Therapy For Hearts & Minds

Category: Counselling in Birmingham UK

Diseases of the Heart

low self esteem picDiseases can manifest at two levels within our heart. The more commonly attributed diseases cause a malfunction within the physical muscle and ailments often require medical intervention. I am not a doctor. The diseases that I am concerned with cause malfunction at a non-tangible level; within our spiritual heart.

I believe that all humans have a natural inclination to do good, and it’s when we go against this nature that we cause ourselves emotional and psychological distress. How we do this is by lying cheating, stealing, backbiting and causing upset to others. It hurts our soul and can create sickness in the spiritual heart. This can cause us to feel uneasy and not at peace with ourselves. Often such feelings can overwhelm us and develop into psychological conditions including stress, anxiety and depression.

The ‘7 deadly sins’. Everybody can relate to these and each one can cause physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual distress to individuals engaging in them. Lets examine each one in relation to the self:

  • 1 Gluttony-excess in eating and drinking/overconsumption

What is your vice? Chocolate? Cigarettes? Drugs? Food? Alcohol? We all have something in this we can relate to, examine what your vice of choice is and how it impacts on your life.

  • 2 Lust, fornication-to have an intense desire or need sexually and act on it. Adultery, infidelity, unfaithfulness.

We live in a culture of here and now- instant gratification of desires, how does this impact on your life? How has it affected your personal relationships?

  • 3 Avarice/greed– overindulging with a continual lust for more, financial miserliness and hoarding. Excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness.

Why is it that no matter how much we have we always want more? We live in a materialistic world and the consumer industry is constantly bombarding us with adverts showing us what we dont have and what we could own… for a price. How does this affect your life? Are you a slave to your whims?

  • 4 Pride, hubris– quality or state of being proud – inordinate self esteem

This is not the pride that one takes in themselves for achievements made through great personal sacrifice but a pride that is boastful, arrogant and makes one feel superior to others. Can you relate to this in any way? Have you been around such a person, if so how did it make you feel? Have you presented this way towards others- if so how did others react to you?

  • 5 Sloth-disinclined to activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous

Are you active, or do you suffer with low mood and low energy? What is causing this? health issues/personal circumstances/ habits/ lifestyle choices? How can it be improved?

  • 6 Wrath- strong vengeful anger or indignation

It takes so much more energy to hate than to love. The power of hate can eat into a soul and destroy it like a fire through crackling wood. Granted nobody likes everybody. However it is when we are wronged that we become angry/hurt and may lash out and hate back. Forgiveness doesn’t excuse their behaviour, but it does prevent their behaviour from destroying your heart.

  • 7 Envy – painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage

Have you ever wanted something that belongs to somebody else? Wished it away from them or harboured ill feelings towards them because of it? How has this impacted on your life? Have you been the victim of another persons envy? How did that feel?


Looking at the list above many can identify at least one ‘sin’ they have engaged in and as humans we are not perfect, we have all ‘sinned’ at one point or another. Interestingly if you were to take each of the above points and reverse them with the opposite meaning. For example Gluttony would be replaced with eating and living healthily, this would appear to have more beneficial effects on the human condition. Each has its place in the world just as there is darkness there is light, but its how we manage them that counts. Everybody has the capacity to do great good and great evil, its the free will with which we decide to act that makes the difference between good and bad. Ultimately we are all responsible and accountable for our own actions. In keeping with this we can also have a great influence over one another to promote or de-value things in life. It’s all a matter of perspective and how we choose to interpret matters.

So who’s version of ‘normal’ is acceptable and where do we draw the line when it comes to morals and values? Is it as simple as saying one thing is right and the other wrong just to create a level of order in society? Or is the prism of life so vast in colour that there is no real way to classify things? Culture, faith and upbringing all play a part and are factors in determining how we view ourselves and others. However it is the relationship we have with ourselves that matters the most.

How do you view yourself, what are your morals and values, and are you happy with who you are? Therapy can support you to explore these questions and help you to uncover your authentic self, so just open your mind to the possiblity of change and seek the support you need.

Please share your thoughts and comments on this post below or if you wish to book a session with me use the ‘contact us’ page.

