The bittersweet road of recovery

womanroadbook

Whenever I get well again after being ill, I realise just how unwell I’ve been.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now, but it surprises me every time.

When I’m ill, I don’t actually believe I’m ill, not properly anyway. I dismiss my sickness as a bad case of lethargy. And then suddenly, I recover and I’m filled with energy.

Ah, I get it, I say to myself as I bound around the room and get on with all those tasks I’ve been putting off. I really was ill!

The same goes for other forms of sickness, like being emotionally unwell.

As I become more emotionally healthy, I realise just how unhealthy I’ve been in the past.

This is a tough process.

Unlike the new lease of life we get when we bounce back from a cold, it’s hard to look back over our lives and see just how unwell we’ve been – in terms of our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with others, our romantic life, work, food, alcohol, or whatever it is.

There’s grief, a sense of loss. There’s regret.

Those feelings – or the prospect of feeling that way – can be so unpleasant that we might even be tempted to remain unwell, because we don’t want to feel the pain and regret of all those wasted years.

Something similar can happen with love and intimacy.

If we’ve been single for many years or haven’t enjoyed healthy physical and emotional intimacy for a long time, it can be bittersweet to experience love, affection and intimacy because we realise what we’ve been missing. And that hurts.

We enjoy our newfound connection, yes. We’re grateful for it. But we can also feel grief, loss and regret for the past, for what could have been, for what we’ve missed.

Why have I gone so long without experiencing touch? Why have I spent so many years closed off from love?

I often wonder wistfully how it would have been to have met and fallen in love with my now husband 20 years ago. Of course, it never would have happened. Not only was I living in Mexico and he in England, but I was engaged in all manner of crazy and addictive behaviours that most likely would have put him off, while I would have found him dull because he was too kind and not dangerous enough.

But that reality doesn’t stop me from feeling regretful that we haven’t had those extra years together.

I know I’m going to feel the same way when I finally finish the book I’m writing, which is morphing from a memoir into a semi-autobiographical novel, and then get it published by a lovely publisher who does a wonderful job with the cover and edits it beautifully (she says confidently/hopefully!). And then when I write my next novel and when I publish a book of poems (yes, I’ve been writing poems recently).

I’m going to feel such joy, because I’ll have finally given myself to a craft that I’ve been dancing around since I was a little girl. I’ll have finally trusted in my imagination, creativity and ability, rather than loitering on the fringes of creative writing, being a news journalist, a features writer or the author of self-help books (as an aside, I am so proud of and grateful for my first book!).

But I’m also going to feel such regret, because I’ll be 50 (if I take my writing seriously from today) by the time I publish my novel, or perhaps even 51 or, if I procrastinate some more, 52.

Gosh, 50.

My apologies to all my over-50 readers but that suddenly feels such a massive milestone, and quite a scary prospect. So it will have taken me nearly three decades, since I left university, to make my way back to the creative writing I’ve probably been longing to do since I was a child.

And that’s sad.

Perhaps my anxiety and fear about feeling such a huge sense of grief and loss about the wasted years actually stops me from writing, puts obstacles in my way in the form of endless distractions. Perhaps I’m too scared to go there. To arrive. To have a book published by a wonderful publisher and to tour the literary festivals of the world.

What a dream, and I’m smiling now as I write. What a treat. To be able to tour with my book, share my words, sit on stages with other wonderful writers.

Perhaps the thought that it is but a dream – an unattainable dream – stops me from writing too.

Because it would be so painful to try so hard and then to fail.

And, of course, it would be so scary to succeed – to taste success, which, for me, couldn’t exist without regret, grief and loss and which will no doubt be accompanied by fear of subsequent failure.

But are any of the above reasons not to try? Should we all give up on writing, on finding love or on healing our hearts because we’re going to encounter pain and regret on the way to our dreams?

Absolutely not.

Yes, it’s scary, and I can feel my heart flutter as I write this. Yes, it’s going to hurt.

Yes, it’ll be bitter.

But it will also be so sweet.

And so worth it.

So let’s not waste any more of our precious time, dancing around the deepest passions of our heart, or sitting on the sidelines of romance. Let’s get into the arena, as Theodore Roosevelt said and Brené Brown quoted so eloquently in her TED Talk:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

And with that, I will wrap up this blog, give it a quick read and then press publish, because in the last months, since my previous post in August, I have drafted so many blogs that I haven’t finished or shared.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

And if you’d like to send some encouragement to help me to write my novel, why not post a comment, saying that you’d like to read it.

As you’ve just heard, I need all the help I can get!

 

**** Upcoming Events & Free Resources ****

FREE webinar. Let your intuition lead you to love. Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019, 7-8 pm UK time. Click to join live or register to receive the recording.

Next How to Fall in Love small group 5-week course starts Monday Nov 11, 2019. Use the code Gratitudegift at checkout for £40 off. Click here to preview the course for free.

FREE Chapter 1 of my book, How to Fall in Love. Sign up on my website and download the first chapter: www.katherinebaldwin.com

Join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Listen to my interview on BBC Radio Solent on How to fall in love.

Posted in Creativity, Dating, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Facing our deepest fears

firewalk

I began writing this post back in May, when the feelings I describe in it were close to the surface, so close that they spilled out onto the page, or the computer screen, at great speed. But I then got waylaid, distracted by a hugely significant event and all the emotions it stirred (you can read about my wedding day here).

