Tag Archives | being yourself

ACCEPTING WHO YOU ARE

It is very easy for us to identify what’s wrong with us, what we don’t do well, what we fail at – we’re well trained in that! And we can try to counteract that by things like affirmations: I am beautiful; I am a good person, etc.

I don’t know about you, but I’m never quite convinced by that. So I tend to give up on affirmations quite quickly, and I needed an alternative approach.

I think there are three things that need adjusting for this to work.

  1. Don’t counteract, have both sides

By this I mean that we can have a list of our ‘failings’ and a list of things we do well. The first stage of acceptance is admitting to all of our strengths and weaknesses.

  1. Add in some qualifiers to make it easier.

The statements we make about ourselves tend to be all or nothing statements: I’m moody; I’m useless at being consistent etc. And we have the same problem with affirmations: I’m a good person will almost always bring to mind the examples when we’re not being a good person!

The qualifiers are words like: usually; sometimes; at the moment; often; mostly; occasionally; just for today. They allow us to acknowledge what we’re like without over-exaggerating it.

Examples would be: I’m usually kind; I sometimes have a bad mood; I mostly eat healthily; I occasionally have a bad day; at the moment I’m feeling miserable.

The qualifiers require us to look beyond the immediate feeling and assess ourselves on a longer-term basis, which gives us more perspective.

  1. Allow for progress

If we want to get better at being a certain way, we need to give ourselves a chance to develop it.

‘I’m beginning to..’ ‘I’m learning to…’ or ‘I’m starting to..’ will allow us to count those first steps towards improvement.

‘I’m getting better at..’ ‘ I now more often…’ allow us to recognise that we’re moving beyond first steps and towards habit.

These then become more realistic statements as well as being kinder to ourselves.

With these adjustments, we have a much better chance of accepting how we are, whilst helping ourselves to be more how we want to be.

I want to be more of who I can be, and this helps me to not get stuck on my failings, but instead build on what I have already. It also helps me to remember that it’s OK to not get it ‘right’ all the time – being human is different from being perfect!

So next time you decide to beat yourself up for being crap at something, have a go at this approach instead and see what happens.

 

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SOLITUDE

There is something lovely about being on your own. We often confuse being solitary or alone with being lonely, feeling deprived of company. The two do not necessarily follow: we feel lonely if we wish we did have company, but being alone is a choice to enjoy your own company.

And that choice allows the possibility of just doing and being whatever we feel like – it is a form of freedom. When no-one else is involved we have the opportunity to follow our own rhythms, to indulge our own fancies, to consider ourselves first.

We can eat and drink what we like, when we like. We can sing our hearts out, or have complete quiet. We can get up when we’re ready to, or lie in bed with a cup of tea and read a book. We can even have complete control of the TV remote!

In our busy world, it is good for us, once in a while, to have some solitary time. It allows us to replenish our energy, and that freedom to be completely ourselves,

So this year, see if you can find yourself a little solitary time. If you live with others, suggest they go out for the day, and bask in the freedom of solitude for a little while.

May 2019 be a great year for you!!

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CAN YOU LET YOURSELF HAVE A DAY OFF?

I’ve just spent ten days pushing myself to keep going and finally realised that I knew better – I needed to let myself have a day off. That made me reconsider what a day off really means.

In this case, I was feeling somewhat under the weather – just not well. I made some allowance for it, cutting down on my expectations of myself, but I wasn’t willing to ‘give in’ to it. The consequence was that I didn’t even meet the expectations I did have of myself, so got cross with myself, or did and felt unreasonably exhausted. And of course, my health didn’t improve at all.

So eventually I remembered that the answer is to remove all the expectations, even those we aren’t usually conscious of, like getting washed and dressed or answering the phone. I spent two days doing what I felt like when I felt like it, with no list of must do’s at all, and I feel so much better for it!

It’s the removal of expectations that makes it a real day off, because that frees you up to genuinely follow your own body and heart preferences. It doesn’t mean doing nothing – unless that is what you feel like – nor taking some of the tasks off the list. It means giving yourself free rein for a day.

Usually we fill our days with expectations of ourselves, which come from us, from our culture and from others, so can be quite a collection! We assess how successful our day was by measuring ourselves against these expectations – and frequently fail to come up to the mark!

If we do allow ourselves a bit of space, because we’re feeling a bit ‘off’ in some way, or sometimes because we think we’ve earned it, that usually means that we take a few of the expectations off the list for the day. ‘I’ll leave the washing till tomorrow, or make that phone call later in the week, or finish that task another day.’ So we load our next few days a bit more, and still have the rest of our expectations of ourselves in the day we have alleviated.

