Does it never feel good enough? Do you never feel like you can stop, pat yourself on the back, relax and take it easy? Is there always more to do?
Once you’ve achieved something, perhaps something you’ve been aspiring to for a really long time, do you pick holes in it, fail to congratulate yourself and quickly move on to the next thing on your list?
Welcome to my world.
I’m sad this is still the case for me, despite years of “work on myself”.
Of course, it’s much better than it was, but it’s still true. I still struggle to accept, acknowledge and reward my achievements. I can always find something to complain about, something that wasn’t good enough, something I could have done better.
I know it’s not a great way to be, but it’s an old habit, and old habits die hard.
I find it particularly difficult to wrap things up at this time of year, to down tools, to switch off the computer, to say I’ve done enough. There’s always more work to do. And once the work’s done, there’s the house to tidy and clean and the cards to write and the clothes to declutter and … I could go on and on. The list is endless.
It’s even more difficult to say enough is enough this year, because I have a busy and potentially very exciting 2018 ahead. I’m starting a new How to Fall in Love course and have my second seaside retreat, both in early January; I want to update and re-release my book in time for Valentine’s Day to include my engagement; I’m leading a workshop in London in partnership with Psychologies Magazine on Feb 12; and I’m doing a Facebook Live on Psychologies page on Feb 14. I also want to create a standalone How to Fall in Love course, so people can download it and follow it at their leisure.
So I’ve got a lot to prepare for.
But in the busyness, I forget that the magic, the real creativity, happens in the space in between. Yes, things don’t get done unless we give them the attention and energy they deserve. But we’ll end up feeling empty inside, despite all our many achievements, if we don’t allow ourselves the time and space to revel in our accomplishments, to rest and recharge, to walk on the beach or in the hills, to enjoy the company of our loved ones.
So in this moment, I’d like to ask you to pause for a moment, to catch your breath, to put down the ‘To Do’ list and to take some time to appreciate all that you’ve done this year and, more importantly, all that you are.
Who have you become this year? How have you evolved and grown? Have you challenged your fears and overcome obstacles? Have you gone through pain and heartache and come out the other side, still standing and feeling a little bit stronger? Have you been kind, generous and loving this year, to yourself and others? Have you seen wonderful things – beautiful flowers or incredible views? Have you smiled and laughed? Have you held hands with a friend, partner or relative? Have you offered support to those you knew were struggling? How have you been?
And as you celebrate the things you’ve done, can you see the deeper significance in them? This is a useful exercise for me. It really helps me appreciate how far I’ve come, rather than just reel off a list of accomplishments.
So when I celebrate the fact I ran my first How to Fall in Love course in January 2017, I can look deeper and congratulate myself for going for my dreams, for trusting myself big time, for putting my work out there in a completely different way, for believing that I had something to offer and for following through on that.
And when I celebrate the fact that I published my book this year, I can see what an extraordinary achievement that was. Not because I wrote 80,000 words in 5 weeks, learned about self-publishing and got my book out there within my deadline. But because I finally faced my fears of criticism, judgement and rejection and I finally got over my perfectionism and my sense that nothing I do is ever good enough. I dug deep. I dug really deep. I surmounted what had seemed an insurmountable obstacle before. I got out of my own way.
Recently, in conversation with a budding writer, I compared the way I wrote and published my book to an experience I had driving as a teenager. I hadn’t long passed my test and I wasn’t entirely confident behind the wheel. I was driving down my street and there were cars parked either side, with just a narrow gap in between. I approached the gap but it looked too tight, too narrow to get through. But I couldn’t turn around either. So I closed my eyes, put my foot on the accelerator and sped through that gap.
I wouldn’t advise driving with your eyes closed and I’m not sure I want to repeat that experience, but it reminds me of how I wrote my book. I closed my eyes and put my foot down on the accelerator – hard. It was the only way to get through my fear and outwit my perfectionism and constant second-guessing.
My engagement, of course, has a deeper meaning too. I’m not sure I have space here to explain its true significance. That’s why I wrote the book! But in brief, it marked the culmination of years and years of personal development, therapy and recovery from self-sabotage and dysfunctional relationship patterns. It reflected the fact that finally I’d learned to fully love and accept myself so that I could fully love and accept someone else. It was a symbol of my courage to face my fears of intimacy and commitment and of potential heartache and hurt, which is always on the cards when you love with all your heart.
It was the wounded little girl inside finally growing up and saying OK, I’m ready, I’m ready to love.
I want to cry when I write that. It took a long time. It really did take a long time. But it was so worth the journey.
There was a moment, too, this year when I found my voice in a way that I haven’t found it before. I spoke up for myself in a professional relationship. I challenged that deep core belief that says that if I’m myself, if I’m true to myself and speak my truth, something really bad will happen. Instead, I spoke my truth and something really good happened. That was a significant event. I deserve a pat on the back for that.
Other highlights include seeing my writing, my book and my thoughts featured in some prominent places – Red, The Daily Mail, Psychologies magazine and the Psychologies Life Labs blog (Breakdown to Breakthrough and Coping with Christmas without children) and finally, just before the end of the year, on Woman’s Hour, talking about ambivalence towards motherhood. Of course, I came away from that interview wishing I’d said this or that or wishing it had been longer. But can I pause for a moment and congratulate myself? I’d wanted to be on Woman’s Hour for years.
Those media appearances are a testimony to my persistence and perseverance. I have continued to email or phone, even when previous emails or phone calls have been ignored. I’ve believed in what I had to say and in the importance of sharing it with the world. I’ve challenged those inner voices that have told me that nobody wants to hear me or read me, that my stuff isn’t good enough.
I’ve fought for myself. I’ve really fought for myself, which is hugely encouraging because I can so easily give up on myself.
Finally, a few days ago, I used my voice again, to sing in a Christmas choir. That might seem an average, run-of-the-mill achievement to some, but in auditioning for that choir (scary moment – potential for huge embarrassment) and in singing out loud as part of it, I was going against the message I’d heard most of my life that I couldn’t sing. Who says I can’t sing? I love singing. I recognise I’m not the best singer in the choir but I sang with gusto, and with a big smile on my face.
So when you look back on your year and on all that you’ve done and all that you’ve been, can you see the deeper meaning? Can you see the significance? Can you see how everything that’s gone before – the good and the bad – has prepared you for today? Can you see how much you’ve grown? Can you celebrate your progress?
And how are you going to celebrate? And how am I? This came up in the final coaching call of the year with my Love Ladies community the other night. I am privileged to have been working with some of these women since January 2017, when they signed up for my first How to Fall in Love course. I feel honoured that they’ve stuck around.
On the call, I shared one of my weaknesses – doing something tangible to celebrate my achievements. And I came up with the idea of a hot stone massage so I’m promising myself, and you, that I will make time for that. I will spend the money, I’ll put the date in the diary and I’ll enjoy it. I’ll enjoy the stillness, the warmth, the touch and the peace.
But perhaps an even better way of celebrating would be to down tools, to say enough is enough, to give myself a break, to take some time off. I hope I can do that. I truly do.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous 2018.
Dates for your diary:
I’m hosting a free webinar on Thursday Jan 4 at 1 pm: Create the Life & Love You Want in 2018. This is the second part of a two-part series. If you’d like the recording from Letting Go, Moving Forwards, email firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for Jan 4.
If you’d like to find a loving relationship in 2018, I have a few rooms left on my How to Fall in Love retreat on Jan 12-14. My How to Fall in Love 6-week course kicks off again on Jan 8. And on Feb 12, I’ll be leading a workshop in London in partnership with Psychologies and NOW Live events: Fall in love with yourself, with life and with another.