Fears of a Working Mum

Nerves. Expectations. Answers. Avoid looking like an idiot.

These words seem rightly placed based on the expression on Marilyn Monroe’s face as she met the press back in 1956. While she may not be the poster girl for working mums I think this snap captures the feelings many women conjure up when we feel a little under the spotlight.

And by spotlight I mean situation. It’s that moment when we feel just a little bit judged. Like all eyes are on us. And our families, the houses we live in, the jobs we do or just our decisions about our ‘next move’. There’s a concern that what you do (or say) next is going to be scored, commented on and repeated in detailed descriptions by those close to you when they’re asked cookie-cutter questions like: ‘So how’s she doooooinnnng?’.

The feeling? Fear.

Personally I think it’s a pretty strong word for what most would describe as being ‘just worried’ about what others might think. But after scouring through articles about female fear and it’s ties to failure, perfection, self-doubt and life-paralysis it’s a serious description for a serious problem.

Bryce Covert’s article for The Nation details US statistics that indicate women are self-selecting out of ‘hard fields’ like Science, Technology, Economics and Math for fear of delivering imperfect grades. Catherine Clifford’s article at Entrepreneur.com talks about the fear of failure that stops women keeping pace with men in the entrepreneur stakes.

While I’m not lining up at uni to take on  astrophysics nor am I looking to kick the boys outta a self-start-up business I do get this trend.

My most recent fear-moment (and I have many of them) came this week when it reared it’s ever-so-fricken-huge head in a delayed realization of what returning to work from maternity leave meant for me.

(Hold in there for a sec for those without kids…)

Essentially in this situation – you’re again – the new girl. You’ve been out of it a while so you’re new in the sense ‘you weren’t here’, as your colleagues say, when that major event that seems to be consuming everyone (else) happened. You’re playing catch-up.

Fear 1: You’re behind in your job. And others know it.

You’re also forever working to a deadline. The deadline to leave home, arrive at work, finish that report, get to that meeting and finally run out the door (while still looking like a committed employee) before your child is the last one left at childcare. Gone are the days when you can stay back to ‘catch-up on a few things’ or have brilliant networking chats in the hallway. Let’s face it: a working mum is a walking egg timer.

Fear 2: You’ll never be able to perform like you used to.

Then when the work days are over and you return to the sanctuary of your home you cant help but see the tired-toll smeared across your little one’s face.

Fear 3: I’m doing more damage than good.

Judgement. Perfection. Guilt. It’s all rolled into a messy lunch box that gets carried off to work and still stinks after you’ve washed it.

Now I’ve written before about the ‘having it all’ saga before but mother-of-two and PepsiCo CEO, Indra Nooyi, gave a beautifully refreshing take on something that this week was driving my fears. (The 2 minute video really is worth a watch if you’re want a bit of a laugh).

“We’re screwed. We can not have it all.” Nooyi says.

She explains that the biological clock and career clock are in total conflict with each other. We must make choices between being a wife and mother everyday, multiple times a day and find coping mechanisms to do so.

I took comfort in this. If we’re screwed what do I have to be fearful of? If Nooyi’s observation is true then there’s a pretty high likelihood that, yes, at times my fears will be realised. I might have to play catch up for a couple of months at work, I’m probably going to have days (and weeks) that are far less promotion-worthy than those before I had a child. And yes, there’s probably some form of loss, damage or missing out that’s happening on some level of my little girl’s growing awareness.

And I actually feel better already.

Hear that? It’s acceptance. And I think it’s just the ticket women need to cope with fear. Whether yours is tied to kids, your job, your relationship status or bank balance I think accepting what we’re afraid of, in fact, makes it less scary and helps us take back the power.

Enter ACT.

Not our nation’s capital but an emerging therapeutic activity known as Acceptance and Commitment Theory. ‘Act’ as it’s pronounced is basically about building our resilience to failure and fear by accepting the, well, shitty feelings. Accepting what’s out of your personal control and committing to action that improves the situation – your life.

This makes sense to me. Accepting the fear, the out-of-our-control and committing to doing our best to get the job done is enough. And better yet, it’s freedom. If we stopped putting so much energy into avoiding what we fear most and put more energy in to what we want more you’d see a lot more female entrepreneurs around the place.

We can let go of fear. You have at some point before. We all have. If I had never of let go of fear I’d never have gone back to work. I’d never of had a child, started this blog, moved interstate, traveled overseas or married my husband! So accept your fear, find it, feel it and let it lead you to what you really wanna do.

Images: via PinterestLamsweerde and Vinoodh MatadinZephyrance Lou

 

Why my flu might make you feel better

I was taken down last week. Completely floored. I staggered around my home from my bed to the couch to my baby’s bed to the couch and back to bed until I couldn’t stagger anymore. So I shuffled. A barking cough kept me up at night (as well as a blocked nose – the ability to breath is pretty important), 2am sweats and 5am chills had me reaching for hot water bottles and wet face washers. When I finally got vertical to carry my seven-month-old around every muscle in my body ached to drop her. I’d forgotten how merciless the flu was.

There’s nothing like being sick sedated to give you an instant hit of gratitude and a new perspective. A lesson, if you will. And seeing as though I tend to be a hard learner of my own capabilities, when the lessons are flowing life usually is not.

A lesson-learner for me, and hopefully, a gift-giver to you. My flu was what I needed to shed some light on a few home truths I’d been avoiding about myself. So it’s confession time. And hopefully you feel better for hearing them.

Lesson 1: I’m clearly not in that great shape: If I was, I wouldn’t have been struck down ill. I know this because the last time I caught this strain of flu (blacking out from dehydration and needing a fluid drip) I was 5 months off a break-down. Heading back to work from maternity leave and arriving in the thick of Tasmanian winter has seen my struggle with the Food and Exercise Dance taking it’s toll on my body. I might have lost weight (Perhaps one advantage of the flu?) but having your jeans hanging around your butt is not a good, nor my preferred, look. I believe in saying no to habits that are purely motivated by winning brownie points on the skinny-scale. But it has to be balanced with keeping up daily rituals that secure a clean, energised and strong body. I haven’t done this. It’s time to let-go of the toast and coffee for breakfast and get back to my blueberry oats and apple-cider vinegar teas.

