Tag Archives: behaviour

Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

im not beautiful like you

Don’t Hide; Seek Yourself

Last night, I dreamt that I was going to stay in a hostel with a young couple. I worried that the couple wouldn’t get in if they weren’t seen to be with me. They went in ahead of me and got in, no questions asked. As we settled in our bunks, I could hear the couple talking loudly. Again, I worried that others would judge them, dislike them, and maybe even kick them out. I was surprised to see the older people around them smiling, joining in, laughing, and even telling dirty jokes.

When I awoke, I wrote down this dream. I realised that I am still trying to control my feelings and behaviour. I think I need to change myself because I’m afraid that if I don’t, others will criticise or reject me. In certain situations, around certain people, I believe that I “should” behave a certain way in order to give off the “right” and “acceptable” impression. I fear that if I am open with my emotions or childlike in my behaviour, people will have nothing to do with me. However, in the dream, the older people enjoyed the lightness the young couple brought to the hostel. They even began joking about “inappropriate” things.

I recently started seeing someone who’s very calm and centred. I really like the way he’s so sure of who he is. He doesn’t change himself for anybody else. However, I worried that I wasn’t as together as he is. That if he found this out, he’d be out the door. I know now that I started to close myself off a little, trying to control and even change myself. One evening, as we played CraniumI was so astonished to answer a factual question correctly that I actually tumbled off the couch, landing in a heap on the floor. I had been taking myself so seriously and I still wound up arse in the air right in front of him! I laughed and laughed.

I am adamant now that I am not going to change myself for anybody else. Thankfully, we are all different. We can learn from each other and enjoy our differences, bringing new depths and dimensions to our lives. I was drawn to this guy because he is so sure of himself, which is clearly something I need in myself. And maybe he was drawn to me because he sensed that I could bring an element of fun into his life. And whether it lasts or doesn’t last isn’t important. We should keep learning and growing, no matter what, always remaining open to love for and from others and, most importantly, for ourselves.

This got me wondering how much do we close off to when we hold back, when we suppress what we’re really feeling, and when we deny ourselves what we truly desire? All because we think we have to hide who we are. We are afraid that if we are our true selves, if we express what we’re feeling, and ask for what we want, we will be judged, criticised, and abandoned. So, we control ourselves. In new relationships, in the workplace, and even amongst friends and family, we hold in our opinions because we’re afraid that we won’t come across as being intelligent or witty or loveable.

But here’s the shortcut – be yourself and you’ll find out much, much sooner if you and your partner are really suited. Or your ideas might revolutionise your company. Your friends and family members could learn a lot from your views. The simple act of being yourself is so freeing that it will allow others close to you to be themselves also. Judgement and role-playing will dissolve. You will become assertive in asking for what you desire in your life. People will know where they stand with you because you will be reliable to them – you will always be exactly who you are. And because you are no longer judging or trying to change yourself, those around you will know you are not trying to control or change them either. How liberating!

Of course, it’s not easy to be yourself. First, you have to know yourself, own and accept it, forgive yourself, and love yourself unconditionally. Then, you can gift that beautiful, unique, sparkling true self to the world. Today, decide not to hold back any longer because you would be doing yourself, and those around you, a huge disservice.

No More Excuses

It’s all well and good having brilliant flashes of insight into our behaviour. It’s marvellous to come to some understanding as to why we might be miserable. We can have many an Aha moment as we read tonnes of self-help books and watch endless YouTube clips of Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra. But what’s the point if we never actually change? We moan:

“I’m exhausted because I push myself too hard. I’m constantly striving for perfection. Because I think I’m only worthy of love and acceptance when I’m perfect.”

What a wonderful realisation! But what can we do with it? We might take a little rest (if even) and resolve to love ourselves unconditionally, before falling right back into our old self-destructive patterns. Working too hard, exercising and dieting to excess, and denying ourselves any morsel of pleasure in life… until the next time we binge or act lazy or reconnect with a bad habit; until we fall ill or get depressed and can no longer do all those things that make us feel we deserve a space on this planet. And yet again, we punish ourselves and cry, and wonder what’s the point of life… And if we don’t break down completely or (worst case scenario) decide to take our own lives, we pick ourselves up, wipe away our tears, root out those Mooji clips and dusty Thich Nhat Hanh books and start all over again…

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. At least we’re trying. I know I do the exact same thing, time and time again. I thought my life would never be the same after watching an inspiring movie, after being introduced to Byron Katie’s work, after reading Awareness, Mutant Message Down Under, Veronika Decides to Die, The Power of NowAnd I really believed it. Every single time. Until my next spell at rock bottom, when I was left wondering where it all went wrong.

