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Welcome back!

Ahead of the second season of Behind the Hashtag, I’ve been revisiting all my previous articles; they are a powerful reminder of the journey I started some years ago. Many of the struggles I faced make more sense to me now.

Since I last shared an article with you all, it’s been a time of incredible growth, AND you can bet your sweet ass that growth has NOT been comfortable. No question, it has most definitely been worth it, though I’ll never pretend it’s been easy.

Most annoyingly, I have come to accept that growth can never stop. If we want to experience all that life offers growth must be part of that journey. Acknowledging that truth also means understanding that I don’t have to LIKE something to accept it.

The Behind the Hashtag season one cliffhanger ending had me “wrestling a greased pig in the dark”, a term I borrowed from Bréne Brown to describe personal growth. In hindsight, I needed to step away and make enough sense of what I was working through before writing about it – hoping that would allow the shared experience to be vaguely useful to the Behind the Hashtag community when I returned. Being useful is the hope and intention of all the writing I share.

I’ve been working on the struggle between my head and my heart – and what a Game of Thrones-level battle that turned out to be! At times, it is fun and funny but also brutal and very difficult. Thankfully, I did not do this alone; to say it took a village would be an understatement – this was a global support effort from family, friends, fellowship, therapy and even a horse (more on that later). And yes, I do realise how high maintenance this makes me sound … all I can do is own that, be incredibly grateful and pay it forward in any way I can.

So, I return once again from a place of “Love and Loss”, where this journey began in honour of my late friend Chrissie, who always wanted me to get started with blogging. I still hear Chrissie’s encouragement and down-to-earth advice as I reflect on life. However, this particular return to writing is a very different version from the first one. Behind the Hashtag came back into my heart on a day when I was processing the death of my dad and, at the same time, ending another relationship which had been beautiful and powerful but ultimately would not be healthy for me in the long term.   

Love and loss indeed – but a moment where I was the most open-hearted I think I’ve ever been in my life. A moment when I realised that the armour I’d built and held around my heart for years had quietly fallen away, one final large chunk of armour came off when I least expected it amid grief, and I simply did not see it coming. It was emotionally raw, and I felt exposed in a way I had never experienced before. It was both beautiful and a complete bitch, to be honest.   

What helped me was having the humility to accept that this really was the cost of admission to a happy and honest life. An open heart isn’t always going to feel happy. An honest heart, however, would always be healthy. I could celebrate that being a people pleaser was now firmly in my past. I was willing to do whatever it took to live the life I had worked so very hard to build – even when that felt difficult and painful in the moment.

In the coming weeks and months, I’d love to share the recent chapter I’ve been living through. The past year, in particular, has had the most incredible adventures, brutally difficult life events, some of the most glorious fun I’ve ever had and, above all, given me an understanding of how I have been getting in my own way for most of my life! As Taylor Swift sings in her song Anti-Hero…” It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me…”

I’m looking forward to taking the journey with you all and hopefully opening YOUR hearts along the way.

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“Wrestling a greased pig in the dark” is a line from Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. She refers to the expression as an excellent description of what you might experience if brave enough to “try and get your head and heart around who you are and where you come from”. This felt like the perfect way to capture what I’ve been doing ALOT over the past few months, and in one way or another, I suppose I’ve been doing it for many years.

Let me assure you that no actual pigs have been harmed in the writing of this article – although I did find that tackling Brené’s question is not work for the faint-hearted. I can tell you that it’s been worth rolling my sleeves up to do the work as I haven’t felt this calm, happy and healthy for a very long time, with occasional spells of batshit crazy as I continue the work! Whilst no one can do the work for you, I was hoping that if I shared some of my experiences and insights, I might save you a little bit of the leg work – especially if you fancy getting your arms around your very own greased pig :-).

The conversation which began when I started Behind the Hashtag really helped me on the road I find myself on. When you’re in the midst of doing the work, it’s challenging to actually reflect and write about it–it can be a bit raw and tiring. Having taken a break from writing, it has now felt like time to get restarted with sharing some of my experiences, hoping they may help others who could identify with my struggles. I’ll do my best to give the whole, sometimes messy, occasionally funny, picture.

I did need that step away for a while. Sometimes you need to get very quiet and very still to hear what’s going on in your “head and heart”. It’s been so helpful for me to take a breath and also take a break from ploughing through a to-do list. I’d noticed that everything was beginning to feel like work – even those things I usually get great joy from, such as Behind the Hashtag. Always notice that and listen to it – when you suddenly notice you stop enjoying something.

