Vulnerability

If you follow my Facebook you will have noticed I have been posting about being vulnerable and what might prevent us from taking a risk (making us vulnerable). As you may have guessed I am reading a new book. I discovered Daring Greatly by Brene Brown, and what a revelation it has been. I have been embracing my vulnerability and examining my shame ever since. I have found myself shoehorning shame and vulnerability into nearly every conversation I have at work.

If you have not read it, I implore you to do so, it has definitely changed they way I view my life.

To give you a taster of whether this is up your street, I will explain to you the biggest impact this book has had on me.

First lets explain what Brene means when she talks about being vulnerable. We make ourselves vulnerable when we do things that are not guaranteed to end in success. Being vulnerable is when we put ourselves in situations where we might be criticised, attacked, rejected, or just ignored. What prevents us from being vulnerable is shame. Shame is when we attach what we do to our self-worth. So if we fail it is that we where not worthy of success. Shame is shaped from external cultural influences, such as our family, work, religion, or wider society. Brene suggests that men and women can experience shame differently. She describes women shame as web, as it is complex and often contradictory potentially trapping women in a web of shame. Men she says experience a box of shame, where their shame keeps us inside a box of conformity.

Now let me explain this a little further. In her book she describes research in to feminine norms and conformity carried out in the US. This research compiled a list of attributes associated with being feminine:

  • Being nice
  • Pursuing a thin body ideal
  • Showing modesty, by not calling attention to ones talents or abilities
  • Being domestic
  • Caring for children
  • Investing in a romantic relationship
  • Keeping sexual intimacy contained within one committed relationship
  • Using their resources to invest in their appearance

I know at first read you think those Americans, they are so backward. If you think that, read it again and think about your life and the women around you, and the attitudes of the media we are exposed to. These attitudes are still prevalent, if not overtly, they are still prevalent in peoples heads. Add to this attributes that are required professionally for women, to be strong minded, driven, the best you can be, be bold and decisive, and you can see that complex web of shame can develop.

The same research listed masculine attributes:

  • Winning
  • Emotional control
  • Risk-taking
  • Violence
  • Dominance
  • Playboy
  • Self-reliance
  • Primacy of work
  • Power over women
  • Disdain for homosexuality
  • Pursuit of status

When I first read this I objected strongly to a number of these statements, and then I thought about growing up as a young man and the conversations I have in the company of men (mostly men that I do not know well) and the majority of these attributes are very evident. I remember in my youth feeling uncomfortable with the fact that I did not share these attributes with men and would often feel shame when in the company of men. For a British man I would add being a pack member (something again I did not partake in comfortably as a young man, causing me shame). The most important message given to men is not to be weak. Never show weakness. On top of that modern man has to listen, be sensitive, and be kind, but if you show weakness whilst doing this you have had it. So men can end up trapping themselves in a box to prevent them from feeling shame

After reading this section of the book, my life fell into place. I have been experiencing shame all my life, along with all my friends. When my old teacher told me I was culturally deprived she was describing my shame for not possessing masculine attributes. I now completely understand Foggy (my negative self talk) as a manifestation of my shame for not being strong and masculine.

I am beginning to understand what triggers my shame. These things that I do that trigger my shame do not define my self-worth. What defines my self-worth is that I can make myself vulnerable. The fact that I can be sensitive, and show emotion, means that I can show empathy to others and care for people that are feeling shame.  I am enough and I am worthy of everything I receive (good or bad).

Writing this blog makes me vulnerable, and I know that I will beat myself up about it after I have published it. Up until 5 minutes before I started writing it, I was telling myself that no one would read it or like it. In fact that is the risk I am taking, but this blog is not attached to myself worth. If no one reads it or likes it, I will be disappointed but it does not make me useless and worthless as Foggy would have me believe.

If you want to do something because you enjoy it, do it (as long as it does not result in hurting others). Do it because you can, because you are worthy, and you are enough.

Brown, Brene. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love and Lead. UK: Penguin Life, 2015.

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A walk up Snowdon

Last weekend , I met up with a few of my old school friends, and we went for a walk up Snowdon, as you do!

Now normally we meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, reminisce and get hammered. Not all of us manage to get to these sessions and even when most of us are there we don’t always get the chance to speak to everyone before we all go our separate ways.

