Category Archives: anxiety

Is it OK to feel bad?

I’m going to level with you – I feel pretty bad right now. Really emotional, and like I don’t know what I’m moving towards (or whether I’ll be able to complete the journey as I’d hoped I would be able to). I feel lonely, even though I am surrounded by people who love and cherish me.

I am a hugely fortunate person. I have good health, a loving family, a modest but beautiful roof over my head, a wonderful beyond all measure little black cat, whom myself and my husband love like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve had many wonderful life experiences and opportunities, and many more ahead of me. And believe it or not, this is one of them. This moment of feeling like total sh*t is a great big opportunity, staring me in the face and waiting for me to put all the pieces together and make something wonderful out of it.

How do I know this? Well, partly because I’ve read a few wishy-washy looking self-help books which reassure me that to feel bad is an opportunity to discover what actually makes me feel good. But mainly it’s because I’ve experienced it. I’ve experienced real joy in my life, of the variety that I suspect many people never get to experience. I’ve felt the joy of being who I am, and knowing that that’s OK. I’ve felt the exquisite relief of feeling like a valid part of the universe, rather than a small, insignificant dot trying to prove myself worthy at every possible opportunity. I’ve felt beautiful, not because I’m necessarily all that beautiful, but because I’ve recognised a beauty in myself that we’re all born with, regardless of what we look like or how others perceive us. I’ve felt purposeful and motivated and enthusiastic and loved. OK, so I haven’t felt like this for years on end, and I don’t feel like it right now, but I have felt it, and do you want to know how I got there? I reached a point in my life where I couldn’t ignore myself anymore. I could no longer put my own needs to one side in favour of my usual people-pleasing routine. I had to listen to my deepest longings, and to what my emotions were telling me. I’ve known people on countless occasions say that when you feel bad, there’s often no logical reason for it, and after a few years of personal experience, I have to say that this is not at all true. If we are feeling sad or anxious or angry or worthless or small, it is absolutely 100% a valid human experience and 100% worth listening to. By this I don’t mean that we should all wallow in our feelings and see how long we can drag them out for. But rather that we should accept the emotions for what they are, and use them as our subconscious minds wish for us to use them – to figure something out about ourselves, our relationships or our current life circumstances. And please don’t mistake all of this for a ‘lesson’ that life has conjured up so that we can do things better next time. Life isn’t about lessons, it’s about opportunities to become more and more of who we are. Or at least that’s how I’m coming to perceive the world.

When we judge others, and fear their judgement of us, there is an insight to be gained about how we view ourselves and the world around us. Two people living exactly the same lives will have completely different experiences because their ideas, perceptions and upbringings are different. Life isn’t what we make of it – it’s how we choose to see it (and ourselves).  The people who have caused me the most pain and upset in my life have been the ones that challenge how I perceive myself, and that is always the root of everything when it comes to worrying what others think. Usually these people mirror an aspect of myself, so when I rally against them, I am actually fighting against myself. Making peace with who we are, and coming to the reassuring realisation that there is absolutely nothing wrong with us, is the only way to deal with the fear we encounter when we believe someone sees something unworthy or unlikable in us.

So, can I trust this current moment of contrast in my life? Yes. Does it feel good? Absolutely not, but there is a deep sense of inner peace when I finally come to a place where I can accept how I feel and not judge it as a bad thing. The trouble is, no one (including yourself!) wants to see you down or upset or crying, so we grow up with the belief that it’s not OK to feel this way. It’s good to feel good, and bad to feel bad, and that’s the end of it. Or is it? Do we need to think again and begin to value and treasure all of our experiences? Seeing them for what they are, and taking as much goodness from them as we possibly can. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we’re just in a good old-fashioned bad mood and don’t want to see the blessings in anything! And that’s OK too. We all need to have a good moan from time to time, and to feel downright sorry for ourselves. But once the initial storm has passed, that’s when we need to start looking beyond the dark clouds to where the light is.

