blogging, coaching, compassion, self-discovery, self-judgement

Perfection

I’m sat here at 4am next to a sleeping baby who was, until a few moments ago, wide awake and more wriggly than a sack of frogs. Now that he is sleeping I find myself unable to get back to sleep so thought I’d share my thoughts about the coaching that I’m going to invest in for myself over the next few months.

If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I’m a coach and will also probably know that I’m really passionate about the power of coaching to help people make the changes they want in their life. And over the last few months I’ve become aware of some changes that I’d like to make for myself.

  • Stopping the negative self-talk and self-berating when I don’t do something ‘perfectly’
  • Getting some support as I go back to work and find myself stretched and pulled between wanting to be the best I can at work and doing my best for my son
  • Finding kindness for myself as I find my way along this new journey of parenthood

For me the perfectionism is where I really want to make some progress and I can see it in all three statements above. I know that the high standards I hold myself to have meant that I’ve achieved a fair bit in life (cue Ms Perfectionism – “have you really achieved that much?! I mean, it’s not like you’re in a really high flying career or have done something really significant with your life”) and I’m not looking to get rid of my desire to strive. It’s such a big part of me that I don’t think I could change this even if I tried.

But I do think that I could be kinder to myself when things don’t turn out perfectly. I could learn to change what I measure my perfection against. I could expect myself to try my best in any given moment and knowing that this is enough.

I was struck by the blame I put on myself when I wrote about how Jenson put on such little weight over a three week period. I felt I should have done more but I know that I didn’t knowingly take actions that negatively impacted his weight gain and I know that I did my best in each and every given moment. I wasn’t perfect, but I did my best.

And I’m taken back to all the other occasions in my life where I’ve blamed myself for not doing enough – the development programme at work that had some hitches, a reflective session I ran with my previous employer which tanked, the coaching sessions I’ve done which didn’t go as well as I wanted, the Christmas presents I agonised over which weren’t the best.

I don’t want to live like this any more.

Yes, I want to strive, do my best, achieve greatness through my efforts. If it wasn’t for my strong drive:

  • I wouldn’t have completed my professional HR qualifications alongside working full-time,
  • I wouldn’t have become a coach in the year that I started a new job, had a hectic social life and was growing a baby,
  • I wouldn’t find the energy or time to build my beautiful website alongside raising a baby,
  • I wouldn’t have such big future plans, goals and dreams for myself

But there must be a kinder way to be with myself. A way that can bring greater ease into my life. A way that I can also role model for my son so he knows that his best is enough.

And that’s what I’m hoping to get from my coaching. I can’t wait to get started.

blogging, compassion, eating disorder, self-discovery, Wellbeing

My personal mean girl

I have a mean girl voice inside me. I think we all have a version of a mean girl, although many of us don’t listen to her much.

I’ve been a bit poorly over the last couple of days. Nothing major, just bunged up with cold and with a bit of a cough. And coupled up with broken baby sleep (albeit around 7 hours a night), my usual defences against my mean girl had been lowered.

I looked at myself in the mirror and saw a puffy face, eyes without their usual shine and then my gaze lowered and I saw my post-pregnant body through mean girl eyes. I don’t want to share what went through my mind, but my thoughts were less than kind about how I looked.

In the past these thoughts would have sent me on a spiral down a rabbit hole of promises ‘I won’t eat any sweets today’ that I would most probably break because it was a promise made out of meanness, not kindness. And then the cycle would continue – promises (broken) and overeating followed by such shame and guilt.

I would perhaps look at myself through the day, pinching any excess fat, or would desperately avoid looking in the mirror so I wouldn’t have to see myself through these mean girl eyes.

But today I saw my mean girl for what she was – mostly tiredness, perhaps a distraction from the reality of being dog-tired and a habitual way of thinking which no longer serves me.

And with this knowledge, I was able to say ‘thank you, mean girl, for your input, but I don’t need you today’.

And instead I showed myself kindness.

