The Importance of Having Compassion for Self

There are Ted Talks that just sum things up in such a great way that I “prescribe” them to my clients to watch and consider between sessions to keep their process moving. This is one I have suggested several of my clients listen to because Guy Winch quite plainly suggests that contrary to modern cultural norms we really need to take care of our emotional selves the same way we take care of our physical selves. If you break your leg you get a cast and take some rest to let it hear. If your heart feels broken or your nervous system is overwrought you need to take care of them in the same way. Have a listen as see what you think.

How to Practice Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch


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The Tomato Cage: A Metaphor for Life

I came across this lovely little metaphor for life that I wanted to share in a brief story posted in a yoUnlimited newsletter.  The concept is quite simple, a tomato cage is a support that loosely props the growing tomato plant and allows it to thrive, growing beyond its potential without that support.

We all need that kind of personal support to grow and thrive. It helps stave off depression and anxiety by reducing isolation and helping us get our life needs met. The question is… how can we create that support for ourselves if it is not already there?  I have put together some links to ideas for doing just that. yoUnlimited is just such a group, generally intended to support women. Here are a few others with some great ideas for building your own “tomato cage”:

15 Tips for Building a Personal Support Network

Mayo Clinic

Community Roundtable

American Psychological Association

Depression Toolkit


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How to Stop Binging – Life on the Inside from a Recovering Food Addict

I am posting this excerpt from the blog of a local Victoria personal trainer named Tara Brunet from Training by Tara Brunet because it so beautifully describes very common struggles with anxiety and binge eating in a down to earth way and includes lots of ideas to move past and through those struggles.

Tara is a dynamic and inspirational business woman and human being. The transparency and vulnerability with which she writes really hits home with me because I think nothing feels better to be around than people who are real. Her writing inspires me to have compassion for myself because having a hard time is normal and you can see this in her experience. We all face difficulties at one time or another. Having the ability to be kind to ourselves in our darkest moments is the way to move through them quickly, learn the most from them and not repeat them as frequently in the future.

Have a look at this great blog that tackles several issues about very common human struggles that are particularly prevalent at this time in history.

Beat the BINGE

For more information on eating disorders or counselling for eating disorders using the Cedric system please email

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Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion

Have a look at this great Ted Talk where Kristen Neff eloquently reminds us that being kind to ourselves is not the route to chaos and laziness but rather the route to higher self-confidence. As we move away from self-judgement we move toward a more realistic view of ourselves and that view is most often surprisingly positive.

Space Between Self-Esteem and Self Compassion


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A great video about loneliness

Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid – Guy Winch

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When is Your Cupcake Good Enough? Self Esteem and Self-Talk

A common theme in my work is helping clients work through the anxiety that comes from setting standards for themselves that are impossible to reach and then feeling disappointed that they are never doing enough. As you can no doubt imagine, this is an uncomfortable feeling to live with on a daily basis. Repeat it over and over again, “I am not enough”. How does that feel in your body when you keep saying it?

Examples of this look like… decorating cupcakes for your kids bake sale and then berating yourself that you waited until the last minute so they don’t look nearly as good as if you had gotten started earlier, or, you are not slim enough, or your eyebrows are not shaped well enough, or you didn’t “put enough heart into blah blah blah…”. And, the list goes on.

I find that the problem, rather than being what people euphemistically call “high standards”, is, more specifically, that no qualifying standard is actually set. Rather, there is a limitless, perfectionistic, “I will know when I get there”, approach to most of life’s daily activities. I frequently ask clients, “how do you know when you have done a good enough job at X?”. The answers I hear invariably resemble, “I don’t know”. Then I ask them to set a limit, based on what they would find adequate in a given area, what they would consider sufficient. I ask them,”so, if someone else did this amount of X, you would find that quite satisfactory, correct?”. From this point, we can use this as a standard for “enough”. If we use cupcakes, for example, a person might say that what they would find “sufficient” to buy at a bake sale tends to be a standard quite a bit lower than the “never good enough” standard they use to measure their own cupcakes. Re-orienting yourself to contemplate what is enough and be clear about that is often a very effective tool for limiting the amount of wasted energy and negative self-talk that comes from “I’ll know when get there thinking”, because you never get there when you don’t know where “there” is,

It never ceases to amaze me how frequently regular folks live under these ongoing stories of “I am not enough” or “everyone else is doing a better job at such and such”. Its actually exhausting to think about, and I know, because I have spent plenty of time thinking this way in my life. Its a relief that I am now choosing to put far less of my precious energy into activities like that. Whew!

