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Protecting yourself against energy vampires

February 14, 2020
energy vampires

Do you have someone in your life that has the ability to take the wind out of your sails? They seem to suck the joy out of any situation – and you end up walking on eggshells around them all the time…? Well that, my friend, is an energy vampire.

The problem with energy vampires

Energy vampires essentially drain all your energy. They tend to be selfish – because they only care about their feelings, and not the impact on yours. They manipulate, gaslight and deflect so they don’t have to acknowledge their own behaviour, instead making out they’re reacting to you. In my experience, they tend to have Jekyll and Hyde personalities; turning on the charm when it suits so you’re never quite sure what version you’re going to get. 

Frankly dealing with energy vampires is exhausting.

Behaviour is a mirror of internal feelings

One of the most crucial things to remember in life is that people’s behaviour is a reflection of their own internal makeup – it’s not to do with you. I know that every time I’ve had an attack of the green-eyed monster and been snarky about someone else’s success; it’s completely down to my insecurities and feeling that I’m not doing as well as I could or should be. It’s never to do with them. 

Now that doesn’t mean we should condone poor behaviour thinking, well, it’s ok because they’re clearly miserable about their own pathetic life. They’re making you feel unhappy and that’s not ok.

I’m just using this to show that it’s not to do with you – it’s to do with them. 

We can’t control other people

If I had a pound for every time I’d thought of a withering put down after a difficult conversation, then I’d be sipping cocktails by a Hollywood Hills pool right now instead of drinking herbal tea in Peckham. However, the reality is the slightest hint of confrontation makes me want to run as fast as I can in the opposite direction. 

The fact is, it doesn’t matter how much of a sassy honey pot you are, we can’t change how people behave. We can only control how we react.

Taking the emotion out of the situation

Sadly, I do believe the lower you feel about yourself, the more susceptible you become to energy vampires. It’s like they feed off it.

However in the name of balance, I also feel we can turn it into a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy for ourselves. We start to look out for incidents where we feel this person is picking on us to confirm our thinking. It may be that we misinterpret situations because we’re reading too much into it. Just playing devil’s advocate here…

This is one of the reasons why it’s good to take out as much emotion as possible and protect your own vibrations.

How to protect yourself against energy vampires

As much as we can’t change people’s behaviours and how they treat us, there are some simple steps we can take to protect ourselves from their negative energy.

Establish boundaries

The biggest myth about boundaries is that they’re some magical potion that will change how people behave towards you. They’re not. What setting boundaries does, is help you determine at what stage a line has been crossed and what you will do about it. For some people, this is second nature. For other people, such as me, this comes a bit less naturally and I have to think about it.

Be objective

In my experience, patterns of behaviours aren’t just exhibited towards one person – people are generally quite consistent. By this I mean, if someone’s rude to you, the chances are they’re rude to other people too. Try to depersonalise their behaviour and not let it dull your sparkle.

Equally, sometimes there is truth in what someone else is saying. So have some self-awareness where you’re able to reflect on your own behaviour too. Take responsibility for what’s yours – and let the rest go.

Recognise it’s not for you to make the situation better

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we cannot control other people’s behaviour. Yes, we can change how we react – and to a degree how we feel. But, it’s not down to us alone to make things right. There are some relationships / friendships / situations / delete as applicable that are just not meant to be and are never going to get better. You could give every ounce of your being and it still wouldn’t be enough. Recognise that and move on.

Trust your instincts

How many times have you had that uneasy feeling in your gut telling you something isn’t right? That’s your gut instinct. Trust it. Now this doesn’t mean, be suspicious of other people’s motives or looking for signs that someone’s out to get us: always assume best intentions until shown otherwise. It just means that if your instincts are telling you something is off, then it probably is.

Alternative ways to protect your energy ✨

Create an aura bubble

Stand up with your feet on the floor and imagine white light coming down from the Universe. It comes down to the crown of your head, then flows down over your body and down under your feet. You’re now surrounded by a white light bubble. This will help protect you from any negative energy around you.

