An honest journey from self-sabotage to self-love

Who hinders you the most in life? Who tells you, you aren’t good enough? Who tells you, you can’t achieve anything you want to? My guess is that most people when they stop to think, share the same answer. That answer is “me”. I am the one who stops myself from chasing my dreams, I am the one who tells myself I can’t do it, I am my own worst critic and biggest nay-sayer. You might think other people think those things about you. Sometimes people do underestimate us and even hurt us, but more often than not, we assume how they feel about us and we let it become our inner voice.

Lies are a terrible part of the human existence. No one likes being lied to. Lies distort our reality. Lies break down relationships, force people to keep secrets, cause people to lose trust and generally, lies just hurt. But then why do we lie to ourselves? Daily. You tell yourself you aren’t worth loving. You tell yourself that no one likes you or no one cares about you. You tell yourself you don’t deserve to be treated well or to find happiness. You tell yourself you are useless at your job, that you have no talents and nothing to offer. I’m sure you have a list of lies you tell yourself too, these were just a few of mine.

Believing the lies I told myself, mostly that I was unworthy of happiness and success, and that no one really liked me, turned me into a master of what I call “self-sabotage”. This meant that when anything was going well, I would find a way to ensure that it didn’t. Rather than stopping to appreciate what was good, I would poke holes and find what was bad. This act of self-sabotage is a common human experience I think, maybe you can relate, or maybe I sound crazy, either way I hope that if you continue reading, some of my thoughts and experiences around it can help you in your own journey or maybe if you can’t directly relate, it will help you to understand someone in your life a bit better.

If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed it has been a while since I have posted anything on the blog. For each of my previous blog posts, I have just written it and posted it without too much second thought. However, this particular post has been sitting in the pipeline for a few months now. Partly because life has been crazy busy the last few months, partly because I had to come to terms with this post myself before putting it out to the world, and partly because I really wanted it to make sense! I have to take a deep breath in as I write this, as it is potentially the most ‘close to home’ topic I have touched on this far and the one that brings me the most regret and raw pain (and a bit of anger) to speak or write about. And some would ask why I would write this, why I would put it down in writing at all let alone make it public. I guess it’s because when I read my thoughts and reflect on them, I find myself wishing I had read something similar myself a long time ago, that maybe I would’ve recognised what I was doing earlier, and that’s what I hope this achieves for someone else reading this. I could write it in a journal, take it off my chest and move on with my life, but if someone else, anyone else, can benefit from what I have learnt then it makes it doubly worth journeying through.

If you have read a blog or two by now, you will know that earlier this year (have to edit this to say LAST YEAR now, goodbye 2018, hello 2019) I went through the break-up of my relationship of almost seven years. Over the last six months, I’ve had countless, countless opinions about life, love, me, my relationship and my ex-boyfriend thrown at me. Some I asked for, and some I didn’t. And lots of them hurt. No one else really knows the ins and outs of a relationship or a break-up, and to be honest I didn’t (and still don’t) even feel like I know the full story of my own. What I do know is that feelings don’t disappear overnight and it hurts to hear people speak poorly of someone you love and care about. But people grapple for answers and in their attempt to support me, they tried to explain away the situation. It would be easy for me to jump on the band wagon of blame, hatred and annoyance that other people tend to head towards, and at times I have fallen into this trap. But it’s also important to wade through, figure out and then acknowledge the truth. This has been a process for me, figuring out exactly what happened. But part of the painful truth is that the relationship fell victim to my own self-sabotage. I didn’t sabotage the relationship on purpose, I wanted nothing more than for that relationship to continue. However, I was so deeply trapped in my feelings of not being good enough and held captive by the belief that I didn’t deserve it, that I pushed and pushed until it broke. And it wasn’t until I felt it slipping through my fingers that I realised what I had done and what I had lost. That’s the reason why I’m often quick to defend my ex-boyfriend and his actions, and it’s the reason why I have to learn to forgive myself as much as anyone else involved in the situation. Sometimes it hurts to tell the truth, I could hide all of this behind lies and blame, but it’s important if it helps someone else to learn from my mistakes, to look at themselves and those around them, and make a change.

In saying that, something that writing this blog has been really good for is getting to the reality of the situation and a balanced view on it all. Lots of the views expressed through this blog are the views of a girl over the last seven years of her life and in the depths of a break up and are not necessarily a representation of exactly what I believe now. I hear myself in conversations now and I think “Wow that is not the thoughts of the girl I used to be” and it often excites me how much my own mindset has changed.

Rather than focussing on the self-sabotage so much, I want to focus on the difference between me in self-sabotage and me in self-love. Because it is so easy to say “LOVE YOURSELF” but what the heck does that even look like? For me to figure out how to love myself, I actually had to look at how and why I was destroying myself. These examples are specific to me but you may have some of your own or you may be able to relate to some of these.

Methods of self-sabotage I have identified in myself (hopefully they are self-explanatory):

– Negative thinking
– Assuming the thoughts of others
– Belittling myself
– Seeking validation from others
– Pushing people away with moody behaviour

So in a nutshell, what self-love looks like for me now is:

Positive self-talk. It sounds cheesy but it’s an actual game changer. When the voice in your head tells you “you can” instead of “you can’t”, the whole world opens up. When the voice in your head tells you “people really like you and want you around, notice the ways your friends make time for you, support you and tell you they love you, they are telling the truth”, it changes all of your relationships and how you treat yourself and others. This one goes hand in hand with assuming the thoughts of others. I remember one of the first times I had become really conscious of my own thoughts and how they were affecting me, and how I could actually control them: I was out for dinner with a friend and she said something about how she really cared about me and was really stoked to be having dinner with me. I remember saying out loud that for the first time in a long time, I actually believed that. A lot of what I used to do was tell myself what I thought other people were thinking about me, rather than what they were actually telling me or how they were showing me they felt towards me, and I always assumed the worst. For example, at a similar dinner someone may have said the same things and I would have been sitting there thinking, “they don’t really care, they are just saying that out of obligation, they would rather not be here with me at all, they are bored, they aren’t even enjoying this, they don’t even like me” and all the other negative thoughts I could muster and assume. DIABOLICAL. To relationships and friendships. At this point I’m really hoping other people have these thoughts, otherwise I’ve just exposed myself as a bit of a nut case. Maybe you don’t even realise you have them, but slowly, they will eat away at your self-worth and eventually your relationships with those around you.