Maya Angelou wrote, “When you know better, you do better.” So, if we know what’s to be expected from that sort of conduct, why not save time, energy and heartache and just change, once and for all?

All the motivational books and videos and quotations do help. But they can only bring us forward a certain amount. It’s not called “self-help” for nothing. Ultimately, it’s you, and only you, who can help yourself. People can give you advice, tips and recommendations, but if you’re not ready to take them on board or if you’re unwilling to change, then it’s not going to do much good, is it?

“You can’t teach anybody anything, only make them realise the answers are already inside them.” Galileo

It’s much easier telling others how to live their lives, and to spot where they’re going wrong. We can talk all we want about needing to transform our thinking, but when it comes to actually making a change, most of us chicken out. Because it’s unfamiliar and scary. It takes courage, determination and persistence to change.

I’m not going to finish this off with a persuasive video clip or a book list that’s guaranteed to change your life.

Just change. Do it.

Images: http://blamethecrane.tumblr.com/; http://stylishwebdesigner.com/50-stunning-photographs-to-refresh-your-mind/

Anger: from destructive enemy to constructive energy

Living with anger is like swallowing a wriggling baby octopus. As it grows, it expands, and pushes against your insides until you feel so full with it that you’re about to burst. When the pressure becomes too much to bear, it will use its tentacles to pierce and swipe its way out.

Some of you may be welcoming more awareness into your life at the moment. You’re currently coming to many realisations about yourself and about how you’ve been living and behaving. Despite this new-found enlightenment, you’re noticing that you’re getting angrier than ever before. I used to be such a gentle, peaceful human being. This alien emotion may surprise and even scare you.

Think of it this way. You have begun a fascinating journey of discovery and you are rapidly changing for the better. However, you’re still surrounded by people who are not travelling along the same route as you are. Your energy has shifted and what was once safe and familiar now annoys you. You no longer accept bad treatment from others because you’re starting to think more of yourself. Instead of feeling hurt and depressed by others’ misdemeanours, you’re now getting angry, which is a healthier reaction. But you need to realise that you are replacing your passivity for aggression.

Don’t worry about this new way of being. For a while, you will feel as if you’re walking in a field of land mines. You need to finally release all of these pent-up emotions. When there are no more long-buried devices left to explode, you will come back into balance. By this time, you will hopefully have removed yourself from situations that don’t suit you and distanced yourself from people who are not good for you. As Eckhart Tolle explains in the following clip, anger is just energy.

Steps for dealing with anger:

1) Sit with it

Like in a quiet waiting room, if you’re sitting with someone long enough, you’re eventually going to ask them where they’re from. Speak to the anger. Examine your feelings. What is it about the situation/person that angers you so? Is there something that you recognise (and dislike) in yourself? I know a man who became unreasonably irritated whenever his children let out the sofa footrests as they watched TV. Years later, he admitted that it was because he detested his own lazy streak and was reminded of it every time his kids sat back and relaxed.

Maybe you’ll discover that the anger you’re experiencing is directed at yourself. This could be for not living up to your purported potential, for acting in a manner that you’re ashamed of, or for feeling things that you’d rather not admit to. Holding on to anger is an exercise in self-destruction. It has no positive consequences but it will make you do stupid and even dangerous things. It will ruin relationships, fill your days with misery and, ultimately, bring about disease.

2) See where the attachment lies

Understanding what’s charging your anger is like finding the right plug in a large, tangled clump of electric wires. You have to unravel each cable and find which one you’re attached to before you can disconnect it. Recognising where the attachment lies will help you let go of this disturbing emotion. If a loved one has said something to upset you, ask yourself why these words have had such a profound effect on you. Do you care so much what that person thinks of you? Has something in what they’ve said resonated with a part of you that you fear, dislike or distrust?

3) Understand

When you begin to grasp why the person is behaving in a certain way, it makes it a lot easier to handle. Maybe it’s the only way they know how to act in order to get through life. We are all just trying to survive in this world and everyone has a different way of achieving this goal. Know that their behaviour is nothing to do with you. This knowledge will make you a lot less angry and will enable you to accept people for who they are, without allowing yourself to be dragged into their pain. Also, understanding why the person has filled you with anger will push you further on your road to self-discovery.

4) Express yourself

Get it out! Break some glass at the bottle bank. Smash a few plates, Greek-style. Go for a sprint. Take out the punching bag. Scream and shout. Scribble down your rage. And if you can express it to the person who’s brought all of this up in you, do so. Let them know how you’re feeling. You will not let them get away with treating you badly. Aside from relieving the pressure on yourself, this will have the added benefit of ensuring that a similar situation will not reoccur. Now that you’re stronger and more assertive, people won’t dream of treating you with anything less than respect. And if they still feel they have a right to mistreat you, it’s time for you to move on.

