Compromise?

A few years ago, I applied for a promotion. Long story short – I didn’t get it. It stung a bit. In reality not that much. When I spoke to my brother about it – he’s good at breaking work situations into tiny chunks and analysing them correctly, he asked me where I thought it had possibly gone wrong…

I knew. I was working part time at that time, my eldest was 3 years old and my youngest was 9 months. There was a point when someone on the panel asked me if I would work full time when I got the role. I replied no.

My brother nodded sagely and his simple assessment was this – you didn’t get the job because you didn’t want it badly enough. You weren’t prepared to give them what they wanted – all consuming commitment! He was right. He must have only been about 25 at the time. But he was right.

You see, after I had children I knew that they had to come first. Work is important and fortunately I am lucky enough to do a job I love, but whilst my children are young – they need a mother more. A functioning, happy mother, who is not bogged down with feeling that she is failing in all areas in life. So, I had to make some life choices – which was more important for me at this particular point of life? Career progression or spending time with my children – time in their most formative years, time that I would never get back? For me it was a no-brainer. Family first.

And you see, I learnt a few valuable lessons from not receiving that promotion. But the biggest lesson I learnt was that when you know what your ‘drivers’ are in life, when you know what is the most important thing, the element that drives you in life – you have so much freedom. A freedom that lifts a huge weight off your spirit. Those people who only liked and respected me because of my professional position in life, I soon discovered who they were and they quickly drifted away from me – some people I already knew were like that, others were slightly surprising. But what was great was that a lot of insincerity and toxicity was removed from my life.

Then of course, what I realised for the first time in my life, I was able to manage my time more effectively so that work time was work time – and weekends and holiday times were mine. So my decision meant that I can go on holiday and not worry about much work is still pending when I get back. Or, worse still, trying to have a wonderful time, but secretly thinking, if I wasn’t doing this – then I could have been getting on with my work. Believe me, there were times in my life that I couldn’t enjoy anything because of how much work I had to do. I can now spend time with my family at the weekends and not have a worry worm, drilling a hole in the back of my mind, reminding me of how much work I still have to do.

That’s all good and great – wonderful and fantastic…but there is one other thing I want to discuss in further detail – and it’s something that my brother spoke about in our post-interview analysis.

His words: ‘you didn’t want it badly enough, that’s why you didn’t get it. If you really wanted that role, you would have agreed to anything they said, to get it.’

I want you to think about that too – think about situations that you’ve been through in life, perhaps in your career, perhaps in a relationship where things didn’t work out. Was there a point when you were asked to do something that you just weren’t prepared to do? Perhaps you felt that it would affect your integrity? Or perhaps you thought it was disrespectful or degrading? But there does come a time when someone draws a line for you, and you have to decide – will I cross this line, or not? Sometimes it’s a decision to do with morals, other times it’s to do with one simple question. If I cross this line, for this person, or this situation – will it be worth it? Or will I regret that decision for the rest of my life, or at the very least, not feel good about myself, afterwards?

You can get advice from people, of course, everyone will have their own point of view based on their own life experiences. But the only person who can decide if anything is worth anything….is you.

The problem with many people in society is that you are expected to live according to other people’s timeframes and other people’s values. You should have completed your education by this age; found a partner by that age; bought your own place by another age, started to have children by that age; of course you should also be in a highly successful job; earning lots of money – all before the age of 35!

You only live this life once. Once. Whether you believe in reincarnation or in an afterlife elsewhere, or whether you believe there is nothing else after this… this life, we get once. So live it according to your values. Live it according to what drives you and what you hold dear. Trust your self, trust your instincts – don’t compromise on things that you know will do you more harm than good.

I will admit, that with my own children, I strive for them to work hard at school, become educated – as education will open doors and give them choices in life. I teach them to respect their bodies and respect themselves – as self-respect is the biggest gift a child can have. I want them to have a hunger and desire to succeed in life – just as my mother ensured my siblings and I did. But the rest – is up to them. I will be here to support them always – and if not me, then my blogs.

