#38 Sacrifices that are worthwhile

Sometimes in life we make sacrifices to get onto a better path.

My recent sacrifice was going from a full-time to a part-time job to support my growing business. I am pleased with my decision but it has meant some changes. I sacrificed a comfortable job and salary with the security of an employer and decided to be brave and give it a go by myself.

But it can be scary and lonely at times so I found it useful to write down things that I was grateful for, in an effort to put things in perspective and not get so hung up on the paycheck.

  • I can’t do things at the drop of a hat on a part-time salary, but I get to spend two days a week doing what I love.
  • I can’t get a decent mortgage, but I can spend more time doing things my way around the house and garden.
  • I may not be able to save in the same way, but I can invest into my business and work on growing it.
  • I may not be in a big office anymore, but I have made far more meaningful connections through networking groups and events.
  • I don’t have a manager telling me what needs to be done 5 days a week, leaving me free to be creative and agile in my business.
  • I get to be my own boss and get the title of ‘Director’!
  • I can take long walks in the middle of the day and there’s no one to say what time I need to be back.
  • I can invest more time in relationships with family and friends.
  • I can inspire others to follow their own dreams and escape the corporate hamster wheel, because I have done it myself.
  • Most of all, I can look back and know that I did something because I believed I could. No matter what happens, I can be happy with my decision to be brave and branch out.

Yes going it alone, albeit with the safety net of a part-time job, is scary, but wouldn’t you rather give it a go than live your life wondering what if?

There are many things in life that I’m not sure of – whether to have kids, whether I’ll ever move house, whether I’ll get a dog – but my career has never been in question. I have always wanted to start my own business and now I can say I have done it!

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#37 Finding your tribe

Sometimes it can feel as though you’re the only one doing what you’re doing, going through what’s going on in your life. And other times it can feel like you are in just the right place at the right time. It all depends on who you are surrounding yourself with.

It can be hard to find your fit and, at some points in your life, you will need different people. The ebb and flow of friendships is part of life, it allows us to grow.

I have, and have had, many great friendships, most of which have given me strength when I needed it, made me happy and fed my soul with joy. Others, I have since realised, were toxic or one-sided, but we don’t always see that at the time. Finding a group of people who ‘get’ you, your tribe, takes time and it also takes knowing yourself first.

Find your tribe quote

When I found out my personality type was an INFJ (you can do a free personality type test at 16Personalities.com), it seemed to help. Everything that I previously thought was ‘weird’ about me made sense and I felt more confident being who I really am. I didn’t mind that some of my personality traits may come across differently to others.

Once you get yourself and understand who you truly are, you send out a vibe which often attracts similar people. It was around the same time that I made friends with people who were also INFJs, or who stood for something different, who championed things which others may simply ignore.

These friends lifted me up and made me feel part of something. They were all different ages, from different walks of life but we were all on this mission together. Every time we talked, I felt inspired, uplifted and on track. This is what a tribe is all about.

Having a tribe is especially important for women. The power held by a group of women, aligned on the same course, is far greater than anything man-made. Together, we have the power and energy to overcome many of life’s challenges

Power of rising women

Find who you are, rise up and spread that vibe with others. Join women’s circles or start your own. Invite other women along, meet those who are aligned to your path and lift each other up.

The time to find your tribe is now. Find them. Love them. Lift them.

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#36 Less perfection, more authenticity

In a world where using filters on social media photos is the norm, at what point do we distinguish between our ‘perfect’ selves and our authentic selves?

Recently, a friend of mine posted on social media about being worried of posting photos of herself doing yoga poses because she deemed them not perfect, and felt her students would judge her for it.

I was horrified to think that she was feeling this way. Yoga is her main business and, although it is a saturated market, the whole ethos of yoga is about acceptance.

Whilst drafting my reply to her, I thought about how much images and videos in our social media feeds can influence how we feel about ourselves. A ‘perfect’ selfie can make us feel lonely or ugly, merely because our brains are wired to compare ourselves to others all the time. This is part of the reason that I started posting nature photos on my Facebook page (later followed by @365_dayswild Instagram feed), because nature forces us to look outwards, to be present. When you see a photo of a tree, you do not compare yourself to it, you simply appreciate it for what it is. You see magnificence, beauty and strength and it fills you with joy rather than negativity.

We have become so fixated on an end goal of perfection, that we forget everyone is on different journeys influenced by different environments. Is there even such a thing as perfect?! It is not the search for perfection that we should be concentrating on, but the search for authenticity. Our sense of belonging to ourselves and our world.

But what is authenticity?

In the dictionary, authentic is defined as:

of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.