The Secrets of Body Language

hand-1701971_1920Did you know that upon first meeting a person you form a judgment of them within the first 30 seconds? This means that first impressions are important, particularly for job interview situations. However when discussing body language it is important to recognise the person as a whole and take into account the environment and situation. There are also various types of signs such as:

  • The voice (tone, rhythm, volume)
  • Mimicry (Everything that occurs on the face)
  • The pose (posture)
  • The gestures (body language)
  • The distance (remoteness between people)
  • Social Signs (clothing and cosmetics)
  • The Skin (physical contact)
  • Automatic signs (Physiological reactions)

According to research only 7% of human communication is verbal. 93% of what we communicate with others is nonverbal. How amazing is that? Mastering the art of reading body langauge can be powerfully insightful and increase your awareness of self and others in an exponential way. Every moment you spend with others can be valuable whether thats in a business meeting, socially with freinds and family or around strangers in social functions. Every moment you spend with others can be enriching.

Before I go any further though I must explain that body lagnauge can often be complex and easily misunderstood, so please read this with an open mind bearing in mind cultural differences. For instance in the Middle East there is great cultural significance to who walks through a door first- it denotes power, status and importance to be the first through the door. This is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world. Also factor in the context of the situation. Dr. Paul Eckman studied whether there were universal expressions that crossed cultural boundaries. He found that there are 7 universal facial expressions:

  1. 1) Happiness, 2) Sadness, 3) Anger, 4) Fear, 5) Surprise, 6) Contempt, 7) Disgust. Micro-expressions come out quickly before we have time to think about them. Body language and voice tone have a large impact on how well one communicates. The higher one’s voice, the less credibility one has. Whenever there is a conflict between words and body language, believe the body language!
  2. If a person has their ankles crossed whilst sitting on a chair they may be frustrated and your arguments will not be considered on this occasion.
  3. An extrovert pose sitting with arms open stretched across two chairs and leaning back indicates a confident person who knows what they want and are ready for anything.
  4. Nail biting indicates confusion or anxiety.
  5. Clenching fists indicates latent aggression
  6. Biting on the upper or lower lip indicates a lack of control
  7. When a person puts their hand over their face when talking this indicates they may be lying or dishonest in what they are saying.
  8. Eyes moving side to side and not maintaining eye contact are also signs of dishonesty when in conversation.


So to quote some of the sources I have researched on the topic here are a fair few pointers…

  1. Walking speed sends out messages about power. The slower the walk the more internal dialogue, as a rule of thumb, and the faster the walk the more confident the person is.
  2. A pat on the back is a way to demonstrate power.
  3. When world leaders get together, they know that the opportunity to demonstrate dominance is the “handshake photo opp.”
  4. Having the “upper hand” implies dominance. Grabbing by the elbow can show who is the leader.
  5. Hands behind the back indicate a person has nothing to hide.
  6. A self-touch gesture says, “Here we go. I can get through this.”
  7. When a person makes a definitive statement, and then retreats or backs away, it is likely that what they have just said is false.
  8. The “arm-cross” shows protection/defence.
  9. To unlock the secrets of body language, experts rely on an analytical system called “norming.” Norming analyzes body language in contrast to how a person responds normally to situations.
  10. It is believed that if people can see your eyes, they can also see your soul.
  11. One’s back is slightly hunched over when one feels threatened. Confidence causes one’s chest to stick out. Posture is important!
  12. When giving speeches, politicians wave hello to individuals. This gives the impression that they know a lot of people.
  13. Good salespeople smile. People buy products based on how they feel about the salespeople.
  14. Body language should not be considered in isolation.
  15. Gesturing on the beat as one speaks is the mark of a good speaker.
  16. Reading body language is an extremely important part of law enforcement. If you can recognize a threat, you can counteract it.
  17. Your pupils automatically dilate when you see something you like, this can be food, another person or an object you desire.
  18. A firm handshake with your hand above the other persons indicates power.
  19. Open arms indicate a confident, constructive attitude whilst crossed arms show defence and are off putting.
  20. Stand tall with your legs slighty apart to command power and respect, even if you are short you can indicate power like this and walk with purpose.


Personal Power

man-2037255_1280If I was to ask you here and now- “Do you feel you have power in your life?” How would you answer? What do you think of when the term ‘power’ is used? Is it a positive or negative feeling for you? What experiences of power have influenced your life? Do you see power as a destructive abusive force, or a strong and positive force for good?