I have known for a long time that a day without any expectations of myself at all, except to do just what I feel like doing, is as good as a holiday. It allows my mind and body to reset and refresh themselves. And yet I realise that, although I am kinder to myself than many, I rarely give myself permission to really take time out from the demands of everyday life.

So I won’t be waiting next time till I’m desperate for that relief. I’m going to write some days off into my diary, and teat them as a priority for my mental and physical health.

So what about you? Do you let yourself have real days off? And if you don’t, can you plan one in and experiment with it?

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WHAT ARE YOU TELLING YOU ABOUT YOURSELF?

We all know that we talk to ourselves, often in a not very nice way! And that is a form of telling ourselves about ourselves that I have talked about before: remember that your inner voice would be far more useful if it were like your best friend, rather than the worst critic you can imagine!

And there are two less obvious ways in which we tell our story to ourselves:

  • Through our everyday choices
  • Through our personal external metaphors

Let’s start with our everyday choices. There was a famous advert that had the line: ‘Because you’re worth it!’ What do you tell yourself you’re worth, by the choices you make? This can be anything, from which of two possible dinners to have, to whether you go along with someone else’s plan even though it’s not really what you want to do. Do you deserve a bit of a rest, or do you push yourself on because you haven’t ‘earned’ it yet?

All day every day, you make choices that reflect how you value yourself, how you see yourself. Just notice how you confirm a story about who you are to yourself.

And the second way we constantly tell ourselves who we are, what we’re like, is through the things we have around us. These are our everyday metaphors for who we are.

Am I someone who conforms to fashion, or stands out from the crowd? Look at my clothes, my home décor. Am I someone who is bright and cheerful most of the time? Look at my colours, my photos. Am I someone who will take a risk? Look at my possessions that others may judge me by – what do I allow others to see about me?

What we have around us, what we wear, what we possess, all tell us unconsciously who we are, what we’re like. And this area of telling ourselves about ourselves is the easiest one to effect change in. We can decide to reflect a different facet of ourselves back to ourselves, just by changing some of our everyday metaphors.

For example, you could buy a brightly coloured throw or cushion to brighten yourself up; you could wear your favourite clothes more often, rather than the sensible or in fashion ones you have; you could put those ‘silly’ treasures you have from holidays or made by your children in the living room instead of hiding them away in your bedroom.

What would you like to tell yourself about yourself? And how can you symbolise it in the things you have around you? And if you don’t know, just look at some of the things in your living room and ask yourself: ‘ What does this tell me about me?’ If you like its message, put it in a more prominent place. If you would like to enhance its message, what might replace it, to give you a better reflection?

We all need to work on our inner critics, and the everyday choices we make; these are generally pretty engrained. And we can begin the process of telling ourselves a better story about ourselves by simply changing some of our external metaphors or symbols for who we are. It’s simple and it’s powerful.

So go and find one to improve right now – and I’m going to put on that sundress that I told myself was too youthful for me. Sod it! I love that dress!

 

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THE RICH TAPESTRY OF WHO WE ARE

We live in an age where people work even harder to present a certain image of themselves to the world. Social media encourage people to show only those parts of themselves they think are impressive/interesting /better than others. What a shame!

The delight of human beings is that they consist of a rich and varied mixture of traits and interests and behaviours, even appearances – after all, none of us look good all of the time!

I love being that mixture – it makes life so much more interesting and enables me to relate to lots of different people. I am clever and stupid, organised and chaotic, silly and wise, fun and serious – and these apparently contradictory qualities create the warp and weft of the tapestry called Di.

Only ever allowing others to see the more ‘acceptable’ qualities would make me very one-sided and boring. It would also put me under enormous pressure to keep hiding those other qualities.

We all need to learn to enjoy and celebrate the unique mixture that makes us who we are. By allowing ourselves to show our different facets, we make space for others to do the same, and be more comfortable with themselves. I remember working with young people who were ‘failing’ at school. One afternoon, they asked if we could go to the park and play football. I agreed and joined in with gusto – and absolutely no skill whatsoever! They all thought I was very funny and enjoyed taking the piss out of me for and hour or so. And as we were going back to the centre, one of them said to me: ‘I feel so much better now that I know you are crap at something that I am good at! It makes it a two-way street, when you are stupid sometimes too.’

