Courage, self criticism and stretching ourselves

I want to reflect on my recent experience of having a podcast interview, and share these with you in case they help you to ‘step up’ and get out of your comfort zone.

Recently I was guest on the Recovering Perfectionist podcast and spoke with Claire Barton about being a scanner and not being tied to just one career, hobby or focus in our lives. I love Claire’s work, I’ve enjoyed working with her, and she is a great source of info on business systems. To be honest I’m a bit of a fan, I find her down to earth and warm manner really delightful.

We had a great chat and then earlier this week it was published both as an iTunes audio podcast and also as a YouTube video, so I listened again to remind myself of what we covered.

Just like any creative endeavour there can be mixed feelings about the ‘end product’. For example I notice that the sound is a bit iffy my end at the start of the interview (internet connectivity issues). I don’t look right into the camera because I’m looking at her face on my screen, so I look a bit shy and distracted, always looking slightly away. As I watch I cringe a bit about random things to do with how I move my hands so much, or that I’m wearing foundation when I normally don’t so my skin looks strange to me.

These are fairly normal ‘oh no look I did a bad job’ kinds of observations that come up from fear of making a fool of ourselves, fear of appearing incompetent, fear of being rejected or ridiculed. As a recovering perfectionist myself I have an eagle eye for my own flaws and am great at spotting them.

However, as I watch I am also pleasantly reminded of the genuine connection we shared that day and the interesting topics we discussed. I am pleased when the audio sorts itself out and works again. I like my earrings. I feel proud of myself for stretching my experience and saying yes to a recorded video, when in the past my interviews for radio or online have all been just audio.

So on this day of being aware of something new and of myself, being in the public domain, I gently hold these mixed feelings. I know that I have learnt things by doing this, the sky didn’t fall in, and the world is still turning. I know that I will feel more confident the next one I do. I am aware and pleased that the inner voice of celebration and encouragement is louder than the inner voice of criticism. I know that these mixed feelings about our creative endeavours are part of the ride, and I’m glad I continue to get outside my comfort zones so I have fresh reminders of how that feels, and can walk alongside my clients who are doing it too.

I encourage my clients to start before they know every single little thing, as it’s in the doing that we actually learn. I am on the same path of exploration as they are, as we all are, and today I celebrate our small and big acts of courage.

scanner podcast

Links
iTunes Podcast – bit.ly/TheRecoveringPerfectionist
Podcast episode – Episode #30 – https://www.clairebarton.com.au/podcast-feed/30
YouTube video episode –https://youtu.be/e1-nNslnkBo

 

Tell someone!

My #geniustip for today is to tell someone they have inspired you or you love their work!!! Or tell others!

That might seem totally obvious but it’s been a recent revelation and a whole lot of fun for me.

The last two weeks I have consciously given myself permission to be a raving fan girl about all my favourite business peeps. It all started when I wrote a review about a service provider two minutes after our session finished. She made it look pretty and popped it online, and I felt a warm glow that not only had I enjoyed a great productive session I had helped another woman in business.

If I’m honest, I had been holding back from doing this before. “What if they think I’m just a fan and not a peer?”, “What if other people take my recommendations and go and work with them instead, will I be doing myself out of business?”, “What if people don’t take me seriously anymore if they know I need help and get help in certain parts of my business?” Or even, in my darkest moments, the green eyed monster of envy and scarcity with thoughts like “they’re already doing so well, why should I help them?”. But I’ve crossed that line, that fear line that was keeping me a bit resentful and quiet.

So now I am talking up all the women who have helped me whether through one on one services or even just a super helpful video or tutorial.

For example Natasha Berta has helped me figure out how Instagram works just this week, Claire Barton is a great help for getting organised, Julie Nelson is a whizz with personalised natural perfumes and is making me one! That’s just some of many. I will celebrate what they do and tell other people about them if I think they might be looking for what they offer. And even more importantly I’ll let them know that I appreciate what they do.

