02 May, 2013

Life can hurt - how to be okay

This post was inspired by this article, which my friend sent me last night with the by-line 'you could have written this!'

I absolutely could have too. When a friend comes to me feeling down, I feel a strong need to make sure I give them the very best advice I can possible offer and a sole responsibility in that moment for making them feel better about themselves and whatever is going on in their life. They have come to me, so I will put everything on hold and I will not rest until I know I have gone some way to making them feel happier and be stronger.

Obviously this is because all my friends are so worthy of true happiness and I love them a lot, but beyond that I just have this urge to MAKE WOMEN BETTER (myself included). I want to see all the women I know be strong and brave and confident and proud. It frustrates me to see them not be that way and it hurts me when I know I am not being that way too. I think I know how to be strong and brave and proud and confident now, but sometimes I forget and I find myself being weak and needy and forgetting how just bloody great I am. In giving advice to my friends, I remind myself how to be ‘okay’ too.

The afore mentioned article felt particularly relevant to me last night as I have had a week of not only counselling my friends but of counselling me. I seem to be the one friends turn to when they need a boost, and that's something I am really proud of. I am sure on some level the support I give my friends is selfish - I need to feel needed and wanted and loved and all that jazz – but as I mentioned, I also want to see women world over be confident of themselves, because too too too many ladies are so quick to criticise themselves and blame themselves and feel negative thoughts about their lives, and too too too many bastard men reinforce that.

This isn’t the space to get into how society became that way or why, but I decided to share some of the advice my friends value so much with you all. Not because I think I am some guru or life coach or anything like that, but because I am a real girl, who has had some very real experiences, who is very emotionally aware and who will give you an honest, brutal account of how I think you can make yourself feel better when life gives you lemons. And if my friends value my advice so much, there’s no reason why others can’t too. Read away and let me know what approaches do you take to try and be ‘okay’?


Remind yourself how great you are

Sometimes when a situation consumes us, we panic and we fear what it might do to us. What if he runs off with someone ‘better’, what if I lose my job, what if my best mate decides I’m not her best mate anymore? All those things can be big and serious causes of anxiety at times, but when my friends come to me with similar worries, I don’t tell them it won’t happen, I tell them it doesn’t matter if it does.

YOU are great, you are all the things that make you worthy. Write down all the things you love about yourself and all the things you have to offer – it’s a good way to see what might need to change too. If someone or something rejects you? So what. That is 100% their loss. As long as you are happy and proud of who you are, then anyone in your life who doesn’t also appreciate all your greatness? Goodness me, you just do not have room for them. Ask them to hurry up and move over while you make way for the people who do deserve your love and light. And who make you feel valuable every day that they know you.

If you don’t feel great, make yourself great

The first point doesn't work unless you actually feel great about yourself, which I have learnt firsthand. I have been VERY guilty of ignoring everything life has blessed me with and actually just somehow making myself worse. A lot worse. Drinking too much, behaving out of character, chasing after unsuitables (and in hindsight some serious undesirables, eurgh), having the self-esteem of a doormat, ignoring the things I have been blessed with, failing to utilise my intelligence and creativity for want of what at the time I perceived as ‘fun’. As a result of course I wasn't happy with my life, of course my confidence was gone, and of course I had no-one to blame but myself.

If you find yourself on the floor, you need to get the hell up because no-one else will rescue you. You need to work at the things that make you feel happy and proud and stop doing the things that bring you away from that goal. One of the best pieces of advice ever given to me when I was literally at rock bottom was: ‘think of someone who you admire, a friend who you think has it all, who is happy and confident – do you think she would behave like this? Of course she wouldn’t. Don’t you want to be her? Don’t you want to get up and be like her??’ and that was it for me. I literally changed overnight. I took responsibility and started behaving like the person I wanted to be, and before I knew it, I was that person. Yes that’s right, I AM BEYONCE!

Take responsibility

Everything you do counts towards your happiness. Every step you take. Every ounce of energy you put out into the world counts towards you long term destination. Don’t go out and get wasted and lose your phone and sleep with a random and then wonder why you don’t feel happy or why you’re not living the high life with a loving partner. For a long time I would do this and then look at my life and wonder why it wasn’t what it should be. ITS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE HANNAH!

Do girls who go out and get wasted and behave undesirably attract love? No. Do people who waste all their time having too much ‘fun’ end up successful in their career? No. Actively look at the things you are putting your energies into, because that will be your destination. It’s never too late to change it either. It’s hard at first, really hard, but the rewards come quick enough. On the flip side, if you aren’t happy right now but you know you are putting your time, thoughts and energy into really positive stuff, then man do you have some happy times ahead of you.

I realised this thanks to the beautiful sounds of Charlie Winston and I will always be grateful to him for making this song. It’s so easy to blame the world for the lack of whatever it is we feel we don’t have but think we deserve – ‘life isn't fair, life won’t give me a break, why does everything bad happen to meeee!’ By enlarge, that’s bollocks. You can’t design your life, but you can ensure you aren’t responsible for things that might not be working and you can make the best of situations that are presented to you.

Let yourself not be okay

Something that really helps me and stops me from panicking when I feel miserable, is actually just accepting that a day is never going to come where from that moment on I am just always okay and happy. Not until I get into heaven anyway. It is an embarrassing cliché, but happiness really is a mood not a destination – which means that you can have it all and feel miserable, or you can feel you have nothing and still feel happy. I have been in both positions. If you are feeling bad for a few days, that doesn’t mean your whole life is bad or that you are always miserable, it is literally just a difficult few days and your mood will change again.

Something I have really noticed about me and my friends it the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to be happy. Like if one day we wake up and we’re not happy that means we are somehow failing, and that is all our own fault for not being better at life. I have tried to stop thinking like that recently, and something I tend to tell my friends now is that it’s okay to feel upset and miserable. Let it wash over you, the more you resist something inevitable, the harder it’s going to be and the longer it’s going to go on for.

Sometimes life puts us in situations that just ARE SHIT. They just are. There is no getting away from it. So just accept it and be upset about that situation - cry, shout, eat chocolate until you are sick. Then dust yourself off, get up the next day (or a few weeks later) and be ready to have let that situation made you stronger.

Be independent and look outside yourself

I am at my happiest when I’m not focusing on my own life. When I’m not analysing it in minute detail, but just living it and embracing the world.

I have got better recently at to some extent just ignoring things that might make my life feel hard and instead focusing on things that do make me happy. I write, I run, I bake a cake, I eat yummy food, I go to work and make myself just enjoy the present, enjoy the day that I am having right now today. Until I just don’t have time for that worry right now thank you very much. What’s important is that all the things you choose to focus on are independent of anyone or anything else. It is really important to have that or else you will be reliant on someone or something else to make you happy, which is quite frankly never a good plan!

It also helps to look outwards, not for support or to find how the world can help you, but to see what you can give to the world. It doesn’t hurt to focus on helping others when you feel down. It takes a lot of strength, but spending an hour giving a friend advice can give you the mental distance from your own worries that you need, so that when you come back to those worries they don’t feel so bad. Doing little things like sending your friends cards and surprising them with treats can go a long way to making you feel a hell of a lot happier yourself.

What approaches do you take to try and be ‘okay’? 

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