Now I make a super conscious effort to hear people for exactly what they say to me, I stop and I try to be real with myself. “They are choosing to spend time with me, they do value me, they enjoy spending time with me because they like me as a person and I am a good friend.” When my workmates tell me, I’m doing a good job, I let that in rather than scoffing or putting myself down. When my parents tell me, they love me and they are proud of me, I believe them and I take it on board. When my friends tell me, they appreciate me and love spending time with me, that they value me or think that I am hilarious, I take it all in, I say thank you, and I let it sink in and rest with me rather than brushing it off or running from it. My confidence is so much better for it. But I also don’t let my entire value rest on the thoughts or feelings of others. I have learnt to validate myself and for that to be enough.

Some people would have always looked at me and seen the kind, caring, funny and thoughtful person that I am. Some would have looked at me and seen the girl who loves to help people, who always puts their hand up for an opportunity, and who would do anything for a friend. I always knew that girl was there, she went to Vanuatu to help build a water tank, to Nepal to raise money for people with Leprosy, she became a nurse because she wanted to help others. She put thought and effort into every single gift, organised fun events and holidays for her friends and she would go above and beyond for anyone. But she didn’t feel like anyone else saw her that way. I realise now that my love language is words of affirmation. I need to hear sometimes that what I’m doing is right and that it is being recognised. This was huge in my previous relationship. Towards the end I found myself asking “why” a lot. Why am I loved? Why am I still here? Why is nothing changing? It’s taken me a while to figure out why that started. And I think it’s a mixture of things. When a relationship is fresher, you tend to vocalise your feelings and the things you like about that person more frequently. As the relationship went on, I guess we assumed the other person knew the things we loved about each other and so we stopped saying it. That also means you stop hearing it. This is a fine, fine balance in relationships, I probably needed some more positive affirmation from the relationship in what I was doing well, but at the same time it needs to come from within, otherwise the positive words would just slide right off my silky exterior. Secondly, my expectations got the better of me. I had a picture in my head of what life would be like once I graduated and got a job and entered the real world. I had dreamed so far into my future that I didn’t stop to look at my present and realise that the way I was acting, did not end with the future I had envisioned for myself. Hoping for a healthy relationship or even marriage in the future but not stopping to acknowledge what you are doing in your relationship in the present is like hoping to have a million dollars by the end of the year but never putting a dollar into a savings account. Or hoping to be able to run a marathon but never doing a single training run. It just won’t happen by itself.

I can’t remember a time where I truly loved who I was before this point in my life. I grew up hating my body, I felt unfairly bullied through my intermediate school years and although I had friends through college, I wasn’t confident in myself or my likeability. Here’s the clincher when it comes back around to dating and relationships. I do seriously believe you have to love yourself first before you can have a healthy relationship. As a 16-year-old, I didn’t love myself, and I carried that into my relationship. Yes, we had a loving relationship which clearly had good aspects as it lasted for 6-7 years. But when it came down to it, the foundation was poor in terms of how I felt about myself and how I projected that onto the relationship and how he “must be feeling about me”. It sucks. There’s no other words for me to put to it other than it really sucks that my feelings about myself corroded someone else’s feelings for me and rendered my feelings for them useless.

What’s that famous quote that every parent, teacher and friend feel the need to recite to you when you need a pep talk for a positive attitude?

“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”

This translates to everything else too. When you tell yourself, you are hard to love, you eventually become hard to love. This is true for all relationships, not just romantic ones. Because I felt unworthy of love and I didn’t give it to myself, I found it hard to hear it and believe it and therefore accept it from others. I think if I look back, as a young girl and as a teenager, I just didn’t think I would ever find someone who would love me. I’m not entirely sure where that belief stemmed from, but it followed me into that relationship. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe he loved me, I did, I just didn’t understand why or always feel that it could be true. I would look at my friends or other people I know; beautiful, intelligent, kind and incredibly funny people. And lots of them single. And I would think why the hell do I get to have a relationship (and with someone so great) when these people aren’t being picked? They are far worthier of love than I am, wouldn’t he or anyone else far rather be with someone like them? SO many things wrong with that scenario. But what it boils down to is that when I compared myself to other people, I didn’t feel like I deserved to be picked, I felt like I was the one who should be left on the shelf. Now? I can confidently say “That’s wrong! I’m totally worthy of love.” I’m an incredible human, I’m thoughtful, caring and fun. But above that, I’m worthy of love just because I am. And so are you.

I could not possibly count the number of times my brain has done “what if” scenarios since the break-up last year. Why did I act that way, why didn’t I change my way of thinking in time, why didn’t it work out differently, what an idiot I am for pushing away the person I care about more than any other human on the earth. And to be honest the “old Bernie” probably would have let those thoughts consume her and push her further into a hole. But mostly I find myself thinking, “what would have happened with the relationship if I had been the person that I am today, with the knowledge and the growth that I have now?” And the answer that I always come to is that I wouldn’t be this person, it just wouldn’t have happened. I can’t change the past. I can’t go back and teach myself these things earlier. It’s an absolute waste of who I am if I sit in those feelings. What I can do is offer myself forgiveness. Offer myself love. Commit to growing and evolving and not living in fear. Take the opportunity to help others by sharing what I have been through and what I have learnt. Be grateful that I learnt these lessons about myself and about life at 23 rather than 53. In the break-up, I lost the one person who I now realise I always counted on to rescue me, (or that I hoped would) and I was forced to rescue myself in a way that only I could do and only I could choose. It went from being a relationship issue that “we” had to deal with, to a personal issue that I had to deal with on my own. I get a lot of “wow you are so much happier now than you were in that relationship” from the people around me. That’s true. I am a much happier person now than I was between say 2016-2018. But that isn’t as simple as me – relationship = happiness. It’s more like me – relationship = huge wake up call = seeking help to change my mindset = a lot of hard work = happiness. I would hate for people to think that the relationship was the sole foundation of my unhappiness because it’s just not true, it was an internal issue that I had to deal with myself.

Fun fact about me: I love country music. It’s what you will find playing in my car 95% of the time, unless someone has forced me to play something else. One day, I was listening to one of my favourite playlists when a song called “Most people are good” came on. It talks about all the pain of the world and how when you look at the news etc, it all appears to be bad, all the time. But that actually the majority of people going about their day to day lives are good people. I believe that. Anyway, in the song there is a line that says: “I believe we gotta forgive and make amends, ‘cause nobody gets a second chance to make new old friends.”

