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How do you treat yourself?

How do you speak to yourself?

My guess is probably not very well.

In fact, would you ever treat a friend in the same way?

For many of us, the answer is no. The reality is that we often treat ourselves much more harshly than we would ever treat anyone else. 

Self-compassion is probably one of the tools I work with most and hands-down can have the biggest effect on people – present company included. It took me a long time to even be able to use the words. It was such a foreign concept that for a long time, my response was: 

What do you mean be kind to yourself?

Self-compassion – what is it really?

Self-compassion relates to our ability to be accepting, kind and loving to ourselves, welcoming and befriending our emotional and physical suffering. 

Or simply said:

It’s being kind to yourself

And while it’s often a foreign concept, we actually know what to do. 

What do you do for yourself? 

Let me take a guess.

If you’re faced with some challenging feelings, you might tell yourself “to just get over it”. You tell yourself you’re weak or that you shouldn’t be feeling what you’re feeling. Actually, you might add another layer on top of judgement and make yourself feel stupid for feeling what you’re feeling.

Something like that? Tell me, how’s that working for you?

Thought so. It works – to a degree. But it’s not sustainable and frankly, it feels crap. 

So why do we do this?

We’ve often been raised to believe that being tough will allow us to achieve our goals – moreover, there is a strong cultural narrative that being kind to ourselves is a form of self-pity, weakness or that it’s selfish. 

In fact, none of these things are true and in fact, it has been proven that self-compassion actually leads to greater agency and responsibility, increased resiliency and is a far stronger motivator than self-judgement and punishment. And honestly, it just feels so much better. 

How do you start being kinder to yourself?

Start with becoming aware of how you treat and speak to yourself. So often, we live our lives on autopilot and aren’t even aware of the relationship we have with ourselves:

  • What do you typically judge and criticize yourself for?
  • How do you speak to yourself? What type of language do you use? 
  • How do you feel when you are critical or harsh on yourself? How does it change your behaviour?

There are various ways to be kinder to yourself, and one of the easiest shortcuts is to answer this question when you notice that you are suffering:

How would I treat a good friend?

You take time out for them. You listen. You empathize. You say something caring or comforting. There might even be a hug thrown in somewhere (guaranteed with me, so if you’re need – come on over!).

Give it a try and see how this changes things for you. In the beginning this can feel a little awkward, especially as you might not be used to it, but as with anything, with practice you can improve. And be compassionate even in the practice of self-compassion! 

Life coach Amsterdam online

The inner critic sounds something like this:

You’re never going to amount to anything. 

You can’t do this. 

Nobody wants you here. 

You don’t have anything new to say. 

Who do you think you are?

Ouch!

Yep, that’s some of what my inner critic used to throw at me – and occasionally still does. 

The inner critic is the voice of not good enough. 

We all have some version of this inner voice and if we want to grow and develop – and perhaps most importantly, find freedom – this is the voice that we must learn to manage. 

Your inner critic is like the guest that showed up to the party uninvited. As much as you’d like to chuck them out, sometimes it’s just better to keep the peace. Because here’s the challenge:

The more you focus your attention on the inner critic, the stronger it gets. The more you fight it, the more it starts pushing back. The more you ignore it, the more it starts asking for your attention.

So what do you do?

  • Understand that your inner critic is only trying to keep you safe. Its intentions are good, but its execution lacks a bit to be desired. It can be helpful to ask your inner critic: what are you trying to protect me from? Get a little curious.
  • Know that your inner critic is most likely going to pipe up when you’re about to do something that is really important to you. So sometimes it means you can actually use that voice as a guide. Louder inner critic? You’re on to something! 
  • Have a little fun with it – turn it into a character, change the tone of its voice. When I went to Tony Robbins last year, he had us stick two fingers up our nose and then say whatever it was that our inner critic was saying. Trust me, you won’t be able to take it seriously after that! 
  • Don’t do what it tells you to do. The inner critic is just a voice. Its words are simply thoughts. Create some more distance by simply observing the thoughts. It can help to note the voice: “I’m having the thought that … I’m never going to be able to do this.” More distance, less impact. 
  • Turn up the volume of love. The inner critic is really just like a small child. It just wants to be heard. There’s another part of you that is much wiser, compassionate and loving. Speak to yourself from that place of love, be gentle and kind. Thank your inner critic and let it know that you are safe. Nothing scary is going to happen, you’ve got this.
  • Connect to the present moment. The voice in your head somehow either brings you back to the past, or propels you into the future with images of what could go wrong. But if we really connect to the present moment, there’s often a realization that nothing scary is truly happening right now. The easiest way to connect to the present moment? Your breath. A simple couple of deep belly breaths can already offer great release. 

