I promised I’d do it, I feel ready for it, so here we go: this
is me, right now, no shame or hiding, two months and something without stepping
foot into the gym and one big surgery procedure to my shoulder later. There is
no sugar-coating the truth: I lost all my body definition, all the muscles I
had are practically gone, some of the weight I worked hard to gain is gone too,
I’m very far away from the body I would love to achieve and yes, even though I know
that everything is just dormant, ready to snap up back again as soon as I put
some work in it, I feel like a jelly who
has never set foot in a gym since the day she was born. I know, I’m so dramatic
Having said that, I’m ok with it. I really am. If this happened to me a year ago, I would have been on the brink of depression and I would have hated myself even more for “putting the effort and then look at you, you failed again, what’s the point of even trying if you are not capable of continuing, you stupid idiot”. I would have massively regretted the journey at the gym, treating myself like a deluded fool for even starting it in the first place, all because I didn’t manage to achieve (as usual, I would have specified) what I set myself to achieve so fuck this shit, let me go back at hiding under the covers to hide, let me get those black baggy hoodies and trousers so that nobody sees me ever again. I’m so glad that the music in my head is very, very different right now! Yes, I don’t look exactly like I want to look. Yes, I am not exactly a mega fan of my body right now. Of course, if instead of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and surgery I had other two months of training, right now I’d be very fit and happy, but you know what? It’s ok. I am really not (too) upset.
I have learned during these months of therapy and hard work on myself, physically and mentally, that it’s ok to not be ok, and that I have always two ways to see things happening in my life: a negative one, and a positive one. Now, if I were the old me, I’d see this situation I am in now as I explained above. The new me, right now, prefers to think “ok, it happened, it’s a bit upsetting, BUT: I had a massive thing happening (surgery), that I had to have it, because if I didn’t, my body would have stopped me anyway down the line, probably with a ruptured tendon, and the dream about deadlifting and shit? Oh, forget about that. I’d be in constant pain all my life and maybe, maybe, I would not be able to hit the gym period. Yes, it is a stop, but it’s only a pause on a bigger, more fulfilling journey”. It’s just that. There is no hating myself, no holding a grudge, no banging my head on a wall in total despair. I’m on a pause to recover and be better, and just like any pause, once you press “play” again, everything will go back to normal, even if in my “gym-body” situation it’s like I press “rewind” a bit and now I have to re-live the beginning of my journey to progress further.
Another very important factor that changed my mindset is that I learned to love and be more caring towards myself. It’s so weird how I’ve always been able to do so for everyone, but never for myself. I could have never had a down moment, I have never allowed myself to be sick, to be tired, to be unwell, and to “cuddle” myself to feel better. No: I was a failure, I was stupid, I was weak, I was useless, I was proving to the world I was fighting against that I was not worthy, that I couldn’t make it etc… Even when I had my post-natal depression hell, and I was suicidal, I didn’t think “I need caring, I need help, it’s a medical condition and I must help myself rather that fight against myself”. There was no empathy or anything. I’m so glad things changed in a very positive way for me, because now I’m here, staring at myself in the mirror thinking “oh well, next challenge is now officially on, let’s see what I can do now…. And what I will be able to do once my shoulder heals!”.
You know how much energy you waste when you hate yourself? Uuuuh, let me tell you, an awful lot. And you know what you gain out of that? Nothing. Actually, you only lose. You lose self-esteem, you lose self-respect, you lose confidence, you lose yourself. Yeah, ok, you (just like me) may not be the exact replica of Charlize Theron or Jason Momoa, but who cares? It’s what you have inside you that will beautify the way you look outside. Ohhhh, let me tell you this, because this has been the bane of my life for years and years.
You know that horrible, negative way of seeing the world and relationships like “I can’t believe that those ugly people there have beautiful relationships and me, meeeeeee (!!!!!) I am all alone, and nobody wants me (insert sad, grumpy face, and attitude like “I don’t get why the universe hates me so much”)”. I raise my hand in shame and include myself in the people who had that thought (more than once), and who have voiced it out loud too, only with the slight difference that I was sure I belonged with the “ugly people” and therefore why this miracle of “being loved” never happened to me? Boo-ooooh. You know why that “miracle” never happened? Because first, it is not a miracle and second, because I may have been average-looking on the outside, but I was such a negative, ugly person on the inside that, of course (duh!) I was not attracting positivity! Of course the “ugly people” were not at the receiving end of miracles, they were just smart, funny, loving, caring, beautiful people, no matter how they looked or I chose to look at them (with infinite jealousy), and they were shining so much of their positivity that they attracted exactly positive things and nothing less. It took me more years that
I’m happy to admit in realising this simple concept, and only after I experienced it myself I was able to see how truly important it is to focus first on what’s going on inside you, and then act on the outside, rather than doing the other way round. Because of this, I’m not too bothered about my body being a bit off at the moment, and being at the stage where I have to start again my quest on being “the Italian version of JLo”. I’m still the beautiful person I was two or three months ago, and with this positive, strong attitude, I’m sure I will quickly bring my body back to what I left it when I had to stop, and take it even further to achieve more and more. Negativity must not have a place in my life, I don’t want it to drag me down and cloud my head any longer. Besides, I LOVE a good challenge, I love when I test myself and I beat all my odds so…. Dear body, bring it on!!!
Yesterday I was snuggling in bed after some incredibly sweet, special days spent with some very special people; a lot of beautiful things have happened in the last few days, I was in a happy-dreamy state of mind whilst looking at random stuff on my phone, when I stumbled upon the review of Netflix new series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”. I’m not even sure why my brain decided it was interesting enough to make me click on the article, but after reading it, I thought “maybe I should give this series a go, just few minutes, see what all this fuss about this Japanese woman is about”.
I am honest, I have never read Marie Kondo’s books and all I knew about her was that she was a sort of “tidy-guru”, so I started watching the first episode full of stupid prejudices, expecting to see one of those shows that you know for a fact it is a stupid set up, one of those “why am I wasting my time watching this crap anyway?”, a very hipster-ish, patronising, annoying as hell thing where a Japanese know-it-all woman would impose her crazily impossible rules on how to keep homes tidy.