Let’s love the unique blend of flavours and colours that make us who we are, and not try to appear perfect to others. Come on; let’s enjoy our rich tapestries.

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BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Oh dear, when are we going to remember that we’re only human, not super – man or woman, not an angel of perfection!

I keep being reminded that we are taught too well to be critical of ourselves, and to expect more from ourselves than we do from anyone else. It is so mean!! We wouldn’t be so harsh with any of our friends or family because we recognise that they are only human, with ups and downs, good moods and bad moods, motivated days and apathetic days..

I have learnt that I ebb and flow – sometimes inspired, sometimes daft as a brush – nothing is constant in me and my moods. And of course, that is our natural state – we aren’t robots or machines that can just keep going at a constant speed in a consistent way. The trick is to take advantage of the times of motivation and energy and let ourselves off and have a bit of a rest when we don’t feel like doing all that stuff – most of it is not actually that important anyway. I find I set myself ridiculous targets and deadlines, and then beat myself up for not meeting them. So I have to re-assess every morning – not whether I have ‘succeeded’ or not, but whether I have been giving myself too much to achieve. Ad if I have, I need to reduce the targets for that day. By doing this regularly, I can keep my tendency to make myself feel bad to a minimum!!

So this week, how about being kind to yourself? I is getting colder, the days are shorter, Christmas is coming and we are feeling the pressure of present-buying, card-sending and stocking up for that – we deserve a break!

So let yourself off, be a little kind to yourself, sit down with that cuppa and relax for 10 minutes, take that extra thing off your list – it can wait – treat yourself to something that makes you feel good, remind yourself of how much you have done, rather than what you have not done. Let’s have a being kind to yourself week – you wouldn’t be so mean with anyone else – don’t do it to yourself!

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THE SPIRIT OF THE PLACE

Whilst on holiday I was reminded of how significant the spirit of a place really is. There are some ancient buildings that just feel good to be in, and others that you don’t want to linger in. there are streets that feel tranquil, others feel vibrant, and some that just provide a passageway to something else, or even feel hostile.

We don’t usually take the time to notice these differences consciously, yet we are all affected by them to some extent. And it is the human imprint that makes these differences: the activity, general mood, attitude, of those who have been there over time. Each one of us leaves a little of ourselves in wherever we visit.

A clear example of this is a church or temple. Many of them (although not all) have a feeling of tranquillity, of calm, and have a quietening effect on us. We sit for a little while, and add our own moment of stillness to their atmosphere, as people have done since they were built, even if we are not religious.

And this made me think about how we imprint our own homes. All the perfect décor and beautiful objects you can buy don’t make a home. It becomes a home when we express our individuality, our history, our attitude, in some of the things we choose to have round us. And then its spirit grows from the imprint of us and how we live there`; how much love, how much laughter, how much warmth, how much calm, how much care – OK, I know you’ve got what I’m saying now!

Now sometimes I’m frustrated, fed up, irritable, upset, in my home. That taints its spirit for a while. So from now on, I intend to burn a little sage or incense, or open up all the windows and doors, to ‘freshen it up’ more quickly. I know the general spirit of my place is lovey, warm and welcoming – and I can make it even better, by paying it more attention.

What about you??

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OH WELL, TOMORROW’S ANOTHER DAY..

I don’t know about you, but I have good days and bad days. I used to be far more aware of my bad days – you know, those days when you don’t really feel in the mood, and then nothing seems to go smoothly, and you get more and more fed up and frustrated. I could easily end up beating myself up for my ‘failure’ and making myself feel even worse.

And the good days? I tended to take them for granted, not count them, because they were merely what I expected of myself.

I decided a while ago that this was not helping me to have more good days – I don’t respond well to punishment, even when it’s self-punishment! So I started to take a different approach.

Firstly, I had to remind myself that I’m human, not a robot. It’s natural to have highs and lows, be motivated or demotivated, feel energetic or weary.

Secondly, I started actively complimenting myself for the good days, telling myself that I’d done well, that I’d been on form.

Thirdly, I began to notice the bits of the not-so-good days that had been fine – it’s rare to have a totally bad day. At least I got up, and made a nice dinner, and did the washing!

Fourthly, when the day hasn’t gone very well, instead of beating myself up, I let myself off the hook. I adopted the phrase, ‘Oh well, tomorrow’s another day..’

In truth, we can always have another go. Tomorrow is a new day, a fresh opportunity to see if we can make life/work easier and more enjoyable. What’s gone is gone, and agonising over it doesn’t change that. But we can be a bit kinder to ourselves, relax and have a good sleep, and set ourselves up for a better day tomorrow.