The reality is that we all have an inner critic and really, you don’t need to take it so seriously. It’s a part of you that is trying to keep you safe and if you change your attitude towards it, you might actually see that it only has good intentions. In fact, it’s there because it cares deeply for you.

When you stop fighting with it and give it the care that it’s, in fact, asking for, you will notice quite quickly the voice will start toning down and it shows up less frequently. There might even come a time when you understand where it’s coming from and perhaps even welcome it! With a little re-education, this might just be the start of a beautiful friendship. 

Live life on your own terms and be true to yourself

I’m amazed at the ease with which we throw out words into the world sometimes. Live your best life! Just be yourself!

Hey, I’m guilty of this too sometimes. It’s so easy to want to squeeze life lessons into some catchy words so you can meet the character count of FB, Instagram or Twitter. 

Catchphrases that can inspire momentarily but really we underestimate their significance by trying to capture them into brief, and sometimes, hollow statements. 

Because it’s not always that easy – and any effort to make it sound easier than it is can leave you wondering why you just can’t get it right. There must be something wrong with me no? Otherwise, I’d “just do it”, right?

No, and let’s just be clear: there isn’t anything wrong with you. There’s nothing that needs to be fixed or sorted out. It just means you are human. 

It ain’t always that easy people. 

We can have the best intentions, the greatest motivation, the right mindset AND there will likely be bumps in the road. Because life and change by nature can be challenging – and that’s ok. 

Live life on your own terms! This sounds great, AND the reality is in practice it can be hard. So what does it truly mean?

To live life on your terms requires you to truly know who you are, and to set up your life according to your priorities. It requires you to show up courageously because sometimes you have to go against the status quo. 

As creatures of comfort, it’s a place many of us don’t particularly enjoy. There’s safety in numbers – and hey, what if it turns out that I got it all wrong? 

To live life on your own terms means to live and be driven from a place of (self)love rather than fear. Sometimes you will have to make difficult choices and take courageous steps aligned with who you wish to be – even when others may not understand. 

The thing that gets in the way most is fear in its various forms: 

What will people think of me? Am I good enough? What if I fail?

But what you really need to ask yourself is this: 

Do I live my life according to what I believe others want for me or do I live on my terms? Do I define success in societal norms or do I define success in my own authentic way? 

I think you know my answer and I know this isn’t always easy. It can get lonely and you might question yourself. But true empowerment comes from living from the inside out. When you experience doubt, it is then that you must show up for yourself with the most loving, courageous, and warm heart. 

The heart that says: be true to me. 

The Letters: You are enough

Dear beautiful one,

I am enough.

3 simple little words. Yet so powerful. How would your life change if you finally understood that you are and always have been enough? That your worth is unconditional of what you do, what you look like and who you know. Yet this is one of the things we often struggle with most. You see, we’ve learned to make our worth conditional. As if it depended on what we do for a living, how much money we make, how thin we are, the clothes we wear, even the busyness of our schedules.

I know I’ve done it. My worth was measured by the grades I got in school, the jobs I got afterwards, the salary I earned, the number of friends I had, how many likes I got on a post and whatever else I could think of. A busy social calendar meant that something was right with me, no? Frankly, it’s exhausting.

Have you ever noticed how exhausted people are, trying to continuously be and do more. Until…  when exactly? When is it enough? When are we enough?

When are you enough?

My go-to methods for proving my worth were being liked by everyone and trying to excel in my work. Until I didn’t and one day I was told I was doing a crap job. I believed that story and I fell to pieces. The one thing that I was most scared of happened: I wasn’t good enough.

And yet… while it felt as if the world came tumbling down, I actually realised nothing really changed, nothing that truly mattered: I was loved despite what seemed to me to be a catastrophic failure. It was at once one of the most difficult and the most beautiful episodes in my life.

Something shifted. Slowly the realisation came: I am enough whatever happens. I always have and always will be enough. And perhaps more than anything, I started to learn that I belonged here no matter what. That isn’t to say that there aren’t days that I still struggle with feeling a true sense of belonging but I know I am on the right path.

I want this for you too. You know, Marianne Williamson says that miracles are a shift in perception. I believe this is one of the biggest miracles:

To understand that you always have been and always will be enough.

How would your life change once you know you are enough?

With love,

Naomi

Confidence is courage in action

What is confidence really?

I often open up my presentations for Reclaiming Confidence, the workshop that I run at The Practice in Bali, by sharing a range of quotes about confidence that for the longest time scared the bejesus (spelling?!) out of me.

