Being Human, Living Full: Want to push it a little?

Being Human, Living Full: Want to Push it a Little?

So we’re on the way to getting this ‘being human’ thing sorted. But there’s always room to push it a little.

One of the best parts of being human is that when we push ourselves at the edges, however it turns out, we still get to be human. We might bruise a little, sometimes a lot, we might fall – but it’s nothing we can’t deal with. Eventually we’ll find our feet, get up and dust off, usually better, stronger, wiser than before. We can be pretty amazing like that.

Something else might happen if we push ourselves. We might also lift. We might find something out about ourselves that’s surprising, exciting and pretty excellent. The things we hide under the history and habits, the shoulds and the shouldn’ts. 

Change and flourish come from challenge, but challenge is individual – what’s challenging for you might be pedestrian for another, and what’s challenging for them, might be ‘meh’ for you. Here are some ideas for ways to stretch, push the limits and maybe uncover the potential of you just a little bit more – because it’s there. You don’t need to analyse it and you don’t need to know how it will end. Just step in and let go – even if only for short while – and see what happens …

  1. Be vulnerable.

    Being prepared to be vulnerable is the first step to all sorts of wonderful. It’s one of the hardest things and the best things. Vulnerability and courage are deeply connected and they always show-up together – always. One can’t exist without the other. Fear feels like a stop sign, but it’s not. It’s a sign that you’re about to do something really brave – life-changing even – that you’re on the brink of something beautiful.

    Vulnerability is the deep breath in and the leap. It’s the courage and boldness to step forward when shame and fear are doing their best to hold you back. 

    For me, brilliant things have happened in those moments of absolute fear when I could have so easily chosen ‘no’, but chose ‘yes’ instead. They’re decisions that could have gone either way. They’ve existed side by side with breathtaking fear – but the decision to be vulnerable has brought enough courage for the fear not to matter enough. It doesn’t go away, it just doesn’t matter enough. That’s how it is.

    Of course, my decisions to be vulnerable haven’t always ended with grace – sometimes I’ve fallen, maybe face planted once or lots of times – but none of the fallout is permanent. What I know for sure is that it’s because of those moments in which I’ve said ‘yes’, that I have many of the people, experiences and things that I would never want to be without. I wouldn’t have the relationships I have (‘but if I stay past ‘hello’ I might run out of things to say / say something stupid/ spill my drink down the front of my dress – all of these things have happened, but I’ve also fallen in love, discovered people I wouldn’t want to be without, learned things, made impressions). I wouldn’t have started running (‘Run? Um, yeah no. I can’t even run late without getting puffed and sweaty and gasping for breath on the floor – I still get puffed, sweaty and gasp for breath on the floor but at least now it’s when I’ve done more physical activity than stirring in a teaspoon of sugar). I wouldn’t have travelled (‘but I have no money, no idea and I’ve barely travelled past my mailbox -‘backpacking overseas? Yeah okay. Let’s go through the Middle East, hey?’) I wouldn’t have this website, which I love (the reasons ‘not to’ would fill a city library, but the reason ‘to’ (because it felt right) was bigger – and the only one that mattered).

    If you were given a free pass to move towards something, knowing that whatever happened, you would be absolutely fine, what would you do? A new relationship? A new job? A holiday? An adventure? A new city? A hobby? Would you tell him (or her) how you really feel? Unless it involves swimming with sharks in a pool, chances are you’ll come out not-dead. What’s even more likely, is that you’ll come through having done something amazing.

  2. Play

    As humans, we’re not only capable of play, we’re meant for it. It’s one of the important ways we connect with other people and with ourselves. It forms the basis of successful relationships. Relationships in which people don’t play together eventually wither and die. 

    We know how important play is for children, but research is showing that it’s also important for adults. Play relieves stress, helps our relationships to thrive and develops the brain. As psychiatrist Dr Stuart Brown puts it, ‘Nothing lights up the brain like play.’

    Brown suggests we integrate play into our lives, not just make time for it, by thinking back to our earliest memories of play and then working forwards to see where it fits in. There are so many different types of play – humour, sport (for fun – with a team), flirtation, movies, fantasy, games. Experiment – see which one fits best.

  3. Love your body.

    The thing about us humans is this: We all have a body and those bodies come in thousands of different shapes. It’s just the way it is so we need to deal with it. Worrying about the shape we come in is stopping too many awesome people from being seen, and the world is a little short on awesome people at the moment so can we just stop! The shape you come in doesn’t define you, but it might define the idiots around you who think it does.

    There are few things more beautiful than someone who looks as though they love the skin they’re in. Maybe they actually do love it, maybe they don’t – who knows – but what I do know is that people who act as though they’re happy to be who they are are strikingly beautiful – whether they’re a size 0 or size 16 or beyond.’ It’s this way for people with lumpy thighs, skinny thighs, curved hips, no hips, flat tummies, unflat tummies, boobs, no boobs and cellulite. I don’t know who took these things out of the general definition of ‘beautiful’ but I, for one, am ready to see them go back in.

