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self-discovery, truth, Work

The stories I tell myself

I had the most inspiring conversation with my chief executive yesterday. It’s left me with so much to ponder that I’m left thinking about it (and feel called to talk about it) at 3am as I’m awake feeding and holding my son.

I’m sat here in appreciative thanks and gratitude that I’m in a role where I get time and insight into someone I see as deeply inspirational and wise. That I have the opportunity to learn from his wisdom and that I even get some of his time is not something I take for granted. It’s a privilege.

He’s the one who let me borrow the book ‘presence’ which I wrote about recently. And he is the one who yesterday articulated what I’ve sensed myself for a while:

The only thing that will hold you back is the stories you tell yourself

  • The story that I’m not good enough
  • The story that I can’t lead because of so many reasons – my call to explore and share my vulnerability, not having a ‘business’ background, not being the finished product
  • The story that intrinsically being who I am (female, with a big heart, someone who cares, with a background of sometimes poor mental health) sets me up to have less impact on the world
  • The story that I’m 34, it’s too late for me to start something big in life
  • The story that I have to choose between being a great mum and making a difference in this world
  • The story that I’m only as good as my most recent mistake
  • The story that people will realise that I’m an imposter
  • The story that I’m only as good as how much people like me
  • The story that the deep work I do here will hold me back professionally
  • The story that being vulnerable and real is weak
  • Uncovering and vocalising these things – areas that have more or less weight in my life at different times (sometimes on a minute by minute basis) – shows them for what they are.
  • Just stories.
  • Stories that could influence and impact my life. Or stories I could realise are not reality and gently let go of.
  • It’s what I’m doing as I receive coaching on a fortnightly basis. Uncovering these stories and letting them go.
  • And it’s what I’m offering to the wonderful people I have the honour to coach myself.
  • We all have stories we tell ourselves – it’s only these stories that have the power to hold us back.
  • blogging, self-discovery, truth, vegan

    Now is the time

    I’ve been hearing for a number of years about scary environmental things, like how ‘overshoot day’ (when we use all the resources the earth can regenerate in a year) was 1 August this year, how bees (crucial to pollinate and enable our food to grow) are on a teetering path towards extinction and how we’re 1 degree away from a planetary domino effect which would render much of our planet inhabitable.

    I’ve got to be honest, it scares the fuck out of me.

    I look at my son and am desperate to ensure that he has a planet to live on which isn’t plagued by famine, lack of land as the water level rises (because of polar ice melting) and drought.

    Instead of retreating into myself and consuming a vast quantity of chocolate to placate myself, I’m going to be vocal about it.

    I feel heavy of heart but also propelled to act, to shout to everyone about it.

    We must to do something about this.

    Each and every one of us.

    Individually and collectively. We must take action, whatever we can. You must take action, whatever you can. I must take action, whatever I can.

    It could be:

    • going without a car where possible,
    • eating less meat and dairy (the second biggest cause of climate change),
    • putting on a jumper before you turn on the heating (hard to think about in the summer!)
    • not buying food made with unsustainable palm oil (responsible for mass deforestation of the amazon rainforest – our planet’s lungs),
    • taking plastic bags to the shops instead of buying new ones,
    • buying less ‘new’ stuff
    • stopping using chemical cleaners and returning to old, kinder methods (like vinegar instead of bleach)
    • opting to refill products to use less plastic

    There are so many choices we can make. Overshoot day has some interesting thoughts too – see here)

    Yes, it needs heavy legislation from the government to stop the practices that damage the planet on a large scale – a ban on non-sustainable palm oil, financial aid to allow farmers to switch from dairy/meat industry to more sustainable practices, heavy taxes on the production of single-use plastic…

    But to say that it’s all down to legislation (that individual, small actions can’t lead to mass change) is shedding ourselves of our responsibility to this planet and future generations.

    Putting the blood of future generations on our hands.

    So I invite you to stand with me in whatever way you can – if that’s opting for one of the choices above, joining in the debate about what else is possible, sharing this post on social media to get the message out to more people…we need to act collectively and individually.

    Now is the time.

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    blogging, self-discovery, self-judgement

    Radical

    I’ve been writing a few blog posts recently but they’ve not been flowing as they usually do so I’ve taken a bit of time out and hope you will forgive me, friend, for my lack of presence here.