As I begin to pick up the pen again, it seems very appropriate that what’s nudged me back towards writing is reconnecting with the memory of the dear friend who always gave me the “What are you waiting for?” encouragement. It was Chrissie I set out to honour with Behind the Hashtag,  and whilst there’s not a day I don’t think about her, it was reflecting on stories about Chrissie, in planning for her long-overdue memorial service, that reminded me of her wonderful “you can do anything” attitude she would always fill me with.

It hasn’t been all hard work, though. I was also finally taking some time and space to focus on health and wellbeing. As part of this focus, I needed to build new routines, shift what I had been paying attention to and above all, tackle what I’d been avoiding.

As well as clearing ACTUAL cupboards, I was also clearing my mind. If you don’t stop to reflect and take stock, you can miss so many of the things that you’ve already got – they are just tucked away at the back of a cupboard.

It’s not the first time I’ve tackled the physical and mental de-cluttering, but something different did happen this time. If you’re taking on a major project – like a “deep clean”, you would usually call in professionals to help – they have the equipment and experience to help. So, whilst I’m incredibly blessed to have a local and global “village” of gifted friends, who have never waivered with their love and support, I realised I needed some “reinforcements”.

Having more help wasn’t the whole story of what was different. Part of what has made the past months so challenging and incredibly helpful is that I became teachable! Years of learning, reading, researching, observing, studying… like some frenzied student on too much caffeine… literally years of looking for answers to life’s struggles. And only in these last months have I actually become teachable – which is oh so very different from learning. That doesn’t mean I always get it right – far from it! It does mean that I notice and learn from it when I get it wrong… then move on.

For a few years now, at times, I’d been noticing I would be absolutely exhausted and not really understand why. Well, it turns out my head and heart had been in a wrestling match for years; I’m now finding out slowly but surely how to stop the fight! Working out our patterns – particularly those that pull us away from where we’re trying to get to – can be a game-changer. Over the next few months, after some hard work and more exploration, I’ll be happy to share what’s helped me. And I promise – there won’t be a greased pig in sight!

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That’s not a typo, it is YET, not yes.

So what makes YET such a powerful word? I think it’s the sense of possibility that it gives.

Let me give you an example… A few months ago, I decided to try some new things to push myself out of my comfort zone a little (and give myself a figurative kick up the arse). So I thought I’d start out gently with a beach yoga session followed by a cold water dip.

I’ve done a few yoga sessions over the years, but it would be fair to say that I never quite made it to the bikini-wearing hand-standing yoga stage. I’ve always been more focused on “please don’t let me fart or pee myself” as my measure of success.

Anyway, despite not knowing anyone, I rocked up at the session game to try. The instructor was so lovely, encouraging us all to stick at a comfortable level. Which, by the way, is “Child’s Pose” – even that felt a struggle for me. I inquired if there was a “having a wee lie down on the mat” pose I could try instead; alas, apparently not.

But instead of worrying about my Downward Dog, I concentrated on being on a lovely beach, the sound of the lapping water, surrounded by hills and fresh air, and I just did what I could. When the “oh my god, I really can’t do yoga” thoughts came in, I suddenly remembered a conversation I’d had the day before and how adding the word YET to the end of the sentence completely changes the thought and feeling.

Suddenly I was starting on a journey, the beginning of something – YET creates a bridge to a future state where I will be able to do something. It may not be next month, it may not involve a bikini or a handstand, but I will almost certainly be able to do more than I was could that day. And oh my goodness, it takes so much pressure off! I’ve already talked in previous articles about the danger of comparison, and sometimes it’s comparing the “today me” with the “when I was younger/fitter me”.

There’s a twist to this tale in terms of how you can use YET. It can also be a wee warning to watch yourself if you’re slipping into bad habits. After deciding to overhaul how I’d been looking after myself, I’ve been getting some great support along the way. It was one very wise (and experienced) lady I recently started working with who introduced YET into my story. We had discussed healthy habit changes, having both heard some very powerful stories at a meeting earlier that week. I happened to comment how relieved I was that “at least I’ve never done xyz”.

