I’m heading back to college soon after raising my son. I’m going from spending nearly four years bumbling about in my PJs with no deadlines, to having to get myself and a small child out of the house quickly in the morning, ride a bike to the train station (terrified after a crash 5 years ago) and get into college on time, whereupon I’ll have to actually USE MY BRAIN and get the grades I need or I’m f*cked and won’t get into uni. And that’s before thinking about UCAS and the fact I may not manage it anyway.
How can I calm my busy brain?
Thank you for your honest and incredibly relatable question. We’ve all been there in one sense or another.
My advice is to just stop in this moment with me a while.
What is it that you are most grateful for about the years you’ve spent at home with your son?
What are you excited about right now?
Why did you apply for college?
What is your vision of the future for both yourself and your family?
In other words, be present and get grateful. Both of these phrases get used so much that they have almost lost their meaning but they never fail me.
I once had an incredible counsellor who I affectionately called Dr. Phil and he taught me that our brain works by making little movies. Some of these movies are memories of things that have happened previously, and some of these movies are what we’ve created to imagine things to come. These movies, and their contents, can help us or harm us.
By the sounds of your question, you are creating a million little movies of all the things that could potentially go wrong. Accidentally, you are telling your subconscious and the universe that that is what you want. Therefore, it’s all a bit more likely to happen and we really don’t want that.
However, if you take a moment to breathe and answer the questions above you will start to create more positive movies. Your aim is to create and choose to focus on as many positive movies about your current situation and the future as possible.
What does success look like to you?
How many new friends will you make at college?
What new opportunities are you hoping to discover?
It will take a lot of effort to make that switch at the start, but like a muscle, the more you use it the more it grows.
In time, you will begin to notice how much more naturally positive your movies become and how few negative ones are creeping in. When they do, you simply change them by thinking ‘What do I want in this situation/relationship?’ rather than your old habit of ‘What should I try and avoid?’.
Your brain is an incredible magical tool so learn to harness it’s power for good.
You are wonderful. You are exactly where you are meant to be. You have everything you need.
Focus on that, and soar.
P.S You can find out more about movies and setting positive intentions here:
How do you go on about your day to day life knowing that some people hate (or dislike) you, especially if you work with them? We all like to be liked but sometimes you have to sacrifice that to get stuff done. Even the hardiest of us, although we won’t show or admit it, feel the awkwardness or sadness in knowing we’re not universally liked. I’m moving to a new team next week and I’m trying to grapple with this minefield as I know I’m going to piss a lot of people off. Some of whom I know already don’t like me!
How do you cope with not being universally liked?
I think your question is one of the most human and common dilemmas we all face, no matter what we do or where we live or our current level of success.
You could be universally liked, absolutely, but you’d have to never do, say or achieve anything at all. You’d have to just stay in your house forever, and even then, some nosy neighbour will no doubt make some comments about the fact you are a recluse.
Therefore, to be out in the world in any way at all is to be disliked to some extent. Whilst some might find this thought incredibly depressing, I find it incredibly liberating.
If someone is going to hate my guts no matter what I do, why don’t I just go all in on the things I want to achieve and that make me happy?
That being said, being disliked still hurts. Really hurts.
Therefore, over the years of being disliked in various ways by lots of different people, I’ve developed (or borrowed/begged/stolen) the following filters:
Filter 1: Are they in the arena?
The first filter I use I have stolen from the incredible Brene Brown in her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour and buy it now. In it, she uses a quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous ‘Citizenship in the Republic’ speech:
‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’
Basically, are they doing what I’m doing? Have they done it before? Are they likely to ever do it? If not, ignore them.
In the words of another quote that sticks in my brain, ‘It’s hard to take criticism from someone who doesn’t have the balls to do what I’ve done’.
Filter 2: What do they stand to gain?
A fantastic boss of mine, who understood people and how they work better than anyone I’ve ever met, once said to me, ‘What do they stand to gain from you believing that about yourself?’.
A huge amount of the criticism that we fling at others, myself included, is a more accurate reflection of something we really don’t like about our own work, lives, body, partner etc. We’d rather make someone else feel small than have to feel small ourselves.
For example, if your boss is a ‘useless waste of space’, doesn’t that make you feel better about the fact you are a bit rubbish at your job? If your ex-boyfriend is a ‘lazy low life scum bag who never deserved me’, doesn’t that make you feel a bit better about the fact he dumped you? You get the jist.
Have a little scan over their intentions and then decide if whatever sticks and stones they are throwing at you are worthy of your precious time and attention.