Only it was not as my prejudices predicted. I got totally mesmerised and drawn into it after few minutes. I just couldn’t believe my eyes! Marie presents herself in such a positive, delicate, warm way, it is impossible not to be captivated by her and to not listen to all her tips and advices. At the end of episode one, I felt the urge to get up and apply her KonMari method straight away to my house. Yes, months ago I already had to throw away lot of old clothes because they don’t fit anymore, but still, I knew in my heart I was holding on to stuff I would never, ever wear anyway, and oh my gosh, I could have so done with decluttering my whole house entirely. I zoomed out of my bed, I stormed into my living room and I started to look around: all I could see around me was clutter, clutter, clutter and some more clutter. If I could have burned down the house, there and then, to get rid of it, I would have done it in a heartbeat. I was desperate to break free from all of it.
Following Marie’s lessons, I decided to tackle my house by categories rather than room, and as per her advice, I started by sorting all my clothing. Energised and ready, I piled all, and I mean ALL, my clothes on the sofa. Old and new, lingerie, socks, coats, everything went there. It was quite frightening the amount of “clothes-clutter” I had. Marie’s advice to deal with clothes is to not focus on the things that needs throwing away, but on those you want to keep: these items must give you a “spark of joy”, as she calls it. Well…. I looked at my clothes’ mountain and, to be honest, very few things sparked joy to me. It didn’t take long before I realised that the pile of the things I was getting rid of was noticeably bigger than the tiny pile of the things I truly wanted to keep.
At the end, I saved only my newest gym sets and few other bits purchased recently. My wardrobe is so empty right now, and yet when I look at it, it feels so full of happiness: I only see the things that truly sparks me joy and I promised myself that, from now on, I’ll buy only few things but valuable and with the “joy” factor in it.
Next category on Marie’s list is books. If clothes went down like a breeze, books… not so much. I don’t necessarily like to depart with books in general, but some of those were only good for gathering dust and I knew in my heart they had to go. To be honest, once I started getting rid of the easiest one to chuck away, like my university guides, the task seemed less daunting. Surprisingly, I even managed to let go of some cooking books I never opened once, and that I was keeping for no reason at all.
“what I want you to ask yourself is if it’s something you really want to take into your future”
You know what I realised whilst I was doing this? I have
been treating my house like a “space I have to be in”, not a “home”. Since I
kicked my ex-husband out, I took some steps to re-own the place and make it
“mine”, but I realise now I only went so far in the process. Yes, I painted
walls purple, yes I bought a new coffee machine and few other bits and pieces,
but I never went “all in” to transform it in a way that resonates with who I
am. I have kept so much crap in case “my ex-husband gets offended or moans or
maybe he thinks…”, tons of clutter infested my shelves because “I don’t know
what to do with it so I might as well leave it as it is”, all of the “I’ll keep
it just in case “ left forgotten waiting for the moment I’d use them that never
arrived and, I am embarrassed at admitting this, but I also had shit hoarded in
cupboards because “omg what if there is a spider or a bug…let’s never open this
EVER”. I know. The shame.
I must admit, I skipped Marie’s third category, paper, because all my paperwork is self-contained in one cupboard and I don’t feel the urge to purge it right now, so I focussed on what she calls “Komono”, as known as category four: kitchen, bathroom, and all miscellaneous. After emptying the cabinet have under the stairs (one of those “omg I’ll never open it in case a monster will eat me alive”), I stormed in the kitchen like a fury. I emptied all my cupboards, I cleaned them, and I threw away almost everything that was stored inside. It felt amazing. It was also a great chance to assess my relationship with this room. You see, I adore baking. I love just taking half a day (if not a whole day) to create some “oven magic”. For me, baking is so relaxing, a kind of mindfulness exercise where I don’t have to think, it’s one step after the other, and at the end of the whole process, I get to eat a cake! I love purchasing kitchen utensils, pans, pots and tins, but I brutally stopped when I soon realised that the care and love I had for these items was not met by my ex-husband, who didn’t really give a shit about them and therefore ended up ruining every single item I had, including pans, kitchen appliances etc. It pissed me off beyond belief. Don’t ask me why, but this mentality of “why should I bother buying it, he’ll ruin it anyway” has kind of stuck with me two years later, and so far I kept using the same old shitty pans and old utensils I had. Well, when I saw that stuff, sad looking on my kitchen counter, I almost started sobbing: that is not me. In a fit of rage, I binned everything. EVERYTHING. I then made a list of all the things I absolutely need as soon as possible, all the things I would love to purchase, and I had a very relaxing evening shopping online for my lovely new, shiny, and so damn purple kitchen stuff. I even purchased a brand-new set of pan and pots! I still have a lot of things to do (the bathroom awaits…!), I feel so great. I feel like finally this place and I are on the same page: rooms are starting to shape up, everything feels so different, clear, positive, and so do I. it is so, so exciting. I’m thrilled at the thought of finishing this task, have my surgery and finally “coming back home”. To my home. To my kingdom. To my special, cherished place. I don’t care if I have plenty more days of dealing with bin bags and cleaning non-stop, I can picture the end of this mammoth task and let me tell you, it is going to be amazing!
“Tidying not only changes your home life but it also allows you to create a space that suits your ideal self”
For the record, I purchased Marie’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying”. Needless to say, I am devouring it!
For the first time ever, I’m really excited and looking forward to the new year that is about to start in few hours. It is an amazing feeling. I generally dreaded New Year’s Eve, and even more so everyone asking “what are your plans for the night?”. Well, my plans have always been feeling miserable, ensuring I saw the back of the previous, awful year and dreading the thought of starting another, equally (if not worse) horrible one. I used to go crazy trying to fit as many superstitions “bringer of good lucks” things or actions as possible, and then I would have spent my time being resentful and negative. I had a look at my Facebook entries for the previous years: djeeezuz the drama!
Not this time.
I’m very excited for tonight. I wrote down my menu, I planned my grocery shopping, I’ll wear my nice dress, my very sexy lingerie, and instead of being a miserable sod, I’ll use this night to thank 2018 profusely for all the things that happened, and welcome 2019 with open arms for all the things it will bring. There will be no stupid superstitions, only nice food, good laughter with my son, good Italian bubbly wine and positivity all around.
I would have never dreamed, six months ago, that I’d be this mentally at peace by now. Heck, I would have never dreamed I’d be seeing the end of this year, quite frankly. I’m grateful for all that happened, even though when it did, I felt like I was about to drown for good and I couldn’t see the point of keep fighting. I couldn’t see that I was fighting a lost cause, and that it was a useless, tiring exercise that was only bringing more frustrations in, rather than any good. I had to go through one final round of hell before I could begin to see the light of a new day.
Something my Law degree has taught me is that it is important to factually assess any situation, before trying to find solutions, so I want to take this moment before I’ll head to the kitchen and start cooking a shitload of food to think back at this year to get ready for what is to come. A kind of “last day of the year recap”, sort of speak. Brace yourself, it’s going to be a bit long!
This year I reached my personal breaking point. Funny thing is, I’m so happy and grateful it happened, and that it was such a dramatic, “no going back” thing, otherwise, nothing would have ever changed for me. I can see it clearly now that time has passed, that the emotional storm is over and I’m more detached to the events, how lucky I have been to ended up hitting my lowest of the low in such a hard and dramatic way. I have been adding up misery on top of frustrations on top of mental issues for years and years; I have been bottling up my issues, taking on board problems after problems, mostly not even belonging or generated by myself. I have been keeping my mouth shut too many times “for the greater good”, I have been forcing myself to suppress my anger and my feelings to not look mean and hurt people (when they actually deserved a proper “FUCK OFF” shouted in their stupid faces), I have been draging my sorry self like a heavy corpse day after day after day, without even thinking “hold on a second, why am I doing this?”, I have been gladly suffering fools and enduring abuse left right and centre because I thought that was what my life was supposed to be and, since it could have been even worse, I should have better not moan and put up with it.
This massive baggage of negativity, resentment and frustration was what I carried with me in 2018. I started the year with my best friend, which seemed the perfect way to have a great new beginning, but my spirit was definitely not the most positive one. I desperately wanted to raise the middle finger at the year before, and welcome 2018 in the exact same way. Well, I should have seen the writings on the wall straight away, because on the 2nd of January my then au pair, a Spanish girl my son and I loved dearly, texted me saying that she was not coming back as promised, goodbye and good luck. I had a feeling this was about to happen, since she took all her belongings from her bedroom before going home leaving only the gifts I gave her behind, but still, when reality hit me, it hurt like hell. In a mega rush, during festive times and with the re-opening of school fast approaching, I had to fish another one asap. I felt luck was on my side when I found a new one quickly, another Spanish one from the same city as my previous one, and we seemed to be a perfect match: this time it was a guy, loving sports and studying to become a teacher. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to discover he was so not what it seemed: he was totally uncapable of looking after my son, he raided my cupboards without a care in the world, left my house a complete, dirty mess every day and felt entitled to do as he pleased because “he was a teacher and he knew things”. After a month, I sent him packing back to Spain.
I was angry. I was incredibly angry. Forget the guy, I wasn’t necessarily angry at him, I was angry because it was my ex-husband’s fault I ended up having to have strangers in my house to take care for my son, because he has been so stupid beyond any human comprehension that he ended up breaking the law and get social services in my life, and yes, I was still pissed off at having social services breathing on my neck, making me paranoid at my every move in case they’d use it against me to take my son away because I married a useless dumbass. I was angry at my life, because I kept having problems after problems, and when something good happened, it felt like a tiny moment where I could get my head momentarily above water, breathe, then drown again in my misery. The next au pair arrived a bit like Mary Poppins. I not only desperately wanted to love her, but I just as equally desperately wanted her to love me and my son. She seemed amazing in every way. I couldn’t believe my luck. I felt she had the magic power to solve my issues all at once. When the-guy-I-was-kind-of-seeing moved in with me as well, I thought I hit the jackpot big time: I had the perfect au pair, and the guy I was madly in love with who finally decided to take things seriously with me.
Well… not exactly, no. The perfect au pair became quite less perfect. She had issues of her own, she was a restless soul who just couldn’t settle for more than few months in a row, so when a new adventure came in and my ex-husband kept not paying her on time (did I already mention how useless and unreliable he is?), out of the blue she told me she was leaving by the end of the week. Actually, she told my boyfriend first, and he broke the news to me before she did. I felt I was in a nightmare again. I was truly broken-hearted. I thought “we were in for the long run”, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of welcoming another person in my life again. Not in mine, and even less so in my son’s. To rub more salt to my very open wounds, we had terrible news at work: we officially entered restructuring mode, everyone went to work not knowing whether there’d be an office to go to the next day, the mood was truly awful, and I panicked at the thought of losing my precious job. The only thing that seemed to bring me happiness was love, but that was not meant to last either: problems started creeping up, I was too negative, too needy, too desperate to hold on to him because he was “my everything”, and he was just too in need to run away, too poisoned by his friend wanting to break us up, too negative in his own way, it was just too much and the situation, eventually, exploded like a nuclear bomb, bringing devastation and destroying everything.
I hated everything. My ex boyfriend for dumping me, betraying all the promises he made, ripping apart our dreams and happy life together; my ex husband, the root of all evils, for basically screwing up my life big time from the moment I married him and who kept screwing me up even when I got rid of him; all my au pairs for abandoning me even though I gave them all and some more; myself, for being in such a mental state that I couldn’t just fight another day.
I remember the day my then-ex boyfriend finally took his things and I saw the back of him. I felt like an extremely injured survivor of an apocalyptic scenario. I was hurt, my heart was bleeding, everything around me was destroyed, my body had enough, my mind had enough, and I finally broke down for good. That was the end of the person I was. There was no going back. There was no “I’ll keep dragging myself through another storm”, there was no “I’ll fight some more”. That was it. The end.
Or so I thought. Like a phoenix rising from her ashes, the end of “the old me” brought the birth of the new me. Since I lost everything, including myself, I had nothing else to lose. My negative, miserable, depressed ways were no more, they died with my old self, and since they belonged to the past, I decided to give a go at doing the exact opposite: as hard as it was, in a time where I was supposed to feel desperate and sad beyond belief, I forced myself to smile. I forced myself to appreciate me. I forced myself to meditate on positive things, to let go of the hate and the negativity to welcome the exact opposite. I read millions of self-help books and actively put all the positive advices into practice, till I reached to point I was strong enough to get rid of my stupid “I’m a superwoman who does everything alone” attitude and I did the bravest, craziest, “I will never ever do that” thing that I dumbly dreaded to do till that point: I asked for help. Psychotherapy help. From that moment onwards, my life changed in ways I would have never, ever expected or dreamed.