Well back in December most of the lads, not me however, met up in Chester, and the idea of spending the weekend together, and hiking up a mountain was formed. All the best ideas are born in a drunken stupor, don’t you think!

Luckily the idea did not fade with the hangover, but actually grew and by late January early February had become a thing, a thing we had all become committed to, both financially and philosophically. Many of us in the group (when I say many, I actually mean myself and possibly Lee) had no idea what the reality of walking up Snowdon was. Thousands of people young and old walk, run and even cycle up Snowdon every year. Colin even did it over Christmas when it was -15 (I will get back to Colin later). So how hard could it be.

So the day came to travel to Chester to meet up with my friends and travel on to the farmhouse we had hired for the weekend (their was 8 of us and it was quite reasonably priced before you think of us as flash gits). I was so excited, it was like Christmas Eve when I was 5.

We stopped off on the way to collect supplies in Colwyn Bay. My advice would be if visiting Colwyn Bay, do your shopping before you get there. This shopping experience however did not dampen my excitement.

When we arrived Colin and Rich Turner (there are 2 Rich’s) decided to test out a route before the main ascent the next day. Like 2 demented fools myself and Lee gleefully volunteered to join them. My glee soon soured as we clambered up a hillside through muddy fields and over styles. I thought my legs were going to fall off and my lungs explode. Rich informed us that this was a trial to see if we could cut across to the trail we would use tomorrow to prevent us from walking along the road for half a mile. When we reached the said trail, I thought to myself how the fuck am I going to walk all the way to the top tomorrow. What had I committed myself too. I had seriously over estimated my level of fitness and ability to walk on slopes. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and discovering that Christmas was in fact just a really long Maths exam. I didn’t want to show myself up too much, however the few of us that had taken on this mini adventure had witnessed my distinct lack of ability on slopes.

Fuck it! I thought, give it a go, and see what happens, I said to myself.

Ian had stayed behind during our recce to cook tea, and what a fantastic tea it was, veggie chilli, and tequila! The rest of the party except Rich J arrived later that evening, and much merriment and laughter ensued.

Throughout the evening and into the night, I grappled with my self 1 telling me to bow out, fake an injury or illness, anything just don’t do it, because at best you will look fat and useless and at worst you might die, self 2 saying, just do it, think of the views, the sense of achievement.

I went with self 2 clearly but resolved that I would go at my own pace, just to keep self 1 happy.

Rich J arrived just after breakfast and we set off. We walked along the road to the Ranger trail, we had decided that was a sensible option.

When we got to the trail, I struggled from the off, and had to stop regularly to release the tension in my back or get my breath. My fitter, and thinner friends were all very understanding and regularly waited for me or walked with me. Colin being super fit, went off ahead (he had already run 7 Miles before we set off). At times the others were grateful to take to wait for me and have a breather. I was determined to finish, to reach the top. To do that I had to go at my slow pace. This walk up Snowdon had turned into a personal battle. My self 1, the cautious me, wanted to stop and go back, my self 2, the spontaneous me, the achieving me wanted to carry on. Throughout my life when it came to physical achievement, and pushing myself, self 1 would nearly always win. This time self 2 was going to win. I used Colin as a focus, to me Colin always appears to let his self 2 take the lead, so during that walk up Snowdon I was allowing Colin to inspire and motivate me. He didn’t know he was doing it, he was doing something he enjoyed. I needed something or someone to focus on and Colin fit the bill. I imagined him waiting for me at the top and that thought pulled me up. Every time I wanted to stop, Colin said to me give it another 5 minutes then see how you are. (Colin never said that Colin was too far ahead to notice me) That got me to the top.

When the summit came into view I cried, in fact I wanted to break down and sob. I didn’t, I managed to hold myself together. I had done it, I had managed to prevent my self 1 from getting me to give up, my self 2 had one. This personally was a landmark moment in my life. That is why I wanted to breakdown and cry, I was so relieved.

Anyway enough sloppiness. When we arrived at the top, it was packed, there was a queue to the summit! Worse still the cafe didn’t open for another week, and it was snowing!

After some food when started our descent, via another trail, this trail was partly along a ridge that Rich T said was nice and safe. He might have thought that! I was terrified! Looking at some of the pictures the views from the ridge were incredible, I couldn’t see them, I had lost my peripheral vision by this point.