Failure is only temporary; success is all relative. What matters is that you live a life that you love. And a life that makes you happy.

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I wish…

In Hindi, there is a famous quote that people often say, “Choron ko saare nazar aate hain chor”.  Which translates to, ‘Thieves always think that other people are thieves too.”

It’s a commentary on your world view really. If you are a good person, then you will see the best in others, but the opposite is also true. If you are capable of dubious behaviour, the likelihood is that you will you suspect others of the same.

It’s not always the case, I know. Sometimes life can beat the positivity out of you, perhaps you’ve been hurt by people one too many times, and that’s it – try as hard as you might, you are no longer able to find the good in others. You build walls to keep others out and view even the good that people do, with suspicion.

The thing is, you can’t give up on people. You can’t live your life believing that there is no good in the world. It’s not a way to live. It will make your life unbearable. Granted, there are people who do not wish you any happiness. There are those who wish to see you falter and fail in endeavours. However, there are also those who are truly good and positive. Who you can share both your problems and your successes with equally, and they won’t treat you any differently.

All too often, people will not share their problems with anyone. There are so many reasons for this. Sometimes people have an image to maintain – a glossy image of success – pride will never let them share with others that anything in their life is less than perfect. Sometimes people just don’t know who they can trust. They have been bitten in the past by people who betrayed them – and that experience was enough, they can’t confide in anyone, so they internalise their troubles, keeping them tightly locked in.

We’re constantly told aren’t we? Talk to people. Don’t keep your problems to yourself. A problem shared, is a problem halved – etc, etc, etc.

However, I’m going to ask you a question. Be honest! When someone has admitted to you that they are finding a situation in their life hard…does your opinion of that person change? Do you suddenly feel that they are not as capable as you once thought? Do you feel that they are not as valuable or useful to you as you once thought?

The reason that I ask these questions is simply this – over the years, being the people watcher that I am, I have watched people receive temporary relief by confiding their troubles, and speaking to others…but then…I’ve also seen the aftermath. Those people who have admitted that they are finding life tricky – they are suddenly treated like pariahs. People want nothing to do with them. It’s almost as though admitting that you have a problem with something in life – has made you a failure.

You will disagree with me, I’m sure. Berate me even. Why the heck am I writing things like this, when it could discourage people from talking about their problems, instead of speaking out and seeking help.

I’m definitely not saying that. Honestly. I am a huge advocate of people talking about their problems, and letting that toxic stress out of their bodies. But there are some conditions. If you’re experiencing problems in your life, only confide in those who are truly genuine people. You will know who they are – they would be there for you anytime – regardless. You don’t need to impress them. There are no conditions in their love and affection for you. They are there. Always. However, not everyone has somebody like that in their life. If you do not have anyone in your life that you trust to this extent – then do not bother to speak to just any old person. Go straight to a professional. A doctor. A therapist. A counsellor.

You see, confiding in the wrong person, or people, can make things worse in the long run. Life is a strange type of line graph. We experience ups and downs in our life – and speaking to people who are not mature or wise enough to understand that – who, once you have spoken to them, you have tarred yourself with the brush of failure – instead of ridding yourself of toxicity – you are unwittingly inviting even more of it into your life.

The title of my blog is ‘I wish…’. There is a reason for this – I wish that we lived in a world where although people pay lip service to the fact that we should speak about their problems – that people were actually able to say that they were struggling without there being any judgement or negative repercussions. The fact of the matter is that any worries or problems are temporary. They will not last forever. The problems or difficulties that you may be having now, they don’t define you. You aren’t weak because you are finding life tricky. But sadly, not everyone understands this. Not everyone appreciates this.

So, my message is – speak. If life is feeling tough – speak. If something is feeling hard – speak. But speak to the right people. Life is a learning curve, so sometimes you only find the right people, by speaking to the wrong people first. But do speak.

