Life – the manual
If you've found this page looking for the answers, I'm sorry. I don't have them. I have found some but am still looking hard for many.
I'm not sure you could class this as a rant, or even a point of view, I'd just like to share a few things I've discovered and maybe in writing and working through it in my head discover a few more along the way. It's June 2012, I don't expect to finish this in one sitting and in fact I'm not sure I'd want to. I'm going to keep adding to it as things come to mind.
The easy part - we're born. The family into which we're born is directly responsible for the early development of our bodies and brains. Once we start to think for ourselves we are are pretty much going it alone. Yes, we can be influenced, especially in the early years by what others say or do and what happens to us, around us and to those we care about can have huge impacts on our development, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
It's really easy to say that anything not good or great was caused by our upbringing (and in some cases it is) however once we start to look more closely we probably could have made different choices once we were old enough to do so that would have been helpful to us, but much depends on comfort zones. We don't realise that we are subconsciously attracted to what we know and can deal with, ie, why we end up in relationships which are bad for us and then find it hard to break away and find someone totally different who is good for us. The bad stuff (varying levels of bad - it might not be that bad!) we are already familiar with and are pretty sure we can deal with. The unknown is truly unknown and we really have no idea how to cope with that so we are reluctant to head down that road.
You can probably gauge how much you stick to comfort zones by looking at how well you deal with change. If you find new things really easy to cope with and never worry about the 'what ifs' then you're probably pretty well adjusted and don't even need to be reading this (unless you find it interesting to see how the rest of us cope). If, like me, you worry about everything and can get completely wrapped up in the 'what ifs' of every situation to the extent that you can talk yourself out of anything new pretty quickly then you are probably stuck in your zones and don't even realise it. It can be quite nice to be stuck and not know as it as you don't realise the situation so it's not something new to worry about!
Once you know however, it is something new to worry about, but it's also something new to be glad about, hopeful about. There are ways to change your life, but none of them are easy, none of them are in your zones, but all of them, I think are worth it.
Start with the easy one... you. There are songs and poems about it, we hear about it, we even nod and agree with the concept, which we secretly find extremely alien to us...Learn to like yourself.
Sound easy? Really? If it is, why are you here? Really liking and valuing yourself is hard work. But it's important, if we don't respect, like, and even love ourselves how on earth can we expect others to?
Start with simple things, find 10 things you like about yourself. Yes, 10. If you can't find ten start with 5 and set a goal to add one per week until you reach ten, then keep going! It seems impossible at times, but you can do it. Ask your friends with all seriousness what they like about you. This may give you some clues to things you take for granted about yourself or have forgotten.
Some people find spirituality useful, any religion at all or even none, simply communing with nature, as we are all part of this planet and what it has to offer. We are all wonderful creations, whether you believe a being or the earth created us. The human body is amazing, as is the earth. The fact we can physically get out of bed each day is amazing before you add in all the things that we all do each day, so don't tell me there is nothing amazing about you. We are all amazing. We are all special in our own ways.
However, saying that, this brings me neatly onto another comfort zone... when was the last time you were proud of yourself? We're not very good at giving ourselves credit when it is due. We need to do this, we need to enjoy our successes (however small or insignificant they might be in the big scheme of things). We need to learn to stop looking for others to be proud of us, or hoping to prove ourselves to others; that person you want or think you need to be proud of you probably has never experienced someone being proud of them so they are simply (yes, you guessed it), out of their comfort zone, they don't know how to give you what you are waiting for. Stop waiting! Be proud of yourself! You did good, you achieved it, you passed it, you made it, you look great. Don't wait for someone else to tell you, tell yourself. Yes, I know, no one wants to be big-headed but I'm not worried about that. We give ourselves so little credit these days it's highly unlikely that your head will balloon to the state where you can't get out of your front door.
