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Got Coaching Confusion?

It’s time to get some perspective and see clearly why coaching without niche focus is in need of close examining. With an increasing trend for getting a coach / becoming a coach, it?s hard to cut the wheat from the chaff. It?s not surprising as ?ambiguity? plays a growing role in what is increasingly a sales business (and not a coaching business).

Genuine Coaching

Genuine coaches have niche skills, expertise and real experience to share. Such individuals can be a one-time boon, an ongoing asset, or even a life changer to the corresponding individuals who seek/require it. Broadly speaking, there are two ?directions? of coaching: skills and mindset (and some coaches can offer a personal blend of the two). For example, some will coach a specific skillset e.g. product photography, bookkeeping for small businesses, vocal performance, personal styling, better gym technique, weight loss, financial planning, nutrition or how to un-bugger-up your Macbook. Others will offer mindset coaching, e.g. making and managing money, communing with nature, expanding creativity, improving business motivation, focus in athletic performance,  heightening self-worth in relationships, enhancing mind-body wellbeing, how to not bugger-up your Macbook in the first place. It is often a balance of guiding ‘how to do’ and ‘what to do’.

Coaches also typically focus their services to particular industries (or interest communities) like sports, business, theatre arts, publishing, wellbeing and so on. Some are very niche (I know someone who coaches on multiple orgasm and another who specifically coaches couples on ‘surviving their business and marriage’ ? and maybe these two should hold a retreat together ūüėõ ). Some veteran coaches will have a variety of niches they can cover – usually with a congruent message across them all and only after tremendous demonstrable experience.

Some coaches will blend their skills and mindset together and, really great coaches will take their clients on ?journeys? of personal development with measurable goals. Such coaches are definitely worthy of investing in if/when right for you – and you have a specific project in mind like getting in to sports competitions, writing that book, getting on stage, finding appropriate romance, starting or growing a business. Coaches also invest in themselves too – often collaborating with other coaches on complementary niches. This means that a good coach is always offering the best and the most they can to their clients. Self-esteem and client-esteem must be on a parity of esteem. Good coaches also invest their own money in good personal coaching – as continued professional development to improve their service (not just their sales!).  

Now, crucially, these coaches are a million miles away from the sales of what I?m calling ?conceptual coaching?.

What?s the Problem?

Every day on social media I see pushy ads for a plethora of personal coaching services that look and sound curiously like carbon copies of each other. Many of them actually suggest ?become a coach to become rich/ solve all your problems?. They appear to be merging as though spaghettifying in a black hole toward a singular point of sales. Where the advert is selling the concept of coaching itself as a business or lifestyle opportunity, I call this ?conceptual coaching?.

Furthermore, some (not all of course!) of the ads are looking a lot like multi-level marketing (MLM), showing excited people posing poolside, loudly quoting massive figure incomes, working from home as their own boss, urging us all to urgently sign up for a free something-or-other to kick start our ?dream? careers. They remind me of the 1990s Herbalife promotions of a smug guy leaning on a Porsche, who apparently sold milkshakes to his neighbours (something the teenage me dabbled in for about 5 minutes and got bored).

Caveat Emptor! The Problems of ?Conceptual Coaching?

What this means is that there is an increasing trend for people to ?buy coaching to become coaches? – and thus offer a rather opaque or confused service. What are they then going to coach? Coaching! and so on…

Lack of Niche Experience: The result is that there are business coaches who sell their coaching based on their current experience of running their business coaching business (they do not have a prior history of business success). There are life coaches who sell their coaching based on their recent experience of quitting the 9-5 and becoming a life coach.

Because there is often a lack of specific skills or knowledge, there is a real danger of a coach being ?a bit of everything?. I?ve heard of life coaches giving unsound advice on serious issues that require specialist training such as mental health disorders, family law and bankruptcy. Here lies the inherent problem where coaches sell their personal experiences and opinion* or their ?brand? as adequate and sufficient grounding for being a coach. It is important to acknowledge that coaches are not therapists nor financial advisors although they may be able to discuss such matters, spot a need and recommend appropriately.

*(I?d also hate to see a world where no one had any friends anymore and instead we paid strangers to talk to us and share their stories, life experience and opinions.)  

Life Coaching is definitely on the rise and in particular, leaves me with questions. It?s proponents state that Life Coaching ?is not therapy because, therapists deal with past trauma or experiences and by contrast, Life Coaching deals with the present  – in identifying and clearing obstacles  for future goals?. But this description is essentially what Cognitive Behavioural Therapy does. CBT identifies and breaks cycles and bad habits in the present and encourages good ones to facilitate future goals. It is also the most commonly prescribed therapy on the NHS. Furthermore, from what I?ve read (quite a lot), the basic starting point of a Life Coaching session is to discuss the ?origins of beliefs about the self? looking back in our pasts as early as infancy.

