Tag Archives: Self-confidence

Don’t be afraid of being a wanker

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Swearing like a trooper is one of my guilty pleasures, and since it’s now scientifically proven that people who swear are more honest than average, I can see no reason to stop.

You might think that swearing is a lack of manners but what I like about it (ok, apart that it’s funny) is that it allows you to cut the crap when you need to get an important point across, and be heard in a way you might not otherwise. A little rudeness can go a long way.

That’s why you come across sensible people who run F*ck It retreats (best-selling author John C Parkin and his wife), or write articles about the Elegant Art of Not Giving a Shit (David Cain on Raptitude).

So it should be no surprise that a great piece of advice I received recently includes rude content. I was talking to someone obviously wiser about work, and voicing concern about the impossibility of being a full-time writer:

“Your problem she said, it that you’re afraid of being a wanker.”

By which she meant: “You’re so worried that calling yourself a writer might turn you into a pretentious twat, that you’re not even trying. Instead you pretend you don’t really want it, to make sure no one ever calls you that (because let’s face it, it’s not nice).”

The problem is that by playing it nice and safe all the time, you can manage to fool people that you’re not even there. (With time you might even fool yourself).

Which isn’t good. You can’t succeed at anything by being invisible.

If you’ve ever fallen prey to thinking “Ooh I could do this, but… who am I to try? why should anyone be interested? people will think this or that…” then you’re probably afraid of being a wanker too (great by the way, there is no reason why it should just be me!).

You shouldn’t worry too much – wankers are so busy being great, talking down at others and believing their own spin, that they’re unlikely to care what other people think.

So you being worried about being a wanker almost definitely means you’re not.

I’ll also let you in on a little secret: one of the people I respect most professionally is on occasions a bit of a wanker. It’s not pretty to look at (and not nice for those around), but there can be a thin line between having enough self-belief to not compromise your vision, and coming across as an idiot.

On the plus side: some might call you an idiot, but you have enough self-belief to see your vision through.

So go on, do your thing! You have the world’s blessing to do whatever makes you heart sing, and tell us about it until the cows come home.

Because hey, you matter.

“You’re okay, really”: what it feels like to love yourself

P1050662 low resI’ve always wondered what self-acceptance feels like. That great big love for yourself you always hear about in women’s magazines, and in the interviews of successful people who seem to have everything you wish for… and will never attain.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to wake up in the morning feeling overwhelmed by self-love. I might wake up feeling love for my partner, my cat, or the world at large. But for myself…

“Love your neighbour as yourself”, Jesus said in what seemed simple enough instructions. Yet, many people, myself included, go through life treating themselves like their least favourite friend, not showing much patience or kindness and occasionally calling themselves names.

So a few days ago, as I was washing my face and pondering a difficult decision (to quit or not to quit my job), I was surprised to hear a gentle interior voice say to me: “you’re okay, really“.

This may seem like nothing to you, but it reminded me of something. I once had a boyfriend who was the coolest thing in the universe, with a cheeky smile and a punkrocker’s attitude to everything. Whenever he’d come across something great, not wanting to lose his cool by showing enthusiasm, he’d say “that’s okay, really”.

Just like him now, I’m not going for full-blown enthusiasm. My inner critic may not be going all BFF on me just yet, but at least we’re finally rooting for the same team. Of course it lasted only a few minutes. But it felt wonderful.

Now let me tell you something. If this happened to me, for no reason while I wasn’t even trying, it can happen to anybody. You better be prepared.

Some day, out of the blue…

You might look back upon your life so far and think you haven’t done too badly, overall.

You might be happy knowing you have done your best.

You might look into the mirror and no longer see the extra pounds or wrinkles (yes, the ones other people swear never existed but you just know are there).

You might see someone beautiful in their own, unique way.

You might look at the work you do and think, perhaps you’re doing enough.

You might no longer feel like a fraud, and let go of the fear of being found out.

IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND

You will shed the illusion of your own criticism like you take off a heavy winter coat.

You will feel lighter.

There will be a new breeze on your skin, which you never knew was there because of the big coat

You will feel so alive that you will wonder how to contain so much joy.

You will no longer feel the need to be or act different.

You will be at home in your own skin.

Even if the doubts return after a moment, you and I both will know that it IS possible be our own best friends.

