It’s a waste of time to worry about wasting time

I’ve written before about how time freaks me out, even though I know really there’s no point worrying over it. When I was a teenager I used to constantly fret over the things I wanted to do but I hadn’t done, feeling like time was slipping through my fingers. But it’s such a waste of time to worry about these things, and actually turns out to be counter-productive, even though it’s coming from a desire to be pro-active. It’s just another way of procrastinating.

This fretting was mainly over my creative hobbies, such as photography. I constantly wanted to be creating images and having photo shoots, and when it had been a while since I’d organised one, or wasn’t producing the kind of work I wanted to, I’d get really hung up on this, thinking “I should have done that already, why haven’t I already done that, I’m not good enough.” This attitude was extremely counter-productive, not only because it was a waste of time to worry so much, but also because it seemed to make me even less likely to do the things I wished I already had, as if I thought it was too late. Instead I just regretted not having done them, and felt anxious about the amount of time that had passed.

I think it was probably my lack of confidence that stopped me from doing some of the things I wanted, and so I felt even more frustrated, not just over the things I hadn’t done, but because I wasn’t confident enough to just do them, despite really, really wanting to. I desperately wished I had the confidence to just go out and create thing and make things happen. Lack of confidence is a horrible feeling, it can be so disabling, but I realised that the only way to gain more is to do more, to push yourself, and step out of your comfort zone.

While it’s great to always be striving to do more and to achieve a higher standard with your work, it’s never good to beat yourself up. I was always berating myself over the things I hadn’t done, rather than actually just doing them. So now, whenever similar thoughts pop into my head now, I just reject them. Because otherwise I will go back to fretting, and what’s the point in regretting things I haven’t done? Instead I just do them, or make a plan for when I will. This change of attitude has been liberating and so much more productive. In recent years I now always have multiple projects on the go, and often take on various other things on top of my main work. There are so many things I want to do, so I just try to do them.

If you find yourself feeling irritated because you haven’t yet started working on something you really want to, or for not having completed a project yet, well, there’s really no point feeling bad about it. I know that sometimes it can be hard not to, but you’re not helping yourself, and worrying won’t help or change anything, instead you are quite literally wasting time by worrying over wasted time. Just do those things now, it’s not too late!

I know that the often, the hardest part of many creative pursuits is just starting. But once you do, that’s it: you’ve got over that hurdle, and now you can really get stuck in and enjoy what you’re working on. Don’t forget to focus on the things that you have achieved, and your plans for what you want to do next, rather than becoming hung up on what you haven’t yet done. It doesn’t matter about what you may feel is lost time, as really, there is no rush, and nothing you can do to change it anyway, apart from just doing it now. So just get making those things happen!

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Your voice is important

So often we are told to be quiet, to not raise our voices, to not make a fuss. Sometimes we feel like we shouldn’t bring up an issue so we don’t create any tension or don’t ‘cause a scene.’ Sometimes when we do, we are dismissed, met with disinterest, or the rolling of eyes, as if others are thinking, “oh, here they go again, going on about an Important Issue.”

I find this response very strange. I think sometimes people don’t want to know, they think things aren’t their problem, or they feel guilty, so it’s easier to ignore things. But you don’t have to feel guilty, it’s not like it’s your fault that injustices exist, and ignoring them won’t make them go away. It’s not your fault you may have more privilege in certain ways, it’s just about recognising this privilege and being compassionate towards those with less.

What I find even stranger is when people almost seem offended by someone bringing up an issue, and perhaps even challenge them for bringing it up. This makes no sense to me. If we talk about some kind of discrimination, shouldn’t you be offended by the discrimination itself, not me talking about it? Again, I think it comes down to guilt. And when you don’t experience certain forms of discrimination yourself, I suppose it can be easy to write them off. But I don’t understand how people can do this. Just because you don’t experience something yourself doesn’t mean others don’t. Just because it isn’t a reality for you doesn’t mean it isn’t a common occurrence for other people. Why would you dismiss what someone says when they tell you it exists, especially if they’re speaking from experience?

Ideally we should discuss all kinds of issues. We cannot always just continue blindly, focusing only on ourselves, and ignore what is going on around us and in the wider world. Sure, we can’t fix problems just by learning about them and talking about them, but we can broaden minds and raise awareness. We cannot let harmful words and opinions slip us by every time, unchallenged. We cannot be so afraid of annoying people, of being awkward, of dampening the mood, that we never call out ignorance or raise an important topic. If people are ‘offended’ by this, that is their problem, and they need to discuss these things even more so they can open their minds, be compassionate, and realise how ridiculous they’re being.

