Thursday, 26 April 2012

My, that's a shiny suit of armour you've got there

Did you know that by the late 16th century, a suit of armour weighed between 20 and 32kg?  That’s a seriously heavy load to carry around with you! Thankfully modern armour is a lot lighter, but it’s still a burden.

I’m sure you’re wondering where this is going and why I’m talking about a fashion that went out a couple of centuries ago!  This week, I’m thinking about the different armour that we all have, when we might have developed it and how it drives our behaviour. 
‘Clothes maketh the man’- or so they say.  For most people, clothes are an everyday part of life.  Let’s face it, if you turned up at work naked, you’d get some pretty strange looks!  However, for some individuals, what they wear defines them.  I’m talking about people who insist they can only wear designer labels.  That’s not necessarily an issue when you can afford it.  The challenge comes, when you can’t afford it.  When all your income goes on your wardrobe.  When you’d rather get the latest handbag or pair of shoes than eat or pay your rent.  When what you wear begins to define who you are.  When you are wearing your net worth!
I speak from experience here, because I use clothes as armour. When I have a court day or some other important meeting, what I am going to wear is part of my preparation.  Putting on a formal suit gets me in the right state of mind.  There’s just something about that buttoned up outfit that helps me to focus, to plan, to strategise.  In a weird sort of a way, it feels like I would ‘lose’ my power if I weren’t properly dressed.  Whilst clothes are important to me so are my intellect, skills and abilities.  To value yourself, purely by the value of the clothes on your back, is to diminish the most important parts of yourself.

Make up is another type of armour.  Hands up anyone who knows someone who won’t leave the house, without a full face of make up on?  Again, this is not a rant against make up- I like it as much as the next woman and I am a professional makeup artist.  It’s about when something is taken to an extreme and begins to define who someone is.  When I see young women like Nicki Minaj and Katy Perry, wearing very overt makeup all the time, I wonder what’s going on, I wonder what it is they are trying to hide, I wonder if they know that their physical appearance is just one small part of who they are.  I recognise that they are in an image obsessed industry, where a woman’s worth seems to be determined purely on her looks- in spite of her talents.  However, I am still alarmed by the number of young women, whose self-belief seems to rest entirely on what they look like and how much they weigh!

The last type of armour that I want to talk about is the psychological armour that most of us have and use unconsciously.  Have you ever gotten into your car and found yourself at home or work and have no recollection of how you got there?- like you were on autopilot.
That’s what psychological armour is like.  It’s usually developed very early in life, as a means of dealing with a traumatic experience and helps to protect us.  The trouble is that it stays with us, even when it’s no longer necessary.  If you find yourself repeating unhelpful patterns or behaviour, then it’s probably rooted in your unconscious mind, but is still driving your behaviour. Sometimes it feels like you’re at war with yourself.  You make a decision to make a change, but end up sabotaging yourself.  Terms like ‘denial’ and ‘defence mechanism’ have all become fairly common terms in society today.  However, just because they have become part of our everyday discourse, doesn’t mean that their impact is understood.  It can be incredibly frustrating to keep repeating behaviour that is unhealthy.

The point is we all have armour, which may have started off protecting us, but sometimes, it just gets in the way.  It may end up being the source of sabotaging behaviours and prevent us from fulfilling our true potential.

What unhelpful patterns do you see yourself repeating? what armour do you identify with?  Is it still serving a useful purpose or is it getting in the way of you excelling?  If you would like to know how coaching could help, contact us at

Until next week, go well. 

Friday, 20 April 2012

Hello, can anyone see me? I'm over here

Under Taliban rule in Afghanistan in 1992, women were required to wear a burqa, which covered them from head to toe.  It was compulsory to paint all windows, so women couldn’t be seen from outside their homes and there was  a ban on women studying in schools, universities or any other educational institution.
For women in the bigger cities like Herat and Kabul, things have changed, but for women and girls in the fiercely traditional rural areas, their lives haven't changed that much and their plight is illiteracy, forced marriage, or physical and sexual violence.
For the women of Afghanistan, the burqa and the other restrictions placed on them, make them physically invisible, whilst illiteracy makes them economically invisible.

Before you decide that this doesn’t happen to women in ‘developed’ countries, I’d ask you to think about the rise in cosmetic surgery procedures for young women.  The fact that girls as young as 10 are already unhappy with their bodies, with a large number of them wanting to be thinner.  The inexorable and continued rise of the size zero phenomenon.  The common thread being that they want to take up less space.  They are aspiring to the notion of an ideal body that exists only in the minds of fashion designers and the makers of Barbie.
When the bulk of your money is spent on changing how you look, you have less money to be economically visible in other areas of your life.  Depression, loneliness, chronic insomnia and constant hunger are just some of the side effects of the near starvation required, in order to get to a size zero.  Spending your time managing that, leaves few emotions for the rest of your life.

