The Work Tools

Something happened recently that disappointed me. However, part of me insisted that it wasn’t a big deal, that I was overreacting and that I should get over it and move on. And I did. I mentally high-fived the new easy-going me.

In a conversation this evening, the same issue resurfaces. I receive new information that triggers me all over again.

I end the chat as quickly as I can. I’m just home after a very busy day and I’m starving but I’m too upset to eat.  So I fly up to my room and mutate into a wailing, thumping, tantrumming child.

I’m surprised to see that I’m angry. Anger is an uncomfortable emotion for me. I tell myself that I need to calm down.

I put my phone on silent, sit on my meditation cushion and tap on how I’m feeling (click here for more on EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique).

The anger pours out, as does the hurt. I allow the ego to have its say. What it says and how it speaks sounds so petty and silly that I start laughing. Then the tears return. As does the rage.

Even as I write this, it sounds overdramatic. I don’t want to worry family and friends over something so “trivial”.

That stern, no-nonsense part of me wants to assure you that it really isn’t a big thing. But what message would I be sending my sobbing inner child if I silenced her like that? And so I continue.

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The tapping uncovers deeper feelings of not being important or special enough. Of being a “psycho”.

I should pretend that I’m fine because if I reveal my real feelings, if I ask for what want, I will surely and immediately become unloved and abandoned. And if that happens, I’ll feel so bad that everything else will be ruined.

With these imaginations, I’ve catapulted myself from a meditation cushion on a fine Friday evening to a near future of doom and failure. I may need another tool…

So I turn to Byron Katie’s transformative process The Work. The first step of The Work is to come up with a statement which is making me feel bad.

The statement I go for is: I’m overreacting. 

I then ask four questions.

The first question is: Is it true? Is it true that I’m overreacting?

Yes, I answer resolutely. Because nothing anyone does should make me feel bad. Only I can make myself bad. So I am overreacting. I should be zen at all times.

The second question is: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?

Again I respond with a Yes because “I should know better than to react this way”. However, I also know that a No to this question would move The Work along nicely.

Once I give myself permission to say that No, maybe I’m not overreacting, the reasons for why I’m feeling this way become clear. No wonder you’re upset, I comfort my poor inner child. There, there.

Then for question number three: How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?

When I believe that I’m overreacting, I reject myself. I tell myself that I shouldn’t feel the way I’m feeling. I don’t have a right to speak up. My needs aren’t as important as the needs of others. And if I act like they are, those other people will become angry and leave.

The fourth question is: Who would you be without the thought?

If I didn’t have the thought I’m overreacting, if I couldn’t have it, I wouldn’t doubt myself so much. I’d be clearer about my needs. I’d know what I want and what I deserve. I wouldn’t beat up on myself and I wouldn’t feel bad for feeling bad. I’d love myself.

This year, I promised myself something powerful, something life-changing:

I will not abandon myself any more.

This evening, in spite of the pain, I refuse to turn my back on myself. I give myself some much-needed, much-appreciated love.

Regarding the situation, I don’t know yet what the next step is. But maybe acknowledging how I’m feeling, getting to the root of these emotions, seeing that I’m as deserving as anyone else, and loving myself throughout is enough.

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Little Camino

The past month has been weighed down with money worries, career anxiety, fear for the future and feelings of insecurity. This in turn has had an effect on my self-esteem; how I see myself and how I feel when I’m with others.

The main outcome of a much-needed business coaching session this week was that I need to love myself. And yesterday, I had another revelation.

I’ve been depending on external factors to make me feel okay. I’ll be good enough if and when… I’ll relax when I’m earning more money. I’ll be worthy when I have a flourishing business. I’ll feel secure when my boyfriend does and says all the right things.

However, the reverse should be true. I need to feel good first, anyway, irrespective of anything or anyone.

I have to love myself just because. I must stop placing conditions on my self-acceptance.

And I definitely need to stop waiting for someone else to make me feel good. Because that strategy is destined to fail. Catastrophically.

It’s guaranteed to foster pressure, disappointment and resentment. Feelings become extremely precarious. One action, one word, one thought has the power to tear everything asunder.

