Toxic Masculinity: Is it a Bad Thing for Men to be Masculine?

Men and Mental Health Versus Toxic Masculinity

We have been hearing the term ‘toxic masculinity’ a lot lately, especially with regard to men and mental health. For me, I am not sure it is at all helpful to link the word ‘toxic’ to masculinity. Masculinity sums up the qualities and way of being attributed to men, however, both males and females can occur as having masculine traits, or behave in a masculine way. What is toxic is the way society judges what it is to be male or female. Masculinity is often associated with characteristics such as being tough, unemotional, competitive and aggressive. We are brought up to believe that to be a boy means we cannot cry, we have to stand up for ourselves. Boys play with ‘action man’ figures, guns, and are good at sport, whereas girls play with dolls, have tea parties with toy tea sets and help mum in the kitchen. It is this paradigm of what it is to be a boy or a girl that leads to the beliefs that are toxic.

Masculinity is not toxic. It is the judgement of what it is to be a man, that leads to men keeping their feelings and emotions locked away, that is toxic.

It is the way society places so much importance on the male role as one of dominance, power, being the provider and being in control that develops like a toxic seed in young boys and grows into the vile weed of ‘toxic masculinity’. It really has become such a problem that it could be regarded as pandemic. Recently in the U.S the ‘Journal of Family and Marriage’ published an outrageous ‘study’ saying that you’re destined for singledom if you don’t fit into the category of ‘marriageable men’ and by ‘marriageable’ it means ‘economically attractive’. The report goes on to claim that there is decline in U.S marriages because men are becoming less ‘economically attractive’ to potential partners. This ridiculous report is just one example of the many ways that society allows the weed of toxic masculinity to thrive. Not only are men now more and more obsessed with looks, body shape, looking ‘buff’ and personal grooming, they now have to make sure that they can ‘provide’ for their future partner financially. This stupid and outdated point of view is still very much alive and it is this kind of report that provides the fertiliser for toxic masculinity to grow.

Toxic masculinity feeds on the stereotypical view of what it is to be a man and the pressure to conform

This is just one small example but there are so many reference points out there in our society that are linked to religion, the patriarchal corporate world, politics, media etc, etc. Men are bombarded with pressure to conform to the stereotypical view of what it is to be a man. I thought that it was bad in the west, but since working with many men here in Asia I see it just as bad here and in some cases it is worse, because Asian culture has always had the male as the dominant provider and the female as the mother and homemaker. This shows up everywhere, in billboard ads, TV ads and even in schools. It triggers competitiveness, inequality, gender bias, fear, stress, anxiety, depression and leads to a rise in suicide deaths. Yet still it is all ‘accepted’ and hidden away by society. This is why it takes so much courage to come and seek support, to approach a life coach or psychotherapist, because if anyone found out (not least of which your wife/partner) you would be seen as weak and less of a man.

Picture: Young male, dressed as female, representing the hidden softer side of men, the forbidden male qualities usually associated with women. The scorpion represents the toxic poison suffered by males in society today.

“In Singapore it is considered a serious issue in recent years, with the rate of suicide increasing for all demographics. It is the leading cause of death for those aged between 10 and 29 years old. Males account for the most suicides at over 66.6%”

Like most issues of mental illness and death, suicide is generally viewed as a taboo subject in this part of the world. This clearly hinders efforts to reduce suicide rates. Some argue that changing public opinion on clinical depression and similar mental disorders may be a huge step in improving the rate of suicides but it is clear that it will take more than just that, toxic masculinity is far reaching, it starts young and becomes more toxic as you get older.

Reducing the pressure put on men to conform to the male stereotypical norm and reach out for professional support through life coaching

As a life coach I work with the results of this in nearly all my male clients. The male clients that have the courage to come to me and ask for support, know that they are struggling with their anger, stress, anxiety, self-esteem, self-confidence or with depression. The problem is that most men simply can’t summon up that courage, they don’t want to own that they are struggling, they are fearful of showing up as weak, they are scared of the judgements of others, especially at work and in the family. They push their issues down, they numb the pain with alcohol and put on a ‘false self’ to survive. I had one client who felt pressured to go out after work and drink with his colleagues because he was so fearful of ridicule if he didn’t. It was even more concerning because he was very worried about his alcohol use and concerned that his marriage was suffering because of the constant late nights. Another client had become obsessional with working out, with looking good and having the right clothes for work, he invested huge amounts of time in going to the gym and spending way too much money buying unnecessary clothes just so that he would be admired at work. The cost of this was his emotional health and his relationship, not least of which his financial stability. It all stemmed from being bullied at school about his weight and non-designer trainers. This developed a painful pattern that ruled his adult life and without our coaching work he admits he was heading for suicide. This is the ‘toxic’ part of ‘toxic masculinity’.

Toxic masculinity even ‘poisons’ the coaching process

Sometimes even when men step up and come for coaching the work can become very challenging. I have had male clients back off and withdraw from their coaching process. It is always the shadow of toxic masculinity that consumes them and pulls them back into their old patterns of shame and guilt. In most cases they don’t even want to admit they are working with me as a coach, like it means they are ‘weak’. However, we can always work it through and they come out the other side with a new and powerful sense of self-worth with a renewed strength, vision and purpose. Many of my clients are proud that they have got help and go on to support others by encouraging them to come and see me for coaching so that they can also benefit.

