Category Archives: Self-Esteem

Self-esteem coaching articles

What Breast Cancer Taught Me

ID-10061252This blog deals with a very personal topic that has greatly affected me and my family. At one point I hesitated to bring it forward but then I realized there was more to the story of breast cancer than the declarations of cancer’s presence and treatment decisions.

Taking it beyond the hellish ride it puts an individual through, came an opportunity to examine how breast cancer can change our own perception about our breasts. Join me on a journey to loving my body more than I did a year ago and help me honor women who continue to fight breast cancer.

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One of the hardest things a person can hear from their physician is the words “You have cancer.” In January of 2013 two women in my immediate family were diagnosed with breast cancer and so began the journey. They did not have the same type of breast cancer so they took a different path when it came time for treatment. One would have the tumours removed, still keep her breast and begin chemotherapy. The other would undergo a radical mastectomy with no treatments to follow as this very rare cancer appears not to respond to chemo, hormonal or radiation therapies.

When cancer struck my family I went from the initial shock through to turning all my attention to their needs. I tried to suppress the “What ifs.” Afraid that I may be some force in the world, I rejected  as best as I could every negative thought that came my way. I did not want any negative energy to be the cause of more discomfort.  With the pace of pre and post appointments, emotions that descended upon my loved ones and myself,  along with calls to everybody who wanted to be kept in the loop there could have been little time to consider one’s own health. Instead it became more of a focus.

I had always considered myself someone who had embraced life especially after a previous near death experience but that didn’t mean I was always kind to my body. Whether through youthful idiocy or adult pressures there were certainly times when stress was high and coping was low. Though I have come to know that most cancers are not hereditary it still made me assess am I doing all I can to treat my temple well. So began my efforts to step up the laughter, reduce the stressors, incorporate yoga back into my day and be conscious of my breath. Interestingly, I feel I was more prepared for the challenges that our family was facing then I would have been a year ago. Now the mind and body connection was foremost in my thinking.

Besides my increased awareness of biology and belief came another interesting awakening attributed solely to breast cancers arrival. I learned to fully love my breasts. Once cancer and breasts became the topic of every conversation I couldn’t help but think differently about my own.  I always had a love-wish relationship with my breasts.  From girlhood to womanhood I have comparatively assessed their appearance usually to standards set by a whole host of outside influences.  For the most part I have been happy with their appearance but there have been many a time when I had wished for something “better.” In  conversations with other women on the topic of breasts each woman would throw in her  opinion on what she likes and what she would change.

When I watched the women I love grapple with the reality that their breasts will be either disfigured or removed,  it changes the way I saw my own body.  The breasts were no longer used to attract a partner, to show off in an outfit or for feeding babies. Instead their significance became about life, death and their natural beauty. Now, I could care less what others think of my breasts or how they have changed as the years have passed. The only thing I think about is how thankful I am to have my breasts free of cancer.  Watching breasts become more of a ticking time bomb than a feminine body part changed my perspective completely. I stand before the mirror now and think how beautiful they are.

However, if by chance in the future, I sit in a colourless office with a white coated Doctor, holding results of a scan in a file, pulling up a chair so she can tell me, “You have breast cancer”, I will know that I am not alone.  As these months have passed I have seen multiple women escorted to examination rooms in gowns, saw a cancer centre filled with families waiting alongside their loved one as they met with countless specialists. I understand the helpless feeling that takes over as you watch the gurney take them away to an awaiting surgeon and follow the after-care that is both psychological and physical. It is only through this journey that I have seen the most intense sadness, overwhelming anger, debilitating fear and incredible bravery displayed by women in my life. Yes, breast cancer has taught me and those I love a lot; I only wish the lesson could have been less invasive.




You Look Marvelous: What a style & image consultant can do for you

It is hard to deny that fashion plays a key role in our lives, unless of course you are a nudist. Since most of us are not conducting business or pleasure in the buff deciding what to wear can be a daunting task. As I rummaged through my own closet lately I was struck by how many pieces hang there untouched. The other day I flung at least six outfits onto the bed looking for the right look for a casual business appointment.  In the end I put on something that just didn’t feel right.

I took transit into the city and noticed so many interesting outfits worn by fashion savvy young women and I couldn’t help but think “I used to be like them; putting more effort into my fashion choices,” “Where did they buy that?” and “Would I look good in that outfit?”

