Be yourself

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‘Be yourself everyone else is already taken’ Oscar Wilde

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to be yourself. I often comment that I am not feeling myself today, but what do I mean when I say that?

I think sometimes we have this idea that there are people who don’t care what people think of them, experience complete freedom in thought, word and deed, never experience anxiety or worry. This idea that there are people who can go through life, day by day, unaffected by the comments of others or their own analysis of situations.

I think this is a myth.

Deep down, we do care about others opinions of us, despite our protestations to the contrary. We are relational beings, as much as we may strive for independence and to do it all alone. We can’t.
We need other people, each other, relationship.

The thing is, because of this need for relationship we often spend our time trying to craft ourselves into the person we think others want us to be. We have a created ideal.

I need to appear strong, not too needy. I shouldn’t talk about myself too much and make sure I listen. I mustn’t appear too grumpy or angry, but on the overhand, I need to ensure I am not overly emotional. Being classified as emotional is close to be written off in our strange, created ideal.

Where do these ideals come from and why do we insist on maintaining them? Why do we have a natural bent towards criticism rather than encouragement? Judgement rather than grace? Fault finding rather than recognition of strength?

We need to start with ourselves, accepting who we are, what being ourselves means for us.

So I am going to tell you who I am, what being myself is for me.

I am emotional. I have highs and lows. In the highs, I experience euphoria and am able to take on most things that are thrown on me, I can give and give and give and feel no effect. In the lows, I feel lethargic, begin to second guess everything and everyone. I misread situations and withdraw.

I experience stress, anger and frustration. I can be very vocal about how I am feeling and my default expression of emotion is tears. When I am happy, sad, angry, frustrated, tired, I cry.

I love to spend time with people, but I can be affected by the moods and attitudes of others. I worry about what people think, my appearance, finances, health and the future.

I expect the best of myself all of the time and will often beat myself up about the slightest of errors. If I speak out of turn, I replay the moment continuously and cringe at my behaviour.

I giggle a lot, sing at every opportunity and find any opportunity I can to smile.

The authentic me is the person I have described above. I don’t think she sounds too bad actually.

What about the authentic you? What does being yourself mean for you?
Leave a comment, tell me who you are, let’s start destroying the myth and start enjoying being ourselves.

Tonight I am thankful

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Today, I spent some time in the office, managed to get some paperwork done and had some positive conversations.

I realised how little I do it, as when I went to do my lunch duty the students exclaimed ‘Miss! We haven’t seen you all day!’

There have been a lot of good moments today. I have spent a lot of time laughing with the students, talking to them, listening to one of them in crisis, allowing them to vent and then bringing them back to a point of being able to smile.

I think my students are the best people I know, they teach me so much about myself and about life and what is important.

After work, we visited some friends. It was a proper catch up and really good for the soul. We chatted and prayed for each other. It is great to be able to share my worries and the things I am struggling with.There is something releasing about talking it out.

We were then asked to be godparents, one of the best moments of my life. I am completely overwhelmed and touched.

Tonight I feel refreshed, renewed and full of purpose.

Tonight I am so thankful.

Over and Above

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Yesterday, We drove back from our holiday. Over six hours in the car and we didn’t want to kill each other, I am sure that is some kind of record!

We had barely been back when I received a text inviting us out for dinner. After a week away we were ready for a catch up with friends. We went to a pub for a meal and drinks.

Mistakes were made with our order, the starter turned up cold which when it is baked cheese is not good. However, instead of the usual apology, we received a new starter, free cocktail and free bottle of wine (not just the house wine either) this was a huge gesture in my eyes. Yes, you can say they were hoping for return custom and saving reputation but despite that, for me it was over and above.

I started thinking about the concept of going over and above and I was trying to remember when I last did that for someone and I was found wanting. Don’t get me wrong, I help people out, encourage people and like to think that I am a good friend, but I have been a little minimalist recently I feel.

It is easy isn’t it when you aren’t to happy with yourself to start making excuses, I have been busy at work, my health hasn’t been so good recently, I don’t have time etc…

The thing is, it doesn’t wash with me. Those things will often be true in my life, if I wait for a time when I am not busy, or fully healthy or feeling rested then I have a feeling it will never come.

It brings me back to the word sacrifice. Quite strong isn’t it? Not one we like to think of, seems extreme like it belongs in a super hero or action film.

The thing is, I think there needs to be more of it. Not in the sense of performing sacrifices or anything macabre like that but in terms of people making sacrifices for others.

When was the last time you went over and above?

What about your friend who has been on the quiet side recently, have you text them? Called? Made attempts to find out why?

What about those on the fringes of your social group or without family close by? Have you invited them for a meal? To the pub? Cinema? Coffee?

I am of course talking to myself as much as anyone else here.

It is so easy to become cocooned, to be closeted in our own little world. Maintaining surface relationships, doing the bare minimum. Is it satisfying? Short term probably. Long term I am not sure.

I am setting myself a challenge over the next few weeks, before Christmas, to go over and above more often. To go out of my way to do things for people. To stop hiding in my cocoon.

I don’t know how it will turn out, but that isn’t a reason not to try.

So who wants to join me?

Hiding from silence

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When was the last time that you experienced silence? I mean, no talking, no TV, no Internet, no phone -no noise? Maybe when you were asleep? Did you check your phone the moment you woke up?

Sounds ridiculous when it is said out loud, how much time we spend surrounded by noise.

We watch films instead of reading books, we send tweets instead of having a conversation, we write a blog rather than a diary. Convenience, the need to be occupied, the idea of a 24/7 society.

There are of course positives of this, being able to communicate with people on the other side of the world, being more aware of situations in other countries, being able to share resources to name but a few.

What about the negatives? What about the relationships that are being eroded in real life because we invest so much time online? What about the fact we spend more time staring at a screen than looking at someone during a face to face conversation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you cannot develop meaningful friendships online but should they involve the a sacrifice of ¬†relationships with family and friends?

I honestly can’t remember the last time I had a phone conversation that was longer than about ten minutes. Text messages have become the norm – they are quicker, faster, more convenient.

I am currently on holiday, miles away from home. Taking a break from the busyness, the noise.
Yes, I am still using social media, yes I am still blogging but, I am having longer periods of quiet, of silence. Going for walks, sitting and looking at scenery. Listening to the wind blow leaves from the trees, watching the sunlight catch across the windowpane.

Moments without noise. I have also been reading books, in silence, without the television or radio on as accompaniment as is my usual habit. This habit grew out of finding silence scary.

At a recent conference I went to #CNMAC12 @digitalnun said that ‘Silence can be scary but it can also be healing.’

This concept really stuck with me and made me honestly think and question how much time I spent hiding from silence in noise and why I was hiding from it?

For me, it was fear. Fear of silence. The inability to be still. The frightening concept of being alone with my thoughts.

The thing is, if we are never alone with our thoughts then we begin to lose an essential part of who we are. We begin to fill ourselves full of the noise, ideas and opinions that are all around us and fail to take the time to develop our own. We lose our sense of creativity. We lose the essence of us.

Silence can be healing, it can be the opportunity to get back to who we really are, to remove all the additions, to remove all the distractions and just to be. To sit with our thoughts.

Are you hiding from the silence?