"Look at what you bring to the world, not what you lack." - Miranda Kate

Monday, 5 March 2018

Self-Love: How to love yourself, and why you should

Pink Lotus Flower. Look at what you bring to the world, not at what you lack. Do you know whether you like yourself or not? Have you ever asked yourself?

Are you kind to yourself when things go wrong or do you scold yourself?

Do people tell you, you’re hard on yourself?

“Love yourself first because that's who you'll be spending the rest of your life with.”– Paulo Coelho

There is a lot in personal development and self help about loving yourself and being self-approved (the first one tends to lead to the second). It is a fundamental building block in finding your own sense of authenticity or ‘being authentic’ – meaning taking off the public mask and not being afraid to show others who you really are, and relaxing around people. 

You may have heard the term ‘Self Care’ recently. It is the new buzz word for loving yourself. It means to take time out for yourself: buy yourself something special, spend time with yourself in solitude or in meditation, walking in nature, or doing something you want to do that you would normally consider too extravagant or time consuming.

Some people think that ‘self-care’ or ‘self-love’ or ‘believing in yourself’ is selfish, that you are only thinking of yourself and your own happiness. But you are the most important person in your life – even as a parent your children are dependent on your health and happiness, and your ability to function on a daily basis.

“Loving yourself isn’t vanity, it’s sanity.” – Andre Gide

When I began the journey to start loving myself, it was to try and achieve a sense of calm about everything in my life. I was defensive, sensitive and reacted to people, usually with unsuccessful outcomes. I was angry and frustrated, and I needed to find a way to change that. I realised that I hadn’t spent much time with myself - in fact initially I had been scared to spend time with myself. I would do anything to avoid being on my own. I would liken it to loneliness. Spending time alone meant emptiness and sadness to me. It meant spending time with my feelings, which I was trying to avoid. As a child I hadn’t been allowed to express my feelings or have feelings, so I had no idea how to deal with them.

It was only when I went travelling on my own for a year that I started to understand myself better. On a daily basis I met new people and I would listen to what I talked about and what I told them, and notice how I reacted to them. I started to hear my own story and notice my reactions and behaviours. I started to know myself and see parts of myself I liked, and by the end of my trip I discovered I enjoyed my own company, and was fine spending time in solitude.  

“Stop hating yourself for everything you're not. Start loving yourself for everything you are.” – unknown

But not everyone can go travelling to ‘find themselves’, so how do you go about loving yourself while living your day to day life?

Step one: Listen to yourself: your feelings, your thoughts, your response to things externally. Don’t concentrate on any specific one, just listen to all of it, without judgement, without any expectation. During this process you will start to understand your own thoughts and opinions about things.

Step two: Trust your feelings: Trust how you feel about things: from what you might want to eat in the morning, to the state of the world. Some feelings might feel bad, or ‘wrong’, but they are your feelings, so hear them out. Believe them, rather than argue with them. Reason with them or sympathise with them. Find a place that you can start feeling comfortable about them. Don’t cover them up; be honest with yourself about how you feel. If you think you have to change how you feel to suit others, ask yourself why? Are you putting their feelings before your own? Why are you compromising yourself for another? Know the reasons why you think and feel the way you do, but don’t justify them. You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone. 

Step three: Set Personal Boundaries: Boundaries are to stop you compromising too much of yourself to suit others. Decide how you want to be treated: what you are okay with and what you are not okay with. Define where your limits are. Not being true to yourself will disrupt your sense of self. If you change your mind to suit another, or do something you are not really happy or comfortable with, you are compromising yourself – your feelings, your truth - and that can leave you feeling bad about yourself, resulting in guilt, regret, even resent and anger. By setting personal boundaries and trusting your own feelings and thoughts, and being clear about what you do and don’t want, you can achieve your own sense of inner security. If you are sure about who you are, it doesn’t matter what others externally say or do.  

