What REALLY matters to us?

This week has been full of mixed emotions for me. There have been stresses and strains, worries, ups and downs, highs and lows and most importantly, good times. Times catching up with good friends, happy phone calls from family members, important birthdays, and pleasant interactions with kindly strangers.

Sitting watching the early evening news a few days ago I started reflecting on some of the headlines and felt immense sadness when thinking of some of the terrible things decent ordinary people were going through or had had inflicted on them, sometimes with devastating results for themselves and their families. Many times I have written about the pain we feel as we watch the news and have to deal with often unfathomable occurrences and unspeakably dreadful actions, the results of which are beamed into our living rooms.  Then there are times we sit dumfounded as we witness the latest political debacle and the seemingly unfair systems that seem to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

And yet still we find ourselves sweating the small stuff when we go about our daily lives.

We may meditate, read every self help book we can, listen to all the podcasts about positivity we can get our hands on to help us cope with an ever tumultuous world. We may chant, commune with nature, speak to our angels and watch our diet. All these things help at times and give us nuggets of information and inspiration that many times prove to be invaluable. Trust me, I believe. I believe in trying every sensible (and sometimes not so sensible) path to acceptance and understanding. That path that shows us there is a reason for everything and an explanation for everything even when we cannot see it and rail against it. But there are days when it is really hard to stay focused and remind ourselves of all the ways of coping we have learned. These are the days when I guess we just need to go back to basics and remind ourselves of all the things in our lives that are important and reaffirm them.

I remind myself that the people I love and admire for their strength and the way they cope with life did not get that way because their lives always worked out. They got that way because stuff went wrong and they handled it. They handled it in many different ways and at different times, and they got through. I look up to them for sure.

We need to keep our lives in order. Of course we do. Most of us need to work and earn money to support our families. We need to cook, clean and keep our house tidy(ish) We need to keep ourselves in shape and look reasonable. We need to offer support to those that need it and need us. But I for one, need to tell myself in stressful times that the everyday petty trials and tribulations just don’t matter and will be mainly forgotten by next week. Even what we perceive to be major problems will fade to insignificance over the years.

I’m aware of getting older and my thinking is changing with the years. I see it more clearly when people around me are struggling. I can visualise possible outcomes and weigh up situations in a more balanced way than when I did when I was younger. This is both good and bad. On the one hand it is sensible to be prepared and to be empathetic but at the same time the buoyancy of youth is gone: the feeling of being invincible.  But life follows patterns, we change and learn as we go. Some of us learn more quickly  than others. Some young people have a wise head on young shoulders. Some older people never really grow up. This is all part of life’s rich pattern.

The question to ask ourselves, whoever we are, is what really matters to us, what makes us happy, what keeps us sane? Once we remember who we are and remember to reach out to those we love, and once we enjoy the simple things in life while we can, we will at least find it easier to reconnect to what is good.

But if I cannot change the world, I can bend when the storm appears; Do great things in smaller ways, Dry another’s tears.’

Finding Courage When You Need It

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold.

 

Courage is the foundation of freedom.

Thucydides (460BC-395BC) wrote: ‘The secret to happiness is freedom…And the secret to freedom is courage.’

Today for various reasons I have been thinking about courage. Letting go, not blaming others, and taking responsibility for your own life takes courage, but until you find that courage you will find it difficult to enter the calm and happy place in your heart where you can just ‘be’.

So many times we are encouraged to be fearless and bold. To follow our desired path. Many life coaches and authors focus on the need to be fearless and authentic and that’s wonderful advice. We all appreciate that friendly push to find the strength to be authentic; be fearless and inspired. But what if the fear soon returns? Then we hear our inner critic return again which fills us with the old doubts. The thing to remember here is that no one is truly fearless, but the people we admire – the ones who seem brave and do amazing courageous things, are the ones who have learned to move through their fear. And so bravery is in feeling fearful but doing what you want or need to anyway.

We all have ‘free space’ in our minds, a place which we can choose to go into and be calm, but it takes a while to train ourselves to use that space and not just resort to old familiar feelings when we are stressed or worried. In that calm space we can make our own conscious decisions without reacting to negative situations coming from outside. We can be in charge. This involves not making snap decisions and assumptions i.e. ‘that person was very rude to me in the queue, there’s no excuse: he’s not nice.’ The person may be nice normally but may have had a bad day or bad news. When you are in the free space, you cut people some slack, or at least do not let their behaviour get to you.