You don’t get a second chance to make new “old” friends. Cherish the long-standing friendships you have. I started thinking about all the people I’ve made amends with in the last six months. People that I had pushed away, said rude things to, ignored or just been grumpy around. People who hadn’t stayed in touch and so I felt like I just wasn’t good enough for them. Self sabotage didn’t just exist in my romantic relationship. I didn’t think I was likeable enough to deserve friends. I didn’t think I was fun, funny or kind. I felt like I was someone other people tolerated having around but no one really wanted to know. And so to avoid being hurt and rejected, I pushed away first. I didn’t realise it at the time but I guess what I was doing was acting out so that when I did “inevitably” get rejected, I could tell myself it was because of my actions and not because of who I am as a person. Just so you know, this is a warped way of thinking and I recognise that. It wasn’t until I was speaking to a counsellor that I realised it could have stemmed as far back as my childhood where I felt excluded and bullied for no reason at all. When I let my guard down and began apologising and explaining what had been happening for me over the past few years, I could see it starting to click for people. I was brave, I said I was sorry for how I had treated those people and I’m so grateful that many of those people chose to forgive me and so many friendships have been repaired, reinstated and even surpassed where they had been previously, because it’s true, the history and years of friendship you share is important. If you feel like there is someone you need to make amends with, just take a step and try, like the song says, most people are good and I believe most people will accept an apology.

Mending a friendship or relationship doesn’t just end at “I’m sorry” and magically just fall into place. I had to do a tonne of work on myself, I had to become steadfast in the knowledge that I am worthy of liking and getting to know, that I am fun to spend time with, that I’m a good and thoughtful friend, that I am kind, and that I can change. And as I mentioned earlier, I had to learn to stop assuming what people thought about me, and listen to what they were really saying and how they were showing me they cared and valued me. Equally, I’ve had to be careful to not push my value from one person’s hands to another. I haven’t turned to my friends and required them to love me because I am no longer loved in a relationship. That would defeat the purpose entirely and keep me on the same spinning wheel. But I have been vulnerable, opened myself up, apologised, and made extra time and effort to rebuild relationships. It hasn’t been an easy, breezy, comfortable process but it has been really worth it in terms of the quality of friendships I feel I now have, and I did that. I was brave. I reached out. I made it happen.

So no matter what you are facing, if you only take one thing away from this blog, it is that you are in charge. You create your life. You create who you are. You can forgive yourself. You should forgive yourself. You create your happiness. No one else has that power, nor should you try and give it to anyone else. It took me a while to learn that but it came through strong in 2018. Sure, I had great support in the form of family and friends that told me I would be OK, and they were there for me in lots of ways, but I still had to do it all myself. I had to make the choice to change, to move on, to get out of bed every day, to read books, to write words, to plan things to look forward to, to smile, to laugh, to be open, to be present, to have fun and to forgive myself. I do have regrets, but resenting my past self for things I can’t change gets me absolutely nowhere and keeps me in the cycle of self-resent and self-loathing. Instead I choose to forgive myself, and endeavour to understand why I am the way I am and put time into working on myself, to become the person who I want to be. I choose to take it all as a learning experience, to acknowledge the loss and pain and what brought me there, in the hopes that I won’t land myself in that same hole again.

Our society for a long time has put a negative spin on being self-centered and selfish. Let me say this, it is not selfish to put yourself first, to love yourself, and to believe in yourself. You are also not the only person who stands to benefit from your own self-belief. There is nothing better you can do for those around you than to love and take care of yourself first.

So here I am. A girl that has been through massive change in the last six-seven months. A girl who has learnt more in those months than in many years preceding them. A girl who has changed her ways from self-sabotage to self-love. I am equal parts an entirely new person, and exactly the same person I’ve always been, and I love the Bernie of the past and the Bernie of the present with the same kindness and care they both deserve. If you made it to the end of this absolute novel, then feel free to contact me and redeem a free chocolate fish or something. I’m not even sure if you would believe me when I say I cut out about 2000 words. But seriously, I hope there was something of value in here for you. Otherwise, you truly know the insides of my soul now, so welcome. And as always, please don’t hesitate to reach out if any of this resonates with you. Now go and create the life that your incredible soul deserves: one full of joy, love, reflection and fun.

With all the love and positivity
Bernie xx


Comparison is the thief of joy

“Comparison is the thief of joy”- a saying I’m sure lots of us are familiar with. But have you ever stopped to actively consider how you compare yourself to others and how that affects you and how you feel? I think comparison can be something we do (even if subconsciously) that hugely affects our feelings of contentment, happiness and self-worth. Learning to disable the overwhelming need to compare myself to others has been something that has helped me hugely over the past few months and something that now with hindsight I can see I spent far too much time doing prior to what I guess I’ll call “taking control of my life.”

In the world we live in, I think we are becoming hardwired to comparing aspects of our lives with the lives of others. Maybe this has always been a part of human nature, a way of figuring out social norms and adjusting ourselves to “fit in”, but it hasn’t always been so easy and accessible to compare yourselves to such a multitude of people. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, (to name a few), are all direct windows into the lives of others. The problem with this is that firstly, these are not accurate representations of people’s lives. These are highlight reels. These are edited photos. These are one capture of one second in that persons 24 hour day, or 7 day week. When you start to think about the fact that we compare our entire lives and all the crappy stuff we know about ourselves, all the hurt, pain, stress and struggle we might be feeling, with someone else’s happiest, glorious moments, you quickly realise it really is a ridiculous thing that we are doing, using those platforms to compare our lives. I can guarantee you, not a single person’s life is exactly as it is represented on their social media. It’s not possible. You don’t see their thoughts when they look in the mirror, when they check their bank account or when they go home alone each night. You might see a glimpse of their hardship, or it might seem like their life truly has no troubles, I promise you it’s not true.

The second problem with social media is that it is always available to us. When we are already feeling down about things, when we find ourselves lonely, bored, and susceptible to thinking our life is just crap, we can tap into what others are doing with just a few swipes of a screen. Anytime. Anywhere. How much time do you spend at night or in your spare time, scrolling through these apps and therefore scrolling through other people’s highlights? If it’s more time than you spend thinking about yourself and your own life, it’s out of balance. What would it look like if you put down your phone and started doing some reflecting on your own life? Spending 30 minutes in the evening writing down what you are grateful for or something that you are looking forward to, making goals for yourself, reading a book or learning a new skill. I fear our lives are being wasted spectating and comparing ourselves to others, rather than being who we are and embracing our own moments and opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti social media. I think there can be lots of benefits to it; I really like seeing what people are up to, things being advocated for by using social media as a tool, spreading positive ideas and many other great things. But it becomes dangerous when we are unaware of the way we are interacting with it and the impression it is leaving us with. We need to take responsibility for the way we use social media and how it makes us feel. If seeing others doing fun and exciting things makes you feel a bit crap about yourself, then it’s up to you to figure out how you face that. Unfollow those people, or delete that app entirely, learn to remind yourself regularly that you are only seeing a glimpse of that person’s life. You may need to deal to some of the issues of discontent in your own life and learn how to appreciate the good in your own rather than just seeing the good in other people’s lives. Whatever it is, recognise how you feel and don’t let yourself stay in that place of torture by comparison. Being smart on social media is quickly becoming one of the most important ways we can look after ourselves in today’s world. Follow things that inform you, inspire you, build you up and make you feel good about yourself, and ditch the things that do the opposite.

