episode 63 cover art showing Claudia Ira Gan on Changes BIG and small

Today, I’m speaking with Claudia Ira Gan. Claudia’s birthday is actually in two days so happy birthday, Claudia . Please send her birthday greetings on Instagram. You’ll find the link in the show notes.

Claudia is the founder of Multi- woman and company and an advocate for personnel and collective wellbeing. Born in Germany from Chinese- Indonesian parents and raised in the Netherlands, Claudia has always been fascinated by all cultures and their customs. In fact, she didn’t feel connected to only one particular culture and was drawn by the diversity of people and their origin. With the knowledge and insights she has collected over the years, she was determined to dive deeper into the ins and outs of human behavior in general, and the influence of the cultural and social environment, including cracking the hidden codes that a family or culture carries with it, unlocking silence and discussing difficult topics, such as personal and collective trauma. This explains her Bachelor’s degree in social work followed by her career in the IT industry to experience working in an outgoing, more masculine environment. After 12 years working in sales and marketing positions, Claudia chose to be an independent counselor and coach specialized in culture, identity, and self acceptance.

In 2020, she relaunched Multiwoman and Co. as a tribute to women with multicultural roots and all lifestyles, and to contribute to a healthier, safer, and happier society with more feminine qualities. Claudia is the mom of a teenage boy and married to a Dutch man who both keep her grounded and remind her of the importance of being unique and united at the same time. Claudia and I have a wide ranging conversation about identity, multiculturalism, trauma, growth.

Claudia shares the practice that she does on a regular basis to help her express herself without guilt, to help her analyze her feelings to get clarity, and to get her on the pathway to the healing that she needs. She has an invitation for all of us that we can use, especially in this time, to provide solace and comfort to ourselves. She also has a seven day experience that you can learn more about.

Listen to this episode to find out a perspective on self acceptance, why self acceptance is so important, and what steps you might be able to take to incorporate more of it into your life?

You can visit Claudia’s website at claudiairagan.com. Her Instagram is with the same name, claudiairagan and her podcast is multiwomanandco.com. You’ll find all those links in the show notes.

There is a difference between belonging and to fit in in a group or in your family or in society or in your work environments. I think that is the first question you have to ask yourself. Are you looking for an environment where you will be accepted and be heard and seen as you are, or is it something that you think you need to fit in because people expect it.

Your Challenge Invitation

The first invitation is to be kind to yourself and do the things that are joyful or make you happy. Do that every day, just for a few minutes or maybe longer, if you can. It’s about baby steps, and of course, if you want to, if you’re looking for some encouragements or support, you can visit claudiairagan.com. You may find something there that clicks with what you’re looking for. It’s simple although it’s not easy, but if you can take a moment and be kind to yourself every day, it makes a big difference.

You may be surprised how helpful it is to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself “I love you”. Take time to savour the feeling that you could also have love, be in love with yourself. If that’s really difficult, you can start with saying thank you to yourself. And from there, maybe over time it will get easier to say I love you. Start with the smaller way to find something that’s true that you could say to yourself with kindness.

The other invitation is to find a phrase that you can say to yourself for nurturing as in the RAIN meditation shared by Tara Brach. One of the refrains that she shares is to say to yourself “it’s okay sweetheart”. Again, this is the same idea of kindness and tenderness. How could you be kind and tender to yourself? Perhaps it’s a phrase or action that you can do for self care and nurturing. Do whatever works for you.

Contact and follow Claudia Ira Gan on Instagram or on her MultiWoman website or personal website.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

I expand my world, my inner and outer world, and I expand my reality. When you become more open, there are more possibilities and you feel more calm as well because you don’t have to fight.


Related Episodes


Timeline of the Chat

00:45 – Claudia’s Bio
04:18 – Why Claudia Relaunched her Company
06:27 – Growing up in a blend of cultures
13:37 – Soul searching journey
19:53 – Using journaling to overcome fears
24:24 – 7 Days Journalling Challenge
26:19 – On Belonging
32:17 – Claudia’s biggest challenge right now
35:48 – Ways to re-center
37:29 – Invitation/Challenge
41:12 – Having fun
42:25 – Outtro

When you write down about your fears, you slow down and everything becomes calmer as well.


Quick Links

When you are softer and kinder to yourself, you will be kind to others.


Transcript of the Episode

[00:45] – Claudia’s Bio

Today, I’m speaking with Claudia Ira Gan. Claudia’s birthday is actually in two days so happy birthday, Claudia . Please send her birthday greetings on Instagram. You’ll find the link in the show notes. 