But the theme of this blog hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s returned, over and over again. It’s showed up in my thoughts and it’s found its way into my conversations with others.

So it’s time to finish what I started and to share it with you …

***

I have come to believe that in order to truly live and truly love, we have to face our deepest fears.

We have to walk towards those fears, walk into the flames, risk being burnt, risk being hurt (again).

We have to risk our traumas being triggered and our buttons being pressed, even though we’re scared, even though the wounded child inside us tells us we won’t survive.

Only then will we realise that we can survive the things that scare us the most. Only by facing our fears will we heal, grow stronger and become more resilient.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for everything. It would be unwise to walk into the fire before we’re ready, because if we step out too soon we might get so badly burnt that we’ll never venture out again.

That would be a terrible shame.

We need to spend time sewing together the pieces of our fire-resistant cloak first. We need to build our solid foundations. We need to look inside, process our feelings, heal our hurts as much as we can, before we are ready to face the flames.

But it’s possible to spend too long in this introspection stage and end up with analysis-paralysis.

There was a time when I thought I’d have to spend years sitting on the top of a mountain in Tibet with my legs crossed and my palms turned upwards in order to heal all my wounds, find my inner peace and become whole. Only then could I return to living, I thought.

But for me, that would be avoiding life.

Instead, once I’ve done my groundwork, once I’ve laid my foundations, it’s time to take this show on the road. It’s time to face my deepest fears and get the evidence that I can survive.

Before I go on, let’s be clear that there’s nothing nonsense about us. We make perfect sense. Our fears are born out of our experiences, or the way we interpreted certain experiences, many of which happened to us when we were young, when we lacked the resources and the processing tools to handle them.

So if we experienced rejection or abandonment in the past, it’s natural that we’re going to be terrified of feeling that pain again, and we’re going to do whatever we can to avoid it.

If we’ve been hurt or wounded in the past, we’re going to be scared of being hurt and wounded again, and we’re going to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening.

If we’ve experienced negative criticism or judgement in the past, especially when we were small and especially from the people we loved or depended upon, we’re going to do whatever we can to avoid being criticised and judged, because we remember how much it hurt.

If we’ve felt like an outsider before, separate and alone, like we didn’t belong in a group or a crowd, we’re going to do whatever we can never to feel that way again. We’re going to try to fit in, to belong, even if that means contorting ourselves, squashing ourselves into an odd shape.

The problem is that when we put all our energy, effort and time into avoiding pain, hurt, rejection, abandonment, judgement, criticism, or into fitting in, we avoid living. 

We hide away – from life, from relationships, from intimacy, from being seen, from sharing our true selves and our creativity with the world. We don’t take risks. We shut our hearts away. We shut our work and our creativity away.

By doing so, we think we’re keeping ourselves safe from hurt, safe from pain. But over time, we discover that denying ourselves the opportunity to love, to experience intimacy or to be seen for who we are is just as painful, or even more painful than the pain we’ve been trying to avoid.

We reach a tipping point – when the pain we feel because we’re avoiding life becomes greater than the pain we feel at the prospect of facing life. 

At that moment, we realise that in order to truly live, we must face our deepest fears. We must walk towards them. Walk into the flames. Walk into the fire. We might get a little bruised, a little charred perhaps, but we’ll emerge intact on the other side, pat ourselves down and realise we’re OK.

Better still, we’ll realise we’ve grown stronger.  

And then those fears won’t scare us anymore. We’ll have smashed through our biggest obstacles to a satisfying life.

Let me explain how this has worked for me.

One of my deepest fears has always been to love, to love deeply, to love wholeheartedly, to be vulnerable, to offer up my heart.

Why? Because ever since I was a little girl, I equated love with pain, hurt, loss and grief.

WeddingMeUsLovelyBut I walked into the fire. I committed myself to a man. I opened my heart to him. It took years, of to-ing and fro-ing, of moving towards him and then pulling back, but I got there in the end. I married him in June.

I faced my fear of loving and I survived. In fact, I thrived. I flourished. I came alive with love. And importantly, I healed my deepest wounds. I laid my trauma triggers on the line, offered up my buttons to be pressed, and by doing so, they had lost their hold over me.

Many of us are scared to love in case we lose again or get hurt again but sooner or later, we get to a point where the pain of not loving is greater than the pain we’re trying to avoid.

Falling in love is one example of how I’ve faced my deepest fears but this post was actually sparked by a different experience from earlier this year.

Before I describe that experience, let’s state the obvious (or at least what’s obvious to me).

I have a deep desire to be universally liked and loved. I am a people-pleaser (or a slowly recovering people-pleaser). I try to please you because if I don’t, you might be angry with me and your anger terrifies me. In fact, I think I’ll die if you’re angry with me (because I experienced anger when I was a little girl and it felt life-threatening).

I particularly want to please you with my work, because traditionally I’ve derived a huge amount of self-esteem and self-worth from my work. I especially felt valued for my work and my achievements as a child. I’m also a hard worker. I pride myself on delivering excellent work. So I want you to approve of my work, because that means you approve of me.

And finally, I want to belong. I want to feel part of. I don’t like feeling on the outside. I especially don’t like feeling that the rest of the group doesn’t like me. That’s scary.