Filter 3: Get constructive feedback from reliable sources
If something comes up that you think has merit, such as it’s come from a number of sources, then it’s time to really consider it. Hold a magnifying glass up to your flaws. Ask people you trust, who have good intentions and will tell you the truth to lay it out for you.
Feedback can be difficult to hear but it’s a gift. We don’t always see how other people see us, and how they see us is useful for our development and growth.
Take it on board. Learn from it. Grow.
If they still don’t like you, they will at least respect that you’ve listened and put their feedback into place in some way, shape or form.
Filter 4: Boost your personal development
Lastly, I would recommend that you start to focus on your personal development. It’s a game changer. I’d recommend doing something daily and making it just another part of your routine. It could be meditation, listening to a podcast, reading a book, having a coffee with someone you admire – whatever works for you.
Understanding your purpose, what motivates you and learning about your ego and how it sabotages you will help you to put all of this stuff into perspective.
Forgiveness for instance. Kill them with kindness. Love them so hard for so long that they can’t help but like you. Love them even when they don’t deserve it. Love them especially when they don’t deserve it.
It’s not weakness, it’s strength and it has worked absolute wonders for me both personally and professionally.
Yes, some people won’t like you.
But some people will think the sun shines out of your bum.
What matters most is that you learn to like yourself.
P.S. These books are a great place to start:
I have this idea for a business I want to try out but I’m scared that I’m not ready. I keep thinking, maybe I should do a course or learn from a mentor. Or maybe I should wait until I have more savings.
How will I know when I’m ready?
You aren’t ready.
But let me let you in on a little secret: no one is.
The more jobs I do and the more responsibility I take the more I realise that no one really has an effing clue what they are doing and if they do, they are playing it safe and setting up camp in their comfort zone which I personally have no time for.
Life is risk. Life is about embracing the unknown. The only thing that’s certain is change.
Therefore, do you want to take the change you’ve chosen or the change you’ll be given?
For example, if you stay in a steady job for years and years out of fear of going for something better because you don’t know if you’ll be good enough and you get made redundant – you haven’t chosen it. It will all be everyone elses fault. You will be firmly in victim mode. ‘Isn’t life unfair? Why do bad things happen to good people?’ and so on. The decisions you are forced to make are reactive and based in fear and necessity rather than joy and love.
However, if you start a new and exciting venture now, be it a business or a new job or creative endeavour, then it’s a pro-active change that you will have chosen. I’m not saying it’s not risky and you won’t face bumps along the way, but at least you’ve gone all in and have ownership over your life and the big decisions you will have to make either way. You can choose something you really believe in and that you’re hugely passionate about, something you adore.
In the style of a brilliant poem I know:
There is no good time to start. Get started anyway.
You will never know everything you need to be successful from the outset. Believe in yourself anyway.
You won’t ever feel 100% ready. Build your dream anyway.
In the week since I’ve put this blog up, I’ve learned an absolute gold mine of information on how to blog, how to drive traffic to my blog, how to promote my blog through social media accounts etc.
As Paul Halmos said, ‘The best way to learn is to do’.
I have just started my dream job and I can’t shake the feeling that I am a fraud. I’ve worked hard to get here but I feel like at any moment, someone is going to realise that I’m not the talented qualified person that they think I am.
How can I stop feeling like a fraud at work?
One of the reasons I started this blog is because an incredibly talented young film maker I know messaged me to say that she feels like she’s drowning at work and she doesn’t know how to feel better. She said she’s doing a great job and all of her feedback has been positive, but she can’t shake the feeling that she’s getting it all wrong.
You both suffer from something called Impostor Syndrome:
‘Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. The term was coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes. Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be. An essay by a psychology professor suggests that impostor syndrome is particularly common among high-achieving women. ‘ (Thanks Wikipedia).
More than this, I would argue that women are conditioned not to be successful. Yes, I said it.
The subliminal, and sometimes very overt, messages we receive from birth are clear:
Be successful, but not too successful or you will intimidate potential partners.
Be successful, but don’t outshine your family or your friends because they won’t like it very much and you will be rejected.
Be successful, but whatever you do, don’t be bossy or cold or emotional. In other words, you have to be perfect. Always.
In her books You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life and You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, Jen Sincero talks about her greatest subconscious fear being that she didn’t want to become more successful than her parents. She talks about how becoming successful meant that she lost a lot of her closest friends. Becoming successful was difficult, and she had to choose it. Over and over again.