“Listen to your own voice, your own soul. Too many people listen to the noise of the world, instead of themselves.” – Leon Brown

There are a great deal of articles and books on this topic. A book I have found helpful is Mirror Work by Louise Hay. In this book, you are guided through exercises where you look at yourself in a mirror and talk to yourself – to your inner child (the part of you inside that was once a child). It helps you uncover previous painful events and helps you release that pain and learn to appreciate who you are in the present moment. It teaches you how to be comfortable with yourself.

This book also highlights how you talk to yourself. Many of us might be kind to others, but we aren’t very pleasant to ourselves. When we start listening to what we are saying to ourselves, often we will find a negative stream of dialogue: berating ourselves over things from the past, present and even future scenarios, or constant criticism over how we look, feel or present ourselves.

If you hear yourself doing this, ask yourself: “If someone externally was saying these things to me, how would I feel?” Would you be upset, offended, even angry? If so then ask yourself: “Why am I saying these things to myself? Why am I not standing up for myself? Why am I not being a friend to myself?”

To practice self-love, let that voice speak, but don’t engage with it - know that it is not the truth. Not every thought you have in your head is true or real. And a lot of the noise in our heads is put there by other people: family, school friends, work colleagues. It is their perception of us, which is a reflection of themselves: their own thoughts and feelings. It is not who you are, and by listening and learning who you are, you can be sure of that.

“Be careful how you are talking to yourself, because you are listening.” – Lisa M Hayes

Compassion and empathy are feelings that we express when we care about someone deeply, and we want the best for them. They allow us to be non-judgemental and support people in being who they are and appreciating them. By listening to and trusting our feelings we are showing compassion and empathy for ourselves. We can then appreciate all the positive things about who we are and what we can bring to the world.

Self-love is something that can take years to build, but once you achieve it, you have a foundation of inner security: of trusting who you are and being sure of yourself. No longer questioning the things you do or feeling bad about them. It’s not easy, it takes courage to stand up and be honest about who you are, but you find that you start caring less about what others think and say about you. You realise that only what you think matters - because it is the only thing that impacts you.

“If you are not good at loving yourself, you will have a difficult time loving anyone, since you will resent the time and energy you give another person that you aren’t even giving to yourself.”- Barbara De Angelis

Friday, 2 February 2018

Self-Sabotage - identify when you are doing it & how to stop it

Woods and treest - Clear the pathway to your dreams, let nothing stand in your way - even youself, belive you are worth it. Do you make a lot of excuses about not doing something you have always wanted to do?

Do you not inform yourself properly so you miss out on an opportunity you have always claimed to want?

Do you behave in certain ways that stop things from progressing in relationship?

“Self-sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.” - Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

Self-sabotage is when we have dreams or goals that we want to achieve, but keep putting them off, or create problems that stop them from happening. We might even attempt to try them but in a half-hearted way so that it goes wrong.  

We can sabotage a career by not informing ourselves properly about what we need to do, so we’re not successful when we take the first few steps. We might not work hard enough at it; we might keep making excuses why we can’t, or deliberately forget things and/or turn up late. Alternatively we might behave badly in interviews for a job we need but don’t really want, thus sabotaging our chances of getting it. 

In a relationship we might keep providing reasons why we are not good for our partner, or behave in ways that are destructive to the relationship: being needy, desperate, clingy, or argumentative, rude, aggressive, even disinterested, until eventually they break it off.

This type of behaviour is borne out of fear and feelings of lack: whether lack of self-belief, lack of self-esteem or lack of confidence; we don’t feel worthy, we don’t feel good enough. Or we are scared that if we succeed we will be a fraud or undeserving.  

We sabotage the great things in our lives because deep down we don’t feel worthy of having the great things.” – Taressa Riazzi

Our limiting beliefs about ourselves and our capabilities cause us to self- sabotage: If we believe something won’t work or that we won’t be able to create the desired outcome, we don’t commit in the first place. And through that non-commitment the cycle is repeated: we don't give it our all, so it doesn't work, thus reaffirming the belief that it's not for us - self-sabotage at its best. 