For a long period of our lives we may have handed over the responsibility of our lives to others; we may have created a certain belief about ourselves and the world in a way which was not benefiting us. Perhaps we didn’t believe we were free; free to live in love, abundance, and good health. Because of this, it takes courage to re-introduce yourself to the world and to let go of all the old energy blocks and take back the power for yourself. It can be overwhelming to adjust and to take back the power that you once gave away. That is why we say –‘it takes courage to be, it takes courage to do, and it takes courage to have’.

Courage ‘to do’ is relatively easy to understand; we may be afraid to contemplate bungee jumping, or public speaking for example; these are things we can be frightened about but we can picture doing them without having to change our lifestyle. However, if we want to change and be different do we really need courage then? The answer is yes, because unless you are really ‘being it’ you cannot live it. A lot of people dream about having or doing different things but they look from the outside; often we are looking at a façade rather than looking at what is real. It can take a long time to decide to change – to cast away all the old thoughts and ideas we have clung on to for so long.

Who are you really? What is your essence and your purpose? Do you dare to say you are unique? Not only is your fingerprint different from any other, so are you! You are extraordinary. There is only one you. Remember also, that trying to be someone else or putting on a different persona will not help you long term.

So do you really have the courage to be yourself? Only then will you be able to feel really free – be free to decide what you want to do, to be or to have. This sounds simple, but is it?

Admit Your Scared

It’s important to admit it to yourself when you are stuck in fear. Too often though, this process allows you to let the fears become worse. By admitting you’re fearful you will be asking yourself what being scared means to you and you will start filling in the blanks with the answers that don’t help, such as: ‘I’m scared I can’t handle this.’ Whatever your story is – it is just that – a story. It can be changed. Aim to stop adding to your negative storyline and get rid of any over dramatic feelings. Remember that being fearful just means you’re human.

Once you have admitted you are fearful it doesn’t mean necessarily that you just need to move past the fear without a backward glance. It may be nature’s way of making you check something out. Take time to get your thoughts clear. If the fear is groundless then you can tell yourself all is well. If you have a genuine worry then find the time and strength to run your worries past the right person that can help you. (That takes courage too, I know, but once you put into words whatever is bothering you, you are on the road to healing).

Recognise you aren’t alone.

You are in great company. Everyone, even your greatest role models have had to cope with fear at one time or another. So don’t put yourself down. Recognise you are part of a tribe of people who have, through time, taken a risk and moved beyond perceived safety to something more rewarding. To join the tribe of the brave, don’t focus on what you feel, focus on what you can do about your situation. Once you have ruled out any danger you can take fear as a good sign, a marker that you are alive and engaged. You are completely present in the moment. You are out of your comfort zone but in a funny way, you can actually take comfort from that!

Keep the free space in your heart.

The word courage is related to the French word ‘coeur’ which means heart. When you experience those anxiety filled moments remember to connect with your heart – your core. This is the place where all your emotions flow from – love, warmth and wisdom, and where you get to the heart of the matter.

                        ‘Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.’       August Wilson 

Forgiveness takes courage.

I’d like to think a little bit about forgiveness too and how showing forgiveness is the pathway to freedom. Showing forgiveness is not easy for any of us to contemplate and real forgiveness takes a lot of courage. But again, when you are coming from that free space in your heart you find a new way of moving forward. Think about a situation in your life – perhaps when you have felt you didn’t deserve the upset that came your way – then think about letting go of old hurts and resentments – the churning of old turmoils and the bubbling feeling of being hard done by that lies not far from the surface – let them go – let them really go. Wish the situations you encountered love. Show forgiveness and tell yourself you have no further need for resentful feelings in your life and feel yourself grow.

I urge you to think about your life, to go through the issues that need your forgiveness. Take the time to ask yourself if you are really ready to be the person you want to BE, to be ready to DO what you want to do and are really ready to HAVE what you want to have. It takes courage to be ready to receive. But if you are prepared go deeper with your thinking you will understand that with courage you will have the necessary requirements to BE.

So we are all individuals, each with our own way of accepting and facing our fears. Most of us are by no means always masters of control but if we think about going into our clear space – let go of our fears and aim to be courageous and bold, we will feel much more alive and vibrant and our new found inner strength will shine through.

Are you willing to allow yourself to be more courageous? You may just find you are more bold and courageous than you knew. In fact, I think you already are.

