Monthly Archives: March 2011

31Mar/11

Zumba Zumba Zumba!

I’m on a zumba high!  I’ve just been to my second class and it was even more fantastic than the first. I am definitely a convert, and may soon become addicted.  Zumba is the latest exercise craze that is sweeping the nation, and if you haven’t experienced it, it’s basically a bunch of enthusiastic women (in my class) dancing to Brazilian, hip hop, and dance music in varying degrees of rythem and competence. It’s high energy, sensual and challenging enough to keep you concentrating and in the flow.

I’ll admit now that I’m not a dancer.  I’m too self-conscious to completely let go and really feel the music.  But since watching Strictly Come Dancing for the first time last year, I’m itching to give dancing a proper try.  OK, Zumba isn’t ‘proper’ dancing but it is definitely closer to it than a step aerobics class. Maybe if I go to enough classes I might learn to let my body go a bit more, and for it to feel more natural to me.  I wasn’t really aware of the standard of the rest of the women (I was concentrating too hard on the instructor’s feet) but I was welcomed and didn’t feel out of place so I assume it’s a mix of abilities.  The women next to me definitely had the latin groove going on, and I know I will never be as good as her, but it was so much fun I don’t care!

And the added bonus is that it has killed many happiness birds with one stone. Not only have I exercised, got really in the flow, been social, and tried a new experience, but I have enjoyed very positive emotions while doing it.  Five scientifically proven ways to improve your happiness in one 45 minute session.  What’s not to like?

26Mar/11

Making the Perfect Choice

On Thursday, my daughter was upset. Nothing new in that, but it seemed to go on for longer than normal, and she was very reluctant to talk. The sun was shining, we were all enjoying the gorgeous spring weather….except she wanted to stay inside watching TV – which was very unlike her.

Finally, she accepted my offer to have a cuddle and chat, and it emerged that she hadn’t had a very nice time at school during Golden Time – the part of the day when they can choose what to do or play with. Her problem was, she couldn’t decide what she wanted to do. She walked around the playground on her own trying to decide what to play with. By the time she had chosen it was time to finish. ‘So I only got to tidy up’ she said, her face crumpling.

Whey-hey I thought, we’re on my territory. I know this. I’ve been there. So I told her that I too worry about making the right choice. And she admitted that, like me, she was sometimes scared about making the wrong choice, and ‘wasting’ her time. We talked about there being lots of right choices, and usually not many wrong ones or less good ones.

And then I got to the punchline. “And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Life isn’t perfect, and we don’t really want it to be. So don’t worry about making the perfect choice, you’ll make a good choice and that’s OK.”

A few months ago, this encounter would have involved me asking about what things she could have chosen, and why she couldn’t choose, what to do next time, and it probably wouldn’t have got got us very far. Instead, she seems lighter after our sharing chat. I feel proud that I recognised the opportunity to start teaching her – at six – what I am only just learning myself.

21Mar/11

Life is a Gift.

My proud husband with no. 3.

My first nephew, Dylan, was born yesterday morning and I was able to watch a short video of the precious bundle less than 12 hours after his birth, courtesy of Facebook.  And seeing his mother gently stroke his check conveyed so much more than a simple photo would. I could almost feel him and smell him myself, so strongly was I reminded of my own three newborns.  They are truly such miracles of nature, and a reminder in the busyness of daily life to treasure more of the wonders that we live through – but don’t always notice -everyday.

18Mar/11

How do you Recharge?

When you look at everything you do in a day, how much time do you spend doing activities that recharge you as opposed to activities that deplete you?

I’ve only realised in the last year or two that being near the sea really nourishes me.  It has a calming, almost meditative affect and always clears my head and lifts my spirits.  This year I am trying to make time to be near the sea, so today I re-arranged my diary and drove to the coast.

A misty day at Seaford

What do you do to nourish your soul and recharge your body?

16Mar/11

Nature or Nurture?

Is chatting a woman thing?

As a perfectionist I sometimes struggle with the fact that other people are not perfect too.

My husband, for example.

He ticks a lot of boxes, but one of the things that I try to accept that he doesn’t do, without it being a sign he doesn’t love me is to show interest by asking me questions. You know, like in having a chat. He can do the How are you?, How’s your day gone? fine, and he listens and nods admirably. But then it pretty much stops. There’s no more.  No more investigation or interest, whether I’m happy, sad, excited, or angry.  When I mention this he says he is interested, but why doesn’t he want to find out more? (Surely I’m not that boring?!) It doesn’t seem to enter  his head that he should gather information not only in order to be polite but also to share it, own it, dissect it, and then maybe – or maybe not – solve it.  Which is strange you would think, since (like the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus says) his first instinct is to solve any issue, and surely information forms the basis of any good kind of problem solving. But maybe information gathering is a woman thing.   The fact is that my husband acts like he missed out on the “showing interest in other people” part of the social skills curriculum at the school of life.  Is this a subject that only women learn?  I know we are the best at it, but I kind of thought men did it too though perhaps in a less skilled way.* It seems that my husband does not. My daughter, however, could already pass with an A+, as we discovered last week.