Lesson 2: It takes me forever to ask for help. It wasn’t until the eighth day of my flu that I asked someone for a break. There were six days and seven nights before that which I spent saying “I’ll feel better tomorrow. I can get by for now,”. Why put myself through the pain? I’m embarrassed it took as many sleepless nights and all-day-pajama days as it did to get the picture. With a rational head on my shoulders today it’s just crazy. And not smart.

Asking for help is probably the most effective way you can use your time when you’re down and out. Whether you’re a mummy or a manager taking the long way around trying to figure shit out for yourself, just to avoid asking a question or feeling like you’re burdening someone, only looks like a better option in your head. Trust me on this.

So I’m kicking this habit. You too? Let’s ask for what we need: help around the house, a baby-sitter, someone to show us how to [insert that thing you’ve been trying to work out how to do for ages here]. Girl, if you don’t ask – you don’t get.

Lesson 3: I watch too much TV. The first few days of my flu consisted of lying on the couch, cruising through the Foxtel channels and trying to sleep with TV ads blasting at me. It wasn’t until I turned the TV off, took myself to bed and forced myself to ponder my own thoughts until I fell into the deep sleep my body needed that I started to restore my energy levels. Some might argue with me on this but it’s gotta be said: watching TV isn’t rest. We need real rest, daily, to keep that beautiful body of yours in fighting condition. My problem is the time I actually have to take that rest I’m spending in front of the tele. You know the drill: you get home from work, get dinner sorted, retire to the couch, watch a ‘little’ TV then head to bed waking the next morning only to feel tired as when you went to sleep. Hun, we’re all doing it wrong.

Sleep specialist and Author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone Is Not Enough, Dr Matthew Edlund, says watching television is ‘passive rest’ and leaves our brains buzzing. Instead the sleep guru says active rest is the ticket to take if we want to be more alert, effective, reduce our stress levels and generally live a healthier life.

Sign me up! What’s active rest? Apparently chatting with friends (real ones you can touch, not on Facebook), concentrated tasks, meditation and conscious breathing. In a nutshell look for social, mental, physical and spiritual ways to do this.

Or, just turn off the TV and see what happens.

Lesson 4: I’m not organised. Really, I’m not. I have many good-girlfriends that often say ‘You’re so organised Steph, I’d never think to do that,’. Well, truth is, that’s on the outside. I’m ‘seemingly-organised’ and my flu caught me out. The week previous to getting struck down I’d procrastinated on a bunch of stuff. This is a huge problem for me, procrastination. Book work, paperwork, online grocery orders, paying bills (ah-hem blog posts!) and just getting back to people were ‘on-my-list’. As Monday came around, and the the outside world got back to work, the phone calls and emails started flooding in. Voicemail full. Inbox outta control. Being chased by people is a personal bug-bare of mine. I feel suffocated and anxious when I hear people on my voicemail asking me for something I said I’d give them and haven’t. Worse is knowing they’re going to have to wait longer because you’re just too sick to get it sorted.

And to top off the chasers, no food in the house to nourish me. No food when you’re sick is not cool. There’s no gourmet meals pre-prepared in my freezer, no fresh fruit in the bowl and nothing that hasn’t gone mouldy in the vege drawer. As I dug out copious amounts of meat packs, loaves of bread and one-day-I’ll-use-that half-cups of frozen vegetable stock I was cursing myself for having nothing at-the-ready. So it’s eggs on toast for this sniffling black duck.

I can no longer kid. I’ve tried to be the super-organised, Pinterest-perfect, Martha Stewart Housewife and I’m just not. But I don’t think I have to be. Good news is the above can all be avoided and not by being super-organised.

I procrastinate. Usually because there’s something I want to get it right. Get perfect. Whatever I need to do there’s usually a sequence or a process that I’d like to be followed. Sometimes it’s a work/play thing: “Get your housework done then you can blog,”. Or sometimes it’s an idealist thing: “Before I respond to that I just want to read up on it a bit more so I know exactly what I’m asking for,”. Of course life gets in the way of all the steps I put in front of myself  that ‘must be done’ before doing the thing I actually need to do. I end up being late, being chased for something or hungry (like above).

How do we avoid this? Just do it. A job done shitty is better than a job not done at all.

Lesson 5: I need to let-go of the small stuff. Which kind of relates to the previous lesson. If I’m less focused (and more realistic) about the small things I think must be done I’d have more time for the meaty stuff. You know, that DIY project you’ve wanted to start, the garage sale you’ve been meaning to sort out or holiday research you’ve been going to do.

The flu saw no washing done in my house for 10 days. This might sound normal to some of you but anyone with a baby and a husband will get what my laundry was looking like on the tenth day (and by the way, bless my husband who was busy working full-time, cooking, looking after bub and running for cold-and-flus during this time. He did his fair share). The floors were covered in lint and crumbs, the shower was growing mould and there was just general crap everywhere. But you know what? What needed to be done got done. We ate, we showered, we had clothes to wear and most importantly we all got the rest we needed. While I won’t be making a habit of letting my house get to the state it was I’m really getting focused on letting go of this fictitious need to get all the small stuff done, it’s just not that important.

Which is all I’m sayin’ really. What’s really important? Are your daily rituals serving what’s important to you in your life? Or has the day started to run you? Has your mind started to play tricks on you about what must be done and what must command your attention? Don’t let a disabling flu get you down before you realise it. It’s a bitch of a way to learn the lesson.

Images: Justin Pumfry/Getty Images, All Posters, Shutter Stock via Pinterest, Roxalne.com via Pinterest, MelissasheartandhomeGillian Zinser, Intimateweddings.com

The Food and Exercise Dance

They’re two of the most powerful forces in my life: food and exercise.

