Tag Archives: life

What to do when it’s all Too Much

Everyone gets days when it feels like everything you do is doomed to failure and there’s no point in going on.

Anyone who tells you they don’t is telling porkies. Trust me on this.

When you’re feeling that way it can also feel like life is going AMAZINGLY well for the entire rest of the world and that no-one has ever been such a useless heap as you are. It’s a bit like being zoomed straight back into the teenage version of yourself, where everything was sooooooo unfair and no-one had ever suffered like you suffered, and no-one would ever love you and see you for the, like, really amazing person you were….

When that mood strikes there are all sorts of things you can do. You’ll find lots of advice from people telling you to meditate, or go out for a run or buy yourself some flowers or tap or do any number of other worthy things.

But what if you’re having the type of day where you can barely get yourself out of bed? If you’re in that sort of state, all you’re likely to do is to start beating yourself up for not feeling able to motivate yourself to meditate or go out for a run or even get dressed – and that just makes you feel even worse about yourself.

So if your down days really really get you down, here are my top tips for how to cope.

  • Instead of fighting the negative feelings, go with them. Try to trace them back to their source. You don’t have to get out of bed to do this (which is a good start) and the simple process of pinpointing what’s happened to put you in this state can have an immediate galvanising effect.
  • Allow yourself to wallow. I find that if I allow myself time to wallow there comes a point where I get sick of feeling sorry for myself and I am able to kick start myself. Refusing to wallow and trying to plug on regardless tends to backfire and makes things worse for me in the long run.
  • Tell people you trust how you’re feeling. Sometimes all you need is to verbalise the feelings for them to go away. If you’re as lucky as I am you will have people around you who will reassure you of how much you are loved and valued, and that will help enormously.
  • Give yourself a treat – whether it’s time to indulge in your favourite weepy movie, a luxurious bath with lots of candles and bubbles, a box of chocolates when you don’t usually indulge or even a day in bed with a pile of undemanding books, do something to show yourself that “you’re worth it”.
  • Remind yourself that this feeling is temporary, it will pass and you will rise above it when the time is right for you to move on.

Body Issues, what Body Issues?

Last night I went and took all my clothes off in front of a group of total strangers.

And a dog.

For 2 hours I sat completely still (on an electric blanket, surrounded by fan heaters) as 7 people stood at easels and painted/sketched/drew/charcoaled their own versions of me, to a soundtrack of old ska music and the odd surprising interjection of hip-hop (that Biggie Smalls, he was a laugh, eh?!)

Apart from the tutor and one girl who didn’t stay for the entire session, the group was entirely male – including the dog – and two of them appeared to be younger than my son.

It didn’t feel even slightly odd, though. There was no hint that any of this was in any way unusual or unpleasant and apart from the fact that everyone else in the room knew each other and I knew no-one, it was a perfectly ordinary, comfortable evening.

So – it seemed that for me there was no real challenge and no fears to be faced in getting naked.

And then I made the mistake of looking at some of the pictures.

I didn’t know what the etiquette was – does the model express an interest in the work going on around her and chat to the artists, or does she sit in a corner and mind her own business during the tea break?

So I combined the two. I sat in a corner stroking the dog and drinking my tea, and indulged myself with sneaky peaks at the pictures every now and then.

And that’s where the challenge and the fear came in.

Because, notwithstanding the varying degrees of skill of the individual artists, the difficult thing was seeing myself as others see me.

My fist instinct was to recoil at what I saw as ugliness. I’m under no illusions about my shape but I suppose I had expected to see something like this:

Beryl Cooke painting courtesy of the Canterbury Auction Galleries

And instead what I saw looked more like this:

The Venus of Willendorf

But without the hat and with my delicate lady parts far better hidden. Ahem.

Beryl Cooke’s work celebrates the female form, particularly the amply endowed female form, and does it in a way that smooths out the lumps and bumps and shows only curves and smoothness and generosity. Beryl’s work allows perkiness where there would, in reality, have been droop and sag, and satin skin instead of stretch marks and cellulite.

The Venus of Willendorf, in contrast, is much more lifelike, as are the paintings of Rubens which show bodies, male and female, as they really are rather than as we might wish them to be.

So – given that Rubens and that ancient sculptor had it right, what was I actually recoiling from? One of the paintings from last night was clearly made by an artist of real talent – he had captured the musculature under my skin and the fall of light and shade. There was a quote on the wall of the studio that said something about how painting the human body was a combination of architecture and landscape painting – and I think this artist last night had done both.

His work contained no judgement of me – the judgement was entirely in my own head.

And what was my judgement based on?

My external appearance doesn’t make me any less worthy as a human being.

It doesn’t make me any the less capable of doing the work that I love.

It is how it is in part as a result of 2 caesarean sections and breastfeeding 2 babies.

It also is how it is in part because I’ve never exercised regularly and I have a sweet tooth.

It is how it is also in part because of my genetic make-up.

And it is how it is because that’s who I am. If I looked different, I would have had an entirely different life and I wouldn’t be who I am today.

And who I am today is in a really good place, so why would I want to look any different? Do I really want to spend the rest of my life recoiling from The Real Me?

Hell No!

And so I am content. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience last night and I’m told that I made an excellent model because I had no difficulty sitting still. I shall do it again (especially if the dog turns up every time).

And next time I catch sight of a painitng, I will enjoy the artistry that’s gone into creating it and I will celebrate what it shows of the life I’ve lived to become who I am.

I have a couple of questions for you to ask yourself if you feel insecure about your appearance:

  • what POSITIVE impact has your appearance had on creating the person you are today?
  • if you’ve read this blog and thought “I could NEVER do that!” have a conversation with that fear and find out what it is you’re REALLY afraid of – you might be surprised by the answer.

Fighting the Resistance

Well,who’d have thought it? Ever since I issued that public safety announcement about The Saboteurs last week they’ve been mounting a really, really heavy bombardment against me, with Procrastination and Mr Can’t B. Arsed at the forefront.

So I thought I’d write about their dirty little campaign and flush them out of the shadows as that usually makes them back off. I don’t know whether they’ll be up for an interview (they’ve all been very tight-lipped since I upset Guilt the other day), but luckily I have The Universe here with me, so we’re going to talk ABOUT them not TO them, as that’s all they deserve.

Me: So, Universe, thanks for joining me again, what’s your view of the current situation?

Universe: Well obviously I can see it all, from every angle. I am, after all, infinite in both time and space…

Me: And a bit of a smartarse. That’s not really what I meant…

Universe: Well as I believe you yourself have said before, it is important to be clear about what you mean so that you are easily understood…

Me: Have you joined The Saboteurs by any chance?

Universe: Hehehe…no no, sorry, it’s the coming of Spring, makes me a bit giddy you know. Now, what was the question again?

Me: What do you make of my current difficulties with The Saboteurs?

Universe: Never mind what I make of it, what do you make of it?

Me: Oh Lord, here we go…. OK well what I make of it is that it’s a giant pain in the arse and I’m fed up of it.

Universe: And why is that?

Me: Because I want to Get On and Be Productive and not be lured into doing my usual thing of deflecting myself just as I’m about to hit the finishing stretch.

Universe: Oh. Is that what you normally do?

Me: Oh yes. I know I’m not a Completer-Finisher and I drive myself potty by not finishing what I’ve started. I used to put it down to the old “Bored now, what’s next?” thing that comes with my MBTI profile as an ENFP but I know it’s more than that. It’s something to do with fear of failure, and fear of success – so if I never actually finish anything then I’m never going to know whether it’s a failure or a success.

Universe: And what else is it to do with?

Me: Um…well, I’ve realised that even though I think of myself as lazy I do need to be doing something – and when I’m at a stage where I’ve done all I can and I have to wait for the results, that seems to be where The Saboteurs creep up on me. Ooh – that’s a newish thought.

Universe: Go on? Why do you say “newish”?

Me: Well I guess it’s not new at all actually – what’s new is putting that together with the idea that that’s how I’ve always got in my own way before. I do what needs to be done and then I sabotage all that effort by fannying around and changing things and making life difficult for other people (sorry Eli!) rather than sitting back and doing something else and trusting that The Universe WIll Provide.

Universe: Hallelujah!

Me: Yes – last month I had my most successful month ever because I sat back and let you get on with things. This month I’m finding that REALLY difficult and it’s because I’ve let The Saboteurs get a foothold. And one of the things they’ve done is to distract me from the huge amount of work I’ve actually done.

Universe: How have they done that?

Me: Well I’m now in the waiting period where I’ve handed over what needs to be done next to other people and OH GOD does that make me twitchy, so my Inner Control Freak wants to come out to play. And since she can’t play with the stuff I’ve handed over she wants to go and make mischief elsewhere, so she’s urging on The Saboteurs.

Universe: And how is she doing that?

Me: By constantly telling me that I’m being lazy and not doing the things I “should” be doing because I’m not at my desk 8 hours a day and working myself into the ground. And by then inviting in Procrastination and Mr Can’t B Arsed to give me the complete opposite messages to that – that I’m supposed to be doing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING at the moment and everything on my list is just trivia that can be put off indefinitely.

University: And where is the truth of the situation?

Me: The truth is that I could polish off the stuff on my list in about an hour and it would be useful work that needs to be done – and just because it doesn’t have a deadline, that doesn’t make it trivia. I do like a deadline. The truth is also that I neither SHOULD nor WANT nor NEED to be at my desk for 8 hours a day every day, and I’m going to keep reminding myself of that one.

University: OK, so you have a head full of conflicting messages and a view of yourself as someone who is lazy and a control freak and always deflects herself when things start to get good. Is that a helpful message to be giving yourself?

Me: No. And I can see what you’re doing here, by the way…

Universe: Well good, I should hate to think you couldn’t see your own techniques being used against you! So, my next question is…

Me: What would be a more helpful way of looking at myself and my situation? OK. Um…OK. I am someone who is able to produce quality work in a very short space of time, leaving me with plenty of free time to use as I please. I have a trusted team around me who take care of the stuff I can’t do and the most productive way for me to help them is to keep out of the way while they are working. I can choose to see things through to the end if I want to and I can see the difference between handing off a piece of work to the next part of the process, and giving up on it and spoiling it. I have actually had a very productive few weeks and this will become apparent to the rest of the world over the next few days. So now is the time for me to hold my nerve and be kind to myself – I have worked hard and now it’s time to rest and enjoy the opportunities coming my way.

Universe: And how does that feel?

Me: More in control. And more confident. And actually as I run through in my head all the things I’ve done recently and the stretches I’ve made and so on I can see that I haven’t been lazy at all and I haven’t allowed myself to get in my own way. So actually The Saboteurs haven’t been winning, they’ve just been telling me they’ve been winning. HA!

Universe: How Interesting! Fancy them telling lies!!

Me: Yes, who’d have thought it?! OK, so, I have at most an hour’s worth of stuff to do, and then the rest of the day is mine to play with. Thank you Universe, I think we’re back on track now 🙂

An Interview with Guilt

This morning I was in a room full of businesswomen having a rare old time networking. The amount of noise and laughter was testament to how much we were all enjoying being there and as we went round the room introducing ourselves it was clear that there was a vast amount of skill and talent in that group.

The organisers had asked us each to ask a question of the group to see if any helpful answers were forthcoming.

And this group of apparently strong, bright, independent, feisty women had one big issue that a lot of them were struggling with.

That number 1 issue was Guilt – “I try so hard to be the perfect wife, the perfect mum, the perfect business owner, and I don’t do any of them properly” said one lady, to nods of sympathy and understanding from all around.

“I tend to start work after lunch and then go on till around 10pm”, said another, “but I feel guilty that I’m wasting time in the mornings and  I should be working proper business hours”.

Now, I used to suffer HORRIBLY from Guilt, to the extent that I often thought I should have been Jewish or Catholic and then it would have made sense.

But I made a conscious decision to give up Guilt as a waste of time and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Just this once, and purely in your interests, I’ve decided to invite Guilt back for a visit so that I can interview him and you can get to know him properly and find out what makes him tick.

Me: Guilt, thank you for joining me

Guilt: Well I’ve been waiting long enough for you to call. If you were a real friend you’d have rung ages ago but I suppose you’re too important to bother with little old me any more.

Me: I see you haven’t changed. I’d like to start by finding out a bit about you – what motivates you?

Guilt: I see it as my job to ensure that people abide by society’s morals or ethics, and to keep people in their place. The more things a person feels guilty about, the less he or she is likely to want to rock the boat and step out of line. In order for society to function effectively we need everyone to do as they’re told – you could see my role as a kind of policeman of the conscience, that’s why I’ve had so much consultancy work from a number of organised religions down the centuries.

Me: And why do you feel it’s important to keep people in their place?

Guilt: Well because that’s how society functions, isn’t it? If there are no rules then you quickly descend into anarchy and people get hurt. We can’t have that, can we? So if everyone knows their place and knows what’s expected of them and what is and is not allowed, then we all stay safe.

Me: And who decides what is and is not allowed?

Guilt: Well, the leaders of whichever society you happen to live in. So for example a civilised society will have a law that states that murder is illegal. If someone commits murder, it’s my job to ensure that they suffer an appropriate level of guilt to ensure that they won’t do it again. I ensure that everyone has a clear idea of society’s laws and expectations and I make sure that people operate within the boundaries of those expectations. I like to think of it as a form of public service.

Me: So, if we concentrate on British society in 2011, which laws and expectations are you enforcing by ensuring that so many women feel guilty because they’re not perfect?

Guilt: Eh?

Me: Well, I know lots of women who are continually racked with Guilt because they’re trying to live up to an unrealistic standard of perfection. Who decided that it was appropriate for you to insinuate your way into people’s day to day lives and make them feel guilty for just being who they are, and doing their best?

Guilt: I think you’ll find that what I’m doing is encouraging them to maintain their standards…

Me: Are you really? Encouraging women to maintain their own personal standards by making them continually feel bad about themselves? It’s an interesting take on it and a huge leap from making people feel bad about real wrongdoing isn’t it? And are you really encouraging them to maintain their own standards, or are you really making them feel that they have to maintain impossible, unachievable standards that they will never, realistically, be able to achieve and quite possibly don’t want to anyway?

Guilt: Well now you’re just twisting my words!

Me: Am I? If your function is to stop us from transgressing ancient ethical and moral codes, then what right do you have to come barging into our everyday lives and making us feel bad for wanting to go to work instead of staying at home all day with our kids, or wanting to stay at home with our kids instead of going to work, or wanting to work during the hours when we feel most productive, or wanting to express our own opinions and beliefs? What’s that got to do with maintaining moral and ethical standards?

Guilt: With the greatest of respect, I don’t think you understand. What I’m trying to say is…

Me: Is it not the case that really you’ve just got drunk on your own power, and that, for you, this is now far more about keeping people subjugated? What’s the REAL danger to society if all these vibrant, talented women were to throw off the shackles of guilt, rediscover their self-confidence and go out to realise their true potential? What are you afraid of?

Guilt: But….but….that would be GHASTLY! If I let people do that then they would start calling EVERYTHING into question! They’d start being more demanding of their elected officials, they’d turn on the media, they’d insist on greater equality, they’d do all SORTS of awful things!! We can’t let just ANYBODY start expressing their opinions and changing the world!!!

Me: And there, Ladies and Gentlemen, I think you have it. Most of the time, the only purpose Guilt serves is to deflect you from making the most of yourself and your opportunities. Oh dear. Guilt appears to be…yes, he’s ripping off his microphone and stalking out of the studio…oh dear.

What a shame.

Guilt has left the building.

If he comes knocking at your door, don’t let him in, will you?

How to talk about Life-Changing Experiences

So. You’ve just had this AMAZING experience.

It was LIFE-CHANGING and INCREDIBLE and AWESOME and everything you ever thought you knew about anything has changed and OH. MY. GOD!!!!!

And so, naturally, you want to rush out and let the world know about this AMAZING experience so they can enjoy it too.

So you do.

And they look at you as if you’re a bit odd.

They don’t seem to understand. They don’t seem to appreciate how important this is for you and how important it could be for them, too.

Some of them don’t even seem to be interested, for heaven’s sake!

What’s WRONG with these people?!

Can’t they see how INCREDIBLE this is???

Well – no. They can’t. And actually, some of them don’t want to.

