Tag Archives: resentment

Into the Wild

“We’re supposed to be different. Thank goodness.”

I posted these words on my Facebook page yesterday evening along with a quote from Susan Cain’s insightful book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

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In Quiet, Cain explores the differences between introverts and extroverts. In a society that seems to reward the confidence, charm and exuberant energy of extroversion, introverts often feel the need to step up, speak out and pick up the pace just so they too can succeed at life.

In the questionnaire at the beginning of the book, I scored a whopping 18 out of 20. This signifies that I’m more of an introvert. It means that I enjoy my own company. I need space and time alone. I recharge by spending evenings in with a book or a movie. I get energy from walks in nature and lying in the sun. And I like to sit in stillness and reflect on my feelings and the meaning of life.

I’m a thinker and a writer. And I’m sensitive. Sensitive to beauty, music and wonderfully worded pieces of prose. I’m sensitive to energy, people’s moods and violence on the television.

I feel deeply. I get depressed. An act of kindness can bring me to tears. I marvel at the many miracles of the universe. Spirituality is more important to me than material things. I’m passionate about life. But at times I feel like I’m drowning in it.

When I feel intimidated, I shut up. It can take me a while to feel comfortable around new people. On nights out, I’d rather not compete with the loud music and the din of chatty pub-goers. So I don’t. My voice just doesn’t seem to carry. If someone really wants to hear what I have to say, we have to lean in to one another.

However, when I’ve had a drink, none of that matters. Cain likens an alcoholic beverage to a glass of extroversion.

Most people aren’t exclusively introverts or extroverts. I love being around people and I lead a fairly busy social life. I enjoy meeting friends and trying out new hobbies but I much prefer participating in deep conversations with one or two people rather than chatting in large groups.

I recognise the benefits of team playing and brainstorming but I work best alone in a quiet room where I can retreat, silence my phone, and concentrate.

When something is bothering me, I tend to write, meditate, read and think. Then I discuss my problems, one-to-one, with someone I trust.

I end romantic relationships if they’re not right. I’d rather be alone than with someone who doesn’t help me flourish.

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Last night, I watched Into the Wild for the second time. This true story is based on American adventurer Christopher McCandless. At twenty-four, Chris has fulfilled his parents’ dream of getting good grades and going to college. Then, instead of attending Harvard, he burns the remainder of his college fund, cuts up his social security and credit cards, and disappears, without a word, into the wild.

One of the reasons I love this film is because I feel it’s quite balanced in its storytelling. The different characters have different viewpoints, personalities and lifestyles.

We learn of Chris’ perspective on life. He resents the control and expectations of society and his parents. He wants to roam free. He needs to be independent and true to himself. He’s happiest when he’s diving into lakes, climbing mountains, and living off the land.

When he enters Los Angeles, he regards the skyscrapers and city-dwellers with an expression of disappointment and despair. We can almost see his soul dimming as he trudges through the metropolis. He imagines how his life could have been and he doesn’t regret his decision to break away. He can’t even stay one night there.

We also hear his sister’s version of events. She understands Chris’ reasons for abandoning the family. Her parents desperately desire a particular way of life for their son. Their intentions are good. This is the only way they know how to guide and protect him. But they’ve also caused their children a lot of pain. Ultimately, we watch them suffer too.

This movie really got me thinking. Was Chris acting selfishly? Was he foolish and naive? Or was he right to go on his own journey, to figure out his meaning of life, to really live and experience and come to his own conclusions?

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I’ve often felt different. I’ve struggled to fit in. I’ve felt stifled by society and I’ve agonised over the following:

What is being true to yourself? And what is running away? When do you stop living in the clouds and finally conform? When do you “settle down”?

Then there are the shoulds and norms of society. You should be responsible. That’s what being an adult is all about. You need a good job. You can’t live without money. You need your own home. When are you going to find a husband? Will you have enough time for children? For goodness’ sake, you won’t survive without a pension.

I got 525 points in my Leaving Certificate but secondary school may as well have been a battlefield for all the anxiety I experienced. I did well at swimming and athletics but competition didn’t sit well with me. I dropped out of college twice.

Truthfully, the only reason I went back to college as a mature student was because I felt I had to. How else would I become a functioning member of society?

I obtained a First Class Honours degree and received the Sunday World Cup for Best Student of Journalism with a Language. Though proud of my achievements and happy to gain approval from the people I care about, it added to the pressure I felt to do more with my life, to live up to my potential and to succeed.

And I don’t do well under pressure. So instead of applying for jobs in journalism, I threw myself into an alternative world of acupuncture, homeopathy, personal development and spirituality. And I’ve never been happier.

Of course, I still experience paralysing moments of fear. The voices in my head go something like this: What are you doing with your life? Grow up. Be normal.