So… anyway… The service itself (coaching content, method and material) is ambiguous and often seems confused, increasingly so with each iteration down the line. Furthermore, if it is also MLM, then instead of physically selling diet shakes, essential oils or a wrinkle cream, it?s almost completely intangible. Because it is ?conceptual? it is increasingly easy for anyone to get on board without the need to buy and hold stock, provide clear services nor, appear to have/ need any credentials or experience in any particular field.

The encouragement for ?personal branding? also adds to the confusion because each may look ?unique? – and I?m sure the coaches believe it is too (after all everyone?s life story is unique) – but the iterative re-branding is possibly part of the sales process. A bit like buying bottled water, putting a new label on it then selling it on for the next person not to drink (because the bottle is actually empty, it?s ?conceptual water?) but to put another new label on it and sell it on. Ironically, no one is really drinking any water and any ?solution? will be diluted each time. Similarly, no-one is really gaining any personal coaching and is instead selling on a sales technique.

I have also noticed that Life Coaching and the newly emerging alternative, ‘Success Coaching’ is often presented like a watered-down version of (or mash up of) other disciplines such as the aforementioned Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). 

Because I like metaphors, here is another: Many coaching businesses are like a row of quirky shops that turn out to be multiple doors to one big wall. Here is where the depth of the problem becomes very clear ? that it?s also a two-way financial ?funnel? and is an increasing problem for those who have their backs to the wall, thinking their shopfront is special.

Vulnerable People are Targeted: Whilst the shopfronts of my previous metaphor are trying to engage new buyers (Business to Customer, ‘B2C’), there is another level of sales also going on behind these quirky doors (Business to Business, ‘B2B’). Real people are being persuaded to part with real money and real hope, in becoming coaches. Here, target audiences are those who are vulnerable from personal crisis such as redundancy, single parenting, mid-life ennui, heartbreak, illness, injury and other forms of loss. This is ground zero of the sales/recruitment. Ironically, hardship stories are often used as ?rags to riches? sales tactics suggesting overnight success is just a download away. Caveat Emptor. 

Those who have earnestly invested in their shopfront (their ?unique coaching business?) are increasingly paying for more bricks to hide the real business behind it all. When their businesses don?t attract the 5+ figure incomes nor queues of rich exciting clients (many are at a loss without hope of any return on investment) and so they are persuaded to invest in? you guessed it! More Coaching! If your own coaching business isn?t ?attracting? paying clients, you need to be coached on ?how to attract paying clients?? and so on. Sales of B2C and BTB simultaneously.

In this case, the real money is being made from selling business coaching as a business; and life coaching as a lifestyle. There is some deep irony here. Once you have invested several thousands to ?become a coach?, you are more likely to keep spending than cut your losses. This is the classic cognitive bias for ?loss aversion? that marketers have used since wo/man could shop. This is why coupons and ?limited time offers? work so well ? you get FOMO. This ambiguity of promised potential gains hides the reality of actual loss and encourages this aversive behaviour. This is also why there is always an urgency to signing up for a free seminar or download. 

Why is this trend emerging?

I think that people are genuinely seeking revenue and/or meaningful work through enhanced personal identity. In an increasingly impersonal world of ?celebrity salespeople? (social media influencers, reality stars – those who are generally famous for being paid to endorse big brands), it is easy to be become seduced by social media as a platform for personal income, psychological and emotional validation. Unlike investment eras of the past, online personal coaching disbands with the need for an office, social permission, academic credibility, experience or stock.

About 10 years ago I noticed the rising trend for everyone to have a personal trainer or ?PT? and be showing off their results and lifestyle changes online (including the need to post photos of angled or mood-related salad portraits) and I predicted that the next thing would be for that same proverbial ?everyone? to want a business/life coach so that they felt they were investing in their own psychology and wellbeing beyond tighter butt-cheeks. Furthermore, that a large proportion of this ?everyone? would come to see themselves as being ?qualified? to be those very coaches. Why not? With the increasing flexibility for working at home, on the go, in the car/caf?/gym, via ready-made platforms of social media and without the need to carry any product or stock and without the hours of academic training or hard physical graft of becoming a PT in a gym (which had probably crossed their mind at one point), it?s easy to see why ?becoming a coach? is very appealing. There is no personal investment needed – just all your available money.

Outlaw of Attraction – My Own Experience

Forever the professional ‘maverick’ or so I’m told, I celebrate the diversity and atypical of body and mind. From burlesque bodies to paranormal minds, my specialism is probably best summed up in the field of transpersonal psychology (where we holistically explore human experience and development through mind-body connections and consciousness work). I work mostly with people who find themselves to be ‘atypical’ in some way.