All this is changing, of course, as I continue to grow and heal, but old habits die hard. My fears of not being liked or loved, of being judged negatively for my work and of feeling like I don’t belong still linger.

Earlier this year, I faced all those fears at the same time.

I was running a retreat and in one of the sessions, a few participants expressed displeasure with or opposition to my work. This isn’t a usual experience. I’ve run lots of retreats and received incredible feedback, but this retreat was different, a different model and a different clientele.

As a few people expressed displeasure with my work, my mind leaped to worst-case scenario: nobody likes my work, everyone thinks I’m rubbish, nobody in this room likes me, I’m under attack and I’m all alone in a group, on the outside.

This combination was my worst nightmare – a concoction of my deepest fears.

For a second, I froze. I then thought about running, about fleeing, about darting to the door. Next, I thought about throwing in the towel, dissolving into tears, giving up, saying I couldn’t carry on, confessing that I was a fraud, a fake and I’d been found out.

Fortunately, I came to my senses and responded to the perceived threat in a grown-up way. I had a quick, silent word with my terrified inner child, reassured her that she wasn’t going to die, and I got back into my functional adult. I continued with the session. I did my job, to the best of my ability.

Afterwards, in private, I had my meltdown. I shared my feelings with others who understood. I got the support I needed. I processed my childhood pain and the traumas that had been triggered. I re-parented myself. I used all my tools. I got myself back onto solid ground. (All of which is healthy behaviour, in my opinion. Vulnerability is strength. Feeling is healing.)

And, after a good night’s sleep, I emerged stronger.

I returned to the group the following day and I did what I do best – I spoke my truth. I was honest, open and vulnerable. I spoke about the fact that the day before, I had sat in that room and faced my deepest fears, experienced my worst nightmare, felt my buttons being pushed big time and felt the pain of my wounds opening up.

But I’d survived. I’d walked through the flames and I’d come out the other side. And I’d emerged stronger, empowered, emboldened, wiser and more courageous.

By facing my fears, they had become right-sized. They’d lost their power over me.

And, I told my participants, that’s the very same process some of you will need to go through in order to achieve your dreams, in order to form healthy, loving, intimate relationships, in order to be authentically you, or in order to put your creativity out into the world.

It hadn’t been planned but I had demonstrated the process that had been critical to my own journey to love and to becoming my authentic self.

Just like strengthening our muscles in the gym by bearing weight, our inner muscles grow stronger as we put them to the test. We grow in resilience as we face our worst fears and come out the other side.

Yes, it’s frightening, but it’s not so frightening that we won’t survive.

It’s also exhilarating, incredibly healing and freeing. It frees us up to move forwards with our lives, without the fears that have been weighing us down.

So what are your worst fears? What’s your worst nightmare? Are your fears holding you back from loving and living, from feeling fully fulfilled or achieving your true potential?

And are you ready to walk towards the fire?

Comment below or drop me an email at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com. I’d love to hear from you x

***

Upcoming events

Spectrum1My next retreat happens in sunny, southern Turkey this October 7-14. The Love Retreat is for you if you want to grow in self-love, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-acceptance and body-acceptance. It’s for you if you want to reset, renew, heal and grow. Please take a look at this link and then email katherine@katherinebaldwin.com if it’s of interest. Think sun, sea, turtles, yoga, meditation, healing and personal growth in amazing company!

My next online five-week How to Fall in Love course with group coaching starts September 2. Ten spaces. Click here for details. Or you can take my How to Fall in Love course now at your own pace. Click here for the self-paced course.

My book, How to Fall in Love – A Journey to the Heart, is available on Amazon.

Posted in Creativity, Love, Recovery, Women | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Just married!

TelegraphWedding3

Our wedding day.

What a day.

What a spectacular, phenomenal day.

What a momentous, miraculous milestone on my journey back to myself, on my journey to love, on my journey to the heart.

A journey that began almost two decades ago when I finally found the courage to slow down, to stop running away from my pain, to step inside and to explore my inner world.

A journey that I’ve traced on this blog, which I began as I turned 40 – back then, a single woman, somewhat lost and bemused (how on earth did I end up here, at this age and stage, with an impressive CV but no partner and no children?) – and which I write today, as a newly-wed, aged 48.

TelegraphWedding1It took so much to get here – so much time, so much effort, so much energy, so much bravery and so much help.

Thank you to all of you who’ve supported me along the way, from my blog and book readers to my friends, to my fellows, to my family, to my coaching clients and retreat attendees, and to my therapist!

Of course, the journey doesn’t end here. I have arrived at marriage, thanks to my unwavering commitment to knowing and understanding myself and to healing my past wounds.

But I still have a long way to go. I am still me, with all my struggles, fears, worries and tears.

Some of those struggles, fears, worries and tears surfaced on my wedding morning. I guess I could have predicted that my emotions would be running high that day. That’s the case for most brides but for me, there seemed to be so many layers of emotion.

I’d waited so long. I was 48. I’d worked so hard to get here. My life had turned out beautifully in so many ways, but it wasn’t the life I’d planned and it wasn’t the traditional life.

I thought I’d get married younger. I’d simply imagined I’d have children (without really understanding my ambivalence around motherhood). I’d imagined my parents would be there, watching on proudly, supporting me.

My dear dad passed away years ago and my dear mum couldn’t make my wedding in the end, because of her own deteriorating physical and emotional health.

Even as I write that now, one month on from my wedding day, tears spring to my eyes.