This one sums it up quite nicely:

“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won even before you have started.” – Marcus Garvey

It was at a time of my life when I felt I had literally lost all confidence in myself and reading quotes like these just made me feel like I was pretty much screwed.

Confidence seemed like it was a “have or have not” type thing, and depending on which category you fell into, it also made the difference between those who would or who would not be successful in life.

Have confidence, yay! Experience self-doubt, nay…

But here’s the thing.

Confidence in fact is a personal journey that looks different for everyone.

You can feel confident in one area of your life, and not so much in another. We may also experience it in different ways. For some of us it’s sweaty palms and a restricted throat, for others it may be the incessant critical voice inside our heads – or some combination of the two. What is important to remember is that the experience of self-doubt doesn’t have to be all pervasive to your life and that in itself already creates a little bit of space.

For the areas in your life where you do feel more confident – was it always that way and how did you get there?

Perhaps more than anything, confidence in the beginning looks more like courage in action.

Any new adventure, any new pursuit that is meaningful to you will most likely create some tension. Because if it didn’t mean anything, then it wouldn’t really matter so much. Confidence starts with an act of courage and over time, as you learn to become braver and put things in action, it grows into confidence.

Confidence grows through courage and practice until you become competent – and that requires you to take action. 

There’s no way around it – and this is where people often make an important mistake in their thinking. How often have you found yourself waiting for the day that you feel ready? Confident? Good enough?

Still waiting?

Yep, thought so. Because as Dr. Russ Harris says in his book The Confidence Gap:

The actions of confidence come before the feelings of confidence.  

So perhaps rather than waiting to feel confident, ask yourself,

What courageous step, big or small, can I take today?

Be brave dear one!

 

 

Intentional Living: Bringing in the New Year

Can you feel the little jittery flutter that takes place around the end of the year? The excitement of closing down one year and starting again fresh? The promise of new year’s resolutions and intentions, new habits to be created, dreams to be achieved. It can all feel very exciting, can’t it? And it totally can be! Intentional living for me is all about taking time out to see how we want to live our lives – what is it ultimately that we’d like to create?

With that in mind, I think there’s so much value to looking back at the year just gone before you start working on your intentions for the new year. Just hold on with diving straight into 2018 for a little bit!

Why?

Because there’s so much value to be found in celebrating all that has been and learning from the things that may not have gone that well. It’s really about creating more mindfulness of all that is already there, rather than always looking ahead at what will come. Moreover, we can’t really set the direction of the journey ahead if we don’t know where we are on the map of life right now. The map being all the adventures you want to have, the people you want to meet, the places you want to visit, the things you want to do. What have you learned along the way? What surprised you? What perhaps wasn’t as you had hoped?

Looking at your life from this kind of place of stillness requires courage and reminding ourselves of the fact that nothing is inherently good or bad. We are the ones who decide what meaning to attach to our journey. The challenging times we face in our lives can often also be the most meaningful times, if we allow ourselves the time to sit still and soak up the wisdom. To really integrate what we have learned so that this newfound learning becomes a part of who we are, turning us into wiser and perhaps even more compassionate creatures of this planet.

Have you ever noticed how quickly life passes us by? How quickly we forget the small joyous moments that together make up our life? Sometimes I feel we just rush our way through life, and forget so much of what makes this life so worthwhile. The small seemingly mundane matched with the big life events.

Intentional Living Workbook

So during this holiday season, why not take out a little time for yourself to remember all that has been and soak it all up?

And yes, you guessed it right. I couldn’t help myself, I created a little something for you to do exactly that. I wasn’t even planning on doing it this year, but there you go!

Here’s an Intentional Living Workbook for you that consists of two parts: Reviewing 2017 and Looking Ahead to 2018.

You’ll find a range of exercises that I’ve found helpful –do them all or pick a couple. Do it one sitting or over a couple of days, all up to you!

And yes, I’ve absolutely also included a section on setting intentions to take you into the new year, because let’s face it, there’s nothing quite as exciting as the thought of a blank slate that is waiting to be filled in and it’s so important to set the direction for your life.

Where do you really want to go?

If you’ve done this with me before, this year I’ve taken a slightly different approach: a small step away from traditional goals-setting and slightly more towards intentions and what I like to call intentional living.

Who do you want to be? What do you stand for? And how will you live this?

Grab a cup of a nice something something (tea, coffee, vino, you can take it from here), settle in, get cosy and bring in both equal measures of courage, compassion and curiosity.

