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Forgetting ourselves to suit others

We so often dress ourselves in ill-fitting suits to please others. We twist ourselves in knots and become ‘pleaser pretzels’, trying to look and act like what we think others expect of us: our parents, our boss, our partners and even our friends and children. We distort ourselves, and forget our true selves, to fit a mould that someone else created for us.

I was inspired to write this post by a Tara Brach podcast and the fable of Zumbach’s suits (as told by Ram Dass). It’s a story of a highly respected village tailor, who creates custom-made suits from the finest fabric. One day a man, who has recently succeeded in business, goes to see the tailor, to be fitted for an expensive suit. When the man returns to try on, and pay for, the suit it doesn’t fit. One sleeve is much longer than the other. The tailor, who does not like backtalk from his customers, tells him, ‘Nonsense! It’s the way you are standing‘. He pushes the man’s shoulder hard until the sleeves appear even. But then the material bunches at the back and creates a bulge in the fabric. The man explains that his wife doesn’t like to see him in a suit that doesn’t fit well across the back. So, the tailor shoves the man’s head forward until the suit appears to fit. The man leaves the tailors confused, but pays for the suit in full.

Later that day, the same man, standing with shoulders hunched and his head strained forward, encounters someone who admires his fine suit. The stranger asks, ‘Who made your beautiful suit? Was it Zumbach?’. The man replies in surprise, ‘Yes, but how did you know?’. The stranger answers:

Only a tailor as brilliant as Zumbach could outfit a body as crippled as yours‘.

There was never anything wrong with the man’s body. He was perfect as he was, yet he had contorted and changed himself to please another.

When we are truly accepted for who we are, those who love us love us as we are and don’t try to change us. When we truly love ourselves, we love and accept every element of ourselves, even if it doesn’t appear to fit with society’s standards of ‘acceptable‘ or ‘normal‘. When we deny ourselves, we live in constant conflict between our true selves and the outside world.

Be yourself and expand into, and enjoy, the unique and special mould you were born with.

Exercising out of love not fear

How many of us listen to music or watch TV when we are exercising? The answer: most of us. We are thinking about what we are hearing or seeing – an external stimulus – and not about the movement and feel of our bodies. The mind and body are disconnected.

Many of us exercise out of fear, rather than love. When we exercise from a place of fear we are exercising to: lose weight, stay in our current dress size, look like the ‘perfect’ being we’ve just seen on Instagram, beat our previous time or distance, keep up with up our perceived competition, brag to our friends or burn off the extra calories we feel guilty about. It may seem to come from a positive place, but it is borne of fear: fear of feeling inadequate and less than those we are comparing ourselves to, or of being rejected by our parents, friends or society.

When we exercise from a place of love, we exercise to: take care of ourselves and boost our mood through ‘happy hormones’ (dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin). When we exercise out of love for ourselves, we lose the fear that keeps us stuck where we are and can ultimately make us sick. Love and fear cannot coexist. When we exercise out of love for ourselves and our bodies, our mind and body are connected. There is no conflict between what the mind is thinking and the body is doing. We are whole and can truly appreciate what our bodies can do for us.

So, the next time you are exercising, try to lose the fear and just ‘be‘ in your body and appreciate what an incredible vessel it is. Exercise out of love for yourself and try to just enjoy it for how it makes you feel and the amazing health benefits it offers you.

And if you are suffering from chronic pain, know that:

the endorphins you are producing are your body’s natural pain reliever

the dopamine you produce helps with your motor system function

the serotonin you produce helps you to sleep better

and the oxytocin you produce helps promote trust and bonding in your relationships

Above all, don’t forget: Your body is not broken. It is strong, and so are you.

Don’t leave yourself behind

When we give everything of ourselves to others, we neglect our own needs and values. We lose who we are in the pursuit of other people’s happiness. We forget ourselves and our own needs, putting others first – to the point that we lose sight or ourselves, our own needs and values.

Why? Because it seems selfish to act on our own needs and because we worry that spending time on ourselves means we are neglecting someone else. We are being neglectful – but only of ourselves. Why is neglecting ourselves OK, when we go out of our way to protect others from experiencing this?

Acting out of self-love is not selfish. In fact, until you truly love yourself, you cannot truly love another. When you love yourself you attract people who love, respect and appreciate your energy. It’s OK to give yourself the same love and kindness you give to others. You are worthy of love and kindness too.

You still have life (despite Covid-19).

