Stoicism short video

Love this video. Out of everything I have read in the past two years I have found the philosophy of stoicism the most practically useful in helping me deal with life struggles and change how I perceive them.

[I wrote this post about how I have used stoicism this year.]

Emotionally sensitive

I’ve realised that I am always very aware of people around me and very sensitive to their emotions. It’s nice as I find I am very able to relate to people without really trying too, but it is also quite exhausting when you are around lots of people and I find that emotions can rub off on me and I can get self conscious easily.

Last night I had a lovely, relaxed dinner and stayed the night with my best friend and her parents who I have known for my whole life and live on a farm down the road. They are so relaxed in each others company and in themselves. There is no rush to get dinner ready, no plan for the evening and no awkwardness when there are natural pauses in the conversation.

Being in my home, where my parents constantly bicker, if you are late for dinner you get yelled at and my mum is always worrying about something in the future, there isn’t usually a great sense of ease. I can see how it directly creates a sense of anxiety in myself and I start to shallow breathe. Usually I try and soothe any tensions with chit chat and small talk.

Just being aware of my hyper sensitivity to emotions like this, which perhaps stem from growing up in said home environment with lots of dominant characters, helps me not get so caught in it and almost step back and witness any feelings of anxiety. I am then in a better position to try to relax in myself and my body regardless of what is going on around me.

Overall, I think if I build on being more present with my emotional sensitivity, it can be a positive personality attribute which will help me be more receptive and approachable in life. The key will be having that awareness of my emotions so I can use them positively rather than let them control me.

Being okay with being selfish

My parents, both intentionally and unintentionally, make me feel guilty for moving to Australia. They don’t understand or support the decision. My Mum says she feels like I am punishing her by choosing to move away and no longer asks me about my life. Sadly, I can now see that it is this ego centric attitude which probably led me to want to be away to some extent as I am aware of the influence she has on me back home and I find it easier to be myself away. Also though, it is my life and it doesn’t have to be the end of the world me being in Australia. I am happy and have a great job there, they should be proud and happy for me and not try and influence my life by how it affects theres. It is hard and painful when you know you are causing pain to those around you by being yourself and doing what suits you, but I do believe it is more important to be true and authentic for yourself as only by being kind and valuing yourself can you begin to help those around you and lead a happy, true and full life. If someone relies on you for their happiness, that is their issue they need to overcome and learn to be happy in themselves. At the moment I have daily guilt over my decision, but I am sticking with it as deep down this feels right for me and I know I haven’t done anything wrong. (repeat 10 times)

 

Shedding skin

I caught up with my ex this week as I am back in London.

After the break up our nearly 7 year relationship a year and a half ago, I read Women who Run with the Wolves  by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It is a deeply spiritual book which has stuck with me.

When I realised I didn’t want to be in that relationship, which I had been in throughout my twenties, I felt a great sadness and a lot of confusion and self loathing. Clarissa’s book helped me forgive myself and embrace the changes and uncertainty in my life.

I’ve always loved travelling and meeting different types of people, but I pushed myself towards what I thought I should do and what my parents wanted for me, whether they said it directly or not. I settled in London, became very career driven and spent my money on clothes, dinner and nights out, and eventually bought a flat in Camberwell with my boyfriend. Suddenly it was all looking great on paper and we were edging towards marriage but inner doubts were starting to poke and then hammer away at me. I knew I wasn’t happy and eventually, after a very dark period, built up enough courage to break up.

Initially I hated myself and felt that I had wasted both our time but I don’t feel like that now.

I cherish our connection and we supported one another throughout our twenties and shared some amazing experiences together. That relationship led me to have the strength I do today and move abroad and travel on my own. Something I have always wanted to do and perhaps wasn’t ready to in my early twenties.

He was and is an amazing person and deserves someone who isn’t doubting the relationship or him.

I don’t think all relationships are meant to last forever. We grow and change. If you grow and change together that is fantastic but if you don’t, you can still value what you shared and know that that relationship has led you to being who you are now and the new direction you are going in.

