love to do. Maybe you are constantly striving to earn more money to buy a bigger house or a shinier car when actually what you would like rather do is to work less and enjoy your life a little bit more. Before you know it your own needs, values and and desires have become forgotten and life has slowly moulded you into someone that doesn’t feel quite right.

If you’re lucky something might crop up that shakes up your life a little bit and causes enough of a disturbance for you to look around and question if you life is shaped the way you would like it to be. Sometimes this disturbance can be a loss, redundancy, depression or stress but embrace this as an opportunity to take a long hard look at your life and work out what you want to let go of, fight for, or change?

Deep down we all know what is and isn't working for us but we do ourselves a disservice by choosing to ignore that knowledge whilst pursuing the things we feel we need to achieve and do to feel accepted. It’s much easier for us to risk being ourselves and to start tapping into our authenticity and creativity if we are provided with the right environment, an environment in which we feel safe enough to truly be ourselves without fear of judgement, criticism or reprisals and this is the environment I hope to provide in my practice.

Carl Rogers was an American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology, he said

the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”  (Rogers, 2012)

So what if you were to stop using up all that energy focusing on what you are not, where you are not and how far you have to travel to get to that imagined “good enough” you? What if you were to accept yourself as you were? Perhaps if you were to shift the focus away from non-acceptance and conforming you would be free to listen to your own needs and desires and perhaps that burden of conforming and pleasing others is the very thing that is blocking your path to growth and change?

Perhaps together we could uncover all that suffocated potential, empowering you to do what it is you need to live a more rewarding and authentic life.

Michelle Brown MBACP Registered Counsellor and Psychotherapist and Associate Counsellor for West Kent Mind.

Quote taken from

Rogers, C. (2012). On becoming a person. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Grounding yourself to help relieve overwhelm

Mindfulness #101 

Life can feel so overwhelming at times that it’s not uncommon to feel like you would just like to step off of the constant hamster wheel for a while. The more life is filled with busyness and complexity the more stressed we become and the more disconnected we become from present moment awareness leading ultimately to anxiety. 

When we feel stressed the world can quickly begin to feel like a threatening place, we can start over-reacting to the smallest of triggers and anxiety can whisk us away to the future, where we waste our time trying to magically solve situations that haven’t even arisen yet. 

Thankfully  there is a remedy for this feeling and it isn’t as unlikely as winning the lottery or as improbable as waking up in the morning without any problems it is a more tangible technique which can help right now and that you can start practising today. 

It’s called Grounding and is a way of bringing our awareness back into the present, back into the body and back into the senses. 

To be consciously present in the senses and the body is a powerful way to regulate overwhelm, create connection, passion, compassion and creativity. An anchor to the present moment can aid clarity and focus. 

Grounding  yourself is easy to do and can be of benefit immediately..

Here’s where to start: 

1.   Find somewhere you can sit comfortably for a moment with a straight back and a relaxed body. Make sure both feet are squarely on the floor. I find resting my hands openly, palms up, on my thighs helps me to remain open,

2.   Close your eyes and focus in on your breathing. Breathe slowly and each time you breathe out, imagine you are breathing out some of the tension you are feeling right now.

3.   Notice your connection to the ground through your feet and as you continue to exhale tensions, see if you can notice the sensations in the bottom of your soles.

4.   Now shift your focus to the weight of you body in the chair. Can you feel the connection of you body with the present?

5. Keep breathing deeply and slowly, inhaling peace and exhaling tension. Continue to focus your awareness on the sensations in your feet and the weight of your body in the chair.

6.  Now I invite you to extend your awareness to your entire body, how does it feel in your body, in the present moment, if you mind starts to wonder bring your focus gently and kindly back to your breath. Use your breath as an anchor to your present awareness.

Continue with this until you feel settled and centred, that might be a few minutes, it may take longer on difficult days.

Every time you become overwhelmed of find yourself engaging with anxious thoughts, make a mental effort to hit the STOP button, take a moment and ground yourself.

Michelle Brown dip.couns. MBACP is an experienced registered counsellor practising Integrative Counselling in Tunbridge Wells.

 

Could your self-esteem do with a boost?