‘Though an ordinary woman,
Nothing about me is plain;
Like a single fingerprint traced in dust,
No other is the same.’
© Lyn Halvorsen

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Why Do We Keep Up Appearances? Be Yourself and Feel Better…

Do you ever feel a bit like Eeyore?

Do you ever feel as though you are the only one in your circle or tribe that has dark times? Times when you struggle to put one foot in front of the other; you feel bad and you don’t even know why sometimes, or you are feeling low and worries and anxious feelings creep in? These are often the times when you look around you and see everyone’s else supposedly getting on with life – skipping around looking like they don’t have a care in the world. You may look upon them with feelings tinged with envy because they appear to have everything sorted out. But do they really?

During my counselling years, one of the most striking features about some clients I worked with was how terrifically well they appeared to be coping. Smart appearance; good fitness regime; holding down a career and running a home: it could have been easy to imagine such people didn’t have a care in the world. And maybe that’s what their family and friends thought too. And yet when the person began to open up during their sessions I would often find that behind the smart facade was someone suffering deeply, and feeling alone in their distress. Often, they were the sort of people who didn’t want to burden their families  – maybe other issues were going on which they didn’t want to add to, or maybe they just didn’t want to appear vulnerable. The trouble with keeping up appearances though, is that stress can gradually build over time and feelings of isolation can keep growing.

One of my mantras in life is ‘never assume anything’, and this actually stands me in good stead in many ways. I’ve learned over the years that virtually everyone we meet in life has had moments when they feel like escaping from the world; getting under the duvet for twenty four hours or setting off down the road like Dick Whittington, carrying nothing more than a few belongings tied in knotted handkerchief on the end of a stick and with just a faithful cat for company.

Most of us are lucky to have good friends and yet how many times do we really open up and tell them how we really feel. If you are like me, the normal stock reply you give to most questions about how you are doing is ‘I’m good thanks’. None of us want to be a burden with our woes and none of us want to appear negative or grumpy. And of course, being positive and upbeat is a really good way to be and plays a part in lifting our spirits and can help change our outlook. But there are times when we can really benefit from being honest and getting something out in the open; and we can also find that we gain much more insight into another person’s feelings and behaviour. To show a friend or loved one that we trust them with our feelings is showing them how much we value them too. We don’t want to be glad to hear other people have been through bad times but it does help us when we hear someone’s personal story – to hear how they overcame their fears or adversity and found light at the end of the tunnel – and even transformation – for what can be more encouraging than that? And if we recount our worries and someone says “ It’s okay, I’ve been there – here’s my thoughts which might help” – it can feel literally like a trouble shared is a trouble halved as the saying goes.

This ‘opening up’ to people takes time. I find it much easier to give than to receive in all areas of my life. I love sharing gifts and know too, the importance of giving out kindness and being generous in all ways, not just financially. Sometimes, even when we seek help professionally (which I would advise if you really can’t seem to cope) and we are paying for counselling services – we may still struggle to look right and still try and maintain a good front because it is so ingrained in us to do so. Why is it hard to ask for kindness, advice or attention? We need to remember that there are good and loving people out there who would love to help given the chance.

Another point to remember is this: you may feel totally fed up with your story; your particular angst and worry. You may think no one will be interested in hearing it, or you may fear they will think you are daft. If you have been overtly anxious you will be tired –  (trust me, anxiety is the most tiring emotion in the world), but to the person you talk to, this is a new story; one to be viewed with fresh eyes, from a new angle and a new perspective. I doub’t very much if there is a person who wouldn’t want to reach out to you and be kind, to take on the privilege of helping you feel better. And if you do come across someone who isn’t on your wave length, don’t take it personally. They may be suffering too and not in the right place to help. For now, they are not ‘your’ person but I promise you, your person is out there.

Think about Eeyore. He was grumpy and he was miserable but his friends knew he had a good and loving heart.

    ‘One awesome thing about Eeyore is that even though he is clinically depressed, he still gets invited to participate in adventures and shenanigans with all of his friends. What is amazing is that they never expect him to pretend to feel happy, they never leave him behind or ask him to change, THEY JUST SHOW HIM LOVE.’

I hope you are in a good place, but if you are not, reach out to someone today, even in a small way. Open your heart a little. Let in a little beam of light as you lift the corner of the duvet. And remember –  Dick Whittington may have been in dire straights when he walked off into the distance but he eventually found good fortune and became the Mayor of London! You may not wish to be Mayor (or you may but that’s another story!) but you CAN change things.