As someone who has been involved with psychology, the arts and wellbeing for 20 years it has been interesting although frustrating to watch this sales trend emerge. In the past year or so, I have also been approached by a few life coaches (one still in ?training?). They asked me to explain:

  • ?how? I come up with my material,
  • ?how? I get my experiences
  • and ?how? I attract clients.

Truth is… that there is no ?how?, I just ?do?.

I?m curious by nature and I take positive risks in life, then reflect and take insight from the experiences. I then have the compulsion to share. Some people love the atypical (and even potentially trend-setting) work that I have done (including being a leader of the burlesque movement, creating a kind of ?cat yoga?, presenting snakes in schools as social learning guides, investigating alleged paranormal activity and developing techniques for increased sensory perception? and so on), and as a result, want me to be involved personally with their own creative development. They pay me for my time and insight and thus I am a ?coach?. 

However, I didn’t became a coach by design nor even desire. Instead I began coaching 10 years ago because someone requested that I be their mentor in burlesque. The thought of being a coach at that time was very daunting to me as I never felt ‘qualified’ – until it became apparent that I was wanted because I had a lot to share.

I still experience self-doubt like everyone else but I am eternally grateful to that first coachee for having faith in me, as I found my ‘calling’. I am someone who creates and delivers new unorthodox materials to support personal development. To also work one to one with others is so special, sacred even.

I also didn?t choose or ‘find a niche’, I have sort of defined my own niche: ‘creative personal development’  and this has been achieved through subverting the mind-body norms of our culture over the course of my life. I believe that new work needs to be created by each individual in order for transpersonal progress to occur.  

On a one to one coaching level, I therefore help others express themselves authentically from a holistic conscious perspective. We explore and present their ideas and identities in new ways. From stage performers, coaches, speakers and content creators to people transitioning in their private life e.g. gender, spirituality or career. I help my clients ?find their light?. (This reference to ‘light’ is key as it brings us back to the idea of trans-cendence and trans-personal work.) 

For me, the success of this concept is highlighted in nurturing self-expression of personal ideas, values and identity. This has occurred gradually over years, through experimenting on myself, being radically honest in reflection and the act of creating of the aforementioned materials, that people want and are willing to buy.  I still deliver my ?branded? material myself and have taught others to deliver it in their studios, schools etc too. I intend to make these courses available online soon too.

>>Pitch Alert!<<

Perhaps you have something to say but can?t find the words, or it?s your time to shine but feel stuck in the dark, or maybe? you too want to be a coach and lead others in your unique way but can?t find your direction. I call this Creative Personal Development and it?s a process of self-discovery, creative output and self-determination.

There is no template or formula for this that can bought and sold – because it is genuinely individual. You can read more here about one to one personal coaching with me.

My Totally Free Coaching Advice! LOL

Finding a coach: Look at old school coaches and think… would I pay for my child to have a football coach who hasn?t played football? Would I see a therapeutic coach who downloaded their (very interesting I?m sure) course but has zero hours of supervised practice? Would I take business advice from someone who spends their time touting for business?

Don?t fall for it – look for credibility not the long emotional sales pitch about overcoming hardship to Ferraris and dream homes, perfect lifestyles and ?abundance?. Beware of anyone who calls them self a legend or guru – these are terms other people apply to their mentors. They are by definition earned over time and not an egoic # for sales effect.

Becoming a coach: It may seem like a lucrative opportunity but ultimately, the conceptual coaching bubble will burst. It will burst because quite simply those involved in this iterative coaching sales business, are creating their own competitors, with nowhere to climb. Furthermore, because the sales are based on outlandish claims of wealth, status and success that very few actually enjoy, a sense of ennui and failure will take over and lead the backlash just as it has done many times over for MLM.

Remember whilst there are huge amounts of money being made through the selling of coaching, this is where the trap is.  It is easy to be seduced thinking you can be one of the makers. The reality is that you are very likely the buyer. You only make money if you make something that people want to buy. No one buys a theatre ticket and expects a role in the show or a cut of the box office. No casino has ever gone bankrupt because the gamblers were too good at gambling.

OK… now moving on to the exciting bit.

Doing it for real is so rewarding. I know loads of people who would make exceptional coaches in their niche areas of expertise and interest. So if the idea of sharing and helping others excites you then I think that coaching probably is a realistic option for you too.  I’d be excited to hear all about it.

So let?s have a think? here are some things to ponder and ask for help on.

Do you have a niche? Do you have direction? Can you communicate your expertise and personal story? Can you create and develop your OWN content? Are you willing to share your true and honest self with others?

If you are thinking of becoming a coach, first of all you need to know why and what it is you are coaching specifically. Otherwise it?s a bit like when a youngling states that they want to grow up to be a celebrity. A celebrity what? Sadly, there is a cross over here too where some become online coaches that simply sell their ?brand? – a personal brand with nothing tangible behind it. It?s another way to validate wanting to be an ?influencer? without having anything to offer other than sales influence. 