I became confident. I learned to love myself. I went to the gym and worked hard to improve my body. I developed a positive attitude. I worked (and I’m still working) on my issues, no holds barred, embracing my flaws for what they are. Most importantly, I learned to be kind to myself. I learned to love and be loved, to appreciate and be appreciated, to stand my ground firmly when I’m right and to apologise and learn when I’m not. The positive people in my life stayed, the negative ones either left or I made them leave. The more progresses I made, the more positivity I received, and the more positivity I received, the further I progressed in my journey. There is still a lot of work to do, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe for a second that “I’m done”, but yeah, it feels like I’m in a cosy mental place that can only get better if I can keep working hard. My work caught up and got back at being the usual, crazy environment as ever, I hired a fantastic baby sitter, an amazing Personal Trainer, I got to do some wonderful photoshoots and everything is heading in the right direction.
So, 2019. I cannot wait. I don’t want any bullshit resolutions because, let’s be honest, nobody sticks with them ever including myself (I know, I’m that bad). What I want to do in the new year that is about to start is very simple: I want to keep working hard, physically and mentally. I want to face my surgery and any challenges that will come my way with a positive spirit, I want to bring with me all the lessons learned this year and use them to develop myself even more. That’s it!
To all of you who have read my blog and supported me so far, I wish you all the best for this new year coming: may you accomplish all your goals, may your lives be filled with peace and serenity, and I hope we’ll keep walking together in this incredible journey of life for many years to come.
Do you want to know what’s the thing I struggled the most in this path of personal change?
Learning to be more selfish.
Disclaimer: I do not mean “being selfish” in a negative, asshole way.
That is not acceptable, and there are no excuses for that behaviour.
I mean it in a self-loving, self-preserving, positive way.
Let me explain.
I’ve spent all my life, up untill recently, being a “rescuer”. It never mattered whether I was tired, sad, dealing with big problems, feeling like I didn’t want to live another day, working 26 hours a day, swamped with shit to deal with etc.: everyone else always came first. Always. I never moaned, never complained, I never dared to say “sorry, but it’s not a good time”, in fear of losing the crown of “the amazing friend who will always be there for you”. If anyone needed me, I’d voluntarily (and happily) sacrificed myself and my needs. No question asked.
I think I already mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help of books recently, and few of them talked about the “triangle” of relationships between the victim, the rescuer, the persecutor, and the distorted, negative dynamics going on between these three figures. It made me have a serious, deep conversation with myself as to why I act as I do, how my actions made me feel and what were the real motives behind my apparently “amazingly selfless and generous” behaviour.
The first real motive is very simple: focusing on others meant that I didn’t have time to focus on myself. When you have an extremely low self-esteem, and you hate yourself, you don’t care nor want to dedicate a moment of pure “me-time”. It would mean facing your demons, or acknowledging feelings that you rather keep bottled up in a far corner of your brain, or even worse, end up being alone with yourself and no one else: who wants to be left in an empty room with a person you detest to bits? Yes, no one.
The second real motive is… ok I really had to be honest with myself here, and it is not even easy to put it into words to write. I’ll just say it as it is, without making it look prettier or playing with words: the second real motive for me behaving like this is that I was desperate to keep holding on to people. I feared being alone.
No, that’s not even the full story.
I feared being UNLOVED. I craved (and I still crave) love so badly that I just grabbed it wherever I thought I could find it, even if it was unhealthy, unreal, or not enough. I thought that by being so… everything, and more, that people would think “I can’t imagine my life without her”. This goes for friends, boyfriends, colleagues, and any person in my life who I felt the need to keep close.
Of course I will lend you money I don’t have, this way you’ll have to stay with me at least untill you’ll give it back (but you’ll stay more because you’ll always need me); let me take all your pain away and put it on my shoulders so that you can be happy and love me for being such a martyr; sure, let me work harder, let me love you with more intensity, let me sacrifice myself further, so that I can show you how amazing I am and then you will stay.
My life has always been a race to go above and beyond the call of duty to make people happy. Even better was if I could anticipate other people’s needs or if I could anticipate needs they weren’t even aware they had, but because I loved them dearly I knew so here it is, enjoy.
Yes, I am the Ultimate Martyr of Love.
Marge used to warn me all the time: “be very careful at being the way you are, because the more you give to people, the more people will want, and you are not paid, or loved, enough to keep doing what you do, and when you’ll have to stop, it’s going to hurt”.
Did I listen? Of course not. I knew better! I love my job! I love my friends! I love my boyfriend!
How did it end?
The boyfriend dumped me because I loved him too much, and I was suffocating him with my love.
The friends just kept asking and asking, even when I had nothing to give, and I became (very) resentful.
The work? I ended up working every hour under the sun, plus weekends, holidays and medical leave, just because I wanted to be so helpful, doing stuff I wasn’t even supposed to, and of course, I didn’t get any special award, any pay rise, not even a single thank you.
I sat in my room, in the middle of the night, trying to make sense to all these feeling, and I was reading these books begging me to love myself more, to care for myself more, to do more of the things I really wanted to do… and to say a very simple, powerful and yet so frightening word: NO.
In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying yes is not always a virtue Pablo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra
Can I really do that?
Can I really say “NO”?
What would other people think if I do it? If I’m not there for them, if I become….
There are two reasons you tend to give a fuck about what other people think: one, because you don’t want to be a bad person, and two, because you don’t want to look like a bad person Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”
Well, it looks like I’m in a deep shithole here. I’m sad, I’m crying, I’m unloved by the only man I desperately wanted to be loved from, I feel like everyone is draining my extremely limited energies and that they are ignoring my pleas to give me some breathing space (after all, that is what I got them used to, right? “don’t worry about me, even if I’m not ok I’m here for you”, right?), and work… I dread to check my phone and see how many emails I have to read.
