Saturday, 17 August 2019

Self-love - Harder than love

Why is it so difficult to love yourself and so easy to love others?

Always, we are the ones coming down like a ton of bricks on ourselves. You know, the dreaded inner critic working 24/7.
Why did I do this? That was so stupid! When will I ever learn? I make the same mistakes over and over again. I’m not good enough. I’ll never succeed. I can’t do that. They will laugh at me if I dress like that. I don’t fit in so there’s obviously something wrong with me. I’m unloveable. I’m too skinny. I’m too fat. My hair is too frizzy. I’m not tall enough. I look horrible. I am ugly. I hate myself on photos. My voice sounds weird. I can’t sing. I can’t dance. I am not smart enough. I am a weirdo. I have to do what they say, not what I want, or they’ll never like me. What was I thinking? My parents have always told me time and time again that I am aiming too high... 
And so on and so forth.

We diminish ourselves on a daily basis, over and over, either consciously or unconsciously. It is like we have been conditioned to beat ourselves up and see ourselves as these small and insignificant creatures.

We keep comparing ourselves to others and modern media only adds to the injury - exposing us constantly to “perfection” by showing off beautiful, young, tall and thin models, emphasising the fact that you look nothing like them (and, by the way, very often they look nothing like their photos either thanks to the magic of removing flaws and enhancing features with Photoshop and other image altering softwares). And, of course, the media is your best friend - it’s showing you the way how to get this perfect. Buy this face cream, go on this diet, do that workout routine, buy these shoes, dress, handbag, accessories, etc.

So, in your desperation of being much less than perfect, less than these models and celebrities, your self-esteem goes down deeper than the roots of a 1000-year old tree. And despite buying the creams, dresses, shoes, going on that diet (and starving yourself), doing the latest fashionable workout routine that promised you to get rid of your belly fat in 10 days, your body is still the shape of a muffin, your acne spots and rosacea are still there, and that dress is so tight you can't breathe. How on earth are you supposed to love yourself? You feel like a failure, for sure.

But the put-down attitude does not only come from what society deems beautiful, successful and acceptable, it can also come, like butter on the toast, from people around you, starting from a young age. The "what makes you think you can do that?" from your parents, the "you're not cool because you're not wearing the latest Levi's jeans" from your schoolmates, the "you burnt the roast again, you're a rubbish cook" from your other half, the "you can't make me do that, you're a horrible mum" from your kids when you ask them (nicely) to help out - all these can make you feel inadequate, not good enough or just not enough. and these comments come from your loved ones, people who are supposed to love you and accept you for who you are but, in their eyes, who you are does not measure up to THEIR expectations. And that's it, we get used to the criticism, believe it and down goes the spiraling into worthlessness. Don't get me wrong, we've all made comments at one point or another in our lives to loved ones similar to these. They are not meant to be demeaning, very often they are meant as advice or even an attempt to protect you or challenge you to better yourself, but when you're the receiver, they DO hurt and, in a way define us and the way we see ourselves. So really, with that in mind, it's quite a challenge to love ourselves the way we really are.

And there comes in "loving others".  Now that is so easy to do - in comparison.
Do you remember when you were a teenager and you used to fall in love every 10 minutes?
When we have a look at how we love others, the first things that come to mind are admiration, beauty (attraction), even protection, but a lot of the time, we end up loving someone different from us, even if it starts with common interests. After all, no two people are the same. It is as if we are aspiring to become this person, who then turns into a role model for us. Oftentimes you hear that when you are in love, you lose yourself. 

Loving someone else is admiring their qualities, truly loving someone is also accepting them just the way they are, faults and all, and being supportive of who they truly are and aspire to. Loving someone is fully respecting them.
Why can’t we just do the same for ourselves?

There is a fine line between loving yourself and being a full-blown narcissist, self-centred and oblivious of others. Genuine narcissists will love themselves without question or a second thought. But not loving yourself, and therefore rejecting yourself in a way, for fear of being narcissistic, to me, is the proof that you have humility (probably too much but that can be worked on), that you do value others as you don’t think yourself above them; if that’s the case for you, well, there is absolutely no chance of you becoming a narcissist! You’re way too much of a decent human being for that!

Loving yourself is an essential ingredient to feeling at peace, to your happiness and relationshipswith others.

Loving yourself is recognising with pure honesty your strengths in order to fulfill your full potential, your weaknesses/limitations so you can work on them, your influence and impact on other people’s lives. 

Loving yourself is not just for yourself and your wellbeing, it is also for others. One of my favourite quotes, which illustrates this idea perfectly, is from the amazing Maya Angelou:


Loving yourself is your birthright, it is the respectyou fully deserve.
When you love yourself, you don’t put yourself at risk unnecessarily (substance abuse, violent relationships...), you have the strength to say NO and walk away from situations that are a direct assault to your values and who you truly are, you eat and drink healthy because you have that much respect for yourself, your body and wellbeing.