Learn to see the life behind the pictures. Take me for an example, my instagram is full of photos of me at the beach, trips around New Zealand, out in nature, with friends, doing fun things. These photos are all real. I lived each one of those moments. I’ve got lots of fun memories and those photos for me help me to reflect and remember the fun things I’ve done. It’s not fake, but it truly is a highlight reel. I know that. My friends know that. Because I’m honest with them. You may look at my life or someone else’s and think you want it. Think you want to be that person or live in their shoes. But do you? You may want my fun experiences or my awesome friendships, but do you want my hurt and pain? Do you want the things I struggle with and the sacrifices I have made? Do you want my insecurities? There aren’t any photos of me being dragged from my bed to go to work at 3am. Or crying in my car because I hear an old song that brings memories back. There aren’t photos of the days where my face was permanently tear-stained, or captured moments of my phone calls with friends where they have had to talk me through my pain. There is no camera waiting every time I lie awake at night, or sit bolt upright from a nightmare. There are some photos where I was happy in that exact moment, but at another point in the same day, the roller coaster of grief sweeps through and I’m debilitated by loss and pain again. I’d be lying if I said some of those trips and fun adventures weren’t an attempt to run away, cheer myself up or make a new life on this clean slate. I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t acutely aware of how much my life has changed, and what the “old me” would have been doing. The important thing to me is that I have friends who I trust that I can talk to about the hard things, that I can be real with and go deeper than my happy social media posts with. Social media isn’t there to give a summary of my entire life, it is just a highlight reel, and when I recognise that for myself, it is suddenly very easy to realise: it’s the same for everyone else.

In saying that, this isn’t just a social media fueled issue. We compare ourselves constantly to the people around us in the “real world” too. Those we know and those we don’t. We compare jobs, relationships, friendships, experiences, holidays, finances, academic achievements, family situations, health and fitness, all parts of our bodies, cars, houses, fashion sense, religion, status, humour, politics, posessions. You name it, we find a way to compare ourselves. Is that ok? Is that healthy? Based on my own experience I would say no.

Looking back, I can now see that at my unhappiest, I was just living a life where I constantly compared every aspect of my life to the lives of those around me, and tried to fit their expectations of me. This is where you lose yourself. I wasn’t happy with my body, my personality, my job, what I was doing with my spare time, and my perceived friendships. I would look at others and see that they had it better than I did. They were fitter, had better friendships, better jobs, and did more fun things than I did. They were funnier, more likeable and easier to get along with. Or so I told myself. Back then I would have probably said the only thing I was happy with was my relationship. And so I made it the centre of my world and the only thing I needed. This created an astronomical amount of pressure on both people in the relationship to keep it being the thing that made me happy, essentially causing it to crumble. And also meant once it was gone, I realised I was unhappy about every aspect of my life. That’s a problem when you find yourself in a place where you don’t like who you are and the life you live. Added to this, because I had made someone else my happiness and my validation for such a long period of time, the worst period of comparison came when the person I loved moved on with someone new. Was I not as pretty as her? As kind as her? As interesting as her? Was she better than I was? Did she deserve love and happiness more than I did? I wallowed in these thoughts for a while. And these are very raw thoughts, but thoughts I’m sure anyone going through a similar situation has had. Whether it’s a break up, a loss of friendship or a rejection from a job, we start to compare ourselves. That was a scary place to find myself in. I already felt as though I was going through the hardest time of my life, and then having someone to directly compare to, someone I felt was chosen over me for what I wanted, just added a new dimension of pain. I knew I had to deal to those thoughts quickly. I decided right then and there I wasn’t going to compare myself to her, or to anyone else for that matter. It took me a while, but I got to a point where I felt content. I am pretty, and kind, and interesting. I am a good person. And she is pretty, and kind, and interesting. And I believe she is a good person. We have similarities, and we have differences. But we are both people worthy of being loved. Being in a relationship doesn’t define me, and I am no less worthy because one person chose to have a relationship with someone else. One person’s opinion doesn’t have the power to tell me who I am or define my worth.

The question when you find yourself unhappy is, are you actually unhappy with your circumstances or are you unhappy because you are comparing yourself to someone else’s circumstances? For example, are you actually unhappy in your job, or do you feel unhappy because all your friends do is rave about their work perks and how much they love their job? Are you actually unhappy in your relationship, or do you feel unhappy because you compare it to some loved up rom-com or a famous couple you follow on Instagram? Do you really hate your body, or have you become so prone to comparing yourself to every model that flashes across billboards and magazines that you have decided that your body sucks because you don’t look exactly like them? When you take away the element of comparison, it is far easier to recognise and appreciate the things you enjoy about your job, even though it’s not the same as your friends. It is easier to see how your partner is really great, and open your eyes to the things they do to show they love you, even though it’s not bringing you 100 red roses like the famous guy on Instagram did. And without comparison, everyone’s bodies are amazing and beautiful. The fact that we can walk, run, laugh, swim, create humans, play sport, travel the world and the thousands of other things our bodies are capable of, means every body is worth being celebrated, no comparison required. Again, someone else’s beauty, happiness, success etc etc etc does not (ever) take away from your own.

As soon as I stopped comparing myself to others, trying to be someone for someone else, for social media, or for more friends or for any of those methods of validation, I found a freedom to be my true self, and immense satisfaction and joy in who I am. I went from being someone who was incredibly unhappy and frankly dissatisfied with life, to someone who loves life and understands herself. And my favourite part about my life now? It’s not a relationship, or a job, it’s not a holiday or my bank account. My favourite part of my life is me. I love being me. I love that I love the ocean. I love that I am brave (enough to actually run into the ocean). I love that I would do anything to see someone else smile. I love that I am thoughtful. I love that I remember little details and conversations I’ve had with people. I love that I can write. I love that I can articulate how I feel. I love that I am strong. I love that I have allowed myself to change and grow and that has taken guts. I love my blue eyes and my curly brown hair. I love that I can recall song lyrics to almost every song I’ve ever heard. I love that I can be open and honest. I love that I know how to be silly and how to be serious. I love that I am witty. I love to hear myself laugh out loud. I love that I’m a great organiser but that I’ll always jump on board a spontaneous adventure too. Suddenly I’m exactly who I want to be, and the irony is I’ve always been most of these things. I was already this person at the time where I didn’t love who I was, I just couldn’t see it. The difference between then and now is, I’m not comparing myself to anyone else. Instead of focusing on others, I’m focussing on me. I’m living to my own standard. It doesn’t mean I can’t change or want to be better at something. In fact, I have changed and I am better. At the start of this year I was not an easy person to be around, I was grumpy and sometimes mean, I pushed people away and I chased various things in an attempt to make myself “feel happy”. No matter what I did I couldn’t find it. Because I was comparing myself to others and I wasn’t being myself. You can’t be your authentic self when you are trying to be like someone else. And if you aren’t being yourself you will eventually become unhappy, trapped inside a person that you are not. I’m a better person; a joyful, kind and loving person, to myself and others, when I’m not comparing myself to anyone else.

