22 October 2017

I am who I am, with all that I am

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be?"
Marianne Williamson

There you are, just minding your own business.

It may be that you're jotting down your tasks for the impending week ahead or simply about to pick up the phone to hear all about Julie's recent engagement.

Or maybe you're daydreaming about your future dreams or planning a killer (pun intended) costume for next weeks' halloween party.

Or just maybe you've switched off the lights ready to catch up on some overdue sleep and find yourself buzz-eyed and very much awake an hour later.

All thoughts suddenly home in on that one internal power house...the home of the little familiar voice that murmurs just for you. Makes you feel special right?

Yet this voice isn't a friend of confidence but an incessant narrator giving a play-by-play commentary on every single move you make who thrives on making you second-guess yourself. This tiny little voice, at first so innocent is the voice of the inner critic, the persecutor and the goddam uninvited party pooper intent on limiting your potential, derailing your dreams and taking one helluva dump on your happiness. Nice to see you again, voice of doom.

The truth is we live in a highly competitive society where we can only but stumble onto the running track of the daily rat race, praying that our untrained legs can carry us the distance whilst our aim and tactics play catch up in order to win the race. Whilst you're running alongside others, desperately trying to keep one foot in front of the other and willing yourself to catch up to their pace, ask yourself if you truly feel good about yourself? Chances are your answer would be no. Truth is, no-one rarely is, even Peter all the way up there at the front, seemingly striding along like being in first place is a total breeze.

“Believe in your infinite potential. Your only limitations are those you set upon yourself. 

Believe in yourself, your abilities and your own potential. Never let self-doubt hold you captive. You are worthy of all that you dream of and hope for.” 

Feeling good - although a seemingly simple concept - appears to be a fragile mirage these days since it's fed to us that in order to feel worthy, we must be not just the best, but above average - the best of the very best; and more. Settling for anything less is deemed nothing short of failure. But is it? That little hypercritical monkey in your head seems to think so and loves to stir up any poppycock to have his own way. Its convictions may seem perfectly sound but he thrives on rattling your cage, always sitting on the wall of worry that you may disrupt his safe reliable habits.

Your inner monkey critic is a monopolising prescience that will consistently feed you reasons why you can never settle, will micromanage how your life should look and without fail will show you just how  flawed you really are. Now don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with striving to do better, be better and live life in the best way you can- in fact, I encourage it - but living within the confines and standards of perfection will never enable you to live free. Especially when your inner monkey is involved.

It won't matter if you spend two hours editing and perfecting that email to your boss, spend two days researching how to make the perfect mojito or colour code your wardrobe by season, event and style, when the monkey gets involved, he will ensure that perfection will always remain just out of your reach. He dangles a banana in front of your nose knowing full well that it's always just out of reach and in fact is nothing but an empty skin shell of emptiness waiting inside. He ate that damn banana months ago but loves to see you strive and fall short every single time. 

But you know what's great about you? You're resilient and human which means you have the choice to change and evolve. Life may not have unfolded the way you expected - or wanted- it to so far but you can't control what's outside of your reach. What you can control is the way you respond to that damn critter in your head. Pull on your big-time pants and choose to be more badass than your monkey.

The monkey thinks of you all day long, 24 hours of every day, obsessed with you may be the term to use. This may be comforting to think that someone is looking after your back 24/7 but that same person will also whisper convictions that everyone else around you is also constantly watching and judging you, waiting to see what trick you'll perform next. That person just yawned so you must be a bore. That person just spoke over you so you must be unwanted and invisible - not worthy of being there. That lady just stared at your legs so you must be looking like sausage meat busting out of its casing - how shameful.

