The first stage of belonging is to belong to yourself

This week, I set myself the challenge to set an intention for each day. What I found was that a lot of my intentions were set around others. I would intend to call family, check in on friends, make sure I completed things at work, instead of focusing on myself.

Then, I was browsing the Internet and came across the website Should I Leave Him, a site dedicated to information about making good decisions. One of their articles talked about how you can’t be a good partner unless you are feeling good yourself and, in order for your relationship to grow, you have to nurture yourself first.

It dawned on me that my focus has to be on myself first to allow me to reach my goals. To focus on what you really want, you have to get down to values:

  • What lifestyle am I striving for?
  • Where do I want to be in 10 years?
  • How do I like to spend my free time?
  • What brings me the most joy?
  • What will I absolutely not stand for?

This process is hard because often our values can get overridden or forgotten, especially with a relationship or a job, but it was something that I found helpful.

I weeded out any answers which weren’t coming from me, so anything I had learned from family or colleagues which didn’t reflect my own opinion, and I was left with a surprising simple list.

I want to strive for the simple things in life, getting pleasure from gardening, long walks and volunteering. I want to live comfortably, but not excessively, and I want to be running my own business full-time in 10 years. I get joy from nature, reading and deep conversations with friends and I will not condone negativity or violence.

When you strip back all those inherited opinions and challenge everything before you write it down, by asking yourself “Is that really my voice?”, you may be surprised by what you find.

It helps me to own my own values and to be able to stand up to others and recognise that their thoughts are not always the same as mine, and I can choose not to take them on board.

This process told me a lot about myself and made me feel stronger about ploughing my own furrow, in spite of whatever else is going on. It is also helping me on this journey of belonging because, ultimately, you can’t belong to any community until you first belong to yourself.

So this week is going to be about standing up for my own values. To challenge the opinions of others and weed out anything that doesn’t serve me. Easier said than done but to help me, I have written my values down in my purse to remind me.

We all have times of weakness when we take on others’ opinions until we believe they are our own, but how often do we stop to challenge it before it even enters our head? For me, rarely. Until now!

Challenge your thoughts before they go and play havoc in your head.

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Learning to make room for uncomfortable feelings

In my last post, I touched on how we need to embrace all of our feelings to fully belong anywhere. To know fear is to know safety and to know sadness, we must know happiness. Having a range of feelings that we recognise and welcome in, allows us to learn.

This week I tried very hard to take 10 minutes a day to tune in and find out what was going on inside me. For the most part, I did manage this. Whether to go out in the garden, take a short walk, or simply look out of the window.

I experienced sensations of doubt, fear, instability, insufficiency and also joy, gladness and hopefulness. I learnt that I have more work to do inside to get a good balance on the outside. For instance, spending time with my partner and also growing my business has been a bit of a tug of war, but my feelings highlighted that my inner turmoil is a signal of what is going on outside.

Balance and thinking

Awareness is a positive growth tool and it is amazing how the more you tune in to your inner dialogue, the more you realise how little you listen to yourself. In situations where I felt fearful and out of my comfort zone, I questioned myself and tried to work out why I felt this way. This feeling took me away from trying to belong and separated me from my desire to become more at one with my community.

Some situations were due to my own feelings of trying to compete with others, comparing lifestyles. I stopped that short as soon as I clocked it, and focused on being grateful for what I have and where I am in life. I remembered they had more experience, more years ahead of me. I gained perspective. I converted that insecurity into confidence.

Exactly where you need to be

I want to learn to convert those insecurities into confidence more often and to remain focused on that throughout my day. So this week my mission is to set an intention for each day.

Similar to how in yoga, you often set an intention before your practice and return to it at the end. Maybe to relax, to open our hearts, to stretch. I want to set a focus for my day, maybe to remain open-minded, to stay calm, to reach out to friends. Then return to it before going to bed, to review and find out how closely I stuck to my intention and whether anything stood in my way, whether in my mind or in the real world.

By focusing our thoughts, we bring our awareness to something deliberately. We start to own and belong to our thoughts, and bring ourselves closer to being at one with ourselves.

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Your true value comes when you know what you’re worth

This week has been all about recognising my own worth, both in terms of business and personal relationships.

When you start to pay a thought your attention, you notice it much more. For instance, this week I was having a business conversation with someone about rates and they said, “Oh I’d pay you more than that, you’re worth more.” Coming from someone who had only just met me was a huge compliment and also a boost for me to realise I could charge more.

