Tag Archives: bullying

The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

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The Makeup of Self-Image

My friend and I are getting ready to go out. I am without a mirror as I sweep a mascara wand through my lashes. My hand slips and I know that I probably have black smudges on my cheek and eyelid.

I get up, about to rush to a mirror so I can correct the damage. My friend stops me and dares me not to change anything. “For how long,” I ask, a note of panic in my voice. “Ten minutes,” she decides.

As I sit there, I am amazed at the feelings and judgements that surface. Words like silly, stupid, ugly, imperfect and weird flash menacingly into my mind. I haven’t even left the house or come into contact with anyone besides this one friend. And it’s only makeup. I’m like my very own classroom bully.

My friend watches me with interest as a range of emotions pass through me.  I look her right in the eye and sigh, “I’m going to need more than ten minutes.”

A Special Message

A girl walks by the window of the café I am sitting in. She has a limp, a large head, glasses, and her mouth is set in a sort of grimace. I look away as I don’t want her to think I’m staring just because she doesn’t look like the average human being.

Then, it strikes me – how many other people refuse to look this little girl’s way for the very same reason? If she doesn’t already feel different from the rest of the world, surely a lifetime of averted gazes will add to her sense of separateness and disconnection. Doesn’t she too deserve to be showered with looks of love, admiration and interest? Should she too not experience a world of inclusion and togetherness? I watch her sit in to a car. And I watch her father sit in beside her. Tears come to my eyes at the pure, unconditional love that I have been looking away from all these years.

In my lifetime, so far, I have not had much contact with people with special needs and so I feared that I wouldn’t know how to relate to these people or how to treat them. I worried that I wouldn’t do the “right” thing. I now realise that I was too much in my head and so very far removed from my heart. I also know that it is fear and ignorance that is at the root of  discrimination, bullying, violence and even war.

Just this morning, on Hay House Radio, a woman phoned in to speak about her newly born child, who has special needs. She worried that she wouldn’t be able for the challenges that this new life would bring. Interestingly, the presenter pointed out that this situation would teach her compassion. Not for her daughter so much as for the people she might encounter, who would ridicule and ostracise her child.

Life is life in all its forms and shapes and containers. A soul is a soul no matter the physical appearance of the instrument. And beauty is the light that burns bright within and around each and every being in the Universe. The lesson is to learn from every person we come into contact with and, even more importantly, from how we react to these people. Today, this is the lesson that I have learned. And so I thank that beautiful girl on the street with all of my heart.

True beauty is witnessed with love

Photo credit: Jessica Watson

Dying at the hands of Yes

It’s a pretty dramatic title but every time you say “yes” to doing something you don’t want to do, you’re killing off a part of yourself. You’re telling yourself that you’re not important, that you won’t listen to your wants and needs, and that you don’t value your own opinion.

Take note of how many times you’re asked to do things over the course of one day. It’s mind-boggling. Please come to my party. Will you do my fake tan for me? Could you collect me from the airport? I need you to work late tonight. Would you mind covering my shift on Saturday? Could you baby sit on Friday night? Would you like to go to London this weekend? Do you wanna go for coffee/lunch/dinner/drinks???? You’d gladly do most of these things because you want to help/be nice/have fun. But you simply cannot do all of them, unless you have endless reserves of time, money, energy, and patience.

You must train yourself to pick and choose what you say “yes” to. And, even more importantly, learn how to say “no”. At first, this will be alien to you, so you may have to employ the white lie tactic. You’ll worry that your friends and family will hate or disown you. Realistically, they probably won’t like the new you very much. They certainly won’t recognise this strange creature who puts herself first. Who does she think she is?! But they’ll soon get used to the fact that you have a life and that you’re not willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice.

Learning to say “no” (without feeling guilty) will soon start coming naturally to you because you respect yourself and value your health and happiness. And you’ll find that the less you do of the things you “should”, and the more you do of the things you actually want to, the more present you’ll be and the more you’ll enjoy things. And when you decide to help out your nearest and dearest, you’ll be doing it because you want to, and not just out of guilt. Your loved ones will sense a change in you. You’ll be less tired and cranky, your eyes will sparkle, and you’ll laugh more. As a result, people will appreciate your company even more.

Peer pressure is one of the darker sides of not being able to say “no”. Many’s the teenager who starts smoking, drinking, taking drugs, mitching off school, and even bullying other kids because of peer pressure, and because they feel they have to say “yes” to be accepted.

I had the awful habit of saying “yes” to everyone and everything. I wanted to be liked, to be nice, to be cool, and I had (and still do, to a certain extent) the reckless (now more carefree) mentality of Ah sure, why not?! This was particularly evident in my interactions with the opposite sex. I agreed to dates with guys I wasn’t sure I fancied. And things went further than I was ready for on more than one occasion.

Once, I was so drunk that I kissed a guy, then spent the rest of the night hugging the toilet bowl. The persistent fella managed to obtain my phone number from a mutual friend and proceeded to ask me out the following day. I could hardly remember what he looked like and I didn’t even know if I liked him, but I felt bad for ditching him. So I agreed to a date. And then to another and another and another. A few months later, I’d convinced myself that I liked him, even though he was bitter and negative and we fought constantly. Thankfully, it didn’t work out.