I have included a link to a relevant article by Elizabeth Gilbert about cutting ourselves some slack. I love the message, which I heard to be, have compassion for yourself. Treat yourself as you would treat others.

Can you imagine saying to another person, a friend or loved one, some of the things you say to yourself?, “Those cupcakes look like you didn’t start early enough”, “your eyebrows don’t have a nice enough shape”. Practicing compassion for ourselves is not being a wimp, its being smart. If you strive for realistic goals and give yourself full credit for achieving them before you move on to setting new goals then you will probably experience a little bit of time feeling proud of what you have accomplished. Wouldn’t that be nice. Wouldn’t it be nice if you would let yourself be proud of your cupcakes.

I find a general theme in Western culture to be that if you let yourself feel proud of your accomplishments then you may be seen as full of yourself or conceited. I have touched on this in other articles (Changing Your Personal Stories Changes Your Life) (The Truth About Honest Liars) because it is so pervasive and truly discouraging. We watch people in the media achieving goals, winning races and being honored for them over and over and then when it comes to our own achievements so many of us have standards without limit and a sense of shame for admitting we have done a good job. I mean seriously, how can anyone win (a.k.a. feel good about oneself) with this going on inside our heads?

Maybe its time to set an example for others about what you really feel is “enough” and, how about, the fact that you “are” enough. You were born enough. We all are. We are born lovely, wonderful and sufficient. Unfortunately we are trained out of this way of thinking all too often. I suggest that media influence is the biggest factor in that training but that’s an upcoming article…

Cut yourself some slack and feel more peaceful everyday in all situations. Enjoy your cupcakes, its your choice.

For more information contact Dawn at: or 250-216-9422

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Changing Your Personal Stories Changes Your Life

I tell my clients all the time that the lives we experience are a result of the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. For example, if I worry about my weight and beat myself up about not being slim enough then I will look in the mirror and see something I don’t like. The opposite is also true. Its all a mindset.power of pos thinking

People can be beautiful regardless of their size but if a person doesn’t believe that then they won’t be able to see that in the mirror or in others. All kinds of media hype helps us along with this idea because that is how advertisers sell things… they use our natural human fear of wanting to be accepted and belong to drive us to buy things. Its a simple truth and there is plenty of evidence to back that up, but that is a whole other article.

I’m sure we have all had a friend whom we may not have found extremely aesthetically appealing but  we observe that others treat that person as though they are. And, the friend in question seems to respond as though they believe this feedback is realistic. Hence the phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Could it also be true that believing you are attractive to others in and of itself can be a draw? Confidence does seem to beget confidence.

Clients often come to me asking me to help them find that all-to-allusive “confidence”. The first thing I ask them is what are you currently telling yourself about your self-worth. What are your life stories around that? Low self-confidence is invariably linked to negative stories about self. That is, that many people, in an effort to not be overly self-confident (heaven forbid), err on the side of self deprecation. Our North American culture seems very geared to being overly humble to the point that many people are telling themselves that if they own almost anything awesome about themselves then they are arrogant, conceited or a diva.

As a result, there seems to be a very high level of self-doubt bread into our culture. I think this really is a painful side-effect of trying to make sure no one thinks we might be a braggart. Is it really so bad to just own what you do?

The beginning of raising your self-confidence starts by considering changing your personal stories to include what you know you are good at based on objective evidence and feedback from people who’s opinion you respect. For example, a good friend of mine observed that after I graduated from University with my Masters degree in Counselling Psychology I was quite shy to talk about that achievement. He said he saw me downplay that fact when asked about it and when he asked me why I didn’t give someone my business card for my private practice after such a conversation I said I didn’t want to be pushy. He boldly said to me, “Dawn, you went to school for 6 years to earn your credentials and worked for several more to be able to open your practice, this is no small thing and you don’t need to be shy to talk about it”. Ironically, it took him saying that for me to realize how I had been selling myself short in my enthusiasm to not brag. It felt a little uncomfortable in that moment but I realized that he was quite right and decided to practice owning my hard-earned achievement. I find this is a very common story.

I decided to change my story from “if I talk about my achievement I will be a braggart” to “Hi, I’m Dawn and I am a registered clinical counsellor”. I feel very differently when I say each of these statements and, by consiously choosing my stories, I change the way I feel and the direction of my life as well as how others relate to me. Try this yourself at home. See how you feel.

Here is a Canadian Living article that talks about some of the power of what we focus on and/or tell ourselves. And, here is another link to an article about a neurological study supporting the idea that thinking about ones self more positively before hearing a suggestion from your doctor for better health care (e.g., walk more) will increase the likelihood that you will do what your doctor suggests.