My mum wasn’t there.

So I guess it’s not surprising that her absence floored me for a while on my wedding morning.

Throw in stress and time pressure due to indecision, procrastination and perfectionism, my own misjudgement of the number of people I needed in my room on my wedding morning (it was chaos!), and the sudden, shocking discovery of a pulled thread right in the centre of my eye-wateringly expensive and absolutely gorgeous wedding dress and you have a recipe, right there, for emotional overload.

So I cried.

Or rather I fanned my face like crazy to stop the tears from rolling down my immaculately made-up face.

And for a moment there, just for a brief moment, I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I could get into that dress and make it outside. I didn’t think I could get married.

It was too much.

There was too much emotion.

I was overwhelmed.

My mum wasn’t there (and it wasn’t just the fact that my mum was absent – it was all the feelings of loss that her absence stirred, all the past losses and the losses to come).

I’d been short-tempered with my fabulous friends, about which I felt ashamed.

There was a pull in my dress!

The wedding march was playing outside and I was nowhere near ready.

I don’t think I can do it. I can’t do it.

And then I did it. I leant on my friends. I summoned all my strength. I put the tears away in a box. And I stepped into my wedding dress.

I’m a bride. I’m a bride!

And then this bride stepped outside, into the glorious June sunshine, under wide blue skies, on a farm deep in the Dorset countryside and suddenly, everything changed.

The stress, grief and overwhelm dissolved, whisked away by the warm breeze and replaced by excitement, glee and love.

I’m getting married. 

And then I saw my husband-to-be, stood at the bottom of the steps of the pergola, dancing to our upbeat Latin wedding march, even though he usually hates to dance in public or to be the centre of attention, and everything was right, with me, with us, with my life, with the world.

Perfect, in fact.

From that moment on, it was phenomenal, so phenomenal that I don’t even know where to start.

So I won’t.

I’ll just say that we sang and danced our hearts out. We laughed and talked. We reunited with old friends and we reminisced. We sang karaoke!

And I’ll share some photos below (courtesy of Camilla Arnhold Photography) so that you can see for yourself – the love, the joy, the fun, the miracles.

I have so much more to say about my wedding, about being married, about the fear that kicked in a few days into my honeymoon (what on earth have I done, committing myself to this man for the rest of my life?), about the emotional comedown and exhaustion afterwards, but I’ll leave it there for now, to be continued another day.

Importantly, though, before I go, I want to encourage you to open your heart, to open your heart, to open your heart (yes, I meant to type that three times).

To open your heart to love, to life, to intimacy, to relationship, to creativity, to success, to abundance.

Yes, I know you’re scared. Of course you are. I was scared too. Terrified to open my tender heart to someone, terrified to love, terrified to choose one person in case I got it wrong.

But I did it, and you can too. You can open your heart to whatever you need and want to open it too.

Do so knowing that you’re not alone. Do so knowing that I walk by your side. Do so knowing that I’m still scared. Still scared of all the challenges that remain. Still scared of deeper intimacy. Still scared to speak my truth. Still scared to ask for my needs to be met. Still scared to rise and soar and reach my true potential as a writer, speaker and coach. Still scared to run a business that requires people to trust in me and to invest in me.

I’m still scared. I still feel shame. I still carry pain.

That’s life, isn’t it? That’s how it goes.

No risk, no reward.

So let’s risk.

And let’s reap the rewards.

****

If you’d like to practise opening your heart on a wonderful Love Retreat in Turkey this October 7-14, please take a look at this link and then email katherine@katherinebaldwin.com. I have a small number of places I can offer at a £50 discount if booked by Aug 5th so please get in touch soon if you’d like to join us. It’s going to be spectacular! Sun, sea, turtles, yoga, meditation, healing, growth and an abundance of heart-opening exercises.

My next online five-week How to Fall in Love course with group coaching starts September 2. Ten spaces. Click here for details. Or you can take my How to Fall in Love course now at your own pace. Click here for the self-paced course.

My book, How to Fall in Love – A Journey to the Heart, is available on Amazon.

****

Enjoy some of my wedding highlights:

 

Posted in Childless, Happiness, Love, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ambivalence and commitment

seaThis morning, I sat outside the beach hut, looked out at the vast expanse of sea before me and cried.

I cried because I’d just had a massive adrenaline come-down after writing a deeply personal article on ambivalence about motherhood for the Guardian: I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children.

Although I’ve been doing this journalism thing for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been sharing my personal journey in the press for the last decade, it still terrifies me, especially when I only have 800 words to tell a hugely complex, nuanced story of fluctuating emotions that I struggle to make sense of myself, never mind communicate to anyone else.

I’m a vulnerable and sensitive soul with a skin that’s only just thickening after years of being paper thin. And while I crave to share my story and adore the jigsaw puzzle of writing, this level of visibility, with all its potential for criticism and judgement, is incredibly scary.

I also cried because writing that article and reading the 730 comments, plus the bundle of Facebook comments and emails I received afterwards – overwhelmingly positive, I’m thankful to say, empathetic, touching, affirming – has stirred my feelings around this topic of ambivalence and childlessness again.

At the beach today, I shed some tears for those beautiful children I will never have, that I’ll never see grow, mature, get married and have kids.