It’s taken me over 30 years to get to this point – able to show myself kindness in moments of stress and when I’m a bit low – but now that I’m here I couldn’t be more thankful.

blogging, compassion, eating disorder, motherhood, pregnancy, self-discovery, self-esteem, self-judgement

My incredible body

When I was pregnant, I was slightly worried about how I would cope with my body after labour. How would I feel about being in a body that was slightly flabby, potentially a bit broken and not like the one I had pre-pregnancy?

I knew that part of my thoughts were due to the struggles I’ve had in the past with eating, having spent a period of my life locked in battle with anorexia and, up until recently, dealing with stress and anxiety through compulsive comfort eating. I remember standing in front of my mirror so many times, pinching the fat on my tummy and judging the dimply skin on my bottom. I would look at other people who were slender with such envy; I couldn’t comprehend how they were able to eat a sensible amount of food and stop when they were full when thoughts of food constantly plagued my mind.

So it was normal for me, in advance of giving birth, to be concerned about how I would feel about my postpartum body.

I have to tell you, dear friend, how much I’ve been astounded by my actual experience of how I view my post-pregnancy body. Instead of judgement at how I look, I’m filled with a sense of wonder and amazement at it.

My body, which is capable of producing enough milk to feed and make my baby thrive.

My body, which went through the most physically challenging experience I’ve ever experienced – labour – and is still standing strong.

My body, which was able to grow another human being.

Another human being!

And it is so much more than that. It is capable of healing itself when hurt, warming itself when cold, has ways of coping with famine and has such strength and resilience.

I remember looking at my stomach the day after labour – it was a bit flabby, still rounded like in early pregnancy – and all I could think about was the amazement I had for it. And I thought to myself ‘how could I have ever been judgemental about my body when it is capable of so much?’

It was as if a light had been switched on and I could suddenly see my body for what it truly is. It’s not something to be scorned, punished or hated or an object to be toned and sculpted to perfection.

It’s truly incredible, amazing and worthy of all my love and respect.

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blogging, compassion, eating disorder, recovery, self-discovery, trust

It gets easier

If there’s one thing I could go back and tell my younger self about battling an addition – my particular type being food – it would be this: eventually it gets easier.

That’s not to say that it’s inevitable that people will make a recovery from addiction. I feel incredibly lucky to have teetered on the edge of the anorexic abyss and managed to claw my way back to shaky ground.

But it doesn’t make my message back to the younger Amy any less true.

It gets easier.

For so long I felt like I would never be free of this demon of mine – the sweet release I would feel by pushing my feelings down under copious amounts of food, or starving my emotions away by exercising beyond exhaustion. Recovery, normality, seemed like an impossibility.

Don’t get me wrong. In those years it wasn’t all darkness. I experienced moments of liberating freedom – dancing with friends, laughing with family, connecting with those I cared about deeply – but the monster was ever there. The shadow voice calling to me. Tempting me to eat, to gorge, to annhialite myself.

To resist this voice often felt impossible, to think about not buying food brought on a panic close to suffocation. And so I seesawed my way through much of my late teens and 20s, lurching from overeating to starving, freezing my feelings away or burying myself under food.

It was hard but I took some tentative steps forward. I had some counselling, dared to share some of myself with those I trusted, started to listen, accept and love myself just a little bit.

These were baby bird steps forward over several years and it felt for so long that I took 1 step forward and 50 steps back. Because this was often the reality. But I took those steps forward regardless.

And sometimes, just sometimes, I was able to ask myself ‘will this food give me what I truly desire?’ and I was able to resist my shadow voice. Even if a few minutes later I thought ‘fuck it’ and ate everything in sight.

But I kept on seeking help. I kept taking tiny steps forward.

And I discovered that my addiction wasn’t so much about the food. It was about the anger I kept locked up inside me, it was about the fear and sadness I refused to acknowledge, it was about the pain of trying to find my way in the world despite feeling deeply inadequate, unworthy, unloveable.

And in moments of progress I slowly let myself release little pressurised pockets of rage. I let myself cry, mourn, feel sad, wallow in pity, tantrum, express myself, accept my feelings.