We were having a ‘celebration’ with the kids. This is a family tradition on a Friday where we have a drink and some snacks together and talk about our week. Last week we all talked about what we were proud of. When it was my turn I said that I was really excited because I had set up a survey on the web and I that 32 women had completed the survey so far – in only 2 days. My six-year-old daughter immediately started asking loads of questions in a really animated way, using her hands and body and tone of voice to communicate her excitement, support and interest in my survey. “So what kind of questions did you ask?” “What did they say to that question?” “How many people want to join your club etc.”  “When are you going to run the first one?” She chatted like an expert and we had a lovely little conversation about it.  It was my husband who pointed out later that it must be a girl thing, this asking questions business, and perhaps he should take lessons from her.  Maybe it’s true.  She doesn’t get to see me chatting to my girlfriends any more than my sons do, yet here she is asking all the questions in the way a best friend does.

*I know I’m generalising here, and accept that some men are wizards at discussing people and feelings, and some women are awful at it, but generally…you know what I mean.

14Mar/11

Pushing a Heavy Rock up a Mountainside.

The words below are not mine. They were written by Tal Ben-Shahar in his book The Persuit of Perfect.  These two paragraphs illustrate how striving for perfection will never make us happy.

The Greek myth of Sisyphus tells of a man, the most cunning of mortals, who was punished for his pride and disobedience. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to push a heavy rock up a mountainside and then watch it roll down again, repeating this process for all eternity.

Psychologically speaking, the Perfectionist is like Sisyphus. But whereas the punishment of Sisyphus was inflicted by the gods, the Perfectionist’s punishment is self-inflicted. No success or conquest, no peak or destination, is ever enough to satisfy the Perfectionist. When he reaches the summit of one mountain or another, when he achieves some form of success, there is no delight, no savouring – only another meaningless journey toward a destination that inevitably disappoints.

A Perfectionist's Life

14Mar/11

Because You’re Worth It.

Do you ever think you’ll feel better when…you’ve lost weight? written that book? earnt more money? got your dream job?

Ever wondered why you feel like this?

It’s because you don’t feel worthy enough already. Yes, Worthy Enough.  Do you think you are worthy enough already?

When I considered this question recently, my first thought was: ‘Of course I think I’m worthy enough already.’ My confidence and self-esteem goes up and down but generally I’ve always had a decent enough regard for myself.  It didn’t seem that feeling worthy enough was a problem for me.  Not having enough time to get all the things I wanted to get done seemed to be my problem.

I’d been reading ‘The Gifts of Imperfection‘ by Brene Brown and as I read on, I realised that perhaps I didn’t think I was as worthy as I thought I did. I began to ask myself the following questions:

  • If I believe I am worthy enough already why do I feel that my day is only successful if I ‘achieve’ things each day?
  • If I believe I am worthy enough already why do I feel I need to prove to people that I can be a successful businesswoman / coach / writer, not to mention a perfect mum?
  • If I believe I am worthy enough already why do I feel I have ‘failed’ at so many things?
  • If I believe I am worthy enough already why am I constantly striving to change myself?
  • If I believe I am worthy enough already why am I worried about what other people think of me?

Brown claims that the difference between people who live a wholehearted life (i.e. people who are truly happy) and those who don’t is their belief that they are enough, already.  In other words they don’t have to prove anything. Instead they are brave and open and vulnerable and connected and they believe they are worthy. She says:

“Here’s what’s truly at the heart of Wholeheartedness: Worthy now. Not if. Not when. We are worthy of love and belonging now. Right this minute. As is.”

Now I might be putting myself out on a limb here but that hit me hard. I realised for probably the first time in my life that perhaps this constant striving to improve myself and my life weren’t admirable qualities with a hint of perfectionism, but actually signs that I don’t think I am worth enough as I am. Do I think I have to change myself to be worthy?   Perhaps the reason that I never have enough time to do all the things I want to get done is because I want to prove too much?

What do you think? Can you relate to this idea?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment below. I want to know if it’s just me…

p.s. I know the photo at the top is too dark, but I’m fighting my perfectionist urges to redo it because I have lots of other stuff to do.  I am trying to be brave and allow myself (and my post) to be imperfect.

11Mar/11

Perfect Pancake Day – Creating Triumph from Disaster.

Ours did not look like this…

As millions of mums around the world know, it was Shrove Tuesday this week – aka Pancake Day.  Now, while I am not trying to be a Perfect Mum, I would not feel happy if we didn’t make pancakes in our house on Pancake Day (or at least one day this week).

