Tag Archives: pressure

My Song

I welcome the first day of summer by attending a yoga and music workshop with musician and yoga teacher Jack Harrison.

We lie down and begin with some breathing exercises. Jack strums his guitar, recites poetry and sings.

Then he takes us through a powerful yoga sequence. No music plays now. All we can hear are Jack’s instructions and our breath.

My breathing deepens. I feel strong, present and peaceful.

Afterwards, we sit in a circle and sing. For the most part, I close my eyes and really get into it.

Occasionally, I open my eyes and appreciate what’s in front of me. The fantastic Jack Harrison playing guitar. And a group of people joyously opening their hearts together in song.

Next, Jack suggests that we sing any tune we feel like.

“Dissonance is beautiful,” he insists.

“Some of us were told as children that we weren’t good singers. I was kicked out of the school choir when I was a boy,” he laughs.

“But singing is easy,” he says with a smile.

Many of us spend our lives trying to fit in and appear normal. We’re told how to live and what’s expected of us.

But today for a change, we’re being encouraged to be different. We’ve been given licence to sing our own song in a way that’s right for us in this special moment.

We start quietly and self-consciously. But before long, we become louder and more confident.

I realise that it’s much easier to sing in unison. It’s actually harder to be different. But I’m determined to find my own song.

I go with the feeling. I put judgment aside. I allow myself to be me.

Somewhere between dissonance, unison and harmony, I hear my own voice. Tears prickle behind my eyes. Jack’s right, it is beautiful.

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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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Body Talk

Two weeks ago today, I injured my left calf while jogging. It happened about half way through my run so I had to hobble the rest of the way back to my car.

I couldn’t exercise at all for a few days. I remember commenting to a friend that, “Usually I’d be feeling fat by now.” But I wasn’t.

I wasn’t beating myself up over not exercising, which was my usual pattern. I was aware that the negative voices were whispering to me but they just weren’t getting to me. I was delighted.

A few days later, I started back with yoga. Then walking. I danced at a gig last weekend. And during the week, I went for a cycle. My leg was better.

So yesterday, I attempted another jog. And the same thing happened. Half way through the run. Again, I had to limp the rest of the way back to the car.

The walk took me forty-five minutes, which gave me plenty of time to think and to feel. Why is this happening again? Why me? Lots of people can jog every day. It’s not fair.

An anger arose in me. Frustration bubbled. How am I going to exercise now? And of course, fear. If I don’t exercise, I’ll get fat. That old chestnut.

I’d kept the voices at bay a couple of weeks ago. And last week, I discovered my reasons for trying to be perfect. I think I have to be perfect so I can be accepted and loved. So I won’t be left all alone in this world.

If I understand it, why is it still coming back to haunt me? I’ve learned the lesson, so do I now need to be tested on it? If this is a test, I’m pretty sure I’m failing miserably. Emphasis on miserably.

I know I’m pushing myself to try to be as perfect as I can be. I only feel good when I do all that I can do. But when I’m not doing, I feel bad. When I can’t do, I feel unworthy. When I’m not exercising, I feel uncomfortable in my body. I feel bloody angry.

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Having injured myself a couple of weeks ago, I hurt myself again yesterday. If I were a client of mine, I’d be able to see that maybe I need to slow down. Go easier on myself. Be gentler. Take the pressure off. Believe I deserve love and care and give those things to myself no matter what I do or achieve or how I look.

I realise that I tend to push myself. Whenever I have time to exercise, I cycle or jog. I don’t walk unless I’m with somebody else or I’m on holidays.

When it’s raining, I follow yoga sequences on YouTube. The types of yoga classes I do are Yoga for Weight Loss or Yoga Fat-Burning Workouts. I don’t allow myself to take the easy option. I admire myself for that too. But there has to be a balance.

Last weekend, because I was easing myself back into exercising, I went for the first walk on my own in a long time. And it was one of the best hours of my life.

I thoroughly enjoyed my music, the sensation of the sun on my skin, and the welcome sight of the flowers, trees and country fields. I had time to appreciate this feast for the senses because I wasn’t speeding past it or wanting to get it over with.

And today, because I can’t run or cycle or even walk, I completed a yoga class on YouTube for hips, hamstrings and lower back. The sequence was slow and my body actually oohed with pleasure.

Today, I have the awareness of what’s going on in my mind, why I’m doing what I’m doing and what I’m hoping to achieve. I have insights into the underlying fears that are propelling my thoughts and actions. And I can even understand why my body’s giving out to me. Great.

So how do I stop myself from feeling the way I feel sometimes? The times I feel so uncomfortable in my body that I want to hide. The horrible things I think about myself. The unconditional love that I’m unsure I’m capable of giving.

I just don’t know. It makes me angry that I don’t have the answers. I want to change. I can’t continue life like this.

In a moment of desperation, I turn to God. I plead for help. A feeling of calm descends upon me. I could just let go. And to complete the popular saying, I could just let God.

Show me what to do God, I sob. A line from a prayer I used to recite as a child springs to mind: “Thy will be done.” 

I’m letting go. I can’t control this. I don’t know how I’m going to change. I can’t predict how life is going to be.