Content is key and if you don?t have it, you need to create it ? not buy, borrow, or rebrand what you bought from the last guy in the chain. Share good material from others of course, but with appropriate credit given. When you honour the minds of others you honour your own, and those of your audience.

If you can?t (yet!) create any content off your own experience, then train in some niche area of interest and work on yourself from there first. If you need help establishing this, get a bona fide coach to guide you. The primary question anyone should be asking themselves is ?how can I genuinely help others?? rather than ?how can I sell my brand??. Any genuine brand will sell itself, and you have to build it first. Additionally, it is so important to learn how to coach not just what topics and there are endless techniques, theories and methods to explore. It’s a matter of exploring across as many areas of interest as you can and see what you enjoy using and what you find effective. It doesn’t matter what someone else advocates, it is a matter of personal niche, personal service and personality. 

I?d further suggest that those interested in coaching examine and enhance their individual creativity so that they might ?come up with? their own adventures then take it from there. The ?secret? to my experiences and material and clients? It?s simple – follow your own nose in life, not a carrot dangled in front of it. If there is one being dangled, notice it and look to see who is dangling it – then avoid those people and return to your own path. Certainly don?t then let them sell you carrots and sticks to dangle in front of others.

Be curious, take risks and try new things beyond your comfort zone. Reflect. Share. Share for free. Share because you can. When someone asks you to share with them, you become a coach or a friend.

Or both.

 

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Do Not Search for Love…


In love, never seek someone to be your ‘better half’ or to ‘complete’ you – be the whole person you already are. YOU are The One.

Only when two whole people come together can lives be truly shared. You both need to have an existing life to share in – not be out to share in someone else’s out of personal lack.

We tend to seek out others romantically with notions of wholeness yet also individuality at the same time.

Ironically, we think we love them but actually it’s how they influence how we feel about ourselves that counts. Finding someone with whom we appreciate ourselves better is the aim – not someone with whom we will always feel inadequacy or anxiety. Or be in search of the ‘one’ based on criteria that can never be fulfilled.

In order to share a life with another we first need to have one to offer – not assume we will share in theirs and become fulfilled. Two halves don’t make a whole. They remain two individual halves forever bargaining and compromising for their own empty half to be filled and ‘completed’. Instead, be the whole you are and accept that only a whole other is suitable. Otherwise, what is there to share? How can you ever grow?

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Rationalism and Honesty…


Whether we are thinking through a lunch menu or pondering the big questions, if we are honest within ourselves, reflecting on how we feel as we reason in the moment, then we can be confident in our thinking… I think.

Here is where head and hearts can align or, we can notice that they are askew or even in conflict. It is in this perception of self-awareness that we grow and refine our thinking. Our feelings are the compass that gives direction to our thoughts. However, its is important to understand that our feelings are not necessarily ‘truth’ indicators or any ‘correct’ direction, rather they are honest reflections of ourselves (our composite life experiences and impressions of the world) and through this head-heart process of self-reflection, we can examine our feelings, our emotional reactions to thoughts, concepts and ideas – and gradually come to understand what makes us tick and what makes us ticked off….

There is no ultimate ‘right’ way to think or feel, rather this is an ongoing process of self-examination, reflection and adjustment. Whether we notice something we dislike (thought or feeling), we can thus experiment with alternative ways to look at things and adjust our experience of both thoughts and feelings. Only when our heads and hearts align, do we feel content.  Otherwise we experience a sense of dissonance and unease. In this we have a perfect example of the power of perception and the magic it contains – perception is  the lens we choose.to see through and thus creates our experience of the world.  This is the true essence. of. what many refer to as ‘manifesting’.

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Average is a Mean Illusion


What does an average mind or body look like? Where would we find one?

All our notions of ‘normal’ and ideal are illusions – in many cases ones we all collaborate in! Averages are concepts that only exist because of human VARIETY – how ironic!

Statistics are a great tool to understand populations or groups – but they do not define any one person in any way! This is where we often get ourselves all wound up.

Thinking we should tend toward any ‘average’ or ‘mean’ leads us in fear and to think unkindly about ourselves (and sometimes others too). The mean or average of any set is more like a numerically derived guesstimate of what’s there – and actually is less likely to apply to anyone involved!

When we ‘deviate’ in some way from the typical, or average… we are simply demonstrating that we are all individuals that can not be accurately charted.

So celebrate being a deviant! It’s natural and ideal!  

Every Body, Mind, Beautiful.

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Not Lost in Translation… insight from transgender and non-binary voices

If we want to pursue individual happiness and a fair society, we all need to be allies to those whose voices are diminished beneath the roar of controversy. When I took part in a panel discussion on trans for the Church of England last year, I decided to interview as many transpeeps as I could – so as to represent their voices and not just my own. These were read out and a video shown of UK gender-non binary artist Mark Anthony, in addition to my address, which I have blogged over here.

