Growing up and learning from the past

Letting go of the pastIn winter and after Christmas, it is a good time to reflect before fully engaging with the new year by letting go of the past. 

I used to be the enemy of small talk as I felt that talking about small things was just passing the time and, for me, talking needs to be about something of a deeper meaning, worthy of my attention. This arrogant attitude made me regularly say “I am not interested in talking about hair and nails, but I like talking about feelings and people”.

It was strange to understand that my willingness to talk about something of substance prevented me from deepening relationships with people and actually making long lasting friends. By showing a contempt for small talk, I have realised now that I have prevented myself from growing and learning. When meeting a stranger, I used to talk very quickly about my life, my aspirations, my ideas and, although people seem to be enthused by my enthusiasm, I have realised now that, more than often, they were put off by my directness and my over-the-top exuberance , and being bombarded  with information they did not need to receive straight away from someone they had never met before. I used to blame them for rejecting me as I thought it could be because I am a foreigner and that they could not understand my bubbly and forward manners. With reflection, I noticed that I was doing the same in France, during my younger years. Unconsciously, I wanted to get close to people very quickly, and felt that it needed to happen now!. I was failing to leave time for the relationships to mature and evolve naturally.

This realisation is not old for me but it has had three implications on my life:

1/ I have stopped blaming the past and my parents for this inadequacy. This has been liberating!  I changed schools so many times in my childhood that I had to adapt quickly and, in other terms, lose and make  friends easily. I wanted to get attached but could not as I was likely to move on. So I developed a shell to protect myself, so that the loss of friends was not so painful anymore. This has helped me to cope rather well, even if I am on my own. I now thank my parents for giving me this strength from a young age which has allowed me to be strong in difficult situations.

I can not change the past but I can change how I feel about it and then relish the  present in order to shape the future.  

2/ I have accepted that even if I do not like small talk, there is value in it, and that I listen more and talk less, not always though- still loves talking! I feel lighthearted in people’s company and, these days, much less desperate to make and have friends. I am more relaxed and happy as I will take what people give instead of expecting them to give (I can tell you I am still working on this one!)

3/ By being more relaxed, I have now accepted that some people will like my bubbly personality and will embrace who I am. Some others won’t and it is fine. Not everyone I encounter is going to like me and vice-versa, but with the people who do, and whose feelings I can reciprocate, we will be in a win-win situation. Our relationship will be able to grow and enrich both parties. As I heard once in a training, what other people think of you is none of your business.

I have made friends with the past and it is very liberating. Have you?

Helene is a dreamer, a poet, a trainer,  a coach, a mother, a daughter.  She is passionate about helping others to find their voices through her training. Get in touch with her helenemusso.com. If you want to book a discovery call with her, please get in touch on 07875627485. If you want to buy her book, click here. 

 

Be yourself, be proud, value your name, value YOU

A confident womenI have touched over the past few year the topic of being yourself and published a blog called being yourself and what it means to you. How do you start with being yourself? we often make it too complicated. Start simply with your name!

 About Your Name

Being yourself is first of all, about your identity.  It starts as simply as your name – Your name, who you are with that name  and where you come from.

I used to call myself “Helen” in my first six months of living in England.  But my name is not “Helen”, it looks like Helen, but it’s “Hélène” (You pronounce it Elaine really but it is still not quite exact , or maybe for the Anglo- Saxons, I should spell it LN, which would be close enough!). After six months of not replying when a friend called me-not a good one if you are in the pub waiting for a drink-  as it felt alien to hear these sounds,  I just thought ‘It’s not me!’ It wasn’t right, it didn’t feel right.   I could not respond to “Helen”.

In my desire to be integrated, I was denying my own core identity starting with the way I had been named as a child.  I had to accept that,  despite all my best intentions, I would never be English and did it matter anyhow? I realised later on, that my Frenchness in England was my best asset as I was different from everyone else and got noticed for being different. Especially I could get away for not queing like everyone else and bringing blue cheese to my childminder for my daughter’s packed lunch!

Recently my son was at the swimming pool, and he met a little friend in his diving class called Pip.  And I straight away said “Pip.  That’s a strange name” So I asked my son  to check if his real name was not Philip but it was not, it was Pip.  Then I reflected: ”So he must be called Pip, that’s what he’s called. Although for me it’s a bit of a strange name but that’s the way he is. It is him, let’s call him Pip.”

I think your name is paramount in defining YOU and it is essential to value your name for shaping and making YOU the way you are.   With the foreign nationals I work with, it is even more important to ask them what they want to be called , not what they think is acceptable in an English speaking country.

I recently worked with a South American lady called Maria. In my workshops I always make sure we learn all the participants’ names and call them exactly as they would like to be called, out of respect for their identity. When asked what she would  liked to be called,  she actually gave us the whole of her name Maria Carmen and she realised she wanted to use her full name as it was an integral part of her identity as a foreigner and so we did in the workshop. I don’t think she had ever been asked : what do you really want to be called?

