‘I’ve got my self-esteem back’

11 March 2016

‘I’ve gained trust in people. Josh has helped me gain confidence and got my esteem back.’

Of all the feedback at the end of a short course for young people at risk of homelessness, this one comment said it all.

It wasn’t directed at the course trainer from Relate Bedfordshire and Luton. It wasn’t directed at the course commissioners who hosted it, the King’s Arms Project, Bedford.

It was said by Sam to the guy sitting next to him. Jokingly, slightly-built Sam said that when he first saw bigger-built Josh he thought he’d be a ‘bit of a brute’. But these hitherto strangers had become good friends and listened to each other’s issues and misfortunes.

The course, in four two-hour sessions, was originally entitled ‘Communication and Stress’ but was quickly adapted to other matters beside, tailored to what those who attended wanted to explore. Here we were, in the final session, finding out what Josh and Sam – but also Kaleem, Mo and Dan, young men probably in their 20s – got from the training and how they were going to use their new-found social skills.

Earlier, with Relate trainer Chris, they’d reminded themselves of their agreed ‘contract’ from the outset – such as how they’d respect each other’s comments and enable everyone to be heard. They again practised their relaxation exercise while walking around, breathing deeply, screwing up the shoulders then relaxing them. They’d put into practice their assertiveness techniques but stating whether or not they wanted their pictures on the Relate website or in the press.

In pairs they’d prepared their personal ‘bill of rights’ – the right to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty, the right to make mistakes, the right to be treated with respect… They added more: ‘The right to change your lifestyle, the right not to be judged, the right not to be categorised… One added: ‘The right to die.’ And so it was that some of their life experiences began to surface.

One talked about going for a job in a factory and being put ‘in a queue’ of workers doing repetitive manual tasks on the factory line. He told his boss he needed more mental stimulation and back came the reply: ‘So you’re better than the rest of us here, are you?.’ He walked out.

If the group accepted they had rights, concluded the trainer, it followed that they should accept that other people had rights as well.


All of which prompted discussion about respect, reasonableness and being more passive than aggressive. ‘When you’re at fault, can you say sorry?’ asked the trainer in a handout. ‘Can you accept the consequences of your decisions or behaviour?’ Kaleem contributed: ‘There are places to apologise. You need to pick your moment.’

And then, finally, came the feedback. Mo said he’d seen a big difference in Sam since the beginning of the course. Sam, with renewed confidence and esteem, had started a new relationship since the course began. Maybe he’d return to his work as a tattooist, he said, rolling up his sleeve to show the design on his arm. ‘Did it hurt?’ asked Kaleem. ‘I don’t like needles.’

Kaleem himself said he’d learned about different stresses and decided he’d be more passive and assertive. Dan was asked whether in future he’d speak up for himself. ‘Yes,’ he said quietly. What was that? ‘I will,’ he added more distinctly.

‘We like the groupwork,’ it was generally agreed. ‘It benefits people more than one-to-one. It makes for a calmer atmosphere and builds confidence.’

‘When I first came here I was sceptical,’ said Sam. ‘But I told myself: I have to do it. I’m glad I did.’

Details of Relate Bedfordshire and Luton courses and workshops are shown in this website from the home page. Or phone 01234 342503 for more information.

First names of course attendees have been changed in this article.





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