blogging, feminism, friendship, gratitude

A day for women

Here’s to International Women’s Day. A day celebrating all that is means to be female and all that we’ve accomplished towards equality over the centuries. Despite being a day late – hey, I’ve got a baby and no longer work to my own schedule, I wanted to spend a few minutes to celebrate the brave and strong women I know.

The mamas

Here’s to my mum friends. Those who are standing side-by-side with me on this journey of motherhood. Struggling with lack of sleep, babies with colic, the dreaded witching hour, breastfeeding issues but showing their bubba and fellow mamas nothing but love and support.

My hotties

Here’s to my university girls. Hotwells Hotties (named by the area we lived in when we rented in Bristol during our uni days) who’ve stayed in touch for over a decade and still support each other through so much. I love how we talk about everything and anything on our whatsapp group – trying to find our path in the world of work, parenting, holidays, small successes, hilarious antics. Your support and presence makes my days happier and I can’t imagine a world without you.

My Newnham ladies

Here’s to my mum and sister who have known me for all (or much of) my life and who’ve supported me through some of my darkest days. You know that you’ve got good women in your corner when you can face hard truths together and can disagree about much together but still love each other fiercely. As my sister said yesterday – you’re both strong, independent, vulnerable, kind and really funny.

And to my Newnham cousins and aunties in Australia, I also want to honour you today. For the love you have shown me when I’ve visited and for the friendships that I feel are just blossoming now as you reach out to me with such love and support as I take my first steps as a mother.

My female friends all over the world

Here’s to you, all my women friends across the world. From Japan to Austin, Norwich to Norway, Perth to New York, you all teach me much about what it is to be a strong woman in this world. Serving others above self, striving to find your path in this world, going all in for love, pushing forward with amazing careers. You’re all so different and I take so much from each of you and am so thankful that the online world allows me to keep in touch more than ever would have been possible.

To women in the past

Here’s to all those who have battled in the past to allow me to be able to vote and who gave me the freedom to choose who I wanted to marry, to work, to receive an education, to be taken seriously as a human being and to have access to free contraceptives so that I have control over my own body and a choice about when I want to start a family. There was an excellent episode of the guilty feminist to celebrate the centenary of women getting the right to vote in the UK and it showed me the lengths to which you went to bring ease, choice and freedom to my life. Some of you died for me, went through hardships unimaginable and I’m forever grateful to you.

And here’s to you, amazing and talented women who have pushed the boundaries of science, politics or society in the pursuit of excellence. Ada Lovelace, Malala, Amelia Earhart, Michelle Obama, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Hamilton, Serena Williams…the list could go on and on. You’ve paved the way for other women to step forward into brilliance and I want to honour you for that.

To women of the future

Here’s to you, women who will come after me. The small babies and young girls I see in my friendship groups – Anwen, Hilary, Nora, Julia, Martha, Faith, Esmé, Emily, Robin, Sienna, Elise, Evie, Hannah…and all those my mummy brain has forgotten! I hope you are brave and courageous in going after what you want, that you knowingly choose your future – whether it’s to be a badass full-time mum or to follow your passions in the world of work (or a mix of the two). To know you have choices and that you don’t need a man to be complete.

My son

Here’s to you, Jenson. Yes, you’re not a female (although as a baby you are so beautiful and I think you could rock a dress!) but I still want to honour you and what I hope you will grow up to be. A feminist. Someone who believes in equality for all people, regardless of gender. I hope you know that everything is for everyone, that you are free to play with my little pony, polly pocket or to wear wings and a tutu if you like…or stick with Mighty Max and Thomas the Tank Engine. None of these things makes you any less a person. And I hope that you grow up respecting all people, regardless of background, gender or race. I know you have been born into good fortune – being white, male, in a developed country – and I hope that you use these privileges to amplify the voices of those who would otherwise not be heard in society.

I know that in some ways this seems like a big expectation to place on someone so small, but in a way that shows me how far we have to still go in our fight for true equality. And how I hope you are part of that journey, little one.