Two of my neighbours died this week, on the street where I spent my childhood. Both deaths were unrelated to coronavirus. I used to babysit their lovely children, and I only have happy memories of both men. I feel so very sorry for their families. It is, as the Guardian newspaper termed, ‘grief upon grief‘, where people around the world are being denied the opportunity to say goodbye to loved ones, and friends and neighbours are unable to show their support by physically coming together to support a family.

It got me thinking: life can be short. Nothing can prepare you for the death of a loved one. You never know when your time is up. I speak from experience. I lost my dad when I was 14, and my mum the day after my 37th birthday. I lost my sister when I was 41. None of these people were what you would call ‘old’ when they died.

So, no matter what you have lost during this Covid-19 pandemic, you have not lost life. You have not lost love and you are still breathing the same air – only right now it’s cleaner.

I’m sorry if you have lost:
– Your gym classes
– Your weekly coffee morning
– Your monthly visit to the hairdressers
– Your holiday

But that’s all temporary, and it’s not a really a ‘loss’ in the real sense of the word.

I’m really sorry if you have lost:
– The date of a scheduled operation
– Your chance to sit exams you have worked damned hard studying for
– Your job
– Your marriage

However, chances are you still have a roof over your head, and you’re going to be OK – even if it may take time to get back on track financially.

What do you still have is LIFE! Life is precious. Appreciate every day that you wake, and everyone you love and who loves you back. Tell them. Make sure they know you love them. You lose that opportunity when they are gone. Heal old wounds, get back in touch with those who hold a special place in your heart, even though they did X,Y,Z to you X years ago. Let it go.

You will get through this, and if you live life consciously I’d go so far as to say that you’ll come out of this stronger and with so much more gratitude for the things you took for granted before this started. And we are all guilty of taking things for granted; assuming he/she will be there the next time we wake or come home from work, assuming our children will stay healthy just because they are young, assuming everything will be fine if we keep working, paying the bills and putting food on the table.

So be thankful for your life and the life of those you love. Appreciate them and use this time to support them and let them know you are always there for them, even though you are physically separated – for now. Life will return when it’s ready, and then we’ll be complaining about the next thing! Don’t bother – it’s a waste of your time and energy. Focus on what really matters.

Take care of yourself and those around you. Make this time count, for you’ll be back to that commute you always hated before you know it.

People’s opinions and why it’s important to ignore them

Ah, other people’s opinions! How I wish I hadn’t spent so much time listening to them and acting on them. But, it’s only when we start to become self aware and more confident in our own strengths and abilities that we realise why we have valued these opinions so much – because essentially we were looking for someone else to fill our cup. We were looking for someone else to give us self-esteem.

First of all, let’s define what an opinion actually is:

Opinion: a judgment, viewpoint, or statement about matters commonly considered to be subjective.

Subjective: a subject’s personal perspective, feelings, beliefs, desires or discovery, as opposed to those made from an independent, objective, point of view.

Since when was someone else’s perspective on life more important than your own?! Perspective is so individual that it can only ever truly belong to one person. How you see life is unique – seeing it through the eyes of someone else can never make you truly happy.

When you value other people’s opinions over your own, you end up becoming a slave to what other people want. Running around trying to please everyone with everything you do. Never really tuning into what you need.

In time, you start molding yourself to fit the idea of what other people think you ‘should’ be and dismiss your own needs and desire. You stop showing your whole personality. You stop feeling like you can be yourself. And you stop trusting your own judgment because you assume that other people know better!

When you do this you start to live life on other people’s terms and not a life truly authentic to who you are. You can only offer people a shell of who you are, and you deny your partners, friends and family the opportunity to truly know you and how amazing you are. You also deny yourself true happiness.

And then, when they, and their opinions of you, are dead and gone, you will be left wondering why you gave them so much power over you, and why you believed all their stories about you and elevated their perspective on life above your own innate views of the world.

You’ll have lived a life that’s NOT what you wanted or needed or truly desired.

So, how do you tune into your desires, your voice and your truth?

Recognise Judgement for what it is

Let go of the fears about what other people think. Realize that 9 times out of 10, when you’re worried about what other people think – it’s a projection. You’re projecting your own fears and your own internalized self-judgment onto other people. So when we take responsibility for letting go of other people’s judgments we empower ourselves to stop being harsh and judgmental with ourselves too.

Stop feeling embarrassed

We all cock up sometimes! What’s the worst that can happen? You might just make someone smile when you make an idiot of yourself, and you show yourself to be human. Forget waiting until you’re a size 8 before you hit the beach. Who cares really? Just letting go of the fear of embarrassment is so liberating, and I find it a great tool to use on teenagers when you want to get their attention. Holiday karaoke is so empowering, and SO great as you’ll never see those people again, so why not?!