So I tentatively move forwards with one eye clamped on everybody else in the world who’s doing things the “right” way. I compare, criticise and compete. I alter my behaviour and try to change who I am in the hope that I will prosper. I worry that I’m not adult enough for this big bad world of business and mortgages.

But what does “adult” mean? How “should” a 34-year-old woman live? Why must we all melt into one right way of doing things? We’re not all the same. That much is very clear.

Yes, there’s a reason why most of us follow the well-trodden path in life. There’s safety and security in the tried and tested route. Most people want to see life’s landmarks so they know where they are and what to expect around the corner.

But some of us thrive on change. The unknown excites us. Newness is revitalising. It’s what keeps that spark inside of us alight.

It’s a relief to realise that we don’t have to be the same as one another. We don’t have to compete because we each have unique gifts to bring to the world.

There’s no point trying to do things his way or attempting to be as good as her because you’re not them. You’re you.

Some of us want to climb the career and property ladders all the way to the top. And some of us are quite happy to keep our feet on the ground.

Whether we’re commuting to our permanent jobs, bringing our children to school or backpacking across the globe, we can be fully alive and true to the essence of who we really are.

Whether we’re writing fantasy novels, saving lives, cleaning the streets or designing websites, we can be the people we’re meant to be.

Whether we’re introverted or extroverted or a dollop of one and two tablespoons of the other, we are unique and perfect just as we are.

We’re different and brilliant in our all of our shade and all of our colour. We blend and we clash and we all come together in this stunning masterpiece of humanity.

We may think we know who we are. We stamp ourselves with neat and convenient labels so we can understand and make sense of the world around us. But life changes. We change. We grow and develop and we dip in and out of lots of different attributes and characteristics. Every colour of the rainbow is available to us to try on and see what suits us best.

And whether we’re paying into our pensions or collecting the dole, none of us can really know what to expect next. Nothing is certain.

The weather is unpredictable. And the terrain is constantly changing. We may want to know the exact directions to a predetermined destination. But we are all, in fact, walking into the unknown. We are all on a journey into the wild.

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Word.

For Christmas, a dear friend gave me Susannah Conway‘s wonderful workbook called Unravelling the Year Ahead: 2015. I spend the evening hunched over the book, thinking and writing.

One of the questions that I’d like to share with you is: What is your Word for 2015? Susannah suggests choosing a word that will guide you through the year, a word that makes you feel expanded and inspired.

I scribble options in the margins. Words like Courage and Love, Peace, Presence and Abundance.

But the word that’s right for my coming year is FreeI feel light and optimistic as I scrawl these four letters onto the page.

Recently, I was in a situation where I felt trapped. I wanted out. I wanted to scream and rebel. But I struggled against guilt and obligation. I longed to flee the person, the place, and most importantly, the emotions that arose in me.

However I realised that, instead of complaining, blaming and running, I had to look at myself. These terrifying feelings were hiding in my inner shadows and this event simply shone a light on them so that I could examine them. And rather than resist these feelings, I had to accept them and love myself (and the other person) anyway. I understood that if I didn’t deal with my own issues, the same experience would repeat itself again and again.

So this coming year, my word is Free. It doesn’t matter where I am, what I’m doing, or who I’m with. I can choose to feel free in any given moment.

The following question is: If you lived and breathed your Word every day in 2015, what would be different for you?

If I lived and breathed FREE every single day, I would be doing things out of choice, enjoyment, love and independence. There would be no need or attachment, resentment or fear. I would stop labelling and limiting, blocking and restricting. I would be happier. I would live in the flow. I could do anything. I could be anything.

What is your Word for 2015? Then ask yourself these four questions:

  1. If you lived and breathed your Word every day in 2015, what would be different for you?
  2. List some ways you are already being/experiencing this Word.
  3. What can you do this year to bring more of your Word into your world?
  4. Choose four more words to support your Word this year. They could be anything from inspiring words to names of people to things you want to invest in…
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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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Hear, Say, Believe?

I’m having coffee with someone (let’s call her Person A) when she informs me that someone else (the imaginatively named Person B) said certain things that Person A took to be jabs at her and at me. I feel hurt and angry. Person A must sense this because she tries to change the subject and make small talk. I find it difficult to talk about trivial things at times like these. After a few moments, she asks if I’m okay. I tell her how I feel and say that I just need a bit of time and space and that I’ll probably be fine in an hour.

Afterwards I get into the car, put on the new Daft Punk album and take myself off for a drive. I am fuming and tears threaten an onslaught. I park in a quiet spot and sit with what has just happened. The only thing that would make me feel better would be to understand why Person B said those things and also why Person A decided to tell me. I take out a pen and paper.