This was harder than the ascent, most of the time we were scrambling down rocks, trying not to slip. Again my athletic prowess meant that I brought up the rear. I was cold, wet and mentally and physically exhausted when I arrived in the pub nearly 6 hours after we set off.

That first pint was the nicest pint I ever had. After another we all went back to the farmhouse for showers and food this time cooked by Rob. We had a selection of curries, That frankly were wonderful.

That evening was a little more subdued, than the evening before and a little less alcohol was drunk, but still a wonderful evening was had nonetheless.

After a fitful sleep and a hearty breakfast we said our goodbyes, with a promise of doing something else in the autumn, perhaps a little less challenging than Snowdon.

After coming back I have felt strange a little subdued, and a little unsure of myself. Whilst writing this I have realised why. That weekend I did something I rarely do, I pushed myself beyond the limits I set myself. I realised that I am really unfit, and I need to do something about that. More importantly I have learned that I can go beyond what I think is my limit, all I have to do is listen to self 2 more. It is easy said in coaching sessions, but doing it is different, now I understand how I can turn my self 1 down. I know I can achieve far more than I think I can.

Being able to use this experience in my coaching will be invaluable. Giving the client the space to explore what their self 1 and self 2 are saying to them, will help them determine who has the stronger voice and who needs to have the stronger voice.

A bit of escapism

I Love to daydream. It takes me to a happy place, when I am feeling a little fed up.

Most days foggy makes an appearance as I have mentioned before. That on the whole is fine, I have come to accept him and his negativity, he is me after all. Some days the things he says are more painful than others, and I find it a little harder to be passive and not try to suppress what he is saying. This is normally when he is highlighting my shortcomings. Paradoxically in the long run him shining a light and exaggerating these failings is useful as it spurs me into action, to at least go some way to addressing them. That is no doubt why they are more painful.

To help me handle the discomfort I will often reach for my music to help distract me, to take me to another world. If I am feeling sad a melancholic I might go through my back catalogue of sad songs to allow me to wallow and enjoy the misery of self pity. Now self pity is a comfortable state to be in as it requires no action. The thing is I want action, I don’t want these shortcomings to be shortcomings I want to turn them into actions. I need to be forward thinking.

I still reach for my music, music creates emotions and changes the way I feel. When I want to be positive and forward thinking I listen to new music, music I have never heard before, sometimes it is brilliant, sometimes it is ok and sometimes it is awful. It is always exciting and creative and optimistic. It makes me feel creative, optimistic and forward thinking.

Now I will not address all my shortcomings because I listened to Father John Misty’s latest song but I might just start working towards some of those neglected goals and remind myself of all the things I have achieved over the last week.

We all find our ways to pull us out of our funk, just remember do the thing that makes you happy and creates optimism, not what you think you should do, or what makes other people happy.

Writing this blog always makes me happy. Sharing playlists makes me happy.

So here’s both my blog, and below is a playlist. An Apple Music one this time. If you want it on Spotify let me know otherwise enjoy my little bit of escapism this month.

My New Music Escapism Playlist

If you want to discuss how you can create an optimistic future for yourself get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or this blog.

Have a great rest of the week and remember we have a rough times, it’s what we do with them that counts.

Memories of my School Days

In a couple weeks I am meeting up with some friends from school.

We try to meet up at least once a year. It’s wonderful to have that connection with the past, and also our or present and future.

We normally meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, then sit round getting drunk and generally have a fabulous time. The night always goes too quick and before we know it we are going out separate ways for another year.

This year we decided to do something different, something that lasted longer. So we are walking up Snowdon and spending the weekend in cottage.

I cannot wait, it will be great to see everyone and to have more time to catch up.

In my excitement I started thinking about our time in 6th Form 30 years ago. You know what I found it quite difficult to remember much. What I did remember was the music I was listening to, and that triggered memories of parties, gigs and nights out.

So being predictable and a lover I put together a playlist. It was great fun to put together. My initial playlist was 5 hours long though. I have managed to get it down to just over an hour and half.

It is a bit of a mix of rock, indie and pop, each song though triggered a memory and transported me back to the late 80s, happy times.

Give it a listen if you wish.

