When I loved myself enough…

My friend, Sarah, bought me a beautiful book for my birthday. It’s a short read – only taking me 15 minutes to read cover to cover, but it has really inspired me.

It’s called ‘when I loved myself enough‘ (as the title of this post suggests) and lists all the things that the writer did once she started loving herself enough.

Saying ‘yes’ when she wanted to and ‘no’ when she wanted to.  Realising the abuse in forcing someone to do something against their will, including herself. Collecting ribbons to remind herself of the gift that life was. Respecting all the parts of her, from the harsh inner critic to her bravest self. 

It has inspired me and reminded me of something that a previous coach I had said – that loving yourself is an active choice, not a mindset shift, and so growing in self-love isn’t about me wrapping my head around this as a concept.

It involves doing. Or more so, it involves acts of self-love.

And so here is the list of self-love that I’ve done since reading the book – acts that I’ll continue to do…

When I loved myself enough, I let myself properly recover from being poorly instead of dragging myself into the office the moment I could function.

When I loved myself enough, I let myself leave a party when I was ready instead of waiting until it was a socially acceptable time to go. 

When I loved myself enough, I took time away to be by myself and write. 

When I loved myself enough, I allowed myself to write my own rules in life instead of taking the well-trodden path of others.

When I loved myself enough, I focused on my own needs instead of always focusing on the needs of other people.

When I loved myself enough, I expressed my own opinion even when it differed to other people.

So here are the steps I’ve started to take, the acts of love I’ve put into practice and I feel it’s just the start.

In a way, it’s a challenge I’m setting for myself – to love myself enough to live a life of greater courage, greater truth and greater self-love. As I continue to write about it, how it feels to love myself, I hope you enjoy it and I hope it inspires you to live a life in which you love yourself enough too, dear friend. 

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Validation

I was in London last weekend with my parents, Gregg and Jenson to celebrate my birthday. It was a lovely time and also a time that has left me thinking about some body stuff.

My mum said to me at one point ‘you look slim‘ (or something like that). She meant it as a lovely compliment but then corrected herself and said ‘oh, I’m not supposed to say that, am I?‘.

This came from an article she had shared with me earlier in the year (which I can’t find now), but which is similar to this article in psychology today.

The main headlines are that if you don’t want your child to have body issues:

  • Don’t talk about your body in a negative way. Instead of saying ‘I hate my stomach‘, say ‘It’s incredible that my tummy kept you safe inside me for 9 months!
  • Model eating a variety of foods in moderation
  • Don’t diet, but talk about eating healthily and exercising for the pleasure of feeling good and taking care of yourself
  • Don’t comment on what other people look like, praising those who are thin and criticising others who are larger. Make body size a non-issue by not even mentioning it.

But I understand my mum making that comment because, in saying it, she was noticing me, connecting with me, wanting to say ‘I see you and I think you are lovely’. (I think she was, anyway!).

And it’s what I do to people as well. When someone has lost weight, I give praise. And when someone mentions how dissatisfied they are with their body, I try to make them feel better by saying how gorgeous they are or how I haven’t even noticed that they’ve put on weight.

It’s how we are conditioned in society – to say ‘you look well’ (which most always means something about body size) or to comment if someone has lost weight.

It’s normal validation.

But I don’t want to be part of it anymore.

And so I’ve been thinking about what else can be said to validate someone instead of commenting on weight/body size.

Here are some of the things I’d like to hear myself:

  • I love you
  • I’m so proud to call you my friend/daughter/son/part of my family
  • I think you’re a wonderful person
  • It looks like you’re really taking care of yourself and I think that’s great.
  • You’re glowing for someone surviving on such little sleep!
  • I really admire X in you
  • I love your top/skirt/shoes
  • I think you’re gorgeous, inside and out!
  • I’d love to know how you’re really doing

It was really hard to think about these phrases and I’m still not 100% convinced by all of them, because they all feel a bit more intense.

A comment like ‘you look great’ feels safe. Whereas saying how proud you are of someone feels more vulnerable. And asking how someone truly is, listening fully to their answer takes more effort and engagement.

So I don’t have any answers really. And I suppose this is normal because observations about weight are conditioned in most of us.

All I know is that I’m determined for Jenson to not grow up with any weight phobias and so I’m going to see how it feels to not mention my body negatively or to mention someone’s size as a validation over the next month or so.

This means:

  • Praising my body, especially the bits I find imperfect
  • Not engaging with conversations about how someone looks
  • Avoiding the ‘you look well’ ‘have you lost weight’ comments

Let’s see how it goes!

Taking my own advice

I’m sat here, quickly typing away at this post before I go to London for my birthday weekend. I thought to myself this morning, as I was looking after Jenson at 5:15am, “what a different place I am this year compared to last year”.

In some ways it’s the best different in the world but in other ways, I desperately miss my old life. Miss being able to lie-in. Miss hours at cafes to blog. Miss having time as my own when I get home from work. Miss having more energy for things. Miss not having to feel pushy to have some time to myself.

Motherhood is beautiful but I’m also finding it brutal.

I want to do the best thing by Jenson – want him to have the best start in life – but I also know that this comes with a price for me as his needs stand firmly above my own.

For now at least. 

And so I just quickly looked back at my birthday post from last year and couldn’t believe that what I had written there spoke so clearly to me. 

I had written about how great my life was – job I loved, happy place with relationships, feeling I was starting to let go of people pleasing and start prioritising my own wellbeing – and shared my wisdom from when I had been in a darker place:

  • Reach out to someone
  • Take steps for the better but accept the present
  • Find gratitude
  • Know that this will pass

I couldn’t have known that I, a year later, would so desperately need these words of encouragement and support.

But my advice was spot on.

So I’m going to reach out and share that I’m struggling a bit – I suppose even writing this is me doing that.

I’ll think about what ‘steps for the better’ look like  – I think it means taking more time at the weekend to take care of myself, continuing to work from home as much as I can to have longer in bed and a gentler day, perhaps having one evening a week where I don’t snuggle down to watch a TV programme with Gregg but do something that is extra specially nourishing for me.

I’ll spend some time on my trip to London with Gregg reflecting on the gratitude I have for being a mum and for the lives that we’ve got. We’re pretty damn lucky. 

And I will take heart that this will pass. Jenson won’t always be so reliant on me and I’ll be able to be a bit more independent. Breastfeeding will end one day, and while I love nourishing him, it will lead to more independence for me. Just this moment too will pass. I’ll feel less loss for my past life and will be swept up in joy of my son’s laughter, love for my family as we cuddle and play together, pride as people remark what a sweetie he is. 

Relief

I’m part laughing to myself writing this – as soon as I took the pressure off myself and said that I wouldn’t be writing to you until my Christmas break, I have something that I want to get off my chest…the relief I’m feeling about Jenson’s feeding.

I’ve been fretting for a while now that he isn’t eating enough. He just doesn’t seem that interested in a lot of food and isn’t fitting into the pushed mantra that he should be eating three meals by now and two snacks.

We’ve seen a nutritionist partly due to Jenson’s vegan diet and partly due to the small variety of food that he’s eating…and it’s been on my mind more than it should.

Why won’t he eat?!

In my head, every other baby I know is eating. I see babies stuffing their faces with roasted vegetables, full-blown meals and fruit pieces when Jenson is just not there.

He eats a massive breakfast and then picks at this and that throughout the day.

It had got to a stage where we were almost forcing food into him (despite the alarm bells ringing in my head that this was not respectful to him as an individual) and were putting so many thoughts on him:

  • He is mistrustful of the new food we’re giving him
  • He’s holding out for sweet food
  • He isn’t open to trying new food
  • He’ll never get better at eating

But then a few things happened.

My good friend, Charlie, recommended a book called ‘My Child Won’t Eat’ which has been so interesting and a real relief, talking about the realities of childhood eating.

She shared with me that eating is not always easy for her with her son – making me feel not alone in this.

Another good friend, Jess, talked about how her son doesn’t fit into the NHS approved regime. She’s spoken before about how her son loves pasta (something that Jenson has no interest in) and I’d envisaged him eating it by the bucketload and eating everything in sight while I’m at it. It turns out that it’s not the case – he’s a bit particular too.

I suddenly felt not alone and saw the ‘three meals and two snacks a day’ exactly as it is – a framework, a guideline, a theoretical model which will not fit every baby.

What a relief!

And so I’m sharing this for all the mamas and papas out there who are maybe worried about their baby’s weight (or future mamas/papas) so you know that you’re not alone if you go through this.

