Monthly Archives: June 2015

Introducing July’s Hot Topic: Forgiveness

 

I remember once when I was in my late teens and one of my friends betrayed me. It escalated to the point where she even spread false rumors about me to my other friends. I was so hurt I couldn’t see through the pain, let alone be cognizant of how holding on to my resentment was harming me more than it was her. Looking back I wish I had realized that, had I let go of the resentment – and yes – even hatred that I was harboring towards her, I would have found my equilibrium and peace of mind a great deal sooner.

 

Like so many people I spent my twenties full of pride thinking that forgiveness was the same thing as reconciliation and akin to excusing awful behavior. It was only in my late twenties I discovered how healing forgiveness can actually be; forgiveness that released all of the poisonous emotions of hatred, resentment, humiliation, shame and pride in me. I was set free from the moment I truly learnt to forgive.

 

My wish is that you too will come to know how healing forgiveness can actually be through this series and that you will realize, just as I did, that you neither have to reconcile or even vocalize your forgiveness to anyone to reap the benefits of forgiveness.

 

Welcome to July’s hot topic everyone!

 

x X x Jenny Leigh x X x

Introducing July’s Hot Topic: Forgiveness

 

I remember once when I was in my late teens and one of my friends betrayed me. It escalated to the point where she even spread false rumors about me to my other friends. I was so hurt I couldn’t see through the pain, let alone be cognizant of how holding on to my resentment was harming me more than it was her. Looking back I wish I had realized that, had I let go of the resentment – and yes – even hatred that I was harboring towards her, I would have found my equilibrium and peace of mind a great deal sooner.

 

Like so many people I spent my twenties full of pride thinking that forgiveness was the same thing as reconciliation and akin to excusing awful behavior. It was only in my late twenties I discovered how healing forgiveness can actually be; forgiveness that released all of the poisonous emotions of hatred, resentment, humiliation, shame and pride in me. I was set free from the moment I truly learnt to forgive.

 

My wish is that you too will come to know how healing forgiveness can actually be through this series and that you will realize, just as I did, that you neither have to reconcile or even vocalize your forgiveness to anyone to reap the benefits of forgiveness.

 

Welcome to July’s hot topic everyone!

 

x X x Jenny Leigh x X x

How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Become Your Own Best Friend Through Self-Compassion Part Five

Picture Courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture Courtesy of Shutterstock

Why the work we do on ourselves helps others too…

 

In her conclusion of the series, Tami Simon, the founder and publisher of Sounds True, eloquently describes the notion of projection (projection being an unconscious self-defence mechanism characterised by a person unconsciously attributing their own issues onto someone or something else) by going on to say that…

 

“the work we do to accept the unlovable parts of ourselves, to accept the actions that we take that we wish we hadn’t taken. That that work is not work that we’re just doing for ourselves alone. Not at all. It’s work we’re doing for the whole world and to quote Parker Palmer, he talked about how racism and homophobia and every form of scapegoating that we’ve ever known in the world, it comes actually from the part of people where they can’t accept themselves. ‘I have to scapegoat and put you down because you’re bringing forward something in me that I can’t stand to look at.’ So when we do this work of self-acceptance we’re actually liberating humans to be accepted for who they are. When we accept ourselves we can accept other people.”

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Are your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Here’s how to find out..

When faced with a threat our reptilian brain kicks in and throws us into flight fight or freeze mode. This is an automatic and instinctive response built into us from millennia ago when we had to scavenge for food and fight off lions to survive. The problem today is that this response still exists in us even though we very seldom need it. Don’t get me wrong, if someone is mugged in the street it is a very useful reaction – essential for survival even – but often this fight, flight or freeze response is activated when we perceive a threat, regardless whether one exists or not.

 

For example, if I am at a party and I don’t know anyone, a fight, flight or freeze response isn’t really helpful. Likewise if someone makes a joke and I think it’s about me and jump straight into fight mode, what happens if it comes to light the joke was actually nothing to do with me? What happens when the treat that we perceive isn’t real?

 

Below are some questions to help you assess whether your anxieties and fears are based on real threats or not:

 

  • Is it possible that I have misinterpreted the situation?
  • Is it possible that I have misunderstood what has been said?
  • Is it possible that my perceived threat actually doesn’t exist in this circumstance? (E.g. everyone I don’t know at the party is welcoming and friendly)
  • If there is danger have reasonable precautions been taken to limit it? Do I find these precautions acceptable? Are there any facts that will ease my concern? (E.g. rollercoaster ride safety standards)

 

If there is any chance that your anxieties and fears are not based on real threats then you can try to avoid jumping into fight, flight or freeze mode by rationalizing that your fears are probably exaggerated. You can also limit your anxieties and fears by making a contingency plan for how you would react if your anxieties and fears surfaced. To construct such a plan, aim to answer the questions below but remember not to dwell on the contingency plan as this may feed into your fears, simply make one and then refocus on the task at hand.

