The truth about being kind to yourself

The truth about being kind to yourself

Being kind to yourself is hardly a new idea. The idea of loving-kindness is a central concept in mindfulness. Many of the latest trends in psychology (both genuine theories and woo-woo pop fads) also look at this idea of being kind to yourself.

A few months ago I had a chat with a close friend about just this topic. It came about because we spontaneously met for a cup of coffee.

[Side-note: this friend has uncanny timing. She called me up for said cuppa moments after I received discouraging news. Then, as I started writing the draft for this post, she got in contact again. Gotta be a sign?! Anyway, back to my point…]

We met at a new artisan cafe where they have a baker’s table that offers the most delectable teatime treats. Warning: smugness approaching… Our order did not feature any of these said delights, even though I have a sweet tooth to rival the best of ’em. She too was on a campaign to start eating healthily. It felt like an accomplishment – and for me, it was – to walk out of there without having dived into a sugary moment of deliciousness.

Our conscious effort to spurn the baker’s table got us talking. When we talk about being kind to ourselves it often involves something unhealthy – taking a rest from gym, ordering that slice of cake, enjoying just one more GnT in the evening, and so on. But really, when you stop to think about it, that’s being pretty unkind to yourself. Not only are you doing something that is physically unhealthy, but you are undermining your efforts to achieve your goals, to stay motivated, to stay on track, and to enjoy the results of your efforts.

I think that being kind to yourself is really about motivating yourself to stick to your goals, rather than allowing yourself the ‘treat’ of having a break from them. It just sets up the mindset that a reward consists of cheating on your goals, no matter what they are. If you want to boost your motivation, feelings of accomplishment, etc, then your reward should be something that is in line with your goals – something that will enable you to reap the results of your efforts to create a fulfilling life.

It’s all rather too easy to sit down and type this out. Tomorrow I’m going back to the same cafe… and I can already feel my motivation waning. After all, lemon meringue pie is my personal weakness. So I might find myself at this time tomorrow having to eat a slice of humble pie. Oh dear…

I’d love to know – what is your take on the idea of being kind to yourself?

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I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing

It seems like I blinked and six months flew by without any blogging happening. At all. I can’t help but feel somewhat disappointed because I really enjoy writing. It’s a bit silly really, because it’s completely within my control. And yet, somehow it just hasn’t happened.

My life has been somewhat topsy turvy of late – but all in a good way.

In the last six months I have…

… discovered that I’m pregnant with my first child. Yay!!!

… learnt that morning sickness is not limited to the morning. Or the first trimester.

… put my work as a freelance writer on hold until I feel that I can juggle motherhood and working from home. Yes, I have reclaimed my title as a Lady of Leisure who Luncheons.

… enrolled in an Interior Design course. Possibly not the wisest timing, I grant you.

… enrolled in a blogging course. I’ve really got to work on this timing thing.

… realised just how much I enjoy sewing.

… exchanged my intense gym sessions for water aerobics with the aging population at the gym.

On Saturday I was determined to go to a yoga class. Like blogging, it simply hasn’t been a feature of my life for months. Although, truth be told, lingering nausea does make you think twice before bending and twisting your body for an hour. For whatever reason, I got a bee in my bonnet (as I am wont to do) and make my way to the Saturday afternoon yoga class. And I loved it! It felt so good and rejuvenating afterwards. I can’t believe that I managed without it for so long. So that’s what spurred me on to get writing again. I thought that if I could rediscover the joy of yoga this week, I should also plunge back into my blog.

And so here I am. But I have no plan for this post. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I’m also not too sure where this blog is going to go in the near future… So I have decided that I’m not going to have a plan. I’m just going to adopt a flexible outlook as I swiftly approach motherhood. Hopefully I will still find time to write and embark on other creative projects.

A Flying Pink Shoe and Creating Yourself

A Flying Pink Shoe and Creating Yourself

It’s funny how your mind can play tricks on you. Like when you get hit in the head by an unidentified flying pink shoe.

My husband and I went out for a spontaneous day trip with my bestie and her husband. Firstly, we visited a German beerfest ‘Church fete’. After failing to win the bottlestore raffle, we resorted to seeking a salve for our broken spirits. We drove to a nearby coastal city to sit on a wharf and eat deep fried ice-cream. As one does. It was a beautiful sunny day – perfect for a lazy calorie-laden afternoon indulgence.

I leant back on my chair and drank in the seaside atmosphere. Comments drifted over from a nearby group of people. They were discussing the rugby match that was dominating South Africa’s attention at the time. Out of nowhere, something slammed into the side of my head. For a split second I thought it was the rugby ball from the game under discussion. Delusional? Absolutely.