Carry a piece of black tourmaline crystal with you

Black tourmaline sucks up negative energy and transforms it into positive energy. It’s relatively inexpensive and worth carrying around when you feel you need some protection.

mind

How to silence your inner critic

August 17, 2019
How to silence your inner critic

I’m far too busy judging myself to worry about judging you.

Quite often (and generally in a work context), I will be talking out loud and a voice will start in my head saying, ‘stop, you sound ridiculous, Just stop before you embarrass yourself any further’.

This voice tells me I look too fat in my clothes, that I’m ageing and wrinkled. It likes to analyse situations and tell me where I’m going wrong. This can be in the moment or after the event – it doesn’t discriminate. It points out my inadequacies and then really hones in on what I could have done better. It only focuses on the negatives, never the positives and really enjoys making me feel bad about myself.

This voice is my inner critic.

If things don’t go my way, my inner critic will tell me it’s because I’m stupid / useless / annoying / a bad person (delete as appropriate). And when things do work in my favour, my inner critic will still find a way to put me down. It’s the last kind of person you want on your team.

I’m sure all of us have an inner critic, particularly as it’s impossible to go through life without experiencing self-doubt at some point. However, if this situation does apply, then I need to meet you and discover what you’re doing differently to the rest of us..

The difference is for some of us, our inner critic can be debilatating and it can stop us from reaching our full potential.

This is why we need to learn how to silence it (or at least put it on mute).

Why the critical voice in our head stands in our way

Listening to our inner critic point out our every ‘failure’ fundamentally leads to low self-esteem and feelings of poor self-worth. It’s hard to feel confident when a little voice is telling you you’re not.

My inner critic tends to be at its most vocal when I’m feeling a bit down about myself anyway. This then becomes a vicious cycle because the lower our self-esteem, the more our inner critic attacks what confidence we have left.

Our inner critic helps us build up patterns of limiting beliefs. This is where we tell ourselves we’re not good enough or a course of action wouldn’t be right for us. Our limiting beliefs are defensive mechanisms where we try and stop ourselves from getting hurt or looking foolish. But ultimately, they stand in our way and don’t let us take new opportunities or progress.

The important thing to remember though is that your inner critic isn’t real. It’s just a stupid voice in your head.

How to silence your inner critic

The best short term way of getting rid of your inner critic is to become aware of it. Remind yourself it doesn’t mean anything. Recognise it’s unhelpful and try to dismiss it as just that.

Longer term, mindfulness and learning how to calm your mind will help to silence your inner critic. It helps us to observe our thoughts and let them go whilst recognising they’re not our reality.

Gratitude also helps me. It makes me feel more positive about myself, in control of my own life and can recognise the good things that are going on (rather than just the bad).

The better I feel, the more able I am to tell my inner critic to pipe down.

mind

How to practice gratitude

May 6, 2019
how to practice gratitude

Gratitude practice changed my life

I’ve previously about how gratitude practice changed my life. It turned me from perpetually being a ‘grey sky thinker’ to seeing the positives in life.

I had gone through life feeling like the odds were stacked against me. 

Good fortune and luck were things that happened to other people. I was great at seeing the negatives in any situation which helped back up my theory (let’s face it, none of us like to be wrong…). My train was 2 minutes late: this always happen to me. Didn’t get the call for a job interview: that’s just typical. 

In pretty much any situation, I found it easy to dissect what was wrong about it, I just struggled with thinking what was right.

I first learnt about gratitude after reading the Secret and falling down a Rhonda Byrne / self-help book rabbit hole. I decided to give it a whirl for a few weeks and here I am 7 years later with my cup still half full.

For me, the greatest change has been to stop sweating the small stuff and to notice the positives more. I feel happy when I’m running late and my train is equally late too. I look for opportunities in situations, rather than being a naysayer and I’m much more in control of my feelings instead of being led by them. 

However, the main benefit is, I feel much happier overall.

Now, that’s not to say I find positives in every situation. When my Dad died very suddenly, I can’t say I found anything to feel particularly grateful about. I could barely function. However, a few years on, I can see the experience has changed me for the better. I have a deeper level of empathy and understanding towards other people, which just didn’t exist before. Obviously, I wish my Dad dying had never happened – but I guess as it did, I’m grateful I learnt something along the way.