Similarly, in my friendships I have been investing in friends who are worth my attention and who repay me with theirs. You can have many friends who you get along with, but true friends recognise your worth. They are your champions and they say things you should be saying to yourself; “Don’t be so hard on yourself”, “You’re doing a great job”, “You’re worth more than that.” True friends allow you to realise your own value.

And so with my new-found confidence in my own value and worth, I am looking ahead to the next week focusing on not wrestling with your inner demons.

I’m talking about those fears, doubts and vulnerabilities that we all like to hide away; things we stuff into the far depths of our being. This week I want to make friends with those unwelcome feelings and welcome them in, learn from them.

Just as you can be fearful, you can also be confident. Our opposing feelings teach us about our inner imbalances and help us push towards a better balance. By greeting these feelings and paying attention to them, we are asking them to help us look deeper within ourselves to correct our inner turmoil, and reset the balance. Only then will we feel at peace again.

It’s linked to the idea of chakras and I drew inspiration from this as I attended a class about them this week. I learnt about the 7 main chakras and what it means for them to be balanced, over-stimulated and blocked.

7 main chakras and outputs

By being aware of what is going on inside, we are in a better position to address it.

So much of our lives is going from one thing to another, often ignoring our inner voices telling us to rest or nourish ourselves. We take a pill to cure a headache, instead of tuning in and realising we need to take time to relax. We blame others for our relationship problems, instead of spending time affirming our worth. All this pain we inflict on ourselves, for what? Because we’re scared to stop?

Well I’d rather stop to rest and revive than carry on in a haze of stress and poor health.

Be kind to yourself. No-one else can help you with that. You must be kind and tune in, because our bodies and minds have ways of telling us what to do and, if you don’t listen, they will take action. It’s like getting a cold when you’re run down, your body is saying loud and clear, REST!

We have got so out of sync with our own selves, preferring to be preached to or told what to do by magazines or the news. No! All you need is already with you.

Listen to your own voice

This week I’m going to aim to switch off from the outside world for at least 10 minutes a day. To walk in silence, stare out the window, weed the garden, and connect, really connect with everything that’s going on inside.

I’m ready to learn more about myself and where I can clear out the paths for my energy to move freely.

Energy flows where attention goes

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Nothing good comes easily

Last week, I started up a project around belonging and I am setting myself a challenge each week, in an effort to feel a greater sense of belonging to myself and my community.

My first challenge was to be bold. And I spent all week with those words in my head. I dressed brightly, I spoke my mind, I accepted compliments wholeheartedly and yet it was quite a tricky week for me.

Just lots of things culminating to leave a bad taste. I lost a contract at work, I took an accidental 40 mile diversion, my card was declined in the corner shop, a tree in my garden got chopped down. On their own all things you can deal with, but all at once it feels too much.

I took time to see and breathe nature, to reset and to do yoga but I still had this overriding sense of agitation, of feeling ‘what’s next?’.

And then I realised that a lot of things worth having, take work. That means overcoming challenges, getting through bad weeks and, most of all, learning your own coping mechanisms.

Being pushed and pulled and jarred around feels like the total opposite of belonging – it makes you feel like you don’t belong. But I think we need these things to make us bolder, smarter and stronger, to make us question who we are and what we stand for, only then can we really belong.

Most of us in today’s society perceive belonging as materialist, having the same lifestyle, family, designer clothes, cars, but belonging comes from within. It is about seeing someone else’s soul and saying, “I see you. I accept you.” No rules. no dramas, no standards, just welcoming someone else to the circle, flaws and all.

This week has challenged me but it has also set me further along on my journey of belonging. It has made me realise my worth and what I am prepared to stand for. It has also inspired next week’s challenge.

This second challenge is going to be about knowing your own worth and not letting anyone else lessen it. It’s about saying no to a contract because you know you can get a better deal, it’s about speaking up when someone says something to discredit you and it’s about putting yourself first when it comes to self-care, because you can’t do anything without your mind and body being present.

Knowing your own worth is about accepting yourself, all of you, just as you are and being confident about it.


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Belonging – my new project

I can’t take full credit for this as it has been inspired by a beautiful book I am reading called Belonging by Toko-pa Turner (read it!)

The book touches on how we must learn to look within us for the answers, to sit with pain and worry and learn from them. To be part of a community, we must settle into the bad and good parts of life and not just block them out with medicine or by doing something else.