Some of them will feel threatened by this sudden change in you and they will want to do everything they possibly can to persuade you that you’ve got it wrong or you’ve misunderstood or it would be much better if you forgot all these silly new ideas and went back to how you were before. They may not realise that that’s what’s going on for them mind you, they’ll just know they don’t like what you’re saying and don’t want to know about it.

Others will be more encouraging but won’t want to hear about it more than once. Although it’s been life-changing for you, it really hasn’t for them because they’re not inside your head. And even if they went through the exact same experience as you did, it STILL might not be life-changing for them because they’re not you.

But what about when you go through something that’s going to have an impact on your nearest and dearest? What if this life-changing experience is something that you really need to share with them so that they can appreciate that something profound has happened for you that is going to change the dynamics of your relationship?

Clearly, you need to have a conversation, and just as clearly you need to be very careful not to freak them out.

So the one thing you don’t want to do is to start leaping around shrieking about how you’ve just had this AMAZING experience that was LIFE-CHANGING and INCREDIBLE and AWESOME and how everything you ever thought you knew about anything has changed and OH. MY. GOD!!!!!

That won’t help, but it really WILL freak them out.

No, what you’ll need to do is to prepare the ground first. Tell them that something has happened and you’d like to have a chat about it some time.

Don’t whatever you do, use the phrase “We need to talk” unless you want them to understand that you’re about to break up with them.

Once you’ve sold the idea of having a “chat” with them, start talking very calmly about the FACTS of what happened – so something along the lines of “You know that course I went on? Well yesterday we did x, y and z” or *ahem* “You know I’ve been working with this fantastic coach? Well this evening were talking about x and y”.

Then say something along the lines of “I really want to tell you about what I learned because it feels very important for me and I want to share it with you”.

Hopefully you’ll get a positive response.

If not, you might want to say “We need to talk”, and move the conversation in a different direction…

If they’re up for it, then now is the time to tell them, calmly and soberly, what you learned and how you feel about it. And then give them time to process what you’ve said and ask you questions.

If it sounds to you like they’re being dismissive, or disinterested, or defensive then CHECK OUT YOUR PERCEPTION before reaching for your shotgun.

Throughout this conversation it’s really important that you remember that the person you’re talking to IS NOT and NEVER WILL BE inside your head and so will NEVER be fully able to appreciate exactly what you’ve gone through.

All you can hope to do is to help them to understand that something profound has happened for you, and then leave them to decide how they want to react.

And remember – the whole, entire world neither wants nor needs to know about your epiphany. Well, unless you’re the Queen or the President, and you’ve suddenly decided to give it all up and move to an Ashram in India. And even then, most people will really only want the headlines…

So – think very carefully about who NEEDS to know about what you’ve been going through, and then plan how you’re going to tell them.

And good luck 🙂

The Significance of a Clean Oven

Something VERY WEIRD has been happening in my house this morning.

Very Weird indeed.

So weird that, even as it’s happening, I’m thinking “Blimey, this is weird. I must make a note of the fact that not only is this weird, but also that I’m deriving a great deal of satisfaction from it, which is even weirder“.

If you know me personally, I suggest that you sit down at this point and take a deep breath because this is going to freak you out.

Ready?

OK, here it is.

This morning I had a client re-arrange a session, so I chose to clean the oven instead.

And I enjoyed it.

And I’ve taken the opportunity to load the dishwasher a couple of times and clean the kitchen.

****slight pause to allow time for hyperventilation amongst my nearest and dearest*****

I put this bizarre behaviour down to an Affirmation that I chose for myself on January 5th and have repeated to myself every day since.

It is this:

I take pride in creating and maintaining a beautiful, welcoming home

Again, those who know me will know how utterly radical this is as I have been famed for YEARS for my lack of interest in and appetite for housework – my mantra has always been that, as long as everyone is happy, well fed and knows that they are loved then I don’t care what kind of a state the house is in.

But over the past few months as I’ve been developing workshops and online packages, and working with clients face to face, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around the subject of how we show others and ourselves how much self-respect we have, and how much we value ourselves.

And I realised that the state of my house was sending a message to me and to others about self-respect and personal pride.