Here some tips on how you can do the same, in the spur of the moment:

ūüíö Reply to that blog post or newsletter you love with a short comment if it genuinely moved or inspired you

ūüíö Let someone know if they are on your wish list for working together

ūüíö Tell someone if their attitude, energy, know-how, kindness, consistency or other thing is inspiring you

ūüíö Suggest new offerings of someone you like working with doesn’t have exactly the thing you are looking for but you super want to work with them

ūüíö Tag biz people in posts when you tell others about their services (hint: write @ and then their facebook page name after that to ‘tag’ them on facebook).

And I don’t mean me! I mean anyone who is giving you a useful download of inspo or info that’s helping you stay afloat or row your boat!

Of course this applies to friends, family, neighbours just as much if not more.

Outside of a business setting and just as human beings, how many people are waking around not knowing that they light up the day for someone? How many people can’t see their own warmth, wisdom, generosity and need to be gently reminded that someone appreciates it?

ūüíö Send a thank you card to a friend

ūüíö Tell someone close to you the thing that amazes you most about them

ūüíö Tell a family member what you really appreciate about them

ūüíö Drop around a casserole or some flowers to someone having a rough time and tell them you care and that you believe in them

My coaching trainer and mentor Barbara Sher says “praise makes you brave”. I believe it. None of the hyper critical self-doubting narratives in my mind over the years have helped me become a better person – they keep me scared, hidden, or overinflated, running, chasing or miserable.

Genuine praise, speaking about the things you like most about someone (without slipping into hero worship, we need to know our own value too) is a generous free gift we give others.

We could all do with some encouragement
We sometimes can’t see ourselves clearly
We don’t always know how we’re shining

Tell someone!
Say what’s obvious!
Be free with your genuine admiration and encouragement.

Being free with our words of appreciation and encouragement is also great for us. I’ve found it’s an easy and free way to give myself a mood lift, and create a feeling of generous abundance. Even if you’re shy – I dare you!

Reader question: how to respond to ‘what do you do’?

A scanner called Mery asks: “I’m wondering how you introduce yourself to others when they ask what you do? I usually stumble through something about taking care of my little gal first and foremost and then doing virtual assisting work from home (I really need to tighten up my elevator pitch ūüôā ), but in my mind I’m running through all of the different things I do. Wondering how other scanners handle this conversation piece?”.

This is such a great question, and one I struggled with for years (double digit number of years)¬†even when I was an employee and had a job title. The job title was vague enough that people still wondered what I actually did and then my absolute deluge of scanner interests would come rushing into my brain and I would awkwardly say things like ‘oh, you know, I do do projects, in topics like water, and um.. waste, but you know, I work on community engagement and social research, and deliberative democracy.. I like, um, systems stuff.’ Truly I think I gave the impression that I was just random walking past who had nothing to do with the mingling event at hand and was just regurgitating random words from the brochure.

You see it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I did, it’s just that I could see all my projects and their topics, and the various processes and fields that they spanned, as if they were there in three dimensions around me, and I couldn’t find a way to condense or simplify all that for a quick and easy few sentence answer. I knew in advance I would probably end up boring or confusing the person listening and still feel unsatisfied because I had been inaccurate or glossed over whole sections of my work. I sometimes longed to say ‘oh I’m an engineer I¬†design¬†bridges’, or ‘I’m a baker and I mostly bake cakes and pastries’ or ‘I work in HR and design all the training for our new staff’. Something that people might be able too visualise or understand and that I could say between mouthfuls of egg sandwich.

These days running my own business I am a bit clearer on the strands of my work, even though as a scanner its true that they evolve and change. Right now I can cheerfully tell you that I have 4 different connected threads running through my business: art therapy, coaching, art and consulting.¬†These are 4 different businesses operating under the one roof if you like. Within that there are a squillion projects and beyond that are all my other scanner passions and side projects (although most of my side projects now fall under the banner of my business because I’ve build my business around the things I love to do).

