Category: On Life

Can You See What I See?

I love this photo, not only because I see something quite specific in it but also because it intrigues me that no one else sees what I see, at least not yet. When I spotted the art, shall I call it, on a recent holiday in Iceland, I was grateful for the touchscreen friendly gloves. I snapped away and voila, it was captured.

Though Paul couldn’t quite see it in real time, later after staring at my photo, albeit for a brief spell, he sort of saw what I meant, he said very sceptically. Never mind!

I have been intrigued with amalgamations of clouds, rocks, leaves, rain, snow, sand, you name it since I can remember. I will often look up at the sky, or at rain running down a windowpane and say, “oh I see a lake, an icicle or a beautiful mountain. Do you see it?” I turn to my present company with enthusiasm.

Nowadays, that is almost always Paul, who wishes me well in my sightings but has hardly ever seen any of my amalgamations, at least not with enthusiasm anyhow. His mother, on the other hand, was a natural composition spotter just like me.

And one wonderful writer friend will often see such art before I do. Once, while visiting me, many years ago, she looked out my window at a building across the way and asked had I realised I had a muse. At that point I had not, but tuned into to my winged lady ever so often after that day.

Thank goodness there is someone who can see what I see, sometimes anyhow. It would a lonely world if there wasn’t.  But the truth is, two people quite often look at the same situation, hear the same facts and interpret them quite differently.

My photo and fun pastime of seeing things in places where they might not normally be seen took me back to a time when a colleague said to me, you have an answer for everything, don’t you? Not sure if her words were meant to be a compliment or a dig. But I saw what she meant. I have a habit of trying to see everyone’s perspective, especially during a crisis, instead of insisting that there is only one way to see things.

Let’s be clear, I often have had to make hard calls, after assessing the facts with the understanding that emotions often drive fixed opinions, even when if feels like they are logic driven.  We humans filter everything, don’t we?

How many times have you heard or said to yourself, either literally or metaphorically, “I can’t see that.”

And whether that was literally about something in the clouds or on the ground, you have likely seen something clearly and the person next to you could not for the sake of peace see the same thing, whether in your work or personal life.

Here is the thing: this is quite common. Hence, my photo. But the key to finding harmony in a sticky situation is trying to see what the other person sees and finding a healthy resolution from there.

Of course, it won’t change a thing if you never see what I see in the photograph but if you look at another person’s background, their life situation and so on, you might be able to see their point of view. Seeing what someone else sees does not mean agreeing with it or even fully understanding it. But seeing opens the door. And you can’t find resolution with the door closed.

We all have different values, beliefs, traditions, upbringings and life situations that bring us to our thoughts, our conclusions, our perspective. And that’s okay but perspective doesn’t have to be fixed if it is subjective. Let me be clear, I am not talking about finding a grey area when something is clearly black or white and there is a lot of that going on.

What I am talking about is how stepping out of a fixed viewpoint because it is a tradition or is just who you are can be revolutionising. Try and see what someone else sees, that is, if it serves a higher purpose.

For the sake of legacy, it is worth it to me.  I’d love to see what you see in my photo.  So, tell me, what do you see?

How to Let Go of Dead Facts for Freedom

While recently attending a wellness retreat, I was asked one of the most important questions I have ever been asked: Do you want to be right, or do you want to be free? True to its nature, my analytical brain kicked in and began questioning why I couldn’t have both.

Maybe I can, who knows, but the point that the practitioner made was there I was on the edge of a defining moment, and I needed to make a choice. Fortunate for me I chose freedom and continue to do so repeatedly.

Let me explain.  While I was free externally and still am, I was trapped internally by various intrusive thoughts, tethered to some strong emotions. And as much as I tried to rationally release myself from the mind chatter and negativity, which was seeping into unwanted and unpleasant anxiety, I was powerless until I fully understood that the thoughts lived in my subconscious mind and it was running the show. 

I had to reach the source–my subconscious. More on that later.  Anyhow, the same person who helped me face this truth has a term for latent, yet disruptive and unhelpful facts. He calls them dead facts.  Let go of them or they will control you, identity, and all.

In hindsight, I can see how hundreds of dead facts have lived in my mind and slyly defined my present and future, too.  But let me be clear. I have not expelled all dead facts, though I’d love to do so. However, being aware of their destruction has redefined how I deal with adversity, how I manage conflict.

There is no point in digging in my heels when I know I am right for the sake of my ego. Just ask a few politicians, celebrities or even friends and family how counterproductive that can be.

