Counselling with Pippa Counselling and Psychotherapy in Uckfield

Blog #01

Self-Confidence, information and some helpful ideas

This month, I have adapted an article I wrote for an on-line forum, I hope it may be useful.

Self-confidence is something many people struggle with, and can be destructive, getting in the way of many areas of our lives. However, there are things we can do to help undo those negative thought patterns and increase our self-esteem and confidence.

What is self-confidence?
Self-confidence is our ability to believe in ourselves, which means:

  • knowing what we can do and to be just fine with knowing what we can’t do.
  • being comfortable with who we are, warts and all!
  • making choices that are right for us, rather than to make someone else happy.

    Self-confidence is often confused with over confidence. The aim is for an even balance – knowing what is right for us rather than believing we can rule the world by tomorrow or that we can’t do anything at all.

    Where does self-confidence come from?
    As children, we gain our confidence from those people around us – parents, teachers, school etc – and although we don’t realise it, we soak up feedback, however subtle. Sometimes, growing up:

  • we managed to hear only the negative comments
  • there wasn’t that much in the way of positive feedback, encouragement or praise.
  • someone in our past said something negative that really hurt, or constantly criticised
  • no-one saw or encouraged our potential
  • adults did everything for us so we learned not to trust ourselves

    There are loads of reasons why we might go on in life with little or low self-confidence, understanding why is only a part of building our confidence to a point here we feel happier with ourselves, our lives and our abilities.

    The good news is that we can change this habitual way of thinking about ourselves, thereby improving confidence and self-esteem. Here are a few suggestions that I hope you find helpful.

    Some ways of building self confidence
    You might want to evaluate your confidence before you do any of the suggestions below, this will help give you some idea of what you want to achieve, By redoing the first set of statements every so often, you can track your progress…and congratulate yourself on it. You can evaluate your current situation and your goals do by scoring yourself out of 10 for the following and can also add your own ideas to the list:

    How I am now
  • I enjoy new challenges
  • I like meeting new people
  • I like meeting people I know
  • I am not afraid of saying “no”
  • I am not afraid of admitting a mistake
  • I am not afraid to asking for help

    You could then see where you would like to be in the future, and pick one or two to start with as your goal/s:
    I would like to be able to
  • enjoy new challenges
  • enjoy meet new people
  • enjoy meeting people I know
  • be able to say “no”
  • admit a mistake
  • be able to ask for help

    Don't forget that sometimes, lists can cause anxiety, and dent confidence. You are in control of your choices, so make sure you choose a goal or two that are possible achieve...this will build your confidence, whereas aiming to do your entire list will not!

    Self-Confidence Building Suggestions

    Find a time once a day to list 3 things that you did well, or that you are pleased with or proud of yourself for. People with low self-confidence often have learned from others to set impossibly high standards, which sets up a cycle of feeling not good enough. We often forget to see the things we do as being “well done” as we see them as “ordinary”. For instance, for someone who is depressed, getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed can be a huge step, and would be something that is an achievement. An anxious person may want to say “well done” to themselves for going to a social event despite not wanting to. Passing an exam with a C is an achievement, life doesn’t have to be all about A*’s . Your list is not about climbing mountains or running the world, it’s about realizing that every single day, you achieve something awesome, and that you are the person who decides what is awesome, not someone else! By making your list, daily, you will be able to see what you are already capable of yet are taking for granted, and you may even find more than 3 things.

    Write a timeline of things you think you did well in your life. Forget what other people might have said, or will say; this is you allowing yourself to be proud of the things that you have achieved. It’s nobody else’s business!

    Do you ever have those little conversations in your head? Most people do at some point, and the conversations can be quite harsh. The voice that tells you “You messed up” or “so-and-so is better at that than you”. Would you talk to your friend like that? I hope not! So instead of ganging up on yourself, imagine you are your best friend, and talk to yourself as if you were talking to them. Encourage yourself, and be kind to yourself.

    For every doubt you have, find a reason why it could be untrue. Despite what we might think, being confident doesn't necessarily mean being right, being able to do everything or being “better then”. Real confidence is about knowing our limits, and not being afraid to say no or admit our errors. For instance, a confident person may not think “I can’t climb a tree”, they may well decide “I probably could, but I will need help/don’t want to/did it once and hated it”. By changing your thinking from “can’t” to “maybe”, you can release yourself from the restrictions of “can’t.” That way, your decisions can be different, or can be led by you and not your low confidence. You will be choosing to do or not to do, and feel more able to ask for help, because of your wishes, not because you think you can’t.

