Daily Prompt

A bad week.

It’s January 26th.

26 days ago, I set up this blog. 26 days ago I had no idea that I would find such a kind and supportive community on wordpress. 26 days ago, I had no idea that I would start to feel compelled to blog at random points throughout my day. I had no idea that sharing my successes on this blog would make me proud. I had no idea that when I felt discouraged or disappointed, that this blog would help me work through it all, and give me a sense of clarity.

But 26 days ago, I felt a lot more hopeful that I do now. I need that clarity right now. 

26 days ago, I felt I could take on the world. 26 weeks ago, you were my best friend. Remember you said you’d never hurt me? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Have you?

I’ve always been one to put myself under a lot of pressure. It’s not always the healthiest of mindsets, it makes me have quite a hard time when I feel I have failed, or let myself down. But I’ve learned to move past these perceived failures pretty quickly, and learned to see them as opportunities to learn from what went wrong, or learned to form some new perspectives, to become more accepting of myself because I am not perfect.

But what do I do when I can’t move past them? What do I do when I can’t dismiss the failures and inadequacies I see in myself as my mind playing tricks on me? What do I do when other people point them out to me on a regular, if not daily, basis? What if the idea that I’m not good enough is constantly reinforced by the people around me?

I’ve been asking myself these questions all week. Because I genuinely don’t know any more. The people you surround yourself with should build you up, not kick you when you’re down. The obvious solution to all this would be to simply leave the people who don’t make me feel good about myself behind. I’m not sure I can do that though, because in my head, there are 20 good memories in the past for every bad memory with them right now. And these memories are so entangled and intertwined with my perceptions of the people in them that I really can’t straighten them out enough to look at the facts. I can’t decide if I need them, or if I need to get rid of them. And I can’t shake off the knowledge that I would never have made any of them feel like this. And I was always there when they needed me, when they were not ok. Even when I was not ok myself.

26 days ago, I felt I could take on the world. 26 weeks ago, you were my best friend. Remember you said you’d never hurt me? I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. Every time you open your mouth.

Daily prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/daily-prompt-numbers/

Mirrors and reflections

Today’s Daily Prompt was “Look in the mirror. Does the person you see match the person you feel like on the inside? How much stock do you put in appearances?”. Funnily enough, I wrote a post on this topic a few nights ago, and published it without really proof reading it… I’ve been meaning to edit it, but on seeing this prompt, I have decided to re-jig it a bit and re-publish it today. This post is really important to me, so I really want to make sure it says exactly what I mean. Here goes, take 2!

Every morning when I get out of bed, as I begin to get ready for the day ahead, I look in the mirror, and examine what the night’s sleep has done to my hair, my skin, my eyes. Some of my first thoughts of the day are ones that criticize my appearance. How many of us is this true for?

The more I think about it, the more I realise that there is a lot more to this simple morning ritual than just a bad way to start my day. It’s just the first moment of hundreds throughout the day where I monitor my body, and judge whether it looks acceptable. At the gym, when I’m out for a run, when I sit down in a lecture, when I walk out the door… Every time I readjust the way I’m sitting, or rearrange my hair has become an apology for looking the way I do.

Almost every day I ignore the fact that my body is capable of so much more than being looked at. That I am capable of so much more than being looked at. I ignore the fact that my body has kept me alive through the night, that a part of my brain ensured I was still breathing when I was sleeping, that my heart kept beating. I ignore the fact that I feel more energetic than when I went to sleep because my body healed itself and recovered as I slept. I just look at my body in the mirror, and seek out ways in which it is not up to scratch.

I ignore how lucky and privileged I am in that waking up warm and dry, having slept in a bed last night, is something so ordinary to me that I don’t even give it a second thought. I ignore that I am healthy enough that I can get out of bed. I ignore that I can walk across a room unaided. I focus solely on my appearance.

I don’t mean to imply, in any way, that acts or thoughts concentrated on body image are vain or self centred or selfish. That is the last thing I’m trying to say. I find that spending time taking care of myself and working on my appearance can be very empowering. I believe that you should step out the door feeling invincible everyday, and if make up, clothes or beauty products help you achieve that feeling, that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.  But I also believe that we should never feel that there is something wrong with the way we look naturally. I don’t think any aspect of society, magazine, photo-shopped image, advertisement or beauty company has the right to make us feel that way.

But they do. Every single day.

Which makes me wonder what kind of world we could live in if society didn’t teach us that our worth is determined by our aesthetic conformity to an externally determined standard, if we didn’t learn, from a young age, to self objectify, and to see ourselves in terms of how of how aesthetically pleasing we are to others. Maybe then, some of the hundreds of billions globally spent on beauty, could be put to better use. Maybe the thoughts and time and energy we put towards body shaming and comparing ourselves to others could be channelled into making real improvements in the world.

But of course, that kind of world won’t just form over night. It will take a long time, a lot of small changes which will add up. It will take a lot of people raising their voices, speaking out against the way society tries to make us all feel, and supporting people who are already doing this.

