When you follow your heart

ChangeI was interviewed this morning on BBC Radio Solent’s Breakfast in Dorset programme about my love coaching work, my book and my upcoming love retreat.

The interview was over in a flash. In fact, I felt a bit deflated as I left the studio. Had I managed to say anything worthwhile in such a short space of time?

But then I listened back to the recording, which host Steve Harris kindly sent me, and I heard it.

I heard it in my voice.

I heard the excitement and the passion.

I heard the authenticity.

I heard, loud and clear, that I absolutely believe in what I’m doing and in what I have to offer others in this area of love, dating and relationships.

I heard my truth.

I heard my energy and enthusiasm for this life I’ve created and this work that I do – for the joy of being able to spend my Monday morning driving through the New Forest, speaking on the radio about my love coaching and my book, then driving back to the beach for a sunny walk.

If you’d like to hear it too, click here for the radio interview.

During our brief discussion this morning, Steve and I agreed that when we’re true to ourselves and when we find happiness inside, or as much happiness as possible, love and relationship often follow. We’re more open and more attractive.

For me, moving to the seaside, committing to my creativity by writing my book, and doing my love and life design coaching – these are all acts of self-love and self-belief. They are all examples of me listening to my heart and following it. They are steps that have hugely contributed to my happiness and wellbeing. They have filled me up from the inside. They have given me purpose.

It’s not surpising, then, that my partner proposed just after I finished my book and at the end of my first How to Fall in Love course.

I had found myself. I had found my joy. I was living my dreams. I was all fired up. My light was shining bright.

And as I write this, I feel excited. I feel excited for what’s to come.

As much as I can give myself a hard time for not doing enough or achieving enough (don’t you hate that side of us that always does that?), I have come so far this year and it’s only October.

I have written and published a wonderful book, for which I’ve received some wonderful reviews, some from people I’d never met before. I’ve run a number of How to Fall in Love courses, also to lovely reviews. A small group of women have stayed working with me since doing my love course in January. January! That’s nine months. I’d have never had the courage back in January to suggest people work with me for nine months, but these special women have, and I feel so grateful for their belief and trust in me and so excited to watch their lives unfold as they go after their dreams.

I have got engaged. Big deal! Very big deal.

I’ve had my relationship story and my book featured in the Daily Mail, my love story featured in Red magazine and I’ve been on BBC Radio four times (BBC Radio Solent three times and BBC 5Live). Some more wonderful media is just around the corner.

And today I’m super excited because I’ve just launched my community of Love Ladies, a supportive space where like-minded women can evolve and grow as they create wonderful lives for themselves and move forwards on their journey to love and relationship. Plus, places on my imminent seaside retreat in November are filling up. I can’t tell you how excited I am about that. Running retreats is one of my big dreams and here I am, running a retreat! If either the community or the retreat appeals, do get in touch (katherine@katherinebaldwin.com). I’d love you to join us.

Yes, today I’m excited. I’m in a good mood. I’m upbeat.

I know I won’t feel like this everyday. It’s not in my nature and that’s not real life. But when setbacks come or when I feel downbeat, I can look back at this blog and at this year and remember that wonderful things happen when I follow my heart, stay true to myself and trust myself. Wonderful things happen when I face my fears and do it anyway. When I embrace change.

I read another quote that really spoke to me:

Don’t fear failure.

Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.

I can safely say that this October I am nowhere near where I was last October. Hurrah!

I hope you can say the same if change is something you’d like to see in your life. And if you can’t, I hope you can commit to change today, in this moment, to whatever small or big change you feel able and equipped to make.

Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.

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Faith over fear

Faith over fear.

Trust over terror.

Or trust over turmoil.

Or trust over tears.

What would it feel like to believe the world is a benevolent place? To trust that everything is working out for the best and will continue to do so? To have faith that it’ll all be OK, rather than to live in fear that it won’t?

How would it feel to let go of our tight grip? To let go of control? To stop trying to force the world to turn in the direction we want it to? To stop trying to manage every last detail of our lives so that we can stay “safe”, or at least feel safe?

How would it feel to look on the bright side rather than the dark side? To always see the glass as more than fall, rather than close to empty? How would it feel to do as we please, to break the “rules”, to feel free?

I asked myself these questions this morning as I swam in the sea, on the first day back from a 10-day holiday in Portugal. Because this morning, I made a decision to trust. To have faith. To relinquish control.

I chose to walk on the beach and swim in the sea – my way of connecting to my soul, spirit, intuition and to God – rather than sit down at my desk first thing to make up for all that time I’d been away. I chose to keep my phone off until after my swim rather than check my email first thing. I chose to believe I had time to invest in my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, even though I’d been away for 10 days, even though my holiday had finished, even though it was time to get back to work.

It wasn’t easy.

My fretful, anxious self who has a tendency to imagine disaster, catastrophe and crisis around every corner wanted to take over. She wanted to sit down to work first thing. She wanted to don her firefighter’s outfit and start putting out fires, most or all of them imagined. She wanted to take control, start micro-managing, start building a wall around herself to feel “safe”.

