Being a mum is hard work, any mother will tell you that. There are always errands to run and things to organise. Making time for yourself can feel like the last thing you have time for. The thing is if we continually put off our own needs we can become stressed and burnt out. We can become stuck in a hamster wheel of striving and doing and lose touch with our own needs and desires.
When I say that making time for yourself is important, I talk from experience. I used to live my life from the neck up. I was so out of touch with myself. My focus was on everyone and everything external. My mind jumped from task to task. Life centred around my overflowing to-do list and responsibilities. My focus was always on what everyone needed and what I had to accomplish.
I ignored the nagging voice from within telling me to slow down and to make a change. Self-care was put off in favour of the more “productive and sensible” daily tasks. I was being a selfless and exhausted martyr which understandably lead to depression.
Looking back, it feels like my body was forcing me to stop and listen by mentally shutting down. I had no choice but to stop and realise that I wasn’t happy. I was behaving like superwoman yet felt like I never measured up.
I worked with a life coach and a counsellor as part of my recovery. Both encouraged me to acknowledge how I felt and accept it. I had been denying my inner voice and ignoring my feelings for so long that it took considerable effort on my part to start listening to myself again. This process of relearning has been transformative. Today, I try to ensure my inner voice and intuition a have chance to be heard.
Learning how to listen to your body and intuition can be difficult if you are in the practice of ignoring them. We often ignore our needs in favour of what is expected of us or seems like the “right” thing to do. Re-learning how to listen to yourself is a process. As part of this process, you need to find ways to slow down your noisy and cluttered mind. By quietening and grounding myself, I could hear what my intuition and body was telling me.
I tried yoga and meditation and found that the movement of yoga really drew my focus inward. Quiet moments with a cup of tea and also proved to be a mindful and meditative activity for me. I struggle with traditional meditation and often find it hard to maintain my focus. After reading about mala beads on a yoga blog, I decided to give them a try. I really liked having the focus on the beads and mantra as they really help draw my focus inwards and slow the pace of my thoughts.
These days I like to consult that voice from within. Self-care, yoga and meditation are all ways that keep me in tune with my intuition and body. They keep the internal clutter in check so I can listen to when my body wants me to relax or when my intuition is telling me to be brave and take a wild step into the unknown.
As a busy mum, this process allows me to take care of myself. I do not put down time off repeatedly anymore. I listen to when my body is telling me that I need something.
Ignoring how I felt did not help me get more done, it did not make amazing things happen. That total disconnection from my mind and body actually made me ill. I am able to maintain a much better mental health now because I focus on having a good mind-body connection now.
My mind also feels calmer and clearer. There are not as many to do’s and responsibilities rushing through my mind. If stress builds up, I can notice it and take the time to slow things down. This means that I usually approach life in a calmly and rationally rather than being rushed and frazzled. I can see when I am behaving like I am superhuman and remind myself that I am just one person and I can only do so much.
What I also notice from this practice is that I am aware of when I need to drop tasks from the to-do list. I have a bad habit to try and do everything all at once. By taking time to slow my thoughts and to really listen to my own inner guidance. I can look at the things that aren’t really that important, the things I do for expectation’s sake or the tasks that aren’t that urgent. I can prioritise from a calm and clear headspace.
Learning to listen to my own inner guidance has been something I have had to learn. It takes practice and a lot of trial and error. Yoga and mala meditation has been such an integral part of this process. They have helped me draw my attention inward and slow my mind down. This slowing down has given me space to really work out what matters to me. It helps me work out how I want to show up in the world. The type of mum I want to be and importantly what I want and need from my life.
I have created a new offering and I am super excited about how it is going so far. If you haven’t already heard, The self-reflection challenge is made up of 30 light and encouraging videos. Best of all this challenge is free and self-paced and has no end date! This challenge will be ready whenever you want to catch up on videos, start it all over again or share it with someone.
How you see yourself
What self-care means to you
Self-love and compassion
What really matters to you, dreams goals and other magical stuff!
The challenge covers a wide range of topics to help you reflect in a fun, useful and maybe even a little challenging way.
