Category Archives: love

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

What happens next?

Hello, my name is Kath, and I am an acceptance junkie. Or at least I have been – big time – and I’m only just learning to brush this aspect of my existence off and get to the good stuff that life has to offer (joy, creativity, connectivity…). It’s been a long journey, with many twists and turns along the way, and I’ve walked so far now that I realise my surroundings are completely unfamiliar. In fact, the map I’ve been using doesn’t work anymore, because I’ve walked off grid and have yet to find a new one. Yikes! This is scary stuff. Everything I’ve known about myself and the world is changing, and although that’s a good thing, it absolutely isn’t easy.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew what I was working towards: becoming a version of myself that others would find acceptable.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew how to feel about myself: either terrible or absolutely wonderful, depending on what state my ego was in that day, and how many people I’d managed to please with my various efforts at becoming the perfect human being.

When I was addicted to acceptance, I knew what made me feel good and what made me feel bad…

You get the picture. I’m completely re-framing my life, and whereas I’ve managed to move away (mostly) from the unhealthy behaviours and ways of thinking about the world, I haven’t yet replaced them with anything else that makes me feel, well, like me I guess! It wasn’t healthy to look to others for a sense of self, but the fact is that I did, and now I feel like an empty vase (to quote a poem written by Monica’s sleazy boyfriend on Friends). I feel like I’ve entered a void and the only way out is to run back to the safety of my old ways, or to fill in the blanks with something new.

Currently, my life isn’t an expression of who I am. Or at least, I don’t feel that I am expressing the things that I want to express. In short, I need to get my ‘Kath’ on and start doing the things that I want to do, and feel that sense of purpose and joy come back to me. Because if I’m honest, at the moment everything feels a little pointless – as though I’m waiting for someone to come up to me and say: “It’s OK, Kath. You’re doing absolutely the right thing. Yes, that’s it – go out into the world and be an individual. That’s next on the list of things you should do”. But what if I’ve done away with all the ‘shoulds’ and I’m trying to live life on my own terms for a change, without waiting to hear what others think I should do?

Man this is freaking me out! I’m talking myself into feeling more terrified than I was before I started writing. Also, can I just take a moment to apologise for basically using this blog as a sounding board for my own problems, instead of imparting incredible wisdom and offering solutions to your problems? I’ll get back to the wise thing once I’ve got my groove back, I promise.

I’m seeing a therapist/life coach at the moment, and she has likened this current phase in life to weeding a garden: I’ve now got to re-plant it with beautiful flowers that I actually want to be there, instead of letting anything grow there and just letting life steamroll over me. So what flowers am I going to plant? What waves am I going to make? What is it that the real me, who is only just emerging after years and years of sleepwalking through life, has to say to the world? And what form will this take?

Well, writing is definitely up there on the list. I’m surprising feisty and opinionated on the inside for someone who’s made a career of worrying what others think. And I definitely feel like I’m holding myself back at the moment – waiting for the green light from the universe, instead of just trusting in myself and my inner guidance.

Yesterday, on my way home from an alpaca farm with my husband, we encountered a cyclist on a twisting and fairly fast country road NOT WEARING A HELMET! No sooner had we both commented on this, than I found myself shouting out of the open window: “Buy a helmet!”. My husband seemed amused and vaguely proud, but essentially discouraged me from shouting at strangers as we drive through the local countryside. To be honest, he has a point. It’s not exactly safe to shout things at unsuspecting cyclists who are trying to keep their eyes on the road, even if I did have his best interests at heart.

The incident with the cyclist was very out of character for me, but it felt good; a relief to be honest. There are lots of things I feel like shouting about at the moment, but I’ve done some research and it turns out people don’t appreciate it very much! Point is, it told me that I’m withholding something and not allowing myself to fully express myself, because self-expression and emotional freedom is all pretty new to me.

So, here I am. Much further along the journey towards self-acceptance than I’ve ever been, and instead of telling you how wonderful it is, I’m telling you all about how terrifying it is. Sorry about that.