Once you start to be a little nicer to yourself you should find that it becomes easier to listen to want you want. Not what you don't mind doing, or which of two options you mind less, but what YOU want. This one is really hard, as unless you were an only child we learn to go with the flow from an early age. Now I'm not talking about whether you want to eat Brussels sprouts, most of us, as soon as we start living on our own decide what we do and don't want to eat. I'm talking about those times when you find yourself at the party you never really wanted to attend, feeling like a fish out of water, those family occasions where you went because you felt duty-bound but now are regretting as the usual suspects are drinking too much, the same arguments are starting over again. If you don't want to do something... say NO! Learning to say no is one of the first steps to helping yourself find what you do and don't like. Saying 'No' can protect yourself from a bad day, can stop you feeling guilty for not helping yourself when you had the chance.
Again, I am not saying that you should become inflexible with an inflated ego. Not at all, you simply need to be able to identify what is good and bad for you. If you feel duty bound to visit awkward familial events, rather than spend the whole weekend for example, make other arrangements so that you can be in the area at the right time and pop in for 2 or 3 hours, then leave. Set the times beforehand and work in the possibility that you might enjoy it more than you thought, so also build in some extra time if you decide to stay a bit longer, but stick to those times. That way YOU are in control, and hopefully you'll be able to feel good for doing your 'duty' and you'll be able to enjoy the best elements of the occasion without any of the usual discomforts.
This is just one example, but learning to listen to your needs and to understand by learning about the human mind, the human condition makes it easier for us to be kinder to ourselves and each other.
Now then, when was the last time you gave yourself a hard time for something? Bet it was not that long ago. You made a mistake, something went wrong, or a simple mishap turned into a blame party. Why didn't you do such and such? Why did you even try? You know you're no good at those things, you shouldn't even have made the effort. You've wasted everyone's time now. Anything sounding familiar? Well STOP!
We ALL make mistakes. That is how we learn. Figure out what went wrong, learn any lessons that can be learned and move on. A useful exercise is to think of someone you like; if they made that mistake how would you react? Would you be giving them as much grief as you are giving yourself now? Would you really place that much blame on them? I bet you wouldn't. For some reason we are nicer to everyone, even strangers usually, than we are to ourselves. We have more reasonable expectations of others than we do of ourselves. Why? OK, yes, we are all special, we all are capable of much more than we usually achieve but why on earth do we set the bar for ourselves SO high that we simply cannot reach it? It's completely unreasonable and has to stop. If you really made a mistake, write down what happened. Examine which elements you really had control of. (If it rained on your garden party, it is completely crazy to blame yourself for not predicting it or stopping it). Had you planned poorly? Or were there simply external elements beyond your control which went wrong? I bet at least part of it was beyond your control. See it wasn't such a big deal after all, was it?
So let's stop beating ourselves up, start giving ourselves a pat on the back when we do get things right and learn to smile at ourselves. Yes, you heard me, give yourself a smile. If you smile, most people will smile back. If you smile, you will automatically feel a tiny bit better. Go on, try it... that's not a smile, that's a snarl... that's a grimace... that's better, see, you knew it was there.
OK, I can see this is going to ramble on - a lot. At some point I think I will try to categorise it to at least make it slightly more useable but for now please forgive me if I digress or ramble on a tad too much.
Relationships - we often think of "relationship" as just those relating to sexual relationships. We have so many relationships in our lives and sometimes its easy to forget that many of the basic rules apply. Your relationships at work, with your family, your partner, your friends.
You will get back what you put in - now this one is not strictly true as with some relationships you can put so much in and never get anything out. Again, to take care of yourself you need to try to monitor your relationships. If you find yourself in one of these where you are giving constantly and never receiving, it's not healthy for you and will start to cause you harm. You will either begin to blame yourself for not giving enough, not being good enough. This is all wrong.
When a relationship of any kind reaches this point you need to try to see if it can be repaired. Can the other party see what is wrong, is there a reason why they cannot give back? Maybe it's a temporary thing, if they are in a stressful period maybe they have less to give out. Your support can help them through and in return you will not only get the warmth of helping them through this period but when things return to normal you will both value the relationship more. If they have simply given up on the relationship you may still be able to repair it if that is what both parties want. If not it's time to draw a line under it and move on. Some relationships simply run their course and need to be allowed to drift away when their time has come. If you can look back and remember the good times, see what you learned along the way then you have already started the separation process.
