Have you met Angry Jane?

“Be prepared for rain” They said. “Take lots of bandaids for all the blisters” They warned. But no one ever warned me about the REAL challenge I would have to face when embarking upon the Overland Track… dealing with my overprotective father. I mean, I’m pretty sure I am a grown woman – 38 years of age would certainly qualify me for the status of Adult. But convincing my father of that and staying firm on my resolve to do the trek regardless of his opinion was actually the hardest part about doing this trek (yes, really!).

When I first booked the pass to hike the Overland Track in Tasmania it felt like it was going to be the hardest challenge I’d set myself to date. It was going to be more than 65km of walking and camping, alone, in the middle of the Tasmanian wilderness, miles from civilisation (even further depending on whether you consider Tasmania civilised. Just kidding Tassie, I love you!). After I made the very impulsive decision to book the trip, only about 12 hours after first discussing it with my husband, I actually thought “Shit, can I do this?” But as seems to be a recurring theme with my comfort zone challenges, the biggest challenge that I had to overcome and the lesson that I had to learn was not the one that I first anticipated.

Even before my Dad freaked me out. I did have some reservations about hiking all that way on my own. I worried whether my knees, my back and my morale would cope with walking an average of 15km per day, for 6 days, carrying 18kgs on my back. But I’d also done my research and over the years I’ve had plenty of experience hiking and camping, albeit with at least one other person. So, while I knew it would be challenging I was fairly confident that I wouldn’t spend the rest of my days living off berries and skinks in the Tasmanian wilderness. So, you can imagine my surprise when I got a text message/essay from my father telling me how irresponsible and dangerous it was to embark on such a venture, especially given that I had a husband, a young child and responsibilities at home (and those weren’t his exact words…)

Actually, surprise wasn’t how I felt at all. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. I felt totally deflated about the whole trip, and I started to doubt myself and my ability to complete the challenge. “Is this too dangerous?” I thought. “Am I risking not seeing my daughter grow up?” “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this.” After a little while though I got angry. Angry with myself for doubting my own abilities and also angry with my Dad. I wanted to call him back and shout at him. I wanted to tell him to Fuck off and tell him that I wasn’t a child anymore and he couldn’t tell me what to do.

Anger is my default defence mechanism you see. It tends to come up for me often when I feel most vulnerable: feeling hurt; rejected; or scared. So as you can imagine, comfort zone challenges seem to bring it out in me a fair bit (yup, I’m a total pleasure to be around). But as with all comfort zone challenges, it is in noticing your response to the challenge that you make the biggest breakthroughs. If any of you are familiar with Brene Brown’s work, in her book Rising Strong she introduces this concept as an SFD – Shitty First Draft.   She says that “….moving from our first responses to a deeper understanding of our thoughts, feelings and behaviours give birth to key learnings about who are we and how we engage with others” I would also argue that recognising other people’s knee jerk responses also helps to bring a deeper understanding to your relationship with them.

Thankfully while I was in the throws of my SFD I resisted the urge to call or text back to my dad and tell him how I really felt – I’m sure it would have been super classy and super eloquent. After I calmed down and reflected on my own angry response I could then reflect on my Dad’s motivations. I know from my own angry, fly-off-the-handle responses that there is usually something else lurking beneath anyone’s SFDs. And even before I called my husband to vent (AKA: bitch) about my Dad’s response I could recognise a genuine fear and concern for my safety. Certainly he didn’t manage his own emotions as well as he should, but we’re all human, right? Thankfully rather than call back immediately and abuse him I could actually approach his response with some level of compassion. So, instead of calling him a wanker (which I SO wanted to do at the time – sorry Dad), I texted back saying “I know you’re concerned Dad, but I have done my research and I will be fine” and then after giving him some time to calm down we had a very adult conversation (who knew!!) about how I didn’t make the decision lightly and without the appropriate research or preparation. I also managed to openly, honestly (and hopefully somewhat tactfully) tell him that I was disappointed in his response and how his assumptions had hurt me.

A few weeks later, after the hike, we met for lunch and amazingly Dad turned to me and said “Janey, I owe you an apology.” Just… wow. I can’t tell you how much this blew me away. The thing is, apologising is hard. It makes you vulnerable – it makes you uncomfortable. But the fact that he apologised showed to me that he’d heard me and taken on board what I said and more importantly that he was willing to be wrong – to be vulnerable – for the sake of our relationship. Heck, maybe it’s my Dad who should be getting credit for this comfort zone challenge. And I can honestly say that from that honest and vulnerable place, our relationship has grown.