    I’ve got a window of time to myself as Gregg and Jenson play in the front room together and so wanted to quickly write about ‘Dietland’, a programme I’ve been watching in the evenings and have thoroughly enjoyed. It’s an adaptation of a book about a story of an overweight woman who finds her voice and acceptance of the body she is in as she awakens to the patriarchal messages which has caused her body shame – the need to be thin to be desirable.

    I’m aware that it’s not a perfect show – the cast are mostly model-esque and it gets a bit ridiculous as the show progresses. But I really and truly enjoyed how it made me question so many parts of our society that so often go unquestioned. Why we make judgements based on woman’s looks. Patriarchal power and what it would take to have a balanced share of power. How women (have to/choose to?) alter their behaviour to be more palatable to men. All areas that interest me.

    And this quote (or at least it went something like this), oh, how I love it:

    “What’s more radical than a woman who accepts her body”

    I’m aware that I have quite a conventional, slender body. A few curvy areas and a body that has been marked by motherhood, but as UK size 12, I’m quite ‘acceptable’. And I’ve done so much work to love and accept myself and my body exactly as I am. But I still get doubts when I look at myself at times and find myself lacking. I still tend to base part of my worth on my size. I still for some reason feel more desirable when I’m smaller.

    Is it because I was told (by society/myself/peers) that my body is what matters over everything else?

    Is my worth as a woman judged primarily by what I look like?

    Could I radically accept my body? And if so, what would that look like? It might lead to less waxing and shaving and tweezing (a topic that made me pause and think when a friend blogged about it herself recently). It might lead to letting my grey hair grow instead of covering them up with dye. And it might lead to me getting rid of some clothes that fit me but are uncomfy.

    But it’s so hard to unravel what I do for me (I like my hait a uniform colour, but is that because I’ve received the message that ‘grey=ugly’ externally? Many men don’t dye their hair when going grey) and what I do because of external messages I’ve received?

    So I’m left loving considering what it would be like to radically accept my body as it is. I’ve got a cobbled together, mostly functioning acceptance of my body and so I have experience of the freedom it is to love myself unconditionally. Living like this but ramped up – fully accepting, fully loving, never doubting – sounds like bliss.

    And so while I’m not able to totally unravel what that looks like, I’ll sit with the idea, ponder on these thoughts and see where it takes me.

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    blogging, self-discovery, Work

    My ‘why’

    I recently wrote about how I’ve been questioning and feeling in a state of uncertainty about so much in my life. I’ve been thinking about this and exploring it over the last few weeks and feel like I’ve made some headway in understanding what it’s all about.

    This partly explains the reduction in my posts but now that I’m starting to form my thoughts, I’d like to share my them with you, dear friend, if that’s ok.

    When I returned to work, I felt like something profound had changed in me. And, as I’ve shared in a previous post, nothing seemed to fit right. The work I was doing didn’t seem to suit me, the goals I was working to didn’t resonate anymore. It was hard to feel this way because, pre-maternity leave, I loved my role so very much and (although I was glad to step back the pace a bit before having my son) I was happy at the prospect of returning to my role six months later.

    I asked myself why I felt so detached from work and I realised that it was because I wanted more. Not in a ‘I want more money/excitement/power’ way, but it suddenly was important for me to make a more profound mark on society.

    To leave this world in a better state for Jenson.

    I’m aware of so many things that seem to be broken in this world – our healthcare, education system, political system, the patriarchal framework of society – and I want him to grow up in a world with less inequality and more hope. I want to contribute to more.

    And then I started reading a book during my morning commute to work and something shifted inside me – I started understanding what this ‘more’ might look like. The book is called ‘Presence‘ and talks about about how to bring around profound change in people, organisations and society. A topic that is so important to me. If I’m honest, reading this book has been deeply inspirational and profoundly encouraging, bringing together all that I discovered in my time at work before going on maternity leave and calling me into a new future, a new reality.

    It has blown my mind and, having just finished it, I’m about to launch back in to read it for a second time and get some more wisdom and insight from its contents.

    Instead of being a traditional ‘change’ book with models, frameworks, processes, talking about stakeholder engagement and communications, it talks about deepening our ability to be still to see what is truly happening, to bring about change not just using our head but also our hearts – using our full self. It goes so much further, becoming so aware of what’s going on that we can bring forward our highest Self (whether you call that God, the universe, your most wise self) to create the best possible future.

    It sounds a bit ‘woo woo’ and I might have been more skeptical if not for having experienced moments with my highest Self in the past. When this has happened, I’ve sensed the right thing to do in that moment as if someone other than me was showing me the possible or I’ve just known what to say as if I’ve been tapped into the moment with acute clarity. Time has seemed to slow down in these moments. Do you know what I mean?

