Let's Hear it for the Girl

You adore Jessica Chastain, admire your female boss and always flatter your friends – so why are you so self-critical? It’s time to unleash your inner cheerleader…
Thursday , 04 April 2013
‘Take control of what’s going on in your own head. Learning to speak kindly about yourself, as though you were your best friend, is a habit you must create’
‘Take control of what’s going on in your own head. Learning to speak kindly about yourself, as though you were your best friend, is a habit you must create’

Let’s be honest. Really honest: we all beat ourselves up. From our less-than-perfect figures to missing out on that job opportunity, a lacklustre love life or skipping morning boot camp (yes, again), it’s easy to be hard on ourselves. The question is, would you be so brutal with your best friend or as unforgiving of your colleagues? We think not – which is why we’ve rallied a top team of feel-good experts to teach you how to spin those niggling negativities into positive affirmations. It’s time to join Team You…  

You’re a Relentless Perfectionist…
Career woman, socialite, friend, mum, wife: each role in your life commands perfection and if you fall short of your sky-high standards, a mini-meltdown is but a hiccup away. Sound familiar? Clare Smart, Counsellor at Lifeworks (www.lifeworksdubai.com) says it’s time to give yourself a break.
“By being a perfectionist, you create unrealistic expectations and this leads you to set goals that are not reachable… In the end, it will lead you to think that you have failed or fallen short of what you expect from yourself.”
● Come out on top…
Smart advises a self-named tactic: “Set goals using the ‘SMART’ technique,” she says. “Goals should always be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time limited. By setting smaller steps toward the end goal you will feel an enhanced sense of achievement.” And the best bit? “Recognise your efforts and reward yourself at each step – have a manicure or take an hour out to read a magazine – a pat on the back for you!”

You Dwell on the Negative… 
You made a mistake (we all do), but days later you’re still replaying it in your mind and even chatting to a girlfriend or your other half doesn’t nip the nasty notion in the bud. Amanda Ollier, author of The Self-Help Guide, says this is a common feeling among women. “Not being able to move past it can be due to a mixture of things – guilt, disappointment, frustration – and perhaps feeling like you have lost control or let someone else down.” As hard as it can be, don’t surrender to your harsh inner critic. “Remember, everybody makes mistakes – it’s what you do next that defines you.”
● Come out on top…
Think moving on is easier said than done? Not, says Ollier, with a four step plan. Firstly, consider the situation from afar. “See what you can learn from what went wrong, then decide what you will do next time to prevent the same mistake from happening again,” she says. Next, ask someone for their opinion. “It may be that you’re just blowing it out of all proportion in your own mind, then using it as a stick to beat yourself up with unnecessarily.” Thirdly, forgive yourself. “You’ve learnt from the mistake, so it’s not without gain – in fact, often the biggest breakthroughs occur in the moments just after we could have given up.” Finally, in true cheerleader style, be positive. “Each time you find yourself thinking about the error and feeling bad, remind yourself that you came up with a plan and force your thoughts onto something else,” says Ollier. “After a few days you’ll have cracked it.” Go you!

You’re a Comparison Junkie…
Constantly compare yourself to ‘yummy mummies’ at the school gate? (How do they do it?) Envying the lithe bodies of your female colleagues? It’s time to tip the self-esteem scales back in your favour. “Envy occurs when we compare ourselves to someone else and find ourselves lacking,” observes Ollier. “It can be particularly common among new mums, who find it hard to maintain their sense of self after having children – our children demand so much time and energy, which we give willingly only to find later on that we forgot to love ourselves too.”
● Come out on top…
“Making time to be kind to you is important,” says Ollier. “Exercise, a beauty treatment or time doing something you love will all help.” And before your inner-cynic cries ‘I don’t have time!’ Ollier has a no-excuses solution to help you take charge from the comfort of the sofa: “Take control of what’s going on in your own head,” she says. “Learning to speak kindly about yourself, as though you were your best friend, is a habit you must create.” Sound a little cheesy? Ollier assures us that once you start, it’s easy as pie.  “Every time you catch yourself saying something unkind, shout ‘stop!’ in your head, and say something nice instead. Prepare a phrase like ‘I am beautiful inside and out’ so that you don’t even have to think what to say, and do it every time. You’ll be amazed by how much better you feel.”

