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Why do we limit ourselves all the time?
The moment we wake up, we automatically calculate what we need to do in a day, and tell ourselves that we don’t have enough time.
We wonder if we’ve got the capacity to be all that we need to be in all our guises, and we start the day stretched before we’ve even tried.
We start with “can’t”; when an idea or suggestion is put forward, we think about all the things that will make it hard, rather than going first to all the possibilities.
Everything makes us feel weighted and tired, and it’s because we try to cram too much into a day because we are so arrogant that we think ourselves somehow different from everybody else that of course we can do what nobody else can. Apply that to parenting, self-care, teaching, maintaining a home, eating good food, and our relationships. The thing is, we need to time to give value to all of these things and to be there to feel those moments fully.
And scariest of all, we believe everything that people say. We are so foolhardy and gullible that we openly believe all the negatives put on the table about us, and most dangerously, we believe and invest in the opinions that absolutely don’t matter. Of our bosses, our superiors, of those who have not earned our trust. We agonise over comments that would be so much easier to figure out a way to let go, because our egos have been bruised. It’s ironically challenging, being human, isn’t it?
The thing is, all of the negatives, the fatigue, the impossibilities, and the can’ts are all going to happen. You can’t Teflon-coat yourself, or be so prepared that you are bullet-proof.
So isn’t it so much easier just to go into the day?
Isn’t it easier just to go into each situation, get stuck-in, problem solve, and get in up to your armpits rather than the unnecessary worry and preamble?
We all get stuck in that. I get stuck in that.
I write, and re-write, and agonise, and wonder, and rehearse, and re-rehearse. That is one of my best personality traits, my care and thoroughness, at my worst. Burning holes in every bit of joyful spontaneity and casting distrust on any of my boss-level ability to adapt and problem solve.
So today, and every day, I am going to undo those limits. Life is messy, and you can’t dress rehearse.
Pause, take the layer of worry off and drop it like a heavy coat.
The day will happen whether you worry and agonise over something or not.
You will need to walk into whatever is scaring you no matter what.
Why don’t you spend the time and energy thinking about how you will navigate, rather than how you will avoid?
There are so many minutes in a day that go wasted in worry, and we look back on each weekend, each Sunday afternoon, and wonder why we got so little done and feel so wrung out? I am sure that it is, in part, because of the limits we put on ourselves.
Embrace the sucky, amazing, glorious, messiness. Go and live, my darling people!
As I continue to step into myself, I realise increasingly how adaptable I am. And while I carry my own vibrancy and momentum, when I am confronted with a force or personality greater than mine, more selfish and unpredictable, less sensitive and thoughtful, I either fold into myself or adapt to that person. I move toward and I please. That is my MO.
It’s so subtle that I don’t even realise I am doing it sometimes; I am so able to mold myself to a situation that I convince myself this was the correct option, even if it means working harder or differently. And I also tell myself that it is good to learn, think of the greater good, I shouldn’t be so set in my ways, and that I need to stretch myself.
And it’s certainly not because I am not comfortable and confident in myself. I feel that I am confident in standing my ground authentically and simply, without fanfare. I am playful, joyful, energised, vibrant, interested, and I continually evolve in courage, perception, and strength.
And yet, there it is. Only when I draw back far enough do I realise that I am adapting imperceptibly, even to myself, to a situation “for the greater good”. Or, if I am being brutally honest, because I am afraid of confrontation and am used to being “the one who thinks differently”. Being the one on the outer with some sense of optimism and personal momentum, when you are surrounded by strong, bull-dozer of a character with a whole cast of minion sicko-fans is a real litmus test to feeling your DIFFERENT-NESS.
So I’ve noticed something unique about this week: So far, every day back at school has been a gift. I have loved being back in the frontline, and some of the stresses I had last year have been removed just by having time away. The gift has come from the deep recalibration that a holiday offers. All the things that you assumed were okay are realigned to have merit and worth, and you find your equilibrium, not that of the workplace. And until things are pulled away from this centreline, I intend to listen hard to this equilibrium and honour it in my favour, for my own well-being.
