We live in a time where there are quick fixes for pretty much everything we dislike about our appearance. Want a different look? Dye your hair or in my case, go out in a wig (my hair is fine and would fall out if I dyed it the colours of the rainbow like my sister does. Not that I’m jealous. Much) You can also pop some false eye lashes on or even go so far as to wear coloured contact lenses to change the colour of your eyes if the windows of your soul need a makeover. Feeling a little bit too bloated for that slinky dress? Get the belly smacker pants out and you’re sorted! In need of a healthy glow? No problem! Apply some fake tan and you’re a bronzed goddess in no time (or Floella Benjamin in my case)
If there’s something we don’t like about the way we look there is generally a way to work with or around it that can solve it in the short term. But what happens when the issue we have is more to do with an aspect of our personality than our appearance? There is no ‘quick fix’ for changing the way we are wired and for some people this is a huge battle.
Personally, I really struggle with the fact that I have a hungry soul (check the spelling before you recommend athletes foot treatment). As soon as I have accomplished something to the best of my ability I need more and am looking for the next challenge. Although this does mean that I’ll never have any death bed regrets about the things I should have done, it also means that I can feel lost and frustrated in my own life sometimes. I have cried desperate tears because I’m not the sort of person who can turn up at a job that I moderately like and do what is required of me as long as it pays the bills (which, let’s face it, the majority of the world do – what makes me so bloody special?) I need to love what I do and when I am miserable in what I do or I feel like I can’t do any more then I yearn for a change. I realise this sounds like I just get bored and move on and maybe that’s it but it feels like more than that (its hard to explain). Like I am searching for a purpose in life but I am now almost 40 and while I am happier than I have ever been with the way that I am spending my days, I’m not earning anywhere near what I was when I was employed full time and so I still feel like I am failing. Andrew despairs as he is incredibly proud of everything I have achieved but sees me beating myself up and worries about my physical health as I take on ever more challenges which stretch my time and my mental health as I find it almost impossible to switch off and rarely speak kindly to myself.
To combat the intense and often very scathing self-talk, I force a reality check and focus on the things that I AM doing well. I remind myself that I am a good person. That I am working hard to raise awareness of issues incredibly important to me, to support others who need it and to create a better future for my boys. I’m not wealthy but neither am I struggling. I own a beautiful home and have three jobs (teaching, blogging and author workshops in schools). I am available for my boys which is something I was never able to do when I was teaching full time and don’t ever worry about letting colleagues down when I need time off for Harry’s appointments and operations. I am free in many senses of the word and I constantly have to remind myself that many people would swap their lives for mine and that life is short. I tell myself not to worry about next year but enjoy the life I have today. I really should be sponsored by rescue remedy as it’s a God send when my breathing struggles under the weight of my anxiety during the day and I will be approaching a few gin companies about an endorsement for my evening relaxation (important note – drink sensibly. Add ice)
Its also good to know that you are not alone in trying to battle with your issues and that there is no such thing as the perfect wife / husband/ parent etc. Perfection is a myth and all we can do is to acknowledge those parts of ourselves that we struggle with and find ways to manage them. I asked a few other bloggers what they wrestle with and how they deal with that.
Gemma ~ I’m too honest and don’t really filter before I speak, so my facial expressions often give away what I’m really thinking! I have to think ‘poker face’ if I’m somewhere important
Lyndsey ~ I’m very set in my ways and if something isn’t done the way I like it, I have to re-do it myself. I try not to stress about little things but it’s not easy.
Sarah ~ I hate my self doubt, it really bothers me how quickly I am to doubt myself and I wish I didn’t do it, I’m trying to do one thing positive a day that I know I can do to help me not feel so useless and stupid but it’s tough.
Jennifer ~ I hate that I can be self centred sometimes, especially when I’m feeling low. I try to make an effort to do things for others and that can also help to make me feel happier.
Pete ~ I’m naturally quite shy so find it difficult to talk to strangers. When I meet new people, I try to think they feel the same so I don’t feel so awkward.
Emma ~ I’m a perfectionist so I find delegating really hard because I just want things done 100% right (and obv only I can do that!) As I age, I am letting things go more…
Jen ~ I dislike that I am too soft and will do anything for anyone. To avoid this I have started never agreeing to anything on the spot and leaving it til I’m alone to decide.
Leanne ~ If you’d asked me a year ago I’d have listed a hundred things I hate about my body but in the last 6 months since losing my dad and beating breast cancer following a mastectomy, my perceptions of myself have changed. Ive lost a boob but I’m more confident than ever because I know what really matters now… Life.
Shel ~ I hate my anxious side – how I can overthink things to the point of feeling physically ill. I talk it through with my husband and my close friend who suffers with the same. We are great with supporting each other but rubbish at supporting ourselves. So I’m so thankful for my support network and people around me who can try and rationalise my thinking.
Carolin ~ I hate coming into new groups of people who already know each other. Those awkward first couple of minutes before the conversation start to flow are horrible so I often just ask a random question about something. Most people love talking about themselves and usually, they share something you can relate to which then gets the conversation going.
Kelly ~ Overthinking. I could tell you a conversation I had ten years ago that still ‘worries’ me, in case I said or did the wrong thing. It’s exhausting. I do a lot of things to try and help, depending on my mood! Going for a long dog walk can help immensely, or yoga, or writing. I also talk to my husband about everything, so it clears my head.
Kelly ~ I hate making mistakes. I get really anxious and lack self-confidence, so if I think I’ve messed up I can’t stop worrying. If it’s when I’m doing something for someone else, it’s even worse! If I can face it, I’ll ask if there’s anything I could have done better. Otherwise, I try to be philosophical once I’ve calmed down, and chalk it up to experience!
Erica ~ I can be over sensitive and take things to heart to easily. I wish I had a thicker skin. I had CBT a long time ago and try to remember that the way you feel emotionally has an impact on the way you react. Take a step back and take time to process thoughts and feelings. Remember that some people have less tact than others and they might not be personally attacking you, it’s just the way they are.
Terri ~ My biggest flaw is my inability to say no because I always feel guilty if I do. This has seen me take on too much at work, become a trustee at the boys pre school, part of the parent panel at the school and a volunteer at beavers. In a bid to try to overcome this I have now started to ask people if I can let them know instead of giving the answer there and then. This usually buys me some time so I can think about what’s being asked of me, discuss it with my husband and decide if I can commit to it or if I can offer something rather than everything. When this works, it works well but it doesn’t always and sometimes I still find myself unable to say no and helping out with things a lot and then regretting it but it’s a work in progress.
Aby ~ I’m awful at small-talk so I just struggle through and then move on!
There is still a real stigma around mental health which I have covered before as I explained the inaccurate and damaging views that I had myself before I struggled with my own mental health.
We all have our demons and I think, in mental health awareness week and always, self awareness is a powerful tool in recognizing our own issues (as long as we don’t fixate or dwell on them). I would always encourage people to talk through their issues. No its not always possible to fix them in a conversation but I do think it helps you feel a little lighter for sharing what is often a huge emotional burden and it makes a difference to know that whatever you are feeling and however you are coping, you’re not the only one and you’re never alone.