And once we’ve done it once, there must be a way we can do it again.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
Should I stay or should I go? 
Living life at your own pace
Everyday meditations: A cup of green tea

 

Living life at your own pace

P1030629 low resSince I had a road accident two years ago (Iin which I was fine, but the car was written off), I have been scared of driving. It’s rarely a problem, because I live in London and travel by public transport most of the time. I only drive once in a while when I visit family in the French countryside. I tend to worry about it days ahead.

Last week I had to drive my mum’s car to the supermarket. It’s a small car, I know the way along the quiet lanes, so it should be no big deal.

I was scared, so I drove really, really slowly. I stopped a long time at crossings, stayed well away from other cars, and let people overtake me on the main road. Basically, I drove like a granny. After a few minutes, something happened – I realised I was almost enjoying myself.

Which lead me to think, the problem isn’t so much that I am scared to drive, but that I have been pushing myself to drive faster than I was comfortable with.

I have been neglecting what my senses were telling me, to follow what I thought was “the norm”.

By driving what I felt was “embarrassingly slowly”, I was doing just fine. And importantly, I dared to pick up the car rather than shy away and stay home.

This reminds me of something else: for years I had tried repeatedly to get into running to lose weight… and failed miserably each time after a few painful runs. Until I recently read this advice from famous gym instructor James Duigan (of Bodyism fame – a fitness genius): When you start running, you should go at a pace where you can easily maintain a conversation. 

What?! I You mean you are not really supposed to be sick after a run? That was a turning point for me.

I now jog so slow you’d think I’m going backwards, but guess what – I absolutely love it.

I’m not saying everyone should take more time to do things slowly by the way. I know people who enjoy doing many things in a day, and tirelessly do things at a brisk pace in order to move on to the next thing – my parents are still like that in their 60s (which might explain a few things!), and that’s fine too.

Did you ever notice how uncomfortable it is to try and walk at someone else’s pace for a long time? If they are too fast you’ll be out of breath, but if they are too slow you will be infuriated.

Bottom line is, it’s important to keep to find the pace that suits YOU. This way instead of giving up because you feel uncomfortable, you will keep going effortlessy.

 

READ ON Other similar posts you might like:
The Importance of Being You
Trusting the Process
Analysis Paralysis

F**k it therapy

P1050362 low resIn almost everything in life, I tend to think simple is best. Think of the amazing food combinations involving two ingredients only: bread+butter, pasta+olive oil, tomato+basil, wine+cheese, prawn+mayonnaise, and I am sure you could add plenty to the list. (In fact if you can, please do share with me in the comments so I can have a try. I am not greedy, I’m food-curious).

Anyway, I’ve recently come across the excellent “F**k It” book by John C Parkin, which reminded me of this awsome “simple is best” theory. The idea behind the book is both deceptively simple and supremely powerful. So powerful in fact, that it’s already begun to change my life before I’ve even read it. I only heard the author present it in a talk at the Hay House Summit the day before yesterday, and I’m already a convert.

The F**k it philosophy is not about being rude (although that’s fun too!), it’s about realising that sometimes we worry too much about trivial stuff, and that we do have the power to stop it. From minor annoyances to bigger decisions, stress and overthinking can affect our lives in major ways, and especially for those of us prone to analysis paralysis (you know who you are), it’s all too easy wasting precious time fretting what if this or that and losing our wellbeing over it. We get scared, we get grumpy, we get stuck, we lose sleep. Even for people who don’t consider themselves particularly neurotic, the pace of our modern lives means there is usually room for some degree of relaxation.

All you need to do to apply the f**k it philosophy is this: whenever you catch yourself worrying out of proportion about anything, just say “Fuck it” and move on. Just this. You can start small, and you can start now. I started yesterday by paying attention to some of the basic overthinking that goes on in my average working day (because such an exciting life I lead):

I should really hurry, I will be 5 min late for this meeting, people will think I’m unreliable >> Fuck it, I’ll take my time, no one will even notice 5 minutes delay

Shouldn’t I try to wear something smarter to the office, I look like I’m dressed to go to the beach and I look stupid >> Fuck it, it’s the sunniest day of the year and I’ll bloody well wear gold sandals if I like it

I really fancy going home on time but all my colleagues are putting in several hours overtime everyday >> Fuck it, it’s their choice and I’ll work better tomorrow if I’ve had a rest

And so just like that, I was able to reclaim little bits of happiness which would otherwise have escaped me had I not said “fuck it”. Such is the power of it.