 Claudia is the founder of MultiWoman and company and an advocate for personnel and collective wellbeing. Born in Germany from Chinese- Indonesian parents and raised in the Netherlands, Claudia has always been fascinated by all cultures and their customs. In fact, she didn’t feel connected to only one particular culture and was drawn by the diversity of people and their origin. With the knowledge and insights she has collected over the years, she was determined to dive deeper into the ins and outs of human behavior in general, and the influence of the cultural and social environment, including cracking the hidden codes that a family or culture carries with it, unlocking silence and discussing difficult topics, such as personal and collective trauma. This explains her Bachelor’s degree in social work followed by her career in the IT industry to experience working in an outgoing, more masculine environment. After 12 years working in sales and marketing positions, Claudia chose to be an independent counselor and coach specialized in culture, identity, and self acceptance.

In 2020, she relaunched , and Co. as a tribute to women with multicultural roots and all lifestyles, and to contribute to a healthier, safer, and happier society with more feminine qualities. Claudia is the mom of a teenage boy and married to a Dutch man who both keep her grounded and remind her of the importance of being unique and united at the same time. Claudia and I have a wide ranging conversation about identity, multiculturalism, trauma, growth.

Claudia shares the practice that she does on a regular basis to help her express herself without guilt, to help her analyze her feelings to get clarity, and to get her on the pathway to the healing that she needs. She has an invitation for all of us that we can use, especially in this time, to provide solace and comfort to ourselves. She also has a seven day experience that you can learn more about. 

Listen to this episode to find out a perspective on self acceptance, why self acceptance is so important, and what steps you might be able to take to incorporate more of it into your life? 

You can visit Claudia’s website at claudiairagan.com. Her Instagram is with the same name, claudiairagan and her podcast is MultiWomanandco.com. You’ll find all those links in the show notes. 

Welcome to Changes BIG and small, Claudia.

Claudia Ira Gan: [04:02] Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Damianne President: [04:06] One of the things I just read in the intro is that you relaunched MultiWoman and Co. in 2020. That wasn’t the easiest year for many of us.

Claudia Ira Gan: [04:17] No.

Why Claudia Relaunched her Company [04:18]

Damianne President: [04:18] I’m curious, what inspired you to relaunch? Also, what was the backstory about MultiWoman and Co.?

Claudia Ira Gan: [04:25] Yeah, you’re absolutely right. 2020 was a very special year. I started MultiWoman in 2010. It was shortly after our son was born and I was also asking myself, what do I want to pass down to him, what is important to pass on in terms of cultural roots, because I’m from Chinese and Indonesian roots and my husband is a hundred percent Dutch.

 I was looking for ways to connect with other women who have the same questions and were also doing some research about our own roots. Then I came up with Multiwomen at that time and it took about three years. It was an online community and I connected with women especially in Europe, but there were also some women in the States and in Asia. It was very interesting to connect with those women. But in 2013, I stopped with this online community because at that time, there were many other initiatives and projects for women and feminine leadership. I was looking for another way to approach it in a more equal way. 

I did some trainings and education for myself for yoga and mindfulness and I studied the essentials of Tibetan Buddhism. Officially I am a Buddhist, but I always say I’m an undercover Buddhists. I took refuge in Tibetan Buddhism at a time in 2013, I think. And so I was diving deeper into my own personal and spiritual development but I always felt a connection with women around the globe and especially with different cultures. I think that’s very interesting and I’m still fascinated by different cultures.

Growing up in a blend of cultures [06:27]

Damianne President: [06:27] I’m curious, what does your community look like in terms of the world that you inhabit? The way you move through the world? How do you identify in your environment and what does your environment look like?

Claudia Ira Gan: [06:41] That’s a really interesting question. I don’t really feel Asian but I know I’m Asian. I look Asian and I love Asian food. That is something that is, that has always been in my system, but I’ve always lived in a Western society, in Germany and the Netherlands. So I didn’t see myself as an Asian person, but I didn’t see myself as a German or a Dutch person as well. I think I feel more a global citizen or more universal person.

 I understand Eastern culture and philosophy, but I also understand the Western culture and philosophy. And I feel really enriched by my background and my roots and the environment that I’m living in with my husband and my son. And sometimes it clashes. Of course there are differences in, in how we see the world, but we are open to each other’s opinions.

I must say my mantra for 2021 is I expand my world, my inner and outer world, and I expand my reality. When you become more open, there are more possibilities and you feel more calm as well because you don’t have to fight; you don’t have to be right because of your opinion.

