Why this matters to me.
Over the last fifteen years I have devoted my energy to personal development in order to overcome the limiting beliefs and habits of my past. I have spent this time deep in courses, books and podcasts, going to therapy and coaching, and attending events all with the goal of becoming a better and stronger woman, partner, family member and leader.
I know what it feels like to have anxiety and panic attacks, be afraid of speaking up, not know how to communicate my feelings, feel guilty, let myself down for the sake of others, have an eating disorder, have addictions, and for people to not ‘get’ me.
I have come to believe that too many of us are living in this way, and worst of all, feel guilty for wanting more for ourselves.
I want to share the ideas, tools and systems that have helped me steadily take control of my life over time. I hope they might help you when you are feeling stuck.
How did I get here?
Ever since school I have wanted to do something with life that was meaningful to me and others. Knowing what that looked like was a different story! Coupled with some deep rooted beliefs that my needs and opinions were not as important as other people’s, and I spent too many years so unable to speak up for myself, in both my personal and professional lives that the easiest option became avoidance, so that I didn't need to deal with my shame, fear or guilt.
So naturally I spent twelve years in office jobs, believing that a "proper" job was the best bet. All the while my ideas came and went, none of them going far because of my fear of judgement and lack of self belief to see anything through.
During that time I became caught up in a self made trap of working as hard as I could to prove my worth, feeling increasingly dependent on my salary to fund my 'ok' life and ending up signed off work twice by my GP with stress and anxiety (advice I chose to ignore because of that familiar fear of judgement).
Turns out, stress and anxiety can cause your body to react in dramatic ways
Over time I became increasingly ill, completely miserable and lost. Painful digestive issues, headaches, skin problems, and dizziness became a part of my daily life. Growing anxiety and insomnia joined the list, with panic attacks providing the final blow.
I acknowledged that years had passed in this cycle and I was not prepared to continue. I became sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and I realised that it was 100% in my control to change it.
Prioritising our needs is a must
Through years of work on my beliefs, health and anxiety issues, I now know that these are all interconnected and must be respected. With a little understanding and awareness, and complete accountability for our lives, we can begin to be the person who is hiding inside, waiting to get out.
This has taken a long time to fully accept. Although, looking from the outside in, my life may have looked pretty good in the traditional sense of what success looked like, I was lacking some basic and essential life skills which held me back from my own true happiness for so long. I believe many others suffer in silence, too.
I see now that when we utilise our strengths, they come so naturally to us that we actually feel stronger, energised, alive, and like life is working in our favour. We emit an ease and calm confidence that others are drawn to.
Knowledge and action are two different things
For me, the problem wasn’t a lack of awareness of my issues. The problem was knowing exactly how to move from that life to one in which I was content, and free from health issues. It felt like there were too many areas of life to improve: health, relationships, confidence, mindset, finances, environment; and I didn’t have a clue where to start, as they all seemed interconnected. This went on for years until I knew my life would not look any different until I disrupted my daily routine. Our lives are a reflection of our daily actions, after all.
For me personally, with the desire to change turning to desperation, I was ready for a jolt in order to make change. My partner and I quit our jobs, booked a one-way plane ticket and saved up as much as we could for the last six months in our office roles. The goal for me was to slow down and give myself the headspace to determine the next steps. Slowing down is the best thing I could have done.
Here’s what I believe:
Too often we try and fit ourselves into a different shaped mould, and I believe this is a serious root of unhappiness. Whether it is the wrong job, office culture, friendship circles, home town and so on, I believe that being involved in something which doesn’t feel right, leaves us feeling increasingly unhappy, unwell, or at the very least, lazy and apathetic. In turn this causes a negative ripple effect, feeding into the lives of those around us.
Spend too long in these environments and you will start to tell yourself (consciously or subconsciously) that you are the problem. That you are not good enough, there is something wrong with you, you’ll never be able to achieve anything different, and that maybe this is just what life is like. This isn’t true. I know that you can feel so much happier in yourself than you can even imagine right now.
We have two choices: impact ourselves and others positively, or impact ourselves and others negatively. The former requires us to take complete ownership of our lives, and take responsibility for correcting course. Not easy, but always worth it.
There are a number of equally important needs that as humans we want to meet if we are to be our best. With the burden of these unmet needs weighing heavy, how can we expect to feel light, carefree and joyful?
Over the last fifteen years this has been my core interest. I have come to see the common threads, and time-tested solutions.
It’s easy to go on autopilot, taking actions and making the choices that culture, society and people we love expect of us. But you don’t have to suppress your true nature or ignore your heart’s desire in order to be loved and accepted.
Accountability is everything
The first step, before thinking about what you might want to do next for a career or business, before embarking on a course that you’re not 100% about, and before committing to anything else, is to hold the mirror up to yourself and take the most honest inventory of who you are right now, in this moment. Not in a self-judging way, but in a supportive way.
There is a real confidence that comes from knowing yourself, and then living in line with that, without apology. It shows that you respect yourself, and that feeds out into all areas of your life, creating a positive ripple effect.
On becoming fully accountable and in control of the key areas of your life, you will start to find clarity, understand where your strengths lie, and where you can best make a positive impact so that life can start to flow easily.
From there, living each day as your best self will drive you to live life with more energy and you will start to appreciate the everyday things and see that life is starting to work in your favour.
Putting you first will help others more than putting others first - really
It is not always so easy to know who you are, what drives you and what you really want to do to make you happy, when you have been caught up in other people’s lives and priorities, putting others' needs first.
There are core areas that require attention, understanding and accountability if we want to move forward. I want to support you in this exciting and empowering work.
I believe that the most important thing you can do for yourself, and everyone you care about, is to lead by example and take responsibility for understanding yourself. Only then can you move forward and live a life which feels the way it should.
Because you, and only you, are responsible for your unique life.
Want more inspiration on this topic? This article shares the top five regrets of the dying. In there: "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me" and "I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings".