Falling in love by the sea

This is a tiny post to share some very exciting news.

I’m hosting my first How to Fall in Love residential weekend retreat, November 17-19, in Southbourne, Dorset. I would love you to join me if this is of interest.

More details on my new website: How to Fall in Love

It’s primarily for single women, women in relationships they’re unsure about or anyone who’s looking for some real ‘me’ time with some lovely, supportive ladies in a beautiful, nurturing environment.

Thank you!

(my shortest post ever!)

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Searching for a pot of gold

Rainbow

I went for an invigorating run along the beach this morning, one of those runs that make you feel truly alive. The wind was fierce, whipping up the sand so it cut into my legs. The sun was out. And then it rained.

As I ran, I spotted a rainbow. And then a second rainbow above it. Double rainbow! It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a spectacle. The rainbow seemed to stretch from one end of the beach to the other. If I keep running, I thought, I could get to the end of it. And when I get there, maybe I’ll find a pot of gold.

Hang on a minute, I thought again. My pot of gold is right here, right now. In this moment. On this beach, with the sand against my legs, the wind in my hair and the rain on my back. This is my pot of gold.

I’ve always had a tendency to think happiness is over there. I wonder if you can relate to that?

I’ve had this tendency ever since I was a child.

Happiness was in my best friend’s home where her mum, dad, sister and dog lived altogether in apparent blissful harmony.

Happiness was in that pair of jeans with the white stripe down the side that I desperately wanted, until I got them and didn’t like them so much and wanted something else.

Happiness was in being blonde rather than dark.

Happiness was in being called Karen rather than Katherine (in infants’ school, I actually told my teachers I’d changed my name to Karen by deed poll, only I think I called it depol at the time. My school friend Karen, in my eyes, was slimmer, prettier and more popular, with luscious hair. I wanted to be her).

Happiness was in having someone else’s life.

Happiness was in ‘O’ levels and ‘A’ levels and other achievements.

Happiness was in someone else’s opinion of me, rather than in my opinion of myself.

Happiness was on the other side of the world – until I got there and wanted to move back to the other side of the world.

Happiness was always just out of my reach.

These days, I’m better at living in the moment and finding joy in today, but there’s still work to do. Just like on the beach this morning, my first thought is often that happiness is over there.

The good thing is that I know for sure that I don’t want to live like that anymore, always dreaming of how happy I’d be if I had this or that, or looked like this or that, or lived here or there. I want to live my life, rather than some imagined life. I want today’s life, not tomorrow’s life or the life I’ll create in the future.

How about you? Where’s your pot of gold? Are you chasing a rainbow? Or can you look down at your feet or close your eyes and see your pot of gold right here, right now?

I hope so.

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Can you hear the call to change?

Awesome autumn

Nothing changes if nothing changes.

If we don’t choose to change, we’ll stay the same. Our lives will stay the same. Our dreams will pass us by.

Can you hear the call to change? Can you feel it? Can you sense it? Are you ready to respond to it?

Last Friday morning, I noticed how much my life had changed compared with six years ago. Or rather how much I had changed it.

Back in 2011, I wrote my first ever feature for The Daily Mail’s Femail pages about dating with baby goggles on. At the time, I was 40 and bemused. How had I ended up at that age and stage without a partner or children? I used to date wearing beer goggles, I wrote, but I now went out on dates wearing baby goggles. My biological clock was ticking frantically and I sized up every man I met as a potential father for my future kids. I didn’t do it deliberately. I just couldn’t help myself.

On Friday, I published another story in The Daily Mail about how I gave up my high-flying news reporting job, went to therapy, understood my self-sabotaging relationship patterns, transformed my life, fell in love, moved to the sea and got engaged. The story is here.

Writing for the Daily Mail isn’t for the faint-hearted, which is why I hadn’t done it for years. I’m a sensitive soul with a thin skin. Publishing a story in the Mail is about as visible as you can get – it’s the most read online newspaper in the world. You also have no control over the headlines or picture captions, so no matter what you write in the copy, you have to brace yourself for big, bold attention-grabbing headlines that can make you want to hide under the duvet for a few hours. The editing process is also fraught with risk – there’s little time to look over edits and there comes a point when you just have to let some of the changes go. Then there are the comments, which can be cutting. Plus there’s the disapproval of those who believe I shouldn’t be writing for a tabloid like that.

So why did I do it? Well, I feel passionately that I’ve got something important to say on the topic of love, dating and relationships and that my experience can benefit other women and men who might be struggling to understand why they can’t find love or form a healthy, committed relationship. So I went for the biggest platform with the biggest reach. I wanted to make a big splash, to be seen and heard. I wanted people to read my book, check out my new coaching website and ask me for help – because I really do want to help. I want to make a difference. A woman has also got to eat – and in order to eat, I need to sell my stories for a decent amount of money (quite rare in today’s climate where journalists are often asked to write for free).

So I knew it’d be worth it for the publicity, but more importantly, I knew I’d be able to cope with the fallout much better than before.