She stopped me right there and said, “Please add YET to the end of that sentence you just said”, and oh my goodness, did that change the perspective for me! We can so easily avoid facing up to behaviours that are actually really bad for us in the long run – particularly when they can be so comforting in the short term. Adding YET gave me a brilliantly simple wake up call.

In that moment, I recalled how so many times over the years that I had justified my unhealthy behaviours by telling the “but I don’t do that” story to myself… Oh, if only I had added YET to those thoughts all those years back, how much easier my path might have been!

Whether it’s about your sleep patterns, how you exercise, how you’re eating, even how you’re connecting with others in your life, or balancing your time between your responsibilities and having fun – try using the word YET when you think about where you are today, what you want to avoid happening and most importantly, where you would like to get to.

I don’t have the flexibility to get into all the yoga poses, even some of the basics… YET, but I will keep at it, though. Granted, with the seasons changing, I’ll be moving from the Scottish beach into the heated studio. When I hit the mat for my specialist workshop of yoga for the menopause… I’ll continue to hold the “I haven’t farted or peed myself YET” as my mantra, this is one YET I’d like to keep in place!

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I’ve recently noticed how dull jewellery becomes if it’s not worn and is just stuck in a box.

I finally had my first outing recently to celebrate my parent’s anniversary. Having an excuse to get dressed up, I thought I’d give my now very dull jewellery a clean. I didn’t expect such a minor task to provide me with such considerable insight!

As I sat in my room with my favourite music on, my aromatherapy mister puffing out stress-reducing oils and with no rush to be anywhere soon, I became totally engrossed in what I was doing. In that moment, I realised I had a sense of wellbeing and happiness, something I hadn’t felt for many months. I caught myself just smiling. My sparkle was emerging along with the sparkle on my rings! I simply hadn’t quite appreciated how “blah” I’d been feeling for so long. It wasn’t just the jewellery that had become dull.

As we emerge from the heaviness of the pandemic, each of us around the world will be at different stages, and I’m acutely aware that too many are still very much in the thick of it. Whether you’re emerging out from under all this or the light at the end of the tunnel still seems a little further away, I want to share something with you which might help you understand how you could be feeling right now or prepare for you something you may feel in the future.

Let’s go back to the “blah” that I mentioned earlier. For many months I’ve been functioning through hectic work schedules and long days across many timezones. Supporting my daughter through her final exams at school – the results critical to the next steps in her life. Helping ageing parents with health challenges and hospital appointments. I have also been trying to do enough housework to avoid my house becoming a bio-hazard zone, all whilst providing sustenance through nutritious meals!!! The “blah”, when not on full adrenalin, has been very real. It felt like the ‘Friday Faceplant’ had re-entered my life again… however, this time it was different. This time I found an explanation.

Adam Grant is an organisational psychologist I’ve come across many times and always really loved his work. This spring, in his recent article, he really NAILED the explanation of what so many of us are experiencing. I have never been sent the same article by so many people, from so many countries, in the space of just a few days… It clearly resonated strongly with them all and with a powerful “Oh my god, this is me!” response. That was my reaction too.

Adam captured so powerfully what many of us were experiencing but didn’t have a name for.

It’s the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity.

The name he gave to what so many of us were feeling was LANGUISHING.

I don’t know about you, but I much prefer describing myself as languishing versus blah! In the poetic vision of my languishing, I imagine there’s a chaise lounge and parlour involved (picture a scene from Jane Austen). But with blah, all I picture is Crocs and trousers with an elasticated waist (both of which I love and have a place in my life).

Having a name now for what I was experiencing was strangely comforting, but how do we tackle it to find a way through and out? One recommendation from Adam Grant is to find a way to get into “flow”, this is when you’re distracted from all the noise in your life, and you lose track of time. My jewellery cleaning gave me that space to create that spark of happiness that I felt. Reading a good book can do it too, also taking a walk in nature, knitting, gardening … if it absorbs you, it will help.

Another recommendation is uninterrupted time – I can vouch for the power of this even though it happened accidentally. Recently, I had just finished work, and my phone completely froze! I could do NOTHING to it – couldn’t switch off to reset, nothing at all. The initial horror was genuine… I’m on my phone all the time. It turned out to be a gift from the universe. As I waited for my phone to completely lose battery power so I could reset it, conversely, my own battery was being recharged. Whilst this digital detox was accidental, it provided me with a valuable lesson – I need more “digital disconnection” to allow me to get into the right flow state.

