Year in Review – Prompt #4 Giving

Sometimes we are encouraged to dive into a vision for the new year without processing the year that has been. Have you ever experienced that?
As an art therapist and coach I know that feeling, accepting and integrating our feelings, ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is an important part of good health, and an important part of feeling authentically energised for the future.
Through the last two months of 2018 each week I’ll be sharing some end of year reflection and journaling prompts I have developed to help you integrate the experiences of this year and finish up feeling clearer and more accepting of yourself and the year that was, more focused on what you care deeply about, and more energised for the New Year.

Here is this week’s Year in Review prompt….
—–
Giving
Around this time of year lots of people exchange gifts. Gift giving traditions can be fraught and tied up with issues with overconsumption, debt and more. But they are also deeply connected to reciprocity, social ties and acts of care.
Lets think gently and with curiosity about the act of giving. Grab a journal and a cup of tea and explore this one with me.
Journaling and reflection prompts (spend 5 minutes on each):
Beyond formal gift giving, what did you give this year with no expectation of payment or return?
What time did you donate to someone’s project or cause?
What random gifts did you give to those you love?
What funds did you give to charity?
What objects did you give freely to new homes?
Which of your gifts and talents did you share with others?
What small acts of kindness did you try to foster through the year?
Now looking across your answers above, spend 15 minutes with these questions:
What feelings arose in relation to giving this year? What themes can you see?
What was easy to give?
What was harder to give?
What felt great to give?
What would you like to give more of next year?
And if something comes to mind that you’d like to share in comments below feel free to do so!

 

PS If you live in Australia a great giving opportunity this time of year is Share the Dignity‘s “It’s in the Bag” campaign. It’s easy – simply find a handbag in good condition that you are no longer using and fill it with toiletries and personal care items such as deodorant, face wash, pads and tampons, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Include a brief affirming note or Christmas card, and then drop off at a Bunnings store before or on Sunday the 2nd December.

Business Tip – skills need to be learnt

‘But it’s so hard for me to tell people what I do and what it costs’. I hear this a lot from people starting in business. And I want to say ‘OF COURSE IT IS!!’.
In my experience that’s hard for most people. Me. Other art therapists starting out. Most of the coaches I trained with. Artists. New graphic designers. Basically most humans find it hard to say ‘hey do you want to buy my thing?’ or ‘yes I can help you, at my hourly rate’ – at least when they start out in business.
And I should know – I spent two whole decades of my working life as an employee. You do the work and you get paid. You don’t have to every day say ‘oh do you want me to go get that paper off the photocopier? That will be five bucks thanks. You want me to write this report? Ok well my hourly rate is X.’
Most of us just negotiate our salary ONCE – when we accept the position, and maybe make a pitch for a pay rise or bonus at performance review time. And even if we sell things as an employee (this project, this widget, this package) it’s not US that we are selling, or its us with a whole organisation and brand behind us.

So here’s what I have to share: of course it’s hard, you’ve never done it before, it’s unfamiliar, feels risky and you don’t know how to do it. THAT’S EXACTLY LIKE ANY IMPORTANT SKILL YOU HAVEN’T LEARNT YET.

If you wanted to learn piano you would go and get lessons, not beat yourself up because you haven’t magically woken up this morning being able to play Bach. You would work with someone who knows how to play and you would get them to show you how. You would adjust your expectations and be prepared to learn some foundational skills and practice them and build on them. You would expect to go back again and again to your classes and share what’s hard and get tips on how to make things easier.

Business skills are just the same.

Just because you don’t know how to do something yet doesn’t make you defective or somehow uniquely flawed.

It means you need to learn. You need to find someone you trust and feel safe with, who is patient and knows more than you do and is willing to teach what they know. Ideally someone who will watch and listen and teach you just what you don’t already know yet, and build on what you DO know. You need to practice. You need find a way to be forgiving and to be ok with your fumbling and bumbling and making mistakes. You need to be ok with the off notes and playing ‘beginners tunes’ and still wishing you could play something more complex. You need to celebrate the little wins and remember that last week you couldn’t even play a note.

What’s one business skill on your to-learn list? 

Why I love working in community mental health

I’ve been musing lately on my experiences in running art therapy programs for community mental health providers.