Don’t shrink yourself when you have something to say. Often it is the people who do experience various forms of discrimination that are made to feel like they have no voice, that they should keep quiet, and not cause a fuss. But we need to hear all voices, especially the marginalised ones. Whoever you are, you are not causing a fuss. Say what you have to say. Get your voice heard. Your voice is valid. More than valid, it is important. Try not to let people make you feel like your voice doesn’t count, or that it isn’t important and can’t have an impact. It could have a huge impact, even if it’s just on one person. You should say what you think and feel. You should be able to call something out if you if you want to when you come across something you find problematic. You don’t have to be ‘telling someone off,’ you could just be starting a discussion, and hopefully broadening their mind. So remember that your voice is important, and don’t give into the pressure to shrink yourself and hold back what you have to say.

You can make mistakes, and you are still kind

We all make mistakes, and a mistake I’m sure we all have made is to inadvertently hurt someone else. Be it with simple words gone wrong, letting someone down, an argument, or your actions upsetting people, unfortunately it happens, as much as we never want to hurt others, especially those we care about. Sadly they are often the ones we can hurt the most, because they care the most. Often we don’t even realise we are hurting them at the time. It obviously feels terrible to realise you have hurt someone, and the guilt can be consuming. But this doesn’t make us bad people. We are only human, imperfect and flawed. You can still be a compassionate, caring and kind person and have hurt other people without meaning to. As long as you are sorry, it’s okay.

However, I’ve noticed that when you are a person who says that compassion is important to you, and that you try to be kind and caring, other people can be very quick to judge when they realise you have hurt someone, or perhaps hurt them. It’s as if they hold you to a higher standard than someone who doesn’t talk of how important it is to be compassionate. So if for a moment you’re not, they might accuse you of being uncaring or unkind, or even a hypocrite, that you don’t practice what you preach.

They almost expect you to always be kind and good to other people. But as much as we try, no one can always be kind and good, we all have bad days and bad moods say things hastily and make mistakes. And that’s okay. You can’t always be consistent, that would be rather impossible, and probably boring. You can’t be a selfless saint; sometimes you have to do something that might result in someone else being upset. One mean action doesn’t make you an uncaring person. You are still kind, just in that moment you weren’t. But we can apologise and learn from our mistakes.

I have been guilty of this. Once a close friend hurt me, completely without realising, and I do understand that she was in a tricky situation and just handled it badly. But it really hurt at the time. She is an absolutely lovely, kind person, but in my upset I thought, “she always talks about how important it is to be compassionate, and yet she’s hasn’t behaved that way, she hasn’t thought about my feelings.” But it’s not fair to write someone off as not being compassionate just because of one mistake, one instance of hurt. Looking back, I think she was thinking about my feelings, she just didn’t handle the situation in the best way. We don’t always get it right, and that’s okay. We forgive and move on. We learn.

Another personal anecdote: once someone told me that I simply wasn’t a compassionate, caring person. This really cut me deep because, in case you couldn’t already tell, these are qualities that I really value. They said I almost pretended like I was, for example by saying I cared about people involved in issues like the refugee crisis, but that in my life I didn’t actually treat people very well and that I didn’t care about them. That they can think this of me hurts a lot, and I felt terrible, desperately hoping it wasn’t true.

It isn’t true. I refuse to accept what they said to me. I know how much I care for the people in my life and I think it is safe to say most of those people would agree with me. I’m not going to believe one person telling me I don’t, especially when I know this person’s vision is clouded, because they are unfortunately someone I have inadvertently hurt before. They seem to have decided that because I made some mistakes, that I am an uncaring, unkind and selfish person. Apparently I am now classed as a Bad Person because I was confused and messy. It’s funny because they have clearly forgotten all the times I was caring towards them, listening to them talk about their problems for hours.