What is a gratitude practice?

Gratitude practice involves regularly paying attention to the good around us, such as being around nature, meeting friends and time spent with family. 

It’s looking out for those small moments and feeling grateful for them. The cheery smile from a stranger or enjoying a really nice meal. 

Happiness is a feeling we can cultivate. So the more regularly we practice feeling grateful, the more aware we become of the good around us and the happier we feel.

Most of us take our lives for granted (a roof over our head, regular access to food, good health) and we forget to recognise it. Gratitude helps us remember this and all the other positives in life.

The science behind gratitude

There is a lot of science behind practising gratitude and the benefits it brings to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Researchers have found it helps with sleep, moods and overall physical health. 

There is also evidence that it retrains our neural pathways in the brain. Our neural pathways carry messages to and from the brain and are created by learnt behaviour so most of the time we don’t know we’re doing it. They’re not just physical responses, but emotional and behavioural too. 

Think about when you cross the road. In my case, I’m generally listening to music or a podcast and am pretty much in a world of my own. However, I still know to press the button and wait for the green man before I cross. I’m not diving into the road because I’ve done this task so many times my brain knows what to do.

Ever felt anxious when you know you’re going to have to navigate a tricky conversation? That’s because your brain knows this might result in conflict and so has sent that message to the brain and your emotions are heightened.

In the same way, if you’re always noticing negative events and situations, then your brain starts will send messages as soon as these things take place so you’re more aware of them. 

By focusing on feeling grateful when good things happen, then your neural pathways will send happier messages and you’ll be more aware of the positives in life instead. 

4 ways to practice gratitude

Here are 4 ways, I practice gratitude.

1. I follow a process I learnt by reading ‘the Magic’ and keep a gratitude journal where I write out 10 things I feel grateful for and the reasons why. I then read it back and say ‘thank you’ 3 times.

2. I use an App called Gratitude Plus. This sets a daily reminder, which prompts me to fill it in. This is great for being on the go and I use it on my commute.

3. I try to pause throughout the day and feel grateful for small moments. 

4. I reflect on the day before I go to sleep and pick out things that happened which I feel grateful for. It takes seconds and is a really nice way to end the day.

Please note, I’ve included links to Amazon for books that I’ve read. I’m not not suggesting you use this store over another – it’s just to be helpful. 

wellbeing

How to stop being a victim and take responsibility for your own life

April 22, 2019
Stop being a victim and take responsibility for your own life

Stop being a victim

Confession time: I was the world’s biggest victim. I felt everything was stacked against me.

The reason why my relationships failed? That was down to my turbulent childhood and not having good role models. Why I never got promoted at work? That was because no one appreciated my efforts. If someone spoke down to me, well, that was because there was something about me that made them think it was ok. I didn’t come from money and had no safety net to fall back on so I couldn’t follow my dreams.

I felt life wasn’t fair.

Life isn’t fair

The truth is, life isn’t fair. Some people are born into exceptionally difficult circumstances. Sadly, the situation of our early years wrongly has a massive impact on our life chances. Our health: mental and physical can also be a lottery and completely outside of our control.

I’m not saying this to try and illustrate life can be much harder for other people so just suck it up. If someone had said this to me, I would have felt even more useless and misunderstood. Plus, there was truth to how I was feeling.

I’m using it to illustrate that we all will deal with issues: some people more than others. It’s what you do afterwards that really counts.

Please note, afterwards is a very long time so don’t use that to beat yourself up either.

Truth in your feelings

The truth is a lot of my feelings were valid.

It’s harder to understand what a healthy relationship is when you didn’t grow up around many of them. I had quite a black and white view: relationships are either good or bad and I didn’t really understand they require work.

I also had zero confidence so whilst people speaking down to me is absolutely their responsibility, I just didn’t know how to navigate it.

I had the self-awareness to realise these issues were the root cause of most of my problems.

What I didn’t realise was they were things I could change.

Changing the narrative in your head

Where I was going wrong was to use how I felt as the story of my life.

