Have absolutely no sense of guilt about being happy and successful
What is the biggest barrier that stops you from pursuing your dreams?
In the past, for me, it was the belief that I was not deserving of success. However, it took me a while to figure out that this is what was actually holding me back.
Roughly fourteen years ago, I was in Italy on a business trip with one of my former corporate clients with whom I had a great relationship. We got along exceptionally well not only on a professional basis but also on a personal level, and I recall that one evening as we were driving from her office in Belluno to Venice for the following days meeting, we began discussing life in general.
As we opened up about our various life experiences, I remember saying to her that I felt that something bad was going to happen to me. Concerned, she asked me what I meant. I responded by saying that I was due to get married to my long term boyfriend, we were buying a beautiful apartment in West London and that we had just gotten two kittens, and that although I should feel happy, I felt worried. I explained that after years of paying off student loans and climbing the corporate ladder that life was finally coming together and because of this I had a feeling that the rug was going to be pulled out from under me and I would lose it all.
Not long after the conversation with my client, I returned home from another business trip and asked my then-boyfriend, and now husband Ben, if he had ever felt like something bad was going to happen to him. He looked at me confused, replied no and asked me to elaborate. I told him that life felt like it was going too well and that I couldn’t enjoy feeling content because I felt like “external factors” would come into play and take it all away from me. He looked at me perplexed and disbelievingly and responded that neither of us was born with a silver spoon in our mouths, we had worked hard and therefore we deserved everything that we had worked for.
DESERVED being the operative word.
At that moment, I realised that I did not think that I deserved success. All the while that I was struggling to pay off student loans and saving money for the deposit on our apartment, I felt normal and okay - because I associated the feeling of struggle with being normal. Being successful was a new feeling for me, and so I struggled to believe that I deserved success. Hence my fear that I was going to lose it all.
Recognising that I am worthy and deserving of success was a significant barrier for me to overcome. Primarily because I used to compare and contrast society problems to my own life and as a result, I would feel guilty for my own success. Guilt from my Catholic school days circulated continuously in my mind… there are starving children in Africa… there are homeless people…there are so many disadvantaged people. How come I get to be so lucky?
Ultimately after a great deal of work on myself, I came to realise that I was not enlightening myself or anyone else by feeling guilty or refusing to enjoy my successes. If anything, I realised that I could use my experience and success to help others.
I am telling you this story because the deep unconscious beliefs which we have about ourselves and our self-worth are the missing pieces that hold us back from pursuing our dreams. And as such, we need to take the time to understand what these unconscious beliefs are so that we can create a path forward.
So, now I return to my original question,
What is the biggest barrier that stops you from pursuing your dreams?
Last year I was asked to be a keynote speaker at a 6-day conference in California, and, the conference organiser advised me that the audience size would be 2,000+ people, with the previous headline speakers being Jessica Alba and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Wow! I thought. This will be taking my speaking career to the next level.
The only catch was that none of the 100 speakers invited to speak would be paid. It was positioned that no speakers would be paid because it was an honour to be invited to speak and that the exposure alone would be beneficial to the speakers.
I took a few days to consider the invitation and ultimately decided it was an excellent opportunity and that I would wave my speaking fee and speak at the event.
Fast forward to a few months later, where I regretted my decision and began to feel disconcerted about the whole thing. Poor communication and inadequate information from the conference organiser was the norm, and the limited e-mail’s I did receive made me feel like the conference organisers felt like doing me a favour by having me speak at the conference. All in all, in my gut, I had a feeling– a feeling I couldn’t quite place, which told me that something wasn’t quite right.
Fast forward again to now three weeks before the conference, where I received an e-mail from the conference organiser stating that the conference committee had decided it would be ‘fun’ to change each speakers keynote speech duration from 60 minutes to 15 minutes. The rationale being that they wanted to do ‘speed dating’ type speeches, which they felt would be more entertaining.
My heart sunk.
The keynote they had asked me to give was on my story of burnout and recovery from panic attacks and depression, and I couldn’t see how I could make the speech fun and only 15 minutes. I felt doing so would be a disservice to my audience. I knew there would be audience members going through what I had gone through regarding burnout, anxiety and depression and therefore, to make the speech ‘fun’ and 15 minutes would be woefully wrong.
While my heart sank, that familiar feeling of something not being quite right, kicked in again, however this time I was able to identify the feeling – the feeling was powerlessness. I had given my power away by allowing myself to be treated poorly by the conference organiser, and as such, I was feeling powerless – on the back foot per se.
Recognising this, I knew what I had to do. I had to take my power back.
I e-mailed the conference organiser and advised I would no longer be speaking at the event. And, I added that when liaising with speakers in the future they may wish to consider how they treat their speakers - especially when they are expecting speakers to prepare, write and memorise speeches for free when they themselves are making 3 million dollars through ticket sales.
I took my power back by saying no, this is not acceptable; this does not work for me.
And, I felt like a million bucks for standing up for myself and what I believe in.
Of course, there was a part of me thinking ‘But what about Jessica Alba, Benedict Cumberbatch or one of the other headliners I could be associated with’? But the other side of me – the side of me with a strong sense of self-worth told me it didn’t matter even if the Queen herself was headlining with me. It wasn’t worth giving up my power and self-respect. Nor was it worth doing a disservice to the audience by cramming a comprehensive topic into 15 minutes.
