I go through phases with reading material and have often escaped in a good crime thriller- this was based on the premise that no matter how bad things got in my life, at least I wasn’t being hunted by a serial killer (or at least not to my knowledge).
However, this year, I have read lots of books on resilience, being happy and learning to be yourself.
Lots of the books were fascinating and really thought provoking but recently I realised how much of the learning I had taken from the books. The main themes I kept reading was to take responsibility for your actions, stop worrying about what others are doing, set realistic goals, have strategies for when it goes wrong and most of all, stop worrying about what others think of you and your actions.
Becoming a parent, especially a parent to children with SEN, really did change a lot of things in my life. I went from a label/venue/holiday snob to having to live hand to mouth for a time. I went from a company car and expenses to having to ask my parents for money to buy Christmas presents for my son. However, the biggest change came in being able to put everything into perspective. Becoming a parent helped me to realise what was important and also being thankful for the real wealth I had around me but that was not an overnight discovery – it took time.
Over the years, I developed a thick skin to help me cope with criticism – the “oh it was called naughty in my day”, the “do you not think perhaps you are just looking for problems now” and the “oh she’s one of those mums” – comments many of us can relate to. However, a thick skin in not impenetrable and there were still many days when I walked away from a situation thinking “well you could have handled that better” or “why did I think that would work”.
Like many of us, I am my own biggest critic but also like many of us, there are times when some people believe I need a bit of help with criticising myself or my actions. I have tried hard over a number of years to live by the motto “be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind” (Thank you Dr Seuss) but let’s be honest, it’s not that easy. When you are on the receiving end of anything negative – be it someone talking about you, someone judging you, feeling as if you are being judged or generally being made to feel as if you are not good enough, it is hard to remember to actually like yourself. It’s hard to give yourself any credit for what you have achieved or learned.
However, this year, I realised that I had taken a huge amount of learning away from the books I have been reading. Brene Brown’s The Gift of Imperfection, I thought it was just me and Daring Greatly had a huge impact; as did Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and Susan Jeffer’s Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. When I walked away from a project I had been involved in for some time recently, I know that some people laughed and thought “we knew it wouldn’t work, when will she learn, why did she think she could achieve something that others haven’t”. However, this time, instead of focussing on what everyone else was possibly saying or thinking, whilst also tying myself up in knots in case they they were right, I managed to walk away with my head held high. Things may not have worked exactly how I wanted it to, but do you know what? I tried and during that trying I also learned – a lot. I may not have reached the goal I set out to achieve but perhaps that goal was just not the right one for me? Or perhaps I had achieved a goal, it just wasn’t the goal I had planned. I walked away secure with the knowledge that the journey was not a waste, nor did it mean I had failed.
This made me stop and think “Oh dear, is this it – am I becoming a grown up?” The reality of how far I had come hit home when I was reading a blog post called “10 toxic habits of unhealthy people“. I initially clicked on the link, which showed a photo of a female smoking a cigarette, and thought “oh, let me guess – don’t drink, smoke, eat carbs, eat fat, stay up late or have a life of any description” but how wrong I was. Have a look at the post and tell me how many of the toxic habits you are guilty of.
Like a lot of women, I want the quick fix and the latest fads to work – especially when it comes to dieting, but I don’t assume the worst, I don’t believe I have no control over my life, I do set myself goals, I don’t blame my health on genetics (I wish it was but nope, I like my food and I am not a fan of exercise). I absolutely love knowledgable experts. I mean the real deal, not the self professed experts; those who have opinions without being informed or those who repeat opinions of others (then again, they are not experts, are they?). I love people who are experts and are happy to share their knowledge. I love that my husband is an expert in me – he knows when to let me be and when I need him to tell me that it will all be ok. I relish creative solutions – I am always looking at alternative ways to get to where I want to be or achieve what I am trying to achieve. I love flexibility and spontaneity. That just leaves gossip – well, this is a work in progress and I am getting better! Yes, in the words of Brene Brown, I am claiming my shame – I am imperfect but I don’t think it is just me!
I don’t gossip about everyone and everything, nor do I believe myself to be better than anyone. I do however, believe myself to be luckier than many people. Being lucky and fortunate doesn’t make me better, it does help though to give me the resilience to continue trying, learning and growing. It also helps me to help others – I am writing a workshop to share with other parents on how to improve your resilience – I am lucky to be a fast reader and also to have the time to read but not everyone is. I therefore wanted to share the learning with others who may not be as fortunate as me in that regard. Being a happy grown up is a goal I intend on pursuing – no matter what others may think or how many challenges I face – who wants to give it a go with me?