A friend of mine, who is married with children, recently went to visit her sister. She lives alone in a tidy, minimalist house and has lots of freedom. My friend mentioned how lovely it must be to be her sister with no responsibilities, then she reflected that actually it must feel quite lonely?
But does being alone mean you must be lonely?
Being alone means literally you are by yourself, and in that situation you may or may not feel lonely.
Being lonely means you crave social contact and connection with others, so there is a difference. You can be in a group of people or with the one you love and still feel lonely.
Loneliness also has a scale or spectrum, with each end having extremes from constant loneliness to occasional loneliness.
If you are occasionally lonely, it’s usually due to the circumstances, such as having no plans and being bored or being away from home. At the other end of the scale is when you are constantly lonely, and it’s generated from you rather than from your environment. This can quite often be a result of you not feeling cared for or understood.
A recent survey found that 43% of older adults felt alone, although only 18% of them actually lived alone.
As with most scales, the majority of people are located somewhere in between the two extremes. So if you feel lonely at some point think about what is making you feel lonely:
Are you feeling isolated and need to see or connect with people more often?
Do you feel that those around you don’t understand or care about you?
Here are some other things for you to consider:
Loneliness can be a sign that your mind needs more social contact or that the contact you’re having isn’t fulfilling
Having lots of connections that are at acquaintance level and whom you don’t feel close to, can feel more lonely than being alone
Open up to family and close friends about how you’re feeling
Start to share with those acquaintances to build a deeper rapport. Nothing bonds people like sharing your vulnerabilities, be brave and open up
What hobbies or interests do you have, can you use these to meet like minded people?
Take things slowly, the best connections take time to build trust and connection
Focus on other people, their experiences and feelings. Be curious about them. Getting out of your head and thinking about others will relieve the lonely feelings
If you are single and lonely for that special person and emotional connection in your life, accept that this is understandable and okay. Then look for other connections in your life that can fill this gap, including self-love.
When you have found some good connections, nourish them, and don’t be worried about being too forward or giving more than you get. When you make more friends you can choose which are most positive in your life.
Have you heard the story about how Indian elephant trainers subdue their animals?
They restrain them by attaching one of their legs with a very strong chain to a tree. Gradually they replace this chain with smaller and weaker chains until the elephant is only held by string.
At this point there is nothing restraining him other than his belief that he is stuck.
Just like the elephant we sabotage our own confidence with beliefs that keep us stuck and unable to move forward.
4 such beliefs are:
Catastrophic thinking – Believing the worst case, such as “my relationship has broken up, so I’ll never meet another man”
Black and white or all or nothing thinking – This means thinking that either you do it perfectly or it’s a failure. For example a document at work, if it’s not perfect it’s no good
Projecting your insecurities onto others – Which causes you to think things like “they’re going to think I’m stupid or boring’ or “He’ll see I’m not attractive’
Making assumptions – An example of this would be “She didn’t acknowledge me when I walked past, I must have done something wrong”
If this sounds like you and you want to free yourself from the thin string that’s keeping you stuck, here are 4 strategies to help:
Become aware of the beliefs that are sabotaging you. What are you saying to yourself, when and where? How is it holding you back?
Look for other perspectives. Stand back from the emotions of the situation and challenge yourself, are these thoughts what you really believe or beliefs from the past? Look at the situation from other perspectives could their be a different view point?
Choose what you want to believe. You don’t have to have such high standards or focus on the worst possible scenario. Choose another outcome and remind yourself of it regularly
Practice Mindfulness. This allows you to pull your thoughts away from negative scenarios back to the present moment
I hope you found this helpful and please share it on social media with the buttons below.
Do you think you’re shy? Well you maybe surprised to hear that between 40 and 45% of adults consider themselves to be, according to Bernado.J.Carducci PhD.
Shyness can be anything from a nervous excitement or awkwardness to a totally inhibiting social phobia. So it’s less surprising that nearly half of us think we’re on the shy scale in certain situations.
Carducci says that shyness is about excessive self-focus: in other words being preoccupied with your thoughts, feelings and physical reactions, usually in a negative way.
There are 3 common ways in which shyness tends to affect lives:
Wanting to be social but not feeling you are able to. You may have agreed to attend a large social event, then as the hour comes nearer you feel uncomfortable and look for a reason to cancel
Taking time to warm up in a social situation. Perhaps you like to arrive late to not be noticed, then feel awkward and unable to chat comfortably. This could lead to you leaving early
Having a small circle of friends and doing the same things repeatedly. Which can mean you feel stuck and are nervous in new situations and in making the first move with new people
The good news is shyness isn’t something you’re born with and can be overcome.
Although some children are born with more sensitive and inhibited characteristics, that doesn’t mean they will be ‘shy’ adults.
Generally shyness is a learned behaviour and linked to an experience, which made you feel worried and want to get away from. This message then gets reinforced through life and develops into shy behaviours.
So how can you start to overcome shyness?
Accept there is nothing wrong with you. However if you feel life would be easier if you were more sociable, you can develop those skills
‘Get out of your head’. Start to be curious and really interested in other people and situations, rather than staying focused in your head
Realise others don’t care about you. Other people are more focused on themselves and how they are behaving, so try to be less self-conscious
Find a role model. Look for someone who is comfortable in the situations you find tricky. Work out what they do and visualise yourself behaving a similar way
If I look back to my much younger self with the benefit of hindsight, there are many things I might do or say differently.
More importantly there are some key messages about confidence I’d want to share with the less experienced version of me.
I grew with a secure and protected childhood, which was wonderful but may not have allowed me to develop my independence muscle enough.
It’s okay to listen to others opinions and take on board different perspectives, but trusting in my instincts and feelings should have been the most important influence.
2. Speak up, you won’t look stupid
Again this is about trusting that what I have to say is as important as anyone else thoughts. There isn’t always a right answer and by speaking up more I would have respected myself and boosted my confidence.
3. Your confidence will grow
I remember that scared feeling, when I first left home, when I got my first job and bought my first house.
Feeling nervous and uncomfortable in new experiences and situations is normal and I’d love to reassure my younger self that the more new experiences I throw myself into the more my confidence will grow.
4. Everyone is doing the best they can
It seemed to me when I first started at University or in new jobs that my peers and seniors all were so confident and sorted.
I now realise that everyone is just doing their best in situations and struggling with their own insecurities. So I should stop worrying what others think and just be me
5. Good enough is good enough
I definitely have some perfectionist tendencies and set myself high expectations. These days I have learnt to be more realistic with my intentions, which means I don’t always have to do or be the best.
The freedom and calmness this has given me are something I would love my younger self to have experienced.
Having said all this, I’ve enjoyed the learning process that has taken me to where I am, so maybe it’s better to discover these lessons for yourself?
Do you have any lessons on confidence you’d like to share with your younger self?
If you’ve enjoyed this blog I’d appreciate you sharing it
I’m as shocked as most people in the UK at our decision to leave the EU and the ongoing political fall out. It has taken us all in a direction where the final destination is unknown.
At times like this when we maybe fearful of the future, there is a tendency to blame and shame other people, the awful signs of which we’ve seen this week.
Being taken out of your comfort zone, is risky and uncomfortable and a successful outcome can seem impossible. When the initial shock wears off and you start to readjust and realise that whatever the outcome is, you are still okay, then you will have shown your resilience.
For those people feeling anxious about the effect of this huge decision and worried about the confidence and resilience of this country I have 5 tips to share with you:
See the positive and the negative. Instead of focusing on just the negative possibilities, look proactively for the positive in the situation. According to Dr Barbara Fredrickson you need a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative experiences to build your resilience
Take the learning. In an uncomfortable or negative situation a resilient person is more likely to ask “what’s the solution” or “what can I learn from this”. Life is a long journey of learning, we aren’t supposed to know it all at any stage
Look after yourself. Thus means physically and emotionally, so ensure you eat and sleep well, exercise, get outdoors and spend time with people you care about
Practice gratitude for the positives in your life and appreciate the kindness of others. Also, there is an additional benefit to doing an act of kindness for another person, as it drives up your serotonin levels (the neurotransmitter responsible for happiness)
Have a laugh. Finding the humour in a difficult situation is a great way to feel more in control. Playful humour also reduces the fear around the unknown
Whatever you voted, we now need to collaborate together to show our confidence and resilience and adjust to the new world – whatever that is!