I knew I’d matured since the last time I wrote for the Mail, in 2012 (I also shared my eating disorder story with the world via Mail Online). I knew I’d gained some emotional maturity. I’d grown a slightly thicker skin. I also knew what to expect. I could brace myself for the headlines, take them with a pinch of salt and ignore the comments section.

But the biggest difference was that I was no longer dealing with the fallout entirely alone.

When I wrote the baby goggles piece, I was living on my own in my flat in North London. I had good friends – one of them was in touch just after midnight, offering her support as soon as the story had gone online – but I had no partner by my side. Work was the biggest thing in my life. Despite the fact I’d quit my parliamentary reporting job, work still took centre stage. So I read the story on my iPhone in the middle of the night, took the mostly unflattering comments to heart (ouch, ouch and ouch), stayed awake until the early hours unable to sleep with the stress, dashed to the shops as soon as I woke up and spent the morning raking over the words and headlines in the print version.

This time, I wrote the story from the home I share with my partner on the Dorset coast. I’ve also learned a lot about boundaries and balance over the years (the learning began following a burnout and breakdown in my full-time reporting job but it’s been gradual), so I stopped checking my phone before 10 pm, went to bed anxious but laughing about something silly with my fiancé, slept soundly, woke up around the normal time, resisted the urge to check my phone before I’d got out of bed (or rather my partner kept confiscating it, suggesting I have a cup of tea before I went online – so sensible), had breakfast and a cuppa with my friend and goddaughter who were visiting, wandered to the shops to get the paper copy, did some work and then headed to the beach in the afternoon for a swim. Yes, I was adrenalised, but I wasn’t overly stressed. And after a dip in the sea and some sunshine, I was quite relaxed, as you can see from the beach video I recorded that afternoon, here.

Another difference is that I have my full story, told in all my own words, in my book, How to Fall in Love. So no matter how my newspaper feature turned out, I knew I had my story. I could point people to the book if they wanted the full version. Having my story out there in my own words is such a dream come true, I can’t tell you. I love that book as much as I love this blog – I get to write whatever I want, unedited, uncensored, unchanged – straight from the heart. What freedom!

I never imagined I’d be using the Daily Mail as a benchmark to measure how much my life has changed but my different experiences around those two features really show me how much it has. Work is less of a focus now. I have more balance. I have love in my life. I have more fun. I’m more peaceful and relaxed. I’m more emotionally resilient. My inner oak tree is strong. I have a book out. I still take myself and my work pretty seriously, but less seriously than before. I still care too much about what people think of me, but less than before and I’m more able to defend myself or laugh at situations. I’m still ambitious but I know when to take time off.

Those two Daily Mail features, six years apart, are also relevant to my relationship. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that my now fiancé is quoted in the 2011 baby goggles piece. Back then, I had walked away from a liaison with him because I didn’t think he was right for me, for a whole host of reasons, some of which I explained in last Friday’s Mail story. I made up that he wasn’t good enough, this enough or that enough. I needed someone more A type, more alpha – a high-flying Oxbridge graduate or someone of that ilk – or so I thought. He also didn’t want kids and I was 40 and thought I did, a fair enough reason to walk away, on the surface.

Six years on, I’ve realised that his qualities are exactly what I need in my life. He’s stable, steady, loyal, kind, generous, loving, gentle and manly at the same time. He’s a solid oak. Most importantly, he’s there. There when I need him. There when I need to cry on his shoulder or when I want to go out and play on the paddle boards. There at the station when I come back from London. Unlike my dad who moved out, my partner is there. I sense he’ll always be there. It’s so reassuring.

As for motherhood, I realised I wanted to be with him more than I wanted to be a mum at the age of 43, which is when we got together properly. I still feel that way. Things might have been different with another man, but I see now I’ve always been ambivalent about children while I’ve always been sure I wanted to be in partnership and in love, and I fell for him.

My choices aren’t for everyone. I haven’t got the perfect life (who has?). My last blog, Walking Through Treacle, can attest to that. But I’ve chosen this life and most of the time, I’m very happy with it.

I made a decision, at some critical moments in my life, to change things I was unhappy with – to change myself, to change my relationships, to change my work and to change where I lived. Change is never easy but nothing changes if nothing changes.

So if you’re stuck, in love or in life, can I encourage you to change? Not all at once. Not all in one go. Not in a hurry. But do something today that your future self would thank you for. Take steps towards the life or career of your dreams. Write some words of that book, explore that country town you’d like to move to, book that yoga retreat, sign up to a dating site or leave a dating site and sign up to a dance class, a walking group or a painting course. Download a meditation app or start journaling. Because if we keep doing the same thing over and over again we’ll get the same results, but if we do things differently, we give ourselves a chance.

If I can help, give me a shout. I run a free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole. I also have some awesome autumn coaching offers (including some great-value packages of 3 or 6 one-to-one sessions – space for 3 clients only so do get in touch if of interest – and some 3-month or 6-month packages including VIP beach brainstorming days). I have a new How to Fall in Love course starting Oct 9 with weekly group coaching calls to keep you on track (6 spaces only) and a membership group of Love Ladies starting in October also. It’s all on my new website, www.howtofallinlove.co.uk. You can book a free exploratory call to see if you’d like to work with me.