I have to trust that it’s all unfolding perfectly. That God will show me what I need to do and where I need to go.

I don’t know exactly what or who God is. Does He/She/It resemble the traditional Christian image of God with white hair and a long beard? Or is God an invisible Higher Power that resides in all of us? Could God encompass the infinite magnificence of The Universe?

I guess I don’t need to know that either. I just need to let go. Which is something that I very rarely do.

If you’re suffering from illness, injury or pain, it could be worth your while to explore the possible messages your body is trying to express to you. Are you willing to listen? Are you ready to change? Are you able to let go?

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Rejection Therapy

It’s only Day 3 of my Rejection Therapy and already I’ve learned so much. On Day 1, I asked Danny from The Script out on a date. I haven’t heard back from him but he’s currently in the middle of a world tour so I can forgive him for being a bit busy to respond to a Tweet from a crazy stranger.

As I ponder my courage at asking out an international superstar, I wonder if it’d be harder to ask out someone in “real life”. Someone who’s actually met me. A real live man (Sorry Danny, you’re a real live man too but ya know what I mean).

If a real live man rejected me, I couldn’t brush off the rejection by saying things like: Ah sure he’s probably busy dodging the paparazzi, selling out arenas and shagging Tulisa. Sorry Danny. I’m definitely not going to bag a date with him at this rate.

I’ve also had the awareness that I’d find it way more challenging to have Danny agree to go on a date with me. Therefore, it’s not always rejection or failure that I’m afraid of.

I’m terrified of success because then I’ll be tested and judged on it and I’ll have to prove my worth to the world. And that sounds like way too much pressure! No wonder I prefer not to put myself out there at all.

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weheartit.com

Yesterday, on a beautiful hike, one of my friends decided to join the Rejection Therapy game. As part of it, we said hello to most oncoming hikers.

It’s amazing how something as simple as greeting a stranger can bring up a strange fear of rejection. What if they ignore me? However, we were met with such friendliness that we smiled and laughed our way up the mountain.

One man didn’t respond to my friend. She reacted with celebration. “Yay, I got rejected,” she exclaimed as she pumped her fist in the air. It’s extraordinary how different things feel when you change your perspective.

I said hello to a man who coughed at me. Is that rejection? After going so big on Day 1, being coughed at seemed like a bit of an anti-climax. So I took another action and posted the following on Facebook: 

“Does anyone want to do something fun/funny/adventurous/inspiring with me tomorrow? I haven’t made any plans and would love to see what you lovely people suggest…”

One friend, who knows about the challenge I’ve set myself, told me: “NO WAY SHARON!!” But I didn’t feel rejected by that. It just made me laugh.

My cousin jokingly invited me to supervise her kids during their 6.30am breakfast. I’ve been known to be a bit gullible so I wasn’t entirely sure if she was being serious.

I really didn’t want to get up at the crack (excuse the pun) of dawn on Easter Sunday. Oh no, I thought. Is part of this Rejection Therapy having to do the rejecting? 

Turns out I try to avoid being the rejector (is that a thing?) because A) I don’t want to hurt/offend anyone and B) I want to be liked. So if I reject someone and they don’t like me for it then I’m being rejected. Phew, see how sneaky this rejection stuff is?

In that moment, I realised that just because I say no to someone doesn’t mean that I’m rejecting them. It just means that I have other plans or I don’t want to participate in that particular activity.

If that’s the case for me, then the reverse is also true. When people say no to me, they’re not rejecting me either.

Let’s return to the Real Live Man for a moment. If he “rejects” me, it may well be that he doesn’t like my personality or appearance (and even that’s okay because, thankfully, we all have different tastes). But it could just as easily be that he’s unavailable/not looking for a relationship/having a bad hair day.

I’m reminded of Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements. Two such Agreements are: Don’t Take Anything Personally and Don’t Make Assumptions. If I don’t make assumptions or take things personally, then nothing can hurt. I can’t be rejected because nothing is personal.

And if I can’t be rejected, then do I really need to continue this challenge for the rest of the month?

But as I write this, I have another insight. I don’t have to actually get rejected by anyone because I can feel rejected whenever I choose.

Sometimes, I feel rejected when someone goes quiet, can’t meet, cancels plans or doesn’t reply to a text/Facebook message. Sometimes, I feel rejected when a person’s in bad form/doesn’t laugh at my jokes/looks at me funny.

My fear of rejection is so all-encompassing that I’d probably feel rejected if the wind stopped blowing in my direction. What have I done to make the wind dislike me?

So yes, I really do need to continue my Rejection Therapy. I’m open to any suggestions, people. But I might reject them. Just sayin’.

My friend and I hiking/getting rejected

My friend and I hiking/getting rejected

Moving On

I walk out of the Life Coaching session beaming. There is something about saying things aloud to someone I trust that shows me how strong I am and how well I’m doing. I see myself as he seems to see me – competent, insightful, brave and proactive.

So much has happened in the two weeks since I’ve last been with him. I’m leaving unhealthy situations. I found a beautiful house to move in to. I started a new course. And I’ve taken a few steps to further my career.