For more information contact Dawn at: or 250-216-9422

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Eating in Balance: Trusting yourself around food

If you eat when you are full, stop when you are comfortably full and have treats in moderation knowing you can always have more later then you are “naturally eating”. Your body will regulate your intake by telling you when you are hungry and how hungry you are. For a lot more info on this check out I work with the Cedric Centre for counselling and their website has an abundance or information on the topic of food and body issues.

Many people don’t trust their body’s ability to tell them when they are hungry but if we really listen it will tell us. In contrast it is common for many of us to eat for emotional reasons rather than hunger and that’s when we are more likely to overeat. We aren’t listening to hunger in those moments, generally. Working through what the emotional piece is often alleviates the need to eat.

The same way that pregnant women are said to have strong cravings while in gestation, if any one of us start to listen to what we are craving we will learn a great deal about what our body wants, both in terms of the specific nutrients we crave and what our emotional needs might be. For example, I might crave a bag of chips after a particularly stressful day at work. This would likely be a sign of physical/emotional/cognitive fatigue more than my body’s need for salt, fat or simple carbs. The emotional “pay off” for having a treat may then bring with it more calories than my body could/would burn off in that day (eventually leading to weight gain if repeated over time) and may also leave less room for the more nutrient dense food that would supply my entire body system with what it needs to effectively carry out the physical and mental activities of the evening and next day, potentially leaving me more fatigued and less able to cope with work/relationships/daily life activities the next day and so on.

In my business I would call eating the whole bag of chips instead of (or as well as) dinner a negative coping strategy. It is a coping strategy because it helps me feel better in the moment but then there will likely be a physical and emotional fall-out from this activity if it becomes a regular coping strategy in my life, thus it brings problems with it and is not positive but negative.

Some examples of more positive coping strategies would include, rest, meditation, light exercise, talking to a friend, relaxation breathing, and having a really satisfying nutrient dense dinner. Implementing strategies like these in a way that is kind and compassionate to yourself is key to moving away from the all or nothing, typically restrictive thinking, that goes along with being on a “diet”.

Our media and societal learning includes the opposite of much of this “kindness to self” that I talk about and that is unfortunate. The harsh internal dialogue that goes on inside many people throughout their day is what leads to the fatigue and need to soothe with food at the end of the day (or in the middle,ha!). It takes so much energy and feels awful. ironically, this is often perceived as healthy thinking and its not.

“Natural eating” means being kind to yourself and learning to trust that you can make healthy, comfortable decisions around food in all situations.

For more info email:

or call:  1-250-216-9422


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New Information on Saturated Fats… Maybe they aren’t so bad

I don’t tend to write or post a lot about nutrition, specifically, but this was an interesting article that came across my desk that I think most people would be interested in. For as long as I can remember people have been talking about how bad “fat” is. Not only on the body but as a nutrient. The research described here sheds some new and interesting light on the all-or-nothing thinking that tends to pervade our thought-stream in Western culture.

Its all or nothing or black and white thinking that I deal with more in my line of work and using that kind of thinking around food notoriously gets people in to trouble by restricting diet in hopes of being “healthier”. The key to a healthy body is regular exercise and consuming a variety of foods that provide all if the nutrients that the body needs to do its work. This, in turn, makes it easier for the mind and body to avoid symptoms like anxiety and depression and that’s where my work really comes in. Being strict about what you think you should eat generally starts to minimize variety of nutrition and that is not healthy.

Have a look and see what you think. Canadian Living article


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10 Differences Between Boring People and Interesting People

This article caught my eye because I was quite skeptical about “what a boring person is” and, “who is this guy to decide what is and isn’t boring?” But, I have to say, the author,  Paul Hudson, makes some very good points about what tends to make people interesting and what gets in the way of that for many people.

Ironically, the things that make people interesting tend to also be the things in life that have been shown time and time again by scientific study to raise life satisfaction for individuals in studies. Have a look and see what you think. In my opinion, a life that stretches us beyond our comfort zone of purely safe existence meets that extra life enhancing need of “self-actualization” as Abraham Mazlow would have called it. Self-actualization defined is:

  1. the realization or fulfillment of one’s talents and potentialities, especially considered as a drive or need present in everyone.
    Wiki page for more info

The potential in personal gas-tank filling that comes from learning, expanding and giving back to the world takes life to a new level. In part this comes from our personal self-evaluation (self-esteem) and the power of believing we have learned and grown through personal challenge. This is truly invaluable in the formation of that always sought after and so often elusive “confidence”.

10 Differences Between Boring People and Interesting People

– Paul Hudson, Elite Daily

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