Our personal experiences of power will often dictate how we feel about it. For instance a child growing up in an environment of domestic abuse may associate power as a negative term as the abuser was powerful over others. In contrast a child who grew up in a family wherein choice was offered and they were consulted during decision making for family affairs may feel power is a positive force. It nurtured their ability to feel valued, important and ‘powerful’ having their voice heard by the adults around them. Power means different things to different people and can be interpreted in various ways. For the purposes of this article I am exploring the concept of ‘Personal Power.’

What is personal power? The definition can vary from person to person but the basic premise remains the same. Personal power involves strength and confidence in oneself and the ability to pursue what really matters to you. So how do you know what really matters to you?…Well by filtering out other people’s influences on your life you can re-connect with yourself in a way that enables deeper insight.

Have a think about what makes you truly happy, what keeps you motivated, what do you value in life. This will help to focus you on your goals and promote your personal power to achieve what you want in life. Positive thinking, a good opinion of yourself and a willingness to learn and develop further encourages personal growth. This in turn increases feelings of self worth and will empower you.

The more you recognise your own likes, dislikes and act on making things happen in your life the more you will be able to deal effectively with adverse circumstances and start to see challenges as opportunities. We live in a highly competitive society that encourages ambition and in order to keep up its important to learn about our own strengths and areas for development so we can keep track of personal progress in every aspect of our lives. Knowing oneself is the key to success in life.

In order to really understand who we are and what we value there is an ancient Japanese Satori ritual that can help. For this exercise you need access to a clock and have two people sitting in a quiet space facing one another. It can be a freind, family member or colleague. Its up to you who you feel comfortable to open up in front of. Once seated you decide which of you will begin and act as the questioner. The questioner will then repeatedly ask the other person the same question  “Who are you?” for 10 minutes and the other has to answer saying different things about themselves and who they are. After 10 minutes you switch over and the person who was answering becomes the questioner for 10 minutes. Its amazing what people say in this time-you have to dig deep for answers and many have surprised themselves with what they share. The attention and focus being soley on you forces you to consider yourself in a way thats never been expected of you before.  Try it and let me know how it goes by leaving comments in the box below.






sunset-473604_1920What is this new mindfulness malarkey I hear you ask, it seems to be everywhere at the moment. To help grasp what it’s all about I will attempt to uncover the veil of mystery that surrounds mindfulness. It is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It can be used as a therapeutic technique. Oringinally a Bhuddist concept it has been embraced by all as a potential source of calm and quiet that can be learned, taught and practiced.

From reading around the subject it appears Mindfulness is about remembering oneself – being in the moment and appreciating ourselves, beauty and nature around us. Being aware and conscious or ‘mindful’ of the environment we live in, being mindful of ourselves of nature and of one another. It’s a pretty simple technique when you take away all of the jargon it is effectively about being in the here and now feeling present and trying to focus on oneself. To be still and pause life’s distractions and meditate on what it is to be you. Tuning in to your inner self to become aware of your body, spirit and soul.

yoga-1787663_1920According to Mindfulness means to deliberately pay attention to whatever you are doing, right now. Mindfulness therapy means firstly to have a daily mindfulness practice and to use what we learn from it to remain aware during the difficult situations in life. In particular we become aware of our

  • thoughts “I must be stupid to do this”,
  • feelings: sadness, anger etc,
  • behaviour: aggression, withdrawing, doing a breathing exercise
  • physiological changes: fast breathing, weight in stomach, pins and needles, nausea.

These are the big four, we will be coming back to thoughts, feelings, behaviour, physiological changes time and again. A range of mindfulness exercises address the different areas.

Mindfulness therapy means to simply observe what is happening to us in those four areas, particularly with difficult emotions. You may express what is happening either in a journal or to someone else but there is no intention to change anything. The aim is more to become familiar with how the mind works and its habit patterns.

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

Your mind is like any other part of your being, there are benefits from  understanding how it works and you can train it to work better. Specifically a mindfulness practice has the following benefits:

  1. Stability of mind – maintaining your mind in an alert clear space rather than at the two extremes of a dull or agitated mind.
  2. Flexibility of mind – the ability to shift your mind to whatever object you choose, rather than having it bounce haphazardly between a number of issues
  3. Self awareness – being aware of the contents of your mind and understanding the typical patterns of your mind
  4. Acting rather than reacting –  Becoming less reactive, e.g. when you are angry and choosing how you will act.

It’s not called a practice for nothing. Like any other form of therapy real change will require hard work and commitment, in this case a commitment to maintain your practice six days per week.

How does it work?

