Sunday 23 August 2020

Imposter Syndrome: Are we ever good enough? BRiC's Collective Voice

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Our Sunday discussion, a fascinating topic suggested by Bex, one of our ambassadors - Imposter Syndrome.

Naz opened the discussion with a brief explanation; telling us that when we doubt ourselves, feeling inadequate or incompetent, despite evidence to the contrary, that we may be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.
It has been shown that women experience this more than men and even though gender inequalities are gradually decreasing, seemingly strong and successful women often feel inadequate, as if their lives are based in fraud. Michelle Obama referred to imposter syndrome as her weakness.
These feelings can be intensified when we are faced with trauma, such as a breast cancer diagnosis.

Side effects from breast cancer treatment often leave us with problems which add to these feelings, memory loss, brain fog and concentration issues, fatigue and restricted mobility can all leave us feeling less able than our colleagues and friends. Long absences from the workplace may create fear about how we will cope when we return; we might feel we are failing as mothers because our illness prevents us from doing many things, or that we are letting our friends down when we can’t keep up with social engagements.

The trauma of breast cancer can bring back memories of previous difficult experiences, such as childhood events and toxic relationships; these memories can so easily lead us to a belief that everything is somehow our own fault, that we are not worthy of a better life or capable of success. Many of our members talked about doubting their abilities so much more after their diagnosis and treatment, despite holding down jobs, caring for families and leading busy lives. Our self-doubt is contrary to what we actually are, but it raises its ugly head on a regular basis. We worry about making fools of ourselves, about making changes, trying new things or forming new relationships.

We talked about how being compared unfavourably to others compounds these feelings. Many of us recounted incidents from childhood where we had been made to feel less worthy than a sibling or classmate, being told we were no good at something or would never amount to anything. Incidents we had long since forgotten, or locked tightly away in our minds, were brought back into life by our diagnosis and life with cancer. Our group has members with both primary and secondary diagnoses, for members with a secondary diagnosis there were the additional problems of on-going treatment restricting what they can do and of people treating them differently, as if their views were somehow less important because of their cancer. Other members said they almost felt like cancer imposters because they had been able to avoid chemotherapy or radiotherapy and as such felt like they were somehow less of a cancer patient.

There was an underlying belief that the way we are treated by others is somehow a reflection of ourselves, that we don’t deserve any better. “Nothing I ever did was good enough” was a phrase used often, and is a feeling that can stay with us throughout life, affecting everything we do. We talked of waiting to be found out, that our public persona was hiding our incompetence and any moment someone will see us for what we really are. Another common theme was difficulty accepting praise; equally many of us mentioned that criticism hits us hard, bringing to the fore those feelings of incompetence and inadequacy. When criticised we feel that we have been seen for what we really are, that our fraud has been uncovered and we can no longer feign competence.

Some of us have found ways to build our confidence, to give no credence to the opinions others hold of us, to be our own selves and be proud. It is often easier to believe the “bad stuff” about ourselves and we are all learning to also believe the good. We are strong, we are successful, we are perfectly imperfect, we are businesswomen, mothers, partners, teachers, managers, artists, dancers, singers and many, many more things. We make mistakes, but that’s OK, we can learn from them and grow even stronger. We are not inadequate or incompetent and we are supporting each other to build our resilience and fight that imposter.




Monday 10 August 2020

Picture this! BRiC's top movies!

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Picture this!

Our Sunday discussion this week focused on ‘Movies’ that have had a big impact on us, leaving an everlasting impression in our lives.

Movies can be a powerful catalyst for healing and growth. In fact, for anybody who is open to learning how movies affect us, movies allow us to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. inspiring us in so many different ways.

While movies have been thought as therapeutic and sometimes are prescribed by therapists, this is often self-administered. Movies have the power to change the way we think, feel, and ultimately deal with life’s ups and downs. As such, they're invaluable and enjoyable.

So how can watching movies that mirror our own struggles or experiences help us?

Watching movies encourages emotional release. Some of us often have trouble expressing our emotions and might find ourselves laughing or crying during a film. The release of emotions can have a cathartic effect and also make it easier for us to become more comfortable in expressing our emotions, which is can be invaluable during counselling as well as in “real life.”

Sad films have the ability to make us happier, whilst might seem counter-intuitive, many of us can relate to this. After watching a particularly sad or distressing film, we can feel thankful for our own life and we can be more appreciative of everything good in our own lives.