Aside from making you feel crap about yourself, comparing can also very quickly turn into envy and jealousy. And we all know they are not pretty feelings, especially with people we are close to and genuinely care about. It’s one thing to get jealous about people you don’t know (and remember you don’t know their whole story) but it can really affect your personal relationships if you let comparison and jealousy creep into your life. What happens when your friend gets a boyfriend and you compare that to your lack of one? What happens when they buy a house and you compare that to the fact that you ate cornflakes for dinner because it’s pay day tomorrow and you have no money left for the week? What happens when they take a trip of a lifetime overseas and you are left at home working and living your “boring, mundane life”? Maybe it’s true that when you compare all these things, the grass is greener on the other side and that’s where you would rather be. But do you know who I want to be? The friend who celebrates my friends and their achievements and their happiness. I want to be stoked for my friends when they find love, happiness, success and fun. And the best way I know how to do that is to choose not to compare. To subjectively look at their life as their life and my life as my life. Someone else’s achievement and success, does not take away from your own. Say that to yourself if you feel that familiar pang of jealousy creep in. Their success does not take away from your own. You will be a better friend for it, and you will be happier within yourself, I promise.

While comparison is the thief of joy, in my experience, joy can be the thief of comparison. It’s almost like paper, scissors, rock. Comparison takes away joy but joy takes away discontent and when you are content, comparison doesn’t stand a chance in entering your realm of thought. When you allow yourself to appreciate yourself and your life, you don’t feel the need to put yourself up against others and see where you fit on their scale of success or achievement. Stay focussed on yourself, train your mind to find joy, appreciation and gratitude in your own life, allow yourself to celebrate others without it taking away from your own happiness. Trap yourself when you hear thoughts of comparison enter your mind, hold those thoughts captive and tell yourself the truth. The truth that you are just as worthy of love, friendship, happiness and success as any person you could ever compare yourself to. The truth that everyone has some form of struggle and pain at one time or another. Stop comparing and start loving yourself and others for exactly who you are and who they are, and I hope you will feel the difference.

Bernie ❤️

It’s ok (not) to be ok

This week is mental health awareness week and it’s got me thinking a little bit about my own thoughts, feelings and experiences around mental health. I’ve kind of alluded to mental health in a few of my other blogs and it is quite central to a lot of my ideas and things that I’ve been thinking about over the past few months. (Disclaimer: I’m not a mental health expert nor do I claim to be, these are just my thoughts and not intended to be medical advice!)

I like to think of mental health as a spectrum, and I believe that everyone is always at some point on that spectrum. Sometimes we only stop to consider our mental health when it slips down the spectrum and starts to affect us in negative ways, but the truth is that it is always there, we all have a brain, so we all have mental health. Therefore I think we should all be concerned and invested in learning and understanding mental health and how to take care of ourselves and others.

How many times have we heard it said, “it’s ok not to be ok”? It’s become the catch phrase for mental health in our country. And I want to say first and foremost that I totally agree and support that it is ok not to be ok. But I also want to challenge that we say it with meaning behind it. That we stop saying “it’s ok not to be ok” but then continue to treat people differently, holding them at arm’s length, or judging them for not being ok. I think it has become such throw around language that we don’t actually realise what we are saying sometimes. When someone opens up to you, makes themselves vulnerable and explains their struggles, that is often a cry for help. When you say “it’s ok not to be ok”, you are actually (hopefully) saying, what you are experiencing is normal, and although it is difficult, you are doing ok, you will be ok, and I will support you. You are saying I don’t judge you. I don’t think less of you. I don’t see it as a weakness. There isn’t something “wrong” with you. You aren’t broken beyond repair. Its part of the human journey. It’s ok.

While I have never actually had a diagnosis of a mental illness and so I can’t speak for that and the no doubt incredibly difficult time that it is, I’ve definitely had times where I’ve known “I’m not ok” (and probably some undiagnosed stuff going on for a while there.) And there were times when I made myself vulnerable and told people I trusted that I felt that way, and I was met with no response. This was damaging for me at a time where I was struggling, and discouraged me from telling anyone else how I was feeling for fear of being met with the same response. Hello prolonged and deepened state of feeling that way and feeling that no one cared about it. So I feel pretty passionately that one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, our friends and our family is learn a little bit about mental health, recognising issues, the right questions to ask and where to get help. You don’t have to become a trained psychologist but knowing a few simple yet important questions and then supporting them to seek further help (this part is key, it isn’t on you to “fix” someone), could be the best thing you ever do for someone you love and care about. None of us are exempt from mental health issues entering our lives in some shape or form at some point along our journey, whether it’s us directly, our best friend, girlfriend, uncle, grandma, brother, colleague. We are all just human, and it is ok not to be ok. Say it, but really make sure you believe it and you mean it when you do, and act accordingly.

I’d also like to add to the list of things we should say, with meaning, to ourselves and to others: it’s ok to be ok. This one has been huge for me this year. To give myself permission to be happy, to grow, to change, to accept myself and be content with who I am and where I’m at in all aspects of my life. The death of a great friend, the break up of a long and central relationship in my life, was actually the catalyst (read: kick up the bum) I needed to wake up, stop floating along in my own life and take some responsibility for myself and my own mental and emotional health. Would I wish those events on anyone? Absolutely not. It was the hardest time in my life by a million miles. But am I proud of the way I’ve handled it? Absolutely yes. I turned sadness, grief and almost incomprehensible loss, into growth, acceptance, love and joy. Did I feel guilty about it? Heck yes. Sometimes I still do. I have to tell myself every day that it is ok to be ok. It doesn’t mean I loved anyone any less, that I didn’t care, or that that friendship and that relationship meant nothing to me. It doesn’t mean I can’t still be sad about all that has happened. Those things couldn’t be further from the truth. But I also have no control over either of those events. Very early on in the grief process I wrote two lists, one of things I could not control, and one of the things I could control. Featured on the list of things I could not control, things such as the death of my friend, the choice of my boyfriend to break up with me and all of his choices forward from there, what other people were going to think and say about me following the break up, how our friends were going to react, and the weather (even in grief I’m a comedian). But more importantly on the list of things I could control: my own actions and reactions to the events happening in my life, the way I spoke about the relationship, the break up, and the people involved, what I chose to share, and where I choose to invest my time moving forward. I took that control and I ran with it. I would recommend this process to anyone dealing with anything they find overwhelming. Write the list, accept what you can’t control, and commit to working on what you can. I sought help from a counsellor, I read books, I started writing daily, I made myself vulnerable to my friends, I explained where I had been and where I was going. I apologised to people that I felt I needed to make amends with. I made a commitment to myself that I was going to stand by myself, invest time in myself and love myself through every day of grief and loss and pain. I promised myself that I would do the things that make me happy and bring me joy. And that I would be ok, and that that would be ok. The result? It wasn’t all smooth sailing, it was hard, I had and still have, rough days. But overall I now have the healthiest mindset and outlook on life I have had as far back as I can remember, an ability to process what I’m feeling and deal with it, stronger friendships, deeper insight and much more contentment with my life and myself. For those things and more, I’m grateful.