In order to share perspective and gain insight from those who feel they go unheard, here are my contributors, in their own words.

1. What does it mean to be trans?

DH: Being trans, is just who I am, it basically means that I dont have to pretend to be something I am not any more, forcing myself to hide away. 

JP: To be trans means to me that I can just be who/what I want to be. I don’t feel like a different person just in my eyes, an enhanced version of myself.¬†

JM: Being a criminal, hiding, lying, being not what you are, having to be two characters not one. Separated from society, shunned.

MA: In its most basic sense being trans means to not identify as the gender you were assigned at birth based on your body. Ie, how you feel about your gender doesn’t match with the way others see you and try to teach you to be and act.¬†

RR: To be trans is to not identify with the gender you are assigned at birth. This includes people who medically transition (male to female or female to male), but medical intervention is not essential. People who are non-binary, and don’t identify as either gender, also fall under the trans umbrella.

RJ: In simple terms it’s knowing that the gender people thought you were isn’t right for you, but in practice being trans is being brave and choosing to remake yourself to match what you really are, rather than what you are presumed to be.

  1. How would you define differences (if any) between transgender and transsexual? Is this a useful distinction? 

DH: I dont, I’m not hung up on labels but the difference is due to generations more than anything. Most Trans people are just themselves and not sum of their labels.¬†

JP:¬†Transgender is the umbrella term, I do sort of disagree with the wording because in my eyes a crossdresser isn’t the same thing , although for many it does lead to becoming a transsexual. I just feel that it’s unfair to group us when they just dress for example for sex or …. sex while people like me go through daily life how we are. Job interviews, busses , Morrison’s, where they might only have the happy time. Transsexual is the final destination I guess.

JM: Transsexuals are disphoric, they require surgery to make them what they think they are, think limb disphoria here. Trans have a choice and choose to feminise or be masculine.

MA:¬†As far as I know transsexual is just an outdated term for transgender, and it carries the weight of trans people being seen as freakish or mentally ill. In my experience most trans people find the word very insulting.¬†Apart from the associations, it’s just an incorrect way of describing trans people – it’s about gender not sex. Sex is body parts, gender is the way you feel and the way you are socialised to behave.¬†

RR: Transsexual describes someone who has had gender reassignment surgery, although not all people who have had the procedure may identify as transsexual. Many people find this term outdated, but it is important to note that many, notably a lot of the older generation of trans people, identify as transsexual, making it as valid as any other term. Transgender is more of an open ended term, describing people who fall anywhere within the trans umbrella.

RJ: Transsexual implies a person who is trans and who has undergone surgery to change their physical sex. Transgender encompasses trans people who haven’t, can’t, or don’t want to surgically transition, and is more inclusive for non-binary and gender fluid identities for that reason.

  1. If any, what misconceptions annoy/upset you the most?

DH: That we are all perverts, abominations or some how an affront to humanity. 

JP:¬†That we are these sexual beings just gagging always and wanting to dress like tarts . I always cringe when I see trans in media that are overtly sexual. I don’t mind sexy but I like decorum and cheeky rather then full on. I’d love to be known and to show different.

JM: Pre-judging, thinking it’s just sexual.

MA:¬†That trans people are somehow just trying to get special treatment, like the bathroom ‘debates’. This mainly applies to trans women but the media uses a very small number of cases of sexual violence to create a climate of fear and associations of deviancy around trans people, when the absolute vast majority of us just want to pee!¬†

It also upsets me that as a result of the high levels of very negative attention given to trans women, the existence of trans men is often ignored completely. In some ways it’s better to be ignored, however we’re very underrepresented and therefore things that we need specifically are often overlooked. For example, healthcare such as hormone treatments and surgeries is much more advanced, varied and well-tested for trans women.

That being trans is easy/people do it on a whim. I’ve been waiting for two years, with possibly another one to go, to even get a first appointment at a Gender Identity Clinic. That’s before any hormone treatments or surgeries which have both lengthy waiting times and long recoveries. So if I wanted to transition fully it would take me in total the best part of seven years. When you’re on hormones or other treatments there’s little to no support – you can have appointments max once every three months and even phone calls are limited because the clinics are so overwhelmed. GPs are not trained in trans healthcare so a lot of it is trial and error, and they have been known to refuse to treat trans people based on their own prejudices.

RR: Perhaps not a misconception, but the fetishisation of trans people is still a huge problem, as we are still seen as a taboo and some sort of sex object to so many.

RJ: I hate that people think trans people are confused or mentally ill for not fitting neatly into the socially constructed box that is gender. I also get very upset when someone suggests that trans people, particularly nonbinary people, are doing it for attention.