I know pain clouds judgement, and I am sincerely sorry for any hurt I have ever inflicted. But I am not a bad person because of it. I try to always be kind, but sometimes I am not, and I’m sorry for that. But in a way, I’m not sorry, because that is what it is to be human, and I will not suppress my true, flawed nature by glossing it over with constant ‘niceness.’ We’d go mad if we did this. Just because I actively talk about trying to be compassionate doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes like everyone else, like the fallible human being that I am. Being truly compassionate is to accept the flaws in the people we care for, to understand and forgive their mistakes when we are ready to.

But I’m not trying to excuse any wrongs I have done or any times I have been unkind, or to proclaim to the world what a kind person I am. Because as I said, I am not always kind, this would be impossible. But I do try to be, and I am also trying to be more apologetic and less defensive when I realise I have done wrong. I was merely using these personal points to illustrate that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge, and that a few mistakes or a situation badly handled doesn’t turn someone into a horrible person. There are always different perspectives and views to see things from, and perhaps we should try to more often see things from one other than just our own. If we can, we must be forgiving, understanding and compassionate towards other people’s mistakes, especially when they offer their apologies.

Time is terrifying, but let’s not worry

I have always been terrified of time. Time going too quickly, slipping away from me. Experiences passing too quickly, not cherishing the moment enough. Time passing without having achieved ‘enough.’ Finding the New Year actually quite sad. Getting older; most of my birthdays I’ve dreaded (until the day, when I’d wish it wouldn’t end, of course). Not feeling my age, or not feeling how I thought I would at this age. Hardly believing I am this age and wondering where the time went. Then there’s the future, the unknown. What to do next? What am I going to do? How do I decide, and how do I make it happen? What will happen?

So, I clearly find time scary, and as you can probably tell, it also gives me a lot of unnecessary worry. But I do know it’s unnecessary, and I have got a little better in my attitude to it, perhaps simply to avoid driving myself crazy. When it comes round, I don’t think too much about New Years anymore, about how ‘meaningful’ it is (or isn’t), because it’s too much for me, I’ll panic about the passing time. It’s better if I just think “it’s just another day, time just flows on, it’s not a big deal the date has suddenly changed.”And now I’ve got the big birthdays under my belt (for a while), I’m more chilled out about them too. Twenty-two will just be another birthday, no big deal, whereas the past few have been filled with thoughts like “oh my god what, now I’m meant to an adult?!” and “what on earth do I do to celebrate, so much pressure!!”

But the fear of time slipping away from me, of needing to constantly be getting things done, and apprehension about the future is still strong, especially as I approach the final deadline of my degree. To an extent this is just me wanting to achieve things, and it’s natural to worry about our future when it’s so uncertain. There is a lot of pressure to figure things out, to be constantly achieving things, to kick start your life and reach your goals. But really, there’s no time limit, no rush to figure things out. No amount of worry about the future is actually going to make it any better or any clearer. If anything, it will make it worse. We need to try and relax, to be measured, to think things over calmly, and see it as exciting, not scary.

It’s not healthy to beat yourself up for not doing ‘enough’ over a certain amount of time, as I have done many a time. As long as you’re trying hard, that’s enough. If you want to do more, then you can, but don’t dwell on what hasn’t been done. Save yourself the worry, it will only hold you back. Focus on what you will do now instead. And maybe there’s a reason why you couldn’t get done what you’re stressing about that day, week or month. That is okay, so be kinder to yourself. Remember there is nothing we really – in the grander scheme of things – ‘should’ have done by a certain time or age.

So really, it is completely pointless to fear time. We cannot control it, as much as we’d like to. Time just happens. We can’t fight it. So what’s the point? If we are fighting it by worrying about it, wishing it wasn’t passing so quickly, or clinging onto the past, we’re not doing ourselves any favours. We’ll lose focus on the present, which is the most important thing: what you’re doing now. Not what you did last week or didn’t do last month. We should try to live in the now, to enjoy the moment, and to just accept how time passes.

It’s okay to not be okay

As I’m a bit under the weather at the moment, now seemed an appropriate time to write about a phrase I think is important – that it’s okay to not be okay.

Sometimes we are just not okay. Maybe we are going through something, maybe we are unwell, or maybe we are feeling low. It might be something major or it might just be a weird mood. Whether the reason is small or huge, seemingly nothing or feels like everything, it is all relative, and if you feel bad, you feel bad. You don’t need justification or validation. There might be no reason in the world for how you feel other than you’ve found yourself in a bad mood that day or just feel down.