Otherwise, find some support elsewhere for the changes you want to make. Another coach, a therapist, an accountability group or a supportive bunch of friends. I couldn’t have gone from being single and living alone in London to being engaged and living by the sea without the support of a therapist, mentors and friends.

Before I go, can I ask you to stop for a minute, close your eyes and listen.

Do you hear it? Do you hear a call to change? Can you sense it? If so, take note. It’s there for a reason.

And remember, nothing changes if nothing changes. So try something new and give yourself a chance.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Childless, Dating, Love, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking through treacle

treacle

Does it ever feel like you’re walking through treacle? Does it ever feel like a struggle just to put one foot in front of the other, just to complete the most basic of tasks, just to keep your spirits up enough to avoid being dragged below the surface by the dark, gloopy stuff?

This week has felt like that. Yes, this week has felt like walking through treacle, despite all the good stuff in my life. Despite being in love and engaged to be married to a wonderful man. Despite living where my heart has always wanted to live – by the sea. Despite having the opportunity to do the work I love, some if not all of the time. Despite having written and published my book, ending years of frustrating procrastination. Yes, despite all the wonderful things in my life, I have treacle-like days and weeks.

Why? I’m not sure I have an answer to that. Hormones probably play a part, although I don’t know how big of a part. I definitely feel like my monthly hormonal dip has got worse as I’ve aged, but maybe I’m just more aware of it now or maybe I feel it more because I’m not bingeing on sugar and carbs or manically exercising to try and change how I feel and make the glumness go away. But maybe this is just me. Maybe my moods go up and down more than some. Maybe it’s how I’ve always been or it’s to do with my childhood or it’s the legacy of my eating disorder and other addictive behaviours, or a combination of all of those. Maybe the why doesn’t matter. It is how it is. The question is how to live with it and how to avoid being dragged under or swallowed up.

Here are some answers to that question that I’ve discovered by trial and error over the years.

1) Don’t panic

I have a tendency to catastrophise, to imagine the worst. So when I find myself walking through treacle, I imagine it’s always going to be like this. I can’t see beyond the thick, black gloop. I fear I’m spiralling down and I’ll keep going until I hit the bottom. But that doesn’t happen, not anymore. The feelings pass. The treacle walk comes to an end. It might take a bit of time, but the feelings always shift. So it’s important to remind myself of that. It’s important not to panic. This is a phase. It will pass.

2) Cry

If the tears are there, let them out. Don’t fear them. Tears are healing. Let them flow. If you need to help them out, try doing something loving and nurturing for yourself, like sitting still in meditation, taking a bath or listening to some moving music. They might just need a nudge. Another way I nudge my tears out is by getting out in nature, especially when the weather is a bit wild. I find if I exert myself a little, jog or skip along the beach with the wind in my face and the waves crashing by my side, the tears start to come. Singing helps too. This morning I combined singing out loud with skipping along the beach in wild weather. It worked. I cried a few healing tears and I got my heart rate up, releasing some feel good hormones at the same time. Double boost.

If you can and it’ll help, find someone to cry with. This may involve prepping the person first. What do I mean by that? Well some people, especially some men, get a bit spooked when we cry with them or on them. They feel the need to fix things for us and if they don’t know how, they get all anxious. They tense up and start fumbling around for solutions. All we need to do, in my experience, is explain to them gently that we just need to cry. They don’t need to fix it for us or try to help us in anyway. They just need to listen and supply a supportive shoulder, maybe make the odd caring noise now and then. I’ve taught my partner how to do this and he now does it very well. His instinct is to say ‘don’t cry’ and to try and fix it but now he corrects himself and says, ‘let it out’ while he lets me sob into his shirt. We’ve come to an agreement. It’s working well.

3) Get out in nature

This can help with the tears, as above, but it also just helps to shift our perspective. When I’m out in nature, I open my eyes wide, I see things from a different angle and I can’t help but find a tiny bit of joy even on the most treacle-like days. Just moving my body also prompts a sense of gratitude, which I’ll come on to next. I can move. I can feel the muscles in my legs and bum working as I walk across the sand. I have working legs. I have working arms. I can swim and walk and cycle. I am so fortunate compared to many. I am breathing freely. I am well.

4) Gratitude

Gratitude platitude? Gratitude is so fashionable these days. Along with mindfulness, it’s on everyone’s lips, including mine. Do you groan when I mention gratitude? Not that old chestnut. I know. I know. Do I have to? Well no, you don’t. It’s your choice. But no matter how reluctant I am, and believe me I often am, thinking about what I’m grateful for or writing it down (it works much better if I write it down) works a bit of magic. It makes that treacle a little less thick. It’s not a miracle cure, but it is a help.

5) Do nothing or do little things

If like me, you’re a striver, someone who’s always pushing and trying and thinking and dreaming and trying some more, doing nothing might help on treacle days. Let yourself be. You’re a human being, not a human doing.