Hmph. Life really isn’t easy sometimes, and the human experience certainly seems to be a more complicated one than say a well looked after cat or dog. But we are human, and there’s not much we can do about that except to navigate it with as much compassion and patience as we can muster up.

I know, I’ve gone all philosophical on you. Sorry about that – feeling low always makes me into a deep thinker! And it helps for me to come here and say what I need to say. So thank you for being there for me.

Peace out guys. See you soon! x

No offence but I don’t care what job you do

Well actually I do care. I care if it makes you happy, I care if you have the financial stability you crave, and I care if you are stressed out due to looming redundancies. But in terms of what you do actually meaning anything in the grand scheme of life? Well it just doesn’t. Of course it may have personal and emotional significance to you and/or your friends and family, in which case it is hugely meaningful. What I’m driving at here is that it doesn’t mean anything about you as a person. It doesn’t make you better or worse than any other human being, and it in no way defines who you are. We all have a certain sense of snobbery about us. Even as I write this I am aware of moments in my life where I have been a snob. Having worked at a university and earned a professional wage, I recently did a stint of cleaning work in my local neighborhood. I’d quit my job, was looking for something less stressful for a while AND I happen to genuinely love cleaning. So why not do some cleaning work? My parents were obviously a little disturbed by this sudden change in direction – and social status! They used to enjoy telling people I worked for a local university, and they were very proud of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I was proud of myself, in fact. But do you know what I was even more proud of? My decision to quit a job that in the end was making me miserable and do something completely different. It took guts to do that, and it was much more of a personal achievement than any successful job applications I’d ever made. But despite this, and despite really enjoying the work, I still had moments of shame about it. Intense shame whereby I didn’t like to admit what I was doing, especially to former colleagues and other academically successful friends of mine. It was OK in certain situations, but mostly I felt it made me unworthy and I was too embarrassed to chat openly to anyone about it.

It’s a shame really, don’t you think? A huge, colossal sized shame really. Because deep down we all know we’re born equal and die equal. That someone may be cleverer or more beautiful than us, but that it doesn’t make them a more worthy individual. How could it possibly mean that? In a world where people are born into different social and cultural environments and have different experiences and opportunities?  It just isn’t a thing. I often think that if aliens were to land, and we explained about the varying perception of two people because one works in a posh deli in a quaint little village, and the other in a cafe selling fried food in a busy town centre, they’d be frankly a little baffled.

Have you ever noticed how obsessed we are as a society about what we do to make money? If you go on a gameshow you give your name, age and occupation. As far as I’m concerned two of those things are irrelevant, unless the contestant is especially proud to have just celebrated a milestone birthday, or they’ve just got a new job that they want to share with the world. But otherwise, what difference does it make if you’re a retired police officer or a part-time bin man?!!!!

The question: “and what do you do?” always baffles me too. I always want to answer with a list of daily hobbies and activities, ending with: “and right this moment I’m stood here talking to you”. That’d surely make them wish they’d never asked.

And what’s with paid work carrying more kudos than the equivalent role but in a voluntary capacity? It’s all work.

Before I get too ranty about the whole thing, I’m going to sign off here and leave you to ponder what a great big bunch of snobs the human race can be.

Peace!

There’s beauty in chaos

I feel as though there is this wonderful life trapped inside of me that I could live if only I’d allow myself. I have moments in life when I feel completely connected, empowered and at peace with myself, but then something arrives to put a spanner in the works. I’m utterly fed up of living a life dictated by others, of not believing in myself and of generally feeling that there is something I should be doing or someone I should be.

One of the good things – the pearls – that often emerge from my moments of chaos is that I am forced to re-examine what it is that makes me happy. What am I most enthusiastic about? What makes my heart sing and makes me feel like I’m experiencing heaven on earth? Well, a lot of the time it’s people. People make me happy. Not everyone, obviously, but generally speaking, I am a sociable person who likes to interact and bounce off of other people. This is something I definitely need for myself; a sense of connectedness; a feeling that I am part of something bigger than myself.

