Good Enough As You Are
I have been reading a lot of posts on social media recently about inspiration, positive thinking and abundance. All good? Actually I can find it draining as many of those posts focus on financial evidence through getting the house, car, (add your own wishlist) that you want. They tend to exclude any reference to the struggles and challenges of life, other than as something to be conquered, vanquished, denied, escaped from.
If people engage in over-positivity what happens at death, divorce and other traumas? Where is the capacity to sit with the sadness of loss instead of propounding evidence of what you have to be grateful for or that “it will all work out for the best”. This can be alienating and isolating.
I realised I began to feel inadequate for not having more and for still having challenges in my everyday life and pulled myself to attention before I fell deeper. I believe there are many people like myself who would prefer quality of life over the physical things which fill our homes – things which require dusting, tidying and cupboard space. People who enjoy a smile exchanged with a stranger, a great cloud formation in the sky and the busker on the street. Those little moments which happen daily but we sometimes lose connection with.
I have a song-writer friend, Anna Marie Waite who is generally seen as a positive person yet has a realistic approach to building her career as a musician. She specialises in writing songs with a theme of meditation, acceptance and self-reflection. I admire that she is so open about what is going on for her:
“There is nothing to hide behind
You don't need to cover up”
These words come from her song called “As You Are”. The lyrics are positive yet imply staying with the tough times as well as the good, that you are fine, life is as it is and if things are out of kilter, those are no more than the circumstances around you, they are not actually you.
From my perspective as a therapist, this acceptance is the first layer of change – a paradox – if you want to change, to be different, then to accept yourself as you are with all your flaws and fancies is absolutely necessary. No apology. It is not until we can do that that we become able to do other things outside our comfort zone. Why? Because we are no longer hiding or shameful about where we are in life. Because we are no longer competing with others to have more or be better. Because we grow an internal point of reference instead of an external one.
This acceptance of who we are and no longer hiding our feelings counters the common experience of 'imposter syndrome' . This is the sense that we will be found lacking in some way and exposed as a fraud. What I see is that by accepting our imperfections as good enough, this creates the confidence to allow us to deal with setbacks, criticism and crisis. If we understand that we are fundamentally okay, then we can take a little time to lick wounds, gather resources and decide the next step.
Anna Marie is herself a great example of what she sings about. I have watched her over the past few years struggle with anxiety about being visible versus the need to be seen and listened to. Being rocked sometimes by words of others, but accepting she is fine as she is allows her to carry on her work building herself a place in the world of music. And work it is. There are many quotes online along the theme of “It took me twenty years to become an overnight success”.
It seems to me that a significant factor for Anna Marie has been embedding herself and her music in her local community. Consistently being present at events, on a community radio show and collaborating with others creates many little opportunities in return, and not what you would normally expect for a singer, maybe. I invited her to sing a mindfulness based track at a therapists' event on trauma I organised; “As You Are” has been adopted by Energess (a business network) as their theme tune, and she recently sang a track called “In the Moment” at a huge dementia conference.
The focus is not all about building her business, but about building relationships – with people, with networks, with her lyrical content and specific audiences, with community issues, with herself. Why is that important for me to write about here? Because it is this steady continuous application that builds confidence. Then that confidence allows us to take opportunities up instead of letting them go by thinking we are not good enough or it wasn't meant for us.
For myself, coming from a family who moved around on average every year of my life, my first thirty years were full of instability. I learned to keep my head down and fit in wherever I went. With my mobile existence, who I was and what I wanted to do was secondary to fitting in with what everyone else was doing, if it registered at all. I couldn't bloom as I had no roots. Moving to Devon 17 years ago and staying in one place has been an adventure for me, discovering the stability that grows when you stay in one place and become known as you are.
A painful step on the path was noticing that as I became more me, some of the people I had clung to over the years for consistency, no longer fitted. In fact, the experience was like snagging clothing on a prickly bush – it pulls you back. Realising that you feel more lonely with someone than without them is shocking. It is lonely because who you are is absent from the relationship. Self is sacrificed to stay acceptable to the other person – friend or lover.
Beginning to bloom, I do not have to fit in to what is laid in my lap, I can create a Cathy-shaped place in the world and meet like souls who support that, rather than hold on to ones who want me to carry on adapting to them by restricting myself. Like Anna Marie, slowly, slowly images of potential start emerging as the jigsaw fits together.
I discovered life doesn't only happen to me – I can happen to it.
“The things you want, you're gonna find a way through
You've only one life so leave the past behind
And know that you're alright
As you are”
Thank you to Anna-Marie for permission to write about her and use her lyrics.
Copyright Cathy Towers 2016
Cathy Towers is a BACP Senior Accredited Practitioner (Psychotherapy) and a fully certificated Zero Balancer. She runs workshops and classes on self-development and meditation/mindfulness.
01395 278437 or 07989 564660