So how did I have the self-confidence to put myself first?
I’ll be honest - I wasn’t born with or raised to be self-confident, it’s a learned behaviour which I taught myself. Watch my video to learn how I taught myself to be self-confident and how you can too.
The key message I would like you to take away from my story is this:
Many of us view ourselves and our lives through the lens of judgment, going from room to room in our mind, continually searching for ways to improve. And whilst self-improvement is always a good thing, it’s also important to remember to practice self-acceptance. Because if we don’t, and we only view ourselves critically, we end up with poor self-worth, which impacts all areas of our lives.
Self-acceptance is about celebrating the good as well as the aspects
So how do we practice self-acceptance?
Quite simply, self-acceptance starts with liking yourself, which begins with respecting yourself, which starts with thinking of yourself in positive ways.
In practical terms, to practice self-acceptance consider implementing the following:
Enjoying a nourishing meal
Getting a good night’s sleep
Treating yourself to something you want - flowers or a night out, for example.
Setting, committing to and communicating your boundaries,
These are just a few short tips on how to practice self-acceptance.- If you need more ideas, please feel free to reach out to me.
To reiterate - don’t just focus on what you want to improve - recognise and spend time celebrating how great you are just because you are you. The more you practice self-acceptance, the more your self-worth will improve, which will increase your motivation for your other goals.
I once bragged that in between conference calls I made a cake in 17 minutes.
My husband had phoned to say that a friend was flying into London at the last minute for 24 hours and that it was her birthday. Excited to see our friend, I told my hubby to invite her for dinner and that I would do something special for her birthday.
As I got off the call and looked at my diary, I realised that I was scheduled to attend back to back conference calls all day. The only gap I had in my diary was 20 minutes in between two conference calls. Seizing those precious minutes, I frantically made a birthday cake and popped it in the oven to bake in a record-breaking 17 minutes.
I was super pleased with myself and bragged to my hubby that if needed, I could rule the world because I was The Master Multitasker. I was Superwomen!
Fast forward to a year later, and Superwoman was curled up in the foetal position on the bathroom floor suffering from a panic attack. Apparently, I was not Superwomen and could not rule the world. I could not even rule my own world, and because of that, my body and mind got sick, in part because I thought that I could and should do it all.
Which begs the question, why do some of us, and in particular women, assume we have to do it all?
The answer is complex and multifaceted and is not one which can be answered in a short blog. However, what I will say is this – we don’t have to do it all.
We can set boundaries, and say no, and that does not make us a bad person. Nor does it mean we are lacking.
As Gloria Steinem so eloquently puts it:
“You can’t do it all. No one can have two full-time jobs, have perfect children, and cook three meals and be multi-orgasmic ’til dawn…Superwoman is the adversary of the women’s movement.”
It’s essential to recognise that we can’t do and be great at everything. And that is okay; we don’t need to do it all. We can say no - we do not have to agree to every request and task that is asked of us.
By setting boundaries realise that it’s an act of self-respect and self-care, which contributes to feeling less stressed, anxious and depressed. Furthermore, by validating our needs, we build self-esteem and confidence, and, this will improve relationships with others as people will understand what our limits are and what we stand for.
If like me, you have found yourself running around trying to be all things to all people, and in particular to the detriment to your health and wellbeing, ask yourself these powerful questions:
For most of my adult life I have been a socially aware individual; relatively well versed on societal and global issues such as homelessness, inequality, the refugee crisis, war, natural disasters and diseases which plague parts of the population. One of my passions is politics and what makes society work or not work as a whole, and as such, I have spent much of my life reading and watching documentaries on various global matters.
Unfortunately, up until a few years ago, this passion led me to invalidate my own needs, desires, worries and concerns.
I used to compare and contrast societal problems to my own life, and when comparing said issue(s) I would berate and tell myself that I had zero right to complain about my problems and worries.
Guilt would continuously circulate in my mind, and I would link to myself: there are starving children in Africa… there are people far worse off than you… you have a roof over your head and food in your tummy… do you think you are that special? Get over yourself!
Because I kept telling myself that I was fortunate, I invalidated and did not give credence to my own distresses. I discounted the quiet knowing inside me that was shouting at me to change my life and to find my purpose. Inside I listened to the voice in my head that would say: You cannot do that… You cannot indulge such frivolities…don’t you know some people would love to have this job/make the money you do…you are lucky.
Eventually, the anxiety and subsequent depression that I fell into forced me to start listening to my inner wisdom and necessitated that I validate my own story. I become aware that just because my situation did not compare to someone else’s did not mean that my challengers were invalid and unworthy. And, as I began to validate my own story, I came to own it, and by owning it, I was able to set myself free and make the necessary changes to build a new chapter in my life.
Watch my YouTube video to hear how I learned to own, validate and reframe it.
You have a right to your feelings and story regardless of what others might be experiencing.
Remember that by validating and taking ownership of your story, you have the opportunity to re-define it.
Acknowledge the obstacles that you have overcome. We all have a story.
Where you are at today does not define you – you have a choice to stagnate in your existing story, or you can write new chapters.
Furthermore, validate and accept the story of others – even if you cannot relate to or understand the story.
Key questions to ask yourself:
Hi! Welcome to the Mindset Coaching Blog, where I will be sharing with you how to develop healthy habits and empowering beliefs.