Tag Archives: perfectionism

What do you want to do with your life?

I don’t know about you, but most of my life, until the revelations of my thirties, I felt that the best way to get by in life was to make as little trouble as possible – to please others, and somehow fly under the radar. Life wasn’t about doing what I wanted to; it was about taking all the opinions and clues from the outside world, crunching the numbers and coming up with the perfect formula for my life. Funny thing is, it wasn’t my life, was it? It belonged to everyone except me. Sound familiar?

I wrote a while back that life is a strange place for me to be now that I’ve realised that people-pleasing and living up to the expectations of others isn’t necessary. It was making my miserable, but it felt safe, and all of my sense of worth came from being perceived in a positive way by others. So, what to do with my life now that my people-pleasing road trip is drawing to and end?

I don’t know if you believe in the mystical and magical things that can sometimes happen in life, but I was once sat contemplating my life and where I was up to etc. I felt suddenly compelled to take a book from my bookcase (which I never do – the bookcase in question is more of an archive of books I’ve already read). Anyway, I picked up a title by Alexander McCall Smith called ‘Morality for beautiful girls’, closed my eyes, flipped through the pages and stopped at a seemingly random place. Imagine my absolute shock when I realised I was looking at a chapter heading titled: ‘What do you want to do with your life?’. Hmm, I thought to myself. Life isn’t about doing; it’s about being and experiences and joy and… It’s not about what job I do or what holidays I go on. It’s about making the most of the experiences that come my way. I was, if anything, a little annoyed with the book for asking me such a stupid question. Stupid book. What does it know?

Well, in hindsight, maybe a lot more than I do – or did at the time. What I’ve come to realise is that unless you are an active creator of the moments in your life, you don’t get to choose what they look like, and your experiences will be limited and perhaps even a little soul crushing. Because our souls need to breathe and stretch their wings, and doing what others wish for or expect of us is about as far away as we can get from living a heart-centred life. Towing the line is the emotional equivalent of throwing in the towel and giving up on everything you’ve ever wanted; whether that’s for yourself, others or the world at large.

We all have dreams, no matter who we are, or how small or unusual or impossible they may seem to someone else. Many of us won’t be aware of our dreams because we’ve forgotten them among the business and general chaos of being an adult. But if you think back to your childhood, you won’t have to look too far to remember all the things you used to dream of. Personally, I used to imagine being an acclaimed artist or a pilot. This was at the age of about 8, and my greatest joy in life was being allowed to stay up a bit later to watch the Crystal Maze and Gladiators (UK reference – my apologies to anyone who hasn’t heard of these wonderful British television programmes from the 1990s). So why I wanted to fly and paint masterpieces I’ll never know; it’s just something that used to capture my imagination. I also assumed that I would make a positive difference to the world at large, although I wasn’t sure how. I remember feeling pretty annoyed at how badly the planet was being treated and thinking that I should probably do something about it (but not before I’ve caught up with the Crystal Maze, obviously!).

It doesn’t matter that my dreams from childhood bear no resemblance to my actual life. The important thing is that I had any dreams at all, and that I was actively thinking about the things I’d like to see change in the world. I had this sense that my life mattered, and that countless opportunities and possibilities lay ahead of me. When I thought about life, it seemed like something to run towards, rather than something to run away from. Some people may call this naivety, but I think it’s adults who lose their way and forget to see things how they really are. We forget the magic, we don’t make time for day-dreams, and if we’re really unlucky, we start to equate life with drudgery and hard work. Society plays a big part in this, of course. When you look around you, especially in Western cultures, it’s no wonder we lose our way and forget what’s important.

So, what do I do now that I realise I’ve been letting life wash over me, rather than creating my own waves? Well, I’ve got some decisions to make, some dreams to dream, and a renewed sense of purpose to gain. I need to start creating meaning in my own life, instead of letting others tell me what’s meaningful. I need to start creating moments and holding space for myself and others, rather than waiting for a phone call from someone inviting me to do something (and therefore saving me from having to think of something).