So that is the space that I created for myself and also especially for our son because he’s 12 years old now, so he’s growing up and now is the time for him to develop his identity and to see, okay, yeah, I like this and I don’t like that, or I want to learn more about certain things. I want to offer him an open space, a safe space, especially the safe space is very important. When I link it to MultiWoman, the online community, what we all seek is the safe space too be yourself, to be able to express your full identity. I think that it’s not easy.

Damianne President: [08:53] I noticed that you stress the idea of a safe space and making it okay for your son to explore his identity, for him to determine who he is himself. As you talk about that, I’m curious about what your own childhood, what your own growth was like. Did you grow up in the kind of environment that you want to create yourself?

Claudia Ira Gan: [09:17] I didn’t grew up in a safe space and I didn’t feel safe at all. I didn’t feel safe at school and not at home. We lived in Germany until I was eight and in that time it was quite safe for me because I had many friends and there was a support system. The parents of my friends were also friends with my parents so there was this community where it was a really safe space for the children and for the adults as well. And then we moved to the Netherlands and everything changed because we moved to a neighborhood where it was known that there were many criminals. There were a lot of cases of domestic violence and abuse. So it was very different. And in my class there was a lot of bullying as well but I managed to survive. I wasn’t the one who got bullied, but it was not safe. I didn’t bully others, but I wasn’t helping others as well, because that was the only way to survive. So everyday I was surviving and now I see that I trained myself in being really alert to hidden messages or the things that people don’t express but I know what they mean underneath. And at home, there wasn’t, there was no room for feelings or emotions.

My parents got divorced when I was 10 so that was also the difficult time for both of my parents. That was really difficult for my mother because she was surviving and she was doing her best to to take care of us. And I had this feeling that that it was also my fault that they got divorced. So I was struggling with my own emotions and feelings, but I couldn’t express them and there was no room.

Damianne President: [11:21] Why did your family end up moving from Germany?

Claudia Ira Gan: [11:24] What I remember is that my my father moved to Germany to study and when he graduated, the students from Indonesia had to return to Indonesia. So many friends of my parents had to return. But my parents didn’t want to return to Indonesia. My father wanted to go back, but my mother didn’t want to. As there was history between Indonesia and the Netherlands, we moved to the Netherlands because it was easier to to become a Dutch citizen.

Damianne President: [11:59] That makes sense. 

You talked about conflicts and having to navigate conflicts. What about internal conflicts? Have you had some experience or some challenges with this?

Claudia Ira Gan: [12:10] Yes, a lot, but I wasn’t aware of those feelings until I studied. When I went to college, I had this internship once a month. My supervisor was a professor but she was also a psychotherapist. And she asked just one question, how would you describe yourself? It’s a simple question, isn’t it? So my answer was, I am weak. I am not strong, a lot of negative things. I was very convinced about my self image so that was what I told her. She was surprised because it was very negative self-talk and she said, why do you say those things about yourself? And then I said it’s the truth.

And then she said, look at you now. You have good notes and you’re doing the studies and that’s a accomplishment as well. And then I said, no that’s normal and that’s not an accomplishment. But she was planting a seed at that time because that was the first person who said something else about me and who saw me differently.

 I thought, okay, she doesn’t see me but she was planting a really important seed at that time because from then my soul searching started.

Damianne President: [06:27] I’m curious, what does your community look like in terms of the world that you inhabit? The way you move through the world? How do you identify in your environment and what does your environment look like?

Claudia Ira Gan: [06:41] That’s a really interesting question. I don’t really feel Asian but I know I’m Asian. I look Asian and I love Asian food. That is something that is, that has always been in my system, but I’ve always lived in a Western society, in Germany and the Netherlands. So I didn’t see myself as an Asian person, but I didn’t see myself as a German or a Dutch person as well. I think I feel more a global citizen or more universal person.

 I understand Eastern culture and philosophy, but I also understand the Western culture and philosophy. And I feel really enriched by my background and my roots and the environment that I’m living in with my husband and my son. And sometimes it clashes. Of course there are differences in, in how we see the world, but we are open to each other’s opinions.

I must say my mantra for 2021 is I expand my world, my inner and outer world, and I expand my reality. When you become more open, there are more possibilities and you feel more calm as well because you don’t have to fight; you don’t have to be right because of your opinion.

So that is the space that I created for myself and also especially for our son because he’s 12 years old now, so he’s growing up and now is the time for him to develop his identity and to see, okay, yeah, I like this and I don’t like that, or I want to learn more about certain things. I want to offer him an open space, a safe space, especially the safe space is very important. When I link it to MultiWoman, the online community, what we all seek is the safe space too be yourself, to be able to express your full identity. I think that it’s not easy.

