Category Archives: Friendship

Self-acceptance is a unique and personal journey

There is no rule book or set of processes to go through to gain a sense of self-acceptance. How could there be, when we are all so unique and have experienced such different life circumstances? That’s not to say that there aren’t tools and resources that we can use, and teachers (in the form of friends, authors, movies etc.) that will encourage us on our journey. It’s more that how we interpret them and what they mean to us as individuals will be highly personal.

This, of course, is no bad thing. If anything it’s part of the wonder that is human existence. Life is beautifully messy and chaotic. We are beautifully messy and chaotic. We are all united in our uniqueness and the complex twists and turns that life sometimes takes. Difference is a unifying factor – not a reason to find fault, or fear what we don’t understand.

My problem of late has been realising that who I am is so very different to the person I thought I was (or ought to be), that transitioning – or allowing myself to transform into the person I was always meant to be – is downright terrifying. Let me give you some background…

I’ve always been someone who feels things intensely and is highly emotional. I soak up other people’s emotions like a sponge, making many social encounters emotionally and physically draining. This has made working in a shared office environment practically impossible for me in the past, and I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’m not suited to a busy, fast-paced lifestyle. I used to believe this meant that there’s something wrong with me or that I’m deficient in some way, but I’m coming to understand and respect this aspect of myself and not view it as a weakness or a failing.

My environment has always been extremely important to me, and the smallest detail such as lighting or the position of my desk in relation to the door has always had a huge impact on me. I know I’m not unique in this and that many people are ‘fussy’ about their office or home environments. I’m sure I’m not the only person who drives by houses in the winter time and wonders how on earth people can stand to sit in a brightly lit room with the television on full blast, with not a scented candle or joss stick in sight! I also detest brightly lit supermarkets and shops, which seems to be the norm these days. Something about those harsh overhead strip lights just does something to my brain and I can’t think straight or concentrate. Modern day living just doesn’t seem to suit me, no matter how much I’ve tried to make myself fit in. I often wish I was living in a small town with cobbled roads and a smattering of local shops – all lit by candlelight! I’d probably hate this is reality, but something about it really does appeal to me.

I’ve been a career person most of my adult life; ticking off the list of things to do as you enter and work your way through adulthood:

  • Get a good education
  • Get a job and stay there for approximately three years
  • Move on to a better job with greater prospects and increased pay
  • Get married and start thinking about having kids

In the last few years I’ve come to realise that this life was not serving me. It wasn’t allowing me to give the best of myself, to express who I really am, or to live anything other than a half-life. Now, I’d like to say that I came to this decision myself, by a process of careful analysis and deduction – but the truth is that life forced me to take a huge step back and reevaluate just about everything in my life, from my relationships to my career and my style of dress. My way of perceiving the world also changed, as I could no longer believe that our existence on this planet is just a happy accident and that human existence has no real meaning. I’m not religious. I do not believe in God in the sense that a member of an organised religion does. But I do believe that we are all part of something much greater than ourselves, that we are surrounded by guidance at every step of the way, and that we each had a purpose (or ten) when we entered this lifetime. I’ve experienced enough strange and magical moments over the last few years that I have no choice now but to wholeheartedly believe such whimsical notions as:

  • Life loves us all
  • We have a soul/higher-self that is always trying to guide us towards our highest good
  • We all have something unique and meaningful to offer the world

I’m finding these things very hard to come to terms with, because I still feel like a bit of a nutcase when I express my views on life. People regularly giggle at me, and I often make a joke of myself by making reference to hippies and rainbows, and generally poo-pooing my own belief system. It’s just going to take time, I guess. The day will come when I can stand tall, look someone in the eyes and say: “You are a beautiful beam of light”, without laughing nervously afterwards! In the meantime, I’ll just keep giggling.

So, as you can see, self-acceptance is quite a roller-coaster for me, because to accept who I truly am, I have to accept that:

  • My life now looks completely different to how it did
  • A lot of people in my life either don’t approve or are taking a while to get on board
  • My views are more than a little ‘out there’ for the average conversation over a cup of coffee
  • The more I believe in myself, the happier and more fulfilled I feel, so I have no choice but to keep going, no matter how much I want to run back to the safety of my old life. Anxiety and depression come when I deny something fundamental about myself, and follow social constructs about what I should do and who I should be.