Life is all about choice, freedom and expression. Love and joy are everywhere around us, just waiting for us to say yes. But we can’t do this passively; we must be bold enough to show up, let ourselves be seen, and ultimately to choose our best life.

Oh, and here’s a little poem I found myself jotting down the other evening:

Go find your joy
Go find your purpose
Go out into the world
Let it see you
And cast your eyes upon its magnificence
Don’t label yourself;
Be wild and free
Express yourself
And feel your connection to the rest of humanity
You’ve come so far;
Know that nothing is outside of your reach
And above all else, know that you are loved

Thanks for being here and reading this. I hope you found even the tiniest bit of inspiration to live life the way you want to.

Kath

p.s. Image is courtesy of Chris R. via Flickr: https://tinyurl.com/yc8rtwqy

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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

Companionship, connection and togetherness. Are they the meaning of life?

I grew up believing that I had to do certain things and be the version of me everyone else wanted to see. Sound familiar? One of the side-effects of this was that, although I had friends and socialised regularly, it was always a bit of an inconvenience to me. I was always partly waiting to go back home where I could completely relax, because I didn’t have anyone else’s needs or opinions to take into account. I’ve never been great at maintaining eye contact with people – even those I’m really close to. I guess every encounter with someone or any social situation had the potential for me to get something ‘wrong’ or to be judged negatively in some way.

Well, let me tell you something about where I’m at right now! I’m in the process of discovering the joy of connecting with people – of sharing my existence and physical space with like-minded (or completely different!) individuals who make me laugh, inspire me or make me feel welcome and comfortable. There will always be people who make us feel, well, completely the opposite of this! We’ve all met a few of those people. And perhaps there are some friends or family members who sometimes make us feel on edge. That’s fine. Life isn’t about becoming a perfect human being, totally free of worry or judgement of others. But it is about connecting and companionship; fostering a sense of togetherness by engaging in tasks together and helping one another out. Today my neighbour and I worked together to cut back some ivy which has slowly but surely been taking over the wall between our two gardens. It was fun! And there was a real sense of achievement afterwards.

I’ve felt quite lonely recently. I think any time in our lives when we are going through some emotional trauma can feel lonely and isolating, but it’s exactly at this point that we need to remind ourselves how very not alone we are. At the risk of sounding like a complete hippy (peace, man) we are all connected by our very existence as living things on this planet of ours. There is always someone out there who loves and cares about us. Even the ones who judge us and make us feel inadequate secretly love us – they’re just too wrapped up in their own ‘stuff’ to express it as often as we sometimes need to hear it.

So this discovery of mine has led me to actually want to spend time with people. Imagine that?! I actively seek out conversations and opportunities to meet up. I see the opportunity to get together as just that – an opportunity, rather than an inconvenience. I recognise that these people I’m lucky enough to share my life with don’t like me because I’m perfect. I mean let’s face it, no matter how hard we try, we never do quite meet that gold standard, because it just doesn’t exist. No, they like me because I’m me. They see something in me that they like, as I do with them. If only we could see the magical spark that others see in us. Talk about medicine for the soul.

I’m admittedly very late in the game when it comes to valuing and enjoying my social connections, but to be honest I think my appreciation of it is all the better for having come from where I have. Never waste a moment on regrets, and always look for the blessings…

I am human. You are human. We’re all here to celebrate our shared humanity, and to explore each other’s opinions and ideas. Competition comes from a place of feeling unworthy and ashamed, and if saying goodbye to these negative emotions means more time spent in the company of my friends and family, then I’m certainly willing to let them go.

And remember, you were born worthy, and you will die worthy. Find small ways to start believing this and just see what magic unfolds.

Also, I LOVE LOVE LOVE being by myself, and sometimes I can’t think of anything worse than going out to a pub and having to actually talk to someone! This will never change. Enjoying feeling your connection to others doesn’t mean that you can’t also value some alone time.

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

Why can’t I just believe in myself?