Ridding yourself of toxic masculinity

As men we must all support each other and interrupt this painful cycle. We must talk about our feelings, our fears and our problems, it is the only way to deal with this. I know it is hard to do this with your friends, colleagues, bosses and even your loved ones, but talk you must. Allowing your vulnerability is not a weakness, it is a key element of any good leader because being vulnerable allows for creativity and change. It is only through communication, through sharing, through empathy that you be able to transform the painful cycle of so-called toxic masculinity. This is where working with an experienced, qualified ‘male’ coach will help. As a coach I am on the edge of your pitch as you play your game, I am not your friend, boss or colleague. I am able to uncover how it is you become hijacked by this powerful shadow, I have been there, I have suffered and I can support you in ridding yourself of the ‘toxic’ shame and embracing what it is to be male. The alternative is stress, anxiety, depression and avoidance, which leads to addiction, illness and ultimately death.

If after reading this you recognise this in yourself and you can see that you are limited by your toxic masculinity then I will be able to work with you to transform it and gain release and freedom.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me.

Choosing the Right Coach- Seven Factors to Consider

Choosing the Right Coach- Where to Begin?

Choosing the right coach can be a very daunting task. It is hard to know how or whether the coach will be able to help you based on their profile on a coaching directory or on their own website. All coaches advertise themselves as certified or qualified but how do you know which one to choose, and whether one is better than the other?

There are so many people who want to become life coaches nowadays. There are also many training bodies and institutions that offer quick ‘coaching courses’ for people to become a ‘life coach’. Becoming a life coach seems to be a convenient career switch for many people especially those in the field of human resources or talent management. Many think they can guide people because they like working with people and it is becoming increasingly concerning as there are no regulatory bodies. It is so important that when you are looking for a coach and moving through the process of making your choice you do your research.

As Graham’s Practice Manager I have done much research to find out what other coaches in the field offer and it is shocking how many are setting up practice with only a small amount of training and no qualifications at all! This is what inspired me to write this article. I hope it will help you choosing the right coach to work with by being able to distinguish an amateur coach from a truly qualified and experienced coach.

  1. Look Out for Their Credentials

Always begin by checking out their credentials, the two most reputable and trusted certification bodies are the International Association of Coaching (IAC) and the International Coach Federation (ICF) both founded by Thomas J. Leonard. The IAC was set up for coaches who already have some level of training and need a framework to continue their development. The ICF was set up to provide similar but it also has a coaches training programme.

Graham is a certified Master Masteries Coach with the IAC so I will outline their levels of certification from the lowest to the highest first:

IAC: Masteries Practitioner → Certified Masteries Coach (CMC) → Master Masteries Coach (MMC)

Next is the ICF:

ICF: Associate Certified Coach (ACC)→Professional Certified Coach (PCC)→Master Certified Coach (MCC)

Coaches with the designation ‘Masteries Practitioner’ with IAC or ‘ACC’ with ICF denotes that they have not long started as a coach and are still very much in training, in the case of the IAC they only have to take a multiple choice exam to achieve the designation Masteries Practitioner and it does not equate to a coaching qualification.

  1. The Coaching Models They Use

Be aware that if a coach tells you they are trained in one or two ‘models’ and they make a big deal out of the benefits of that model this is more than likely an indication that they have only undergone a short coaches training course, some as short as 2 seminars. An example of this is the GROW model developed by Sir John Whitmore. Many coaches are trained to work with this model and it is a great developmental coaching model/tool, but it is just one way to work with clients. There are many, many maps and models, many processes and distinctions that an experienced coach has at their fingertips. A coach with years of experience will be able to draw on many transformational processes that will powerfully support their clients. It is so important that your coach tailors the coaching to your needs and not just rolls out the one or two coaching models they have been trained in on a 6 week course. It takes years to become a fully qualified and experienced coach. It is a big responsibility to hold a client on their personal development journey and work with them safely, it should not be taken lightly.

  1. Do They Have a Supervisor?

Many coaches out there are not supervised while working with their clients either. You often find new, lower level coaches offer free coaching because they need to practice on you and log in their hours as part of their training. It is essential that coaches in training tell their clients they are not qualified yet and are in training, they must also have a coaching supervisor to work alongside them. A supervisor is an experienced and trained professional coach that works with the coach while they work with you. This is not just for new coaches though, all coaches need to be in supervision so that they can have support themselves, so be sure you ask whether they have a supervisor before you join their practice.

  1. Have They Worked on Themselves, on Their Own Shadow?

Many coaches out there have not even had any coaching themselves, how can you work with a client on their ‘shadow’ when you have not even worked on your own? When I speak of ‘shadow’ above I refer to a term coined by psychologist Carl Jung, it refers to our deepest wounds; the wounds that have us believing we’re flawed, unlovable, undeserving and not good enough. These wounds are often created in childhood, but can sometimes develop later in life. Perhaps you were bullied or experienced a traumatic life event that created a wound. Other times these wounds are cultural. They develop from prevailing social/religious beliefs, such as the way money is tied to self-worth and status or the expectations of your parents that you will conform to their religion. In all cases shadow creates the limiting beliefs we let inform our internal adult narrative. A good coach will work with you to uncover this, it then develops the foundation for your healing and transformation. How can a coach work with you on your painful wounding, if they have not worked on their own? This is key, don’t waste your money on low level coaching that just scratches the surface, because you will only end up right back where you started because the painful itch will return.