Reconnecting

I’ve not written on here for a few weeks. The longest time since I started this blog of mine. Despite job changes, pregnancy, new motherhood, travels around the world, I’ve managed to keep on writing…but there’s been a lot going on and it’s felt like a time to reflect inwardly, not externally.

I wanted to reach out and reconnect a little with you…just for a moment to outline a bit of what I’m dealing with at the moment…before I jump offline for another few weeks. Maybe even until the start of the Christmas holidays.

Values

My values are being challenged as I’ve been advised to change my sons diet from mostly vegan to definitely vegetarian. It’s brought up a lot of questions in me – which I’m looking into.

Are aspects of my son’s health more important than the future of the planet or more important than animal suffering?

How do I find peace in the middle ground?

How do my ever-strengthening beliefs in veganism sit within my marriage, how I show up and speak up, how I live my life?

If Jenson is veggie, how do I tell him about my lifestyle choices?

How do I tell him about my lifestyle choices whilst still giving him self-advocacy to decide what is right for him?

Numbing

I’ve been free from major comfort eating for some time now…but I’m becoming more and more aware of how I refuse to acknowledge difficult emotions.

Anger

Fear

Shame

I shield myself from them…and they get buried away in me, biding their time to emerge.

I’m trying to stay present with them more often but it’s hard and it’s emotional. It’s the right path for me – but it’s a challenge at the moment.

Assumptions

Unconditional love, being inherently worthy of love and acceptance, not needing anything from anyone to know that I am enough.

These are words that I see written down and have wanted to live them…but I’m becoming aware that I don’t really know what they mean and how they might show up. I don’t know. And so I’m taking some time to question them without pressure.

Who am I?

I’ve been a mum for nearly 12 months and love it dearly.

I couldn’t be happier with my gorgeous son. But it’s taken me away from who I am as a person, as a wife, as an ambitious woman, as a feminist. And I feel the call…as well as a pressure, to get back to who I am in these other arenas.


So as you can see, there’s a lot going on!

But I’m ok, I’ll get there.

I just wanted to check in.

I wish I’d been kinder to myself

I was in a conversation with some mum friends recently, talking about recovering from pregnancy. Some shared that they’d put on weight since their child came on the scene. Due to the pressure and strain of little sleep, struggling with parenthood or just not having enough time to exercise or take care of themselves as they would have in the past.

I understood them, struggling myself at points with not having the time, energy or drive to get back to where I was physically before being a mum.

I fit in my old clothes but my body is different than it was before having Jenson and my diet is less healthy than it was before he came on the scene.

I reach for cake more than I did before and my exercise consists of rushing around from thing to thing and running for the train. I don’t go for runs, I don’t stretch in yoga class, I don’t go anywhere to physically sweat and work out.

But I’m actually ok with that.

As I shared with these mama friends of mine, when I’m on my death bed, I won’t wish I had lost weight or toned up.

I’ll wish I had been kinder to myself.

I’ll wish that I had taken a step back and said ‘you’re doing a great job; working full time, being quite a badass new mum, running a coaching business, keeping friendships going, working on yourself.

I want to be kinder to myself and this means not pushing myself to be at my physical prime at this moment in time. Heck, probably accepting that I’ll never be at a ‘physical prime’ and knowing this is ok!

This kindness means not giving myself a hard time. It also means keeping an eye on my diet and making sure I don’t slip back into comfort eating to soothe myself from the hardships of life. It means accepting myself and not forcing myself to do any sports because I think I ‘should’ do them. It means eating a variety of fruit and vegetables to get adequate vitamins. It means keeping on going to bed at 8:30pm if I need to so I get enough sleep. It means continuing to give myself time along at the weekends to process and reflect on important things like kindness.

And as I think about kindness, I realise what a different place I am in. The old me of a few years ago would not have been able to practice such self-compassion and understanding.

I feel so grateful for where I am and how far I’ve come.

Life is wonderful.

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TV

My husband laughed at me last night because I decided I didn’t want to watch Ozark, a TV show on netflix which is just a bit too high pressure for me. A show where twists and turns are around every corner and near misses are part of every episode.

I’ve found myself pulling away from these types of shows recently – I couldn’t face series two of Stranger Things, recently stopped watching ‘Power’ (another adrenaline inducing show). I really can’t handle these shows anymore or don’t want to.

I’m not sure which.

All I know is that I find myself wanting to watch TV shows that are about connection, don’t leave me feeling jittery or amped up.

