Shedding skin

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about putting myself first and described how I’ve been feeling about this new way of being:

When I look at this blog post and others that I’ve recently shared with you, dear one, I think there is a theme starting to emerge. One of wanting to live my life for myself. Of casting off how I’ve lived before.

It feels akin to what a snake must feel like when it’s ready to cast off it’s skin. Skin that has become too tight for its body.

Instead of jumping into action and naming all the things I was going to do to put myself first, which could have been so easy for the compulsive planner that I am (“remove all plans from my diary”, “have a ‘me’ day once a week”, “tell one person per day what I’m really thinking” etc.), I decided to just sit with the truth that I want to put myself first and see what came my way.

And here’s what I’ve noticed…

I get high from saying ‘yes’

Or more precisely, I get a low from saying ‘no‘ to what other people ask for. So agreeing to other people’s plans has become the easy thing for me to do.

Why do I get a low? I suppose it’s because I automatically feel like the person I’m saying ‘no’ to will feel hurt and rejected, or will feel that I’m valuing something else over them, which, in looking at the cold, hard facts of the situation, I am.

Valuing seeing other people, valuing my own quiet time, valuing other plans more than I value them.

I’m sensing that if I’m to be able to say no with any ease in the future, it might be helpful to change this dialogue. To acknowledge that saying ‘no’ is factual – I’m not able to commit to them – not emotional – I’m shunning them for better plans.

Because the irony is that when other people aren’t able to see me when I invite them somewhere, I don’t feel hurt, rejected, undervalued. I don’t respect them any less. My love for them and my ability to see them aren’t linked.

So perhaps this is the mantra I need to repeat – my love for you and my ability to see you aren’t linked. 

Having rules helps

I’ve established a rule recently of ‘one weekend a month without substantial plans’. So basically one ‘keep free’ weekend a month. It would ideally be two weekends a month, but partly due to my coaching course, which takes up a weekend a month, and partly due to a list I’ve got of people I want to see and things I want to do in 2017, it has shrunk down to one free weekend a month.

Even that feels exhausting – running through work, rushing through life, having plans at every turn.

But it also feels good to have committed one weekend a month to just enjoy time with my husband, to explore Brighton and, if I want to, to just lie on my bed the whole weekend and marathon a netflix series!

And since this rule came into my life, it has been easier to say ‘no’. To explain to people that it’s not that I don’t want to see them, it’s that I need to value my mental health and this means having one weekend a month with nothing in the diary.

It also makes it seem less personal – it’s a rule I have which applies to everyone.

Putting myself first is hard!

As I’ve started to put myself first, I’ve realised that it is really, truly, madly hard work. And sometimes bloody exhausting. I’ve had two occasions with close family where I’ve not been able to say ‘yes’ to their invitations, once with my mum and once with my mother-in-law.

I felt really uncomfortable stating my needs and not being able to see them as quickly or for as long as I would like if I had nothing else going on in my life. I still feel really uncomfortable with what I had to say to them to protect my own sanity. I felt rude, it was upsetting and, if truth be told, I even felt a bit angry at the lovely suggestions they put forward because it ‘forced me‘ (yes, I allowed myself to be the victim!) to have to say no to them, which I found really hard.

But as hard as it is, I also know that it’s right. It’s important. It’s part of shedding the skin of my people pleasing ways. And that’s worth the hardship, the risk of being seen as being rude, the moments of upset.

Caring less

I was speaking to my hairdresser, Pete, yesterday* about getting older and he was saying how uncomfortable he finds it to be in his 40s. The one benefit of getting older, he said, was not caring about what people think anymore. He doesn’t get involved with drama, generally does what he likes and cares less about the opinions of other people.

And I think that is the key. Caring less.
Not being hard hearted to other people or trampling over them to get to what I want, but being less sensitive to the opinions of other people, which often cause me to feel blown about like a ship on a stormy sea.
Or perhaps it’s not about caring less about other people and is instead about caring more about what I think, feel and need. Putting myself in the driving seat of my life. Loving, caring and looking out for myself.

It makes me think of the screensaver I’ve currently got on my phone that says ‘I will not trade my authenticity for your approval’. This is what my heart is crying out for. To be authentically, unapologetically, truly myself. And to give myself what I need.

So I’m going to continue walking along this path of discovery, unbinding myself from that which no longer serves me. And I’ll keep sharing how I’m getting on with you, dear one.

Thank you so much for coming along for the ride and joining me on this journey of discovery!

*(if you live in Brighton and want a great haircut, check out the Bomb – both Pete and Caroline are amazing hairdressers and awesome people!)

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