As while, of course, ideally we should try to cheer ourselves up if we can, get through what we are struggling with, and seek help, sometimes we just need to accept that is how we feel. Accepting it is the first step to feeling better, too. We need to accept when we are not feeling well enough to work, and not push ourselves and make it worse. We need to accept if we are just feeling low and be kind to ourselves, don’t over think the reasons, instead wonder what may cheer us, rather than beat ourselves up. We need to accept when we are going through something that is perhaps difficult and emotional, and that it may take time to work through. And it is okay to be feeling like all of these examples.

You are not going to be okay all of the time. You don’t have to be okay all of the time. You cannot always be in control. It can be really frustrating, feeling bad when we want to get on with things. But we can’t rush it, and accepting our feelings can only help this process. We certainly can’t always control our feelings, we cannot help what we feel, and we should never feel bad for simply feeling. We are only human, after all.

It is okay to admit that you are not okay. To both yourself and to others. When we do tell someone that we are not okay, we will hopefully feel their support. Seek help if you can. We will all struggle with things. We cannot be happy, positive, and feeling well all of the time. We cannot always easily cheer ourselves up, find a solution, or simply get over something. It can take time. We need the dark moments to help us really appreciate the light.

We must try to not let anyone else make us feel bad, either. If you’re not feeling good, in whatever way or sense of the words, then you are not feeling good. That’s it, you said it. It’s a fact. You don’t need some huge ‘reason’ or to validate your feelings to others. They are your feelings, and they are always legitimate and important. If anyone makes you feel bad in anyway, they’re just not being very kind or understanding. If they make you feel like you need to justify or explain how you’re feeling, or even suggest you ‘should’ feel better by now, do not listen to them. You never have to explain yourself and there are no time frames to these things. They are deeply personal and unique to the individual. We should all be more compassionate towards others, as you never know what someone may be going through, and as friends, we should always be there to listen and understand.

So, while it is not ‘okay’ to be feeling bad in the sense that it would be much, much nicer if we could be feeling better, unfortunately this is not what life is always like; we are not always okay. If we can accept that, and accept when we aren’t feeling good, then I think we will start to find it easier to feel better again. Acceptance is the first step. So be kind to yourself, let yourself off, accept that you feel bad, but also know that you will feel better. This is just the dark moment, and soon you will be in the light, where you will appreciate its brightness so much more.

Virginity is a social construct

I have an issue with the concept of virginity. It may seem like a simple ‘rite of passage,’ but I would argue that it is actually a regressive and oppressive concept for all people.

Supposedly, all ‘virginity’ means is someone who has never had sex before. But the concept isn’t that simple. It’s entrenched in double standards, and has always had very different connotations in relation to men and in relation to women.

All you have to do is look at this dictionary entry for ‘virgin,’ which reads: “a person, typically a woman, who has never had sexual intercourse.” Why is this word ‘typically’ used to describe women? What is the difference between a man who has not had sex, and a woman who has not had sex? Nothing – surely? Well, our society and culture doesn’t view it that way.

It’s no secret that the concept of virginity has been used for centuries to control women and their bodies. Throughout history in the Western world, people were expected to remain ‘chaste’ before marriage, a religious value that is thankfully now largely seen as outdated in the now more secular Western world. It was one ripe with double standards, rarely applied to men and women in the same way. Despite the value, men were actually often encouraged to become experienced, whereas it was of absolute importance that women remained ‘pure’ until marriage. Women who had sex before marriage, or were rumoured to have done so, would be completely shamed, considered ‘damaged’ or ‘fallen women.’ Sounds familiar, right?

It’s familiar because nowadays, the concept of virginity is still wrapped up in harmful double standards. It places pressures on both men and women that are oppressive and damaging. For men, there seems to be more pressure to ‘lose’ one’s virginity, to be sexually active, a ‘player’ or ‘stud.’ Those who are ‘still virgins’ are often shamed for being so. Women, on the other hand, are taught that virginity is a ‘virtue’ that they should protect, and are routinely ‘slut shamed’ for being sexually active. Both of these types of pressures are damaging to men and women, and to their relationships with one another.

Virginity is also a very damaging concept as it places so much emphasis on the ‘value’ of being ‘pure.’ But this actually means nothing, because in reality, when you ‘lose your virginity’ nothing happens to suddenly change you, does it? You might feel a little different, but it’s all down to the individual, it’s specific and unique. But there is no difference between you before and you after sex for the first time, other than that new experience. I also dislike that it is considered something you have ‘lost,’ because this places so much pressure, expectation, and value on something that is really just a made up thing, a social construct. There is literally nothing you are losing, if anything you are only gaining things by doing something new for the first time.