Stop comparing yourself to others

Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Paddle your own canoe -everyone’s journey is different. No one’s life looks the same, and hurray for that! Why do we so often feel we’ve failed because we’re not doing what someone else is doing and we don’t have what they have?

Set your own goals and don’t be distracted by what other people are doing. They have their own agenda, for their own reasons. Good for them. Their plan is not yours, and it wouldn’t make you happy. In the same way, your plan wouldn’t bring them fulfillment either. That’s how life is and we are richer for it.

Comparing ourselves to others is exhausting and a waste of time. It’s self-imposed torture and like dying in installments when it makes us feel ‘not enough’.

Work on your self-esteem and self-worth

Self-esteem is just that – esteem of the self. No one can give you a ‘bag of self esteem’. It comes from within, once your recognise your own worth and value. You were born enough weren’t you? How did that worth diminish over time? Because you listened to other people’s false beliefs and you accepted them as your own.

One of the best ways to stop caring so much about what other people think is to start feeling really great about yourself outside of what other people think of you. That way you no longer look externally to fill your cup .

Set Boundaries

What do you do when you have toxic people in your life who sap the joy and energy out of you? You protect yourself and you set some boundaries that’s what! If you have people around you who are making your feel less than them, you politely and firmly exit the conversation, and if necessary cease communication. It may seem hard at first, but you owe it to yourself. If someone can’t treat you as you would treat them, you don’t need them in your life.

Whose Life is it anyway?

At the end of the day, this is about YOUR life, and life isn’t a dress rehearsal. You don’t get to do it all over again. You’re the one who will wake up at the end of it and either feel that you’ve lived a life that was fulfilling and authentic, or a life that you regretted.

One of the biggest regrets of the dying (from the book ‘The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware) is:
“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Ultimately, the only person’s opinion that really matters is your own. You’re the one who has to be happy and satisfied with how you lived your life, so you’re the one who gets to decide.

Stop fearing failure

We all fail. Don’t let this fear, or the fear of what others may think of your failure, get in your way.

Really, there is no such thing as failure. There is only learning and growing.

Listen to your Intuition

What feels right for you? What is your true path? What type of person do you really want to be? And, more importantly, why are you ignoring this voice?!

Tuning into your intuition is an essential piece of letting go of other people’s opinions.

So often, we follow the pack. We’re another lemming throwing itself off a cliff because everyone else is. We do what other people tell us should work because we crave that approval from other people. Or we crave that validation that we’re doing it “right”.

But listen to that voice that says, ‘Wait. This doesn’t feel right’. What’s right for someone else may not be right for you. Your path is unique and different and special. Just like you! Keep that connection to your truth and live a life you’ll remember.

Fan the flame of your inner pilot light

I borrowed this term from Lissa Rankin https://lissarankin.com/what-is-your-inner-pilot-light/ (it’s explained in more depth here).

To quote Lissa, our Inner Pilot Light begins in every baby as the untainted, radiant, buoyant light of God/Goddess but often gets filmed over by trauma, conditioning, and the illusion of separation from the Eternal Flame from which this unique spark arises.

I’m not religious, but I love this idea of us being born pure and untainted, and the understanding, for me, is that it is through trauma and conditioning that our inner pilot light (our true self) can start to fade. If we are not loved or supported as we need when we are young, then our inner pilot light can go ignored as we go through life trying to live up to the expectations and demands of other people, following the limiting self beliefs that others have conditioned us with: ‘you’re not good enough’, ‘you’re useless’, ‘you’ll fail’.

However, that Inner Pilot Light never goes out. It may flicker and fade, but it is always there.

It is through self-awareness that we begin to question the conditioned responses we have acted out for years, mostly to our detriment, and to begin to fan the flame by slowly understanding our true selves, desires and capabilities.

This belief you have of not being good enough. Where did it come from? Who told you this? Were they right? Was it true then or now? Was it possibly a reflection of their own fears? Was it simply their opinion, based on their own conditioning? You don’t have to believe it any more. It’s not true. You are good enough and you always have been.

Now is the time, especially with a third of the world’s population in isolation due to coronavirus, that we find ourselves with more time to look within, to ask ourselves ‘what do I really want to do with my life?’, ‘Where are my strengths and what is my calling?‘ and, most importantly ‘What makes me happy’ (what fans my inner pilot light).

It isn’t selfish to want to be happy or to pursue your dreams. There hasn’t been a better time for change. It’s within you and it always has been.