It’s about being real, presenting the person that everyone sees who knows you. In real life, you can’t filter out that spot on your chin, or frame your face in Retro or black and white. You have to move past that fixation on looking perfect. It’s not real and it’s not you.

We have to accept ourselves as a whole. We may perceive certain things as imperfect but where does that perception come from? Most likely the media, who present images of celebrities looking well turned out with no spots in sight. Remember that they are not ordinary people, their lives and environments are so far removed from most others that it is ridiculous to even start a comparison. See them but never, ever compare yourself to them.

Your body is a perfect machine, but it won’t run happily if you hate it.

Just as you see the beauty and strength of a tree or the fragility and growth of a flower, see those qualities in yourself. We are all, at some point, fragile and developing but we can also be such beautiful beings capable of kindness and growth.

Move your thoughts away from perfect and focus on being real. Be real with yourself, with others and try to reflect the good qualities you see in nature, in yourself.

To be truly authentic, you must open yourself up to authenticity and release any ideas of ‘perfection’.

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#35 Keeping your well full

I usually find that there are certain times during the week where I am filled with energy. Where I don’t mind doing things around the house or helping my partner with odd jobs. My energy supplies are high.

But then there come points where I resent those tasks, I feel empty, lacking in energy and I often snap at things. I want others to share the load and yet I also want to do it myself. I get into negative thought cycles and forget to reach out.

Someone once told me that our energy supplies are like a well. If you don’t take time to fill it, it runs dry. I like that. The idea is that you have to take a certain amount of time for yourself to fill your well, otherwise all your energy gets used on doing things for other people.

One of my favourite activities for filling my well is reading, or writing. And yet, when we’re busy, we often forget to prioritise our own hobbies. We feel guilty about saying no to somebody else. But really we shouldn’t, we are only programmed to believe that saying no is somehow wrong.

What if, when you said no to doing something, attending an event or going out for dinner, that person said, “That’s ok, I respect your decision to honour yourself.” How good would you feel? You’d feel justified, you’d actually feel good about saying no to them, in favour of reading your book or doing a painting for YOU.

If we can re-programme our responses to help people feel better about prioritising themselves, we would be well on the way to having happier and more fulfilled people who know what drains and fills up their own well.

Make yourself a priority

It’s not wrong to prioritise yourself. Saying no is respecting yourself and shows great self-awareness. Keep your well full by doing things you love, for nobody else but you. Enjoy the company of people who give you energy and feed your soul. Spend less time with those who drain your well, and do less of the things that drain you.

I’m getting better at saying no, at learning what fills my well and what drains it. I don’t feel guilty about taking time for me, to do yoga or to read, because I know it means I can give more of myself to my loved ones, I can be fully present.

Above all, never let society dictate what does and doesn’t make you happy. Write your own rules. Do things that fill you with joy and not because it’s the ‘thing’ to do.

Do yoga, run, walk, read, write, draw, dream. Or don’t. Get to know yourself. Find out what energises your soul, what lifts your spirits, what makes your heart burst with joy. And do more of it.

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#34 It’s fun being non-traditional

From an early age, popular culture tells us that to be successful in life we must go to university, get a graduate job, find a life partner, buy a house, get married, have kids, keep working until retirement and then rest.

This is all fine and dandy if that’s what you want to do. It works out well for many people. But not for me.

I followed the script up until about the job bit, when I realised I wasn’t enjoying being in full time employment for any longer than 2 years at a time. I got distracted, I procrastinated, I yearned to be free. Then in my most recent role, the Universe handed me a very clear sign. I got laid  off from my job.

That’s when things really took off. I decided this was the time to start my own business and find a part-time job to support me. A lot of people in similar roles are stay at home mums or those with many years experience. Not me, I’m 27 and kid-free.

I am loving the extra time, I am loving going against the grain and doing something I love. I can explore life, read more things, meet people on my terms representing my own brand. And no I’m not making any profit yet but I’m working harder and smarter than ever, because I enjoy it.

I’ve started challenging other stereotypes too. I have a wonderful partner and I live with him but we’re not ready to hurtle through each life step. I don’t want to buy a house at the moment and I don’t know if I want kids but what I do know is that taking control of your life and your choices is the most liberating thing you can do.

Don’t fall prey to the rat race of life. Break free. Women and men now are choosing to live their lives their way, and that’s how it should be.

You don’t have to work full-time, you can establish your own business on your terms, you don’t have to marry or buy a house and you can certainly choose not to have children. It’s your body, your life, your choice. And what’s more, it’s personal.

Why should it matter what others think? It shouldn’t, they will only ever reflect their choices onto you. Choose not to follow.