I would never do well because I lacked confidence. I was really good at identifying situations or events that backed up how I felt. However, I never reflected on when I’d done well.

The reality was that on paper, I was reasonably successful. I perhaps hadn’t fulfilled my full potential, but, I wasn’t doing too badly either. I just didn’t realise it.

I was letting my feelings dictate the course of my life by telling myself they were fact.

Take responsibility for your own life

I was a bit late to the party in realising the only person with responsibility for my life was me.

I started to stop searching for someone to come and look after me and decided to make myself happy instead.

The biggest and most simplest change I made was my gratitude practice. I’ve written about this in previous blogs and how it completely reframed my thinking. I stopped focusing so much on what was wrong with my life and saw what was good.

I also realised there were certain things I was telling myself that maybe weren’t true anymore. I’d always said I was bad at public speaking and so avoided it like the plague. I would always let other people take the lead at work and pull out of job interviews if they had presentations involved. I decided to stop saying no, and you know what.. it’s really not that bad. Yes, I still feel self-conscious but the narrative in my head has changed.

This made me realise there were more things I was hiding behind that were no longer the case.

I always think it’s important to think of change as a sliding scale involving small incremental steps.

We would never expect to run a marathon overnight without any training; yet we expect to become different people overnight and then have feelings of self-loathing when we don’t.

Change is gradual and often there is progress where we don’t even see it. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s a journey.

I’m never going to be the world’s most confident person and that’s ok. I think about it far less and look at it when it’s an issue.

I also recognise the buck stops with me. I’m no longer waiting for someone to pluck me out of obscurity. I don’t need the external validation as much as I used to. Plus it’s up to me to manage my own life.

Sometimes it’s worth drawing a line in the sand to say, this was then, and this is now. The past is the past. It doesn’t determine your future.

wellbeing

Retraining your neural pathways (and what that actually means)

March 5, 2019

What are neural pathways?

Our nervous system consists of neurons (nerve cells) that transmit nerve signals or messages to and from the brain. The path which this information travels along is called a neural pathway.

Our neural pathways are developed from childhood. As a baby, we learn to smile through our parents or caregivers smiling at us. We learn not to touch a hot pan from being burnt in the past. They help keep us safe and secure.

Our neural pathways aren’t just responsible for our physical responses but our emotional ones too. We develop habits through them: both positive and negative and they determine our responses to situations because of experiences in the past.

How do we retrain our neural pathways?

The brain is often described as a muscle and although biologically it’s not, it can be trained in a similar sort of way through repetition. This is in the same way as going to the gym or undertaking regular exercise.

So how exactly do you start?

The best place to start is to identify the patterns you want to change. This does take an element of self awareness and understanding patterns and behaviours you would like to create.

The next is to spend a decent amount of time practising the change you want to make. The perceived wisdom is it takes 66 days for a new habit to take effect and for your neural pathways to redevelop.

In the same way that it takes time for your body to change as a result of exercise, retraining neural pathways also doesn’t happen overnight. However, with time, you will see changes. I spent my 20s and some of my 30s feeling awkward and shy. I would clam up when I met new people but then laugh and joke with my friends. People thought I was standoffish and over the years I realised I was giving the wrong impression. I made a conscious decision to be friendly to new people. The more I did it, the easier it became. It’s now second nature to me.

Many of us go through life feeling like our confidence is holding us back and our previous life experiences have affected our future. Retraining our neural pathways gives us the opportunity to reset the balance. Yes, it takes practice but one that is potentially life-changing.

wellbeing

How to set boundaries with 7 simple steps

January 16, 2019

Boundaries are fundamental when it comes to taking care of ourselves. They enable us to recognise what we need and develop the right techniques and language to achieve them. Good boundaries help us create less stressful lives, better physical wellbeing and healthy respectful relationships. For some people, learning to set boundaries is a skill they learnt growing up. They have seen adults articulate and set boundaries and understand they are a necessity. They have the right level of self-awareness to understand their needs and articulate them. For others, including myself, setting and reinforcing boundaries is a work in progress.

However, like a lot of self-care strategies, setting and reinforcing boundaries is a muscle that grows over time. The more we do it, the easier it gets.

