Category: Personal Insight

Tom can’t button his shirt…

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Sad businessman sitting at workplace and trying to find solution of problem
Life feels heavy at times

Tom struggled to do up his shirt. He needed to connect every button because he couldn’t button the waistband of his trousers and needed to disguise that fact. He breathed in and, struggling, did up the last button. But as he breathed out again he felt it strain. Damn! He’d have to wear a sweater, and he’d be too hot all day. He felt like Mr Blobby.

‘Going back to work after my winter holiday is going to be awful’ he thought. ‘Everyone will notice the extra fat round my middle. They’ll all laugh at me. That girl in the next office, the one I’ve been trying to get to know for a while now, will never look at me. No-one would.’

Inner Critics affect our ability to be Assertive

 Tom’s inner critic was having a field day. It was overgeneralising like mad. ‘Everyone’, ‘all’, ‘never’, ‘no-one’. These are all sweeping generalisations; examples of faulty thinking that affect our self esteem and therefore affect our ability to be assertive.

Do you have an inner critic? If you need to be more assertive, you almost certainly do. That damned voice that nags and complains, telling you how rubbish you are at this or that, or how things will ‘never’ work out for you. Trouble is, we tend to believe that voice.

 You don’t have to believe your thoughts

If you realise that you have an inner critic that stops you behaving assertively, the first step is to acknowledge that it is just an old recording playing in your head like an ear-worm. You don’t have to believe it. Here is a step-by-step approach to changing the recording….

 Step One – Acknowledge the inner critic. Recognise it for what it is. Say to yourself (gently) ‘Oh, there’s that inner critic again.’ If it is using a generalisation like:

‘Everyone’

‘No-one’

‘Always’

‘Never’

challenge that thought. Ask yourself questions like ‘Everyone? Really? Could there ever be an exception?’

Step Two – Allow it to gently drift away. If you get a picture with the thought, make the picture smaller, black and white and let it drift off so far you can’t see it any more. If it’s the voice alone, sing what the critical voice is saying to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’. I guarantee it will make you laugh and, in doing so, take the sting out of the words.

Step Three – Replace the words with something more positive and empowering. If you can visualise, picture these words being true, even if you don’t believe them yet.

You see, your brain has been wired to repeat those words from the past. Taking these simple steps will start the process of re-wiring. Eventually, your brain will get the message and the new, empowering, thoughts will become automatic.

*** Try This! ***

 Go ahead and try the technique above. You’ll be delighted with the results.

I’d love to what you think of these ideas. Do leave a comment below.

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Do you mind read before a date?

ImageIt was the first day of the new year and Vikki decided she’d been alone for long enough. Divorced for three years, she hadn’t had a single date since. Yet she longed to have a special someone in her life, and her biological clock was ticking so loudly it was deafening at times.

Right, she thought, logging on, I’m going to find me a man.

She signed up to a couple of internet dating sites. Several of her friends had met interesting men through them.

She was surprised with the choice; there were quite a few guys in her age group who lived within an hour of her home. At least half a dozen were worth contacting.

I’ll just have a coffee before I contact them, she thought.

As she sat there sipping her drink, she started to think:

‘He’ll think I’m not attractive enough.’

‘He’s slim and I could do with losing some weight. He won’t fancy me.’

‘He’s sure to think I’m too old for him, even though we’re the same age. Men always want someone younger.’

She closed down the websites with a sigh. This new year she is still single and the biological clock is ticking ever louder.

Vikki had been struck down by another faulty thinking type – Mind Reading.

Knowing very little about the guys on the website she mind read them. She decided that she knew what they would think about her, before they’d even as much as exchanged emails.

Mind reading is an effective way to sabotage yourself. We probably all do it at times, but some people do it so much, it stops them getting on with their life.

Sound like you? Do you hesitate to act assertively because you ‘mind read’ the person you want to speak to, assuming they will be thinking negatively about you?

In an earlier blog, I highlighted some questions that will help you overcome faulty thinking. So, catch your faulty thoughts and ask yourself:

  • Is that true?
  • Is it verifiably true?
  • Would people who care for me say this about me?
  • Is the thought unhelpful, stopping me from doing what I want to do?
  • What would be more empowering to think?

*** Try this! ***

Challenge your thoughts with these questions and you can start to change your beliefs. Consider what you would say to someone who thought these negative things about themselves. What advice would you give them?