So much more is possible than what we often allow ourselves to believe. Dream your biggest dreams, even the seemingly impossible – you are capable of great things!

Happy Holidays!

Braving the Wilderness - Personal lessons

True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.

 

Gosh, I love Brené Brown – like BIG love. This woman to me speaks truth. Period. For those of you who haven’t read any of her work yet, go grab yourself a book – any of her books. For me, they always feel like home, which is an interesting statement as her latest book Braving the Wilderness is all about belonging. A topic close to my heart for many reasons, have a read of my last post on belonging here.

Brené’s new book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone is as the title suggests all about the desire that we all feel to belong to something that is bigger than just ourselves. The main message of the book is really this:

True belonging is found within yourself – not in any other place. It’s exactly the things that you do to try and belong that will, in fact, keep you from finding true refuge.

The book opens with this quote from Maya Angelou:

“You are only free when you realise you belong no place – you belong every place – no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great. “

Ultimately, this beautiful book is all about encouraging you to be true to yourself and to speak up – and allow others to do the same. Brené emphasises there is a shared humanity and spirituality that brings us all together despite our differences, and offers us a pathway into how we can truly engage with each other from a place of trust.

There is so much wisdom and insight in this book that I almost feel that whatever I write will not do it justice – and frankly, it won’t. It is one of those books to be read and then reread again – and I encourage you to do so. Here are some of my main take-aways from the book that I thought were particularly helpful.

Brené makes a clear distinction between belonging and fitting in:

“Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else. If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.

If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.”

What she’s saying here is that it is precisely the behaviour that we engage in to try and belong – fitting in – that takes us away from finding true belonging as we mould ourselves to be who we believe we need to be. Therefore hiding our true selves and essentially saying to ourselves: this part can be seen, but this part must be hidden from others. It is only when we can come to accept all of who we are that we can find belonging.

When we can come to accept all of who we are and be courageous in standing up for what we believe in that we find belonging. When we allow ourselves to be truly seen, it is only then that we can find real acceptance and belonging. And the funny thing is that we actually need to find this in ourselves first and foremost rather than looking for it with others.

In order for us to feel safe to do so, we must then work on a culture of trust as essentially we ask:

Is it safe to show who I truly am here? 

In many ways, Brené’s book is really a call to action to create a world that is emotionally safer for us all. She points to the spiritual crisis that the current state of the world is in, where division between groups and people is running strife. We have lost our sense of common humanity, finding it easier to separate ourselves from others in a bid to find belonging with the group that we have chosen to identify ourselves with. It’s us versus them. Yet it is precisely this behaviour that separates us even more from each other.

She offers up the acronym BRAVING as a way of creating trust – both with ourselves and with others:

Boundaries: I maintain my own boundaries and I respect yours.

Reliability: I do what I say – always.

Accountability: I take responsibility for whatever I say and do.

Vault: I keep confidential what you tell me.

Integrity: I stay true to myself and I choose courage over comfort.

Non-judgement: I don’t judge myself and others about asking for help.

Generosity: I am generous in my interpretations about your actions. Intentions and words.

For those of you interested in learning more about this, have a look at her talk on The Anatomy of Trust . Highly recommended!

She continues to outline 4 ways that we can reclaim human connection and rekindle the spiritual connection that exists between us all. I’ve briefly highlighted some of the personal lessons that I took from these:

  1. People are hard to hate close up. Move in.
  • Only base your judgements of people on your own experience.
  • Have the courage to be vulnerable and express your pain rather than lashing out.
  • Truly engage with others and listen to their perspective – especially when you’re in conflict with each other.
  1. Speak Truth to Bullshit. Be civil.
  • Don’t just say something when you don’t know. Have the courage to say “I don’t know”.
  • Stop thinking in “you’re either with me or against me” paradigms.
  • Be inclusive in your language.
  1. Hold Hands. With strangers
  • Show up for collective moments of joy and pain. Think concerts, think funerals, think World Cup games.
  1. Strong back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.
  • Hold strong to who you are, yet be open and vulnerable to others.