But if you were to say ‘what do you do?” to me now, I would probably say ‘I run my own business, and I help people go after their dreams, live more creative lives, and use art for healing.’ I would probably add something concrete like ‘right now I’m working with (organisations X and Y) and also seeing my own clients’. If the conversation continued I might say ‘sometimes I help organisations as well’. (Well. That’s what I’d like to say. You still might catch me¬†mid egg sandwich and find I mumble something about art and then switch topics to something else.)

So in your situation, you might like to just practice a short answer that covers the main things you want them to know. You could say ‘I have two main areas of work – I’m a mom of a 3 year old, and I also work with business owners as a virtual assistant. That suits me for now but in the future I hope to also give time to all my other passion projects and hobbies’. If they are interested they’ll ask you. You’ve hinted that you have lots more to say, let them choose where to go next.

If your day job is boring you to tears and you don’t even want to tell them about it, feel free to just share one other thing you’re doing right now. No one said you have to answer based on the MAIN thing you spend your time on. It’s perfectly Ok to share the thing that is most interesting to you right now.¬†I sometimes say: “at the moment I’m focused on..” Or “I’m juggling a few projects at the moment, one that’s big for me this week is Y” or “I work as an X but what I’m really excited about this year is Y”. Here are some examples of how you could focus more on giving a glimpse of one key project within your business, or highlighting the ‘other’ projects if that’s what you’re excited to share:

I spend most of my time working as a¬†parent and virtual assistant but what I’m really excited about this year is researching different college courses.. I’m planning to study in the¬†health field down the track (flag an up coming thing)

One of the things I do is¬†work as a virtual assistant and this year I’m trying to¬†find some¬†local¬†businesses to work with because a lot of my existing clients are overseas and I realise I miss the face to face (talk about one project within your business)

I work as a virtual assistant and I’m a mum, I also really love anything to do with gardening! (kept it brief but flag all your main areas of interest)

I work as a virtual assistant and I’m a mum, and on top of that I just super love learning. I am always reading and attending courses, I can’t get enough of it! (kept it brief but flag all your main areas of interest)

I juggle a few different things: parenting, working on my own business, studying, and a whole bunch of writing and craft projects (as above, kept it brief but flag all your main areas of interest)

I am a real organiser, so I love anything to do with getting people organised and working more efficiently. At the moment I’m raising my daughter and also helping business owners with their¬†marketing and communications. (focus more on your favourite skills and who you are as a person, what makes you tick, let them know that the way you use those skills changes all the time)

Oh! So many things! I’m someone who always has lots of projects on the go. Let me see, what’s big this month? At the moment I’m taking on new clients for¬†my¬†virtual-assistant¬†business, I’m helping at my daughter’s school with the new school play they’re putting on, and I’m cataloguing seed for our local seed swappers library. How about you? What are you working on?¬†(the detailed snapshot of a moment in time – this can often tell more than generalities anyway)

So in conclusion…

Remember, this exchange is NOT a job application or CV, so you don’t have to convince them of anything. It’s also not a tax¬†return, or college application that needs to be complete and include an accurate summary of all your activities. The answer to this question DOES NOT need to list everything you do, convince them you’re good at your job, be focused only on income earning work, or leave them knowing every little thing about you.

It IS an introduction, a glimpse, a handshake, an aroma. It’s a step forward in a conversation, not the whole conversation. It’s a tiny gift from you to them of showing yourself. You get to decide what you want to show, what feels right to show, what will be safe to show and still leave you able to chat. What you choose to share today with this person might be a different glimpse to what you choose to share next week to someone else. It’s just the tip of an iceberg.

But as a scanner, rather than one fixed and static iceberg you have a whole Antarctica full of them. In answering this question you get to choose which icebergs to reveal, which ones to keep under water. You might share the tips of a few of them, or talk about one whole iceberg in detail. You might just describe the landscape as full of icebergs, and not describe any in detail. All up to you. You get to decide.