For me these two are at the forefront of most decisions I make during the day. My inner-dialogue sounds like this: “I should just stick with oats for breakfast – it’s the most nutritious option in the cupboard,” or “What’s the best thing on this menu (in leafy green terms)?” and “I didn’t get to the gym this morning – fail – maybe I could squeeze in a walk in my lunch break? No, I’ll go to Pump tonight instead – that’s a whole hour – double brownie points.”

This might seem a little OTT but my health is important to me. Food and exercise are at the core of that, so, everyday I have these types of conversations with myself. Our minds and bodies know nothing else but to be honest and when I fuel and move mine correctly I feel the truth every time; nourished and strong.

This is the dance. When the song is playing good food and moderate exercise put everything in sync. Life just flows. The body is fueled to go the distance and my mind operates with clarity. It feels natural, easy… even effortless. The nutrition packed meals slide onto the table (and into my handbag – I’m super organised with healthy snacks when in this phase) and the movement enters my life from all angles: walks, gym classes, runs on the beach, pilates and yoga. My body laps up the endorphins and sound sleep that comes when I’m in the zone.

It’s good. It’s rewarding. But let’s be honest – it’s freakin’ hard to keep up.

The winter season has set upon my little piece of the world, the most southern (and I believe the most consistently cold) state in Australia, and I’m feeling ‘meh’. This week month I’ve been berating myself for the fact that I can’t be arsed lost my mojo for the Food and Exercise Dance. Despite knowing how good it is for me, knowing what it feels like to be in flow, I’ve forgotten the steps, the rhythm, heck I’ve forgotten the god damn song.

The new dance? ‘White’ is a fair description of what’s been on my plate of late: bread, potatoes, oats and diary, they’ve become my new staple. My green smoothies have lost their pop, my clean cut meats and steamed veges taste like cardboard and I’m craving drawn towards hearty, heavy, hot meals that are low in greenery and high in the Italian-comfort-food category. And exercise? Well swapping Pump classes and sprint sessions for a walk every-third-day is an even deal right?

If you’re joining me in a case of the winter blues (which I/we will get over and eventually find my/your mojo  underneath the bed covers, couch or fluffy dressing gown – wherever it was last year) it’s got me thinking: What’s healthy motivation to stay, well, healthy?

Some might describe my behaviour (a.k.a lack dancing) sheer laziness. Weakness might get a look-in and perhaps even a good old-fashion case of dog-ate-my-workout-DVD excuses? Laziness, weakness, excuses I’m sure I’ve seen these ‘motivational’ words somewhere before…

or this…

 

Oh… and this one makes me feel really good…

I used to pin these images, as ‘motivation’, to a fitness and health board I thought was destined to keep me on track. Then I started to scroll back through the images and quotes, this time with a clear and reduced need-to-be-perfect mindset, and was numb. “It’s just stupid,” I thought.

Let me ask you this: if I called you lazy, put a bunch of french fries in front of you and told you to do a thousand sit-ups whilst lifting up my top (exposing my perfectly photo-shopped abs) and saying “What did you do today to earn this?” you’d laugh and mime a WTF at me right? There’d at least be one hell of an awkward silence mortification. Moving past that situation I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be at the top of your she-makes-me-feel-good-about-myself list.

My point:

Just because you ate a burger or skipped the gym doesn’t make you less than the girl who didn’t. 

Berating and scolding yourself about how well you did the ‘dance’ this week is not helping you on your way. I really believe it is so-so dangerous to assess how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ you were today with how much you worked-out or ate. You’re essentially attaching your worth to this assessment. You’re comparing. And human nature tells us you’ll almost always see yourself come up short against someone else.

Now I’m not giving you a free-for-all here. I’m not endorsing a self-destructive but ‘feel-good’ lifestyle. Food and exercise are at the forefront of managing your personal health BUT (and I really like to avoid this word) should not be at the expense of damaging your inner-self.

Remember her? She’s your feel-good compass. She’s that butterfly feeling in your gut when you’re excited or embarking on something new: “Keep, going,” she whispers. Your inner-self lifts the mental load when you’re down and high-fives you when you’re doing awesome. But she’s also fragile, like a child. When you berate yourself for not doing (or doing) something she takes the hit too. And not to get too woo-woo on you here but Louise Hay does explain this best:

It doesn’t matter how old you are, there is a little child within who needs love and acceptance…There is a parent inside each of us, as well as a child. And most of the time, the parent scolds the child—almost nonstop! If we listen to our inner dialogue, we can hear the scolding. We can hear the parent tell the child what it is doing wrong or how it is not good enough. We need to allow our parent to become more nurturing to our child.”

healyourlife.com

The message? More nurturing, less berating in the food and exercise dance. The routine needs to come from a place of respect and love for you and your body if you’re to motivate your life, not just your love-handles. Get-off the Instagram and Pinterest guilt trips. Where you are is just a point in time, it doesn’t define you. After all, you’ll do it when you’re ready.

Images: witchymoo.tumblr.com, Commentsmeme.com, via Pinterest, creatina10.com

{Found + Shared} My ‘Feel Good’ Finds

It’s rare that I let myself stop to do this. My personality doesn’t lend me to go back over old ground. My mind is usually so focused on getting the next thing done and ticked off the list that in my busy haze it seems like reminiscing is wasted time. Of course this is the crazy kicking in. In fact, sometimes, slowing down, being present and taking a look at where you are now and recognising where you’ve come from is all the therapy you might need.

I remember when I first had the idea of starting this blog… I wanted to be of service. I wanted to add value to a girl’s screen time by finding and sharing the things I loved, coveted, made and struggled with (the good and the I-can’t-believe-she-actually-admitted-that bad). I wanted to relate to that girl’s good vibes: inspiration, encouragement, connection and the kind of excitement you get when you find the last pair of Tony Bianco shoes, in your size, at half price AND with a red ‘take 50% of the marked price’ sticker on the bottom. Yep, that’s fate in my book.