I realised I became desperate to care for myself, but to do so, I needed (badly, I should add) time, energies, focus, and not to be dragged into stuff that was not giving me anything back. I told myself:
“This is something that must change.
This is something that must stop.
This is something that no one can stop, but me”
It’s about respecting yourself, instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked Jen Sincero, You are a Badass
I started to force myself to say no. More so, to quit with the victim attitude of “I have to do it or else the world will end”. I cut the crap of “ok, I suppose I got no choice”.
Gosh, the first few “no” felt like I was doing something so outrageous, so horrendous, borderline illegal; I felt guilty like I murdered someone with my own bare hands, and with the full intention of doing so.
It was awful.
You know what I discovered though?
To begin with, the world didn’t end.
Last time I checked, it is still spinning around the sun, not giving a flying f@ck about me saying “no”.
Then, you know what? Once I overcame the fear, guilt, anxiety and… yes, novelty, of saying NO, I discovered that, actually, it wasn’t too bad after all.
The more I grew confidence, the more I realised that I did have a choice, and a very powerful one: the choice between “it is relevant to me, ok, yes” and “I cannot be arsed, leave me out of it”
“No, I am not coming to those drinks. Sorry, I have other plans (aka: I am going to bed at a decent time, because I want to be nice and rested for the gym tomorrow)
“Sorry, I know you really want to share this with me, but it is not a good moment right now”
“No, I don’t have the time to hear about this useless drama”
“No, I cannot help you, I’m busy already as it is, you’ll have to either do it yourself, wait for me to be less busy or find someone else to help”
“No, this is not something I want to be involved with”
You know what’s very important to learn, and learn quickly, about saying no? Mean it.
Saying no is a piece of cake. It’s just two letters: N and O.
Holding your ground and not backing down, however, that requires balls. You better grow up a pair as quickly as you can, because you either have them or your NO will turn into a “…(puffing)… ok, YES”.
And you know that will happen next? You’ll end up feeling guilty that you said no when you could have spared yourself the pain, say yes and put up with whatever you are (unwillingly) agreeing with; you’ll have tons of resentment for being made to do stuff you didn’t really want to; you’ll get tired, because you used energies you don’t necessarily have for something you don’t necessarily care; ultimately, you’ll end up being angry, very angry with yourself because “here we go again”.
People will naturally push back when you say no, especially if you got them used to you saying yes straight away, or “no but ok, yes, fuck it”. This is where guilt will make its glorious entrance in your brain. I know it is hard, but push that guilt away and just reiterate that you said NO, and that.you.said.it.because.you.mean.it.
Don’t give too many explanations, because the more you do, the more you
a – give people reasons to make you change your mind, and
b – give yourself reasons to feel guilty, and silly, and unreasonable, for having said NO.
It’s a no, you said because you know it is right and that’s all that matter.
What you chose to do, instead of what you are being guilt-tripped into doing, is no one’s business but yours.
“Sorry, but no eating shit for me or drinking more than one glass of something” (I committed myself to work hard at the gym in order to enjoy having a JLo, gym-toned ass).
“Nope, I’m not staying later than 6pm tonight” (I want an undisturbed, love making session with Sky Sports and my bed)
“Sorry, I am really not in a good place right now to listen to you” (I’m trying to mend my broken heart, I don’t need you rubbing salt on my wounds)
“no, I have to give this one a miss” (I will be too busy attending Slayer’s gig)
“no, sorry, I cannot afford this (boring as fuck) dinner this month” (I could, but I don’t want to)
…the list goes on and on.
Hey, in your “learning to say no” path, you better learn to say no to yourself as well, so you don’t end up doing stupid stuff you know it won’t do you any good at all (“no I am not texting him today”, “no I’m not stalking him on social media” and “no, I’m not giving myself any excuses for his behaviour – he does not want me and I must stop sugar coat this truth”… yes, it is something I can’t quite master yet…. I know….). Stop the things that are making you hurt yourself, hate yourself, be negative about yourself etc. These are the hardest NO you’ll ever learn to say. It is the NO to that cigarette you are so craving but you have decided to quit smoking (been there, done that). The NO to spend time with people you know are not healthy for you. It is the NO to overeating, or undereating, or eating shit, when you committed yourself to improve your wellbeing. The NO to anything that falls in the “if I do it I know I will regret it” category.
What you’ll gain from all of this, it is something no money can buy: self-love, freedom, time. I know it seems hard to believe, but you’ll also end up having better, more balanced relationships. Your true friends will still be your friends, and they will respect you more for (finally!) respecting yourself.
At work, you’ll have all the time you need for the things you really need to do, and you will do them better because you won’t be distracted. My boss is loving my new “hell no” attitude, because he finally is spared the pain of yelling at me stuff like “I told you so” and “Don’t moan with me about it, I told you to say no and that I don’t want you to work extra hours!!!”. Your love life will benefit as well, because you will learn that it takes two to tango, not just your loved one and his needs: you are just as valuable. You’ll have plenty of energy for the things that matter, you’ll be more confident, you’ll learn to demand respect and to respect yourself…. And that will only lead to love yourself more.
There are two exceptions about saying no that you should be aware of though.
The first one is that you must not become a twat. I already said it, but I want to reiterate it to make it VERY clear. This is not about saying no to hurt people, or to offend them, or to put them in a position where they are screwed as fuck and you tell them to do one. You are still the same decent, caring, loving, brilliant good friend, partner, colleague you have always been, and therefore if you are genuinely needed, you HELP, and you keep doing as you always did. Don’t be a prick.
Your new “sorry, but no” is for all the “noise” that gets generated around you, and that will distract you from yourself, the real meaningful stuff and the truly important things you should be focusing on.
The second one is that you MUST NOT use the power of no as an excuse to avoid doing things that you are scared, anxious or petrified at the thought of doing, even though you know that you’d greatly benefit from them such as “going to this new place and see whether I can meet new people? Mmmm maybe not”, or “should I just spend this hard-earned money to pamper myself for once? Naaa….”, or “I have an hour for myself: how about I read a nice book? Nope, let’s waste it checking Facebook and twist the knife in my poor, broken heart”.
In conclusion, love yourself enough to say NO to those things that are are making you hating yourself a bit more. Sound so easy, and yet, if you are anything like me, it is like climbing Mount Everest when the only physical activity you ever did is getting in and out of bed.