It matters! Arts and culture for kids

The arts and culture are not an add-on, or a nice-to-have, but are part of the fabric of our society, and that young people have a right to experience the best, and to be given the opportunity to make their own contribution to the continual reshaping of our civilization. We must celebrate our successes, build best practice, and learn from each other; in challenging times, it is up to us to be the champions of young people‚Äôs hopes, talent and ideas.”

Let your kids make art! Let them study arts subjects at school! Support a school system that includes the arts! It will help them learn, stay healthy and be active members of civic society.

And here is some evidence to support that claim…

1. Participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17%.
2. Learning through arts and culture can improve attainment in Maths and English.
3. Learning through arts and culture develops skills and behaviour that lead children to do better in school.
4. Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to get a degree.
5. Employability of students who study arts subjects is higher and they are more likely to stay in employment.
6. Students from low-income families who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer.
7. Students from low-income families who engage in the arts at school are 20% more likely to vote as young adults.
8. Young offenders who take part in arts activities are 18% less likely to re-offend.
9. Children who take part in arts activities in the home during their early years are ahead in reading and Maths at age nine.
10. People who take part in the arts are 38% more likely to report good health.”

Source (of the 10 points and the quote above): ‘Imagine Nation, the Value of Cultural Learning’. Cultural Learning Alliance. 2017. Download full report here: http://www.culturallearningalliance.org.uk/images/uploads/ImagineNation_2_the_value_of_cultural_learning.pdf?mc_cid=c8b74fb7b5&mc_eid=cb33862c36

Read the Key Research Findings in full at:
http://www.culturallearningalliance.org.uk/evidence

Learning to ask

I wanted the egg and bacon roll special. But without the bacon. And maybe with tomato or avocado instead. So we might call that an egg and tomato roll, if you’re keeping up. Quite simple. Not something outrageous or hard to construct. Not illegal or dangerous. Not something likely to overly challenge the culinary skills of the sandwich hand making it.

So I walked right up and asked for it.

That is, I said ‘can I have the roll without bacon and maybe with something else instead, if that’s alright?’

She said ‘sure. How about double egg?’

I looked horrified (how boring! What a missed opportunity for flavour! And how would I eat such a roll with two slippery eggs fighting it out to remain between bread?).

She said ‘cheese?’

I said ‘OK’. Thinking of how slimy such a combination would be. Of what an odd, pale, bland, slimy combo that is. And said thanks, and paid her.

Do you see how this coud have panned out differently? They had tomato, they had avocado, I was just vaguely scared they’d say no.

Sounds silly when you say it like that right?

I was too scared to ask for tomato.

In case I couldn’t have it.

So I hinted and left the decision with someone else. And didn’t get what I wanted.

I may as well have walked in and said ‘give me anything other than avocado or tomato, because I don’t think I deserve them or that you would be kind enough to let me have them’.

Which is really like shouting to the universe ‘I don’t think what I want matters, I don’t think however this whole thing works involves me getting to have what I want… And I think everybody else’s mild disapproval or inconvenience is much more important than my strong wishes.’

And if this is how I behave when the stakes are about as low as they can get…I mean seriously, we are talking about a slice of tomato… how would I behave if the stakes were high and I REALLY wanted something and REALLY didn’t want someone to tell me no?

This reminds me of two things. Firstly the very good book ‘Art of Asking’ by Amanda Palmer, which I found deep down to my toes inspiring, and recommend you read if you haven’t yet, and secondly¬†the idea that sometimes we are so tied to our view of how the world works that we would rather see it unchallenged more than we would almost anything – even more than we would like to be happy.

So if you find it hard to ask, it might be worth digging around and shining a light on the foundations of yourself. Are there some ghost rules or declarations about the universe slinking around and whispering in your ear?

Do you think there’s no use asking because no one will help you?

Do you think what you want doesn’t matter?

Do you think it’s rude to disrupt the status quo and someone will get angry with you if you’re not grateful for what you’re given?