And what difference does it make whether you’ve had sex once, not at all, or hundreds of times? It might mean something to you – but that is how it should stay – completely personal, with no outside opinions! When and how and with whom someone has sex with is entirely up to them and their partner(s), no one else. We should never judge anyone else in this matter; it’s simply none of our business.

Then there is also the problem with how we define what ‘losing your virginity’ consists of, or by extension, what ‘having sex’ consists of. Typically, people might only think of heterosexual sexual intercourse. But this isn’t inclusive to people of all sexualities. It is also ignoring the fact that when we have sex, this doesn’t just mean sexual intercourse, it can encompass other kinds of sexual acts and experiences. Someone may feel like they have had sex for the first time after they have a sexual experience that wasn’t sexual intercourse, and who is anyone to say that they’re wrong? Sex is utterly personal, it means different things to different people and we should respect that.

So, as far as I’m concerned, virginity is just a socially constructed concept, created to control and repress people. Of course, having sex for the first time, whatever that may mean to each individual, can be a key experience for many people, and I don’t mean to diminish that. But I don’t think ‘losing your virginity’ is the right way to frame it, because the concept is so damaging to all with how it places a ridiculous amount of made up pressures and expectations on people, and is still heavy with double standards. We need to break down these double standards, acknowledge that ‘sex’ can encompass many things, and mean different things for different people, and we need to eradicate all notions of pressure and expectation in regards to sex, which the concept of virginity contributes to. So let’s scrap the idea of virginity, it’s just made up anyway.

You don’t owe anyone anything

Last week I wrote about how important it is to sometimes say no to things if you don’t have time, if they will cause you more stress, or if you just don’t want to. I touched on the idea that you don’t owe it to anyone to accept these favours if it’s not realistic for you, no matter who they are. To me, this thought – that you don’t owe anyone anything – feels key to remember and so I wanted to explore that further.

Firstly, our society often makes women in particular feel like they owe people something. Patriarchy tells women that they should be self-sacrificing caregivers and put everyone’s needs before their own. No one should do that. Meanwhile, men are often socialised to believe, consciously or unconsciously, that women exist for them, that they are here for their pleasure, their consumption and at their disposal. I’m not saying it’s always intentional, normally it isn’t at all, but a lot of men do seem to feel a certain entitlement towards women.

Many women, again consciously or unconsciously, may believe this too, and go along with it, trying to please men, often at their own expense. Perhaps by thinking their appearance must match society’s stereotypical heterosexual female beauty standards, which are extremely narrow, unrealistic, punishing and ultimately unattainable. Perhaps the way they dress is just designed to appeal to the opposite sex. I’m not at all criticising women who do these things – after all, this is what society teaches us to do, so we probably all do them a little bit or have done in the past! And of course, this is great if that’s what you want to do, and you can do whatever you want. But sometimes it’s more because women feel they should or feel they have to.

Women do not owe men, or anyone, anything at all. No one owes anyone anything. You don’t need to look a certain way for anyone. You don’t owe someone who buys you a drink anything. Not even conversation. You don’t owe anyone sex or your body. Not your partner, not anyone. You don’t owe anyone commitment or love. You don’t owe anyone anything.

Then there’s this other thing. You may feel, or have felt, like there is a person in your life who is becoming a little bit dependent on you. I don’t mean a child, elderly person, or someone who is unwell, that is completely different, but someone else who just seems to be relying on you for much of their happiness. This is not healthy. We can never rely on anyone else for the majority of our happiness, because your relationship with that person, whatever form it may take, may not always exist in the same way, and therefore cannot be depended on to always be there to give you happiness.

Especially romantic relationships, which are often fleeting compared to familial relationships and long-term friendships, and are also perhaps the kind where this reliance is most likely to happen. Despite our culture’s grand sweeping statements about love, a romantic relationship will not solve everything, and you cannot rely on that relationship to solely make you happy. Doing so is unfair to both you and your partner. One person is under extreme pressure to keep the other happy, while the other person’s happiness, based on one thing, could be fragile, and perhaps suffer severely if the relationship were to decline or end. We need to find happiness from our whole lives and its many aspects, from what we do, and from within.