Power

While I was living in London, I had a really good friend who was male. I absolutely adored him, and he adored me. He was gay and we shared a comfort that was rare to find between a man and woman. He was my brother, best friend, staunch defender, biggest critic all in one. What I loved about him was that he ‘got me’. He understood me. He would build me up if I was feeling sad, but wasn’t afraid to challenge me when I was wrong about things.

Once, we were out, chatting as friends do about anything and everything. As long as I had known him, I knew he was gay, but I was always curious about whether he had ever had a relationship with a woman. He divulged that he had, but it had always felt wrong. The girl he was with was lovely – but he was just ‘going through the motions’, he knew it was never going to work. So I asked him what his first gay experience was like…

He explained that whilst he was at university, he had a part time job at a bar. The bar manager was not particularly good looking, but there was something about him, and he realised quite quickly, though my friend had not ‘come out of the closet’, that he was gay. A mild flirtation began. My friend wasn’t particularly interested in his manager, but he enjoyed and took part in the flirtation all the same…

One night, the bar closed late and my friend had missed the last bus home and didn’t have enough money for a cab. His manager offered to drive him back home – which my friend gratefully accepted. When they arrived at my friend’s flat, his manager asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to invite me to your flat?’ My friend shrugged and invited him upstairs…

The next part is unpleasant. If you are sensitive, please stop reading now.

They went into the flat, and somehow my friend and his manager started kissing. Let me rephrase – the manager started kissing my friend… Let me explain, my friend was at least 6 feet tall, he was a big, strong man – but he found himself taken aback, whilst the other man, very experienced, knew exactly what he was doing, started kissing him. Before he knew it, before he could object or even really knew what was happening, his manager raped him.

My friend didn’t use the word rape. But that’s what it was.

I was horrified. My poor friend. My poor, lovely friend, who wouldn’t have hurt anyone. Who was always kind and gentle to others. Who always did whatever he could do to help, talented, bright, smart. His first experience as a gay man, was rape.

In a court of law, what would they have said? They would have scoffed in disbelief that my friend, a man who looked like a Viking, at least 6 ft tall, strong and muscular – he had been raped? He didn’t turn around and wallop the guy? He clearly wanted it, why else invite someone up to your flat? Let’s face it, even some of you reading this will be feeling the same doubts that I have just outlined.

I knew he wasn’t lying. There was no need to lie to me. I saw it in his eyes. He saw the look of horror in mine, and tried to shrug it off and change the subject – which ordinarily I wouldn’t have let him do, but in this instance respected. He followed the story up with, neither he, nor the manager ever referred to that incident ever again, and soon after my friend got a new job and moved elsewhere.

Why am I writing this blog? The week that has just past, my husband and I watched the first two episodes of the documentary about R Kelly. To be honest, we had a frank discussion and decided that we couldn’t continue watching any more of the 6 part documentary. We couldn’t take it anymore. Hearing the accounts of the young girls, who were no more than 12, 13, 14 at the time when he began preying on them – I just couldn’t listen to anymore of his monstrous behaviour. The outrage that we both felt – that a multitude of people knew that he was abusing young girls, yet did nothing – we just couldn’t stomach it.

The thing is – this type of predatory behaviour is more rife than you think. If you asked every woman you know, and some men – everyone would be able to recount an experience where they were either molested, assaulted, or escaped by the grace of God. Many, many experiences that women go through, would have been before the age of 16.

One experience that I will share with you, most of you will think that I was pathetic to even be bothered by it. When I was at secondary school, I would have to catch the bus to and from school. I never really minded it, it was absolutely fine. However, when I was 14 years old, I would dread catching the bus home. Everyday, on the 3.57pm bus, it would be the same creepy driver, who would do his best to make me feel uncomfortable. I would do my best not to look at him, but he would refuse to issue my ticket until I did. He would then smile at me, with the air that he had won, then make a pouting kissing gesture as I would walk away.