I cried joyful tears too for this wonderful life of mine, for the delicious cold of the sea water as I plunged beneath the surface, for the tingling in my body, for the brain freeze that helps to calm my ever-present anxiety, for the fact that I get to do this – swim in the sea, live near the beach, do whatever I like with my mornings, sit in the sun, hear the waves and soak up the peace.

I cried for the way sea swimming always makes me want to write. I cried for the joy of writing, for my passion for writing and for the huge possibilities ahead of me as I work through and finish my second book.

The wonderful feedback I received on yesterday’s article, and on some of my earlier blogs on this topic – Am I childless or childfree?; Ambivalence about motherhood; and the more general Ambivalence – confirms to me that I am a writer, that my writing touches people and that I deserve to give it time and space.

Thank you to those of you who have written to me, recently or in the past, with beautiful words about my beautiful words.

I cried because I’m getting married in two months and things are not how I expected them to be, especially now that my partner has been made redundant. Marrying an out-of-work 50-something was not part of my plan. Marrying at 48 wasn’t part of my plan either. But it’s our plan – a delightful, magical and challenging plan. And I love him and I’m committed to this journey we are both on, to walking side-by-side, through the rough and the smooth.

And I cried for my past, for my background, for my childhood that brought me to this wonderful, complex, nuanced, ambivalent place.

I guess this is where I’m meant to be.

Writing the Guardian piece and reading the comments also got me thinking about ambivalence on a broader level and about commitment. I wrote in my book that ambivalence runs through me like the candy swirl in a stick of Blackpool rock (here’s a link to Blackpool rock for my non-British readers). I explain why that is in some of my earlier blogs and in my book, so I won’t go into it here.

But I would like to reach out to any single people or people who are struggling in relationships because of ambivalence. And I would like to raise awareness about how damaging ambivalence can be, how it can sabotage our chances of happiness, how it can show up disguised as something else.

Ambivalence kept me single for years.

Every time I got close to a happy and healthy relationship, my ambivalence reared its ugly head, pointing out all manner of reasons why this man wasn’t right for me, finding fault with him, thinking the grass must be greener over there. I did this to my partner a number of times, leaving him to search for someone else, before returning to our relationship and committing to it.

But my ambivalence remains powerful. This weekend, it got my attention. Just two months off my wedding, it went into overdrive, finding fault with my husband-to-be. My fault-finding was driven by my fear, driven by my anxiety. As a life-long commitment-phobe, it’s not surprising that I’m incredibly anxious as I step into a life-long commitment.

I have since apologised to the beautiful, patient soul that is my partner.

If you are in the wrong relationship, if you are with someone who isn’t right for you, who can’t love you, commit to you or who won’t grow with you, then the chances are the grass is greener over there – that there is someone more suitable for you.

But if, like me, you struggle with ambivalence and indecision in other areas of your life, it is likely to be amplified when it comes to romantic relationships. And the closer you get to your dreams, to your chance of happiness, to real intimacy, to commitment, the more vocal that ambivalent voice will be.

So before you run off or wreck what you have, ask yourself if you’re afraid.

You may have to dig deep. Sometimes our fear is buried under all manner of excuses and seemingly valid reasons to walk away from a relationship. Sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re afraid.

But ask the question.

Am I scared?

Is it my fear or my instinct that’s telling me to run away?

I have a section on this ‘fear versus instinct’ question in my book. And I’ll be discussing it later this week on my Facebook page (see below). It’s a topic I’m hugely passionate about because of my own story and because I hear other people’s pain as they try and work things out.

Is it your fear or is it your instinct?

As I always say to my coaching clients and on my courses and retreats, you have your answers.

You have your own answers.

You may have to dig deep to find them. You may need support in drawing them out.

But you have your answers, if you are willing to look inside.

 

***Upcoming Events***

grassgreenerIs the grass greener? Understanding Commitment in Relationships Free Facebook Live Webinar, Thursday May 2, 1 pm. Recording available afterwards. On my Facebook business page.

If you missed my How to Find Someone to Love webinar last week (which you might have done as I forgot to post it on my blog – sorry) you can watch the recording here.

I have an amazing 5-week course starting on May 6 – How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations. It’s a small group video course for a maximum of 10 women, including 1:1 coaching and 5 group coaching calls. It’s transformative. Watch free previews here.

Free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Join me on a Love Retreat in Spain or Turkey.

Email me at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Posted in Childless, codependency, Dating, Happiness, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming out of hiding

womanhiding

Are you in hiding?

Is the real you hidden behind a cloak of shame?

Are you keeping your true self under wraps out of fear or a sense of imposter syndrome?

Many of the women who come to me for coaching say they feel like they’re in hiding – hiding in their careers, in their relationships, in their lives, hiding their true selves.

It’s frustrating and exhausting to keep hiding. And it’s depressing.

I know because I’ve been there.

I was in hiding for years, but I’m gradually coming out as the real me. This blog, which I began eight years ago, was a major stepping stone on my ‘coming out’ journey and I’ll be forever grateful for my courage to start writing it, and for all of you who’ve read it and commented on it.

And my journey continues.

Today, I posted a blog on LinkedIn called Coming Out As Me and I’d like to share it here. It’s a long one!

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It took me ages to change my LinkedIn profile to reflect my new career as a transformational coach, motivational speaker, writer and author of How to Fall in Love.

Why?

My ego got in the way, as did a cocktail of shame, fear, low self-esteem and my old friend, imposter syndrome.