I think I will always love him in some way and never be completely sure of my decision, but I have learnt to be at peace with that uncertainty and increasingly feel that nothing is certain and everything is always changing in life and we need to be open and embrace those changes.

In Clarissa’s book it talks about shedding skin and I feel like that is what I have done and will continue to strive to do in my life. I am letting go of layers of societal shoulds and listening to me and what inherently feels authentic, right now.  I think our gut/our self/instincts/// knows what we want to do. Despite frequent self doubting, I am learning to trust in me more and feeling happier and more confident for it.

Clarissa writes “within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species. Though the gifts of wildish nature come to us at birth, society’s attempt to ‘civilize’ us into rigid roles has plundered this treasure, and muffled deep, life-giving messages of our own souls. Without Wild Woman, we become overdomesticated, fearful, uncreative, trapped.

 

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A shot I took whilst travelling alone in Australia. This is Byron Bay as the sun is rising. Locals meet up before work to walk to the top end of the beach, they swim back together to the centre with the current, shower and start their day. Pretty ideal…

Anxious eating

I would definitely say I live to eat. I love food, and cooking. So much so that I have worked as a chef in the past and my first cook book, Lunch Box Salads, was published last week. Here’s me (on the right) and my friend Anna I wrote it with celebrating over a gigantic Vagabond pizza in Box Park. It was my first vegan pizza experience (Anna is vegan). Verdict: yummy and felt healthier with all the vegetables but I did miss melted cheese 🙂

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Whilst I have always seen it as a positive thing to live to eat, as I do think food is a great pleasure in life, I have noticed that I also eat when I am anxious and tend to over think about food if I am anxious as a distraction (and reach for a chocolate bar usually, sometimes a full size one). On this trip home the uncertainty of knowing my Mum is very upset with me for moving to Australia definitely pulled me down a spiral of anxious over eating which I am trying to combat now by:

  • Eating in a structured way: at least 3 proper sized meals and 2 snacks per day and not being too restrictive or over thinking it.
  • Trying to eat slowly and pause between mouthfuls.
  • Sitting with any anxious thoughts that come up and knowing they will pass e.g. the sadness I have over not feeling at home in my family home right now. Giving myself a break if I slip up as this is a hard situation.
  • Drinking less. Although it immediately relaxes me I know the next day I feel worse and need to remember that. I always want to just fit in socially and don’t always listen to my inner voice.
  • Always having fruit/nuts on hand to snack on and water.

I know for me part of it comes from a sense of self consciousness as I eat from anxiety and then I beat myself up and think I will put on weight. I don’t think I am naturally a self conscious, vain person so I want to let go of this small mentality too:

  • Eat well so my body is healthy and vibrant and able to contribute more.
  • Feel grateful for my body as it is today. I’m strong and fit.
  • Let go of self consciousness – everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives they are not looking at you. Smile at yourself for thinking they are.
  • If your not thinking about food you have more head space to focus on more important things in your life.
  • Smile at myself in the mirror and be kind to how I look right now.
  • Know I am enough, today, as I am, right now

 

Just had a yummy bowl of bircher muesli with lots of fruit. Looking forward to lunch already ha but nottttt going to obsess about it.

Procrastinating. and doing less

I definitely do it. Sometimes when I have done one task I mentally feel I can sit and do nothing for a while as a reward, or, sometimes when I have lots of tasks to do I feel a bit anxious and don’t know where to start so do nothing. The biggest area I find I end up procrastinating in is with exercise, putting it off and not fully committing to it. Find exercise I enjoy (group HIIT work outs, yoga and tennis) which are literally on my route home from work (so no excuse) has been the key to my success in building exercise into my daily routine in Australia.

Since I have been back in the UK on holiday I have found it hard to build it into a routine, instead finding it easier to make time for going for a long walk instead. I was making myself feel a bit bad about this but I am going to give myself a break. Walking is great and I’m on holiday 😀

Now I will go and buy a nice coffee (I have become slightly obsessed with good coffee since moving to Melbourne) and walk through Regents Park for an hour listening to a podcast (either Sky News or an episode on The Good Life Project).