  1. Do They Have Academic Qualifications in a Psychological Framework?

Bear in mind that IAC and ICF only provide a framework for coaches, a credential. Having a coaching credential/certification alone does not necessarily make a good coach with the ability to address the root of the issues that stem from your past. Generally speaking, coaching is all about future based commitment, but if you don’t look at what holds you back, what has you keep getting in your own way, then you will keep getting in your own way! Without working on the shadow you will easily slip back into all your painful historical patterns.

Therefore it is always beneficial that you look for additional psychology, psychotherapy or counselling qualifications when choosing a coach. Within this there a many, many fields from Psychosynthesis to Transactional Analysis and all carry academic qualifications. Coaches with psychological awareness and training have the tools, models and the necessary knowledge to be able to work with you deeply, safely and effectively. This cannot be said for someone who decides to become a coach simply because they were in HR management or recruitment and thinks it is a way to make easy money.

  1. You Don’t Need Your Coach to Have the Same Career Background to be Able to Coach You

Some people prefer to work with coaches with the same background or experience e.g. those who used to be in the IT field or are experienced at setting up a business, before becoming a coach. Coaches who only work with clients based on their career background or business experience can only serve you as a mentor; someone who can tell you exactly what to do because they have done it themselves with success. They are not able to work with you psychologically and at depth, there is a place for career and business mentorship but make sure before you approach a life coach that you are needing to be coached on your LIFE, because coaching is all about context and you are the one who brings the context. So, you come to coaching with the ‘context’ career or business coaching but a good coach will take you on a journey that develops you as a whole, all aspects of your LIFE, and as a result you will be able to create a vision and live into a purpose that will impact your career/business and the choices you make. So make sure you get clear on your context and be prepared to transform your life if you join Graham’s practice.

  1. Chemistry and Preferred Gender Considerations

Many people choose their coaches based on their preferred gender, the gender they feel most comfortable with. This can be challenging, yes, chemistry and the immediate connection are very important, but not necessarily gender. There may be historical associated trauma that has you feel more comfortable with a female coach, but it is the process of working with a trained, experienced male coach that will support you in seeing the patterns you have created over time, the ‘false self’ you have created to survive over the years, that badly blocks your relationships with men. It is this work that will lead you to the healing required to allow you to develop male relationships in the future which will impact your connection with male peers, managers, bosses, friendships and clearly your love life. You will see that it is always you, and your shadow, that create your blocks and being able to recognise this may only come from working with a male coach. The same can be said for male clients feeling more comfortable working with male coaches, but what they need is to work with a powerful female coach.

Summary

As Graham’s Practice Manager I have put together this article because I see firsthand how the coaching industry is full of people who simply should not be in practice as coaches. I have heard, through research, and from Graham’s own clients, many stories of how people have been let down, further damaged, or feel their money has been wasted by working with a pseudo-coach. I know this is a hard hitting article, I image it could create a backlash from other coaches, but it is necessary because there is no regulatory body and no associated laws to protect people from the bad coaches. I hope it helps and goes some way to keeping you informed and answering the questions so many clients ask.

Inviting Possibility: You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

The conversation you are about yourself

Much of the work I do with my clients focuses on the conversation, by ‘conversation’ I mean what you tell yourself, your mind talk, that constant chatter that gets more intense when you make mistakes, feel stressed, fearful or become anxious. It is the ‘conversation you are about yourself’ and it is as old as your thinking mind. All the times in your past when you lost confidence, got hurt, had your self-esteem knocked contributed to this self-negating conversation you have with yourself. It comes from your past yet shows up in the present when things get tough for you. It is during these times that you need to focus on your next action, what you need to create, what is possible, on your future, but as soon as you let your negative self talk kick in you go into your old painful patterns and do what you have always done, so you get what you have always got, and blame it all on the past.

You don’t know what you don’t know

This is where I want to start when looking at Inviting Possibility. What is the realm of possibility? Is anything possible? What is the conversation? Possibility is in the realm of ‘what you don’t know that you don’t know’. There are all the things we know we know, and all the things we know we don’t know. To remain open to possibility means being willing to keep looking, to remain open, even when you think you have the answer. Is anything possible? Yes, I believe it is. Scientists work in the realm of possibility all the time. They are constantly experimenting, constantly pushing boundaries, even when others don’t believe they will get results. In order to achieve we have to invite possibility, continually looking with new eyes.

Listening to the past kills all possibility

However, when we are listening to the past, when we are coming from everything we already know and paying attention to our self negation we lose sight of possibility, we become hijacked and we stop. We stay where we are, stagnant and immersed in our shadow. Then we beat ourselves up and turn to the patterns that help us to feel good. We remain in our comfort zone and we do not take risks, and in that moment all possibility is lost. Our dreams fade, we do not allow our full potential to shine and we suffer.

We are also a ‘conversation’ about everyone and everything, as well as ourselves. We are always in conversation without even saying anything. When working with my clients I encourage them to become aware of this conversation, to begin to observe the conversation they are about themselves, everyone and everything all the time. This is a powerful concept as the conversation is determined by the past, by everything we already know. For example; one of my clients suffered terrible emotional abuse at a young age and was also bullied at school. She never shared what was happening to her, she was scared that if people found out they would not believe her. She internalised the experiences and did her best to hide it all, pushed down the feelings and pretended she was okay. This then created the conversation she was about herself called: “I’m weak and useless”. As an adult, when she was fearful or if she had to make important decisions, or if she had to have a challenging conversation with someone (she was a manager in a big corporation, with a team of staff) her past based conversation about herself screamed in her head and she could not perform at her fullest potential.