I also love anything crafty, arty or experimental. How can I have missed this obvious fact about myself? I did a lot of crafts and artwork growing up, and was very good at it. But I somehow got into the habit of thinking of myself as an academic person. I did crochet as a hobby, but it never really occurred to me to join the dots and realise that this was an essential creative outlet. Making something which I can hold and look at and show to other people gives me a huge amount of satisfaction.

I am a very tactile and visual person. I like human contact, and love to get my hands on things like plants, food (when cooking), pets, wool…

I’m quite funny – or at least I have a pretty good sense of humour. Humour takes the sting out of life and brightens up an otherwise dull day, so being equipped with this skill can surely only stand me in good stead?

There is something very obvious about me which I’ve always seen as a negative, perhaps because it doesn’t fit with modern living, but I like to always be moving towards a new goal, learning something new, or seeing/doing something for the first time. I am easily bored, basically, and cannot stay still for too long without seeing a dip in my overall happiness levels.

I wish I could know and embrace all of these things about myself all of the time, and not need constant reminders. But I guess the more chaos I experience – and the more reminders I get – the more I can move towards living an authentic life.

Bye for now peeps x

To be angry, or not to be angry…

I am so often conflicted about how I should feel in situations where people have annoyed or upset me. As much as I realise my emotions are real and perfectly valid, I am also aware that the person in question:

a) is just an imperfect human being, same as me

b) probably has their own ‘stuff’ going on

c) didn’t deliberately set out to upset me…

The list could easily go on. Excuses as to why I have no right to feel hard done by, and shouldn’t think anything of it.

Thing is, if you feel angry, you feel angry, and trying to suppress that isn’t going to help anyone. A world where everyone was always just OK and never expressed any of their negative emotions towards anyone or anything would be very stifling indeed. Not a lot would ever change because we wouldn’t allow ourselves to acknowledge our need to move on from a particular friendship or situation.

And unless we deal with our negative emotions, they never really go away. They just get buried, only to pop out in unexpected places! This, I tell myself, is why people I encounter in the supermarket can sometimes be so aggressive and mean. They’re maybe in a bad home situation, and aren’t able to express how they feel in their day-to-day lives.

So, I am going to take my own advice, and allow myself to feel angry. Without going in to any of the details, I have a tendency to allow myself to get walked over, and right now I am feeling like I have been treated very poorly – albeit unintentionally.

I need to keep my emotions under control less, and express myself more. I need to let people know how I’m really feeling, instead of pretending that I’m OK all the time. I need to be authentic and honest and allow myself to live life in a way that feels good to me. None of this means that I have to start treating people badly – it just means that I wish to put myself in a situation where others aren’t able to take advantage of my good nature.

If I don’t start to express the full rainbow of my emotions, I might find that my good nature runs out, and I grow into a miserable old woman who shakes her stick at passers-by. And I cannot tell you how much I don’t want to be that person!

Thanks for reading.

Bye for now x

Know yourself

The only person who can ever truly know what is right for you is YOU. You, after all, are the person living your life. You have a full record of important memories and life events, and you know what does and doesn’t make you happy.*

*And if you don’t know what makes you tick, you deserve to take some time to figure it out. It’s something I’ve had to re-learn, and which still catches me out from time to time.

Anyway, as I was saying… Other people can make pretty good guesses at what you should/shouldn’t do, but they can’t ever know your soul, your inner-most desires, your darkest fears, or what you had for breakfast last Wednesday. What they have is part of a giant puzzle. They have some, but not all of the pieces.

So remind yourself of this next time someone is giving you some advice. It doesn’t mean that the advice should be ignored. After all, it might be very good advice! It just means that in order to filter out the advice that is no good (for you personally, not in general) you need to first KNOW YOURSELF and trust yourself to do this.

It can be so hard sometimes, when all the evidence suggests that you should be doing a certain thing…

“But everyone else I know is doing X, so surely this is what I should be doing?”

“But it might upset X, and surely it would be selfish of me to put my happiness before theirs?”

