When Sharing Your Life Gives Power To Others

Social media tells us that we need to be more social by telling the world our every thought. Scrolling through newsfeeds you are given insights and glimpses into the minutiae of people’s lives, so they become familiar, friendly faces and you become invested in every moment of their lives – which they will happily share with you every moment they can. For those who fear disconnection with others, this type of connection with others is priceless and shows very clearly how connected we all can and should be. It’s wonderful.

But.

Sharing a thought that is not fully formed, or giving a glimpse to others of the beginnings or stirrings of thoughts that will later form into your potential goals, dreams or aspirations can come with hidden dangers. Once something is shared with others, it loses something. It loses the wonderful moment when something is truly yours and yours alone. I remember this moment from when I found out I was pregnant – although the majority of my brain was immediately picturing what my husband’s reaction would be when I told him and the rest of the world, there was a moment where it was something known only to me. I realised that those moments are extremely precious. You know that your life will never be the same, and it is a moment you will never get back. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle once that first person gets told. But for those few minutes or hours, you get to fully embrace its beauty.

You lose that full ownership of something the second someone else knows. Now with some pieces of information, that’s a blessing. At the moment I was told I had breast cancer, having that news shared with my husband was a relief because it felt too heavy a burden for me alone to bear. Telling others helped eased the weight of having to cope with it. When we need people’s support and – crucially – they know how best to support us, it is a powerful connection and one to be cherished.

But not everyone knows the right way to respond, or the right thing to do and in some cases, there is a painful realisation that this is so. When I fell pregnant, everyone around me was excited, ecstatic and ready to congratulate – it was wonderful. When I had to tell them about the cancer, there was awkwardness, a mixture of sympathy and compassion and I realised that this was new territory for all of us and we all didn’t know what to do.

Once people know your news, your secret, they try the respond in the ‘best’ way but instead, usually end up responding in their best way. So when I announced my pregnancy, they wanted to be happy about it so that is what I got given. This to me was bittersweet because I had suffered a miscarriage only months earlier, which many of them knew. But they looked at the pregnancy through their lens, not mine and so forgot the painful times and focused on the good. Good, happy news is comfortable and safe – pain and loss are not. When I spoke to people about the cancer, again they saw it through their perspective – many had other people in their lives who had suffered similar or worse conditions, many had had scares of their own. The response they gave wasn’t to me or for me, it was for them and what it meant to them.

I learnt from these experiences that when you give information to others, you are also giving them permission to react in their own way to it and in many cases this comes back to you as opinion, analysis or judgement. In situations as above there are some fairly typical responses that I got and so nothing was particularly unusual or startling.

But the same thing applies when you share information that is not so typical or not what they are expecting. and that is where you can feel that what you have to say must be wrong because the reaction you get from people is so untypical as well.

If you can see that people respond within their context, and not yours, some of what you share may come as a shock or feel to them as if it from someone they barely recognise. The shock then leads them to react in a way that is more visceral and unguarded – and that might hurt.

But it doesn’t make what you shared wrong. Only that you shared it with the wrong people.

Pride and Prejudice

It’s Pride month and there are so many truly incredible inspirational stories of people embracing who they are after years of suppressing it to please others, and allies who will be there when others fall be the wayside.

Unfortunately, there is also an increase in those who see it as their role to condemn and judge those individuals, so stuck in their own interpretation of the world they simply cannot accept anything that goes outside those lines.

Why do you feel able to dictate how others live? What harm can be done to you directly by someone else living their truth? Them being themselves cannot possibly hurt you. I get that you don’t necessarily agree or don’t feel tempted to join in with the celebrations, but what is it about that level of freedom that scares you so much?

Living true to yourself takes a huge amount of courage, not just because you will potentially change your most meaningful relationships (and in some cases, lose them completely through rejection) but you also have to deal with complete strangers trying to tell you that they won’t accept you unless you confirm to who they want you to be. Why do they feel like their opinion matters so much?

I’ve been living guilt free for a while now and the biggest struggle is to maintain who I am in the face of those who want me to conform or change who I am so that it makes them feel more comfortable. When I see those celebrating their freedom to express themselves during Pride month, I celebrate with them – because to truly be yourself is the greatest challenge you ever face in a society where keeping within the carefully drawn lines is the difference between inclusion and exclusion. For those celebrating Pride, it is also the difference between living your life with or without the risk of physical and psychological harm.