There is one amazing book I would like to suggest you. It is incredibly funny, but full of very helpful learning stuff. You’ll read it in a bang, and then you will re-read it couple of times to really get the lessons drilled in your brain.
I must admit, I have never truly appreciated the power of meditation till after my ex broke up with me. Before that, it was just an exercise I used to do (when I was arsed enough to do it). I used to sit, spend 5 minutes or so trying to clear my head, get bored to death, decide I was done for the day, tick the box of “I did it”, the end.
One day, the shitstorm happened. Meditating quickly became the only resource I had to preserve my sanity. My brain was in overdrive with all the negative emotions, my heart was bleeding, my body was in pain, I was in the eye of the storm and hell was breaking lose. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I was exhausted. I needed a mental break. I clinged to this practice like my life depended on it and I never abandoned it since.
Let me set the record straight: meditating is HARD. It is one of those things that everyone brags about doing, it is so hipster it hurts. Everyone will try and shove it down your throath:
Be more mindful!
Mindfulness is the secret of success!
Meditate or die!
And so on. So, you think “yeah, why not, lemme give it a go”. You google “how do I start meditating” and you find a mammoth amount of all these coaches and teachers that explains what to do, making it look so damn easy: sit there, breathe, clear your mind, see your thoughts as clouds passing by, imagine this, imagine that, visualise stuff, add a mantra or two and job done!
Believe me, it is so fucking hard. Do not believe who says it is a piece of cake. REAL meditation requires training, dedication, and an unbelievable level of discipline. You must practice it over and over and over again, every day, and you won’t get the benefits of this practice till you master the art of it. Proper meditation means that you have total power and control over your body and your brain. If you have an overactive mind like mine, where you just cannot stop thinking and overthinking, meditation won’t come naturally to you.
It will be a struggle.
Couple of minutes after you sit down and get into it, you’ll realise that everything is actively conspiring against you to make you fail. The more you’ll try to clear your mind, the worse your chain of thoughts will become. If your brain will not succeed into making you give up, your body will work against you and you will start becoming restless. You’ll feel the urge to scratch a sudden itch on your foot or your head, a song will pop up on your mind and you won’t be able to make it stop, then you’ll be thirsty, or your throat will feel dry, you’ll feel too cold, or too hot, your clothes will be too tight, or too loose, then you’ll need to scratch yourself again; if you are in the lotus pose (I beg you, from the bottom of my hearth, do not attempt to do it or meditate in that pose unless you have few months of yoga under your belt), pain will drive you to the brink of madness and then you’ll think “mmmm maybe I should move a bit so I can feel comfier…that’s it… so… what was I thinking about anyway?” and you will give up shortly afterwards. Oh, did I mention that you’ll feel like it was a very stupid idea and a waste of time? Yeah, that will happen too.
Don’t surrender. Please, don’t. If you stick to your guns and impose yourself to keep going, I promise you, meditating will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. It took me a while, but now I consider it a pampering session for the brain. My days are less stressful, less emotional, less chaotic and I am much more relaxed that what I used to be. I try to do it first thing in the morning and right before I go to sleep.
My morning meditation gets me all geared up for the day: I go through a list of my tasks, I visualise them in front of me and I’ll prepare myself mentally to face them. It really helps if you struggle with anxiety like me. Then I add few positive affirmations: these acts like an injection of power and strength. I know, it seems totally dumb telling yourself stuff like:
“you are strong”
“you are fierce”
“you are beautiful”
“you are full of love, and energy, and power, and you can accomplish everything”
“there is nothing that you won’t be able to face”
I swear though, it works. BUT! You really must BELIEVE that those affirmations are true for them to work. Just saying them for the sake of “there, I said them, ok?” with a “this is just bullshit” attitude it’s a no-no.
STOP IT: I know what you are thinking right now. It is something along the lines of “yeah right, because I’m going to sit there, telling all this shit to myself, right? How embarrassing is that? Only losers would do it.” How do I know it? Because I thought exactly like that too. I was “better than this bunch of crap”. Until I ended up with my arse on the floor, desperate to try anything to feel better.
I gave it an honest, humble go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I chose to believe. I chose to re-wire my brain with positive messages. It is SO.DAMN.HARD. But. It works wonders. The more you do it, the more it gets easier, and at some point, you’ll realise that you won’t need to force yourself into believing those affirmations: you will own them, and saying them will become a “reminder” game to keep you in the positive loop.
To think what you want to think is to think the truth, regardless of appearances
Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich
My bedtime meditation is my decluttering, release-all-the-stress session. This is the moment where I let go of everything that happened during the day. If there are lessons to be learned, I will acknowledge them. If something pissed me off, I will analyse it, I will take any positive thing (if any) and then I will let it go. If something made me happy, I will cling on the beautiful feeling I experienced. I will say another round of affirmations, then it’s sleep time, goodbye world, see you tomorrow.
I am, by no means, an expert on meditation, so what you just read is nothing more than my ritual; of course, I invite you to try it and do the same, but you may find out that you’ll need to tweak a thing or two (or everything!) to make it work for you. And that’s the beauty of meditation: once you learn “the basics” and you get the hang of how it works, you’ll make it work for you, there is no right or wrong, good or bad: whichever way you’ll do it, so long as you’ll do it and you’ll do it seriously, you’ll experience the benefits of the practice.
If you are a total beginner, I suggest to start with some guided meditation. Having someone talking you through the process it’s incredibly helpful: it takes away the stress and anxiety of “I don’t know how this shit works, what do I do now. Am I doing good? Am I doing anything meaningful?”. Plus, it makes it easy to learn how to focus and how to deal with all the thoughts that will run around your head, since you basically have to follow the lead and do as told. I still use guided meditation, especially when I’m tired, or sick, and I need to be dragged into my subconscious because I don’t have the strength to do it by myself.
For your meditation resources, Google is your friend, and in Amazon (or any other shop, virtual or physical) you can find books, CDs etc… and then, you got YouTube. Speaking of that, I want to close this post with a bang and share with you the BEST meditation ever. Marge, my close friend and partner in crime, found it and shared it with me. Disclaimer: it is rude, so if you get easily shocked by swearing, maybe don’t click on the following link…
We listened to it so many times that now we know the words by heart, and to thank her I bought her (and myself) the book version. We love it! I even got the app! The best bit? If one of us is feeling a bit low, or is having quite the day at the office, the other one will start reciting this meditation… and we’ll be laughing our assess off till tears.
“..and as you slowly open your eyes, greet the world and everything in it with a new, beautiful breath… of fuck that!”
Jason Headley, F*ck That, An Honest Meditation
I wanna get physicaaaal let’s get into physical (hey I’m a child of the 80s, I can’t help it. Here is the link if you fancy blasting this song out loud Let’s get physical).
I have a weird relationship with the gym.
Sitting here, in the comfort of my sofa, I love it like crazy. I love sweating like a pig whilst I row on the rowing machine or run on the treadmill; I adore exercising till everything hurts like I just got run over by a truck on full speed; oh, that feeling of finally dumping myself under the shower, closing my eyes and… aaaaah, peace at last. I end up so tired I can’t even think. Oh, and the best bit? Checking myself in the mirror, see the results of my hard work and bask in my own glory for a minute or two (“fuck yeah! Check these abs bitch! Uuuuh look at that ass! Your arms – wow!” and so on).
When I actually have to go to the gym, well, it is a total different story: I HATE IT.
I hate it with a passion. Gosh I hate going to the gym. I hate the smell; I hate exercising; I hate gym clothes; I hate all the machines, none excluded; I hate weights; I hate barbells and don’t make me start on dumbbells and kettlebells; I hate classes; I hate personal trainers and I hate myself for going there even though I absolutely hate it. I’m a lazy arse who just wants to eat lasagne and be left alone ok?
In the building where my office is located there is a little gym. Most of my colleagues are fitness fanatics, and when you don’t see them killing themselves in the gym during lunch break, it’s because they are running 5k outside “to get some fresh air and train for running a marathon”.
For the record, I hate running. I can barely tolerate it on a treadmill. I tried to run 5k twice in my life and believe me, I don’t think I will put myself through that again unless I get paid a lot of money. The first time I did it I was working at the BBC. I surrendered to the pleas of my good friend James, who’s leader of the running club. I am embarrassed and ashamed to say I made those 5k a nightmare for him and his mates. I moaned and moaned and moaned some more for at least 3k; when my legs told me to do one, I found a bench, I sat down and I kept moaning to myself; when James and the other runners finished their run, I moaned non-stop all the way back to the office.
Put it this way: if he is still my friend after that, it is only because he is amazing and has a very big heart. The second time happened two years ago, at a charity event organised by JP Morgan. I knew that enrolling into this race was a horrible mistake, but my colleagues convinced me by saying that, at the end of the race, I could have enjoyed free barbecue and drinks. I can’t say no to free food, I just can’t! I’m not proud to admit that I ended up running less than 1k, then I got bored and I just played PokemonGo for the remaining 4k. I arrived at the finish line an hour and too much time later. The barbecue was over. I wasn’t happy. At all. Damn!
I have never had a good relationship with my physical appearance. I started hating my body at a very young age, when I became aware of what I looked like, and I compared it with what everyone else looked like. Hating yourself is a slow and deadly poison. It creeps into your brain, one negative comment at a time, and before you know it you can’t think of anything else but “I’m fucking shit”. Constantly. Worse, it spreads in every aspect of your life: everything you do, everything you experience and everything that comes into your life gets filtered through this dark cloud of negativity. It becomes your everything. It permeates your reality in such a wicked way that you succumb without a fight.
The ideal Italian woman has always been sexy and curvaceous. I have always been the exact opposite: skin and bones. Not even a remote idea of boobs or bum. Everyone, from my friends to my parents, told me I looked like a stick with clothes on. I knew that if I were to cut my hair short, I would have easily passed for a boy. Now, imagine being in a locker room, full of girls who-look-like-girls, who behave like girls-should-behave: I started comparing myself to them. I started asking myself why I was like me and not like them. WTF was happening (or not happening) that I got stuck in this joke of a stupid body, on top of having a stupid brain? It didn’t take a lot of effort to convince myself that I was not only different, but also U G L Y.
I Just could not accept who I was, even less than before. I looked at the mirror and everything was a no: my hair? Barely average. My face? Please…. With these horrible, messy teeth? Hardly worth of looking at. My body? Or should I say, my skeleton? Only appealing at Halloween, maybe (though in Italy we didn’t have Halloween, of course, catholic!). I spiralled into a self-esteem crisis, where I felt (and convinced myself) that there was nothing I was good at: I was a failure as a girl in every possible aspect.
You can imagine how “glad” I could have been to go to the gym with a background like the one I just described. My mantra has always been “don’t bother because nothing will change”, even if deep down inside I wanted to look good and feel good about myself. I am embarrassed thinking of all the gym memberships that I paid in the heat of the “this time I’m going to train like I’m on fire!”, only to end up not going there. EVER. Not even for the induction session. I know. Don’t make me start on the very few times where I did go, but instead of exercising I just roamed around, not even pretending to try and put some effort. I even had a personal trainer once: I thought that this way, I couldn’t cheat and I had to force myself to go. If only I’d have been less stupid and used the same energies and efforts to do what he said, rather than to trick him into believing I was training, I’d have had the body of a bodybuilder.
Over the years, I have avoided any form of exercise like the plague. I didn’t want to even think of the remote possibility to do anything at all. Even walking for more than 2 minutes was something I could not contemplate. Life had other plans for me, however, and when I moved to London, I found myself surrounded with healthy fanatics & sport addicts who kept trying to drag me into whatever they were into. I dumbly resisted any temptation because I thought I knew best and, whilst everyone was shaping their beach bodies, I was sitting at my desk pretending I didn’t care (but I was secretly envying them hard).
When I started reading all those motivational books, I realised how stupid I have always been for wanting things and never actually work hard toget them. My “ideal body” included. I got fed up of looking at the mirror thinking “if only”. Enough! Do I really, really want it? How about I do something about it? My brain, used to my negative ways, was having none of it.
“Yes, ok, but you don’t have a great track record with gym attendance, you know that”
“well, how about I challenge myself?”