4. When you were growing up did you feel that you wanted to be a different gender or did you always know you were the gender you are now?

DH: Since i was able to articulate this. Which was about the age of 4. DH

JP: I always knew I was different just didn’t know how or what it was full about 4 years ago and then it all just clicked.

JM: Wanting to be a different gender.

MA:¬†I always knew something wasn’t right, and that I felt extremely uncomfortable in my body, but I wasn’t able to fully understand or accept what that meant until I was in University.¬†

RR: Since coming out, my mother told me that as a young child I had told her I felt like a girl inside. Growing up, although I felt different and certainly more feminine than my male peers, growing up in the North East of England, these feelings were somewhat pushed down, perhaps for my safety.   

RJ: I have always been in a grey area and been enamoured with the idea of androgyny. I didn’t necessarily want to be a boy, but I really didn’t like being a girl either. If I had known about gender fluidity, nonbinary identities when I was younger I think it would have saved a lot of confusion.

5. What do you want see change or improve in your local community?

DH: More acceptance and tolerance of everyone no matter what religious or trans or race or whatever.

JP:¬† Especially alot of trans seem to be focussed on just trans, I like to mix with all people , if we get along we get along and we can work together, but there’s so much hate and jealously, jealousy is such an ugly colour of lipstick.

JM: Freedom to be myself, dress however, be able to express who I am, not pre judged all the time. Acceptance. Eg in hospital, be who I am not catagorised.

MA: I would like to see changes to assumptions of who or what people are. More asking of pronouns, more respecting of pronouns, more standard use of gender-neutral titles and pronouns. Also more inclusive services that recognise the differing needs of trans people. 

RR: Living in Brighton, my community is pretty great and I feel very happy and safe here.    

RJ: Gender neutral toilets as standard, a general move towards gender neutral language (e.g. not using ladies and gentlemen etc)

6. What do you want to see change or improve in the wider world?

DH: End of Homelessness, Peace and tolerance, rather than hate.

JP: Understanding and kindness.

JM: Better education. Be able to integrate, we are capable people, just let us be useful as we are. The way we dress – and behave, should be an individuals decision not imposed! Don’t bring genders up separately and throw them back together later in life. Grow up together whoever you are. Less lonely and more productive.

MA: Much the same as the previous question, but also to end the media scapegoating of trans people, the general persecution and oppression of trans people in many places (see the changes happening in the USA where Trump is trying to write trans people out of existence). 

RR: The media as a whole needs to change its damaging attitude to trans people. The last few months have been pretty horrific in response to the reformation of the GRA 2004, with even publications like The Guardian posting transphobic nonsense. I would like to see us normalised, just another member of society. So many see us as a threat, which is quite frankly ridiculous.   

RJ: Same as in my community, as well as removing gender divisions in clothing and accessories, generally shaking off the misconceptions we have about what defines woman, man, masculine and feminine, and also better education about gender neutral identities and language.

7. Can you share any insightful or funny stories or anecdotes about your experiences?

DH: Being a stand out means that you become a beacon for advice. Not all trans people are as confident or self assured¬† about the way they are and who they want to be. This leads to¬† people to seek those who do stand out for a myriad of reasons but doesn’t always mean that they are the greatest of all people to be ‘leaders’.

RR:¬†I’m not sure this is exactly what you mean, but this film really helped me come to terms with my gender identity.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNmEqgK-eCs

RJ: As I am not the only member of my family that has come out as trans, my mum has had to learn a lot about pronouns and language in a short amount of time. I’ve started making the family fortunes “not an answer” buzzer noise (“errrk”) whenever she misgenders someone. My boyfriend has picked up on this so now we use it regularly, and out of habit sometimes buzz other people when they misgender someone, even if they have no clue about any of this. It definitely makes people careful not to misgender.

  1. Can you supply images and/or video that expresses how you think and feel about being transgender? How easy/difficult is it to express? 

DH: Pretty sums everything up around transition.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6HaVYg6kB4

JM: It should be easier with the technology, use it, you can have all of mine! ?

RR: My message is to stay strong, positive and putting good energy into the world. To those who are not in the trans community, know that we exist, that we are valid, we are not a threat, and we have always been here.

RJ: https://youtu.be/JacrjnVP7gI ¬† This is an act I perform under my drag king alter ego, Roddy Jodphurs. It summarizes how I feel as a gender fluid person and how harmful and limiting the socially enforced binary can be, but also how unique and liberating it is to be happily, proudly trans. It can be difficult to explain how it feels to be trans, especially non-binary, to cisgender people because it’s like trying to describe a flavour to someone who’s never tasted it.

  1. Tell me about your message to the trans community and also to those who are’t involved? Is it the same message or different? How?

DH: Be you,  dont hide, and dont believe all you read and hear. Your life, your rules and not everyone elses expectations. 