Last week I was invited to be on the expert panel for the press launch of a report about ‘Why Diets Fail’ sponsored by XLS Medical.
Having read the report there were some really interesting facts about diets:
72% of us have tried a diet this year and a third have tried two or more
Of those almost half feel it’s failed in the first month
34% of dieters claim to have failed every diet they’ve tried, as they’ve put weight back on
Less than a quarter of dieters actually achieve their weight loss goals
At the launch, along with a fitness expert, a dietician and a food blogger we debated with a room of journalists what is needed for people to achieve a healthy diet resulting in weight loss? Rather than to go on a fad diet such as the ‘Kale and Chewing gum’ diet (yes it really exists!)
The number one reason for a diet failing, given by 41% of the OnePoll survey in this report, was a lack of motivation, followed by boredom, stress and time restraints.
So what causes this lack of motivation?
A lack of realistic goals. Expecting a rapid weight loss initially and for it to continue. It’s much better to aim for a 1/2lb loss each week as research has shown it can be more easily sustained
A lack of support and accountability. Having a group of friends or a professional to support you and keep you online with your goals, will maintain your motivation when your willpower weakens
Unrealistic goals. A goal of losing just 5 to 10% of your weight is realistic and will make a big difference to your health
Not enjoying your food. In our hectic lifestyles we may believe we should be reading emails, texting friends or catching up on tv when we’re eating. This means we don’t savour or taste our food or recognise the triggers of feeling full. Instead get rid of distractions and really enjoy your food, Mindfulness practice can also help you stay present.
Setting rigid rules. A more flexible approach to eating including allowing yourself small amounts of all the foods you crave, is much more likely to keep you motivated than a very restrictive diet
As well as all these positive actions to keep motivated the key element I believe, is to understand what your hunger is really for and why you want to eat.
Quite often we eat to get rid of, or numb bad feelings rather than actually being physically hungry. We need to understand and recognise our emotional eating patterns to be able to change them.
In our childhood when we feel sad or hurt or bored, we’re often given a hug or a treat to make us feel better. As if feeling uncomfortable is a bad thing which we need to get rid of. So it’s not surprising that we then learn to eat to comfort or reward ourselves.
How many times have you reached for a chocolate bar or glass of wine when you felt bored or stressed?
By understanding whether the hunger is emotional or physical you can start to make better choices as well as accept yourself just as you are.
It’s constantly in the press about the gender pay gap and how as women we’re making great achievements in our careers but not always being equally paid for it.
One of the reasons given for this is that as women we are less likely than men to put ourselves forward for promotions or negotiate for higher salaries.
So what is stopping us from being able to confidently ask for what we want and get it (most of the time)?
One of the explainations is down to our culture and upbringing; often women learn that to be self-serving isn’t ‘nice’ or ‘polite’ and therefore it feels very uncomfortable.
Another reason is for women it’s difficult to get the balance between being passive and aggressive, if you don’t negotiate you’re being too feminine and earn less and if you do negotiate, you’re too aggressive and maybe disliked.
When it comes to applying for promotions research has shown that women are biologically different from men in having the confidence to take a risk.
This was demonstrated when a group of volunteers were shown a job description for a role which would be a promotion and asked if they would apply. The men were confident to apply if they believed they could deliver 60% of the job description however for women they had to be nearly 100% sure before they would consider it.
Whether you want to influence your boss, convince an interviewer or your potential clients. Having the confidence to step out of your comfort zone and being able to confidently phrase your request is important.
People will interpret the way you communicate as a measure of your confidence and self-belief and use this to determine whether to agree to your request or not.
Here are some of my confidence tips to help you ask for more money or a promotion confidently:
Do your research – if you’re going to negotiate a pay rise or a starting salary, ensure you know your market value
Step out of your comfort zone – If you find it difficult to take a risk, build your confidence first with small challenges and remember, if you do nothing, nothing will change.