When there is some aspect of my life that makes me uncomfortable, I try to change it. This time, I wasn’t sure how at first. But I decided that I will develop a more critical way of examining the images and messages that have an effect on my self esteem. I decided that I will think more when buying new beauty products, and every time I do buy a beauty product, I will donate an equal amount of money to a charity which works on improving the lives of other people. I decided that I will work on letting go of any thoughts about my body that are not empowering or positive. I decided that I would learn to focus on all the things my body is capable of that don’t involve being aesthetically pleasing to others, and that I would start a notebook full of photos, facts, and times that show what I am capable of. I decided that I would run a mini marathon for charity, and kick ass. I will channel the energy and time and money I usually spend on self hate into something constructive. I decided I would challenge the power I let mirrors and appearance have on my life. 

My happy place.

There are 344 days remaining in the year. Describe what you’d like to be doing on day 211. June 30th.

That was today’s Daily Prompt!

On day 211, I’d love to wake up early, and go for a run in my favourite place, a trail that runs along the coast, half an hour from my house. The trail runs along cliffs, through tunnel walkways of climbing plants, down hills, along an old wall built from cement mixed with mussel shells and down to to a cove, with sea stacks and caves. It runs up hills, over a steam, past light houses…  It’s the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Even just thinking of this place calms me down when I’m anxious.

It’s my happy place.

I don’t know why I don’t visit there more often. Maybe it’s the travel, maybe it’s that when I have the time, I spend it doing other things, maybe it’s the weather, maybe I’ve just become too invested in the mundane things that fill my time…

I don’t know why this prompt was chosen to be about day 211, but I also don’t know why I would wait for that day before I do want I want to do. Don’t save things for a special occasion. Every day of your life is a specially occasion. Wake up with excitement, wonder what the day has in store for you. Make every day memorable. Give everyday the best you have.

My time for thinking.

I think best when I’m lying in bed, before I go asleep. It’s at that time that I think back on the day’s events, on my plans for the next day, on my feelings, on conversations I have had. It’s because I am alone that I can do this. During the day, it can be very easy not to face how you feel, to fill your time by doing things, seeing people, going places. I love this half an hour before sleep because it gives me the chance to breathe, think and plan.

It’s in this half an hour that I have made some very important realisations. It was where I first realised that it was totally ok for me to start standing up for myself. I realised that I am never obliged to take shit from people. If someone is doing or saying something that I am not comfortable with, it is totally ok for me to tell them to stop. Calling someone out on their bullshit should not be something I feel I need to apologise for, provided it is done in a polite, patient, respectful and constructive manner, and is neither condescending nor aggressive.

But on the other hand, without distractions, it’s very easy to over-think things, and come to less empowering realisations. Sometimes when I’m lying in the dark, I start to worry, or the enormity of what I have yet to undertake to achieve something hits me, and I feel overwhelmed. Other times, all the emotions from a long day overcome me. The reason I think so well before I sleep is that I can focus solely on myself, no one is there demanding my attention. But at the same time, no one is there to tell me to relax, that everything will be ok. I’ve realised that it’s up to me. 

In times when it seems that so much work must be done in a short space of time, or when your goals seem discouragingly far away from where you are at now, it helps to try to calm down, and get some perspective. In a year’s time, will this matter? 

Then look at what you can do to get everything back to a place where you feel in control. Usually this involves resolving to make progress every day.

Go to bed each night confident that you are more prepared than when you woke up this morning. That is my motto lately. If, at the end of a day, I can say that I am a little closer to my goal then I was before, then that day was both productive and worthwhile.

Prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/06/daily-prompt-best/

What makes me happy.

I’m very lucky in that so many things in my daily life make me happy.

Spending time with friends, my boyfriend, my family, books, running, mugs of green tea, chocolate, how I feel after a training session, cuddling, learning, writing, making friends, cooking, sunshine, walks, music, talking….

Anything that makes me feel empowered and strong.

But today, I despite the presence of so many of my friends, I didn’t feel empowered, or strong.

Today, I came 3rd (out of 3) in a race. The girl who came 2nd has never beaten me before. I didn’t feel jealous or resentful or bitter, I just felt that I could have done better. That I should have trained harder, tried harder, pushed harder. That I lack some strength that I need to improve. I felt like I let myself down. 

I think that messing up and making mistakes (I did plenty of both today) is important. It helps you to grow, to learn and to avoid the same mistakes in future. But still, this initially hit pretty hard. I started to question myself a lot.

Usually, when I face a problem, I find that it’s not really the problem I’m facing that is the problem, it’s my attitude towards the problem. So today, instead of continuing to beat myself up, I tried to change my attitude.

Here’s what I think we forget sometimes:

You are not made of or defined by numbers. You are not a ranking, a percentage on a test, a timing, an amount of likes on a photo, a number on a scale, a number of reps. By all means, if you work hard to reach a number-goal, celebrate that it is an achievement, one of many, but never let it become and all-defining characteristic. You have more substance than numbers.  You are memories, thoughts, actions, a friend, a partner, part of a family, late nights, long days. A number cannot define your infinite worth, and you shouldn’t allow it to control your happiness. 

So instead of looking for an excuse, I have started looking for a solution. I’m already thinking of ways I can improve, things I can learn from, ways in which I can do better. Maybe losing this race was what I needed. It gave me a push, and challenged me to redefine what makes me happy.

Prompt: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/daily-prompt-happy/