Balance: the inner critic and your inner cheerleader

balance its not good enough you're doing really well.jpg

I just want to say: where ever you are, whatever you are doing for your language learning, however you are talking to yourself, you are doing really well.

We all have this voice to tell ourselves that what we do is not enough, that we need to do more, that we need to be better.

I talked about this voice in my last video. I said that: When we say our English isn’t good enough, we become demotivated, we enjoy less and we learn less.

However, I also want to say…. It’s OK to have this voice.

I used to push this voice away and ignore it. In my experience, the voice then only got louder and I had to fight harder to keep it out of my head. Now I have a relationship with this voice. I listen to it…. I am always curious about what it needs.

What is this voice saying? Do I feel unsafe? Am I comparing myself to other people? Is it true: do I need to do more? What does this voice want?

It is safe to ask these questions. Normally I find the voice wants something very simple and kind.

If we don’t listen to this voice, we end up following it anyway. It follows us and comes into our day. Learning becomes more about following the voice rather than learning to enjoy, learning to improve ourselves, or simply learning to learn.

And we can build another voice. A kinder friend who will always encourage us, and point to the positive things we are doing.

be kind say kind things.jpg

I have built this voice in me through different ways:

  1. I write down all of the things I can already do
  2. I write down all of the things I have done that day (or I list them before I sleep)
  3. I leave little messages around the house or in my bag that say nice things about me
  4. I write encouraging notes for me (for example “You’re doing really well” or “You can do it”)
  5. I talk to myself in kind ways when I am walking to work

This is not about creating a war between two voices. This is very important. Wars in your head are very tiring.

No, instead it is about balance. The voice who criticises you lives with the voice who encourages you. It is safe to have both. There is enough space for both. In fact, we have a right to have both in us. Because both make us human. And to learn a language well, you need this balance.

And that’s why: where ever you are, whatever you are doing for your language learning, however you are talking to yourself, you are doing really well.

 

Do you need help finding balance? Then send me an email or give me a call, and let’s arrange a free trial lesson today!

The importance of laughter

laugh its good for you

Laughter yoga is one of the strangest things I have ever done.

…It is also one of the best.

What is it?

Laughter yoga was created in Mumbai by Dr. Kataria in 1995. It started with a small group who told jokes to each other. Then Dr Kataria learned that we do not need jokes to feel good. He found that it doesn’t matter if you are really laughing or if you act it out: the benefits are the same for the body. So he developed some exercises… and Laughter Yoga was born.

My story

I first went to a laughter yoga class a year and a half ago. I decided to go because I had forgotten how to laugh and this made me sad. So, because I believe you can learn everything, I decided to learn it. I saw an advert for Laughter Yoga in a centre near me, and after five weeks, I finally went to my first session.

It was uncomfortable and strange… and it was also the best time I had in a long time.

It has also helped me to build my confidence.

How?

how to speak to anyone people having a conversation 1

1. Laughter yoga asks you to do new things:

The hardest thing I found was to make eye contact with complete strangers. I have always felt awkward looking at people in the eyes, but eye contact in LY is very important because it helps you to laugh more. It took me about 6 months to learn that it was safe to look people in the eye. And I found it wasn’t as scary as I thought.

We also do a lot of role play at LY. For example in one game we have to mime a word and others have to guess what we are doing. Our confidence increases when we do something new because we see that it is safe. We also learn that we can do things differently and that it can be fun. Both help us grow and feel more comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

2. It teaches you to relax.

LY is not hatha yoga – there are no poses or chanting. The only yogic part of the class is deep breathing and the final meditation, where we lie on the floor.

I love the final meditation because this is when I feel all the benefits of the laughter. I feel soft and energetic inside. I feel SUPER relaxed and happy and friendly. I also feel like everything is super easy and wonder why I worry so much. Why worry when everything is so funny? Which brings me to my next point…

laugh.jpg

3. I don’t take things seriously

Now when I get annoyed at something, I laugh about it. When I make a mistake, I laugh about it. Or if I am scared about the future and dream of the worst possible thing that could happen… I laugh about it! Of course this is not always easy, but I still have this tool that I can use whenever I want.
I also laugh at myself when I am being serious, which means I’m not so sensitive to people’s opinion. This means I can hear criticism and not take it personally.