7 steps to help you set boundaries

  1. Understand your value. Someone or a situation that continually oversteps the mark has a massive impact on your self-esteem. Likewise, continually putting yourself at the bottom of a priority list is not healthy either. Everyone has the right to be treated properly and we need to believe we deserve better.
  2. You cannot change other people’s behaviour, only your own. Setting boundaries won’t change how people behave towards you. It gives you the tools to respond and to reflect on where you want to see changes. However, it’s not your fault if your boundaries aren’t respected.
  3. Think about situations where you want to set boundaries. What do you want to change? What is your response when this situation comes up? Decide the consequences ahead of time.
  4. Communicate. Be decisive and remember your worth.
  5. Prepare for your boundaries to be overstepped. Having boundaries in place won’t stop people from overstepping them. Prepare for it to happen and decide in advance how you will respond.
  6. Remember boundary setting is a muscle we grow. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t go right the first time or the second. You will get better at it and learn new responses as you go along.
  7. Leave a situation. Unfortunately, if your boundaries aren’t respected, then the only way sometimes is to leave a situation or a person. We cannot change other people. We can leave though knowing we deserve better.
wellbeing

How to leave the cult of busyness

September 30, 2018

Being busy and the cult of busyness

I look at friends who left homes and jobs in London to set up lives elsewhere and think how well they seem. Their skin looks brighter, their stress lines faded away and I think to myself, it’s because they’re not so busy anymore. I often fantasise about spending a week at a health camp (somewhere abroad obviously) and having five nights of good night’s sleep and time to fully relax. But the reality is, other than hugely missing home, I would find something else to do because I’m one of those people who measure their self-worth by how much they’ve achieved in a day. I’m a fully paid up member of the cult of busyness because somewhere in my subconscious I believe that I’m a better person when I get more done.

What is the cult of busyness?

Fully paid-up subscribers to the cult of busyness like myself get a feeling of satisfaction from being busy. It feeds our sense of importance and worth because we feel we are needed and wanted. It also sends an external message that somehow our lives are more valid because we have so much on and are always on the go.

Researchers from Columbia University, Harvard and Georgetown conducted a series of experiments to see how being busy was perceived. They created two characters called Jeff: one who worked long hours and had a busy schedule, the other had a leisurely lifestyle and didn’t work. They found hardworking Jeff was thought to be more important and his lack of time was due to the fact he was highly sort after.

Losing the busy mindset

As someone who puts their self-worth into how many tasks they’ve finished in a day, the cult of busyness is an attractive one to be in. I tick things off lists. I take my child to play dates. I rush around working full time and sorting my home in the evening.

My mind also has a habit of turning fun into tasks I need to do. Getting my haircut becomes something I need to tick off the list rather than an experience to enjoy. Likewise, shopping becomes about making sure I get everything I planned, rather than having time to myself. I realise it’s my mindset that needs to change. I’m aware that I’m filling up my life with a series of tasks… I need to become more comfortable with being still.

5 ways to leave the cult of busyness

  1. Stop multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time. I have a habit of trying to do too many things at once and achieving very little.
  2. Switch off the screen. It’s so easy to lose time falling down an internet rabbit hole under the pretence of relaxing. Read a book, watch a film or have a bath instead.
  3. Be realistic about what you can achieve. I take on too much and then feel overwhelmed by everything I need to do.
  4. Set boundaries. For the first time in a long time, I articulated that I needed a day to myself. I used that day to do things I enjoy and not just to carry out a series of errands. I now recognise it’s something I need to do on a more regular basis.
  5. Start saying no. I have a tendency to say yes to things without really thinking it through. I’m trying to learn that sometimes it’s ok to say no.
wellbeing

Why I declutter regularly (and it’s nothing to do with a tidy house)

September 8, 2018

Every month or so, I will look around and see drawers overflowing with old bits of paper, shelves with various piles of stuff on top of the books, a kitchen table we can’t eat at because things have accumulated on there and realise, I need to declutter. I’m not a neat freak or a minimalist; I like my home to feel homely and I want people to relax in it. I also live with a hoarder and the word ‘declutter’ sends him into a tailspin.  However, I know that an accumulation of clutter has a negative impact on my state of mind. It affects my self-esteem lowering my opinion of myself, as well as making me feel like I can’t fully relax. The benefits of decluttering for me are all about improving my mental health and nothing to do with having a perfect house.