Many of my LinkedIn connections knew me as a globetrotting journalist – a foreign correspondent for Bloomberg and Reuters and a political correspondent based in the UK Parliament (that would be an interesting place to be right now!).

And I figured I had your respect. They were cool jobs, with cool job titles and bags of kudos.

My ego liked the reaction I got when I told people that I flew around the world with prime ministers, went to drinks parties in Downing Street and press conferences in the White House, travelled in military planes in Afghanistan and Iraq and reported on earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.

It still does, which is why I just wrote that.

I’d done good. The little girl from the single-parent family in Liverpool had made it, via Oxbridge, into the corridors of power and onto the front pages of newspapers.

But it didn’t fix how I felt inside.

Burnout and breakdown

I burnt out and broke down in that ‘Wow’ job. I over-worked and got over-stressed, because I was always compensating for not feeling good enough.

I also got to a point where I felt soul dead. I had changed. I wanted different things. I knew I was in the wrong job, but I felt trapped and clueless as to how to get out.

My career was my identity, the thing I’d worked so hard for. And it paid the substantial mortgage on my one-bedroom London flat.

Voluntary redundancy gave me my exit from Reuters but I had no idea what to do next. I meandered for a while, using my 20+ years of experience as a professional writer, journalist and communicator to help others to craft their messages and get PR. It made perfect sense.

Only I knew the real me was still itching to get out.

The courage to be me

And then, gradually, I found the courage to be me. I found the courage:

  • To write my truth, first on my blog, then in the media and then in my book – to write about burnout, breakdown, eating disorders, loneliness, dysfunctional relationships, grief, loss and a yearning for love
  • To coach people to love themselves, change their relationship patterns, stop self-sabotaging their happiness and to find love
  • To support people to find their passion, purpose and the courage to be true to themselves and follow their hearts, rather than stay stuck in a trap of their own making
  • To speak to corporates and women’s groups about how to achieve our potential while maintaining our mental, emotional and physical health and how to be real and vulnerable at work
  • To change my own relationship patterns and fall in love (getting married in June!)

And now my life and career make perfect sense. I can combine my writing and communication skills, my natural empathy and my life experience (including the heartache and pain) to help others.

I can especially help women who are stuck, like I was eight years ago: women who’ve been climbing a career ladder for years, achieving great things but feeling empty inside, wondering what on earth they’ve been striving for, wondering why they’re alone in their plush London flats or New York apartments, wondering why they haven’t found a partner yet and if they’ll ever have kids, wondering why they feel lost or depressed.

And it makes my skin tingle to think about the difference I can make.

It really does.

So if I’m so excited about my potential, why have I been so shy on LinkedIn?

I’ve always been too worried about what others think of me. I grew up without a secure base and developed low self-esteem. I have a craving to be universally liked, loved even. And I carry a lot of shame. It goes deep.

That’s why I don’t like shouting about what I do. That’s why I’ve designed my websites myself and not believed in myself enough to invest in my business. That’s why I develop amazing programmes like my new How to Fall in Love course and struggle to jump up and down about them (OK – so I just have – and it is amazing). That’s why I’ve failed, as yet, to get my book on booksellers’ websites in the U.S. That’s why I’m still prone to under-selling myself.

But I’m healing. I’m changing. I’m growing in courage every day. I’m here. I’m doing it. I’m not just thinking about it. I’m actually taking action. I’m finally getting over myself and doing what I can to get my work out into the world.

I’m finally coming out as me.

And I have nothing to be ashamed about, because I know I apply the same determination, commitment, professionalism and thoroughness to my second career as I did to my first. I am just as ambitious, conscientious and hard-working – but I’m ambitious for my own ongoing transformation and for yours.

How you can help

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I need your help.

You can help by cheering me on, by encouraging me to be true to myself.

You can help by asking me to speak to your business or team about the power of vulnerability or about how to achieve our potential while staying healthy and well.

You can share my coaching work or my writing with any women or men who are empty, lost or lonely, who are craving meaning or love, who want to break free but who feel stuck.

And, most importantly, you can help by being true to yourself, by coming out as you, by telling your truth.

That’s the biggest gift.

Thanks for hearing me, for bearing witness to my transformation.

***Upcoming events***

How to Fall in Love Five-Week Course with Coaching, starts April 8 for 10 women.

How to Fall in Love Spain Retreat, May 11-18, Cortijo Romero, Andalucia.

Love Yourself, Love Your Body, Love Your Life Find Love, Turkey Retreat with Yoga, Oct 7-14, Spectrum. Earlybird ends Feb 28.

To download Chapter One of my book, How to Fall in Love, go to: www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Join my free Facebook Group, Being Real, Becoming Whole

Posted in Career change, Empowerment, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Lent of Love

lentofloveblog

Eight years ago, I sat on the loo at London’s Southbank Centre, glanced down at my thighs, shook my head from left to right, sighed out loud, and then made a decision.

No more, I said to myself. No more.

I’d just been attending an event highlighting the pervasiveness of eating disorders and self-harm amongst women and girls around the world and I was riled.

I was angry.

I’d had enough.

I was a few days off my 40th birthday and I realised, in that moment, that I’d spent most of my life – from my early teens until that very day – criticising myself, especially my body, my shape, my size and my appearance.