This simple technique cuts short the overthinking and invites us to action. It allows us to let go and move on. It boosts our self confidence. It reminds us that it’s okay to do what we like, once in a while.

It is not about being selfish, or becoming mean to people, or ignoring the important things in our lives. It’s about freeing more time and energy to focus on what truly matters, by not wasting it on things that don’t.

It’s about silencing the voices in our head that like to criticise everything you do. It’s about knowing that you do enough, you are enough. 

Like I said, it’s powerful stuff. So is anything bugging you right now? Say “fuck it” and begin to taste freedom.

 

The importance of Being You

P1030681 low resI don’t know if any of you have read it, but this week I’m still reading Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project, which chronicles the author’s year-long project of researching the topic of happiness, and applying her theoretical findings to her everyday life.

It’s an entertaining read – if anything because the author sounds (to me) like a typical slightly-neurotic New Yorker, but also as a formal legal clerk she is down to earth, logical and systematic in a pursuit that most people might approach in a more lighthearted, spontaneous way. But it is precisely by being authentic and genuine in sharing her own experience (my favourite bit of genuineness – on page 23, she admits to not liking showers) that she becomes extremely likeable .

Before starting the year of experimenting, Gretchen writes down two interesting sets of rules she will have to live by. One is her Secrets of Adulthood, the truths she has learnt to trust such as “It’s ok to ask for help” or “Soap and water remove most stains”.  The second list is her own Twelve Commandments for life and includes wisdom such as “Let it go”, “Do it now” or “Be polite and be fair”.

The one item I have found inspiring above all is her Commandment One: “Be Gretchen”. Silly as it may sound, it is powerful reminder that true happiness is only found when we can be ourselves, in the mundane and the everyday as much as in our larger goals and plans.

For those of us who spend a lot of time doing what we should do instead of what we want to do, it feels positively revolutionary. So, I’ve made “Be Cecile” my rule no 1 too. I might not have written the other rules yet (sad as it makes me, I might have to admit that “being Cecile” does often equal not being very organised), but I HAVE decided that this one is not an option, it’s a must. Be Cecile. Be yourself, no matter what. And let’s see what comes out of it. 

 

Analysis Paralysis

P1030047 low resI’m quite possibly the worst decision maker in the universe, a fact which was recently confirmed by a conversation I had with my boyfriend Camille. “You know, I said to him anxiously, I’m not sure whether to go on this 30 Day Challenge. I’ve just bought it but it’s really expensive, and I could really use the money elsewhere. I’m wondering whether to ask for a refund. What do you think?

“You always do that”, he replies without looking up from his book.”
Me: “Do what?”
Him: “You spend ages deciding on something, then you change your mind straight after you’ve made your decision, but you don’t dare to speak out and so you just go on stressing about it.”
Me: “No I don’t”.
Him: “Yeah you do, even your mother says that you did it even as a kid”.
Me: “How do you know?”
Him: “You remember that time your parents took us for lunch and you’d wanted a soup but ordered a sandwich, then realised the minute you ordered that you’d rather have soup but you felt too shy to change the order, even though the waiter hadn’t processed it yet?”

Mmm. Apart from the unflattering discovery that my significant others compare notes when I’m out of earshot, I was also surprised that they’ should have caught me on what I thought was my dirty little secret – I hate making decisions. I don’t just hate it, I suck at it; I take forever deciding about the smallest things and keep worrying after the decision’s been made that it might not have been the right one. As I since discovered though, I am not alone in this – and if you recognize yourself here, you might want to read on.

According to introversion researcher Susan Cain, indecision is a typical introvert trait – quiet people take longer to decide because they consider more factors than extroverts. Thus when asked “what do I fancy eating”, an introvert might be calculating not only what they would LIKE to eat, but also things like is it healthy? how many calories does it have? how expensive is it? is it balanced with whatever other meals I’ve had today? is it for eat in or take away? was it grown organically? what will people think? will the tomato sauce splash on my shirt? etc etc. By which point their brain starts to feel dangerously close to shutdown, much like a computer with too many widows open – and they no longer have any clue what it was they wanted to have.