There was a stunned silence for a moment as we all looked in disbelief at a bright pink shoe that was lying in the middle of our table. Not quite a rugby ball. A very embarrassed mother approached our table to apologise profusely and retrieve her daughter’s shoe.

Despite a smarting face, I returned the shoe with hysterical laughter gracious understanding. Likewise, her little girl’s apology that was ‘encouraged’ a few moments later.

It made me think of myself as a little girl. Not that I ever managed the feat of kicking my shoe and launching it several meters into someone’s head. I had neither the skill nor the talent. (Although my younger brother did once claim that I could “kickstart a Boeing”.) But had something of the ilk happened to me, I would never have had the courage to approach a table of laughing adults and apologise for assaulting one of them with my footwear. To be honest, I probably would have dissolved into tears and hidden behind my parents. (My dad specifically – my mother reaches a whopping five foot. When standing.)

Today, however, I am anything but shy. It just goes to show how we do grow and develop as we get older. Reflecting on that little girl’s apology renewed my optimism in people’s ability to take charge of their progress in life.

 

You do have the ability to be the person you want to be. It’s never too late to take charge of your life. It’s never too late to grow. It’s never too late to discover the true you.

self belief

How have you changed and developed since you were a child?

Essential life lessons from His Lordship

Essential life lessons from His Lordship

I think that these are the key life lessons that will lead to a happy life.

life lessons

In a very short space of time His Lordship taught me the following, all through leading by example:

  1. Choose to spend your time with people who love and accept you, and enrich your life.
  2. Listen to your body – get sufficient sleep to restore your energy levels.
  3. Practice portion control. It’s perfectly acceptable to leave food on your plate.
  4. Spend time relaxing outdoors in warm sunshine.
  5. Recognise that you truly deserve all the compliments and affection you receive.
  6. Only do that with which you are comfortable. If you feel uncomfortable with something, walk away.
  7. Learn to adapt to new environments in order to find out where you belong.
  8. If you need or want something, ask. You just might get lucky.
  9. Be patient. Better things are coming your way. Then, show gratitude.
  10. Make fun, play and exercise a regular feature in your life.

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Now, no-one is perfect. So although I have learnt a great deal from His Lordship, there are a few caveats that I also picked up along the way from his less-than-stellar examples…

  1. When giving someone a gift, make sure that it is something that they will like. Just because you think it’s awesome doesn’t mean that they will too.
  2. Certain health and hygiene routines are best done in private. Although we all appreciate cleanliness, we don’t always want to watch the process.
  3. It is not necessary to loudly announce your arrival. Every time.
  4. If you make a mess, clean up after yourself. Before someone else feels obliged to do so.
  5. You only have to be demanding once for people to change their perception of you.
  6. If you know that someone has a favourite chair in their lounge, don’t sit there.
  7. Even though you might consider yourself a foodie, remember that people are more important than food.
  8. Simply helping yourself to something without permission is not borrowing: it’s theft.
  9. If someone gives you a gift and you’re not sure what it is, remember that it might have uses beyond being food or a potential pillow.
  10. Standing motionless after you break wind is a dead giveaway.

What essential life lessons have you learnt?

Overcoming geese and other fears

Overcoming geese and other fears

I am afraid of geese. Seriously. It all stems back to an incident in Hyde Park, London when I was two years old. Unsurprisingly, I have no recollection of the event. But upon confessing this rather bizarre fear (especially because I never encounter any geese anyway), my mum recounted this event from my childhood. Freud would love this stuff!

You’ve got to admit this is terrifying!

I don’t have a phobia. Although I have discovered that it extends to other large birds with large beaks. Like the African grey parrot that used to wander around my mother-in-law’s living room. But then there are more serious fears – the kind that limit our development in life.

What is the predominant fear in your life that’s holding you back?  Failure, rejection, humiliation, or something else entirely? What’s that one moment in your life that you would ‘do over’ if you could?

overcoming fear and failure

In order to move forward, you have to place your fears and failures to one side. Like so many things (perhaps everything?) in life, it’s much easier said than done. But dwelling on current and past fears and failures will get you nowhere. It will just give them a more dominant position in your consciousness. Ironically, if you try to force these thoughts out of your mind, the same thing will happen. There’s a trick to this…

Although you cannot simply forget these things, you can choose to reconcile and focus. Accept that these things have happened, and that there is nothing you can do to change that. You cannot redefine the past. Reconcile yourself with these things, and accept that you can and must move forward.