On the other hand, doing nothing might drag you down even further. That’s why I prefer to do little things, three small actions to edge me forwards in some way. This could be as simple as tiny acts of self-care – for example, 5 minutes of Pilates or colouring my hair. Or it could be something to do with my business that edges me forwards without requiring too much energy. So today, for example, I packaged up a book and sent it to a literary agent who is organising a festival next year and who’d asked for a copy. That’s quite a big action in some ways, but it didn’t require too much of me and it was quite practical so not too taxing on the creative brain. What other small actions could I take today? I could do some research on other festivals or I could spend half an hour on my finances. Small acts of self-care that edge me forwards. I am also decluttering this month of August – one item a day is my goal – so I could find an item and put it in the recycling or by the door to go to the charity shop tomorrow. The important thing for me is to draw the line after I’ve done some actions, as I have a habit of overdoing it once I’ve started. So do nothing or do little.

6) Write, if writing is your thing

As I walked along the beach this morning, pondering the treacle that I felt like I was walking through, this blog came to mind and I knew I’d feel better if I wrote. I find blogging cathartic. Blogging authentically is especially cathartic because I’m pretty sure at least one of you will relate to something in this post so it’ll connect me to you on a deep level. It may even prompt you to write back or to be more real in your own writing or communication. It also gives me a sense of purpose and reminds me I have a gift that brings me pleasure and can make a difference to others.

7) Pray, if it works for you

Pray to whatever or whomever you want but I find that surrendering my stuff to something greater than myself helps to relieve the burden a little bit. I’m not in control of everything. I can do my best, take tiny actions, keep myself afloat, but I’m not in charge. Phew. That’s a relief.

8) Don’t isolate

When we’re walking through treacle, the tendency is to isolate. We don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone. We just want to sit in our glumness. If that works for you, great. But ask yourself if it truly does. It definitely doesn’t work for me. It disconnects me from the world and from others. It makes the treacle deeper and thicker. So get out into the world and interact somehow, even if it’s just to a coffee shop or for a walk around the block, saying hello to dog walkers en route.

9) Forgive yourself

The worst thing we can do when we’re feeling glum is to beat ourselves up for feeling glum. The worst thing we can do when we’re wading through treacle is to push ourselves over so we’re covered in the stuff. Don’t beat yourself up for the dark days. They’ll pass.

10) Love yourself through it

And I mean really love yourself. Really, really love yourself. Wholeheartedly. Fully. Take amazing care of yourself. Take time off work, go to that yoga class, walk in the park, have a snooze, do whatever it takes. Ask yourself what you need today, answer honestly and then muster the courage to give yourself that, to meet your needs.

So they’re my 10 top tips, the things that work for me and help me through the treacle days or weeks. Of course, if the darkness doesn’t go away, you’ll need to take more extreme measures and get help. These tips are for those who, like me, have ups and downs, but don’t stay down.

If you’d like to comment on the above or connect, please do. I’d love to hear from you. Your comments really make a difference. Otherwise, keep walking, keep wading, keep edging forwards and looking upwards.

                                                                      *******

A short footnote. If you’d like a space to be more real, to share your treacle days, come and join my free Facebook group for women, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

If you’d like to hear me talk about falling in love and are in or near London, I’m speaking at 3 pm this Sunday August 6 at the Summer of Change festival at The Canvas Cafe in Shoreditch. Entry is very reasonable so check it out here. There are lots of great talks, workshops and social events starting today. My event is here.

If you’d like to read my book, it’s here, or you can download the first chapter for free on my website. If you’ve read my book and would be kind enough to leave me a review on Amazon, that would be amazing and would help my work going forwards. You do that by clicking on customer reviews and then clicking on ‘write a review’ next to the star rating.

Thank you x

 

Posted in Eating disorders, Happiness, Recovery, Women | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

How to build self-esteem

womanhappybeach

I have the wonderful ladies of the Mothers’ Union to thank for the inspiration for this post. I spoke at a Mothers’ Union event in Brockenhurst last week, after kindly being invited back following my first visit there a year ago. You may recall that I spoke from my heart last June, despite fearing I’d taken the wrong speech, and my vulnerability went down well. (Last year’s blog is here: Being Real.)

This time, the women, and the few men present, were as welcoming as ever, and once again I felt humbled as I listened to the amazing work they do, bringing support, love, healing and lots of delicious cake to families in need.

This time the remit of my talk was a bit more specific. Yes, I would tell my story and be as genuine as before, but they also wanted to hear about my work in schools on eating disorders, self-harm, perfectionism and stress, as well as get some tips on how to use social media to connect with and grow an audience.

As I shared my story and talked about the message I deliver to school children, I touched on my own eating disorder and the various other forms of self-harm I’d engaged in over the decades to escape from my feelings and manage anxiety, stress and fear.

My sharing prompted a specific question from a lady in the audience, which I want to address here.

What are the causes of low self-esteem?

