the essence of you

Authenticity & The Essence of You

"No matter how much you change, the essence of you is always the same."

- A friend once said this to me as I was going through a lot of personal changes and struggling with experiencing the ways that my relationships with others were changing. At this time I was questioning myself a lot, and wondering if how I used to be (codependent, people pleaser) was better, and if I should go back to how I was before.

My friend assured me that no matter how I changed behaviourally – that the essence of who I am was still the same, that I would always be myself no matter what.

The changes that I was making in my life were in light of a new awareness of how self-destructive my codependent behaviour was. As I gained self-awareness and worked through the root causes of my codependent tendencies, I began to live more authentically. I started standing up for myself, assertively sharing my opinion and expressing my feelings; while making decisions that suited my own best interests (after struggling through fear of being SELFISH) and I started setting and maintaining strong boundaries.

Although it was a difficult journey, and still is some days - my realisation that I am still the same person - that the essence of who I am was still the same, continually empowers me to be my authentic self. I was always who I am now, I was just hiding parts of myself before! What I needed was the opportunity to grow into myself, which I am still doing, and will always be continuing to do.

It was at this time that I began to realize that my relationships changing around me as I grew into myself was not actually a reflection of who I was; but instead a reflection of the quality of those relationships or maybe where the other person was at in their own journey. 

This realization made me become more comfortable being my true self, despite any relational consequences this might have (being disliked, judged, etc.) and since then I have been able to foster more meaningful relationships with others that are formed from an honest, respectful and nurturing base, whilst honouring my true self and living an empowering authentic life. Even though it can still be challenging and painful to allow the vulnerability that enables this authenticity, there's no turning back for me now, and I don't have any regrets.

Any guesses where my business name came from? It is one of my goals in my practice to support others to connect to their true selves to be able to live more confidently & authentically.



Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

"I don't have a creative bone in my body!" - How I found healing in the arts and incorporated it into my Counselling Practice

In my current counselling practice, I use expressive arts therapy in the majority of my work. I find that it helps my clients to connect to their bodies and intuition while relieving anxiety; helping them to be more present, share on a deeper level and make connections more easily than they might have if we were just talking.

Some people are alarmed by this, thinking that they have to be artistic to be able to participate in my sessions - this is SO far from the truth! The way I use the arts in my sessions is to help with self-expression, and nothing more. (And if this isn't something you want to explore, then we can just talk!)

Working "creatively" is not something that has always come naturally to me; in fact,  I used to frequently say:

"I DON'T HAVE A CREATIVE BONE IN MY BODY!"

I remember being in school during art classes when I was younger being blatantly aware that every other student was more creative than I was. Better artists. I frequently felt embarrassed of any work that I did, thinking it wasn't good enough or creative enough. I was often in awe of "creative" people.

When I thought of what being creative meant, my mind went to show-stopping drawings, paintings, sculptures, etc. that others would admire and be amazed by. You know, Artistic things that creative people did!

I never thought of creativity as our natural way of being.

I discovered that I was "creative" in my first year of university. I had spent my entire childhood and early adulthood thinking I didn't have even a shred of creativity within myself.

In one of my first classes in university, another student did a presentation on creativity. This woman is someone that I am grateful to still have in my life now as a dear friend that I continue to learn from and grow with many years later. (Look out for my upcoming post on the importance of having strong, supportive women in our lives).

What I learnt from my friend that day was that everyone is creative. We are all creating, all of the time. Each moment, each thought, each word, action. Each process that we engage in - we are creating all of these experiences with our uniqueness.

This can be when we are creating beautiful paintings, drawings, or doing any of those "artistic" things. And it can also be when we are experiencing life in any form. We express ourselves in so many ways in everything that we do. The clothes we wear, the way we do our hair, through cooking, gardening, moving our bodies, making music, writing, decorating our homes, arranging our belongings, the list is endless!

And it doesn't have to be in a certain way, there are no rights or wrongs. Just sinking into ourselves and allowing the opportunity for authentic expression is when creativity emerges.

After my friend's presentation I had the life-changing realisation that I was creative after all, and that I always had been.

I felt sorrow for that little girl who never thought she was good enough, and I also embraced and celebrated this new side of myself that emerged with an inner knowing and confidence that I, and the things that I did were - and continue to be - creative, and ENOUGH.

This was one of the major experiences that contributed to me finding myself and learning to express myself authentically without regret, in so many different ways.

Years later I did training in Expressive Arts Therapy and was reminded of my friend and what I had learnt from her about being creative. I had fallen back into thinking that I wasn't creative, and the training was very challenging for me, but I knew I needed something like this to add to my Counselling practice. This training not only added a lot of strength to my work as a therapist, but it also added so much to my personal journey of becoming myself. I found more ways of allowing new awareness and growth to emerge through different creative processes - art, story telling, creative writing, poetry, music, dance, movement, and more.