Watching movies can help us make sense of our own lives., for many years, knowledge and wisdom have been passed down through the art of story-telling. Stories offer us different perspectives and help us understand and make sense of the world, so in our eyes movies are stories, which gives us a break from whatever is currently bothering us and we can for the moment be transported to a different time and place and can focus on the ‘now’ for a short time, this gives our brains a much-needed rest from “the usual”. Movies bring us a huge sense of relief, even if they stress us out at first, watching something full of suspense releases cortisol (the stress hormone) in the brain, followed by dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure.

Some of us choose movies that relate to our cancer journey, sometimes the stories relate to other personal experiences and encourage us to live life to the full.

Our members have enjoyed watching the same movie(s) many times, as it gives us the much-needed relief and lets us loose ourselves for a short time, away from the day to day challenges.

Attached is a list of movies that our members have enjoyed watching, each movie means something special to us. It may remind us of a particular time or a special achievement, maybe a certain event that we can relate to with a mixture of emotions, i.e. crying, laughing, fun and feeling good about ourselves.

We are worth it!

Wednesday 5 August 2020

The other side of Cancer; BRiC's Collective Voice, July 2020

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The other side of Cancer

This week we asked: what insights have we developed and how have they impacted us positively?

For many, it’s about living life to the full, appreciating all the good things and being grateful for all that we have. Living one day at a time, in the moment. Realising that life is something we want, no matter what. For others, despite anxiety, worry and overwhelm being features in our lives, there’s a renewed desire to live our best life, a clarity of vision like having a new pair of glasses. What we want - and perhaps equally importantly, what we don’t want - becomes clear and our goals crystalise before us.

Many of us struggle to say No but we’re learning, and once the word is said (the hardest part) everything falls into place, and this gives us confidence to be more discerning in what we sign up to. Some of us also want to say Yes more often. We aren’t used to asking for help, for going for what we want, again we’re learning. Making a fuss is ok, we matter. We are important, and we are enough. We can look after ourselves, put ourselves first, treat ourselves with compassion and love. We can be assertive whilst retaining our empathy and we recognise that we can actually look after others better when our own needs are met first.

Simplicity features for many members, in finding pleasure in small everyday things, feeling the love of family and friends, finding beauty in nature.

Many of us are finding ways to turn negatives into positives. We might be used to being the organiser, the one who pulls friends together for outings, and this might feel one-sided. However one member’s friend said to her ‘you are the light for those people who struggle to engage’ and so she can now see her role changed as a positive one. Other examples include being thankful for our lives rather than worrying about getting older, and appreciating our bodies, scarred though they may be, for what they do for us rather than for what we look like. We no longer take our bodies for granted, and we understand that our bodies and minds must be nurtured in order to flourish.

A phrase used by many of us is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. We find it easier to let go of trivia, to work out what matters. Many of us are more outspoken, prepared to stand up for what we believe in. We will not perform for others or be led like a sheep. However some of us find we are more sensitive than before cancer, although generally we worry less about the opinions of others. Many of us find we slip into old ways very easily, and when we are aware of this we may pull ourselves back but we don’t beat ourselves up about it.

There is a sense that we have slowed down, taking more notice of the world and people around us, but at the same time considered carefully what we want to do with our lives and sought out opportunities to make those things happen. We live more consciously rather than just letting life happen to us.

Of course we all have down days, when we feel low or unwell. We are wise enough to know that these will pass, and that in order to know our joy we must also experience our sadness. We are not glad we had cancer, but some of us believe it has made us a better person. New friendships are a key positive for many of us, and having the courage to move away from toxic relationships.

One member described herself as having become very ‘feelingy.’ Feelings may become more intense, our sensitivity to what is going on around and inside us heightened. Alongside this comes perspective and peace of mind. We have a desire to feel the full range of emotions and to build a happy and fulfilling life. Some of us have a disassociation with ourselves, feeling as though we are watching ourselves going through life, particularly our cancer treatment. We may want to change but perhaps we haven’t yet had time for what we’ve been through to sink in. Our members are at different stages of their cancer, some recently diagnosed and in active treatment, some many years beyond primary, some living with secondary cancer.

We recognise that our time on earth is short, and that it’s up to us to enjoy what we are given. We know that worry is fruitless and that we won’t look back on our lives wishing we’d worried more. We know that sharing our experiences helps us all.

Together we are stronger.