As we know, the reasons are complex and, for many of us, the roots go deep.

One possible reason is that we didn’t grow up with a secure base, or as secure a base as we needed to feel safe (because we are all individuals with different needs and levels of sensitivity).

As a child, we have an innate need to feel safe, secure, held and supported. If we know we are fundamentally safe, we can step out into a world that, for a small person, seems quite scary. We can go into unfamiliar situations, speak to new people, push our own and others’ boundaries, safe in the knowledge that we have a secure base to return to when it all gets a bit much. When things begin to feel too unfamiliar or we have feelings we don’t know how to process, we can rush back to the safety of our parents’ or caregivers’ arms. That secure base, in our early years, is like a crutch or a safety net. If we don’t have it, we may look around us for something else to give us that sense of security we crave.

Food is an obvious crutch or source of comfort for many because it’s so accessible. It’s easily available and we can disguise our erratic eating behaviours to a certain extent (especially if, like me, you work off many of the excess calories with compulsive exercise). As we get older, we may graduate to using alcohol as a crutch, or drugs, or we may seek highs through sex (often with inappropriate people as that can increase the high). Or we may seek to escape any uncomfortable feelings by getting external validation through high achievement, success or overworking.

Basically, we want to feel OK, safe and secure and we search for this safety in all quarters. We also avoid rocking the boat or speaking our truth in case people get angry with us, which can feel very scary for someone without a secure base.

My therapist describes codependency, which is something I’ve been recovering from for years, as an addiction to security and safety at all costs. So we either stay in our comfort zone, avoiding situations that might frighten us, or we step out of our comfort zone but use unhealthy crutches like food, drink, drugs etc to shore us up and to try and simulate some sense of safety.

I did a bit of both. I stayed in my comfort zone for many years in some ways, sticking to a job I knew well and could do well, even when it no longer fulfilled me. I also avoided speaking my truth or being real in situations where doing so might invoke others’ anger. I still struggle with this. I still struggle with knowing it’s safe to be me, to say what I feel (it’s much easier to blog it than to say it!).

In other ways, I moved well out of my comfort zone, travelling the world on my own, getting myself in dangerous situations, hitchhiking along on huge highways, jumping off bridges and rocks, being bold and brave, but always with my crutches to support me (excess food, alcohol, male attention and so forth). Yes, always with my crutches.

So if we haven’t started out with a secure base, how do we recover?

Firstly, we have to try to divest ourselves of our crutches. Often we have no choice, as the crutches stop working. In my case, there came a time after many years when the pain I used to feel after overeating was greater than the pain I was trying to avoid by bingeing on sugar and carbs.

babywalkingIt’s scary to let go of a crutch.

Imagine a child starting to walk without the support of a parent, a table, a wall or a stroller to hang on to.

Wobble. Wobble. Crash. Cry. Eventually, though, that child finds balance within itself and its muscles and core grow strong enough to keep it upright.

If we let go of our crutches, we too must find a new balance and develop a strong core. I have done this over many years, through meditation, by developing a relationship with a power greater than myself (in my case, God) so that I can let go of my tight grip on everything, let go of control, surrender and find some peace, and by gradually learning to trust myself rather than lean on some false crutch.

I have become my own safety net. I can step out into the world. I can take risks, like publishing my book – a big risk for someone who traditionally craved affirmation and hated any form of criticism – or doing the work I love. I can get into a relationship and get engaged, because I know I have the inner resources and a supportive network that will help me cope with any feelings that come up, with any fear, panic, anxiety, stress or crisis.

There’s another aspect of self-esteem I’d like to talk about – the idea that children think it’s their fault.

I remember a story my therapist told me a long time ago about a family who came for therapy. This is how I remember it, which may not be exactly as he told it. The father was a drinker who used to get angry with his kids when he’d had a few too many. He especially didn’t like the sound of his son munching crisps – too loud when he was drunk or hungover. The parents split up and the father moved out. In therapy, the child asked, “Is Daddy leaving because of the way I eat my crisps?”

Children think it’s their fault.

When parents argue, split up or divorce, many children assume they’ve done something wrong to cause a row or drive a parent away. When a parent dies prematurely, some children may think there must be something truly wrong with them for their parent to leave for good.

This is especially the case if we haven’t grown up with a secure base, as explained above, and we haven’t learned to process strong feelings. It’s also especially the case if our parents or caregivers don’t have the emotional intelligence and maturity, through no fault of their own (they were parented too), to explain to the children what’s going on and reassure them it’s not their fault.

If, as a small person, we think it’s our fault, we may decide there’s something fundamentally amiss with us. We think we’re flawed. We think we’re unloveable. We think we’re not good enough.

Feeling this way, we’ll spend much of our lives trying to feel good enough, trying to prove our worth, trying to please others to win their affirmation and validation, perhaps working too hard or bending over backwards or hiding our truth.

How do we reverse this sense of being flawed? How do we counter this deep feeling of being wrong or bad? By teaching ourselves we are loveable, good, special and worthwhile. By doing lovely things for ourselves. By treating ourselves in the way we would treat a best friend or a young child who depended on us.