Everyday, I would feel sick to my stomach, I would try to catch the later bus, but that meant that it would be darker, fewer people would be around at the bus stop, and once I had tried that very thing – and as luck would have it, he was driving the later bus. If I was with friends, he would do it more discreetly, let his eyes linger on me for longer. He didn’t do it to them. Just me. So I felt vulnerable – my friends never saw it happen, so they didn’t really believe me. Even though he never did anything. He never said anything. The menace, the threat was there. He must have been in his 40’s. Grinning away, enjoying making a 14 year old, in school uniform, feel extremely uncomfortable. And he was successful at it, because I was terrified.

Eventually, I’d had enough. One night, my mum and her friend were talking at night, and I felt really distressed, I just didn’t know how I could solve this situation. I spoke to them and they were both outraged. My mum’s friend just said, ‘When you see him again, and if he does anything like again, you shout at him, and tell him to stop doing things like that, or you’ll tell the police. Don’t be scared of him. Don’t show you are scared – shout at him!’

She was right. Her talk made me feel empowered. Instead of being scared, and letting my fear and discomfort show, I snarled at the driver, told him to leave me alone otherwise I was telling the police. Honestly, from that day on, he didn’t dare to look at me as I paid for my ticket, he simply stared ahead, and within a few weeks, he stopped driving that particular bus at that time, as I never saw him again.

I learnt a valuable lesson. Do not let people intimidate you. There are sick people out there who enjoy and get a kick out of having power over others. I am completely aware that my bus incident is a complete non-story to many of you. But to me, it was massive. I felt helpless and frightened everyday on my journey home from school. No child should have to feel that way.

My friend, who I wrote about earlier – he was overpowered by someone who had the intention of raping him, it wasn’t about attraction, it was somebody abusing their position and taking advantage of somebody who was vulnerable. R Kelly allegedly groomed girls, made them feel like he was going to help them further their careers – and then controlled them and abused them without any consequences for years.

And although the incident that I shared was so small – it was again about power. The ability of a man to make a young girl feel frightened and visibly distressed – and enjoying it.

One thing I do want to highlight before I wrap this up, is one of the reasons that I didn’t speak to anyone earlier when I was younger was because I felt a sense of shame. He wasn’t doing it to my other friends – he was only behaving like that with me – and I felt that I would be blamed somehow, for his behaviour. We just need to be really careful with children – so many children don’t say anything about feeling uncomfortable about people or situations because their feelings are so easily dismissed, or rubbished.

The next time a child tries to tell you that they are not feeling comfortable about something, or is worried about something – please listen to them. Get them into the habit of being able to talk to you without judgement – it could be the most important thing that you do in your life – you never know what they might end up telling you. I’m glad that my mum has been there for me on more than one occasion. Be there for the ones you love.


My way!

One of the most famous, perhaps over-played, yet poignant songs in the world has to be, “My Way”, by the legendary Frank Sinatra. Whenever it’s played, wherever it’s played, you can guarantee that there will be men (of a certain age), who will grab anything in the vicinity that vaguely resembles a microphone, suddenly adopt a confident swagger, their voices drop several octaves lower than normal – and the crooning begins…

And now, the end is near
And so I face the final curtain

I’ll be observing, at first with an embarrassed smirk on my face – feeling embarrassed for the singer – not for myself. But as the lyrics start (and this happens every time), the smirk changes…and I find myself adopting an expression of thoughtfulness and sadness. The reason why this song endures and touches people even though they may have heard it over a million times – it’s because if we are lucky enough to live a full life, and live to an old age – we want to be able to look back on our existence and think, ‘Yes, I lived the life that I wanted. I did the things I wanted. I accomplished what I wanted. My life was mine and I’m proud of it.’

