Big I/Little i

Have you come across the big I/little i? The big ‘I’ stands for the self, and the little ‘i’s are everything about you that you could potentially rate (your looks, career, relationship status, level of fitness, how well-read you are, your education level, your weight, etc.).

The key mistake lots of people make is to equate the little ‘i’s with their complex self – “I failed that test; I’m the stupidest one in the class”, or “I can’t hold down a relationship; I am unlovable”, or “I put on 5 pounds; I’m disgusting”.

You start to see the absurdity of this if you flip the situation around and say “I came first in the test; I am superior to everyone else”, or saying that giving money to the homeless makes you a virtuous person (even if the next day you cheat on your partner).

You don’t rate yourself globally based on your ‘good’ behaviour, so why do it on the basis of your ‘bad’? When you focus on the big ‘I’, you are often in attack mode. When you focus on the little ‘i’s, knowing that none of them in themselves define you, self-acceptance is teaching you how to recognise and improve upon your shortcomings without labelling yourself and that label becoming your identity.

That inner critic? That label? That thing you think you did badly yesterday? That’s not you.

Big I/little i diagram from Neenan and Dryden, Life Coaching: A cognitive behavioural approach.

Card from the ACT deck, Timothy Gordon.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Words to myself, at 10, 15, 18, 21, 32 and 35

IMG_8161I am really proud of how this little girl has turned out.

If I had the chance to say something to her at the age of 10, I’d say things get a lot better. The days won’t always be so dark. You won’t always be bullied and this is making you much, much stronger.

If I had the chance to say something to her at the age of 15, I’d say that you are incredibly beautiful, and strong, and perfectly enough. You have always been perfectly enough. Let those who love you support you.

To her at the age of 18, I’d say this relationship is not good for you. Know that others love you so much and the world isn’t going to end if you break up with him. You will learn to value and love yourself and how to stand up for yourself. You’ll learn how not to be emotionally blackmailed.

To her at 21, I’d say that others don’t love you because of your grades and your achievements. Truth be told, these things matter quite little in the larger scheme of things. People love you just because you are you. No matter what.

To her at 32, I would say that you don’t have to be a perfect mum, wife, daughter, employee. You don’t have to be perfect, full stop.

And to her at 35, I’d say you’ll hit rock bottom, but the only way is up. And what a fabulous journey it’s going to be. I promise. Things won’t always be easy, but you’ll finally have learnt to love yourself. And it’s then that you will truly be able to give, give, give. God had a plan for you after all. And you’ll be filled with gratitude.

Looking forward to whatever’s round the corner. This world is so big and so full of promise.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Humankind cannot bear very much reality

Eliot humankind cannot bear very much reality

I’m reading poetry, which I do when I’m stressed. Stressed is desserts spelt backwards. Lemon tart is a dessert. I thought I’d move on from this in the chain of thoughts but now I just really want lemon tart.

Jokes aside, I love Eliot. “Humankind cannot bear very much reality” – being authentic isn’t easy. Accepting yourself, knowing yourself – in some moments all we can do is admit that really we know very little. I’ve written before about constructionism; we have the liberty and ability now to construct new realities that are more to our liking, but always there is the challenge of remaining authentic and loyal to our truths.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

There is no one alive who is youer than you

Today you are you that is truer than true there is no one alive who is youer than you

Your unique experiences mean that no one else can be who you are and that you are uniquely placed to do what you do. You’re authentic and beautiful and this world needs you simply to strive to be the best you that you can be!

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Show them you’re worth it

IMG_6164

Just a few days left of 2017; time to do a final bit of soul-searching!

What were your adult relationships like this year? Were they a healthy meeting of minds; a set of equal partnerships? Or did you fear what others were saying about you? Did you feel judged? Were you a doormat?

If you want people to treat you differently, first you have to show them how you should be treated. Start by looking inward. Healthy relationships start with you being whole and valuing your worth. You need to realise your value and start to treat yourself differently before you can show the world you’re worth it.

I’ve been there. It’s hard. But I’m here to show you that it is absolutely possible. Come follow me and let’s be awesome together in 2018!

With love, Natalie x

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Identity and the Community of Selves

I’ve been mulling over the topic of identity a lot in recent weeks following some pretty intense client sessions, and thought I’d share some of my thoughts.