    Since reading this book, I know that my work is all the tasks and objectives that I want to get done, but it’s so much more. It’s calling people into a place of stillness and reflection to be able to integrate the different parts of themselves. It’s about working on myself so I find a greater sense of stillness and an ability to see what is truly going on in any given situation. It’s about finding opportunities to give people a glimpse of what is possible.

    And so while my work might draw me into the world of education, healthcare, feminism or something else in the future, I have found a contentment where I am. Giving myself permission to call people into stillness, finding a more regular connection with my higher Self, showing those I meet that we have such greater capacity to create the world anew if we would only stop, listen, and be truly present.

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    blogging, self-discovery, Wellbeing

    Questioning

    I’ve now been back at work for two weeks and as I’m sat in the car on the way to a family day out I’m reflecting about how much motherhood has changed me. I feel like everything has been thrown up in the air and I’m left questioning the fundamentals in my life.

    Who am I?

    What do I want to do with the time I have on this Earth?

    What is my greater purpose?

    It feels like I’ve been upturned or my world has been flipped upside down. I just don’t know anything anymore.

    Well, that’s not true. I know that I love my family more than I’ve ever loved anything else. I know that I want Jenson to come first at this time in life. I know that I need to express this uncertainty instead of keeping it hidden inside me like a secret. And I know that it’s ok to not have everything sorted, all the questions answered.

    So I know a lot.

    And instead of jumping into finding my purpose – studying something new to change career, change the colour of my hair to feel different or strike into action, I find myself being called to listen in stillness. I’m drawn to paying attention to what I’m noticing, I find myself wanting to slow down. It’s different to what I’ve usually done and I’m willing to give it a go.

    So here I go on this new adventure into who I am and what I’m called to in life. Thank you for being here for me, friend, as I express what’s going on for me. It may be a journey I take along, but one that feels less lonely with you by my side.

    blogging, self-discovery

    Stopping shopping #2

    So I shared with you about three weeks ago that I’m on a shopping ban for the next three months. Three months to simplify my life, reduce the amount I spend and enjoy what I have instead of always wanting more.

    Since I committed to this way of living, I’ve found myself challenged a few times but have so far managed to avoid spending anything off my list of unallowed items.

    The first time I was super keen to buy what I didn’t need was in Dubai airport on the way home from our travels. After five weeks of mostly no coffee (caffeine + breastfeeding = 🙅🏻‍♀️) I came across so many cafés selling the beautiful elixir that is decaffeinated coffee. And I wanted one so badly. To be honest, I could have bought one – it wasn’t on my banned list (I only said no to buying coffees when at work) – but it felt wrong so soon after my commitment of living on less to buy one. And so I did without one and felt quite smug until I walked past another café which brought new temptation. But I stayed strong, I resisted and then Gregg found something so wonderful…free ice cream given out by Emirates. It was better than any coffee I could have ever bought (and, I won’t lie, I may have had two of them 😬).

    In the lead-up to my return to work I went into a frenzy of simplifying my life which I might write about in more detail at another point. I reduced my wardrobe to 25 items of clothing (the thought being that less choice leads to less anxiety), got rid of so much clutter in my bathroom cabinet (moisturiser I have had for years, make-up I have bought but never used) and put away the many pieces of jewellery that I have but rarely wear.

    I found myself wanting to have different clothes – ones that were more ‘professional’ or ‘smartly-quirky’ to go back to work but my determination to not buy clothes made me dive into what this desire was about – wanting to be more (what ‘more’ is I’m not sure) and wanting to pin my confidence on my external appearance instead of knowing that I am enough just as I am. I know these thoughts of ‘not enoughness’ are perfectly normal for a returning-to-work mum so I’m not sharing this to berate myself. I found it good to notice what was going on for me and to remind myself that I am enough as I am, that I am not just what I look like.

    On my first day back to work I had another stumble. I needed to buy a new tupperware container to store my milk expressing kit (sorry if this is TMI) and suddenly found myself in the kitchen aisle picking up a pretty new mug. It had a lovely geometric print on it, it was fairly large for a lovely big cup of chai or peppermint tea and I felt I needed it. I was putting it in my basket before I remembered that this was not something that was on my list of approved items to buy and so I put it back on the shelf. In that moment I felt disappointed to not be buying it – it was so damn pretty – but I knew it was the right thing to do.

