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Ok, hear me out. You probably read the title of this blog and thought “here we go, what is she on about now” but seriously, I’ve been thinking a lot about self worth and self love lately and it all came back to me when I started to tell someone my experience with the Twilight Saga.
Firstly, the books came into my life at the end of a bad break up, the kind of break up where there’s 5 years of history, connected families, lots of pain and suffering and love – in fact this was my high school sweet heart and I absolutely believed that he was the only person for me (at that time in my life). But allegedly (I say that with a heavy heart) he wasn’t so faithful to me, and whilst we tried to sort things out, I think reading the Twilight books was my turning point in knowing what I needed and what I was going to do next.
Having done some work in this past year with Shine From Within I have been lucky enough to meet groups of beautiful tween and teen girls who are looking for their thing, who are experiencing those first moments of lighting up when they hear something beautiful or find something that they are passionate about. The flipside of that is that they are still learning how to love themselves, in fact, I believe that all of our lives we continue to learn how to love ourselves and without some history or experience in the matter it can be difficult to truly know how to do this.
Our first reaction is to look outside of ourselves, in particular some of us will find a ‘partner’ a girl or a boy who is our person, someone who helps us to light up and to feel beautiful, and because we are so vulnerable and eager to please and learn we become attached. Sometimes it’s a beautiful thing, two young / middle aged or otherwise people meet and they build the other person up to support them to find their best versions of themselves. In some cases, that happens for a little while and then we forget why we began that relationship and lose ourselves in the attention of others, or even lose ourselves in the other person which makes it awfully hard to walk away when something truly isn’t working.
Take my relationship for example, I was in love (or was I?), I didn’t know anyone else but him as my partner and the final straw was not the only time I had put up with rumours of being unfaithful or tears cried when he wouldn’t talk to me for absolutely no reason. Our relationship was serious, and it was the first ‘proper’ relationship that I’d ever had so I didn’t know where to draw the line. He treated me well for the most part, I can’t complain about that, but I didn’t really know what it meant to be treated like I was the most precious piece of cargo in this whole wide world, at least not from him.
This is where Twilight comes into play.
We broke up, my friend took me to the movie (the first one was already out by the time I started reading the books) and I was in hermit mode where all I wanted to do was to be tucked up on the lounge chair reading until 1am to tire my mind so that I could sleep.
I fell madly in love with both Edward and Jacob, I couldn’t decide between the two because the main thing that they both had in common was that they loved Bella so much that they would do absolutely anything in this world to protect her, to make her feel loved and to ensure that she was treated with the respect that she deserved.
In the books I’m sure you could get a million different messages but this one hit home for me. It was the first time that I stepped back and thought, I deserve this. I deserve to be treated like a princess, like I’m the only woman in the world to my person. I deserve to be loved, wholly, not only by myself but by any significant other that I choose based on their ability to love me in the way that I need.
At that moment, when this message clicked with me, I knew that my ex and I were over, for good. There was no turning back, no trying to make it work, in fact I couldn’t even look at him the same because I realised he couldn’t treat me the way I needed him to. And if I weren’t willing to ask him to love me like I deserved then how could I possibly love myself?
That didn’t mean to say other men didn’t come into my life at times that I knew would not be able to give me what I needed, but they served a different purpose, someone to have fun with, someone who I could enjoy their company but knowing that they were not ‘my’ person.
I made a pact that I would wait until my Edward or Jacob came to me. That I would treat myself with enough respect to know when it was time to walk away from one of my flings or to not even go there when I knew the person couldn’t or wouldn’t give me what I deserved. It was hard, but I was lucky enough to be at a point in my life where I didn’t really care or need a significant other to make me happy, I was enjoying being my own boss, the creator of my own destiny and enjoying my independence. This is a hard thing to do, particularly when we feel young, or vulnerable (we don’t have to be young to feel this way), it takes a lot of courage to KNOW and stick with what you want and I feel like that may mean for some of us that we need to accept that it’s going to take a little while to find the significant other that lights us up, sometimes it’s months, sometimes its decades.