It can be awfully confusing when you realise someone is placing so much emphasis on your relationship as the one thing that makes them happy. You want to make them happy, and are glad to. You don’t want to disappoint them, but it becomes so easy to do so when someone is getting all their happiness from you. A small thing can lead to upset, lead to you feeling guilty and selfish. But chances are, you are definitely not.

We are not accountable for anyone’s happiness but our own. It is not your responsibility to make someone else happy, however much you love and care for them. Don’t let them make you feel like it is. Don’t let them guilt trip you. Ironically, this person who receives so much happiness from you could potentially make you very unhappy if they rely on you too much.

Knowing that you don’t owe anyone anything in this life is such a refreshing and liberating thought. The only person you owe anything to is yourself. You owe yourself kindness, compassion and positivity. You owe yourself hard work, courage, and aspirations. You owe yourself fun and time off. You owe it to yourself to be who you are; to not hold that back, limit or change that for anyone else.

The importance of sometimes saying no

As much as we want to help others, make them happy, do them favours and be useful, sometimes we can over strain ourselves trying to please people, and as a result, make things more difficult for ourselves. It’s easy to say yes to something because we want to help, only to realise we won’t have the time or energy to do so with all of our own tasks. It can become a stressful struggle to balance things and nothing gets done to the standard it could have. It’s easy to keep saying yes to people’s requests, putting them before your own needs or wants, and to then find yourself in some less than ideal, stressful situations.

It’s fantastic to help others out in any shape or form unless it impacts you negatively. And sometimes you just can’t take on more things if it isn’t realistic for you at the time. These can be personal favours for friends, or other tasks you may be asked to take responsibility for. But sometimes it just won’t work out for you. You are not being selfish or mean by turning these things down and saying no, even to a friend. You are only being realistic about your time, considerate to yourself, and actually more helpful to the other person in the long run if you may not be able complete the task to a good level anyway. You know what else is okay? To say no because you don’t feel up to it, or just don’t want to.

If you’ve always said yes to someone, they can come to expect it. We all want to be liked and many people want to avoid conflict, so it can seem easier to keep saying yes, even to things you don’t want to do. But it can lead to our friends, family or colleagues always expecting us to say yes, and perhaps taking advantage of this kindness. This is probably not intentional, but it could be, especially if they try and make you feel guilty about it. Watch out for this. Assert your boundaries if you need to. All kinds of relationship are about mutual respect, trust and both giving and taking, rather than one over the other.

You’re not going to let anyone down or disappoint anyone by saying no. If someone says you have – well, they should have known that you might not be able to do it, and respect your decision. If they try and make you feel guilty about it, they are being very unfair. Remember this is their problem, not yours. All you’ve done is not be able to do something they asked. They can’t expect you to always be able to do what they want. In this case, they’re the ones being selfish by not understanding why you can’t help them this time.

Even if you try, you can’t always please everybody, which I’ve certainly learnt from experience. When you’re constantly trying to keep different people in your life happy, you can forget about your own happiness. It’s not your responsibility to make others happy or to help them, however close they are to you. If you can help them, that’s wonderful and you should, but only if you are realistically able to.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get

My mum has always said to me “If you don’t ask, you don’t get” which I think are definitely words to live by.

If you want something, you have to go out and get it. No one is going to hand you it or do it for you. It’s unlikely to happen naturally or on its own, and even if it might – why wait around? You could be putting yourself out there and working to make it happen sooner. It’s up to us to make things happen for us, no one else. The world doesn’t owe you anything, it’s what you do with what you’ve got, what you make of your life, and what you give back to the Earth and to others.

So sometimes we just have to go up and ask if you can find out more or get involved, send that email or ask for that favour. If you really want to and know it will help, just go and do it! I know it can be scary, but when we just make ourselves do things that are a bit daunting or outside our comfort zone, we can really develop our confidence and discover what we are capable of. We can find that we are brave and determined; we seek and can take opportunities and challenges.

If you don’t ask, you’ll never know what could have happened. What’s the worst that could happen? The person or organisation you ask will say no? Well, that’s their loss. You tried and put yourself out there, and that’s an important achievement in itself.

It doesn’t have to be so literal. It can be enquiring about something, or taking that exciting, but perhaps slightly daunting opportunity, or even just making yourself do that speech or presentation despite it being scary, because you know it will probably improve your confidence.

