Becoming less agreeable

I know that my future is going to involve being less agreeable. Less focused on being acceptable to others and more centred on my own agency as an individual.

I’ve learnt over the past years that standing up for myself and following my own path isn’t selfish or ugly. It doesn’t mean trampling on other people or only considering my own needs.

It means being assertive. Holding onto my own power centre so I know that my value isn’t what others think of me, how much they praise me or how pleased I make them. My value and self-esteem are determined from within.

It means carving out my own path. Holding onto the truth I don’t need to fit in. I just need to be.

It means coming home time and time again to myself. Creating a space where I reconnect with myself so that my mind and heart can coexist in harmony.

I sense this is the next stage on my journey to stopping people pleasing. I will say ‘no’ more often. I will speak my mind more often. Not to be unkind or difficult, but because I am starting to see that otherwise I’m clipping my own wings, making myself small to fit in and that’s not a price I’m comfortable paying anymore.

So here’s to taking up space and being less agreeable. It may not be an even, smooth road but it will definitely be a memorable one!

Why don’t you let me love you?

I want to share something with you today which was a really powerful experience. It happened when I was being coached this morning as part of my fortnightly commitment to being coached myself. As a coach, it’s something I think is really important for me to do. To practice what I preach and get support to reflect and continually grow and develop.

This morning I was talking about how I sometimes feel so frustrated to still be on this journey to ‘enoughness’. Still, 20+ years into discovering how I might feel fully enough, fully acceptable in myself I feel that I should be there by now. I should be able to feel grounded and accepting of myself, regardless of what anyone else thinks about me. I should know that I am enough. I should know in each and every circumstance that I am worthy of love and acceptance.

But I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made great leaps in this area. I’ve stopped people pleasing so much and am now aware when I choose to engage in this behaviour. I’ve learnt to pay more attention to what is going on with me than what I think other people are thinking about me.

And yet I feel that I’m still not quite there (and sometimes feel that I’m far away from being there).

It makes me so frustrated.

I was talking about this with my coach today and we decided to spend some time tapping into my heart about this subject. Because this frustration seems to come from my brain. The part of me which says ‘you’ve worked on this for so long, it should be fixed‘ and ‘you’ve read so much about this and know the theory, why aren’t you able to be fully accepting of yourself all the time?‘.

So I stilled myself and asked my heart what was going on and I sensed that deep inside me is the longing to rock and cradle myself just as I soothe and cherish Jenson, my son. I saw this deep part of me singing Marvin Gaye’s ‘how sweet it is to be loved by you’ to me. I felt the possibility of boundless safety and security and love.

And then a great wave of sadness and grief washed over me and I heart these words –

“why won’t you let me love you?”

I felt such sadness for the angry words of criticism I speak over myself. I felt grief for the judgement I put on myself for my size, my shape, my body. I felt loss for the disregard I have for my feelings and my experiences. And I cried for myself in that moment.

Why won’t I let myself love me?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself all day and I’ve been imagining what it might look like to let me love myself and I’ve felt what I can only describe as a blossoming of my heart and an awareness of what looks like to love myself as I’ve gone through my day. I wanted to share this with you, dear one, in the hope that my revelations can help or encourage you too:

Running late for a meet-up with a friend, berating myself for being over 90 minutes late due to Jenson’s nap, I knew that loving myself meant taking deep breaths and appreciating the view of the sea I was cycling past to get to herself instead of having a mental stream of anxiety and annoyance at my shortcomings.

It meant having an honest and open conversation with my husband about something personal I’ve been grappling with for a while instead of holding it in and shutting him out. Because I was worth him hearing what’s going on for me.

As I saw my body in the bath I shared with Jenson tonight, I knew it would mean seeing myself with such love and joy – the same way I feel when I see my son, roley-poley body and all. Knowing that my body is just an encasement of something much more – my soul, my essence – and letting my love for the ‘more’ fill my heart to the brim.

There is the possibility of such joy, such acceptance, such peace if I let myself love myself. This feels like a path I want to walk, a future unfolding within myself, a journey to letting myself love me.

And I hope, if you grapple with any of these things I’ve mentioned, that you can start loving yourself for you too.

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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.

His best interest

I’m just leaving Derbyshire after a long weekend of family celebrations and time with friends. If I’m honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the time up here before we came because it was my first big trip away from home with our son and it was quite a busy time with lots of plans in the diary.

We would being seeing people who would be so excited to see my little newborn son that they would want to hold and cuddle and cherish him. It’s normal for them to want to do this and, as a baby, it’s normal for Jenson to sometimes be happy to get their attention and to sometimes be in a bit of a cranky mood and just want to be left alone or to be nestled close to me or his dad.

I think of myself as a kind person – generally happy to oblige others and go with the flow. But when it comes to my son, it isn’t a case of obliging others and making exceptions. I have to act in his best interests. And this makes for a different dynamic, one that I was slightly apprehensive about:

  • Saying ‘you can’t hold him at the moment‘ to those who I usually would make exceptions for and sitting with the discomfort of having disappointed them
  • Leaving dinner halfway through with friends to comfort a cantankerous baby
  • Turning down offers of help to rock a crying baby because I’m trying to learn Jenson’s language to respond to what he needs when he’s upset (different temperature, nappy change, food, time alone, cuddles, being played with…)

And with the slight apprehension I felt, I also wanted to be able to cuddle him and hold him close if I wanted to without feeling obliged to always pass him around to other people when he was in a good mood.

It felt a bit rude sometimes and it felt a bit uncomfortable but I think that these feelings were a remnant from my people pleasing days. And my role as his mum isn’t to be polite and put the needs of others before Jenson, it’s to, as his mum, put him first.

I know there will come a time when I need to model sharing and generosity and kindness to him. But at 6 weeks old, this was not the time. This was the time to put him first and that’s exactly what I did.

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.