During the holidays, I have spent time with people who see me completely, and love me playfully, honestly, and warmly. And now, at this unique time of getting back on the treadmill and running fast, I want to catch all the times that I am feeling discomfort as a warning sign, an indication that I need to pay attention and be alert and NOT automatically adapt.
I’d like to stand at that crossroad fully, and decide if I will choose to adapt and ask more of myself, or if I will stand in my own truth and rock the boat a little. Or a lot.
I am doing things differently this year.
I will no longer allow myself to do the following:
Dim my light to make others around me feel more comfortable. I come back from my lessons excited, or wrecked, and everything in between. I am unfailingly honest and excited by my work, and I know that I do connection with my students exceptionally well. I will not make myself small just in case people around me feel small from my success, or have the pettiness to feel triumphant from my failures. I will step into my own, because it suits and celebrates me. I will walk into a room and my cup will overflow, and that sass will ooze from my being. And that is all there is to it, my friends. No debate.
But what I will also do is make sure I choose “my people” well. I will give the bare facts of what happens in my classes to connect with my department to be an effective colleague. But I will make sure my most special + unique successes are shared with the people who matter to me, and very likely outside of my department. These are people who are in my inner circle, who will cheer me on because I succeeded.
Allow others to make off-hand comments that are designed to cut me down. You know the ones; the comments which take the shine off something wonderful, or something I am excited by, or something that is unique to me, like my love of colour. Let me remind myself that:
The conversation with myself will be different, though. Rather than huddling into myself and seething, I am going to remind myself of these two points, work through the anger + frustration, and when I am ready, lay it down. Because I have so much more that I want to be filling my life with. It is also worth mentioning that no matter what the stress level or situation, someone who has my back will NEVER make me feel less than my full worth. I might have to press pause on a conversation, but I will NEVER be made to feel small for trying. Let me remember those wonderful, strong leaders I have worked with who treated me with that sort of boldness + integrity combined. Hell, let me become a leader! There’s another conversation for later…!
I don’t want to be ANYONE’S “Girl Friday”, unless it’s someone I love. This is an uncomfortable conversation, but I’m laying it down. Those females who absolutely thrive off a quasi-flirtatious relationship with their seniors, who gobble up slightly demoralising banter like its manna from the sky. Those females who love that they can have that intensive one-on-one banter and forget that that there are other people around them, because they are relishing the adoration of being the first wife, the alpha female. I just want to throw up, my goodness. That intelligent, beautiful women simper and crumble at this sort of attention and destroy not only their sense of self-worth, but any self-worth their female colleagues had for them. For me, let me always remember to try and expand the circle. I will not buy into that intensity of friendship in the workplace, because I’d like to care for the well-being of the team. And if I catch myself doing that, as a colleague, or as a teacher looking after my own classes and supporting the class dynamics, I hope that I will have the grace to pull back and readjust.
Plus it’s just so damn 1960s and pre-feminist in values! How utterly demoralising that you can be won over by a flirtatious compliment and strung along? While I want to enjoy all of my woman-ness and femininity, I am not going to swoon over a compliment over my looks, my new white blouse, how I’ve done my make-up, my legs, or anything else of that nature. That beautiful and delicious part of me? Absolutely reserved for the very special people in my life who have permission to find me sexy, gorgeous, alluring, and breathtaking.
That shit in a place of work, even the bare whiff of it, is deeply uncomfortable-making for those of us who want to shine our own authentic, truly beautiful light and work hard.
Please, girls + women, do not take the easy compliment and alienate all those around you in the strong sisterhood. Please have more self-respect than that.
p.s. For me? I’ll take the compliments on my work, the joy in my appearance (non-flirtatious, just in the colours, thank you!), the quality of my teaching, the integrity with which I work, and the connections I have with my students.
My compass + quality of work. I forget that just because someone is in a position of leadership, that they may not have my best interests at heart. I am an incredibly effective employee, but that does not mean that every bit of feedback a person in leadership gives me is necessarily with good intentions towards me. And while you would hope that people in leadership work with integrity, and most do, unfailingly so, I am going to take a moment in between to judge for myself. I am not going to allow the seniority of a position dictate the merit of a comment or piece of feedback. I will put it in light of my own performance and the judgement of the personal providing the feedback, and then decide if it is something I would like to act upon.