Again, when someone uses a shorter version of their name, for example a Matthew might become a Matt, I always double check what they ultimately prefer to be called. When you call an individual exactly by the name they cherish or at least they are used to,  then you increase your connection with that person and very simply build rapport whilst showing respect for them as individual.

Now it is your turn!

Try the You Are Your name Show game

Have fun!

Recently in one of my workshops, I had two participants who did not like their names. My immediate respone was to feel saddened.

Then I suggested, ” Is there any chance you can change your name? If not, what about creating a story about yourself which would make you proud? What aobut inventing a story about something you wish has happened to you?”

There was a bit of confusion from the bemused participants whose immediate response was that this would be a lie.

“A lie?” I replied, “Are you sure? If it is a story that makes you happy and proud and enables you to live a more positive life, then is it not worth thinking about?

so now it is your turn, please pick up pen and paper and write or record on a microphone, or just tell a friend…

  • What is the story of your name?
  • Why were you given that name?
  • What is the origin of your name?
  • Most importantly what does your name mean to you?
  • Do you need to invent your own story?

 This blog is an extract of  The Power of Outrageous Expression. You can get hold a full copy of Helene’s book here.

Helene is a dreamer, a poet, a trainer,  a coach, a mother, a daughter.  She is passionate about helping others to find their voices through her training. Get in touch with her helenemusso.com. If you want to book a discovery call with her, please get in touch on 07875627485. If you want to buy her book, click here. 

Being grateful

In the last few years, I have been facing the fact that a lot of people think they need to put on an act and put a mask to cover their flaws, as if they were going to be discovered that they are not perfect. Nobody is perfect and that is what makes us human. What we can be though is being our better self by acknowledging and recognising our strengths and tempering our weaknesses. In any case a so-called weakness might be a strength. In that frame of mind we are winners.

mardi gras masks design

When speaking, what is interesting for me is that, after years of drama teaching and helping my students to be good or even fantastic at playing someone else, I am now encouraging everyone to be themselves.

This might appear contradictory but it is not.

By working with my students, I have acquired tools which helps anyone who wants to speak, or need to speak. But moreover, I have acquired compassion and support when faced with nervous students.

I remember Jo, a large lad who had to play a violent husband in a devised story. He ended up in tears a few days before the performance telling me he could not do that part. It was challenging to play that part and it was not quite sure he wanted to be portrayed in that tlight. I had to insist, it was drama and yes I believe that he could play that part with brio. He did perform excellently in the end. The scene with his “wife” was charged with tension and electricity.

I remember Joanne, a kid with learning difficulties who spoke very little during class but shook her beautiful face to show her agreement to most things. When she played an overworked mom at the end of the tether reacting to her family, raising her voice and making a stand. That day when she practised,  the whole class fell silent when hearing her voice. You could have heard a pin dropping, and again, there was electricity in the air that was carrying her words.

modern style dancer posing

I remember a class of year seven who undertook to re-enact a plane crash and were to rescue me as I was lying there pretending to be dead. The survivors acknowledged the dead and looked after the wounded. There was real beauty in this amazing support which was displayed then. “ This took place whilst I was lying in the classroom”. The students had taken full ownerships of the drama.

In that moment of intense display of emotion, all my students found a way of expressing themselves and being creative. They all had found a voice and through drama a way to channel that energy out to the world.

I remember my lovely Year 12 classes who in 2000 believed my madness when I told them that they would perform an absurd play at a my local street party- Rosebery Road Milllinium  street festivity was one of the rare street party at the time-. They were so scared but raised to the challenge with starting a play impromptu in the street. It was electric.

Share Your Voice Concept

Now I have realised that my drama background has allowed me to find my voice and has allowed me to want to help others to do the same.  Without all the years as a teacher, I would never have been able to set up my own business and to help others to become more confident at expressing themselves. Today, outside the drama classroom, in the real world, I just want to be me, and in return I want you to be you.

The Power of Touch

I am always amazed by the way we undermine the power of touch.  We are so scared by physical touch in today’s world.  But it is quite interesting to see how powerful gentle touch can be.

image of earth planet on hand

 

I was working with a student who was constantly becoming distressed during my class. Perhaps she was over sensitive to what was going on around her, but whatever the reason she was having a difficult day.  She became emotional several times, the first time I talked to her and reasoned with her, but that was difficult because she couldn’t explain what the problem was. After the third time in the day I began to question what I could do to offer comfort and help her through it.

The next time she became distressed I went over and let her talk and quietly put my arm around her and just held her close to me while she talked.  I must have sat like that with her for less than a minute, but when she finished talking this time she was happy, she laughed with me and went back to her work.

I was interested by the effect my contact with her had had on her wellbeing and on another occasion I was working with a student who found it difficult to concentrate and stay focused.  I asked him to come and sit next to me and I sat very close to him so I was just touching him.  Once again, as with the girl, this physical closeness had a calming effect on the student and for a few minutes I was able to hold his attention.