I waited two years, and then…
I found him, my person, the love that no matter how tough things got still always found the time to make me feel like I was the most important and special person in this whole world to him. The man who wasn’t afraid to tell me so, every single day. The person who connects with me to a level that I never thought was possible who lifts me up and brings me back into reality seamlessly. The man who isn’t afraid to love me like I deserve. My Edward or Jacob (I still can’t choose).
So the moral of my story, and what I hope you find through reading the Twilight Saga is that Edward and Jacob are not just passionatee or protective about Bella because they’re a special breed of vampire or werewolf, they’re the type of men who know how to love a women like she deserves. And Bella, in turn knows how to love them, with her whole being, through this she also discovers just how amazing she can be and transitions from a girl who isn’t sure where she truly fits in to knowing exactly who she was meant to be in her life and how she was going to get it – because she learns how to be loved and how to truly love herself in turn.
In my 26 years on this planet there is nothing more important that I’ve learnt than to feel healthy. It’s not an easy feat to constantly and consistently put your health, both physical, mental and emotional, ahead of other aspects like relationships, work, friendships and family but I always have to remind myself and others that without your own health how can you be a colleague, friend, relative or partner to anyone else?
What’s incredible however is that as a human race we tend to want to be ‘healthy’ but always struggle to truly listen to what we need from within and explore the truths to what our psyche (spirit) and our soma (body) are actually telling us. I learnt this truth the hard way in April and May 2015 when I really started to tune in and realise that the stomach and digestion problems I was constantly battling with should not have been something I had to live with.
Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t life threatening, I was not diseased or ill in the sense that I couldn’t live my everyday ‘normal’ life, although sometimes I wanted it to be that simple, something easily diagnosed. The fact I had to face was that I was stressed. Utterly, deeply stressed.
There was so much happening in my life, so many big decisions, I felt on the edge constantly and my reprieve, yoga, only lasted so long. Back to reality I went, my stomach growling at me, my belly feeling constantly bloated and gassy, even when I hadn’t eaten in 5 or more hours and my mind and body without any energy. I know this is not a great place to be, I felt inspired to be better, I wanted to feel healthy, I knew what it felt like to be healthy (my version anyway) and this certainly wasn’t it. But what could I do? I tried to clear my mind, keep focussing on what I loved, I let stuff go because it didn’t’ serve me, I focussed on the things and people that made me happy and I tried to give myself a little bit of me time (I was definitely unsuccessful at that). And for all of my ‘trying’, I still felt exhausted. Maybe I was trying too hard.
The signs of stress are often mixed up with or end up in mental ill health. If untreated, our body can start to shut down, or speed up from the constant state of being on edge, or in fight / flight mode, we can then start to enter the spectrum of anxiety.
For some of us it doesn’t take much, it’s not that we’re any weaker than anyone else, it’s simply who we are and our lesson in life is to listen to that and to make sure we look after ourselves, even more so than those who don’t find themselves that close to the edge. Stress and ‘busyness’ is quite common, and it’s something that a lot of people in this world are open to owning, but it’s when it starts verging on anxiety that we shut down, we pretend it’s not the case – but what’s the difference? If anything, admitting that something needs to change can bring a huge amount of relief, and when you realise exactly what’s happening and that you are most definitely NOT alone you open up a world of possibilities to support you to move back towards the well side of the scale.
So when I found myself on the verge of my anxiety, my stress levels peaking, and my main physical signs being a lack of energy, constantly irritated and bloated bowels and a lack of lustre for the day to day and those around me I decided to tackle the physical realm and see what happened.
Various tests didn’t really show too much, well not the clear-cut diagnosis I was hoping for anyways, the merely picked up that I was severely B12 deficient which indicates a potential auto-immune disease amongst other things, but nothing formally confirmed. Finally, after a couple of months and being inspired by meridians and chi in my Yin Teacher Training (Joe Barnett is amazing by the way), I decided acupuncture what was I needed, I needed to get my chi in order and figure out what was going on.
