Tag Archives: criticism

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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I Am

I get angry and irritable. I criticise myself and others. I complain. I get depressed and cynical. I lose hope. I cry. I have unkind thoughts. Fear blocks me. I envy others their good fortune. I gossip. I need. I desire. I try to control. I resist what is.

I love. I share. I feel empathy and compassion. I give. I help. I donate. I listen and understand. I open my heart. I feel joy. I appreciate beauty. I am affectionate. I meditate. I laugh. I am present.

Which list is nicer? Should I feel pride about one and shame over the other? Is one list worse or better than the other? Is one good and the other bad? Is either list more or less human? Does any of it define who I am?

Do I dislike myself when I dip into the ingredients of the first list? Is there such a thing as a negative emotion? And should I attempt to dismiss it as soon as it arises? Or do I allow? Welcome? Embrace?

It is what it is. And I am everything. Good and bad. Darkness and light. Ugly and beautiful. Tears and smiles.

It all moves through me. I unhook, detach and observe. I peel off the layers and labels and I see that I am human and more than that. I am indescribable. I cannot be named.

I feel and experience. I judge and then I remember not to judge. And it ebbs and flows and ebbs once again.

40.media.tumblr.com

40.media.tumblr.com

Let’s Agree to Disagree

It has just struck me how I’ve been struggling for as long as I can remember to be perfect. I want to look perfect. I have to do everything perfectly. I’d love to be in the perfect relationship. I need to feel perfect.

But what is perfect? Who decides what perfect looks like? What’s perfect to me might not be perfect to you and vice versa.

As Don Miguel Ruiz demonstrates in his brilliant book The Four Agreementswe, as a society, have made certain agreements. Agreements on how things should be. And if any of us stray away from these agreements, if one of us dares to be different, there are consequences.

We fear being ostracised, disapproved of, and rejected. So we attempt to bundle the enormity of our spirit into a perfectly suffocating box.

And the most unbelievable part is that these agreements were probably decided before we were even born or at least before we had the sense and intelligence to realise what we were signing up for.

We were given a name and instructed how to behave, how to look, what to do, and how to be. And if we moved away from any of those specifications, we were shown, directly, or worse, indirectly – through withdrawal of love and affection – that to be unique was not okay.

Well hey, I’ve got some liberating news to share. It is okay to be yourself. It’s more than okay. The world needs free spirits, different thinkers and adventurous trailblazers. Let’s tear up those obsolete agreements and allow our individual lights to shine.

I am no longer going to strive for perfection because it doesn’t exist. Perfection is an illusion that I blindly agreed to pursue. But now that I can see clearly, I am choosing to disagree. Who’s with me?

real

Blossoming

It occurred to me this morning that so much of what we do is done out of fear rather than joy. We spend a lot of our time protecting, defending, hiding, banishing and preventing.

This is evident in so many of our actions. We try to prevent illness, protect our energy, delay ageing, cover up blemishes, shy away from challenges, defend our egos, and bolt from pain (both physical and emotional).

We stock up on multivitamins, sip on Echinacea, and get jabbed with flu vaccines. We visualise ourselves in protective bubbles, confess our sins, and make appointments with Shamanic healers. We join the gym, dye our hair, pay for our faces to be chemically peeled, and inject ourselves with Botox. We cover ourselves with makeup and fake tan, whiten our teeth, and shimmy into girdles.

We judge and criticise others so we don’t have to look at ourselves. We work longer and harder so we can be defined by our job titles. We yearn for prestige and approval so we can love and accept ourselves. And we’re terrified to slow down, to stop, in case someone takes it all away while we’re sleeping.

Fear prevents us from going on that flight or that date or initiating that career move. We don’t put ourselves out there so we can’t get hurt. We close our hearts because we think we’ll save them from breaking.

But how often do we do things for more positive reasons? For the sheer fun and enjoyment? We’ve forgotten how to live, really live, and experience all the world has to offer, which is a lot!

We could be singing in the rain, zip lining through a cloud forest, or swaying in a hammock on a Caribbean island. We could be melting into a full body massage, swimming with dolphins, or scuba diving with exotic coloured fish. We could be playing with our children, embracing our older and bolder selves, or writing our first fantasy novel.

And above all else, we could be opening our hearts to love, to possibility, to life. Because the heart can never really break, it just opens that bit wider to allow the light shine through.

poster-anais-nin

The Deception in Perception

One evening, my friend told me about a fight she’d had with a friend of hers. She finished her anecdote with the statement: “Oh my God, I’m a complete psycho!” Hearing herself say the story aloud made her realise that she may have overreacted.

I went on to tell my friend about a guy I was dating four or five years ago. He came from a far-off land (Italy). I mentioned our email correspondence, which hadn’t ended well. “He was a real A$5hol€,” I added for good measure. “I might still have the emails,” I squealed excitedly. Minutes later, I managed to retrieve them. When I read the last email my Italian beau had written, I was surprised to find that, in parts, he had actually been quite nice and affectionate. I definitely hadn’t remembered that. As I read the last email I’d sent him, I visibly cringed. I sounded moany and needy. I hadn’t remembered that either. Yes, there were parts of his email that were defensive and uncompromising and parts of mine that were fair but, up until now, they had been the only parts I’d remembered.

Revisiting a memory when your emotions aren’t running high, when you’re not too attached to your story and when your ego has taken more of a back seat, can be quite revealing. My friend and I had, one after the other, found that we’d perceived the event in a very different way than it had actually occurred. We had been convinced of our innocence. It was hard for us to admit that we had a part to play in the drama but at least we were open to letting go of the need to be right. As a result, the other person could no longer be labelled the “bad guy”. The real villains in our cases were our egos. And that was something we were going to have to look at.

I still feel that my Italian wasn’t the right stallion for me. But I now understand that perceptions are extremely unreliable. We are all coming from different places and experiences… so everything, everything, is tainted with that. For example, I thought the Italian was harsh and inconsiderate, whereas he may have felt perfectly justified in his behaviour. He may have told his friends that I was more trouble than I was worth and that he wasn’t going to change for anybody, especially not an argumentative Irish woman.

Perceptions are totally subjective. The world looks different to you than it does to me. And it looks different to me today than it did yesterday. Everything I look at is compared and contrasted with everything I’ve already seen. I view current relationships through old hurts. Past fears leak into new ventures. Everything is laced with expectation. And my ego assures me that the way I see the world is the only reality there is.

I’m not suggesting that we beat ourselves over the head until we completely banish our egos. We are human beings with egos and emotions. However, simply recognising that we all experience things differently allows for understanding, forgiveness and acceptance. We don’t have to be right. We don’t need to be better. We just are. With this knowledge, we can stop expecting, judging and criticising and start really experiencing and enjoying life.

Depending on how you perceive this famous image, you may see an old lady or a young one. And once you’re aware of this, you can see both.

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

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.