But I wouldn’t for a second discourage any of you from following me down this path. I’ve experienced moments of absolute joy and love in my life over the last few years, and I owe that to trusting this journey that I’m on. So I’m going to keep trusting, as best I can, and probably with the occasional rant on this blog. And instead of waiting for someone to hand me a new map, I’m going to draw my own; it will be called the ‘Kingdom of Kath’, and it will be an honest expression of who I am.

So to all of you who are on a similar journey: keep going, know that you’re not alone, and when the time is right, start creating your own unique vision of the world.

Love,

Kath

Do the things that make your heart sing, and your soul soar

I went swimming a lot as a child and young adult. From life-saving lessons, to speed swimming and diving – my sister and I did it all. We also spent hour upon hour mucking about, doing handstands in the pool and guessing what each other was singing whilst under water. Swimming was my exercise of choice, and pretty much the only one I enjoyed, since I’m quite a lazy person by nature. But the magic of being in the water was enough to counteract the call of sitting down with a book or watching the telly.

We’re not all alike, which is one of the wonderful things about being a human being! We all share so much more in common than the mass media lead us to believe, but in the end not one of us is 100% the same. I have a friend who hates being in the water, to the extent that she has the quickest bath she possibly can just to get it over and done with. Swimming in an open air swimming pool in a beautiful little village in the Derbyshire countryside (as I did today) would not have been her idea of a good time, but to me it was revitalising, refreshing, invigorating, and kind of a relief (since I haven’t been swimming for a few years now). It fulfilled a part of me that I had allowed to go unattended for such a long time.

Worrying what other people think of us depletes our energy and our sense of who we are. We question ourselves and try to bend and twist to please others. It’s the opposite of having someone with you to support and encourage you in all your endeavours – it’s like having a devil sat on our shoulders, whispering to us that we’re not good enough and that people will only love us if…

Doing the things that make our hearts sing and our souls soar replenishes our energies and our sense of who we are. It makes us feel stronger and more balanced, and we care less what others think of us without even having to try. Every activity we choose to do has the potential to either feed our sense of who we are, or to deplete it. Every thought and every choice is based on either love (I am enough) or fear (I am not enough). In a world where far too many of us are stuck in fear-mode, why not start to choose love instead?

What are the things that you love to do? What desires have you let go unattended for far too long? What advice would you give to your best friend? Start giving that advice to yourself, and watch the magic unfold!

Bye for now x

Is it OK to feel bad?

I’m going to level with you – I feel pretty bad right now. Really emotional, and like I don’t know what I’m moving towards (or whether I’ll be able to complete the journey as I’d hoped I would be able to). I feel lonely, even though I am surrounded by people who love and cherish me.

I am a hugely fortunate person. I have good health, a loving family, a modest but beautiful roof over my head, a wonderful beyond all measure little black cat, whom myself and my husband love like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve had many wonderful life experiences and opportunities, and many more ahead of me. And believe it or not, this is one of them. This moment of feeling like total sh*t is a great big opportunity, staring me in the face and waiting for me to put all the pieces together and make something wonderful out of it.

How do I know this? Well, partly because I’ve read a few wishy-washy looking self-help books which reassure me that to feel bad is an opportunity to discover what actually makes me feel good. But mainly it’s because I’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced real joy in my life, of the variety that I suspect many people never get to experience. I’ve felt the joy of being who I am, and knowing that that’s OK. I’ve felt the exquisite relief of feeling like a valid part of the universe, rather than a small, insignificant dot trying to prove myself worthy at every possible opportunity. I’ve felt beautiful, not because I’m necessarily all that beautiful, but because I’ve recognised a beauty in myself that we’re all born with, regardless of what we look like or how others perceive us. I’ve felt purposeful and motivated and enthusiastic and loved. OK, so I haven’t felt like this for years on end, and I don’t feel like it right now, but I have felt it, and do you want to know how I got there? I reached a point in my life where I couldn’t ignore myself anymore. I could no longer put my own needs to one side in favour of my usual people-pleasing routine. I had to listen to my deepest longings, and to what my emotions were telling me. I’ve known people on countless occasions say that when you feel bad, there’s often no logical reason for it, and after a few years of personal experience, I have to say that this is not at all true. If we are feeling sad or anxious or angry or worthless or small, it is absolutely 100% a valid human experience and 100% worth listening to. By this I don’t mean that we should all wallow in our feelings and see how long we can drag them out for. But rather that we should accept the emotions for what they are, and use them as our subconscious minds wish for us to use them – to figure something out about ourselves, our relationships or our current life circumstances. And please don’t mistake all of this for a ‘lesson’ that life has conjured up so that we can do things better next time. Life isn’t about lessons, it’s about opportunities to become more and more of who we are. Or at least that’s how I’m coming to perceive the world.