You cannot change others - this one is true. If you think that you'll be able to mold him (or her) to your perfect partner, forget it. You need to look at yourself first. What is it you think you want? Why? What part of you is so incomplete you need someone else to fill it? No one else can complete you. YOU are already the whole. Your perfect partner however can take you from feeling good to feeling GREAT, if you let them. (Read Why Mars & Venus collide, details below). YOU are responsible for your own happiness. You cannot be responsible for theirs and they are most certainly not responsible for yours. Until you understand this you will continually be looking for something you will never find. You can however support each other in your life's journey together and separately. Two are not one. You are both individuals with individual needs and desires but together as a team you can share everything (or just a portion) of your lives and hopefully enjoy everything more as a result.
Learning how to be complete within yourself is as hard as or perhaps harder than learning to like yourself. I'm still working on this one but am further down the road than I once thought possible. Find the things you like which make you feel good. Don't try to force your partner to become involved, do let them know you would enjoy it if they joined you but don't make your own enjoyment conditional upon their being there. That is unfair on them and yourself.
For guys - here's a single thing you can do to help make the lady in your life happier. The next time she comes home after a hard day and starts telling you all about her day, listen. Just listen. Your natural instinct will be to interject with helpful comments, and with solutions to what you see as her problems. Please don't. Listen to her. Has she asked for a solution? I bet not. Has she asked for an opinion? Nope, I am sure she didn't. The single most important thing you can do right now is just... listen. Let her know you're listening by saying (very short) things like, 'go on', 'and then what happened', that sort of comment, drawing everything out of her which she is desperate to unload. When she's done give her a big hug and ask her if there's anything you can do to help. If she needs help with the solution, she will ask you. However the chances are she knows the solution already, she just needed to unload. That is how women de-stress. In the beginning you will find this really hard as all the natural male instincts are to provide the answer, come up with a solution, but she doesn't need that. The solution is to listen. Once you accept this and see how helpful this technique is to her it will also make you feel good to see how much you ARE helping by NOT helping! Really, it's true. Try it and see.
For the ladies - Learn to accept a compliment. Yes, very few of us have a great self-image. We find it hard to believe the guys when he says "you have great legs" when our legs might be the worst part of us (in our opinion). They don't usually say it if they don't mean it. Say thank you and smile. At the very least explain you find it hard to take compliments but that you really do appreciate them. Trust me, if you keep saying 'no I don't' they will eventually stop altogether and you will be left wondering why you never get a compliment anymore and he'll be left feeling that nothing he ever says or does is good enough. Also don't forget to compliment your man when he smells good, looks good or does something you really like. Men do have feelings too you know!
For friends - don't forget that you both need to invest in the relationship. You can't ignore your friends for 6 months because you found a new guy and then expect them to drop everything when it all goes wrong. Try to take at least one day a week and make that "friend" time. Even if it's just regular emails, texts, a cup of coffee, make the effort. Also remember when you do chat or meet up, don't be a time hog, try to make sure you both get chance to 'unload' your troubles before you disappear otherwise one will be left feeling fairly 'dumped' on when they don't get their share of talk time. I know this is the ideal and sometimes events and time can mean this is not always possible, but at least try.
Non, je ne regrette rein. Regret nothing. Regrets are a waste of (precious) time. Yes, we all make mistakes. We make some poor choices. Some of us have horrible things happen to us. I'm sure some will disagree however I firmly believe that something good can come from everything. Regrets will only make you bitter and eventually miserable. Regrets can destroy you, can destroy relationships when they turn to resentment. Everything which happens does not necessarily happen for a reason, but it's happened. It's done. You cannot change it. Find the good in it, the silver lining, the lesson learned. Everything you are today is as a result of your yesterdays. If you changed them you couldn't be today who you are now. (If you really don't want to be who you are today then please talk to a professional). Even in cases where horrible things have happened, take those experiences and turn them into good by helping others avoid similar situations. Give talks to professionals who help others in similar situations, your experiences could help others, and that in turn can help you heal.