So I thought I’d share my favourite two with you…they’re not out of the box finds, ones that you’d never have guessed (or some strange Swedish intellectual series) so this is as much an ode to the two shows I love as it is a description of them:

Grey’s Anatomy

I starting watching Grey’s pretty much from the beginning and it’s been a love affair ever since. I love the characters (my original ‘TV friends’ as I call them to my friends). I love the powerful women – there are so many of them – and I love the storylines, which mirror the social and political themes of the day. Racial violence, domestic abuse, transgender transitions, homosexuality, gun ownership, illegal immigration…they’ve covered it all.

There was particularly powerful episode recently when the Chief, a black female woman, sought treatment for having a heart attack.

The symptoms women have when they’re having a heart attack are often different from men (they’re more likely to experience nausea and vomiting, and pain in the jaw, arm or back), yet it’s the ‘male’ symptoms that are more widely know (pain the the chest, difficulty breathing). Women are also less likely to taken seriously by a doctor – our pain is seen as less severe and we’re less likely to be believed because we’re ‘overreacting’ or ‘being dramatic’ which was reflected in the show and nearly resulted in her death.

I love that, by raising this issue as well as a myriad of other relevant social issues the show has most probably saved lives.

This is us

Oh my gosh, this programme is like food for my soul. It’s such a beautiful programme about a family, skipping back and forth through different generations and storylines to explore different themes that the characters are going through.

Dealing with bereavement, struggling with addiction, finding their way through infertility, jostling to find their place in the family, coping with anxiety.

It is beautifully written, more beautifully acted and feels like I’m watching the highlights of an actual family through their lives (albeit a family who don’t really seem to work much and whose dialogue is a bit too flawless!).

It’s one of the only shows that I sit down to watch and soak up instead of half-watching it while cooking and cleaning…

I also love how the show feels like it’s an actual reflection of society. There are lots of beautiful, slender people in it, but (and I’ve noticed because I’m sensitive to these things) the cast has an over average number of ‘real’ bodies on it – people with bumps and curves. It surprises me because it’s such an anomaly and makes me hopeful that in the future we’ll see more of society reflected on the screen so that ‘thin’ isn’t the predominant body type on TV.

So there you have it – my two favourite shows. It’s lovely to write about them and think about all the reasons why I love them.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts too!

The mess…

I hate mess.

I mean, I don’t hate physical mess. You can ask my husband about how I leave my clothes strewn around our house like a Hansel-and-Gretel-esque breadcrumb trail of clothes. I also never know where anything is and I’m ok living in a bit of grime, leaving it far too long between kitchen cleans and bathroom wipe-downs (possible a bit too much of an overshare, sorry!).

But that’s me.

I’m ok with physical mess.

What I can’t bear is messy relationships.

My parents rarely fought growing up, but when a tense word was spoken or a disagreement took place, I did what I could to diffuse any tension. Practically singing and dancing to take the focus off the argument, I wanted to make everything right.

And that still stands true today.

I feel an intense discomfort when people around me are not getting on. When there are underlying tensions or I know that people have overt dislikes for others, I want to fix everything into a neat, tidy little box where everyone is happy and gets on.

Everything resolved.

But I’m learning that this isn’t possible. It isn’t my role to be the permanent peacekeeper in other people’s lives, nor is it something I have power over.

So I need to become more comfortable with the mess.

The challenge is how to do this.

So I’ve been thinking this morning about how I can let go of this need for control. Because life is messy, things get broken, people change, relationships move on, people get into disagreements and it’s not my place to try to mend everything.

I think the discomfort with emotional mess is to do with my sensitivity; I’m what I’d describe as an empath, I feel and can take on other people’s emotions really easily. I physically feel the tension when things are left unsaid. I take on the sadness when someone gets left out. I feel the anger of people not feeling understood.

And I don’t know what to do with how I feel.

When I get the urge to binge in order to press down my feelings, I’m able to ask myself what I’m truly feeling. Just by inviting the underlying feeling to come to the surface, I’m able to let it go. I’m able to say ‘it’s ok, you’re just tired’ or ‘it’s ok, you’re feeling bored’ or ‘it’s ok, you’re feeling hurt’.

So logically, I think that I might need to do the same thing with other people’s emotions – surface the feelings in order to release them.

But there’s something inside me which resists this.