"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do."
- Eleanor Roosevelt

The truth is, your monkey is constantly watching you to berate and crush you by pointing out exactly how you fail to make the cut. He withholds the fact that actually that person was up all night writing a report for work and is tired beyond belief. That person who spoke over you is crippled with anxiety that people may find her too quiet so she goes overboard in order to be seen and heard. She's just fighting her own internal battle, not playing the field in yours. Oh and the lady giving you the look of judgement, she was actually lost in thought fretting about what to cook for the kids' dinner that night. 

The simple truth is, you may be obsessing all day about yourself, but no one else is. They're all too wrapped up in their own heads to give thought of what you may or may not be achieving or perfecting. The lesson here is stop dissecting every little look, thought, idea or action of another. Strip back the grand and extravagant theories your monkey is throwing out at you and shove him back into the cage where he belongs by keeping your reactions in line with the facts. You can't please everyone and why would you want to? It would be exhausting trying to appease all of society based on the just the far-fetched fairytales of your mind, so just quit doing it. Keep what is useful in each encounter and strut the hell past all that's rubbish - it's the only way you'll keep moving forwards.

So how do you silence the inner critic and put monkey back in the corner? Truth is, I still don't know myself! It's a work in progress and something I and many have to actively choose to overcome each and every day. I won't make it sound like we can miraculously extract that meddling monkey entirely but you can certainly begin to cut the ties on his presence in your day - like an old friend that you lose touch with.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."
- Vincent van Gogh

Whilst the monkey sees things in catastrophic extremes - yes or no, all or nothing, good or bad, love or hate, life is not bound to these extremes. Tuning out the voice of your inner critic is a colourful spectrum of gradual change - it takes time and patience as your perception of the world readjusts to the peaks and troughs of life. Living is like being on a wave, our moods soup and down, opportunities come in and move out like a tide and only can we keep making movements forwards if we choose to move with the unpredictable flow of adaptation. 

Working against your monkey is tough. At first you'll want to give up and at times, you will and you'll allow that pesky critter to have his wanton ways with you. But behind all his big-man bravado is nothing short of a terrified and lonely being. Your monkey bullies you because he's afraid of life and its uncertainty. Get yourself equipped and get into the boxing ring ready to blast this bully with as  much threatening sarcasm as he gives out but also break down his defence barriers by soothing him with love and attention. It'll confuse the hell out of him and make him vulnerable to pay ball as you taking the drivers seat.

If you change your perception, intention and thoughts when it comes to tackling the monkey, you'll realise just how powerful your thoughts can be. The monkey can change his tune dramatically, showing you that everything you tell yourself inside your head is not reality at all - its your imagination which you can choose to change at any time.

The secret to all of this? You gotta do the work to enjoy the honey. You may succeed two or three times and feel somewhat triumphant but the monkey and his rituals have been there for many a years and won't just roll over at the first sign of defence. He's a stubborn git and will keep coming back with new ways to fight back. You have to stay on your toes and keep committed to forging a new way of living. Keep a mental scoreboard to keep your motivation tip top and always remember to keep your guard up. The monkey - although offering you an unattainable list of how to live your life is a lazy scallywag.

“You may be the only person left who believes in you, but it's enough. It takes just one star to pierce a universe of darkness. Never give up.” 

Take that at your advantage and set your alarm so that you wake up before him. Get your tools and hardhat at the ready before he has time to rouse himself from a sleepy slumber and start his day. As soon as he starts to murmur or whisper sweet nothings to you, get your drill out and drown him out with your ideas, your actions, your day-to day activities so you don't have time to sit and listen to his garbage. Remember, strip everything back to everything that is you as you're here to gather the pollen to make and enjoy that sweet sweet honey, not get caught up and dragged down by the imposters. That monkey, if continually ignored and drowned out will eventually get bored, give up and pipe down. 

As you scroll through your Instagram feed dissecting her flawless skin, her legs eleven, his house, his career, her wardrobe, halt the monkey thriving on the comparison and ridiculing you for being so far from these ideals you're seeing and take back control of reality by locking monkey back into his lonely cage. He can rattle and rage all he likes but if you turn up the volume on self-belief then you'll drown out his lies and be served up the truth. The truth being that no-one is perfect because where's the fun in that? We're all winging it, learning things through trial and error and behind all those sepia filters and fine-tuned selfies are a bunch of ordinary people, battling their own insecurities and flaws. 

