7 Steps to Self Trust

During the 2016 Summer Olympics, I listened to Australian Swimming Commentator Giaan Rooney call the 4x100 Women’s Freestyle Relay. After the race, she made a comment about the trust that each of these athletes has to place in their teammates to always do their best.

Trust is an essential part of living a full life. Whether it’s at work, in family relationships, partnerships, engaging in creativity, starting up a new business, returning to study…invariably we are faced with situations that require us to trust others, and to trust ourselves.

Any undertaking that is worthwhile and important asks us to consider how we might trust more freely and readily. Trust is linked with courage, confidence, experimentation and risk. All necessary elements for leading creative, fulfilling and rich lives.

As a women’s life and creativity coach, I observe how many of us struggle to deeply trust ourselves.

How is it that we too frequently dismiss our initial gut reactions, downplay our own needs, experience turmoil in making decisions – that if we listened a little more closely to ourselves, to really tune into what our heart/gut/intuition is telling us and to know that it is OK to step into a place of greater self-trust. If things don’t work out as planned, then to know it’s not permanent and that things and ideas can be changed. That a change in direction can be viewed as interesting and with curiosity, rather than a setback or situation for concern.

Image: Georgie James Photography

Image: Georgie James Photography

Do you trust yourself that you are doing the very best you can, right now, with all you have and all you know now?

Do you truly believe that you can always do things differently later, if you need to, if you want to, if you have further information?

What stops us from trusting ourselves more?

Over-reliance on information and stories from the past.

Yes, we can always learn from past experiences and situations. But, when we look at the past, we have a lens that filters that information, or even distorts it completely. This means we are looking at that past event with different eyes, different emotions and different thoughts and beliefs. So it is impossible to interpret it now, as we did then. And nor should we, as because we now see things in altered way – it is a sign of growth, learning and new perspectives.

This means that we should not solely rely on past information to form an accurate and helpful position on how much and why we need to trust ourselves and our potential.

Preoccupation with trying to predict the future.

When we spend too much time trying to predict and control the future, we are not present and attentive. This can lead to increased anxiety and avoidance – which minimises our opportunities to experience a rich, full and meaningful life.

What can we do to trust ourselves more?

1.     Get comfortable with making mistakes.

2.     Get comfortable with being ‘wrong.’

3.     Get comfortable with appearing foolish, silly and imperfect.

4.     Celebrate when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, extend ourselves and grow.

5.     Forgive ourselves for past mistakes or perceived failures.

6.     Get our heads out of the past and into the now.

7.     Learn to be still and quiet. Resist temptation to be constantly ‘busy’ or ‘distracted’ – intuition can’t be heard above the noise and inattention.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.

How to be more resilient: Key learnings from The Resilience Project

“Developing Resilience in Young People” was the title of the event facilitated by Hugh van Cuylenberg of The Resilience Project. The event was supported by Wodonga Council and Gateway Health, through Healthy Together Wodonga.

Here’s my key take away messages of how we can boost our own resilience and that of the young people in our lives by practising empathy, gratitude and mindfulness.

1.     Pain can be transmuted into gold.

Hugh described the devastation and helplessness felt as an older brother witnessing his sister’s battle with Anorexia Nervosa. Years later, whilst teaching in a remote Indian village, he was profoundly struck with the deep happiness described by the residents, many of whom were homeless, orphaned and without ready access to safe drinking water. Intrigued by this village’s incredibly low mental illness rates (1/85) compared to the current crisis facing Australia (1/7 children and 1/4 adolescents diagnosed with a mental illness), Hugh embarked on exploring the topic of resilience and sharing his knowledge with Australian schools, workplaces and communities. His expertise and research knowledge is conveyed with deep passion from his personal experiences. Stories of suffering are imbued with heart felt meaning and inform his drive.

Look closely: consider how you might reconstruct your pain and create something from it.

2.     Noticing moments for gratitude

Gratitude is about focusing on what you already have, not the “If and when” model of happiness – (‘I’ll be happy when I get a promotion/bigger house/ sports car/ top marks/when I lose x amount of weight’). The “If and when” is not a sustainable approach to happiness.

Hugh told a story of a student at the remote village school in India who he describes as ‘the happiest person’ he’s ever met. Stunzin, who was homeless and an orphan, spoke very little English. He slept outside under cardboard for shelter and warmth. He would smile often and point to what he was grateful for, saying “Dis” (This): shoes, despite his feet growing too big and having to cut the ends off to fit; the shop awning for keeping him dry whilst he slept at night on the street; the water he walked for hours to retrieve in heavy buckets for boiling at school and so on. Stunzin noticed and gave thanks for what he had. If you search #dismoment on social media, you will see that Stunzin’s approach to life has inspired many.

Notice: where can you stop and acknowledge what you have with gratitude? #dismoment. This is a practice you can do yourself, but imagine the power as you show others this practice…Your children, work colleagues, friends?  

The sun. Welcomed after a pretty cold and gloomy NE Victorian Winter © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The sun. Welcomed after a pretty cold and gloomy NE Victorian Winter © Naomi Morrow, 2016

3.     The Gratitude Questions

Ever tried to keep a gratitude journal but started to recycle the same responses over and over (eg. my health, my family etc) and got tired of it?

Try answering these questions daily to keep things fresh and unique:

  •                   What is the best thing that happened to me today?
  •                   Who am I most grateful to today and why?
  •                   What am I most looking forward to tomorrow?

Research shows a multitude of benefits for keeping this daily practice going. Keep writing for 21 days and your brain can retain a pattern for scanning the world not for the negative but for the positive.

If you keep going for 42 days, you: are less likely to get sick; have higher levels of energy; feel happier; are more enthusiastic; are more attentive; are more determined; are more optimistic; have a better quality of sleep; and have lower levels of depression and anxiety.