Damianne President: [08:53] I noticed that you stress the idea of a safe space and making it okay for your son to explore his identity, for him to determine who he is himself. As you talk about that, I’m curious about what your own childhood, what your own growth was like. Did you grow up in the kind of environment that you want to create yourself?

Claudia Ira Gan: [09:17] I didn’t grew up in a safe space and I didn’t feel safe at all. I didn’t feel safe at school and not at home. We lived in Germany until I was eight and in that time it was quite safe for me because I had many friends and there was a support system. The parents of my friends were also friends with my parents so there was this community where it was a really safe space for the children and for the adults as well. And then we moved to the Netherlands and everything changed because we moved to a neighborhood where it was known that there were many criminals. There were a lot of cases of domestic violence and abuse. So it was very different. And in my class there was a lot of bullying as well but I managed to survive. I wasn’t the one who got bullied, but it was not safe. I didn’t bully others, but I wasn’t helping others as well, because that was the only way to survive. So everyday I was surviving and now I see that I trained myself in being really alert to hidden messages or the things that people don’t express but I know what they mean underneath. And at home, there wasn’t, there was no room for feelings or emotions.

My parents got divorced when I was 10 so that was also the difficult time for both of my parents. That was really difficult for my mother because she was surviving and she was doing her best to to take care of us. And I had this feeling that that it was also my fault that they got divorced. So I was struggling with my own emotions and feelings, but I couldn’t express them and there was no room.

Damianne President: [11:21] Why did your family end up moving from Germany?

Claudia Ira Gan: [11:24] What I remember is that my my father moved to Germany to study and when he graduated, the students from Indonesia had to return to Indonesia. So many friends of my parents had to return. But my parents didn’t want to return to Indonesia. My father wanted to go back, but my mother didn’t want to. As there was history between Indonesia and the Netherlands, we moved to the Netherlands because it was easier to to become a Dutch citizen.

Damianne President: [11:59] That makes sense. 

You talked about conflicts and having to navigate conflicts. What about internal conflicts? Have you had some experience or some challenges with this?

Claudia Ira Gan: [12:10] Yes, a lot, but I wasn’t aware of those feelings until I studied. When I went to college, I had this internship once a month. My supervisor was a professor but she was also a psychotherapist. And she asked just one question, how would you describe yourself? It’s a simple question, isn’t it? So my answer was, I am weak. I am not strong, a lot of negative things. I was very convinced about my self image so that was what I told her. She was surprised because it was very negative self-talk and she said, why do you say those things about yourself? And then I said it’s the truth.

And then she said, look at you now. You have good notes and you’re doing the studies and that’s a accomplishment as well. And then I said, no that’s normal and that’s not an accomplishment. But she was planting a seed at that time because that was the first person who said something else about me and who saw me differently.

 I thought, okay, she doesn’t see me but she was planting a really important seed at that time because from then my soul searching started.

Soul searching journey [13:37]

Damianne President: [13:37] So how long did it take for that seed to grow?

Claudia Ira Gan: [13:41] It’s still growing.

Damianne President: [13:45] What would you say have been some significant points along this journey? 

Claudia Ira Gan: [13:51] I think there were two very important points in my life, when I was 23 and when I was 29. When I was 23, I don’t know what happened, but I was in my rented room in the Hague and I felt so unhappy and miserable. I woke up one day and I felt so angry. I think all these emotions and anger were bottled up and then exploded on that day. And I said, okay, this is it; this has to stop. 

 I’ve had a very complicated relationship with my mom so I wanted to do some research. I wanted to understand why the things happens as they happened. And I wanted to understand why people act in a way or do things as they do. And I saw this pattern of my mom and her mom, my grandma, and the mother of my grandmother. So I saw this pattern and I thought it was interesting to do the research of our family history as well. 

Well, when I was 23, I made this commitment to myself. Okay, this is it. I have to enter this pattern. I have to end this cycle, this destructive cycle. So it started from then that I went to psychotherapists. That was also the time that I read my first self-help book from Wayne Dyer. I don’t know the original title, but it has something with not tomorrow but today or something. What for me was really life-changing was to see all those points, all those questions that I had in my mind and all the feelings that I had were mentioned in the book. So it was a confirmation that I wasn’t crazy.

 The second moment was when I was 29 when I had this major burnouts, including panic attacks, a lot of panic attacks.

Damianne President: [15:53] What was it that you noticed that you realized I really need to change this, and what galvanized this realization for you?