Why creating welcoming spaces for people in crisis or experiencing extreme states matters:

Mental health sufferers face both stigma and other challenges to joining in mainstream activities. Low energy, low mood, feeling anxious, fidgety, being prone to angry outbursts, finding speaking up or staying quiet hard, having loud internal negative self talk, hearing voices  – any or all of these can make showing up hard and make finding a safe and welcoming space harder still.

Many people who come to community mental health programs often have a range of social, economic, health and trauma experiences that they are dealing with that are linked to or compound the experience of a mental illness / mental distress / mental health challenges:

  • Poverty can make it harder to afford medication or therapy
  • Trauma experiences can make it hard to relax or trust others, or to open up
  • Concentration and energy levels can make it hard to hold down work (or study), which in turn can increase social isolation, economic distress
  • People can juggle their own mental health issues while also caring for family members with mental health issues
  • Alcohol and other drugs can be used to help mask the pain but at the same time contribute to financial, social and other health challenges.

Here’s what I know even more deeply than I did before from this work:

People are complex whole beings. They are a life story, they are friends and parents and neighbours. They are dreamers and fighters and nurturers. They are carers and volunteers and advocates. They are artists and storytellers. Having a mental illness diagnosis doesn’t define a person or tell you anything of the entirety of who they are.

People have moods that come and go, we are all variable hormonal, social, responsive beings who have capacity for change, above and beyond our symptoms.

People with mental health challenges may find it hard to find or access the very resources that might help them most. Brain fog, anxious feelings, low energy and other challenging felt experiences can make remembering, researching or processing information difficult.

People are more alike than different. Our dreams and fears are remarkably similar no matter what our age, income, past experiences or current challenges. We all want human connection with people we like and trust, to feel closeness and to be respected and understood, and sometimes to be cared for and nurtured. We want some kind of physical and material stability, to attend to the basic needs of our life without all consuming stress about money, debt or housing. We want to make a contribution to the people and world around us, and we want to express ourselves in the world. We want to feel well in ourselves, healthy, and to access some kind of help, medical or otherwise, for physical/ emotional struggles we might face.

It takes guts to get help. It takes immense courage and determination to commit to doing the things we know are good for us, especially when getting there and being there can sometimes feel extremely hard.

We often think we are unique with our fears and doubts and ‘weaknesses’, and this causes shame. When we speak about our experience to supportive others it lightens our load. It also inspires others to feel better about their experience. We feel less alone when we can reveal more of who we really are and what is really going on for us.

Compassion and acceptance of ALL of us can happen gradually and in baby steps. It is an ongoing practice to show ourselves compassion, towards our limitations, towards the parts of us that are fearful, angry, hurt, hurtful. It is an ongoing practice to develop an encouraging voice that allows us to try new things and show ourselves, even when we are not ‘perfect’.

Getting help through medication, being in support groups, accessing social workers or being in one on one therapy is a really important step towards recovery.

——–

 

 

 

Not every day is sunny

I have thought of giving up more than once, probably more than 30 (million) times on my ‘entrepreneurial journey’. The last time was briefly just last month. When I feel like that here are some variations of is what might go through my head to trigger or compound the thought – one of these is usually really loud when I fall into feeling hopeless:

  • ‘I’ve taken on way too much, I’ll never get it all done, this feels awful, run away!’
  • ‘I obviously have deep mindset issues that are holding me back, I’ll never get rid of them, there’s no point trying’.
  • ‘It’s not fair, look at them, they’re doing so well and I’m not’
  • ‘Oh my gosh I’ve squandered all my talents and experience and managed to make nothing out of it’
  • ‘I am overwhelmed by all the courses and coaches and training and I don’t trust that any of them will actually help me, I feel overwhelmed by all I need to learn and resistant to get started’.

Had any of those? Or similar ones? Yes me too.

I’m sick of ‘successful’ people who sell a carefully constructed two dimensional version of ‘success’ – some fantasy land where self doubt is entirely banished, every day is sparkles and rainbows and life looks like an instagrammed smoothie. I’m sick of it because in many cases it is just a calculating move to sell more things (I want what she’s having!) but worse than that, because it contributes to an expectation that this is how life ‘should’ feel (or look).

This expectation is suffocating.