Benefits of decluttering

We all have different mess thresholds and it’s all relative. For me though, there are a number of benefits to decluttering.

Decluttering puts me back in control of my life. I really believe how you live in your space has a lot to do with how you feel internally. A messy cluttered home is often an indication that I’ve not been prioritising myself or is symptomatic of a deeper issue.

Space to think. Too much clutter makes me feel claustrophobic and it affects my ability to think clearly. Space around me frees up space in my brain and gives me clarity.

It lifts my energy levels. I feel much more energised after I’ve decluttered. In part, it gives me a sense of achievement but it also frees up time to focus on other things. It often puts a spring in my step and I feel inspired to get more done.

It boosts my confidence. Feeling much more on top of things has a massive impact on my self-esteem. In days of juggling work around my child and often feeling like I’m doing both badly, decluttering makes me feel like I’ve got at least one thing right.

Trying to buy less

We all know that possessions don’t make us happy.  However, it is hard to buy less. I often buy a storage solution as a way to declutter, instead of examining why I have so much around me. I have a tendency to keep on to things in case it becomes useful again. It very rarely does.

My recent blast of decluttering made me realise I have multiples of things from jars of Marmite to similar pairs of shoes. I’m buying mindlessly without thinking about what I have already.

I’m trying to put checks in place before I buy. I want to question what purpose it will serve and how long it will be useful for.

It’s time to be comfortable with less.

mind

Learning to be brave

May 8, 2018

Being brave

At the beginning of the year, I thought about changes I wanted to make in my life and to stop letting fear stand in my way. I realised I was going to need to start learning to be brave if I was going to live a more authentic life.

Part of transitioning from my 20s into my 30s and beyond has been to recognise that actions have consequences and that not everyone is interested in my opinions. Along the way though, I’ve perhaps taken that to the other extreme. I’m starting to realise I lost the risk-taker, the dreamer and the person who wasn’t afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I’ve started to couch my words so as not to offend – and whilst it’s good to think of other people’s feelings – along the way, I’ve lost the ability to speak my own truth.

Becoming vulnerable

It’s easy to play it safe and keep ourselves protected. We don’t have to open ourselves up or make ourselves feel vulnerable. The downside is of course, that you don’t allow yourself to feel truly fulfilled and you never know what might have been.

When I first starting writing, just putting words out there felt intimidating. I worried about judgement – both my own and from others. Pushing myself out there is a leap of faith and doesn’t always sit so comfortably with me. Change can be intimidating. It can be slow and we put barriers in the way to make it even slower.

Learning to be brave

So how do us once rebels start living in a place where we feel more confident in our decision-making and abilities? Is there a way we can get back to becoming ourselves? We’ve all read stories about women adventurers who threw in a high-powered job in finance to become a Mongolia horse seller or set up a best selling bee keeping instagram business. But what do you do when you’ve got bills to pay, kids to collect from nursery and life is just about getting through each day with the minimum amount of stress possible?

The good news is we don’t all have to go through dramatic life changes to become braver. What we need to do is have the desire to reclaim the person we once were. We can start moving forward by remembering who we are, what we want (try remembering the feeling you want to create) and inching towards it taking incremental baby steps.

And what I’m learning is that with each small step I take, the easier it is and the little bit braver I become.

mind

Why I practice gratitude

April 11, 2018
why I practice gratitude

A few years ago, I realised I was stuck in a bit of rut. I tended to focus on the negative and had a blamey attitude. I got frustrated easily and often felt like the world was conspiring against me. Other people just seemed to fall into new opportunities, where as I was always trying to dig myself out of a hole… I knew I need to make some changes so I started to explore new ways of thinking and living. One of those ideas included a gratitude practice.