“how about you don’t fool yourself into thinking you can, when you know you will fail?”
“well, how about for once I don’t try to talk myself out of something and I simply give it a go?”
And so I did. I went to buy a pair of trainers, some yoga pants, I dug up a shirt from my (extremely old) gym clothes and I asked one of my gym fanatics colleagues, my beloved Elena, to take me to the gym no matter what. I imposed myself to stop overthinking and to start doing. And I enjoyed it. And I haven’t stopped going since. And when I want to stop, which is like every time I have to go, I know I just have to wait for Elena to hover around my desk; she will start by kindly asking me to grab my things and go, and when I start “mmmm I don’t feel like it today…. I’m mmmmm not ok…” she will cut my crap there and then and force me to overcome my laziness. She will put up with my moaning like a pro, so long as my legs are moving towards the gym. And then, she will endure a class with me huffing and puffing and ranting “what the fuck have I done?” “why did you make me do it” “this is the last time I swear” “fuck this shit I’m out of here” “I’m dying and I’m not inviting you to my funeral” etc… I know, I’m so bad!
Oh my, the time I had the brilliant idea to ask the personal trainer of our office gym to give me a lesson. I was so geared up. I spent all morning shouting positive affirmations, blasting heavy metal out loud, I was on fire. I went to the gym all motivated and ready to slay it.
“Farrah, I got dumped and I want a revenge body: I want amazing abs and a bum hard as a rock! I want to be a goddess”
“how hard are you prepared to work?”
She did bring it on. Oh God, she did.
She gave me an hour of total hell. She pushed me, and pushed me, and pushed me some more, till I begged her crying that I just couldn’t take it anymore. She didn’t give in and pushed me even more. My body hurt for 2 weeks solid afterwards. I felt paralytic. I put my heartbreak into perspective: yes, it hurts, a lot, but I take that anytime compared to wishing to chop off half of my body.
I am proud to say that I didn’t surrender. If anything, it made me want to do it again. And
I kept training hard. Because I hate it, yes, but I love it too. I really do. It is helping not only my physical health, but my mental health as well. For once I not only feel great, but I also look great. On the path of my personal greatness, I have embraced this torture and, for the first time ever, I’m really putting an effort into it: I changed my diet, I changed my attitude, I stopped telling myself “Silvia you can’t” and swapped it with “Silvia, how about you try?”. I even ended up lifting weights! I’m proud of my body and I’m proud of myself.
… what’s today class, by the way? Total Core? Oh no. I’m too tired. I can’t be arsed. I’m just staying here today, I think I can give it a miss…. Elenaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa help!!!!!!!!
My name is Silvia and I’m a woman who has been through a lot of ups and downs.
I am not a coach, I am not a doctor, I am not some made up expert graduated at the university of life with a master at the school of the street. I’m quite a quirky character, I have a very low level of f@cks to give, and life handed me some interesting challenges to face. I am (not proudly) famous for my Guinness World Record low self-esteem, my incredible ability to self-sabotage myself, my outstanding skills in coming up with negative, horrible things about myself to say to me and to everyone willing to hear; oh, and I absolutely hate(d) my body, the way I look, the way I am and even the way I am not.
It took me 35 years and being brutally dumped by what I thought was the “love of my life” to finally say “FUCK THAT”, kick me in the arse and decide to change, and to do it for real, no holds barred, no excuses, no limits, no ifs or buts.
I’m not even sure why I suddenly decided that it was about time to do something for me; something deep down inside me was probably fed up of dealing with the same old pain and the same old negative narrative over and over again. And now, a broken heart (again) and more pain, yey! I sat on the sofa, my heart in my hands, my eyes red and swollen for crying desperately non-stop for hours, miserable as an absolute fuck. And then, it felt like something clicked a button in my brain and I had a moment of “hooooold on a second here, how dare you talk shit about me? I’m awesome, and I’ll prove it!”.
In the space of a moment, I realised that in all that pain, in all that hell, I had a choice: I could have sat there some more, crying till the point of being admitted to A&E for dehydration, keeping feeling a helpless victim and telling myself “ooohh poor me”
Or I could still ride the hurricane of pain playing havoc in my life, because let’s face it, if you are hurt, you are damn hurt and your feelings deserve to be acknowledged and respected, but do something to improve my life whilst I nurse my wounds and recover from this one hell of a beating. My brain went into overdrive: ok what do I do now? What do I want? What activities I can do here, now, in this exact moment? What are the things I hate about myself? Why I hate myself, by the way? How can I be more positive? How can I change, but not “change” for the sake of filling couple of months of heartbreak: how can I change, for real, for good, and shine?
I ran crying to my close friend Marge. She is not only my wonderful, much loved “office wife”, but also (and most importantly) one of my best friends, a sister, my heart, and soul. She is Estonian and, unlike me, she is way less emotional and has her own Estonian way to tell you stuff as it is: she doesn’t lie, and if you look like shit, or behaving like a twat, she won’t hold it back or sugar-coat it. She is my source of positive energy and the most powerful enemy of my negative self. Every time I dare to say something bad about me, she yells “Don’t say it again or I’m going to slap you in the face!”. We talked, and talked, and talked, and talked some more, then we both decided to help each other on our quests for “better selves”. She is the reason I am writing this: in one of our chats, she said “you are so good at writing, you should write about it!”. Well, why not? Why not documenting my journey, share some insight, get stuff out of my system, and maybe help someone who’s facing my same issues?
So here I am. Welcome to my journey on personal improvement. I will write about all the things I’m experimenting, all my (real) efforts in the path of greatness, all my “ok this didn’t go exactly as planned” episodes (believe me, knowing me, these will be many and hilariously embarrassing), all the self-help books I’m reading and everything else that is currently going on in my life. Also, I will write about my past, opening my heart and soul (and memories) because the person I am know is the result of what happened, and I can only change if I fix those negative things right?
By the way, I’m trying not to be too anxious about this blog, but I’m famous for starting things, telling myself “aaahhh booooring” because I cannot be arsed to keep doing them and then quit. Therefore, I am using this experience as another tool of self-improvement, and I am forcing myself to write stuff up as often as I can and to NOT put my habitual half-arsed efforts (and then be fully-disappointment when things don’t work up… genius, eh?).