Sharing what you are learning from each video is a great way of getting the most out of this challenge. Let others encourage you and also let others know what you think about their comments.
I will be answering each question along with you so you can get to know me a little too. I have to admit that I am feeling the fear and doing it anyway with this challenge but I believe who we are, deserves to be seen, showed off and celebrated. Our dreams and ideas are important!
Recently I was in Gdansk with my husband for a mini-break. We took advantage of our temporary child-free status and signed up for one of the city’s free walking tours. If you haven’t been to Gdansk I would recommend seeing the city via one of these walking tours. You get to hear so many unique stories and are shown so many little details. It was interesting to see the things that are easy to miss as you take in the scenery around you.
If you have been to Gdansk, you will know that the old town is a stunning mixture of medieval, gothic and renaissance architecture. During our walking tour, our guide showed us the Dlugi Targ (Long Street) and its opulent-looking townhouses of the rich merchants of the middle ages. He told us stories of how the merchants designed their houses. The design was a grand display of their wealth. They used Roman gods and myths to decorate their houses to also display their values to their customers. They wanted to demonstrate that they were good, honest and fair tradespeople as well being wealthy and successful.
As we wandered through the city listening to the tales of the merchants, I began to think about how we show ourselves to others today. The merchants of Gdansk used their houses to convey the values they had to others. Nowadays, I think it is less likely that we would decorate the outside of our homes to show who we are. We do, however, consume home decor to display our personality, values and taste.
When it comes to who we are, we try to display a side of ourselves that is going to be accepted by others. We want to be liked and viewed favourably just like the Gdansk merchants. These townhouses were all about generating trust, business contracts and wealth. We may do the same in our work with the way we present ourselves to others. I think it is also true that we display ourselves in a certain way personally too.
I began to think about what hid behind those opulent fronts. All the family quarrels, hidden debts and imperfections. We play the game of hiding and displaying the “appropriate” sides of who we are in certain situations. You may have felt the conflict of doing this if you have ever been in the company of two very different social circles. For example, as a teenager I remember acting a certain way with my friends but I certainly modified myself when I was in front of my parents. If the two were ever in the same company simultaneously, I became nervous about trying to be both a fun and playful friend as well as the sensible and dutiful daughter. If you have ever felt this internal clash between the two sides of yourself then you will know what I mean.
We adapt and display different parts of who we are in different settings. This got me to thinking about the sides of myself I used to or still do struggle to hide (or struggle to stop hiding!) I used to hide my own thoughts and opinions with certain groups of people for fear of being judged. In discussions, I often kept quiet and agreed to things that I really didn’t like in favour of going along with the group. At times, I have hidden the part of me that wants bright red hair and turquoise nail polish because “it’s not what a sensible, thirty-something, mum does”. I have kept quiet about the part of me that hated my partner’s job because it paid well. Where have you hidden? Where have you dampened your spirit in favour of going along with the convention?
It can be a dangerous game to censor ourselves too readily. A little censorship can be helpful if you are a merchant trying to land a lucrative contract but be careful not to hide too much of yourself. Being you is what make life fun and free. Our differences and passions, our uniqueness and quirkiness are our greatest gifts and to hide them away from the world never to be enjoyed is a tragedy.
My nails are currently decorated like turquoise mermaid tails and my hair is a vibrant burgundy (according to the box). I may be the only mum at the parents meeting at school with winged eyeliner and bright nails but that is me. It is what makes me different and unique and hiding those parts of me is such a shame. I’d rather let myself shine whenever I can. I am done hiding and I recommend you ditch it too. When you are who you are unapologetically, it is so much easier. You do not feel the clash of being who you should be and who you are. You don’t have to manage several identities. It’s much less work and much more honest. Most importantly, there is less pressure to be something you are not which is freeing and liberating!
Can you notice when you tell yourself what you should be doing? If you can notice it and question whether you really need to compromise, this is the first step to stopping hiding. I have started asking myself, “Who do you want to be here?” and I find it really helpful. Do you want to be the girl who stays quiet or the one who speaks up? The brilliant thing is that the choice is yours from each second to the next. You can make a change as you are ready and when it suits you. You can be brave and put yourself out there or choose to stay quiet and safe when you feel vulnerable. We all have a choice and that is where the freedom lies.