While most of what we achieve is by “doing”, mindfulness achieves its ends by “not doing,” simply by observing. It seems to achieve its success by allowing us to see our thoughts and emotions for what they are, thoughts we are having at the moment and emotions we are experiencing.

Thoughts like “I must be stupid” are subtle and we generally believe them uncritically. By being mindful of our thoughts we gradually get the idea that they are just thoughts that we are having and there is no need to believe them uncritically. Similarly with a feeling like “anger” we start to realize that it is a feeling that is currently strong within us but no more than that, we currently have anger, but it doesn’t define us and it will pass. We stop identifying with the thoughts and emotions. Our mind ceases to be in the control of strong feelings and thoughts and slowly comes under our own control.

So lets take back our power and stop letting our critical minds control us, lets start to live in a more conscious and aware way, noticing life’s subtle messages and recognising our own processes so that we can become our own best freind and work towards achieving our true potential.

Try a few exercises courtesy of






heart skyDo you ever feel like life is just passing you by, that you are living day to day going through the same routine not really thinking about the past, present or future? Just getting through the daily drudge of life not having time for self reflection or self care, just existing and paying bills. Going to work or looking after the family- whatever it is that you do on a day-to-day basis life just goes on and you are not fully present in mind, body and spirit because things are so hectic. You just race from one task to another trying to fit it all in until life becomes overwhelmingly busy and difficult to keep up with.

Until one day you realise how out of touch you are with yourself and other people. Who are you anyway? What is it that you wanted to achieve in life? Have you ever stopped to think about the quality of your life? Your work/home life balance, your achievements, your ambitions and aspirations. How many people really stop, think and reflect on things like that on a day-to-day basis?

My challenge to you is that you press pause on your life for at least 10 minutes a day, it can be in the morning or in the evening whenever suits you. Just sit and meditate on your life. Think about who you are, who you want to become and what you want in life. Reflect on how you can achieve those things. Techniques like mindfulness or brain storming your thoughts can aid in this. Try to sit in quiet contemplation and really process what’s going on for you at the moment. Ideally this is best done with as minimal distractions as possible and not in the presence of anybody else. Just you, in a private quiet space really focussing can be a powerful way of reconnecting with yourself as a person and can help you to prioritise things in your life. Try this challenge for 30 days until it becomes part of your daily routine. See what impact tuning into yourself for at least 10 minutes a day has on your personal development. Maybe it will help you to re-organise and prioritise the more important things in life. You never know what light bulb moments may be in store for you!

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments box below.

Diary of Mr ‘Anonymous’ in Therapy

Below is the diary of a man we shall refer to as ‘Mr Anonymous’ as he has offered to share with you lovely people his journey through therapy so far, he has given me express permission and signed consent to share this information in the hope that it inspires and encourages others to reach out for therapy if they need it. Mr Anonymous wanted me to share excerpts from his own therapy diary which details a refreshingly honest and open account of the process of change he went through.

Issues I chose to address How I was before Starting Therapy Mid -Therapy Learning Moving Forwards
Talk too much Felt the need to talk a lot- to be noticed, to be the joker, friendly, be seen as likeable and accepted. It was the only way to get noticed as a child by my busy father. Discussed painful challenge from peers about talking too much, airspace, felt my mother haunting me. She always said I talked too much. Brought hurt to surface and I went silent withdrew. Reflected on my childhood and history of relating to others. Worked hard to achieve a balance. Embraced the challenge and balance of speaking, listening and hearing. Feel I don’t talk as much around friends and family. Noticed changing dynamics as a result. Can notice more when I talk less. Feels ok to talk less and have had personal growth from working in this area. Effective in personal, professional and private life. I still like talking but its more measured and less just for the sake of it. Enjoy hearing others speak and learn more from listening. Need to continue working on it.


Heart on sleeve




Too open to the point others were able to easily manipulate, control, and upset me. Too emotionally available to others not keeping anything back for myself. Vulnerable.


Didn’t realise I was the one leaving myself open to such hurt in my eagerness to be there for everyone else. I forgot about myself and my needs. I thought by helping others I would feel fulfilled. That was not the case. People took, I gave, nothing left. I started to recognise changing dynamics in relationships with others as I began to hold back a little.


I still have a relatively open heart and still fall into the pit of past mistakes but am more aware of it and can sometimes stop myself. I don’t want to change my heart too much but do want to guard it better so have developed some careful defences such as not being so emotionally available and learned to say no to favours.