    How would you be different if you celebrated your body instead of hid it? How would you sit? Stand? Talk? Dress? Be? Just try it for an hour. Then two. Then a day. Just start with five minutes if you want. There’s nothing to lose – for the moment it’s just pretending. You don’t actually have to like your body. You just have to act as if you do. You can always go back to the old way if you want. But just try it – and be open to liking how it feels.

  4. Act as though everything is geared in your favour.

    Too often the biggest thing standing in our way is ourselves. There will always be reasons to hold back but they’re often not as honest as the reasons to move forward. As humans, we’re hardwired to detect threat and to act on that. It’s called a negative bias and it can be so convincing! It wraps us up in a warm bundle of ‘just don’t go there, K?’ and holds us tight – too tight sometimes – but that’s its job, to keep us safe.

    The thing is, just because there are reasons not to move forward, doesn’t mean those reasons are worth holding ourselves back for. How would you be different if you knew beyond doubt that everything that happened to you today, and all the days after that, were to move you forward? What would you do? What would you try? How would you ‘be’ in the world? What would people see? What would you say? Who would you say it to?

    Try acting as if there was nothing in your way, even if it’s just for the first five minutes of leaving the house. It might feel awkward at first. New things always do. But it’s just a habit like any other. The more you do it, the more you’ll believe it. There’s always less standing in your way than you think there is.

    I know this works because I do this regularly myself. Being in a room full of strangers tends to unsettle me – and by unsettle, I mean it kind of terrifies me. There was a time where I would always be late to things because I would be stuck deciding whether or not I would just be best to stay at home and home-tattoo the alphabet into the soles of my feet – it seemed like a reasonable alternative. Both equal in pain value. For a while now, I’ve been going into these things acting as though nothing could go wrong and as though everything that was about to happen was going to work in my favour. That makes them kind of exciting – the discovery, the potential, the possibilities. It’s a way to deal with anxious energy and make it positive. Anxiety is energy. Being anxious about an outcome means you focus on the things that could go wrong. Turning this around and acting as though everything that happens will be good for you means you are more likely to focus on the possibilities. Research has found that the effects of changing outlook in this way are real. Science, you make sense of things – and this is why we love you.

There are plenty of ways to stretch. These are only 4 of them. Often, it’s the times we need to feel brave that we feel least brave of all. That’s okay, and so normal. It’s a sign that we’re at the edge of ourselves and about to move beyond it. It means something exciting is about to happen, so let go – take a risk, play, love your body, believe that the world is working hard for you.

If you don’t feel brave, fake it. They look the same from the outside and will lead to the same extraordinary things. 

I’d love to hear about the times you’ve pushed past your edges and done something brave. We’ve all done it and we’ve all got it in us to do more. You just never know who you’ll be inspiring. 

Now, go be awesome. You’ve got a cheer squad here no matter what.

(Image Credit: Unsplash | Morgan Sessions)

 

 

2 Comments

The Journey of Peace and Happiness

This is a wonderful article. Thank you so much for all the knowledge you bring. My challenges with Mental Illness and Emotional Abuse have caused fear in my life to disclose anything. Starting my blog and uncovering what has been unspeakable has been freeing. Yes, this was fearful but I took the leap and I’m learning and growing. Your blog is so inspiring, and helpful in many areas. Looking forward to more.

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Hey Sigmund

You’re so welcome. I’m so pleased you’re writing. It sounds as though you have been through a lot and you will have amazing wisdom and insight. You’ll never know who you’ll be inspiring, but I’m sure it will be many.

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Anxiety shows up to check that you’re okay, not to tell you that you’re not. It’s your brain’s way of saying, ‘Not sure - there might be some trouble here, but there might not be, but just in case you should be ready for it if it comes, which it might not – but just in case you’d better be ready to run or fight – but it might be totally fine.’ Brains can be so confusing sometimes! 

You have a brain that is strong, healthy and hardworking. It’s magnificent and it’s doing a brilliant job of doing exactly what brains are meant to do – keep you alive. 

Your brain is fabulous, but it needs you to be the boss. Here’s how. When you feel anxious, ask yourself two questions:

- ‘Do I feel like this because I’m in danger or because there’s something brave or important I need to do?’

- Then, ‘Is this a time for me to be safe (sometimes it might be) or is this a time for me to be brave?

And remember, you will always have ‘brave’ in you, and anxiety doesn’t change that a bit.♥️

#positiveparenting #mindfulparenting #parenting #childanxiety #heywarrior #heywarriorbook
The temptation to fix their big feelings can be seismic. Often this is connected to needing to ease our own discomfort at their discomfort, which is so very normal.

Big feelings in them are meant to raise (sometimes big) feelings in us. This is all a healthy part of the attachment system. It happens to mobilise us to respond to their distress, or to protect them if their distress is in response to danger.