I trekked through the few short years it took me for me to find the courage to start this little online piece. I trekked and I stumbled. On stuff. Stuff I thought worthy of sharing. Pretty things, useful things, great-buys, beautifully written and inspiring articles, quirky books or just a few tried and tested practices that my girlfriends noted were ‘a really good idea’. But away they went, in a file far-far away or banished as another bookmark in the ‘when I start my blog’ folder.

Today I decided it was time to share some of my collection of ‘feel good’ finds. And by this I mean sharing the feeling I found when I first read, heard, watched, touched or started to practice these little gems. To me they represent pit stops on my journey, my learnings, ergo a wee bit of wisdom (can I say that at 28?). Maybe they’ll help you to? So here’s five to start…

1. Journaling: Because it works.

I was lucky enough to be given a beautiful journal by a gorgeous, and very wise, friend. In it was a heart-felt message of all the lovely things we never say or acknowledge about ourselves. I start here every time I open it and before I pour the day’s thoughts onto the page. It sort of grounds me.

I can not begin to explain the magic that can happen in these little A5 bound trees. Something happens when you physically write down thoughts. It’s like a compass. Suddenly the path you were taking inside your head looks god-dam-awful once it’s on paper. Avoid making yourself write in it every day (unless you need to, of course). We’re human, we rebel against rules. Treat it like the treasure chest it will become and write (and unload) your most heaviest of bundles. I promise (and to coin a term from a girlfriend) the world on that day will feel less ‘wah, wah, sad’.

2. Indulge in curiosity and new age philosophy

Now not to get too woo-woo on you here, stay with me. I just can’t help but seek out a little bit of divine direction. While I don’t claim self-help books solve problems I do think it can be a case of horses-for-courses. If you read your horoscope you’re teetering on the same lines as Dan Millman’s book  The Life You Were Born To Live. A Guide To Finding Your Life PurposeIt’s based on determining your birth number (my birthday is 08/02/1986 so my birth number is 0+8+0+2+1+9+8+6=34 and 3+4=7, 34/7) which essentially highlights your life path (or at least the issues and challenges you’ll face). Gotta say this book was spot on for me. And like I’ve said about personality testing, this just gave me a little peace that I’m wired in a particular way. This time it’s my stars that are placed in exactly the way they’re meant to be. If you’re curious, lend it (yes, from one of those things called a li-ber-ary). If you want to work on it, buy it.

3. Accept the fear. Then lean into it.

My. God. This was the most amazing discovery for me. An entire blog of women putting it out there for all to see. What they would really do if they weren’t afraid.  I first came across this in the December 2013 issue of Marie Claire magazine and was moved by the article only to be floored by the raw honesty of the blog posts. It all started from a speech given by Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg,  who asked graduates of Barnard College: What would you do if you weren’t afraid? A message that has since rung hard in the ears of women around the globe.

Real women, real fear. I felt comfort, connection and a little less weird after delving into the Lean In project. Fear was at the absolute crux of why I procrastinated for years before starting tofindandshare. Fear that it wouldn’t be right, that others would judge and ultimately that I would fail. If you’re planning a new somethin-somethin or holding on to old stuff because you fear the new, screw it. SCREW. IT. And then visit the blog.

4. Focus on wellness, not abs.

And if you can get pass that, I think you’re half-way there. This is where I try to stay. Admittedly I fall off the wagon and start eating less and exercising more for the wrong reasons. The Wellness Guys help me stay get back on track beautifully. It is my favourite, favourite way to spend a morning getting in a quick half hour brisk walk while listening to (and learning from) these weekly podcasts. No. 56 ‘The myth of perfection’ and no. 98 ‘From Stress to Strength’ are a couple of beauties.

5. Plan. Just a little

I’m about to pick-up (for the second time) Shannah Kennedy’s Simplify, Structure, Succeed. The practical tool kit for modern life. One might say that if I have to pick this up again, clearly it didn’t work. Here’s the thing, like I said before, horses-for-courses and this time around the track I’m clearer and more motivated than ever to take another look. Yes, the pretty pictures do keep drawing me back and Shannah’s effortlessly simply and structured way of explaining things suits my linear personality. But the main reason I want more is because last time Shannah helped me clarify my values. I’d never been able to do this before. Shannah calls it The Values Game and mine are Happiness, Achievement and Health. This is what drives me. Turns out they can drive me a little crazy, but never the less, these are my drivers.

Now to plan where they’ll take me…

 

 

Hey hun, I hope you liked this week’s post? I’ve taken a little va-ca from deep ponders this week and would love to know if you found this useful. Thanks for taking your time-out here xxx

 

Images: Amelia Sieber, Stephanie Hudson, Stephanie Hudson, Karina Eibatova, Stephanie Hudson, Sweetwildwellness.comshannahkennedy.com

 

Have versus Happy

I don’t usually get attached to news readers. In fact I’m often guilty of having a chuckle at their expense. I find it a little funny when they turn to their co-host (pearly whites gleaming) and their beautifully blow-dried locks remain anchored in place. I especially love it when the vision and the teleprompter get mixed up. We hear the serious tone detailing the Rudd/Gillard leadership challenge but we see the rough play of cute and cuddle pandas at Melbourne Zoo… it could work I guess?

But this week when Georgie Gardener announced her departure from the Today Show, citing family reasons and the presence of a ‘Grumpy Mummy’, I was kind of taken back. “Wow, she actually admitted it,” I thought.

When someone like Georgie bravely comes out and admits she can no longer balance what many of us might see as a she-has-it-all kinda life, my mind begged the question: can we actually have it all? Is Georgie’s decision just the bare truth staring us in the face that we can’t? Or is it that we can but the ‘all’ part is just a stage we reach, possible only for a point in time, ending when one of the plates we’re balancing just gets too heavy?

I needed answers. I needed to research. I needed to Google.

My girlfriends will laugh at this who know I can’t help but research the hell outta something until I get the answer. And this question I couldn’t let go.