A world of infinite possibilities can be diminished by a single internal dialog, the conversation “I’m not good enough”, “I’m unlovable”, “I’m thick, useless, dirty, worthless” to name but a few. This is the conversation about ourselves that limits, that kills possibility. When this conversation is in play there is no opening to possibility and until we break free of these limiting beliefs, beliefs moulded over time, we can never fully embrace possibility.

Living in the present invites possibility

When we are immersed in our shadow, we are not in touch with our purpose and our personal greatness. We need to create an awareness of this powerful psychological construct and reconnect to our greatness, love energy, values and purpose. If we are to truly invite possibility, then we need to remain present to the present and take action in line with our commitment to our vision we create for a bright and colourful future. Simple, but not easy. This is future-based action, it takes courage and commitment but it is also the only way to transform the painful conversation we have with ourselves that limits all we are capable of. From this place invite possibility, and possibility will come.

If after reading this you recognise this in yourself and you can see that you are limited by your own conversation then I will be able to work with you to transform it and gain release and freedom.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me.

What Can You Expect Working with a Qualified Life Coach?

What life coaching is really about…

Many people do know about life coaching, but it is not something that is widely available in Asia; yes, there are many people advertising themselves as Leadership, Career & Performance coaches but, in truth, it is still very difficult to find a well qualified life coach who really knows the challenges you face and one who will truly work to guide you in ‘getting out of your own way’ and facilitate powerful, lasting transformation.
Most people know that if you want to succeed in any given sport you need to engage a coach, someone that will support you in being the best you can be. What people may not realise is that a good qualified life coach can support the transformation of everyone including sportsmen and women, teachers, lawyers and business owners but the coach may know nothing much about their sport, what it is to be a teacher, lawyer or a business owner in their line of business.

So what can you expect working with a qualified life coach?

A good coach works with people on their BEING, not necessarily on what it is they are doing. A transformational coaching journey addresses what holds them back, work with their fears and the beliefs that limit them. A truly experienced coach is able to support clients in seeing how their past holds them in their present and how they get caught in a Vicious Cycle which inhibits their future. People often feel comfortable in the shadows, the coaching journey will shine a light on the darkness enabling them to see their future clearly.
Here are the 10 benefits of working with a qualified life coach:
  1. Increased self confidence & self esteem being able to share your challenges, share your shadow parts, share your fears and your phobias enhances your relationship with you! This supports a strong positive personal mindset – an important key to success.
  2. Better relationships you will gain clarity about your “wants and needs” so you can build healthier relationships and truly own your part in the important relationships in your life. This obviously includes your husband, wife, partner, parents, children, and close friends but also extends to your boss and co-workers.
  3. Enhanced work performance life coaching can contribute to a better and more satisfying work experience by working with you on what it is that holds you back from taking the next step on your career ladder.
  4. A life coach helps you become more accountable you will follow through on whatever you procrastinate about or stop yourself from doing. You will gain a new relationship with ‘keeping your word’. We all place limits on ourselves. We all have limiting beliefs and patterns that are holding us back, preventing us from fulfilling our true potential. A good coach will push you beyond your limits and what you thought was possible, this is the realm of the breakthrough. No more reasons and excuses holding you back from being the best you can be.
  5. Having a life coach saves you stress, pain, anger & frustration working with a good life coach will support you with the cycles of stress that cause you pain and frustration… especially if you have transitioned from another part of the world & another culture. Attempting to figure it all out by yourself just is not worth it.
  6. Greater wellness being well is more than taking medicine. A good coach will work with you to create “do-able”, comprehensive plans & goals. There are always patterns or behaviours that you are not even aware of. Sometimes it is a story you tell yourself as to why you are the way you are, or do the things you do, and this story inhibits your possibility & stifles your vast potential.
  7. A good life coach listens some people have never been listened to in their whole life. A good coach will create a confidential space of listening so that you can feel free to explore your truth.
  8. Improved communication skills the ability to say what you need to say, no matter how hard and the awareness of the part you play in any interaction is key to maintaining healthy relationships.
  9. Creating a clear vision for what you want in life it is more than just goal setting, it is about uncovering your passion, your values and your needs. Then creating a plan that is sustainable and achievable.
  10. Knowing you have someone alongside you with no hidden agenda any good coach will tell you they are not there to be your friend, they are not trying to be liked by you, they are simply there to serve you and only you, and that may mean telling you things you don’t want to hear without judgement.
Have a look at my specialty areas below:
Graham Kean, MA (Psych); MMC (IAC)
Get in touch to begin your coaching journey. Check out my testimonials to see what my clients say about me.

Perfectionism vs. Excellence- Is Being a Perfectionist a Good Thing?

Perfectionism is not the same as striving for excellence.

People who strive for excellence are motivated by their strong desire to succeed for personal satisfaction rather than gratification from others. Their achievements are not generated by the opinions of others or a fear of failure.