And it was bloody hard. No amount of swear words can express how hard it was. But when I did these things – however gracelessly I did them – life got a tiny bit easier. The shadow voice got a tiny bit quieter.

So I suppose on reflection, it’s not just the message of ‘it gets easier’ that I would share with my younger self.

I’m fact, if my younger self met the older me and heard me say ‘it gets easier’, I think the younger me would want to punch the older me in the face. So let’s just say my message is a bit more like this:

Life is bloody hard, and your fight feels so difficult, so crippling, so futile, dear one. It can feel so often that trying to take steps forward is an impossibility. Like trying to recover demands the impossible of yourself. 

But please hang in there. Because millimetre by millimetre, this does get the smallest fraction more bearable. And you do move forward. 

First you can’t see the distant travelled because it’s so small, but if you look hard, you’ll see that you’ve travelled a few millimetres, a centimetre, an inch, a yard. 

And yes, you do sometimes retreat back to your starting place, or even further back, but that ground is slightly easier to navigate the next time, and the next time and the next time. 

And on your journey, you both need to fight against the disordered eating, but also accept that it’s not really about the eating at all – it’s about accepting, loving, forgiving yourself and making sense of what you’ve experienced. 

It’s a paradox that feels nonsensical. But it’s true. It’s about food, but it’s not. 

So pay attention to the food, but also pay attention to yourself. Value your thoughts, your feelings, your views. Because they may not always be right, but they are valid. You have the right to feel them. So push forward with finding your feet, accepting and listening to yourself. 

And know that life feels hard where you are, but it also has the potential for so much more. There is so much goodness awaiting you, dear heart. 

Things you can’t see from where you are but realities that are possible. Being loved beyond belief by people. Heck, loving yourself beyond belief. Feeling such a sense of fullness through becoming a coach and helping others. Feeling such a sense of richness through your writing. 

Living a life that is light with love as much as it is intense with feelings. 

There is so much in front of you that you can’t see. So hold on for just a bit longer. And a bit longer. And a bit longer. Until you’re not just holding on, you’re striding forward. 

And you’ll then know that it does indeed get easier.

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blogging, christmas, compassion, courage, self-discovery, truth

Poor as I am

I’ve been up tonight with one of the only side effect I’ve suffered with in pregnancy – mild insomnia – and after lying here in bed for an hour thinking about things (life, relationships, the past, the future) I thought I would get some of my ponderings onto this blog and hopefully get back to sleep.

With December fast approaching, and with it the due date of my son’s birth, I’ve had the words of some Christmas carols in my head lately. The one that is going around my mind in the early hours of this morning is ‘In the bleak midwinter’. Or more precisely, the final verse of this song:

What can I give Him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;

If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;

Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

And here’s what these words have triggered in me at 3am:

Calling

Sometimes we have a role to play in life. Like the wise men or shepherds in the nativity. But other times we don’t. Like with the post I wrote yesterday about just being, we might be called to just be there for someone – to witness their pain or to offer up our friendship. And that role can be enough. In fact, this role can be the most valuable one that we can provide.

Reality

This carol isn’t the usual one, speaking of glory and triumph at God coming to earth. In fact, it’s a very strange song which, apart from being quite jumbled up in its message, speaks of incredible difficulty next to immense glory.

And I think that sums up life quite well.

We may all be faced with incredible difficulty and suffering in life – for me, I see this as part of the human condition. But in that difficulty, there can be immense beauty. Although we might find ourselves face-down in the mud, we can also find a wonder in the strength of standing back on our feet.cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, compassion, self-discovery

Progress

I had an introductory coaching session last night with a potential coaching client. It was a really interesting session and I greatly enjoyed talking to the individual. It’s partly what I love about coaching – meeting new people, gaining a glimpse into their lives and opening them up to possibility, whether they sign up to work with me more or just experience 30 minutes of coaching.

I’ve been reflecting on the experience and wanted to share with you, dear friend, what happened after the session and how I’m making small progress in putting down my perfectionist ways.