I really think there is a connection between physical proximity and calmness in the right situation if it is comfortable and handled correctly.  I was looking at business pages on the internet and a picture caught my eye, it was a line of people, in a business setting, massaging the person in front of them.  People were laughing and smiling and seemed to be very happy.  I think we need to start again and rethink the importance of the power of touch.  We need to accept that touching or holding someone could be so beneficial to how they feel and how they cope with what is going on in their day.  After all, I have heard of a lady in America, there may be others here in the UK, making money by giving people hugs.

iStock_000032465774Medium

 

When we can not express ourselves clearly because we are upset, the closeness of another being is comforting. I remember being told off by my mum less than a year ago, she was annoyed I had not visited or been in touch. I did not want to make a fuss as we were at my cousin’s house and I just bit my lip and quietly raged inside. One of my cousins looked at me and he put his hand over my forearm as if to say, “That is OK, you will be OK, it does not matter”. This little gesture meant so much to me in terms of support and I was grateful for that.

So, when are you going to rethink how you use touch?  Especially if you have lost touch with how to touch and be touched.  Start with something very small, like holding that person that needs reassurance and comfort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrender or getting angry, what choice are you going to make today?

Surrender or getting angry: choose the best solution, a story to help come to terms with not getting your own way.

I went to do a day’s supply yesterday in a school.  I still teach and I run my own business and I have two children, I sometimes wonder why I’m tired! Anyhow, I was in the classroom with year one, they are 5 to 6 years old, and I’d been with them over an hour and break was coming up.  I got them ready for break and as they were lining up, I was sent a message that it was wet play, which meant they had to stay in the classroom.

This was my second day in this school and I was quite tired, it was Friday, the end of the week.   And I just had one moment of complete anger, thinking ‘what am I supposed to do now?’ And I did call to another teacher, I could see one bringing students back from the playground. I asked ‘What am I supposed to do?  What’s happening to break?’

businesswoman in anger

I had two choices there, the first one was to make my own life a misery, and I was getting quite tense with the kids, because I needed a break.  Then I thought, ‘Well, actually if I had a break that would be great, but I haven’t got a break, so I may as well be easy on myself  and enjoy being with the students.

They all took their coats off, I told them they could play, they took   some toys out and started playing and I sat there and started playing with them too.  Making faces, laughing, talking to them.  And you know what?  Once I had decided there was nothing I could do and I needed just to surrender, just to calm myself and just go with the flow I relaxed and I wasn’t half as tired, I didn’t need my drink now.  I would have been pleased to have a drink then because you get thirsty when you teach, but I could wait.

happy girl in yellow dress

By the time break was over I was ready to start again, then suddenly someone turned up and said ‘I’m here to relieve you so you can have a break.’  I thanked her, gave her some work for the children and left for 10 minutes.  But what was amazing was that if I’d been annoyed with the kids, carried on wanting my break, pushing and getting annoyed, I would possibly have shouted at the children, made myself feel bad, upset the children, and it wasn’t their fault, and by the time someone had turned up I would have been really, really wound up.  But I chose the easiest solution.  Just to surrender.  To think ‘Ok, let’s all have a break together, let’s make the most of it.  Just enjoy being together’.

The kids were having a good time, they weren’t misbehaving, they were lovely and I even gave them a few more minutes play.  So they were happy.  And I think that’s quite important when you want to think about expressing yourself. If you find the wrong time to say what you feel, I could have been really angry, and get really annoyed with the kids and the school.   But because I decided not to and I decided I was going to relax my whole body started to relax.  I didn’t feel as tired and although obviously I needed a break, it was less urgent.  And it is something that’s quite important when you start speaking or when you’re in front of other people and you have to speak.

3d imagen Attitude issues concept word cloud background

Often, it’s better not to worry and just take one thing at a time.   Hold the faith, think that it’s going to be OK.  It’s going to be alright. And realise that if you push too much you are going to make everything miserable, you and the others around you.   Also, what do other people need?  The children needed a break, but it didn’t really matter where it was.  They wanted to play and that is what we did.   Because they were allowed to play and because I relaxed, they were happy.

I think this is a really quite important lesson to learn.  To just relax and surrender.  To just think ‘OK, I can’t have it all my way, and does it really matter?  As long as we, as a group we are making progress.’   That’s what counts.

So, I just want you to think today about the analogy between that situation in the classroom and times when you might have talked to your team, you want them to do this and that,  you just barked orders at them instead of trying to see what else they need. “Are they ready to listen to me? Is it the right time for them?  How can I engage them?  How can I treat them so that they respond? Can I really control the whole thing? Shall I forget to try to get my own way?

If you like this blog, please comment below. Thank you

Helene is a dreamer, a poet, a trainer,  a coach, a mother, a daughter.  She is passionate about helping others to find their voices through her training. Get in touch with her helenemusso.com. If you want to book a discovery call with her, please get in touch on 07875627485 or email beconfident@helenemusso.com.