There are times when life feels uncertain, when you face challenges and you worry about how the future is going to look. Not knowing that things are going to work out can feel scary and overwhelming. We agonise over making decisions and wish someone would arrive with a crystal ball. We wish to be told that all our pain and worry are pointless because it is all going to be ok. Unfortunately, time travel isn’t an option so how do we help ourselves feel more grounded and secure in the face of uncertainty?
Here are 7 little things that I have found help me when the future looks scary and unknown.
Imagining how you want things to look once you get to the other side of this challenge can feel really reassuring. This helps you to focus on the reasons you are doing this horrible scary thing rather than running for the hills. Remembering your goal or solution can also help you keep a little perspective when you are in the trenches. This isn’t permanent, things are going to look brighter!
When things get really tough don’t be afraid to back off if you need some space. Forcing yourself to power through and relentlessly look for a solution feels awful and is most likely counterproductive.
You don’t have to continually feel the fear and do it anyway.
Back away, pause and regain your strength and then get back to it. You are allowed to choose the long way round or take a detour. Return to your problem when you feel a little less overwhelmed. Finding your next step can seem easier after you have had the chance to take a breather.
Talk to people who understand what you are facing. If you do not know anyone who has been through what you are dealing with then you can always find someone who you know will cheer you through it. We are not alone in our struggles, speaking out can be a great way to remind ourselves of this. Utilise family, friends and/or paid professionals if you need to get advice or to talk through what scares you. Let others support you.
Get an early night, eat good food, take breaks, and have a little fun where you can. Being scared and brave both use up a lot of energy so take care of yourself. Even superwoman needs her rest so make sure you do too. Think of the things that make you smile, it doesn’t have to be a spa day or a day in the hairsalon to be self-care!
Show yourself a little compassion, what you are doing is scary for a reason. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not the right thing to do but when things get scary we catastrophize and worry. Be gentle with yourself. You don’t need to have it all figured out or be perfect you just need to show up and do what you can.
Nothing is permanent, no situation whether it be a bad or good one. The journey you are on will quite probably take you longer and be more difficult than you imagined. Nevertheless, you will get past this uncertainty It is not a permanent journey either, these feelings will pass. Be prepared to change things up on this journey. Things may not go as expected and that is ok.
Self Belief can be difficult when we are in the midst of something that feels uncertain and scary. Focus on your own abilities and have faith that you are capable to see this through. Doing this makes it a lot harder to focus on the uncertainty. Believe in your determination to see this through. You have undoubtedly overcome obstacles before and you will be able to overcome any current ones too.
We cannot avoid change and challenges but we can look after ourselves as we face them. We can give ourselves the time and space we need to get through uncertainty. Remembering that we are not alone in our situation and that we always have an option about how to proceed can take some of the pressure off around an uncertain future.
If you are struggling with uncertainty you can create a Self-care plan for yourself with my free worksheet. It is part of my free resource library which has loads of great resources just like this one.
Have you ever noticed yourself focusing on what you think you should and shouldn’t be doing? The sort of thoughts that add pressure to a situation, for example, “you should just get on with things”, “you shouldn’t let it bother you”. These types of thoughts can often be a means of self-judgement.
They are a reflection of a value we are placing on ourselves or our situation. Most often the judgment isn’t a nice one. It feels hard and restricting like a hard lump in your throat that you have to force down.
Recently, I found myself skipping exercise in favour of getting work done. I felt like I was behind on my blog and my first e-course launch was imminent. It felt like there just wasn’t enough time.
Pushing through my work and putting off breaks seemed like the solution. I started eating lunch at my desk (which is a pet hate of mine) to get more done. I kept telling myself that my work should be my main focus and that I shouldn’t be taking time off when I was behind. It all sounds very hard and restrictive, doesn’t it? I can tell you that it felt that way too.
When I gave into taking a walk in the sunshine, I felt better (no surprise there). I even came up with the idea for this article during my walk. Ironically, I made more progress with my work while taking a break than the previous hour where I had sat at the computer willing inspiration to come and then distracting myself on Facebook.