So, feeling brave, my three children and I donned our aprons and started making our batter.  After arguing with my eldest over whether to double or triple the quantities of ingredients (I won, but he was right in the end) we shared out the weighing, pouring in, and mixing jobs evenly, and proceeded relatively conflict-free.  Soon, however we realised that we had very, and I mean very, lumpy batter.  I’ve made quite a few batches of pancakes in my life (some not even on Shrove Tuesday!) and I know that having lumps is really part of the process. In my kitchen at least.  But these lumps were massive, and probably because they contained half of the flour and egg, the rest of the mixture was really thin.

“Oh this is not good,” I try to say in a light-hearted tone.

We attempt to whisk, then squash the lumps out and it kind of works.  It’s  not smooth, but ok.  Then we melt the butter and add a bit to the batter.  Not only does the butter immediately go hard when making contact with the cold batter, but we realise it is orange.  We conclude that we used the pan that I had made a chorizo and tomato pasta sauce in a few days before, and someone – probably me – didn’t wash it up properly.

So we’ve got a thin mixture with big floury lumps and bright orange buttery lumps. We should give up and start again, but we’ve been through so much it seems right to soldier on.

“This is the worst mixture we’ve ever made” says my oldest, like he’s enjoying himself more because of it.

“Nevermind, it might still taste nice,” says my middle one, in a light-hearted tone.

“Yum, yum,” grins my youngest, licking the flour off the table.

We start the frying.  “Remember, the first one is always rubbish, ” I say.  And it is.  The mixture is so thin, and the frying pan so old and warped that the pancake has a big hole in the middle.  So we move to another pan, and sacrifice another rubbish one.  By now, I’m starting to get wound up.  I’m getting talked at from 3 angles, my youngest making the loudest ‘now’ demands, and everyone is getting too close to the hot cooker. But they manage to take turns pouring their mixture in, flipping over and then eating their own creations.

“Mmm, delicious.” “Yummy” “Can I have the last one?” “They were great, mum.”

We congratulate ourselves on saving our pancakes from disaster.  I congratulate myself at allowing the process to get crazy, chaotic and imperfect, and not losing it somewhere in the middle.  Not so many months ago, I might have given up, shouted, cried, and basically had a tantrum because it didn’t all run smoothly, and I couldn’t cope with the chaos and noise. I can’t say that will never happen again, but I’m proud of myself for letting go of the need to be in control, and of celebrating imperfection with my children.  Hopefully, they learnt a good lesson in failure and success, persevering, and basically enjoying the process.

Image by http://www.free-stockphotos.com

09Mar/11

Dear Mum, You don’t have to….

Jasmine's 'grumpy' picture

“Dear Mum, You don’t have to be grumpy. You can calm down when you want to. Remember you have a good husband and 3 children who can make you happy.”

Striving for perfection doesn’t mean your life is always on an upward trajectory.  It may motivate you to improve, and keep you focussed on trying to get better but paradoxically stops you achieving it. Aiming for perfection will often make you feel, perform and  behave worse because you are constantly disappointed by or scared of failing to reach the high standards you set for  yourself.

When my daughter gave me the picture – above – it brought home to me in all it’s innocence who I affect when I am so deeply disappointed in myself (and sometimes others).  Being annoyed with myself and grumpy with the world only hurts myself and the people around me who I love. It doesn’t help me improve. Instead it knocks the confidence, hope and motivation out of me. It makes me forget what a wonderful life and family I have, and that they love me being imperfect.  It’s a shame I needed a 6 year old to show me that.

08Mar/11

Do You Dare to Fail?

“Success is going from failure to failure without loss in enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill.

What do you think and how do you feel when you fail?

Maybe you complete a piece of work which wasn’t up to your usual standard, or shouted at your children, or forgot an important appointment, or received another rejection letter. How do you interpret your failure?

It is easy to forget that failure is a good thing. Most of us have heard the anecdote about how the inventor of the lightbulb Thomas Edison countered a criticism of his many ‘failures’. He said: ‘I haven’t failed. I just found ten thousand ways it doesn’t work’. We also hear about how successful entrepreneurs only succeed because they pick themselves up, learn from their mistakes and keep trying and failing until they get it right, implying that you only really fail when you give up. So why don’t we apply this thinking to our own lives?

We used to. When we learnt to feed ourselves as babies we missed our mouths many times. When we learnt to walk we fell over and risked serious injury all the time.

It seems that as we grow up we lose the security of our faith in ourselves and we start to worry about what other people think. We feel the need to prove we are good enough and worthy of people’s affection, love and respect. And because we don’t want others to see us fail,  we become scared of taking risks and making mistakes.

Below is an exceprt from a speech at  Harvard by J K Rowling in 2008. Hopefully we won’t get to rock bottom, but perhaps we should not be so scared to risk it.

“Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential…I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life… Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies…The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity.”