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)

 

 

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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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Big feelings, and the big behaviour that comes from big feelings, are a sign of a distressed nervous system. Think of this like a burning building. The behaviour is the smoke. The fire is a distressed nervous system. It’s so tempting to respond directly to the behaviour (the smoke), but by doing this, we ignore the fire. Their behaviour and feelings in that moment are a call for support - for us to help that distressed brain and body find the way home. 

The most powerful language for any nervous system is another nervous system. They will catch our distress (as we will catch theirs) but they will also catch our calm. It can be tempting to move them to independence on this too quickly, but it just doesn’t work this way. Children can only learn to self-regulate with lots (and lots and lots) of experience co-regulating. 

This isn’t something that can be taught. It’s something that has to be experienced over and over. It’s like so many things - driving a car, playing the piano - we can talk all we want about ‘how’ but it’s not until we ‘do’ over and over that we get better at it. 

Self-regulation works the same way. It’s not until children have repeated experiences with an adult bringing them back to calm, that they develop the neural pathways to come back to calm on their own. 

An important part of this is making sure we are guiding that nervous system with tender, gentle hands and a steady heart. This is where our own self-regulation becomes important. Our nervous systems speak to each other every moment of every day. When our children or teens are distressed, we will start to feel that distress. It becomes a loop. We feel what they feel, they feel what we feel. Our own capacity to self-regulate is the circuit breaker. 

This can be so tough, but it can happen in microbreaks. A few strong steady breaths can calm our own nervous system, which we can then use to calm theirs. Breathe, and be with. It’s that simple, but so tough to do some days. When they come back to calm, then have those transformational chats - What happened? What can make it easier next time?

Who you are in the moment will always be more important than what you do.
How we are with them, when they are their everyday selves and when they aren’t so adorable, will build their view of three things: the world, its people, and themselves. This will then inform how they respond to the world and how they build their very important space in it. 

Will it be a loving, warm, open-hearted space with lots of doors for them to throw open to the people and experiences that are right for them? Or will it be a space with solid, too high walls that close out too many of the people and experiences that would nourish them.

They will learn from what we do with them and to them, for better or worse. We don’t teach them that the world is safe for them to reach into - we show them. We don’t teach them to be kind, respectful, and compassionate. We show them. We don’t teach them that they matter, and that other people matter, and that their voices and their opinions matter. We show them. We don’t teach them that they are little joy mongers who light up the world. We show them. 

But we have to be radically kind with ourselves too. None of this is about perfection. Parenting is hard, and days will be hard, and on too many of those days we’ll be hard too. That’s okay. We’ll say things we shouldn’t say and do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human too. Let’s not put pressure on our kiddos to be perfect by pretending that we are. As long as we repair the ruptures as soon as we can, and bathe them in love and the warmth of us as much as we can, they will be okay.

This also isn’t about not having boundaries. We need to be the guardians of their world and show them where the edges are. But in the guarding of those boundaries we can be strong and loving, strong and gentle. We can love them, and redirect their behaviour.

It’s when we own our stuff(ups) and when we let them see us fall and rise with strength, integrity, and compassion, and when we hold them gently through the mess of it all, that they learn about humility, and vulnerability, and the importance of holding bruised hearts with tender hands. It’s not about perfection, it’s about consistency, and honesty, and the way we respond to them the most.♥️

