When I had a diagnosis of breast cancer in October 2012, it had me STOP and take a really good look at my life – the classic “wake up call”.
On the surface all was well, my life was good, maybe even great: I loved my work as a life coach; my son, Joe, was happy and healthy; we had a comfortable home and a varied social life with friends and family. I may have raised Joe by myself and been on my own for 18 years, but I was a strong, popular, independent woman with a busy life.
As my diagnosis began to sink in though, I realised that wasn’t enough and, through exploration work with a fellow coach, I started to acknowledge that, great as my life was, I was lonely.
So, what does this have to do with self-belief, our Fresh Air Fridays theme for July?
Well, when I really allowed myself to explore fully I didn’t believe I was good enough to be with the man of my dreams so I told myself I was “fine” on my own. My heart’s desire was to be in a loving, intimate relationship with a true partner but every time I started to date, my version of “not good enough” got in the way – not saying what I really thought, trying to be what I imagined they wanted me to be, rather than truly myself.
Not surprisingly, that didn’t work out too well.
Fast forward to the present day and I’m happily married to the man of my dreams and it’s our second anniversary next month. There are many things that helped this to happen but a key point was noticing my “not good enough” belief. Having done lots of self-development programmes over the years, I found it surprising that this belief was still running the show so well.
On our sessions this month we’re exploring self-belief – how we talk to ourselves, what our “little voice” has to say and how we can make changes when we notice our negative self-talk.
Sometimes, we can use strategies such as mantras to overcome this type of self-talk and this can be very successful – words are powerful. Something I used to help myself through the breast cancer was “Body Wisdom” journey work – a visualisation technique to travel through my body and explore it inside; gaining a different perspective and listening to the messages my body gave me.
As well as helping me physically, it had a surprising effect on my “little voice”. In one session I was finishing the internal visualisation and had some actions to practise bringing trust into my daily life, when I heard my little voice saying, “ooh, you don’t want to do that – if you do that, you’re going to get hurt”.
As I was inside my body at this point I could turn towards my little voice and there was a little worm shaking its head at me. I was able to speak to it directly: “Thank you for your concern. I know you’re looking out for me and you’ve been doing that for years but I’m a big girl now and this is something that I think is right for me to do. So, thank you but it’s OK.”
With that, quick as a flash, he had a straw hat on his head, a cocktail with a little umbrella in one hand and a suitcase in the other and replied: “That’s great, I’m going on holiday.” And off he went! He’s been on holiday ever since as I’d listened and his work was done.
From this experience I learned that to develop your self-belief it’s important to notice and listen to the little voice. There may be times when hearing what it’s trying to say – trying to protect you from – is powerful too.