Claudia Ira Gan: [16:02] There were so many fights and so many struggles but I also saw the pain. I felt my own pain, but I also felt the pain of my mother because my mother was the most important person for me. And when you’re so very sensitive, children are always sensitive, but I think some people are more sensitive than others .

Somehow I couldn’t bear the pain anymore and I became ill many times. I know now that it was caused by stress and more psychological elements. I couldn’t bear it. It was really this inner urge to to stop all the pain because I was hurting a lot.

Damianne President: [16:47] So was this pain from your relationships or was this pain from feeling some sort of estrangement? Were you able to identify the source of this pain?

Claudia Ira Gan: [16:56] At that time it was more that I felt that there were many unspoken struggles between my mom and myself and that had the many influences on my romantic relationships as well.

Damianne President: [17:09] Like you said, you started to see the pattern playing out in your own life also.

Claudia Ira Gan: [17:15] That’s right.

Damianne President: [17:16] I also read on your website that you journal, that you’ve been journaling for over 20 years. What does journaling add to your life? 

Claudia Ira Gan: [17:24] I started journaling because I had so many things to say and I couldn’t express those feelings and thoughts to someone I trusted. At least that’s what I thought. And I couldn’t express those feelings towards my family because I didn’t want to hurt them because some things were very hurtful I think.

I also went to a therapist at that time. When you go to a therapist there you have one hour or to express whatever you want at that time. It’s not enough. I had so many things to say. Journaling was for me, a very safe space I could say anything without judgment or without interfering by someone else who says, okay, this is not good Claudia or without guilt. So I felt it was a really freeing experience and it still is. it’s also a way to analyze your feelings and get more clarity of why you feel the things you feel and why you get angry, or why are there certain patterns. At that time, it was for me very important to have partner and I didn’t manage to have this relationship that I always wanted, at least what I thought I wanted.

And so there were many misconceptions about what I learned and what I experienced. Then I thought okay, how is it possible that there is a disconnect between what I learned and what I am experiencing now and what I also hear. And that’s basically what journaling means to me, so I see this whole picture of what’s happening in my life.

Damianne President: [19:15] What does journalling look like now in your life?

Claudia Ira Gan: [19:17] Journaling is also my own time. It’s self therapy. It’s meditation, mindfulness and creativity in one. And I don’t mean creativity using colors and doing art work, but finding solutions for problems or especially getting clarity when I think, okay, what do I want to do next? Or also when it comes to ideas for my business or desires for the future. Everything becomes more clear.

Using journaling to overcome fears [19:53]

Damianne President: [19:53] It really sounds like it’s a time for you to connect back with yourself and look at what’s happening, but also look at the next steps and processes and changes that you want to make. And in fact, I believe I read how writing can help you overcome fear and help you make changes. How does writing help you overcome your fears?

Claudia Ira Gan: [20:19] Mostly by giving words to your fear. Really write it down because when you write down about your fears, you slow down and everything becomes calmer as well. You can start with I feel very angry or whatever you want to write down or whatever you feel. You write it down and then everything slows down and your breathing is also slowing down.

 When I write down about my fears, it also becomes not only the reality because most of the fears are not real at that moment, most fears are a memory. There is a difference between reality what’s happening, what’s really happening at that moment and your memory. There is this book The Body Keeps the Score. I don’t know if you know the book.

Damianne President: [21:11] I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard of it.

Claudia Ira Gan: [21:14] Yeah, it’s one of my favorites. And those memories are still in your body so there can be a trigger. And sometimes when I feel some anxiety, it can be triggered by children playing outsides, just when they are screaming then it brings me back to a certain memory, but I don’t have to remember what’s happened at that time. For me at least, it’s not important to remember what really happened at that time, but it’s triggering my fears.

And so by writing it down, it says, okay, this is what’s really happening. And then I feel calm again because I know it’s not the reality at that moment.

Damianne President: [21:59] There is a meditation teacher that I listen to Tara Brach and she talks about real but not true, how something can feel so real to us, but not be at all true. 

 As you were talking, I was thinking about the fact that I was recently taking a workshop and I met a lady; we created an accountability group with ourselves. When you were talking about writing down your fears removes some of their power, I was thinking about the next level or, maybe not next level, but a different way of doing that is if you can speak your fear to somebody else that also helps. But there are some things that I’ve thought for so long that is really difficult to say to somebody else, because they might judge you and often people will try to make you feel better. They might say, Oh, that’s not true. Or they’ll try to counsel whatever you say, but it doesn’t really help because it doesn’t change any of your beliefs. But the thing that I noticed recently from being vulnerable with some people is that so many other people have those same fears.