5) Energetic medicine

In Chinese medicine, repressed anger can create physical discomfort and disease. Acupuncture is an excellent tool for releasing anger. Staphysagria is a homeopathic remedy that you can take whenever you’re feeling a sense of entrapment, anger, frustration, or resentment.

6) Let it go

If you’ve expressed your rage, come to understand it, and removed yourself from the people and situations that are bringing you down, it is now time to let go. As Siddhārtha Buddha said:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

7) Transform

Anger and passion are two ends of the same stream. One comes straight from the source, high in the mountains, clear and fresh. The other leaks into the ocean, becoming lost and bitter. Once you’ve dealt with the anger in all its stages, all you’re left with is energy.

Use this energy for whatever invigorates you. Allow it to ignite your creative spark, light up your spirit, and propel you into a world of power and passion.

Images: Google

“You’re making me feel bad”: true or false?

Do you have (at least) one person in your life who constantly makes you feel bad? He/she passes hurtful remarks, criticises, or makes fun of you. I’m interrupting this transmission of self-pity to bring you a very important newsflash: The other person is not the one making you feel bad. You are doing an excellent job of that all on your own.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt

Everything you sense has to go through a filter system in your mind before it can have any effect on you whatsoever. You control this. Therefore, you are the one who allows yourself to feel bad. If an insulting remark is something that you already believe about yourself, then you’re more inclined to be sensitive about it and it’s more likely to hurt you. If, on the other hand, your friend tells you that you look like a luminous yellow dinosaur, it won’t rattle your confidence because you know for a fact that you don’t resemble an extinct vertebrate wearing a hi-vis vest. That’s ridiculous, you snigger. What is ridiculous is when you internalise other equally silly comments.

People can only make you feel bad when you’re already feeling bad. Or when your good feelings are based on something so shallow and transient that they are all too easily snatched away. Having said that, there are some people who are more skilled than others at resurrecting those negative emotions that you’d prayed were long-buried.

Let me tell you about a childhood friend of mine. Simone and I met in play school. She was imaginative and hilarious and fun. Even though I moved town a couple of years later, we continued to have regular sleep overs. We phoned and wrote letters and emails,  sharing all our teenage and early adult experiences. I thought she’d be a friend for life. In my mid-twenties, however, I began to realise that she was making me feel bad.

She sulked and gave me the silent treatment any time I couldn’t hang out with her. Her brilliant sense of humour was often at my expense. She insulted me with witty remarks and gave me back-handed compliments. She once told me I laughed like The Whirligig Witch in Fortycoats and, when I pouted, she told me I should be happy ‘coz the Whirligig Witch had magic powers. Then she snorted: “You kinda look like her too…” When we holidayed together before college, she announced that I’d lost “soooo much weight”, like I’d been previously obese. She complimented me on my new hair style, adding that she’d hated it after the last hair cut. She regularly told me how “awfully tired” I was looking. And consistently poked fun at my “dumb blonde” tendencies. She’d often say things like: “Why do you and I put on weight so easily?” or “How come we never have boyfriends?” (I didn’t even bother pointing out that I was two sizes smaller than her and I had been MARRIED.) She called me a “swot” for studying and “boring” or “Little Miss Perfect” when I wouldn’t indulge in food, cigarettes and alcohol as vigorously as she did. She frequently bitched about my other close friends and even my family members. And any time I landed myself a fella or started making a success of my life, she totally withdrew from me.

It’s scary that it took me so long to realise how bad I was feeling whenever I was around Simone. And I’m not blaming it all on her. I’m sure that some of the things I took to be insults were benign comments or jokes. I had always been super-sensitive and I clearly cared what she thought, otherwise it wouldn’t have bothered me. Some people just aren’t as tapped in to others’ feelings and they blurt things out before they have time to censor them. Or they honestly believe they’re being helpful when they inform you that you look like you haven’t slept a wink in days. But, oftentimes, when someone puts you down, it’s because they’re feeling so miserable about their own lives that lashing out at someone else makes them feel marginally better.

Simone’s father had a habit of “affectionately” calling Simone, “my little fattie”. Her three older brothers teased her incessantly. A particular favourite taunt was: “No fear of you ever getting pregnant! If you look ‘contraceptive’ up in the dictionary, there’s a picture of your face!” And much later, I found out that Simone’s mother had tried to commit suicide when Simone was only nine years old. Simone and I have since drifted apart. I don’t know if she’s grown into a happier woman. I hope she still laughs as much as she used to (preferably not at anyone else’s expense).

