Sunday, 22 November 2015

Blame it on the Great British Bake-Off - challenging self doubt.

This is the article that was in the York Press on October 26th, 2015

Blame it on the Great British Bake-Off!

I don’t usually return to a theme in the previous month’s column, but when writing about emotional wellbeing, Nadija Hussain’s win on Bake-Off and her subsequent comments cannot be ignored.

These were her words after winning. "I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never gonna say, I can't do it. I’m never gonna say, maybe. I’m never gonna say, I don’t think I can. I can and I will.”

Last month I wrote that we need to fail before we can succeed. We do as babies and young children and then at some point we allow the voices of self-doubt to hijack us. Can you imagine how many complete baking disasters Nadija must have produced over the years? She failed on the actual programme too, in full view of millions of viewers. She had to pick herself up and start all over again.

Another recent competition winner has been Marlon James, the winner of the Man Booker prize for his challenging novel, ‘A Brief History of Seven Killings.’ His first novel had been turned down by publishers 78 times. The literary world is full of best selling authors who have been rejected numerous times. There are plenty of examples of ‘Famous Rejections’ on the Internet. They make enlightening and encouraging reading.

A relative has recently presented his work to a high profile, worldwide audience. Feedback on Twitter included, “Like the top tips. Always good to celebrate mistakes...!” “Great to see advice coming through errors.” I couldn’t agree more.

The editor of my book, ‘Are you Chasing Rainbows?’ was excellent and the book is better for her work. But, she wanted me to remove references to personal failure. She told the publisher that, “as it was a book on self-development, it shouldn’t have negative stories in it.” I despaired. We develop by learning from failure. The references were not changed.

This lack of acknowledgement of failure and mistakes is something that has crept into wellbeing via an approach called Positive Psychology. It has also led into the ubiquitous use of the word ‘issues’ instead of the word problem, which is believed to be too negative. I trained as a solutioned-focused therapist and as such, the clients and I would find possible solutions for the problem presented. We did not explore issues. A problem is more concrete than an issue. I knew it had gone too far, when somebody on TV said that their vacuum cleaner had issues.

We need to balance encouragement with realism. I’m not sure however many lessons I had, that I could be a concert pianist or speak fluent Chinese. I am suggesting that if we should persevere with something and try and try again, if it is important to us, shutting off unhelpful, negative self- dialogue.

I’ll leave you with Nadija’s last comment again.
“I can and I will.” 


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