My thighs were one of my main targets. I disliked the way they touched at the top. I especially didn’t like looking at them on the loo, as sitting down made them spread out.

But I’d had it.

I was about to turn 40, for goodness sake.

This had to stop.

Was I really going to go through my 40s the same way I’d gone through my 30s, 20s, and teens – giving myself a hard time, finding fault in my body, ripping holes in myself and my looks?

I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want any more of my precious headspace to be taken up with these negative, self-harming thoughts.

Back then, in 2011, it was the eve of Lent and I decided that instead of giving up chocolate, sweets, bread or crisps, as I usually did (to try and slim down), I’d abstain from negative thinking about my body, my appearance and my achievements.

I also decided to write about my efforts everyday on a blog I called, Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self-Acceptance. You can read my Day One post from 2011 here.

(That was my very first blog, which turned into this blog, which helped me write my book – so good things can come from moments of anger and frustration.)

And here we are again.

On Day One of Lent. 2019.

Eight years on.

And I can still slip back into some of those old behaviours and thought patterns, beating myself up, giving myself a hard time, finding fault in my appearance and everything I do.

Yes, I’ve come far.

I’ve come a very long way since the days when I self-harmed with food – bingeing and starving and constantly running – with alcohol and with dysfunctional relationships that left me feeling rubbish about myself.

But I still have negative thoughts.

Of course I do. I’m human. And I’m a woman.

That’s why I’m committing myself again to abstain from negative thinking about my body, my appearance and my achievements throughout this period of Lent (and hopefully beyond), and I’m inviting you to join me.

Why is this important?

Well, I hope that’s obvious. But I’ll spell it out just in case.

Every time we run ourselves down, berate ourselves, criticise ourselves, give ourselves a hard time, poke and prod at ourselves or tut at our bodies in the mirror, we send ourselves a message that we’re not good enough, that we’re faulty, that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not valuable, that we’re not acceptable as we are.

And then that message, that belief, grows and grows and impacts our lives in so many ways. It affects our relationships, romantic and otherwise, our work lives, the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, our hopes and our dreams.

Life is hard enough as it is without this constant stream of negative thinking.

Do you agree?

If so, will you join me on this Lent of Love journey?

The goal is to become more compassionate, more self-loving and more self-accepting by forming new habits around our thinking.

I accept it’s hard to stop the first thought, but what we can do is intentionally turn our minds to something else when the negative thoughts come. We can intentionally stop the flow of negativity and self-criticism.

Here’s an extract from my Day One post back in 2011 that explains more:

“So I am challenging myself – for this period of Lent – to give up those nasty thoughts about my shape, size, form, skin tone, complexion, hair etc etc etc – that go through my head numerous times a day. This isn’t going to be easy. As I realised this morning as I showered and got dressed, self criticism is deeply ingrained in my psyche.

But the best I can do is to challenge those thoughts – so every time I’m tempted to pinch at my waist, look critically at my legs or tut or groan when I look in the mirror, I’m going to try not to. And every time I look at another woman and am tempted to think I want her figure, hair, face etc, I’m going to celebrate her beauty and also celebrate mine. I’m going to smile and say ‘Thank you God (or Universe, Mother Nature, whatever concept works for you) for creating me just as I am’.”

Self-acceptance and body acceptance are especially important for me right now because I’m shopping for a wedding dress (eek!). I’m seeing myself in long mirrors, at 47, almost 48, and observing my body, my flesh and my skin.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if I spoiled this precious gift of getting married and buying a beautiful dress with negative, nasty thoughts about the way I look?

And wouldn’t it be a shame if you spoiled this day, or the next day, or the next with similar self-critical thoughts too?

Let’s give ourselves a chance. Let’s not put ourselves down.

I hope you can join me for this Lent of Love. I’ll post again here in due course but if you’d like more regular reminders, why not join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole, or follow me on social media, on Instagram, on Twitter, or via my Facebook page.

Thanks for joining me on this self-loving journey. I need all the support I can get!

x

***Upcoming Events***

New How to Fall in Love small group course, begins early April, for 10 women with group and one-to-one coaching. Email me at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com to express your interest.

How to Fall in Love retreat at Cortijo Romero in Andalucia, Spain, May 11-18. Contact Cortijo Romero to book your room.

The Love Retreat with Yoga, Dalyan, southern Turkey, Oct 7-14. Love yourself, love your body, love your life and find love. Earlybird offer ends on the final day of March. Email me to enquire or book at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Posted in Body Image, Eating disorders, Health, Love, Perfectionism, Positive thinking, Recovery, Self-Acceptance, Women | Leave a comment

I want to be seen

meoldharry

I want to be known. I want to be seen.

I heard author and activist Glennon Doyle use these words in an interview with fellow author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame and more recently, Big Magic) a few days ago. I’d tuned in to Gilbert’s Magic Lessons podcast, which, I’m just discovering is a treasure trove of interviews with creative people, some hugely famous, some working in call centres, and a call to action to all of us to walk through our fears and create stuff.

Obviously, this is right up my street. And it’s hugely relevant to where I am today – hoping to finish and publish a second book this year, with at least two more books I want to write after that; often procrastinating and finding better things to do than sit down and write; still not entirely trusting in my creative abilities or in my identity as a writer, despite the fact that writing – even writing these words on the screen right now – brings me such joy and solace and makes me feel entirely at home.