When we judge others, and fear their judgement of us, there is an insight to be gained about how we view ourselves and the world around us. Two people living exactly the same lives will have completely different experiences because their ideas, perceptions and upbringings are different. Life isn’t what we make of it – it’s how we choose to see it (and ourselves).  The people who have caused me the most pain and upset in my life have been the ones that challenge how I perceive myself, and that is always the root of everything when it comes to worrying what others think. Usually these people mirror an aspect of myself, so when I rally against them, I am actually fighting against myself. Making peace with who we are, and coming to the reassuring realisation that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us, is the only way to deal with the fear we encounter when we believe someone sees something unworthy or unlikable in us.

So, can I trust this current moment of contrast in my life? Yes. Does it feel good? Absolutely not, but there is a deep sense of inner peace when I finally come to a place where I can accept how I feel and not judge it as a bad thing. The trouble is, no one (including yourself!) wants to see you down or upset or crying, so we grow up with the belief that it’s not OK to feel this way. It’s good to feel good, and bad to feel bad, and that’s the end of it. Or is it? Do we need to think again and begin to value and treasure all of our experiences? Seeing them for what they are, and taking as much goodness from them as we possibly can. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we’re just in a good old-fashioned bad mood and don’t want to see the blessings in anything! And that’s OK too. We all need to have a good moan from time to time, and to feel downright sorry for ourselves. But once the initial storm has passed, that’s when we need to start looking beyond the dark clouds to where the light is.

Hmph. Life really isn’t easy sometimes, and the human experience certainly seems to be a more complicated one than say a well looked after cat or dog. But we are human, and there’s not much we can do about that except to navigate it with as much compassion and patience as we can muster up.

I know, I’ve gone all philosophical on you. Sorry about that – feeling low always makes me into a deep thinker! And it helps for me to come here and say what I need to say. So thank you for being there for me.

Peace out guys. See you soon! 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

True colours

Well, I could write a really long blog post about how it’s OK for you to be who you are, but it turns out Cyndi Lauper has summed up everything I could ever wish to say in her 1986 single ‘True Colors’. I mean, I knew this song existed, but I’d most definitely forgotten about it, and had neglected to make a point of listening to it on a regular basis. No more I tell you! I will listen to this song as often as possible until it starts to drive me mad. Because it’s like a two-hour therapy session in a few minutes.

This is the thing about music. Just as we’re starting to feel completely alone in the world, we can turn on the radio and instantly be reminded of how very shared our human experience is. Other people have felt what you feel, and you are not alone in the world. We never are, it’s just that it can feel like that sometimes. Whilst our emotions and our right to express them are both very real, the messages we sometimes tell ourselves are often great big lies. If your brain is trying to tell you that you aren’t good enough, that you should change to fit someone else’s ideas, or that you are alone on a small island with no one to turn to – you can be sure that your gremlins are at work and skip straight to ignoring them whenever possible. Or fight back and tell them why you are good enough! Whatever works for you.

We are all good enough; worthy; beautiful in our own right; not alone. Music can remind us of this, so make a point of listening to the radio or creating a feel-good playlist.

Oh, and thanks Cyndi!

Bye for now x

Keep on keepin’ on

I have so many ideas for what to write on this blog, and most of the time I neglect to write them down and they are lost until the next time they occur to me – possibly never?!