Deep down inside, I think I do believe in myself. I know that I am a nice person, with skills and talents to offer the world. I know that I am good at achieving things when I put my mind to them. It’s just that I can’t do any of this unless someone else gives me a nudge in the right direction. It’s only natural for us to need encouragement and support, but I fear that in my case, the problem runs deeper than that. I don’t just need a bit of encouragement, I need constant reassurance that I’m doing the ‘right’ thing or that I’m moving in the right direction. My motivation comes hand in hand with the positive reinforcement I receive from the world around me. I’m not like this all the time. And it’s not abnormal to be this way. There’s nothing actually ‘wrong’ with me. It’s just that I can’t help but feel that life is trying to teach me something – to have more faith in myself and the courage to be who I am without waiting for anyone’s permission. I need to stop waiting for perfect solutions. I need to stop feeling deterred by the idea that I might do a less than perfect job of something. I know where all of this stems from, and I won’t bore you with details of my childhood here. I am grateful for every single experience I have had in life, including the painful ones, because they have all helped me to become who I am. I just feel that, no matter how much personal development I do, barriers I break through etc., the one thing I keep coming back to is that I’m still too afraid to just be myself, and to know what that means.

Is any of this making sense? Does any of it ring true with your own life experiences?

What it all comes down to is fear. And the good thing is that once we have identified the fears we carry with us through life, we can begin to do something about it; challenge and test our fears, and step beyond our usual comfort zones.

It’s so easy to go back into a sort of trance where we’re not really listening to ourselves. We’re just brushing over our true feelings and getting on with the day-to-day things. The things we are required to do – rather than activities we have actively chosen to take part in because they make our hearts sing and our eyes sparkle.

Perhaps this is because it’s easier to just carry on than it is to face up to what we’re afraid of. But if we can put in that bit of effort, and begin to break through our personal barriers, we open the door to a whole load of joy and happiness.

I need to remind myself of this. I think that’s why I’m sat here now writing this post. I’m frustrated with myself for falling in to the same old traps. But we have to keep falling in order to pick ourselves back up. And each time I fall I learn something new and become more of who I am. So bring it on!

Bye for now lovely people x

A lovely Chinese proverb

Yes, you guessed right! I’m going to share with you a frankly pretty wonderful Chinese Proverb:

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

This quote, more than any others has made a big impact on my life. It acts as a daily reminder that if I’m feeling tense, I’m probably worrying too much about who I should be, when I could be putting my energy into being authentic and true to myself.

You can find this and many other wonderful quotes on the Tiny Buddha website: http://tinybuddha.com/wisdom-quotes/

Bye for now x

Not everyone you meet will like you

Terrifying isn’t it? The idea that someone you’re talking to might be silently judging you and thinking that they don’t like you very much. But the fact of the matter is that it is a relief! Thank goodness!! Not everyone I meet will like me, which means that I may as well stop trying to please people all of the time. And if you can’t see what a great thing this is, then you clearly don’t realise that, just because someone else doesn’t see the wonderful gifts you have to offer just by existing in the world, doesn’t mean that you aren’t a hugely valuable and amazing human being.

If you’re still struggling, put the focus on someone else. Imagine your hero – or your favourite celebrity or super cool aunty. Got it? Right, well you might be amazed to find out that not everyone they have met in their lives has loved or even liked them. In fact it’s more than likely that someone has actively disliked them at some point, especially if they are open to the public scrutiny of being a celebrity. Does this mean that there is anything wrong with this person? That you should throw your hands up in the air and say: “Oh, well. If that’s the case I don’t think I want them to be my hero any more. I’d best carry on my search for the perfect human being”. Well of course it doesn’t! To err is human, as they say. We are, as creatures of this world, inherently and wonderfully flawed. We are perfectly imperfect. None of us are born knowing all of the answers, otherwise what would be the point in life?

We all have the capability to let ourselves off the hook. To make peace with the fact that not everyone might like us, and that we might be less than perfect. It might require tremendous effort on your part, but it will be the best kind of hard work you have ever done in your whole life. It will lead to feelings of immense relief, joy and acceptance. When you get that first glimpse of inner happiness, you will want more, and I hope that you will feel inspired to carry on the journey.

The first step is to forgive. The second step is to realise that there isn’t anything to forgive!

Bye for now x