That’s the dream isn’t it? To live to see a ripe old age. Have your health and all your other faculties functioning properly. Grow old disgracefully. And know – you lived a life that made you happy and you were true to yourself. Looking back at the lyrics of the song – one part that really resonates with me, is this part:

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention

That is something that I try really hard to live my life by. I don’t want to live a life of regret. I refuse to look back on sections of my life and think ‘if only…’ Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t a single part of me that wants to anything crazy like bungee jump, or skydive or anything thrilling in the least. My FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) anxieties relate to people. My own father died when I was 11. From that moment on, the remaining members of my family became the most important people to me. As the years have rolled on, my family has expanded and there are more and more people that I love and care about, friends who are like family, and loving family who are there for you at a drop of a hat, whenever you need them. I don’t want to ever look back and regret not being there for the ones that I love.

But the other thing that I never want to regret is passing good thoughts onto those around me. Let me give you an example – someone is wearing something nice – I tell them. Someone is doing a good job at something. I tell them. Somebody has made tasty food. I tell them. Somebody did something kind for me. I tell them.

The thing I believe is that life at times, is so full of negativity – people so often spot what others are doing wrong. You didn’t do this…you didn’t do that….My regret would be not mentioning to someone when they are doing something right. When someone tells you that you have done something well – how does that make you feel? Imagine passing that feeling on to at least 5 people a day? Think about how much good and positivity you would be gifting to our world – that can be a tough place quite often.

Whether I’m right, or whether you think I’m wrong, that isn’t the point of today’s blog. I’m just sharing what I believe – and I hope that when my time comes, I can look back and think – hopefully I managed to do some good in my life, I hope I made others feel encouraged and good about themselves, I hope that I managed to spread some positivity in this tough world of ours.

Time

It’s funny isn’t it – time? Sometimes a second can feel like an entire lifetime, then other times, a whole decade can pass in the mere blink of an eye and you wonder where the time went.

The internet at the moment has been flooded with images of celebrities and ordinary people posting pictures with the hashtag 10 year challenge. I must admit, even I posted something on Instagram for about 20 minutes, then promptly deleted it. Obviously, I had picked photos that showed me in, what I believed, was my best light. Two photos, both taken at my husband’s birthday celebrations, ten years apart. I posted them. Felt great about myself for approximately a minute, then took them down after I’d had a think.

Why? Well, the two smiling, preened, polished versions of me that I had posted didn’t accurately reflect what had happened to me in the 10 years that have passed. Honestly, I felt like a fraud. The two photos that I had chosen were only a snapshot – two seconds of my life. I purposefully chose two pictures that made me look as though time hadn’t even passed. An insecure moment. What was I hoping people would say? Oh Anita, you look exactly the same as you did ten years ago? And I would reply with, ‘Oh, that’s so kind of you! Or, ‘Do you really think so?’ Knowing full well that out of the many, many photos taken over the years, I had deliberately chosen two pictures that made me look vaguely similar.

Sometimes, I can be a real jerk!

But, to my credit, as I said before, I took the post down. I don’t want to be a fraud. There are enough posts out there on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, in magazines, which reflect people’s own insecurities and unintentionally make others feel bad about themselves. Why was I trying to become a part of that cycle of self loathing and self destruction? So, I took it down.

I was bothered by the concept – and it was mainly women who were sucked into the challenge – why is there an expectation that you should not age? Why is there an expectation that your wrinkles, or in my eyes, those beautiful lines, that showed that you laughed, worried, loved, were angry, felt things in life – why should those be blurred and obliterated? Why is there an expectation that your body should look the same as it did when you were ten years younger? Why is that pressure put, particularly on women? No matter how much we strive for equality, no matter how much we strive for equal pay, for a stop to sexual harassment, if we are judged by how ‘Stepford Wife’ like we are at our ability to not age, how have we moved forward at all?

I am not the same person that I was ten years ago. Not in any sense. I don’t look the same. I don’t think the same things. My outlook and feelings about life are different.

In ten years time, I will not be the same person either. I will look different. I will think differently. My outlook on certain things will have changed.

