Compassion

Ditch The Shoulds

As this post is about the detrimental effects applying ‘shoulds’ to your life can have, I am not going to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. However, I hope to demonstrate how freeing it can be when you start recognise the regular judgements you have on yourself and let them go. Many people go through each day doing what they feel like they should, not what they want or even what might be good for them.

Usually if someone tells us: ‘You should do this…’ or ‘you shouldn’t do that…’ we can feel the need to rebel, most of us don’t like being told what to do. Yet we do it to ourselves all the time and can be left wondering how we ended up feeling so unhappy. You might be telling yourself you should be over that break-up, or you should be ready to go back to work. Perhaps you think that you shouldn’t want more from your partner, or you shouldn’t still be angry.

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Who gave you these shoulds? Who told you it’s time to move on? Who decided what is the right path for you?

These shoulds often become so ingrained that they can form harsh judgements of ourselves. It’s okay that you want your life to be different. It’s normal that you are still grieving. And it’s fine that you’re still angry. Telling yourself to be any different then you are is not going to help you heal any faster. I try to remind my students and clients how much better they would feel if they spoke to themselves like a loving friend.

Being compassionate for yourself means trying to be caring and non-judgemental. Recognising how you feel and allowing yourself to feel it. Insisting to be different doesn’t help us move on any faster, often just giving yourself some space to be with your emotions is all you need. Starting today try to ditch the shoulds, or at least be aware when they are calling the shots. Remember you have to figure out what’s best for you not anybody else.

“A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life.” ― Christopher K. Germer

To everyone who thinks they aren’t good enough

You probably can’t pinpoint the exact moment you started to believe you weren’t enough. Most likely it began when you were younger. Someone said something or treated you in a way that you didn’t deserve, but you thought you did. Comments and behaviours planted a seed in your mind which blossomed into assumptions that you hold onto today. That you, as you are, are not enough. This assumption most likely formed because someone you loved didn’t make you feel loved. Which was interpreted as “I am unloveable.”

I write this to tell you that you are wrong. You are loveable and good enough just as you are.

You may be thinking, ‘You don’t know me, you don’t know who I am, what I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made, etc.” And you’re right, I don’t. But I do know that almost every person I have ever met is too hard on themselves. Holding an entirely different set of rules for themselves than they do for those around them.

It’s not your fault. We are raised in a society where buy more and change yourself are sold to us from birth. Our parents (who are also only human) have their own insecurities that can get passed on and the cycle of believe that we need to be more than we are continues; never being happy in our own skin.

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You, with all your flaws and human imperfections are exactly all you need to be. That internal voice that speaks harsh complaints about who you are is a liar. It can grow and get so loud that it makes you feel completely worthless. Imagine if you believed that you were good enough, as you are. If you could live your life with a belief in yourself and the decisions you make, how would that reflect in the way you interact with the world around you?

It benefits no one living a life trying to please others. When we live by the assumption that we aren’t good enough then choices can be made in hopes to impress those around us. If you feel unloveable then you may do whatever you can to make people love you. Which results in living a life for others and not for yourself.

Notice when that internal voice puts you down and question it. Are you really an idiot or did you just make a mistake? How would you respond to a friend if they looked at you and picked at every perceived imperfection? I imagine you would be angry and hurt. Yet you do it to yourself all the time without noticing the consequences. Be aware of how harsh you can be and see if you can question the beliefs you hold about yourself. Start trying to believe that you are good enough, with all your quirks and wonderful qualities. Because you are.

You are good enough. You just have to believe it.

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection” – Buddha

Do Good, Feel Good

Giving back to the world around you can make you feel better in yourself. It also has added health benefits like lower blood pressure and a longer life. When you aren’t feeling happy in yourself it can be difficult to be motivated to do something for others. Why not do something that you enjoy with the added bonus of helping?

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Foster an animal – If you love animals but maybe don’t feel ready for the commitment of a full time pet, try fostering. Here in Dublin the SPCA is always looking for foster parents for their animals. You get to see what it’s like to have a pet, without feeling obligated to keep it forever.

Volunteer at a charity shop – If you have some spare time or have been out of work and want to ease yourself back into that life, this is a great start. Usually the hours are relatively short and you will also be helping a great cause.

Run for charity – There are tons of fun runs all over the world that need money raised. If you already like to run you are doing something you love while also contributing to the greater good.

Turn hobbies into fundraisers – Maybe you love to bake or have a knack for making decorations. You could set up a table one day and decide that all money raised goes to help a cause you are passionate about.