Then I am going to sit and read a bit more of The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss or check out an art gallery. I find the book interesting with all the personal stories and I like the ideas, but, I don’t find it 100% relatable as I am trying to simplify my life right now and focus on a few things that are important to me, rather than optimise every moment.

I was going to meet a friend for lunch today and another for dinner, but I have cancelled the lunch so I can have a bit more time for myself. I have realised that I need time alone to reflect and take in information and life in a passive way as when I am around people a lot I get a bit tired and overwhelmed. Coming home has been lovely (and hard with family drama) but also exhausting. I think I am quite an emotional person and having big catch ups and meaningful conversations with friends and family I haven’t seen for 7 months is great but does zap my energy as an introvert. I think am learning to put myself first and work out what works for me. Then I will be at my best when I am around people and able to offer and contribute more. Well that’s the plan. Pending… 🙂

 

Today I am channeling being authentic

My natural inclination is to want to be liked, want to please and adapt myself to make others feel more at ease. I don’t like to kick up a fuss or stand out. I think this is a positive, compassionate way to live but along the way I sometimes loose track of what I want or care about and perhaps I am not always authentic in who I really am which can cause low level anxiety and a sense of displacement in myself.

I am going to try and be myself, not puff up or play down who I am in social situations. Be easy going, but not agreeable for agreeables sake and think about what I want to do rather than what I feel I should do, what is expected or what will allow me to blend in the easiest.

Where does this personality trait come from? I come from quite a big, loud, often argumentative family. Growing up I found it easier to stay quiet rather than have an opinion. Also, my Dad is a self made man and was quite successful in our local area.  I knew I stood out being dropped off in a nice car and coming back after the holidays with a tan from going abroad. Both teachers and pupils would often comment at school and I felt embarrassed and spoilt. I think that feeling of being spoilt also led me to pushing myself to achieve more, prove myself in my own right and try and make my Dad proud (hence deciding to start my own business post university).

I do feel a lot more comfortable in myself now and who I am but I do still find myself wanting to blend in a lot of the time and want to work on that and be true to myself.

Putting yourself out there anxiety

My first cookbook ‘Lunchbox Salads’ is published today and I am speaking on Radio X about it at 2PM. Anyone who has pre ordered a copy should receive it today or tomorrow and it will be in a few magazines and papers. Although I am proud of myself and the book I have a lot of anxiety about it and don’t often talk about it.

What if it isn’t very good? I wrote it after a big break up and felt that I wasn’t in the best headspace. Perhaps this will have affected the book? No, you checked the recipes, you wrote it with another chef friend and tried the recipes together, your a good cook and should have faith in yourself. You wrote recipes for a living and have never had a complaint and sold salads you designed yourself across London. This is a fear based on no facts. In fact the facts say the opposite. Give yourself some credit. 

I don’t want to be braggy on Facebook or appear different and successful. Where does this come from? Not wanting to stand out/always wanting to fit in. It is okay to be proud of yourself and your achievements without having to brag. Don’t down play them but don’t boast either. Sharing something big and important like this with your friends is natural and posting on social media can also be part of your PR it doesn’t have to be personal and about you.

Similarly, everyone has their own lives and will notice your success for 1 second and this is just a cook book. No need to over dramatise the situation. 

This book can be more than you, it is helping people eat healthily, enjoy cooking and have less food waste. Those are positive wordly factors, don’t let your self conscious ego get in the way of that.

Give yourself a break, you worked hard and achieved this. Be kind. 

Ok, now I will read this back three times and try and enjoy this special day.

The obstacle is the way

I’ve read a few books about Stoicism recently and found them useful in helping me respond more positively to tricky situations. The essence of stoicism is seeing life’s difficulties as things to make you stronger, to think less about yourself and more about the greater good and to live for the day rather than the future.