Do you think it’s selfish and bad to want things or to ask for them?

Do you think you’re not worth a piece of tomato?

At some stage we need to step out of our old beliefs that no longer serve us. We need to practice our asking skills.

Naming our wishes is so important – EVEN THOUGH it makes us feel vulnerable, even though we may not get them, even though people may say no. Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, it is really important to work on our asking muscles on the little things, so we can use them to lift the really big wishes and ask for them too.


Work with me:

I currently have some spaces becoming available for one on one coaching and art therapy clients.

  • In coaching I support you to work towards your goals, making changes that you want to make in your life. In coaching we look at the underlying mindset issues as well as approaching the practicalities of getting things done ‚Äď with clever tricks to get around anxiety and lots of support and encouragement (aka a personal cheer squad) so you feel less afraid to tackle the difficult tasks. See here for more information.
  • In art therapy I help you process and express feelings in ways that let you see yourself and your situation in new ways. We make room for the feeling dimensions of life and explore your inner world using symbols and metaphor and creative expression. We can do art therapy face to face if you are in Sydney, or by distance if you are elsewhere around the world. See here for more information and contact me here to get in touch.

What travelling shows us about ourselves

I was lucky enough to have a holiday in Europe recently, away for three and a half weeks and enjoying Frankfurt, Amsterdam, London and Brussels, as well as time in the English countryside. As the days continued I began to notice the bits of travelling that were fun, exhilarating and inspiring, and those that were draining, wearing and frustrating.

What I began to see is how powerfully my own ‘stuff’ was being mirrored back to me through the process of travel. Sometimes this was very affirming and sometimes it was uncomfortable, but always interesting. Like crumbs left on a trail we can follow these clues to give us a fuller picture of who we are and what we care about, what motivates us and what challenges us. So here are my thoughts on how travel* can reveal us to ourselves if we observe ourselves while away:

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Travel shows us what we are drawn to and what intrigues us

You may have a clear picture of all your interests and passions in life, and be able to list them quickly if asked. Others of us have glimmers of insight only for it to twinkle away into darkness, in the busy of our lives, or perhaps to have it retreat in fear of being neglected were it to show its face. While wandering around a new city and seeing what draws our attention we can have insights into what ‘tickles our fancy’. Even if we are scanners and it seems like ‘everything’ interests us, on closer inspection we can see that it isn’t really every single thing, there may be themes.

For¬†example, as I travelled in Amsterdam I was fascinated by the street plantings of flowers and shrubs, their exuberant colour and cheer, how people had¬†organised these around their tiny front doors, and the culture that accepted private gardens spilling out onto sidewalks. I know that I love flowers (colour, form, growing them, photographing them, botanic illustrations) but in this I learnt that I am also interested in how gardens and street plantings reflect¬†culture or social norms, and how they interact with the urban form in public spaces. Compare¬†this to Brussels, where the neighbourhood we stayed in had barely a plant – for days I didn’t realise this on a conscious level, but felt strongly that the area was ‘dusty’, ‘run down’ or ‘desolate’ until I realised that there were no grassed parks, very few street trees, no verge/ median strip plantings, and no use of plants by individual homes or apartments to cheer up the frontage of buildings.

Another thing I noticed I was drawn to in my travels were greeting cards, and specifically those featuring whimsical illustration, or printmaking. I would stop at every visitor centre or shop and enjoy the cards for sale, buying a few along the way and enjoying many. I found one brand of greeting card in England that featured only printmakers and I was enthralled, looking carefully to see whether they were lino cuts or woodcuts or etchings. I looked up their websites later and read about the artists, looked at picture of their studios, and dreamed about having a peaceful contemplative arts making practice drawing birds. It reignited an old love of printmaking, and I have been thinking since then of finally doing an etching course, and maybe pulling out the lino cutting tools once again.

