Tag Archives: writing

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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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

Help Me!

I’m really enjoying a blog called Help Me! by Marianne Power. This brave, honest, insightful and laugh-out-loud-funny blog deals with Marianne’s gutsy challenge of reading (and really following) one self-help book per month for a year.

So far, I’ve read all of her posts on Get the Guy by Matthew HusseyFeel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and Money, A Love Story by Kate Northrup.

I’ve lapped up Marianne’s hilarious and sometimes emotional tales of chatting up strangers, jumping out of a plane, doing stand-up comedy (that’s about the WORST thing I could think of having to do), posing naked, attending a naked yoga class, tackling her finances, walking on fire, and surrounding herself with plenty of positive post-it affirmations.

I can really relate to Marianne as she courageously reveals her secrets, fears and insecurities. And for each book Marianne has explored, I’ve learned something that I’m going to incorporate into my own life.

In Get the GuyMatthew Hussey recommends seeing yourself as a “High-Value Woman”. This means knowing that you deserve to be treated with respect and only accepting good behaviour from men.

The last guy I had a thing with was tall, attractive and young. He hated his job, drank a lot, and had very little interest in getting to know me. And still I continued to text him. Until I saw him with another woman.

I felt yucky for a few moments until I remembered that I too was open to meeting somebody else. I wasn’t kidding myself. This relationship was going nowhere fast.

Though this scene wasn’t what I would have wished for, I was grateful to have witnessed it because it gave me the kick up the arse that I needed. To move on. To really be open to something better. And to finally understand that I am a High-Value Woman. Another, more suitable man will be lucky to get to know me.

I used to worry that asking for what I wanted and believing that I deserved to be treated well would come across as needy, high-maintenance or even crazy. Now, I don’t care if that’s how some men might perceive me. The right ones will know different.

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In Feel the Fear And Do It AnywaySusan Jeffers insists that we do one thing each day that scares us because then we’ll know that we’re growing and moving forward in life. She explains that the more we feel the fear and do it anyway, the easier it becomes and the more empowered we feel. She suggests repeating the affirmation: “I can handle it.” 

Marianne found this month exhausting but also exhilarating. She reports feeling more alive. Although she felt terrified, she did it anyway, and her life became infinitely more interesting and exciting.

The next book Marianne took on was Money, A Love StoryI thought: “Boring!” However, after perusing her posts, I see how telling my initial response was. One of my beliefs around all things finance is that it’s boring and I’d rather put my attention on something, anything, else. That is why, according to Kate Northrup, my finances are not something I can boast about. Yet…

This book also makes a connection between how you value yourself and how much abundance you have in your life. Turns out valuing yourself is essential in this self-help business. It sounds obvious but it’s amazing how little we show ourselves this value.

One exercise Kate suggests is to list three things you value about yourself each day. Most days, I focus on what I’m grateful for, which really lifts my mood. From now on, I’m going to include self-value in my practise. Today, I value my talent for writing, my discipline in exercising, and my ability to make new friends.

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Last night, I read Marianne’s first post on Rejection TherapyThis isn’t a book but a self-help game devised by Jason Comely. There is one rule to this game and that is to get rejected once a day by another human being.

One of my biggest fears is of rejection. Because getting rejected confirms that I’m not good enough to be accepted, wanted or loved. As Marianne explains, we’re hardwired to fear rejection because, “historically, our chances of survival were dramatically increased if we stayed with the group, which is why being shunned in any way – even snubbed at a party – can feel fatal.”

At a concert a few weeks back, one of my good friends asked me if I still found it hard to chat up men. “Yes,” I gulped as I took a quick swig of cider.

“Well then,” she announced with a glint in her eye. “Your challenge is to chat up one guy before we leave.” 

In shocking news, I readily accepted my friend’s challenge. I wanted to get over this limiting fear. And I had just spent an evening seeing how effortless it was for my friend to strike up conversations with men.

So I marched over to stand beside a man who was watching the band alone. And so I stood. I too looked at the band. Every so often, I glanced sideways at him. I was thinking too much.

What will I say? I could ask him if he’s enjoying the music. But that’s a stupid question. Of course he’s enjoying the music! He’s here alone, enjoying the music. If I were my friend, I’d have chatted him up already. 

Then, a girl to his right started chatting to him. Look how easy it is! When they stopped speaking, I glanced sideways at him again. He was wearing a coat. At an indoor concert!