Emotion is energy in motion. We don’t want to bury it, stop it, smother it, and we don’t need to fix it. What we need to do is make a safe passage for it to move through them. 

Think of emotion like a river. Our job is to hold the ground strong and steady at the banks so the river can move safely, without bursting the banks.

However hard that river is racing, they need to know we can be with the river (the emotion), be with them, and handle it. This might feel or look like you aren’t doing anything, but actually it’s everything.

The safety that comes from you being the strong, steady presence that can lovingly contain their big feelings will let the emotional energy move through them and bring the brain back to calm.

Eventually, when they have lots of experience of us doing this with them, they will learn to do it for themselves, but that will take time and experience. The experience happens every time you hold them steady through their feelings. 

This doesn’t mean ignoring big behaviour. For them, this can feel too much like bursting through the banks, which won’t feel safe. Sometimes you might need to recall the boundary and let them know where the edges are, while at the same time letting them see that you can handle the big of the feeling. Its about loving and leading all at once. ‘It’s okay to be angry. It’s not okay to use those words at me.’

Ultimately, big feelings are a call for support. Sometimes support looks like breathing and being with. Sometimes it looks like showing them you can hold the boundary, even when they feel like they’re about to burst through it. And if they’re using spicy words to get us to back off, it might look like respecting their need for space but staying in reaching distance, ‘Ok, I’m right here whenever you need.’♥️
We all need certain things to feel safe enough to put ourselves into the world. Kids with anxiety have magic in them, every one of them, but until they have a felt sense of safety, it will often stay hidden.

‘Safety’ isn’t about what is actually safe or not, but about what they feel. At school, they might have the safest, most loving teacher in the safest, most loving school. This doesn’t mean they will feel enough relational safety straight away that will make it easier for them to do hard things. They can still do those hard things, but those things are going to feel bigger for a while. This is where they’ll need us and their other anchor adult to be patient, gentle, and persistent.

Children aren’t meant to feel safe with and take the lead from every adult. It’s not the adult’s role that makes the difference, but their relationship with the child.

Children are no different to us. Just because an adult tells them they’ll be okay, it doesn’t mean they’ll feel it or believe it. What they need is to be given time to actually experience the person as being safe, supportive and ready to catch them.

Relationship is key. The need for safety through relationship isn’t an ‘anxiety thing’. It’s a ‘human thing’. When we feel closer to the people around us, we can rise above the mountains in our way. When we feel someone really caring about us, we’re more likely to open up to their influence
and learn from them.

But we have to be patient. Even for teachers with big hearts and who undertand the importance of attachment relationships, it can take time.

Any adult at school can play an important part in helping a child feel safe – as long as that adult is loving, warm, and willing to do the work to connect with that child. It might be the librarian, the counsellor, the office person, a teacher aide. It doesn’t matter who, as long as it is someone who can be available for that child at dropoff or when feelings get big during the day and do little check-ins along the way.

A teacher, or any important adult can make a lasting difference by asking, ‘How do I build my relationship with this child so s/he trusts me when I say, ‘I’ve got you, and I know you can do this.’♥️
There is a beautiful ‘everythingness’ in all of us. The key to living well is being able to live flexibly and more deliberately between our edges.

So often though, the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ we inhale in childhood and as we grow, lead us to abandon some of those precious, needed parts of us. ‘Don’t be angry/ selfish/ shy/ rude. She’s not a maths person.’ ‘Don’t argue.’ Ugh.

Let’s make sure our children don’t cancel parts of themselves. They are everything, but not always all at once. They can be anxious and brave. Strong and soft. Angry and calm. Big and small. Generous and self-ish. Some things they will find hard, and they can do hard things. None of these are wrong ways to be. What trips us up is rigidity, and only ever responding from one side of who we can be.

We all have extremes or parts we favour. This is what makes up the beautiful, complex, individuality of us. We don’t need to change this, but the more we can open our children to the possibility in them, the more options they will have in responding to challenges, the everyday, people, and the world. 

We can do this by validating their ‘is’ without needing them to be different for a while in the moment, and also speaking to the other parts of them when we can. 

‘Yes maths is hard, and I know you can do hard things. How can I help?’

‘I can see how anxious you feel. That’s so okay. I also know you have brave in you.’

‘I love your ‘big’ and the way you make us laugh. You light up the room.’ And then at other times: ‘It can be hard being in a room with new people can’t it. It’s okay to be quiet. I could see you taking it all in.’

‘It’s okay to want space from people. Sometimes you just want your things and yourself for yourself, hey. I feel like that sometimes too. I love the way you know when you need this.’ And then at other times, ‘You looked like you loved being with your friends today. I loved watching you share.’

The are everything, but not all at once. Our job is to help them live flexibly and more deliberately between the full range of who they are and who they can be: anxious/brave; kind/self-ish; focussed inward/outward; angry/calm. This will take time, and there is no hurry.♥️

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