My ‘having it all’ search brought back:

  • ‘Why Women Can’t Have It All’ (Glamour.com)
  • ‘The Secret To Having it All’ (Forbes.com)
  • ‘When Women Have It All’ (Telegraph.co.uk ); and my personal favourite
  • ‘Women, Quite Bitching, You Just Can’t Have It All By 30’ (Telegraph.co.uk )

And then I stumbled on this over on Levo.com:

And after tut-tutting my initial ‘Great. Celebrities giving life advice,’ response I read it. And I wasn’t completely bummed. Despite sitting on different fences of the question these 10 very successful, wealthy and very different women had a theme to their comments: choices and happiness. ‘Yeees,’ I thought. There’s good stuff here but I needed more.

Then, going back to Georgie, I found a great article from iVillage editor, Holly Wainwright, talking about the effect Georgie’s admission had on her. I couldn’t help but connect with Holly’s comments.

Yes, at times (in my weakest and most self-indulgent moments), I do think:

  • that I am working towards a point in time when I’ll have the perfect work/life/family/me-time balance;
  • that other women have already achieved that balance and therefore it does exist and it can be done; and
  • that other women who have this balance are doing it perfectly. Ergo, they have it all. 

But as Holly rightly points out, Georgie called us both out on this.

Maybe what we can’t have is the ridiculous expectation that there are people out there who are ‘Having it all’ and doing it perfectly. Because they’re not. You’re not. I’m not.”

Amen, Holly.

And here it is, our old friend, Comparison. Whether you’re juggling a high profile career and kids, building a business, studying or simply working towards your greater good I think many of us struggle to let go of two things: comparison and the assumption that others are doing it bigger and better than us. I think we can all recall at least one person we’ve placed in the ‘she has it all’ category. I’m guilty of this. And when I do there’s usually a little bit of admiration, a good dose of how-does-she-do-it? and a slight sprinkle of jealously dumped together in a bowl of this bad-as-all-hell-for-you recipe.

Where is ‘She’ for you? Maybe on your newsfeed, all wrapped up in pretty Instagram filters, ‘lovemylife’ hashtags and seemingly perfect images. ‘She’ could be that Mum at school drop-off that drives the fancy car with the fancy-looking husband, the oh-so obedient children living in the oh-so-lovely house. Or ‘She’ might even be your best friend. And because she’s real, and doing it all the way you’d like to you just can’t help but think she’s so much more sorted than you.

Let’s step awaaaay from the life, body, work, business and little-green-monster comparisons. They’re addictive (I see you there, Instagram stalking), they trash your self-confidence and feed more fear and doubt about yourself into your mind than you’re consciously aware. We’re setting ourselves up for failure because it’s impossible to ‘have it all’ if we’re comparing ourselves to others. We’ll never be done.

So my wee little verdict? ‘Having it all’ seems whack. I find most who are asked about it talk about the struggle and the hardship of trying to do it. The articles written about it are a combination of yes, no, maybe, sometimes or it depends. The concept sits on shaky ground. So let’s try this:

Let go of ‘have it all’ and grab on to ‘have me happy’.

Sounds simple, and yes a little ‘Really, is that it?’, but this we can do. As a worry-wart kid I was often distracted by things, other people or anything that wasn’t in sync with what I was doing at the time. ‘You just worry about what you’re doing,’ were my parents’ words and should have been recorded on a mixed tape for how often they had to repeat it. But it’s true. If we’re focused on what we’re doing to make ourselves happy, there’s little time or energy wasted on how we’re comparing to others.

Now, the getting happy part. I get this ain’t always easy, believe me. But in each moment I do know it’s possible to get a little closer to it. Right now, what’s gonna make you happy? What do you really need to do? What’s your mind and body craving? A nourishing meal? Good conversation? Sleep? To say sorry? Inspiration? Maybe even a little help or direction. Step towards it, in anyway you know how. Let go of what others are doing. Just ‘do’ for you, just for now.

It was getting my eyes of other people’s progress and focusing on my own that lead me to practice these baby steps back to happiness. The more I focused on what made me happy, in the moment, the less I felt pressured and frustrated. I felt more energy and had better ability to suss out what was good for me and what was good for the me I thought I should be. It helped break down what to me looked like a marathon into a series of short and delightful strolls. And for this lesson I’m forever grateful.

So take a stroll, right outta ‘have’ and back into ‘happy’.

Images: News LimitedLevo.com, Becca Allen, twitter.com

 

Time to reset

I need one of these. A go-to reset button that gives my mind, body and soul a much needed refresh. But like anything that’s worth doing a reset takes effort and it’s usually in the form of giving ourselves permission, organising the diary and the guts to bloody well just do it.

Admittedly when we’re busy scattering ourselves across our multi-layered lives it seems unatural to stop. Days turn into weeks, weeks into months and before we know it the year’s almost out and we’re not far off burn out. When I get caught up in the rolling sphere of life I have this sense that I’m almost there. There’s lots of “Have a day for yourself next week,” and “Do this, then you can do your stuff,” swirling around my head. I resist the time for me. I often put off making that hair appointment, or date with myself to just sit in a cafe with a mag on my own (weird I know, but the introvert in me craves this) or even just going for a walk. I let these things go because there’s always something more pressing, more important and more valid than my own space.

In actual fact this is BS.

There is nothing more important than your mental health. Our minds are the control centre of our universe. They house our perception and guide each step we take throughout the day. Mindset gets us to work, tells us to work-out, to eat, sleep, cook, make coffee and drink green juices – it holds all reason for all things. Let that get outta whack and the many worlds you occupy will know about it, quick smart.

And here’s how it happens. The tasks of you’re normal day-to-day routine aren’t the big deal. School drop off, opening shop, responding to emails or writing a letter – millions of women tackle their to-do list every morning. We’re super stars at this stuff. But say you have a few newbies this week. The washing machine breaks down. That’s annoying but manageable. You can handle looking at multiple washing baskets for a week. Then your boss might catch you in the hall and ask for a briefing on your projects “in an hour please,”. With heart pounding and brain in overdrive you keep the briefing on your less-than-fabulous progress on these projects up beat and positive. She goes straight to the hard questions, is disappointed with the answers and pissed. Not a great outcome. Later that week you’re running late (to one of your many commitments) traffic is stupid and you left on a bad (and loud) note with your partner who just doesn’t get why you’re so upset that you have nothing clean to wear. So you’re extra pissed at the guy doing 60km in an 80km zone. He cops a finger and you cry as you arrive in the car park greeted with no free spaces. The acronym FML come to mind.