It’s natural that you won’t forget your fears and failures – they will enter your thoughts. Take a step back mentally when these negative thoughts arise. See them as just that: thoughts. Remember, thoughts are not facts. Adopt a neutral stance, one of an observer who it neither critical nor judgmental. And then gently focus your attention on something else, something that is positive and rewarding.

overcome failure

We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all been paralysed (metaphorically) by fear. We’ve all failed at things. In this way, we are all the same. But here comes the difference: some people are crippled for life, whereas others bounce back. What makes a difference is choosing to place fears and failures to one side and move on, or choosing to be overwhelmed. The choice is yours.

I’d love to hear from you. What are your crazy (like geese) or serious (like failure) fears?

Ditch the blanket fort for some sunshine

Ditch the blanket fort for some sunshine

I love the sheer power of nature. Even in the most serene of settings, nature never fails to have a profound impact on me. To be honest, several hours before I wrote this post I felt awful. I felt that the only solution would be:

  1. glass bottle of Merlot
  2. Ferrero Rocher and Lindt chocolate
  3. a blanket fort.

But then I stepped outside and felt the warmth of the sun. A few hours later I realised that I had indeed needed three things to transform my mood. I had just thought of the wrong list. What really worked in the end was:

  1. a cup of green tea
  2. Autumn sunshine
  3. my hammock

This just reinforced my thoughts about nature that I’d had during a road trip… A few months ago whilst travelling through South Africa I had the opportunity to stay in many little towns along the way. There was one area, just outside one of these towns, that I found to be particularly magical. We stayed in a cottage luxurious unit in the middle of an ancient milkwood forest. We were surrounded by unspoilt fynbos as far as the eye could see. And where there wasn’t fynbos there were mesmerizing views of the sea and an incredibly beautiful bay. I felt truly immersed in nature. (No snide comments about the luxury accommodation, please.) In an incredibly short space of time we were able to completely relax and unwind. I really felt as though I was able to re-balance my body, mind and soul. It enabled me to be mindful, with remarkable results. Words simply cannot describe how my sense of wellbeing was completely transformed in this idyllic place. Whenever I enjoy spending time outdoors, I always have the same thought: we should do this more often. There really is a tangible healing power in nature. There’s some irony here too, because we wouldn’t need the curative powers of nature if our modern lifestyles didn’t take us away from nature in the first place. So we need nature to be a healing balm for the modern lifestyle, because this lifestyle prevents us from spending sufficient time in nature in the first place. Time for a change, methinks. What have been your healing and relaxing experiences in nature?

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

The scenes of poverty that challenged my belief in personal development

Have you ever had one of those moments when you feel like a complete bourgeois hypocrite? I recently had one such humbling moment.

If you know me and/or follow this blog you will know that I believe a great deal in what I see as the necessity of self development. I’m all for personal development, finding one’s purpose in life, discovering motivation and inspiration, creating fulfillment, and the list goes on…

A few months ago my husband and I spent a couple of weeks traveling around South Africa. The last week or so consisted of a road trip from the west coast, following the coastline all the way back to our home near the east coast.

(Can I please just mention here that it was an actual bona fide road trip with stops along the way etc. My pet hate is when people say they are going on a road trip whereas they are actually simply driving from Point A to Point B without doing anything along the way apart from getting petrol and having toilet breaks. That is just a drive. A commute. Stop trying to make those ordinary journeys sound like exciting adventures worthy of an art film. Okay, rant over. Whew.)

So we were nearing the end of our road trip. Many people advise not to drive the last stretch, and to simply get in a plane once you reach a certain point. We decided to drive the whole way in order to see more of our country.

This meant that we drove through some very poor, undeveloped regions. As we drove along winding bumpy roads rife with potholes, we had to avoid hitting not only pedestrians but cattle, horses, donkeys, pigs, goats, chickens, and dogs as well. What we saw was people consumed by the need to survive.

I really saw how so many people’s lives are consumed by the basic requirements for survival. We drove past people carrying water containers and large bundles of firewood. We saw people tending to crops and looking after herds of animals. And this was not some rosy idyllic country scene. This was poverty.

It was then that I felt so incredibly humbled. I’ve always known that I am fortunate to not live in poverty. But I suddenly realised that something like personal development, something that I see as a necessity, is actually a luxury. If your every waking moment is consumed with tasks and chores that are focused on looking after your basic needs, the idea of ‘working on yourself’ seems so embarrassingly bourgeois.

I don’t think I will disregard the notion of personal development. But I now see it as a luxurious indulgence. Because, after all, I now have a completely different perspective as to what really constitutes a problem in life.

I’d love to hear your views on this topic…