Tag Archives: comparisons

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

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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.

reggg.com

reggg.com

Great-Great Advice

I’m going to share with you a brief but worthwhile exercise from Prof Steve Peters’ book The Chimp Paradox: The Mind Management Programme for Confidence, Success and Happiness.

 Imagine you are 100 years old and on your death-bed with one minute left to live. Your great-great-grandchild asks, ‘Before you die, tell me what I should do with my life.’

Pause for a moment and try to immediately and honestly answer this question. You have just one minute.

Answering this question, according to Prof Steve Peters, will identify what is important to you. It is what life is all about for you. It is your ‘Life Force’.

Whatever your advice was for your great-great-grandchild is really the advice you need to hear. If you’re not living by this advice, which is the essence of your existence, you are living a lie.

“Don’t live a lie,” urges Prof Steve Peters because, “it will unsettle you more than anything else.”

My advice for my great-great-grandchild is to: “Be happy and really really live your life.”

So how can one be happy?

On Friday night, I watched a movie called Hector and the Search for Happiness. This uplifting film is about a psychiatrist who takes himself on a journey around the globe to research what makes people happy.

Without giving too much away, Hector discovers that happiness shouldn’t be the end-goal of the things we do. Rather, we should do the things we like to do and then happiness will emerge as a pleasant side-effect.

One of the most common barriers to happiness that Hector diagnoses is the destructive habit of making comparisons. When we believe that others are happier, more successful and better looking than us, we fail to feel content where we are. We ignore all the positives that are right there in front of us, waiting to be appreciated.

It’s simple really. Happiness is a choice. Do the things that bring you happiness, and appreciate and enjoy all that you have and all that you are.

The second part of my message to my great-great-grandchild is to really really live life. Are we not already living our lives seen as we are alive, you ask? Yes, of course we are. But there’s a difference between living and really really living. And I want to really really live my life.

Really really living means getting out there to experience, explore, learn, grow and expand. It means being present to beauty, to nature and to love.

It’s in the sharing and connecting with other human beings and with all living things. It’s in the embracing and supporting. It’s in our tears and in our laughter.

It’s when we dance, sing, hike and swim. It’s in inspiring and being inspired. This for me is really really living.

Am I following my own advice? Am I being happy and really really living? For the most part, yes. Then sometimes, I compare. I think too much. I worry. I complain.

I wish things were different and I turn my back on the abundance that’s right here right now. I shut myself into a safe, boring, compact box and forget that there’s a glimmering world out there and I can do anything. Anything.

And then somehow life reminds me that it wants to be really really lived. And I thoroughly agree.

What advice would you give your great-great grandchild? Are you practising what you preach? If not, listen to yourself. You’re a wise one!

imagesbuddy.com

imagesbuddy.com

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

The Work

Today, I attended a Byron Katie workshop. Byron Katie’s work involves asking yourself four simple questions whenever you’re feeling bad. They are as follows:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

You then turn the thought around. I’ll give you the example I used when filling out the “Judge-Your-Neighbor” worksheet. We were instructed to go back to a time when we felt hurt. I remembered being dumped by a boyfriend. Katie asked us to go back to the centre of the most painful moment of that episode. I was lying on my bed, roaring crying. I felt shocked, upset, disappointed and rejected. I was also angry because I felt that he had disrespected me.

Here are a couple of the questions from the worksheet: In this situation, what advice would you offer to that person? You should be honest and true to yourself. What do you think of this person in this situation? I think ______ is asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. 

I asked myself the four questions, which I understood and which rang true for me. But it was the turnaround that really blew me away. Turn the thought around: should be honest and true to myself. Yes, without a doubt. ______ is honest and true to himself. He is awake, fair, honest, brave and mature. Of course he is. He was awake enough to know that he didn’t want to be with me any longer. He was honest with himself and with me. He was brave enough to end it. He was mature enough to do the right thing. was asleep, unfair, dishonest, cowardly and immature. Right again! I was willing to stay in a relationship that wasn’t working. I was being dishonest with myself and with him. I was wailing like an abandoned infant. Wow!

There were a number of other Aha moments as the day progressed. I’ll mention a few of them. One man stated: “_____ should be more open-minded.” Katie asked, “Can someone be more open-minded than they are in that moment?” The answer is no. This really got me thinking. Imagine if we stopped trying to control how others behaved? If we stopped judging them, criticising them, feeling superior to them, feeling hurt by them? The other person is not hurting us. It is our thought, our reaction that hurts us. And we have the power to change that thought. What a liberating realisation!