And my old loves; sculpture and texture in stone, clay and metal, coffee shops with quirky menus and decor, seeing artists at work in their studios, artisan shops with people making things with their hands, handmade yarns, flowers, foraging wild produce, biodiversity and hedgerows, sky scapes and clouds, light and shadow, tiles, art deco architecture, circles in architecture and nature, gargoyles, door knockers all revealed themselves to me by what I chose to take photos of, or stop and stare at with longing and fascination.

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Travel shows us what is really important to us by revealing what is missing

By messing with our ordinary routines and putting us in places and situations that are different to what we might ordinarily choose, we are given valuable information about what is really important to us. This is especially so if our travels are in the company of others, or even better place us in environments where we don’t have complete autonomy, such as studying in groups, doing volunteer work, being billeted to a family or being a houseguest.

On my recent travels I stayed with our family in the English countryside and soaked up the restorative pace (I am usually a city dweller). I basked in the fresh air, the fun of playing with children, exploring new places, the history embedded into the soil in shards and whispers of previous lives, the vast and open landscapes, the reminiscing, and the gentle collaboration of people who are comfortable and kind with each other. But after a week or so I also noticed things I was missing through this ‘holiday’ lifestyle – spending time alone reading in depth about ideas that matter to me, having hearty discussions about ideas and how the world works, listening to music, and regularly drawing¬†or¬†journalling. Once I realised them, some of those needs required me to adjust how I behaved while I was away – taking myself off to a cafe one Saturday for a few hours to draw and write, for example. These¬†insights into what I missed revealed what really matters to me, what I truly value and miss when it is gone. This¬†can be different to the image of ourselves that we carry around, or the ‘interests’ we think we have. Music is an example of that to me, I forget how important it is to me and only notice this¬†it when it’s gone, but in everyday life wouldn’t call myself musical or ‘a music person’ in the same way I identify as loving the visual arts. This strong feeling of missing it reveals to me that it is an important piece of my inner puzzle, and something that recharges, soothes and inspires me.

When we left the countryside and went to London for a few days my senses were delighted – fresh off the train I began noticing more vibrant colours and variation in fashion (Aqua suede shoes! Shiny patent leather two-tone spats! A¬†saffron yellow wool asymmetrical coat! Sparkly full ear cuffs!). This¬†surprised me because I don’t think of myself as someone who is ‘into fashion’ – but nonetheless, here it was revealed to me that my eyes love variation, colour and design, in clothes as much as anything else, and that I had missed it when traveling through rural areas seeing more consistent¬†and practical¬†clothing, in the earthy tones of village life. Important crumb to have found in leading me to myself.

Our first night in London we¬†went for dinner at modern Bombay-cafe style restaurant, full of people hidden away in dark candlelit corners and surrounded with warm and¬†funky decor. When the meal arrived and we started to eat, it was like an epiphany – flavour! texture! I felt moved and almost close to tears. My senses were completely alive and I felt into my bones that despite being blessed with fresh and healthy food¬†on our travels, and enjoying many lovely meals, I had missed diversity in food: herbs, spices and other strong flavours and the variety of¬†cuisine styles than I am used to (as a city dweller in an international city, who grew up¬†with diverse food and married¬†a chef). This lack of diversity and intensity in food had left me feeling washed out and less stimulated but I didn’t even realise it properly until I had what was missing.

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Travel shows us what pushes our buttons

Even as a wealthy western traveler (in the scheme of things, globally speaking, I am wealthy) traveling through Europe with all the modern conveniences (online check ins! wifi on the train! running water and clean toilets! safe travel with rules and guards and conductors!) there are moments when travelling presents us with our great unwashed selves Рtired, unsure, worried for our physical safety, frustrated, physically sore, in need of the toilet, hungry, delayed, or just plain sick of being in transit. For me, I saw myself at times be impatient, completely self absorbed, needy and demanding. I also saw myself avoid issues rather than create conflict, and ignore my own needs for the sake of harmony in a group. These are things I am aware that I can tend to do at home as well, but they were much clearer to me in a travelling context when so much else of life is stripped down.