The way to deal with self-sabotage is to understand that we limit the things we want to do by the thoughts we have about them. 

If we have been told we can't do something as a young child, we may hold onto that, and believe we can never do it. If when we were a child we were enthusiastic about being an astronaut, but someone (a parent or teacher or authority figure) says "You can't possible do be an astronaut, science is not your strong point', we might believe it, and stop pursing our dream: no longer working at the subjects required with such commitment and vigour and getting lower grades, thus supporting the idea that we wouldn't be able to do it, and that they were right. But had we been encouraged, we could have worked on the subjects required and pursued a career in it, and truly giving it our best shot.

Unlocking the negative belief and seeing what we are truly capable of, we can embrace it and wonderful things can happen. 

To see if you are doing things to sabotage the things you want, write down a list of the things you want or wanted to do in your life. Leave nothing out.

Then make a list about why you aren’t doing (haven't done) them. Ask yourself: what is/was stopping me? Why do I believe I can't do them?

Then question that list. Ask yourself if the reasons you have provided are the truth, are they real reasons, or are they due to fear, or something somebody said? 

Question all of the answers back until you see what the truth is. More often than not you will find that really it is just yourself stopping you; most likely fear about being out of your comfort zone and trying something new. 

“A comfort zone is great, but nothing ever grows there.” – John Assaraf 

Seeing the reasons and the truth behind the reasons written down in black and white enables you to see them differently; seeing them outside of the internal perspective enables you to understand what is real and what is not. You can re-evaluate the truth behind the things you want to do, they can become tangible possibilities again, things you can pursue. 

You can then take the next step: Action. 

You do this by looking at the things you want to do and breaking them down into bitesize goals, and then take them step by step. This can involve learning what you need to so that you are fully equipped to do the things you want to do, and provide no more excuses.

"The distance between your dreams and reality is called Action." - Jim Rohn

But this can be trickier if self-sabotage is taking place in relationships. In those instances you need to question your beliefs about love:

What do you believe about love?
Where did you learn that?
Was that source positive or negative?
What do you believe about love – especially about you and love?
What do you tell yourself about love?
Do you let others love you?
Are you able to love yourself?
Do you know how to love yourself?

It can be hard to give love to another if you aren’t very good at giving it to yourself. Working on these deep rooted beliefs can take a lot of in depth work. I recommend a course (available in book or audio) called Calling In The One by Katherine Woodward Thomas. She enables people to uncover all their issues surrounding love and relationships, and how to go about healing them. 

Withholding love is a form of self-sabotage, as what we withhold from others we are withholding from ourselves. - Marianne Williamson 

Learning to identify where you are self-sabotaging in your life is the key to making the changes that will help bring you all the things you want and deserve in life.


Thursday, 14 December 2017

Limiting beliefs - how to change them & be more successful in life

Pink & Purple lupin flowers growing tallDo your thoughts hold you back?

Do you want to do something, but don’t believe you can?

Have you ever challenged what you believe you can do?

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Many of us believe we are in control of our own minds and believe we choose to do things, or not do things, based off what our limits are. But do we truly know our limits, or are they imagined? Are they based off fact, or have they been put there by something someone said, or an experience that led us to believe that?
Belief is everything, whether it is the day to day 'I can do this' kind of belief, or the religious sort. If people want to think or see things a certain way, they will, no matter what facts or experience might contradict them.
The very word: Believe, taken apart, is ‘Be’ ‘Live’ – you ‘live’ and ‘be’ as you choose to think about something.
A Limiting Belief is one that suppresses our own personal truth about who we are or what we can achieve. In general we are all limited to rules and regulations as a society or civilisation to function and get along, but what I am talking about are the personal beliefs that hurts us by limiting what we want to achieve in life and stop us growing and thriving.