Finally, I’d like to consider the impact of the emotional aspect of domestic violence.  Destructive criticism, name calling, putting you down in front of other people, isolating you from friends and family, monitoring your phone calls, texts and emails.  These are just some of the manifestations of emotional abuse that survivors of domestic violence suffer on a regular basis.  Imagine how it feels to have your self esteem eroded on a daily basis? Wondering if anyone can actually see what’s happening to you. Wondering if you have in fact, become invisible, because of the abuse that goes to the core of who you are.

Women and girls become invisible in a myriad of ways and the effect is to marginalise them.  Violence against women persists, because women are seen as being ‘less than’

What can you do? Simple, get involved.  Mentor young women; check up on that friend who has suddenly started cancelling outings at the last minute, give time or money to organisations who work with women and girls.
If you’re a survivor looking for help or an organisation that would like training on how to tackle domestic violence, contact us as via the website.

Until next week, go well.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Step away from the diet, it will only make you crazy

Would it surprise you to know that the diet industry rakes in anything between $40-$100 billion dollars each year?  Isn’t that amazing for an industry that makes its money from failure?

Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Jenny Craig and the Atkins Diet are just a few of the top names in the industry.  If I were to take a poll, how many of you would say you had tried 1 or more of these diets?  If you’re anything like me then you’ve tried them all and then some.  The bottom line is diets don’t work!  If that’s true, why do we keep going on them?  I can’t speak for all of you out there, but I can share my own story.

I spent about 26 years of my life on one kind of a diet or another.  You name it, I tried it. I even created some of my own.  The most memorable being the toast diet.  I ate toast twice a day and had a small meal at night.  I lost lots of weight, which was promptly regained as soon as I started eating other foods, when I came off the diet!  With each diet that I tried, I remained one of the 95% of people who regain the weight they lost.  In my case, I regained even more, because I had messed up my metabolism so much.  The only winner in my situation was the diet industry.

Diets make you lose trust in your own ability to nourish yourself.  The last straw for me was when I was on the weight watchers points’ diet.  Everything was going fabulously, I had lost a truckload of weight and thought, this was the diet to end all diets.  Until, one fateful night.  I had over eaten during the day and ended up with no points for dinner.  The only option was a plate of vegetables and a glass of water. I promptly broke out a family size pack of Jaffa cakes and ate them in one sitting.  Dieting made me swing from one extreme to the other.  I was either starving myself or bingeing- neither of which is sustainable in the long term.

What changed things for me, was learning to trust myself around food. To understand that food is just food.  To eat what I want when I am hungry and to stop when I am satisfied.  I went to a Beyond Chocolate workshop and devoured (pun intended) books by Geneen Roth, Susie Orbach and other compassionate women, who showed me that there was another way.  I learned that I knew best what worked for me and how to nourish myself in every way.
When things get a little stressful, sometimes, I feel the urge to go back on a diet.  But then I remind myself of how unproductive that is.  I remind myself of all the time I wasted, waiting for my life to start- "when I lose the weight".  I remind myself of how free I feel.

Are you exhausted by your relationship with food? Are you fed up with dieting? Do you want to try another way? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then give the Hungry Heart programme a try.  Visit the website to find out more.

Until next week, go well.  

Saturday, 7 April 2012

...a hero lies in you...

What do you think of, when you hear the word 'hero'?  I wager that most of you think of some dashing fellow, who swoops in at the end of an action movie, to save the pretty girl and the universe.  If I were to have a guess, I suspect that's how we see leaders too.  Larger than life, charismatic characters, who seem to be a little magical.

This week, I'm thinking about leadership.  Is it best suited to men? why does it go wrong? and how can we prevent leadership from going wrong?

In the wake of the latest world-wide recession, there was some suggestion that it wouldn't have happened, if there were more women in positions of power.  Whilst I agree that there needs to be more women in positions of power, I don't think that such a blanket statement can be justified.  There are bad leaders who happen to be women, just as there are good leaders who happen to be women.  Saying that women are better leaders, is almost like pinning a target to every successful, female leader's back, inviting her to be shot down!

The recent recession also gives us a few examples in the shape of Dick Fulds and Fred Goodwin about when leadership goes wrong.  Greed, a fear of failure and a belief that they are above the law are just some instances, that have derailed some of our most gifted leaders.  I'd like to throw in the idea of a strength taken too far as an example of bad leadership.  For example, a driven, highly focused leader, can really turn a crisis around.  However, these strengths too far, could result in an aggressive and critical leader who undermines their staff.

Finally, as to the question, 'how can we prevent leadership from  going wrong? I'd like to put forward coaching as one of the possible solutions.  A core coaching principle is about increasing the client's self awareness, which should lead to taking responsibility and ultimately making a change.  A leader who has high self awareness is much less likely in my view to derail themself.  Working with a coach can help to develop that self awareness or even sometimes act as a mirror, regarding a particular course of action.

I believe that we all have a leadership role to play, in at least one part of our lives.  So, it's worth making sure that we model good leadership skills and on occasion heroic skills, to those who are looking up to us.

If you would like to know more about what coaching is and how it could help develop your leadership skills, contact us through the born2bebeautiful website.

Until next week, go well.