This article talks about how examining and redefining our personal brand can help us to overcome existential anxiety and learn to live in better harmony with ourselves and others.
Central to the Inner Calm SMART programme’s approach to stress and anxiety management is the understanding of self beliefs and their role in maintaining us in a place of dis-ease and distress. In CBT we talk about Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs) and the core beliefs that lie behind them. Core beliefs are often negative but even when positive can be unrealistic and inauthentic thus leading to disillusion when our beliefs are out of step with our lived experience.
Starting from a place of compassion for ourselves and others, the SMART course encourages us to approach our core beliefs with kindness and understanding; right or wrong, we believe what we believe about ourselves for a reason and to overcome them we need to develop a kinder observer self willing to build self acceptance. We learn to live in the moment and observe our emotions and sensations without judging them and allowing change to happen naturally. From this foundation, the course goes on to help us look at our beliefs from a cognitive standpoint using the concept of branding.
Branding is most commonly associated with companies and organisations who convey their identity to the world along with their values, products or missions. Organisations make huge investments in money, time and resources to develop their brands, and so central are they to their success protect them fiercely. Think of Apple with their unmistakable logo and technology designs, a brand that communicates uncompromising product design and a premium price tag to many, or capitalism and excessive profit to others; think of Google with a brand name that has been almost universally adopted as a verb, meaning to search the internet.
Brands are crucial to non-commercial organisations as well. For example, Mind in the UK are recognised as an organisation with a mission to support and advocate for people with mental illness; or the NHS, our medical service under the common shared ownership of every UK tax payer, or Greenpeace and their advocacy and activism on global environmental issues. All of the values they represent are expressed in their logos and the list is endless. A brand can have also negative connotations. Think how damaging the Deepwater Horizon oil spillage in the Gulf of Mexico has been to BP, particularly in the United States.
The SMART programme explores the use of branding, bringing the concept to our personal space. We all brand ourselves subconsciously by the clothes we wear, by our hairstyles, by our profession or job, or by our associations. Now more than ever we also brand ourselves publicly on social media on our Facebook page or Twitter feed and we attract admirers or detractors in doing so, just as we sometimes do at home or in the workplace
Now think of a Fireman. What properties would you associate with that brand? The first thing that occurs to me is that the label should be Firefighter as “fireman” excludes women. Perhaps the brand would include:
Exploring our personal brand is a useful way of highlighting the mismatch between who we want to think we should be and who we think we really are. Another way of looking at it is that the difference between these two viewpoints is what often results in negative self image, low self esteem and existential anxiety. It can also be confusing for those we are close to if we are unclear about our brand, resulting in a sense that we are being artificial and inauthentic or that we are unpredictable. With a clearer sense of our brand, or our identity, we can become more comfortable in our own skin and convey a clearer sense of who we really are which might initially be greeted with confusion but, hopefully, eventually, greeted with respect and admiration, and this process begins with ourselves.
Having examined and discovered the often hidden nature of our own individual brand, the SMART course then goes on to help us create and grow healthier personal brand by using visualisation and other techniques.
The SMART programme is a 6 week course that teaches you to create a more positive relationship with yourself. Using mindfulness, meditation and visualisation it connects with your real-world existence where family and work responsibilities and pressures are ever present. You will learn how anxiety is just as much a physical as an emotional condition and how to create a more harmonious mind-body connection. You will explore your own relationship with anxiety and how anxiety can represent a low-level nagging fear, or sometimes terror, which can sometimes give rise to outbursts of anger.
Mindfulness teaches us to enter a being mode in which we live in the present. This does not suggest shrinking away from responsibilities or ambition but teaches us to enjoy this moment, which makes us more effective and can help us achieve while at the same time enjoying this moment and this task. We learn to be mindful by using breathing, meditation and visualisation, but this is only the start. Can we be mindful in a meeting or when with the family? Can we be present in this moment time, in this place, and with these people? Can we look on ourselves and others with compassion?
Our next SMART programme will start in early to mid June 2016. The course is limited to a maximum of 12 people. The normal cost of the course is £180 but there is a £30 discount available for early bookings. For more information about our next Stress Management And Relaxation course, please visit our website:
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