Make no mistake about it, I will always seek justice and resolution to problems but doing so is different to holding on to negativity and allowing the situation to become a part of my identity.

So how do you reach the subconscious to let go of dead facts? First, recognise the dead facts for what they are. No matter how right you were and still are, the facts are dead. Of course, it is important to acknowledge the wrong, do what you can to resolve it and then let it go.  Only then can healing begin.

Next, make sure you send the fact(s) packing and not back to your subconscious mind. It will not rest quietly, though it might seem so. Likely it is causing more problems than you are aware of and some of the ones that you absolutely know about and would like to resolve.

And you wondered why that insult that was hurled at you some ten years ago keeps coming back to haunt you. But don’t despair, there are many ways to address letting go of the past such as meditation, prayer, and physical activity like walking, running, and exercising.

Further, there are loads of resources to aid as well, including retreats like the one I attended and highly recommended books and podcasts, too.

Also, listen to your body. Anxiety over the past and worry about the future pushes us into fight flight mode.  And when your body stays there too long, it suffers.  As you likely know, this system was given to us to flee danger and do unbelievable things like run faster, pick up something far beyond our weight and so on. 

It has worked a jewel for me many times and one of them was early 2020 when I got one of my fingers trapped in my father’s garage door. Ouch, ouch, ouch, though garage doors no longer trigger my anxiety. Though I could not get that door to open, I waited fully conscious for what seemed like forever before the fire department and ambulance arrived on the scene and freed me. It was only after I was safe inside of the ambulance and on my way to hospital that I began to feel pain and then zoned out.

Miraculously, my smashed finger did not  have to be removed nor was it broken, contrary to what the firemen and paramedics believed. My fight flight system shut down any unnecessary systems and piped up the necessary ones to protect me. Now, imagine it shutting down systems like digestion unnecessarily on a regular basis. It is not a healthy recipe.  Thankfully, your body well let you know when you are overusing fight flight.

In short, try to eliminate as many dead facts as possible from the depths of your subconscious by using helpful resources and listening to your body for much deserved freedom.

And by the way you might be asking, what does all this have to do with legacy? Glad you asked. It’s all about sharing and handing down positive change, which often means abandoning thoughts, facts, beliefs that hold you back or cause problems.  No better place to start than now, wherever you are.

Casting Fear Aside: Let’s Talk About Race and Stick to the Facts Anyway

I’ve been planning to do a blog about race, more specifically racial gaslighting for the last couple of months but have stalled at every angle. But by George I think I’ve got it at last.

Fear has been the problem—fear of saying the wrong thing, fear of being misunderstood, fear of being condemn. Fear, fear, fear!

Often people who speak out about their racial experiences, particularly if they are public figures, are harshly judged and dismissed for lacking credibility. Shame, because no one knows what happens in someone’s personal life. And since we live in a racially fuelled society, we need to recognise the importance of listening as well as talking with a view to making progress.

Still, at the risk of being ostracised, folks are afraid to speak out about any form of injustice, including race.

Anyhow, not sure where all this fear has come from so suddenly, as I have not only written about race a few times in my career, but I have podcasted and talked about it, too. It is just this new kid, well actually rather old kid, on the block—racial gaslighting has a way of muddling the head.

In case you haven’t experienced it yet or know someone who has, it is all about undermining your experience of racism, ensuring that you call into question the validity of the experience. This not only discounts unconscious bias and dismisses racism as real and destructive, and we all know it is, but it also feeds into systematic racism.

Racial gaslighting has been around for a long-time but here is the thing: I can’t remember it being so blatant yet tolerated in my lifetime.

Thinking back to my first few memories of when I felt that someone dismissed my experience of racism, the majority, regardless of race, seemed to come to terms with the dismissal and in some instances join with me to campaign for change.

Like, for example, way back in college/university, some White classmates didn’t particularly understand why the two Black students in a class discussion about revisiting the old south felt out of sorts when folks wanted to go back until we reminded them that they were not happy days for our ancestors.

Though my memory is hazy, (it was nearly forty years ago, after all) I think the discussion ceased at least in our presence and the door was ajar for moving forward.

Fast forward a few years later, I had an ever so heated discussion with a White male colleague/friend about reverse discrimination and though we finally agreed to disagree, he could not discount the facts.