There are so many benefits to giving and it’s something that is incredibly easy to do. Especially once you realise you don’t even have to go out of your way to do it.

“No one has ever become poor by giving.” – Anne Frank

10 Lessons learned from a 3 year old

I have a beautiful god-daughter who I think is one of the smartest, sweetest, most beautiful kids on the planet.  After minding her I have a further appreciation of sleep and for all parents out there. Kids are wonderful teachers as they can see a world filled with joy and opportunities. I think we could all benefit from having such beliefs.

Below are some things I have learned from her and other children, they are all adding light to an often dark and cynical world.

  1. The world is an amazing place. With fresh eyes we can appreciate so much more around us. Helicopters and airplanes are a marvel. Our imagination is an incredible tool that we rarely use for good. Every morning is a gift and we should all wake up as excited as a child because it means a new day full of possibility.
  2. We rarely check our needs, also known as the: ‘Do you need to wee?’ principle. Kids can get so wrapped up in playing, laughing or watching cartoons that accidents can happen. As you spend your day rushing around do you ever stop and notice your needs or how you’re feeling?  Take a second and close your eyes. Take a slow deep breath through your nose, down into you belly, then slowly exhale through your mouth. Do that a few times then ask yourself: How am I feeling? What do I need? Take note and follow through if you can.
  3. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. This kid only had a few mouthfuls of ice cream then stopped. I repeat, ice cream. Her body told her she was full so she stopped eating. We can get very detached from ourselves, our bodies and what they need. You can change that by trying to eat mindfully (pause between bites and appreciate flavours) then wait at least 10-20 minutes before getting a second helping.
  4. Sometimes a hug and a kiss can make it all better. Life can be difficult at any age. Even more so when we feel alone. A hug won’t make your problems disappear but it can make them feel more manageable. Feeling connected to someone else makes the hard times easier to bear and makes us feel safe. The small child in all of us needs to feel like it will all be okay.
  5. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. From a young age being independent makes us feel strong, capable and in control. But there are times when we can’t do it alone. Try to quiet the judge in your mind, you aren’t weak for needing/wanting help, you’re human.
  6. Bubbles are amazing. No need to elaborate.
  7. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. We want to instil in children that there is nothing wrong with getting it wrong; you will learn and grow. As we get older we forget about that. So many strive for ‘perfection’ feeling that every mis-step is a failure, that we are failures. That simply is not the case. Mistakes are an opportunity for growth. Grieve if you need to, show yourself some compassion then move forward with new knowledge.
  8. Make time to rest when you’re exhausted. Give yourself permission to slow down. Sometimes we all need a nap.
  9. Sharing can be difficult. When we’re young we are taught how important it is to share. As adults with jobs and families we have to once again learn that lesson. Sharing our space and time isn’t easy and we can sometimes feel as though we are stretched too thin. That’s when we refer back to #5 and #8, share with someone your vulnerability and your need for naps.
  10. Love and be loved. Of all the lessons we will ever learn this is of the utmost importance. I believe this is the reason we are here, to learn how to love and how to be loved. Children epitomise this as they love without condition and judgement. They do not question why others love them, they just know it to be true. I think they’re onto something.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” -Lao Tzu

Shop For Good

Console is the National Suicide Charity, founded by Paul Kelly following the suicide of his young sister in 2002. It provides professional counselling, support and helpline services (1800 247 247) to those in suicidal crisis and to those bereaved through suicide in Ireland and the UK. They seek to respond to the spiritual, emotional and psychological needs of their clients. Their mission is to provide professional therapeutic counselling, support and helpline services to people in suicidal crisis and to those bereaved through suicide with respect, dignity and compassion.

They are always working to give back to anyone who comes to them for support. Now is the chance for the rest of to give back to them. They are looking for volunteers for their wonderful campaign called ‘Shop For Good’. This is a unique fundraising initiative to raise much needed funds and awareness for Console, where every cent goes directly to the charity.

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It runs at the Dundrum Town Centre on April 24th-26th.  The concept is simple, buy a coupon from the Dundrum coupon kiosks for just €1.00. With each coupon you receive massive discounts in more than 100 shops and restaurants throughout the centre.  Multiple coupons will entitle the customer to multiple discounts so the more coupons you buy, the more you save and the more money will be raised for Console. Last year almost €40,000 was raised but they are hoping to double that figure this year.