Many people limit their beliefs to conform to a given set of rules, or to satisfy another. When we stifle ourselves to conform to a belief imposed by another, it stops us from being able to step into who we truly are and live our lives to the fullest. It can lead to an unhappy life and often depression if we feel powerless under such restrictions.

“The only limits you have are the limits you believe.” – Wayne Dyer

Understanding that some of our beliefs are limiting us and identifying those that stop us from reaching for our dreams, is the first step in changing them and releasing ourselves from their bonds.

We need to then ask ourselves some questions - particularly when we find ourselves resisting something we thought we wanted to do:
1) Can I do that?
2) Do I want to?
When asking ourselves the second question, we also check our feelings on it: Maybe we do want to, but we are scared or fearful of the outcome – an imagined outcome. But until we try we won’t know so we can choose to stay in fear or we can push through the fear and try. And whether we succeed or fail it doesn’t matter, because we have tried and learnt something about ourselves in the process.
For example, I might believe that I am not welcome in a particular social group. I might decide in my own mind I am not welcome by over-analysing conversations or body language. But really I am fearful of the rejection if I try to take part in a group activity. I can choose to keep believing that I am not welcome or I can find out for sure by participating.

I am a writer. I can choose to believe that it is a waste of time submitting my work to publishers because it won’t be good enough. But why do I believe it is not good enough? Don’t I have as much chance as anyone? Have I had only negative feedback on my writing? Asking these questions makes me stop and decide what I really believe, and also whether I am helping myself or giving my negatives beliefs power.
Maybe when we were a child we wanted to do something and someone told us we couldn’t, that we wouldn’t be able to - maybe a parent, a teacher or another authority figure. And from that point on we believed it was always out of our reach. And now when someone asks us if we want to do it, we say we can’t. But in truth, we don’t know, because we have never tried or given ourselves the chance to try.

“Learning, too soon, our limitations, we never learn our power.” - Mignon Mclaughlin

Many limiting beliefs are driven by a lack of self-confidence and self-worth, by honestly not believing in ourselves or our abilities. Only by questioning ourselves, in a positive and constructive way, can we challenge the beliefs that limit us in our day to day lives. Only once we start to unlock them can we release our inner power and realise our dreams.

Why don’t you go and write a list of all the things you would like to do, go on - I dare you! Write out all the things you dreamed of, however extreme they might be. And then go through that list and see which ones are within your grasp if you believed you could do them.

It will give you a whole new perspective on your potential, and liberate you. It will also make you question some of the limiting beliefs you hold in other areas of your life.

“Remember: we all get what we tolerate. So stop tolerating excuses within yourself - limiting beliefs of the past or half-assed or fearful states.” – Tony Robbins

Sunday, 9 July 2017

What is meditation? The myths, the truth, & how to fit it in.

Tree with sun shining through. Do you keep hearing people talk about meditation and wonder if you should be doing it too?

Do you struggle to clear you mind to meditate?

Do you get frustrated that you can’t find time to meditate?

According to my Oxford English dictionary, to meditate is to “focus ones mind for a time, for spiritual purposes or for relaxation.” And mediation is the act of doing this.  

There are a wealth of articles on websites, and YouTube videos about meditating: People do it daily; they make it a routine; they say they can’t live without it. Some even go away on retreats and boast about how it alters their lives. But there are a lot of myths about meditating and here are a few.

  • You don’t have to have special training;
  • It doesn’t have to take 20 minutes or an hour;
  • You don’t have to do it daily;
  • You don’t have to be able to sit in the lotus position;
  • You don’t have to listen to music, or burn oils while doing it;
  • You don’t need special clothing;
  • You don’t need a special place, or room to do it in;
  • The place doesn’t have to be quiet;
  • You don’t need to be alone. 

You can do all of the above, but they aren’t necessary. You can mediate in any way you feel works for you. There is no right way of doing it, and it doesn’t have to be that complicated.