JM: ¬†Be who you are, we don’t live forever, and that’s everyone, do it now, don’t hold off for later.

MA:¬†To the trans community I have a message of solidarity and respect. We’ve all struggled to make it this far (a quick look at the statistics on suicide in young trans people shows quite how much of an achievement it is) and things happening in the world are making it seem like things are going backwards, and what we’ve fought for might actually be taken away.¬†

To cis people my message is a plea to educate themselves and to be allies. Trans people aren’t rare but we are a minority, and unfortunately our voices aren’t enough – we need cis people to speak up and fight for us. All of our systems and institutions are based on the assumption that everyone is cis and straight and in order for that to change, the people in charge of the systems and who benefit from them need to choose to let other people in. ¬†

RJ: My message to everyone is that we see everything as a set of opposites because it helps us make sense of the world. On and off, night and day, men and women. Sometimes people are on one side but they should really be on the other – they are the moon you see in the daytime, the standby light. But this idea of everything being one or the other is something we made up, at the cost of ignoring the beautiful figures who don’t fit in those boxes. Some of us are dawn and dusk. If we really want to make the world a better place, we have to stop blinkering ourselves and others and see what is outside those boxes.

10. Anything you would like to add?

JM: ¬†Only that it is stereotypical, and people’s behaviour is predictable depending on how you present yourself, don’t assume. It’s all forgivable given the ‘brain washing’ we receive from birth.

I would like to think everyone who got involved for their time and input. Please do share this and encourage more to take part and add to the bank of answers or suggest more questions too! Let’s ensure that nothing is ever lost in translation! It is all our responsibility, regardless of gender, politics or gender-politics…

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Perfectly Presented or a Work in Progress?


Why do we all worry about perfection and presentation? Because we think everyone else is achieving it? Or that despite not being perfect themselves, they will judge imperfection?

Well… if they do, let them. If they are seeking perfection in you… it’s because they lack so much more in themselves.

Focus on being REAL. On being exactly who you ARE. This is TRUTH. Being authentic doesn’t require competition or validation! I for one am excited to be a continual work in progress and would shudder at being considered ‘finished’ – and up for consumption like a Barbie doll!

Real women aren’t immaculately presented in boxes, tied in place by the shackles of consumer demand and waiting on the shelf for false liberation.

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Dis-Comfort Zones

What if your perceived comfort is the very thing that creates your discomfort with your lot in life?

There is an uncomfortable truth lurking in the shadows of our comfort zones: they are more self-made prisons than the personal playgrounds or protective bubbles we like to think.

Despite its name, your ?Comfort Zone? isn?t necessarily a comfortable or happy place. Some people are comfortable residing in a space of intolerance, anger or self-pity; others even seem to thrive in an environment of high stress. Many refuse to leave such spaces despite being miserable.

So, why does recognising the boundaries of our comfort zones matter? Self-esteem.

We are not born with self-esteem, we grow it through positive risk-taking adventures. Through babyhood, childhood, teenage and for the rest of our lives.

As babies, children and young adults we need to be nurtured – ?encouraged to grow?. We need to be encouraged to take those risks to reap the rewards of discovering our own abilities and to do so knowing that we have support, such as going to nursery for the first time, making a new friend, holding a scary snake or petting a big dog for the first time, auditioning for a play, trying a contact sport, riding a bike and so on.

So the same for adults – we need peer and familial support and new positive risk-taking adventures.

When we are not nurtured or simply refuse to be nurtured as many do, and put up barriers or ?defences?, we end up walled in to a comfort zone of fear. We think the walls protect us but they simply keep us captive to our own demons.

We cling to our comfort zones typically because therein we have familiarity and predictability. Even if what is familiar and predictable is uncomfortable – anyone who has been stuck in an abusive marriage for years will tell you exactly that… they were ?stuck?.

So some force is needed to overcome the stuck-ness. This is why the decision to take a risk is crucial. The risk is the force needed.

Everything and everyone we love changes or leaves at some point or at many points, and so do we. From leaving a job, town or relationship to changes of career, lifestyle or mindset. So why stay ?stuck? expecting things to remain familiar? Surely this only can lead to anxiety and resentment? Loss is difficult but also a necessary part of growth beyond those comfort zones. Read more on how loss creates space for gain.

There is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in discomfort. Bring uncomfortable suggests there is something with agency poking at or harming us in some causal way and to be in discomfort suggests a lack of that which comforts us. Ironically, they both hold space for the illusion of a comfort zone. 

Until we move, take a risk and see what?s beyond our boundaries we won?t recognise either the agency responsible or what we lack, and we will continue to be our own captors.

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Loss(t) in Space

Loss occurs in many ways. It hurts, but must we always Iose?