Get yourself a notebook, one that is small enough to carry around. Each time someone pays you a compliment, write it down. It doesn’t have to be a big compliment, even a ‘thank you, that’s great’ is an acknowledgement of something you did well. As you write down the compliment, you might feel uncomfortable. That’s okay, you’re just on the road to letting go of old hurtful feelings. Relax your body and repeat the compliment to yourself, out loud or in your head. Do this a few times until you can read it comfortably. If any negative, and contradictory, thoughts pop into your head, gently acknowledge them and let them drift away. Return to your compliment. Keep this practice going until you have filled a notebook, then get another one if you need to. Doing this will help you to appreciate yourself.

Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

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Do you have any questions about assertiveness? Are there any topics you’d like me to write about? I’d love to hear from you. You can write in the comments box below.

Is life one catastrophe after another?

Interview and key concept
Keeping cool is the key to great interviews

James opened the letter excitedly. Yes! 

He punched the air triumphantly. He’d done it. He’d got an interview for a job he really wanted. Now for the preparation. He’d already done quite a bit at the application stage. He’d researched the organisation and the vacancy. He’d worked out exactly how his skills matched those they needed. He’d worked out the questions they were likely to ask, based on the Person Specification. And he’d decided how he would answer them.

On the day of the interview, he looked great. Best suit and tie, new haircut, shiny shoes. He sat on the train reading through his notes again, feeling as confident as he could be.

Then the train ground to a halt.

James wasn’t worried, he’d got about half an hour leeway. Nonetheless, he found himself looking at his watch every minute or two. It was fully ten minutes later before an announcement came over the loudspeakers:

We apologise for the delay, ladies and gentlemen. This is due to an engine failure. Another train is on its way. It should be here in about forty minutes. We apologise for any inconvenience.

Groans were heard from every part of the carriage, James noticed. He also noticed that everyone then got on with what they were doing, reading; chatting; sleeping.

But not him.

His mind went into panic mode. I’ll be late! They’ll think I’m hopeless! If I don’t get this job, I’ll be out of work for years! It’s taken me forty three applications to get this one interview. I’ll never get another! At my age, no-one will want to employ me.

He started to sweat, his breaths became shallower and faster, his heart raced and he felt faint. He couldn’t think straight.

James had been struck by faulty thinking – he was catastrophising.

Because of his negative assumptions that everything would be catastrophic, his thinking went haywire and he assumed the worst. Catastrophic thinking will do that to you.

Eventually, James remembered that he read somewhere that taking a few deep breaths while relaxing his shoulders was a good way to get in control of his feelings. He tried it. To his surprise, it worked. He could think again.

He got out his mobile phone, called the company he was going to see and explained the situation. They were fine with him, and agreed to add him to the end of their list of candidates for the day.

*** Try this! *** 

 If you find yourself catastrophising, catch that thought. It stops you acting logically and assertively. Like James, take some deep breaths while you relax your body. Say to yourself Calm, calm. You’ll soon get back in control. Then you can work out what you can do about the situation.

Ask yourself questions like:

What’s the worst that can happen?

How likely is it that the worst will happen?

What is more likely to happen?

How can I help myself now to deal with this situation?

Using these simple techniques can make your life a lot calmer. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Have you tried these techniques? How did you get on?

Being Assertive Takes Courage. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

ImageWe often think of courage as a quality that people demonstrate when they climb a mountain, rescue someone from a burning building or skydive. It’s true, they are all acts of courage. But bravery doesn’t only include physical risk.

Another type of courage is that needed when we decide to change our behaviour. The behaviour we have now is what we are familiar with. It may or may not serve us well, but we accept it as ‘who we are’.

Changing behaviour takes courage. If you have previously dealt with frustrating situations by losing your temper, it takes courage to stop yourself, calm yourself down and act assertively.

Perhaps you’ve done the opposite, avoiding confrontational situations altogether, by being accommodating to everyone, even at your own expense. If so, it takes courage to plan how to deal with the situation assertively to do it. Real courage.

So let’s think about your own courage.

What would you do differently if you weren’t afraid?

What would you try?

What would you stop doing?

*** Try This! ***

Read a biography of someone whose courage inspires you. Ask yourself what you can learn from their attitude. How can you make that attitude your own, applying it to your wish to be more assertive?