Ah ha! Stick to the facts. That is my advice to anyone who experiences racial gaslighting—hurtful phrases such as I or they didn’t mean anything by it, it is just a joke, you are too sensitive, it is nothing to do with race, all lives matter and a rather popular question: why do Black people have to always play the race card?

In my experience, we don’t put the card into play most of the time. It is usually already there when it is pointed out such as the time, I was asked to take my backpack off when entering a museum somewhere in England, as was every other Black person but I watched my stepdaughter walk in freely without any instruction, as well as other non-Black individuals. Perhaps the door holder had no mal intent but did look a bit sheepish when she saw us fraternising.

It doesn’t sound right, does it.  And it isn’t but here is the thing, unconscious bias can wreak havoc all over the place.

Could it have been the catalyst for 84-year-old Andrew Lester shooting Black teenager Ralph Yarl, who mistakenly went to the wrong address to pick up his younger siblings. Lester opened fire on the lad without any exchange of conversation and in a probable cause statement told investigators he was “scared to death” by Yarl’s size and his inability to defend himself at age 84.

While there is plenty of debate about the case, the facts remain the facts. And facts cannot be dismissed but of course, experiences and opinions can. The same can be said of less publicised and traumatic encounters in everyday life.

So, if you are standing on the precipice of fear about talking about race, don’t jump into it, the fear that is. If you do, it is likely to paralyse you. I should know. Face the fear and stick to the facts anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s Talk About Losing: Can We Gain from It?

I know. I know. What a drag! No one likes to lose, let alone talk about it.  But here is the thing: losing is a fact of life, no matter how accomplished you are. You will lose at something—an election, a sporting event, a debate, a board game and so on. Take, for example, the accomplished Scrabble player in our house who has a vocabulary loaded with the English language from various countries and cultures.  He is a shoo-in, right?

Most times but he has lost a time or two to the fledgling amongst us. And as painful as it has been for him, each loss has made him better and harder to beat. I should know. I am the underdog at Scrabble. So how does he do it? He learns from his mistakes, of course.

What’s new, you might be asking? Isn’t that one of those things that we learn in kindergarten–learn from your mistakes. Sure, but perhaps there are a few lessons that go hand in hand with learning from mistakes that we hardly ever implement.

One of them is feeling the loss and bouncing back from it anyway. Yes, it is natural to cry or feel gutted in the immediate aftermath of the experience.  I have seen plenty of athletes shed tears or show their disappointment at losing a game/a match and come out fighting the next day. The point is ignoring difficult emotions can be unhealthy both mentally and physically, so best to acknowledge and deal with them.

However, there is a huge difference between feeling the loss and being a sore loser.  Almost always, a sore loser is too upset to learn from the experience, which is a great segue to the next point.

Let it go! At first, blinded by tears or painful feelings, this might be hard to do but holding on to the past often clouds your view and can lead to depression.  A cloudy view is not a good starting place to learn lessons, even if you don’t get depressed. As a girl, I was a high performing runner and one day at a school competition stalled at the start line and I never let go of that humiliating, horrible feeling. It stalled me forever as a runner. 

That’s why I know letting go is easier said than done.  Doing so often means accepting the situation for what it is, meditating, praying, studying, practicing, overcoming any errors that might have contributed to the loss and looking to the future with belief in yourself.

Most of us either know someone who has done a remarkable job at letting go or have our own personal experience.  I certainly have and have reaped the benefits, for example, in my writing.  And if we don’t have an up close and personal example, we don’t have to look too far for inspiration. Examples that spring to mind are Jennifer Hudson who did not win American Idol but look at her now and Michael Jordan who didn’t make his varsity basketball team. Everybody knows his name.

A third lesson to be learned from losing is to play your own game, even if others don’t believe in you, or you think someone else is better. This means fully immersing yourself into your skill, delivering the goods in flow, also known as the zone. I have experienced the flow as a writer and have watched numerous athletes perform from this mystical place within, which brings the mental and the physical together magically. The key is to keep other people and things out of your head. It is just you.

Another lesson has to do with taking ownership.  Don’t worry about what so and so didn’t do unless it truly is an impediment. Do what you do, as my brother often tells our niece. And I’ll add, get what you need to grow.  

A passage from Michelle Obama’s book, The Light We Carry, in which she complained of a math teacher who struck her as arrogant, sums it up beautifully.

After her mother heard her complain, here is what she said. “You don’t have to like your teacher and she doesn’t have to like you, she said. “But she’s got math in her head that you need in yours, so maybe you should just go to school and get the math.”