Now, I only say “yes” to the things I think I’d enjoy, or to the things I have the energy for. I do what feels right for me. Last summer, I thought long and hard about the type of break I wanted. I decided that a relaxing sun holiday in my father’s homeland, with my mother and my sister, was just what I needed.

Antiparos, Greece

Read on for some strategies for getting out of the clutches of Yes:

1) Ask yourself some serious questions

If you find yourself agreeing to help your second cousin twice removed move house, even though you’d packed the car for a trip to the sea-side, and you haven’t seen the woman in 15 years, and she has the largest couch ever known to man, and you put your back out just last week, you need to ask yourself why you’re such a “yes man”. Is it because you desperately need everyone to like you? Is being seen to be nice that important? Are you afraid of becoming a bad person? If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, your self-esteem is need of a serious makeover.

2) Let go

If you’re the one who can always be counted upon to say “yes” to every request, plea, and invitation, you’re pretty much guaranteed pain and discomfort. You may observe a tight ball forming in your middle, which is the hurt and disappointment, anger and resentment that’s been building up over the years. You may not even be aware of this but you’re furious that your friends and family are constantly making demands on your time and energy. I’m always running rings around myself for them. And the one time I ask for something, they can’t even bother themselves to help me! They are so selfish! If this sounds familiar, you’ve been a “yes man” for way too long. Just because you don’t think enough of yourself to say “no” once in a while, doesn’t mean that everyone else is such a doormat. Luckily for them. We usually get angriest at people for the behaviour that’s most unlike our own. I’d never act that way! Surprisingly, this could be the behaviour you’re most resisting in yourself. You’d probably love to be able to tell your second cousin twice removed to go eff herself. And you can. In slightly more PC terms. And maybe take some time to chill out first. Acupuncture is great for relieving stress and releasing negative emotions. Alternatively, get a massage. Take a bath. Have a good, long sleep. Relax and let go…

3) Listen to your body

You’ve been asked on a wild girls’ night out. You’re ridiculously hung over and you have to finish a 10,000 word thesis in the morning. But it’s the only night Steph can get a baby sitter and Rebecca needs some cheering up after the break-up and Lorna’s desperate to meet a man. You have to go out! There will always be a million and three excuses as to why you simply have to do something. So, you usually suck it up and say “yes”, even though your body’s crying with exhaustion. Listen to it before you collapse. That should be good enough reason to say “no”.

4) Listen to your gut

Every answer you need to know is within yourself. So, don’t be afraid to ask. And don’t forget to listen. The moment I realised I had put my “yes” days behind me was a few months after graduation when I received an important email from my supervisor. He was wondering if I’d be interested in trying to get my dissertation published as a journal article. He added that it would require more research. I was honoured to have been asked. My work was obviously pretty good. I drooled at the potential prestige and was about to type “yes” when I paused and really thought about it. I hadn’t even been passionate about the subject matter. I had just done it because it had to be done and was relieved when it was all over. Did I really want to do more work on it? The answer was “no”. If I’d listened to my initial gut reaction, I would have immediately known that this definitely wasn’t for me. I struggled momentarily with what others would think. She’s some eejit passing up an opportunity like this! But I ignored my doubts and listened to my gut, and for the first time in my life, I didn’t automatically say “yes”. I was proud of myself.

5) Ban “yes” from your vocabulary for a while

If you say “yes” to absolutely everything, you’re going to get into some serious trouble. In the film Yes Man [SPOILER ALERT], Carl went from living a lack lustre life to becoming a “yes man”. Saying “yes” all the time pushed Carl to learn Korean, get promoted, and fall in love with a quirky musician. He was also robbed, arrested, and beat up. Great plot for a movie but dangerous in real life.

Inspired by Jim Carrey’s shenanigans, I toyed with the idea of saying “yes” to everything for an entire week. That night, I went to the local pub. After saying “yes” to several pints, shots of tequila, and cigarettes (even though I’d quit), a creepy older man, who’d been harassing me for the past two years, asked me to go home with him. I realised that saying “yes” to absolutely everything wasn’t exactly hilarious.

So, when someone asks if you want another drink, which would make it your seventh of the night, and you know if you drink it, you won’t remember the lock-in or the table-dancing or the messy journey home, and you’ll probably wake up some time in the late afternoon, still wearing your stilettos, just say “NO”.

6) What do you want?

Would you like to go for a two-hour walk with your extremely draining neighbour or would you rather take a power nap? Do you want to join the college gang on another trip to Ayia Napa or would you really like to save up for a flight to New Orleans or India? Are you just saying “yes” because it never occurred to you to suggest something of your own? Maybe you’ve been following others for so long that you don’t even know what you enjoy. Now is the time to start exploring your own tastes in food, music, and movies. It’s exciting to finally be able to explore and develop your own personality and passions.

Since I’ve started getting to know myself better, I’ve come to the gleeful conclusion that I like red wine, The Coronas, old man pubs and lemon cupcakes…

theanniescupcakes.com