Perfectionists, on the other hand, are driven by the fear of judgement from others, of not being good enough. Those who feel the social pressure to achieve perfection tend to think that the better they do, the better they are expected to do. So their search for absolute perfection is a never ending painful pursuit.

Do you strive for excellence or perfectionism? Here are the signs of perfectionism that may put you at risk of extreme stress, anxiety, anger and depression.

  1. Inability to enjoy and celebrate success

Perfectionists do not tend to acknowledge their achievement. It is never good enough, even though the desired outcome is successfully accomplished. There is always something not quite right, they believe they could, and should, have done better by finding flaws in themselves or others. As a result, they can never truly feel the joy of satisfaction and celebrate their success.

  1. Difficulty in allowing and forgiving mistakes

Perfectionists are often overly critical of themselves and others. Instead of seeing mistakes as a learning opportunity, perfectionists do not allow, or forgive, their own mistakes. When a mistake occurs, they tend to berate themselves for being incompetent or even stupid, and these thoughts preoccupy their mind to their detriment, losing all productivity.

  1. Avoidance of taking on challenges that may cause potential failure

Perfectionists like to stick with what they know. If they are presented with an opportunity that requires them to develop more skills, or move outside of their comfort zone, they are likely to turn it down. They are fearful of not being smart enough to tackle a new learning curve and potentially cause failure.

  1. Fear of judgement by others

Perfectionists tend to cover up their insecurities because they are intensely afraid of being judged by others. They would rather pretend, leading others to view them not only as perfect, but making perfection seemingly easy, even if their world is in a disastrous state. They do not allow others to see them as vulnerable and they only like to talk about their achievements, never their challenges or failures.

  1. Struggling to get things done on time and meet deadlines

Perfectionists have the propensity to fix things that are not quite broken. Their creativity and productivity suffers as a result because they are in a constant battle with the decisions and motivation to complete a task or a project. The “what ifs” and expectation of negative outcomes preoccupies their thoughts and the stress can be overwhelming.

Perfectionism can negatively impact work productivity, relationships and ultimately affect your psychological wellbeing.

How can you transform your perfectionism?

Recognise the pull of perfectionism. You can do this by noticing for yourself when you experience extra stress and anxiety as a result of overcompensating.

Acknowledge that in general society today is bombarded with media that portray unrealistic standards of existence, we get easily sucked in and believe these inflated and embellished paradigms.

Accept ‘imperfections’ by lowering your standards and expectations, set yourself attainable, realistic ideals and goals. Successful people build upon their failures, instead of hiding from them. Consistently reminding yourself of this will help you get things into perspective.

Mistakes are not bad or wrong, these are judgements, consider that a mistake is simply something you did that did not work for you, it can be resolved, you can sort it out. You can ask for support, there is no shame because we all make mistakes. A mistake gives you the opportunity to take a look and see what you can do differently next time. This supports you in striving for excellence, because there is always learning.

Acknowledge yourself for the accomplishments you achieved at the end of your day, no matter how small they may seem. Make this a practice, instead of looking back at all the things that did not work and putting yourself down or beating yourself up.

As you begin to practice self-acceptance and focus on the things you have accomplished your perfectionism will slowly diminish. Letting go of the need to dwell on limitations or deficiencies will allow you to feel better about yourself and focus your energy on positive and achievable growth.

Overcoming perfectionist tendencies can be a daunting task. Seeking help from an experienced life coach is key because you can never ‘self coach’ and you will always need someone to hold up the mirror of your perfectionism so that you can transform your powerful limiting beliefs and lessen its power.

Get in touch and schedule a chat to begin your coaching journey with me so that you can begin to move forward in a safe and structured way that will transform your life forever.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Coping with Stress and Anxiety: Fight, Flight or Freeze?

Stress is the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressure or other types of demands placed on them. Our increasingly busy, complex and demanding lifestyles sometimes have us feel out of control. We feel anxiety builds as we feel powerless to make the changes to gain the right balance between work, relationships and leisure activities. We worry about money, health, what people think of us, how we look, getting older and not having enough time.

The key point is that we think the demands and pressures come from outside of ourselves. We feel threatened and our ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response is triggered.

This anxiety and fear exist for a reason. Humans evolved to have a fight, flight, or freeze response to alert us to danger. It helps us to act in stressful situations, but the results do not always work in our favour. The physical response can vary — you might act impulsively (fight), escape (flight) the situation or freeze up. Many of my clients suffer from social anxiety and speak to me of feeling this type of intense physiological response (fight, flight or freeze) when interacting with, or in front of, other people. Their brains trigger a response meant to help them in life-threatening situations for ones that aren’t actually dangerous and this can be very challenging as it inhibits their progression at work and in relationships.

Common ‘fight’ behaviours include:

  • becoming overly competitive while anxious
  • adjusting body language to appear strong and stable (broadening your shoulders, keeping your chin up)
  • overly preparing for an stress/anxiety-provoking event like a presentation or small talk
  • snapping at people while anxious or stressed.