Finally, give your all and when you have done that, you have done enough.  In the early days of playing Scrabble, for example, I was a bit of a sore loser.  I’ve come along away.  Whether I win or lose, I give my all the entire game, playing my game, and when it is all said and done, I don’t feel rubbished at all. I know I am enough!

For more tips on personal development, check out UIO’s podcast On Personal Development with Robyn Spens, which is loaded with advice on how to develop your full potential. And for information on overcoming challenges, listen to Rising Above Odds  with Hannilee Fish, who shares her personal story about overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges.

 

Cracking the Code for Good Sleep

At least once a week, sometimes several times, someone on social media posts about their very own experience(s) with insomnia. Often time, the posts come in the throes of the moment. Not that I see them in real time unless they are in a time zone when the midst of their wee hours is my mid-morning.

Anyhow, I know the feeling. When I am detained by insomnia, I don’t want to lie awake in bed, stare into the oblivion and be heckled by the thoughts in my head, either. I just want to sleep. That’s all. Is there a code that I haven’t cracked, I often think glancing over at a sleeping husband?

If there is one, the first part of it must be a lesson I have learned over the years: the more you chase sleep, the more evasive it becomes.

Case and point:  A few years ago, I did not sleep a wink the night before I appeared on a major television talk show in London to discuss the results of some UIO research. I tossed, turned, bed hopped, meditated, prayed, tried several sleep masks, and even commanded myself to sleep but I lay awake miserable.

Around 5 am, I happily sprung out of bed and prepared for the opportunity ahead—a car from the BBC would arrive soon to take me to the studio and I wasn’t going to botch that opportunity. Off I went and though my appearance was successful by most measures, I was exhausted and barely made it home before my lack of sleep made me sick.

Even after this, I still couldn’t sleep—too tired and ill feeling.

So where did I go wrong? According to sleep experts, I stayed in bed that night, perhaps another part of the code. Apparently, there are many scientific rules, if you will, around getting off to sleep. One of them is that if you can’t sleep, get up, leave your bed and the taunting thoughts behind, and do something interesting, meaningful, distracting. That something for me nowadays is to play solitaire with a beautiful Christian Lacroix deck of cards, a gift from a good friend. For at least one other insomniac that I know, it is decorating.  Find out what works for you and do it when insomnia visits.

Thankfully, however, I don’t have to play cards during the wee hours as often as I once did. I’ve now incorporated the practice into my sleep hygiene on the nights when I suspect I might have trouble drifting off.

According to Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, guest of our On Sleep podcast, it is important to develop sleep hygiene from the time you start your day to the time you wind down. This means paying attention to when and what you eat and drink, whether you nap or not and what you do before going to bed, all code sounding language to me.

Now about that canteen of coffee or caffeinated tea or oodles of chocolate that you enjoy daily, it might have something to do with whether you get off to sleep or even stay there or not. Experts say caffeine has an average half-life of about 6 hours. In short, that means if you have a chocolate dessert three hours before you sleep, you might be in for an awakening that night.

Worse yet, Dr Ramlakhan points out that even if you get to sleep, you might not stay there. Many people drift off and wake up suddenly, unable to get back to sleep. The good news is that staying asleep responds to the same sort of habit forming that getting off to sleep does. Not only does paying attention to your food and drink intake matter, so does power napping during the day.

One day after lunch, although I felt sleep come over me like dusk, I took Dr Ramlakhan’s advice and did not rush to my bed and pull the covers over my head. I took a nap on the sofa, setting my timer for 20 minutes. It worked. I managed to get off to sleep that night and stay there, having kept to winding down at least an hour before going to bed, signing off all devices and turning them off, assisting my chatter box to quiet down with meditation, and concealing any other blue light or indeed any light in my room, all key tips from our podcast.

Code cracked, right! Not so fast. There is another unhealthy encounter that many people have with sleep–sleeping too much, otherwise known as hypersomnia, which is not the same as being jet lagged and sleeping more than usual. It is when someone needs to sleep a lot all the time.

This can be tricky to diagnose because teenagers need more sleep than adults because of the growth and development they are encountering. But Dr Ramlakhan points out they can overdo it, putting a damper on health altogether, since sleeping too much is not good sleep either and can cause health problems akin to the ones caused by not getting enough sleep.

The key is getting the right amount of sleep for you. That cracks the code for sure. For more information on how to do this, outside of any medical problems, check out On Sleep wherever you listen to podcasts.