These are some of the things you and I probably find ourselves thinking when faced with a dilemma. But there is no dilemma! There is only one answer: do what you feel is right for you. It doesn’t have to be the perfect solution, and it doesn’t all have to work out as you want it to for you to feel justified in being authentic. It just has to feel right.

And if you’re really struggling with the idea of being selfish (a word which seriously needs re-defining), just remember that everyone benefits from you living life as the happiest possible version of yourself. You will emanate something really positive for others to draw upon, and provide a good role model to others struggling with the idea of what their lives should look like.

Ooooh, that feels better. I just needed a bit of a rant on this topic, so thanks for lending an ear!

Bye for now x x x

Find your centre

So, when I was younger I found that I didn’t have much of an opinion on anything. Or at least I would have an opinion, but the second someone challenged my ideas with their own, I would assume that they must be right and change my mind. This process could go on until I had gone full circle and arrived back at my original belief system!

This exhausting and frustrating process served two purposes for me:

  1. It allowed me to doubt myself
  2. It allowed me to appear acceptable to others by agreeing with them

Now don’t get me wrong. I have always been able to see why racism is a load of bulls**t, and I have a strong moral compass when it comes to snatching handbags from old ladies. And I probably had the odd impassioned moment in my youth when I stood up for what I believed and had a strong sense of conviction and personal strength. No situation is purely black and white, and so I did have moments of allowing myself to be opinionated and stand up for what I believed. But all too often, in matters of everyday conversation, I would chop and change my mind to suit the situation.

Having an opinion scared me. It was simply too risky to lay all my cards on the table and not care if others agreed. I mean, if they didn’t, they might decide that they don’t like me! And this can only mean one thing – that there is something catastrophically wrong with me! No, this simply wasn’t a possibility for me during my adolescent/young adult years. Perhaps even more so in my 20s.

So what has changed? As we grow older most of us seem to go through some sort of awakening whereby we discover the things in life that really matter, and get our priorities and belief systems sorted out. For some this process can happen all of a sudden, perhaps due to a tragic or difficult family situation, or perhaps due to a life-changing experience whilst on holiday in Brazil. For others it is more gradual. Either way the feeling is one of liberation and joy:

I don’t have to be what everyone else wants me to be!

Even when I worried what everyone thought, I still made ‘mistakes’ and my friends continued to love me anyway!

I have always been wonderfully imperfect, but now I’m going to own my imperfections instead of running away from them!

I see now how much pressure I was putting on myself and others to meet certain expectations and how short life is.

And so on…

Perhaps you’re going through this process as I write this blog post. Perhaps you’re in your 40s and you’re only just starting to realise how much time you have wasted worrying about what others think of you. It really (really!) doesn’t matter. Each to their own. We all seem to have certain things to learn in our lifetimes and we all learn them in different ways and at different times. Give yourself a break and don’t worry that you haven’t yet learnt how to worry less about the small things.

So, coming back to having an opinion. Once you have begun to accept yourself for all that you are (notice I say ‘begun’ – very few people can claim to have completely accepted themselves, although that’s not to say that it isn’t within our reach), you can begin to own your opinions on certain matters and not worry too much about whether anyone agrees with you. As you begin to accept yourself, you step in to more of who you are, and spend more time doing things which you find enjoyable. It matters less if you are actually achieving anything, and more that you are having fun doing it! You start to develop a centre – a core. It’s like the essence of who you are, and it keeps calling you home every time you feel yourself feeling inadequate or compromised in any way. It’s the part of you that understands and respects what you have been through in your life and doesn’t need anyone else to tell you that you are valid and valuable.

Like with anything relating to personal development or spiritual growth, this is something we need to practice. The more re return to our centre, the more easy and natural it becomes. I haven’t mastered my inner voice perfectly as yet, but the more I listen to her the more we become friends and the more at peace I seem to feel.

So have an opinion! Be outspoken if it is something you feel passionate about. And remember that others will respect you more for standing up for your beliefs than if you just agree with what others are saying.

Be yourself.

Own your beliefs.

Respect your life’s journey.

Be free.