Am I worried that the feelings will be too strong for me?

It is because I’m resisting the notion that this isn’t something I can control?

I’m not sure.

I know part of it is fear – fear of change, fear of letting go, fear of how I’d feel to open myself up to the feeling of discomfort, pain, sadness.

And part of it is that I’m not used to doing this, so in the moment, I forget that I need to feel what’s going on in order to let the feelings wash over me.

Part of it is in my identity. I’m the listener. I’m the person who people confide in. And so perhaps part of letting go will involve putting in place healthier boundaries to not get drawn into every dispute.

So there are a lot of different things at play here. Even unpacking how I feel is hard – it feels very messy in itself!

But I know that I’m making a start of breaking free from the unhealthy patterns that are no longer serving me. Just by acknowledging where I am and what is going on for me is the start of a change.

I won’t force things – try to make everything better right here, right now or find a 5 step solution to solving all my issues. I’m just going to sit with these thoughts and see where they take me.

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Sorry, not sorry

I’ve been reflecting over the past few days about the blogging I’ve been doing. And quite honestly I’ve been worried that I’m turning you off me by writing about things that are tricky and hard for me.

I’ve been stumbling through motherhood, grappling with who I am in this new world which seems to be turned on its head. I’ve been questioning who I am, what my purpose is, whether I’m in the right place.

There have been moments of lightness – when I reflect on Jenson or how far I’ve come. But moreso there have been shadowy dark posts where I pour out my uncertainty to you as I tentatively take steps forward into who I could become.

And I fear that this is too much. That I am too much.

I worry that you will think I’m breaking (I’m not). I fear that you will think I’m getting things wrong (which is very plausible in this new territory of my own personal development where I feel lost most of the time!). I’m confronted with my messiness, and that makes me feel uncomfortable.

But as I write this and get all my fears out in the open, I remind myself that I primarily write this blog for myself. It’s a safe, beautiful space where I can reflect, digest, process and come to my own conclusions about my experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think about you. I hope that you will find something of use in my words. I hope that the things I write will resonate with you, dear friend, and perhaps give you a new perspective on life. I hope that, in me sharing my own journey, you might feel less alone on yours.

And so I’m not going to hold back. I’m going to keep things real and continue writing what needs to be written for my own good.

Sorry, not sorry 😜

Not the perfect mum

I’ve had a lovely weekend. A good friend of mine took Jenson for a few hours and this allowed Gregg and I to have an afternoon to ourselves. Time to reconnect, which is so important. It used to be a given. We could go out on dates, spend time together late into the night (not worrying about a certain someone who might wake up at 5am), have impromptu weekends away and spend so much time together.

It was wonderful to have time together, but as a result, I don’t feel like I’ve spent loads of time with Jenson.

And I’ve got the guilts about it.

I don’t want to be the ‘perfect mum’ but I find myself judging my choice to make lunch for Gregg and I for the week instead of rushing to spend hours watching and playing with Jenson. I feel less than adequate because I asked Gregg to get into the bath with Jenson tonight so that I could have a few moments alone, not doing any tasks, to write this.

And as I’m reflecting on all this self-judgement, here’s what comes up for me:

  • I am someone who needs time alone to process and reflect and breathe. And that didn’t stop when Jenson came into this world. So it’s natural that sometimes I’m going to want some time alone.
  • We went to a birthday party today – our first of many baby parties – and it was lovely. But it involved a lot of small talk with people I don’t know and that tires me out. I’m reminded that needing extra time alone hasn’t been a need in isolation. It’s partly because of the surrounding circumstances, needing a bit of time to boost up my energy and resilience after spending 3 hours with lots of people I don’t know.
  • The ‘perfect mum’ doesn’t exist. She doesn’t have to deal with tiredness or full-time work. And so she’s not someone I want to judge myself against.
  • I don’t have to find each and every experience with Jenson fascinating. I love the boy – he is my world and I’d be adrift without him. But watching him play with a plastic ride-on toy is sometimes (ok, mostly) boring. I don’t have to be in rapture at everything he does and it’s ok if I’d rather watch a film or read a book instead sometimes.

Just getting all this out in the open is enough to shelves the guilt. It reinforces that I don’t want to be the perfect mum and reminds me that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t be her.

So I’m going to enjoy the remaining time of peace whilst Gregg and Jenson are in the bath together.

No judgement whatsoever.

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