We give ourselves hugs, good rest and nourishment. We build a support network for ourselves – of friends, family, faith, spirituality, whatever works for us. We try to act in our best interests, to value and respect ourselves, to say Yes when we mean Yes and No when we mean No. We teach others how to treat us by the way we love and respect ourselves. We esteem ourselves by doing estimable things. We care for ourselves.

Those are just a few reasons why we, our friends, or the young people we know or care for may struggle with low self-esteem. So let’s build up our self-esteem. Let’s act in our best interests. Let’s learn to trust ourselves. Let’s be true to ourselves. Let’s speak our truth. Let’s value ourselves in work and in relationships. And let’s extend that love, care and respect to those around us.

How does this apply to our romantic lives, if we are single, dating or in a relationship we’re unsure about?

Well, you can imagine that without a secure base, you will be drawn to seek safety in the arms of others. You may crave the support and affection of a man or woman and while there’s nothing wrong with getting that support and affection, it’s the craving that’s the problem. If we are desperate, if we are looking for a rescuer, someone to make things better, make us feel safe, restore the losses from our childhoods, or take us away from all this, our judgement may be skewed. We may end up chasing men or women who aren’t good for us. We may end up ignoring our intuition and our better judgement because we’re so desperate to feel safe. We may actually end up in situations that aren’t safe because our need has blinded us to the truth.

Similarly, if we’ve always believed everything is our fault, we’ll turn a blind eye to a partner’s behaviour. We’ll accept less than we deserve. We’ll rationalise away any bad behaviour. We’ll let him off the hook. We’ll ignore that tap on the shoulder or that feeling in the gut that tells us to walk away. We’ll override our better judgement.

If we believe we’re flawed and if we don’t love and accept ourselves, we’ll also struggle to love and accept a romantic partner. We’ll pick holes. We’ll judge them. I could say a lot about how I did this but that’s for another day, or you could read my book.

So this is why creating our own secure base and understanding that we’re not fundamentally flawed, that we are loveable, are so important, in love and in life. If you didn’t get your needs met as a child, you can learn to meet them as an adult or to ask for them to be met.

You can build your self-esteem from the inside out.

So let’s do it. Let’s start today.

******

For more thoughts and support on this topic, hop over to my free Facebook group for women: Being Real, Becoming Whole. If you like what you’ve read here, you may enjoy my book: How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. I also have a How to Fall in Love course running at the moment. We began a week ago but the course runs for six weeks so there’s still time to join and catch up if you’d like to. Drop me an email (katherine@katherinebaldwin.com). If you’d like to hear me speak, I’ll be delivering a workshop on the topic of How to Fall in Love at the Festival of Change in London on August 6 at 3 pm. It would be wonderful to see you there. There’s also a dating event that same evening for any singles with a social purpose, so do sign up if you’d like to meet some like-minded people.

Thank you for reading and for your support.

Posted in Addiction, codependency, Dating, Eating disorders, Faith, Love, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Seize the day!

carpediem1I feel like I’ve written this blog before, or one very like it. I thought about going back through my previous posts to have a look, to avoid repeating myself, but I didn’t want to. I just wanted to write. So here I am.

I’ve just taken my mum up to London on the train and then across London to Euston Station on the tube. I sat her down on her train back to her home in North Wales and then headed back to Waterloo. I’m writing this on another train heading south.

I led her, sometimes by the hand, through London’s crowds, on and off the Underground and up and down stairs. She shuffled along behind me, a look of fear in her eyes, almost quivering, like a tiny animal that had just been separated from its mother. Bless her.

Watching her, I felt sad – sad that she has aged and lost the ability to do what she used to do. It wasn’t that long ago that she used to get the train from Wales to London then hop on a bus to my North London flat, then make her way back to Euston on her own a week later. Now, even by my side, even holding my hand, the crowds and the noise were too much for her.

Watching her, seeing her fear, I wanted to cry. But then I had to ask: how much of that sadness is about her and how much of it is for me, because I’m heading that way too, if I’m lucky enough to reach old age.

Yes, dear readers, there’ll be a day when everything I take for granted today will no longer be there. There’ll be a day when I won’t be able to do as I did this morning – leap out of bed, wash and hang up two loads of laundry, dye my hair, make breakfast and lunch, pick up mum’s suitcase, check train times on my phone and use an automatic ticket machine (without having to put on glasses).

There’ll be a day when I won’t be able to jog down the steps of a Tube station with a heavy bag in one hand or deftly navigate hoards of fellow travellers. There’ll be a day when I won’t be able to swim front crawl through the sea or manoeuvre my paddle board off the roof of the car (I can only just manage it now). There’ll be a day when I won’t be able to see this screen or when my brain or fingers won’t move at this speed.

I don’t think about it much. I take my ease of movement and the speed of my mind for granted. But I can’t help but think about it when I see my future reflected back to me by my increasingly frail and vulnerable mum, more scared than ever to step out of her very small comfort zone.