“Are you not roasting?” I blurted out.

“Not tonight,” he answered.

Em…

“Where’s your coat?” he wondered.

“In the cloakroom. It’s free and it’s just down the stairs.”

Yes, a fascinating conversation. And I decided I didn’t fancy him after all. But I did it. And I was proud of myself. I knew that it could only get easier.

Last night, after reading about Rejection Therapy, I decided to take on this horrifying challenge for the rest of the month. I woke up in the middle of the night and remembered my promise to myself. My heart thumped faster inside my chest. But I also felt excited.

Like Marianne Power, I’m really living. And in Susan Jeffers words, no matter what, “I’ll handle it.” 

I’ll let you know how I get on…

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To Let It Be

I turned to my friend and announced: “Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.”

This was off the back of a weekend spent in bed, sick and alone, while the sun shone, radio DJs played dance music to prepare us all for a fun Saturday night out, and my Facebook friends posted pictures of forest walks and ice creams in Dun Laoghaire.

I knew I was feeling sorry for myself. And I knew I had a lot to be thankful for. I wasn’t battling cancer. I hadn’t lost my home to a hurricane. And I wasn’t counting pennies to see if I’d be able to put food on the table.

But I was sick. And the weekend blazed sunnily through the windows. And there were no more dark chocolate covered rice cakes in the house.

And I was face-slappingly, heartbreakingly alone.

The thing is, I could have asked for help. In fact, one friend asked me if I needed anything. I replied honestly that I didn’t. There was nothing that I needed. And I didn’t want anyone to have to cancel their plans for me. I wanted people to be with me because they wanted to be there.

So I spent two days at home alone. Between sleeping, blowing my nose and weeping over my aloneness, I delved into Cheryl Strayed’s wonderful book Wild.

Cheryl had gone through some really tough times. Her father was abusive and her mother died of cancer. After Cheryl’s marriage broke down due to her infidelities and use of heroin, Cheryl took on an extraordinary journey in order to become the woman her mother saw in her. Cheryl hiked over a thousand miles alone on the epic Pacific Crest Trail.

“I felt more alone than anyone in the whole wide world,” Cheryl admitted. Later, she reasoned: “Maybe I was more alone than anyone in the whole wide world. Maybe that was okay.”

I lay in bed reading but it felt like I joined Cheryl as she sweated up mountains, grew blisters, lost toenails, and crossed paths with deer, bears and rattlesnakes. I walked alongside her as she raged into the wilderness, carrying a giant rucksack which she aptly named Monster. 

Before Cheryl set off on this amazing trek, somebody told her that the father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, “to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so.” She said that if you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself. This woman predicted:

“There will come a time when you’ll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you’re going to hesitate. You’re going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you’re going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior.”

I could relate to the burden Cheryl bent beneath. As she emptied a lifetime of sadness and anger into the wild, I too allowed myself to heal and release. And when Cheryl didn’t think she could go any further, I championed her as she walked on anyway. Her strength and determination humbled me as she completed a miraculous journey back to self. Cheryl finished her memoir with the words:

“How wild it was, to let it be.”

How wild it would be, to let everything be as it is. Without trying to change it. Without resisting what is. Without wishing things were different. Without wondering and worrying, regretting and replaying.

So this evening, I turned to my friend and said:

“Resistance is what causes most of our suffering.” 

And she retorted:

“Thinking is what causes most of our suffering.”

She went on to describe her morning. How she had spent time sweeping up leaves. My friend, like all of us, has plenty to think about, but she didn’t think. She swept.

She watched the leaves swirling in the wind. She felt the brush in her hands. And she listened to the sound of the bristles as she swept.

Tonight in bed, I notice that I am curled up tight, thinking. It hits me that I’ve probably spent most of my life thinking. Not living. Not experiencing. Not being. I’ve spent most of my life in my head. Thinking.

This is my life, I realise. And I want to be present to it. So I resolve to climb out of my head and into my heart. To be in my body. To feel. To experience. To live. To be present. To be open. To simply be.

A vision of my friend sweeping leaves floats into my consciousness. I relax into the bed. I can almost hear the bristles flicking onto the pathway, as the leaves dance in disobedience.

How wild it would be, to let it be.