All these examples are manifestations of loving yourself. So, as you can see, it is not about boasting that you’re the best, the most beautiful, the smartest or the only one worthy on this planet. It is about recognising that you have your part to play and that you have value.
You are not NOTHING - you matter and deserve the love you so willingly give others.

Much love to you x

Monday, 12 August 2019

Gratitude is the word

Gratitude - the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
From Latin “gratus” which means pleasing, thankful.

In a world where you are always encouraged to do more, to have more, to be more, to achieve more, it is easy to forget what you already have - take it for granted.

I do believe that, at some point or another in our lives, we are all guilty of that - taking our friends and loved ones for granted, taking clean water and food for granted, taking a roof over our head and jobs for granted...
We never have enough and, while reaching for more and growing is something so perfectly natural to human nature, it often clouds the fact that there is always a lot to be grateful for, even in the darkest of days.

A lot of us focus on the glass being half empty, complaining - oftentimes with legitimate cause - but this kind of mindset always results in negativity, dissatisfaction, disappointment and unhappiness.

I am a firm believer that only a positive mindset can bring us the happiness we need to feel loved, fulfilled and somewhat secure.
Showing, feeling gratitude is like knowing that, no matter what you are thrown at, the Universe has your back. Gratitude not only brings you to a positive mindset, it also helps you trust your path and intuition, make better decisions as, when you are grateful, you fully and honestly recognise all sides of your life situation and current status, and therefore you will make more informed decisions to carry on.

In the definitions at the beginning of this article, “kindness “ is mentioned as a manifestation of gratitude, focusing on actions and results of such actions in a positive way. These acts of kindness resulting in gratitude, while occasional events, are no less important than the general state of feeling or being grateful. It is a first step - at the end of the day, they all work together.

Daily gratitude is a big thing nowadays, almost fashionable, you can hear about it everywhere, and there are so many ways to practice daily gratitude.
My personal gratitude practice is a full part of my afternoon/evening meditation. I always finish my second meditation of the day with a minute or so of gratitude - it can be the delicious chocolate and coconut macaroon I had as a snack for my break, or my loved ones, or even just to be alive.
Whatever it is you are grateful for, for the practice to have an impact on your daily life, it should never be forced. It is whatever you feel, at this particular moment in time, you actually are grateful for, not what you think you should be grateful for. It needs to come from your heart. When it does, the more you feel it, the more the gratitude will feel real to you.

For people who are religious and pray at the end of the day, it is an ideal opportunity to include and acknowledge what you are grateful for, thank the god(s) you worship for the things in your life that make you feel truly blessed.

You can also keep a gratitude journal, if you want to expand to more than just one word, or, if you are not a natural writer, a great idea - very popular nowadays and quite decorative - is to keep a gratitude jar (can be easily substituted for a box or even an envelope). Each day, you write down something you feel grateful for (you can even include the date) on a small piece of paper - a creative way to re-use your scraps. On days when you feel the Universe is against you and you just can’t find anything to feel grateful for, your jar will be a reminder for you.

If you make your own bullet journal, you can also include your gratitude practice by adding a column to your monthly/ weekly overview page or add a small space to your daily sections.

Some examples of what I am grateful for (in no particular order!)

  • For my life and relatively good health 
  • For my meditation practice 
  • For my son and my cats
  • For having a roof over my head and a job to pay the bills 
  • For my art supplies 
  • For living in a country that is not at war
  • For Bjork’s songs 
  • For opportunities to explore and pursue my interests 
  • For learning new things and growing everyday 
  • For colours
  • For my bed
  • For when things are working the way they should 
  • For my books 
  • For yummy healthy food 
  • For YouTube to get short varied workout and yoga routines for beginners 
  • For poetry and meaningful quotes 
  • For my iPhone and it’s camera
  • For the internet 
  • For my rose quartz facial roller (heaven!)
  • For being gluten sensitive - it has helped me be more mindful and careful about what I eat
  • For home time
  • For opportunities to travel 
  • For days off and holidays 
  • For the air we breathe 
  • For dark chocolate (70% cocoa, yes it IS healthy and good for your brain!)
  • For a cool breeze on hot days 
  • For my Sketchers trainers
  • For being able to read and write 
  • For vanilla, orange and lavender scents
  • For a sunny day 
  • Fo clean public toilets with toilet paper (rarer than you might think!)
  • For a day without drama
  • For my sister and brother in law 
  • For silence 
  • For the ocean 
  • For my colleagues 
  • For my friends 
  • For music 
  • For stories 
  • For ORS olive oil leave-in conditioning cream (saves my frizzy hair ever time)
  • For clean fresh water
  • For my green tea and moon milk
  • For my neighbours 
  • For getting older and wiser (or at least more aware)
  • For my creativity and willingness to always learn and grow
  • For my free time (the very little amount I sometimes have available)
  • For being strong, resilient and independent 
  • For my five senses
  • For my intuition 
I hope these give you some jumpstarts to start your own daily gratitude practice so you can reap the benefits in your life. Enjoy and THANK YOU 

Monday, 15 July 2019

Killing the ANTs that ruin your life

Today, we’re not talking about killing these little creatures - thankfully.