Finally…

It’s really healthy!

There are so many health benefits to laughter. In fact, it has the opposite effect of stress. Your cortisol (stress hormone) goes down, you release endorphins (feel good hormone) and breathe more deeply. This is great for your mood and your health.

So why not find a class near you and see for yourself? Maybe you could even take a class in English and practice two skills at the same time. (TIP: learning English is easier when you are having fun!).

Whatever you do, take a chance to do something new and learn to laugh at the same time.

Enjoy, grow your confidence, laugh, have fun!

If you want to learn other ways to have fun while learning a language, contact me and let’s arrange a free trial lesson.

Find out more about laughter yoga at laughteryoga.org and universallaughteryoga.com

The power of community

take time for your friends mondayThere is power in community.

Of course it is wonderful when we can depend on ourselves. When we are strong enough to face our challenges alone.

There can also be times when we need support.

Our communities lift us up when we fall. They give us someone to talk to when we are stuck in our thoughts. They motivate us when we are close to the finish line.

As well as this support, I find my communities help me to grow. They give me a chance to experiment and share my opinion in a safe space. They remind me of my dreams and inspire me to make them happen. They give me advice and connections so that my network continues to grow.

together

How do you find a community?

I have built my communities through three main ways:

1. Social media has given us a fantastic opportunity to build our support groups. Personally, I have found Facebook groups amazing. Typing out my problems and seeing the support I get almost instantly helps me to feel safe and encouraged when I really needed it.

2. If you need people to connect to, meetup can be a fantastic way to find people who have the same interests as you.

3. When you have found these groups, get involved. Go out, connect, help others, drink a tea together, go to the park, whatever!

Don’t worry if you don’t get best friends immediately. Sometimes it takes 3, 4, 5 or more meetings to build a strong relationship. A true community comes from openness, exploration and commitment. Keep going, you will find your people!

I am very grateful for my community and I know I would not be here without them.

And we all deserve that.

So to close I’d like to ask you 5 questions:

  1. Who can you already reach out to?
  2. How can you build that relationship?
  3. How can they help you?
  4. How can you help them?
  5. What can you do to grow your community today?

Take time to ask yourself this question today and find the community that’s best for you.

Are you Berlin? Are you looking for community? Join my meetup group Confidence and Conversation and feel welcome at our next workshop.

Thank you to my precious communities: Berlin Girl, Brighton Girl, Playing Big for Visionary Women and Berlin Spoken Word.

What do I do when I’m scared?

we-only-need-to-be-scared-when-we-are-physically-attacked

World Truth in my words

There are some times and places which are scarier than others.

For some of us, it is when we give a presentation or sit an exam.

For some of us, it could be an interview.

Or it could even be when we are in hospital, or in a bank, or a social situation where we have no idea what people are saying.

These times and places are scary when we are speaking our own language. So when we are in a foreign country where everything is new, this fear can grow dramatically.

What I would like to offer is three ideas to bring this fear down and help you to feel safer.

take-three-deep-breaths

1. Breathe.

When we are scared, our breathing changes. It is shorter and irregular.

When our breathing is shorter, our bodies know that we are panicking. When this happens, we panic more.

So it really is as simple as taking ten deep breaths.

Start with three, then see if you can do more. When you finish ten, see how you feel in your body.

The wonderful thing is that you can practice this now. In this way, it will become a habit for you in everyday life. When it is a habit, we can do it more and more in the situations which are scary for us.

it-is-ok-to-be-scared

2. Whatever you are feeling is OK.

In my experience, the main reason why I panic is just because I think I SHOULDN’T be panicking.

When I tell myself ‘stop panicking, stop panicking, I need to stop panicking,’ I actually panic more.