Once you own where you are, realise where you've come and look to where you could go you can begin to accept that being a little lost is how we actually come to find ourselves. Believe me, I know the 'Love yourself' mind shift is anything but a quick snap reality but slowly you learn that change is what will break you free from the monkey trap. You've probably spent too many wasted years listening to the chatter of self-hatred and why you will never be worthy and by striving to be perfect, have you found happiness? Unlikely. So instead of doing what you've always done and getting what you've always got - self-hatred- why not try your hand at doing something different and practising a little self compassion.

"You have no control over other people's taste, so focus on staying true to your own."
- Tim Gunn

Take off those shit-tinted glasses gifted by that monkey meddler of yours and put on some glasses made for your prescription. Change the way you talk to yourself and believe in your abilities, and suddenly the world will be coloured with potential and opportunity. 

Since I know that self compassion is a hard rock to crack, here are a few nuggets of wisdom I've picked up along my own personal quest to finding myself and realising that being myself is not only okay but marks the beginning of truly living. I only hope these help bring you some comfort amongst your own battle of silencing your inner monkey mind.

#1. You are and always will be enough. More than enough. Never doubt the worth you bring to this world.

#2. Own who you truly are. The world is full of too many wannabe clones so strip all the illusions away and live authentically. You were brought here not to 'add' or embellish yourself but to grow and expand.

#3. Recalibrate your definition of 'best'. Commit to being the 'best' version of yourself with achievable standards that leave you feeling proud, not demoralised.

#4. Forgive yourself. Letting yourself off the hook opens up room for compassion so forgive yourself of past mistakes, forgive him over there, forgive her over there. Forgive, forgive and forgive some more. Forgiveness breeds freedom.

#5. You are unique. Your existence is a miracle; a random concoction of DNA from your mum and dad that no-one else has. Own your originality and embrace the truth that no one else will ever be as good at being you than you!

"I've finally stopped running away from myself. Who else is there better to be?"
- Goldie Hawn

#6. Life is all about growing and learning. Set-backs are exactly that, setbacks. They are and never will be failures; they are simply gifts of opportunities to learn again.

#7. Treat yourself to the things that please your soul. Denial of what makes you smile will only end one way - in misery. If collecting stamps ticks your boxes then do it! If doing word searches gets you going then why the hell would you deny yourself? Treating yourself little and often is a way of nurturing a compassionate relationship with yourself. 

#8. Trust yourself. You'll be spending the rest of your life with yourself so get to know yourself. Familiarise yourself with your rights and wrongs, your beliefs and your strengths. Courage comes from trusting yourself to move forwards in whatever way that entails. When you trust yourself, your confidence will blossom.

#9. Don't let fear hold you back from putting yourself out there. Fear is false evidence appearing real. It holds you back and stifles any potential for growth and success. So what if the dude over there doesn't like you? Are you going to ever see him again? Probably not. So get over yourself and realise that life is too short to sweat over whether a stranger thinks your hair is nice or not and channel your energies into the people who love and accept you for who you are, warts n'all!

#10. Give yourself permission to try again. As I said earlier, no-one is perfect and slipping back into self-doubt is only natural. It's healthy to fall off the wagon as it allows you to see the potential and positives of being on the self-belief wagon. When you step outside your comfort zones, self doubt and your inner monkey will come knocking on the door but those doubts are only thoughts, they are not your reality nor your future. Shit may go down and your monkey may win but if you roll over and accept this as a failure then you're throwing away an opportunity to improve your life. Does listening to a fictitious monkey in your head seem worth wasting your life over?

"Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself."
 - Rumi

Love, Sarah

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