What I want to do now is come back to me. That creative, happy individual who knows herself, and who has a full and balanced life with work and friends and hobbies. Who now also has a boyfriend who’s gorgeous and good and full of love and enthusiasm.

But just because I’m now in a relationship doesn’t mean I should lose myself in it. An intimate relationship is actually an opportunity to find myself more deeply than ever before.

I need to live my life. Do the things that give me energy and inspiration. Be there for myself.

I have to stop abandoning myself whenever things go “wrong”. I must remember my worth, see my light, and know that I’m deserving of love and all the good things in life. I need to focus on all the positives that are right there in front of me.

Today is Thursday and I have the day off. Part of me feels ashamed that I’m not busier, that I’m not a part of “normal” working society. Then I remember that I have to stop rejecting myself.

“What’s the most loving thing I could do for myself today,” I ask.

An image of walking in nature flashes before me.

“The sea,” I think excitedly.

“Healthy, delicious food and coffee. And a good book,” I add.

I’ve come up with the perfect recipe: I’ll hike along the coastline from Bray to Greystones, have lunch in one of my favourite restaurants The Happy Pear, then wander back to Bray.

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Most “normal” people work on a Thursday so I go alone. And that’s kind of perfect. My very own mini-Camino.

I don’t listen to music and I put my phone on silent. The weather goes from windy to sunny to rainy.

As I walk, I start thinking. Then I realise that I’m feeling bad. I observe this with interest.

Nothing has actually happened in the here and now and I’ve still managed to make myself feel bad. When instead I could be enjoying the beautiful views of aquamarine waters leaning into the horizon, mountain and birds and yellow furze. I could be breathing in the fresh air. Appreciating this time, this peace, this space…

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So today I choose to come back to me, to stay with me, to love myself and to make myself happy. Because when I’m present to myself in this moment all is right in my world.

Today I take this big lesson from my little Camino back to my working life and to my romantic relationship but most importantly to my relationship with myself.

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Images: Author’s Own

To-Do

Today I attend a Life Coach for a much-needed, sort of dreaded business coaching session. We speak about timelines and deadlines. The Life Coach draws a “To-Do” box on the whiteboard. We also discuss ideas, fears and things that are weighing me down.

I confess that I’ve really been beating up on myself lately. I’ve been comparing myself unfavourably to others, calling myself names and believing that I’m “less than”. My mean streak is at a peak.

Towards the end of the session, I’m experiencing anxiety and my head hurts. The Life Coach asks me what I believe the pain in my head signifies.

“Pressure,” I answer.

He then asks me:

“What do you need to put in the “To-Do” box?”

Without hesitation, I answer:

“I need to love myself.”

“That’s a big one,” he smiles.

“Yes,” I reply as tears fill my eyes.

“When I’m not loving myself, it’s not just affecting my business. It’s influencing how I relate to life. It’s impacting on my enjoyment of every moment. It’s changing how I feel in my relationship. It’s altering how I am with friends and how I react in all of my activities.”

“Can you hear yourself,” the Life Coach asks.

“I hope you write about this and share it with everyone you know.”

I exhale deeply. I feel relieved. It’s so obvious, so simple, something I already know.

But I needed reminding. I needed to feel this anxiety, this pain and this pressure to understand that I haven’t been loving myself.

I acknowledge how far I’ve come. And I’m grateful for this experience as it’s showing me that I still have work to do. This time at a deeper level.

Yes, I could fill a whole notebook with To-Do lists and I have and will again. But when I’m not loving myself, I become paralysed with fear. I lack confidence, trust and self-belief.

When I don’t love myself, I can’t accept love from anyone else. I don’t see myself as deserving of all the good things in life.

However, when I love myself, I’m present. I enjoy the moment. I know that I’m safe. I can see that I’m capable, amazing even. I’m loving and loveable.

When I love myself, fearful projections transform into exciting projects. I’m filled with inspiration, enthusiasm, positive energy and hope. When I love myself, I’m happy and in the flow.

So for now, I have one task on my To-Do list: To love myself.