And it’s amazing because we can be so caught in our own little place of suffering that we don’t realize that we’re part of this greater network of people who are all trying to survive and making our way through the world.

Claudia Ira Gan: [23:27] Yeah. It’s funny when you, yeah when you see this. It’s not funny when you feel those fears or these emotions, but humor is what I also use in my own process. Of course there are dark times and you can really feel anxious, but at some point by journaling or maybe just watching a comedy show on TV, you can see the humor and then you think, okay, Is it really that bad?

And then, like you said, when we realize that we all have the same fears or at least similar fears, we are not alone, we can connect with each other and it could be easier, but somehow it’s also the nature of human beings I think to make things more complex than necessary.

7 Days Journalling Challenge [24:24]

Damianne President: [24:24] You do have a seven day journaling experience on your website that people could sign up for. Please share that with the audience.

Claudia Ira Gan: [24:33] Many people are journaling. Maybe they don’t do it on a really regular basis, but everybody takes notes. Whether it’s in your journal or your notebook, or maybe on your laptop. You just open a document and take some notes.

 What I want to share is that you can do more with journaling because like I said, journaling is also a way to get more clarity about your own thoughts and feelings. We live in a very busy and stressful time and world and many things happen. And when you are able to slow down and write down the things that, that are happening maybe that day or some concerns you have, or maybe this inner force you’ve always neglected because it’s too busy to take care of yourself, this is an invitation to do it for seven days. What are seven days? It’s a week and just try to write it down every day.

 I sent these prompts just to invite you to think about starting things. These prompts are different. They touch different aspects in someone’s life. So it’s also an invitation to think out of the box, or just be aware of your own feelings at the moment, or just think about what you really want, your desires, your dreams and basically to reconnect with yourself and get aligned with your heart and your head and it’s free.

Damianne President: [26:13] Nothing to lose.

Claudia Ira Gan: [26:15] You have nothing to lose. Yeah, exactly.

On Belonging [26:19]

Damianne President: [26:19] One of the things you also write about and talk about on your website is about belonging. I’ve been trying to think about the idea of belonging versus self acceptance, not versus, but, entwined with self acceptance and. I thought if you belong in the space where you are, you belong to the person you are, you belong.

It’s not about belonging to somebody else. It’s also about belonging to your life. How do you think about belonging and what’s the relationship with self acceptance, from your perspective?

Claudia Ira Gan: [26:54] There is a difference between belonging and to fit in in a group or in your family or in society or in your work environments. I think that is the first question you have to ask yourself. Are you looking for an environment where you will be accepted and be heard and seen as you are, or is it something that you think you need to fit in because people expect it.

So I think that’s the number one question for yourself, but in order to decide what the difference is, and what you’re really looking for is to fully embrace who you are at this point, regardless of your age, gender identity, culture or status. We are all human beings and this self-acceptance, I think is one of the hardest thing to learn or one of the hardest practices, because that means that sometimes you can’t meet expectations from your parents or your friends. It’s also asks from yourself to stand up for your own values, which can be very different from the environment or your peer groups.

When it comes to self-acceptance, many people struggle with this part, I think, more people than we think.

So I think that for me it has always been a thing like belonging, because I always felt a kind of outsider or outlier because I always had different opinions or visions about things and I didn’t feel accepted. I didn’t feel seen at that time, but the more you can accept yourself and see what you really need and what your core values are, actually it doesn’t matter if people accept you or not. Somehow there is this inner strength that is stronger than other opinions.

Damianne President: [29:09] Self-help is such a big part of our society, such a big part of so many people’s lives that sometimes it can seem as if self-help, wanting to make progress in your life, wanting to be better, can be in tension with the concept of acceptance. At least we see it that way. So for example, I was in a workshop and the presenter was talking about self acceptance and how important it is. And one of the participants said, But if accept myself, what’s going to make me change the things that I know need to be changed. And I think that’s a common question; doesn’t acceptance mean I’m just going to keep doing those things that I know are hurtful? Does it just mean that I’m gonna sit in this space where I’m not the best person that I could be? What would you say to those types of questions or arguments?

Claudia Ira Gan: [30:03] That’s one way to see self-acceptance. The way I see it is that it’s also connected to self-love because you accept the person who you are in that moment, at that point, but you’re also aware of the fact that you can do better and be better. I think you have to ask yourself the question how can I contribute to a better world?

 It’s not about you, it’s not about you as a person. Of course it is important to accept yourself as person and also to, to embrace your identity and embrace yourself with all the qualities, but also the flaws you have because we all have them and the shadow side, it’s not only love.