I will say that there have been some beautiful images that I have seen: people with their children, ten years apart. Those images have almost stolen my breath away, and when I look closely at the parents, there is that same expression of love in their eyes and smile, as they hold their child, or children close to them. There have also been hilarious parodies of the challenge too. Variations, which included ‘the ten second challenge’ – smiling, not smiling, and the comments on those posts are hilarious.

I’m not judging anyone who has taken part and posted in the ‘ten year challenge’. I just find aspects of it problematic, that’s all. The message to take away from this blog is simply this: If you haven’t changed, if you haven’t aged, if you haven’t grown in a ten year period, what the hell is wrong with you?

And I question society that celebrates and puts the expectation on women to not age. Be smart, be successful, look muscular or skinny, and oh yes, look like you did when you were 25. Forever. Thank you. Bye.

I have always tried to be a good human being throughout all my life – that hasn’t changed in the last ten years. But I will say, that I am more patient, kinder, wiser and have the benefit of something that I did not have ten years ago….hindsight. The things that I worried about in my twenties and parts of my thirties, I don’t worry about now. You can’t stick that in a photograph to compare and contrast – but those things are true.

On a final note, sadly, my husband this morning, has gone to attend the funeral of a friend who died in his 30’s. It puts life into perspective doesn’t it? When people of your own age, or younger pass away? It doesn’t matter that you are not the same as you were ten years ago. It doesn’t matter that things are different and that life has changed. What matters is – you are alive. You are here. You are wonderful. You being in this world makes a difference. Go out! Live! Take pictures! Celebrate!


Expect more.

I don’t always like it, but quite often my Mum is right about a lot of things. She’s not particularly old, she had me when she was 19, she’s not travelled far and wide, but none of this matters. She’s one of those ladies, akin to Miss Marple, who from the comfort of her front room, can tell you precisely who is and who and what is what. Is she humble about her gift? Not a chance! Ever since I was tiny, I’d always hear about how she could correctly assess any situation and how she was always right. Growing up, it would annoy me immensely – now I accept that she has a certain talent or a gift, I just hope that it is hereditary and that I too can be equally infuriating as I get older, by always being right.

One of the things that I will always be thankful to my mother for, is that she always taught me and my siblings that if we were not happy in a situation, or if things were not going the way we wanted them to, or if we had bought something that we didn’t like – never shrug your shoulders and accept ‘that’s just the way things are’ – do something about it.

Her feeling was that in life we work so hard. Every single penny that we bring home, we have truly earned. Nothing is given to us for free. Nothing in life is free. So when you have worked hard in life, to get what you have and if something isn’t how you would like it, why accept it? If you go to a restaurant and you order a meal and the waiter brings something that you didn’t want, would you just accept it, or would you explain this isn’t what you wanted and ask for what you did want?

Sometimes it is easier to not say anything – but is that right? Do you get what you want by just sitting back and accepting things for what they are?

So, here’s a small example of my Mum’s philosophy in action. We’d had a glorious summer this year and even September was remarkably warm and pleasant. But when the weather began to change, my husband and I bought warm, padded, winter coats that zipped up at the front for our daughters. The zips are an absolute pain. They get trapped with material all the time, then you have to spend ages pulling on the zipper, untangling material, I absolutely hate them. My eldest is particularly prone to getting material trapped in her zipper no matter how careful she is. However, it was my youngest whose coat was eventually ruined because the zip actually broke. Luckily, we had another duffle coat that had belonged to my eldest, but she had grown out of it, and she started to use that. It was my Mum who saw this and asked, ‘Why isn’t she wearing her other coat?’ We explained the whole sorry story to her, expecting that to be that. But she asked, ‘Why haven’t you returned to the shop and asked for another one in her size?’ I then explained about how we hadn’t kept the receipt, we couldn’t remember when we had actually bought it, there was no point, blah, blah, blah…

‘Give the coat to me,’ Mum said, ‘I’ll speak to the shop. This coat is only a couple of months old. This shouldn’t have happened. Children’s coats shouldn’t be ruined so quickly. If you haven’t got a receipt it doesn’t matter.’