Personally, making myself do the things that I am nervous about, but want to do or know will be beneficial to do, really boosts my confidence in an invaluable way. When you’re not especially confident, like me, it’s being brave and pushing yourself that can help you find even a little more confidence and self-belief. Confidence comes with experience, after all. When you do something you were a bit scared of, it’s a fantastic feeling afterward knowing that you went for it and that it went well. And even if it didn’t go well or you feel unsure, you should be proud of yourself for having been brave and gone for it anyway.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get” is about not taking the easy road. It’s pushing yourself and striving for more. It’s using our free time to pursue our passions and hobbies. It’s going for things and seeing what happens even if you’re unsure. If what you have to do is scary and hard, you will come out of it stronger, and your confidence will be built upon. If it is a bad experience, you can learn from it and overcome it. Because you did it, you went for it, and that’s amazing! That is also the most important thing. So go out there and ask someone what you’ve been wondering about, if you can get involved, apply for things, start a new project, do what you’ve always wanted to, try something new – take that opportunity! However big or small, just try it, and see what happens.

Practicing what I preach

Last week I wrote about how I am trying to be kinder to myself, to even try to like myself. The word ‘trying’ is key here – I am not very good at it. But that’s okay (look, being kinder to myself already!). It’s not a change I can undergo overnight, it takes time, there will be good days and bad days, there will be things that set me back, but also things that propel me forwards in this little self acceptance mission.

I felt like I needed to follow up last week’s post, as I’ve been being a little bit unkind to myself since then. I felt disappointed with myself for not writing more of the feature screenplay I am working on. Yet not only had I started writing something that could have been really daunting and full of pressure, but I have also hit my writing targets for both that week and this week, so it didn’t even make sense to be annoyed with myself! If anything, I should be happy with my progress, and just enjoy writing and feel thankful that I am not struggling to write, which I am pleased to say is now my frame of mind.

But that’s the thing. We often know we are being irrational when we are hard on ourselves like this, yet it can be so hard to counteract those anxious thoughts. I am not very good at practicing what I preach when it comes to myself, as I touched on last week. Despite how much I believe in various values, and will always encourage them in others, I mostly fail at treating myself in the same way.

But I think I am improving. I’ve been thinking back over the past year, and how I really did set myself on this course of trying to be more true to myself. Last year I had a key realisation that in one aspect of my life in particular, I wasn’t always practicing the values I believe in.

I believe I am a brave person, I like to push myself, and I never want to settle for an easy option if a more challenging path and rewarding outcome is there. Yet in this area of my life I was completely stuck on the easy path, afraid to veer from it. I wasn’t acting on certain feelings because they would disrupt so much and cause pain; it was easier to just carry on. But it wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t honest. It wasn’t as fulfilling or making me that happy anymore, and I finally realised that it was time to change this. So I took control, made a leap and chose a different path.

When I told friends of my realisation, many weren’t surprised, for they had seen it coming before I had. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t reflecting the values I would speak of, and I hadn’t talked about it with the enthusiasm I should have for a while, and so they saw how it wasn’t right for me and that I needed to make a change.

Now I’ve made this change, I feel like I am rediscovering myself. I’ve been exploring my independence and freedom, and I am happier. It’s amazing how you might not even realise that you’re unhappy until you suddenly change things and the alternative offers so many other possibilities, and it’s liberating!

It’s a long, probably never ending path, but I think I might be finding out more about who I am, what is important to me, and what values I really believe in and want to share and uphold. I mean, I knew this, but I wasn’t really living by some of them, not truly. I don’t believe in taking the easy choice, and yet I was. I don’t believe in sticking with something if it isn’t truly good or making you happy, and yet I was. I would raise an eyebrow at someone doing what I was doing, and yet I carried on.

But now, having made changes that were truly right for me, I can really consider what is important to me, what I want, and examine my values now I have aligned my life a little closer to them. My path to self acceptance is clearer now I am being true to myself, and now my life reflects me more. Of course I still have a lot of work to do, I still make mistakes, and I am still somewhat of a mess, but I’m a much happier mess. And a happy mess sounds pretty good to me. So I shall focus on trying to be kind to myself and to accept myself more, as I wrote about last week, and will continue to write about, as this is a long journey after all.