 

  • What is the worst that could happen?
  • How could I deal with this if it happens?
  • What could I do that I haven’t done in the past in response to my fears?
  • How can I limit my anxiety if the worst were to happen? (I.e. bring a friend)

 

How do you usually tell if your anxieties and fears are based on real threats? Have you ever thought about it before? What are your anxieties and fears? Will you ask yourself any of the questions above? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.

Feeling guilty? How to use guilt to your advantage!

Like anyone I’ve felt guilty from time to time. Interestingly I have a long standing history of confusing guilt for shame. When researching for this month’s series article on self-compassion I had an aha moment when I realized guilt was very different to shame. Shame by its very nature tells us that we are something wrong – a very destructive way of thinking and not helpful at all – whilst guilt signals that we’ve done something wrong, which incentivizes us to make amends and put the situation right. Guilt can also guide us to make better choices, serving as a barometer towards correcting our behavior in future.

 

To tell the difference between guilt and shame ask yourself the following questions, remembering that it is possible to be both guilty and ashamed.

 

  • Am I labeling myself in my head as a direct result of my behavior? (E.g. I’m a failure, I’m horrible, I’m incompetent)
  • Do I feel like I’m a horrible person as a direct result of my behavior?
  • Do I feel like a failure / incompetent / worthless as a direct result of my behavior?
  • Do I feel fatalistic, as if I will always be this way?

 

  • Do I feel a deep sense that I have behaved in the wrong way?
  • Do I feel as though I have made a mistake?
  • Do I feel as though I have used poor judgment?
  • Do I feel that I want to make amends for my behavior?
  • Do I feel bad for the person my behavior has effected?

 

If you answered yes to any of the top four questions you are likely in a state of shame and need to talk through what happened with a trusted and supportive friend who can reassure you that you are not what you may be labeling yourself to be.

 

As Brene Brown says…

 

“If you put shame in a Petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and you douse it with empathy you create an environment that’s hostile to shame.”

 

If you answered yes to any of the last five questions you are probably experiencing guilt. Although uncomfortable, feeling guilty can be a very good thing because it gives you the opportunity to make amends for and correct your behavior. Think about what you can do to make things right and then act on it, remembering that some people will not be receptive to an apology but that the most important thing by far is that you have done everything you can to say sorry and rectify your behavior so that it isn’t repeated.

 

Have you ever felt guilty and did it serve as a motivator to correct your behavior? Can you relate to feeling ashamed and how destructive an emotion it is? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, support and insight from our community.

How to Silence Your Inner Critic and Become Your Own Best Friend Through Self-Compassion Part Four

Picture Courtesy of Shutterstock

Picture Courtesy of Shutterstock

 

 

How to deal with shame…

 

One of the ongoing themes to the interviews that I saw surrounded shame – a destructive emotion that tells us we are something wrong as opposed to guilt, which is useful and tells us we’ve done something wrong.  I think that one of the reasons why shame was such a central theme in the series is because when we experience shame, our inner critic goes into hyper drive.

 

Brene Brown, an award winning speaker who has spent the past ten years researching vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame gave one piece of advice that stuck with me at a core level. Brene’s self confessed mantra is “don’t text, talk or type anything” when you are in a state of shame.

 

Once you have calmed down Brene suggests confiding in a friend or family member. “If you put shame in a Petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy, silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and you douse it with empathy you create an environment that’s hostile to shame.”

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Angry much? The critical message our anger is sending us (and why you need to hear it)

Like anyone, I’ve had my angry moments. One of the things I learnt in treatment was that often our anger comes from when our rights have been violated. For example, I have the right to my own opinions and beliefs. Has anyone ever imposed their opinion on you, said you were wrong or foolish and made you angry? That’s because they violated your rights!

 

Being angry is often a strong indication that our rights are being violated and knowing our rights is critical if we are to protect ourselves against others abusing them whilst creating healthy boundaries for our lives.

 

Below is a list of rights we all have that can be protected if we assert ourselves in a non aggressive manner:

 

1)      I have the right to state my own needs and set my own priorities as a person, independent from any roles that I may assume in my life.

2)      I have the right to be treated with respect as an intelligent, capable and equal human being.

3)      I have the right to express my feelings.

4)      I have the right to express my opinions and values.

5)      I have the right to say ‘no’ and ‘yes’ for myself.

6)      I have the right to make mistakes and forgive myself.

7)      I have the right to change my mind.

8)      I have the right to say ‘I don’t understand’ and ask for more information.

9)      I have the right to ask for what I want.

10)   I have the right to decline responsibility for other peoples problems.

11)    I have the right to deal with others without being dependent on them for approval.