Off she drove, with the coat in tow. An hour or so later, she called me. ‘I showed them the coat, explained this shouldn’t have happened. They’ve given me a gift card with the value of the coat on it. I’ll give the gift card to you later.’

There was not a single atom in my Mum’s body that had doubted the outcome of the conversation that she was about to have with the Customer Services department of the shop. She knew what was right, she knew what she wanted and she did something about it. And it reminded me about how strong she is, how unfaltering in her views and how absolutely determined she is that things should be right. You never accept less in life.

So…taking a leaf out of her book, I returned a couple more things that I had bought for the children only a few weeks previously, I didn’t have the receipt but the goods were still for sale in the shop. I explained the situation – the shops returned the money onto gift cards and apologised for what had happened.

Reflecting upon what had happened, and reflecting over my life in general, I was grateful to God that my mother is the way she is. She is a fighter. A strong, demanding woman who knows what she wants in life, and will not take the easy, lazy option. She wants what she wants and will get it.

She taught us, and we picked it up without even realising it, that the whole world is out there – you have to know what you want out of life, and you have to ask for it. Expect it. If you don’t get what you asked for – make a fuss. Keep going, keep knocking on doors, keep trying until you get what you asked for, what you wanted for yourself.

Even though I am so much older now, I am astounded at my Mum’s confidence when facing things. When she knows she’s right – she knows she’s right (and that’s quite often), and no one will be able to stop her from getting what she needs, done.

We never stop learning. We never stop growing. And every so often, we need reminding. Expect more from life. If things are not right, in any situation in life – don’t just shrug your shoulders and accept it. Things will never change if you do that. Things will never get better. Be brave. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and ask for change – just like you would if you were brought the wrong order at a restaurant, or if the zip’s broken on a coat and you don’t have the receipt.

Anything is possible. Just ask my Mum, she’ll tell you what to do. And when it works, be prepared for her to say, ‘I told you it would work. I’m always right!’

Resolutions

It’s the start of 2019. A new year. A new start. My teachers, when I was little used to say the same things every year. A new year is like a blank notebook. A fresh start. An opportunity for you to draw a line under things that happened last year and a chance to make the future brighter and better than before.

So many of us start making resolutions.

I’m going to lose weight.

I’m going to read more.

I’m going to meet my friends more.

I’m going to…I’m going to…I’m going to…

Here’s what I think…

You’re curvy or you’ve put on a bit of holiday weight. So what? People love you the way you are. You have to learn to love yourself.

Ok, you haven’t read as much as you would have liked – it’s ok. You were doing other things. If you get the time, you will read. No need to beat yourself up about not reading.

You have been busy with life so you haven’t had the chance to meet up with friends. Guess what? They’re also in the same boat. Set a date. Go. Don’t put pressure on yourself for having to meet up frequently. It’s ok. Everyone understands.

There is so much pressure on self-improvement. Unless you’re a racist, woman hating, homophobic, animal torturing and anything else despicable – you’re a pretty wonderful human being. Stop beating yourself up. Accept that something’s you can do, other things you can’t.

If you have to make a resolution – try this one – love yourself more. Say positive things to yourself. When those thoughts begin to lurk in and like worms, begin to dig away in your brain, telling you that you’re not good enough; not pretty enough; not thin enough; not clever enough: not funny enough – take a deep breath and stop. Start telling yourself what you are good at. Start telling yourself what a difference you make to the world.

Enjoy 2019. Enjoy the adventure ahead. Start believing (if you don’t already), how absolutely brilliant you are.

NB: if you are racist, or misogynistic, or a homophobe, or cruel to animals or simple troublemaker who gets kicks out of hurting others – you do need to have a word with yourself. You need to sort your issues out. None of the above ‘feel good factor’ stuff applies to you.

The rest of you – you are brilliant. Believe it!