I challenge you to do the same. Let’s witness miracles at what unfolds from here…

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Without Judgment

Last week, I completed another exercise from Louise Hay and Robert Holden’s small but action-packed book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life. 

This practice involves sitting comfortably with your hand on your heart and repeating the following question once every minute for 15 minutes: What is it like to be me when I’m not judging myself?

So I sit. I hold my hand to my heart. And I ask. And I ask. And I ask.

I’m at a loss. I don’t know, is my answer.

I realise that I’ve always judged myself. Compared. Felt less than, not good enough, unworthy.

I’ve always been striving for perfection, wishing I were different. Then feeling so bad about myself that all my energy left me and I didn’t have the motivation to change.

I closed myself off to the good that life was trying to give me and I couldn’t appreciate the good within myself.

Surely, as a child, I was once myself without judgment. But I can’t think back to a time when I wasn’t on high alert. Judging myself and attempting to mould myself into someone who could be loved and accepted.

I tried so hard to be perfect. So even as a very young child, I was anxious and exhausted a lot of the time.

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Me as a perfect child

I decide now that I can give myself the unconditional love that I was so desperately hoping for. I can open myself up to love despite my imperfections.

Instead of trying to alter myself and hide what’s “wrong” with me, I can finally allow myself, my whole self, to be loved. Why deny myself love?

Who could be so mean to snatch love away from a human being the moment they detect an “imperfection”? Well, I’m no longer going to tolerate such cruelty. And I understand that I’ve been my own worst tormentor, my own worst victim.

I rub my face. I throw my head back and I blow out years of sadness, disappointment, hurt, fear and rejection.

I’m surprised when I start wailing. The words that tumble out of me are those of an infant, a toddler, a small child.

They’re not logical and I have no control over them. I let them out. I witness. I soothe.

I choose to love and accept myself without judgment. I understand that, while I continue to judge myself, I’m going to judge others too. And this judgment creates a barrier to love, presence, forgiveness, possibility and peace.

The second part of this exercise is to complete the following sentence five times: One good thing that could happen if I judged myself less is…

I take out my journal and I write. I write about presence and beauty, enjoyment, freedom, happiness, confidence, acceptance, unconditional love and peace. I write:

“One good thing that could happen if I judged myself less is that I wouldn’t care what others thought of me. I wouldn’t try to change myself or hide parts of myself in order to be liked. I’d be me. And people would love me.”

Are you willing to try this exercise? You’d be surprised at what reveals itself!

sharon vogiatzi life coach

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Life Loves You

I decided to accept a seven-day challenge given by Louise Hay and Robert Holden in their beautiful book Life Loves You: 7 Spiritual Practices to Heal Your Life. 

Yesterday was Day 7 so today I’m going to tell you all about this seemingly simple exercise that took me places I never expected…

Here’s the challenge (spiritual practice sounds nicer!):

Sit comfortably in front of a mirror. Inhale deeply. Say to yourself: Life loves you (or Life loves me), then exhale. Repeat this 10 times. Notice your response each time. Pay attention to your bodily sensations, your thoughts and your feelings. Write these responses in a journal. Be honest. And please don’t judge yourself.

The second part of this exercise is to look into the mirror and repeat this affirmation: I am willing to let life love me today. Once again, notice your responses. Remember to breathe. Louise Hay and Robert Holden recommend repeating this affirmation until you feel “comfortable sensations in your body, light feelings in your heart, and a happy commentary in your thoughts.”

Repeat this exercise for seven consecutive days.

So I knuckle down and I do it. Seven days in a row.

There are tears. And sadness. Anger makes a surprise visit.

My inner child wails. Self-worth wavers. I judge.

I witness my beauty. And I feel the love.

Physically, I experience tension in my shoulders and I struggle to catch my breath. My head aches.

I notice a panicky feeling in my chest. My insides fizz.

Sometimes I become distracted by my thoughts, by my eyelashes, my hair, teeth and makeup. Fears arise.

Ideas spring forth. I want to share this exercise with as many people as possible.

I doubt that life loves me. I hope that it does. I believe that it could…

Interestingly, I find it easier to say Life loves you rather than Life loves me. It’s as if I’m two separate people – one a wiser, more evolved, peaceful, loving being; the other a wounded, scared child who needs reassurance.

