In the past couple of weeks, I have found myself challenged when it came to sticking to this affirmation of mine that I have considered the gold standard approach to dealing with just about everything. It goes a bit like this: “I must stick to the apparent facts and let logic and rationality guide my decision-making, nothing more and nothing less”.
It sounds simple and crisp, and it leaves me with an action plan pretty much written out for me once I figure out the steps I need to take to get me to point B. It’s the easiest and most logical way to carry on, right?
But let’s just say I found myself in a little pickle, and things got a bit murkier than that.
Focusing on the present and tangible stopped being enough and I was sucked into a vortex that had been shaped by all the “I thinks” and “maybes” that danced around my thoughts.
But then I remembered why I have that mantra at all.
I remembered, again, that anything I can’t control or act upon right now isn’t any of my business. Come to think of it, it isn’t yours either.
None of us are responsible for trying to preemptively resolve things that may or may not happen sometime in the future/trying to control what someone is thinking or feeling about us/anything else that isn’t in our immediate control. And when it is time to face those things, we’ll know exactly what to do and how to do it. And if we don’t get it right, there’s room to fix things.
I know how hard it is to let go and just live in the moment. If I personally had the choice, I would be very tempted to leap at the opportunity to control things from start to finish and plan everything to the last detail. But even as I continue to grapple between trying to be relaxed and clear-thinking, and letting my anxious, control-freak tendencies get the best of me, I always end up being relieved when I let the choice to live in the present win.
More often than not, things turn out just fine or even better. That’s the sweetness of the unknown, and it’s handy for keeping us on track with our journeys to all things bigger and better. And when the outcome is more disappointing than that, what’s the worst that could happen? We’ll just have to survive and eventually, carry on like we always have.
I’ve written here before on the importance of being unapologetically yourself and showing up with full authenticity. But what happens when you realise that there are things about yourself and your life that you want to hone or change altogether? Can you still be authentic and honour those realisations? As you probably guessed from the title of this post, I think you can and I am going to tell you why.
Valuing ourselves the way we are right now and accepting ourselves are the embodiment of authenticity, but so is exercising the power to make the changes we want to make. This is because this process requires our being honest with ourselves, recognising the steps we need to take to change and willfully taking them — all things that cannot be achieved without authenticity.
And you decide when it’s time to exercise that power. You don’t have to wait for any other person to give you the thumbs up because your approval is the only one you need.
Learning and experiencing new things and formulating changes around them to the point that you find that you’ve outgrown old ways/people/places are acts of courage. And as with all things courageous and progressive, they aren’t easy.
You will probably encounter some pushback, whether from the outside or from within yourself. But staying on course, despite all of that, and living a life that’s true to your goals and values is the crux of staying authentic (and is also very worth it). Your friend’s concerns, frenemy’s sneers, and your own fears about being “fake” will pale in comparison next to that in the long run.
You’ve never signed a life-long contract with anyone that binds you to a particular narrative, not even the one you have told yourself, so you don’t have to act like you have. You are in charge of it, and you can change it when you want to, no matter how bound to it you or anyone else thinks you are.
And once you’ve internalised this, please extend that courtesy to others. Give them the chance to flourish into their best, most authentic selves too.
If there’s one thing I have done that I would tell people not to do, it is to wait too long to get the hard things done and to let fear take over.
I often waited for “just the right time” to do things before realising that I had left them too long and was then faced with not only the task I was avoiding but all the consequences of the wait — even if it was all just the realisation that the delay was unnecessary and resenting my own decision making, again. I spent too much time contemplating the hassles that never happened and letting my mind linger on the “problem” aspects of the situation that most of the time, weren’t as problematic once actually tackled.
And all for what? Fear. The fear that I somehow wasn’t equipped enough to deal with whatever I was facing, so it only made sense for me to wait for “just the right time”. Or the fear that I couldn’t possibly do a “big thing” because I am not someone who was capable of making big decisions, especially the kind that could considerably help me carve out the life I want.
