As part of my role as a women’s health counsellor, I have the opportunity to run my own group. Whilst I have always been aware of the numerous group’s that run programmes for women here and back home, I have never actually led one. I wanted to, like with many other things, but just never had the chance. So, when the opportunity was discussed at work here, I offered to lead and run the group.
The name of my group is Balancing Life. This group has previously run at the centre, facilitated by other members of stuff. I managed to find heaps of material on the various topics that were held. I narrowed down my topics to include the following; healthy and unhealthy relationships, assertiveness, self-esteem, de-stressing, self-care, and goal setting. Whilst these were the topics I had in mind, I also wanted to be open and flexible to any suggestions the women had. My group is also an open group, meaning women can join anytime and participate in as many sessions as she wants. Some of the other groups at the centre are closed and have limited places.
I was feeling a host of emotions; nervous, excited, happy, anxious, hopeful and worried. I’m aware of the numerous benefits of groups and ultimately I want women that come to feel supported and safe. Whilst no pressure was put on me, I had high hopes and expectations for my group. I wanted women to engage and essentially feel the benefits of my group. The goal of my group is to ensure women feel able to share their thoughts and stories without feeling judged. It is client led so if something isn’t working or if they have suggestions’, their encouraged to voice these.
It was while I was preparing for my group that I realised I no longer had this negative self-talk in my mind. The constant radio that most of us have which makes us doubt ourselves, criticises our actions and ultimately is our worst enemy at the best of time. Now, maybe for most of my life I had this voice in my mind and more often than not it was louder than the positive self-talk. I’ve had it for so long that I didn’t even realise it had left. So, I’m not exactly sure what or how I stopped it. My sense is that it was a whole host of factors combined; my new position as a women’s health counsellor, reading books like ‘The Power of Now’ and ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and focusing on the things I have achieved. Having external supervision again was also a great help.
We tend to forget the power of our thoughts. I feel if we were aware or had any idea just how powerful our thoughts are, we wouldn’t think or say half of our thoughts to ourselves. The irony of it is, we wouldn’t dare dream saying some of these things to our closest friends or family yet, we give ourselves permission to say them to ourselves. We are not taught to be kind to ourselves, we are continuously told to be kind to others and to help them out. We need to be taught to help ourselves sometimes, to put ourselves first and to listen to our needs more rather than trying to meet everyone else’s. We are expected to be care givers and good listeners and to show empathy without ever being able to do that for ourselves. How can we care for others if we are not able to care for ourselves? Putting ourselves first is deemed selfish by some, focusing on yourself and not others is frowned upon when in fact it should be encouraged and celebrated. There is nothing selfish about putting and meeting your own needs first before trying to meet others. Self-care, self-actualisation and emotional intelligence should be taught and encouraged throughout our academic years. Numerous studies show the benefits of being aware of both how we feel and our thoughts about that feeling.
I am aware that I am trying to lay down some roots for example, because I want to feel like I belong, I want to feel connected to women I work with and those I support. I have constantly compared my current team with my previous one, back in London. Whilst I left three years ago and it was crazy and stressful, I think about all the good things about my team. We were supportive and understanding of each other. We had each other’s back and essentially we were one big family. We spent the working week together but also socialised outside work. When I think about London and missing home, I miss all these amazing women and the wonderful moments we shared.
I have a good team here but of course dynamics are different, the women are different and of course, I’m half way across the world. That said, I have connected with some of the women. I have managed to laugh until I cry whilst enjoying a mojito. I’ve come to learn we can’t recreate the same magic but we can be part of some new, amazing moments if we allow ourselves.