I make myself look into my eyes as I cry the tears of a frightened child who feels all alone and just wants to be loved and protected. I’m here for myself in this moment.

I have the awareness that every time I lost hope, I left myself. I promise never to abandon myself again.

I feel a fierce determination to let life love me. Gradually, this determination transforms into something gentler, something more accepting, something more loving.

I realise that I close down whenever I fear rejection. I decide to open my heart, to let in the good, to love myself and, in doing that, to let life love me.

As I gaze into my eyes, I actually become quite mesmerised. I get lost in the colours and the inky blackness of my pupils as they dilate and contract.

sharon vogiatzi life coach

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I recently started seeing an amazing guy who tells me how beautiful I am. As I stare at my reflection, I see what he sees. I can see the beauty in my eyes, the beauty in me.

By the end of these seven days, which are laden with emotion, insight and healing, I’m saying Life loves you and really meaning it. I’m also able to say Life loves me too. I feel happy, light and relaxed.

I could never have predicted what would have come up for me while completing this exercise. My inner child voiced how scared and alone she feels. So I started giving her the love, affection and reassurance that she needs.

It became clear that I regularly criticise and reject myself. I resolved to be there for myself and not to abandon myself any more.

I’m more aware of when I close off to others, to the world, to life and to myself. I’m going to give myself the love and care that I deserve. I know that I can make myself happy.

I’m happily choosing to open my heart. I can see the good in the universe. And everything that happens is a confirmation that life loves me. I just have to let life love me today. Because once I allow it, I can see it.

Since starting this challenge, I’ve been given countless proof that life loves me.

A sales assistant drops a free lip balm into my bag. Motorists let me pass. A barista draws a love heart in my latte. People smile at me.

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Image: Author’s Own

One morning, a friend gives me coffee, a Mars bar and a massage. Another friend gifts me with a red phone cover sporting a snowflake and a love heart. A loved one presses money into my hands for an upcoming trip.

And I can definitely feel the love with the guy I’m seeing. It’s in our hugs and our kisses, our texts and our glances. It flows in the things we share and the way we are with one another. My heart is so open when I’m with him and that feels really good.

This spiritual practice has shown me that I can feel this way all of the time, not just when I’m with a romantic partner. I can bring that openheartedness, warmth and affection to my interactions with other people too. And to the time I spend alone.

I greet people with a smile. I give people hugs and I’m present to what they share with me.

I listen to myself. I’m true to who I am and to what’s right for me. I’m nice to myself. And I appreciate life and all that it offers me in every single beautiful moment. Life loves me.

And guess what? There’s an abundance of love to go around because life loves you too.

Want to make sure? Try out this exercise for seven consecutive days. Enjoy. And please let me know how you get on.

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First Dates

A couple of friends recommended watching First Dates, a television series that films real first dates in a London restaurant. I’ve since watched the entire first season and it’s totally addictive.

As I binge on this hilarious reality TV show, I laugh a lot. But I also shed a few tears.

I can see the beauty in every single singleton. The daters differ in appearance, creed, age, personality and life experiences. But they’re so similar too.

They’re all self-conscious. They all have fears and insecurities. They’ve all lived through hardship, be it heartbreak, illness, loss or rejection.

And they’re all holding on to hope. Hope that they’ll finally find connection, affection, partnership and love. They all want to share their lives with that special someone.

One man, who’s been single since his diagnosis with HIV five years ago, admits: “I just want to be loved.”

This heartwarming show highlights how quick we are to judge our potential partners. I don’t like his receding hairline. I prefer women with smaller bums.

Interestingly, we’re also quick to judge ourselves. I’ll lie about my job because I don’t want to put him off. She’ll never agree to a date because of my height. I’m punching above my weight with her. I’m not as skinny as the other girls.

I believe that when we stop judging ourselves, we cease judging everybody else. When we love and accept ourselves, we become free to love and accept others.

I also believe that we get what we give. So when we give love, we receive it.

