It’s Not About You

 

Dare to be different
Dare to be different (Image via Pigtails and Pirates)

Strange things happen when you start stepping outside of your comfort zone. For the most part they are good things: increased confidence, resilience and being introduced to new and exciting activities and people. But as well as these, you may also find that people start to question what you are doing and even criticize you. And while I am the first person to encourage taking personal responsibility for yourself, I am here to tell you that more than likely, it’s not about you, it’s about them.

I’ve had a rough few weeks health-wise, culminating in an overnight stay in hospital on Monday. I am ok now, but when I was in the depth of the shit-fest I was feeling pretty angry at the world. So at a friend’s suggestion I decided to do a weeklong gratitude challenge as a way of helping me to see the positive parts of my life.

And as a way of stretching my comfort zone I decided to make it a public affair and post each of my gratitudes to Facebook. Initially I considered just writing them in my journal each day, rather than ‘exposing’ other people to my probably vomit-inducing corniness. But then I realised that the reason that I was hesitating to share it is because I was worried what people would think about me. I worried that they would criticize me for being so soppy, or for over-sharing or being ‘too emotional’. Then I decided that whether anyone did criticize me or not, what other people thought was irrelevant if I wanted to do it.

I had some feedback via a friend recently regarding my blog. Someone I knew was ‘concerned’ about my wellbeing because of what I was writing about on Cold Showers Are Good For You. At first I took the news quite personally, wondering what was ‘wrong’ with what I was writing. Then as I gave that information time to percolate I realised that firstly, if that person were really so concerned about me, they probably would have approached me directly about it rather than what is essentially gossiping about me. And secondly, I realised that their response to what I was writing about was nothing to do with me.

Something I had written had obviously triggered something in that person. Something I was writing about had made them feel uncomfortable. Just quietly, I’m taking that as a small win! I can’t control how other people react to what I write about my own experiences, because their reactions are based on their own experiences, insecurities, false beliefs and stories. All I hope is that anyone who has a reaction to my writing, either positive or negative, stops and reflects on the reason behind it. I hope that they choose to see the discomfort as an opportunity to get to know themselves better and grow from it. This is where the magic happens, in asking yourself what it is about a situation that makes you uncomfortable, and why

My message to you is this: if you have made steps to change your life and it makes other people feel uncomfortable, then that is not your problem. If you are starting to live your life in a way that is outside of the standard expectations of society then quite possibly it may make other people start to subconsciously question the way that they are living their lives. But I am here to tell you that regardless of what anyone else says about the way you live your life; it is none of their business. Assuming that what you are doing is not directly impacting the people you care about, no one except you has any right to an opinion about how you choose to live your life. So if you want to dye your hair green, get a tattoo, go and live off grid, or do an out of the ordinary job for example, then don’t let other people’s judgements hold you back.

Getting back to my gratitude challenge, was I concerned that people might think that my gratitudes are ‘corny’ or ‘over-sharing’? Initially I was, but if someone else has a reaction to me showing my gratitude for the positive parts of life, then I think that says more about them than it does about me. I no longer want to live my life based on what other people think and expect, whether their judgement is actual or in my own imagination. By caring too much about what society, or even your friends and family, think is an ‘acceptable’ or ‘realistic’ way to live, speak or behave, you are limiting your potential for living your best life. And it’s the only one you get – so make the most of it, now.

Have you experienced negative feedback from someone about how you are living your life? If so, I encourage you to understand that that person is going through their own journey and to have some compassion for what struggles they may be personally dealing with. But most importantly, if you are living your life according to your highest values, then remember – it’s not about you, it’s about them.

Your time is precious and I am grateful that you chose to read all the way to the bottom.

Jane xx

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Vulnerability 101

IMG_0075I do this thing. Whenever I meet people for the first time I have this act that I put on. It’s sort of hard to explain, but I have this weird way of talking and I hesitate giving my opinion, mainly because I’m wondering what it is that the person wants to hear. It’s safe to say that in those moments I am anything but my authentic self. Sometimes I hear myself talking and I think to myself “Who IS this person?” Sometimes I can snap myself out of it, but often the more I want to impress someone the more I do it. The thing is, it’s like trying to sell someone a diamond by showing them a piece of glass – seriously, no one is convinced!

You may have read my previous post about going to Gwinganna. When I booked it I thought that the only comfort zone challenge I was going to have was shelling out the cash. Yeah baby, I thought, it’s all foot massages and sunning myself by the pool from here on. Umm, yeah, about that….