One thing she talked about which resonated with me was how doubts are actually a way of our bodies telling us to push past the fear to the next stage. That’s what prompted my idea for a new project.

I worry a lot. I have numerous doubt cycles which like to appear on Sundays each week. But I am actually very contented in life right now, so I want to get rid of them.

My belonging project will explore a different topic in each post, inspired by the book, and how I personally tackle it. Similar to my 52 Week Challenge, I am going to challenge myself to get to a greater place of belonging by the end of 2018.

It’s not something you can measure externally, but you can measure the quiet resonance it projects outwards from the core within.

My first week is going to be entitled ‘Belonging is Bold’. It’s about wearing red rather than black, digging out bright pink lipstick on Mondays and knowing that it makes you feel good, that you can be more confident in yourself, that you don’t need to apologise for who you are. It’s about being bold because that’s something I want to be and part of building community is being at peace with all of who you are.

Join my journey, be your own kind of bold this week.

Freedom lies in being bold

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#43 Beautiful Life

Days like today when you’re stretched out in a chair in the garden, soaking up the sunshine and listening to the birds, are just perfect. They teach you about being present and the art of just being in the moment.

It’s a time when we look at our lives more positively, we see happiness, hope and joy and we are guided by love, not fear.

You come out of hibernation and look ahead to the coming seasons. We plan trips and holidays, we socialise, we go for walks and we really appreciate how beautiful life is.

The leaves on the trees and flowering plants remind us of the glorious colours of nature, which we almost forgot over winter.

Sunshine brings with it a warmth which we feel right through to our soul. It warms our hearts as well as our bodies and offers us space to be open to new thoughts and opportunities.

This is a time to be so thankful for life and for all the things in it. To bless wildlife, our environment and our friends and family. To be thankful for our house and jobs and being able to enjoy the sunshine.

It fills us with a happiness which is meant to be spread. We smile at neighbours, shopkeepers and strangers and find our hearts more open to loved ones.

There is something so comforting and safe about sitting on a rug in the park with loved ones and just soaking it all in. The chatter, the sun, the food and the company. Time is not of importance on these days and we quite happily pass from afternoon to evening without that sense of rushing.

There is a time to rush and a time to be still, just as there is a time to talk and a time to listen. We must learn that be can’t always be active and on the go and that we need passive times, where life passes us by, to balance us out.

Because that’s what makes our lives so beautiful and rich is that we have a balance. The cold makes us appreciate the warm, the rain makes us appreciate the sunshine and the downtime makes us appreciate everything that keeps us busy.

And when we start to appreciate the beauty of what surrounds us, we see it in everything.

Van Gogh Beauty

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#42 This moment, forever

For the first time in a long time, I am aware that I feel content. I am not constantly worrying or overanalysing or being anxious, I am at peace.

I am the fittest I have ever been and I feel happy for about 90% of the time (we all have bad days!) It feels to me that I have reached a time in my life where most of my boxes are ticked.

I have started my own business, which has opened me up to new opportunities in my local area, I have a small group of close friends who I can rely on, I have a supportive partner and I have shaped a garden I am happy with. I feel full and positive.

And yet no single moment in your life can last forever. We move forward, changing and adapting all the time.

If you’d asked me 5 years ago, where do you see yourself in 5 years? I would probably have said in a stable job, maybe married and with my own house. Not all our predictions are realised, but our choices take us on different paths that open us up to new experiences.

Don't rush things

Yoga has played a huge part in my growth too. Not only does it help me switch off and unwind, but it challenges me.

I have always been scared of the inverted poses, headstand and shoulder stand for instance, but I have found the confidence and courage to practice these poses at home. Suddenly, you realise what you are capable of and it’s empowering. It radiates out into other areas of your life.

Just like change. If we work with it, not against it, we learn a lot about ourselves and our own journeys. Whether done solo or with a partner in crime, we all change and it can be scary to think that this time of happiness can’t always look the same.

Your own version of contentment will probably be different to mine, but one thing I am sure of is that it is often the times in our lives where we are challenged, and succeed, that we experience this peacefulness.

Knowing what you are capable of – loving someone, doing a shoulder stand, running a marathon, setting up a business, travelling alone – gives you the confidence and strength to do more, to be more.

Focus not on having more, but on being more.

Happiness comes from within, it is something we feel in the moment. It is not a pursuit, it is now.

We can all experience our moment of contentment throughout our lives by being grateful, prioritising the most important things and learning to grow with change.

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