One of the greatest gifts that I have received as a result of pushing myself through these comfort zone challenges is how much closer it brings me to other people. Getting to know myself, observing my reactions to things that happen and opening myself up to the idea of improving has meant that my relationships with others become so much more open and as a result, more honest.   For so long I operated from a place of anger, blame and fear of being hurt. I put up walls around my heart or lashed out for fear of being hurt first. Unfortunately I know that in the past I may have hurt people, and while it was unintentional, it’s hard knowing I can’t change that now. All I can do, and all anyone can do, is to continue to reflect and learn from our experiences and to continue growing.

 

I’m too sexy for my clothes

There are not many things that make me cry… actually, who am I kidding, I cry at everything these days. I am, as they say, a ‘sensitive soul’. Even so, as I made my way to Cobblers Beach on Sunday, I couldn’t quite believe that I was about to cry over something as silly as taking my clothes off. I was scared.   Not ‘jumping out of a plane’ scared, but scared in a sense of feeling really damn vulnerable. I was scared of other people judging my body the way I have been judging it.

‘Going to a Nudist Beach’ was one of the first comfort zone challenges I set for myself when I started the blog last year.   So when I found out about the Sydney Skinny I thought it would be the perfect way to tick it off my comfort zone list. The event is in its fourth year and it’s a 300m or 900m ocean swim that is swam completely in the nude. I can’t tell you how many friends I tried to convince to join me, but I swear I could have got more people to go skydiving than to get their kit off in public.

I get it, I was apprehensive too. I wouldn’t exactly say that I am ashamed of my body, but my relationship with it over the years has probably been one of judgement and control, rather than acceptance and trust. I’ve never exactly been overweight (well, if you don’t count the hefty Heathrow Injection I acquired on my gap year), but the thing I’ve learned is that how you feel about your body actually has very little to do with what size or shape you are.

For a long time that had been an unfathomable concept for me. I felt that it was normal that I should like my body more when I weighed a certain amount and when I started tipping the scales, naturally I wouldn’t like it so much. Over the years that has led to me trying to control my weight – calorie counting, so-called ‘health kicks’, quitting sugar or whatever other food plans that I convinced myself wasn’t really a diet. But here’s the thing – I like cake. I like croissants. And I LOVE chocolate. So no matter how much will power I summoned I would eventually ‘fail’ and self-loathing would ensue and so too would a few extra pounds.

So as I walked down to Cobblers Beach, ready to strip off, all I could think about was how I was going to have to expose my growing booty to the world. Once I got to the bottom of the hill, however, I started talking to everyone around me and as we laughed and chatted I started thinking about how ridiculous it is that we place so much value in how we look. I am still the same person whether I am my ideal weight or holding a few extra kilos. My friends, my family and any other person I come in contact with is unlikely to be thinking “I would like her more if she was 5kg lighter”, and god if they were would I really want to be friends with that person? Umm, no.

I mean this isn’t news to me, I know this deep down. But I do have to keep reminding myself of it sometimes. I have to keep remembering that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Once I finally got down onto the beach this became abundantly clear. As I looked around at all these naked bodies I no longer worried about my own body looked like. Not because I was comparing myself to them, but because when you actually take a look at the real world (as apposed to Vogue magazines and Seafolly advertisements) there is so much diversity.

When the time finally came to strip off I was surprisingly ok about it. Actually, I would go as far to say that it was thoroughly liberating! As I stood in the water ready for the swim to start I was smiling so much, thinking how cool it was that I was totally ok standing there with no clothes on. Although cool is probably not how I looked – swimming cap, goggles and a bare butt. Sexy!

The swim itself was great, in fact after all my training I kind of felt like I should probably have done the 900m. It was all over a little bit too soon. But for me it was never really about the swim, it was all about my body image. Signing up for the Sydney Skinny has really brought my relationship with my body (and food) into focus. It’s encouraged me to ditch dieting so I can let go of controlling what I eat, avoid binge eating and stop feeling a little bit craycray about food. Actually what I am focusing on more these days is 100% body acceptance and self-acceptance. I’m celebrating the amazing things my body can do and the life that it allows me to lead. And mostly it’s about setting a rock solid example for my daughter for what loving yourself for who you are looks like.

Who’s in for next year?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Steps to Overcome Resistance

I wonder, what is on your comfort zone challenge list (or bucket list, Life Goals, etc) that you keep putting off because it seems too hard, too scary, too big? A couple of months ago I did my first video (here, in case you missed it) and for a while my own internal resistance held me back. It just seemed too difficult and I just kept thinking and thinking about making a video. In my head I was making some awesome videos – if only you could have seen them, I rocked! But as always, thinking only gets you so far.