Thankfully, circumstances didn’t always allow me to stay in that rut. Things cropped up that didn’t give me the time to stop and ruminate over the perfect game plan and wait for someone or something to nurse me through them. I needed to act quickly and I needed to use whatever tools I had to do it, no matter how sub-optimal I thought they were. As unsettling as things got in that process, they did ultimately get resolved and not uncommonly resulted in the same outcomes I was too afraid to seek in the first place or better ones. And almost 100% of the time, I came out with more confidence in my abilities because I did things I didn’t think I could do.
You can deal with everything this way because no matter how enormous a challenge looks, you only really have two options: 1. Do the best you can with the tools you have. 2. Do nothing and let things stay as they are or deteriorate because of inaction.
As cliché as it sounds, the perfect time to do things is now (or as soon as you can). If you don’t have the resources to move forward, then get moving to get them. Do you need to learn a specific skill? Do you need someone’s help with a step? Do you need legal clearances of some sort? Check those boxes. You can do it, and there’s probably a page you can Google that will tell you how.
I could probably hazard a guess that this is exactly how people who take on these big, hard, things — positive and negative — get them sorted. If no one is born knowing everything, and most of us aren’t born with everything we need to set us up for the rest of our lives, how else do they?
Doing hard things are just rites of passage that we will go through, and we can. We must.
I want to hear from you: Did you deal with anything that you needed to face head on? How did you stick it out? Share your experiences in the comments!
I had written about the importance of setting boundaries by saying “no” on the last post. For this post, I will be writing about a different type of boundary setting: Being vocal about your needs.
Just like saying no, being upfront about your needs can be difficult to do and it might also make you worry that you’re making others uncomfortable by doing it. I know, I’ve been there too.
And I do get it. In an ideal world, we’d be able to do absolutely everything on our own, from start to finish, without any need to ask for help while we’re at it. But the world we live in is far from ideal, so we need to work with what we have.
Now I am not talking about asking for things that you could do on your own if you just put in a bit more effort, because being as self-sufficient as we can is essential for being able to live happy, fulfilled, confident lives. But sometimes we need a leg up and by honouring that, you’re making the boundaries of what your needs and abilities are clear for people to see. You are tending to your own wellbeing, and that’s pretty awesome (and essential, of course).
Sometimes you might need to e-mail that friend with better connections than you because you need help finding the right business partner/mentor/spouse/employee/tour guide/whatever. Sometimes you need to call your boss and ask for a day off because you want to see your relatives off before they leave town, or you want to be there when your child goes off for an operation and stay at the hospital until discharge. Sometimes you might even need to negotiate a better offer/arrangement with your tutor/doctor/potential employer/customer/cat-sitter. You get the idea.
No one can guarantee that you’ll always be successful when reaching out, but you know the old adage, “if you never ask, the answer is always no.” And even when you find out the answer is actually no, at least you know for sure that’s the answer and you can move on to plan B, C, to Z and beyond — a lot like the infinite columns on an Excel sheet.
There probably are just about that many options, and even if there aren’t, you’ll eventually do just fine. But, there’s no way of knowing until you ask.
It won’t kill you; it might feel a bit weird and sting, but kill you it won’t. Besides, you have nothing to lose. If things work out the way you want them to, great! If they don’t, then you’re not really worse off, buuuutt, you’ve also gained by learning that you are capable of seeking for what you you need and desire, and that’s definitely worth it.
So really, just ask.
Do you find it easy to ask for your needs? Are there things you can do to make it easier? Share them here in the comments!
We often hear that one of the keys to living a positive life is saying to things more often: Yes to adventures, yes to new opportunities, yes to new relationships etc. And it is true, the more we say yes to things, the more we say yes to new experiences that could make our lives more dynamic and colourful. Our yeses help us grow, but guess what? So do our nos.
“No” is one of my favourite words in the human lexicon. In whatever language it’s said, it’s succinct, clear and an entire sentence on its own. It’s the perfect boundary setter and clear boundaries are instrumental to positive living.
I’ll let you in on a maybe-not-so-secret secret: Setting my boundaries by saying no hasn’t always been a strong suit. Although I wouldn’t say that I was the archetypal people-pleaser and I never really had too much of a problem saying my piece, saying no was no easy task.