But this leads me to think that this indecision thing is also a tragic symptom of mind over body, of intellectual thinking over gut feeling and instinctively knowing what is good for you. As a society, we’re not really into tuning in to our inner guidance – not only are we constantly encouraged to do what we should regardless of whether we like it; but pervasive consumerism has us endlessy checking we are making the most of our choices, both in comparison to our own options and to what other people have.

The excellent Martha Beck puts this way in her book Finding your own North Star: our Social Selves have taken over our Essential Selves. In the case of perpetually indecisive people, I would add the Social Self has probably kidnapped the Essential Self, shut its mouth with sticky tape and locked away in the broom cupboard where no one can hear it scream.

How do you get over this would be the object of many posts but in the meantime, do you know where your Essential Self is? if not, why not? If you suspect it may be locked away somewhere in a far corner of your being, start listening out for its voice. It needs your help to get out.

Books that will change your life: “The Artist’s Way”

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This book is very much a classic and chances are if you are interested in self-development and creativity, you’ll have come across it already. If you haven’t read it yet, it is definitely worth a look.

The book
Published over 20 years ago, Julia Cameron‘s The Artist’s Way – A course in Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self is built like a 3 months course – 12 chapters to be read weekly complete with exercises. It is based an actual course the author used to run to help blocked artists get back in touch with their creativity.

The big idea
All of us are inherently creative, but for a number of reasons we might have become “blocked” and unable to make art. The book helps us identify and remove the barriers and fears that block our inspiration and creativity, so that they can start flowing again.

What’s great about it
Because the author has worked with so many “real life” students she will cover most of your issues and concerns, so that you feel very much guided and supported throughout the course. The great strength of the book is that it encourages you to apply its principles to your daily life through very simple, fun exercises. Do not be put off by the slightly “hippy dippy” approach – if you give yourself wholeheartedly to the process and do the exercises as indicated, you will be amazed by how quickly you progress.

Why it will change your life
This book is not only about art – it’s about daring to be yourself in all aspects of your life. The author’s gentle, holistic approach encourages you to take stock of where you are and where you want to go, and it helps you open your heart as a person so that you slowly but steadily begin not only to create art more freely, but also to start to feel happier in your own skin.

Books that will change your life: “Quiet”

P1050167 low resI first heard of this book via Susan Cain’s Ted talk, but for some reason didn’t come round to reading it until it was given to me. Good thing it was too – reading it has absolutely transformed the way I see myself and my potential in life,

The book
“Quiet – The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”, by Susan Cain. Published in 2012, it quickly became an international bestseller; it received endless praise – the Telegraph even declared it “The most important book in a decade”.

The big idea
About half of the world’s population are introverts, yet most of society (at least Western society) is geared massively towards extroverts. This often leaves introverts to feel inadequate and lacking, when really they are often brilliant thinkers and creatives. More should be done to encourage them to develop in ways that suit them, as it would benefit society as a whole.

What’s great about it
While the idea seems simplistic (which is what put me off reading it initially), it is extremely well researched and documented. Each chapter is based on solid science and numerous interviews. Cain has clearly been researching the subject for years, and as a introvert herself is extremely passionate about it. She is a great advocate for quietness and of what is special and positive about it.

Why it will change your life
If you were a nerd growing up, and learnt to hide it the hard way; if you often have to pretend to be more gregarious than you are to prevent criticism; if you don’t understand why you feel so inadequate in many everyday situations, this book was written for you.
Beyong all the psychology and sociology and research, what you will learn is that you are just great the way you are. Although you may be criticized for being too calm, chances are you are a better thinker than average. You will learn to love and embrace your unique personality to improve your career, relationships, and life in general.

The beauty within you

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Have you ever noticed how every person you know is beautiful in their own, unique way, and how somehow most of them fail to see it? I don’t mean physically beautiful, but beautiful in the way they do things, how they relate to others, their hopes, their dreams, their faults too. I find it truly heartbreaking that we can almost always see beauty in others, and so often be blinded to our own.