Common ‘flight’ behaviours include:

  • leaving the room to wash dishes or go to the bathroom (even if you don’t want or need to)
  • giving an excuse to leave early from stress/anxiety-provoking interactions/social/work events
  • changing the topic of conversation from one that is stress/anxiety-provoking
  • pretending to take a phone call to walk away
  • stopping an activity that is stress/anxiety-provoking
  • adjusting body language to protect or hide your body (like folding your arms or closing in your posture)

Common ‘freeze’ behaviours include:

  • blanking out (having your mind go completely blank)
  • clamming up (not knowing what to say or being able to speak)
  • physical shutdown or even fainting

If this sounds like you, you are not alone, many people can pin point these behaviours. The result over time can become very harmful. Over a prolonged period physical and emotional health can deteriorate, resulting in health risks that can be life threatening.

How can we recognise stress and anxiety?

The effects and symptoms of stress are many and vary greatly between individuals.

Some of the effects are sweating, cold extremities, ruddy complexion, digestive discomfort, increased sensory reactions, raised breathing and heart rate, impaired thinking and memory functions, etc.

What you can do to reduce stress and anxiety:

Identify stress/anxiety-provoking thoughts and ground them in reality. Try to identify what exactly you’re afraid will happen. We often automatically assume the worst case scenario will manifest. Once you identify your fears or anxious thoughts, you can ask whether they are actually true, or if you might be jumping to conclusions and making up a story.

Ask yourself “What would I tell a friend in this situation?” Asking this question will help you to view the situation objectively, instead of through an emotional lens. Even asking others for advice might give you perspectives that you haven’t considered before.

Alternatively, external action and support through professional coaching will benefit and reduce the cause of stress and anxiety.

If you suffer from any form of stress or anxiety, get in touch and begin your coaching journey with me. Stress and anxiety management coaching is an important step in the right direction. My coaching will help you:

  • Learn proven relaxation techniques
  • Adopt healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety
  • Become aware of the signs of stress and anxiety
  • Maintain boundaries and learn to say no
  • Stop being a perfectionist
  • Manage your time effectively

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Do You Find it Hard to Say No? It’s Time to Stand in the Power of Your ‘No’

Do you find it hard to say ‘No’ to a colleague, a friend or a loved one? Most people assume that saying ‘No’ is an easy process, however for many this could not be further from the truth.

Here are the 5 reasons:

1. Fearful of disappointing or hurting someone. Sometimes we do things that go against our own desires just to make others feel better, even without us realising. We often unconsciously make choices in life to our own detriment just to please our parents, husband, wife, partner, boss or friends because we want to make them happy. We find it hard to say ‘no’ especially to our loved ones, as if they will stop loving us if we say ‘no’ to them.

2. Avoid conflict. Many of us are fearful of conflict. We don’t want others to be critical of us or angry with us when we say ‘no’ to a request. We want to do everything and anything to avoid the unpleasant feelings that come with being in conflict. For some people, turning down a request is not politically correct because they think that saying ‘no’ puts them into conflict and they always need to show up as the ‘good’ person.

3. Want to get along with the crowd. We often have difficulty saying ‘no’ because we want to get along with everyone. We have the desire to be accepted and be liked by others. We don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ so we do what others are doing to avoid rejection or become the odd one out instead of saying ‘no’ because we have a different opinion. Consequently, we are pressured to compromise our principles because we don’t want to be seen as someone who is difficult to get along with, or someone who does not play well with others.

4. Desire for recognition. Saying ‘no’ may be perceived as a sign of weakness, selfishness or incompetency, we either believe this to be true or we fear others think it of us. We want to be seen as someone capable so we say ‘yes’ to a request even if we can’t fulfill the task in that moment. At work we don’t want our colleagues to think of us as ‘unsupportive’ or not a ‘team player’. We find it hard to say ‘no’ in these situations because we are constantly looking for recognition and to be accepted. This is especially true for people with low self-esteem who feel insecure about their career.

5. A constant unspoken expectation of a ‘yes’. When we are asked to do something, we often get a sense that it is more of an instruction than a genuine request. This is because the person who is asking has already assumed that we will say ‘yes’. So we are pressured to become submissive to this unspoken expectation especially when it comes from someone in authority, or someone we see as ‘above’ us. With every ‘yes’ we speak that has a ‘no’ underneath we encourage people to keep expecting our yes’s. Overtime this expectation in the other becomes a habit as they come to believe we will always do everything we are asked and we become trapped in our ‘yes’.

The difficulty we have in saying ‘no’ to a request is not a personality trait that comes naturally. In fact, it has a deep roots in our upbringing and parental care system. As children we were told not to go against authority. We were taught to follow what our parents told us to do. At school we had to do what the teachers said or we were punished. We became submissive not only because of the fear of punishment, but also because of a desire to please and be loved by people who are very important to us. We carried this programming with us into the adulthood and it has a powerful and negative impact on our relationships, leadership, career development and our general well-being.

We say ‘yes’ for all the reasons above (and many more), but we often overlook the extent of the impact it has on us; it creates resentment, jealously, self loathing and depression. Even though it is so hard to speak there is real value in your ‘no’ and speak it you must.

Find it hard to say ‘No’? It’s time to stand in the power of your ‘No’ and be aware of the pitfalls of your constant ‘Yes’.