A work in progress, the security guard in charge of my heart is being given new instructions daily, but I still remain open most hours. This suits me fine, it’s when I feel I am being taken advantage of that I pull up my barriers and shut up shop. I distance myself to keep myself safe and am learning to be more assertive to have my needs met. Need to work on not feeling responsible for others all the time.

(Personal History)


Self- awareness



I went about life in a haze of selflessness feeling selfish and guilty if I did anything for myself. Totally convinced I was ok, but secretly knowing things kept going wrong. No matter how much or what I did for others it wasn’t enough, I still got criticised, and beat myself up believing every word they said. Turning the anger inwards on myself.


I started to realise how desperately I wanted to feel needed, liked and accepted by others. Like the ‘real me’ wasn’t good enough so I would perform to be liked, always the joker, agony uncle or dependable one. Recognising how much I did for others in comparison to what I got back was eye opening. I started to learn more about the real me and my self- concept.


I am still uncovering layers of myself hidden away from my own self. I am more self- aware and recognise when I’m doing things that go against my nature just to be accepted. Knowing and acting on that knowledge is my challenge. Changing behaviours is hard when it’s been a lifetime long thing, subconscious influences abound. I learn more via my relationships in my personal life. It has helped me understand how easily people can misunderstand, assume or prejudge others. I have definitely embraced the congruence with empathy concept.


A work in progress, my self- awareness is more acute than it was, but can be improved. Still unpicking the past to make sense of my present. I’m reflecting on the emotional maze of my life so far. I feel hopeful that with this awareness I can change patterns of behaviours, thoughts and relationships to fit me better. This will in turn impact on my relationships as my empathy and understanding of self improves so will my practice with others as I learn more and develop further.

Self -care



There was a time when I thought self -care was sleeping, and eating. It is so much more than that but my understanding and awareness of it was so limited. The concept was alien to me. I never did anything unless it benefitted someone else before me. I felt greedy, guilty and selfish if I did anything for myself, like I wasn’t allowed as it was frowned on in my family. Selflessness was the order of the day.


I quickly recognised that self- care was important to staying healthy in every way and it wasn’t just about food and sleep. It was looking after myself emotionally, psychologically, physically, socially and spiritually. The whole entity of my being not just two aspects. As I started to look after myself it felt wrong, like I had to hide and do it. I did enjoy the feeling it gave me and ‘me’ days became a monthly activity.


I have learned to schedule in me-time and openly enjoy time away from family. I am fortunate to have a wife who understands and is supportive of my quest for fulfilling my life’s potential. I still feel pangs of guilt for leaving the children as they tug on my emotional heart strings moaning they will miss me so I do cave in and buy them gifts to compensate on my return journey- to please them. See how powerful these core processes are!


I understand that in order to look after others I have to look after myself first. I feel liberated as I allow myself to spend time and money on myself. To practice safely I need to first and foremost look after myself and give myself the loving conditions. Otherwise I could burn out and do more harm than good to myself and my relationships A work in progress…


People Pleasing  

People pleasing has been my core process that’s been the most difficult to change. I wasn’t even aware of it before therapy and felt it was who I was full stop. Never questioned it and thought it was good and healthy. I had limited awareness of my gut instincts and often ignored them not trusting or listening to my self. Internal vs external voices. At this point I listened more to others about what was good for me. I was never the champion voice in all aspects of my life.


I realised how much I was influenced by others and how out of touch I was with my own self but continued to make the same mistakes, and pleasing others at my own expense. So knowledge alone didn’t help, in fact the awareness of it frustrated me even more because now even though I knew I felt I was still unable to change. I had a crisis of identity not knowing who I was anymore and looking for myself in others, in work, but not in myself.

I made some tough decisions and stayed true to myself actually tuning into my inner voice, hearing it for the first time clearly over the hubbub of the many external voices telling me what I should and shouldn’t be doing. I questioned my value and worth as a person. Was it enough to be me? I was torn internally with conflict as the process of change began. I fell into darkness emotionally for a few weeks feeling lost. I finally recognised that in all my people pleasing the one person I failed to please was myself.  

Trying to overcome my people pleasing nature is like trying to drink soup with a fork. Frustratingly slow, drip by drip and almost impossible to finish. Yet I am aware that this is my core process and will always be part of me. It’s how I manage it. I need balance in my life and to feel my needs are fulfilled first. Then I can offer others what’s left. I don’t think I will ever fully shake off trying to please others but I can lessen its extent allowing myself more freedom, time, energy and peace. Just trust the process. Avoiding conflict, challenge or sharing my truth to please others is not something I want to do anymore.