A friend introduced me to the Secret. I’m going to be honest, some bits I liked and some I found overly materialistic so I completely get that it’s not for everyone. However, the bit that stuck was about developing a gratitude practice. I decided to keep a gratitude diary and each morning wrote down ten things that made me happy and the reasons why. I then read my list out loud.

My gratitude practice completely changed how I see the world.

How my gratitude practice changed my life for the better

I let go of feeling frustrated.

If my train was delayed, I could see it was such a tiny thing to feel annoyed about and in the grand scheme of things, it just didn’t matter. I could apologise if I was late and people would understand.

I saw my life as a full picture.

Yes, I may have had bad things happen but I also have so much happening which is positive too. It helped me gain a more balanced viewpoint.

I felt more in control of my own life.

I felt less as though events were conspiring against me and more optimistic. I now realise I have responsibility for my thought processes.

Small things made me smile.

A friendly chat with a stranger or an offer of help from a colleague lifted my spirits and brought me joy. I noticed what was right in front of me.

It felt like the world was more on my side.

I could be running late and my train would be magically delayed by just the right amount of time for me to step straight on. It felt like life was in harmony.

I started to count my blessings.

I noticed how much I have and how lucky I am.

And as a result, I’m much happier.

mind

Let go of limiting beliefs

March 31, 2018

Letting limiting beliefs take over

After my Dad died, it hit me how life was short and I shouldn’t let anything stop me from living my dreams. My Dad had retired at 55 and spent the next 12 years of his life working as a walking guide across Europe. He took a chance (admittedly one with a final salary pension) and lived the rest of his days doing something he loved. 18 months have now passed and with the initial rawness of grief subsiding, I can tell my feelings of carpe diem are subsiding too. I’m slipping back into old habits of admiring people who are making exciting life changes, whilst telling myself inwardly, I could never do something like that and letting my limiting beliefs take over.

What are limiting beliefs?

Limiting beliefs are essentially negative beliefs we have about ourselves, which holds us back in some way. Our limiting beliefs can hold us back from seeing opportunities or changing from our present circumstances. I actually only heard the phrase ‘limiting beliefs’ a few years ago and it made me realise how many times I’d held myself back because I’d decided I wasn’t good enough. I recognised there were situations I’d self-sabotaged or left unchanged all due to this narrative in my head.

One of the frustrating things about these types of beliefs is that most of the time they’re just not true. They tend to be built from events in the past, which we then use to dictate our decision-making. Our ego likes to be right and limiting beliefs in a sense protect us from stepping out and doing something new. How often have we heard our friends use self-depreciating language and think, that is so far from reality? We’re just not so good at saying it about ourselves.

Let go of limiting beliefs

I’ve read up a lot on limiting beliefs with the aim of finding a magic wand to eliminate them. There are a lot of different approaches from therapy to understand where the beliefs started, reminding yourself of past successes and/or using affirmation cards to change neural pathways and get into better habits with thinking patterns.

What I’ve found to help is to become more aware of what those beliefs are and identify them in my thought processes. Every time I notice I’m telling myself, ‘you’re not good enough’ or ‘you don’t deserve this’, I try and recognise that it’s just a limiting belief – and not necessarily the truth. I find my actions change as a result.

I’m 43 years old so I’ve had a long time to build up limiting beliefs. I don’t think they will change overnight. However, becoming more aware of their existence is enabling me to consciously change old patterns. And that feels like a real step in the right direction.

mind

How to stop negative thinking

March 13, 2018

I’m an over-thinker at the best of times, but add in a stressful situation and I quickly spiral into a pattern of overthinking. My brain will turn a bad day at work into losing my job and never being able to get another one, all in the space of 60 seconds. I don’t seem to be able to stop my negative thinking.

I tend to fall into very black and white thinking patterns and leap to worse case scenarios. I take responsibility for things that aren’t really within my control, and decide I can mind-read (they think I’m boring etc). Apparently, this is quite normal and reflects the way we are wired. However, the thing to remember is, our brains develop throughout our lives AND our neural pathways can be changed too.

What are neural pathways?