 

If you would like to know about your rights and why they are important in depth please read my article titled ‘How to Free Yourself and Assert Your Rights’ and if you’d like to know more about creating healthy boundaries please read ‘Assertiveness: A Journey Worth Taking’.

 

So the next time you are angry ask yourself – is someone abusing your rights and crossing a personal boundary?

 

Did you know your rights? Can you recall a time when you got angry as a result of someone abusing your rights? In future do you plan to assert your rights and create healthy boundaries in a non aggressive way? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain support, encouragement and insight from our community.

Kindness Gift Off This Saturday 20th June on the Tube in Central London

I recently wrote an article on kindness titled ‘What’s in it for me? The transformative power of kindness and its inextricable link to long-term happiness’. Whilst researching for the article I came across the idea of leaving your favourite book on a bus with a note for someone to discover. I liked the idea so much I went out and bought 30 copies of my favourite book ‘Lovely Bones’ by Alice Sebold to give away on the tube this coming Saturday 20th June.

Why Lovely Bones? Because it epitomizes triumph over struggle, the strength of the human spirit and because it serves as a gentle reminder that we can all reach a state where we are at peace with life and the world if we focus on tapping into our inner strength and resilience. In short, it symbolises the very essence of what this blog is all about.

The gifts will be packaged in see through envelopes with silver glitter letters on them spelling ‘Pssst… I’m a gift for you – read me’ and will include a short note on why I think Lovely Bones is such a special book, my article on kindness that inspired this all and the book itself. At the end of my article the only request I make is that the lucky recipients pass on an act of kindness in return, from the list given in my article.

So what are you waiting for? Get on the tube and you may very well discover one of my kindness gift packs, just for you!

Wishing you all a wonderful week,

Jenny Leigh

Depressed? Why depression could be your biggest breakthrough yet!

Goodness knows I have had my fair share of depression. It is a dark and often very lonely place to be and when I was depressed myself I certainly recognized no redemptive features of it. My personal breakthrough came when I realized that it was within my control to change my life if it wasn’t serving me well and I didn’t like it. It was one of the biggest breakthroughs I ever had. I’m not for one second suggesting it was easy – I had to build my self-esteem back up, work on my recovery and then (and only then) change my life circumstances like filing for divorce and changing careers.

 

The reason depression can actually be a blessing in disguise is that once we realize it is telling us something important we can learn to listen to what it is trying to teach us. Essentially whenever anyone is depressed it is a sign that the conditions for our lives are no longer working for us and need to change. Of course there are exceptions, losing a parent or loved one can certainly send one into depression but it still serves as a gentle reminder that how we are grieving may not be entirely constructive.

 

It is important to emphasize that the very first thing anyone should do if they are depressed is seek help from a doctor and possibly go on medication and / or to therapy. The first step in the process of building your life back up following depression is to build your self-esteem, your social support network of close friends, and find your equilibrium again. Once you are feeling stronger you can delve into the cause of your depression and start to assess what you could possibly do differently which would make for a happier life.

Below I have listed some examples to get you thinking about what life conditions you may find helpful to change.

 

  • Are you friends toxic? It may be time to end the friendship
  • Do you have enough friendships? If not, join a meet up group!
  • Do you like where you live? If not, look for somewhere better that you can afford
  • Do you have any fulfilling hobbies? Try things out and find out what you are passionate about
  • Family issues? Consider seeing a therapist with your family to talk things through
  • Do you like your job? It may be time to investigate what other career paths you would find more fulfilling or ask for that pay rise or promotion

 

Do you suffer from depression? Do you currently have life conditions you would like to change? Have you thought about how you could change them? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.

Need a hug? Why compassionate self talk works!

I have to admit, the first time I used compassionate self talk I was totally embarrassed and self-conscious. Even though I said it in my head I couldn’t help but feel silly. And then the strangest thing happened. I actually felt soothed, I felt understood and cared for. If you are anything like me you may think it is silly to comfort yourself as you would a friend in your own head but there is no doubt in my mind that it does indeed work, in fact, it’s very effective.

 

The next time you are feeling down, stressed anxious or are just going through a tough time try saying to yourself phrases like those you would say to a friend. I have listed some below to help you get started and give yourself that all important emotional hug!

 

“I know you are struggling right now but I want you to know you are loved and I care about you and I will support you through this”

 

“Trust me that even though it may not seem as if things will get better they will”

 

“You are a wonderfully strong person and your inner strength will get you through this”

 

“You have all the skills you need to become stronger and more resilient as a result of this experience”

 

“It’s ok that you’re feeling upset, confused, hurt, lonely… I am going to be here so you won’t have to go through this alone”

 

What soothing words would impact you the most when you are next feeling upset or hurt? Have you ever used compassionate self talk before? Are you planning to use it in future? I’d love to hear from you so please comment below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community.

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