Byron Katie spoke about relationships. She suggested: “Your partner is your teacher. He / she is working on you as he / she is always showing you what you need to learn. This makes it much easier for you as it cuts your work in half.” I had never thought of it that way before. So, it’d be in my interest to find myself a “teacher”… Must put in a request…

Finally, one woman told us that she hates her belly because it’s too fat. Byron Katie picked up a little flower and said (in the type of voice a flower might have): “I’m so beautiful!” She then pointed the flower in the direction of a vase filled with different flowers. She / the flower said: “There must be something wrong with me… I’m not yellow. I don’t have as many leaves as that flower, I’m not as open as that other one, and I think I’m too short.” We laughed at how ridiculous it sounded. She then turned to the woman and asked, “Your belly is too fat for what?” The woman answered, “To be sexy and attractive.” Katie said: “So, you see your body as collateral. You think – I’m not going to get much with this body.” Again, we laughed. The woman admitted that sometimes her boyfriend tells her that he doesn’t like her belly. Byron Katie said: “You be your boyfriend and tell me that you don’t like my belly. I’ll be somebody who loves my belly. I’ll be you.” When the woman told Katie that she had a problem with her belly, Katie responded: “Oh my God, I hope you get over that! That must be awful for you. Whose problem is that? It’s certainly not mine.” She added: “If your mind cannot compare, is it possible to see yourself as anything other than perfect?” She concluded: “Your ego doesn’t want you to become enlightened. Your attachment to the thought that you are fat is not allowing you to wake up.” Sit with that one for a moment…

Who would you be without the thoughts that are terrorising you? Relaxed? At peace? Happy? Present? Become aware of the thoughts that are making you feel bad. Develop an inquiring mind. Question your beliefs. And turn them around. As Byron Katie says: “Change your thoughts. Change the world.”

Which of these poppies is not perfect?

Image: incrediblesnaps.com/60-beautiful-flower-pictures

Perfection is a Disease

A few days ago, I came across a new blog. It looked professional and well laid out. But I didn’t persist past the first page as it was just too perfect. The writer advised his readers to keep fit, eat superfoods, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, oxygen (okay, I’m exaggerating but it was pretty over-the-top).

As children, the adults we trust to be infallible give us a message that is extremely difficult to shake in later life – that we need to be perfect. Our parents try to make sure that we always look and do our best. Our teachers return our copy books, covered in the red pen that highlights all our mistakes. Could do better. Everything we do is graded and marked out of ten.

They honestly think they’re doing us a favour. But it leads us to believe that anything that falls short of perfect is simply not good enough. No wonder we shy away from fulfilling our true potential when we’ve set such impossible standards.

All my life, I’ve strived for perfection. Even writing this, I’m wondering if the past participle of “strive” is “striven” and if I could possibly publish the post without checking. But to prove my point, I’m going to.

I’ve always put myself under an inordinate amount of pressure. Eventually, and understandably, I cracked beneath the weight of it all. From someone who’s been there, I am telling you that it simply isn’t worth it. I’d rather have energy and enjoyment, than pushing and perfection. I won’t lie – it’s still a battle, as the childhood message is so deeply ingrained, but I am gradually letting go.

We all try to do (and be) our best. We boast about our goals and achievements to anyone who’ll listen. Because we’re all looking for some reason to feel superior (or at least equal) to everybody else. We present the most attractive version of ourselves to the outside world, then live in fear at the possibility of someone peeking beneath our carefully constructed masks. The reason we keep up this universal facade is because everyone’s doing it. And even though we know we’re bullshitting, we fail to realise that everybody else is too.

It’s normal to feel lousy on occasion; to prefer to stay indoors in the winter instead of jogging in the rain; to switch off after a hard day by switching on crap TV; to enjoy a pint or an espresso or a banana split.

Nobody looks for a best friend or partner who refuses to eat carbs or set foot inside a pub, who wakes before dawn to hit the gym, and can list all the reasons why one shouldn’t drink coffee or stay in bed past 7 am. Such a “perfect” human being might look good and appear healthy. But they’re hard to relate to and they make us feel bad about ourselves.

If I don’t want a perfect partner or flawless friend, and I can’t even stand to read a meticulous blog, then why the hell do I want to be perfect? 

So, why don’t we stick it to society and rejoice in our imperfections? Let’s admit to our flaws and laugh about our mistakes.

Now, how about a little experiment? Do something today that proves that you’re not perfect. How does it feel? Liberating? Thought so.

Images: http://weheartit.com/entry/19229697

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=249115865140615&set=a.135308636521339.34695.135306759854860&type=3&theater

http://weheartit.com/entry/19241509