Tag Archives: unhappiness

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.”

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Riding the Waves

I forced myself out for a walk yesterday even though the weather was being particularly indecisive. It went from sunny blue skies to windy dark grey to pelting rain in mere minutes. As I headed up the street, raindrops began to appear, slowly at first like the initial deliberate bursts of popcorn, then hard and fast and loud. No, I muttered silently. Please don’t. Then I realised that my resistance, my pleading and cursing, wasn’t going to stop the rain from falling. It was just going to make me feel miserable.

Desiring something to be different from the way it is brings us out of alignment with reality, which naturally creates unhappiness and frustration. So I looked up and said, Do what you have to do. I shrugged off thoughts of Everything’s going to get so wet, dumped them on the ground beside me and walked away, eyes scrunched and hair matted against my face.

I felt a strange sense of elation. A Fuck you world mixed with Bring it. I wanted to punch the air and sprint past sheep and shriek along to Ellie Goulding’s Halcyon.

You know that point when you understand that you are powerless? That life will continue to roll no matter what reservations you might have. That moment when you simply give up. And in that instant, you feel oddly powerful. Free. Like you’re riding the waves instead of swimming against them. It’s exhilarating.

My lower back is still stiff and painful but now, instead of struggling against it, I’m leaning into it. I’ve stopped the hard-core gym sessions and started doing gentler exercises at home. I discovered a Pilates studio in Newbridge and attended it for the first time this morning. A man approached me about a new yoga class he’s setting up next week. And I’m getting out in the fresh air and daylight for invigorating walks in the Irish weather.

As I neared home, the sky cleared. I gazed at enormous tree trunks, orange berries and smiling daffodils, and I nodded: Yes, all is well.

Check out this lady making the most of her time waiting for a bus. It brings to mind the following poem:

“You’ve gotta dance like there’s nobody watching,
                                                         Love like you’ll never be hurt,
                                          Sing like there’s nobody listening,
                                     And live like it’s heaven on earth.”

Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

im not beautiful like you

Desire Always Tastes Like More

Desire is something that’s glamourised by the entertainment and advertising industries. It’s exciting in its provocative promise of something better than what you’re currently experiencing. But have you ever wondered if it’s your desire that’s making you unhappy?

Every time you long for those shoes or that car, or whenever you sigh in frustration because you won’t be happy until you find your perfect partner, your desire is taking you out of the present moment and into a place of dissatisfaction. A place where you are displeased with how things are so you want something different from what is.

That is not to say that your desires should be repressed. It is healthy to want something and to go for it. Eknath Easwaran writes: “Desire is the fuel of life; without desire nothing can be achieved.” However, desire often takes over and kidnaps you from the present moment, holding you captive in a hellish existence of How I Wish That and If Only. You’re not really living when you’re longing for all the things you haven’t got.

In this case, you have identified with the mind’s idea of an ideal world. You could be content if you just had more money. You’ll finally find happiness when you start a family. You’ll be able to relax when you’ve bought your own home. Well, maybe not until you’ve paid off the mortgage… The mind has tricked you. The ego’s desires can never be satiated. Eckhart Tolle writes:

“As long as I am my mind, I am those cravings, those needs, wants, attachments, and aversions, and apart from them there is no ‘I’ except as a mere possibility, an unfulfilled potential, a seed that has not yet sprouted.”

The trick to all this is to become aware of your thoughts and the feelings that arise from them. How attached are you to the fulfilment of these desires? And who are you without them? This means becoming present. In the present moment, you can learn to be content with what is. What you have or haven’t got doesn’t matter when you’re truly present.

And if, in this moment, you desire something, your presence of mind will allow you to achieve it. And so you will be able to bake the most delicious cake. Or share some wonderful intimacy with a loved one. Or pluck up the courage to ask that person out. Or feel confident enough to go for the job you really want. Or simply take yourself to the ocean’s edge and really see it and hear it and feel its spray on your upturned face.

"If you desire many things, many things will seem few." Benjamin Franklin

Image: http://photo.99px.ru/i/?pid=21942