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Love That Knows Our Name…

 

To know you are loved or have been loved is more than uplifting, it is at the core of everything.’

Having recently experienced loss, I entered an all encompassing tunnel of sadness where daylight seemed all but obliterated and the sound around me was literally muffled. Life was put on hold except for all but the most necessary of tasks and the most basic needs. Time seemed to be suspended and yet the days passed quickly; the world going by my window and the morning light still throwing shafts of sunlight across the floor every morning whether I liked it or not.

But going through the motions of daily life I came to know more about love and kindness than ever before. People I knew well showed great kindness and kept me going, but what also surprised me was the outpouring of love and kindness from neighbours, from waiters in coffee shops and even people on the end of a phone that I called to report the loss of my dad to for clerical purposes. And I wondered why often it is not until we feel deep pain that we also find the most love? When we are in a ‘normal’ state; on an even keel and just following routine, we don’t always stop to notice the small but profound things that are ever present yet not on our radar during the bustle of everyday life. But in a state of grief life changes; normal and trivial irritations lie unnoticed, worries about work deadlines, so important last week, stay in the ‘in-tray’ tucked at the back of our minds, and the cloak of regularity falls from our shoulders.

Most of us are lucky enough to have friends and family that love us; maybe we even take it a little for grated at times; sometimes complacency can come with familiarity, but perhaps when we are sad or in pain, even if we are not always vocalising what we feel or are going through, our vulnerability opens us up to others and their natural and inbuilt   ability to reach out. And if we do open up, even to strangers, more often than not we are treated with a compassion we were not expecting, yet in reality is never far from the surface.

Think about times of adversity, tragic terror attacks or emergency. We help each other, open our homes, give money we can’t really afford, offer the coat from our backs even….then we retreat back into our safe world again for a while. Maybe there is a comfort from day to day routine where we just focus on our own world, but we all seem to have an inbuilt mechanism to bring our love and compassion to the forefront. And there are times when we show that and are shown it just when we need it.

There cannot be many parts in our day that are not touched by love in one form or another; it may not always be obvious but it is there. It is waiting in the wings – an unceasing energy and in limitless supply. Even when doing a mundane job like housework, chances are you will have the radio on in the background and before long you will be humming along to a love song. In the coffee shop you may see a mother absently plant a kiss on her baby’s head, or hear a dad shout ‘love you’ out of the car window as he drops his child off at school – (they may be embarrassed but they will remember).

When we love deeply there are no boundaries. The heart finds a way to love when the time is right and knows when to give love out. Sometimes we need courage to reach out, but when we do we are rewarded a thousandfold. Love can be gentle when it needs to be; it can be held in a reassuring wink from across a crowded room, it can be in the gentle squeeze of the hand or the fragrance of a bunch of primroses. Love can be bold too. It can be shown by standing up for someone against the crowd, it can be in the giving of a chance of life to another, or it can be shown by knowing when to let go. And most of all, love is unconditional.

Having said this, there are still times when we feel alone; times when we feel no one understands what we are going through. Perhaps we are floundering, perhaps we are ill or have been treated badly or unfairly. Perhaps we are thinking ‘why me?’ These are the times that we find it harder to reach out, but these are the times we need to remind ourselves that we ARE loved, even in darker times.

I have to remind myself now, especially having experienced loss, that love is borderless. There isn’t a set number of times you can tell someone’s you love them. There isn’t a set amount of love to go around. Love has a bottomless pit. And love can encompass us even in times of immense sadness and get us through. So many people who survived the terrible atrocities of the holocaust emerged to live again in the light and found the courage to give and receive love.

We learn how to live and work and grow and play in the material and physical world and yes we need to do that, of course. The world is our resting and our doing place. For now. As Professor Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying – ‘It would not be much of a universe if it wasn’t home to the people you love’.

Love is all around us and is a natural spiritual state, but what happens to the love we felt for someone who has departed this life? I believe love crosses realms. It stays with us long after a loved one has departed. In fact, it never leaves us; it sits in our memories, it stirs us when we least expect it, it appears in our dreams and it runs through our veins. It is part of us; both our past and our future and for all time.

If love is energy then surely it cannot be extinguished by death.

 

A Trace of Me

Love is part of who you are,

A vital speck sent from afar.

And sometimes when you close your eyes,

You see from the past, familiar skies.

And you will know, and one day see,

That somewhere, there’s a trace of me.