1 Do you find it difficult to be assertive?

2 Are you withdrawing from social situations?

3 Are you often exhausted and overwhelmed because of the demands of others?

4 Do you find it difficult to accept criticism?

5 Do you avoid conflict?

6 Are you feeling a bit stuck and finding it difficult to move out of your comfort zone?

We all experience times where our confidence isn't as strong as we would like, but when low self-esteem  starts impacting the way we take care of or value ourselves it can become a long term problem and if left unchallenged for long enough it can start to have a seious impact our lives and may even result in anxiety or depression in the longer term.

My name is Michelle Brown and I am an Integrative Counsellor based in Tunbridge Wells. I see clients on a regular basis whose self-esteem has never been nurtured or has been squashed by events but without exception their self-esteem has grown by small adjustments in their daily lives.

Self-esteem is all wrapped up in the opinion we hold about ourselves, and is moulded over the years by our experiences and interactions with others such as peers, parents, fiends, teachers and even the media. 

If we are fortunate enough to have good self-esteem we tend to have a healthy opinion of ourselves respecting our own needs as much as others. We will generally feel just as important as them and won't  perceive our needs as being less valid. When we experience positive self-esteem we’re likely to have a positive outlook and will therefore be able to easily cope with life’s inevitable ups and downs.

Low self-esteem can feel much less comfortable; it makes it  much easier to listen to those critical, self-loathing voices in our heads that make us feel like we are not good enough and less important than others. We might find it impossible to  ask for or accept help or simply to know how to get our needs met,  our low self-esteem makes us feel unworthy of help or consideration. Because it may feel like others are better than us and more deserving we might start having difficulty saying “no” and put our needs to the bottom of the pile. It’s not surprising that approaching the world with this mind-set can feel exhausting, lonely and at times intolerable Life’s little up's and down's are likely to feel overwhelming.

In short people with good self-esteem are kind and nurturing to themselves not critical and punishing they carry around their own inner cheerleader.

Low self-esteem doesn’t appear overnight itl develops slowly. If we are more prone to negative self-talk it makes sense that we are likely to hold on to any negative messages, if we found it difficult to live up to other people’s expectations of us we may  never feel good enough and if we grew up experiencing abuse or neglect within the home it is very likely that we won’t have internalised a nurturing compassionate voice.

But don’t be too disheartened if you have recognised these symptoms in yourself, your self-esteem isn’t cast in stone and you can take steps to improve it and here are some ideas of where to start.

  • Try to start to identify the negative thoughts you hold about yourself?

This may take some time and counselling can be very useful in helping you to recognise theses. What is your internal critic is telling yo?. Does it tell you you’re not good enough, that you haven’t worked hard enough, that you’re undeserving or unlovable? Perhaps it says you are selfish if you put your needs before others? Perhaps it tells you something else?

  • Start noting down the negative beliefs you have about yourself. If necessary carry a notebook and jot these thoughts down over the course of a few days.

  • Do you remember when you started to hold these beliefs? Where do they stem from?

  • Are you able to challenge those thoughts by finding evidence to the contrary?

  • Write down the good things that other people say about you and start recognising your strengths. Learn to accept compliments not discount them.. Armed with this positive list, keep it somewhere you can see it. Refer back to it often and keep adding to it..

  • Start spending less time with people that bring you down and seek out people that make you feel positive and appreciate you.

  • Show yourself  the same kindness you give to others.

  • Learn to say “no”. People with low self-esteem often feel they have to say yes to others, even when they really want to say no. This can lead to you becoming exhausted, angry, resentful and depressed.

  • Be assertive. Respect other’s opinions and ideas and expect that same respect back.

  • Set yourself a challenge, make it Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic and Timely.  Don’t let your low self-esteem stop you trying out new things or giving things a go. Surprise-it’s OK to be bad at things!

Many people around you will be suffering from low self-esteem either too ashamed to admit it or without recognising the symptoms. You may have developed low self -esteem for many different reasons in your childhood but you can take positive steps to develop a better view of yourself at any age. Keep on growing.

If you would like some help with low self-esteem please don’t hesitate to email or call.

Michelle Brown dip. couns. MBACP