I make three lists. The first list has the title: “Why Person B said what they said.” The second is called: “Why Person A told me.” I am fully aware that I am engaging in guesswork and mind-reading but understanding where these people may have been coming from helps me realise why they said what they said, which, in turn, makes me feel better. Some of the reasons include jealousy, worry, resentment, hurt, control, and even speaking openly without thinking of the consequences. Already, I feel better about the whole thing.

The third list I make is: “The benefits of this happening.” I manage to come up with eight of them. But what is most revealing of all is when I question what has actually been said. All I heard was what Person A had heard and internalised and then repackaged in her own fears and projections. Not only that, but then I had internalised all of that and sifted it alongside my own insecurities and sensitivities.

Fact looks very different from imagination. What had Person B actually said? Who knows if this person meant to cause any pain? And even if they did, that’s saying a lot about how they’re feeling. If it is important enough to me to find out, I can go straight to the proverbial horse and poke around in its mouth but, for now, this exercise has been sufficient.

This whole process has highlighted to me that I still have a bit of work to do on myself, especially when it comes to caring what my nearest and dearest think of me. I recognise that this area is usually quite challenging for most people. I give myself permission to have human emotions and reactions. I also understand myself more now and I realise that having a time-out is essential for me to process how I’m feeling, thus enabling me to learn and grow and have healthier relationships.

I close the notepad and, without even trying, I remember something that Person B did for me recently that was extremely thoughtful. Oftentimes, we’re so blindsided by something somebody just did that we obliterate his or her positive attributes. Or we fail to understand that sometimes people do things out of fear or insecurity or because they’re feeling so bad that they want someone else to hurt too. Other times, they are unaware that what they say or do can have a huge impact on another person.

I’m not suggesting that you should accept abusive behaviour but, in many cases, understanding where the other person is coming from and distinguishing fact from emotional hearsay can help make you feel better. Because they only thing you need to do is look after how you’re feeling. And everything else will come right in time.

Everybody Hurts

Last night, I watched Before Sunrise and Before Sunset back-to-back. By the end of the second movie, I was in tears. Because I am single and pre-menstrual and because I don’t believe in romantic love the way I did when I was 21 and in love with the man I would marry and later divorce. Because I felt sick and tired and depressed. Going to bed, I felt so bad that I asked for a sign to be given to me in my dreams.

I dreamt that somebody close to me admitted that she was feeling depressed for the first time. I told her that I still get depressed sometimes. I described it as a heavy feeling that weighs down upon you. I confessed that I get frightened when I feel like that because I’m scared that I’ll be the way I was before. Because I once suffered from depression and because it “ruined my life a few times”. I then told her that it’s just a feeling and it will drift on by so long as you don’t put a label on it. And then I woke up.

This morning, as I walked in the sunshine, I felt strong. Not because I was feeling a bit better. But because it’s okay to feel “bad”. Because we’re all only human. I passed other people and realised that they also feel down occasionally. To quote an R.E.M. song: “Everybody hurts sometimes”. We just aren’t comfortable with letting people into our pain and suffering. We all feel hopeless and purposeless and beaten down. We all go through hard times. We get dumped, we lose our jobs, we struggle to pay the bills, we feel lonely, we wonder what the point of life is, and how we’re going to cope.

But they are the days when we don’t leave the house. When we cancel plans to meet friends. Or when we hide behind makeup and alcohol and busy schedules. When we put our best foot forward and hope nobody will notice that we’re terrified or grief-stricken or worn out. We see other people smile and laugh. We look on as they post the best possible version of themselves on Facebook. What we fail to realise is that they too are hurting. They too worry that they don’t know what all of this is about. They too wish they felt more connected, more positive, more sure of themselves.

Our humanness is what binds us together. We are not alone. We all feel sad at times. We have the same fears and worries and regrets. We have the same longings and resentments and insecurities. We just don’t show them. We think people will only accept us or like us or love us if we are perfect. If we look well and feel well and keep on achieving. But all it takes is for one of us to admit that we’re not so perfect after all.

I set up a Positive Living group this year. Some of the people in the class presume that I’m doing well all of the time. But they don’t see me first thing in the morning, tired and makeup-free. They don’t see me as I weep in front of Ethan Hawke movies. They don’t see me cranky and weak in the days coming up to my period. They certainly didn’t see me when I left my husband or when I fought with a family member or when I bitched about a co-worker. And they didn’t see me when I hated myself and lost all confidence. They see me now, having come through all that, trying to pass on some tips to live a happier, more positive life.

I do believe that we should stay present and do things to make ourselves feel better, so we don’t dwell too long in our suffering. But I want everyone to realise that even the most successful, positive, energetic people have off days. And that is okay. Once we acknowledge this, we will feel more compassion for our fellow human beings. We will feel more connected, more normal, and more at ease with the wide spectrum of human emotions. And we will know that we are never alone.