 

Boundaries for Your Best Life Now

Boundaries. Now there is a word that sets the cats amongst the pigeons, particularly for those who don’t really have boundaries or value the boundaries of others.

When I was a teenager, the word threw me into a tizzy, even if I did understand the importance of having boundaries, not only the ones my parents set for me but also the ones I set for myself. Still, I found some of them hard to honour, mostly because of peer pressure, though I didn’t often cave into the desires of others. But when I did, the consequences were longstanding.

Take for instance, the biggest boundary disaster I had during my teen years got me into hot water with my parents and on the outs with some of my friends, too.

I won’t go into detail but upon reflection, had I honoured my own boundaries, even withstanding the ones that my parents clearly set out, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and maintained a friendship that meant a lot to me.

In hindsight, however, I only have myself to blame. Caving into peer pressure led to being irresponsible and broken trust and broken relationships all over the place. Likely my reputation suffered a bit too.

Though much has changed since I was a teenage girl, such as the widespread use of technology, many of the issues are still the same—peer pressure is one of them.

It is all about being liked, reminds Lindsey Turnbull, guest of UIO’s On Girls Rights. Everyone wants to be liked.

I can vouch for that. But here is the thing: dishonouring your boundaries doesn’t guarantee being liked. It might backfire, as it did for me all those years ago.

It is important to like yourself, says Lindsey, who is founder of Miss Heard Media.  The more you like yourself, the easier it is to say no to things that don’t serve you.  Another way of seeing this is that having boundaries protects you from situations that do not serve you.

Further to this, Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend says in their New York Times bestselling book, Boundaries, that boundaries define us—what is me and what is not me.

This, I can attest to.  After my big disaster, I often had to dig deep and stand my ground if something just wasn’t me and I still do. This understanding of boundaries continues to help me navigate difficult situations. Though I don’t always get it right, being tuned into my own values helps me to take responsibility for my own life experiences.

Nonetheless, taking ownership isn’t always easy. It is much easier to cast blame. It’s this person’s fault or that person’s problem. The flipside is feeling guilt and taking on someone else’s problem. In this case, they likely haven’t set boundaries and you are dishonouring yours by taking on the issue.

Make no mistake about it, friends show-up for friends in need but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of values and boundaries.

According to Lindsey, the key is to self-reflect and review your values, which play a huge role in setting boundaries, as does character. This helps to curate your space, not only online but also your physical space.

Boundaries can be considered in all aspects of life ranging from the content you put online to who you follow online and what you read. You can use boundaries, for example, to block content that makes you uncomfortable or report it is as abuse.  In our On Being a Teen Girl Now podcast, Leah and Divaina talk about the inappropriate content that targets teenage girls about body image. While you might not be able to eliminate it completely, you can honour your boundaries and not read it or report it.

And, understanding that body image is about more than how you look helps you to like yourself more and live out your values—exercising, eating well, sleeping better and so on.

The thing about being young, Lindsey says, is that taking care of yourself does not have to be so regimented. Exercise can be running and jumping in the park or having fun with your friends on a sports team.

In other words, tap into your childhood spirit for as long as you have it, all the while setting boundaries, honouring them, and living your best life intentionally now. For more about boundaries and dealing with peer pressure, listen to On Girls Rights and Peer Pressure Inside Out with Full Circle Author Natalie Savvides.

 

 

Maintaining Your Family Relations

Family matters! It always has and it always will, but here is the thing about family: the relationships require maintenance just like friendships and romantic relationships.

If someone said this to me when I was a teenager, I might have hunched my shoulders because as far as I was concerned the relationship at home ran on auto pilot. It was my parent’s job to raise me and to put up with every sulk and mood that came over my teenage mind and body and quite frankly be happy about it. I felt they were responsible for meeting my needs. It never occurred to me that they had needs, too.

Thankfully, I had no nonsense parents who went a long way to take care of me and my siblings, but they didn’t jump through hoops, accepting disrespect and disregard. According to their values, they developed boundaries, which is quite key to maintaining family relationships. More on that later.

For now, let’s look at another aspect of maintaining good family relationships—effective communication. Without it, relationships perish, whether in a traditional family unit, like the one I grew up in, or a blended one, akin to what I live in now.

According to Dr Lisa Doodson, guest of our Your Family Matters podcast, if we rely on sensitivity and effective communication, we bring an openness to the table rather than a closed mindedness that can squash opportunities.