The fact is I feel some days like I have lost my sense of fashion direction. I’m not sure what to wear and trying on clothes at the stores often turns into an exercise in frustration. I know I’m not alone in the quest to find the perfect pieces to compliment my body and lifestyle. The good news is we don’t have to be famous to enjoy the expertise of a personal stylist or image consultant because there are people like Diana Kilgour who can come to our rescue. 


What is a personal style and image consultant? A person who knows how to bring out the best in her client’s appearance and manner. I do it by working with clothing and accessories that uniquely suit a person’s lifestyle, colouring, shape and size; suggesting improvements in speech, body language or posture if needed. It’s about impression management and equipping someone to live a freer, more confident life. Some people call me a personal shopper, dresser or stylist.

A good personal style and image consultant is a combination of three things: Caring friend with great taste who wants you to be happy and successful in life and isn’t afraid to tell you the truth, in a constructive and positive way.

Fairy-godmother who is able to help you transform your appearance so that you’ll fit in at the ball, in the office, at the resort or even the gym. Ensuring that your wardrobe and style formula is uniquely yours and not a carbon copy of others.

Consumer advocate who helps you make the best choices with your wardrobe dollars. I work for you, not for any particular store, so I can take you shopping anywhere and your long term satisfaction with your clothes is what I aim for.

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5 ideas to help with life’s challenges

laptopThroughout our life we are faced with challenges. Sometimes we can see a challenge coming and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes they are easy to solve and sometimes there not so easy. No matter how challenges surface there are healthy ways to tackle them head on without feeling too overwhelmed.

There is no denying that the majority of people I meet who are stalled in their careers tend to suffer at some point from analysis paralysis. The challenges faced by the unemployed can grow quickly, the days and nights are filled with more questions than answers and pretty soon life is far more complex than one previously thought.

Friends and family may step in to offer suggestions, the unemployment office might be breathing down your neck to get job searching, bills are piling up, the want ads are thinning out or what was once a great idea to pursue a passion quickly turned into more work than anticipated.

When it comes to employment or life challenges I find it helps to visualize a pie. Not the kind you eat but instead a structured pie shape. Then divide up the pie and place in each portion one challenge you’re facing.

1. Identify the challenge. Examples of challenges: Job, Time, Education, Financial, Experience, Energy, Depression, Child care or Health. (Portion your challenges) This is a visual cue as to how much is actually going on and can often help you to understand more fully why you are feeling so overwhelmed.

2. Figure out the level of control you personally have over this challenge. There are challenges within our control and some that are dependent on others to take action. Example: You have approached your bank for a loan and you have filled out the necessary paperwork. Now, the bank is in control and will take action. You had a financial challenge, you took control of the situation and now it is in someone else’s hands. Each step requires you to assess how much is within your control.


3. Accept that if one or more of your challenges is firmly outside of your control then it is better to focus your efforts on those you can. What is the point in spending your precious energy on something that is dependent on another person. Take a look at the pie and itemize what is the priority 1, 2, 3 etc. This is based on YOUR ability to take control and make some headway. Often just by working on one particular challenge it happens to knock off two others when it is solved.

4. After reviewing your challenges it is good to do an honest assessment of self and determine whether you are ready to take action. Often times we can get caught up in talking about a challenge but fail to commit to doing anything about it. Fear and procrastination may have taken up shop in your world and they aren’t easily swayed to move on.  You can talk all you want about wanting change but if you don’t move to EFFECTIVE and INFORMED action everything will remain the same.

5. You may need more information or help from others but finding solutions and action planning is integral to your success. When I said effective and informed action, I meant it. Cut your self some slack! Sometimes we don’t know the answers, sometimes we revolve in the same circle because we really can’t find a way out. That is OK to admit. So, part of your action may be making a strategic call to someone who does have an answer.

There is no challenge that is insurmountable. It just takes the willingness to segment out our life and career challenges, to gain a clear perspective, establish control and to be ready to move forward one step at a time.

Here’s to not trying to eat a whole pie in one sitting and to a full night of sleep!


You’ve Lost your Job – How are you feeling?

laid offIf you lived long enough to know job loss than you also know the emotional roller coaster ride that follows. The ease in which you go through this phase is for the most part dependent on whether you initiated the change or the company made the decision for you. If losing your job was involuntary then a whole host of feelings could rise to the surface.