Emotional strength + health. The conversations I have with myself are extraordinary sometimes, and not in a good way. I looked back at some of my reflections from last year, and the words that I began an overwhelming number of them with were, “I’m so tired.” I was emotionally tired from hold back, adapting, and not acknowledging my true worth. And the thing is this; if I allow this to happen, there is no way that I will fully step into my worth further, or continue to have weight and merit. Let me hold myself in high esteem that I may resonate authenticity and merit, and let those people I have allowed to take way too much + mental energy play catch up with me. The conversations I am having with myself this year are going to put ME at the heart of them, and continue to build my courage and emotional resiliency. They will not all be optimistic or easy. But they will be focused on me, not the situation, not the unfair slight, not the interaction that made my blood boil, but what I can do about it.
Numbing + time. I am embarrassed at how much time I have wasted numbing on Youtube + Facebook, again, almost imperceptibly. Just another 10 or 15 minutes, and I have lost 1 to 2 hours of glorious creative time. And do you know what it was which made me do this? FEAR. Always FEAR. I was afraid that if I truly looked inside myself, I would find that I had no idea what to do, no solution, and that it would all cost too much to sort through my thoughts and emotions. But we have to start. And anything of value takes time, including the hard solutions. So rather than unhealthy, extended scrolling and numbing, I am going to embark on those hard sit-down-and-dissect sessions with myself. Because the time I am saving right now is significant, the connections I am fostering with people I love are amazing, and the clarity I am gaining, just mind-blowing. I feel like I am walking a straight path, head high, even if the weather is inclement, where as last year I was climbing over branches and dodging potholes in a changing climate.
Life is interesting, girl! Life is really interesting! Spare time wasted without agency or choice is a block of time that you’ll never get back. When you are creating + engaging, in a relationship, friendship, creative project, or practising a skills, personal or professional, life is truly engaging. And as I realise how much I love being creative as a means to unwind, rather than just lying on the couch scrolling Facebook, I think sadly and wistfully back to 12-year-old me who just raced through her piano practise at breakneck speed so it was “done” enough to allow me to be inert. What is the point of done, when all the interest lies in the journey?
Nothing is permanent. In Pema Chödrön’s book, When Things Fall Apart, she explores the concept of impermanence and how disappointing and frustrating people find this, when it is a fact of life. For example, I get so hung up about a flowerbed that I have freshly weeded sprouting brand new weeds that it almost outdoes the satisfaction of the week of weed-free garden that I have enjoyed. The same applies to the house getting dusty when only two weeks ago, it was pristine. Why do we get so frustrated? Why do we expect things to just be perfect and in a state of unmoving, clinical “safety” all the time? Life isn’t written like that, and to clean or weed is to have a beautiful place to live. Let me rethink my unreasonable petty frustrations, and my aversion to cleaning, knowing that life is an every changing beast, continuous and surprising.
So yes…I am doing things differently this year…! 😉
I have a fear of being too much trouble, being annoying, or asking too much. This fear has been well-hidden for ages, and mostly doesn’t bother me, but when I really look and dig deep, it’s right there.
I’ve recently come back from an extraordinary Gwinganna retreat in the Gold Coast which was NOTHING of what I expected, but gave me so many little starting points in how to improve my health, my well-being, my thinking, and in embracing life. Now I think I’m reasonably healthy in many things, and I think my strength is my emotional well-being, but this realisation with lingering fear surprised me.
I’m able to ask for what I need in my professional and personal life with consideration and generosity. I’m fair and thoughtful in my dealings, and always try to be compassionate and put things into perspective. But I realised there is another fear beyond all this…it’s the fear of pushing boundaries when things get really uncomfortable. When this happens, I quietly abort mission and make sure everyone around me has their feathers smoothed, their favourite blanket, and a nice hot drink, metaphorically speaking. Or, if I do not respect the person, that they leave with their sense of self intact, EVEN IF I DO NOT RESPECT THEM!
I realised that I am uncomfortable with discomfort!
So when life is going well, and everyone is reasonably happy and calm, my requests and boundary-setting all work perfectly. I don’t mind being “audacious” then, because no-one’s back is up. But what about when it really counts? When the turmoil hits? When there is deep stress that needs navigating?
