Knowing your (my) self worth

I had a bit of a light bulb moment last night. In the last year and a half I have been learning to love myself and recover from my abusive marriage. However I realised how easy it is to slip back into our old patterns. My journey to loving myself started when I took responsibility for my part in my previous relationships. Yes, men hadn’t treated me very well but that was because I had allowed them to because I didn’t think I deserved any better. I have been accused of being ‘too nice’ in the past.

Now I do. I know I do deserve the love of a caring, committed man.  And yes I am nice – I wouldn’t want to be anything else. But I need to be nice to myself too and I have to let go of the fear that I won’t find love. Of course I will, it is only that fear that is holding me back.

So here’s to loving ourselves first and foremost and knowing we are worth it.

 

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A tale of two crabs

Once upon a time there were two crabs who lived on the same beach. There was Crafty the male one and Cheeky the female one. Because they were crabs they used their shells to protect their sensitive insides. They were both getting on in years now. When they were younger they had different mates and used to sometimes play together. They then went their separate ways. Later Crafty’s mate swam away and Cheeky’s found another and then died.

Unbeknown to Cheeky though, Crafty had still been watching her from his end of the beach. One day when Cheeky thought it might be time to start looking for a new mate, she noticed Crafty was looking her way and they both came out of their shells for a little while and had some fun together. Of course, being crabs, they would both still hide in their shells from time to time because they sometimes found it hard to be vulnerable.

Then Crafty decided to start digging a big hole in the sand. Cheeky, as her name suggests, was a little more audacious and from time to time she would go and tap on Crafty’s shell. Although she often went back into her shell she was now older and wiser and realised it was quite lonely in there. But he was very busy digging and also retreated further and further into his shell. He still liked Cheeky but told her he did not have time to come out to play because he needed to finish his hole.

After a while Cheeky got a little bored waiting for him to come out. By now the tide was coming in. She decided to ride on the waves and have fun on her own. As the tide went out again she swam with it and started to have some exciting adventures. Crafty was so deep in his hole though the tide didn’t catch him so he was left behind on the beach. At low tide he came out again and saw that Cheeky was gone.

So how does the story end? Well that really depends on Crafty. He knows Cheeky likes him but she can’t wait for him forever. He could carry on digging his hole or he could take a break and swim out to meet Cheeky and have some amazing adventures together…

Doing away with negative self talk

I guess like me you are probably your own worse critic. My one intention for 2017 is to love myself more. We are only 11 days into 2017 and I have messed up spectacularly a few times already. Or have I? Is that just me being overly critical of myself? Probably, because when I have confessed to friends they have reminded me I am only human.

I have been practising meditation and mindfulness for about 10 years now. If anything that can make it worse because I can see my patterns and sometimes I feel powerless. I have noticed in the last few weeks that I can still feel just as insecure as ever. So what do I do? Beat myself up even more. I am now trying to laugh at it – not at myself – but at the human condition in general. I have been setting very high standards for myself. I think I should be a good Buddhist and because I am a coach I should be calm in all situations. And there’s another thing. That word ‘should.’ We should be this, we should be that.

So how am I going to stop criticising myself? I can practise more self-compassion. I can choose to be connected to my inner child and recognise when she is hurt and be kind to her. I have had many challenges in the last few years so I am also choosing to give myself a break. If a friend had been through similar I would be there for her so why can’t I be there for myself? I am also accepting that it’s ok to lean on people sometimes. That’s what friends are for after all. I don’t do it very often so I’m going to let myself be carried sometimes.

So if you’re stressing already about your new year resolutions, look at them again. You are good enough already.

Love Helen

The power of being vulnerable 

The more you give the more you get back. It’s scary opening our heart sometimes but I urge you to try it. If you have the courage to be vulnerable, especially if you’re in a leadership role, you empower others. 

I arrived in India 2 days ago to do a yoga course and didn’t know a soul. I hadn’t slept for about 30 hours or had much to eat due to the fact that airlines don’t seem to understand the concept that you can be coeliac and vegetarian. Added to that there are currency problems in India and I had very little cash. I reached out to the group that had been set up for our course. It was a heartfelt and emotional post but it has received the biggest response out of any other in the group. I have connected with so many people since because I can simply introduce myself as ‘the crazy woman who wrote that post!’ Not that anyone has said I’m crazy they’ve all been very kind. The chances are most of them were feeling the same way and by opening up I’ve given them permission to do so too. 

So if you’re a leader in a school or elsewhere do you have the courage to be vulnerable? It’s a lot easier, albeit a lot more painful, to erect barriers around ourselves. But just imagine how your organisation could be transformed if you dropped them. 