Defences My ability to mask pain with humour was something I learned early on in life. It worked a treat enabling me to form freindships, escape from reality and perform like an actor acting out a life chosen by me far from reality. Childhood was a difficult time for me and I learned how to cope best I could with conflicting parental role models who had their own emotional baggage. They did their best.





I learned fast how easy my defences kicked in when feeling threatened or challenged by others. Magnifying them made me recognise how much my parents impacted on my self- concept and patterns of relating to others. Saying sorry was my mantra I was always in trouble for something or other and this I carried into adulthood. Apologising myself out of existence just in case I had upset someone. It was a defence against others anger, and a protection from being hurt if accepted. Door mat. Social chameleon adapting for others to fit in, joking my life away.


Being aware of my defences doesn’t make it any easier to shed them. Only some have outgrown their use. It’s so tiring having to over perform, over achieve and be the joker. I do it less now, but in social situations this still occurs. I have been typecast into people’s memories and when I meet old friends I subconsciously perform again. Only I am aware of it now and try to control it. A meeting with school friends recently was good practice, I tried to be me and less jokey, they didn’t like me any less. They commented how grown up I sounded and liked this new aspect of me.


I enjoy joking and being light hearted but for the right reasons and not in order to please others to fit in. My humour is part of me and all I need to continue working on are knowing when, and why I perform. To be myself and have that humour not used as a defence to hide behind but to genuinely express my joy and have fun.

I don’t feel the need to hide my pain as much as I used to. I can show more of my authentic self to others now than before but am slowly progressing. I need to keep myself safe in the process of revealing my truths so everything in due measure. A work in progress this one.


(Personal challenge)


Self -acceptance


I thought I was ok. I never really loved myself but felt I liked aspects of myself enough to get by in oblivion to what I was yet to learn about myself. I thought people who loved themselves were narcissists and self- absorbed. Negative labels for a fulfilled fully functioning person. My understanding was skewered by life’s examples to me so far. My culture didn’t allow me to be proud of myself it was frowned upon to think anything good about yourself- my dad taught me that no matter how good you think you are you can always do better- hence the constant over achieving, over performing and seeking perfection, needing to get it right or I won’t be accepted.



I looked at my self- concept and saw everyone else, not me. I examined my processes and saw it reflected my parents subtle messages to me growing up . I felt sad for the lost little me trapped inside the dilemma of myself. Who was I anyway? What did it mean to be me before, and now the changing me. Was I enough for me, for others? Would this new emerging confused me work in reality? I didn’t want to change too much but did want to reconnect with myself. I was scared and excited, delving into my own depths I found more than I could have expected. I could barely breath like a tsunami of emotions, I had stored for so long hitting me so hard I felt unconscious and conscious at once.


I am beginning to get used to not knowing who I am, or who I thought I was. I’m still in a strange place emotionally trying new things and feeling everything with a new vigour. Like seeing and feeling emotions in technicolour for the first time after having black and white for so long. It hurts but feels good at the same time. I feel emotional and connected to my roots more than I have ever felt before. I have tempered my anger, cautioned my inner parent, soothed my inner child, teased my control and liberated my emotional expression.


I have yet to fully accept myself and all aspects/ configurations of myself. To fully accept, I have to know myself and I am still learning new things about myself. However what I am learning I am accepting.  Some parts of me remain a challenge. I still struggle with my need to feel in control, to people please all the time, and the pressure I put on myself to get things right and over perform. To be the joker and allow others to hurt me. Lots of personal development and growth yet to work on but I am aware of it and actively exploring them which is much better than living in oblivion.

I Hate My Body…

id-100423960Poor body image is fast becoming an issue across the globe especially with the younger generation. In this modern era of technology, focus on body image and selfies it’s no wonder we can get hung up on how we look or how we are perceived by others. The need to belong, dress well, look good and keep up with fashion trends puts many people under pressure financially, socially, emotionally and psychologically.

Social media, peer pressure and society at large has showcased what is classed as ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ the concern is how unrealistic some of these expectations are and how difficult it can be to achieve the ‘perfect look’. With airbrushed images in magazines and painfully thin catwalk models photographed to model make up, clothing and perfume it’s easy to become obsessed with how we look in comparison.