What does self-acceptance mean to you? Are you gay but don’t feel able to come to terms with it? Are you a geek surrounded by people who don’t understand your passion for 18th Century literature? Are you a wild soul who lives in the suburbs and longs to sell up and build a tree house in the forest?

No matter who you are or what you’re going through, self-acceptance is possible. Please don’t tell yourself that your life is so unique that no one else has ever overcome something similar and found peace within themselves.

The one thing that we can all benefit from, no matter who we are or what we’re aiming for, is a tribe: a group of people who are on our wavelength, who help us to become more and more of who we are, and who inspire us to live our best lives. This tribe of people will look different for all of  us, but they will all have the same effect of supporting us and providing space for us to explore our true selves in a safe environment.

I’m at a loss at the moment. My old journey seems to have come to an end, and I haven’t fully embraced the next chapter of my life yet. I’m in a state of limbo; too scared to move forward, but even more scared to go back to my old ways. I’m not 100% sure where I belong or what my ‘tribe’ looks like. I guess for now all I can do is respect the process, be kind to myself and know that no matter how small my progress may be, I’m moving towards something wonderful.

I love you all, because I’m a great big hippy – yay!

Bye for now,

Kath x

 

p.s. Image is by Travis Simon via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/ya6d6vtg

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Showing up for the things that matter

Oh wow, I seem to be having a series of epiphanies over the last couple of days, and it’s blowing my mind into a series of small pieces. Hopefully they will come back together to form a single entity, but for now it feels like I need to ponder the topics that have arisen. So let’s begin!

My life has been about achievement for a very long time; doing things that will earn me a sense of acceptance, worth and security. It was the only way I could feel safe, and to just do whatever I fancied doing at any given moment was a very dangerous act indeed, and one that I could derive no enjoyment from. I have had to gradually re-learn how to live life in a healthy and balanced way, and slowly but surely I am able to dedicate more and more of my time to the things I love to do. But I still have this feeling – this critical inner voice – that tells me that doing things simply for enjoyment and fulfilment is utterly pointless. And I’m not just talking about going to the beach or riding a roller coaster at a fairground: I’m talking about writing my book. Because there’s no guarantee that it will be successful, gain me recognition, earn me money… etc. It is something I have faith in, and I know I need to write it because it’s sitting inside of me screaming to get out. But I’m still stuck in the illusion that the only things that matter or that are capable of making me feel safe and whole, are the ones that will earn me some sort of badge of recognition. Writing an essay for my degree course? Bring it on. This has been assigned to me and there is a grade waiting for me at the end of the process.

Note: I should point out that I graduated from university in 2006, and I’m firmly in my thirties – just in case you thought I was still a spring chicken.

But writing a book with no guaranteed anything at the end of it is terrifying. The only thing that keeps me coming back to this blog is the fact that I can see my subscribers steadily increasing and I get an occasional (and much appreciated) like from one of you lovely people. Of course, we all need to think of ways to remain motivated, and I’m only human, so I don’t need to be too hard on myself. But there’s still this enormous sense of ‘what’s the point?’ when it comes to anything in life that is purely for my own benefit and sense of wholeness. I mean, I’m only just learning that I have a sense of wholeness, and a voice inside of me that is uniquely mine and that I can trust above all others. I sure as hell don’t know what to do with any of this information yet.

If life was one long, never-ending degree course with an assessment at the end of each stage, I would be in my element. This is what my childhood prepared for, and only this. Academic success was my only way of feeling safe and acceptable to others, and when I finally finished my studies and entered the world outside of education, things started to get really scary for me.

And let’s be honest, my story won’t be unique. Even those of you who weren’t so hung up on grades and success will have felt that feeling of ‘WTF?’ when your schooling came to an end and the script ran out. And I really believe that ‘script’ is the right word to use here, because for the most part our plans in life are handed to us by our parents and society as a whole. Up until a certain point, we have no real reason to pursue our own truths, because we’re so busy doing what is expected of us, or handed down to us by others. Is it any wonder that so many people go through such deep darkness in their adult years; they’ve been on a box-ticking mission, and it turns out that life is about more than just making sure you sign on the dotted line.