Helen Pengelly is a coach who is passionate about helping school leaders create coaching and mindfulness cultures. Visit http://www.happyteachers.co.uk for more information about how she can help. 

Managing your emotions 

So December is here and it’s almost ‘that’ time of year again. The season of goodwill. And also the time of most relationship break ups. Not to be too doom and gloom about it! Work is usually stressful too whatever your job; excited children who want to do anything but schoolwork, dealing with extra orders, Christmas parties etc. So how do you take care of yourself through all of this? Without managing our emotions effectively we can easily go into reactive mode which only makes the situation worse. All well and good you say but my partner’s nagging me, my boss is putting pressure on me and the kids – well don’t even mention them!

When I started teaching I thought I had to be something I’m not. To be strict and scary so the kids would be perfectly behaved. After all we had been told in our teacher training that how we show up in the classroom would affect the kids too. All well and good and perfectly true but we weren’t given the tools to put it into practice. 

Over the years as I’ve been meditating and practising mindfulness I’ve learned strategies to help me ‘stay in the gap’ between receiving some stimulus and responding to it. Also I’ve learned to stop taking things personally. It’s never personal. That’s not to say I don’t get angry if someone cuts me up at a roundabout or feel excited when I’m going on holiday. I probably feel it even more. I know I can choose though, not to act on my feelings (mostly!). 

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘count to 10 before responding ‘ but it’s easy to forget in the heat of the moment. By having a regular mindfulness practice though we become more integrated and that practice becomes part of our daily lives. In fact we can choose to make our whole life our practice. We can notice moment by moment what is going on in our thoughts, emotions and in our physical body too. Become interested and curious and soon you will start to notice your patterns. It can be fun too. You start to take yourself less seriously and think ‘Oh that old thing again!’ 

Life is short and none of us know how long we’ve got. Live for the moment and have a wonderful festive season. 

If you are interested in coaching please comment below or send me a message via the ‘contact us’ page. 

Too busy for a relationship?

This is adapted from an article I originally wrote for teachers on Staffrm.io. Of course this applies to many other professions too and the pressures of the modern world.

Recently there was an article in TES (The Times Education Supplement) about how many teachers felt, because of the stresses of their job, they did not have time for a relationship.

I find that very sad. If you are not happy in one area of your life it will impact on the others such as work and friendships. As a coach I help people find balance in their life and what works for them. That includes work as well as personal life.

I have been single for many years. I was in an abusive marriage for over 15 years which ended in 2002. My abuser died in 2014. This brought up the pain from my marriage which I had suppressed so I had no alternative but to face it. I realised that it was a major factor in stopping me from forming another relationship and a healthy one.

So it might be worth looking at what is really holding you back. Often it is not what you think. I thought I had recovered so it was a big shock when he died what I felt.

In April I decided to commit to finding my soulmate by the end of this year. Things have definitely shifted since I made that intention.

Things I found that were stopping me included:

– I didn’t think I deserved to be happy

– all the good men were already taken

– I was happy being single (nothing wrong with that and I was) but I was tricking myself into thinking it was ok when I would really love to be in a relationship

– I am too old. And as each year passed there was more tension around this one!

– admitting I would love a relationship is a sign of weakness

– I am too busy. I have a full life, how on earth would I find time for a man?

– and the biggie – I am afraid of getting hurt again

If, like me, you have suffered trauma in the past it would be well worth looking at some sort of support or counselling. There are several domestic abuse charities out there that can help. There is the national charity Womens Aid but check out for local ones in your area too.

If you are still feeling stuck why not consider coaching? As a coach myself I can help you find out what is really going on for you. It’s hard to do it on our own sometimes and it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Rather it’s a sign of strength and vulnerability.

On this blog I share my journey and I hope to inspire others too as I write my own fairytale happy ending. I have always been a hopeful romantic!

Sending love to you all. Remember it starts with loving yourself and knowing your own self-worth. Easier said than done but never give up! I haven’t.

Getting clear on what I want

A few years ago I had a chat with a friend who is a relationship coach and asked her how she worked. She told me that it was important to be clear on what you want in a partner and a relationship. I had never really thought about it before because a belief I formed in childhood was that what I wanted didn’t matter. It was also selfish, or so I thought. She explained that it wasn’t selfish and that if you didn’t know what you wanted how would you ever get it?

I spent probably the best part of the first 40+ years of my life putting my needs last. When I got married I moved away from the place where I grew up and all my friends. I had said I didn’t want to live there but it was implied that as my fiancé had a job in that area I had no choice but to go where he wanted. I was 22 going on 23! I had serious doubts before my marriage but thought it was pre-wedding nerves. I couldn’t go upsetting people now could I? Especially after all the plans we’d made and the money that had been spent.

