This week has been a challenging one – and it’s only Thursday. It’s also been a week in which I’ve felt fully alive, thanks to my ability to feel my feelings – be they pain, sadness, fear, or joy – and thanks to my wonderful, supportive, caring and fun girlfriends. I’m feeling very blessed to have so many ‘sisters’ – women who know me, care about me, don’t judge me, love me and laugh with me.
So the challenging week began with a talk I attended on Monday night by Cheryl Richardson, an author, coach and motivational speaker. I’d never heard of Cheryl, which surprises me as she’s obviously right up my street in terms of the things she talks and writes about. She gave the talk, entitled ‘Extreme Self Care’, at Alternatives, at St James’ Church, Piccadilly. If you live in London and are interested in creativity, spirituality, well-being or anything along those lines, check out Alternatives – great venue, great talks. I’ve been twice in two weeks and I imagine I’ll be going again pretty soon.
I had other plans that evening but two lovely friends were going along and I really wanted to see them. I thought the talk would be about getting enough sleep, enough exercise, enough downtime and eating well. I can never get enough of that stuff although I didn’t expect to hear anything new and I’m aware listening to talks about self-care and putting it into practice are two different things. But Cheryl didn’t talk about sleep or diet. She talked about integrity. About being true to ourselves. And, thinking about it, that is extreme self-care.
Whenever I think of integrity, I think of a circle. Does one half of my circle match the other half? Does what I say or do match who I am on the inside? Am I being true to my principles, to my values? Am I listening to and following my heart? This particularly applies to my relationships with myself and with others. I guess this is the most extreme form of self-care because if we’re not being true to ourselves, we’re not being true to others. And the result of both can be hurt and disappointment.
So my question to myself this week is: am I living with integrity? It’s a tough one that’s prompted me to do some soul-searching.
I know I let myself and others down on occasion. This is not about beating myself up but it’s about acknowledging a pattern with a view to changing it, gently. I have a bit of a habit of agreeing to do something for or with someone without really thinking whether it’s right for me or whether I’m able to do it. I then realise I’m over-committed and either go ahead as planned while feeling resentful about it or I pull out, which isn’t great for either party. In short, I often say ‘yes’ when a simple ‘no’ or ‘can I think about it and get back to you’ would suffice. This pattern of behaviour is ultimately letting myself down as I don’t feel good about myself when I promise something I can’t follow through on. And nor am I giving myself what I need if I’m constantly saying ‘yes’ when I mean ‘no’. It’s worth noting here that I’ve made a lot of progress in this area but I’d like to make more.
This behaviour, of course, is born out of fear: fear of letting others down, fear of being rejected or disliked and fear of missing out. But it also ties in to what I was blogging about in my last post: commitment and phobia. It’s always worth asking myself why I want to say ‘no’ or ‘maybe’ instead of ‘yes’. Is it really because I’m not sure or is it because I’m afraid of committing? I know my ambivalence about things – work, relationships, activities – often comes from my fear of committing to them. When we choose one thing, we have to let lots of other things go. And it’s difficult to make a confident choice when I don’t know myself very well, when I’m not taking time to listen to my heart.
So I guess the most desirable way to behave is to know myself, to listen to my heart, to speak my truth and to act with integrity. Easier said than done!
To remind myself of the importance of integrity, I’ve downloaded an App for my iPhone called ‘Tell Me Later’. It sends me a text reminder at various points in the day so I now get a text at 9:30 am that says: ‘I live with integrity. I am true to myself’. I get another one a bit later that says: ‘I am enough. I am whole and good’. And a third in the evening that says: ‘There’s nothing wrong with me’. This last one is a reminder that I’m human!
Living with integrity seems particularly relevant to relationships, and especially to romantic ones. I mentioned a couple of books in my last post and I have a few more I wanted to mention. Along with ‘He’s Scared, She’s Scared‘, I’ve also started reading ‘Boundaries in Dating‘, which has some great guidelines for people entering the dating fray. It’s written from a Christian perspective so not all of it will be relevant to everybody but I think there’s a lot of wisdom in it, irrespective of whether a reader has a faith or not. It says dating is about ‘freedom and responsibility’ – the freedom to explore whether a person is right for you or not without things being too heavy, and the responsibility to be honest and true.
I’ve also ordered Easy Does It Dating Guide (I think I should buy shares in Amazon or get a commission), which was written for people who have struggled with addictive or compulsive behaviours or codependency and who are trying to date. I’m looking forward to reading that one.
Ultimately, though, reading about life isn’t living it. I think it’s great to read up on potential patterns and pitfalls and to learn from other people’s experiences. But it’s also about trial and error – with freedom, responsibility and integrity. And it’s progress, not perfection.
I’ll wrap up with a little gem I came across the other day which reminds me to lighten up on life: All’s well that ends well. If it’s not yet well, it’s not quite the end.