There is so much joy to be had from being a member of the human race. And in fact, I’m beginning to realise that the purpose of life is joy. It’s what we’re here for, it’s just that everyone is so stuck in a fearful world view that they don’t trust that life could be that easy. We want to earn our right to be happy through hard work, struggle and perseverance, because this is all we know. These messages are handed down to us from our parents, and we in turn pass them on to our children. How can I expect my parents to support my ‘money will flow into my life when I do what I love’ attitude when they were brought up believing that the world is a dangerous and tough place, full of obstacles and opportunities to fail? If I want to break the cycle, I have to live my own truth regardless of what anyone else thinks, which again is frankly terrifying for me right now.

But I’ve always had this sense that I’m here for a reason. Not a mission handed down to me from on high, but rather a purpose that I chose for myself, that is part of my very being, and that only I can truly understand. I can surround myself with support and messages that encourage me to keep taking steps forward, but at the end of the day, only I can trust in my own journey. As much as I’d like to get someone to sign a piece of paper declaring that my life is meaningful and important and that when things get really tough I can find solace inside of myself, that just ain’t gonna happen! I have to write the declaration and sign it for myself.

If I’m completely honest, this is the moment I’ve been dreading: the moment I realise that my life really does belong to me and is a gift for me to unwrap in any way that feels right. I cannot emphasise the extent to which this does not feel safe. I can feel my fearful ego squirming inside of me and wishing desperately for me to run back for safety. But there’s no going back now. I’ve come so far that the only way forward is forward, and it’s going to take a whole lot of faith and love.

I simply can’t go on doubting myself and questioning my very existence. For one thing, it’s extremely cruel, and if I acted this way towards a friend they probably wouldn’t stick around for too long. It’s only acceptable because we’re taught that self-hatred and deprecation are OK, whereas to hate others is not. How messed up is that?! And for another thing, if I want to do what I sense I came here to do, there isn’t any room for the level of self-doubt I’ve been experiencing.

Life is so strange. We’re taught so little about it as children and adolescents, and spend the rest of our lives acquiring the knowledge we really need to survive and live a happy and meaningful existence. So yes, I will write that book, and I will trust that it wants to be written as much as I want to write it, and that something good will come from it, even if it’s just a sense of personal satisfaction. Because I think we have to trust that if there’s something we really want to do, that there is some joy waiting for us at the other side.

Peace out, and thanks as ever for taking the time to read my words.

Kath

Opening the door to connectivity

I have spent the vast majority of my life fearing people, and seeing any interaction as an opportunity for me to fail or reveal myself for the good-for-nothing I really am. (I’m sure some of you reading this can identify with that deep-seated fear that sits inside your belly and tells you that you’re a bad person, and that if people only knew the real you they wouldn’t want to be your friend anymore).

I feared judgement, whilst unknowingly being judgemental myself; because finding fault in others was the only way I could feel good about myself. I say ‘unknowingly’ because I genuinely didn’t realise this trait in myself until recent years.

So this idea of connecting with and enjoying the company and companionship of my fellow human beings is a fairly recent discovery for me. And forgive me – I seem to remember that I wrote on this topic not that long ago. But it’s something I continue to ponder, especially as I start to feel more connected with the world around me (my joy is all the greater for having lived in the dark for so many years). We all have days when we feel closed off and don’t especially want to talk to anyone, but on the whole I feel less like I have something to prove and more like a valid piece in the enormous jigsaw puzzle that is our universe.

Connection isn’t something we can learn, but rather something we must learn to feel. Connection exists and is there for us to tap into in almost every moment. Like it or not, we are all connected as part of the shared human experience, and we are all worthy in our own right. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to believe this last point. And if you’re in a place in your life where you doubt your worthiness, then that is absolutely fine. It’s where you’re at right now, and it means that the joy of discovering your place in the world lies ahead, waiting patiently for the time that you feel ready to embrace all that you are.

So, from one piece of a giant jigsaw to another, thanks for being here to read this blog post and I’ll speak to you again soon.

Bye for now x

The day I realised I don’t have to deserve or earn love…

All my life I have tried desperately to earn acceptance and love from people around me. I have felt, at my very core, desperately worried about myself and whether I’m good enough. I’ve felt the need to put on a different mask according to who I’m spending time with. Like a chameleon, I’ve adapted to my environment, but at a huge cost: me!