It’s also the shadow in yourself and you have to embrace it all because no one is perfect. I think as long as you live, you always have to learn and that’s it’s not self-acceptance to say to yourself, okay, this is it, I don’t have to change. If you don’t change, you don’t grow. And if you don’t grow, you don’t live anymore. You just exist.

Damianne President: [31:13] Self-acceptance is, like you said, it’s really about seeing, where am I right now? It’s not about who do I think I should be, who does everybody else wants me to be? It’s about who I am right now. And you can be uncomfortable where you are right now. You could think, or I would like to, eat more healthfully. I would like to go for a walk every day. I don’t think that’s in opposition to self acceptance.

 I think acceptance is being honest about the person you are in that moment. And if you’re not honest about who you are in that moment, then how can you change anything? Because you’re not even recognizing what truly and really is reality in that moment.

That’s been something that I’ve had to think about because when people ask those questions, I think, that doesn’t sit right with me, but why is it? 

Claudia Ira Gan: [32:11] Yeah. 

Damianne President: [32:12] It’s been interesting

Claudia Ira Gan: [32:14] That’s very interesting. Yeah, exactly.

Claudia’s biggest challenge right now [32:17]

Damianne President: [32:17] What’s your biggest challenge right now in terms of building this community or more generally, personally or professionally, if that’s not too big a question?

Claudia Ira Gan: [32:29] Oh, gosh. Yeah. What is my biggest challenge right now. And then the connection with building this community, you mean? Or in general?

Damianne President: [32:39] In general, the thing that’s that you’re pondering the most, if you’re ready to share .

Claudia Ira Gan: [32:44] Yes, of course. I’m ready to share, but I’m thinking about what is my biggest challenge because I think my biggest challenge is to become more visible. I know I’m holding back at this moment. I do these baby steps. I launched a podcasts with guests, but I’m planning more solo episodes as well, because I know there are certain things that I want to discuss in a loving way, but in a way that can be talked about. These aren’t topics that are really shocking, but somehow people don’t really feel comfortable to talk about and it can be something about your self-acceptance, the things you don’t accept from yourself because someone has told you that it wasn’t okay. And then you built this shame around this. Then it becomes something really big, but actually it’s not that big. Maybe when it comes to trauma, everybody experiences trauma is part of life. But when it comes to, for example, emotional abuse, emotional mistreatments, many people say, Oh, but it’s not that bad because I wasn’t physically abused but there are still invisible wounds and it’s so important to acknowledge those wounds, emotional wounds because people carry them with them.

 Also the thing is I I don’t have contact with my mother and there are different opinions. For example, my family my grandmother who has passed away two years ago, but she always said, I am praying every day that this relationship will be restored. And then I said to her grandma, it’s not going to happen in a way that you think it must happen because it’s okay how it is. I have forgiven her and I’ve forgiven myself. That’s a big deal, forgiving yourself, but also forgiving others. Forgiving is this huge topic. I still love my mother, but we don’t have to see each other because I know when we see each other, somehow we will hurt each other because it’s just not possible in a way that we want it.

 This has been a whole journey and a lot of research about this topic, but I think that more people struggle with this issue too, about being loyal to your parents, but not be able to really express what I want to express. I think it’s important to give some topics a voice and to talk about it in a safe way.

Damianne President: [35:35] Even when some things are not shocking that don’t make them easy to talk about. From what I’m hearing, it’s really about you finding a way to connect with people and be able to make the impact that you want to create in the world.

Ways to re-center [35:48]

What do you find helpful when you find yourself in judgment of yourself, of others, when you find yourself being unkind to yourself or overthinking, any of those practices that we can fall into.

Claudia Ira Gan: [36:00] It’s a very good question. What I do right now is just sit down, take my time to write things down because that’s really my Holy space, my sanctuary. I’ll also pick cards, Oracle cards, because somehow that gives me a sign or a message. And that I can work on or not only work on because I think it’s more important not to do things but just let the things be as they are and okay.

Let it go and just be with yourself at that moment. And when I pick cards, there is this message in this card. It depends on the situation but most of the time it makes sense. 

Damianne President: [36:47] Yeah, I don’t know so much about Oracle cards, but my sister is very much into them and she does readings . I don’t personally believe that it’s divine but I believe that it can be very helpful because two or three years ago, a colleague of mine, she picked cards for me and I just found it so helpful to look at the story I was telling myself, to look at the situation from different perspectives. 

And when she picked a card, I could think through my life, from all of those different angles. And I found it really helpful because it uncovered some blind spots for me.