I’d love to know how you have courageously taken a step towards being assertive. Let me know in the comments box below.

Nine ways to be happier

Image of happy woman with outstretched arms standing in field
Want to feel this good? Follow these easy steps.

You may be wondering why I am writing about happiness when this is a blog on assertiveness. The truth is that it’s easier to be assertive when you are feeling good. It gives you an inner strength, a resilience that supports you through even difficult conversations. Which of these suggestions can you use?

Be Sociable – spend time with people who make you feel good. Make face to face connections with colleagues, friends and family. Try to stop seeing people who make you feel bad.

Look after your body – it’s hard to feel happy if you are feeling unwell, sluggish or have regular hangovers. Eat well, drink alcohol in moderation.

Exercise – some people think this means going to the gym or doing a marathon, but that’s not the case. Just get moving. If your job is sedentary, get up about once an hour and walk around, have a good stretch. Go for a walk in your lunch break. Take the dog for a walk. Walk up stairs instead of taking the lift.

Sleep Well – follow a sleep routine to get 7 to 8 hours sleep each night. No screens of any sort for an hour before bedtime. A dark bedroom with a comfortable temperature. No alcohol (it may make you fall asleep but you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to get back to sleep)

Have goals for your life – these can be small goals like getting a piece of work done, bigger goals like getting fit or losing weight, or life changing goals like finding a new partner or a new job. Write your goals somewhere where you can see them regularly. Imagine what life will be like when you’ve achieved them then work backwards step by step drawing up your action plan.

Spent time in nature – do some gardening, take a walk in your lunch break, go hiking at weekends. Take time to enjoy what you see in nature.

Relax – download a meditation or hypnotic recording. Learn some relaxation techniques. A great one is to relax your shoulders and then breath in as you slowly count to five and out as you count to seven at the same speed. Repeat a few times.

Give back – research shows that helping others not only makes us feel better but it boosts our immune system. So help others, volunteer, give to charity, do whatever you can do to give back.

Laugh – watch comedies, go to comedy films, spend time with people who make you laugh.

OVER TO YOU – do you have any tricks you use to feel good? I’d love to know them. Tell me in the comments box.

Are you an imposter?

I was sitting over lunch with a very capable friend, I’ll call her Tessa. Although we’ve known each other for several years, we only catch up once every few months. But I have dealings with her professionally and know her to be highly professional and efficient. In fact, she’s a wonderful role model.

She was telling me that she had been offered a job out of the blue. Not only that, but the person was willing to wait for her to make up her mind and start in her own good time. The job wasn’t going to be advertised or offered to anyone else.

‘Wow, that’s a great vote of confidence.’ I said.

She went quiet and looked down at the floor. ‘I’m not sure I can do it.’ she whispered.

My jaw dropped. She’d told me about the job and I knew she could do it standing on her head.

‘You’re kidding.’

‘I thought if I took it I could always turn to you for advice if I got stuck.’ she replied.

Now, like I said, this is someone I look up to, not someone I expected to have the least insecurities about her ability. But she had.

‘Oh,’ I said, ‘you’ve got the imposter syndrome.’

Wikipedia defines this as a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. Notably, impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women.

Sound familiar to you? Do you expect to be caught out at any minute? For others to see through your accomplishments to the ‘real’ (useless) you?

Enough! Let’s explore some ways to overcome this debilitating problem that stops you being assertive and enjoying your life to the full.

How to overcome Imposter Syndrome

1. Accept compliments on your work. Don’t brush them aside or think ‘oh, she’s just being nice.’ In fact, go one step further. Get yourself a notebook and write down every compliment you get.

2. Think through the work you did to get that compliment. That work shows your capabilities. List the skills you used.

3. Stop talking yourself down. No more, ‘I only..’ or ‘I just..’ or ‘it’s nothing.’

4. Don’t think your success is down to luck. It isn’t. It’s down to your knowledge and experience.

5. Act as if you believe in yourself. We’re not talking about going round bragging, no need for that. But how about walking upright, using assertive body language and speech. That old adage of fake it till you make is often true.

6. List your accomplishments. Yes, even those that others don’t comment on. You’ll need that list when it comes to your performance review anyway. Review that list regularly to remind yourself of all that you’ve achieved.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll find that within a few months, you are beginning to believe that you are the capable, assertive person other people see.

Imagine how good that will feel.