So, the next time you’re feeling down or fearful or fed up, let a loved one in. Let them in when you’re tired, when you’re feeling fat and ugly, and when you can’t stop crying. Not only will you feel better but you’ll be giving that person license to show you that they’re not “perfect” either.

Anger: from destructive enemy to constructive energy

Living with anger is like swallowing a wriggling baby octopus. As it grows, it expands, and pushes against your insides until you feel so full with it that you’re about to burst. When the pressure becomes too much to bear, it will use its tentacles to pierce and swipe its way out.

Some of you may be welcoming more awareness into your life at the moment. You’re currently coming to many realisations about yourself and about how you’ve been living and behaving. Despite this new-found enlightenment, you’re noticing that you’re getting angrier than ever before. I used to be such a gentle, peaceful human being. This alien emotion may surprise and even scare you.

Think of it this way. You have begun a fascinating journey of discovery and you are rapidly changing for the better. However, you’re still surrounded by people who are not travelling along the same route as you are. Your energy has shifted and what was once safe and familiar now annoys you. You no longer accept bad treatment from others because you’re starting to think more of yourself. Instead of feeling hurt and depressed by others’ misdemeanours, you’re now getting angry, which is a healthier reaction. But you need to realise that you are replacing your passivity for aggression.

Don’t worry about this new way of being. For a while, you will feel as if you’re walking in a field of land mines. You need to finally release all of these pent-up emotions. When there are no more long-buried devices left to explode, you will come back into balance. By this time, you will hopefully have removed yourself from situations that don’t suit you and distanced yourself from people who are not good for you. As Eckhart Tolle explains in the following clip, anger is just energy.

Steps for dealing with anger:

1) Sit with it

Like in a quiet waiting room, if you’re sitting with someone long enough, you’re eventually going to ask them where they’re from. Speak to the anger. Examine your feelings. What is it about the situation/person that angers you so? Is there something that you recognise (and dislike) in yourself? I know a man who became unreasonably irritated whenever his children let out the sofa footrests as they watched TV. Years later, he admitted that it was because he detested his own lazy streak and was reminded of it every time his kids sat back and relaxed.

Maybe you’ll discover that the anger you’re experiencing is directed at yourself. This could be for not living up to your purported potential, for acting in a manner that you’re ashamed of, or for feeling things that you’d rather not admit to. Holding on to anger is an exercise in self-destruction. It has no positive consequences but it will make you do stupid and even dangerous things. It will ruin relationships, fill your days with misery and, ultimately, bring about disease.

2) See where the attachment lies

Understanding what’s charging your anger is like finding the right plug in a large, tangled clump of electric wires. You have to unravel each cable and find which one you’re attached to before you can disconnect it. Recognising where the attachment lies will help you let go of this disturbing emotion. If a loved one has said something to upset you, ask yourself why these words have had such a profound effect on you. Do you care so much what that person thinks of you? Has something in what they’ve said resonated with a part of you that you fear, dislike or distrust?

3) Understand

When you begin to grasp why the person is behaving in a certain way, it makes it a lot easier to handle. Maybe it’s the only way they know how to act in order to get through life. We are all just trying to survive in this world and everyone has a different way of achieving this goal. Know that their behaviour is nothing to do with you. This knowledge will make you a lot less angry and will enable you to accept people for who they are, without allowing yourself to be dragged into their pain. Also, understanding why the person has filled you with anger will push you further on your road to self-discovery.

4) Express yourself

Get it out! Break some glass at the bottle bank. Smash a few plates, Greek-style. Go for a sprint. Take out the punching bag. Scream and shout. Scribble down your rage. And if you can express it to the person who’s brought all of this up in you, do so. Let them know how you’re feeling. You will not let them get away with treating you badly. Aside from relieving the pressure on yourself, this will have the added benefit of ensuring that a similar situation will not reoccur. Now that you’re stronger and more assertive, people won’t dream of treating you with anything less than respect. And if they still feel they have a right to mistreat you, it’s time for you to move on.

5) Energetic medicine

In Chinese medicine, repressed anger can create physical discomfort and disease. Acupuncture is an excellent tool for releasing anger. Staphysagria is a homeopathic remedy that you can take whenever you’re feeling a sense of entrapment, anger, frustration, or resentment.

6) Let it go

If you’ve expressed your rage, come to understand it, and removed yourself from the people and situations that are bringing you down, it is now time to let go. As Siddhārtha Buddha said:

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

7) Transform

Anger and passion are two ends of the same stream. One comes straight from the source, high in the mountains, clear and fresh. The other leaks into the ocean, becoming lost and bitter. Once you’ve dealt with the anger in all its stages, all you’re left with is energy.

Use this energy for whatever invigorates you. Allow it to ignite your creative spark, light up your spirit, and propel you into a world of power and passion.

Images: Google

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