I don’t mediate daily, I meditate when I feel the need, or when I have time and am in the mood to do so. I struggle to meditate for longer than 10 minutes. But there are moments during my day where I do still mediate for just a moment. I consciously stop my thoughts in my head and breathe. And I can do this several times a day when I am so busy I am overwhelmed. 

“Meditation is not a way of making your mind quiet. It’s a way of entering into the quiet that’s already there - buried under the 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.” - Deepak Chopra 

You can meditate in just a minute; it is simple. The first thing you need to do is breathe. It doesn’t matter where you are: you can be in your car driving, at work, or in the midst of cooking the family meal – anywhere. As soon as you feel the need to clear you mind, just think about your breathing: count 2 while inhaling, then 4 when (slowly) exhaling and then pause for a count of 2 (neither inhale or exhale), then begin again. Consciously feel your body physically relax for a moment.

And that’s it.

No really, it is.

You can continue to do this, or you can do it for a moment.

If you want to keep going you might find thoughts coming into your mind as you do it. Every time you realise that is happening, return your mind to your breathing. Imagine your thoughts running like the credits of a movie in the back of your mind. Don’t engage with them. Just leave them.

And that is meditation. 

“The goal of meditation isn’t to control your thoughts, it’s to stop letting them control you.” - meditationSHIFT 

Yes, there are people that continue to do this for hours on end, for entire weekends on retreats. And there are those that go so far with it they are able to control their heart rate. And others chant too, all sorts of sounds or words, believing it will draw positive things to them and into their life – and that might well work.

If you can focus your mind for long periods of time, you can also develop the same self-discipline in other areas of your life, and concentrate on the things you are working on, which can result in a lot of personal success. But the fundamentals of meditation don’t change. It is just a matter of building up from that single point. 

“Not to be able to stop thinking is an affliction, but we don't realize this because almost everybody is suffering from it." – Eckhart Tolle

Friday, 30 June 2017

Writing it out: how to resolve a noisy mind

Quill shaped cloud in blue sky.
Do things people say or do replay in your mind?

Do they go round and round distracting you in the day, or keeping you awake at night?

Do you spend a lot of time thinking about things you should have done, or wish you could have done?

I call this a noisy mind, and it can be triggered by many things:

- A conversation with someone;
- An action someone has taken;
- An event that has taken place;
- Or an action that you haven’t taken;
- Or an event you wanted to go to, but didn’t.

These things stick in your mind
, or something about it stays with you. You might be questioning it, or worrying about it; it might cause you to feel anxious, sad, angry, or upset in some way. But most of all it distracts you from your day to day life, interrupting your concentration and causing you to forget things, or not listen properly to those around you.

When this happens to me I know I need to get whatever it is out of my head.

Sometimes talking it over with a trusted friend can help. But if it is something I feel would come across wrong, or sound stupid when said out loud, I find the only solution is to write it out; my journal becomes my friend.

“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior.” – Christina Baldwin

Once I do this, I often find solutions and answers to my questions; seeing it in black and white on the page enables me to see it from another perspective. Just getting it out and showing it to the light of day minimizes its impact on me emotionally. I sift through it and deal with it in a more constructive way, deciding what is real and what is self-created drama inside my head.

It gives me a sense of release, but also empowers me by helping me feel as though I can handle my thoughts and emotions again and function again.

When writing it out I often make sense of my feelings, identify patterns or past events that are influencing them.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor

When connecting with myself in this way, I understand myself better. It enables me to see inside myself, explore thoughts and feelings which influence my external life. Through this process I listen to my feelings and learn to trust them – and thus trust myself.

It helps me build confidence and inner security: Once I become sure of myself I rely less on external factors, such as other people and their opinions or acceptance of me.

“Paying attention to the inside for the purpose of living well from the inside out.” – Lee Wise

To clear a noisy mind some people might try meditation, but when my head is exceptionally noisy and I have a lot of things bubbling up to the surface, I find transferring my thoughts onto paper much more helpful. Then when I meditate afterwards, it’s much easier.