This is because you are putting more stress on top of your stress.

We can take away this extra stress just by saying ‘it is OK to feel this way.’

For example, maybe you are in a hospital and everything is different from the hospitals in your country PLUS you have no idea what people are saying. And you are scared.

You can simply say: ‘OK. I am scared. I understand why. Everything is different. I don’t understand what is happening. So of course I am scared. So it is OK to feel scared.’

It’s strange, but I find it very calming to do this. And when I feel calmer, I can think more clearly and feel more relaxed.

i-am-safe-it-is-ok-affirmation

3. Everything will be OK.

This step allows you to trust.

When we are in a scary time and place, where everything is unsure, we don’t know what will happen next. As humans, that is scary for us.

When we are scared, we often ‘catastrophise.’ This means we believe that the worst thing is going to happen.

For example:
I am in a hospital: ‘I am (or someone I know is) going to die’
I am in a bank: ‘I am going to lose all my money’
I don’t know what people are saying: ‘These people are saying bad things about me.’

Again this is OK. It is understandable.

But it is always important to remember that these are only thoughts in our head. It may not happen in this way. It might be OK.

In my life so far, I have been in a lot of scary situations. And I am still alive.

Maybe things didn’t happen in the way I wanted, but what happened was OK.

Now when I am in a scary situation, I remember this.

I invite you to look back on your life. Look at the scary times and places. What happened? Did the worst thing ALWAYS happen? Or were there times when it was OK?

And are you still alive now?

Again, I find this practice brings the fear down. It grounds me and brings me back to what is happening now, NOT what I think might happen in the future.

question-your-thoughts

Summary

  1. Breathe
  2. Being scared is OK
  3. It will be OK.

These are three simple steps that will help you to stay in the present moment.

We do not need the past to tell us about the bad things that happened before. We do not need our panic to tell us the bad things that MIGHT happen in the future.

All we have to do is to stay here and now. When we stay here and now, we can see clearly that there is NOTHING to be scared of.

What do you think? Comment below and let’s talk about this.

Thoughts on ‘failure’

This week, I did something I have never done before.

I cancelled a MTG workshop.

I could give you many reasons why but, if I’m honest, it was because I didn’t feel strong enough.

My friends and students were very kind about it… but I still felt extremely guilty

And yes… I felt like a failure.

failure

I’ve been thinking about failure a lot recently.

And it’s something I hear about from my exam students a lot.

The fact is: Fear of failure is the number one cause of exam stress.

We don’t think we will get the grade we want and so we stress and study and stress some more.

Because failure has consequences for us.

“If I don’t pass my exam, I can’t go to university. If I don’t get into university, I can’t get the job I want. If I don’t get the job, I want I won’t earn enough money, and I won’t be happy. If I don’t earn enough money…. etc etc etc.”

ahhhh

The next fact is: Stress takes any fun out of learning.

We learn the best when we are relaxed. And we are relaxed when we are having fun.

For me: stress = not fun.

So how do we make stress into fun?

failball

The crystal ball of FAIL

1. Don’t think too far into the future.

Who says you will be jobless if you don’t pass the exam?

Who says you won’t find the money to try the exam again?

Who says you’ll get fired?

We just DON’T KNOW. So don’t try and write the future.

Plus, your ‘failure’ or ‘mistake’ may lead to something wonderful in the long-term.

So why say that it’s bad now when you don’t know what will happen next?

okokok

2. Remember you’re human

Humans make mistakes. We’re not perfect.

If I have learnt anything from cancelling that workshop, it’s that IT’S OK TO BE NOT OK.

People understand and things generally work out. THAT is a fact of life.

So don’t call yourself a ‘failure’ when things don’t follow your plans.

Life doesn’t follow plans… so why should we?

Me time

meettime

I love the phrase “me-time”

The meaning is so clear. It is the time that I spend with me. Doing what I want. Alone.

Is it depressing to spend time alone?

It could be, yes.