    You can learn to filter our anything negative that you hear that goes straight to your already filling low self-confidence bucket. Hear it, and decide whether it is true or not, and whether you would like to carry it around or just chuck it away. Chucking it away is probably a good idea!

    Don’t do all of these to start with…one step at a time! Remember, you are aiming for small steps and setting realistic, achievable goals. See what works, and build on that. Your aim is to start undoing all those messages and little digs that belong in your past, and to look at things and yourself as they and you are right now, in this moment.

    Now, go and be awesome!

  • Blog #02

    Blog...with some helpful ideas

    Another Year, another Forgotten Resolution?

    So, here we are, almost through January into another new year. We all have hopes and dreams for 2015, some seem hard to hang on to, and others are exciting and motivating. So, having got through Black Monday (this year, Monday 19th) officially the most depressing day of the year, have we still managed to stick to those resolutions?

    Why do we do this, year after year? For me, I usually make the same resolutions, with the belief that somehow, magically, this year will be different. Granted, some years I have managed to stick to them, and the years after, and these changes are worth celebrating. However, for many of us, despite the initial optimism of the new year, with all its’ promises and hope, the resolutions seem to fizzle out. That gym membership that has worked out £40 per gym trip – both trips!-, the odd cigarette that turns into the odd packet, and Dryatholon - you may be thinking "whose idea was that?!" These are not my resolutions, but some of the ones that already, I know people are struggling with. However, instead of the more benign term “struggle”, “failure” is the word most often used.

    The Problem with “Failure”
    The trouble with failure is that with that first lapse back to old behaviour, we often think “In for a penny, in for a pound” (apt for those who are wanting to lose weight!) and rather than draw a line under it, we go headlong into sabotage and therefore, the lapse becomes a relapse. We manage to convince ourselves, consciously or unconsciously, that we've completely blown it rather than merely slipped up. It’s a bit like literally slipping up, our bruised knee (and pride) become, in our minds, a broken leg, and we assume therefore that we are unable to walk, and therefore move forward.

    Any change we make is positive, for however long, and shows that we can do it again, maybe for longer. A lapse doesn't have to be a relapse, (remember the literal slip analogy) we can still celebrate what we achieved, and look for the lessons we have learned. We can ask ourselves “What was I thinking/feeling/doing when I slipped back into old habits?”, “Who was I with and/or what was I doing?” In CBT, these are known as “cues and triggers”, events or feelings that unconsciously give us permission to continue the behaviour we wanted to stop, or discontinue what we wanted to do. Mindfulness teaches us to merely observe our behaviour, our feelings, our thoughts, as an observer and let them pass. This helps us not to dwell on things, beat ourselves up or “overthink”. Through understanding why we may be undoing our good work through identifying cues and triggers we can begin to understand how and why we find making our desired changes so hard. By not diving into our thoughts and feelings, we can begin to understand ourselves and to make conscious, not unconscious choices.

    Tips for Staying on Track
    You may want to try using a “Behaviour Diary” , using the column headings suggested below. It doesn't have to be flash or fancy, just something that you can use to help you.

    Date;Thoughts/feelings before;Where,with whom;What I did;Thoughts/feelings after;Comments;

    Fill this in as often as is useful, and as Mindfulness teaches us, see the entries for what they are. In the comments column, you might want to look at what your cues and triggers might be, or what helped you not to slip. This information could be helpful next time you waiver, you might want to share it with a supportive friend or a counsellor.

    Final Thoughts
    And if you do lapse? It’s not the end of the world. Our habits and behaviour have developed for as long as we have lived, so being able to stop them without any problem just because it is January 1st is slightly unrealistic! However, knowing this doesn’t give permission to throw the towel in, it does, however, provide an opportunity to draw a line under it and start again, using our new found knowledge. And don’t forget to praise yourself for doing something that you can be proud of, filling in a behaviour diary is a change, and therefore, a step forward.

    ©Pippa Copleston Jan 2015

    Blog #03

    Feb 2016 Procrastination and the Art of Avoidance

    Blogging: A space for my thoughts…?.
    So, according to my sources, blogs are an important part of a website, because blogs provide a channel of communication from the writer to those reading, helping people to get a “feel” for the organization, or in my case, me. For therapists, like me, blogs are a way to journal thoughts and ideas on topics relevant to the world of counselling and therapy. So here I am. 

    My immediate reaction to blogging was what do I blog about? I wrote one over a year ago, but how do I do this on a regular basis? I decided to consult the almighty wisdom that is Google, and almost immediately I began to wish I hadn’t, as reading the wealth of interesting, well written and often humorous articles set up my old familiar thought patterns. “Mine won’t be as good as this” “I don’t have anything interesting to say” blah blah blah, and immediately I began procrastinating.