From researching the topic I have discovered that increasingly men are just as affected by poor body image and the impact is widespread with young men and teenagers feeling inadequate, unattractive and becoming obsessed with going to the gym, following specific diets to boost muscle tone and some resorting to steroid use. All in the name of looking good and feeling socially accepted or attractive.

Low self -esteem and low self-worth resulting out of being unhappy with our appearance can cause many side effects, anxiety and depression naming just two. The thing about hating one’s appearance is that it is not limited to the young, indeed it cuts across all ages, races, and cultures, people experience daily self-shaming thoughts about their appearance. We are often our own worst critics and can be so damaging in our views of ourselves. We all live with an ‘inner critic’ it’s that internal voice that only we can hear telling us how awful we look, or that we are ugly, too fat, stupid or unworthy of love. In order to combat these thoughts and change them from harsh, unkind, cold and critical to warm compassionate, caring and accepting we have to first acknowledge the voice exists, and then recognise how damaging it is to our reality. Then effectively cast out the negative voice replacing it with a more loving voice that appreciates and understands the challenges and struggles you face. Allowing yourself permission to stop, hear and reflect on the inner dialogue ongoing inside can help you to realise just how harmful your own thoughts are and how effectively they attack the core of you.

By taking control of that inner critic by expelling it you create the space needed to practice self -compassion and allow yourself to feel warmth and kindness towards yourself. A technique that can be used and may sound a bit odd- but bear with me here- is to look at yourself in the mirror when alone and say out loud to yourself the opposite of what your critical inner voice is saying. For example “I am attractive” or “I am worthy of love” because the only person saying otherwise is often the enemy within, our inner critic.

Our inner critics didn’t just explode into existence out of nowhere they were created by a series of negative events, thoughts or experiences we may have had growing up, that imprinted on our psyche from childhood into adulthood.  These thoughts become so familiar that we own them even though they harm us and keep us stuck in negative self- hating positions. We struggle with issues of low self-esteem, humiliation, rejection, and disappointment due to experiences we had in childhood. As children we may have internalised the negative emotions from significant adults around us and looked within ourselves rather than finding fault with adults upon whom we were dependent. Thus beginning the cycle of critical inner thoughts.

In general children are quite receptive to what is happening around them and will often blame themselves for things going wrong- some may blame their physical appearance, feeling that if they had been more attractive then they may have received more love and attention. Others may feel if they had behaved better it may have prevented some family tragedy following a bereavement, parental separation or divorce.

Children develop their sense of being by how significant adults around them perceive them, the messages they give “you’re a good girl because you don’t get angry” or “stop wimpering and man up” these voices are internalised and can become debilitating in adulthood. Not only are adults passing on strong messages of how to behave to be accepted but also how they cope in times of strife. Children role model parents and many parents do not realise how their own low self-esteem can be passed on to their sons and daughters. Picture this scene, a parent preparing to go out with friends wears an outift and then exclaims “gosh I look so ugly in this” and then discards it for another looking at themselves with disgust in the mirror- this could be a mother, father, older sibling- the impact is there. Don’t think for a second that any child witnessing this scene is not taking in the messages about poor body image and so it continues down the line in families from generation to generation.

Conquering the enemy within..

  1. When you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, tell yourself to stop being so mean.
  1. Don’t let the inner critic beat you down emotionally, stand up against it and recognise it for the bully it is.
  1. Know your worth, value and respect yourself, if somebody else said those hurtful things to you- you wouldn’t stand for it- so why allow your own voice the pleasure?
  1. Flip the script, whatever the inner voice says- you externalise and be objective about it. So if the inner voice says “I am so ugly” externalise it by saying “you are so ugly” and allow yourself to hear the words it will highlight how cruel this inner voice can be and how it is an enemy not a true reality.
  1. Write down responses that are more compassionate and accepting of yourself “I am not ugly, I have lovely features”
  1. Never give in to the inner critic- don’t despair or feel defeated by it. If it tells us not to bother changing because we will never succeed then do the opposite- take control of your life and make the changes you want to make you feel stronger and more confident. Just persevere and overcome that negative voice inside. Don’t give it power by listening and acting according to it. It will eventually fade out.
  1. Remember you are not alone in this struggle, just about every person in existence is battling with their own inner critics and waging their own inner wars in battles that you may never come to know about. So be kind, compassionate, and accepting not just to others but first and foremost to yourself.


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