Though we are talking about work it still doesn’t shield us from potentially falling head first into the stages of grief ~

1. Denial: Even if you knew something might be coming your way it is quite common to cast those thoughts off to the side. Everyone of us probably would rather dance with denial than face the bigger question about what comes next. Denial has its place in the process, mainly as part of the coping strategy. We can only take on so much and sometimes it seems prudent to just take on what we can moment to moment.

2. Anger: When something feels like it is totally out of our control, things can get a little heated. You might be angry towards your employer but you could also resent fellow colleagues. Anger can feel powerful but it is also the revealer. As you walk through the fire it connects you to the deepest part of your pain and confusion. It is intensely personal and sometimes we need outside assistance just to understand all that is being said and felt.

3. Bargaining: This tool is pulled out of the box to deal with uncertainty. This is where you may try saying “Maybe if I do…” or “Is there some way we can come to an agreement on…” Possibly you rehash your work days trying to look for things you could have done differently to prevent this outcome. Circling in reflective resistance you get stuck in an endless loop of “What if I…” You are stuck in neutral and at some point you must shift into drive. Bargaining your way through the past is keeping you from accepting the reality and certainly doesn’t make way for the future. Plus it’s really tiring.

4. Depression: Speaking of tired, depression is not uncommon with people who have just lost their jobs. I want you to know that the shock, worry and self-doubt can catch up with you and sadness can take over. You may experience a sense of failure and other deep feelings to which you respond by wanting to pull the covers over your head and hope nobody can find you. This is normal, as you have experienced a loss and depending on the investment you made in your job it can really hit home. Many people have been conditioned to avoid this phase by taking medication or other substances but depression is a necessary step in healing. You have a right to your feelings and taking time to acknowledge their existence and find support to work through them, is the best gift you can give yourself. Be open to learning about all parts of yourself including the seemingly ugly side; you will be stronger.

5. Acceptance: When you accept your job loss it doesn’t mean you need to be fine with it. I think we can all agree that there is always some residual effects from hearing you are fired or laid off. What acceptance means is that you can start to explore again, maybe try new things, take a bit of risk and begin to see the wisdom in starting again. You can free up valuable personal resources to invest in others, especially those that can help you take necessary steps towards new job prospects, further education or developing new interests. Make a conscious effort not to take your negative emotions with you to your next opportunity. Move out-of-the-way of yourself and try to trust again.

Let me tell you the one thing I have learned after countless hours counselling people in the area of career development…everyone has transferable skills! You may not be feeling it yet or even know what they are but there is more to explore and you have more to give. When you reach the point where you can take that next step towards a new job or new adventure, you can pull from your life experiences and professional expertise.

Often that which challenges us the most became the mirror that showed us just how special we are.

Natural Pregnancy: Connecting with Nature

This weeks guest blogger is Katie Moore – Learn how Katie incorporated nature and exercise throughout her pregnancy, to overcome boredom and enjoy her own company. 

I have always been an adventurous person, and as newlyweds my husband and I would take weekend trips to the country to hike and explore new state parks and attractions. I loved being outside, and I loved the together time it afforded us. Both of us had hectic work schedules, so this was something we could only do on weekends or holidays. I never ventured out by myself because I always figured I would be bored.

Once I was pregnant with my first child (and home from work on maternity leave), I truly was bored. I took an extended maternity leave so I could focus on having a healthy pregnancy and take time to enjoy carrying my child, but more than often I felt bored, restless, and lonely. I would sit and read pregnancy books, watch television, and wait for my husband to get home. Being pregnant and alone wasn’t what I thought it would be.

One day my husband suggested I go take a walk on one of our favorite trails at the state park while he was at work. At first I dismissed the idea because I thought it would make me further isolated, but I also wanted my baby to get some fresh air! I had been staying active by doing prenatal exercise video routines, but they felt stuffy and strange. Once I was on the trail, I felt a peace I hadn’t since I found out I was pregnant. I felt connected with nature, motherhood, and myself. I liked that everything was quiet, and I could hear the sounds of my walking and feel my baby kicking. For the first time, I enjoyed the fact that I was pregnant.