A few days into the Gwinganna experience they announced that one of the activities that morning was ‘Tribal’. I’d heard from a lot of the returning guests that Tribal was one of the best activities of the retreat, and it involved dancing, so I was sold pretty early on. So naively I headed over to the Pavilion where Tribal was being held. I chatted to everyone, thankfully less painfully than the girl in the first paragraph, but I definitely still had on my protective armour. We got started and it was SO much fun! The energy in the room was great. While some people held back to begin with, by the end everyone was smiling and going crazy with their dance moves. It was exhausting but exhilarating. Sounds great right? Definitely not out of my comfort zone yet.

Then it happened. Our Tribal ‘leader’ slowed the pace, we started moving slower and slower until eventually we moved out bodies to the floor and just lay there, releasing all the energy of the last hour and a half. He led us into a meditation and I felt myself just… letting go. Letting go of expectations – mine and other peoples; letting go of fears – of not being likeable, of not being enough; I let go of the stories that I had been telling myself about who I was, and who I wasn’t. It really is a very difficult thing to explain, but being in that meditative state I was able to let go of these things that were holding me down and it felt like such a relief. It was such a relief that I started to cry, the tears just kept coming. They were streaming uncontrollably from my eyes – who knew you could cry with your eyes closed? But it felt good, it felt SO good. The not-so-good part (read: really freaking uncomfortable part) came when then meditation finished and we had to stand up to face the room.

I stood up, with my face firmly down to hide the by now very obvious signs of crying – you know, the really attractive red blotches and snot dripping out your nose. Oh-so-glamorous. We stood in the circle and all I felt was an overwhelming urge to run. To run as far away as I could get, to splash cold water on my face and ‘snap myself out of it’. The urge was SO strong, but I held my ground, but not quite ready to look up. And of course the point was to look up, to allow yourself to feel and share whatever raw emotion you were feeling with the people in the room, that you look into someone else’s eyes and, more importantly, that you allow them to look into yours. Allow them to see the real you, to see your fears, your insecurities, your imperfections.

Despite every urge in my being not to, I eventually managed to look up from my feet and across the room into the eyes of these people who I hadn’t known from a bar of soap just a few days ago. And not only did I see compassion and caring in their eyes, but I also saw them too. Each individual person, unique and scared and vulnerable. Yes, we are all different, but sometimes it takes moments like that to realize that we are all the same. At our core, we are all the same.

I felt a noticeable shift in the energy of the group after the Tribal experience. The whole group felt closer and more open with each other. I felt like I could drop my act of little miss perfect and just be me. The wonderful thing about it was that I truly felt like I connected with people more – although admittedly that was after taking a good few solitary hours in the bush to absorb what had happened.

I got a lot of clarity out of the Tribal experience, but probably the part that affected me the most, the message I most needed to hear was around what is probably my biggest insecurity: people liking me.   How can I expect people to like me if I don’t show them who I really am? I am starting to realize now that I am enough, exactly as I am. I don’t need to pretend to be someone else for people to like me. As long as I let my guard down and allow people to see who I really am then I give myself the opportunity to be loved.

Are you giving yourself the opportunity to be loved?

 

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Rejection Is A Bitch

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That’s the way the Cookie Crumbles…

According to research conducted with MRI the same areas of the brain become activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain.  Psychologically speaking, our brains deal with both in the same way.  It is any wonder then that we try so hard to avoid rejection.  However, from a personal growth perspective, it’s actually beneficial for us to put ourselves in situations where we can get rejected.  Why would you do that to yourself, you ask?  It’s all about building resilience.

One of my comfort zone challenges is to start a profitable business.  Unfortunately this is not that story.   Apparently they say that in order to be successful in business, first you have to fail – so I guess in that respect you could say that I am at least part of the way there.

Late last year my favourite uncle died from cancer.  Despite knowing how ill he was, his death affected me in a way I was not expecting.  I left work early after getting the phone call and I went home and cried and cried.  Then a strange thing happened, I felt the need to bake.  Let’s call it ‘comfort baking’… hey, it’s gotta be better than comfort eating right?   So I therapeutically baked a big batch of chocolate chip cookies and took them into the office the next day.