So yes, I’m a day late to the International Women’s Day party, but I still raise my (non-alcoholic) glass up to you all, my sisters of the world.

blogging, gratitude, Love

Things I love

Last year, I wrote a few posts about things I love (you can read them here and here). They were great fun to write and a lovely focus of the things that bring happiness to my life. So I thought I would spend a few moments reflecting on what new things I love.

5 minute journalIMG_4139

On a whim, I downloaded the five minute journal to my phone a few weeks ago and I love it! So much so that I bought the paper version for my sister for Christmas.

It’s a really lovely way to start and end the day and involves prompts for reflection about what is going to be great about the day, what I’ll do to ensure it’s extra good and then, in the evening, to reflect on what I’m thankful for as well as what could have been done better.

I love the daily quotes which always give me something to think about and the weekly challenges (such as ‘take a walk with a friend’). This app has brought gratitude and goodness into my life on days where I’ve tumbled out of bed on the wrong side and have the potential of spending the whole day as a grumpasaurus.

The Pool

A fair few blog posts on Courage Truth Love have been prompted by articles I’ve read on the Pool, a current affairs/topical news site for women. Every morning I receive an e-mail from them and it’s the one I can be sure I’ll take the time to skim through and read. Their articles make me think, laugh out loud and helped me to find Christmas presents that have done a bit of good for the world.

De-cluttering

I love a bit of de-cluttering. There’s nothing I enjoy more than going through my house and finding things I can donate to a charity shop or clear up/throw away. I love feeling like my life is light and I’m not burdened down with material things. This year I’ve rid myself of my DVD collection that I hadn’t touched in years, streamlined my book collection to those I’d be sad to not have anymore and in 2018 am planning to do project 333, a challenge of wearing only 33 items of clothes for 3 months. If you’re interested, you can read more about it here.

My sister

Today is my sister’s birthday – happy birthday Chlo! IMG_4155And she is definitely someone I love and am thankful for on a daily basis. From showing me YouTube videos that make me cry with laughter (see the one below, you’ll thank me – or you’ll thank Chloe) to the honesty and openness she approaches life with. She brings so much goodness to my life and I’m especially grateful for her on her birthday.

I could write so many more things I love, but instead I’m going to enjoy time with family. I hope this post gives you some things to look into, ponder or simply gives you an interesting glimpse into my life.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, eating disorder, gratitude, self-discovery

Release

I was walking home last night, thinking of some people in my life who are going through a hard time at the moment.

It was overwhelming to think of their suffering and so I distracted myself. I started listening to a podcast, recorded a voice message for a friend and put on an audio book before I realised what I was doing…pushing my emotions down through any way I possibly could. Distracting myself from the discomfort of sadness, the guilt that they were suffering when I was ok, a feeling of helpless in the face of their troubles.

But this time I caught myself in the action, I recognised the slippery slope of burying my feelings which leads, in my experience, to a cycle of comfort eating.

And instead of continuing to distract myself, I made myself feel what was going on.

I allowed myself to embraced the sadness, feel the hopelessness, acknowledge that it’s hard to see loved ones suffer. And then I breathed deeply and I let the feelings pass through me.

It seems crazy that all it takes is an acknowledgement of feelings and deep breathing to let go, when for years I buried my feelings with food. But when I dig a bit deeper, I can see that it’s so much more than that.

It’s about acknowledging that my feelings matter. Knowing that my sadness is valid.

And then by breathing deeply and being present in the moment, I’m able to see that I am not my emotions. I am not sadness, I am not hopelessness, I am not stress.

These things are what I feel but they are not who I am. And in seeing this, I’m able to let go of the emotions and avoid the behaviour – the comfort eating – which was so destructive to me in the past.

I am truly free.

blogging, gratitude, self-discovery

What a difference

It’s my birthday – yay!

I woke up early this morning, excited for a special day of celebration and I’ve spent a few moments reflecting back on the last year.

And, geez Louise, what a difference a year makes!

I was going to write about how I’ve progressed professionally, personally and in my relationships with others but every time I wrote the words they came out sounding smug and self-satisfied (and to be fair, on my birthday I do feel a bit smug with life!).

But the message that I feel most keen to share with you is the phrase I said at the start – what a difference a year makes. Because it’s true, things can turn around radically in a matter of 12 short months.

I remember on my birthday morning last year feeling grateful for all that I had but also longing for change. More courage to speak my truth, satisfaction at work, greater acceptance of myself. Sure, things were pretty good this time last year, but I was still left feeling unsatisfied.

And in moments life felt pretty dark and I couldn’t see a way out or forward from where I was. And that is why my heart breaks when I see so many of those I love who are struggling with that same longing for change. Because I’ve been there, I know how hard it can be, and whilst I may not have been in your exact shoes, I can imagine how tricky it is to have:

  • A longing to have a baby but struggles to physically conceive
  • Struggles with coming to terms with hardships from the past
  • A yearning to find someone to love and to love you back
  • Frustration and a feeling of ‘there must be more than this’ with work
  • Challenges coping with the pressures of life
  • Crippling expectations of perfection
  • Difficulties breaking addictive patterns and behaviour
  • Sadness over loss

Alongside the happiness in life, there is much sadness. I know. I’ve been there. And when you’re in the midst of the sadness and struggles, it can feel like there will never be an end. It can be all consuming.

So on my birthday, I want to spend a few minutes encouraging you that things can change. Things will change. And I want to share a few of my thoughts about bringing that change about:

Reach out

We all struggle with life and when we do our natural instinct tends to draw us away from others. Out of shame, feeling isolated, not wanting to drop the mask of being ‘ok’ or ‘fine’. But the best thing you can do is to reach out. Ask for help. Get some support as you navigate this tricky turn in the road of your life. It’s a cliché but it’s true – reaching out and asking for help requires more strength than suffering in silence. So be strong and ask for help.

Take steps but accept the present

Working through real difficulty requires two things in my experience – taking steps to progress but also accepting that you are where you are. If you don’t take small steps forward, you will wallow and even regress further into your situation. But you also need to take moments of quiet to feel how you feel and accept that you are where you are. The two things seem like they don’t go together – action and acceptance, movement and stillness – but I’ve found that you need both to move forward.

Find gratitude

I remember feeling frustrated at work this time last year but the truth was that there were many things to be thankful for:

  • I was paid a good salary
  • I worked with lovely people
  • I could travel into work with my husband each day
  • I had good holiday entitlements and flexibility

And finding that gratitude brought me pockets of unexpected happiness. Sometimes it was hard and I couldn’t or didn’t want to find gratitude in the moment, but it was a good thing for me to do.

Know that this too will pass

It can feel like sadness and suffering will be never ending when you’re in the middle of your struggles. And I don’t want to belittle your suffering because I’m not in your shoes, I don’t know what you’re going through.

But regardless of the level of struggles you’re going through, know that this too will pass. I’m not saying that your life will turn rosey and perfect, but life will change. Things will move on. Maybe not always for the better, but things will pass.

So these are my Birthday words of wisdom to you. I hope they’ve brought you some happiness, something to think about and some measure of connection ❤️

blogging, coaching, gratitude, life coaching, self-discovery, Work

I shine

As many of you know, I’ve been completing a coaching diploma over the past 6 months and have started to coach a number of people both in and outside of work. I was talking to a friend the other day about how much I’m enjoying coaching and she said ‘it sounds like you are really good at it‘.

Instead of being modest and talking about how far I’ve got to go on my coaching journey, I heard myself say “yes, I do think I’m good at it. I feel like I was born to coach. When I support people to go after their dreams, take steps forward in their life, reflect on where they currently are, I feel like I shine.” 

Don’t mistake me, dear friend, I don’t shine with the smugness of how bloody brilliant I am – I know that I have a long way to go in learning coaching skills, improving the questions I ask people, being more challenging when someone’s words don’t match their actions.

I shine because of how good it feels to support someone. It’s a bit of a natural high – feeling like I’ve done a good job and have made a difference in someone’s life.

But there is more to it than that, I think.

Seeing others step forward

You see, I know what it’s like to struggle with unhealthy patterns of behaviour. I’ve had a loud ‘inner critic’ for much of my life – a voice dissecting my every small failing to point out how hopeless, pointless, useless I was. I’ve struggled with accepting myself, and in the struggle, feeling unacceptable to everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, these issues didn’t crush me completely, but they did impact my life. And the ability to help other people take steps forward in their life like I did – leaving behind those unhealthy patterns, starting to quiet the inner critic, learning to love and accept themselves – is so powerful and amazing to behold.

It makes me feel full with gratitude and a love of life. It makes me shine.

And yet it’s so much more than that too.

Removing the blinkers

We all live our lives a bit blinkered – we accept that which we know from past experience and this can so often guide how we interpret and make decisions in the here and now. I know I can be blinkered; make decisions based on my past experience without challenging whether there is another, better way. Another path that I can follow.

But coaching allows people to take off their blinkers. Suddenly new possibilities can be seen, new paths are revealed, dead-ends are turned into avenues of opportunities. And beholding someone in the process of seeing things anew is such a privilege, such an honour.

It makes me glow.

Connection

And it’s also about the connection. The humanity of seeing someone where they truly are, for who they truly are instead of just seeing the polished mask we all put on of ‘being ok’.

It’s something that lights me up inside.

I’m not saying that we should all go around lamenting how terrible our lives are and sharing all our woes. That’s not connection to me. What I’m taking about is reducing the amount of time in our life that is taken up with ‘surface’ stuff and sharing more of our hopes with each other, being more open about our fears, getting alongside each other. Being real with each other.

I dream of a world of greater connection and, in my experience, coaching can lead to this.

So I’ll keep coaching, I’ll keep shining and I’ll keep dreaming of what is possible with a life of greater connection.


Fancy seeing what coaching can do for you?

Fill out the form below to arrange a free 30 minute coaching discovery session with me.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, friendship, gratitude, life coaching, self-discovery, self-judgement

Going deeper

I had a coaching session this week and had chosen to talk about how I want more boundaries in my life. Not set rules that govern my life, I suppose I was looking for a greater awareness of what I wanted for my life and the ability to keep to it.

One of the things I discussed with my coach is how I want to have my priorities based around what I’ve spoken to you about in the past, dear friend – close family and friends, the work I love (both coaching and my HR role) and this blog.

I shared with Helen, my coach, how I prefer spending time with those who I have a deep relationship with instead of getting together with a huge group of people and was honest with her that I think judge myself for this sometimes. Because I’m not at ease being in a large group – it’s not where I shine my best or where I feel like I can truly be myself – and I’m sometimes not ok at not being ‘the best’ in every circumstance. Because I can sometimes associate ‘not being at my best‘ with ‘not being enough‘.

But today, a day that I’m sharing with my dear friend Nadine who’s visiting me from the States, just reminds me why I prefer spending time with those I can go deep with. These 5 hours with her have passed in the blink of an eye. We’ve laughed together, shared together, dreamt of future plans and it has been blissfully easy. Deliciously uncomplicated. I’ve just been myself without doubting what I’ve said or wondering if I’m ‘enough’ for her or for me.

And so why wouldn’t I chose these types of relationships over being in a big crowd? Why wouldn’t I follow what feels right, what feels beautiful, what sets my soul alight?

And I see that it’s not a case of not being ‘good enough‘ for a big groups. It’s a personal preference to spend time in smaller groups, with people I know really well. Easy as that.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, gratitude, Love, self-discovery

Abundance

Happy Saturday dear friend! Another weekend has started for me by waking up, fully alert at 6:30! If only that was how I woke up during the week!

I spent an hour relaxing in bed and thought about a book I’m currently reading called Do Less, Get More  by Shaa Wasmund. A lot of what Shaa includes in her book is common sense and based on the loving principle of living life on your own terms instead of being held back by ‘shoulds’ or how other people think you should live your life. So it’s great reading, but not full of ‘aha!’ life changing moments for me.

Something she did share which has stayed with me is the notion that abundance comes from a spirit of gratitude. Let me say that again – abundance comes from a spirit of gratitude.

I suppose this has hit me so hard because I’ve committed to avoid buying as much as I can from new and instead get things second hand. This is in the hope that I can have some positive impact on the environment. And with this commitment, I’ve experienced a number of different emotions:

  • Relief that I’m doing something which will hopefully have an impact
  • Smugness at being so righteously self-sacrificing
  • Annoyed when I can’t automatically buy something I want
  • Pleased to see that curbing my spending habit is increasing my savings

But I haven’t felt any abundance…as I feel like I’m depriving myself.