Bye for now lovely readers x

Get some ‘you’ time

Our lives are so busy that we sometimes barely get a chance to just breathe, relax, and re-center. In fact, we can be so busy that we forget that we even need to do this in the first place! This is why feeling ‘bad’ is sometimes not such a bad thing. It might not feel great at the time, but contrast is an essential part of life, and it acts as a useful reminder to ask ourselves how we’re feeling, and what we might be able to do to feel that bit happier.

One problem (as far as I can tell) is that we live in a society which values self-sacrifice and un-selfish behaviour. To put your own needs first makes you a self-centered individual who needs to learn to think of others before themselves. But I personally hate the current definition and usage of the word ‘selfish’. I think it needs to be completely re-thought and reintroduced into the English language with a more positive meaning! Because to be selfish is to look after oneself, and to look after oneself is perhaps the most important task you will ever have in your entire life. You, I, we, are all as valid as the next person, and if we all went around looking after everyone but ourselves, no one would ever really be properly looked after. Am I making sense here? Do you know what I’m getting at?

You see, if you devote some time to yourself, you can still give to others, but from a more healthy place – one where you’re not totally worn out and emotionally exhausted. When we feel happy and content in ourselves. we tend to open up to the idea of helping others much more, simply because we feel more able to.

I can’t claim that these ideas are 100% my own, although I have experienced this first hand. But if you’d like to learn more about why it’s OK for you to relax and get some much-needed ‘you’ time, I can heartily recommend the book Life is a Gift by Gill Edwards. It was a life-changing read for me, and was recommended to me by a family member who had also found it utterly transformative.

Anyway, why am I writing about this? Well I was feeling all worked up the other evening. My brain was a whirlwind of shoulds and oughts and concerns about the needs of others and whether or not I was meeting them. I couldn’t get a handle on anything or think straight, so I took some time out. I went upstairs, put on the radio, and just chilled out for a bit. After a while, I found my centre and my brain started to calm down. Half the things I’d been worrying about disappeared altogether and the other half didn’t seem nearly as bad.

So there you have it. Go take a break. Re-kindle your love for yourself. Go and be at one with your radio or favourite book. You won’t regret it, I promise.

Bye for now x

Have a plan

So you have a ‘social situation’ coming up. A certain someone is going to be there and you just know they’re going to ask you about the one thing you really don’t want them to ask you about, because you’ll go from empowered to blithering idiot in the space of a few seconds and end up giving an overly complicated response and perspiring rather more than usual. Why can’t they just keep their nose out of it and leave me alone? (you find yourself pondering before you’ve even got to the party and had the pleasure of bumping into them).

We all have situations like this. Certain people, certain situations, certain topics – they just get to us! They hit a nerve and our usual coping mechanisms go out of the window. But we don’t have to approach these situations with our tails between our legs, already admitting defeat before we’ve even arrived at the venue!

What I’m going to suggest here is something which I have done myself on several occasions (when i can remember to do it), and it ALWAYS makes me feel better. It doesn’t guarantee no sweating or gibbering, but it will help to make you feel more in control of the situation and minimise the extent to which you feel you have to explain yourself to anyone. Because you don’t have to explain yourself to anyone – you know that don’t you? I mean, your life is yours, and theirs is theirs, and they probably don’t know anywhere near enough about you or the circumstances to make any kind of informed judgement anyway…

Anyhoo, what will this plan consist of? Well, it consists of getting your head around the situation before it presents itself. Find your centre. Remind yourself what you’re about, and how OK it is for you to be who you are, flaws and all. Remind yourself that more often than not, people ask questions about you with good intentions, and because they genuinely care about what happens to you. Or maybe they’re just asking a question because social convention dictates that they do (like when you go to the hairdressers and they ask you what you’ve been up to since your last appointment, or when you see a friend you haven’t met in years and they ask what you do for a living these days). Even if the person in question is a bit frosty and likes to watch people quake in their boots, remind yourself that this is their problem, not yours. Maybe they are in a loveless marriage and they are expressing their anger and resentment to the wrong people! Or maybe they’ve had a really, really shitty week. Feel a surge of compassion as you remember that they’re just human too – perfectly flawed in every way! They’re not evil, they just might be someone you’re better off not putting your energies into.