If you are struggling with saying ‘no’ and be at the effect of it. Get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me for further support. You will learn to:

  • Become aware of your boundaries enabling you to stand in the power of your ‘no’, an essential skill in becoming a good leader.
  • Consider all possible choices available to you before giving your answer to a request. This involves putting yourself first and offering your reply from your reality not what you think others expect of you.
  • Have a mindful approach to requests made of you, especially in the workplace.
  • Be able to create a professional and thought-out response which leaves the person making the request with a clear indication from you as to what you are prepared to do or why you are not prepared to do what is asked of you.
  • Come from the place of awareness and clarity which will leave you less space for conflict and open up the possibility of healthy, stress-free interactions with the people in your life.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

4 Simple Steps to Let Go of Your Resentment

Resentment is a powerful and destructive emotion, it creeps up and gets stronger, it preys on our well-being and if left unchecked will eat us alive! It is powerful because it comprises of a number of emotions; anger, disappointment, sadness, fear & disgust. It is brought about when we focus on the wrongs done to us and our perception of injustice.

It is also interesting to note that whilst it is very painful and potentially life threatening to hold on to resentment, it also has a big part to play in our righteousness. Something happens to us and we are hurt and wounded. It is at this point resentment creeps up and says “you are right to feel this way, of course you feel like this, you are the good one and they are the bad” and out of this conversation you take action. You seek revenge, gossip, an do what you can to lessen your feelings of anger and hurt. It is a destructive cycle and the only one who suffers is you, you are the victim and you are ‘being’ the victim.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” – Nelson Mandela

The cost of holding on to resentment

When you hold onto resentment you hold onto all the emotions associated with it, it drains you and you have less ability to have compassion for others, you are irritable and withdrawn. You often find yourself unable to share with loved ones because they ‘would never understand’. You are simply not fun to be around.

It erodes trust, you become more wary and less self-expressed. It can be very stressful and it is this stress that has an impact on our vitality, our sex drive, our health, etc. It causes depression, you can end up alienating friends and loved ones. You are likely to attract others who are typically feeling the same way about their lives, thereby creating a fully toxic environment for yourself.

There are physical costs as well; chronic bitterness, anger and resentment cause the body’s system to produce toxic chemicals. This compromises the immune system and it could potentially bring on strokes, heart disease and even cancer.

Are you holding on to resentment?

Here are 4 simple steps to take to let go of your resentment:

These are done by yourself, although you can do them with a trusted friend or an experienced life coach.

1) Confess the full extent of your resentment: become fully aware of it describe it, what are your thoughts, what have you said and done. Do not blame the other, rant, or allow yourself to get angry again. This is not about justifying yourself.

2) Share the payoff: what have you been getting out of it? Being right (they are wrong), self-righteousness, doing it your way, false sense of power that feeds resentment, self-justification. Keep watching out for blaming and justification, they creep in as resentment likes to stay around and find ways to take hold again, and again.

3) Ask for, and offer forgiveness: when you have full explored and acknowledged, it is time to ask for forgiveness for holding on to resentment for so long and for what has happened. If you find it hard to let go of resentment and ask for forgiveness then go back to step two. Offer forgiveness, this is not condoning, it just means you are refusing to hold on to your ill-will.

4) Choose a new intention: if the process has been done fully you will have a desire to clear the decks and make a new start, step into freedom.

It is important to bear in mind that whilst the above process appears simple and straight forward, it is not. Therefore working with an experienced life coach is essential.

When working with resentment I am often reminded of the films I have seen where people become possessed by demons. This might sound extreme, but resentment is like mold; it grows inside, I call it a ‘stealth emotion’, so it is important to keep noticing it, keep working on it until you don’t notice it anymore. As a coach it is powerful work, as the client only you will know when you have fully let go. Only then will you feel truly free.

For further support with resentment, get in touch and begin your coaching journey with me. You will be hand held throughout the entire process with powerful tools that will help you let go of your resentment.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Uncovering Your Needs… Identify Yours to Achieve Lasting Happiness

What does real happiness mean to you?

In this fast paced and highly competitive world we strive to succeed, it is all about looking good, status, saving face, the house we own, the car we drive and the clothes we wear, what we look like. This is what most people focus on and when they lose that focus they are fighting to survive. What happens is that we are working to meet our physical needs, but what drops out of view are our emotional well-being needs and lasting happiness deep down.

We are asleep while we are awake, it is as if we are slowly dying inside. When these needs are not met we turn to drink, drugs, or other stimulants. Our home life suffers, our relationships suffer and we become depressed. We see this more and more in society, take the example of the world of celebrities; they seem like they have it all, but how many of them do we hear about who commit suicide or over-dose on drugs? It is becoming a truly worrying social dilemma.

In essence, it is all about the needs we focus on as ‘important’ and getting those needs met. If we become absorbed in meeting only physical needs we begin to lose connection to our emotional well-being and we wonder why life becomes one long tedious struggle where we sink into crisis and lose sight of our real happiness. We begin to wither inside and our emotional state begins to impact our psychical state. It is therefore important to identify the needs that bring you lasting joy and fulfillment.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow first introduced his concept of the hierarchy of needs in 1943. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other more complex needs. There are five different levels in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Five Levels of the Hierarchy of Needs

  1. Physiological Needs: These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food and sleep. These needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met.
  2. Security Needs: These include needs for safety and security. Security needs are important for survival, but they are not as demanding as the physiological needs. Examples of security needs include a desire for steady employment, health insurance, safe neighborhoods and shelter from the environment.
  3. Social Needs: These include needs for belonging, love and affection, which are considered to be less basic than physiological and security needs. Relationships such as friendships, romantic attachments and families help fulfill this need for companionship and acceptance, as does involvement in social, community or religious groups.
  4. Esteem Needs: After the first three needs have been satisfied, esteem needs becomes increasingly important. These include the need for things that reflect on self-esteem, personal worth, social recognition and accomplishment.
  5. Self-actualising Needs: This is the highest level of needs in the hierarchy. Self-actualising people are self-aware, concerned with personal growth, less concerned with the opinions of others and interested in fulfilling their potential.