Claudia Ira Gan: [37:26] Yeah, absolutely. 

Invitation/Challenge [37:29]

Damianne President: [37:29] If someone is listening right now and they have five minutes, do you have an invitation of something they could do at this moment to help with clarity, to help with self acceptance? Anything comes to mind that you would like to invite people to do if they’ve got a few minutes now?

Claudia Ira Gan: [37:46] Yeah. The first thing that comes up now is to take care of yourself because when you are softer and kinder to yourself, you will be kind to others. We need more tenderness right now, maybe when you struggle with something or you have some concerns, because we live in a time that is quite uncertain at the moment.

The first invitation is to really be kind to yourself and do the things that are joyful or make you happy, at least for moments. Do that every day, just for a few minutes or maybe longer, if you can. It’s about baby steps, and of course, if you want to, if you’re looking for some encouragements or support, you can visit my website and maybe you see something that clicks with what you’re looking for. It’s simple, but it’s not easy, but if you can do that every day and take a moment and be kind to yourself, it makes a big difference.

Damianne President: [38:59] There are two practices that are related to this, one of them that I don’t do regularly, but I did as part of a workshop. I was surprised how joyful it made me feel, even for a moment. And it was part of a meditation. And you had to look in the mirror and say to yourself, I love you multiple times. And I was like, we all yearn for somebody else to say that to us: parents, partners. And we’re actually recording this on Valentine’s day, where lots of people

Claudia Ira Gan: [39:31] yeah.

Damianne President: [39:32] fall into this trap of whether or not they have romantic love in their life. I realized actually I never said this to myself and is there value also in saying this yourself and taking time to savour the feeling that you could also have love, be in love with yourself, however you want to phrase. 

Claudia Ira Gan: [39:55] That’s a big one and that’s a really good practice. It’s a practice, so it can be difficult in the beginning, but maybe if it’s really difficult you can start with thank you, saying thank you to yourself. And from there, maybe it’s easier to say I love you because these words can be very big.

Damianne President: [40:16] Yes. I like that. Find the smaller way to find something that’s true that you could say. 

And then the other practice that I forgot for a moment and again, this I got from Tara Brach, but she talks about RAIN meditation, which I have shared many times on the podcast. One of the refrains that she then shares is to say to yourself “it’s okay sweetheart”. 

Again, this is the same idea of kindness and tenderness. How could you be kind and tender to yourself and whatever word you like, whatever that might show up for you and finding a way that you don’t have to beat up yourself, that you could give yourself that tenderness that you desire or that could help.

And for some reason, I just really like that phrase. It’s okay, sweetheart.

Claudia Ira Gan: [41:06] Yeah, it is so sweet as well. So yeah. Thank you for sharing.

Having fun [41:12]

Damianne President: [41:12] What do you like to do for fun or to ground yourself? What feeds your inner essence or whatever you want to call it?

Claudia Ira Gan: [41:22] have this inner nerd. I love to watch superhero movies like from Marvel and stars and DC comics. And I love binge watching on Netflix when there is a series on Netflix.

Damianne President: [41:39] Have you watched all of them or…

Claudia Ira Gan: [41:43] Yeah, Flash. 

 Damianne President: [41:48] It was really nice to chat with you, Claudia. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to day. .

Claudia Ira Gan: [41:56] It’s my pleasure. And thank you. I feel honored that you found me on the internet.

Damianne President: [42:00] That really is proof of concept, right, in terms of how you can build community and make connections in the virtual world and something that a lot of us are depending on right now, either with the people we already know, or with new people as well, in terms of being able to meet and connect.

Claudia Ira Gan: [42:19] Yeah, it’s really nice.

Damianne President: [42:21] So I hope you enjoy the rest of your day.


Outtro [42:25]

Thank you for listening to this episode of Changes BIG and small. I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to this conversation with Claudia. If you think somebody else will also benefit from listening to this podcast, please share this episode. For other resources and to connect with me, you can visit Changes BIG and small on Instagram. This is probably the place that I post the most consistently.

If you want to hear more from Claudia, she does have her own podcast, MultiWoman. She interviews in both English and Dutch, depending on the choice of the guest. You can look through her websites and listen to the episodes that interest you.

 Remember change begins with one small step. Have a great week.

The more you can accept yourself and see what you really need and what your core values are, actually it doesn’t matter if people accept you or not. Somehow there is this inner strength that is stronger than other opinions.


Credits

I think it’s more important not to do things but just let the things be as they are and okay. Let it go and just be with yourself at that moment

About the Author
I'm a curious problem solver.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: