blogging, courage, eating disorder, self-discovery, self-judgement

Leading lady

I had another great coaching session this afternoon and want to write about a concept that I explored with my coach, Erika – that of leading my life like I’m the leading lady in it.

Since I was younger, I’ve had the impression that (for the most part) I’ve been the side character in other people’s stories. I’ve listened, consoled, been part of things but have not been the central character in my own tale.

I’ve, of course, had moments, relationships and twists in my life where I’ve felt at the centre of my own universe. But for a great part I’ve felt like someone on the side lines.

If I’m honest, I think this is a large part of why I suffered with various eating disorders in my youth. Trying to push myself down to fit into a smaller space. Feeling like I should need less from others. Complying with what I felt was being asked of me even if it wasn’t something I had the energy for or if it was in my best interest.

I lived small.

But I’ve started to unfurl over the past years and I’ve realised that I’m sick of playing a minor character in my own story.

I want to be my own leading lady and I want to take some time to ask myself what this means.

It means recognising that I only have set resources, energy and time. Especially when I return to work in July. I’ll be split between my job (which I love), my son (who is my top priority) and everything else. I won’t have time and space to give away freely and even if I did, I want to live intentionally. Not saying ‘yes’ to everything, I want to choose what I spend my time doing.

It means allowing me to be myself. Embracing all that I am. The parts of me that are kind, funny, thoughtful, generous and interested in others. But the other less palatable parts of me – like how I feel like I’m stubborn and difficult instead of being easy-breasy. How I’m complex and need time and space to process things. How I’m a geek, I love my work and love learning new things – I need to be constantly challenged to be happy. Acknowledging that this will mean that not everyone will like me, but that’s ok.

It means viewing myself intrinsically as a leading lady. Being the centre of my life and sharing what is going on for me in whatever way I choose to do so. I see my life as leading lady being one where I have my close circle of friends who I invest my energy into – it’s in these close relationships that I truly feel at my best.

And I also see myself being present to all the lovely people I have the pleasure to cross in my life without feeling obliged to give more than I can to them. No need to accept invitations I don’t want to accept. No obligation to invest more than I am able to.

I felt scared about writing this post and sharing my thoughts with you, dear friend, because I worried that you’d think me big headed (wanting to be the leading light – I sometimes don’t feel worthy of this) or would take offence at the notion that I’m anything other than grateful for the interest that other people show in my life. But I thought I’d act like a leading lady and start to do what is right for me – part of that is writing this.

And I also decided to share my thoughts because I believe that we don’t act as our own leading ladies (or men!) enough and I wanted to encourage you to be your own leading star in your life. Go after your dreams, create a life you long to live.

Because as much as I think that I deserve to be my own leading lady, I also think that you deserve to be yours.

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blogging, parenthood, self-discovery, self-judgement

Perfectly proportioned

I’ve written a lot on this blog about breastfeeding, specifically my troubles producing enough milk and worrying about my baby boy’s weight which started off in the top 25% of baby weights but then sunk quickly to the bottom 9%.

I’ve spent hours expressing milk to top up what he’s getting, taken so many supplements and medication, researched at all hours how to increase my milk fat or general supply.

But no matter what I did, he stuck in the bottom 9%.

I worried that it was me – had I not eaten enough at the start to get my supply going? Were the TV shows I watched too stressful and curbed my supply? Was there something wrong with my diet? Was I to blame?

And then I got angry. At the messages that I heard about needing to breastfeed or failing as a mum. At the high standards I hold which means that if I can’t do something 100%, I view myself as failing. At my body that was not doing what it should be.

And then a few things happened –

1. I went to see a paediatric doctor, who explained that a baby’s birth weight is linked to how efficient the mother is at growing the baby and after the birth, it’s down to ow good the baby is at putting on weight/finding their natural weight.

2. I came away on such a wonderful holiday with close friends and I relaxed. Whether it’s the hearty meals or the wonderful company but I seem to be producing enough milk, more than I’ve done in ages.

3. A break away from routine and the generously helpful hands has given me a bit of space and perspective about Jenson’s weight.

My son is beautifully chubby, with little sausage links and dimples on his arms, a cute round bottom and little double chin.

He’s also petite – he’s not as broad as his little best friend – but he’s perfectly proportioned.

And over the past four months he’s kept on the 9% track. Whether he’s been fed more or less, whether I’ve expressed more or not. He’s doing his thing, growing at his pace.

And so I’m going to remind myself of this if I get home and start to worry again about how he’s doing.

He’s doing fine. He’s doing his thing. We both are doing enough.

blogging, motherhood, self-discovery, self-judgement

Internalising

I’ve been on a path for a while to find acceptance with who I am. Acceptance of my body, acceptance of those parts of my personality that I often think are ‘too much‘ or ‘not enough’. Too sensitive, too emotional, too bossy, too strong-minded, not funny enough, not extroverted enough, not laid-back enough.

I have long periods of peace with who I am and have made great strides forward in gaining love and acceptance of myself – I know that my body does not define who I am inside, I’ve learnt to find beauty in my strong body instead of berating it for not being waif-like and I’ve also gained a great respect for my body after being pregnant and giving birth to my beautiful baby boy. It is so much more than flesh that should bend to my will – it is precious.

Yet I’ve noticed my mean girl voice come back into my head of late. Judging my body that has not and may never return to its pre-pregnancy form. And commenting on all the ways that I’m not enough and too much in each situation. Doubting that I’ll find acceptance from those I hold dear. Fearing they’ll find me lacking in some way.

I experience this mean girl voice as an uncomfortable niggle, like a bruise I can’t stop touching. Sometimes I can say “thank you for your thoughts but I don’t need to hear them” to my inner mean girl and other times her words stay in my head and make me feel paranoid and self-conscious, wondering if everyone else is bored by me or thinking how much I’ve let myself go.

Luckily I’m able to do the former a lot more than before but it’s still exhausting to deal with.

But when I ask myself what my mean girl is truly about, I know it is an internalisation of tiredness, of being overwhelmed by this new experience of being a mother, of things being too much in life, of feeling that I’ve lost myself to then find myself and then feel lost all over again.

There are people I know who deal with these feelings by externalising them – talking about it, crying or raging. But with me, I’ve always internalised what’s going on for me.

I don’t know why this is, although I do think a lot of pressure is put on girls to be happy and that being sad or angry or grumpy is seen as unacceptable.

Perhaps it’s not the ‘why’ that is important though. The key is what I do now that I’m aware of the internalisation. Because I know it’s not healthy for me.

Thank the mean girl

I could continue to fight this voice or I could treat her as what she is – a prompt that something is out of kilter in my life and needs addressing. So I could thank her and deal with the underlying issues. It’s exhausting to do this, especially as the mean girl voice raises its ugly self when I’m feeling particularly vulnerable. But if I start to look at what is going on underneath, I think it can only get easier.

Put myself first

Over the past few weeks my husband has taken Jenson for a few hours to give me the space and time to do things for myself. And it has been what I’ve needed to reconnect to myself and feel back to my normal self. It’s what I’ve needed to keep my mean girl at bay. So I think I need to keep on having this time to keep my sanity. For me, it’s not a nicety, it’s a necessity.

I’ve also found myself being ‘rude’ over the past few weeks as I’ve prioritised my needs over other people. I already feel torn in so many ways since Jenson came on the scene and I can’t split myself anymore to accommodate other people. So I’ve turned people down, I’ve asked people to visit at a different time that suits me or said no altogether to seeing them, I’ve not gone along to things I didn’t want to. Because if it’s a choice between being seen as rude or going crazy, I’m going to opt for rudeness.

Share away

I have written before about how I find it hard to share what’s going on with me face-to-face. There are a few good friends who I feel safe sharing with – those who have earned my trust, are good at asking the right questions that open me up and have been as vulnerable with me as I am with them. And to be honest with you, I think it’s fine to be like this – to have a select few people who are trusted to hear my stories as I’m trusted to hear theirs. But I need to find time to connect with them around the time constraints of motherhood.

Externalise

I know that pushing down what I’m feeling is a one-way street to comfort eating and people pleasing. The two things I’m proud to have stepped away from for the most part. So to not push down my feelings, I need to find a way to externalise what’s going on for me in a healthy way. This blog is a huge part of that – sharing my experiences and expressing what I’m going through with you, dear friend. But I also think that there are other places where I can externalise my feelings. And I’m taking some steps to get there by arranging some coaching for myself to deal with the perfectionism which says ‘it’s not ok to not be ok’ and holds up an ideal of what I should be – funnier, easy-breezier, more extroverted.

I know that this is going to be a journey I take over the rest of my life – that of tuning into my intuition and learning to listen myself and what I need. It feels hard to be here, but it also feels honest and truthful and like things can only get better from this point onwards.

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

Knowing myself

I’ve been thinking a lot about what truly matters to me. I think it’s to do with the changes of becoming a mum and finding myself with different priorities. But it’s more than that.

It’s to do with me starting to know what I want from life and being clearer in my resolve to go after it. I know this is possible for me only because I’ve started to fully accept who I am and become comfortable in my own skin. Before I used to feel that I was too much. Too bossy, too headstrong, too headstrong, too different.

But now I am able to accept myself as I am with less judgement. I know I don’t need to base my decisions on whether I’ll please other people or whether my actions will make me seem less bossy/intense/headstrong. I accept me and know that’s enough. I’m enough.

It’s so exciting to feel this way; able to go after what I truly want. I feel able to follow what feels right to me and go after what I truly want.

But what does this mean in concrete terms? Well, an example of what I’m talking about is with my coaching.

Some of you may have seen my coaching pages on my website. For those of you who haven’t looked, they explain who I am as a coach and detail what types of coaching I do.

When I first started out coaching, I worked with people on every type of coaching under the sun and advertised all the coaching I did – coaching for those starting a business, looking for a change career, people wanting to improve relationships, increase their self-esteem or overcome comfort eating. Technically, I can coach on all these areas…but I realised recently that I don’t want to do all these types of coaching. Instead I want to coach in the areas which really light me up and where I know I can make a real, deep and profound impact in other peoples lives:

And so that’s what I’m going to do – coach in these areas and, if someone contacts me wanting career coaching, for example, I’ll refer them onto some great coaches who specialise in these areas.

It feels so good to know myself and to go after what I really want in life.

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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motherhood, pregnancy, self-judgement

Nappy conundrums

I’ve been spending time looking at nappies today (oh how glamorous my life is!). I’ve been really lucky to have a friend, Charlie, who has given me her reusable nappies to try out but I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed by them and if I’m honest with myself, after looking at what it would take to use them, I know I’d rather use disposable ones.

But I’ve got such a weight of guilt about this choice.

I already fear the impact that bringing another little being into existence will have on the planet. How he may struggle with hunger, thirst and lack of resources that we currently have in such abundance. How he’ll contribute to using up our finite resources. How he might not give a damn about the planet and becoming a little consumer monster.

And I know that even the most ethical, sustainably sourced, kind reusable nappies will not biodegrade in our landfills, because landfills don’t have enough oxygen to allow products to breakdown. Plus there’s the additional cost of the ‘ethical’ nappies which might be outside our budget on the latter months of maternity and shared parental leave.

But then, washing so many reusable nappies brings its own challenges as the heat, water and cleaning products have their own impact on the planet.

And they bring an additional workload of continual washing on top of baby clothes that will get covered in sick, the occasional poonami and baby dribble.

I feel blocked and stuck each way I turn, and on top of that, self-indulgent and over-privileged for being in a position which allows me to consider all these options.

Yet stepping back and asking myself ‘what’s shaping how I view this situation?‘ as I explained in my last post, I can see a perfectionism – holding myself to the highest standard ever – which isn’t helpful.

Gregg and I have tried to make ethical decisions with the pregnancy and baby prep. I’ve bought only 4 maternity items of clothing, instead relying on the kindness of people who have shared their maternity clothes with me and staying in my non-maternity clothes as much as possible. We’ve only bought secondhand for everything else we need too in order to reduce our carbon footprint and have had such a wonderful time searching through charity shops for sweet little outfits and sourcing baby products on facebook marketplace.

So we are doing our bit – not as much as I’d perhaps like – but we are trying our best. And our best has to be good enough.

In stepping back and realising this, I know that beating myself up with guilt about what nappies we use isn’t going to help me or anyone else.

But it doesn’t stop me still feeling bad for wanting to go with an ‘easy option’ of disposables.

Easy Options

I suppose the thought that is coming to me in stepping back is that nothing about becoming a parent is likely to be an easy. A life full of joy, yes. Continual opportunities for learning, absolutely. Heart-bursting moments full of love, you gotcha.

But easy? Not likely.

And so I know I need to enter this journey with everything that can help me along on the way. And at this moment, disposables seem like a tool to help me. I want to be kind to this planet and part of that is being kind to myself, knowing my limits, allowing for my imperfections.

And with this realisation, I accept that perhaps I need to use disposables and I accept that this choice can be ok. I feel such a weight lift from my shoulders. Such a sense of relief as I follow what feels right instead of what I feel I ‘should’ do.

I feel a bit more confident in my first steps to parenthood. And that is where I feel my energy needs to go – into being a good mum. Not a perfect mum, but the best I can be.

And with this thought, I know that all will be well.

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blogging, rest, self-judgement

Permission to be seen as boring

I’ve written recently about the permission that I’ve given myself to relax instead of being directed by what I think I ‘should’ do. This practice has been so helpful in my home life – it’s enabled me to let go and truly relax – but I have to say that this weekend has really challenged me. I’m on a weekend away with a group of friends and have at moments felt lacking as I’ve found myself unable to keep up with the antics and energy of the group.

I’ve asked myself where this feeling comes from – why do I feel so lacking? I think it’s due to the ‘shoulds’ that I’m feeling around being sociable.

should be able to keep up with everyone.

should be more at ease in a big group.

should be funner than I am.

But if I listened to my heart and did what I truly needed to do, I would just relax and find moments of quiet and peace during this time. And to do this, I think that I need to give myself permission to be seen as boring, which sits really uncomfortably with me.

I don’t know why being seen as boring is so hard to take…I’ve never been anything but accepted by the friends I’m with.

Perhaps it’s because I’m pregnant and out of my depth with this new dynamic of being the sober one or perhaps it’s because there are some new people here this weekend and I want them to think that I’m kind, friendly and outgoing. But I’m beginning to think that maybe that person isn’t me; at least the outgoing bit isn’t me. I’m more of an introvert. And that’s ok because being an introvert doesn’t make me boring. It’s not a judgement call.

I mean, some people may find me boring, but I don’t want my worthiness to be defined by the opinions of others – my worthiness is something I define and own.

So I’m going to give myself permission to be seen as boring. To finish this blog and then go read my book snuggled in bed. To go out for dinner with everyone else but be ok with coming back and having an early night if I want to.

It still feels uncomfortable to sit with being boring, but it also feels right. For the truth is that I don’t want to live my life looking for the approval of others so I’ll risk being seen as boring in order to embrace, love and accept who I truly am.

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blogging, conflict, self-discovery, self-judgement, Work

Conflict – part 2 

I recently wrote about some conflict I was having at work and shared my thoughts and feelings about dealing with it. Having now resolved the situation, I wanted to spend a few moments exploring the situation and reflecting on what went well and what could have been done better.

Worthiness

I felt so nervous the morning that I was due to meet with the other person. I knew there were things I could have done differently to deal with the situation but I also knew I was right to put forward my views and not bottle everything up and pretend everything was all ok when it wasn’t. It was really helpful to spend a moment in meditation on the train to work and, through this meditation, to affirm that my worthiness – my inherent acceptability and loveability – was not dependent on the outcome of the conversation. My worthiness is something created and defined by me, not by situations and the views of other people.

Standing in the knowledge of my own worthiness left me able to express myself instead of looking for approval from the other person.

Perfection

I know in hindsight that it would have been better to resolve the issue face-to-face right from the start, but this was not possible due to me being sick, meetings that were taking up everyone’s time and some leave I was taking.

Ok, if I’m honest, this is not 100% true. I could have called the person straight away and I might have got through to them and sorted it out there and then. The reason I didn’t was that it would have been a call fuelled by my hurt and anger.

What I’ve taken from reflecting on this is that, yes, my response wasn’t perfect but it was the best I could do at that time and that’s got to be enough for me.

Generosity

My biggest reflection of this experience is how I interpret the actions, words and intent of other people. Because if I’m honest, when I read the email that the person sent me and which sparked this conflict, I didn’t interpret it in the most positive, generous way possible. I took it badly and she took my response equally badly too. I’ve been thinking about this concept of generosity since I read these words in Brené Brown’s book:

“Whenever someone would bring up a conflict with a colleague, [my tutor] would ask, ‘What is the hypothesis of generosity? What is the most generous assumption you can make about this person’s intentions or what this person said?’”

In hindsight if I had interpreted the actions of the other person in a more generous way, this whole situation could have been averted.

I’m not saying the situation was all my fault or that there was nothing they could have done differently, but if there’s anything I can learn, it’s to be generous with how I interpret the actions of others.

The child in me during those situations of conflict wants to scream and cry and have a tantrum – why do I have to be the bigger person and see things generously? It’s not fair that I am left without the enjoyment of letting myself be pissed off, annoyed and self-righteously angry – but I know I’d rather live a kind life, with generosity, even if it pains me sometimes. Because the opposite also leads to pain too – distancing myself from others, leading a life based on worst case scenarios and finding myself in situations of unnecessary conflict.

Letting go

Yesterday, once the confrontation and discussion with the other person had been resolved, I was still left feeling a bit icky.

But it’s time to let things go.

So whenever the situation has come up in my head again, I’m changing the usual dialogue of worry and anxiety. I’m remembering how I did my best. Telling myself that, yes, my best wasn’t perfect, but I don’t have to be perfect. I’m focusing on how much I’ve learnt through this experience and, who knows, maybe that was what this experience was meant to bring me.

And this self-talk is working, I can now let go of all this conflict, leave the past in the past and enjoy being at peace in the present moment.

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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.

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