I hope you find the article and its definition as helpful as I did. More importantly, I hope you can find little ways to get into your own flow, so you can shift from Blah to Bling. Simply notice what takes you into that space, and do as much of it as you can! ❤️

Next Steps

For more of Adam Grant’s wisdom click here.

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Last year I asked a question in one of my articles – “Can you really set boundaries without feeling like a bitch?

I had some interesting conversations with people after posing this question – and I also thought that badass was so much better a description than bitch. I’m not going to get into the gender debate that I believe lives in the topic of boundaries for today – but we’ll maybe come back to that one in the future!

What got me thinking about boundaries again was a recent family health situation – requiring much more reactive than pro-active boundaries.

I noticed that I could be a wee bit triggered under certain stressful conditions – probably a control thing. At times, it can feel as though I’m channelling Lady Grantham’s character from the Downton Abbey TV show. However, I remained very polite – there a definite shift towards frosty.

Once the immediate stress had passed, I got curious… What triggered me to get my Lady Grantham on? On a dog walk in the woods with my mind wandering, I had a lightbulb moment. In one of my most stressful life situations a few years ago, I recalled the baseline ask I put to my now ex-husband to help navigate the divorce. “There are only two things I ask of you: Don’t take me for granted, and be kind”. That was it. Not a huge ask – but they were table stakes. Absolute deal breakers.

It seems that these two asks are still my table stakes – in particular when there is a lack of kindness being shown by someone else. Whether intentional or not, a lack of kindness will set off all of my boundary alarms – particularly if I’m already at the edge of my stress capacity. Enter Lady Grantham!

Sound familiar? You will have your own “table stakes” – it’s a very personal thing. As long as you express them and ask for what you need, there should be no difficulty for someone with good intentions to respond and adapt.

There’s the key folks – good intentions. I’ve seen a mix when it comes to this. When I’ve had a friend giving unsolicited advice or guidance, and I’ve had up my hand to say, “This is actually making me feel worse, I don’t think this is what I need right now”… or know they are a real friend – a kind friend when their response is “I’m so sorry, what do you need right now?”

It’s one thing to know what’s needed, another to learn how to do that, but what happens when you try to put that into action?

Boundaries must have a purpose. When you have a clear ‘why,’ it makes the creation of boundaries far simpler -though not necessarily always easy.

You can create boundaries kindly – the earlier, the better. If you wait until you are frayed, exhausted and potentially resentful, then it can be a much less kind and potentially damaging conversation, and the intent is not to cause harm. In the same way that you don’t want to set yourself on fire to keep someone else warm; equally, you don’t necessarily want to be unreasonable or rude with others.

I qualify that statement with the following caveat… If this is the umpteenth time you’ve had a conversation with someone to ask the same thing, and it’s yet to be respected, it seems that invoking a bit of Lady Grantham might then be the right approach, somewhat firmer and edgier than an initial request might be!

The relief at that moment is inexplicable – I’ve experienced it many times in recent years, which is when you KNOW how blessed you are with your loved ones.

Slightly more challenging is the hurt, offended reaction where it becomes all about the other person. That is not someone starting from kindness and doesn’t suggest they really care about you. Particularly in a moment, they KNOW is stressful. A polite closing of that particular call or conversation and simply stepping away is the best advice I can give you in that moment.

The badass boundary moment recently enabled me to deal with a very stressful and challenging situation. You get laser focussed on priorities when your loved ones are at risk and rely on you to be the strong and dependable one.

The trick is to look after yourself in the same way when you’re not in crisis. A little bit of Lady Grantham’s steely determination may be perfect for unlocking your own brand of badass.

So how well do you know yourself – for me, it’s “don’t take me for granted and be kind”… what’s you’re boundary hard line?

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Visit any recycling centre at the weekend just now, and you’ll see a line of cars snaking around the corner. Online village notice boards have never had so many “free, but must collect” postings for everything from toddlers’ toys to king-size beds!

The decluttering is real. In line with my recent comparison article (Comparison – the arch-enemy of self-compassion), I’m not beating myself up for the lack of cupboard perfection … even Monica from Friends had her clutter!  

What I’ve been much more focused on is decluttering my brain. There has always been so much “busyness” and noise in my head that I’ve got a lot of lost thoughts and insights in there.  