If you had a problem you wanted to text me about even though I wanted to be left alone? I would have probably answered the message. Wanted to ask me a question I felt was a bit too personal or annoying? I’d have probably budged and answered it to keep the conversation moving. Needed me to help you while on a break? Ugh, alright, 10 minutes wouldn’t kill me. Lots of things were allowed to just slide.
I was capable of standing my ground and refusing to do those things, but I didn’t really like conflict and I felt it more comfortable not to. After all, I wasn’t saying yes to things that deeply encroached upon my values or violated my autonomy, so it didn’t seem like too much of a problem.
But it was a problem and it is for you too.
When we don’t say no when we really want to, we are telling ourselves that our needs are secondary and that we’re not worthy of having them met. Denying our own needs and ultimately, our own wellbeing to keep a “positive” atmosphere isn’t positive at all. It actually paves the way to very negative things like resentment and a lack of respect for you and yes, your boundaries.
If it’s hard to say no to the seemingly benign stuff, saying no bigger things that have worse consequences for you can be a lot harder, so you just have to start saying it. As with most things, it does get easier the more you do it.
You might have to ruffle a few feathers and you may cause a bit of friction too, but so what? We won’t always get the green light to do what we need, but we still need to get going anyway. The right people/situations will always be forgiving, even if it takes time. You will be happier and feel more positive in the long run. You will also live your life on your terms more than anyone else’s. That’s growth worth going through, too.
For the right people/situations in your life, compromise does have its place. Sometimes it’s your turn, but other times it isn’t and you can make that clear. Saying no is a fine way to do just that.
Saying no is a fine way to do a lot of things.
Do you find it hard to say no? What tips do you have to make saying no easier? Share them in the comments!
Everyone wants to live a peaceful life at some level. A few peaks and troughs do make things interesting, but in general, I think I can speak for the vast majority of people by saying that some (particularly inner) peace and stability is essential for staying content. We probably all realise as well that gratefulness for what we have and gratitude helps massively in maintaining that peace.
So what’s any of this to do with pie?
Well, in the past few years and more so, recently, I have started really believing that living a good, fulfilling life doesn’t have to come by constant pushing, shoving and competing with other people for all the dangling carrots that appear on our way. We don’t have to hate our current state to do well, and we can actually just take it all quite lightly and go on achieving what we set out to do. No rancour, no endless competitiveness, nothing; just hard work, taking what we need to on the chin and getting on.
I no longer believe that operating in scarcity mode is the best way to get results. In fact, it’s just stressful and seeing people achieve with a lot less emotional drainage has been enlightening and a bit annoying because I realised that I could actually do it too — so could everyone.
The opportunities and resources that can help us live good lives aren’t limited because we aren’t all scrambling for pieces of a pie that will run out. We can get to point B through a different route or maybe through the same one, just in a different time and set of circumstances.
Someone else’s success doesn’t necessitate our own failure, even when it’s identical to the type of success we’ve been seeking. We can (and should!) even celebrate other people’s successes because we don’t live our lives at each other, but rather alongside one another. And opportunities do tend to show up in different shapes and sizes for different people and at different times, and sometimes we have to make our own when we don’t find them. And that’s okay because when the time comes, we will figure out how and see that we can.
The point is, it’s pointless being in an eternal race against everyone and anything we think could hamper our chances of just doing or being what we want. Things will happen the way they’re supposed to, so let’s just try to do/be the thing and relax while we’re at it. We’ll probably be just fine whatever happens and a lot happier than we imagined.
Lately, sexual harassment and assault have been all over the news. It started off with accusations geared towards a few big names in Hollywood and their alleged victims speaking out, narrating accounts that cannot be described as anything short of spine-chilling. Shortly after that, more allegations came to light accusing other types of public figures of sexual misconduct which, of course, also followed with more apologies and some resignations. The most striking thing for you in all of this may have been how this news trickled down to private conversation and the number of (especially) women you know who said that they could relate to being victimised.