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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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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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The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

The 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.

favim.com

favim.com

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.

madripoor.tumblr.com

madripoor.tumblr.com

Feeling Alive

Last weekend, sitting in front of a roaring fire and feasting on cheese and red wine, I asked my friend: “What fills you with passion?”

“What do you mean exactly,” he wondered.

“What makes you feel totally alive,” I rephrased.

He paused before answering then turned the question back to me. Images of myself in various scenarios flashed before me. I listed them.

“Getting lost in music. Dancing alone in my apartment. Singing while driving.

Nature. Swimming in the ocean and marvelling at the panoramic scenery.

Writing. When I’m inspired, nothing can stop me from putting pen to paper. Time stands still.

Sunshine. Travel. Experiencing different cultures, foods, languages and landscapes.

Belly laughing with friends and family. Deep conversations.

Bear hugs.”

Writing them down now makes me smile. It stirs something inside of me. This is what living is all about.

The simple yet show-stopping moments. Points of pure presence. These times to be truly thankful for.

What fills you with passion and gratitude? And how do you feel when you remember these wonderful things?

favim.com

favim.com

No More Drama

These past few days, I’ve been questioning whether I’m holding the belief that good things don’t last. It’s like I dare not presume that it’ll all work out. I’ve been almost expecting things to go wrong.

I certainly don’t want to think this way and I’m afraid that this type of thinking will turn out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But how do I shake such a belief? On the one hand, I’ve managed to become much more positive in many areas of my life. I often go back to the mantra: If one can, everyone can. But I haven’t yet integrated this optimism into all aspects of my life.

As I drive to work today, I tell myself that I’m going to have to shift this. And soon. But how? Do I need to do more tapping and thinking? Should I book in with an energy therapist or a Life Coach?

And then it dawns on me. I don’t have to do anything at all. I just have to stay present. It’s so simple that I might actually have to stop struggling.

What would I do with all the time and energy if I’m not worrying, resisting and analysing? I might have nothing left to write about.

Earlier today, I was speaking to someone about setting up a mindfulness evening. I remarked: “Some people might find the idea of a mindfulness evening boring. We’re so addicted to drama.”

And we are. We get caught up in the highs and lows of life. We love to complain and gossip, fantasise and catastrophise, daydream and reminisce. The thought of sitting in meditation and being present, without constantly narrating or being entertained by our loquacious imaginations, isn’t all that appealing.

My friend told me how beneficial he finds practising mindfulness. He pointed out that the more we sit in meditation, the more automatic mindfulness becomes in our day-to-day lives. It’s no longer such an effort to stay present. It just is. And we just are. He adds:

“And one day, a cup of tea is enough to bring you into total presence.”

I thank him for this beautiful reminder, then go right back to trying to decide what to do tonight. Should I stay in or go to that party? If I go out, will I enjoy it? Will I be too tired at class tomorrow?

I listen to this internal dialogue and bring myself back to the present. I don’t have to decide anything right now. I can see what I feel like doing when it’s time to do it. And I can enjoy this moment because I’m in it.

It really is that easy. No fuss. Just presence.

Well, that was an anti-climax.

unrealitymag.com

unrealitymag.com

Falling

I am crossing a height on a narrow plank of wood. Half way over, I realise the danger. I become terrified. I lie on my belly, too afraid to move. The person I’m with steps over me and goes on. I inch my way around and crawl back to where I started. I reach for a railing so I can pull myself up but I’m petrified that it will break away and I’ll fall.

I awaken with a start. This is a common theme in my dreams. I’m often rock climbing when I suddenly notice how high I am. From that moment on, I cannot move for fear of falling. Even stretching my arm out to pull myself in any direction is too scary.

I’m obviously having these dreams for a reason. What message is my subconscious giving me? I believe I know the answer.

I am moving forwards in life. I am attempting new things, building a career, writing, making friends, exploring different places and I’m open to meeting somebody special. But every so often, I become scared. I’m afraid of falling, fearful of failing, terrified of getting too high and realising how high I’ve come.

This awareness is extremely interesting. Perhaps it will make me more conscious in my day-to-day life. I’ll see when I’m becoming too scared to move on, too petrified to reach higher, and so anxious that I crawl on my belly back to the start.

I’ll catch myself in those moments and I’ll reach higher anyway. I’ll climb forwards with a brave heart. I’ll allow the possibility of falling. And even if I do fall, who knows, I might just discover my wings and soar…