Yes, these are first world problems, and ones we should probably be grateful for, but for many of us they still trigger our body’s stress response. Whenever we get going (feeling worried, overwhelmed or in desperate need of a deep breath) our brain gets trigger happy. It releases chemicals like adrenalin and cortisol which gives us that heart pounding energy burst we need to to get ‘it’ done. Like most drugs a little at a time can be an enjoyable buzz but a chronic use and you have a problem.

Don’t dismiss the stress you’re feeling because you think your problems are less than anyone elses. No matter the size they’re valid, real and most likely making you unhappy. In fact you’re probably joining the one in seven Australians who reported feeling depressive symptoms according to a national survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society last year. And no surprises that the top five sources of stress were money, family, personal health, issues maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the health of those close to us. Our modern lifestyle is sending us all a little cra-cra.

So whether you’re a CEO or a cleaner everyone has valid reason to take time out. So here’s my go-to list of mini (uses less time and money) and maj (uses more time and money) resets I like to indulge in. Trust me, the world looks much better on the otherside any of these…


Mini: Buy flowers

This takes five minutes in your lunch break or during your grocery run but it literally means you stop to smell the roses (or whatever flower takes your fancy). Choosing a bunch of these beautiful stems is a great way to break a spell of busy and get you present and in the moment.

Maj: Make a garden.

This brings me back to earth, literally. Something about getting dirty with soil, watering the plants, being outside and making something pretty. Make a morning of it: plan out your area (pots or a garden bed), take a trip to the nursery, get some gorgeous plants and get dirty. You’ll be as proud as punch with your new little flower nook.

Mini: Drink a cup of tea

See there’s a process to enjoying a good cup of tea. Boil the kettle, let the tea leaves steep, drink it hot and sitting down. A good session of tea and a book can chase your troubles away.

Maj: Bake and share

Cooking, for me, seems to involve hurrying around a kitchen to get something on a plate for the troops to eat. But baking, baking I do with love. It takes more time and organisation but I think it’s the creation of something from scratch and sitting down with friends and family to eat and chat that’s good for your soul.

Mini: Take a bath

If you have one, use it. Dave Hughes makes a joke about how boring this is (I think it’s a male thing, my husband says the same) but if you’re in need of some quiet time away from the pack this is my no. 1 go-to. Add some candles, relaxing tunes (and in my case another mag) and there’ll be no need for the following.

Maj: Visit a day spa

This takes time, money and organisation but it’s oh-so worth it. When a major reset is due this a guaranteed way to switch off, recalibrate and completely disconnect from the norm. You’re not usually allowed mobile phones so you’re temptation to check Instagram or Facebook is removed. If you’re local my favs are Decadent Hair and Beauty  and Lotus Waters Wellness Center. And if you happen to be tripping up to the Gold Coast I can attest the spas at the Phoenician Resort and Pallazzo Versace are da bomb! Note: I’ve only suggested those spas I’ve tried.

 

Mini: One episode of Sex and the City

You know what I’m talkin’ about. Just searching for an image to place here makes me want to grab the SATC DVDs, turn off my phone and snuggle into the couch and start that whole love-hate relationship with Mr. Big again. The frustration was enough forget anyone’s problems!

Maj: The entire box set of Sex and the City

A rainy weekend, hot cup of tea and a packet of Tim Tams. Nuff said.

Mini: Walk on grass with no shoes

My husband swears by this and it turns out he’s not wrong (dang it). As well as helping you to reset and clear your mind, Mind Body Green notes there’s a few extra health benefits too.

Maj: Go for a run

Yes I hear the groan but it works. Try committing to just 20 minutes, even if it’s a jalk (alternating between jogging and walking). Getting your heart rate up, breathing in outside air (I hate running in gyms) and having your mind focused only on taking that next breath is a cleanse like no other. I know it hurts but it’s a good one.

And when all else fails (and this is soooo true) just spend 5 whole minutes doing what you were born to do.

 

Image 1: RosieSandz.com Image 2: Mackenzie Horan Image 3: Lushome.com Image 4: Contesse du Chocolat Image 5: Dailycandy.com Image 6: Vianna Image 7:  Schoone Oordt Country House Image 8: Danielle Knighton  Image 9: Esquire.com Image 10: Özkan Yıldızhan Image 11: Hollywood Physique Training Image 12: kushandwizdom

Strong women say no

Are you doing this? Running rampid through town, around the house and thinking about what you need to get done tomorrow – right now? Yes, I’d be happy rocking these pins too, but let’s see how far the chase actually takes you.

I’m the first to admit to an OTT work ethic. While it’s paid off many times in the past, it’s like a drug. I know it’s bad for me, I’ve tried to kick the habit but on some level the chaos feels good. See it all seems to stem from a list. On the fridge, in the diary on a pretty piece of kiki-k ‘To-Do’ stationery (I’m a sucker for those) the list of tasks looks so structured and organised, even complete, on paper. It sits as a beautiful compilation of all the things I’m going to get done that day. There’s a mindset that it it’s on a list it’ll get it done, I’ll remember to do it.

The thing is I never actually forget. Remembering isn’t the problem. The list morphs from the paper into my head and becomes tattooed onto my brain, not as a friendly reminder (the tone of these lists get nasty), but as a constant reinforcement of what I haven’t achieved that day.

My mantra this week has been ‘Get.Your.Shit.Together’. Last night I laid myself to sleep planning out the day ahead of me. How organised I would be to have vacuumed the whole house in the hour between Harper’s bottle feed and breakfast. I’d have a whole ‘nother half-hour to hang some washing, get dressed, make the bed, do the breakfast dishes, pack Harper up and drive to the gym by 9.30am. Anyone with a child will be shaking their heads at this and not be surprised when I say I got no-where near that list done. And so that’s all I thought about… what I didn’t get done.