Consciously I know that exercising and getting outside are both good habits. I know that they make me feel good and keep me well. There is, however, another part of me that fights this. The one that tells me I should sit at my desk until I have created a reasonable amount of output. The part that criticises and makes the judgments and generally tells me I am not enough as I am.
I’m like Pinocchio when he meets honest John and Gideon the cat and decides to join Stromboli’s puppet show instead of going to school. I start off down a road where I believe that I need to work harder and change what I am doing. There is the thought that I am not a good enough writer. I fall into the trap of listening to these judgements and believing them. In these moments it is hard to remember the truth.
Can you believe you are enough as you are? You do not need to be perfect ever. Please do not aim for a prettier, smarter, more organised, or more capable version of yourself.
You do not need to deny yourself the things you need. How you show up in the world every day is just how you should be. You are important and valuable. You are doing your best and that is all that is ever required.
Should and shouldn’t statements can be a powerful weapon used by our inner critic. Imagine how your life would look if you could stop wanting to be different than you are?
I had my first experience of an online troll in my business a few weeks ago. I had put out an anonymous online survey, requesting feedback from the people who view my writing and social media. The aim of the survey was to get some opinions and input on my work at this early stage in my business. The survey focused on whether the recipient had seen my blog and social media and they’re first impressions thought of it.
When I received notification of my first response I was excited. I was looking forward to seeing what people really thought and learn something new. The first response I received was from the troll and the comment they made was that both my business and I were a complete waste of space and time.
My initial reaction to this was, of course, a few seconds of fear. I was seeing my critical inner voice being replayed back to me through the words of someone else. After those first few seconds came to the realisation, that they had commented on me personally and I honestly felt a great deal of relief. There isn’t another person in this world who can accurately judge whether I am a complete waste of space and time. That person may genuinely not like my business and my blogging but they can never truly judge me inside or out.
There is not a person on this earth who can see inside me and know everything about how I think and feel. They cannot know all I have overcome and achieved or even failed at in my life. Anyone who knew every tiny detail of me couldn’t possibly claim I was a waste of space and time. I felt a great relief at the realisation that this comment although mean had absolutely nothing to do with me.
The next wave of realisation was how far I have come. There would have been a time I would have pondered over why someone would have said such a thing. Was it true? What did it mean? What had made them say such a thing?
I have previously pondered hurtful comments or upsetting situations for weeks, months even years. This time I didn’t and that is freaking amazing, it feels awesome!! What a gift to be able to see my own growth. It was so encouraging to be hit with a difficult situation and be reminded of how much I have grown in confidence.
I could see my growth in action leave me feeling grateful for that mean comment. In a time where I am setting up a new business which often feels like a great scary and daunting leap into the unknown. At a time where I am clinging onto little more than blind faith and my ability to work hard. To receive the reminder that I also how a new-found confidence and self-assurance is a welcome gift.
I don’t know why that person wrote what they did. It is possible that they dislike something I am doing. In fact, it is also possible that they loved it and wished it was them in my shoes. They may have simply felt angry that day and my being on facebook put me in the firing line. Either way, I know that what they said wasn’t about me. This was someone else’s emotion in my space.
So, to whoever wrote that comment, your mean message won’t stop me or make me give up. This work is way too important, too needed, too loved to let you affect it. You are more than welcome to continue your thing and you are welcome to your opinion. I am still going to be over here doing my thing unapologetically with those who want to join me
Thank you, thank you for the opportunity to learn about myself and see how far I have come. Guess what, I am taking what you said and turning it into fuel for my business. I am writing about you and turning your negativity into my positivity. Thank you
I show up in the world imperfectly. Messy is my middle name. I don’t really know what I am doing most of the time. I make it up as I go along and that means I make mistakes. These are the parts of me that used to make me stressed, but at the moment I actually love those parts of myself. I care less and less about hiding my ditzy side.
I’m not a professional writer, I failed my higher grade English. If my spelling and grammar checker misses an error, I probably won’t notice it either. If I put a blog post out with a typo, I’m ok with that.