One thing I’ve been introducing to clients has been the idea of the self-concept – your collection of beliefs about yourself – and how this can affect your perceptions about how others view you. Those of you who know your Carl Rogers will be familiar with his theory of self-concept, comprising self-image (your view of yourself), self-worth (the value you place on yourself), and the ideal self (the person you wish you were). Unless these components overlap, people will find themselves out of balance with respect to how they relate to their world, leading to unhappiness, dissatisfaction and lack of confidence.

Your self-concept isn’t immutable; it’s something that develops and changes throughout life as you grow and learn. It’s shaped by all sorts of factors, such as your environment.

I’ve lived a life on two different continents since having relocated to the UK nearly two decades ago. For the first few years after moving I felt a bit lost in the in-between, never knowing if I was coming or going. I didn’t only speak differently; I acted differently depending on whether I was here, or there. What had been home was full of hardwired associations with family, school, and childhood traumas, and I found myself falling into all the old patterns when with family and friends. On the other side I was anonymous; free to rewrite my story.

I’ve found it helpful both in my own life and when working with clients to think about identity not as a single entity, but rather as a “community of selves” that come to the fore in different arenas of your life. You’ll probably recognise this if you consider your own life: do you see yourself differently depending on where you are and the people you’re interacting with? Do you see the dedicated athlete? The corporate professional? The strict parent; the stubborn child; the jokey friend; the weekend warrior?

Sometimes some of these identities may seem to be in conflict. Perhaps you’re a highly-respected expert in your particular industry but find yourself unable to assert yourself in social situations. Or perhaps you’re the life of the party, but the idea of public speaking sends you into a cold sweat.

But you can learn to choose which aspects of you you’re going to allow to take centre-stage at any point in your life and in whatever circumstance. You can learn to own your identity and define how you want to see yourself; to realise that you’re not any single one of the labels that you or anyone else gives you. You’re much richer and more complex and more beautiful than that, and you have the power to choose which mantle you’re going to put on – and when.


Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself;
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass


Has this resonated with you? Get in touch.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

You are enough

Light box with "you are enough" message
On Friday I met two coaching clients and a key theme in both sessions was their perceptions of other people’s opinions and judgments.

Confidence and good self-esteem can be such a hard-won thing – particularly for women. We see in other people the things we don’t believe we measure up to, and our insecurities make us believe that they are judging us on what we see to be our inadequacies. Sometimes we put on masks to be the people that we think we ought to be.

We can unlearn all these unhelpful thought patterns, and learn to give ourselves the freedom not only to be who we really are, but to realise that we are all that we need to be.

You are enough – and not only that, you are loved, and you are amazing. Never forget that.

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd

Wonder women

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls
I feel very strongly about the need to raise our daughters to think naturally of themselves as strong, capable, beautiful and deserving people whose horizons aren’t limited by stereotypes and other people’s issues. When I think about this, two memories come to mind.

There was this one morning when we were on the way out of the house and my 4 year-old suddenly announced that she wanted to look in the mirror. We were in a hurry, so I asked why she needed to. She said “because I want to see how beautiful I am.” For a brief second I wondered whether I should make some comment about modesty and then I stopped myself.

Because she’s four. Damn straight she’s beautiful. She’ll have plenty of time for the world to try and beat it out of her and I’m not going to be the one to start her on that slippery slope. So instead we had a lovely cuddle in front of the mirror and I said “yes, God made you beautiful!”

A second conversation occurred during a phase when she quite often came home telling me that she wanted to be a boy. On one of these occasions I asked, as I usually did, why this was the case. Her response? “Because boys are clever and girls are pretty, but I want to be clever.” Turns out it was another little girl at her nursery who had told her this. I had a word with the nursery staff who took the opportunity to talk to all the children about gender equality!

There are of course much larger societal issues at play, but I think it’s nonetheless true to say that a lot of the barriers all of us face in our lives are psychological ones of our own as well as others’ making.

How do you boost your own self-image and encourage a positive and healthy self-image in others?

Image credit: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls: Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli, https://www.rebelgirls.co/products/good-night-stories-for-rebel-girls

– Written by Natalie Snodgrass Tan, Quiet Space Ltd