                                                                                                          (C) Lyn Halvorsen

 

 

The Mediocre Life and Keeping Anxiety at Bay….

What could be better than having time out sometimes?

I read an article recently where the subject was about settling for a mediocre life. At first, I thought ‘hmm, this is going to be negative,’ but as I read on I realised what the person was trying to say. Sometimes in this tumultuous and changing world we just want to settle for a quiet life. We don’t want to strive and put ourselves out there and scrabble around on the ever rotating ‘hamster wheel’. We may not want to rush around trying to improve our minds even though we seem to be instructed to do this on a regular basis. Sometimes we may yearn NOT to have to strive to meet targets, not to keep up with the latest fashion or the latest upgrade in technology. Maybe we even want to escape the ‘health police’.

If we are prone to anxious feelings, feeling we have to adhere to all sorts of ‘performance rules’ may not do us a lot of good. When we are trying to get by and working at being positive we don’t really want the extra burden of guilt – the sort of guilt that comes from somehow feeling we are not doing all we can to help our well-being.

There seems to be a lot of judgement about, whether it be fiercely or kindly meant it can still unsettle us. I once listened to a medical person talking about diabetes. His theory was that diabetes 2 was largely brought on by neglect and leading a sedentary life, and that it should be renamed ‘the non-walkers complaint’, or something similar. In other words, he seemed to be saying most people brought this ‘complaint’ on themselves by following an unhealthy lifestyle. He may be right in certain circumstances, but I feel this is a dangerous sort of judgement to pass on a person who may have reached a distressing state of health by all sorts of circumstances. Who knows what leads any of us to a state of ‘dis-ease’? Do we start banishing patients from the hospital waiting room if they don’t meet certain criteria or if they have put on a few stones in weight? Most of us like to eat a healthy diet when we can, and take some excercise, but do we need to become so engrossed in studying the latest health craze that we forget to enjoy our food? The media bombards us with information about what we should and shouldn’t eat, what vitamins/shakes/woo-woo berries we should consume, the mantras we should chant and the mindfulness we should embrace. Most of the time I find it interesting but sometimes I want to run away crying ‘show me the chocolate cake’!

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Some days I long for calm. More and more I think about peace and ‘going with the flow’. I imagine a new sort of shop that plays gentle soothing music as I buy my groceries or my new jeans, instead of playing mindless, loud music that grates on the nerves. I think about walking in the woods instead of driving on the M25. I think about putting my feet up instead of going to sit in a draughty hall where I am shown how to contort my body and put my leg behind my right ear. Ok, not quite behind my ear but you know what I mean.

There seems to be too much going on around us for us to spend time worrying about how we should be living our lives; whether we should conform, expect our children/grandchildren to excel in every walk of life, live in the most stylish house, travel the world; whether we should be swinging from the chandeliers every night, (great if you have the energy!) and generally leading an exemplary life.

It’s interesting too, to notice that one can be too religious for some, and not spiritual enough for others. I find this crops up quite often in my life. I have come to the conclusion that everyone forms their own opinion of me and will stick to it whatever I do. So I just have to be myself. And do my best. Besides, sometimes I feel very spiritual, other times I want to question every belief I hold dear. But mostly I get by. I want to change my mind sometimes too. I want to be able to be objective, see all points of view. Not always easy but worth aiming for.

I used to be a nurse, and I count myself lucky that I was one once. I learned that everyone in life has a story, a past, but not always a future. It is easy to forget this in our busy world. And it is sometimes easier to forget than think of it. I am grateful that most of our carers and medical staff that treat us look at us as a person needing love and care and on the whole do not judge us, for how would that help?

When we weigh up everything, and come to the conclusion that searching for the quieter life sometimes, following the calm and slower path sometimes, and taking time out sometimes, leads us to appear mediocre, then I am all for it. Besides, we will have more time to spend loving our family, and what could be better than that?

      ‘Sometimes it’s in the quiet that we hear the loudest things’.

                                                Anonymous 

Blessing to you.

Does the Universe Have us Covered?