As a result I had the idea to sell freshly baked biscuits to offices on a weekly, fortnightly or monthly subscription.  Wookies {Work Cookies} was born! What a great idea I thought, I’m going to be a cookie magnate for sure! Everyone around me was so supportive.  So I baked and baked until I had perfected my recipes: a burnt butter choc chip, a luxurious chewy ANZAC and a melt in your mouth buttery shortbread.  I then went to work on taking pretty pictures, creating a brand, a logo, and a pretty damn impressive website (if I do say so myself).   But once all that was done I actually had to go out and sell my product.  Yikes!

From what I can tell (being married to someone that has successfully started a business), being an entrepreneur is the mother of all comfort zone challenges.  It seems that every day you are putting yourself and your ego on the line.  I recently heard someone say that “When you’re in a corporate job, you have to ask your boss for a pay increase once a year …, once you have your own business, you have to ask for the sale every day…”  Some days you get a yes, and other days you flat out get rejected.

Sometimes though, the hardest part is actually asking.  For weeks I had messed about with what I thought was ‘setting up a business’, but all I was doing was the fun stuff.  And unfortunately procrastination does not a business make.  Once I got to the ‘Now what?’ stage (after re-writing the copy on the website 5 times of course) my husband kindly suggested that I actually go out and SELL my cookies.  To like, a real person.

I’ve been in sales before and I hated it.  After spending just over a year selling managed funds for a living I had convinced myself that I was ‘just not a good salesperson’.  So the idea of having to knock on doors and convince people to buy from me was intimidating at best, and terrifying at worst.  But I managed to tell myself that this time around I would be selling something that I actually believed in (sorry Goldman Sachs).  And rather than convincing people, I would be giving them an opportunity to buy something that they would absolutely LOVE (provided they hadn’t heard the bad news about sugar, eherm…). The only thing I didn’t think about was that putting your heart and soul into something also puts your heart and soul on the chopping block.

I decided that the way forward was to give out free trial jars of Wookies with the hope that I could sign customers up for an ongoing subscription once they had tasted how freaking amazing they were.  So I baked 5 batches of chocolate chip cookies and packaged them into their beautifully branded Wookie jars and headed to North Sydney.  As I walked in to the first office my heart was beating so hard that I was sure that you could see it through my shirt.  My hands were shaking, and so was my voice.  “Hi, I’m Jane form Wookies, Work Cookies…” I gave my nervous spiel.

The girl at reception was very sweet, but basically said ‘thanks but no thanks’.  My heart sank and my negative self-talk started.  ‘This is a stupid idea, why would anyone buy my cookies, I’m just a home baker, I’m not good enough for anyone to pay money for them.”  But I had 5 jars of 30 cookies in the back of my car, what was I going to do with 150 cookies?  So I took a few deep breaths and went into the next office, with my heart rate a bit slower and a more confident spiel.  The receptionist was so enthusiastic, and was genuinely excited to take a trial jar.  Woohoo!  I walked out of there with the biggest smile on my face.  My confidence was through the roof, it was such a rush.  I went into 9 offices in total that day and gave out 5 trial jars, not a bad hit rate.   Then again I was giving away free cookies!

When I went back a week later to collect jars and get a commitment for subscriptions, three were a polite but definite no, but two of the offices said they were interested in taking delivery every fortnight.  I was so excited, and my dreams of cookie world domination seemed to be that much closer.  Unfortunately neither of my potential customers sent back an order form.  That hit my confidence pretty hard and I got very despondent about the whole venture.  It turned out that my work place became my biggest (only) customer, and I continued Wookies for a few months.  I eventually realised that I enjoyed baking less when it was done under obligation.  Plus I didn’t get that same feel good factor of ‘giving’ and ‘sharing’ my baking with others.  Also from an economic standpoint it seemed to be a big effort for very little reward.  So as it stands today, the Wookies idea has been put on the shelf.

I’m not sure whether Wookies would have been successful had I picked myself back up and kept persevering, but regardless of that, starting Wookies wasn’t a completely wasted experience. I learned a lot from my brief foray into the business world.  I certainly gained a new respect for small business owners.  However, the key realisation was how important resilience is in business.  The ability to pick yourself up after being rejected, to not take it personally and keep going can be the difference between success and failure.  Rejection is a normal part of business and a normal part of life.  But it’s NOT personal.  It’s not a judgement on who you are as a person.  It’s about how what you have to offer fits with someone else’s needs, and whether they personally value what you have to offer.  It’s about THEM, not YOU.