In the past year I?ve seen friends and family experience different losses – the loss of loved ones (through death, dementia, divorce and even unresolved dispute), the loss of personal ability and opportunity as changes occur in health, job position, home or career move, others have gained in beautiful ways (having children) and yet lost a sense of their own identity. It has me wondering? 

What is loss? 

All losses involve some sense of a loss of control. Loss always takes the form of an event (or series of events) in time, that marks significant change, generally creating anxiety or/and sadness. So, in spite of all the anxiety and sadness, what opportunity does loss create?

It occurs to me that maybe in thinking of loss as an event in time, we take it to be one that reveals ?space?, creating opportunity for growth.  The old space-time continuum conundrum of life. I can think of times when this has been true – the freedom felt after the break-up of dysfunctional relationships,  in not gaining acceptance to one thing we are often led to more original projects and so on. In each case, we have been granted space (or had it thrust upon us) to reflect, because of a loss.

Why space? 

When we lose someone or something, we often feel a sense of space on a scale – either vast or restricting. For example, we often feel lost, afraid, vulnerable, alone, empty, that we might float away in silence to some forgotten zone of nothingness. But sometimes, it?s the opposite and we feel trapped, crushed or suffocated? Either way we become overwhelmed by ‘space’  – in either direction by the amount of space we perceive. Too much and we are lost in the vacuum or, too little and we are crushed.

Either we fear the loss (of control) and have too little space to breathe or we fear the loss (of control) and we have too much to stay anchored. Sometimes we swing from one to the other. Either way, we ultimately feel we won’t cope and might not survive the event.

Perhaps the person, pet, role or circumstance we have lost was in fact ?holding space for us?, whether we knew it or not. To put this expression in context, therapists often ?hold space? for their clients and this means that they take on a role of being a ?container? that holds empty space – like an empty bucket in to which the client can pour their feelings and thoughts (without judgement). The feelings and thoughts are thus ?contained? within the space (and time-slot).  

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed day to day and need another person, role, project or outlet to pour our overflowing selves in to. Those special people, roles and outlets are our containers. When they are lost or taken away, we have nowhere to pour. Or, contrastingly perhaps we were the containers, holding space for others who have gone e.g. a friend or relation who needed us in their sunset, communities or projects that gave us a sense of purpose, identity and so on.

Having the ?wrong amount? of space. 

So, when our losses occur, it can feel that our personal space has been compromised. 

Resolve can come from acknowledging and managing our mental and emotional volumes, by adjusting our perception of the space we occupy we can feel more comfortable just being with our emotions and, where there is overflow be willing to pour in to new containers – art, sport, animals, meditation, others, community groups… 

Space is not a tangible asset that comes and goes. It is a perceived concept formed across our senses and emotions. Someone or something departing cannot take space with them, nor all that you poured in to it nor can they take away what they shared, when you held space for them. When a loss occurs, the space does not go with that person or circumstance.

The grieving party can therefore choose either: to avoid the space or explore it.

Our losses can lead to our most precious gains.

We create our spaces as we project ourselves in to them. By exploring, we expand into that space, fill it and grow. Space is created by us as we perceive it.  Just as when we pour in to those containers, we are projecting into and filling that space.  The space is never lost.

Ultimately, when we lose we also have opportunity to gain. We may lose our ‘containers’ and grieve or be angry for this but if we move in to the space that was held, we grow.

 

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Aspire to be without Ambition

Ambition is rather IFFY….

It is often seen as something to be proud of – or a personal quality that would ensure ?success?, whatever that is… but it?s all so hypothetical and future-dwelling. 

I say it?s time to put ambition on hold and be inspired in the moment.

Ambition involves competition and therefore comparison to others, with that comes fear of not being ?first?, resentment, envy and self critique hammering on self esteem the success of ambition is measured through unhelpful comparison to the perceived superiority or inferiority of others and their achievements.

Contrastingly, aspiration dispenses with the external yardsticks and focussed inwardly on personal potential and  the realisation of growth.

In moments of mindfulness, we can uncover how we really feel, now in the present and see what we want. The answer will likely be far less complicated than that ambitious road or destination fraught with limits set by others. It might look simply like ?I want to feel I contribute to a better community? or ?I want to express my creative ideas? or ?I want to be a dedicated parent? or ?I want to provoke change in my area of interest? and so on. It is a place of harmony within yourself and not some convoluted series of comparisons with others. 

How much time do we spend in comparison – driven by ambition –  when we could already be breathing in our inspiration and breathing out as we aspire? 

Breathe in, Breathe out… is literally to inspire, aspire…

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Doubt creates Hope – An anxiety hack.


IF you are anxious then you are using doubt, a lot. If you are to give any credibility to your doubt and test it’s validity then you need to apply it in a parsimonious way – that is, apply it radically and fairly to everything… including itself.

When you apply doubt to doubt itself, you create hope

Amen!