My blog posts all have an update button and I am not afraid to use it. I write with honesty, love and openness. I write about what feels good, in a way that feels good. My style of writing will change as I practice and develop my skills but I am in no rush to become more polished just yet.
I’m a messy haired, hole in my sock, lose my keys in my handbag kind of woman. Sometimes I’m late and I forget stuff. To use a great Scottish word, I am hallyracket and a bit of a hurricane. But I’m good with that, I finally love those parts of myself.
I used to hide those characteristics and see them as flaws. I always felt like I needed to pull myself together. The thought that I didn’t have my ducks in a row, was one that would cause me worry and shame. I felt like I really should be a better adult. The truth is I’m just fine as an adult, an adult who does things her own way and isn’t afraid to makes mistakes anymore.
The feeling of not having to be perfect is addictive. It feels freeing and it makes my life so much simpler and easier. I choose to let myself off the hook, to love every part of myself. It is an act of self-compassion and an act of self-acceptance. We are all ok as we are, we are all beautiful even in our worst moments.
It has taken great practice and there are still days when I will get caught up in what I think I should be doing. Gratefully, there is beauty in the fact that I can accept the error. I will be hard on myself sometimes and I will remind myself that is not how I want to be. A life of failing to measure up to an impossible standard is not what I choose. I choose compassion, I choose acceptance and I choose kindness.
Choose to love everything about yourself. You can decide to show yourself love and compassion. The way you show up in the world is perfect and acceptable. Be comfortable with the fact that you don’t have a clue where you are going or what you are doing.
Give yourself permission to make it up as you go along. You get to choose how you treat yourself and how you feel about who you are. What do you choose?
The pressure is immense and it is everywhere. To be the person who gets everything done and holds everything together. It exists between two people desperately trying to convince the other they have a hold on things. It’s on Pinterest with its pin upon pin of perfectly styled homes and the craft projects you’ll never get around to. It’s in magazines with a super airbrushed flat stomach and glamorous hair and make-up. It is in the filtered Instagram posts of the pretty bullet journals with calligraphy handwriting and the stylised gym selfies.
You see others who look like they have all their ducks in a row in every corner of your world, whether it be social media, magazines or in your own neighbourhood. They are the qualities you wish you had and a measuring stick for your own worthiness. If only I could do that, be that, say that, wear that…
The pressure is crushing, the strive for the impossible, for an image and an ideal that probably doesn’t even exist in real life. Your rational mind knows the truth about the things you see but you berate and push yourself to do more and be more nevertheless. To present a perfect image, to make things look good for anyone watching.
There is a beauty in who you truly are whether you see yourself as measuring up or not. Don’t be afraid to show the world who you are and how your life really feels. There is a freedom in being fearlessly and unapologetically you, warts and all. The world needs a bit of imperfection, we all crave a dose of beautiful reality.
The truth is you are beautiful and amazing and strong and smart. Your mistakes only make you human and your flaws are no different to anyone else’s. Your truth attracts people to you. People love who you are beneath the layers you put on for the outside world.
Don’t be afraid to mess up, to admit you haven’t got it all figured out. That there are days you can even begin to deal with all the responsibility of adult life. Don’t hide your un-stylised home or your unfiltered selfie. The woman down the road will thank you. You may even inspire her to show up imperfectly too because being who you are authenticity is attractive and infectious.
Your greatness exists within you at the centre of the storm around you. It has always been there, within you.
Everyone has a passion, a love, things that excite us. There are things in life that bring us so much joy that we lose track of time. The expression “time flies when you’re having fun” very much applies to the kind of activities I am talking about.
I have recently rediscovered a lost love of mine. I lost touch with my love of reading and writing in my twenties. Accidentally, I had been depriving myself of something I loved but I had also sub consciously been keeping my passion writing around without even realising it.
When I attended university, I read and I wrote every day, I studied sociology and gender studies so I often spent my days soaking up sociological ideas and feminist theory. By the end of the day, my boyfriend would pick me and I would bombard him with my enthusiastic ramblings, the whole journey home, I felt passionate, inspired and excited.