Travel revealed an impatience and sense of entitlement about getting¬†‘good service’ in airports and cafes, which although grimly satisfying at times, was also a bit disquieting. ¬†It leaves me wondering, ‘Have I really taken on that city persona of exacting expectations and constantly making comparisons?’ I wondered. Have I really become so impatient that I feel aggrieved when people are slow at their jobs or don’t make eye contact, or have systems that appear inefficient?’. I could feel¬†the tightly curled beast of judgement, efficiency, standards and entitlement curled in me and awakened by slow baggage screening or flakey waitstaff and¬†I was shown a part of myself that I don’t always own up to in my self perception of ‘easy-going’ and ‘flexible’. It leaves me wondering how to reconcile expectations with gratitude, and how to manage this skill (of seeing ‘room for improvement’) so that it serves me on the occasions I need it, rather than dictating how I see everything. I am left musing quietly to myself about the balance of acceptance and judgement, which response is most useful when,¬†and what triggers me to respond with either.

Travel also revealed to me that my buttons get¬†incredibly pushed when I have a physical need that I feel like I am not in control of meeting, or if I perceive that something¬†is standing between me and meeting that need. This might be when I’m hungry, standing in icy winds I didn’t dress for, needing the toilet or am extremely tired. And in my experience, these situations pop up more frequently when you are making your way around a city on foot, in neighbourhoods you don’t know. Imagine (let’s say hypothetically!) a tired whiny me traipsing across London with my husband complaining that I am HUNGRY right now and that if we don’t eat immediately I will be extremely upset. We finally found a restaurant that he was happy with too, although¬†later than I would have preferred, and although we were safe and warm and food was on its way, it took me a good 20 minutes to calm down and stop feeling angry, anxious and panicky. I could really notice these responses, and see how communication is so important, but also approach with curiosity the extreme feelings these situations engendered.

Noticing these strong emotions, feelings of frustration and powerlessness,¬†helped me to be more aware of my physical needs and also think about how to communicate them. A very non-glamorous example was I started saying ‘I need the toilet at about 4 out of ten, so some time in the next half hour I’ll need to find one…’ or ‘I am about a 9 in needing a toilet¬†and I need to stop at the very next one we find’ (not to random strangers of course, just to my traveling companions). This helped me to feel like my needs were clear and I was taking¬†responsibility for meeting them. Of course this may sound like life skills 101 to you (you may be asking yourself ‘in what way is it hard to say you are hungry or need the toilet?’ ‘who cares if you overreact when you are hungry’), and in a way they kind of are, and another time I’ll explain more about this, but for now let’s just agree that we all have our learning edges, and travel is a great way to reveal them whatever they are!

On coming home I plan to keep thinking more about these ‘base chakra’ issues of survival and basic physical needs, and continue my work on better understanding, meeting and communicating these¬†needs, and meeting my strong emotions with curiosity not judgement or repression. I really believe that being out of our comfort zone (whether through travel or exposure to unfamiliar situations or people) shows us what causes us discomfort and creates an opportunity to bring from unconscious to consciousness the beliefs or patterns behind this.

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Travel helps us answer: ‘Who is this person I call me?’¬†

My¬†travels revealed me to myself as fascinated by nature and culture – the handmade, sky-scapes,¬†built form, plants, art making, fashion, printmaking, architecture. It showed me that my life is enriched when my senses are all being stimulated and when I am¬†connected to and actively involved with¬†music, art making, cooking, writing and observing¬†beauty. It showed me that I am flexible and easy to get along with, but also¬†could better value and communicate my own needs. It reminded me that I am sometimes triggered by issues of survival and that I become¬†vulnerable to strong emotions when I’m hungry, tired or physically uncomfortable, and that anxiety and self doubt are states that come in waves for¬†me, triggered by certain situations, and need my awareness so that I don’t get lost in them. This isn’t all of who I am of course, but the mirror of travel highlights certain features that it is interesting to reconnect with; what a gift!