Memories of My School Days

Personality, Colour Blocks, and Bacon Sarnies

This morning I realised I hadn’t written a blog about my exciting week last week.

I suppose I need to start on Sunday night (last week). I was packing clothes with a sense of excitement, and trepidation as I prepared for 4 days away with work. See I don’t normally get the chance to work away, in fact this is the first time I have worked away from Hull in over 20 years, and then it was an 7 week placement in Scunthorpe, so I’m not sure that counts.

This time I was being sent to Derby with a colleague to become an accredited practitioner of a personality preference evaluation tool.

It sounds very fancy and it is! To be honest I was quite sceptical even though I had, had my profile completed about 18 months ago. My problem was that personality preferences were categorised into colours with descriptions such a fiery red and cool blue, and then people would wear their colour personality as a badge of honour or use it to explain their poor behaviours. I am now however educated and enlightened. In fact I can see how powerful a tool this evaluator can be to help people achieve their goals both individually and collectively. What is needed though is enough people with enough understanding to challenge the stereotypes that can develop if the language of colours is used in isolation. I prefer to say that I prefer to be a supporting helper, but can be a reforming director if needed. If used properly this tool can stretch people’s capabilities.

I am so pleased I went on this 4 day course, it has energised my enthusiasm for coaching ( I didn’t think that was possible either).

It wasn’t just the content of the course that energised me. When you work in a hospital it is easy just to surround yourself with like minded people, generally people that work in public office (healthcare, social care, police, fire service and education). On this course public sector workers were in the minority and I was working alongside people from a wide variety of industries. You know what? They are just like me! We had a great time working with each other and learning so much.

The course was held in a swanky hotel on the outskirts of Derby. Being NHS employees we did not stretch the public purse, so we stayed down the road in Derby in a normal hotel. However lunch, coffee and snacks were part of the course, and oh boy they were lovely, the bacon sarnies were my personal favourite.

You may be wondering what the coloured blocks means in the title. Well when you have your profile done you get coloured blocks that you can put in you order of preference. From now on however I will be using my blocks to demonstrate that the colour code they produce is not fixed and you can and should use all of your personality to benefit yourself and your team.

I will gladly say those 4 days were 4 of the most inspiring and enlightening days I have experienced for a long time.

A shivering March Mix Tape

On this cold and snowy March morning I thought I would share my warming March mix tape. The music that has sat with me through this month of contrasting temperatures and moods.

I put this together based on what has turned up on the radio or in shuffle on my phone. Music that has peaked my interest throughout the month. This music has sat in my ears providing a soundtrack to my commutes and when cooking.

Music is such an important part of my life. Because of that I think it is important to share what is resonating with me. Feel free to dip in and have a listen, you might already know the music, but their might be a song in there that really connects with you and changes everything.

As always the playlist is just the right length to fit on a C60 tape for all of you old enough to remember mixtapes.

Think of this as my monthly gift to you.

My March Mix Tape

A Mixtape to Improve My Mood

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This week has not been the worst or the most challenging week I have ever had but it was challenging all the same.

This week has been a combination of interpersonal challenges, managing my time and workload in relation to being on holiday next week and planning for a busy month, with the addition of an irritating uncomfortable winter virus.

This resulted in me going to work every morning with a cloud of self-pity hanging over me.

To gee me up I turned to my generic fruit based music streaming service, collecting a playlist of songs that take stop me worrying about the past and future and bring me into the present. They may remind of being younger, so do fleetingly take me to the past, but more importantly they create that positive emotion.

That positive emotion intern evokes optimism and creativity setting me up for the day, helping face the challenges set and achieving the actions I had set myself.

I thought I would share some of my current positive share list with you. Each is a link to you tube for you to have  listen if you wish.

Also sharing my music makes me happy and consequently improves my creativity and wellbeing.

I have shortened the playlist to 6o minutes to replicate the old mix tape style.

So please accept my gift of a virtual mix tape from me to you.

Adore-Savages

Aerials-System of a Down

Queen of California-John Mayer

The Wrong Year-The Decemberists

The One I Love-REM

Pain-The War on Drugs

Ubu-Methyl Ethel

Working Man-Rush

White Riot-The Clash

LSF-Kasabian

Reckoner-Radiohead