I have found that I have far more good days and quite a few good bits of days as well, since I started this. It might be worth experimenting with…

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ARE YOUR PREJUDICES USEFUL?

In our culture, prejudice has become a dirty word, suggesting that we are not ‘politically correct’, and that we are prejudiced for superficial reasons. Yet we do all have prejudices – we couldn’t manage without them.

A prejudice is simply a pre-formed assumption we make about the person or situation ahead of us, which sets the tone for how we approach it. It is based partly on our cultural upbringing, and partly on our own previous experience

Without our prejudices, we would find life almost impossible, having to assess the situation at hand afresh every time. It would be as if all our memory and experience were erased after each action we took, and we had to build the story from scratch each time.

Our prejudices give us a starting point for any given situation, based on what we already know. For example, we assume our friends want to spend time with us, care about what happens to us, and wish us well. So we look forward to seeing them or speaking with them, and expect sympathy if we have a problem and tell them about it. What these prejudices give us is a form of lens through which we view what happens: we notice all the evidence that these assumptions are true, and build our prejudices further.

So the question isn’t whether we have any prejudices; it is whether our prejudices are useful. For sure, being prejudiced towards expecting our friends to behave in certain ways is useful to us. Making the assumption that a meeting is bound to be difficult or boring may be less so!

Our prejudices are not set in stone, so we can choose to keep or discard the prejudices we have, and to create new ones that could serve us well, once we are aware of how they affect the way we see situations and people.

For me, a useful way to consider our prejudices is to distinguish between the ones we have for something and the ones we have against something. Many of those we have against something are not based on our experience primarily – they tend to be about things or people we don’t really know much about. On the other hand prejudices towards certain things tends to be based on our experience of it being useful to us.

An example would be how as children most of us are told not to speak to strangers. This may be a useful prejudice for a child – although possibly not to be applied to everyone they don’t know! – but as a grown-up the residue of this prejudice against strangers can be a real handicap. It would mean that we are wary of anyone we don’t know and approach interaction with them with some trepidation – that is a severe limitation on us as social animals. And of course, the alternative is to make the assumption that most strangers are good people who could be friends and will probably be helpful and pleasant – a much nicer way to be in the world!

A prejudice colours how we approach our everyday lives, so let’s make these colours bright and enjoy how that makes the world a brighter place. I find my prejudices are generally pretty useful to me – how about you?

 

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YOUR ‘ENERGY BANK’

We all know how personal finance banking works, even if we don’t always stick to what we know! Being in debt is not a good idea, especially since the debt gets bigger the longer we leave it, as they charge interest. It’s best to keep in credit, and preferably to have a bit extra in case we have something unexpected to pay for.

Your personal energy bank works in the same way. If you use more energy than you have stored, you pay a price for it, in health and mental fitness. It is more advisable to ensure that you have enough energy for what you have to do, and preferably a little extra there for the unexpected calls on you.

The major difference between these two types of banking is that we are not reliant on external circumstances helping us to top up our energy bank. We can be in control of how much energy we take out and put in.

We all know the things that drain our energy resources and the things that top the account up, and many of those things are within our control. This is not necessarily logical or even shared with others. For example, some people feel energised by tidying up the garden ad for others it is a draining activity driven by necessity not pleasure. And time spent with some people energises you, whilst other people you find draining. We’re not even consistent: sometimes the same activity that can energise you may be draining.

However, we all know whether we feel energised or drained by any given activity – it is simple to assess by how we feel at the end of it – so we can keep our energy bank account healthy by doing that assessment on a regular basis and re-balancing the account when it’s been drained.

If you don’t do this re-balancing on a regular basis, that energy bank becomes more and more overdrawn, and when that happens, almost everything becomes an effort. Even those things we enjoy require a little energy to get started, and if there’s nothing to draw on, we end up finding everything draining – and that’s miserable!

So let’s consciously identify some simple things that will give us some energy, and use them to re-balance. For example, I know that pilates or a bit of a walk will work for me. If they’re not possible, certain music is instant energy, or a phone call to one of my friends, and sometimes just taking ten minutes out with a cup of coffee – or a glass of wine! – works. When you know some of the things that give you a boost you can use them to top up that energy, and even plan in advance, so that the draining activities you know you have to do are followed by a top-up activity.

Your energy bank is the driving force that determines how you approach things. Keep that account healthily in credit and you will enjoy life so much more – and that’s what it’s about, isn’t it!

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