I was talking to my husband, Gregg, about how the session had gone (not about the content of what was discussed but my thoughts about how I had done as a coach) and I heard myself say ‘I just don’t think I did my best, I’m not sure I was good enough’.

And then, as quick as lightening, I corrected myself and said to him ‘actually, in that moment, I did do my absolute best. I gave it all I could’. 

It’s true. I didn’t slack off, I didn’t not try hard. I was present with my client and did all I could in that moment to coach as well as possible.

Sure, there were things that could have been better

  • I was tired at the end of a long week
  • I’m pretty sure that pregnancy is making my brain a bit fuzzy sometimes and it can be a bit harder to find my words when I’m tired
  • The person might have been looking for executive coaching, and my jam – what lights me up – is interpersonal coaching

But I did my best and recognised that straight away.

I didn’t beat myself up or focus on my shortcomings.

I was able to see myself exactly as I am – someone who tried their best, gave their all.

And that is good enough for me.

Sometimes it feels like I’m wading through mud on this journey of life. Trying to make progress and accept myself but falling woefully short of just giving myself a break. But in that moment I felt like I was finally reaching a point of having surer footing, where I’m able to treat myself with greater compassion, grace and love.

And it feels bloody amazing! It shows me that this journey (which sometimes feels like a gruelling marathon), is completely worthwhile and it shows me that I’m making progress.

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blogging, Brené Brown, compassion, self-esteem

I matter

You’ll be happy to hear that I’m coming to the end of Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong so there’ll be no more references to it (until I read it again, that is 😉).

But I love one of the lines she has included in her last chapter so much that I had to share it with you, dear friend:

“A whole hearted revolution is a small, grassroots movement that starts with each of us saying, “My story matters because I matter”.

For many reading this post, it’s a no-brainer that you matter. You know this deep inside you.

But this truth hasn’t always felt real for me.

At worst I felt that my story did not matter because I didn’t matter and for much of my late teens/early twenties, I felt that my story only mattered if it was important to other people. So I had to win approval to matter through what I did for others.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time unpicking the past to explore why this was. I think I know why this was.

Instead, I just want to take a few moments to celebrate that in this moment I believe truly, fully, without one shred of doubt that my story matters because I matter. 

I believe that I count.

I believe that I’m important – if only to myself.

And in this moment, I catch a glimpse of the beauty and peace that comes from knowing intrinsically that I am enough. I don’t need to be anymore than I am to be whole. I don’t need to be anything other than myself to be happy and content in who I am, to fully love and accept my imperfect completion.

I matter. 

And I want to take this moment to reach out and let you know that I think you matter too.

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blogging, compassion

A hurting world

I was walking to the train station this morning and came across a man lying in the middle of the pavement in the rain. I didn’t know if he was unconscious, hurt, dead and I was the only one in the stream of busy commuters who, with trepidation, tried to rouse him and see if he was ok.

It turned out that he was drunk and lying in the rain as he had been asked to leave all the places of shelter that he could find (the station, the supermarket entrance) and had nowhere else to go.

To be honest, I don’t know if my interaction did any good to the situation, although I think he appreciated the kindness of a stranger, someone showing that they cared.

I asked if there was anywhere he could go to shelter from the rain and he started shouting in anger about being thrown out of the only places of cover that he could find. In that moment I understood why he had been asked to leave all of these places.

But nevertheless, it pains me to think of all those people who were passing him by without a second glance.

It pains me to be confronted with the reality that I’m often the ‘busy commuter’, too pressed for time or too scared of getting involved to reach out to another human being.

It pains me to think of this messy, imperfect, broken man who is most likely  struggling with addiction, mental health issues and has ended up lying in the street in the rain.

And what is there that can be done? It feels like the world is hurting and I don’t know what can be done.

When I stay with these feelings, I realise that what I can do, what I need to do, is keep on reaching out.