Our neural pathways are essentially transmittors sending messages to and from the brain. They’re the reason why we pretty much cross roads on autopilot and avoid getting knocked down. But they’re also the reason why some of us are unable to stop negative thinking; we’ve taught our brains to think that way. We’re basically created a habit. Often our spirals of overthinking are designed to protect us so in a way, our brain is only trying to be helpful. However, a lot of the time, in my case, I’m thinking about things that haven’t happened yet.  

The good news is, just like we taught our brains to go into a spiral of negative thinking, we can retrain it to be positive too. Our neural pathways are habit forming so the more we practice thinking more positively, the better it will get.

How to stop negative thinking

  1. Label your thoughts when they come in to recognise they’re just a thought and not the truth. Tell your brain, this is just a thought so it starts to take them less seriously.
  2. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. It’s the best thing for turning my thoughts around and seeing a positive in a situation.
  3. Keep a compliments folder. I can probably repeat verbatim the majority of unpleasant comments I’ve had over the last five years. Can I remember any of the good ones? No, not really. It’s time to start keeping a record.
  4. Remember you’re probably not the most important person in someone else’s world. Is everyone really that concerned with what you’re doing or do they have their own problems and their own life? Try to get a sense of perspective.
  5. Do something positive for yourself. Read a book, light a candle, run a bath – anything to try switch off and give yourself a break
  6. Practice mindfulness. Negative thoughts tend to be around what could happen in the future. Mindfulness teaches us to be present and live in the moment.
mind

Comparing yourself on social media (and why it makes you feel rubbish)

January 17, 2018

I recently saw a tweet where someone announced how much money they had made in the last year. I sneered about how they were just showing off and social media isn’t the place for such disclosures. But really I didn’t care about any of those things; I sneered because I was jealous. It was because I felt I would never be able to earn that kind of money. I’m not capable of having such good ideas. I’m not creative enough and I would never have the confidence to go it alone.

I’ve experienced that pit in my stomach before but really never analysed where it came from. It made me think more deeply about all the other times I’d felt jealous after comparing myself to others on social media. Everyone seemed to be prettier, younger, running successful businesses and having amazing lives. Essentially I was using this to reinforce my sense of not feeling good enough.

Comparison is the thief of joy

I don’t think I’m the first person to experience negative feelings from comparing myself to someone else on social media. Sometimes those feelings are right: people can be tone deaf and don’t really understand how they’re coming across. Most of the time though, we’re projecting because we’re comparing ourselves to someone on social media and it’s making us feel rubbish. So why do we do it? Why do we compare ourselves to an image on an App?

Social comparison theory

Social comparison theory was developed in 1954 by social psychologist Leon Festinger and focused on the belief that there is a drive within individuals to gain accurate self-evaluations. More specifically, the theory explains how we evaluate our opinions of ourselves by comparing ourselves to others.

Businesses undertake competitor analysis and benchmarking exercises all the time. It helps define strengths and weaknesses, design a strategy, identify unique selling points and set targets for the future.

It stands to reason that we can learn by looking at what others are doing. However, I like to think most businesses compare themselves on much more impactful measures than just social media. So why aren’t we doing that ourselves? Why are we using social media to put ourselves down?

A social media feed is a highlight reel

Social media doesn’t show the hours someone has put in to create a successful business, it doesn’t show the hundreds of images rejected before the perfect selfie is put up and the editing it went through.

Social media is a curated version of a life / business / interest which the publisher wants to share – it’s not reality in any shape or form. It doesn’t show the hours and hard graft someone’s put in to create a successful business. Social media shows you a perfect partnership and not the ups and downs most couples navigate through. It doesn’t show the hundreds of images rejected before the perfect selfie is put up and all the editing it went through. It’s a curated image of what someone wants to show you – not their real life.

A more honest approach to social media

There has been a backlash against the pursuit of perfection on social media and people are using their platforms to speak more honestly. I’ve found this immensely helpful on occasions, particularly around parenting. I’m learning to realise most people are winging it on a daily basis too.

I’m also recognising the benefits of taking a break from my phone. I put it in another room so I’m not tempted by it and switch it off.

We’re all entitled to show our best selves and often the humdrum of daily life is not worth documenting. We just need to remember not to compare the whole of our lives with one element someone chooses to share from theirs.

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