Take something as a simple as music, an acquaintance once talked about the importance of learning about her teenage daughter’s music instead of fobbing it off and refusing to let her play it on their drive to school. Though it wasn’t her thing, she decided it was a way to connect with her daughter.

No one needs to be marginalised or feel snubbed. But everyone must bring willingness to the table, says Dr Doodson. That means everyone—when I was teenager, I am not sure I understood.  However, in On Being a Teen Girl Now, teenage guests Leah and Divaina stress that communication is a two-way street.

Communicating effectively can open doors that have been previously shut, and in a blended family can be the gateway to broadening horizons of its members and can also increase emotional intelligence, according to Dr Doodson..

Take my relationship with my in-laws, for example. We had a good rapport from the word go but not for a moment did we pretend that we understood each other’s life experiences fully, particularly when it came to race. My in-laws grew up in the 30s, long before I was conceived, and were open minded about embracing my culture. And I had to put aside pre-conceived notions and stereotypes about theirs as well.

Another example might be a parent taking on a new partner after separation or divorce or loss. This can be challenging for everyone but employing sensitivity and effective communication can assist with overcoming hurdles. Instead of refusing to accept the new person, let your parent know that you understand that they have needs but you are not quite ready and need to take things slowly.

In our podcast, Dr Doodson and I talk about understanding roles and boundaries when a new person or persons enter your life. If new siblings come into the fold, open and honest communication becomes even more pivotal.

As for boundaries, they really come in handy in any family unit. Traditionally, such as in my family, our parents had rules about our comings and goings, etc, and it worked for the benefit of everyone. Nowadays boundaries extend far beyond the physical.

When using the internet, for instance, be sensitive to other family members. In a blended family this can become quite complex when posting about holidays and activities. Make sure it is fine with family members who are on the outside of the experience before doing so, otherwise, you could cross a line that leads to hurtful consequences.

The point is that all family members matter, whether a part of a traditional family or a blended one. Take care of yours with effective communication and healthy boundaries. For more information on family life, listen to Your Family Matters and Your Family Inside Out with Helen Lewis, founder of Literally PR.

 

 

Making Use of Unwelcome Change

Pre-covid I thought I knew as much as there was to know about change, though I have been accused of not having spontaneity. Never mind! It doesn’t take spontaneity to move from a small town to a big city or from one country to another. It takes nerves and planning, which has been key to my ability to insert change into my life and then manage it, come hell or high water.

And even the changes I did not drive such as a seemingly shift in societal norms the world over or a personal loss, I’ve somehow managed to stay in charge of my experiences to a certain degree, using my resolve, though I have learned along the way that grief doesn’t give a toss about resolve.

Admittedly, getting my head around change has not been easy, but it has been doable, if it meant somehow moving forward.

A former boss of mine used to say, “if you don’t do something to turn your life inside out for growth and development, something will happen to spur you on.” I took her at her word.

But here is the thing about change, it doesn’t always make clear growth opportunities, even when you have spearheaded the change. On the contrary, most times, particularly after a failure it suggests dead end after dead end.  Following a loss, which happens without warning, this is often the case, too.

Take Covid for example. For three years now, we have been waiting for this master of disaster to pack up and leave. It hasn’t and who knows if it ever well; it just keeps metamorphosising, throwing more blockades in the way. What now?

Acknowledge it, learn to live with what you cannot change, make the best of it, and change what you can, we are told repeatedly. Though it sounds crass, this way of life has worked for many of us over the years when we face seemingly insurmountable challenges brought about by change through no making of our own.

So why does it feel so much more challenging now? It could be the fast and furious nature of the change on a global, national, local, and personal scale. It is constant and tends to rob us of feelings of certainty which we need on a primal level to feel safe and well. We are living in uncertain times.

“The only thing that is certain is change itself.” says Anj Handa, founder of Inspiring Women Change Makers and guest of UIO’s How to Use Change for Betterment. That’s hard news, even if we have known this on some level all along. But as it is too close for comfort now all the time, thankfully, there are ways to make use of all unwelcome change.

Alongside accepting it as constant, Anj and I talk about the importance of being flexible and considering the ripple effects that offer positives, if you will. For example, though it was shattering to be outside of the US when I lost my father, one thing that the horrible experience gave me was the comfort that far more people attended his service online than would have ever fitted into the small church he loved so much. He was a great man and deserved a great homegoing.

This has been the case for others too, including the growth of online courses to support mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as marriage and other important causes and issues, for example.