Even though each story and circumstance may have been different, you may have started to wonder if surviving sexual misconduct was somehow a female rite of passage — atrocious, silent, and taboo, yet somehow managing to masquerade as just another milestone. It may have brought back feelings and memories you hoped would never have to resurface. It may have even served as a reminder that some things have gone unresolved for a bit too long.
I just want you to know that whatever is happening or has happened, you’re not alone and that you don’t have to go through this thinking you’re alone. You are allowed to heal. You are allowed to speak up. You’re certainly allowed to use your legal right to get justice and you don’t have to put up with buried grief, blame and shame eternally. If something doesn’t or didn’t feel right, you have the right to be protected from it.
You certainly don’t have to be ashamed, even if the loudest voices in and out of your head insist you do. Shame is never the antidote in these situations and it just makes no sense, even though details of each story may differ and the layers seem complex. You were the victim of a crime. That’s it, a crime. Once someone decides that it was okay to violate the sanctity of your body and your sense of self, even if it was just through the spoken word, they have committed a crime, even if it is not punishable in your jurisdiction. So, shame on them and never on you, even if there is a societal insistence to impose a strange standard with sex-related crimes.
Societal messages aren’t always the barometer for justice and morality, sadly, even if we wish they were; we all want to feel supported and like we belong. But the good thing about healing and resilience is that they come from within, no other parties needed. I can’t promise you that it’s instant or easy, but I can absolutely assure you that it’s worth it and that so are you.
With The Lord’s permission, you can absolutely do this, even if you don’t have anyone to cheer you on for this journey right now. He’s there and you’ve also got me, praying for you and wishing you the best. I also can’t tell you for sure, but I have a feeling that you will find and/or know your tribe through this, and the people who give the love and support you need for your healing will stick around — they’re the ones who count. Above all, you count.
A lot of popular talk on health and fitness across all sorts of platforms seems to be about attaining them so that we could look our best and apparently, as a definite consequence, finally start living our best lives. We can even see it with marketing campaigns for services that promise to provide customers with the tools to attain health and fitness advertising success with people who’ve used their programmes and attained “hot bodies” as a reward.
Those “hot bodies” are represented as the epitome of fitness that is supposedly attainable for everyone who follows the “right” formula being sold. Because toned legs and a six-pack are the faultless markers of wellbeing, am I right!? [I’m actually absolutely wrong, but you were smart enough to realise that and I am proud.]
Of course, the aesthetics of those advertisements change in line with whatever body type is in and to emphasise whatever body parts being fetishised that season. So fitness is conflated with appearance, which is not only wildly inaccurate but also dangerous. As it’s been documented in human history time and time again, not everyone with a trim physique, bright smile, and glossy hair looks that way because of their impeccable ways; in fact, for a number of people, those looks came at the cost of unhealthy habits and mental strain.
The premise of using attractiveness as a criterion for health and fitness is faulty anyway because of how subjective it is. But above all, everyone is different with different needs and body types.
Now I am not here to tell you precisely what to eat, how to move, or how to do anything, really, to be fit and healthy. But I know that healthier, positive, and particularly, more body positive narratives on these issues that also encourage healthier behaviours are certainly possible. Here are a few tips that can encourage a shift in perspective:
Re-think your understanding of health and fitness
We’re all in need of nutritious food, exercise, good sleep and the rest of it, not just people who want to change how they feel or look.
We’re all living organisms who need to nourish our bodies in ways that allow them to work effectively. Addressing your physical needs isn’t a means to an end; you won’t stop needing to keep up with healthy habits once you have your dream physique or even once you’ve reached your wellness goals.
It’s also important to remember that sometimes our bodies’ appearances may not match up to our ideals even after making conscious efforts to get healthier. And as long as we are actually getting and keeping ourselves healthy, that’s okay.
We are all unique, biological beings after all, and our bodies’ original purpose isn’t to decorate the world. Their original purpose is to be vessels that allow us to navigate our lives, and that’s pretty amazing.
Try to find out what it means to be healthy for you
Because, as discussed above, we’re all unique, biological beings, what being healthy means for one person may not be the same for another. While guidelines for different biomarkers that can give an idea about our health do exist, it’s a good idea to find out what your individual targets should look like.