In business, as in life, we have to risk rejection in order to achieve what’s most important to us.   By experiencing rejection regularly and building and strengthening pathways in your brain, you build resilience and reduce the pain reaction in your brain.  Being able to push past the fear of rejection will build your confidence and allow you to do things you never knew you were capable of.  I feel like this is one comfort zone challenge I am going to keep persevering at, but hopefully the more I do it the easier it will get.  I don’t want to let fear hold me back anymore.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

Love Jane xx

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Overexposed: Why I Blog

Overexposed

Initially the reason I wanted to start a blog was because I wanted to share the amazing experience that I had while sky diving, and the excitement that I got from planning and doing other comfort zone challenges. I also saw it as a way of keeping myself motivated and accountable (I get distracted/bored easily), so that I would continue to set and complete more and more comfort zone challenges. But as I went to press ‘Publish’ on my very first post, I realised that creating a blog and putting my musings out there for all to see, was going to be one of my most difficult comfort zone challenges.

Let’s be honest, starting a blog isn’t exactly an original idea. These days they are a dime a dozen. I’m pretty sure that by most Gen Y standards I am well and truly a Laggard. But for all the blogs I have read, and the stats that show you how common they are, there is one thing that I never realised – writing a blog is hard. From a technical standpoint, it’s actually pretty easy, especially with platforms like WordPress, Blogspot and Square Space (just to name a few). The hard, and might I stress uncomfortable part of writing a blog is exposing yourself, in all your “you-ness” to the world.

I was so excited to write my first post. In fact I got so into it that as I wrote it I re-lived the whole experience of skydiving, my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing and I had a crazy nervous energy running through me all over again. Thankfully there was less screaming (and swearing) involved this time, but while writing, the feelings and emotions were just as raw. And with that rawness the lessons that I shared really left me feeling pretty damn exposed. There I was, divulging all these fears and insecurities – and what I considered to be some of my biggest flaws. And as someone who prides herself on being strong, probably the most uncomfortable part was shamefully exposing my weaknesses.

But really, the thing that left me hovering over the ‘Publish’ button the longest was the part where I admitted that I had seen a therapist. In fact I deleted and reinserted those three little words over and over again before eventually deciding to push through the discomfort. I liken the feeling to standing on the edge of a freezing cold swimming pool and willing yourself to jump.  Once you leap it’s never as bad as you anticipated – but I can’t even tell you how many times I was tempted I was to go back and edit out those few words.

Probably the most important thing you can do in any comfort zone challenge is ask yourself “Why?”. Why am I feeling so nervous (uncomfortable) right now? What am I so afraid of? And for me, the idea of admitting I had insecurities and more specifically that I saw a therapist, was that I would be perceived as being weak. I feared that people would think that there was something wrong with me, or that I just couldn’t cope. And you know what? There was a point where I just couldn’t cope. There were days where I didn’t want to get out of bed let alone face going to work or talking to other people. Not because work was bad, or I didn’t like the people I had to talk to, but because I just couldn’t face anyone or do anything without crying. I still find the feeling very hard to describe.

After uncovering what I was so afraid of I realised that what I really needed to do was to re-think my definition of strength. Is it strong to continue to struggle along when you are not coping? Is it strong to pretend there is nothing wrong and stick your head in the sand? Or is strength about recognising when there is a problem, seeking help and dealing with whatever it is that needs to be addressed? By questioning my idea of strength I have started to understand that there is strength in vulnerability, there is strength in relinquishing control and acknowledging that I don’t always have the answers. There is also strength in opening yourself up and letting go of what other people think about who you really are, flaws and all.

While I started blogging to tell others about my experiences, the whole process has become so much more. Each post I write I get to push past my discomfort, and overcome one of my biggest fears: A fear of the world knowing exactly who I am, judging me and ultimately not liking me. I don’t know how long it is going to take for me to be able to publish a post without getting this nervous feeling, but the point is that it is getting easier every time. And by putting myself out there I get rewarded time and time again. I get such a thrill when people tell me they relate to what I am writing about, and how I am feeling. Being truly Me allows me to make a connection with people more easily than if I was to continue hiding behind my wall of so-called strength.

It is strange to me that it is so hard to just be ourselves, especially so because it’s pretty damn counter productive. In my experience the people I have always been drawn to are the ones that are letting their own unique light shine, those who are quite obviously comfortable in their own skin. So, how can you be more you today? How can you stop hiding behind what you think other people want you to be and really own your uniqueness? Because, as Marianne Williamson said “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Love Jane

xx

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