If someone kept telling you about all the things you’d forgotten to do, had given a half-arse attempt at doing or just ran out of time to do in the midst of chaos, that is your day, wouldn’t you tell them to back off? Wouldn’t you tell them that the reason your lounge room floor looks like a creche and your car appears to have taken on a 4WD track is because you just haven’t had a spare hour to dedicate to these jobs? Or maybe you’d whip out your diary? It’s jam-packed with work meetings, doctor, accountant and school appointments, just-need-a-decent-coffee-with-an-adult appointments and let alone tackling you’re daily sort-yourself-out schedule. Wouldn’t this be your instinct?

So do it. Tell yourself to back the fuck up.

Let’s just be a little bit more realistic. The ‘list’ does not control you. You control the list. And no matter how hard or fast you work there will always be something on the list. So it needs to be managed.

A very smart and endearing CEO once said to me, “If I see you here past 5.30pm, I don’t see that as you doing a good job. I see that as you not being able to manage your work load.”

Ouch. This knocked my whole perfectionist work ethic out reception’s front door. Fear was my first instinct and I had trouble comprehending his words. In my mind working harder, doing things faster and staying up late to fit more in was a way of life, especially in a (often egotistical) corporate world.

It’s taken me many years, a breakdown, a couple of therapy sessions and much willingness to ‘let-go’ but I now understand what he was trying to instill in his team.

Your list is your workload. Managing your workload means managing the unnecessary, staying focused, prioritising and most importantly saying ‘No’. Now this isn’t another take-control-of-your-life-and-quite-your-job kinda post. It’s a simple reminder that day-to-day we run the list. We manage the workload. We say ‘Yes’ and we should also be saying, and be ok with saying, ‘No’.

And ‘no’ this very word is not weakness, a can’t-hack-it attitude or a cop-out. It’s a conscious uncoupling of you from the list (thanks Gwenyth and Chris). It’s permission, it’s empowerment and it’s ownership. Take yourself back to a time when someone said no to you. Didn’t you feel like they had the power and the say-so? Didn’t you feel like you had to check back with them if it was ok?

So here’s three ways (another list) to try to start taking back your say-so.

1. Keep making the list. But pick only three items for that day.

My lists are epic. They’re comprehensive, detail oriented and completely unachievable. Don’t do this. Set yourself up for success and choose only three that you can achieve.

2. Verbalise it.

Say it out loud to yourself, the cat, dog, the baby – whoever or whatever. The most important thing here is that you put it out there. It’s no longer just a thought, you’ve part-way actioned it.

3. What’s the worst that will happen. Really?

Is it that bad? Will it really be the end of your world (or someone elses) if you say no? Put your big-girl pants on and give yourself a reality check on the situation – there’s a likelihood you could live with the outcome.

So, with every email, phone call, load of laundry, trip to the shops or errand you run – take back your say-so. Say yes when you can and say no when you can’t. Be honest. Don’t ignore the deep inhale when you know you’re taking on too much. You are a superwoman. But even she didn’t have super powers to do it all.

 

Image 1: via Vaunte.com Image 2: simplyseleta.com Image 3:  Lilian Ricano Image 4: webjunkiesblog

 

Why you do what you ‘do’

Rock bottom. Ever hit yours? Ever crashed and burned into a complete heap? There’s a build up. A heaviness, like the calm before the stress-storm. It’s when your body says screams ‘it’s too much, too much for right now,’ but the mind says ‘you must’. Or maybe you’ve all of a sudden found yourself in the situation? You lost your job, someone broke-up with you (or you can’t escape them) or your cash-flow is getting pretty damn low? You’ve felt chained to the bottom (wherever that is).

Well, I’m here to tell you it’s good. Damn good. Get-excited-and wish-it-would-happen-to-you type good. In fact it’s a gift. While I didn’t know this at the time (and it hurt like crazy) my rock bottom gave me more than I could have ever gotten from a self-help book, Tony Robbins seminar, meditation retreat or whatever life-guidance tool I was grasping to at the time. (P.S No offence Tony, I’m sure they’re great, I’m just taking the piss.)

My rock bottom was the complete inability to control my own mental state. It broke me. Key words: inability to control. In that moment everything in my world was bad. I hated the State I was in, the house I was in, the job I was in and even the clothes I was in (given the latter a healthy amount of retail therapy kept me afloat there for a while). I could not stop stop the negative. Of course when you’re looking at your life through a perfectionist’s eyes, comparing it against a standard of rules and expectations, nothing will ever be good enough. And so, with nothing meeting the mark, I felt like I’d failed. I’d convinced brainwashed myself into believing that there was no way out, that I was stuck in this vortex forever and I should just give-up and accept the cards I’d been dealt. Depressed much?

What a drama queen. Really, why was my brain functioning like this? I used to be such a positive person. When I looked at the facts I knew logically that  life wasn’t as bad as I felt emotionally but I just couldn’t shake the overwhelming, all-consuming cloud that haunted me every day.

The thing about rock bottoms is that everybody’s is different. And each is justified – no judgement here at all (and like I’m in a position to judge!). For me it was loosing control. For others it might be having to ask for money, for help or taking a less-than-desirable job. Some things just seem like the end of our world as we know it.

Needless to say it was a ‘Hail-Mary!’ moment when, with the help of a professional, I could actually see why my reactions were my reactions. Why I saw the world around me in black and poo-colours and no longer in rainbows.

“In times of stress we revert to the opposite of our type,” my therapist said.

“You’re not crazy, you’re just not yourself right now,” she said.

After a quick Tom-Cruise-jump-on-the-couch type moment and a shout of relief that I wasn’t sentenced to this state forever, she handed me a Myers-Briggs Personality Type test. Seeing my natural tendencies on paper brought me peace and pride.  ‘I knew this was who I was,’ I said with tears in my eyes. Suddenly the why I was doing what I was doing started to make perfect sense.

Fancy knowing yours? You can take the test here.