I realise I am afraid.
And this fear is something I’d like to challenge, and something I’d like to patiently sit with and develop stronger navigating skills for. Already this year, I have had a few moments where I’ve had to step in and be the captain of some of these intensely stressful moments, where emotions are high and there is tension in the air that I can almost tangibly feel. I REALLY don’t like these situations; for one, I’m intensely introverted, and secondly, I go into life wanting to engage with people from a place of joy + energy! I don’t handle grinding, harsh confrontation very well. This is different from conversation and discourse, where there is a sharing of different opinions, information and ideas, and where both sides are deeply valued from the onset; THAT is invigorating for me. But those times where I stand to be unreasonably annihilated by someone who is just on a verbal rampage…well, those situations affect me deeply, and I admire those people who know how to navigate those times.
And it manifests in other ways. Sometimes, but not all the time, I will reuse a mug rather than getting a beautiful new one, order a meal that’s easier to prepare, agree to something because it puts less pressure on the person being requested of. Or even when I’m in disagreement with someone and in line to receive an apology, I will make it as kind and easy for that person to apologise as possible. So while I take care to have the boundaries that look after me, sometimes it still comes at my cost, when it should be the quiet strength and fairness of the situation that should win out.
Sometimes, I deliberate between compassion, fairness, and forgiveness, and which is actually at play. But THIS FEAR; fear of walking into a storm and avoiding those intensely difficult situations, is something I’d like to get better at. Even though it is exhausting, even though it takes a lot out of me and I don’t want to do it on a regular basis, I’d like to know that I could be the captain of that ship.
And in my heart of hearts, I know – I deeply know – that I can do it.
So here’s my little “imperfect” challenge to myself, to start facing this fear. I’ve been given a Country Road voucher as a thank you present, and rather than spending it on something practical, useful, or something people “expect” me to wear so that they feel safe, I am so going to consciously spend it on something that is different, something a little whimsical, a different style to what I would normally wear, and something that will take a little more care and time to wear properly, not just something I can put on for practicality’s sake. Because as colourful and vibrant as my outfits are, they are also embedded in practicality. I’d like to practise the “imperfect” challenge but wearing something a little frivolous, whimsical, and different. Wearing it strongly, and embracing a different aspect of me.
And I have a new mug lined up for my tea. 😉
Trust your struggle.
Trust your struggle, because without struggle, there is no grit against which softness can mellow, no darkness upon which light can shine, no marker for something more extraordinary.
Trust your struggle, because in those moments of adversity, you learn…my God, you learn more than you know, and sometimes it can take you years to understand the core of that gift. But you don’t think that, because at that exact moment, you are IN struggle.
Trust your struggle, because you find new corners of yourself, new ounces of strength, new colours.
Trust your struggle, it gives you the truest friends.
Trust your struggle, because you have the capacity to figure it out. You just don’t have to do it all at once.
Struggle with trust, love, and hope…we all of us are made for struggle, so that we may grow.
David Wong wrote a blog post in 2012 entitled: 6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person
This captured my attention + I read it voraciously.
I didn’t love the wording, I don’t agree with all the statements. But the essence of it got under my skin completely + resonated with the core of what I believe is living a good life.
I DO think that it is each person’s responsibility to bring his or her version of excellence to the world, to develop their skills and gifts, and to share them generously. As with any passage of growing and development, there will be adversity, grief, and difficult decisions to be made. But there will also be clarity, purpose, and light.
To me, that really IS the purest form of joy…to live a good life.
I don’t subscribe to doing any of this with unkindness or cruelty. Striving of this sort is small, false, and fearful.
I believe it’s possible to aspire to excellence with compassion, integrity, and grace.
But there is also a heat + fire that comes off living a good life that requires strong boundaries, courage, and clarity. There has to be a change of momentum, a change in the air around you. “Nice” is not enough. “Nice” is nice, but it is not a life with purpose. And without the courage to look within yourself, REALLY look, and to identify what you would like to bring to the world, what your purpose will be, you are not grabbing life with both hands, you are not taking responsibility, and you are not fully alive.