With all of that in mind, is it any wonder that you might feel conflicted about being successful?! That you might be finding a way to doubt or sabotage your success?
You are exactly where you are meant to be, and the only thing that needs changing is your mindset.
As Jen Sincero says, you are a badass.
Keep up the amazing work.
I want to put my creative work out there but I’m afraid. What if it sucks? What if everyone hates it? What if it impacts my future career prospects? My brain is on overdrive covering every possible negative thing that could potentially happen.
How can I feel good about putting my work out into the world?
Our oldest and deepest fear is the fear of being rejected. It’s the same fear that makes over half the population completely terrified of public speaking.
I have all of the fears and doubts that you speak of. Any sane person would. However, as Elizabeth Gilbert once said, when on the road trip of life your fears should have a voice but they should never have the driving seat (I recommend reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear immediately).
Let me put it a bit differently. To publish this blog, I had to wrangle with all of the questions you’ve faced. I too had limiting beliefs: I’m not good enough. I’m not funny enough. I’m not a writer.
We’re not unique or special in this. Doing anything creative in a public space is an act of bravery.
What made me decide to publish was a big but simple question. What do I want to have achieved by the end of my life?
Do I want to play it safe? Do I want to stay behind the curtain for fear of forgetting my lines? Do I want to never put anything out there or be creative in any way in case I’m judged or criticised for it?
Or do I want to just live? Really live. Big and loud and colourful.
I want to be able to say that I gave life 110%. That I put my all into everything. That I did all of the many things that I wanted to do – no matter how small or trivial or ridiculous they may be.
As Brene Brown says in Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, I want to be IN the arena and the only people who can judge me are those in the arena beside me. In the limelight, willing to fail but hoping to succeed.
You can keep your work hidden. I’m sure there are thousands, if not millions, of talented poets, writers, artists, journalists, painters, sculptors etc. whose work has never seen the light of day.
Paulo Coehlo, author of The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream, in a recent Super Soul Sunday podcast told Oprah his parents put him in a mental institution threes times for simply wanting to become a writer!
But your work is important. And it might be rubbish and people might laugh, but someone will really love it.
You really love it or you wouldn’t have made it in the first place.
At the end of the day, what else truly matters?
Be happy. Create.
I think my friend is making a horrible mistake and I am finding it really hard to stand by and watch. I have told her how I feel and what I think she should do but she isn’t listening.
How can I save my friend from making a horrible mistake?
I was born a fixer (or more accurately, a rescuer). I couldn’t bear to see those around me in pain and therefore I would literally move heaven and earth to stop it – often at grave personal expense.
I made a career out of it even. I could remain calm and focused in the chaos and find a solution to problems that I didn’t even know were possible.
I believed that solving others problems for them was the best solution. They avoid disaster. I feel good. Everyone’s a winner.
Then, when I was at a church delivering a training, I randomly found this scrap of paper abandoned face down on a table in the corner of the room.
It was a piece of writing, a poem even, the name or author of which I can’t remember (please let me know if you know it, it wasn’t Jesus FYI).
The poem was quite long, but the message was loud and clear. I’ve rewritten it in my own words below:
‘I have come to tell you my problem, not because I want you to fix it, but because I want you to reassure me that I can fix it. You fixing it only enforces to me that you don’t believe I’m capable of fixing it and so I move forward learning nothing and, even worse, my confidence is knocked.
I’m telling you not because I want you to save me, but because I want you to see me. I want to be known. I want to be heard.
Saving me does not save me. It only takes my power away.
Listen. Tell me that I know what to do. Be there for me through the fall out.’
Since then, I’ve stopped saving people. I thought it was empowering but it’s anything but.
Let your friend fall flat on her face and then scoop her off the floor and tell her that you love her and you’re with her no matter what.
She doesn’t need an answer. She doesn’t need a superhero. She doesn’t need a saviour.
She just needs a friend.
You are always saying that we should say no more. I totally agree but it’s really hard to say no without an excuse.
What are the top ten ways to say no?
I know exactly what you mean. We are taught that to say no to someone else we must have a legitimate and valid reason as to why we cannot carry out their request. I’m here today to say that that is absolute nonsense. You can say no just because you feel like it. You can say no for fun.
Believing that we do not have the right to say no is a belief that permeates almost everything that is wrong with modern culture. For example, women (and men) have a right to say no to anyone who feels they can touch their bodies without their permission. You can say yes, and then say no, and then say yes again. You can do whatever you like with your voice, your body and your life.
It’s really important that you know this: You can change your mind. You can say no at any time. You have the power to decide what you do and do not want.