Nor do I spend much time thinking about who’ll lead me by the hand through the London Underground when I’m old and frail or put me on and off long-distance trains. I have no sons or daughters.

Call it denial. Call it avoidance. Or maybe it’s quite normal not to think about it much. But it seems I still have that sense that I’ll live for ever, and that my partner will live forever, and that I’ll always be able to do all this stuff that I take for granted, on my own, without a helping hand.

I still feel that way even though I have evidence that I’ve already aged. I’m not as robust as I was when I was younger, my joints already show signs of deterioration, my mind isn’t quite as sharp and my capacity to spend time among the bright lights, loud noises and hectic crowds of London is vastly diminished.

Yes, I have aged. I have changed. I just don’t want to age any more. Who does?

But there’s an upside to having these thoughts and feelings – they inspire me to make the most of these days, of my mind, of my body, of my age. They inspire me to seize the day.

And they inspire me to urge you to do the same.

So whatever it is we want out of life, let’s go for it.

I accept we can’t have absolutely everything we want. That’s life. And I find accepting that reality makes life much easier.

But there are things we want or dream of that we can have if we find a way, if we work for them, if we do our inner work and tap into our courage. I am living proof of this. So whatever it is you desire – that home by the sea, a partner to love, a book in print, a thriving business, a healthier body, an exotic holiday, a decluttered home (my challenge for the summer!), a stronger heart, whatever it is – can you go for it?

Try to stop procrastinating (I am oh so guilty of this). Don’t live in regret (I can waste time wishing I’d done things differently). Yes, mourn your losses and disappointments but move on as soon as you can. Move forward. (I’m writing this for myself as much as for you).

If it’s love or a different life you’re looking for, why not read my book or sign up to my 6-week How to Fall in Love course that starts this Monday? Or find someone else or something else to support you on your personal development journey. The key, I believe, is to recognise that we might need to do some work on ourselves in order to have what we want – and then to sit down and do that work, with whatever support works best for us.

If you want your voice heard out there in the world, if you want a blog like this or of a different sort, why not come to my blogging workshop on Tuesday if you’re near Bournemouth or sign up to my online blogging bootcamp? Or find another type of support so you can throw off the shackles, write from the heart and share your message with the world.

You don’t need me to tell you that life is short. You’ll have ageing parents of your own, or parents or other relatives who’ve passed away, or you’ll have aching joints or eyes that don’t work as well as they used to. It happens to us all.

So identify your dreams, find a way to make them happen, then go for them. Take baby steps if you need to, do your research, go and explore that place you want to move to (as one of the ladies on a previous How to Fall in Love course is doing right now), check it out, test the waters and then when you’re ready, leap.

It doesn’t have to happen overnight. It took me a few years to move to the seaside after declaring on this blog that I was leaving London. But I had my goal in sight and I made it happen. It took me many years to work through my dysfunctional relationship patterns before I was ready to fall in love, but I knew I wanted a life companion so I kept trying and failing and trying and learning and changing until I got it right. This blog is testimony to my growth as are the two guest blogs I’ve written for Gateway Women – the first in 2011 on The Power of Testimony and a blog I wrote yesterday, asking if love can heal the pain of childlessness (thanks to Jody Day for the space to share).

For many years now, I’ve been moving forward, growing, developing. I still am. I have a long way to go. But I’m committed to growth and change. I’m committed to achieving my dreams. Sometimes I need to rest. Sometimes I need to take a break. But when I’m ready, I’ll pick those dreams up again and start working towards them. I wish the same for you. You have dreamed those dreams for a reason.

One life. Create your best one. Make your miracles.

I’ll end on the quote I began the final chapter of my book with:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover” – Mark Twain

 

*****

 

If you like what you’ve read here, you may enjoy my book: How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. It’s for men and women who want to heal and transform their relationships with themselves and live fulfilling, wholehearted lives. You can download the intro and first chapter for free on my website if you’d like to try before you buy. My How to Fall in Love course begins Monday and I am planning a one-day retreat later in the summer. Check out my website for more details. You’ll also find details on my website of a blogging workshop and a blogging bootcamp if you’d like to start or develop your own blog. Finally, have a think too about joining my free Facebook community for women who are committed to living wholeheartedly: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Posted in Childless, Dating, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Self-Acceptance, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Finding love

“I’m delighted to see you so happy,” Mum said to me this morning as we sat eating our breakfast in the sunny garden. “He’s a wonderful man. And he clearly thinks the world of you. It’s so lovely to see you two together.”

How did I reply?

I cried.

Of course I did.

How could I not?

Firstly, it’s true. I am happy – incredibly happy in my relationship. In fact, sometimes I’m flabbergasted and amazed that I got here, that I created this, that we created this.

Secondly, even if I know it in my heart, I found it moving to hear Mum reflect my happiness back to me – someone who’s so close to me, someone who can tell just by the tone of my voice, the look in my eye or my general vibe whether I’m upset, angry or content. There’s no fooling Mum. She’d know if I wasn’t happy, if I was hiding something or if I’d made a bad choice but was trying to dress it up as a good one. She’s hyper-sensitive like me, highly attuned to the feelings of others, which, as you’ll know if you’re the same, can be both a blessing and a curse. So Mum knows.