#parenting #mindfulparenting
Anxiety and courage always exist together. It can be no other way. Anxiety is a call to courage. It means you're about to do something brave, so when there is one the other will be there too. Their courage might feel so small and be whisper quiet, but it will always be there and always ready to show up when they need it to.
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But courage doesn’t always feel like courage, and it won't always show itself as a readiness. Instead, it might show as a rising - from fear, from uncertainty, from anger. None of these mean an absence of courage. They are the making of space, and the opportunity for courage to rise.
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When the noise from anxiety is loud and obtuse, we’ll have to gently add our voices to usher their courage into the light. We can do this speaking of it and to it, and by shifting the focus from their anxiety to their brave. The one we focus on is ultimately what will become powerful. It will be the one we energise. Anxiety will already have their focus, so we’ll need to make sure their courage has ours.
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But we have to speak to their fear as well, in a way that makes space for it to be held and soothed, with strength. Their fear has an important job to do - to recruit the support of someone who can help them feel safe. Only when their fear has been heard will it rest and make way for their brave.
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What does this look like? Tell them their stories of brave, but acknowledge the fear that made it tough. Stories help them process their emotional experiences in a safe way. It brings word to the feelings and helps those big feelings make sense and find containment. ‘You were really worried about that exam weren’t you. You couldn’t get to sleep the night before. It was tough going to school but you got up, you got dressed, you ... and you did it. Then you ...’
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In the moment, speak to their brave by first acknowledging their need to flee (or fight), then tell them what you know to be true - ‘This feels scary for you doesn’t it. I know you want to run. It makes so much sense that you would want to do that. I also know you can do hard things. My darling, I know it with everything in me.’
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#positiveparenting #parenting #childanxiety #anxietyinchildren #mindfulpare
Separation anxiety has an important job to do - it’s designed to keep children safe by driving them to stay close to their important adults. Gosh it can feel brutal sometimes though.

Whenever there is separation from an attachment person there will be anxiety unless there are two things: attachment with another trusted, loving adult; and a felt sense of you holding on, even when you aren't beside them. Putting these in place will help soften anxiety.

As long as children are are in the loving care of a trusted adult, there's no need to avoid separation. We'll need to remind ourselves of this so we can hold on to ourselves when our own anxiety is rising in response to theirs. 

If separation is the problem, connection has to be the solution. The connection can be with any loving adult, but it's more than an adult being present. It needs an adult who, through their strong, warm, loving presence, shows the child their abundant intention to care for that child, and their joy in doing so. This can be helped along by showing that you trust the adult to love that child big in our absence. 'I know [important adult] loves you and is going to take such good care of you.'

To help your young one feel held on to by you, even in absence, let them know you'll be thinking of them and can't wait to see them. Bolster this by giving them something of yours to hold while you're gone - a scarf, a note - anything that will be felt as 'you'.

They know you are the one who makes sure their world is safe, so they’ll be looking to you for signs of safety: 'Do you think we'll be okay if we aren't together?' First, validate: 'You really want to stay with me, don't you. I wish I could stay with you too! It's hard being away from your special people isn't it.' Then, be their brave. Let it be big enough to wrap around them so they can rest in the safety and strength of it: 'I know you can do this, love. We can do hard things can't we.'

Part of growing up brave is learning that the presence of anxiety doesn't always mean something is wrong. Sometimes it means they are on the edge of brave - and being away from you for a while counts as brave.
Even the most loving, emotionally available adult might feel frustration, anger, helplessness or distress in response to a child’s big feelings. This is how it’s meant to work. 

Their distress (fight/flight) will raise distress in us. The purpose is to move us to protect or support or them, but of course it doesn’t always work this way. When their big feelings recruit ours it can drive us more to fight (anger, blame), or to flee (avoid, ignore, separate them from us) which can steal our capacity to support them. It will happen to all of us from time to time. 

Kids and teens can’t learn to manage big feelings on their own until they’ve done it plenty of times with a calm, loving adult. This is where co-regulation comes in. It helps build the vital neural pathways between big feelings and calm. They can’t build those pathways on their own. 

It’s like driving a car. We can tell them how to drive as much as we like, but ‘talking about’ won’t mean they’re ready to hit the road by themselves. Instead we sit with them in the front seat for hours, driving ‘with’ until they can do it on their own. Feelings are the same. We feel ‘with’, over and over, until they can do it on their own. 

What can help is pausing for a moment to see the behaviour for what it is - a call for support. It’s NOT bad behaviour or bad parenting. It’s not that.

Our own feelings can give us a clue to what our children are feeling. It’s a normal, healthy, adaptive way for them to share an emotional load they weren’t meant to carry on their own. Self-regulation makes space for us to hold those feelings with them until those big feelings ease. 

Self-regulation can happen in micro moments. First, see the feelings or behaviour for what it is - a call for support. Then breathe. This will calm your nervous system, so you can calm theirs. In the same way we will catch their distress, they will also catch ours - but they can also catch our calm. Breathe, validate, and be ‘with’. And you don’t need to do more than that.

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