Corona crazy!

The world has gone mad over coronavirus! And it’s fascinating to observe the different reactions from different governments and populations. Until recently the French were accused of being too calm. Last night Macron decided to close ALL French schools for two weeks! We live in France. Our children are delighted. I’ve just heard that my son’s tennis training has been cancelled until further notice. Only 8 people attend his training. What’s next? I can’t go for a run in case I bump into someone?! This morning my running friend and I knocked elbows, instead of the usual ‘bise’ on the cheek.

In the UK, people have been advised to wash their hands to the tune of ‘Happy Birthday’. I assume this is more about time spent washing hands and won’t ruin anyone’s actual birthday. I suggested that MC Hammer’s ‘You can’t touch this’ might be more appropriate.

I’m not trying to make a joke of the virus. It is highly contagious and has caused the deaths of many elderly people. However these are elderly people, many of whom were already suffering health problems, and who would struggle to fight flu or other viruses. And as a percentage of those who contract the virus it’s small.

Preparation ― not panic ― is key when it comes to the novel coronavirus outbreak. However, this can be easier said than done, right?

It can be hard to keep calm with the barrage of news stories about COVID-19 and worries about vulnerable populations, sick leave and the health care system.

With so much uncertainty, it’s completely normal to feel concerned or even scared right now.

But experts are correct that managing your anxiety can be beneficial. One of the best ways to do that is to get some (measured) perspective about the situation.

Here is some useful information from the Huffington Post:

People do recover from COVID-19

Harvard Health reports that “most people who get sick will recover from COVID-19.”

As of publication, more than 66,000 people globally have recovered from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

Many people who contract the disease will experience ‘mild’ symptoms

Experts say cases can range from mild to severe. Some may even be asymptomatic.

Symptoms could include “fever over 100.5, cough, malaise, and occasionally nausea, diarrhea. In more severe cases, shortness of breath, chest pain and pneumonia will be apparent,” Dr. Linda Anegawa, an internist with virtual health platform PlushCarepreviously told HuffPost.

Doctors recommend treating the symptoms with medicines like Tylenol for fever, drinking lots of water and getting lots of rest.

You likely can’t get it from your food

“We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging,” a spokesperson from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service previously told HuffPost and mentioned in a statement.

The main ways the disease spreads are through people who are in close contact with the disease, respiratory droplets, and touching infected surfaces and then touching your face.

You also can’t get it from your pets

Evidence shows that dogs and cats may test positive for coronavirus, but it’s unlikely they’re able to pass it on to their humans. Go on and get those belly rubs or scratches in. (It’ll help your stress, too.)

It may go away once it gets warmer

We still don’t know a lot about this virus yet since it’s new ― including a definitive conclusion on when the outbreak might end, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No one can say for certain that the spread of the coronavirus will slow down or be less severe once spring or summer arrives. However, some experts have said there’s a good chance it can, based on similar diseases from the past.

Scientists are working on a vaccine

This may not be done or available for the public anytime soon, but it is projected to be ready in the next 12 to 18 months. While this isn’t great news for an immediate fix, there is at least hope that researchers will develop more medicine to fight this off in the future.

One of the absolute best ways to help prevent it is simple

Wash. Your. Hands. End of story.

Doctors recommend rubbing your hands together with warm water and soap for 20 seconds or longer. (Need a song while you scrub? This brilliant app has you covered.) Use common sense when deciding how often to wash. After using the bathroom, before you prepare food, after you’ve been in public places and after you’ve touched potentially dirty surfaces are usually good bets.

Additionally, avoid putting your hands on your face when they’re unwashed (here’s how to do it) since the virus can easily spread by touching areas like your eyes and nose. Disinfectant wipes are also a great resource for keeping things clean (this guide explains the proper way to use them and the best ones to buy).

Let’s hope that this, at the very least, has encouraged people to practice better hygiene habits ― ones that should last longer than this disease outbreak.

Finally, know that you have the power to help what’s happening right now

If it helps to channel your panic into something productive, try thinking of the situation this way: Taking care of yourself right now is an actionable priority. A lot of people will not be severely affected by this disease, but there are plenty of people who will. This includes older adults and people with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease.

Practicing good hygiene (as mentioned above), social distancing when you can, getting your flu shot if you haven’t already, and staying home if you’re sick are all ways you personally can make a difference.

We have a responsibility to each other as humans on this planet. One of the best ways to exercise that is by looking after your own health and habits. If you haven’t been doing that yet, now’s a great time to start.