For years I’ve fought against the idea that the state of my house is in any way reflective of my morals, seeing it as a reactionary throwback to a Victorian notion of a woman’s place. I also saw it as a reaction to my Mum’s way of doing things, as she has always been the epitome of tidiness. And then, of course, there’s always been good old Mr Can’t B. Arsed telling me how boring housework is and how my time would be much better spent watching a film or reading a book or sleeping or just generally vegging out. After all, who needs clean light switches?

I still firmly believe that this attitude is genuinely helpful if you have small children around – there are far more important things to worry about than the housework when you’re in that situation.

But I’m not any more, and I started to think deeply about what messages I was giving myself by continuing to live in a disorganised, cluttered mess. And I realised that actually what I was doing was very successfully getting in my own way by making life far more difficult than it needed to be.

When you live in a mess it takes ages to find anything because you never know where it might be. When you do find it, it’s probably not clean so you can’t use it anyway.

When you’re surrounded by clutter you lose any sense of what’s important and to be treasured so nothing gets looked after properly.

And my God, you don’t half spend a long time hiding stuff and frantically tidying up (not very well…) before you have visitors!

I spoke to My Lovely Husband about this, and we both decided that we didn’t want to live like that any more and so we began a process of de-cluttering and re-organising and a gradual re-awakening of pride in our home.

It’s not been going for long and it’s been too cold to tackle the garden yet but the place is looking much better for our efforts.

And the daily repetition of “I take pride in creating and maintaining a beautiful, welcoming home” has clearly sunk in – so much so that, today, finding I had some unexpected free time, I chose to clean my oven.

And it felt good.

And as I look around my home, I find I’m itching to get on with finishing tidying my office rather than writing this month’s newsletter.

This may, of course, be a subtle form of displacement and procrastination but actually, if I concentrate on the housework today, when I feel like it, that will free me up to spend ALL of tomorrow at the computer, when my deadline is nearer.

And that will feel good.

So – more proof of the power of affirmations, and no-one is more surprised than I am!

Is your voice being heard?

Oh goody, I get to write this blog a second time because the first version somehow got lost in the post – that means this version will be EVEN BETTER than before, you lucky, lucky people!

(In case you don’t know, that’s an example of reframing where you turn something that has the potential to be a real pain in the behind into something wonderful.  So next time the computer gobbles up something you’ve just spent ages creating, try very hard to figure out what good will come of it – and THEN reach for the sledgehammer and the gin…)

So, anyway, have you seen The King’s Speech yet and if not, why not? It is a FANTASTIC film with outstanding performances, photography, direction, costumes and script. It’s laugh out loud funny and will also make you weep silent tears, and IMHO Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush give the performances of their lives.

But none of that is why I think you should go and see it.

I think you should go and see it because it contains some messages that are at the heart of what I believe, and when you hear and see them in the context of this marvellous film they come completely to life.

Those messages are (in no particular order):

  • You don’t need to carry on being frightened of the things you were afraid of when you were 5
  • You have a voice of your own and it has a right to be heard
  • If you’re not allowed to express yourself, sooner or later you will become unable to express yourself

Are you still frightened of things from your past? Are you behaving in particular ways because of something someone said to you a long time ago? Chance remarks made by other people when we were much younger can have a massive impact on how we behave today, and if that’s true for you then you’ll want to ask yourself why you’re still living your life around the opinions of someone who’s no longer in your life.

How often does your real voice get heard? What are you not letting it say to you? What are you afraid of thinking? What thoughts and ideas do you have on a regular basis, that you tell yourself are silly or unrealistic or impossible? Next time those thoughts and ideas come to you, pay attention to them.

REALLY pay attention to them because that’s your True Self trying to get in touch and guide you towards a more fulfilling life.

And if you don’t express yourself because someone else doesn’t want you to – or because you’re FRIGHTENED that someone else doesn’t want you to – it’s time to examine that relationship.

YOU are the only person that has any right to tell you what to think and how to behave, and YOU are the only person who has the right to make decisions about YOUR life and how YOU will choose to live it.

So – is the voice of your True Self being heard, and if not, what are you going to do to let it out?

As always, please comment and let me know what you think.