I have a good friend who is a constant inspiration on this subject. She dyed her hair orange, she has chosen not to have kids and she volunteers with birds of prey at the weekend. Her life, her rules and I respect that.

I’m also challenging gender roles in a relationship. I feel if women can say they don’t want kids or they want equal pay, then they can also say they want to propose or they want to be the lead in the relationship. So many strong women take the natural lead in many areas of their relationship and yet when it comes to marriage, they sit back and wait for the man to get a ring. Why?

I think I naturally take control of things as a personality and I would consider proposing to my partner. Not because I feel it’s due but because it is a romantic gesture so in line with what I am all about. And yes it’s scary, it’s huge! But it takes two to tango, so why should one role always fall to one person?

In a world where we are reversing or challenging nearly all the traditions, why do we get stuck on proposals? Yes it’s romantic to have a man propose and give you a ring. But how many relationships wouldn’t have flourished if the woman hadn’t asked the man out, or if someone hadn’t been brave enough to just go for it.

Be brave. Follow your own path. If you never ask, you never know!

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#33 Change is in the air

Every year it’s the same, we enter into the new year faced with cold weather and dark evenings, then slowly, day by day, we see more light and more life. Last week, I saw a bunch of fresh snowdrops and it raised my spirits so high to see plants coming out of hibernation.

A bunch of snowdrops

Snowdrops in February

It is around this time that we start to set our sights on what’s next – Spring! Longing to see flowers and birds adding vitality to our world again. Already, the air is changing. It smells fresher, shoots are starting to appear in the ground and inside us, there is this ball of hope and excitement.

This is a time of year for planning, for getting into a project and being determined to finish it and for getting excited about what the year could bring.

With a particular interest in nature, I love this time of year for watching the landscape change, get greener and more cheerful, and for noticing small things like the way the morning frost lines leaves in the ground, or how buds are starting to form on thorny stems.

Noticing these small changes is better than anything a mindfulness course could teach you because, at the core of it, you are taking time to stop and look and notice and take it all in. For that moment, you are present, you are distracted by nothing.

Those moments are few and far between in modern day life and they are to be treasured and built on. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

When I started my Instagram feed for @365_dayswild last year, I made a deliberate effort to notice something every single day. I haven’t always managed to go out and get a photo, but I have noticed something every day. I take time to look closer at nature.

Even if you don’t post photos of nature, you could record something in a diary or just in your phone gallery. The more attention you give to something, the more it becomes ingrained in you. And that is the basis of the coming season, seeding growth, putting effort into a plant, a project or an activity and valuing the return you get.

So take your project and run with it, embrace it fully and dedicate yourself to it. Make sure it gives you joy otherwise you’ll find it harder to finish.

Breathe in the fresh air and that smell of hopefulness and energy bubbling away, ready to awaken into Spring over the next few weeks. Let that undercurrent be your power and motivation to commit to something and love it.

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#32 Dear Parents

I love you both so much but sometimes I can see our differences so clearly.

I have met a man who loves me, cares for me and makes me laugh. He is trying to be the best version of himself everyday. I see him grow and learn with me and I look forward to a future with him.

But you see someone who is overweight and whose family isn’t like yours. You see someone who has a job you think is not worthy of my attention and you think I am settling.

I disagree. Someone’s exterior is not the same as their interior. Never judge a book by its cover! Everyone has struggles, whether big or small, look at your own.

Just because he doesn’t look right to you, it doesn’t make our relationship wrong. Just because he is a big guy doesn’t mean you have to make him feel small. Just because I have been fortunate to be raised in a stable financial situation doesn’t mean that his background is unfortunate. Just because I have chosen differently to what you would have chosen doesn’t mean I am indifferent to your love.

I wish you would show your best sides around him, always. Show respect, a willingness to ask questions and dig deeper, rather than make shallow assumptions and indirect remarks. Your comments won’t make a difference to the way I feel about him, so your efforts are futile.

Instead of putting your energy into making me feel embarrassed, upset and angry, pour love and hope into my future. Instead of greeting us with snide remarks about health, offer supportive words about lifestyle changes. Instead of spreading your opinion around like manure, choose to say only positive things. Instead of being so concerned with traditions and ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, try to embrace new times and new ways.

I still love you both but your attitude around my man has got to change.

I am not your little girl anymore. I have a life, I am carving my own way and I am happy. Everyone makes choices in life and I am making mine. You make it clear that you don’t support all of mine but at least have some respect for what I have achieved so far. We all learn from our mistakes but my mistakes are different to yours and you don’t know what makes me happy.

This is a time in my life when I need the space to forge my own path, to live and learn. All I can ask for from you is your support and love. Respect me by respecting my choices, including my relationship.

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