Sometimes it can feel like mental health issues are consuming our generation and our society. Sometimes I look around and feel like I know more people that are struggling than are not. Like I said in the beginning, it is ok not to be ok. But it’s also ok to look after yourself, to not get pulled in and dragged down, and to put yourself first. You don’t have to be struggling with your mental health to be “normal”. You don’t need to feel guilty if the people around you are struggling and you feel fine. Cherish it, and keep working on it even when you do feel fine. I love the five ways to wellbeing endorsed by the Mental Health Foundation of NZ. I was sitting at work and noticed a leaflet on the table and when I read them, I realised that without having actively known the specified five ways, they were all things that had helped me over the last few months. If you aren’t familiar with the five ways to wellbeing, they are:

1. Give- your time, your words, your presence.

2. Be active- do what you can, enjoy what you do, move your mood.

3. Keep learning- encourage new experiences, see opportunities, surprise yourself.

4. Connect- talk and listen, be there, feel connected.

5. Take notice- remember the simple things that give you joy.

No matter if you feel like you are struggling with your mental health, on a downward spiral, coming out of some struggles or like you’ve reached the peak, implementing even just one of these five ways is bound to improve your wellbeing to some extent. I would encourage you to read each one and think of examples of how you have done this in the last week or two, and if you can’t think of any, then how are you going to over the next week? Do it for you, because you are worth investing time and effort into.

Like I said, not a mental health expert but from my own experiences and from the experiences of people around me, sometimes improving your mental health can be a bit like being stuck on a see-saw that doesn’t quite touch down on either side. You are on the path to wanting to be better, but you fear change and moving on. Maybe it is because you feel like you get attention from the people you love when you are facing problems. Maybe it is because you just don’t know what it’s like to not have the struggles to focus on. Or maybe you feel like your mental health issues have become part of your identity and just “how you are”. There are so many reasons we fear letting go. But can I tell you something? You are loved and you are worthy, even when you are ok, and even when you are not ok. Too often it seems like our worth is based on how we are. People want to be around you because you are happy, people give you attention because you are sad. It can be hard for us to disconnect this from controlling how we are or how we present ourselves and just let ourselves be. You are not and will never be defined by your mental health. The people who really love and care for you should be there for you regardless of the highs and lows. And all they will want is for you to live to your fullest potential. So surround yourself with people who are happy for your happiness and sad for your sadness, but allow you to feel what you feel and don’t make you feel bad or try and project how they think you should be feeling. This is the importance of honesty and vulnerability, you are the only one who really knows how you are. Ask for help when you need it, share your highs and lows with people you trust, and commit to your own journey.

Be brave, ask the people you care about if they are ok this week, and respect the answer that they give you. If you have been waiting for a sign that you need to reach out and tell someone you are not ok, consider this your sign. Make yourself vulnerable, I know it’s scary, but you can do it. And if you truly don’t feel like you have someone you can be vulnerable with or that you can trust, we even have a solution for that in New Zealand! To avoid feeling like a Stuff article, I won’t post them all here, but for a start you can free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you take the time this week to reflect on your own mental health journey.

Bernie ❤️


The last few months for me have all been about growth, healing and connection. When I start to think about these things, I become very aware of how vulnerable I have been, and how vulnerable I have made myself in order to grow, and heal, and connect.

Being vulnerable is defined as “the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.” Aaaand when you say it like that, it’s not entirely surprising that people tend to run away from the word vulnerability, and being vulnerable themselves. Who wants to be exposed to the possibility of attack or harm? Not me! We spend our lives trying to avoid harm. We are built and wired to protect ourselves. We dislike being vulnerable, it is uncomfortable and it is scary.

But basically, we as humans could be defined as “vulnerable”. We are never really entirely safe from physical or emotional harm. We are not in control. We see it on the news, people who go to work, and are harmed and don’t come home to see their family that night. Parents, siblings and children who are just going from A to B, or heading away on holiday, taken from this earth while riding in their car, something most of us do everyday. Terrorist attacks, natural disasters, house fires, freak accidents; human life is vulnerable. Even when we fall in love, make friends, love our family, we become vulnerable, exposed to the possible outcome of loss, pain, hurt and heartbreak. I could go on for hours about the specific ways we are physically and emotionally susceptible, but I think you get the point: when we are alive, we are vulnerable to hurt and pain.

When I first think of the word “vulnerable”, I imagine a little deer walking out on the open plains while a lion waits to pounce on it (and David Attenborough commentating in the background). And when we talk about “the vulnerable” in our society, we are often referring to those who can’t necessarily look after themselves, particularly babies and the elderly and those with debilitating conditions. We look down on vulnerability as being a weakness, and therefore, many of us spend our lives trying to avoid being vulnerable, to avoid being weak.

What we don’t focus on is the power in vulnerability. This is something I have been witness to recently. I believe that some of the best things in life are gained or achieved when we can be vulnerable. When you apply for a job, you make yourself vulnerable to rejection and disappointment. When you apologise, you make yourself vulnerable to remaining unforgiven. And when you forgive, you make yourself vulnerable to being hurt again. When you say “I love you”, you make yourself vulnerable to unreciprocated love. When you tell your friend “I’m struggling and need help”, you make yourself vulnerable to judgement or dismissal. When you speak your mind, share something you are passionate about, or state your honest opinion, you make yourself vulnerable to the opposing opinions of others. But if you lived your life without doing any of these things, why would your life be like? No opportunities, no connection? Making yourself vulnerable is important. It’s what gets you the job, the relationship, the friendships, the experiences, the joy and the happiness and the connection those things bring you, it all comes from being able to be vulnerable in the first place.

