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