Me? I’m an INFJ. I get my energy as an introvert, I favour intuition when considering new information, I use my gut feeling to make decisions and I structure my world by judging decisions quickly, planning and organising accordingly.

If you’re also this type it might resonate with you that we can be determined and passionate, have a creative flair, seem to be able to ‘gel’ with people easily and, as such, seem to be able to talk them into whatever we’re passionate about at the time. Those are strengths.

However, here are some danger zones. Without a goal or direction INFJs loose their sh*&*. What’s the point if we can’t see it, right? If we’re not moving towards a ‘worthy’ goal then that’s just whack. As natural perfectionists we try to match everything to the beautiful and unrealistic picture in our head. It must be ‘just-so’. Which is great, until it must be ‘just-so’ everywhere. At work, at home, at the gym, with our bodies, our outfits, our cooking for Christ’s sake! We fight for the ideal. Always.

This is why I was so crazy, tormented unhappy. I couldn’t see a clear link between my job and my career goal. Nor could I connect the state I lived in to the environment I wanted to raise my family in. I felt like I couldn’t ‘organise’ my way out of the situation so I tried to perfect it instead. I became obsessed with the facts of eating right, to the point where I’d decline dinner invites to avoid ‘bad’ food. I’d prepare the house every morning to a standard Martha Stewart would be proud of. I’d stay back hours at work editing, reviewing and trying to perfect reports sometimes days in a row. And I felt compelled to be out-and-about with work, friends or family events. I was becoming extroverted, super-sensitive, over-thinking basic information and could not commit to a cupcake. The complete opposite of my natural type.

The lesson? My rock bottom was heavily related to the way I’m wired a.k.a my personality type. Without first understanding why I do things, I didn’t have a hope in hell of getting out of my big, over-inflated, depressive rut.

So if you’re toes are touching the bottom, you’re second guessing your thought patterns or you’re just curious about yourself then start on a new little adventure – get to know your type. You’ll be kinder to yourself because you’ll know what drains you. You’ll be happier because you’ll find what feeds you. And most importantly you can be at peace with what you do. Say hello to the naturally perfect you.

P.S I’d love to know what you thought of your type so post your ponderings in the comments below!

The perfect deadline

Writing this was like jumping off a cliff. Returning from a fun-filled, long overdue girls’ weekend in Sydney I’m coming off a high. It’s a slow descend from wining and dining, ice cream indulgence, make-your-eyes-water belly laughs, late night chats and dancing until kick out time. A complete disconnect from my normal routine and seemingly exactly what I needed to finally press ‘publish’. I’ve been given a deadline. An ultimatum to save me from myself. ‘Publish by Friday or I’ll do it for you,’ said my girlfriend. ‘Seriously.’ Tofindandshare.com has slowly been developing in the background for over a year. Why so long? Because I suffer from the killer disease known as Perfectionism. And apparently you might too? It might not seem like a big deal at first but I stumbled across this article from Cindy Ratzlaff and Kathy Kinney (a.k.a Mimi from The Drew Carey Show) who say it’s the leading fatal disease among women 18 to 100. So pretty much everyone. And they’re right, it does kill. At the top of the Perfection spectrum is the slow and inevitable death of confidence, flow, trust and good old-fashion fun. These life essentials are shot down in an effort to keep things ‘just right’. Instead perfection thrives on thoughts like “I’ll wear it when I have the right shoulders for this dress,” or “I know she said it was good but I really should’ve done it better,” and my personal favourite I’m very guilty of: “No, I’ll do it when [enter your ridiculous milestone here]”. And you know what…

 

I’m making the commitment. I’m letting-go. And I’m giving a big F you to the pursuit of perfection. Why the drama with being perfect you ask? What’s so bad about trying to do things right- ALL the time? Put simply, it’s killing me.

At the end of a whirl-wind 2012 I found myself involuntarily taking a crash course in stress management – a.k.a  breakdown. I lay bare most of the gory details here but essentially it took a physical and mental hold on my ability to function before I could stop and check-in with my health and reality. I’d let perfection take over my life. It’s standards ruled every aspect of it and anything less than meant I was too. It meant failure and being vulnerable to judgement. I needed approval and delivering perfection usually gave it to me. If it didn’t I’d convince myself I’d done something wrong or that next time I had to do it better. The standards were always there, in big things like graduating uni or small things like how I’d pack my suitcase. Yes, a suitcase. When I’ve felt brave enough to share this experience and the mind-set that drove me to crash I’ve found I’m not alone. I get lots of “I do that,” or “I think that too,” and “I know, why do we do it to ourselves?”. So it’s left me to realise that trying to be perfect is something most, if not all, women struggle with – just to varying degrees and in different aspects of our lives. So here goes…the launch of my own little cyber baby. You’re reading its first words. All of which are put together with complete sincerity and a hope that sharing my story might resonate with another girl out there who needs saving from a little insanity of her own and ultimately know that it’s ok to let-go of perfection. She feels the pressure. It pops up everywhere. Dominant in some places, a little less in others. Maybe at work where she must be ‘doing really well for herself’ and where ‘good enough’ is just an indicator she needs to do more. Or at home, where the just-in-case-visitors-pop-in mind-set has her vacuuming at midnight and forever at the sink. Her effortlessly fabulous housewife-look is turning out to be a full-time job. Her gym workouts are out of guilt, never for fun and always for work. How else is she gonna get that Miranda Kerr body without back-to-back Pump and RPM classes 5 times a week and complete deprivation of any food that resembles carbs or sugar, right? She tries to be perfect. Life happens and she fails. She feels bad…judged. She tries harder and she’s back chasing a first-class ticket on the Perfect Express. tofindandshare.com is about my journey to find and share ways to stop the perfection pressure and start enjoying who, what and where we are right now. Right now. Let’s start the journey. This moment, this day, this weekend try letting go of just one thing and let it be perfectly imperfect – whatever that is to you. If you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down or just curious about this little space I’d love to send my posts to your inbox every Friday (head on over to the right). Here’s to sharing some imperfection love! Image 1: missmerimac Image 2: mina jafari