    And this was a pivotal moment for me where I realised how much I have a ‘disposable’ mentality.

    Let me explain more.

    Because I bought things with such haste and ease in the past, I was ok with the possibility of losing them or mistreating them so they fell apart. But I don’t like this way of being, such little care shown my possessions. I’d never buy real quality items – sunglasses would be cheap £5 ones, clothes would be what I could find in the sales. Part of this comes down the thriftiness – not wanting to part more money because of the item having a recognisable brand name – but it also comes down to my disposable mentality. Not wanting to buy something I knew wouldn’t last long.

    One fear I had was that I’d feel restricted during the weekends or times where I’d usually potter around the shops (although those times have pretty much melted away since having my son!). But instead I’ve found this ban to be refreshing. We’ve enjoyed time in the park as a family, scrounged a picnic together from left-overs, spent time together just enjoying each other’s company. Taking shopping off the table has made more time in my life.

    Almost a month into my shopping ban, I feel really good. Positive that this is the right step for me, happy with the level of challenge it is bringing me and sure that I will be able to complete this three month challenge – and even extend it to six months or a year!

    blogging, self-discovery, Wellbeing

    Luck

    I’m sat here on my journey back from work just feeling so lucky. One of my beautiful NCT friends has a son who is ill and is going to have open heart surgery in the near future; a child who couldn’t be more loved, more wanted, more cherished, more adored.

    And all my concerns and stresses seem to fade away in comparison.

    I know that I have the right to feel how I do – anxious about how work is going to go as I step back in as a full time mum, concerned about whether I’ll be able to keep on breastfeeding around my work calendar which doesn’t always have time for me to express during the day, struggling with how to be unashamedly me in a world which has taught me that only ‘X‘ women (thin, extravert, positive, unfailingly confident, compliant) are acceptable.

    But at this moment, all I can think of is my friend and her son and how incredibly lucky I am to have good physical health. And again, how much I love the NHS who are providing the best care this family could hope for in this situation.

    I know that I’m only able to be on a journey of self-actualisation and personal growth because I have good health, because I was born into a family who have the means to support me, because I live in a country that is comparably wealthy to others. It’s all down to luck. Yes, some personal choices (studying hard, saving well, being a kind person), but mostly down to luck.

    I am incredibly lucky and I am pouring all my love, hopes and wishes onto this family with what they’re going through. I hope you’ll take a minute to think of them and send positive wishes and hopes their way.

    blogging, self-discovery, showing up

    Time for me

    You may start to notice a theme arising in the time I post my musings and general thoughts about life…they are starting to coincide with the 30+ minutes I have to myself as I travel to and from work. These minutes are truly time for myself.

    Time where I don’t have to think about the well-being of my little man or tasks to do at work or things I need to do at work (although all those thoughts are permeating somewhere in the back of my mind).

    This transit time is, I firmly believe, going to become the firm ‘me’ time in my day.

    Time where I don’t talk to anyone.

    Time that I can use for myself and exactly what I want to do.

    Time that I don’t hold any expectations about.

    And if I was the leading lady in my own life, I know I would protect this time fiercely. I’d choose to take the train alone and kindly tell people who made conversation with me that I was busy during this time (I feel ashamed saying this, like I should be grateful for people wanting to talk to me or that I’ve just outed myself as being the hermit I truly am!).

    I’d do things I wanted to do in this time – read a book, listen to messages from friends, stare out the window – and only what I wanted with this time.

    I’d stay off social media and messaging apps that sometimes muddy my head with the constant flurry of input. I’ve got other time for that in my life. My ‘me’ time doesn’t need to be filled with that.

    I’d enjoy writing here to you, dear friend, but only when I wanted to. With no expectation about how many posts I should write a week. Writing to you (and for myself) is a passion of mine that I want to nurture with energy and love, not strangle or stifle with expectations.

    I suppose I’m writing about this to you because it is dawning on me just how important this time will be for me (for my sanity, my wellbeing, to feel energised for the coming day, to thrive in my life) and I want to give myself permission to seize this time for myself.

    I’m also grappling with how to be selfish boundaried with this time so that I consistently get it to myself. How do I tell people that this is my time for quiet and reflection without being rude? Or more so how can I be ok with being seen as rude to get this time that I most desperately want?

    And I suppose, if I’m honest, my grappling here comes down to fear.

    Fear of not being accepted.

    Fear of being too much or not enough.

    Fear that I’m not acceptable.