The more I face up to my fears, and the more I just put myself ‘out there’ to be seen for who I really am, the more I realise that I never needed to earn the love or respect of anyone. Instead of running away, those people in my life who really matter to me have embraced this phase of my life, encouraging me to take my time, offering support and letting me know that they are there whenever I need them. I just had a text conversation with a friend which made me cry big fat tears of happiness, sadness and just about every emotion in between! But then I heard myself thinking:

What have I done to deserve this?

And the answer? I didn’t need to do anything, because love isn’t deserved or earned, and I have been worthy of love, friendship and companionship since the day I was born. I don’t have my own children yet, but I know that as/when I do have a baby, I won’t look at it and think: I’ll love you once you’re old enough to do something deserving and worthwhile. I’ll just love it because it is.

I can’t tell you what a relief it is to slowly begin peeling away the mask, and to discover that I am loved so very much for who I am. And I am fortunate enough to have enough good people around me to know that anyone who doesn’t like what they see can look elsewhere. I won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, and I’d be doing a pretty rubbish job of being authentic if everyone liked me! No one is universally liked and loved. Even Tom Hanks won’t be liked by everyone who meets him, although I find that hard to believe!

Being loveable doesn’t mean being perfect. It just means being you. We are all loveable, and we are all loved by someone.

The sad thing about Western culture is that it promotes a sense of ‘better than’ in relation to our fellow human beings. Instead of working together and celebrating who we are, we feel inclined to compete with others for our sense of self-esteem and worthiness. Conversations with certain people leave us feeling exhausted because they seem to be doing so much better than we are, and our egos just can’t handle it! Well I for one am sick of leading a life where my ego has such a big influence over how I feel about myself. There is such a thing as a healthy ego, and that involves doing what you love to do, with people you love to spend time with, and approaching life from a place of self-love and a sense of worthiness.

For someone who has been doing just the opposite of this for most of her life, I’m finding that old habits die hard, and I’m really having to trust myself to let go of my old hang-ups and let the magic unfold. But it’s all worthwhile in those moments where I feel totally at ease with myself and the world. Giving up the fight means realising there was never a fight in the first place.

Thanks for listening.

Bye for now x

A note on friendship

How is it that I’m in my early to mid thirties and I’m only just starting to experience true friendship for the first time? OK, to all my long-standing friends I apologise. I love you all and I’m not saying that our friendship doesn’t mean anything. It’s just that I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend before with whom I feel 100% comfortable in my own skin. There’s always something:

  • They’re a bit cooler or better dressed than me (or at least I feel self-conscious around them)
  • They are much more fun-loving and outgoing (unlike me who likes to stay in and watch a film over a mug of hot chocolate)
  • I used to fancy them growing up and although I don’t anymore I can’t completely relax around them! Lol.
  • They are a friend I met through my sister, and whereas my sister and I have some excellent friends, I perhaps wouldn’t have become friends with said individuals if not for convenience. Ouch, that sounds awful. Again, I love the people I’m talking about here. I just mean that the friendship didn’t develop because we were naturally drawn to each other’s personalities and absolutely loved spending time together.

I guess I’ve just never really had that kind of friendship which is a bit on the wild and uninhibited side, where any topic goes and it doesn’t matter if you need to tell them you couldn’t answer the phone because you were on the loo. You know what I mean?

Anyway, I now have a friend like that. A wild friendship between two kindred spirits who can happily talk about topics ranging from sex to poo and anything in between. We have similar – though not identical – beliefs. We look and dress differently, and have led completely different lives. But we are pretty much ideally suited as friends go.

I’m not sad that it’s taken me this long. I think I appreciate it far more for having waited this long. I’ve always felt like I’m the ‘odd’ one in my friendships, but not with this individual. I feel completely normal – whatever the hell ‘normal’ means!

Well I just wanted to share this development in my life with you guys, because I think it’s important to remember that true friendship means not feeling self-conscious or uneasy. It means comfortable silences and being able to look each other directly in the eye. I value all of my friendships very much, but it’s nice to have found someone who feels like a lovely great big cuddle to be around.

That’s all for now x