Note that I say, “you make yourself vulnerable”. That’s what I want to focus on. Because yes we are inherently vulnerable creatures; anything can happen in a flash. But in those instances, our vulnerability is out of our control. However there are times when we need to choose to make ourselves vulnerable. There are times where we could box ourselves in, stay safe and comfortable and avoid or eliminate potential risks. But in order to grow, we have to choose vulnerability.

Making yourself vulnerable requires strength. It takes a strong person to open themselves up, to take off the armour and expose their chest, knowing full well they may be harmed, but also knowing they may thrive. Being vulnerable is being willing to do something knowing there are no guarantees. The difference, I think, between someone who is prepared to make themselves vulnerable and someone who is not, is hope and courage. A person who has no hope, would not bother opening up to a friend, or applying for a job, or entering a relationship, because they don’t believe anything good can come from it. But when you have hope that something better awaits you, that there is help and light on the other side of vulnerability, suddenly it becomes easier to open up, to trust and to let go of fear of judgement or failure. It also requires courage, because even hope leaves room for disappointment. You can hope the other person will say “I love you too” when you say it first, but they may not. You can hope the people at your dream job will read your CV and push the contract your way, but they may not. You can hope your friends value your friendship as much as you do, but they may not. So yes, you can hope that something may happen, but courage gives you the ability to make yourself vulnerable, knowing that it may not work out.

When we live in a world where everyone tries to survive by their own strength, and insists on avoiding vulnerability, we actually live in a world of lies. This is a world where we are lead to believe that no one else is struggling like we are, that no one else has doubts or hardship. It’s a world where everyone has it together, except us. Without vulnerability, we are isolated. Being vulnerable with the people you trust, clears the smoke screen away from the pain and shame and struggles you are dealing with. This doesn’t mean you have to start posting on your social media account about how hard your life is and airing your dirty laundry for everyone to see. It doesn’t mean that every single conversation you have with your friends or family has to be about your hardships and struggles. It just means sharing truthfully with a select few people that you trust and care about, and that you know care about you. And when you start to have those conversations, and when both parties are vulnerable and let their guard down, this is when you start to realise you are not so different after all, you aren’t the only one who feels or has felt this way, and you definitely aren’t alone in this world.

For me, I have wins and losses with vulnerability. We all do. There is no promise that your vulnerability always has a happy ending. For example, I’ve mentioned previously that I’ve recently been through a break up, I was vulnerable in that relationship because I loved that person and it wasn’t returned. But since the break up, I’ve been able to talk through my real thoughts and feelings about that relationship and about myself with a select few people that I trust and there has been so much light on this side of making myself vulnerable in that space. When I finally voiced what I was feeling truthfully, to the right people who loved and cared for me, I was mostly met with a “me too”, “I’ve been there”, “I thought I was the only one”, “I had no idea you thought that”, “I feel honoured that you trust me to tell me this”, “I’ll be here for you”, and “I understand you a lot better now”. My vulnerability created connection. People saw me for exactly who I am. And they loved me the same. They felt closer to me and they actually were able to be vulnerable with me in return. Not only did I get a lot of security and support, I learnt so much about some of my closest, long-time friends. And so much about humans in the process.

This part is for the girls: get your girls around you. Relationships are awesome, but they aren’t and will never be the only people you need. Friendships with guys are fun, full of laughter and adventure, but I feel fairly confident in saying girls need girls. We need to know we think alike, that we aren’t alone, that we are “normal”, we need to watch others who have gone through hard times, survived it, and ask them to help show us the way. Invest in your girl gang, they will be the ones there to pick you up when all kinds of poop hits the fan. I am beyond grateful for the strong, intelligent and caring females I have in my life. If reading this you think “I don’t have those people in my life”, make it a priority to find some. Find a place whether it’s a sports team, church community, youth group, your work place, find a place where you can connect with people and make those people your people. And guess what, you might have to be vulnerable! You might need to say “Hey I could do with some better friendships in my life” and you might need to step up and be a friend too. Make it a priority to surround yourself with good people. If you are a female reading this and it resonates with you and you want to be a part of a community where people are open to vulnerability but don’t know where to start, I’d highly recommend checking out, Courtney is doing some incredible work creating a community of like-minded and supportive ladies and I’m all about it!!

This isn’t to say vulnerability is only for girls. No no no. Quite the opposite. Let’s look at the mental health of our men in New Zealand. The “man of the house”. A picture of strength, braun and steady emotion. There is something in our culture that says “she’ll be right”, you take a harden up pill and you move on. I’d just like to point out: it isn’t working. I would love to give permission to every man to be vulnerable. To vocalise their struggles. To find the person or people they can trust and ask for help. I would love to see a generation of boys who are taught to talk about what they are feeling and what they are going to do about it. So this part for the guys: step up. If you want to be tough and strong and actually make a difference? Be vulnerable. Set a new standard. You don’t have to be strong and bear the world on your shoulders, no one is asking it of you. Humble yourself and be vulnerable before your friends. Lead by example. Be open. And in doing so you encourage your friends, your brothers, to do the same. The easiest way to give someone else permission to be vulnerable, is to do so yourself.

Whenever anyone has ever been vulnerable with me, it has never made me think they are weak. When my friends are vulnerable with me, I feel proud of them, respect for them, and I feel honoured and trusted by them. It is a privilege for someone to be vulnerable with you, and when we start to treat it that way, we encourage it in our wider culture.

You are blessed when someone is vulnerable with you. When someone says, “I care about you enough to enter this relationship, knowing I might get hurt.” Or “I trust you enough to tell you that I’m really struggling at work/home/in my relationship right now.” Or “I can’t do this on my own and I need your help.” Or even “I failed at this and I’m not proud of it.” There are so many ways that we can be vulnerable with each other. It is such a great privilege in this life to be able to help someone else, and that opportunity comes when the other person is vulnerable with us. Whether that means being a listening ear, giving advice, providing fun and laughter, supporting financially, giving a roof over their head, referring them to someone who you know who can help or just telling them the truth about how you see them and giving them some perspective. If someone trusts you enough to be vulnerable with you, consider yourself lucky, and take the opportunity to invest in that journey.

Tips for being vulnerable:

1. Choose people you trust. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean sharing your deepest fears and secrets with every Tom, Dick and Harry. It means carefully selecting people you know care for you and have your best interests at heart.

2. Be honest. With yourself and with others. True vulnerability exists when you are honest and you let yourself be seen exactly as you are.

3. Be a safe place. Be a trustworthy person. When someone comes to you and shares what is happening for them, respect that. Don’t turn it into gossip. And if someone needs help, recognise it and do your best to help or refer to someone who can.

4. Accept failed attempts and try again. This one is especially important if you are really struggling with your own mental health or another pressing issue. If you need help and you make yourself vulnerable and you are not met with a helpful response, don’t be discouraged. Try again. Find the right person who will help. You are important.