Is there a force bigger than us that we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

I‘ve been talking to someone close to me who suffers from anxiety and trying to talk them through it. When someone is seeing the world around them as a bleak place it is very hard to come up with something that will make them feel better. I find myself offering techniques and advice that I know from experience can help, but at the same time I sometimes question the suggestions I offer, even though I am praying that the smallest bit of advice could just be enough to provide a ray of hope or bring a spark of  light in a dark time. Of course,  anxious feelings arise for all sorts of reasons; there may be health worries, both real and imagined, relationship problems, problems relating to the past, work related problems and many more, and each cause may need to be addressed in a different way. Sometimes just a loving hug and a chat with a friend may be enough to help the clouds to disperse and the anxious feelings to lift, but at times when a person is in the severe grip of anxiety then professional help may be needed. Whatever the situation and whatever help we seek or try to give, is there a force bigger than us that can we can hold on to when life seems to be a struggle?

Does the Universe really have us covered?

I think it does. I really hope it does. Why are we here otherwise? We may hear a lot of bad things and we are bombarded with bad news constantly; we know bad things happen to good people, but we also hear amazing stories on a daily basis  – tales of amazing feats of bravery, courage, bravery and kindness. We hear about people who never give up; who find hidden strength from somewhere. We marvel at new life, when a baby takes its first breathe;  we despair when we lose someone dear to us and we wonder how we can ever recover, yet somehow we know that this is all part of the pattern of life.

I think of myself as a spiritual person with a Christian background. I was brought up to go to church regularly and read the bible;  I like the background that has given me even if I don’t attend church now on a regular basis. I like to believe there is a power that is bigger than us, that is all encompassing and is loving, and I find that even though I often have doubts, faith is what gets me through. Faith in a world that is inherently good and a life force that cannot always be explained and is beyond understanding. What compels eels to cross the Atlantic from the Saragossa Sea to spawn in the Irish rivers of their origin, or birds to cross whole continents, following a favoured route that no one could explain, to land atop the same trees every year? In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives we forget that miracles happen around us every day; we lose our powers of observation and fail to see the wonderful and awesome occurrences happening in nature on  daily basis.

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So what should we do to reconnect with the Universe when we feel we have been set adrift? If we can hold on to that faith we have deep down, whatever the sort of faith we have or follow, we can feel grounded in times of crisis. A spiritual practice I have found to be good is a ‘loving kindness meditation’. Just set some time aside, shut your eyes and generate feelings of compassion by repeating phrases such as ‘may you be happy, healthy and free of pain.’ Direct this to yourself at first then gradually increas your circle to include you family, your friends, the country and then finally, the whole planet. You can alter the words to find something that you feel comfortable with. Do this on a daily basis and at times when you feel stressed or anxious. Make time for this even when you are busy and notice the difference it makes to your day.

Thinking again about my loved one. I wish I could do more to make her feel better and I wish I could take all her worries, wrap them in a cloth bag , throw them out to sea, wish them love and wave them goodbye for good. Indeed, I will picture that very thing happening. In the meantime, I will actively help in every way I can until she can move forward with regained positivity. Even then I will be by her side – figuratively if not physically. And I will have faith that the Universe does have us covered.

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 I lay upon the ground today, Looked up to the sky,

Concentrated on the clouds, As they drifted slowly by. 

Connecting with the Earth beneath, As it wore a peaceful face,

I felt the whole world turning, In this quiet and tranquil place.

And could I see a reason, Shine through the clouded sky

For all the actions unexplained, The many questions why?

I saw beauty and perfection here, Sweet birdsong filled the air,

So I must trust life’s answers, Lie in wait, somewhere.

(C)    Lyn Halvorsen

What Sort of Snowflake Are You?

Having had a heavy snowfall at Dove Lane this week I got to thinking about snow, and the beauty and individuality of every single snowflake.

In ice crystals, water molecules line up and form a six-sided shape called a hexagon. This is why all snowflakes are six sided …Even though two snowflakes may form in the same cloud, their different journeys to the ground will affect their shape and size, giving each snowflake its own unique identity.’             Taken from Wonderopolis.org

Scientists estimate that the chances of two snowflakes being exactly alike are about 1 in 1 million trillion (that’s a 1 followed by 18 zeros). Meteorologists think that there are 1 trillion , trillion, trillion trillion different types of snowflakes. Imagine that!

But here’s the thing: we can liken ourselves to snowflakes. Ok we are not pretty little icy snowflakes but we are just as unique. If you examine two human fingerprints  – again no two are the same. How is that possible in a world of billions of people? It is awe inspiring to think that we are all completely individual.

I love the above phrase from Wonderopolis when it talks about the snowflakes being formed in the same clouds but ending up diffently because of their journey to the ground.  Everyone of us has a journey too and we all live through countless different experiences and ups and downs, loves, losses, failures and winning situations. Each experience we encounter shapes us to some degree and makes us the people we are. An individual like no other.