Mum is also amazed at the beautiful place in which I live – the beach, the sand, the sea, the harbour, the rolling hills on the horizon, the peaceful, sunny garden. As I am too, often.

I did this. I got myself here. I followed my heart. I made some tough choices. I walked through my fears. As you can too.

Reading this, you might be thinking that life is a bed of roses. Yes, I have so much to be grateful for but when has my life ever been a bed of roses, or when I have allowed it to be?

This morning, I cried. I cried because mum is getting old, sick and forgetful and I can’t make her better. I’ve never been able to as much as I’ve wanted to, my entire life.

I cried too because sometimes I still feel like I’m battling and striving and trying too hard with my work and my life, because my heart wants even more freedom, more peace, more rest and more joy than I am able to give it at present.

But it’s OK. It’s OK to cry, to feel, to let the emotions out. It’s a good thing. They’re there anyway so I can either run away from them, hide from them, bury them or distract myself from them – or I can process them, let them flow through me and out the other side. Once I do that, once I’ve done that, I can breathe easier and smile again, as I’m doing now.

Because miracles abound. Dreams have come true. Much of my life is beyond my wildest dreams. I am in love, I live by the sea and I get to use my life experience – some of that pain, some of that grief, some of those crazy twists and turns, those dysfunctional relationships, those past breakups and all the buckets of tears – to help others. I get to counsel and coach. I get to connect to my intuition and speak from my heart to guide others towards love and a life of their dreams. What a privilege.

The fact I am doing this love and life coaching at all is a miracle. I trusted my heart. I followed my intuition. I listened to those who told me that I’m good at this, that I have a gift for this. I took a leap of faith.

Amazing.

Yes we can create the life of our dreams. Yes we can do work that we love. Yes we can share our gifts with the world. We’re allowed. We can trust ourselves. It may not come easy. There may be some setbacks along the way. But it’ll be worth it in the end.

So dear readers, right now I need a bit of help raising awareness of this wonderful work I’m doing. If you know anyone who might benefit from my experience, who might need help creating a life of their dreams, building solid foundations of self-care, self-love and self-worth and finding a loving partnership, could you send them my way? Send them to this blog, to my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole, or suggest they check out my next How to Fall in Love course, which starts this Monday.

Can I tell you a little bit about the love course? If it isn’t for you or anyone you know, feel free to skim over this bit. This blog has always been a heartfelt missive – I don’t want it to become a sales page. But I’m so passionate about this work I’m doing and I really want to share it. To quote one of the lovely ladies (I call them my Love Ladies) who’s done the course and continues to work with me, six months on, “it’s exceptional – it’s exceptional because it helps you in so many different ways besides intimacy and finding love. You pay for the title of the course, but you get so much more.”

hearttree

It’s about self-worth, self-esteem, self-love and building our inner oak tree so that we’re deeply rooted in our truth and strength and can withstand any emotional storms. It’s about knowing who we are and what we want and deserve. It’s about identifying and honouring our needs. It’s about creating a wonderful vision for our life and taking steps to follow our dreams, irrespective of our relationship status. It’s about becoming someone we really want to date, someone we would want to fall in love with – someone who loves and cherishes themselves, follows their heart and honours their deepest desires. It’s about creating boundaries so we can interact with those whom we find attractive without losing ourselves before knowing whether they’re safe or good for us. It’s about joy, freedom and fulfillment. It’s about making bold choices.

I think it’s special. And that’s all I’m going to say about it!

We all deserve love, relationship and companionship (if that’s what we want – some of us may be content being out of relationship and I fully respect that). But I know love, touch and intimacy are so vital to my wellbeing. Waking up laughing with someone, going to sleep laughing with someone, touching and being touched, comforting and being comforted, sharing life’s joys and trials. What a privilege.

You deserve a wonderful life. We all do. But sometimes that life doesn’t come to us. Sometimes we have to create it. Sometimes we have to go through the growing pains. We have to face our fears, cry some tears, bump into some obstacles and find our way around them. It may hurt a bit. We may bruise. We may feel scared. But we’ll learn and grow and develop and we’ll get there. We will get there.

That’s all from me for today. Sending love x

 

*******

 

If you’ll allow me, a bit of sales patter:

If you like what you’ve read here, you may enjoy my book: How to Fall in Love – A 10-Step Journey to the Heart. It’s for men and women who want to heal and transform their relationships with themselves and live fulfilling, wholehearted lives. You can download the intro and first chapter for free on my website if you’d like to try before you buy. My How to Fall in Love course begins Monday and I am planning a one-day retreat later in the summer. Check out my website for more details. You’ll also find details on my website of a blogging workshop and a blogging bootcamp if you’d like to start or develop your own blog.

Have a think too about joining my free Facebook community for women who are committed to living wholeheartedly: Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Thank you! x

 

 

 

 

 

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