Use assertive language – this means sticking to the facts, using ‘I’ statements and asking clearly for what you would like. e.g. “There is a new role being advertised in marketing, I believe I’m ready to make that move and I would like your support to apply.”
Avoid apologizing and softening your request – Being polite is important but using phrases such as “if you don’t mind” or “would it be okay if I asked you…” dilute your request and your confidence
Don’t feel guilty – asking for something you want whilst still showing the other party respect is not selfish, instead it shows you value yourself
Get clarity on a negative response – if you don’t get the agreement you were looking for, rather than reacting negatively ask for some clarity. Using a phrase such as “I’d like to understand the reasons for your decision?” or “Can you give me some specific feedback on how I can become ready for that position?”
Good luck and do let me know how you get on!
If you enjoyed this post please share it on social media using the buttons below.
Earlier today I did a 25K bike ride in beautiful sunshine with my children aged 10 and 11. It was in aid of the local hospice and as my husband was off doing a tortuous bike ride in the Welsh hills I agreed to take them.
As we reached the finish, I was so proud of them completing it without any wingeing or moaning that I wished Mike was with me to share the moment.
Then I questioned myself, why wasn’t it enough that we had this great moment, did I really need to share it with someone else or post it on Facebook for it to be complete?
Sharing moments is great but appreciating the moment as it happens is surely more important. It’s almost as if , if we haven’t got a record of a passing moment, or shared it with others, then we haven’t really experienced it.
It started me thinking about how this feeling, that a moment is not enough, could affect our lives. It means we have/are:
A constant feeling that we should be doing more or being more. Which leaves us believing we’re not enough
Comparititis – the need to compare your moments with other people, especially on social media
An inability to relax. As there’s a constant feeling that there’s more to be done
Not being present when we’re eating. Instead feeling the need to catch up online, read emails or do work. So we don’t taste and savour our food, isn’t it enough just to focus on eating?
Missing out on really experiencing the great moments in our lives. Because we’re worrying about whether we’ve captured it, or if it’s quite right or if we’re appreciating it enough
A lack of purpose in our lives. As we don’t recognise all we have experienced and achieved already. Which leads to a feeling of not yet having done enough and not being enough
What if we were to really live in the present and accept that every moment, however brief, is enough exactly how it is?
Then we would be free to, as the saying goes, “Stop And Smell The Roses”. The definition of which, I found out, means – stop stressing out, overthinking or complaining, put your troubles in perspective and enjoy your short time on earth.
So what would be the benefits of living in the moment?
We have more clarity. We’re able to focus clearly on what is happening and not be distracted
We feel relaxed. As we’re not ruminating on the past or worrying about the future we will gain a calmness from being in the moment
Our emotions are more positive. As we aren’t focused as much on the negatives of the past or the future, we can fully enjoy the positives of the moment
I love this quote:
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.
To achieve that how do we start to work towards being more present in the moment?
Start small. Begin by making small changes to your routine, such as being mindful for 3mins a day, or switching off your phone during your lunch break (take a short lunch break, not at your desk, if you don’t already!)
Learn how to bring your mind back when it wanders. The practice of mindfulness is all about redirecting your mind back from your thoughts to the present moment or whatever you’re focusing on. Success isn’t about clearing your mind but being able to draw it back when it wanders, which it will. Focusing on your breathing or eating or a sensation in your body is helpful.
Notice the small things. This can be as simple as a child’s smile, listening to music or the taste of ice cream
Realise your thoughts aren’t real. The world we create from our thoughts especially when we’re worrying about the future isn’t real, even though it seems to be. So instead of creating lots of what if scenarios, try and focus on what actually is
Stop multitasking. Not only does this mean your not doing all the tasks effectively but it stops you really focusing on each one
Be kind to others. Giving compliments to others or acts of kindness will refocus your attention on what’s happening now
Be grateful. Appreciating the things in your life which you love and enjoy helps you keep in the moment
I’m still thinking about putting a photo of my kids with their medals on Facebook, but maybe instead I should accept that the moment has past and focus on whats happening now instead.
Let me know your thoughts and ideas on how to stay in the moment.