But the one thing that I keep coming back to is the idea of keeping on going. Reaching a stage in your life where you no longer mind what others think of you – or where you at least care a lot less than you used to – is all about realising that you have the power inside of you to make this happen and dedicating time to personal development: reading books, discovering people who inspire and motivate you via social media, writing down your thoughts and emotions and examining them for clues as to why you fear ‘getting it wrong’ and how you might overcome that fear etc. … The list goes on.

The point is that an increased sense of wellbeing and happiness is something that we can choose for ourselves, but as with dieting and other ‘New Year’s’ type resolutions, it is all too easy to give up. Most dieters will be more successful if they join a group and meet with like-minded people. We’re only human, and we need to feel motivated to be at our most successful. The same goes for any kind of group or human contact – anything that gives us a sense of structure or connectedness is likely to help us keep on keepin’ on.

So how can we go about motivating ourselves to work on our mental wellbeing? There are some obvious answers here, like counselling sessions and groups. But these inevitably run their natural course and we are left to fend for ourselves once again. I realise that this sounds a bit bleak and depressing! There certainly isn’t anything wrong with a course of counselling or a self-help group coming to an end, and it is only natural to feel a sense of loss for a while afterwards. But once we’ve expressed our sadness, we need to formulate a plan to keep all of our good work going. We need to identify our personal needs and goals and find a way to ensure that we keep moving in the ‘right’ direction.

Do you need to get a friend involved to help you stay motivated? Do you need to go and buy that book you’ve heard recommended so many times but never actually got around to buying? Perhaps you need to cover your house in post-its with little reminders, or place decorative hearts in each room of the house as a reminder to love yourself and others. There are all sorts of online courses, forums, websites etc. that are devoted to helping individuals to work through their fears and live a more fulfilling life. Go explore and find the one that works for you (but be careful not to get drawn into other people’s problems and focus instead on resources that provide constructive advice).

Some other ideas:

  • Find music that inspires and motivates you and make a point to listen to it on a regular basis.
  • Exercise regularly to keep your energy levels up and keep you feeling positive and motivated
  • Doodle and draw: it doesn’t matter if you aren’t all that artistic, you will still find that the act of putting pen (or pencil) to paper will release tension and help you to identify your emotions (both helpful and unhelpful). It also helps to focus the brain and keep you grounded, much like all those colouring-in books that are so popular at the moment.
  • Celebrate any victory, no matter how small it may seem, and write about the differences you are seeing in your life.

In in ideal world, we would all have our own pocket-sized cheerleader to cheer us on throughout the day and remind us to keep going. In reality, we must harness the little cheerleader that lies inside all of us! The little guy or girl that is incredibly proud of you and can see nothing but potential and possibilities. We all have one, it just needs waking up from time to time. The more you practice listening to that positive spark of light inside of you, the more natural and effortless it will become. I promise.

Wishing you all a happy New Year, but no pressure. If you’re unhappy right now then that’s OK too. So long as you’re taking time to figure out what it all means and working towards feeling happy and free.

Bye for now you utterly wonderful bunch of human beings x

Everything changes

They say that the best friendships are the ones where you don’t find yourself fretting about the other person – whether you’ve seen them that week or what they think of your recent decision to change career. You know you love them, and they in turn love you, so what’s to worry about?

Well, the thing is that things change. People change. Life moves on and sometimes the friendships we formed when we were younger and which seemed so unbreakable get tested as we grow into adults and begin to go our separate ways. It’s only natural that this should happen, and it certainly isn’t a bad thing. And yet, we so often find ourselves trying to resist this change. To turn back the clocks and make everything OK by continuing to meet for a glass of wine every Friday night, even though it isn’t all that convenient anymore and our priorities have moved on. It isn’t that we don’t care. It isn’t that we don’t love the other person, or that we wouldn’t be there for them if they needed a shoulder to cry on. It’s just that we’ve changed and repeating the same old patterns of behaviour is starting to stifle us. In short, we’re ready to move on.