Journal writing on gratitude is a quick, creative, free + effective way to boost resilience.

 4.     Wear your friend’s shoes (or: show empathy)

The audience giggled as Hugh told a story of asking a group of children what they thought empathy meant. One young girl suggested it was when you wear your friend’s shoes. She was on the right track! The metaphorical ‘stepping into another’s shoes’ is the willingness and capacity to try to understand the situation and feelings of another. Showing empathy is a key step to developing resilience.

How to cultivate this? Encourage your child to plan one act of kindness to carry out during the week. Who are they going to help? How? Review at the end of the week. What did they do? How did they feel doing it? Also keep an eye out for an opportunity to engage in a random act of kindness during the week. Give it a go yourself too. Each time you do something kind for others, your brain releases oxytocin (the feel good hormone) – which leads to increased confidence, energy, happiness and positivity. The boost to your wellbeing by engaging in these kinds of acts is long lasting.

5.     Influence the strength of your emotion.

Within seven seconds of hearing your favourite song, you can increase your positive emotion or decrease your negative emotion. Within 30 seconds of exercise you can make a change. Laugh – and the change is immediate.

You know what song you like. You know what exercise you like to do. You know what makes you laugh. Seek out these things and keep them in your bag of wellbeing tricks.

For the young person in your life – what song do they like? What exercise do they enjoy? What jokes, movies, stories make them laugh? Use them.

You can control the strength of your emotion. You can teach your child that they have power over theirs.

6.     Practising mindfulness.

An adolescent brain now takes in the same amount of information in a one week period than 20 years ago, where that same amount of information was absorbed over a whole year.

It is vital that adolescents, children and adults alike have opportunity to practise mindfulness and reduce mental clutter and overwhelm.

Mindfulness colouring can be a way to experience ‘flow’ – that is to experience enjoyment, lose sense of time and not be distracted by worries.

A number of mindfulness meditation apps exist. The Smiling Mind App has been proven to reduce anxiety, depression, relieve stress, prevent heart disease, improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, lowers blood pressure, enhances decision making, improves focus and decreases drug and alcohol abuse.

The problems are complex.

The solutions need not be complicated.

© Naomi Morrow, 2016

Why ‘mistakes’ are good for us: Lessons from my 'ruined' painting.

I’ve been yearning to make space again in my life for creativity. Being a mother of three young ones, studying and establishing my own business it’s been difficult to find the time where I can be creative as a solo pursuit. (I definitely enjoy my creative time with children, but now I’m talking about myself…where I can be alone with my thoughts and ideas and experimentation).

So I signed up to do Nicola Newman's online painting course. I was super excited. It probably wasn’t the best time for me, signing up in the week leading up to launching my business – but I couldn’t shake the call to be creative any longer. I enthusiastically visited the art shop with toddler and pre-schooler in tow to buy the requisite materials. I chose my paint colours, palette knife, palette and the special glaze wash. I recall checking a few times with the young assistant that the last product was exactly what I needed – having never used it before. I was doubtful that she had given me the right one, but she insisted and so I bought it.

About a week later, I decided it was time to create my painting. The children were in bed. I laid everything out on the kitchen table and got to work. I watched the teaching video as I painted my abstract work, learning about layering and texture and techniques. I felt excited to be honouring my creativity in this way. I loved the way Nicola made it seem so easy, I loved the process and I was having fun. As I was painting, what was emerging was really pleasing to my eye. My inner critic would normally be chattering away about the relative skill or not in my painting, but this time she was silenced. I felt creatively alive!

When I had decided my painting was finished, I left it to dry after admiring my work briefly. When I was sure it was dry, I mixed up the glaze wash. It did not look like the product in the video, and I felt a little niggle of concern, but in my haste to finish the painting – I applied it. My painting disappeared. Under a layer of colour. It smooshed all the paint together into a wobbly, blurred, I-don’t-care-how-long-you-took-to-create-that-special-art giant blergh. I felt myself become angry, sad, frustrated as my inner critic rose up to give her unwelcome commentary.

“That’s what you get for trying something new! You’re not expert enough to do this! You can’t get all your hard work back now – it’s gone! What a waste!”
Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

Image © Naomi Morrow, 2016. 

I packed up sadly, sullenly. Defeated.
I sat with these feelings.

Eventually, I began to notice other thoughts.

What had I learned here? Remember the Tibetan monks creating beautiful, painstaking mandala works from sand that are only temporary? To be washed away? Didn’t I love the process though, wasn’t I really in flow? Why did I need ‘proof’ of how I spent my time? Did I need validation that I could ‘do’ art? When did product become more important to me than process? Couldn’t I simply try again another day?

Yes, it stings when we try new or difficult things and it doesn’t work. We feel disappointed. Disheartened. Tempted to return to that place of safety, where we don’t extend, challenge, try or risk. But there’s no richness or growth there. It’s a barren and boring land.

I’m so passionate about bringing more self-compassion, joy and creativity into the world that I realised I had better keep trying with myself. Work in progress. The canvas can be painted again.

And I had to be honest with myself. Instead of looking outside myself for explaining the problem (“the shop assistant sold me the wrong product”), I owned up: “I put the glaze on before the paint had dried completely”.

What I learned is that my ‘mistake’ (AKA my impatience or more positively reframed ‘enthusiasm’)…ended up forming an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for my new painting.

If we stop to review what we feel are our imperfections, flaws and mistakes and consider them with more patience and compassion – we can then begin to see how they are providing an interesting, beautiful and rich foundation for our life. A life we where can be open to new learning, building upon past experiences, being creative and experimental.

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

The end product! © Naomi Morrow, 2016

© Naomi Morrow, 2016.