I don’t know what worked better, the needles themselves or the 30 minutes each session where I couldn’t move (well I tried not to, I know you probably can), which forced me to face my demons and truly quieten my mind. The time was bliss. In the first session I realised just how much I really struggled to not create to do lists in my mind, the second session I actually chose to catch the train part way and walk from the station for some added movement and found it a little easier to relax, the third time I finally started to find some true peace, stillness and as each session came and went I found that my mind was slower, my decisions more rational, my demeanour more lively.
Yes, all of this coincided with the final stages of planning and putting together my work and play trip overseas for my yoga career, it was a trying time making things fit, starting to transition towards my passion and walking away from what I had always known, so you could say I had a light at the end of the tunnel. But it wasn’t the light that I needed, it was the time to get my head space right. Because what kind of yogi would I be if I couldn’t be still and allow myself to find a place of calm and peace from within?
But I am real, I face the same ups and downs inside out and one thing that I often tell people at yoga and in my ‘day’ job is that it’s how we choose to look at our situation, and the choices we then make that matter. I chose to listen to what was happening within, and within a few months I was feeling relatively normal again. But the damage I had done in being too ‘busy’ had taken its toll and it took me around 4 months to feel ‘normal’ again, and I’m still working on it.
The truth of the matter is that I didn’t listen, I wanted to be strong, to not let ‘it’, whatever it was, get on top of me and what I really needed to do was stop.
It’s time that we all start to listen, that we don’t underestimate what our bodies and minds are telling us, that we take the time to be mindful and to find out what healthy actually is for us.
We should not accept or live with mediocre, we should feel great, at least 90% of the time, and the other 10% we are allowed to wallow, to slow down to contemplate and to consider what’s truly happening within and around us because if we don’t stop every now and then to do this we might miss our opportunity for wellness. There should be no disappointment, disapproval or discontentment from owning up to how you are feeling, we are human beings, we are not made to be perfect but we have sophisticated brains and bodies that we can learn from.
I read a great article tonight, written by James Bailey and it said, “…as unpleasant as they may seem, you were meant to have difficult experiences so that you can grow. The challenges do not go away when we change our name or who we think we are. They just dig in deeper. The greatest form of yoga is a life lived in balance. Should you run into your shadow along the way, know that you’re definitely on the right path. Work with the shadow fearlessly and compassionately; with your eyes wide open. The only faith required is in yourself, for the divine is only as beautiful as you feel you are...”
So find yourself, accept this life as an opportunity and choose wisely in how you treat yourself. You do not have to live every day in stress, or fear or anxiety, you can seek help in conventional and unconventional ways and the only thing that you truly need to understand is the needs from deep within you. The rest of the world can wait.
Stay tuned to my social media or my newsletter for the rest of my #RealWomen blog series... I'll be sharing a REAL story with you, that hopefully you can relate to from people who I've met along my travels both in Australia and overseas.
If you need more support in living with mental ill health, please make sure to contact lifeline if you’re in Australia on 13 11 14.
You know those days when you just feel like shit? Where you look at yourself and wonder where the old and better you went? Or you think about how much better you could be? Or how you wish you hadn’t eaten that extra slice of pizza last night…
I know those days, because I’m not perfect, and I don’t want to be perfect but equally I don’t want to feel the way that I do on those days, heavy, shoulders slouched, eyebrows creased, the lethargy the lack of energy or zest for anything and everything.
Being out of my routine during my travels has taken a toll, I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be exploring and delving further into my yoga and different cultures but am equally feeling out of sorts in my body and my mind. The copious amounts of tapas, rice, pizza, pasta and potatoes that I’m eating is also not doing any favours to my waistline or my mindset and is definitely not giving me the nutrients I need to feel energized and healthy. And you know what? That’s my choice to make, and I choose to experience these wonderful cultures and cuisines while I can.
What I do have a choice in however is how I choose to think about myself in order to feel balanced, courageous and happy. All of these things are directly affected by my ability to love myself – which I’m learning to do, day by day, and which copious amounts of pasta should not affect.