I’m a little late to the Magic Lessons podcast party. The podcast series was recorded in 2016. I read Big Magic when it came out but I’ve only just discovered the podcast.

This is perfect timing.

Things are stirring in my inner world. I’ve been working through some painful stuff, facing my fears and letting go. There have been some dark times and lots of tears, but I welcome it all because I know I’ll come out the other side, feeling lighter, clearer, more at peace, and more able to go for my dreams.

I’m also getting married this year, in June, which feels incredibly significant – which is incredibly significant. If you’ve followed my blog over the years, you’ll know where I was when I began to write.

I was a single woman, living in London, just turning 40, unsure about what I was going to do with the rest of my life, wondering how on earth I’d got to that age and stage without meeting a partner, settling down and having a family, bemused as to why none of my relationships worked out.

Nearly eight years on, it’s a very different story. I have my own family now – a family of two, which, most of the time, I accept as absolutely enough. There are still days when I feel sad that I haven’t had kids, and angry at my past for the scars it left and for leading me down this unconventional path, but I do my best to embrace and enjoy what I have, rather than focusing on the things I don’t have.

I am incredibly grateful. Miracles have happened in my life and I know they’ll continue to happen.

So, back to where I started this post.

I want to be known. I want to be seen.

When I heard Glennon speak those words, I heard someone else speaking my truth.

I want to be known. I want to seen.

I guess I have always wanted this, ever since I was a little girl. See me. Notice me. Know me. 

From birth, we have a natural need to be seen and to be known. When we are seen, we feel soothed. When we are soothed, we feel safe. And when we feel safe, we feel secure.

But our parents sometimes are unable to see us, through no fault of their own, perhaps because their parents couldn’t see them. So we feel unseen. We are not soothed. We feel unsafe. And we feel insecure.

If we start out in life like this, we can spend the rest of our lives trying to get those unmet childhood needs met, often in unhealthy ways. We want to be seen and to be noticed so we hitch up our skirts at school and get involved with the bad guys because we feel important, popular or cool. Or we work like crazy to get good grades so our parents will see us, notice us and love us.

We often find ways to soothe ourselves to make up for the fact we didn’t feel soothed as children – we binge eat or binge drink or take drugs or numb out with sex or rubbish TV.

We try to engineer a feeling of safety by controlling everything around us, by being perfect, doing a perfect job or keeping a perfect home. We build a fortress around us – an emotional or a financial one – so that nothing bad can ever happen. And then something bad does happen, and our world view shatters before our eyes.

We hang on to dead-end or harmful relationships because being in a relationship, being next to someone, makes us feel safe, even if we know it’s bad for us. Or we stay in jobs that stifle our spirit and put our soul to sleep because we feel so shaky on the inside so we have to keep our outsides as secure as we can.

I have done many of these things and many more to get my unmet childhood needs met.

Throughout much of my career, I was striving to be seen, climbing up a career ladder until I got to a place where I was hanging out in parliament and Downing Street, mingling with prime ministers and VIPs, hoping that some of the spotlight would fall on me. I was desperate to get on TV but when I made it onto TV to talk about politics, I felt like a fraud, terrified that I’d get it wrong or be found out.

Now, a number of years in to my new career as an author, coach and speaker, I still want to be seen and to be known. That desire, that need is still there. But now I want to be seen for my authentic self. I want you to know the real me. I want to show you inside my soul. I want to share my truth and tell you my story. I want to explain to you how I feel.

Because as I do so, I get to know myself even more. I heal my feelings and make sense of my story. I also feel less alone – I feel like I belong somewhere – because you tell me that you can relate to my words, that sometimes you feel the same.

And as I share my story with you in my books and on this blog, I see myself. I acknowledge the creative child within who’s always loved to write. I let her out to play. I set her free.

I see you, Katherine. I see you.

Do you want to be seen? Do you want others to know the real you? Are you hiding your true self behind a mask or a career? Are you soothing yourself in unhealthy ways because you feel unseen or because you weren’t soothed? Are you staying stuck in a relationship or in a role because you crave safety? Are you trying to control everything around you so that you can feel more secure?

How can you see yourself? How can you acknowledge your child within?

How can you soothe yourself in healthy ways?

How can you give yourself that sense of safety and security that you crave?

Please comment below if you feel moved to.

And thank you, as always, for seeing me and for allowing me to be known and to be seen.

 

***Resources & Upcoming Events***

If you’d like to watch the webinar I recorded earlier this month, you can access the recording here: Create the Life & Love You Want in 2019. Please note there was some background noise during the second guided meditation so I re-recorded the guided meditation separately here: Guided meditation. If you’d like to use this separate recording, watch the webinar until minute 17:40 and then switch to the separate recording, resuming the webinar at minute 24:40.

Relight Your Fire: Find Your Passion & Purpose. Evening workshop, London. Jan 15.

Stop Emotional Overeating, Lose Weight for Life. Evening workshop. London. Jan 16.

Love Yourself. Love Your Body, Love Your Mind. One-day mind, body, spirit workshop in Bournemouth with yoga. Saturday, Feb 2. Five spaces left!

For How to Fall in Love and mind, body, spirit retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2019, click here. Two spaces left on the Dorset retreat!

For a free chapter of my book How to Fall in Love, sign up at www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Free Facebook group for women: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

 

 

 

Posted in Childless, Creativity, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment