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Perfectly Imperfect Image

How To Make Better Friends With What You See In The Mirror

1024 682 Deborah Newton, life-coach for Clear Skies Coaching Limited

Perfectly Imperfect Image

“It’s what’s on the inside that matters.” Riiiiiiiight. You may feel this rings true for you intellectually. And you may even wholeheartedly believe this applies to others. But do you really believe this when it comes to your own good self? When you look at yourself in the mirror, can you see past your perceived flaws? You can’t help but see lumpy bits, wrinkles, ugliness, a humongous stomach, cellulite, a crooked nose…the list can feel endless. Feeling dissatisfied with your appearance can affect your self-confidence and impact how you interact in life. Read on to learn steps for helping you get on the path of appreciating yourself even just a little bit more…

“Next time you look in the mirror, make a mental note of what you’re telling yourself. Just observe the judgements you’re making. And observe how one remark can trigger a downward spiral of further negative comments.”

What are you saying to yourself?

Disliking your appearance in some way may be something you have carried around with you for years. Periodically reminding yourself just how dreadful you look may have become so habitual that you’re not even conscious of your self-criticism.

Step 1: Next time you look in the mirror, make a mental note of what you’re telling yourself. Just observe the judgements you’re making. And observe how one remark can trigger a downward spiral of further negative comments. The more you can pick up on the first ‘layer’ of self-criticism, the greater chance you have of being able to separate yourself from that criticism. And as a result, you’re less likely to get embroiled in the exhausting cycle of self-rebuke.

Not good enough for who?!

So we’ve established you’ve spent a good portion of your life reminding yourself time and time again that you’re simply “not good enough”. You’re not slim enough. You’re not pretty enough. You’re not attractive enough. These statements become so normal and so engrained that you treat them as factual; as the truth.

Step 2: When you’re telling yourself you’re not enough in some way, PAUSE. And ask yourself:

“Enough for who?”

(And if there is someone who is telling you’re not enough then maybe now is the time to evaluate your relationship with that person!)

“Enough for what?”

Who are you measuring yourself against? What standards are you placing on yourself? Where have those standards and measurements come from? Who says we should be measured and compared alongside someone else? And what does being attractive enough actually mean? Digging deeper into thoughts can shine a light on how irrational, unrealistic or unhelpful our self-judgements may be. Or they may reveal pressure that you’ve piled on yourself due to a previous experience that you’re not letting go of.

“You are not your body or your face. You are your laugh, your smile, your kindness, your irritability, your caring nature, your habits, your skills, your passions, your dreams, your wisdom, your sense of humour, your sensitivity…there is no exhaustive list.”

Resist Or Accept

So you’re as sure as hell not going to validate yourself, so you look externally. And if someone else gives you the approval you’re desperately looking for, you finally feel good about yourself….temporarily. And then you’re back to square one.

Or perhaps you don’t receive the validation you want from others, and so you fall deeper into what seems like a bottomless pit of shame and self-disgust.

Apart from the pit is never bottomless. And ‘square one’ is not permanent. You have a choice.

You can continue to resist yourself, lamenting the state of your appearance. OR you can start by ACCEPTING yourself.

Step 3: Whenever you experience self-loathing or self-criticism, place your hand on your heart and say to yourself, “I accept myself exactly as I am right now”. Out loud or just a thought – it’s whatever you feel comfortable with.

Who are you, really?

You are not your body or your face. You are your laugh, your smile, your kindness, your irritability, your caring nature, your habits, your skills, your passions, your dreams, your wisdom, your sense of humour, your sensitivity…there is no exhaustive list. The more you can focus on what is ‘right’ about yourself, the more you can recognise you are SO much more than your exterior. You are refusing to be identified purely with the physical.

Step 4: Make a list of everything you like about yourself. If this is a struggle, ask a friend or family member. And include anything – no matter how small (for example, from acknowledging your eyebrows to appreciating your dedication to housework!). Remind yourself you’re more than enough by looking at this list on days when you’re feeling particularly down about yourself.

And if you need some inspiration on how you are so much more than your body, I urge you to watch this wonderfully moving and uplifting TED talk from Janine Shepherd.

We are all perfectly imperfect, FACT!

Consider these wise words of Lao Tzu: “When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be.” This moment is a new opportunity to let go of the pattern of self-rebuke and the clinging to the exterior. By doing that, you give yourself permission to shine brighter than you’ve ever shined before. And remember: we are all perfectly imperfect in our own unique way. The sooner you can make friends with your imperfections, the greater freedom you have to enjoy life.


Balance Isn’t Something You Have, It’s Something You Do

768 1024 Caroline Flanagan


“Better work-life balance this year,” said my friend Hannah when I asked about her New Year’s resolutions in January. “Last year was too manic and out of control. I spent the whole year rushing from one thing to the next and it was just exhausting”.

Hannah is not the only one I know looking for better work-life balance this year. “No time to think” and “Life is flying by too quickly” were common phrases on the lips of friends, family and clients throughout last December. Does it resonate with you?

The winter months don’t help, do they? You can’t escape the darkness! Dark and foggy when you leave the house in the morning, dark and rainy when you come home in the evening, and every moment in between spent in the office. It’s hard to feel that your life is well balanced in these conditions.

So whether you’re suffering from the winter blues or still feeling hung over after an exhausting 2015, here are my top tips for getting better balance this year:

1. Treat balance as an action, not an objective
Most people I know talk about balance as something they want to attain, a state they want to reach. When you do this you are short-changing yourself. It means that anything less than a perfectly segmented life divided between equal hours spent working, sleeping, having fun, socialising, relaxing etc., will make you feel as though you are out of balance. As long as ‘work’ is the dominant activity on your list, leaving you less time to spend on your ‘life’ activities, you’ll feel a constant sense of imbalance.

All of this changes when you view balance as an action. In other words, something that you do each day to ensure your life is on the right track and to help you correct your course when it’s not. For example, if you have had a horrendous few weeks working long hours, instead of focusing on how little time you have left for your life stuff, you…

2. Get up an hour earlier
You may not like the sound of this if you feel forever sleep deprived and struggle out of bed every morning, but I assure you from past experience, and the experience of my clients, how effective this can be. The hour before your day typically starts is the one part of your day that you have control over. Every other part of the day is open season for everybody and everything else. Train yourself to get up earlier by starting slowly, and dedicating that time to you, just you and only you. No email, no work. Spend it thinking, meditating, writing a diary or just reading something of interest. In my experience this one hour of quiet time each day spent focusing on myself – what’s working well, what isn’t, what I want to change or do better and who I really care about – has had a greater impact on my work-life balance than any other work-life balance strategy I’ve tried.

3. Declutter
Not the most obvious work-life balance strategy, but it works. When you are surrounded by clutter and stuff, not only does it create a sense of overwhelm and constant busyness, it eats up your time. When your environment (your work desk, your home) is organised, you can find things more easily and focus more effectively, instead of wasting time and energy looking for things you can’t find and feeling as though everything is out of control. Both of these make you more efficient, and with efficiency comes freedom.



4. Say no to friends

Yes, that’s right, friends. Now, I know this sounds like a crazy and counter-intuitive way of trying to get better balance. After all, I hear you ask, isn’t the quest for better work-life balance about having more time for friends? Yes, exactly. But most people have too many friends. By which I mean more friends than they have any hope of building or sustaining quality relationships with. But instead of admitting this to ourselves we put everyone we know and are friendly with into one box labelled “Friends” and spend our limited time spreading ourselves thinly between them. This approach will never help you to feel you have a good work life balance. What you need is to be fiercely selective about which friendships you want to nurture and dedicate to them decent chunks of your quality time. So grab a pen and write down your top 3 most important friends (your VIFs) and make them your absolute priority this year. Say no to invitations from everyone else. NB: You are not giving up on your other friendships, you are simply prioritising those which are most important this year.

5. Say no to extended family
See 4 above.

6. Make regular adjustments
It’s a subject I come back to with clients over and over again, and which I cover in my book, Baby Proof Your Career. Successful living doesn’t mean choosing a straight and narrow path and always staying on it; it means choosing a path and when (rather than if) you stray from it, using the skills and resources you have at your disposal to get yourself back on track. Getting yourself back on track can mean anything from checking you are on the right path in the first place (does it align with your values? Are you chasing the right dream?) to making minor adjustments in your schedule that improve your quality of life. When it comes to getting better balance, these minor adjustments are key. For example, when your diary is full to brimming and your work load is spiralling out of control, it may be time to cancel all non-urgent commitments and/or improve your delegation skills. When you feel it’s impossible to fit exercise into your routine, it may be time to re-evaluate how you exercise and when – if going to the gym at lunchtime doesn’t work, then perhaps it needs to be a run before work.

7. Question your assumptions
My work as a Coach is all about questions, and the question that usually brings the greatest revelation is: What are you assuming? When you feel your life is out of balance and you’re stuck for a solution, this question will bear all kinds of fruit. Are you making assumptions about how you will be judged if you leave the office early? About what others expect of you? About what is acceptable? About what it means to have work-life balance?

Which of these tips will you adopt this year, in your quest for better balance? If you’ve got any questions or would like to talk about how you can improve your balance, then please get in touch.

happy family

What do your Family and Friends mean to you?

1000 877 Clare Evans, Personal and Business Coach


This is the fifth in a series of articles to help you focus on a different aspect of your life and to inspire and motivate you to make a change in one or more areas.

What do your Family and Friends mean to you?

• How often do you see close family?
• Do you have a circle of good friends?
• How often do you spend time with them?
• Do you have a good relationship with your children?

This week is about focusing on the important people in your lives.

When you’re putting in the hours at work, it’s too easy to ignore or take for granted those closest to you and those that know you best. You snatch a couple of hours in the evening and maybe you manage a bit of time at the weekend. Are you zoning out or trying to relax with a bit of TV, eating meals while you work or check social media or emails? Are you still thinking about work as you read the children a bedtime story, catching up on work when they’re in bed or getting home so late you miss their evening routine?

Maybe friends have moved away and you don’t see members of your family as often. You keep meaning to call and arrange to meet up but ‘you’re too busy this week’, you’ve got a report due next month, you’re busy for the next two weekends … Next week becomes next month and then next year and before you know it years have passed and you’ve lost touch.

You’ll have friends you don’t see often but when you reconnect it’s as if you’ve never been apart.

While social media can help you to stay connected with friends and family you don’t get a chance to see as often, it can also make you more isolated. Even families living together retreat to separate locations to chat to their ‘online’ friends but forget to have real conversations with the people right there in front of them.

Friends come and go during the course of our lives. You may have friends you’ve known since childhood. Friends you’ve met at different stages of your life and then move on to new and different friends.


What difference could you make to your Family & Friends this week?

• Who in your family haven’t you spoken to in a while?
• Phone a friend you’ve been meaning to talk to for a while.
• Write a letter or send an email to a friend or family.

Spend time this week with the important people in your life. Not just time you would normally spend together but plan something different.

Re-evaluate your relationships with your friends. Do you have friends who always seem to want something from you? Do some of your friends drag you down more than they lift you up.

Only have people around you who respect and support you, who you enjoy being with and make the time and effort to see or talk to them regularly.

Enjoy the time spent with your family and friends this week.

Social Life

Lawyers: Your Social Life!

1024 683 Clare Evans, Personal and Business Coach


This is the fourth in a series of articles to help you focus on different areas of your life and to inspire and motivate you to make a change in one or more areas. How much time do you spend having fun and socialising?

• Are you spending most of your weekend catching up on work or doing chores?

• Would you like to see your friends more often?

• Are you able to find time for interests and hobbies outside of work?

• Do you need to have more fun in your life?

You’re so busy at work or just dealing with your day-to-day life you don’t allow yourself enough time to relax, unwind and have fun any more.

At the end of a busy day, especially if you also have a long commute, you’re too tired to think about socialising or there’s just about enough time for a meal, brief catch-up with family (or squeezing in a few more hours of work) before bed and another early start.

However, it’s important to find time to get out, socialise and meet up with friends. It’s important to do something different outside of work to enable you to de-stress. It’s important to find time to recharge your battery, especially if you’re regularly spending long hours at work.

Think about something you enjoy but haven’t done in a while? What fun stuff did you do when you were younger or had more time that you don’t do now?

Take Action:

What difference could you make to have more fun or social time this week?

• Do something you haven’t done in a while – just for fun!

• Plan time for a meal or arrange a social evening with friends you haven’t seen for a while but have been meaning to call.

• Find time each week to meet up with a friend just for a coffee, a meal or a chat.

If you’re working hard, you need to make find time in the day to relax and unwind.

Find thirty minutes at the end of each day just for you. Switch off, disconnect from technology – your phone, computer, tablet and TV. Listen to music, read a book, tune in to what’s going on around you.

When you are out socialising and having fun, stay focused on where you are and the people you’re with. Enjoy the time and don’t get distracted about what you ‘should’ be doing. Leave work for the office and

Have fun this month and if you can’t find time to plan your social life or don’t know where to start – get in touch.


Good Grief

1024 772 Susan Carr

good grief

As I mentioned in my last article, as a counsellor I am used to talking about death particularly in relation to bereavement. There is a vast amount of literature on this topic and it would not be possible to summarise it all here but I thought it may be useful to share some of the ways that I work with bereavement.

When a person experiences a bereavement there can be all sorts of emotions – shock, anger, sadness, guilt, confusion and it may feel as though your whole life has been turned upside down. These feelings may be difficult to control and there can be a fear that you are somehow “going mad”. However these are all natural reactions to a bereavement and form part of the process that is called “grief”.

The grief process is different for everyone although as noted in the literature there are common experiences and feelings. Grief will be affected by a number of different factors such as your relationship with the person who has died, your past experience of bereavement, the circumstances of the death (for example, whether it was caused by illness, accident, murder, suicide etc) , other stressors in your life and many other variables. This is why a person can have quite different grief reactions to different bereavements. There is no set time limit for the grief process despite the fact that comments are often made such as “you should be over this by now”. There is an argument that for some people they may never fully get over their grief but that what happens with time is that their life grows around the grief.

Some of the literature around bereavement refers to different “stages” , however it is not meant that grief is a linear process whereby you neatly move from one stage to the next; it is more likely that there will be movement backwards and forwards between the “stages” . More recent thinking around bereavement talks about a “dual process” in that a person needs to spend time grieving for the loss but also getting on with life and that it is helpful to oscillate between both states so that sometimes a person may be consumed by their grief but at others they can be engaging in everyday life (going to work, meeting friends, making plans).

This leads onto the sticky question of when is the right time to return to work after bereavement, particularly in the high pressured environment of law firms. The answer is that it will be different for each person and just because a colleague returned after two weeks does not necessarily mean that it is right for you. There can be benefits to returning to work, such as:-

  • Support from colleagues.
  • The certainty provided by a regular routine
  • Distraction from the loss which may encourage feelings of “normality”
  • Increased confidence and self-esteem

However, there can also be difficulties, such as:-

  • Work may be too stressful and may add to the feelings of grief.
  • Lack of concentration and memory may impact on productivity which can then lead to lack of confidence and self-esteem.
  • Anxiety about talking to colleagues and what to say

Check out whether your firm has a bereavement policy (ACAS and Cruse Bereavement Care
have produced guidance about this for employers) and talk to your manager about how much time you need and/or any other adjustments that could be made eg reduced work hours or workload.
Some tips that you may find helpful following bereavement:

  • Accept that grief is a normal response to loss and that healing takes time.
  • Be prepared for the fact that some days you may feel better than others and that certain dates may be difficult (birthdays, anniversaries, celebrations)
  • Talk about your feelings with friends and family (although also be aware that sometimes others may find it difficult to deal with grief and may not always say the “right” thing).
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