When we were in Spain I pulled out my gorgeous wrap-around thigh split dress (which I had been waiting to wear out properly for a while), which would usually make me feel really sexy and happy. But when I started to tie it up and feel the way that my body fit into the dress I immediately started thinking about how much I’d eaten that day, how tired I was and how very un-sexy I felt in that dress at that very moment.
My thoughts were violent, and not in the traditional sense of violence but they were self-harming, unhappy and unhelpful and they certainly didn’t put me in the right mindset that I needed to go out and have a wonderful time enjoying the local cuisine and exploring the dimly lit streets of the stunning town we were in.
You may think that my statement above is harsh, or too strong, particularly because I used the word ‘violent’ but I’ve been reading The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele and the section on Ahimsa (non-violence) has asked me to consider whether I can be the best version of myself if I am continually beating myself up about all of my flaws or perceived flaws? No I can’t. And if I can’t love myself and treat myself with respect and dignity then how can I possibly treat others that way?
The Yamas & Niyamas by Deborah Adele quotes “Our ability to stay balanced and courageous has much to do with how we feel about ourselves.”
In order to achieve whatever perceived success we believe we ought to in this life it first starts with mastering the art of loving ourselves. Because only when we truly love ourselves can we begin to love our lives and others around us. And when we feel great about ourselves – as the quote says above, our ability to tackle all obstacles in life in a calm, balanced and courageous will enable to be truly happy with everything that we achieve.
I’ll admit the practicalities of non-violence or ahimsa are hard to master, particularly the art of non-violence towards yourself but is something that we need to be so conscious of.
So how can we practice non-violence towards ourselves? Well the first step I took on that fateful night as I walked out the door feeling horrible was I looked down at myself with no mirrors in front of me and I suddenly realised that the only reason the dress didn’t fit me properly was because my mind was telling me to feel uncomfortable in it. The dress covered everything it needed too, it wrapped around my body the way it always had, and when I stopped playing around with it every step that I took I realised that I actually looked quite sexy with my thigh showing with each step and reminded myself that it was meant to fit that way. Sure the models whose pictures I see in the dress wear it well, but that’s because they OWN IT!
I thought to myself “I am sexy, and I am lucky to have a body that is healthy and can heal and actually, my body is pretty damn good considering the change in diet and exercise I’ve had.” I couldn’t help but smile, my small little pep talk was just what I needed to shake my bad mood and remember that I AM sexy, and there are plenty of people in this world who I’m sure think so as well (starting with my partner).
So this spring summer season – don’t beat yourself up. Don’t let the thoughts of the impending ‘bikini weather’ or guilt or self-consciousness take over.
As soon as I started owning it, it felt so much more comfortable not only in the dress I was wearing but in my own body – this is what we should be like every damn day. Our bodies are constantly changing, and they will never stay the same so go with the flow of life, as long as you feel healthy and happy that is the best that you can ask for right?
Owning the way you look and either a) making a positive lifestyle change to FEEL healthy (looking healthy does not make you feel any better) or b) stop beating yourself up about the way that you are meant to be and look is the first step to making a change. It takes time and confidence to believe that you are beautiful just the way you are but it also takes dedication to the art of thinking great things about yourself, because let’s face it – it doesn’t come naturally to a lot of us.
The benefits you will see and feel immediately – every single time you think ‘I look amazing in this’ or ‘I love the way I look and feel today’ you will start to believe it and those beautiful thoughts will soon start to become things like ‘I am the right person for this job, I will get it’ or ‘I will take that leap and be successful at something I’ve always wanted’. These self-affirmations are the difference between a confident, happy and energized person and an unhappy, self-conscious, guilt ridden person. Practicing positivity every single day and banning the ‘violent’ thoughts from your mind and your life (and that includes anyone who puts those thoughts in your head) is the best thing that you can do to change the life that you are living.
So go on and give it a go – it’s perfect timing for summer.