Love without judgement.

Live without fear

Taking Away Forgiveness Can Cause Guilt To Turn Destructive

This week, radio presenter Danny Baker has been fired by the BBC for tweeting a picture in response to the news of the Royal baby that has been considered by many as racist. (The BBC article is here). Given that this is the first multi-racial child born within the Royal Family, it was clear that such a picture (of a chimpanzee dressed up as a child) was found to be offensive and so the action was taken. In the interests of keeping this post on topic, I’m not going to discuss whether it was right or wrong (for what its worth, I think it was wrong) but instead I want to focus attention on how he handled the situation and what it tells us about guilt. This is important because it shows how it can make a difficult situation far more inflamed than it needs to be and can stop us making any real progress.

So, the perspective from Danny yesterday was tweeted as this:

Here we go. Opened door, grinning Mail hack. “Do you think black people look like monkeys?” Any other time you’d knock someone right on their arse for saying that. No mate. Gag pic. Posh baby chimp. Alerted to circs. Appalled. Deleted. Apologised. (via Twitter)

Now Sky at the door. Would have used same stupid pic for any other Royal birth or Boris Johnson kid or even one of my own. It’s a funny image. (Though not of course in that context.) Enormous mistake, for sure. Grotesque. Anyway, here’s to ya Archie, Sorry mate.” (via Twitter)

What I see here is someone who realises they have messed up and because they feel guilty and embarrassed, they take the tone that we all try to take – that of “oh well, it’s a bit embarrassing but ultimately what can you do?” rather than allowing the enormity of what had happened hit. We all do this – we all try to make something big feel small so that it doesn’t affect our mental state. However, with such a big and public error of judgement, there was never going to be one journalist, or one conversation, but multiple, all trying to get him to say something in the heat of the moment to inflame the situation further.

The challenge with these situations is that in reality, no apology can ever truly make up for the act, and without the completion of the apology being accepted, he is left to feel guilty without a way of getting out of it. When we feel that something has lost an exit route, there are limited options. From Danny’s tweets today (copied below), it seems he has gone down the healthier route of trying to once again explain and apologise for the action, and may be willing to continue to do this as many times as it takes for it to be heard and accepted (although never truly forgotten). What can happen (and remains to be seen if Danny’s patience will hold out) is that without forgiveness, you go the other way and come to the conclusion that if the apology is never going to be accepted then you will stop saying sorry and – more harmfully – may even double down more on it not being wrong in the first place.

Public humiliation and anger has this habit of magnifying a situation that is already incredibly sensitive and holding it under such scrutiny that it leaves the person few choices to be able to do something about it. Even if the Royal couple accept the apology the rest of the public will continue to be enraged on their behalf. And as such, it can result in the perpetrator feeling more like the victim and less like the culprit. This isn’t healthy for them and it is not healthy for us as a society.

For those trying to defend his actions, they may be supporting someone who they feel (because they know him) is not the type of person to have done this with malicious intent. But interestingly there have been several I have seen that have gone down the route of “well, any one of us could have done this”, to which many have responded, “er no, we wouldn’t!” What I see here is guilt from others – they are looking at the situation and thinking that there is a risk that they may say something in the spur of the moment which will have the same reaction with no malice at all, but that would get the same type of anger targeted at them and so it unnerves them. If we know that sometimes we say things that are controversial or challenging, then there is a greater risk that something we say will offend – indeed, many commentators will tell us political correctness has ‘gone mad’ and you can’t say anything these days (which is not true). But it is an important aspect to bring to mind – sometimes we come to the defence of others not to benefit them but to benefit us in case we find ourselves in a similar position.

We want to know there is redemption. We want to know there is forgiveness – otherwise, how do we get past moments of misinterpretation or miscalculation? We all make mistakes and some will indeed be extremely difficult to back away from. But as a society we have to find a better way to continue this conversation so we don’t accidentally create a villain out of a misfortunate situation.

Danny Baker’s tweets today (10 May):

Taking My Own Advice

There are times when I have a lot of internal self talk. It keeps telling me that I’m not pushing hard enough, that I’m dragging my heels, that I just can’t ‘want it’ badly enough.

I’ve tried using the techniques in my book – because if they don’t work for me, how can I possibly expect other people to trust them?!?!

And even though this might sound total BS – it really did work.

Briefly, here’s what I did:
1. Looked at the list I had written for myself
2. Got real with the things that were on there that was to impress other people, or because I saw other people do it (for example, I had written that I would write talks I wanted to present yet I have done nothing to publicise those talks, so why write it before it is needed?!?)
3. After I took a bunch of things off, I went down the list asking myself why? Why did I want to do it, and why wasn’t I? This is the hard one, because you have to be brutally honest with yourself. 

I talk about internal and external guilt – and the fact that you do not feel compelled to act if the pressure is coming from external, however ingrained it might feel. One of the Aha moments for me this week was distinguishing between the things I genuinely had placed no value in, and those things that I wasn’t doing because I was SCARED TO TRY. This is life changing because the second I admitted that some of these things made me feel really vulnerable, my core just fired up and I realised how badly I wanted to do them. I set a structure in my day to make sure they got done, and managed to actually break the back of some of them.

I want you to read the book because I know that it is already starting to help so many people. I want you to read it because the tips in there work – truly work. Putting yourself out into the world in this way has been far more exposing than I imagined, and I know that is also contributing to my sense of procrastination – everything feels so personal. But I also know that when one of you (or whoever has read the book) write to me to let me know the impact it is having on them – wow, I feel amazing.

So if you are procrastinating, then try some of these tips or – for the full effect – make sure you get a copy of the book :-).

Here’s the link , juuusssst in case! 

A thought for the weekend ..

Who you are is up to you and no-one else. If you feel that you are having to justify yourself to others, to explain why you think the way you do, and it feels that the explanation is met with judgement, you are giving too much power to the wrong person.

Know who you are and who you want to be and let that guide you, not the opinions and assumptions of others .

Be A Rebel – Live Life Your Way

Jameela Jamilhas been all over my social media feed recently with her stance on the judgements that are handed out to women and girls over how they conduct their lives. She has taken quite a firm stance on calling out those who profit from our insecurities and I fear that now she spends more of her time batting away her critics than getting on with spreading her message.
You may not feel called to become an activist, but that does not mean that you can’t play your part in fighting back over the assumptions, presumptions and judgements that may be making you doubt yourself and not see your true worth. The biggest way to ‘fight the system’ is by living your life as you would like, unapologetically. When you live guilt free, you become able to stand firm to criticism and opinion because you absolutely know the origins of your decisions and you know that YOU made them. That type of ownership over your life? That’s the revolution right there.

Recognising Guilt is Not The End of The Story But The Beginning

I speak to a lot of people about my work and there seems to be a fairly common misconception that working with me is about focusing on how guilty you feel. I get it – my topic is guilt, my book is about guilt and I use guilt in every sentence.

But my work is way more powerful than that. Yes, we talk about why you feel guilty. But – as quickly as possible – we dismiss that and you get to create a beautiful brand new guilt free page of your life. We talk about what life looks like without judgement, without focusing on other people’s needs first, without second guessing your decisions.

And it’s important to recognise that this is true about any work done on self improvement or self healing. We all approach it from different angles and lenses for sure, but the focus is always on trying to get you past the thing that is holding you back, and onto looking at like free of it.

I had a message recently from someone who said that they couldn’t imagine life without the constant guilt and regret of past mistakes – and that just breaks my heart. Those feelings are just that – feelings, emotions – that are there to remind us that what we are doing is either working or not. There will always be times when you feel guilt over things that have happened in the past – but you can’t change the past actions, only your actions in the future. You may have an experience that was so painful, and so impactful that you can’t see that pain ever going – but it can. It takes effort to use that pain not to punish yourself but to drive you towards a better version of yourself. In doing so, you honour the pain you caused others by vowing never to do that again.

None of that growth and personal development can happen unless you are prepared to go to the guilt first. But it isn’t scary to face, I promise. It is the key to your life changing for the better forever.