Physiological, security, social, and esteem needs are deficiency needs, meaning that these needs arise due to deprivation. Satisfying these lower-level needs is important in order to avoid unpleasant feelings or consequences. These needs are similar to instincts and play a major role in motivating behaviour. Self-actualising needs, at the highest-level of the hierarchy, is termed as growth needs, which do not stem from a lack of something, but rather from a desire to grow as a person in order to achieve lasting happiness and fulfillment.

You often find people speak of not being happy, lack of motivation, overwhelmed, lack of vision, fearful of the future and disconnected from love, creativity and joy. It is always surprising that these people are often highly successful, have a career that they are happy with and earning good money. In fact, outwardly their lives seem good, however they want something more because many of their needs outside of work are not met.

Are your needs met?

If your answer is ‘No’, get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me for support. You will learn to:

  • Reconnect to your values which will become your guiding lights and evaluate what is important to you.
  • Identify the deficit of your needs. Connecting with the deficit will help you realise that you are simply no longer living life in line with your values which leaves you immersed in shadow.
  • Reformulate your vision and move towards the life you say you want.
  • Begin to carve out a path towards a happier and a more fulfilling life.

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)

Constant Complaining Damages Your Relationships, Work Productivity & Health

Constant complaining- do you complain about your life or your job all the time?

When you are complaining about something or someone, you know the situation; – why me? – it’s not fair, – why can’t my life be different? – this really annoys me, – this person is a pain, – my life is a mess, – I never have time, – I never have enough, – I hate my job, etc, etc, etc… and you do NOTHING about it, you are RUNNING YOUR RACKET.

What is a RACKET?

A constant and persistent complaint, that you engage in, yet do nothing about.

You are a RACKETEER.

Rackets or constant complaining manifest when people suffer loss of power, loss of freedom or the ability to fully self-express.

People use rackets as a venting exercise to:

  • Justify being right or be seen as the ‘winner’ in a situation
  • Dominate others or avoid domination by others
  • Invalidate others, self-justify or self-gratify to make themselves feel better

Complaining is easy, because we do not have to challenge ourselves, or take responsibility, as long as we complain. Running your rackets or complaining relentlessly can become a habit without you realising. We become addicted to constant complaining because it is the best excuse for not taking action. Complaining can be contagious. You often find in a situation when you complain within an organisation that others get enrolled like a domino effect. Of course, we feel comfortable after complaining however, nothing get fixed but it has consequences.

Constant Complaining Damages Your Relationships, Work Productivity & Health

Compromised relationships. Complaining relentlessly to people in your private life, or working environment, invades the other persons’ personal space. Being at the receiving end of complaints leaves no room for the other to share their own feelings and emotions about the situation. This hinders your real connection with others when you surround people around you with endless negativity. Dysfunctional interpersonal relationships like this can gradually erode the happiness of all concerned especially the angry emotions they experience which lead to resentment and withdrawal. When present to your constant complaining people feel trapped and will eventually start avoiding you to gain freedom.

Reduced productivity at work. We hear people complain about their jobs all the time; the unreasonable boss, long working hours, restrictive company policies, uninspiring office space, demanding clients, the list goes on. In fact, studies have demonstrated that complaints hinder productivity in the workplace. Constant complaining is destructive, and worse of all, it does not support our path to success.

Damage to health, vitality and well-being. Scientific research shows that complaining for 30 minutes a day can cause physical damage to your brain, this is because exposure to negativity impairs the part of the brain used for problem solving and cognitive function. This adversely impacts the way we retain information and our ability to accommodate new situations. Also, listening to someone complaining, gossiping or spreading nasty rumours for more than 30 minutes a day can lead to neuronal disconnection and accelerate cell death!

Constant complaining is clearly detrimental to all of us. We are not achieving our goals and getting the results we desire. It affects our relationships with others, lowering our work productivity, our life at home with loved ones and ruins our health.

Ready to stop constant complaining? Here is how you can stop the venting, break your habit, and effectively stop running your rackets:

Notice, as you begin your week, how often you complain and your attitude while complaining? It is as if you become your complaint, you act in line with your complaint, whinging and moaning endlessly. It can even be just to yourself, yet you do nothing to make the shift needed to get out of the situation and take action to make positive change. The key is awareness… stop empowering the RACKET and take action to change it. Shift it, look for what’s POSSIBLE, turn your complaints into REQUESTS. Be a contribution rather than a drain. Look to see how you can make a positive difference, be action focused not racket focused.

We all have our rackets….what’s yours?

For further support, get in touch to book your coaching sessions with me. You will learn to:

  • Become more aware of your habits of constant complaining
  • Work out what you intend to achieve and clarify your goal
  • Identify who to communicate with to achieve the results you desire
  • Take responsibility and figure out the action steps towards your goal
  • Show up powerfully in order to effectively communicate what your issues are (the complaints) and come up with suggestions for resolve

Graham Kean, MA (Psych), MMC (IAC)