I have a friend who loves her dogs more than anything. Recently, I spent an evening at her home. One of her dogs burrowed his way into my arms. Later, he lay on my friend’s lap, his body splayed open, as my friend hugged and kissed him.

It struck me that this dog is full of love. He’s open and trusting and loving. And it’s such a good feeling to have him in your arms.

And my dog-loving friend is perfectly at ease with herself. She’s open and happy and loving. And when I’m around her, I am too.

It’s so easy to give love to a person who’s open to receiving it. And when someone gives love with unconditional abundance, being a recipient of that love feels effortless and unselfconscious.

It’s when the fear takes hold and the thinking starts and the barriers come up, that we block the love. We’re afraid to give love in case it’s thrown back in our faces.

But my advice now is to give love. Give love to yourself. To your friends and family. To your pets and your plants. To everyone you encounter.

Be yourself. Be open. Be present.

Laugh. Flirt. Have fun.

Give love. Accept love. Be love. And I guarantee that you’ll experience love.

So I’ve rejoined Tinder. Again.

P.S. When searching for an image for this article, I browsed the internet. Suddenly, I realised that I’d forgotten to type “Love” in the search bar. “Have I put love in?” I asked aloud.

Have I put love in indeed.

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Open your Heart

A dear friend sent me a link to an interesting TED talk on love and relationships given by Mandy Len Catron. The theme of love and relationships had already been playing on my mind.

After watching the clip, I confessed to my friend that I long to share intimacy and affection with someone of the male variety. I quickly added that I’m just feeling impatient and that I should simply be present.

My friend replied: “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have a special connection with a man. What you mustn’t do is ever make yourself feel bad because that want is there. It’s human nature.” It was nice to read her words.

Mandy Len Catron’s TED talk came about because Mandy, in the midst of a breakup, turned to science to better understand love. While researching the workings of the heart, Mandy discovered a study undertaken by psychologist Arthur Aron 20 years ago.

The study involved having two strangers ask and answer a series of 36 questions designed to make the participants fall in love. Six months later, the participants were married.

One evening, Mandy described Arthur Aron’s study to a university acquaintance. He proposed that they put the questions to the test. And they promptly fell in love!

Mandy went on to write an article about her experience for The New York Times. Since then, she has received endless calls and emails from people who all want to know one thing: Are Mandy and her university acquaintance still together? And the answer is that they are.

This may seem like the happy ending that we’re all hoping for. But what Mandy learned from this incredible experience is that there is no happy ending. There is no ending.

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge lies in the decision to continue loving each other through the good and the difficult times. The hard part is to allow yourself be vulnerable and to give your heart to someone who may or may not choose to love you back.

These are the parts of love that many single people forget about when we crave a relationship. We want the smiles and the glances, the cuddles and the kisses, the electricity of attraction and the rush of romance.

However, closeness with a partner can really trigger you and bring all your issues to the surface. The choice then is to succumb to the temptation to close your heart and retreat (or defend) or you can deal with these issues and expand, both as a human being and as a couple.

It’s exciting and scary to open your heart to another human being. Being loved can make you feel blissful and secure one moment and out of control the next.

life coach kildare

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Today, I told another friend about all of this. She excitedly suggested that we ask one another the 36 questions. “Imagine if we fell in love,” she laughed.

My friend and I answered all 36 of Arthur Aron’s questions. The questions encouraged us to share our life stories, embarrassing incidents, favourite memories, fears, problems and dreams. We were also invited to tell each other what we liked about one another.

Did we fall in love? I can honestly say that my heart was bursting by the end of the exercise. In truth, my friend and I already love one another.

However, this exercise highlighted how much we have in common and how much we value our friendship. Being let into my friend’s life in this way deepened my love for her. Answering these questions also reminded me of how far I’ve come, how great my life is and how wonderful I am.

How do a series of questions make people fall in love? I believe that these questions inspire you to share yourself with another human being openly and honestly. This vulnerability allows someone to get to know the real you. And this can greatly speed up the falling in love process.

I’d definitely recommend completing this exercise, preferably with someone dishy. It may just make you fall in love – with your friend, your partner, or an attractive stranger. It may also make you fall in love with your journey, with your life, and with you, the real you.

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