Now that I finally managed to shoot and share my first video, I have reflected on what got me from frozen with fear to successfully completing the challenge. I thought I would share these lessons with you in the hope that if you’re also struggling with a challenge and resistance is holding you back, you may just benefit from what I learned.

Fear has a job: to keep you small, stuck and the same. – Unknown

Start Small

Technically speaking the video I posted to YouTube wasn’t my first ever video, but it was the first time that I had publicly shared a video – and I was so nervous about it that I had to close my eyes as I pressed publish. My actual first video was done a few months ago: a 30 second masterpiece that explained how to use a sinus rinse. No, really. Glamorous huh?   Let’s hope that doesn’t resurface once I’ve made it to YouTube stardom (it’s imminent, surely).

Things only started happening when a friend posted a challenge to a Facebook group that I am part of, which was to do a 30 second video teaching everyone in the group something that you knew (I happened  to have a sinus infection at the time). Before shooting my ‘Sinus How To’ guide I had only got as far as turning my iphone camera to selfie mode, pressing the little red button and then…… nothing. For some reason I couldn’t actually get any words out. I felt like an idiot speaking at an inanimate object. It’s amazing how the fear of getting out of your comfort zone can stop you from doing what, from the outside, can seem like the simplest things. I mean I’m pretty sure any millennials reading this would be thinking “What’s the big deal old lady? Shoot the video!”.

But I figured that I could probably manage 30 seconds and once everyone started posting their own videos I felt really inspired. Just taking the tiny step of a 30 second video about a random topic actually got me started.

You don’t have to start big, but you do need to start. Trust that momentum will take care of the rest.

Surround yourself with supportive people.

When I was shooting my 30 second sinus video it definitely helped me knowing exactly who my audience was, for two reasons. Firstly it meant that I could speak as if I was speaking directly to them and not just into a little hole at the top of my iphone. Secondly, knowing the audience meant that I knew that if I fucked up they wouldn’t judge me. It felt safe to speak, which meant that I showed up 100% as myself, not trying to be different, not trying to be ‘a person who was good at video’. So I posted the first video that I ever shot, no retakes, no edits, nothing.

A funny thing happened next. The original challenge was “Over the next 7 days post a video…” however that got interpreted by most of us as “Post a video for the next 7 days…” and everyone just kept on posting. I got swept up in the excitement and also posted 6 more videos. Yes, you may remember me from such videos as “How to boil an egg in the kettle” and “Why you should avoid tea when you have a cold”. The feedback and support that everyone gave was so valuable.

It’s amazing what feeling part of something can help you achieve. Don’t underestimate the power of surrounding yourself with positive and supportive people.

Have a strategy

When the time came to shoot my first Cold Showers video I was feeling a lot more confident about speaking into the camera. Unfortunately it gave me a bit too much confidence to think that I could just hit record and start speaking, without having a plan of attack. I knew what I wanted to speak about, but having it in your head and saying it aloud in a clear and succinct message is another thing. I spent about an hour just to film what ended up being a 4 minute video!

I stopped and re-started about 8 times and at one point I found myself getting really angry and frustrated that I couldn’t do it. Finally I reminded myself that this is what being outside your comfort zone is about and that I just needed to figure it out. As soon as I changed my mindset I opened myself up to the possibility that maybe what I needed was a script (yep, slow learner here…). Even just writing it out made everything more concrete in my mind and eventually I shot the footage that became the final video.

Having a basic structure or strategy can help prepare you and give you confidence to take the next step.  And if you think it’s going to hinder your creativity, read this.

Let go of perfection

The first time I played back my video footage I was so disheartened. Apart from the fact that putting makeup on (a rare occurrence) didn’t turn me into a supermodel, I was also disappointed that I hadn’t said something quite the right way; that my lips moved strangely; that I’d tucked my hair behind my ear; the list goes on. So, I reshot the video… nope, still not Heidi Klum. Then a few more times. Until I realised that no matter how many times I reshot the footage I would never say everything as succinctly, intelligently, or perfectly as I wanted. And let’s be honest, I was never going to get great at video in just one afternoon. Getting to the top of my video ‘game’ was going to take practice.

I also realise that in trying to achieve perfection you lose a little bit of yourself in the process. So my lips are a bit wonky when I speak and I have ears that make me look like Kira from the Dark Crystal, but that is all just part of who I am and isn’t that the whole point of video – to show people who you really are?

Don’t let your desire for perfection make you lose your momentum. As Seth Godin says, Just Ship It.

