“I don’t see what others see in me”. This is a saying that we can hear a lot of in society throughout all walks of life. Is this a default position we go to or are there cultural reasons for it? Certainly here in Scotland and the rest of the U.K. there does seem to be more of a tendency to play down our strengths as to do otherwise could leave you feeling uncomfortable. Is there a fear that by acknowledging our strengths we may be seen by others as ‘getting too big for your boots’ or ‘playing your own trumpet’. Does finding the fine line between confidence and arrogance play a part in our fear? You only have to look at celebrities who are universally loved by people all over the world who also can struggle and use self-depreciating comments such as; “What if I get found out, and am not as good as people seem to think I am?” This may seem like a silly thing to say given all the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that they are only human and can have insecurities like anyone.
Group members shared their own experiences of how they found acknowledging their strengths. Some people actually felt that it would be much easier to list their short comings. We then did an exercise where we asked people to write down the strengths and qualities they saw in one other and pass it back to the person so they could see the qualities others saw in them. While people found it nice doing this they still found it a challenge to take in and believe what people saw in them.
Today’s subject felt very relevant as this group is very much based on helping people build up their sense of worth. The hope being that through doing this it can play a part in being able to acknowledge their strengths without totally dismissing them.
At today’s group we looked at the fear of failure. Although our fears come from a protective place they can ultimately leave us feeling stuck and unfulfilled in parts of our life. If you’ve suffered disappointments in life it feel such a risk to try something new and it not working out. To avoid these disappointing feelings people may decide it safer to stay in the situation they know. In this case the fear of failure can feel more powerful than the possibility of success. It can feel so scary to take that leap of faith into the unknown. Group members gave examples of how they overcame fears and how it became the making of them. The thing to remember is that even if you try something and it does not work out you can always try something else. This of course does not take away the feelings of disappointment but it certainly does not make you a failure. We are learning all the time, particularly in the hard times. If we think back to being a toddler and learning to walk we do fall at times but we get back up and gradually learn to walk. Below is an inspiring video of people who have faced disappointments but managed to keep on trying new things.
Today we looked at things that are sentimental to us. It dis not have to just be a physical object it could a time or a place. Some things people chose were;
- Letters from loved ones
- Jewellery from loved ones
- 90’s ‘curtains’ hair style and flares
- 80’s hot pants
- 70’s Bell-bottoms and ‘New wave’ styles
It was an interesting and emotional experience to hear the reasons behind the sentimentality even if we do look back now and cringe at some of our fashion sense!
While preparing for our group programme in advance we are always mindful of the need to make sure it is finely balanced between light topics and others that are a bit heavier. After having a few deeper sessions it felt nice to mix it up today having a session on fun! It’s something that is so important for our well-being which sadly at times we can all too readily dismiss as un-important.
We did an exercise using spiritual cards and asked group members to choose a card that meant something to them. People found this useful as it provided an outlet to communicate how they felt. After this we played the card game adaption of the popular game show, ‘Catchphrase’. By the end of the game the scores between the two teams were fairly equal!
We finished with a look at what people’s favourite movies where and why. This evoked a discussion about the emotional attachment certain films held for people. Some of the films chosen were, ‘Cinema Paradiso’, ‘Kung Fu Panda’, ‘Back To The Future’, ‘Riding In Cars With Boys’, E.T., ‘Bridget Jones’s Baby’, ‘Mary and Max’ and ‘The Godfather’ It was so nice to feel the passion and energy this brought to the conclusion of todays’ group!
We posed the question to people in the group as to whether receiving a mental health diagnosis had been a helpful experience. For those who had experienced a correct diagnosis and accessed the right treatment, this was extremely helpful as they could now understand what was happening and what to do to best look after themselves. For people where it had taken a bit of a journey to make a correct diagnosis, and where treatment for a condition which was not theirs was given, this was unhelpful and distressing and in some cases caused more damage. We talked a little about the diagnosis of BPD-Borderline Personality Disorder, this is a bit of a controversial diagnosis; it suggests that there is something wrong with a person’s personality. Using the term ‘disorder’ can leave people feeling upset and stigmatised. The diagnosis is confusing and little understood; it is a clinical diagnosis based on a collection of symptoms, which are often parallel to the effects of trauma. However, it is not an actual defined disease or condition, more possibly a reaction to adverse life events, and therefore not a permanent condition or state of being.
We talked a bit more about how people sometimes felt stigmatised or defined by some of the words used to describe some mental health conditions:
People felt that some of these were quite descriptive, sometimes in an unhelpful way leading to assumptions and stigma and a lack of understanding. Others felt that the not so descriptive terms could be helpful as they had experienced that if someone genuinely cared and was interested they would ask about the persons mental health condition in a way as to understand how it actually affected them.
Receiving a diagnosis can feel helpful and liberating for some while for others it may be another way of keeping stigma and unhelpful terms used in society alive.
Today at the group we returned to a popular group topic ‘music’. We have mentioned many times in the past how music can provide an outlet for our emotions. We wanted to do something a wee bit different this time by focussing on four different emotions and the music pieces people felt appropriate to that emotion. Below is an example;
From the songs that make us happy, to the songs that make us sad people realised that indeed some songs could easily overlap into the other categories depending on how they felt. Most people had quite eclectic tastes which was fascinating to see. This proved to be an emotional experience for all concerned! Below are some songs that were chosen;
We did an exercise in the group last week which we have not done for a while whereby each group member will write down positive qualities and skills that they see in each of the others. This is an exercise that from the outset requires trust amongst the group that the relationships are connected enough for this to feel ok. People were very genuine and truly able to express what they thought about each other. People then read out their list of strengths if they felt comfortable to do so. This can feel like a strange thing to do in a culture where saying positive things about yourself can sometimes be seen quite negatively as ‘blowing your own trumpet’. However, people’s experience of this was that it was actually moving and encouraging, although for some it was quite difficult to hear or accept positive words, but even then there was still somethings uplifting it was for them. Group members who have done this before have kept the lists of their strengths, and at times have found it really helpful when they have been having a bad day, or are hearing a critical voice, whether that is their own, or somebody elses, to be reminded that these are their strengths and good qualities. Somehow seeing positive feedback written down in black and white can feel easier to believe than relying on our thought processes which can often turn to negative and dismissing the positive
People also found that it was really nice to be able to say how they felt, because again it is a bit alien in our culture so say super nice things to each other! One comment in this session was that ‘I have never known a group where people are so genuinely encouraging of each others successes’.