For those of you who have ever struggled with finding a sense of belonging, I can only give you my highest recommendations for this book. My personal experience has also been that ultimately we can only find that sense of home within ourselves, continuously tuning into ourselves and navigating life on our own compass. There is an immeasurable strength and confidence that comes from making this journey within. It requires us to show up with authenticity, courage and vulnerability. As Maya Angelou said, the price is high yet the reward is great. I will leave you with perhaps one of my favourite quotes from the book:

“Stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong. You will always find it because you’ve made that your mission. Stop scouring people’s faces for evidence that you’re not enough. You will always find it because you’ve made that your goal. True belonging and self-worth are not goods; we don’t negotiate their value with the world. The truth about who we are lives in our hearts. Our call to courage is to protect our wild heart against constant evaluation, especially your own. No one belongs here more than you.“

A Sense of Belonging - Cultivating home within

It took me by surprise the literal ache that I felt in my chest. The need for belonging: the ache that was lodged in my chest, that shouted, you are alone. No one sees you. No one hears you. Your life is insignificant. I wanted to share my pain, but I couldn’t find the way. It felt like there was a wall between myself and the rest of the world. I could see it, I could touch it, but I couldn’t move beyond the wall that separated me from them.

The Need to Belong

We don’t talk about it often do we? This need to belong, to be part of something that is bigger than just us. The need to be seen. The need to be recognized.

Belonging – it’s an innate need we have closely linked to our survival. Back in the day when we were still cavemen and women, we needed to be part of the tribe, otherwise, our chances for survival were slim. While we no longer have to watch for sabre tooth tigers and other predators (luckily for most of us), our desire and need to belong, to be part of something, to be part of an “us” still dominates our way of thinking and being.

It was the same feeling that I had so often come to know as a child growing up. Why did I look different from anyone else? Why wasn’t there anyone in my family who looked just like me? As an only child from a mixed race background, I grew up very dominantly white areas and I always looked like the odd one out on both sides of my family. Why couldn’t anyone look just like me? I truly longed to have a sibling who would just be like me (never mind my romanticized ideas about siblings and family). Birthdays and Christmases were spent asking my parents for a brother or sister, yet unfortunately, it was never to be.

I compensated my lack of a feeling of belonging by trying to fit in, achieve and be perfect. I even went as far as choosing to study in the UK to see whether I could fit in there (I was born in the UK and for some reason, I thought this could be ‘home’ as well. Never mind that my British citizenship was purely a formal matter…). I chose to study Japanese (surprise!) and went on to spend my second year of university in Tokyo, again boarding the plane with the desire to find myself there.

While I really enjoyed my time in Japan, it was also a painful and confronting experience of realizing this was not my home either. While things are improving in Japan, it is still far removed from being a multi-cultural society and I had quite a few experiences where I very much felt the outsider. Hafu, the Japanese term for people of mixed Japanese origin, literally means half. While I don’t mind the term, it confirmed the feeling that I had within, that I was part this, part that, not really part of anything completely.

While I take pride now in my mixed background and very much consider myself a citizen of the world, this took a long time. There’s still that ache within sometimes that just wants to fit in and belong. To not be asked where I’m from, to not have to explain why I look the way I do, to explain again that “no, I’m not Chinese, Indonesian, Vietnamese or Siberian for that matter (and I’m not kidding on that last one…).

There are so many of us who miss this sense of belonging. More and more of us live outside of our home countries. Multi-cultural relationships are increasing each day. A feeling of separation isn’t just limited to race and ethnicity, we can each feel our separateness from others in so many different ways. It’s been eye-opening to speak to people who have been adopted, friends who come from different social backgrounds, others who have been the victims of bullying, members of the LGBTQ community that in so many places around the world still need to hide their sexuality, women who feel a sense of separation because their bodies do not fit the social image of what is considered beautiful. The list is endless.

In the end, human beings have so many crafty ideas on how to separate us from them. It’s a dangerous practice this continuous boxing in of people, us versus them, you versus me. The invisible walls that are being built up, hiding our shared humanity from each other. Yet funnily enough, we all want the same: love and belonging. Paradoxically, it is those very desires and needs that make us separate ourselves from others. As if the separation from one, will act as the glue that holds together the other.

So how do we even begin to move through this sense of separation?

 

• Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. I’ve literally gone through times where I’ve had to write up a list of things I could do for myself to soothe the soul. It’s as basic as lighting incense, taking a bath, putting on calming music, curling up on the sofa with a book. I was reminded by someone the other day that books often provide a gateway to belonging as we find companionship in its pages. The more I can love myself, the more I can truly love someone else, continuously adding more glue to the social fabric of this planet.

• Reach out to someone close to you. The biggest antidote to a sense of separation is finding companionship. This can be tough as we are often unwilling to show this vulnerable side of ourselves. Yet is often exactly what we need to do. This doesn’t mean that you have to share your feelings with everyone around you, but find that friend that you can open up to. Vulnerability truly creates intimacy like nothing else.