ANTs stand for Automatic Negative Thoughts. That’s the little voice in your head telling you you can’t do it, you’re no good, no one will ever love you and everything bad happening to you is either YOUR fault or THEIR fault.

We all have automatic negative thoughts (no light without darkness) but it’s what we do with them that determines our mindset. It is all up to us.

ANTs, when listened to religiously, can have devastating effects on your life - depression, feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence, inaction, desire to fit in and ignoring your true needs or, in extreme cases, can even lead to suicidal tendencies. All these effects preventing you from fulfilling your full potential, from becoming who you wish you could be and are actually meant to be.

Unfortunately, there is no magic potion that will make your ANTs go away. It takes willpower, awareness, total honesty, as well as self-compassion- lots of it.

When an ANT tries to steal your thunder, be aware of it, as if you were an outsider listening to the thought emerging. What is it saying? Why is it saying that? Is it really true? Think of your past experiences and what you have achieved so far - you made it this far, after all so you can’t be as useless as this ANT tells you.
ALWAYS remember that you do hard things all day every single day of your life and, every single day, you’ve pulled through. Give yourself some credit.

Many of our ANTs will attack us on a very personal level, targeting our weakest spots, and it takes courage to stand up to them. But not all ANTs are created equally and some will target other people around you or outside situations, altering the nature of your relationships to others in a negative way.

For instance, someone at work getting a promotion when you didn’t, not only could make you feel “not enough “ but could also lead you to feel resentful towards your promoted colleague - your ANTs will most certainly try to make you feel that way, for sure, if you let them.
When these ANTs get into your head, listen to what they are saying- “it’s not fair he got promoted and I didn’t; I work as hard as him - he must have sucked up to the boss to get it”.
Next step is to analyse the ANT with clear honesty and fairness - and that’s a big shift from being wound up and resentful, I get it: if your colleague works as hard as you, then there is a fair chance that the promotion is well deserved, fair and square, what job does this person do? Has he taken on extra responsibilities that could explain the promotion, rather than “sucking up to the boss”? If that’s the case, shouldn’t you feel happy for them that they finally got recognition for all their hard work?
If you do indeed work as hard as this colleague and do a similar job, maybe your turn for a promotion is just around the corner? Why not ask nicely? It’s all about getting your emotions out of the way and rationalise the situation in a clear and honest manner. It’s not easy, it does take practice, and, even though I have been practising for a few years, there are still times when the ANTs get the better of me, and in these times, I give myself some grace that I will do better next time.

On some occasions, your ANTs will relate to a genuinely negative individual/group of people/situation, and while the thoughts will be more than appropriate - in case of betrayal, for instance - what you ALWAYS need to remember is,


And it’s all down to that, keeping you safe and taking care of yourself so you can be the best version of yourself and find your inner peace.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

This Is Why I Work Safely

Working safely is a pretty common sense concept.

However, we all cut corners to get the job done quicker; when you have 100 jobs waiting for you next and crazy deadlines (I'm pretty sure it's not just at my workplace that it happens on an everyday basis), the pressure - ie. stress - makes you stupid and stops your brain from processing what you have to do properly as the blood flow is leaving your brain slowly to get your body into a "fight or flight" mode.
I am not making this up or being dramatic, it is a scientifically proven physiological reaction.

So you're overwhelmed, you can't think straight and BANG! an accident happens. It could be a near miss, a slight bump on the head, but it could also be a broken leg, crushed finger or even worse. When you fall off from the top of the stairs all the way down, it's no joke, you can potentially die instantly.

We act without thinking, just to get the task over with - when I think of the number of times at the supermarket I used to climb on the edge of the refrigerated unit to get my pack of Applewood Cheese slices from the top shelf and right at the back, it gives me goosebumps, and not the good ones. I was extremely lucky as my stupidity could have caused me serious injuries, at best. I hate food shopping and I wanted to go home quick, but that should have been no excuse.

Just over half a year ago, I went on an IOSH Health and Safety Managing Safely course for 3 days as I was asked to be the Health and Safety representative in my workplace. And what an eye opener it was! I nearly cried at the first video where a young father of a toddler and with another child on the way, fell off a scaffolding on a building site at his workplace and died instantly. In the video you then see the reaction of the young mother when she learns her husband has just died at work. So crushing. The video was obviously staged but it really opens your eyes, not only on how quickly an accident can happen, but also who it directly affects, and that it actually happens regularly in real life. So heart-breaking.

I don't know about you but, personally, I want to die of old age, in my bed, while fast asleep. I give enough of my time and energy to my work (and I do enjoy it, most of the time), but I'm not about to give them my life or health as well by getting the job done quicker so I can have even more jobs piled up on me and make me lose my marbles!

I work safely - a conscious decision I have now committed to - for these little creatures:

(my 2 furry babies, Lego and Maya, and my son James) ...because they need me more than work does, because I want to be there for them, care for them and enjoy their love and company, because they matter more than anything else in this world to me.

And this is why I work safely...