Some people need to be around people. They love to socialise and learn more about others.

I love that too.

But sometimes I need time and space for me. For my thoughts. To relax. To find some quiet.

 

silence

 

I find that “me-time” is also an important part of improving my confidence.

When I make “me-time” a part of my routine, I find I have space to really relax my mind. I don’t need to do anything or speak to anyone or think about someone else.

I am Number One.

After my “me-time,” my head feels a lot clearer. When I have a clear head, I find it easier to make decisions and focus on what I am doing.

And when I am decisive and focussed, I feel a lot more confident in what I am doing.

 

So here’s an activity for you…

  1. Look at your timetable / schedule / calendar.
  2. Find some time today. Maybe it’s five minutes. Maybe it’s an hour. Maybe it’s longer.
  3. Decide what you will do in that time. Choose something you enjoy.
  4. Be very strict. When that time comes, have your “me-time.”
  5. See how you feel afterwards.

And let me know.

I know “me-time” works for me. Does it work for you?

Let it be.

let it be

I feel inspired to share this song with you today.

Although they are an old band, The Beatles are very new in my life. It was only by chance that I heard their playlist on Spotify last week. Since then, I have been listening to their music almost all the time. The lyrics are fantastic. They are full of stories. They are funny. There are words of wisdom too, especially in the song ‘Let it be.’

In this song, John Lennon sings:

“When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be”

I’m not religious and I don’t pray to Mother Mary, but I still understand the meaning of these words.

Because it is true: there are times in life when we just have to ‘let it be.’

We all have challenges in life and there are times when English seems harder than usual. Like when we are preparing for a difficult exam.  Or we cannot find the words to say what we want to say. Or we just CANNOT understand the present perfect continuous. Yes, there are hard parts of learning and we think that if we work harder, they will get easier.

I know from experience, however, that this is not always true.

Sometimes you just have to let it be. Leave it alone. Say ‘ok, I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m going to trust that it will be ok and I will understand later.’

It is a very annoying situation to be in, I know. It is difficult to know WHAT to do and HOW to ‘let it be.’ The thing is that sometimes there is NOTHING we can do. Sometimes, all we can say (or sing) is ‘let it be, there will be an answer, let it be.’

Allow yourself less stress today and relax. It’s quite nice when you find out you don’t need to control everything.  Honest.

Let go, lay back and listen to the lyrics of this wonderful song. Maybe you’ll find that for a whole three minutes and fifty-two seconds that you can really let it be.

(Video courtesy of wirytangent19 via YouTube. Lyrics are below the video.)

The importance of self-care part 2

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I’ve talked about the theory, so what about the practice?

I cannot tell you how to relax. Only you can do that. Only you can decide how you can be kind to yourself.

I will, however, share with you what I have decided to try:

    1. 15 minute work rule: This one is very important to me. When I sit down to work, I take my phone and I set a timer for 15 minutes. When this time is over, I get up from my work and I take a break for 5 – 10 minutes. What I do in that time is different. Maybe I will meditate, maybe I will go and make a cup of tea, maybe I will talk to someone, maybe I will read something. I do what I feel what I want to do in that moment
    2. Get outside: No matter what the weather is like, I try to get out at least two times a day for about 30 minutes. Maybe in this time, I just walk around the streets where I live, or maybe I’ll go and get something nice from the shops. The important thing is fresh air. I talked before about the importance of breathing and part of that is to have new air to breathe. So be nice to your lungs and get out of the house!
    3. Do something funny: laughter is important. It is easy when you are working to become very serious. When you become too serious, everything seems to be very stressful. So do something which makes you laugh. Read a joke, watch a funny video or simply laugh for no reason, like this: hahahahaha!
    4. Post your ‘self care rules’ somewhere you can see them: it is easy to forget to follow new habits, so put your rules somewhere where you will remember to follow them. A copy of my rules is taped on my laptop so that I read them before I sit down. I also have a note on my bookcase in front of me to help me remember.