Journalling doesn’t have to be a chore, or even something you do on a daily basis. There are people who like to keep a diary, or do what they call ‘Morning Pages’, which means writing out your thoughts first thing after you wake up. But I tend to only journal when I feel the need. I also do a lot of creative writing in the form of short stories and poetry, which is also a good way to express yourself. 

 “Whether you are keeping a journal or writing as a meditation, it is the same thing. What’s important is you are having a relationship with your mind.” – Natalie Goldberg

Never be afraid of what might come out, or how it comes out, just write it out as it appears in your mind, letting it flow, unblocking your heart and your mind.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Perception and Perspective: How you can alter how you see things

Water by Uluru (Ayers Rock)Have you ever had someone experience the same moment, but see it completely differently?

Did they find it positive when you found it negative? Or vice versa? 

When something isn’t how you imagine it to be, are you let down, disappointed, and frustrated? 

Perception is how we understand or interpret something. Perspective is our attitude and view point on how we regard it.

How we perceive something is affected by how we think. Whether we see a situation as positive or negative depends on our perception of it. And that perception is set by our expectations and assumptions, which supply our perspective on any given subject. 

Everything we hear is an opinion not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth."- Marcus Aurelius 

As discussed in Reducing Expectations, we can change our perspective by not having a preconceived idea about how something is going to go, or desire a specific outcome. 

Assumptions and expectations are fed by information either from previous situations - or hearing about them from others. Often how we expect something to be is not actually how it is. We can end up disappointed, disillusioned, even hurt and upset if it doesn’t go as we thought it would.

What screws us up the most in life is the picture we have of how it is supposed to be.

To change that, we need to change our perspective. We need to realise we have a choice in how we see, hear, and view things. 

This was first brought to my attention when I expressed my upset about something my mother had said, when I was first in therapy. They asked me:

“If your brother had been in the room would he have been upset by it too?” 

It made me stop and think and realise that he wouldn’t; his internal dialogue and relationship with my mother was different to mine, thus the content of my mother’s dialogue would have had a different meaning. He would receive what she said in a totally different way. 

My perception of her and the things she said depended on my history and relationship with her and affected my expectations from her, even giving another meaning to her words. In some ways I had already decided her meaning before she spoke, and my reaction was based off that rather than what she actually said. 

We see things not as they are, but as we are. Our perception is shaped by our previous experience. - Dennis Kimbro

Our perceptions are based off established ideas and thoughts we have about all the things around us. We learnt them from our parents, friends, teachers, work colleagues, newspapers, textbooks, television - everything has an input, but we can alter our view at any time. 

And how we continue to filter that information and react to it is also a choice. 

If you change the way you look at things, the way you look at things change. - Wayne Dyer

And this extends into the outside world. If we only focus on the negatives in the world and all the bad things that happen that is all we see, and our perception becomes negative. It doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen, but if we aren’t seeing the good things, we aren’t leaving room for them to filter in and bring a more balanced perspective on the world.

Without that balanced view we risk becoming overwhelmed, and this can lead to anxiety and depression, conditions which are fed by a mindset based on how we perceive things.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.” - Eckhart Tolle

So how do we change it? By recognising that our perception of any given thing might not be how it actually is, or the same as another person’s, thus realising that it is possible to see it differently. And if we want to change it we can - it’s a choice.

“When you observe rather than react, you claim your power.” - Denise Linn
It may not be possible with everything, but allowing the possibility makes us more flexible, and releases us from the potential shackles of a fixed mindset, opening us up to opportunities we might not have had before. 

Ask yourself how you would like to perceive something: What do you want to experience? How do you want to feel? And what is stopping you from feeling this way?

Once we are able to understand that we have a choice we return a sense of power, which gives us a sense of control. We can return to an event or situation that we previously viewed as negative and experience it differently, through fresh eyes.