I noticed through these different forms of expression that things hidden by my subconscious began to emerge. Through these different forms of creative expression, I started making realisations that I don't think I would have otherwise. Both my personal and professional self-awareness grew exponentially and continues to grow as I continue my own healing and growth through Art Therapy, and I also take time to notice what is being expressed and unveiled through my creativity in "ordinary" tasks throughout the day.

These experiences are what led me to using the arts in my work as a therapist. I love encouraging my clients to engage in creative processes in my sessions and seeing the incredible awareness and realisations emerge! It never fails to fascinate me watching my clients make new discoveries and connections when they are "creating" in my sessions.

So it turns out that my body is full of creative "bones"! Have you struggled with embracing your creativity or is it something that you have always been able to connect with? How do you embrace your creativity in your life? Please share in the comments!

 

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.

New Year - Time to Discover You!

When the new year rolls around, many people are always saying "New Year, New You!" What about instead of finding a "new" you, give yourself the opportunity to really get to know and become yourself? Dedicate this year to discovering the you that is already here.

These last few days, I have continually seen this quote circulating in my Instagram and Facebook newsfeeds:

"What if you simply devoted this year to loving yourself more?"

I think this is a great idea. Instead of having resolutions for how to change or do things "better" or differently, what if we just focused on loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and discovering ourselves? Find the essence of you! My own journey with this process is where my motivation for my work comes from and keeps me going when I think I can't.

When you put energy into yourself, amazing things start to happen. Increased self-care and self-awareness inevitably leads to better mental health, physical health, and stronger relationships with everyone around you. As a mother it can be challenging to meet our own needs and take care of ourselves, but finding time to nurture ourselves is so important. We can't pour from an empty cup!

"Change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not." - Albert Bessler

Getting to know yourself creates a deeper awareness and understanding which leads to an ability to live your life more authentically. When you accept and embrace yourself as you are and let go of how you WANT things to be is ironically when change usually starts to happen.

In my opinion, nobody needs a NEW version of themselves, we all just need to tap into what's already there and let our inner selves shine through. You are enough!

Who's ready to make 2017 a year to become the year for YOU?

I am running a Motherhood Workshop on January 14th that is all about reclaiming your identity. For details on this and my other upcoming groups and workshops, click here. Individual Sessions also available.

Feeling Good in Your Body

Last week I had an opportunity to give a presentation on Feeling Good in Your Body at a Self-Care Event put on by Calgary Goddess Groups. The evening was full of inspiration with what I experienced as women looking for deeper ways to connect and care for ourselves. Isn’t this what we all need?

I think this concept of connecting and caring for ourselves in a deeper way can apply to so many areas - including the topic of body image. I've been working with women struggling with body image issues since the beginning of my career when I started working at a trauma/addiction treatment centre in Australia, and I am very passionate about this subject. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies - it's no wonder there are so many women with body image issues. After all, how can you feel good in your body if you aren't in tune with it? I believe that we must respect, love and nurture our inner-selves to be able to respect, love and nurture our outer-selves (our bodies) – and vice versa!

There is so much emphasis in our society on body image, especially for women. This can lead to obsession with appearance, weight, food, exercising & dieting with a goal of body satisfaction & higher self-confidence. However, research shows that what this obsessive and unhealthy behaviour leads to is less confidence, lower self-esteem, less satisfaction with your body & appearance. Why?? Because when you are only treating external issues, you can’t fix the internal issues – which are the real cause of the external issues in the first place. I’m not saying don’t exercise and make mindful food choices – I’m saying have a look at what’s going on and if what you are doing is a part of a healthy lifestyle or if it has become and unhealthy way of trying to change or to fix something.

Having a deeper look at your self-esteem & connecting to your emotions are essential aspects of feeling good in your body. If you don’t feel good about yourself from within, you will never feel good in your body. Some things that I have seen impacting self-esteem in my work with clients experiencing body image issues: Shame, perfectionism, control issues, boundary issues (more blog posts to come on these topics!). Does any of this sound familiar? So what’s the answer? How can you reach a place where you feel good about yourself from within, and start feeling good in your body?

Becoming aware of your emotions is the first step, and the next step is giving yourself time to actually feel, process, and share your feelings. Stop holding it all in, stop stuffing, distracting, and suppressing . This is SO much harder than it sounds.

To become aware of your emotions you must first start re-connecting to your body. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies because our world is full of distraction and disconnection.  But our emotions are stored inside of our bodies and so we need to re-connect and re-establish our awareness of our bodies to be able to really access our emotions.

You’ll probably find that when you start taking the time to do this that a lot of memories will be jogged that are painful and difficult to manage – so make sure that you take your time and get lots of support so you don’t have to do this alone. Becoming aware of your body and getting in touch with your emotions isn’t the ONLY thing that you need to do to feel good in your body, but it’s a really good place to start.

What do you think of this perspective on Body Image? What do you do to connect, care for & feel good in your body?

Jen is a counsellor and psychotherapist in Calgary, Alberta. If you are interested in booking a session with her or attending one of her groups or workshops, visit The Essence of You website or Contact Jen directly.