For expecting moms, I would recommend getting outside just once a week. You can use the time to think about how your pregnancy is going, the state of different relationships, what you think being a mom will really be like. There are many decisions that must be made as a new mom; what brand of diapers, deciding on cord blood banking, when to return to work and so much more. You can even talk directly to your baby – it wasn’t for me (I tried), but I know it’s helpful for a lot of people.

pregnancy natureYou don’t have to try anything out of the ordinary. A simple walk through a forest or park will remind you why you wanted to bring a life into the world in the first place. It definitely was a much more uplifting way for me to stay healthy than watching videos in my living room.  Incorporating natural exercise into your life is also cost-effective.

The gym memberships, products, and exercise kits are great for some people, but I moved more when I got out the door. It is advised that low- to moderate-intensity exercise while pregnant is important for keeping your lungs and heart healthy, so it is important to find something you enjoy doing.

I’m glad I tried more naturalistic exercise during my pregnancy because it helped me prepare emotionally for motherhood, and it helped me enjoy my own company. I still try to go for walks alone, although now that my daughter is born, I’m normally pushing the stroller.


Katie Moore has written and submitted this article. Katie is an active blogger who discusses the topics of, motherhood, children, fitness, health and all other things Mommy. She enjoys writing, blogging, and meeting new people! To connect with Katie contact her via her blog, Moore From Katie or her twitter, @moorekm26


Write Your Own Bill of Rights

Before we can expect to GET WHAT WE WANT we first have to RECOGNIZE WHAT WE WANT. How about writing your own Bill of Rights?

Women tend to be far more in tune with the needs of others than their own needs. They can identify what their friends and family value, help them to cultivate their interests and establish quite quickly how to get them what they want. But when it comes to recognizing and communicating their own wants and needs things can get a little muddled. 

Though often put on the back burner, we (women) do have a right to our desires and the right to ask for them to be met. One of the first places to look at is our values as they have the ability to create awareness of what we want. Values are guides and what we consider to be important in our life. Values like:

Honesty, integrity and loyalty

Family, marriage or parenthood

Ideas, logic or wisdom

Play, self expression and spontaneity

Status, recognition or power

Once we have established what we truly value we can address our rights and they become the codes we live by. Both values and rights are not something that we give up easily nor change as soon as we walk out our front door. Personal rights are important to establish within our family, relationships, work and community. Take for instance this scenario:

You are sitting in the doctor’s examination room for over 30 minutes with that little paper gown on. By the time he/she comes in the room you are cold and frustrated, maybe even angry. Are you able to speak up for yourself? Would you know what to say? or Would you say nothing and then drive all the way home in your car talking to yourself about what you should have said?

NotebookSpeaking up for our rights or articulating what we want can be difficult so this is why we must first be clear on what we expect. Here are some examples:

The right to make our own decisions

The right for our time to be respected

The right to change our mind

The right to be listened to

The right to say no and not feel guilty

The right to equality in our profession

The right to be treated with respect

Women are strong and any thoughts to the contrary are simply not true. However, a perception of lack of strength can come from our inability to communicate, without hesitation, what we want. This is why I encourage you to brainstorm what your Bill of Rights would look like. Try to come up with at least five rights that are important to you. Keep going if you can from 1 to whatever the end number will be.

When you are able to identify your personal rights you are standing firmly with your truth and have a far greater chance of getting what you want from life. The people you attract, the places you will go, the opportunities that come your way will be more likely to represent who you are. Your voice will be stronger thus allowing you to speak up when necessary and communicate assertively rather than aggressively. Of course, you do have the right to be aggressive and the right  to defend yourself and that is what makes this list your own. Enjoy the process and if you are open to sharing some of your Bill of Rights with the rest of us, I welcome it! 



Self Esteem for Girls

I received an email from an organization that I volunteer for and what I saw was not just words on a page but instead the greatest gift I could have received all year. The program coordinator shared with me a portion of a beautifully personal speech that had been made to students by a young woman in her twenties that I had been assisting. I will not reprint the email but this brave woman talked about what she had learned and how she could finally see her skills. Our work together (along with all her supports) changed her way of looking at what was possible for her life. She is safe, in school and setting goals but what is most rewarding is that she maintained her hope, pushed forward and knows she has a lot to offer this world.

I tell you this because this is what building self esteem can do. It can move layers of negative talk, it can free us to explore and open up doors that were previously thought to be impossible to walk through. How we see ourselves and our world is directly related to self esteem.