You’re a Catastrophe Queen…
“Catastrophising is when we think and believe the worst possible thing will happen,” says Smart. If you tend to catastrophise over every little thing (be it skipping the gym for after-work tipples or bowing out of an event because you’re in desperate need of a night in) don’t drown under a wave of guilt.
“When we say ‘I should’ or ‘I must’ then it creates pressure on ourselves and leads to unobtainable expectations,” says Smart. Ollier agrees: “Instead of thinking about what you could or should do, think about what you actually want to do and why – life is far too short to waste time worrying and guilt is one of the most destructive emotions there is.”
● Come out on top… 
Just one simple prop can curb your habit, says Smart. “To literally snap yourself out of this way of thinking, try wearing a hairband on your wrist. When you catch yourself catastrophising, ping the band and the sensation can trigger you to change your thinking.”

Self-doubt…
Your work and social schedules are bursting at the seams, but as your calendar hots up, your coping strategies can plummet, self-doubt creeps in and panic rises. “Ah, the ‘F’ word in all its ugly glory: fear!” acknowledges Ollier. “This is a classic example of how limiting our beliefs about ourselves can be.” So, how’s a girl to keep calm and carry on?
● Come out on top… 
“Firstly, try to identify the triggers to you feeling panicky by writing down the situation and rating how anxious you feel from zero to 10, plus how you coped at the time,” says Smart. “Look over the examples later and think about how else you could have coped. This may help you to feel more prepared next time.” Whether it’s the prospect of a major work presentation that’s got your pulse racing, or fear of mingling at an event, don’t skip the task altogether. Instead, Smart says, it’s time to face it head on and rationalise your angst. “By changing the way we think about something, we can change how we feel about it. So, if you think ‘I won’t be able to do the presentation’, it’s likely that feelings of anxiety will occur, whereas if the thought is ‘I am capable and good at my job and have done lots of presentations successfully before’ the feeling is likely to be confidence.”

You Give in to Gloominess
Can a bad mood cast a black cloud over your entire day?  If you find it hard to snap out of a sour state of mind, you have a classic case of “wearing gloomy glasses,” says Smart. “This unhelpful thinking style means that you filter out all the realistic or positive things and see only those things that are negative, upsetting and gloomy.”
● Come out on top…
Prefer to have rose-tinted glasses than “gloomy” ones? Cheeriness starts with an altered perspective. “Try to imagine someone that you know who looks on the bright side of life and what they might think,” says Smart. “By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes it can help you to see things differently.” And if that fails, be sure to put some ‘ace’ in your life. “Ensure you get an A.C.E balance in your day – Achievement, Closeness and Enjoyment – to lift your mood. Schedule your day so that you’re able to feel that you have achieved something, that you have enjoyed something and that you have felt a closeness to others.”

You Lose in Love…
Okay, so you’ve had more dating disasters than Carrie Bradshaw, but isn’t it time to leave your man-related mishaps in the past? Ollier says the unlucky-in-love need to be careful not to become cynical while they are understandably trying to protect themselves from previous mistakes.
“Harbouring these negative thoughts and expecting the past to repeat itself makes it more likely to do so… Expect another love rat and you’re more likely to find one.”
● Come out on top…
The solution starts with forgiveness, according to Ollier. “Forgive your ex – he doesn’t need to know! It’s not about saying everything he did was OK, rather it’s about freeing yourself of the burden of anger and forgiving yourself too.
“Remember, one failed relationship is just that. It is not a pattern for life.” And, once again, it’s time to put your mental pom-poms on standby. “Work on your self-esteem so that when you do meet Mr Right you’ll be ready to let him love you. Often it’s a deep-seated belief that you’re not worthy that ruins a promising relationship.”

Related Articles

"Beauty used to stop at the neck – not any more..." dishes the lady be
They have the ability to make or break a chef’s day, but what goes on in their o
Are you destined to inherit your mother’s health and body shape?
We hit the coaching couch to find out whether perfecting your life is as simple