Want to know how much you should weigh? Ask your doctor. Want to know if your blood work looks good? Your doctor can help with that. Want to know if the sound your shoulder makes when you wake up is normal? You’ve probably guessed it by now, see your doctor.
It’s perfectly understandable that not everyone has a good relationship with their General Practitioner/Primary Care Physician, nor do they necessarily feel that they can address their concerns with them, but really, they’re your best first line of support. If changing doctors is the best option for you, go for it. If you need a referral for more specific care, why not ask for one?
Try to get the ball rolling with the right people, because 2 AM Google searches and advice from Facebook groups tend to have nothing on tailor-made advice from an expert with access to your medical records.
Get friendlier with food
Food is nourishment that we give ourselves a few times a day and comes in a variety of colours and textures, and can taste pretty nice. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? That’s because it is, so it makes sense to develop a good relationship with it.
It’s also a good idea to follow universally accepted advice like eating different types of food so you can get a variety of nutrients, savouring the flavours, and feeding yourself when you’re hungry, and stopping when satisfied. Eat your veggies, and don’t forget to drink water — you know the score.
I found this New York Times article by Dr Aaron E. Carroll to be a great, sensible guide on how to eat healthily that’s based on his knowledge as a paediatrician and health services researcher, which he also shares with his patients. As he himself notes, they’re general guidelines with some scientific backing that make sense and also work for him but are not a substitute for medical advice. He also writes that they may not work for people with metabolic disorders who could have their own dietary needs.
I personally found that taking up an interest in cooking, finding out the flavours I like and experimenting with different foods and recipes helped me develop a healthy, more positive relationship with food as well. Enjoying food does not have to mean or lead to overindulgence, and there doesn’t have to be a fear of that either. You can enjoy great flavour, get sufficient nutrients AND know how to eat when hungry and stop when satisfied; there are no contradictions.
Move in ways you love
Exercise is essential for good health and its benefits are numerous. For the average adult, 150 minutes of moderate activity a week (or 75 minutes of intense activity) is what’s recommended, and it doesn’t have to be hard or boring. Are brisk walks your thing? Do you like to speed things up and go for runs instead? Is playing basketball with your friends your idea of fun? Maybe you have a wide enough living room and you like hula hooping in it? You get the idea. There are a lot of choices available, and you can find something that’s safe and works for you.
You don’t need to be an expert in your activity of choice — the more you do something, the easier it’ll become. Besides the health benefits and the enhanced mood resulting from exercise, you’ll also begin to see what an amazing instrument your body is, which is fundamental to body positivity.
Have you wondered how you can become fitter, healthier AND more body positive? Do you have any of your own tips to achieve that? Share your thoughts in the comments!
It’s never been a secret that some people love to put women down and in specific ways, just because they’re women. It happens online and off. And most of the time, these people formulate their abuse towards women on the most important (sarcasm) thing about them: their appearance!
It happens at school, work and in the media — social or otherwise. Even certain major political figures in the Western hemisphere have been in the news for doing it. It’s almost like there’s a silent, universal rule on how to deal with women who say, do, or exist in ways you don’t like: Attack what they look like saying/doing/being the things you dislike, probably make obscene comments about their sexuality too, and for bonus points, round off the job with a few expletives.
I’ve seen this in various forms, and I know you have too. It’s ugly, repetitive, and of course, terrible for the self-esteem. If cross-culturally, women are conditioned to believe that having good looks is the leg up they need to do well in life and a mean-spirited person wants to break one down by telling her she lacks in that front, it’s going to work.
No matter what you’ve been told about where your value as a woman lies, it isn’t in your appearance. You’re a whole person, complete with her own strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, and feelings. You are not just your shell — because that’s what your appearance is, your shell (or your skin suit, whatever you want to call it). You need to start believing that.
Spend time exploring your inner workings. What gets you up in the morning? What keeps you up? What do you stand for? It’s never too late to get to know yourself and value her. And you can do this again and again. We forget what we’re made of sometimes, so a nice reminder and even a friendly kick to get us going won’t do us any harm.