So I want to take a few moments to think about all the abundance I have in my life to combat this deprivation mindset:

I’ve got such an abundance of love from friends and family. I’m supported, seen for who I am, accepted exactly as I am and have such beautiful, real connections in my life. IMG_2019

I’m in the incredibly wonderful position to have a mortgage and have bought a flat with my husband which we love. It’s perfectly proportioned to what we need…and then some as it’s big enough to have a lodger who helps pay towards fun things, like holidays in Hawaii! 

I’m going on holiday to Hawaii! How much more abundant can you get than that?! Two weeks away on a tropical paradise island, exploring volcanoes, eating great food and spending time with my loving husband. 

I’ve got enough stuff to last me longer than I could ever imagine – lots of clothes, books a plenty and my gorgeous, indulgent macbook which helps me to write these blogs and work on courage truth love with such ease. IMG_3430

I’ve got a great job that I love to death. It’s challenging, stretching, exciting and full of people who inspire and support me in my work. 

By buying less from new, I get the excitement of the hunt. Time in charity shops searching for the perfect top, hours in the library choosing from a never ending supply of stories, giving to other people as I buy things second hand.

I’ve worked hard to get to where I am, but can see without a doubt that buying stuff isn’t where you get abundance. It is indeed, as Shaa says, from realising that being grateful for all you have is where you realise that you’ve got all the abundance that you’ll ever need.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, gratitude, Love, self-discovery

Coming home

I’ve been feeling a little bit anxious over the past 24 hours. I can tell this because of how my brain has been tugging me to dwell on that which doesn’t serve me. The size of my stomach, a small remark I made in a conversation that didn’t quite come out as I wished it to, an event from the past.

Anything to distract me from my present moment.

But I can start to see past these distractions. I recognise these thoughts as what they are – signs that I need to draw back into my personal strength, to listen to what has triggered these anxieties and show myself compassion.

Am I tired and slightly too far extended from work/personal commitments?

Am I feeling slightly vulnerable because of new things in my life, like starting my coaching business?

Am I feeling apprehensive about something coming up?

And when I see past the chatter in my head to reach for what my heart is truly calling out for, it feels like I’m coming home.

Coming back into my heart. Coming back into my truth. Coming back to myself.

And for that, I feel truly grateful.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, gratitude, self-discovery, truth, Work

One moment

I’m so excited to be starting my diploma in transformational coaching with Animas Coaching today! I’d started to write a post this morning reflecting on why I’ve been drawn to this course and what I hope it will bring to my life but, in a moment of reflection, I wrote down all the things that had brought me to the point of starting my studies. And this feels like exactly the right thing to share with you today, dear friend.

So I scrapped what I’d written and hope it’s ok for me to share with you what I identified as key to starting my studies:

  • the coaching I did in 2015-2017 which helped me to identify the life I want to live and how I wanted to be equipped to give back through coaching other people
  • the kindness I’ve cultivated and shown to others over the years which has built my desire to coach
  • the joy deep inside me that blooms when I listen to people, make them feel important and learn about their lives
  • the bravery I had in asking work to sponsor me to do this course

Out of all these actions, I thought ‘what am I the proudest of?’ and I knew instinctively that it was the bravery in asking my manager, 6 weeks into my new job, to pay for the course.

But then again, boiling it down to one moment of bravery didn’t feel right.

It felt like something the ‘old’ Amy would do – basing my success on a decision made by someone else.

Sure, it took guts to ask for what I wanted in that moment, but really I was only able to stand up for what I wanted because of of all the hard graft I’ve done over the past years. The tears and pain I’ve shed, the discoveries I’ve made, the grit I’ve shown in owning up to hard truths, the courage, truth and love I’ve cultivated for myself.

So it wasn’t really one moment, but actually a million different moments that led to me having the courage to ask for what I wanted – to start this course.

These moments weren’t glamorous or victorious, and during these years of growth I frequently fell back into old patterns of comfort eating, retreating away from the world.

But they prepared me, bit-by-bit, for that all-so-important moment where I felt worthy to ask my manager for the financial support to do this course. And where I knew that I had the resilience that, if she had said ‘no’, I’d have been ok.

So I’m going to keep on appreciating the little moments in life that actually are so much more important than what they seem in the moment.

And I want to encourage you that although life might feel tough, and you may feel like you’re getting nowhere, chances are that you’ll look back one day and know that it was in the moments of hardship that you built the foundations for something much bigger in your life.

cropped-cropped-ctl-logo-01.jpg

blogging, gratitude, self-discovery, self-judgement

The joy of who I am

I don’t know about you, but I have often measured myself by what I’m not in the past – not laid back enough, not outgoing enough, not confident enough…but I had a glimpse this week of what it means to measure myself instead by what I am.

And it made me hungry to take more joy in being me!

I got this glimpse of embracing myself when a friend kindly invited me to a late-night event as part of the Brighton festival. As she extended the offer, I knew away it wasn’t something I wanted to do because I’m not an evening person and so planned evening activities are not ones I thrive in or particularly enjoy. As I write this, I get the self-judgement pangs of not being enough, but in that moment with my friend who I care and love, and who cares and loves me, I was able to take joy in the fact of knowing myself well enough to know my limits, my preferences and embracing all that I am.

Knowing that I get tired and cranky at night.

And that’s ok.

So instead of saying ‘yes’ to the invitation and then regretting it or worrying about the up-coming event, backing out at the last minute or having a mini-breakdown, I said ‘no thanks‘ and it was fine.

It was more than fine actually, because I felt like I had stepped into the joy of who I am, embracing the things I like, the things I dislike, the qualities I have…and it felt so beautifully liberating.

So I want to celebrate and take joy in some of the things I am with you today, dear one. And I hope it leads you to celebrate all that you are too.

Closeness

I am at my best when I’m connecting with people on an individual level. Other people, like Gregg, my husband, thrive on big groups, loud conversation, lots of energy and camaraderie but my heart sings when I have a heart-to-heart conversation. I take such joy from the closeness and intimacy of being vulnerable, being real, being honest with one person.

Feeling

I am someone who feels really deeply. I’ve likened this to a rollercoaster in a previous blog post – my highs are high and my lows are low. It’s this incredible heightened ability to feel that allows me to connect deeply with people, to sense what’s going on below the surface and to be present in such an open and vulnerable way on this blog. A year on and I have so many things I still want to share with you, dear friend, and this is because of the deep feelings that I have inside me that are crying out to be shared.

Geeky

When I was at school, I lived in fear of being called a ‘keener’ (Bristolian for ‘geek’ – but this was at the time when being a geek was definitely not cool!). But it’s true – I am a keener. And I take such joy from this. I love learning, I love growing my understanding of the world (particularly of how we work as humans). I take joy from being in jobs where I can continue to be stretched and grow mentally. I embrace this about myself.

 

Un-edited

I’m really happy that I live as honest and un-edited a life as possible. For example, there’s rarely a photo that I take down from facebook because of it not presenting a side of me I like. I’ve got plenty of silly photos, slightly un-flattering photos or ones where I’m not presented in the best of lights. The same here on this blog – I don’t pull punches with being honest about what I struggle with – eating addictions, low self-esteem, stumbling as I find my way. Because I see these things as the entirety of who I am, a culmination of my experiences. And I take great joy in living an un-edited life, embracing all that I am.

A boss

When I was younger, let’s just say that I demonstrated some real leadership skills. Getting my sister to sing the boys parts in musicals so I could be the leading lady, organising things at school, stepping forward to take the big parts in the school play. But as I grew older, I shrunk back from this, not wanting to seem bossy. Yes, I’ll admit that I sometimes stepped over the line (especially with my sister) in trying to get my own way, but I now take joy in knowing that I am a lady boss. Keen to organise, progress, step forward and be seen.

Taking joy in all these things (and so many more facets of my personality) allows me to be in tune with my intuition. To say yes to things that I know will light me up, and to kindly say no to that which will not.

That one experience of saying no lifted such a weight off my shoulders as I stepped into all that I am. I can’t wait to see where life will take me as I embrace and continually take joy in myself going forward.