So here is my top ten list of ways to say no:
As Sharon Rainey once said, ‘“NO” is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No.’
You don’t need a reason or an excuse to say no. It doesn’t need anything to proceed or follow it. If you want it too then just tell the truth and be honest. Say how you feel and ask for what you want.
Saying no means that you will make room in your life to say yes to something else. As Nayyirah Waheed so eloquently puts it in her life changing poetry book salt.:
might make them angry
it will make you free.
— if no one has ever told you, your freedom is more important than their anger.’
Say no to just one thing today and come back and tell me how it felt.
I hope you feel free.
I am having a really tough time at the moment. I am in an emotionally, and sometimes physically, abusive relationship. I really love him and my friends and family think he is great, but they don’t see the darker side that I have to live with. I’ve invested a lot in him and I don’t want to just walk away.
How can I save my toxic relationship?
I’m going to give you the advice I wish I’d received a while back in a tangible way that I could internalise and understand.
So here goes:
You cannot save a toxic relationship. Full stop. Point blank. Not now, not ever.
I know others will disagree with me on this but hear me out and then decide for yourself. Choose for yourself. Choose yourself.
You get one very short and precious life. Everything you do and everyone you love is a decision. You choose them. Family, friends, colleagues. Everyone.
You can continue to keep loving someone who hurts you over and over and over again.
It’s brave, it’s strong and it’s resilient no doubt. Hats off to you my love. You survived.
However, you shouldn’t have to. Under any circumstances. In any way. With anybody. Relative, lover, boss – there are no exceptions to this rule.
You have to choose to set boundaries. You have to choose to set yourself free. You have to choose love and forgiveness, not necessarily of others in this instance, but of yourself unconditionally.
You are a wondrous and wise creature put on this earth for a reason and any sucker that doesn’t get that and doesn’t want to love you as you are can quite simply run and jump.
Life is too short to not set boundaries. It’s too short to choose hurt and pain and toxicity.
I don’t mean barriers, which some people confuse for boundaries, that keep everyone out regardless. I am the Queen of barriers and therefore I know from experience that they are only ever fear based.
I mean boundaries, acceptable terms that you set for how you will give and receive love and affection. They are rooted in the belief that you are worthy of love exactly as you are. You are.
Remember the quote by Stephen Chbosky in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, ‘We accept the love we think we deserve’.
At the moment, the love you think you deserve is emotionally and physically abusive.
Let that sink in for a moment. Really sink in. Right down into the depths of your core. Is that really true for you?
There is no saving this relationship. There is only more of the same.
You only live, and love, once.
I feel like I’m ready to shake things up a bit.
If you were to give me one tip that you think could change my life right now, what would it be?
Jim Rohn once said, ‘you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with’.
What he was trying to say was that the people around us have a huge influence on what we think, say and do.
For instance, if you’ve grown up in a household where your parents are unemployed and the community you live in are mostly unemployed, chances are (and statistics show) you’ll struggle at school and remain unemployed too. There are of course anomalies, and I’ve spent my career trying to change these statistics, but they do illustrate that who we spend our time with really matters.
So, who are the five people you spend the most time with? Write them down if you have a pen and paper handy.
Do they light you up? Do they make you feel like you are capable of anything? Are they cheering you on regardless of your current circumstances? Do they choose to see the best in you no matter what?
My friend Lisa and I have a name for these people. We call them our Chicken Soup friends because they are like Chicken Soup for the soul (giving full credit to Jack Canfield and his glorious Chicken Soup For The Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit).
I only have a few friends that meet this criteria for me and I prioritise time with them over everything else. Time with them feels like an investment in myself and my future. Time with them fills me right up to the brim and makes things like this blog possible.
It’s almost like I’m not all of me if I don’t spend time with all of them. There is a vulnerability and openness and honesty to these friendships that just doesn’t exist for me on that same level anywhere else.
So my tip would be to really evaluate which five people you spend the most time with today.
Are they Chicken Soup friends, or are they zapping all of your time and energy and giving nothing back? Are they negative? Unhappy? Prejudice? Lazy? Are they beginning to make you any of those things?
If yes, make a plan to change those 5 people today. Who builds you up? Who makes you feel like you could do anything? Call them and arrange to meet. Make it a regular thing. Arrange whole weekends away together.
If you make a conscious decision to choose who you spend your time with over the next week, I know you’ll start to really see and feel results. You will start to feel more like you again and, therefore, your life will change for the better.
Give it a go and let me know how you get on. Your messages make my day.