Girls get bombarded by outside messaging. From the minute we are born it seems people are telling us how to act, dress and speak. The media has done their part to reinforce all of this by celebrating false beauty and providing unrealistic chatter about what is good and bad for women and girls. 

Parents also have a huge influence on what we see in ourselves. Hopefully we have caring parents to help build our confidence but if not, role models come in all forms. It is good to find a supportive person to help you develop a healthy outlook on self and life.

Then there is the issue of bullying. There are hurt people, hurting people and if you are a girl struggling to cope with your own self confidence and you are being bullied it can be a hundred times more difficult. As a girl who was bullied I can honesty say that things get better. I learned that it had nothing to do with me and that life has a way of distancing us from that past. No matter what was said or done by you or anyone else, we all have the ability to rise above. Get help and don’t let anyone define you.

I want to close out this Christmas season blog with a plea to girls and women everywhere:

Make an effort to not buy into anyone’s idea of who you should be. If you don’t know who you are, be open to finding the answer. Find that answer through quiet moments with self, journaling, read books about inspiring women, seek counsel and above all never give up. Don’t self sabotage. Don’t look for reasons to hurt yourself; you are worth more than that. Do what you love. Pay attention to what you are naturally good at. Stay away from anyone or anything that puts you in the path of negativity. Building block by block your self esteem is the greatest foundation for a successful, healthy and happy life!

She’s not working – She’s a Mom

See if this sounds familiar because I know I have heard renditions of this over and over again.

So, have you heard from anyone lately?

Yes, I was talking to Lisa the other day.

Oh yeah, what’s she doing? Is she still working at that bank?

No, she’s not working anymore, she had a baby.

Oh, how’s that going?

Pretty good, I guess, she’s at home with her kid.

New moms everywhere have probably heard a similar story in which people describe them as not working anymore but that is far from the truth. Mom’s are most certainly working long hours with no pay. There is no doubt that being a stay-at-home mom can be a beautiful experience but it can also be very much under-rated. You would think after all these years it would hold more weight in society but I have had plenty of conversations with Moms that felt that what they were doing was under appreciated by spouse, family members, co-workers and/or boss.

The fact is on most days mothers make it look easy and much of their talents fall on deaf ears and blind eyes. Even many moms don’t see that on top of all the wonderful skills they acquired in their former profession (pre baby) comes a whole new set of skills. Time management, organization, teaching and communication skills are now at heightened level in order to meet the day to day requirements. It is a demanding job with no days off for sickness. Though, some mothers can receive help from others, ultimately the buck stops with her to maintain her position at all costs.

For some new mothers that cost can be limited interaction with former friends, a loss of connection to her professional colleagues and for others disconnection with self. This job of mother can be all consuming and can leave a woman trying to remember just who she was before she had children. Both parents feel the change but mothers especially can fall into the trap of not knowing how to describe themselves anymore.

I think it is helpful for all of us to consider the language we use to describe a woman who is now a mother. She is working inside the home. She should be able to say, “I work in my home, with my child, it is long hours but I love what I do.” When I work with women who are returning back to paid employment, outside the home, I often spend a considerable time reacquainting them to all the wealth of skills and attributes that they possess. Their head should never hang low when asked “What do you do?” Motherhood and womanhood are the highest callings, as the world is dependent on us in ways in which we have neglected to take full ownership.

Porn, Boudoir photography and Stagettes – Another Opinion

With her permission, I’m going to direct you valued readers to Meghan Murphy at Feminist Current. Her post Being porn: On boudoir photography and sad stagettes is a very thought provoking perspective on the role porn, boudoir photography and stagettes are playing in today’s relationships; along with the irony of women’s involvement.  This post traveled far in the blog world and for good reason. It really hits a point that has been overshadowed by multimedia’s campaign to make women believe that this is the way to “keep your man” or “feel empowered.”

What struck me most about this post was:

1. It closely aligns with my own thinking on the topic.

2. I appreciate her voice! She has the guts to express her opinion in such a raw way… something I hesitate to do in many of my blog posts. She inspired me.

3. It was good to know that there are women out there like me that question the logic behind participating in these activities. 

Is this what we want our daughters to learn? To give the false advice that she must act like a porn queen, stripper or prostitute as means to define or enhance her sexuality? –  Or – To teach her that by participating she has a greater chance of keeping her partner from looking elsewhere, instead of seeking the respect and love of someone who honors her values?