    In the days prior to actually working on this blog , I have been mentally writing it, in the car, last thing at night before I fall asleep, queuing for the cash machine, anywhere that I couldn’t actually commit my thoughts to cyber paper. I was curious about my process – why was I procrastinating? What am I scared of? What would I need in order to get started? In search of an answer, I thought about what I would say to the procrastinating part of me as if I was my own therapist. This technique, annoyingly, works. I instantly recognized that I just needed to stop procrastinating and do it, just blog. About anything. What you are reading is the result.

    The Creative Silence
    Often, clients will come to sessions and say “I have nothing to talk about today” or “I don’t know what to talk about, nothing seems that important”. I thought about this process in terms of my own “freezing”, and how I filled the space of not knowing what to do by procrastination. I was doing anything but the task in hand! By procrastinating, I was both avoiding the task and avoiding listening to myself. Fritz Perls, the pioneer of a theory known as Gestalt saw the issue of avoidance as a central theme in our internal conflict. He suggested that we avoid the “real” issues by only being able to pay attention to what we can see. In my process, all I could think about was “What do I write about? How do I do it?”

    However, my experience as a therapist informs me that this “Not Knowing” and the ensuing space, when not filled with “doing” or “chatter” (both forms of procrastination) can often be really productive. It is often after clients have begun their session with “nothing to say” that after a silence, the session becomes one that is very useful to the client, as unprepared, we have no time to think about what we are saying, and therefore we are less censored. There is creativity in silence, when we are faced with a blank page (real or metaphorical) and therefore, when our own thoughts are the only echo around us. In our silence, therefore, we can begin to hear ourselves.

    Putting aside my preoccupation about the “whys” and “how’s” about my own procrastination about this blog, I decided to take a more Mindfulness based approach and to be curious about it rather than rush around and find The Solution, just as I would if I were with a client in a counselling session. By stepping back and being curious, I could see a different view, and recognize that unless I just got on with it, I’d keep going round in circles.

    Rebecca Crane, in her book about Mindfulness Based CBT discusses the idea of our “autopilot”, where we just get on with decision making and problem solving without stopping to understand what is happening in the present moment. Our decisions, reactions and actions are rooted in our habitual (old) way of thinking, and therefore of being.

    “The person has a narrowed, constricted awareness of the present moment and so cannot perceive the range of choices available” (p24) In other words, we become stuck in a rut, only able to see one way.

    Much of our world today relies on “being the best”, “getting it right” and other intangible, unrealistic goals, and these are all external measures of our value, of our worth, and are often implicit and/or imagined by us. Where they have been or are explicit demands, we then learn to respond to these pressures in order to please those around us, thereby losing sight of who we really are and to rely on our own judgement and wisdom. Carl Rogers calls this idea “conditions of worth”, and says that we need to find a way of not listening to those commands (“external locus of evaluation”, as Rogers terms it) and needs of others, instead, to learn to make decisions from our very heart, our soul, from the person who we truly are. This is incredibly difficult when we have been consciously or unconsciously doing what we think other people want us to do all our lives. However, if we never take a risk, we will stagnate, nothing will change. Going outside our comfort zone into the unknown, is scary. I love this quote from Cheryl Wild, who was inspired to find an experience that would “make me into the woman I knew I could become and turn me back into the girl I’d once been” and stepped right outside her comfort zone and undertook the 1,100-mile trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from the California-Mexico border to Canada, and across 9 mountain ranges. She said:

    “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, so I chose to tell myself a different story” (Cheryl Strayed, Wild)

    There are many reasons for procrastination, and many reasons to explain them. In the example above, my procrastination was driven by fear. In order to avoiding “getting it wrong”, I found ways of not doing it at all, but by clearing a space in my head, my thoughts, I as able to listen to what was really going on, to accept what was going on and to allow the Creative Silence to provide a way to find an answer. Funny, then, that I should end up writing about the very thing that was my stumbling block. Or is it?

    Mindfulness body scan.
    In Mindfulness practice, we learn to understand how our thoughts wander, where our attention is drawn but not get drawn into engaging with these thoughts in a familiar self-defeating pattern. We are encouraged to notice what we feel, where our thoughts are, we are invited to be curious yet not engage. Someone once describe this to me as if we were watching our thoughts float past on a stream, we notice them and let them pass. Understanding how we are in the present moment can be really helpful when procrastinating. It is less about changing things it is more about accepting them. The less we fight ourselves, the more we will achieve.

    Here is a link to a 10 minute version of a bodyscan. Give it a try and see what you think!

    Just CLICK HERE to visit Bodyscan

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