But I didn’t succumb to the lure of anxiety and adrenaline (a familiar and therefore comforting place for me to be, but one I’m trying to resist). I chose to try to maintain some of the peace, ease and trust I’d found on holiday.

Because this holiday taught me to trust from the very first day.

I was anxious about going away, and for 10 whole days. I was anxious about the money I’d spend and the money I wouldn’t earn over that period. I was anxious about the hole it would leave in my finances. I was anxious about letting go of work for that period. I was anxious about taking a break from promoting my book, my upcoming love retreat (more about that in a moment), my next How to Fall in Love course, my new membership community for single women who would like to be in a relationship, and my next PR workshop. I was worried about taking a 10-day break from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What would I miss? Would I be missed? (I sigh. It’s been so nice to be away from social media for that time. Such a relief.)

In short, I didn’t think I deserved a break. I didn’t think I’d earned it. I didn’t think I could afford it. I didn’t think my various businesses would survive for 10 days without me pushing and promoting and striving and trying and trying and always trying.


Sagres, Portugal

But some wonderful things happened in my work life while I was away sunbathing, surfing, paddle boarding and eating lots of Portuguese food, and it began as I got ready to leave.

I was offered a day’s PR and media consulting work, someone emailed to enquire about my PR coaching, I got paid for my Daily Mail article, I took a booking for my love retreat and one of my favourite magazines emailed to say they would be featuring my book as part of a spread on love in the next few months (which I’m terribly excited about).

So I didn’t need to push and strive and struggle and try. I didn’t need to control every last detail or micro-manage. I didn’t need to sit at my desk with my shoulders hunched and my brow furrowed, trying to work it all out, trying to find the answers, trying to make things happen.

And as I gave myself what I needed, my work took care of itself, in ways I couldn’t have imagined. Money came in. Opportunities found their way into my inbox. People put their trust in me. My books sold.

Faith over fear. Trust over terror.

Are you someone who holds on tightly to life? Who feels they need to control every tiny detail? Who can’t let go in case it all goes wrong? Are you someone who finds a feeling of safety from being in control? Are you someone who lives in fear and mistrust? Do you feel like you need to build a fortress around yourself to stay “safe” – perhaps a fortress of money or wealth, a job that’s secure but that puts your soul to sleep (I’ve been there), or a rigid routine? Do you fear change? Do you fear what will happen if you let go?

If you answer yes to these questions, I know how you feel. I know how hard it is to let go, to trust, to believe we’ll be safe if we stop trying to manage everything, to trust that things will work out OK. I also know how amazing it feels when I trust just a little bit or let go of control or release my grip just slightly and things flow.

It feels like I’m gliding through life rather than trudging through life. It feels like I’m swimming in a still sea rather than wading through treacle.

I feel lighter, more free, like I’m flying almost.


Happy on holiday

I know the world isn’t always a benevolent place. And I know we have to put in the effort to make some things happen (I had been bugging that magazine about my book for months). But it’s also good to let go sometimes, to allow ourselves moments of peace, to experience that sensation of flying. To swim rather than trudge. To relax rather than struggle. To kick back rather than strive. To smile. To trust. To have faith.

As I got back from my swim this morning, I picked up my book of daily meditative readings, The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie. I knew I’d find something in today’s reading that would speak to me and that would chime with this notion of faith and trust that had formulated on the beach. Sure enough, I found what I was looking for.

“You do not have to work so hard at protecting yourself. You can relax and enjoy life, trusting that you are safe. Go without fear, for you are wrapped in love and protection,” today’s reading said.

If you’d like to have a go at swimming rather than trudging, why not join me for my self-love by the sea retreat in Dorset on the weekend of Nov 17-19?

The decision to host this retreat has taken a lot of trust and faith but I believe in myself, in what I have to offer, in the magic I know I can create amongst a group of like-minded women, and in the power of the sea, the beach, nature, fresh air, long walks, laughter and peace to heal, to restore, to refresh, to offer a new perspective, and to reconnect us to who we were always meant to be. Do get in touch if you’re interested in joining us.

For a flavour of my approach, check out this short video recorded at The Summer of Change Festival at the Canvas Cafe in London in August, where I was leading a workshop on How to Fall in Love. Click here to watch the interview, which was aired on the British talk show, A Different Kind of Woman.

I’ll also be speaking about my book and my approach to falling in love on Talk Radio Europe at 1:25 pm today. The link is here if you’d like to listen.

So it’s my first day back at work and I have a lot to do, not least my radio interview, but it’s wonderful to begin with a swim and then a blog. It’s wonderful to invest time in connecting to myself and in writing from the heart.

Faith over fear.

Trust over terror and tears.

Posted in Faith, Fun, Happiness, Love, Positive thinking, Spirituality, Women | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

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


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


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


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