Someone said to me the other day that I always seem so positive... I laughed. because if you know me, you know that I am not the most positive person at all. I would love to say that I just always see the bright side of life, that my glass is always half full and that I wake up hearing the birds singing out of my window and I sing a Disney tune along with them as they fly over and land on the palm of my hand as we look at each other grinning, tweeting, in harmony we hum. I wish I could tell you that, but it would be a lie. Instead, my natural disposition is to feel a little hard done by, wonder why my glass is half empty and get woken up by the birds outside and want to throw my lamp at all their chirpy little annoying faces.
My mum asked me once, towards the beginning of my fitness journey (and/or) IG... Was there an aspect of "faking it till you make it" Do you have to pretend to know the journey you are on, pretend to trust the process, pretend to enjoy waking up early and doing exercise, pretend to LOVE ALL THE PROTEIN, in order to... what? Trick yourself?Trick your mind? Ambush old habits and build upon new ones?
Well, yes, actually. YES!
And if this goes for fitness/eating well, then I believe it goes for any other journey we may be on. If you are naturally dis positioned to feeling down, to having anxiety. If you go through ups and downs with emotions, of "why me?" If you find it hard to get out of bed, hard to be productive, hard to eat well, exercise, treat your body the way it deserves. If you can't stop the negative thoughts, the constant self bashing and shame talking and feelings of self pity or hopelessness. You are not alone. Not everyone lives in a 1980's ROLLERSKATING BARBIE COMMERCIAL!
Noone has it all figured out. Noone looks amazing in a tie die tight leotard with roller skates and pink leg warmers.
This is the real world. Where we get dumped, spend too much money, avoid skin tight things that give us camel toe (Barbie never had camel toe cos she had no fanny flaps for christ sake, no wonder some of us women have weird body image ideals) Sorry, I digress...We wake up anxious, eat too many calories, get puke in our hair, cry at adverts with penguins in, throw bacon at our boyfriends (Oh wait, is that just me) Basically, I have been to those dark places, and still do end up there at times. It's hard to admit the insecurities that run deep. The lack of self worth that has driven me through many a silly life choice, like giving away my dignity to boys that didn't care, embarrassing myself for friends that didn't matter, pitying myself for thoughts that weren't true. I have found a way to get closer to knowing myself, loving myself more than I ever have, more than I ever thought I could. But it has taken continuous, daily work.
I am nearly 32. I have, in the last couple of years, changed my thoughts, little by little. But they resurface. When I am feeling particularly vulnerable. When I am less than confident in the outcome, reaction or my ability to proceed with a challenge. I remember when I wouldn't post my blog posts in case people hated them. I remember when I wouldn't work out in case I couldn't do it properly, or when I wouldn't eat healthy in front of people in case they thought I was boring, or when I wouldn't do well in auditions because "doing shit" meant I had an excuse for why I didn't get the job. When I wouldn't get up in the morning because "what was the point?" Or I wouldn't say hi to people in case they thought I was too keen, too needy, too desperate. I didn't write that book because, why would anyone read it. I didn't give my script to that producer because, it was probably crap anyway. I din't buy that dress in case my friends hated it, or go on that course because, well, I was never gonna be good enough to take it further. I didn't start that you tube channel because who would wanna listen to me, and anyways, other people have done it, said it before...
The last few days I have been feeling vulnerable again. I've been reminded of the cobwebby, damp smelling corners of my mind, that rise sometimes, out of nowhere and haunt me for a while.
All my teenage life I wanted to be the "cool girl" The one that didn't care about their weight. The one that wore her hair messy and undone as it fell into place perfectly imperfect. Someone that would wear baggy jeans and not look like an eight year old chubby boy. I wanted to be one of those girls that everyone liked. That noone said a bad word against. The girl that people were drawn to and wanted to make friends with because you were interesting, funny (likeable) I wanted to be everything I felt like I was not. It created so much anxiety in me, I would cry, throw pity parties, throw tantrums, be grumpy, be obtuse, be obscene, crave attention, crave validation, self worth. I would also push people away, have barriers up, be needy, be easy. I would seek affection, from a long term partner that wasnt my cup of tea (perhaps I had the sense that he was the sort to thread his eyebrows, who knows)But I stayed, four years longer than I should, until he grew bored or put off by my guard, the wall I had built to not show him that I loved him in case he 'mugged me off' My insecurities, my dismissive tendencies and need for "deserving more" meant he sought love and affection from someone that was more than happy to appease him. He wasn't grown enough, aware enough to see that his own ego needed more than I could offer. He didn't love himself enough to be a man enough to not stray. In no way am I saying if someone cheats, it is our fault, but I feel I have a responsibility to see my part I had to play in the demise of our happiness. A happy man does not cheat (I was not solely responsible for his happiness) but I take accountability for not being the best human I could have been, for him, and more importantly for myself. I stayed knowing it wasn't right, and even when it became obvious we were drifting apart, I became so desperate and needy to have him still love me, that I lost myself. I believed when he told me I was crazy for suspecting something. I believed I needed to change if we were going to make it work. I believed that If I could be "better" he would fall in love with me again.