• Realise that we are all humans. Each one of us with many of shared feelings and experiences. It’s so easy to separate yourself from others, thinking that you must be the only who feels this way. You’re not. You are not the first person and you will not be the last. The truth is that we often have no idea what someone might have been through. I still find myself surprised when I speak to clients and they share some of their life stories with me. We never know what is being kept hidden inside. Sometimes it can help to seek out like-minded spirits. While I don’t necessarily contribute directly to the interactions, I very much enjoy being part of a Hafu Facebook Group.

• Stand by someone else. Truly take the time to listen and care for someone else. The greatest gift we can often give someone else is our time, love and attention. If you notice someone who is being left out, speak up and include them. Give the gift of care.

• Develop more courage to stand alone. I’ve pondered the question of belonging for a long time until I eventually came to realise: I belong to me. I belong everywhere and nowhere. Ultimately there is only one of me as there is only one of you. Some journeys we can and will only ever make alone – and that is how it should be. Try to let go of the need to be liked. It is an impossible task anyway and don’t you want your life to stand for something?

• Say yes to yourself. Each time we choose others over ourselves, trying to fit in, what we essentially say to ourselves is: no, you do not belong. No, you are not worthy. No, you are not loved. So I ask you, to say yes.

Yes, I belong.
Yes, I am enough.
Yes, I am loved.
Yes, I am love.

This has always been the truth of who you are. How could it be anything else?

This journey more than anything else begins with the journey to the self, thereby creating a sense of belonging within yourself. Unveiling layer by layer who you truly are at heart, what matters to you most, how you want to live your life – and ultimately putting that into action, creating step by step a life that is yours.


If you’d like to read a little more on my personal journey of belonging, please visit: https://naomisaelens.com/about-me/

Photo by: Greg Rakozy

Reclaiming Confidence - A personal journey

It’s been a couple of big weeks for me as I’ve been working on a topic that is very close to my heart: confidence. It’s so meaningful to me because in so many ways my journey has been one of finding my way back to confidence and truly gaining a deeper understanding of what it is and how to reclaim it for yourself. I’ve shared a lot about this in my presentation and workshop at The Practice earlier this month. The article below is an attempt to share part of my own story for those of you who were unable to join in the hopes that it will serve you.

It’s been such an interesting experience sharing my own learning from a path that in some ways still feels vulnerable to me. There is a voice within that says, who are you to do this? To share what you have learned as if you know it all. And the honest truth is, I don’t. I can only share with you what I have learned so far throughout the years of falling and getting back up again with the hope that it will bring you something. I have no doubt that the learning continues each and every day. In no way is what I share with you the only way to go, it has been my way and if it is of use to you, then so much the better.


 

The words I remember were ‘you are not doing a good job, I’m not happy with your performance’ – or something of the sorts. Actually, let me not give you a polished version. What I heard was –

You are crap. Your work is shit.

Honestly, I don’t actually have any recollection anymore about what was precisely said. All I remember is walking away from the conversation feeling broken. I had been working so hard, the words cut into me like a knife. This had never been said to me before. I had always been known as a professional, a hard worker, intelligent.

Pieces of my identity coming off one by one, crumbling into a pile that somewhere was supposed to resemble me.

It was the one thing that I had been most fearful of my entire life – not being good enough – and it was the only thing I heard. I literally fell apart. It seems so strange now to write this and to realize how vulnerable I was. How vulnerable it still feels to put this onto the imaginary paper of my screen for you to read.

But the reality was that I was very open to hearing those words. I had spent most of my life working so hard, trying to be everything to everyone, always wanting to be liked, always pushing myself, the never-ending quest to prove myself and be perfect. Mission impossible of course, but I certainly tried. I wasn’t all unsuccessful either. I graduated high school with good grades while attending intensive ballet training, I went to university in some of the world’s major cities: London and later on Tokyo – both ivy league of course (come on, what else would you expect from an overachiever?) and I graduated from my MA with distinction. I was lucky enough to visit a ton of beautiful places across the globe and after years of perseverance, I managed to get a job working in international development at a reputable organization – it was my dream. And until that day, I had been known to be the warm, kind, pleasant colleague who was smart, organized, got shit done and was good at her job.

Until those few words… and really, the details of what had happened do not matter. Neither does the question of whether it was true or not. (And I’ll be honest, there is still a part of me that wants to prove I was doing a great job, but that is not the point or purpose of this story.) What matters is that I learned some very painful but much-needed lessons during this time. I learned that my sense of self and my confidence were so vulnerable that I crumbled under the words spoken. Most of all, I learned:

If I don’t believe in myself, things can go very wrong.
If I don’t trust and listen to my own voice of intuition, things can go even worse.