I mean, seriously, it’s the human condition people. There will be laughter and tears, snot and baby poo, death, illness, dirt under the fingers. There will be wrinkles. There will be crumbs. There will be things that become tattered and frayed and some days we will feel a bit like that too. There will be ugly crying and hard things. No matter how gorgeous your bronzed bod looks twisting in its white one piece swimsuit at the beach at dawn one day (if you are lucky enough to live that long) you will get old and wrinkly. Lots more stuff than your snapchat filter can rub away.

Some days you might feel lazy, or grumpy, or catty, or incompetant, or just plain old scared. Yup. That’s going to happen. You might not like what comes out of your mouth or the thoughts you’re having. You might wonder ‘who is this angry b*tch who’s taken up residence in my head?’

Personally when I feel like giving up I need to stamp my feet and howl and write in my journal and cry real tears. I need to make big cranky art. I need to feel despair, real despair, and I need to cradle it like a precious thing. I need to complain to a friend or a coach or a mentor, someone kind who will listen while the storm rolls itself through.

I need to be petty and voice my crotchety annoyances. I need to imagine stepping away, imagine a big fat NO to all my projects.

And then gently I return to hope.

(And when I’m back to hope everything feels possible, doable, sparkly and fun.)

And despite all this, in and amongst it, I can still get things done.

If you wait until that perfect day when you are the thin, groomed, sunny, effortless, confident, multitasking, knowledgeable, wholly in your power version of you before you do anything you may never move.

Maybe we are actually birthing that version of ourselves, all of us, in every day that we cradle ourselves with kindness and allow the feelings out. Maybe the imperfect actions and acting without knowing all of what we are doing is what shapes and creates us.

If you want to work with someone who can help you get started on your dream project NOW – with all your wonderful flaws and quirks and inexperience and bad moods and self doubt, then look me up. We might just get along like a house on fire. And I promise I’ll forgive you your flaws if you forgive me mine.

Who wants to play?

Who needs an an infusion of deep, soulful, playful creativity at their next face to face event!?? I’m open to fresh collaborations in Australia in 2018 (or Europe May/June 2018). I would love for the right fresh fun collaboration plans to wing my way.
Imagine….
🌟A visioning session before your content master class, to connect people deeply with their what, why, how and who
🌟A break out group at your conference with gentle art therapy based processes unleashing new ways of seeing old problems
🌟 A creative morning session each day of your wellness retreat

I am flexible, practical and creative when it comes to planning events and collaborating.

I create a safe, sacred, well bounded group experience.

I am a qualified transpersonal art therapist and coach and experienced group facilitator.

Who wants to play!?

Drop me a line via my contacts page to start a conversation.

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:

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

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

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

💚 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

💚 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?

💚 Send a thank you card to a friend

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

💚 Tell a family member what you really appreciate about them

💚 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!

‘But I’m not creative’

That’s what I hear sometimes when people hear about my art therapy groups.

Really? You don’t think you’re creative? Even better reason to come along and see that you are!

You don’t have to be an ‘artist’ or have ‘talent’ to work with an art therapist. Art therapy is a form of expression, a way to get the inside out, and a way to connect with the power of creativity, the deep life-force in us all.

The art therapist guides you, creates a safe space, provides an opportunity.

You step out, feel your way, see what emerges.

The art isn’t there to earn a gold star or a grade. You can’t fail.

It’s not being made to sell or impress.

It’s being made to express, to speak for you and to you.

Honestly. With rawness, and strangeness and mystery. With bluntness and humour and whimsy.

What you make might surprise you in how easily it speaks on your behalf.

Your creativity may have a different opinion on this whole situation you see. It might come out to play no matter what you say on its behalf.

Try it and see.

 

Start where you are

Yes! You are gloriously imperfect and your to-do list is several feet long.

Yes, there are cat hairs on your jumper and the washing needs putting away.

This is it. This is where it all starts.

This is the you that will take the next step.

Let your dream happen here, down here on earth where the wild things are. Here in the ordinary, here right now while the kettle boils.

This is the messy imperfect you that might send that email, pick up the phone, open that blogging account, enroll in a new course, write that first paragraph that later grows into a book.

Don’t wait for some fairy version of you with perfect hair and a clean desk, she might not come. Let gloriously grubby, disorganised, unsure, scaredy-cat you take the first unglamorous step, the ordinariness of it will shock you.

Dreams are made real with rubber bands and chewing gum; they are built up like some haphazard sculpture from assignments, bus rides, awkward phone calls, admin and little gestures.

Yes! This is it. You are doing it right.