Once you’ve figured all of this stuff out, you can breathe a bit easier. You feel more centred and less defensive about yourself and how you choose to live your life.

Give it a try, It has worked for me, and given that we belong to the same species it’s likely that it will work for you too!

Bye for now x

Make believe

I can’t remember where I heard or read this, but I’m pretty sure that it is a genuine technique suggested by life coaches and the like: if you can’t get up the courage to try on a new belief system and wear it like you’re favourite old jumper which gets brought out every Christmas, begin by just pretending. Or make believe, as the kids say! Obviously the aim is that, with time, we begin to embody the new qualities or beliefs which we set out to develop, but in the meantime, pretending is a good start, and is certainly preferable to giving up before you’ve even started.

Another way of looking at this is to think like your future self, rather than your current or old self. You have made some important decisions about which qualities you would like to develop in order to live a happier and more contended life. This is your future self, the version of you that you will grow into slowly but surely (and trust me when I say that we can each begin to lead completely different and more joy-filled lives if we put our minds to it). So when a situation comes up, ask yourself: “am I going to deal with this situation like I usually would, or am I going to have a go at approaching the situation differently?”

The added benefit of doing this is that, as you begin to question your approach to situations, you can identify certain stumbling blocks and areas in your life where you could benefit from some personal development. Afterall, you can’t hope to resolve a problem area until you know it exists!

So what has any of this got to do with worrying what others think of us? Well I suppose one of the problem areas us human beings struggle with the most is worrying that we’ve said or done something wrong – that we aren’t enough just as we are, and that we somehow have to twist and morph our personalities to suit what we believe others expect of us. Perhaps you have one or two key relationships where you feel it’s particularly difficult to just be yourself, without fear of seeming less than worthy in the eyes of others. (I think it’s pretty safe to say that most of us have at least one of these relationships!) Well whenever you are with this person – your own personal kryptonite – have a go at acting the part of the person you would like to grow into. Gain some perspective and view the situation from a different angle if you possibly can. And it doesn’t have to be a groundbreaking performance! You’re not aiming to win an Oscar straight away. Just take on a bit-part to begin with, and see what happens.

I hope some or all of this makes sense to you lovely readers.

Bye for now x

Not everyone you meet will like you

Terrifying isn’t it? The idea that someone you’re talking to might be silently judging you and thinking that they don’t like you very much. But the fact of the matter is that it is a relief! Thank goodness!! Not everyone I meet will like me, which means that I may as well stop trying to please people all of the time. And if you can’t see what a great thing this is, then you clearly don’t realise that, just because someone else doesn’t see the wonderful gifts you have to offer just by existing in the world, doesn’t mean that you aren’t a hugely valuable and amazing human being.

If you’re still struggling, put the focus on someone else. Imagine your hero – or your favourite celebrity or super cool aunty. Got it? Right, well you might be amazed to find out that not everyone they have met in their lives has loved or even liked them. In fact it’s more than likely that someone has actively disliked them at some point, especially if they are open to the public scrutiny of being a celebrity. Does this mean that there is anything wrong with this person? That you should throw your hands up in the air and say: “Oh, well. If that’s the case I don’t think I want them to be my hero any more. I’d best carry on my search for the perfect human being”. Well of course it doesn’t! To err is human, as they say. We are, as creatures of this world, inherently and wonderfully flawed. We are perfectly imperfect. None of us are born knowing all of the answers, otherwise what would be the point in life?

We all have the capability to let ourselves off the hook. To make peace with the fact that not everyone might like us, and that we might be less than perfect. It might require tremendous effort on your part, but it will be the best kind of hard work you have ever done in your whole life. It will lead to feelings of immense relief, joy and acceptance. When you get that first glimpse of inner happiness, you will want more, and I hope that you will feel inspired to carry on the journey.

The first step is to forgive. The second step is to realise that there isn’t anything to forgive!

Bye for now x