 

This is what I have so far. I don’t know if it will work, but I believe it will and I am happy to try.

So have a go. Experiment with different ways to be kind to yourself. If you are not sure what to do, ask yourself: what would I tell a friend to do? Then remember, YOU ARE that friend.

And remember, there’s no rush to find the ‘right’ way. You have the rest of your life ahead of you.


 

  • Did you find this interesting to read?
  • Are you excited about the possibilities more confidence can give you?
  • Would you like to have lessons to improve your own confidence?

Yes?

Then send me an email at morethangrammar@gmail.com to arrange a FREE introductory chat. We can talk about what you want and how I can help you as a teacher.

The importance of self-care

awwww

“The kindest thing you can do for yourself is to be the person you want to spend the rest of your life with” – Heather K O’Hara

I was very busy last week.

I was excited about MoreThanGrammar and all of the things I wanted to say. I created and shared adverts about my idea. I spent two days in front of my laptop, writing for this blog and my Facebook page. I never do that… but I felt so enthusiastic about MTG. It felt so important to share my ideas with the world.

Then on Friday evening, I couldn’t do anymore.

My body screamed ‘enough, please!’ My brain cried ‘stop!’ I felt stiff and unloved. All I could do for the rest of evening was curl up with a cup of tea. I was exhausted.

This is not the first time I have done this. I have a history of working hard. Too hard. I have a goal and then I work and work and work until I cannot do anymore.

I have learnt an important lesson from this: Although it is a great thing to be focussed and to get ‘in the zone,’* I need to look after the rest of me as well.

Let me put it this way:

Do you think it is better to take breaks in your work and be kind to yourself? Or get your work done super fast but burnout?

What do you think is better for your health?

Which habit would you prefer to have in your life?

Everyone is different. I have met people who can only work under pressure. Maybe that’s you too. If so, that’s wonderful. I am learning, however, that I am not that kind of person.

‘Learning’ is the key word here. I am still learning this. The breaks feel like ‘interruptions’ rather than a kindness. Still, I know that is the way I would rather live. I tried working hard and fast before and it didn’t work. So I am trying a new way. Like any learner, I am experimenting.

So what has ‘kindness’ got to do with confidence, Victoria?

If you are kind to yourself, you give yourself respect. When you respect yourself, you know what you can do (and what you can’t do). When you know yourself well, you are confident in yourself.

Think of yourself as your own best friend. You know your friend isn’t perfect, but you are still confident in what they can do. They are still your friend. So why not try a new habit of being your own best friend?

 

* ‘to be in the zone’ is when you are extremely focussed on what you want to do. You don’t see or do or think about anything else.


 

  • Did you find this interesting to read?
  • Are you excited about the possibilities more confidence can give you?
  • Would you like to have lessons to improve your own confidence?

Yes?

Then send me an email at morethangrammar@gmail.com to arrange a FREE introductory chat. We can talk about what you want and how I can help you as a teacher.

 

 

Just. Breathe.

breathe

There are so many good reasons to breathe.

Here are the key points that I learnt so far.

The first is: If we don’t breathe, we die. Fact.

There are also many other health benefits.

  • Our stress levels go down. Our mind is clearer.
  • We make better decisions.
  • We improve our immune system.

However, it is important to remember that we need to breathe correctly. Here, ‘correctly’ means DEEPLY. So breathing all the way in….. and all the way out….

I have come up with a very easy 3-step plan on how to do this:
1. Breathe in. Breathe out.
2. Breathe in. Breathe out.
3. Breathe in. Breathe out.

SLOWLY. So, breathe in for four seconds and breathe out for 6. A long out-breath is important, because it makes you feel more relaxed.

breathedeep

Why is this important for my confidence, Victoria?

Because if you are more relaxed, you calm down.

When you are calm, you can think clearly.

When you think clearly, you are happier, more peaceful and MORE CONFIDENT.

So be kind to yourself today and breathe in. And breathe out.

Originally posted on my Facebook page on Sunday 10th January 2016.