If you have a multitude of Simones in your circle of friends, here’s what to do:

1) Speak up!

Confront the person about their behaviour. They may be perfectly unaware of how they’ve been acting. However, blaming them for how upset you’ve been will only get their backs up, so, instead of snarling: “You did this!”, try: “I felt hurt when…” This will help them to see things from your perspective without making them feel as if they’re under attack. This mature approach may even gain you some respect. And when someone respects you, they’re unlikely to mistreat you.

2) Second chances

Everyone deserves a do-over. Perhaps your friend or loved one has been going through something difficult recently, which would explain their hurtful behaviour. If you’ve had the talk and they’ve apologised, the ball is now in your court to give them an opportunity to get back onside.

3) From a distance

The trick to all of this is not to allow anybody to affect you negatively. Unfortunately, with certain people, this can be extremely difficult. Especially if it’s a parent or lover. In delicate cases like these, the only remedy is distance. You are not strong enough yet to come out of an altercation with this person uninjured. You don’t need to put yourself through that right now. Just be gentle with yourself and work on your confidence, so then, if you decide to go back for round two, you’ll be well able for whatever they throw your way.

4) Cut your losses

If, like me, you’re no saint, there’s only so much you’re going to be able to take before you snap. And this may not be a bad thing. You’re not doing them any favours by accepting that kind of behaviour. Maybe losing you as a friend will be enough of a wake-up call to prevent them from sacrificing any more relationships. And if you’ve had to distance yourself from most of your so-called friends, don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit lonely. You will now have more time and space to meet like-minded people. People who will enrich your life and appreciate your friendship.

5) Build yourself up

Once you start believing in yourself, and recognising that you’re wonderful, you’ll probably notice that people won’t get at you as much. They will sense your strength and won’t even consider trying to annoy you. After all, bullies only pick on those they deem to be weak.

6) Observe

When you remove yourself from a situation emotionally, it can have no negative power over you. Instead of getting hurt or angry, observe the person with interest. Contemplate why they might be behaving this way. If they’re sulking, let them. Like a spoiled kid, they want to get their own way. So, treat them like the child they’re imitating and ignore them. Don’t let their tantrums dampen your spirits or poison your enjoyment. Detach from their negativity and recognise that their mood is not yours.

7) Have fun

Once you reclaim your power, you may even begin to get a kick out of observing others’ silly behaviour and letting them know that you know what they’re playing at. I know a farmer, who’s fascinated by human behaviour. He always manages to show people what they’re really like. It’s almost like he carries around a magnifying mirror and whips it out when the person least expects it. He walked into a room once, where a cranky, old lady squinted sourly at her visitors. She only ever had time for gentry. She looked down her nose at this country man and sneered, “Who might you be?” Without missing a beat, he answered, “I’m an alien from outer space.” This rendered the woman speechless. Instead of passing her usual judgemental remarks, she had to really think about what had just happened.

8. Understand

In Chinese medicine, when someone is feeling angry, resentful or frustrated, their liver is said to be “in excess”. When they lash out at somebody else, this releases some of the excess, making them feel better.

If you find that your loved ones are trying to put you down regularly, it is saying a lot more about them than it is about you. Perhaps, recently, you’ve started to put yourself first, you’re learning to say “no”, and you’re becoming more self-assured. Your loved ones may fear that you’re going to outgrow them completely. They’re terrified of losing you. If they keep you in your box, like a pet rat, you’re not going to go anywhere. So, if your husband tells you your bum definitely does look big in that, or scoffs at your decision to go back to college; instead of vowing to only consume celery and lemon juice for the next month, or beating yourself up for being so stupid as to even consider giving education another shot, recognise that he is simply threatened by your new-found confidence. He’s probably scared that you’ll go off with another man in your new skinny jeans and FMBs, or he may be positive that, once you hit the library with your smart, sexy lecturer, you’ll suddenly realise how dull and uneducated he is.

When you find yourself feeling bad because of what other people say or do, you need to take a long, hard look at why. Do you still care what others think of you? When someone puts you down, think of it as a test. You are being examined on how much you really believe in yourself. If one snotty remark can fling you into a spiral of self-doubt, your self-esteem is weak and in need of a work-out.

If a compliment makes your day, an insult will crush you. Stop giving all of your power away. Don’t wait for others to validate you as a worthwhile human being. Believe in yourself, your strength, your talents, and the miraculous beauty of your body and spirit. Nobody can make you feel bad. Nobody can make you feel good either. The power is, and always has been, in your hands. Do with it what you will.

10 metre jump into the sea!