In art therapy we approach the idea of identity with some flexibility. That is to say, we recognise the varied elements that make up a self, and informed by ideas of neuroplasticity as well as humanistic psychology, we are open to the idea of change over time. We have various processes to help clients come to greater awareness and acceptance of the facets of themselves. In Barbara Sher coaching on the other hand, we encourage people to identify what lights them up, what they are drawn to and what they love, as an important first step in helping them create lives they will love. Doing this self reflective work myself in an ongoing way is a critically important part of what I offer my clients – I have lived the discomfort and the joy of this work, and never suggest processes I haven’t engaged with myself and found useful.

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Do you need some company and support on your inner journey?

If you would like support to reflect on what makes you you Рwhat makes you tick and what you most love, to move towards better acceptance of some part of yourself or to build more of what you love into your life, feel free to contact me for a free 30 minute phone consultation. I would love to hear more about your needs, and can explain more about my face to face or Skype sessions, as well as answer any questions you may have. Send me an email through my contact page to arrange a time.

Alternately you might be interested to jump into a fun workshop setting, and enjoy the ideas and inspiration that comes from a room full of interesting people – ¬†if so I’d welcome you to¬†my upcoming¬†6 week¬†Women’s Wellbeing¬†evening group¬†or the¬†¬†Saturday workshop¬†‘Visualising your life’¬†planned for November.

But what if I can’t travel?¬†

By travel I mean loosely anything which takes us away from home physically and out of our comfort zone. However I absolutely acknowledge that travel is a luxury that not everyone has. I recognise the physical, emotional and financial barriers¬†that many face that might prevent them from a trip overseas, and even the ethical issues about non-essential air travel in the face of climate change that stop some people choosing to do¬†this kind of travel (and if I’m honest gives me pangs of conscience and fears of being a sustainability hypocrite myself – I’m still working on this one).¬†Nonetheless despite these challenges even a long weekend staying with family in another city, or a few days¬†by the seaside in our own town, or a camping trip, or housesitting, or a low cost house swap with friends in another part of the state/county¬†for a few days, or if we are housebound even a day trip in the company of others, can similarly shake us up and reveal much about ourselves if we approach it with awareness.

Note: and no these aren’t my travel pics! I decided to keep my own travel photos as a personal record of my trip this time and chose other images to illustrate these words.

Wherever there are words there should be pictures

The¬†Children’s¬†Laureate wrote recently¬†“Wherever there are words let there be pictures”. I agree.

I think that life is more rich and vibrant when we illustrate what we are saying with pictures ‚Äď either of the drawn variety, or even in metaphor in the words themselves (although this is not what he was referring to).

I love picture books, graphic novels, hand scrawled zines, and in the workplace the infographic, the visual recording of meetings and workshops, the systems diagram. Drawing is not just for kids, it plays an important role in communicating what we mean.

Comics are a great way to express humour and it is the interplay of image and language that creates the space for humour ‚Äď the discord, the jarring, the pun, the inconsistency. Drawing can show us the shadow sitting behind our words, highlight where our words are being untrue or belying our actions, or give the emotional tone, or scale of our issues.

In art therapy we use pictures and the process of making them to peek under the lid of the conscious mind and see what else we might think about ourselves, or a situation we find ourselves in. We find surprising wisdom in the colours, shapes, proportions and visual references we have chosen; as if something older and wiser and more ‚Äėprimitive‚Äô is speaking to us beneath our fancy and familiar words.

Some of my favourite comics also use graphs and charts to create humour, or make wry observations about the world. These tools, once the serious purview of engineers or accountants are now liberated on happy funny wings to speak about the oh so important decisions in life, or to share our favourite lyrics or even least favourite lyrics and enjoy them all over again.

Let there be pictures! Let us speak quickly, happily, and with grave emotion – in the language of the eyes!