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It was International Women’s Day at the start of this week, and I spent time reading some lovely posts by and about some inspirational women. I was even involved in brewing a beer to mark the occasion. The theme of this year’s IWD is #ChooseToChallenge because, “A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.”

This statement really resonated with me; in counselling we are often working towards change by challenging ourselves. The first step in this process is noticing. Being alert to the unhelpful thoughts and behaviours which may be stopping us from moving forward. Once we have noticed we can begin to understand why and how these thoughts and behaviours have become part of us. We do this with compassion and kindness for ourselves because what is now unhelpful often started out as a coping strategy to manage distressing events, thoughts or feelings. Understanding this can help us to identify why and how it has become unhelpful.

Hopefully, this understanding can then support us in the challenge of making different choices, of not just going back to old ways of being, but to move forward to how we would like things to be. This can be a bumpy path as we experiment with different ways of being and figuring out what works for us while maintaining a compassion and kindness in our self-talk. This stage can take time and practice to embed. I know I can still fall back into old behaviours at difficult times, when I am not taking care of myself, but that is ok. Change is an ongoing process, it is rarely a decision that we make once, but a series of decisions and actions to support the change, until it becomes the default position.

We all need different amounts of time and support to make these changes. This is one of the reasons that I never tell clients how long we will work together because it is the client who will know what is right for them. Some clients only come for a short while, while others may stay for much longer, some will reduce the frequency and use sessions as a way of holding themselves accountable to the changes they are making. (A bit like putting your car in for a service, except for your brain.)

Do you know what you would like to challenge yourself to change? If so I love to know what it is and maybe a first step you could take to notice.

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