Go forth and conquer

Another thing to remember is that having the feeling of resistance is not necessarily a bad thing.  And while I don’t much like the cliche of ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ it has a certain value in that you can’t expect the fear, anxiety or resistance to go away.  You just have to use it as an indicator that you’re moving in the right direction and that it means you’re growing. Steven Pressfield explores this idea really well in his book The War of Art, I definitely recommend it.

These are just a few things that I found helped me overcome my resistance to the video challenge. My challenge is not going to stop here however. To really get great at video I am going to try and do a two week challenge to post a video to the Cold Showers Facebook Page every day for 14 days – so ‘Like’ the page and stay tuned!  And if you’re game I would love it if you joined in.

Why I’m a F#@king Awesome Mum

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I seem to be very drawn to all things travel at the moment. I mean it’s something that I’ve loved for a while now, ever since being bitten by the travel bug when I first took a gap year at the tender age of 19. But recently I’ve wistfully been reading travel blogs, procrastinating by scanning house sitting websites or flicking through Lonely Planet guides in bookshops. For a while there I started lamenting the fact that as we had now ‘settled down’ and had a child I would never get to experience those crazy travel adventures of my youth. This is possibly the reason why I was so drawn to Erin & Tim, who have inspired me to do more travel – and who, without knowing, convinced me to take Sophie on a recent camping Adventure to Tasmania.

One not-very-useful piece of advice I remember hearing when I was younger was “Get the travel out of the way before you have kids.” It’s as if they are saying that somehow you can get it out of your system and then settle down to a sensible life in the ‘burbs. In my experience it just made my wanderlust stronger. The more I travel, the more I want to see. Before having kids I would have said “Screw that, the kids can just tag along.” , but becoming a parent was a much bigger shock to the system than I imagined and my confidence took a big knock as a result. The idea of travelling with a child suddenly scared the hell out of me. Since then I’ve started re-building my confidence and have adopted much more of a growth mindset.

Actually, the growth mindset is a key factor in the Cold Showers Are Good For You philosophy. It is a concept that I came across a few years ago that has been explored scientifically by a psychologist called Carol Dweck. She argues that there are two types of mindsets that we typically adopt, one of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. Under a fixed mindset people believe that they either have a talent or ability to do something or they don’t. And they attribute their success or failure in any pursuit as a reflection of their intrinsic value. Under a growth mindset people see that their success or failure is a reflection of how much effort or practice they have put in. Here are some of the ways the two mindsets differ:

Fixed Growth
Success is how you validate yourself Success means you have expanded your abilities
Failure is a catastrophe Failure is something you learn from
Effort is a dirty word (i.e. you should be able to do it without trying) It feels good when effort pays off
Criticism is hard to take You can risk criticism because it provides opportunity to improve
“That’s just who I am” “How can I be better?”

I think to some extent having a fixed mindset served me well in the past. I had a fixed mindset that I was smart, and that provided me with a sense of confidence that I was clever enough to do most things – until I couldn’t. But having a baby is not an intellectual pursuit, and therefore my fixed mindset turned out to be quite the liability when I first became a mother. I struggled as the story I had going on in my head (on repeat more times than Back Street Boys when I was 13) was that I wasn’t good at being a Mum. So how the hell would I be able to cope travelling with a child if I couldn’t even manage one at home?

When we decided to visit relatives in Canada when Sophie, our daughter, was 11 months old, I seriously wondered whether I would cope. Luckily I would not be alone, I remember thinking, as my husband Gerrit would of course also be there. We decided to hire a campervan and planned a (in hindsight) very full-on itinerary covering parts of British Columbia and Alberta. While I look back in fondness for a lot of that adventure, it was also in parts seriously horrible. Things went wrong, Gerrit and I argued, Sophie cried, I cried – it felt like a terrible failure.

Fast forward 2 ½ years to a markedly different trip. My brother had been travelling around the country and was in Tasmania over November and December. So I decided to take the opportunity to take a Mother/Daughter adventure and meet up with him to camp at the beautiful Freycinet Peninsula. Things went wrong, Sophie cried, but the difference this time was that I didn’t. When problems arose – and they did, I pity the person who had to sit in seat 12E after us for example – I thought “Ok, how are we going to deal with this?” and granted it took a few different strategies to see what stuck in any particular circumstance, but I now have so much more confidence in my ability to cope with parenting setbacks and in my potential to improve.

There is no denying that travelling with kids is going to be different than the heady days of my youth (which are probably also heavily romanticised in my memory) but I know that it’s not only possible to do it but that getting outside my comfort zone will make me an even better mum and maybe even help Sophie grow up with more of a growth mindset. Having progressively adopted more of a growth mindset I realise that I’m actually a fucking awesome Mum – but only better than I was, and not as great as I am going to be.