So, the key question is this: how do you move on from a friendship without feeling like a really bad person? I mean, what if the feeling isn’t reciprocated and the friend is heartbroken? What if they say things about you to your mutual friends out of anger? Even if you choose not to tell them directly, and opt for a more subtle approach of occasionally making other plans and phasing out your Friday night drinks dates, the friend may still react badly.

The truth is that friendships can be as complicated as romantic relationships. We can find ourselves feeling just as hurt, let down and confused.

I have witnessed friendships fall apart because one side has moved on and the other person can’t find a way to accept or forgive. I have also witnessed the effects of clinging on to friendships for the sake of politeness and not rocking the cradle, even though it’s obvious that things need to change.

Are you with me? I hope you’re following and that some of this chimes with your own life experiences. If not, I promise to make more sense next time!

Whatever your reason is for wishing to move on, you have every right to do so. This is your life, and you have every right to live it exactly how you want to. Would your friends advise you to stay in an unhealthy romantic relationship? No, they wouldn’t. So why should it be any different when it comes to friendships? There is just something so inherently unacceptable about ‘splitting up’ with a friend that we end up feeling like pond scum for having even considered it. We may even try to find a way out by waiting for them to do something really bad so that we can say: “Oh well, it was their fault for behaving badly. I had no choice in the matter”.

Splitting up with or phasing out a friend may cause you to feel that someone has indeed got a problem with you. And to be honest they probably have! This is something we have to face up to and live with if we wish to live as adults and free spirits, and if we wish to grow emotionally and spiritually, rather than surrounding ourselves with what feels ‘safe’ and ‘normal’.

You are OK. I am OK. The friend you don’t enjoy the company of anymore is OK. But we can’t always please others with our life choices and decisions. Let’s dare to be true to ourselves, and worry less what others think. Whenever I have been brave enough to do this in my own life, inner joy and happiness always seem to follow.

Bye for now x

Get some ‘you’ time

Our lives are so busy that we sometimes barely get a chance to just breathe, relax, and re-center. In fact, we can be so busy that we forget that we even need to do this in the first place! This is why feeling ‘bad’ is sometimes not such a bad thing. It might not feel great at the time, but contrast is an essential part of life, and it acts as a useful reminder to ask ourselves how we’re feeling, and what we might be able to do to feel that bit happier.

One problem (as far as I can tell) is that we live in a society which values self-sacrifice and un-selfish behaviour. To put your own needs first makes you a self-centered individual who needs to learn to think of others before themselves. But I personally hate the current definition and usage of the word ‘selfish’. I think it needs to be completely re-thought and reintroduced into the English language with a more positive meaning! Because to be selfish is to look after oneself, and to look after oneself is perhaps the most important task you will ever have in your entire life. You, I, we, are all as valid as the next person, and if we all went around looking after everyone but ourselves, no one would ever really be properly looked after. Am I making sense here? Do you know what I’m getting at?

You see, if you devote some time to yourself, you can still give to others, but from a more healthy place – one where you’re not totally worn out and emotionally exhausted. When we feel happy and content in ourselves. we tend to open up to the idea of helping others much more, simply because we feel more able to.

I can’t claim that these ideas are 100% my own, although I have experienced this first hand. But if you’d like to learn more about why it’s OK for you to relax and get some much-needed ‘you’ time, I can heartily recommend the book Life is a Gift by Gill Edwards. It was a life-changing read for me, and was recommended to me by a family member who had also found it utterly transformative.

Anyway, why am I writing about this? Well I was feeling all worked up the other evening. My brain was a whirlwind of shoulds and oughts and concerns about the needs of others and whether or not I was meeting them. I couldn’t get a handle on anything or think straight, so I took some time out. I went upstairs, put on the radio, and just chilled out for a bit. After a while, I found my centre and my brain started to calm down. Half the things I’d been worrying about disappeared altogether and the other half didn’t seem nearly as bad.

So there you have it. Go take a break. Re-kindle your love for yourself. Go and be at one with your radio or favourite book. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Bye for now x