Another way to use unwelcome change is to recognise imposter syndrome and send it back wherever it came from. Often after experiencing a challenge at school, in sports, at work, in our personal lives, we doubt our abilities. I see it time after time when a star athlete, for example, has a bad game, and is moved out of prime position.  Imposter syndrome creeps in. Only when they look for lessons learned and build upon those and go back to their own head and get the rest of us out of it, do they rise again.

Anj points out that even weighing in on an important conversation can be daunting for many people, especially young people, triggering imposter syndrome. Take advantage of technology and write a blog and if this feels too scary, choose an alias.

In a similar vein, when dealing with a change that causes conflict, use emotional correctness when speaking, whether voice to voice or through your writing. Anj explains that this means taking a viewpoint that doesn’t shame or upset people.

This is not always easy when your viewpoint differs from another, but the point is choosing correct language and delivery can be the difference in getting something achieved rather than being misunderstood. Hang on to who you are, no matter how tempting it is to react.

Finally, no need to go at it alone. When change is overwhelming, find a support network and develop your own coping strategy, a self-care plan if you will. If nothing suits, start your own group like the teenager who started Teen Grief Sucks.  And if this is not an option, it always feels good to help others—a neighbour, a friend, a stranger. The idea is to keep moving ahead.

While we can’t predict the future, we can accept that unwelcome change, as well as some welcome, is a sure shot.  For more information on making use of unwelcome change, check out How to Use Change for Betterment.

Reframing Friendships for Growth

Friends have played an integral part in my life ever since I can remember and still do. Though I have lost touch with many friends over the years, and gained many more, I do remember who I called a friend during each period of my life and what this meant to me. As life changes, so does our centre of gravity, and what a friendship means.

But one thing tends to remain the same about friendships, regardless of the time in life—they are a crucial part of social development.

From a childhood friend, who happened to be a cousin, who lived nearby, to my closest friends as a teenager, to my bestie in university and my BFF today, we showed up for each other, during good and not so good times. And we grew together in most instances. Over the years, I’ve had several other friends who fit that category too. More about this later.

In the meantime, I remember the teenage years being most pivotal to social growth and development. Like most, I hung out with people who had similar interests, values, etc… and I learned a lot about valuing differences, too.  According to experts, this comes as no surprise because as a teen we spend more time interacting with others outside of the family, discovering more about ourselves, establishing values and boundaries, and even learning how to face adversity and conflict. Friends, they say, are crucial to feeling a sense of belonging and familiarity.

This makes sense because our friends are roughly our age during this time and know more about what is going on in our world than those outside of our generation. Granted that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from our family and other generations; it just means that during adolescence friends tend to have more influence than others.

No wonder it is crucial to understand what a healthy friendship looks and feels like. Like other relationships, friendships twist and turn and can often provide the glue that we need to stay cohesive when life seems to come unstuck. Our podcast, How to Nurture Friendship During a Crisis with parenting coach Sue Atkins, offers great advice on how to keep a friendship healthy, particularly during a difficult time such as the lockdown era of the global pandemic.

Sue points out the importance of reframing situations when necessary to keep the friendships alive. For example, as people were no longer able to meet up in person, Sue suggested having planned and regular times online, enjoying activities together as you would have in person such as breaking out of an escape room.

Reframing works equally as well outside of a physical crisis. Though the pandemic has taken a different shape, it is still lurking around, as well as many other atrocities. So, if a friend is grieving, for instance, or having difficult times due to personal hardships, it is key to empathise and offer support. This could be as little as texting an emoji that represents your support or as much as sitting in a quiet space with the person. The key is to remember that your friends’ centre of gravity has changed, even if only for a while.

Sometimes long-term changes can come after joining a sports team, a club and so on. The key is to focus on things that interests you both and offer support and encouragement for each other’s growth.  Sadly, sometimes friendships run their course for one reason or another. This presents growth opportunities as well, whether you end the friendship, your friend does, or it just ends.

Certainly, I have had situational friends over the years at university, work and so on and through no fault of either of us, the friendship came to a natural end. Also, I have ended friendships when growth and interests took a different direction and friends have ended our relationship, as well. This can be hard but offers opportunities for resolving conflict, internally and externally.

The key is all friendships offer growth opportunities and while some end prematurely, others stand the test of time.

Case and point: the relationship I developed with two women writers when I arrived in London some 25 years ago. Without the two of them, I might still be wandering around looking for a way into the writing community. Seriously, I remember vehemently disliking the idea of joining groups and short-term courses and was quite happy to sit in a room of my own and teach myself about novel writing and do without constructive feedback. Though such activities were worthwhile, barring the dislike of feedback, they did not get me over the social hurdle. Being on my own in a new country often felt isolating and paralysing.

But after becoming close with these two women and receiving their support and honest feedback, I found the courage to work on honing my craft out of a vacuum, which meant socialising, joining, receiving, and giving.

And here I am, wiser for it and though my novel writing career has seemingly ended, the friendships have not. They have simply been reframed, allowing us to encourage each other to move upwards and onwards in whatever direction our centre of gravity has shifted to.

On that note, I encourage you to have a think about your own friendships and what they mean to you. Remember to take care of you inside out, keeping friendships healthy. They’ll serve you and your friends well throughout the good and bad times in life.

For more tips on nurturing friendships, see the podcast mentioned above How to Nurture Friendship During a Crisis, as well as On Dating Inside Out with Cat Williams and Your Identity Inside Out with Rachita Saraogi and Rebecca Thomson, co-founders of Sisterhood.

Self-Esteem for Motivation, Self-Confidence for Action

I am not sure I’ve always understood the difference between self-confidence and self-esteem but one thing for sure is that I have always known the importance of both.

When I first moved to the UK, if I was asked once, I was asked a thousand times: “where in the world did, you get the confidence to make such a move. Aren’t you afraid of failing?”

Fear of failure, I often thought, has nothing to do with confidence. But trust in your skills and abilities does. I had relied on this trust when I went to university, when I landed my first job as a reporter, when I moved from Southwest Georgia to New York City, and then when I returned to Georgia to take a job that would send me around the world.

Granted, none of the experiences offered complete smooth sailing but I hung in there, chiefly because I believed in myself. And well, if I failed, and sometimes I stumbled, I would chalk it up to experience.

No wonder I have often been told that I wear confidence in my body language, in how I walk, talk or in how I perform a task, for example.  But make no mistake about it, people with oodles of self-confidence have low moments, too.  One for me is learning to swim—I simply don’t trust myself to do it. More on that later.

In the meantime, however, confident as I might be, I have been told more times than I care to hear that my self-esteem is often lacking. How could this be? Aren’t the two inherently linked.

Of course, they are, as Kai Graham points out in UIO’s podcast: Your Voice Matters.  But they are not one in the same. Self-confidence shows up in skills and abilities to act, to do something like drive a car, play a sport, a musical instrument, bag a job, talk to people, set up a business, learn to swim. You get the picture.

In UIO’s first podcast ever, Your Confidence Inside Out, Cheryl Grace says we need confidence all the time, as much as we need warm clothing in inclement weather. So don’t turn up at your swimming lessons without it, right. And Cheryl never does.  If her own life is a measure of how far self-confidence can take you, then we should all seek it in abundance.

But how do we do that? It is as complicated or as simple as believing and trusting in your abilities, which overlaps with self-esteem, all about how you feel about yourself. Low self-esteem can certainly shake-up confidence. I know this first hand from feeling bad about myself for some odd reason or another, don’t like this or that, which starts the vicious cycle of self-criticism often leading to a downward spiral.

Looking over my shoulder, I can see that such feelings start inside and pull you down faster than you realise. Thankfully, I have managed to recover quickly from any such falls.

Sadly, however, low self-esteem can and often does hold people down. It often lurks in body image, for example, taunting self-belief and directly or indirectly impacting confidence. That is why it is so key to work inside out, looking at self-esteem from a mental/emotional perspective. Several of our podcasts offer tips on how to build good self-esteem, including the two mentioned above, as well as How to Take Care of Your Body During Tough Times with Hope Virgo.

The key is to practice self-love, however that works best for you.  It could mean repeating a mantra each day such as looking in the mirror and saying, “I am enough”, learning new things such as how to swim and testing the waters in small doses, if you will. Got it! Swimming lessons coming up for the third time.

Finally focus on what you do like about yourself and less so on what you don’t. Change what is changeable without compromising who you are or engaging in unhealthy behaviours. Remember, you are enough. As for the things you cannot change, change your perspective.

Once you feel good about yourself, you will intuitively gain more confidence to make new friends, try new activities, master new skills and so on. And remember it isn’t always about winning or losing, it is about having the motivation to play the game and enjoy it!