One of the BEST things my mindfulness class gave me last year was the power of “noticing”. Instead of getting stuck on a thought going over and over, I’ve learned how to ‘notice and then move on’. The things this has been able to let me find!

You know the moment when you’re cleaning out a cupboard, and you find exactly the item you need but had forgotten you had? From badminton racquets through yoga mats… Most recently, for me, was a wonderful guided-journal that I completed one page three years ago, then forgot all about it. I was actually about to buy it “again” having forgotten I even had it in the first place!!. Love those moments. And I’m sure we’ll return to that journal in the weeks ahead. 

Just as we find “stuff” we can also find thoughts. A lesson learned or an insight that maybe didn’t make sense at the time but suddenly is the very lightbulb moment you need that week. 

Our brain can hold A LOT of information – but to access it, you need to be in a specific brain and body state, relaxed and alert at the same time. Imagine you are trying to open some stuck drawers on a large dresser; the more frantically you try to yank at them and attack them, the more stuck they become. But if you relax and instead gently coax the drawers open, you can access what’s in there. Our brains are a lot like that – and sometimes even sleeping on something then trying to access it in the morning is an even better idea. 

I’ve found something very energising and exciting about having the chance to get access to more corners of my brain. Revisiting experiences – good and bad – and taking the time to learn from them, look at them through the benefit of more experience to make sense of them. I’m lucky to have many close friends – some with incredible coaching and psychology experience – to unpack a lot of this with. They help me make sense of what I’m finding at the back of the “brain cupboard”.

This is where I put in a word of caution – you never quite know what will come up when you start noticing more and going back into the corners of your brain. Always make sure you have someone to talk to. If you have trauma in your past, which may resurface, I would always recommend seeking professional support – it’s always best to keep yourself safe!

When you can declutter enough to see what’s at the back of your “brain cupboard” it can be a very beneficial experience. Some of it you will want to “recycle” as it may no longer serve you – even thoughts go out of style! Some may be just the ideal memories and insights to help you at that very moment. Either way, you will hopefully feel lighter and brighter along the way and maybe very pleasantly surprised by the treasures you’ve simply not had the time to notice!

Let me know what you find! 

Next Steps

We have an exclusive Behind the Hashtag community on Facebook, if you’d like to join the discussions click here.

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Do I know the Behind the Hashtag community well enough to tell The Farts of Wrath story? I’ve concluded that if the word fart in the title switches you off, you’ll quietly walk on by this article. If, however, you want to learn more about the physical price your body can play for being a people pleaser, this might be helpful.

At the heart of this life lesson for me is the impact of years and years of pushing down what I wanted ‘in service of others’ (might sound familiar to many of you) and the power of finally finding a safe space to let go of stress.

In the 5+ years leading up to my “aha” moment, I’d been living a very stressful and unhappy life. In particular, the 18 months before my breakthrough had included a marriage breakdown, house move, family illness and my own physical burnout. I was a lady much in need of stress reduction. A feeling I know many of you are experiencing right now with all the current additional life stresses.

The light on my horizon at the time was a wee break coming up with wonderful friends from my hometown – we’d been partners in crime since our late teens. I’d actually NEVER been on a girls holiday – 50 years old – and this was my first one! I’d NEVER been on a relaxing, read books all day by the pool kind of holiday. For almost two decades, my holiday experiences were the perfect manifestation of my people-pleasing. Imagine you dislike theme parks and are petrified of rollercoasters … but find all your main holidays are at Disney? What the hell! People pleaser on steroids or what!

I should say that subsequent trips to Disney with just my daughter Iona has helped change my experience massively – not always easy (Would you kiss Mickey Mouse with that mouth?). I have now reframed Disney for me with some beautiful memories.

This shift in the holiday scenario was significant. It was when I realised the damage that the people-pleasing had done to my body and soul over the years.

Determined to not crawl into this holiday with the current exhaustion levels I was experiencing, I decided to finally take the advice of a very dear friend and see a kinesiologist. I found a wonderful local practitioner who proved to be a game-changer for me.

As I experienced it, at the heart of kinesiology was finding out what my body was holding within. Every experience you live through – good and bad – goes into your body. One of the key things that showed up for me was the impact of years of “pushing down” my own needs. I expected some’ anger… it turned out to be way more than anger. Apparently, I had full-blown WRATH! Marvel movie, end of the world, levels of WRATH. No wonder I was exhausted.

Armed with some natural remedies and meditation affirmations, I set off on holiday – already feeling better. The blast of laughter with my beautiful friends before we’d even left the airport proved to be brilliant medicine too.

The joy of sitting around the table laughing, sharing, crying, eating and laughing some more was incredible. A holiday that restores your energy versus exhausts you! Who knew? I’d shared the story of the wrath within me as we were catching up. Everything just felt lighter from sharing.

Then the strangest thing happened. After a few days of relaxing, sleeping, feeling completely safe ‘to be me’ and taking all my natural remedies from the kinesiologist – there was a shift. It was a very audible shift. Unfortunately, it seemed very appropriate that my wrath was working it’s way out of my body – in the form of thunderous farts!

I’m not exaggerating – Thor himself would have stepped back in awe at these bad boys. The first day it happened, I didn’t realise the noise had travelled from the ground floor to the top floor of our four-story townhouse. As I stepped out on the rooftop terrace with my morning coffee, my dear friend Rhona, who didn’t look up from her book, commented, “seems you’re wrath is finding a way out there, girl”. Who knew? Not the most sociable way to process your stress – you need some very loving friends to embrace this particular outcome.

But fart humour aside, holding stress in your body is incredibly damaging. I’m still working on ways to make sure I look after myself – I’m midway through reading Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski and learning how to complete the stress cycle. When we can’t control the stressors in our lives, we can minimise the impact of stress on our body. More to come on this topic in weeks ahead, and I look forward to hearing from the Facebook group on ‘What is working for you?’.

I leave you with a “try this out” and a question – What might you be pushing down into your body with the stress in your life?

You might find a body scan helpful to try…

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I want to put this out there for anyone else who might be feeling the same… I haven’t perfected sourdough bread. My banana bread was so dire that even the dog wouldn’t eat it. And I haven’t created a Polynesian-style resort with a swim-up pool in my back garden using only recycled palettes and two black bin bags.

Am I a pandemic failure, when my measure of success is getting a daily shower and reaching the bottom of the laundry basket – am I aiming too low?!

Look… I’ve found a lot of the ideas and projects shared over lockdown very inspiring. I’m often really positively energised to do things when I get ideas from others – it’s why I follow certain people on Instagram and Facebook. Inspiration is good.

But when does inspiration turn into comparison? In my experience, comparison is rarely healthy or helpful!

Let me share a really important lesson–as with all my life-lessons–I learned the hard way. Comparison is the enemy of self-compassion and mental wellbeing. If you are on the road to mental wellbeing, you should consider comparison as a ‘big-ass pothole’. Why would you want to drive through a big ass pothole?

As a teenager, my comparisons were usually linked to the size of my arse or the fashionability of my wardrobe. Into my twenties, it was more about college grades and job opportunities. Then in my thirties, I became a mother. That’s when comparison took a hefty dose of steroids!

I vividly remember feeling the slow cold grip of inadequacy taking hold of me when my daughter was young and starting school. It felt like a victory just to get through the school gates in the morning, both she and I looked like we’d done four rounds with Mike Tyson before breakfast. There would always be a few immaculate children who looked as though they were ready for a school uniform photoshoot… Whereas my wee lassie looked like the ‘end-of-a-rough-day’ model… but I never gave myself a break. Even back then, long before diagnosis, I instinctively knew my darling daughter was neuro-diverse. It’s an entirely different ballgame dressing a child with sensory issues when every clothing label feels like barbed-wire against the skin. I just embraced my sense of inadequacy and hung my dishevelled head in shame.

When you feel inadequacy taking hold of you, here is my tip. Remind yourself that you’re usually only seeing a slice of someone else’s story (#BehindTheHashtag). That’s not to say what you’re seeing isn’t true – but it’s not the whole picture.

If I look back to the unhappiest time in my life, NO ONE would have guessed what was really going on. I don’t recall consciously being deceptive, but by zooming in on the small percentage of good in my life, I think it was a way of numbing myself to how awful things actually were. I would show the world only the parts of my life that I felt in control of or made me feel good about myself.

I have deep compassion for parents today who are currently homeschooling. Although I’m not a drinker, I’m pretty sure I’d have been pouring Bailey’s Irish Cream on my Cornflakes after just one week. As I said, it was hard enough for me just getting a young child out of the door and off to school in the morning!

However, we all have very different needs, when you compare you’re looking outwards when what’s needed is more of a ‘what’s needed here and now for me and those I love?’.

It’s great to get inspiration from others, but when it begins to feel like a standard you’re failing to meet, you might have hit a comparison pothole.

How do you know if you have an unhealthy comparison?

I’ve learned that if you find yourself more focussed on ‘capturing a moment to share’ versus ‘enjoying the moment for itself’, that might be a warning!

What matters most is if you like or love your moment – not what others think. Notice how you feel when you see a memory or a picture – if it brings you joy that’s wonderful, if you recall it being hard work or difficult at the time, maybe that’s a signal. Letting go of comparison and what others may think is incredibly liberating – you’ll potentially win back a lot of time and energy… something we all need more of these days.

So as you reflect, please remember this… ‘comparison is the enemy of self-compassion’. In the same way that ‘perfection is the enemy of good’, and right now, any level of good is quite amazing in my opinion!!!


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I can’t sit in the lotus position. Actually, I can’t sit in any position that is even distantly related to the lotus. If I do get down on the floor (rarely easily or silently), it can be quite the workout getting back up again. This has been the case for quite some years, even when I’ve been relatively fit. Until recently, it was a bit of a mental barrier for me fully leaning in to mindfulness.

What an idiot. As if how I sit was going to dictate the benefits I might get! I do place the blame for this very long-held, and clearly silly, belief at the door of a poorly qualified meditation instructor. Running a meditation session as one of many offerings at a spa (which they don’t do now), the very determined and bossy class tutor singled me out for “sitting the wrong way,” and I was so busy feeling embarrassed and angry with her that I couldn’t have had a less tranquil experience—the very opposite of mindful.

And so the story of “wrong way” began. In the years since, I have dabbled with various meditation and mindfulness practices. The wish to experience a mindfulness retreat grew over time, but always stopped when I pictured everyone else sitting the “right way” and my shameful lack of ability clear for all to see!

Then a strange thing happened to us all, we found ourselves in a world navigating a pandemic. Everything changed, all the usual rules were suspended. Mindfulness training and retreats went online! And so, I signed up for an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workshop.

One of the first things my mindfulness instructor said when we had our kick-off session, “there is no wrong way to do this – it’s about finding the right way for you”. Hurrah! No longer would I be singled out for my lack of bendiness. Instead, I could focus on exactly what I came to do – learn some new practices to improve my wellbeing.

“Yesterday’s history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift – that why it’s called the present!” Kung Fu Panda

My feeling of “this is the course for me” increased further when the class guide included a quote from the Kung Fu Panda character alongside the quotes from Mark Twain and others.

Each week, for 8 weeks, our online class worked through practices and reflections together. In addition to the highly engaging and experienced instructor, the class was made up of a lovely group of people who had varying levels of experience with mindfulness and were all there for different reasons. I found great comfort in hearing experiences, challenges and reactions, which helped me really believe that there is no wrong way to do this.

I’d already been doing quite a bit of work on ‘being present’, on using breathing techniques, and I’d been using the Headspace app quite regularly (an excellent starting point for mindfulness when a beginner). I did have a real challenge with my wandering mind, it consistently kept tripping me up. Then my tutor completely reframed the moments where I would usually abandon my practice, “Call back your wandering mind as you would a beloved pet who wanders off too far”. Game changer! Suddenly it wasn’t “wrong” to have a wandering mind – it was to be expected.

No need to restart or give up when your mind wanders – just beckon your mind back and keep going.

The second game-changer moment came when we really focussed on our breathing. I’ve always known the power of your breath to bring you ‘into the now’. What got in the way for me was the counting of breath and breathing in a particular way. I would get so tied up in not doing the breathing the “right way” that I’d end up as frustrated and annoyed as I was the day of that first meditation class. It doesn’t feel great to “fail” at breathing. I can’t begin to tell you the joy I felt being told,

Just breathe naturally and normally – no need to count.

One of my very favourite spots to sit and think – the first place I practiced mindfulness outside of a class or a guided meditation

The third and final standout moment for me – sit or lie in the way that’s most comfortable for you, being aware that lying down increases the chance of falling asleep! To be doing multiple practices in a comfortable chair, in a relaxing position only increased my ability to focus on the moment – not on the cramp I might be getting in my left calf muscle!