I didn't need him to love me again. I needed to love myself. I needed to actually like myself.
I found myself at 24, living a life I didn't want to live, with a man I didn't want a life with and because I was too scared to live a different one, alone, I stayed. I hate that truth, but I was too scared that I didn't deserve a different one? I waited on the sidelines for things to happen to me. And being sure that I didn't deserve it when they didn't, resentful that the universe didn't like me much, my behaviour was unlikable. It didn't mean I was horrible, but my behaviour was.
The only way I felt would cure these notions and ideas about myself was to A) loose weight or B) have a boyfriend who adored me.
I have, even though hard to admit, been to these unattractive dark, desperate spaces in my mind. I have woken up and not been able to get out of bed. I have eaten myself drunk, I have drunk myself numb, I have lost myself fully and tried scraping the barrel of self respect as thinly as possible to muster the courage to think better thoughts, smile bigger smiles, empathise with myself more freely. Sometimes I have managed it.
Other times I have not.
The truth... sometimes you have to "fake it till you make it"
In everything we do, in any giant or small leaps we take into a new phase, or a new challenge, or a new direction, there is always that moment of self doubt. What if I fail? What if I can't do it? What if people hate it or me? What if I look stupid? What if someone has already done it? What if I look too try hard? What if I do not exceed my expectations? What if? What if? What if? And I speak confidently that I am not the only one who suffers from pure neurosis and angst on these things. Am I? *looks around sheepishly...
There is a lot of things I didn't do in my twenties... out of fear, self doubt, self sabotage, ego, all anxiety based around ideas I had about things that weren't true. I used to have all these dreams, yet sit around not actually doing anything to achieve them out of fear and laziness. What was the point? I never felt like I was any good at acting. I was never confident in my abilities, but I stayed, waiting. Just in case... never realising I wouldn't book the jobs I wanted until I believed in myself a little more.
There is this juxtaposition between feeling like... we are not good enough. 'Oh no, I couldn't possibly do that, I'm too stupid, too annoying, too quiet, too slow, too disorganized, too lazy... to then thinking "Actually screw it, I can do that" Suddenly having the fear of 'Wait, who am I to think I could possibly do that? Who do i think I am?' Both are ego based thoughts, based on the same origin... "I am not good enough"
But we freaking are good enough. We are not better than, worse than, anyone. We are capable beyond our beliefs. We are more powerful than we know and that is what we fear. It is easy to attach ourselves to the idea of what we want from something. An end goal. The perfect body, the most well paid job, the big house, the validation... As much as it is easy to attach ourselves to those crappy thoughts too... I might lose my house, I may not succeed, I may embarrass myself, people might think I'm a twat.
Sometimes you need to force habits to make them become ones. Sometimes you need to tell yourself things you do not believe yet. Sometimes you need to smile, because you may cry if you don't. Sometimes you may need to get up out of bed and dance or exercise or brush your teeth, even though all you want to do is lay their mulling over your crappy, self deprecating thoughts.
I am from a family that suffers from depression. My Granddad was manic depressive (the less cool word for bipolar) and my mum has suffered for as long as I can remember in her own fountain of self destruction. She is a wonderful human being. A kind, empathetic, generous, open, funny, giving, soul. She is full of vibrations and energy that I see spilling out of her pores, yet she feels numb. She is lost, forever trying to find self acceptance and peace within herself and It has been a learning curve, watching from the sidelines unable to help or make it better.
What we often do, is black out our darkness. We sound proof the noise, we numb the pain, we smother the thoughts that creep out from the dark corners of our minds, with booze, TV, gossip, exercise, food obsession, bad relationships. So scared to leave ourselves open to all the angst in case it suffocates us, we make it disappear. For my mum, White Zinfandel was her choice of an Invisibility cloak. Mine... food. Having a focus elsewhere helped avoid the reality of where the seeds of self doubt grew. Preoccupying myself with time wasting. On things that don't matter or help improve our way of thinking. For years I would sit and waste time avoiding, instead of(INSERT A LONG LIST OF THINGS THAT WOULD HAVE MADE FOR A BETTER WAY OF LIFE)
A better way of life looks different to everybody. But for me, it meant, getting shit done, it meant following through on ideas I had, it meant feeling better in my skin, working a job I didn't hate, not chasing a dream I wasn't sure of. It meant spending time with more people I actually cared about and not on people I didn't. It was accepting that some people wouldn't like me, It meant liking myself, getting more tolerant of other humans, not putting myself in situations that made me feel insecure or shit, travelling more, asking myself questions I really hadn't wanted to answer. A better way of life meant knowing myself, what I wanted, what I didn't and loosing my fear of (all the things I let my thoughts create) that were null and void, useless and unhelpful.