I truly believe that there is meaning behind everything that we go through in our lives. I also believe that life is always trying to teach us something. If you don’t listen, it will create experiences for you to finally get the message.

I had been a young teenager when I suffered my first depression, the first in a range to follow over the years. Depression said to me: you are incapable of living. There is something intrinsically wrong with you, you’re a faulty model. On top of that, I am of mixed heritage, which meant that I wasn’t sure where I fit in. As an only child, I felt alone and missed a sense of belonging. It led to a pressure cooker of constant striving and trying to fit in. Forcing myself through life was almost a quest to say, I am able, I am capable, I am worthy, I belong. Yet the underlying current of not good enough stayed with me.

So life delivered what felt to me like an almighty punch in the gut. But it was what was needed to learn that enough was enough. The pushing, needing to be liked, wanting to be perfect. It was never enough. In actual fact, it could never be enough because I felt I wasn’t enough. The only reason that the words spoken to me that day had such an impact was that they echoed what I already believed myself. The fact that I fell so hard and didn’t stand up for myself only pointed to the wounds that needed to be healed.

This wasn’t a journey that just started on that day, nor did it end that day. It was just the kick up the arse that the universe provided for me. I didn’t see it as that at the time, but I’ve come to realise what a pivotal moment it was. It was the moment that I really learned how much I could hurt myself by not believing in myself.

I also learned that the people who loved me did so because of who I was not because of what I did. I had always already been enough. Even if, what I believed at the time, I had failed in a career that defined my identity. In essence, I fell flat on my face, it f-ing hurt, but the world didn’t collapse. And that was a beautiful realization.

The world keeps turning, life goes on and we have a choice to whether we allow ourselves to be defined by the events in our life or we pick up the courage again to continue.

So I chose to continue, yet this time on a different path. I chose the path of staying very close to who I am, listening to my own voice even if it was still shaky, and climbing back up again – legs like jelly and all. Most importantly, I finally had the courage to follow my dream, something I had already been working on for some time: to become a full-time coach and move to Bali. You see, as far as I was concerned, I didn’t have much to lose. The thing I had been most scared of had happened, and the world didn’t collapse even if I had temporarily. I felt I might as well take the leap and attempt what I had quietly been dreaming of anyway. I finally learned that my biggest failure would be to not try to achieve my dreams at all. To stay with a career that brought a level of security but, while meaningful, had not been entirely fulfilling to me. To really be alive meant experiencing life at its fullest, giving things my best shot – perhaps falling flat on my face again – but at least knowing that I had tried.

The biggest failure you can have in life is making the mistake of never trying at all.

And you know what? It turned out to be the best decision. While the past years have felt like a massive rollercoaster at times, I’ve never felt more fully alive, happier and on purpose as I have up to now. I feel called to this work. I’ve known it all along, I just didn’t have the courage and the confidence to listen. You see, it’s rather big to go for your calling, the stakes are high. Some would say it takes guts, but you see, there’s no choice – I don’t feel like I would want to do anything else.

This isn’t to say that the last years have been easy. We sometimes make the mistake thinking that to follow your heart and your purpose is easy. It’s not. There have been so many days that I’ve thought that I’ve lost the plot entirely. Who knows how this adventure might turn out, but whatever it is, at least I will know that I have tried and that I have lived. Fully alive, present, sometimes yelling and screaming, but always alive and learning more each and every day.

The path I have been on is one of reconnecting with and trusting the voice of intuition, of learning how to use the prowess of my mind in service of what I want to achieve and in managing the fear that inevitably comes up when we move out of our comfort zone to meet the world. Reclaiming our confidence is a profoundly personal journey for each one of us, and I believe it is deeply connected to meeting ourselves again with fresh eyes.

Who are we truly at heart? What matters to us most? What brings meaning to us? True confidence for me more than anything is making the journey back to our authentic selves.

You see, I believe we are all born as joyful, playful, confident children. Yet at some point, we lose some of this on the way to adulthood as we learn to hide those parts of ourselves that we deem unworthy of being seen (please also see “Why Confidence Matters”).