Who knows, the care I showed him might be one of the turning points that leads to him getting his life back on track. And the care I showed him also benefits me – connecting me to what it is to be a human. Connection, reaching out, looking out for each other. And if that’s the only thing that comes of reaching out, that’s alright by me.

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blogging, compassion, eating disorder, life coaching, self-discovery, self-judgement

Doing my best

As part of my studies to become a transformational coach, I’ve started to have some coaching myself. This is so that I can personally see the benefits of coaching in my life and to learn more about the coaching process as a participant.

I had my first session on Wednesday night and what I learnt from the process touched me deeply. I want to share this experience and what I learnt with you if that’s ok, dear friend.

Before I started my session, I wrote down what I wanted to get from the coaching process and decided that the main aim was about how I can become more comfortable in situations of conflict and in times where I need to challenge someone, be it at work or in my personal life.

We started by talking about how I shy away from conflict and what this was really about.  I soon discovered that it wasn’t about wanting to step up and become an authoritarian leader who commands what people do. That’s not who I am or how I want to be as I progress in becoming someone with influence at work and in my personal life.

So what was the problem about conflict that made me identify it as an area that I wanted to work on? And how do I want to be with situations of conflict going forward?

I was unsure at the start but after some questioning, I started to build an understanding of why conflict is such a big thing for me…it’s because I’m trying to protect myself from experiencing any discomfort. Conflict, which makes me feel very anxious, is a prime example of what I want to protect myself from.

Whenever I hear people arguing or there’s a moment of uncomfortable silence or I think I might have upset someone, it’s like alarm bells are ringing in my head, blaring “resolve it, stop it, distract from it!” Because it’s uncomfortable to be in that space of tension and animosity. To not know where I stand.

I then started to think how I’ve coped with these feelings in the past before – how I’ve protected myself. And I connected immediately to my past issues with eating.

  • Starving myself as an anorexic to stop feeling difficult emotions and experiences.
  • Bingeing as a compulsive eater to push down my feelings of discomfort.
  • Distracting myself and others from situations of conflict as I currently do.

And you know what, although I don’t want to distract and ‘protect’ myself by running away from conflict or discomfort for the rest of my life, I could see in that moment that I’m doing the best with what I’ve got.

Doing the best with what I’ve got

What sweet, sweet words of kindness I heard coming out of my mouth. Recognition that life is tricky. That I’m trying to find my way as best I can. That it’s ok to not constantly toil away for perfect resolution but to acknowledge how far I’ve come and how I am doing my best.

I felt in that moment that ‘my best’ is enough.

Perhaps not enough for forever – I’d like to be able to experience conflict one day without feeling the need to distract, to resolve or stop the situation – but enough for now.

I’m doing the best with what I’ve got and it feels so beautifully gentle and generous to tell myself this.

blogging, compassion, feminism, self-discovery, self-esteem, self-judgement

I don’t need fixing

I was speaking to my lovely friend Anita a few weeks ago and she mentioned that she had been looking at the beauty products – creams, lotions and products that cover-up – when she had a thought come to her:

“Why I am using these things? I don’t need fixing.”

And as I heard her words, I felt my eyes fill up with tears. I felt a resonance with her desire to accept herself exactly as she was without need to cover up, hide, accept the lies told by a beauty industry that profits on women thinking that we’re not enough as we are.

Anita’s words have been in the forefront to my mind this week because I’ve become aware of the stealthy addition of more and more grey in my hair. In past years, I’d find an odd grey hair, pluck it out and not think any more of it. But now I’m finding myself facing an ever growing number of these hairs and I’m confronted with the signs of growing old.

And it makes me think that something needs fixing.

Because I’m afraid of not being seen anymore, not being desired anymore, not being of interest to anyone anymore.

But what if I shifted my mindset and told myself in the face of these grey hairs that I don’t need fixing? That instead it’s our culture that needs fixing.

That we need to view people not by the colour of their hair or the firmness of their skin but by the strength of their hearts and minds?

So I’m going to resist colouring over my grey for a few weeks to see how that feels and keep on repeating to myself those wise words from my dear friend – I don’t need fixing.

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