And the only way I felt I could do that was by actually facing the thoughts I spent so long trying to cover up.
The question: What is the pay off?
What do I get out of moaning. Of feeling hard done by? Of having my guard up, pulling away. And the answer, although hard to admit and still I can't seem to write it now as I type, but subconsciously (when I dig deep) the pay off was
Feeling worthy. Special. Enough!
So tears, tantrums, grumps, were all a way of feeling worthy. Feeling righteous. My self pity would make me feel special. Subconsciously feeling sorry for myself and giving myself the up most attention, the pat on the back, the "there there".
A few things jolted me out of these patterns of finding self worth through self destructive behaviour that I had built up over the years. I watched two TED talks by Brene Brown that changed my life. She is a researcher (on shame) and she does these two amazing talks: found here and here. It enabled me to start thinking differently. To stop being embarrassed by my lack of self worth. Hearing her talk about shame, how it all stems from self worth, not feeling enough and it creating vulnerability, but how you could find power in that, it was so liberating. She ends one of her talks stating that we should...
and this made me more open and less scared about writing my blog posts. I stopped writing about fashion (which I liked, but wasn't passionate about, and begun writing about what resonates with me. I wanted to share my feelings on acting, growing up, being insecure and vulnerable. I wanted to speak about the very things that had held me back. It enabled me to find the courage to be honest.
I also watched a speech by Shonda Rhimes (found here) where her focus was...
"Stop dreaming, start doing"
and it propelled me to stop waiting for things to happen to me and start "doing" the things I wanted instead. So I booked a plane ticket and went to LA. And took a risk that in so many ways paid off more than I'd imagined.
I read Caitlin Morans book, "How to be a girl" In it she says
You think it's cool to hate things... but it's not. Talk about the things you love. That's cool"
This became the building block of when I started (moaning less) I'm no Cinderella, I still moan. But I began to notice the good things in my life and start focusing on all the things that were OK to love. It was OK to love my boyfriend so whole heartedly that I risked being hurt. It was OK to love The Spice Girls, even though they weren't cool (If you are reading this girls, you are cool, you are) It was OK to like myself (even if others didn't) It was OK to find a job where I was my own boss and I liked doing, then stay in one I hated, for someone I didn't like.
Finding ways to be OK with love, rather than obtrusively hating things, like life, the struggle, the effort, I found a way to love the life I was living more by making decisions that made me smile more. Letting go of the fear, that I wasn't good enough, likeable enough, funny enough, smart enough, creative enough, interesting enough, friendly enough, pretty enough, articulate, educated, sensitive, efficient, aware, brown, white, tall, skinny... enough!
The fundamental that I believe holds us back, is our thoughts. These thoughts inevitably create feelings. The thoughts we have about ourselves and who we think we are create a mass of energy/feeling and thereofore re(actions) in us.
An old acting teacher of mine would ask you to finish off the sentences below for the character you were to play...
Sandy feels life is...
Sandy feels work is...
Sandy feels men are...
These would be the thoughts and then it would create a feeling, that would propel an action. So his idea was to create thought the character had about life/work/men and we would find how these characters acted. Or we would look at the actions a screen writer would indent into a script, work out people who acted a particular way usually felt like (so and so) and people that feel like (so and so) often felt this because their thoughts were (so and so)In doing this work we inevitably had to look at ourselves.
I was 23 and he asked me to finish off these questions. My answers were...
Life is unfair
Work is hard
Men are piss takers
We would look at these and he would say that I felt hard done by because I had the thought life was unfair. I felt stressed because I had the thought that work was hard. I felt mugged off because I believed men were piss takers, He would then look at how these feelings would make us act in our lives.
I would act grumpy because I felt hard done by. I would act lazy because work was too hard, I'd act stand offish because I felt mugged off.
When I was able to break down these initial simple thought processes it made a lot of sense to me that I needed to change my thoughts about these things. He would ask us to go back to the first time I ever felt like "life was unfair" and if we could find it, it was usually enough to realise that we had built patterns up surrounding this one time we had the thought.
The first time I felt mugged off by a man, I was 4. I was waiting for my dad to pick me up and have me for the weekend. and he didn't show up. I didn't know how to articulate that feeling. But years on, I can remember the essence of how I felt and I know I had never felt it before, but aged four, sitting at the window waiting, I felt mugged off.
Sometimes it was hard to uncover how you truly felt about something. It was hard to be honest with yourself. Especially when we were asked to finish off the sentance "I AM..."