When I left university, I signed up to receive a few sociological journals, considered writing for a feminist website. I wanted to keep this stuff in my life. without noticing it, other priorities got in the way; I was working full time and focusing on a new career, writing fell off my radar.
Once my son was born, being busy took on a whole new meaning. I had a crime novel that sat on my bedside table for a year, only half read. I just stopped reading anything that wasn’t consumable in 5 minutes. When I did attempt a novel, it took me ages to get through it. I decided to quit trying to read for pleasure. I was so busy being a grown-up, I believed that I didn’t have the time to read for pleasure.
Ironically, I continued to struggle to walk past a bookshop without going inside. I always felt excitement at looking over the shelves of books. I also hoarded stationary, mounds of paper, pens, pencils, highlighters, and post-its. My passion never left me entirely, it simply lay dormant waiting for me to remember how much I enjoyed it and make some time.
I kept the books from my time at university like a badge of honour. They sat on the shelves, full of bookmarks and folded corners. I told my children were leftovers from a time when mummy was clever. This isn’t really accurate on reflection, I was neglecting my creativity and my time at university was a time in my life where I felt enthused and creative and inspired, intelligence doesn’t really come into it.
My husband and I took a trip to New York in the autumn. While we were there, a friend recommended we visit Strand bookstore. Visiting that bookshop was magical, they had thousands of books. I stumbled upon the gender studies section and felt the spark of inspiration. There were many that I had read at university and even more, I had never heard of. I looked from the sociology section to personal development then hovered a while looking through the fiction, with the feeling of excitement growing all the time.
The entire shop would have come home with me if it had been possible. I don’t know why that particular shop and that particular visit reminded me of the passion that had been forgotten; maybe it was seeing all the books from my university days.
Once I got home from my trip, I started reading again, joined a book club, downloaded novels to my tablet. My university books have been moved into my office. I have also set up a blog so that I have somewhere I can write about what inspires me and share ideas. Those reams of paper and stationery have started being put to good use. I am a reader and a writer once more and I’m talking excitedly about what I am learning again, the boyfriend who used to pick me up from University…he is still listening to my enthusiastic rambling as he is now my husband.
Maybe, you have art supplies sitting in a cupboard somewhere, were you a martial arts fanatic as a child but stopped going to training? If you have a long-lost love, then my guess is that it is still hanging around in the background of your life. If you have a passion, nurture and protect it. Do not become so busy that you forget something that fascinates you and makes you feel alive.
What does your inner voice tell you? Is the voice kind and encouraging or critical and harsh, or maybe somewhere in between? When you make a mistake or face a tough challenge what do you tell yourself? We often do not realise how we treat ourselves through self-criticism. Many of us are acting as our own harshest critic rather than our own personal cheerleader
Self-criticism can be viewed as being motivating, a way to push us into action. According to Kristen Neff, PhD studies show that self-criticism can contribute towards low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. In modern western society, we are often encouraged to think of being self-deprecating as a positive attribute which is preferred to being over confident, boastful or arrogant. I believe that showing yourself compassion breeds confidence, combats fear and anxiety and helps you face challenges.
We all deserve kindness.
I believe it is easier to face challenges when we are cheering ourselves on. There is nothing wrong with a bit of motivation, but how we motivate ourselves and what we tell ourselves is important. We often face challenges with a black and white outlook; the things we do are either good or bad, right or wrong, we pass or we fail. This outlook is pretty unrealistic and unachievable and it adds to the criticism we give ourselves. This is not motivating it is spirit crushing.
Imagine facing doing something you dread, for me, it would be anything involving public speaking. If I stand in front of the people that I want to talk to while telling myself that “I can do this” and that “I am going to do the best I can” then I think giving that presentation is going to be much easier than if I am telling myself “you’re going to mess this up” and “you are rubbish at public speaking”
A difficult situation feels easier to handle if you encourage and support yourself through it.
How to show yourself more compassion
Think of how it would feel to face life’s challenges with an encouraging inner voice rather than a critical one. Imagine the potential. What could you do if you were supporting and reassuring yourself along the way?