Specialists who are concerned about us loving ourselves – psychologists, spiritual guides – tell us that the ability to love ourselves as we are is related to the ability to love others as they are. Buddhist teachings tell us that we can only be happy if we learn to practice “loving-kindness” towards both ourselves and others: you cannot be kind to others if you are not kind to yourself; you cannot be kind to yourself if you are not kind to others. Didn’t Jesus himself command us to “love thy neighbour as thyself” – not more, not less?

Most of us know how to be kind to others, but how do you go about being kind to yourself? After all, this is not something anyone teaches you. If anything, unless you are extremely lucky, a lot of the teachings you received in your life will have focused on fixing your so-called faults and lacks, rather than praising what was already good about you.

Yet, there are simple ways to do this. We can start by talking to ourselves as gently as we would to our best friends. We can take time everyday to truly stop and listen to our peace. We can look in the mirror and learn to like what we see. In the many thoughts that constantly go through our heads, we can listen out for the voice that tells us exactly what our life needs. And little by little, we can begin to trust and follow this inner guidance – even though it often tells us to rock the boat in the most uncomfortable ways.

Equally, how do you go about showing others how beautiful they are? Encouraging and praising them is the obvious way, but what if they are unable to really hear your praise? After all, do we always trust the praise we receive? Crazy as it sounds, I for one often dismiss it as “this person clearly doesn’t know what they are talking about”.

I am no great gardener, but I often have this image that loving people is helping them to grow like a plant – providing an environment that allows them to thrive, and water them regularly so they can grow as tall and beautiful as nature intented. Perhaps creating this environment is just being there, without judging, and letting them know you are there. Perhaps it is being calm and balanced and loving towards you and others, so others around you might become calm and balanced and loving too.

Thinking of my close ones who, for reasons unknown, have a particularly hard times seeing any positives about themselves, I am also often reminded of this simple but powerful song by the The Velvet Underground & Nico. Here is a link in case you would like to hear it, and may it stay with you so you can remember it at times you ain’t feelin’ so good.

 

 

Stand up for yourself!

Most of the time, I’m an agreeable person. Like lots of girls I know, I do my best to be nice to people – helpful if they need something, patient if they get on my nerves, and accepting if they are downright pushy. I am extremely good at putting myself in other shoes, and only rarely get angry. Does that make me a very good person? I think not. Does it mean I get frustrated and taken for granted on a regular basis, and let people walk over me for the sake of avoiding an argument? Abso – freaking- lutely.

Friends have long been telling me I should stand up for myself, and until recently I mostly ignored them. First of all, it’s a well proven fact that when a conflict arises, the angrier you get, well, the angrier you get – and when was the last time anger solved anything? I don’t know about you but I actively avoid tense situations. I’ve been known to cross the street if I see stangers having a public argument. Second – and that’s where it all starts to go horribly wrong – I often assume that if people treat me in a less-than-nice way, I probably gave them a good reason to do so. Follows a bout of self-blame, profuse apologies, and a prompt accepting/ doing anything that will make the other person happy again. As my boyfriend likes to tease me “if in doubt, it’s probably your fault”.

You might well see what is wrong with this strategy, but believe it or not, it took me until now to realise that fear of conflict (or mere disapproval) is stopping me from getting what I want in life. Of course said like this, it’s stating the obvious*. But it was never obvious to me, and generally accepting other people’s opinions and well-being as superior to my own has caused me some serious sidetracking, particularly in my career.

Lack of self-confidence is usually years in the making, so overtime my standing-for-myself muscles must have become weaker than my willpower in front of chocolate. As a result I often just go with the flow, and through habit I have become somewhat dependent on other people’s approval to make decisions which I alone should be responsible for. But in all honesty, is there not a big part of me who prefers the comfort of not making decisions, to making them at the risk displeasing other people?

I feel like a ginormous arse for being this way, but it may not be all bad. Because it’s made me quite perceptive when it comes to what people want, I’m a second-to-none diplomat and negotiator (at least until someone starts shouting. Then I hide under the desk). I get praised for my calm. And more importantly, the fact that I’ve become aware of the problem means I can tackle it head on. I can start “body building” my fighting power with the lighter weights first (deciding which restaurant to go to) to increase progressively (taking a sick day at work without being half-dead) and finally one day perhaps, be a weightlifting champion (convincing my mother to be less judgemental).

So, onwards and upwards. It’s never too late to learn.

(*then again, most of us live in denial – more on this in a later post, it’s one of my favourite topics)