A way to find out how you feel about yourself was to put ourselves in an imaginary situation. Your in a room with a bunch of people you don't know. You are there for an hour interacting and then you have to go. You leave them all sitting there. What is it you think they will say about you? Out of our group, even the most confident people would come out with insecurities.
My thoughts were that people would think I was boring, a "try hard" and obnoxious. Having this awareness that I felt this way about myself opened up so many realisations. I would play the clown at school because I was so scared of being boring. I would talk down on myself in case people thought I was obnoxious, or I would be stand offish in case people thought I was in fact, trying too hard. It became a mind field of overthinking, but also the thing that would release me from these thoughts was just being aware they were there. Seeing them enabled me to start letting them go. In the sense that if we observe something, if we can see it, then we are not "it". I know this sounds like "hippy dippy" stuff, but either way this resonated with me, therefore It may you, and if it resonates with one person, I feel the post was worth writing.
We cannot be that in which we observe. It is a spiritual principle that arises time and time again in many a self help book. Mooji expresses this here...
You are total unicity beyond duality. That you are. You are so one with yourself that you cannot perceive yourself. You can only imagine that you are other than that. It is like a knife that can cut so many vegetables but cannot cut itself because it is one with itself, or the scale which can weigh so many objects but cannot weigh itself. It is the same with the one supreme Self- the sole Reality, being ever One with itself, it cannot perceive that which it Is; it can only perceive what it is not.
When we can finally detach from the idea we have about who we are because we realise we cannot perceive ourselves, it takes a lot of emphasise off the negative thoughts. And the only reason to start thinking positive thoughts about ourselves (which are still not TRUE as thoughts are not facts) is to create different actions.
The thought that my body is shit and I hate it, will encourage my actions to be negative towards itself. I will self sabotage, punish, hurt, not look after something I hate, where as if I have the thought that I love my body, it will usually encourage me to treat it well.
The thought that life is unfair will have my actions always be slightly bitter, or resentful. I may act hard done by, anxious, creating a hostile and moody person, where as If I have the thought that life is great, that life is a blessing, it will make my actions be that of a grateful person. I will act blessed, I will act kindly towards others because I believe the world is a kind to me.
There is nothing in any of this to say that it is easy to change our thoughts. But there is nothing to say it is not doable either. As I said. My natural disposition (because of old patterns built up along the way) are negative thoughts. I have spent the last 6 years trying to undo those and recreate positive ones. When I recently booked an acting job I didn't focus on the inconveniences like I would have done 6 years ago. I focused on on the positives that I get from the job. I also stopped thinking "I couldn't act" and started not having an opinion about it. Doors opened up, energy came in. Light suddenly appeared in that area of life. I didn't suddenly get better at acting. I just stopped beating myself over it. And therefore the universe offered something up. The same goes for weight loss. For career changes. When we let go of negative ideas (or positive ones for that matter) and we create space, things happen.
I am taking the time to remind myself of this, by writing about it, by discussing it, by becoming aware; to figure out what thoughts I am having that are making my anxiety levels sky rocket. My life is good and I am continuing to write a list of all the things I am grateful for. Gratitude being one of the things Brene Brown talks about as being so important to living a whole hearted life. But I am also taking the time to try and get more perspective, more balance, more structure. As for me, structure and some routine takes away my anxieties about time running out. About not getting to roll out all the ideas I have, about not sharing or connecting with all the people I want to.
If you are feeling low, anxious, down. if you feel like life sucks, your job sucks, your body sucks, try and figure out the exact thoughts you have about these things, when they first came about and try and subliminally block them out by creating, and forcing new thoughts. Think them, and repeat! Say them out loud, hear them clearly and someday down the line, you will believe these good thoughts, the sort of thoughts Care Bears and My Little Ponies have. How do I know this? Because in the same way we started believing the negatives, we have the same ability to believe the positive ones. Whether we believe that to be true or not, the only way we will ever know is if we try. So as the days go on, and the mind ticks over, I dig deep in myself and trust that happiness is our own choice. A thought that used to scare me, because what if I couldn't/wouldn't make the right choice. Now, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I have a choice (a small, tiny atom in this whole universe, me)has the power to change how I feel.
There are a few reasons why you CAN be a badass and achieve all the things you want to and be the person you want to be:
*If you can imagine it... it can be so. Things happen, because people believe they can. Until that day, it will be inconceivable. See it, visualise it, and believe in it.
*Because you are you. The only you there is. Unique, and undeniably the only one of your kind. Even if you do something the same as some else, it will still be your version of it. That means you have the world at your finger tips.
*There is an abundance of everything. An abundance of space for all of our ideas. An abundance of time if you utilise it. An abundance of people willing to hear, connect, share, vibe with your ideas.
*The universe wants you to do well. Because you are the universe. We are one and the same.
Sometimes the bravest most important thing you can do, is show up