Want to know how you can help? Console NEEDS volunteers! If you could give a minimum of three house in times listed below please contact Gerard Tiernan on 083 1265373 or email gerard@console.ie.

Friday, April 24th                         Saturday, April 25th                      Sunday, April 26th

9am – 12pm                                 9am – 11am                                     10am – 1pm
12pm – 3pm                                11am – 2pm                                      1pm – 4pm
3pm – 6pm                                   2pm – 5pm                                       4pm – 7pm
6pm – 9pm                                   5pm – 7pm

If you don’t want to volunteer then make sure to head to Dundrum over the weekend of April 24th – 26th and shop for good!

“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Comparisons

One thing that has become very evident to me is how dangerous it is to compare ourselves to others. Many of us walk around life making assumptions. We assume the man with the nice car has his life sorted with a great job. We imagine that the beautiful woman is happier. We gain very little knowledge about someone in a glance. While you are putting those around you on a pedestal, you are lowering yourself below it.

When you don’t witness the nitty gritty of everyday life it is very easy to assume others are doing better than you are. However, at some point in their lives everyone struggles and overall very few people feel ‘sorted’. But when you spend your time and energy making up wonderful lies about those around you, you drain the joy from your own experience.

Sally got a new job. Michael got engaged. Social media can lead to these comparisons happening more often, which leads to us judging ourselves more harshly. I don’t imagine you have often read an update that said, ‘Spent all week in my pyjamas, didn’t have the energy to go outside.’ or ‘I’m so lonely.’ Although we all have times like that.

We all want the outside world to see our best selves. It’s safer. Often we distract others with false smiles and things we cannot afford.

Instead of jumping to conclusions about how perfect the lives of others are, reflect on your own journey. You have struggled and fought and you have made it to this point. Assuming others are better than you detracts from all you have done and earned. Put that energy to better use, if you are unhappy change. (Easier said then done, I know that.)

Instead of wishing you were someone else, wish you were your best self. Then start doing what you need to make that happen.

“Don’t underestimate your worth by comparing yourself with others.” – Jaachynma N.E. Agu

Grief

At some point in our lives we will experience the loss of a loved one. Through my interactions with clients, friends and family I have seen how grief can change over time. I also know about the changing of grief from my own experience, today I am going to break therapist protocol and share some of my own story.

Ten years ago my father died and the world I was familiar with came crashing down around me. Suddenly and without warning everything I knew changed forever.

The days that followed his death were incredibly surreal. I had never allowed myself to imagine this scenario before; the thought was too much to bear. Therefore it did not seem real when I was met with the reality of never seeing him again. It seemed like a cosmic joke with a punchline I didn’t get. When we lose someone I believe our head and heart work at different speeds. Your brain can understand the concept that someone has died but the heart can take much longer to catch up.  Especially when you still feel them and see them everywhere you look.

When someone we love dies there is the initial shock. Even if we think we are prepared for the death, the moment it happens we can feel that we aren’t equipped. The shock can last for weeks, months or years. If we do not give time and space for grief, it can be difficult for it to leave us. It may take at least two years to grieve the loss of someone close to us. Two years where you give yourself time to reflect and time to mourn. There are very few people who I have met who gave themselves that sort of timeline. Often by the first anniversary there is an internal consensus that you should be able to move on. Which is incredibly unfair, especially if you look at how profoundly the person you lost touched your life.

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After my father died, someone shared with me that they had lost their father twenty years prior and still missed him everyday. In that moment, I hated those words. The thought that I would have to feel as I did then, for what sounded like forever, knocked the wind out of me. Only with the passing of time could I gain an understanding of what they meant. And they were right; I miss him everyday. But it’s different than in those first few weeks and months. In the early days it felt like the grief and heart-break was going to swallow me whole. However, over time that changed and it doesn’t hurt like it used too. Now if I feel that dull ache in my chest, it demonstrates what a huge place I had in my heart for him and him for me.

When someone we love dies it can end up changing the course of our entire lives. I know that I would not be where I am, or who I am had I not experienced such an earth shattering loss. It has defined me in a way that I did not let in for a long time, acceptance was not easy. But acceptance is a better feeling than bitterness which could have grown within me.

If you find yourself grieving at the moment please remember that it is okay to be sad, angry, disappointed and every range of emotions you can muster. You are starting to live in a world that feels new and scary without that person you loved so dearly. Get support if you need it, like all things that happen to us in life you don’t have to go through it alone.

“No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true.” – Walt Disney