What does being individual mean?

Being an individual takes work and dedication yet if only we would stop and think about it we would remember just how individual we really are. Being individual doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stand out in a crowd but being a true individual means having the courage of your convictions and not being afraid to veer off the beaten path. Do you find yourself caring about what others think about you? It may be time to put aside those worries. If you obsess over what other people think about you then you will never to be able to please yourself; remember, it is impossible to please everyone.

Gossip may hurt us. We all have times when we get hurt, but if you hear something said about you that you don’t like, remind yourself that it is likely to have come from an insecure person who is coming from a place of weakness. Everyone gets knocked  – even film stars or famous singers you may admire. No one is immune.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

As obvious as it sounds, being an individual means just being you. Not needing to present a front to people. If you show the quirky side of your personality to people they will warm to you. You have no need to present a perfect facade to the world. People are attracted to seomeone who is a bit different. And most people are understanding. Try opening up and being honest when you are in an anxious situation; admit to someone when you are out of your comfort zone and many times you will be met with sympathy. Often too, people will admit to feeling the same in similar situations. Of course, there are times when it may make sense to conform a little – you would probably present yourself diffently to your boss at work than you would to someone at a drinks party. But still, apart from avoiding topics that may be sensitive, it’s good to be yourself and show yourself to be the interesting person you are.

At the same time do not force yourself to be different. Wear what suits you but don’t feel you have to wear ‘way out’ clothes if that’s not your style. Be comfortable with your style. We all know that feeling when you go out wearing something you are not happy with – you can feel out of place all day. You cannot make something right if it doesn’t suit you. If getting a tattoo or changing your hair isn’t for you it doesn’t matter. Being individual comes from inside.

I was brought up to be modest and not to boast about my achievements. Of course, no one is drawn to someone who is too ‘full of themselves’ but at the same time, if you have accomplished something you are proud of, don’t be afraid to mention it. Your skills are part of the person you are.

Build up your confidence.

It took me years to become a confident person.  An upbringing where it was important to  ‘know our place’ and look up to those deemed to be better than us took years to shrug off. Even now I sometimes find I feel inferior in certain situations. Then I remind myself what a ridiculous and counter productive feeling that is. I have just as much right to be here and voice my opinion as the next person. A great help in building confidence comes from spending time with the right kind of people. Those who make you feel good about yourself. Also, remembering to use confident body language really helps. Standing upright and looking people in the eye and engaging with them really puts you forward in the best way.

Being comfortable in your own skin.

People who are true individuals just aren’t bothered about what people think about them; they just go through life being happy and comfortable. And if you look comfortable and happy with what you are doing, you are well on your way to gaining the respect you deserve.

So, just like the beautiful snowflake, know that there is literally no one else like you in the whole wide world. Think about this. You don’t have to work at trying to be different, you already are different! No one else has had the same upbringing as you, has the same looks, has had all the same experiences as you or has entirely the same values. No one else sees the world exactly as you do. You can be proud of that fact!

As the New Year approaches, you may be thinking of things in your life you want to change and enhance your individuality (if you don’t, and are happy as you are by the way , that’s great). Perhaps it is the time to think about exploring your creative side or accepting new challenges, or maybe spending time with people you admire. Surrounding yourself with independant thinkers is a great way to start looking at life differently and finding inspiration.

Being authentic

This is something I have had to work on. To be an individual you have to be authentic. You have to say what you feel is right and not what others want you to say. People can spot something phony a mile off. Being authentic becomes easier the more you try to achieve it. It makes you feel so much better about yourself and the path you are trying to follow in life when you say what you really mean and you stand up for what is really important to you.

Be positive whenever you can. Your individual cells will respond far better to good thoughts and feelings from inside you than to rubbish thoughts and bad news from outside of you. We are all bombarded with ‘stuff’ from the media, both good and bad 24/7. Learn to know when to turn off. Turn off and turn away. Yes there are times when we need to be informed but there are also times when we need to say to ourselves that the world can turn without us worrying about it for a day.

So with Christmas fast approaching, many things to think about, and with celebrations, Christmas services, Santa and his reindeer all vying for our attention, remember to be like that beautiful, individual snowflake when it makes its own particular journey to the ground – remember to land up in just the place you want to be. Be your own individual self.

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