I knew how I wanted my wedding to be from a very young age (as many little girls do) – and it was pretty much that. I hadn’t thought about the type of man though or what would happen afterwards. Neither did anyone ask me. My mother was married very young (and my parents are still together after more than 56 years) so I assumed that was what you did.

Since my divorce I was certain at first what I didn’t want! I dated a couple of men and one said to me, sounding frustrated, ‘But I don’t know what you want Helen.’ And neither did I. I couldn’t answer him.

I then decided I needed to take time out and learn to be happy on my own. I was getting clearer all the time, based on past experiences, what had worked and what hadn’t. It is still evolving but at present looks pretty much like this:

  • He has his own business and has an entrepreneurial mindset.
  • He has been married and has grown up children. (I’ve done parenting, he understands my children are important and is ready for commitment.) Grandchildren is a bonus as I don’t have any of my own yet!
  • He has his own interests but puts our relationship as a priority and sticks to our plans unless it’s an absolute emergency. He is in regular contact even when we are busy.
  • He is adventurous and enjoys travel.
  • He is spiritual.
  • He is tall.
  • There is a connection with the past. At my age I want a friendship as a foundation to build on.
  • He makes me laugh.
  • I can talk to him about anything and he values my opinions even if he doesn’t agree with me.
  • He is solvent with an abundant mindset. I am perfectly capable of supporting myself as I have done so for the past 15 years. It is more to do with his beliefs around money. I have dated men who had a terrible lack mentality.
  • He has been single for at least a year. (He has moved on from his ex completely.)
  • He is my best friend.

Phew, that seems like a rather tall order! Only kidding, by being clear can I attract the right man. I have done that in the past trying to convince myself it doesn’t matter if one or two are missing. Believe me, it does. It also saves a lot of time. It is also important to put the statements in positive form and in the present tense. We are also putting the intention into our subconscious mind. Often the qualities we want to attract are a reflection of the qualities we like in ourselves.

What you focus on magnifies. When you buy a new car, for example, you then start to notice more cars of the same make because it has been brought into your awareness. I have noticed over the last couple of years any men who have sparked my interest have come closer to what I want each time. They have also become closer in physical location. This has helped me become more confident and open.

So then all I had to do was put the intention out into the universe and wait…

Making good habits fun

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Good habits don’t have to be boring. The picture above is my ‘choices’ bag. I returned from a retreat in October and I wanted to find a more creative way to stay  ‘in the gap.’ This is the space between something happening and responding to it. Most of the time we react without thinking about it. I have been meditating and practising mindfulness for over 10 years now and one of the downsides is that I am very aware of my bad habits! I am learning to be kinder to myself and instead of beating myself up replacing them with better ones. It is much harder to stay with our experience when we are upset or bored so we find something to distract us – usually something addictive like social media, alcohol, cigarettes etc.

In my choices bag are coloured cards. On the yellow different meditations, the pink different forms of exercise, the blue different writing activities and the green different inspiring ideas of something to read. I keep it by my bed and I pick out one of each colour as soon as I wake up. I am not one for a day to day routine so this works for me because I love stationery and I don’t know what I am going to choose it makes each day’s activities different. It can be hard to stay motivated when you are working at home. Another reason it works is that of course I have only put on the cards things I enjoy doing. There is no point me putting going to the gym on a pink card because that will never happen so I have doing yoga, going for a walk or bike ride or swim.

Sometimes they don’t all happen so I have to remember to be kind to myself as life gets in the way. However in less than three weeks I have established a daily writing habit, something I was struggling to do before.  If you struggle to get motivated please feel free to contact me about coaching.

Thank you for reading and have fun today!

 

The true cost of not taking care of your staff

While I worked as a supply teacher for 10 years on and off I became aware that more teachers were going off sick for longer. Many schools now have trouble recruiting and retaining staff. It is not unusual now for teachers to leave in the middle of the academic year – something that never used to happen. A BBC News report tells us that each school in the UK spends £168 a year on average on each pupil for extra staffing and this can be as much as over £500. According an NAHT report schools can spend as much as £10,000 on agency fees to recruit teachers.

However there is a simple solution. By investing in your staff’s well being your school can save thousands of pounds. A primary school in London gave coaching to all their staff and they all stayed – no one resigned last year. Another in Bristol recognised the benefits of coaching and created a coaching culture in their school. Their following two OFSTED inspections were outstanding. We are waiting with bated breath for the result of the next one.

Last year I was facilitating a workshop when teachers reported back that they had the 3 minute breathing space I taught and they were sleeping better within a few days. So if only one of your teachers has a better night’s sleep and has one fewer absence our mindfulness course has paid for itself. I know finances in schools are tight but can you really afford not to?