The Life Coach points out that I’m starting to have a healthy sense of entitlement. This means that I know that I’m entitled to have my needs met, in my living environment and in my relationships. I’m thinking more of myself now. And I’m believing that I deserve good things in my life.

I tell the Life Coach that I can really appreciate how I am now because I used to feel so bad. I was anxious. I worried that I wasn’t good enough. I compared myself unfavourably to others and beat myself up on a fairly constant basis.

I also landed myself in less than ideal conditions. And I didn’t even question them. Because I didn’t realise that I deserved better.

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Up until very recently, when I spotted a good-looking guy, I’d immediately think: He’d never look at me. Talk about placing huge invisible walls around myself. Invisible but impenetrable nonetheless.

I’d feel intimidated if a man seemed to have it all together. The men I did feel comfortable with often had so much baggage that it was no wonder the relationship couldn’t go far. Slap my baggage on top of that and we couldn’t move at all.

At twenty-three, I married a man who tried to change me completely. When I first started seeing him, he lived in a rough part of Bilbao. Prostitutes and drug dealers hung out on the street corners. My ex’s flat had mice and boarded up windows.

But I was in love. And nothing else matters when you have love, right? I was defiant in my love for him. Who needed money or common beliefs or a partner who thought you were lovely just as you were?

I didn’t think enough of myself to expect nice dates and holidays with my boyfriend. I didn’t even think enough of myself to expect to be treated with respect and acceptance.

What did it matter if he was pressuring me to change, pressuring me to marry him? I had such a low sense of self that I was okay to bend to his will. Until one day I wasn’t.

So I left him but I went on to date addicts and emotionally unavailable men. Why? They say like attracts like. It was all I knew.

Recently, something big happened in one of my closest relationships. I had to make a tough decision to change my behaviour. I had to break free.

This comfort zone was no longer comfortable. Although it felt impossible to cut the ties of this codependent relationship, not doing it was a scarier option. So I did it.

The guilt and fear threatened to push me backwards but I forged forwards anyway. In order to do that, I had to let go of some of that baggage.

And now I’m moving into a gorgeous house in a lovely little village. I’m surrounding myself with people who think that I’m awesome. I’m doing things that nourish me. I’m meditating, exercising, reading and writing. I’m stepping out of that comfort zone and I’m proud of myself for it.

This morning, after the Life Coaching session, I decide to treat myself to a soya latte and a gluten-free scone with strawberry jam and cream.

I walk into the café where an attractive man catches my eye. Out of habit, I duck my head. Then I remember who I am. How amazing I am.

The smile comes from deep inside. I raise my chin. It doesn’t matter whether he likes me or not. Because I like me.

And my healthy sense of entitlement is telling me that I want to be open to all the wonderful possibilities that are staring me right in the face.

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Images: favim.com

The Christmas Present

It was the end of September and I was practising mindfulness. I had just had the best holiday ever. I’d also experienced a summer of fun, friendship and adventure. I remember telling a couple of friends that I was in a “really great place”.

And then things changed. The following few months were turbulent. I felt stressed and under pressure. My feelings swung from anger and resentment to guilt and fear.

Ten days ago, I was asked to make a difficult decision. And one week before Christmas, I found myself moving out of one house and into another. I was shocked and exhausted, upset and excited, free and frightened.

My friends rallied around and took me on a couple of big nights out where I drank a lot of alcohol. The days afterwards were strangled with panic and depression.

I certainly wasn’t feeling very Christmassy. I didn’t decorate. I stopped meditating and exercising. I was just too tired to take out my tools for well-being.

I convinced myself that people wouldn’t like me very much if I wallowed and complained but I couldn’t pretend either. I wanted to be left alone but I felt needy for company and love.

I beat myself up for not snapping out of it, for attracting in this turmoil with my thoughts and beliefs. It’s all my fault, I decided. But I didn’t know how to transform it. It isn’t fair, I wailed.

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And today it’s Christmas. I meditate. I exchange gifts and well-wishes with family and friends. I gorge on chocolate and a variety of meats and vegetables. I take the dog for a walk. I watch movies. I give myself acupuncture. I rest. I write in my journal. I do everything I can to lift my spirits but I’m still lacking in enthusiasm and hope.

Suddenly, it strikes me that my suffering does not exist in this present moment. It has arisen out of my thinking. It lurks in my expectations about how I should be. It grows in my resistance to how things are. It expands with my longing for something more, something different. It strengthens with my doubt and self-flagellation.

I realise that this moment holds no pain. So I bring my full attention to right now. I become present to the dog as it snuggles up beside me. To the trees that line the quiet country road. To my laughter at The Big LebowskiTo my loved ones. To the clear night sky and the shooting star that dives before me.

This moment is perfect. My suffering is simply an illusion created by my thoughts, attachments and misguided beliefs.

Today, my brother gives me a gift of a beautiful necklace. I decide to use this chain as a reminder to be present.

Today, I give myself the gift of my presence. I shall stop telling myself that this moment is not enough, that I’m not enough.

Because when I’m truly present, this moment is complete. I am complete.

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madripoor.tumblr.com