I moved to Australia 7 months ago because I have always wanted to live abroad for a bit and fancied a change (and something more chilled out) than London. In my head I’m thinking for a year or two but who knows. My mum has taken it very personally and flipped between getting angry with me and being quite nasty, ignoring me completely and occasionally supporting me. She reacted like this when I was leaving (November last year) and since I have been away. I am home at the moment for a few weeks as my brother got married last weekend (so much fun, possibly the best day of my life not sure about his!) and she is still treating me like this. We have probably been a bit too close and more like friends over the years and normally I feel bad and sorry for her as she has had her struggles (insomnia, an illness made her bed ridden and suicidal a few years ago which is is over now but seems to be ill a lot of the time) and I can see now has quite a depressive/manic personality, but I am also feeling a lot of anger for the first time. As she is so mentally sensitive I know voicing it directly isn’t the answer. I get very anxious (which maybe relates to growing up with my mum being on edge all the time) and I can see now that her behaviour makes me anxious and knocks me back. Part of me wants to point the finger and say she is being cruel and unfair etc as all I am trying to do is live my life, butttttt, I know that she isn’t in a good place and can’t see past how things around her affect her, so I am working on being stoic about it.

  • Seeing this as a challenge which I can overcome by being present and supportive in her company but also taking a bit of a step back and making sure I look after myself first. I am going to stay in touch with her, but her friends are going to step in and support her mental struggles as I can’t be that person.
  • It has be nice to get the support of other parents who have said I have done nothing wrong in moving away, they are proud of what I am doing and that her behaviour isn’t normal. A big part of me always thinks I am over reacting and this is all in my head so hearing them confirm that her behaviour isn’t normal helps me accept it for what it is as well and be kind to myself rather than critical or feel guilty.
  • I am going to intentionally try and let go of this anger that has developed and appreciate that it is only because she loves me and doesn’t know how to express it.
  • Whilst our relationship has changed, it will probably be a healthier one in the future and has allowed for me to have a better relationship with my Dad and brother.
  • I know I can be quite in my head and self focussed like my mum so being aware of that will hopefully help me pause before reacting to situations in my own life and know that any unhelpful personality traits I see in myself aren’t me and I can work on letting go of them.
  • I’m embarrassed to say that there is part of me which feels sorry for myself and the younger me growing up now, but that is my ego. I have a mother who loved and loves me very much. Maybe I have inherited some of her sensitivity but I am also very compassionate and able to help other friends going through similar battles because of it all. Whilst it has been a bit of a revelation for me and changed how I look back on things, everyone has had struggles and we can choose whether to let them define us or use them to help make us stronger and more helpful to other people.

It feels good to get this out there and consolidate my thoughts, but enough thinking about me for now. I am going to go for a nice walk in the sunshine with a coffee and find out what else is going on in world on my sky news podcast 🙂

 

Books I read and highly recommend on stoicism (/by read I mean listened to on Audible on my way to work…)

Ryan Holiday The Obstacle is the Way 

Ryan Holiday Ego is the Enemy 

 

Listening to the news

For the past year I’ve flipped between not wanting to know the news because it is always depressing and isn’t really adding to my life, to feeling selfish not wanting to know the news and being embarrassed about my knowledge of current affairs. Recently, I have come to think it is important to have an understanding of the world to be a part of it and see yourself as part of the whole rather than an individual looking after number one. From this place I want to know what is going on in the world, but rather than reading a newspaper, watching TV or scrolling through Facebook news, I am choosing to listen to news based podcasts.

BBC World News is the one I am opting for at the moment. It is updated each day and about 45 minutes long. As well as the headlines you get reports and debates so you learn a bit more about what is going on. I am aiming to listen to it whilst I go on a walk before/on my way to work and really listen to it rather than loose myself in thoughts or plans for the day (with mixed success – I find focussing on my feet and hands moving along as I walk helps me stay present). I am also trying not to be annoyed at myself if I don’t walk or listen to it everyday e.g. at the weekends if I am busy or if I am tired and lie in. Another good time for listening for me is after the gym when I am stretching. I then choose not to watch TV, scroll on facebook or read newspapers for the most part.