Learn to forgive others and yourself above all. This is also a hard one. Again we usually find learning to forgive others easier than forgiving ourselves. Once again, if we can forgive others, why not ourselves? I discovered I blamed myself for many things which happened in my childhood. Decisions which were made about my future which I had no control over. The fact that I was a child at the time didn't seem to figure into the equation. I say again, I was a CHILD. How on earth could I have had control over decisions which I could not possibly have made for myself? Either from a legal perspective or just the fact that as a mere child I did not have the experience or the mental faculties yet to make these decisions for myself, therefore I have no choice - I simply must forgive that child for being a CHILD! This is just one example. We all need to be gentler on ourselves, no one can look after us the way we could, if we took the time and care to do so, but you know what?
That leads me neatly to the next point. It is easier to give advice and help to others than it is to look after ourselves. Many of us find it rewarding and easy to give up great chunks of ourselves to others, to help them, to support them. Don't get me wrong, it's wonderful to help others, it's just that sometimes we need to just look at who is helping us? We cannot give, give, give all the time. Sometimes we need to take too. We need to take comfort, support, help and assistance, from ourselves and from others. If you're anything like me you'll find it almost impossible to ask for help. I'm getting better at this one, and, in some ways it can be rewarding too, if you look at it from the view that by asking for help you are giving someone else the opportunity to feel good by helping you too! (Is it crazy to fool yourself into a good thing? Hell, no!)
As soon as you start being more sympathetic to yourself, you'll find it easier to be more sympathetic to others around you too. You'll find you had more patience than you realised. You should find that your temper takes longer to rear it's head too. Life, in short, will become a little easier.
I'm still looking for the manual too. If you find one, please let me know. Hopefully this is at least a useful handout. I would remind you that I'm not a doctor, a psychologist, or any sort of professional in the human condition. I am simply one woman looking for some answers and hoping that what I discover along the way might be useful to others too.
Another pearl from my chest is this - Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured. Someone else said that, but I saw it once and it struck a chord with me. I used it on my signature on several forums for a while. During one of my darkest stages it came back to me and like a light bulb in the dark it dawned on me that I was (at that time) only enduring. It was a turning point for me. When you stop enjoying life YOU need to make some choices, some changes, until you can once again smile at yourself and know you're having fun (maybe not every day, but over all).
Good luck on your journey, life is an adventure just waiting for you. It's the most important journey you'll ever make - make the most of it. Be the best YOU that you can be. Relish it, enjoy it, love it, live it.
Suggested reading material if you're interested enough:
Suggested reading material if you're interested enough:
The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert
- the first part is very scientific and can be hard to stick with. Do stick with it - it's worth it. Also includes lots of exercises to help you communicate better with yourself. Personally I found the first half of the book more useful (once I got over the scientific stuff!)
Why Mars & Venus Collide by John Gray
- Yes it's from the same stable as Men are from Mars & Women are from Venus, however it is infinitely more useful. I defy you not to identify with at least one of the usual scenarios in it. Again, you need to bear with the repetitive style and the Americanisms, but again, well worth the effort.
Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood
Out of print, but easily found on the second hand market. Although this is written for and about women, many men will also be able to draw parallels with the messages within.
If Love is a Game, these are the Rules by Cherie Carter-Scott
Slightly more condensed and light hearted, this is perhaps the easiest reading, with good messages in how to help yourself to be happier within your relationships.
Families & how to survive them by John Cleese & Robyn Skinner
Life & how to survive it by John Cleese & Robyn Skinner
Both of these are out of print now but easily available on the second hand market. "Families" is a great insight into child development and I would say fantastic reading for new parents who want to avoid common but damaging mistakes. From a personal perspective these two are not first stop reading but should come later, once you are already on the road to understanding yourself better.
For buying second hand books I recommend abebooks.co.uk or ebay, but check prices on abe before going to ebay!
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Girlie_Biker. All rights reserved.