    And the frustrating thing is that I know in my head that I am enough as I am. That I’m allowed to want stillness, that my need for stillness and solitude are just as important as other people’s needs for companionship and conversation.

    It feels like I’m on the edge of a diving board. Knowing what I want and being at the precipice of jumping in but still being fearful of what this could mean. And it will be scary until I take that leap and jump into the life I want to live.

    blogging, Work

    Work

    I feel like I’ve been zapped back in time to six months ago when I left work to go on maternity leave. Standing here on the train platform waiting to travel to Worthing once more for work, I feel like nothing has changed…and yet so much has happened.

    ❤️ I’ve kept a human being alive and safe from harm for a whole six months.

    ❤️ I’ve changed immeasurably in terms of what I want from life and my determination to be boundaried with my life to get it.

    ❤️ I’ve had my patience stretched, my heart expand and no doubt my hair has become a shade more silver from the sleeplessness of early parenthood.And yet I’m still me. I still have the same love of my work. Still feel up for the challenges and opportunities daily life will bring my way. Still have ambition for what I can achieve and the impact I can make in my organisation. As I’m sat here (now on the train), I question whether these two ‘Amys’ can exist peacefully side-by-side. The fierce mother bear and the passionate worker. And here’s what springs to mind for me when I ask that question -Many women have done this before and so there’s no reason why I can’t too.I have a fantastic husband who is taking his first steps as main carer for our son so I have the right support to make this work. My first weeks are going to be full of trial and error. Leaving work at a sensible time to get home to my boys when I could stay later. Switching off my personal phone so I can focus on the task at hand at work. Being realistic about what I can achieve in the time I have. Being ok if I have to come home late every once-in-a-while.The thing that these two Amys have in common is passion. Passion for family and passion for work. So they’re not different people, they just have a different focus. So there you are, I’ve not got many answers but I’m ok with that. I’ll take it as it comes. Whatever happens, I’m going back to work and I’m going to trust that all will be well.

    blogging, Brené Brown, self-discovery

    Good enough

    I’m currently sat in the kitchen with the mess of unpacking from our family mega-adventure around me and am thinking about the imminent changes in my life. The main one being that I’m going back to work in less than a week (less than a week!!!!!!!!), leaving my son in my husband’s care.

    Geez, where did those six months go?! Six months which, at times, felt interminable. Six months that I loved and struggled with and where I poured my heart and soul into this new little creature of mine.

    As I’m sat here contemplating the upcoming changes to my life, the one thing that sticks in my mind is ‘your best needs to be good enough’.

    This thought has been milling around for a while. Since I wrote the post about not feeling I could call myself a vegan anymore because of the leather sandals I bought myself in a pre-travel frantic dash around town and the eggs I eat. I was so grateful by the replies I received from people who read this blog of mine saying that I was being to hard on myself and reminding me that being vegan is about attempting to exclude animal exploitation as much as possible (that’s how the Vegan Society defines a vegan lifestyle).

    And I found myself face-to-face with my perfectionism. Again. 🤦🏻‍♀️ Judging myself unless I am able to reach a standard of perfection. Which is impossible as I am human, not super-human.

    What if I hadn’t bought those sandals and didn’t eat those eggs? I’d probably have realised that a medication I’ve taken wasn’t vegan and be in the same situation of not being perfect and therefore not being good enough.

    But my best needs to be good enough.

    And this thought that ‘my best needs to be good enough’ again came to mind when I saw the below Brené Brown quote and remembered all the times at work where I was secretly weighed down in the pit of my stomach with fear and shame for not having done something ‘well enough’ (when I had done my best in the given circumstance).

    Times when my plans haven’t gone as well as they could or I’ve received difficult feedback from something I put my heart into. I want my best to be good enough in those circumstances.

    As I find myself on the cusp of going back to work, I know this needs to change. Now being a mother and pulled in different directions – wanting to give my all to my jobs (both my full-time Organisational Development role and my work with coaching clients), having great friends I want to stay in touch with, writing this blog and wanting to be home as soon as possible to spend time with my son and husband – I know that my best needs to be good enough.

    So I will remind myself of this on the days I leave work with not everything done. If I’m home late sometimes or I miss any milestones for Jenson. When I leave texts to friends unanswered for longer than I’d like. When I haven’t posted anything here for over a week.

    I’ll be doing my best and that has to be good enough.

    And in this spirit, I’m going to leave this post here. I know it’s not the most brilliant post, I could review my words and make it more eloquent. But with the time I’ve got, this is my best, and that’s enough. ❤️