Choose to see yourself from the perspective of who you are instead of what you are. Do this every day, and build your identity around that. When you’re secure in yourself, whatever goes on outside of you shakes you less. That includes snide remarks, back-handed compliments and even personal appearance changes that make you feel uncomfortable.
We can’t always control these things or other things that happen to us, but our reaction to them makes a massive difference.
I am not saying that you’re now going to be shielded with a force field that protects you from all distress (and oh do I wish for one!) but hopefully, you’ll grow more resilient and come through the rougher times like the brave person you can be.
It’s also a very good idea to evaluate the places from where you’re most likely to receive harmful messages about your self-worth. Is it social media? The newspapers and magazines from your local newsagent? Conversations with friends?
When you get an idea, start taking steps to limit your exposure to them. You can unfollow those accounts, stop buying those magazines, rip the unnecessary pages from the morning paper, or tell your friends why you don’t like the conversation and change the subject. Whatever it is you have to do, do it.
Now for the outer stuff.
I’ve always believed that what we project on the outside has a strong, bi-directional relationship with what is going on on the inside. How we act isn’t just reflective of our beliefs and feelings, it influences them as well.
We need to pay attention. We’re working on resisting negative messages and seeing ourselves as complete, three-dimensional beings who aren’t just their appearance, yes? So we need to start seeing other women the same way. We are not competitors in some daily, universal, beauty pageant where we have to tear each other apart to win, so we need to act like it.
The more we act on what we learn, the more it has a chance of becoming ingrained in us.
In fact, let’s go a step further and encourage other women to see themselves that way and work together on holistically building true, positive, self and body images.
The take-home message?
The voices that say cruel things about our self-worth can feel deafening, and the messages they send can pierce through our hearts. But we can start muffling them because the work starts within.
And to those that still persist, we, all types of women from everywhere, are just going to let you know that we don’t care. Because change.
It’s been a while since I realised that emotional well-being is quite a big deal and that I have some control over the flow of things when it comes to it. One of the most rewarding lessons I have learnt since then is to not only take every day as it comes, but to also thoroughly enjoy it.
Now, I can see it already how you could think that I am going to regurgitate the whole “seize the day!” cliché, and while you are partially correct, please hear me out.
Disclaimer: I know firsthand how dealing with a mental health condition makes it hard or impossible to give ourselves a hand up when we’re feeling down. This article does not aim to discredit that, and please do try to get professional help if you are struggling. The strategies I discuss here are what helped me during my lowest times before treatment, after seeking treatment, and still help me today. I hope there’s something here that can benefit everybody.
When going through rough or busy patches in our lives, actively seeking joy tends to take a backseat. We think that because we’re so busy problem solving, that joy is only warranted on special occasions — or at the very least when we’ve solved the problem(s) at hand.
It shouldn’t be this way. Our circumstances aren’t always in our hands, but to a significant extent, how we feel is. Delaying all joy isn’t just miserable and boring, but it also makes solving our problems harder and is a great catalyst to feeling burnt out. And really, how can we be our best selves if we aren’t energised by our own lives? We need our pick-me-ups and dangling carrots until we reach the finish line.
That’s why I think we need to celebrate, and as often as we can. We don’t need to throw daily, whole, one-person parties for ourselves (they’re probably a good idea once in a while, though) but we should acknowledge the good in our lives and treat ourselves by enjoying them as much as we can every day, and being thankful for them.
The special occasion is now, and you deserve to celebrate and feel celebrated now. And this can mean different things to different people, and can shift every day depending on what’s practicable. For me, sometimes it can mean taking the time to end my evening snuggled up in bed with hot chocolate and listening to my favourite poems, even if there’s a looming deadline. Other times it can mean dressing up even if I am staying at home the whole evening and not expecting anyone. Sometimes, my way of celebrating the moment can mean accepting an invite out during a weeknight. No deadline, solitude, nor weeknight can stop me from celebrating the moments I have; they are worth celebrating just because they exist.
When we treat every day like it’s a special occasion and embellish it with the things that make us smile, we feel happier and more worthy, and it becomes easier to deal with the hard times. I am so down with that.
What little things do you do to celebrate your life? Share them in the comments!