To reclaim confidence in your life can start small. It can sound and look shaky and feel awkward, to begin with. In fact, it usually does. It is the sprouting of a seed that is trying to make its way through the soil into the expansiveness of the air above. If we create the fertile ground for it to grow, and we water it with new thoughts and experiences, it can and will grow in each one of us. My personal journey has been around cultivating love and acceptance for myself and growing the seed of confidence within. Not the type of confidence that shouts loudly, but the type of confidence that says,

I know who I am and I know what I stand for
I know that I can trust myself
I know to seek my wisdom within rather than externally
I know my strengths and weaknesses
I know that I can learn so many things
I know that I have the ability to handle whatever comes my way
I know that I am supported
I know that I am capable of living fully alive and present to whatever this life has to offer

To all of you who might be doubting themselves, know that that seed of infinite confidence and potential resides within you too. While I am still learning every day and still struggle with self-doubt at times, I’m still amazed at how far I’ve come since that one day. I’ve had tremendous support along the way and I’m eternally grateful for that. I know that if I could do it with hard work, perseverance, love and support, you too can start moving beyond the limits that you impose on yourself. There are beautiful things you can create with your life. In fact, it would be a damn shame if you didn’t, isn’t that what you were here to do?

You see, I know this is not just my personal journey. I know it’s a journey for so many of us, and frankly, it upsets me to see how many amazing people hold themselves back because they don’t believe in themselves. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of not being enough – it comes up so often in coaching conversations or chats with friends. Just ask yourself this:

What have I stopped myself from doing because I didn’t have the confidence?

We allow fear to run the show, but if used wisely, fear can be your companion, a faithful partner in crime, showing you the way to immense growth and potential. So all I ask you to do now is to just believe in possibility.

Believe in the possibility that another way is possible and that you too can reclaim confidence.

 

Why Confidence Matters

It’s just a simple word.

Confidence – at its heart, the belief and trust that we have in our ability to achieve the things we set out to do.

If we don’t have enough confidence, we run the risk of not engaging fully in life. We hold ourselves back from doing the things we truly aspire to do. The new job that you might want. The date you might like to go on. The project you might like to start. The dream that you’ve secretly been sitting on. We might not even start if we feel defeated before we even start. What’s the point? You can’t even do it anyway.

But there is a point. The point is that you were put on this earth to be fully alive and present, to unearth the magical delights of life, to uncover your purpose and live it, and to share your gifts with the world. It’s not talent that determines your success, it’s your attitude and the belief in yourself that determines who ultimately succeeds. You are not only stopping yourself from experiencing all that life has to offer, you are withholding yourself from giving your greatest gifts.

We weren’t born this way you know. Sure, genetics might have a thing or two to do with it, but you weren’t born to live with the breaks on. We are born full of life and potential, joyful and confident – ready to take on the world, quietly or by storm. Our purpose in life I believe is ultimately about uncovering who we truly are and watering the seed of potential within us.

But for some of us, the story changes. Somewhere we might have been reprimanded, scolded for something we shouldn’t have done. Our parents wanting the best for us may have focused on continuously helping us improve, but somewhere instilling the message that we are not good enough.

We are hardwired for belonging, it’s probably one of the things we crave most. And in order to belong, we learn to accommodate others, slowly moulding ourselves to fit in, but also losing touch with who we truly are. And with that, we also lose the belief we have in ourselves, the belief that we are good enough just as we are and that we can set out into the world with the belief that we can be and do great things.

But you see, it’s so silly isn’t it. We believed the story, but it was never true. You can find your way back again. You can reclaim the confidence that was always yours to begin with. I know, because I’ve walked the path of reclaiming confidence and courage.

I still walk it each and every day. Somedays it is effortless. It comes from knowing who I am and what matters to me, it comes from the scars and lessons that I’ve learned on the way, from getting a deeper understanding of who I truly am at heart. It comes from learning more about how our minds work, what messages we need to feed it and understanding that confidence comes from meeting your fears and moving through them.

Has this all been effortless? God no. I’ve learned through trial and tribulation, and some days I still struggle. The voice inside my head rearing its ugly head again saying I’m not good enough or some version of the story on repeat. Somedays I still believe it, until I wake up again and realise that I’ve fallen for its grasp again. I struggle, I stumble, I fall, and I get up again. Repeat. Some days the getting up again takes a little longer.

But I always get back up because I know that I don’t want to stop myself from doing the things I so desire. I have dreams to build, things to do, people and places I want to see, adventures I want to have, love that I want to feel within my bones.

And I want the same for you. I’m tired of seeing wonderful people holding themselves back because of a fear that has lodged in their mind that they are not capable or good enough. They are stories that have been created that aren’t based on truth.

I know somewhere you know this too. Confidence can be yours for the taking, in your own subtle or not so subtle way. It doesn’t even have to look pretty. All you must do is to start the journey. And if that first step is believing that you can cultivate confidence and reclaim it then that it is.

If this piece spoke to you in some way, I’d be so pleased to have you join me for my my workshop on 14 October (1-6pm) at The Practice. For further information, please see www.thepracticebali.com/events