Sit or lie in the way that is best for you to be present.

From these simple but important shifts, I was able to really commit to the practices, and in the weeks and months ahead I’ll be delighted to share with you some of those which have really helped. From mindful walks, keeping out of autopilot, focussing the scattered mind, the stress reaction cycle, thoughts are not facts, and through to the very powerful practice of acceptance.

I’d also love to hear your own experiences and maybe even challenges with mindfulness – it’s not always easy – so perhaps you’d like to join our Behind the Hashtag private Facebook group


Next Steps

The course I took was Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction at www.londonmindful.com

MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn – I’ve previously reviewed his book, you can read that here.



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NEVER has a book been recommended to me by so many people – Untamed by Glennon Doyle. This is one of those books it seemed EVERYONE was talking about when released. Of course, I had to read it.

Cheetah shoesI got quite interested when I read the dedication at the front of Untamed, “For every woman resurrecting herself”. After coming out of from a big chunk of your life and through the wringer of divorce, it can feel like a resurrection – or the very least a rediscovery.  So I was hopeful that there would be some helpful insights and experiences.

At first, I didn’t fully understand the book’s opening story about a cheetah living in captivity, but as I read on the metaphor of a cage and the as yet ‘unlived’ version of life outside, really made sense.

We told a story about Tabitha, a cheetah brought up in captivity. When the zookeeper was asked if Tabitha missed the wild she replied, “No, she doesn’t know any different. She’s never even seen the wild. This is a good life for Tabitha.”

“She doesn’t know any different”… if you don’t have a comparison – Glennon imagined the cheetah might say, “I should be grateful. I have a good enough life here. It’s crazy to long for what doesn’t even exist”. As powerful as I know gratitude to be, it is possible in some circumstances for it to become a bit of a cage. I say that as someone who, for the best part of two decades, “didn’t know any different”.

I’m not going to suggest for a moment that this book will give you lots of easy answers, but it will most definitely challenge you to ask yourself some pretty difficult questions. Being really honest about my reading experience – I didn’t find it easy. At times it felt as though the writing was running at the pace of a cheetah in the wild. If you’re looking for a neatly packaged, clearly signposted life map, this is not for you. If you want an authentic and very raw window into human pain and the messiness of life – dig in!

Part of my struggle as I started to read this book was that I didn’t know the author’s voice. It was such a personal story – but I didn’t know the person. It helped me to listen to the audiobook, and this may be the first time I’ve actually listened to and read the same book in parallel!

I have a very different life experience from Glennon Doyle. We ALL have our own experiences. So although I didn’t necessarily relate to the life she had lived, I could absolutely relate to the feeling of being caged. I suspect it is a feeling shared by far more of us than we care to admit. Because we know we “should be grateful”.

There was a very powerful question this book had me reflect on again. How much of your life is your idea? I realised several years ago that a great deal of my life wasn’t “my idea”. I captured this in my TEDxTalk, the notion of life looking much better on paper than how your lived experience felt. This question also helped me see that the more my life was “my idea”, the happier and more energised I was becoming.

My 18-year-old selfThe line in the book which made me smile was,

“My spark was always inside me, smouldering”

That’s when I realised that hints of being untamed had begun to emerge for me last summer. When I finally had the chance to take a holiday with my “Inverness Girls” (we’ve known each other since we were 16). As we relived the laughter and nonsense of our teenage selves, this wonderful group of ladies helped me realise that my wild and fun 18-year-old self was still in there … deeply buried, but still there.

I’m not sure it’s possible to fully capture the power of this book, I think the impact will come from different parts of it depending on where you are in your life. The passage that properly gave me goosebumps was: “Then I built a life of my own. I did it by resurrecting the very parts of myself I was trained to mistrust, hide and abandon in order to keep others comfortable”.

It strikes me as funny now that just after that girls holiday last year and the rediscovery of my 18-year-old self I treated myself to a pair of “I’ll buy whatever the hell I want shoes” … and they were cheetah pattern!

I reckon I’d been itching to be untamed for quite some time – I wonder, do you have an inner cheetah just waiting to let loose?

Next Steps

We have an exclusive Behind the Hashtag community on Facebook, if you’d like to join the discussions click here.
For those who want to go deep, here is a great reading guide from Glennon Doyle.
If you want to hear a discussion on the book I loved this Brené Brown podcast.