Out Loud Blog

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Top Of The Class

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Sometimes I wonder, despite all my protestations to the contrary, if it’s really possible for a person to change.

I was in my Stretch Class yesterday and the teacher, a lovely, kind and flexible woman called Alison said we should concentrate on our breathing.

Yes! Breathing, I thought, I’d love to get that right.

So for the next half hour I did as I was told and focused on breathing in and out in exactly the way she showed us.

My breathing’s much better than everyone else’s, I thought smugly; after all it’s so much noisier.  So there I was happily breathing in and out and practising like a very good girl when something unexpected occurred – Alison came over, knelt down and quietly said that my breathing wasn’t right.

How on earth could that be? I’d followed her directions to the letter.

BreathingShe proceeded to demonstrate, I watched and listened attentively and then took a nice big breath in and a nice big breath out. Now she’d see she made a mistake, that I was in fact doing it correctly?

‘No. Not like that. Like this.’ She pointed down towards what I would consider to be her stomach. ‘You’re making too much noise. What you are doing is breathing from here,’ she said pointing to the middle of her chest. Surely that’s where your lungs are kept, I thought. Isn’t that where you’re meant to breathe from?

But I didn’t say anything – ever the good student, I was eager to please. Again I concentrated hard although I have to say I wasn’t convinced. But I gave it my best shot, took a deep breath and once more breathed out as hard as I could.

‘No,’ she repeated. ‘Not from there,’ pointing at her chest. ‘From here,’ (pointing at her stomach). By now I was acutely aware of everyone listening and a little well of tears was beginning to surface from up here (my throat). It was all just so humiliating and unfair. Nevertheless I put on my best brave face and tried again.

Alison stared at me sadly. I’d failed the breathing test. She’s a really nice lady so she obviously decided not to push it. She smiled and got up to resume the lesson. She may just have patted my knee. I felt like such an idiot – something as simple as breathing. Not only was this most natural of human functions beyond me but I’d tried so hard, I’d really done my best. And my best was just not good enough.

I decided to abandon breathing for the rest of the lesson and stay within the safe zone of stretching. I comforted myself with the thought that my stomach muscles did seem a little bit stronger.

When I got home Micky asked me how the class went.

‘Alison didn’t think my breathing was any good.’ He didn’t say anything, just gave me a hug. I wondered if there were any Kit-Kats for tea.

Like I say I sometimes ask myself if a person, that is me, can really change…

So, if there is anything in this sad little tale you can relate to, if you sometimes still feel like a complete child, have yet to grow up and face challenges in a mature way, still long to be top of the class and get a gold star for achievement or failing that for effort, tend to try just a little too hard, then wonder where you are going wrong, then please know you are in excellent (or in this case, rather mediocre) company.

Please share with us how it feels to be human.

And if there are some changes you would like to make in your life, I would dearly love to help you try (although not so hard that it all becomes a bit counter-productive) and, if it takes a while, I promise not to hold my breath. Email me at and we can start the conversation.

About Rona Steinberg

My work as a coach is centred around a simple desire to connect authentically and powerfully with my clients working with them to realise their goals and potential – in whatever sphere these may manifest themselves. I bring warmth, compassion, energy, humour and a keen intellect to my coaching.


  • Inge Woudstra

    28 April 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Ow! Yes, why is it so hard to learn? I am just like you.

    My dog-trainer saying ‘ah, yes, your dog isn’t failing, it is you failing your dog’, that gets me near to tears. Surely I was doing it perfectly?

    This is all very honest, but I now wonder, what next? Can we just be childish? Or is there a way to grow out of it?

    • Rona Steinberg

      28 April 2014 at 1:55 pm

      Hi Inge, and thank you for sharing about the dog training, there’s just something so poignant about that. I guess what I’m saying here is first of all, we need to stop trying so hard to be perfect. I’m suggesting that if we just let go, we may have more chance of success. And second of all, yes, of course you can be childish or human or vulnerable. Let’s just be honest about it or OUT LOUD, it’s the standing on one’s dignity that I think is particularly unhelpful. If you can own up to these funny foibles, be OUT LOUD about them, then you can see them for what they are and choose to change or not.

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