I hope that when you need to, you find the strength, courage and hope to make yourself vulnerable. And I hope that when people are vulnerable with you, you accept the privilege and act in a kind and caring way. When we do both these things we create a better world bit by bit of people who are connected and who allow others to fully be themselves and express themselves and grow. Make yourself vulnerable, take the leap you’ve been too scared to take. It’s where your life is made, in the moments you choose to be vulnerable.

Bernie xx


Appreciate yourself

Self love is all the buzz on social media right now, and that’s a great thing to be encouraged, especially at a time where it can feel like we are drowning in mental health issues in our society. But what does it actually look like to love or appreciate yourself? Learning to appreciate yourself is maybe the hardest form of appreciation in my opinion. This blog gets a bit more personal and specific to me, but I’m the only person I can really, truthfully shed light on. I hope by being a teensy bit vulnerable and sharing a little about my own self discovery, it may encourage someone else to recognise their own hang ups (we all have them) and start to appreciate themselves, or even just spend time reflecting on what that means. Appreciating yourself is such a massive topic, and when I started writing I realised there were so many aspects for me that had changed in my journey towards appreciating me. The two I felt the most pulled towards when I was writing this are self validation and accepting (even appreciating) my personality traits.

In the last blog I talked about appreciating the people around you because you never know what is around the corner. If I’m honest, being appreciative of others has never been a huge challenge for me. I would say that generally I’m quite an outward-focussed and grateful person, I make an effort to say thank you and show the people around me that I value and appreciate them. If I was to list some of my best qualities I would say that I am thoughtful and generous (presumably thanks to Mum and Dad, two of the most generous people I know). Which is great, I love that about myself and about my parents. I spend a lot of time thinking of the perfect gift for someone, organising a surprise for them, planning holidays or events for my friend groups, I would never hesitate to pay for someone else’s lunch or coffee and just generally spend a lot of time thinking of any way I could make someone else’s day or life better. It’s the reason I chose to be a nurse, and the reason I travelled to Nepal and Vanuatu, because I love to help others. And these are all things I enjoy doing and I am proud of, but living with such an outward focus over a long period of time, actually resulted in me neglecting myself.

It also meant that I placed a lot of my own worth in the appreciation I received from others for the things I was doing for them. As I said earlier, being appreciative and grateful comes quite naturally to me, and so often when I wasn’t met with the thanks I felt I deserved, I would perceive I wasn’t appreciated at all, my own self worth took a hit, and I would embark on the aforementioned treadmill of approval and appreciation. And as I also mentioned in the previous blog, this started to eat away at my relationships, as I felt undervalued and unappreciated. Basically, it took someone saying to me, point blank “you don’t love yourself enough” for me to stop and consider what that really meant, and when I realised it was true, I wanted to know why and how I could change it. Because how silly is that, that I wanted to love others, but I refused to give that love to myself and therefore found it hard to believe that anyone else would love me either. I turned someone not saying “I appreciate you” or “thanks” after each thing that I perceived as being helpful or kind, as them not liking or loving me, and decided if they didn’t like me then neither should I. It makes me roll my eyes at my former self now even just writing it. But also shows how real the affect of “silent appreciation” can be. Now, looking back, I can see those people probably, if not absolutely, were grateful for what I was doing for them, but they just didn’t say it in the words I desperately wanted to hear.

Flash forward a few months and I can truly say I don’t feel the need for validation from other people anymore. Where I was constantly seeking reassurance from others, I can now tell myself what I know I need to hear. Being free from needing others to validate me, actually means I am also far more free to do kind and generous things, and understand that it is fine to not hear a resounding thanks every single time, because my validation of myself is enough, and my self worth doesn’t come from my good deeds or someone else’s acknowledgement. However, learning how important it was for me to hear appreciation has also helped to reinforce how important it is that I express my thanks to others, and helped me to notice more often when people do express their gratitude. I’ve learnt to appreciate myself so that others don’t have to do it for me. Sure, it’s still nice to hear appreciation every once in a while, but I’m not putting my value in it or in the hands or words of someone else- and it feels good!! Learning to validate and affirm yourself in any situation gives you power over your own life. Do you want to go for that new job? Only you can tell yourself you are capable. Do you want to run a marathon? It doesn’t matter if your Mum thinks you can or can’t do it, you need to tell yourself you can or you never will. Appreciate and validate yourself and your own abilities, and you may go farther than you have ever dreamed, it’s in your hands.

The other part about appreciating myself that I wanted to focus on was accepting who I am. If I was to list a few more top personality traits about myself to add to the thoughtful, generous, extrovert I have already described, I would say that I am stubborn, sensitive, a planner, very loyal and highly driven by emotions. If I had written or read that list a year or even six months ago, I would have found most of those things about myself annoying or frustrating. I hated being stubborn, I wished I was more easy going and relaxed. I didn’t enjoy being sensitive, it meant I cried easily and that’s just embarrassing! I wished I didn’t need a plan for everything, I wanted to be the carefree person who just went along for the ride. Sometimes even my loyalty to others annoyed me, it felt like I cared too much, or more than the other person cared about me, and I run the risk of being hurt. Maybe all or some of these things are true, but sometimes you just need to take the “negative Nancy” goggles off and see yourself for the greatness that you are. Yes, I can be stubborn. But that makes me a great advocate, it means that I work hard and don’t give up easily, and it means that I don’t take no for an answer when things are important to me. Yes, I am sensitive and highly emotionally driven. But that means I wear my heart on my sleeve, there really is no guessing game with me. I’m also very empathetic, and my ability to feel things deeply actually helps me to relate to others. Yes, I am a planner! But those plans have created some of the best memories of my life. So many holidays, getaways, parties and events that may not have taken place if I wasn’t able to plan ahead (and others have benefited from these times too!) It also means I generally always have something to look forward to, because I have planned in advance. And yes, I am loyal. I would climb mountains for the people that I love. And I stick by them through thick and thin. Maybe it means I stand to get hurt when other people aren’t as loyal to me in return, but it also makes me a trustworthy friend, a loving daughter and one day hopefully an awesome wife and Mum. The people I love know that they can count on me and I will do whatever I can to help and support them. Suddenly, by changing perspective, all the things I had loathed about myself for so long are flipped to become the very things I love about myself and I am proud of. I didn’t change who I was, I just changed the goggles and began to appreciate the things those qualities brought to my life. The most powerful thing someone has said to me was to recognise the difference between your personality and your character. Those personality traits are what make me, me and I probably wouldn’t ever be able to change them. But my character is using those traits well, through the second set of goggles, to serve myself and others positively. For those who once again are writers like me, I would highly recommend writing down the first five or six words you would use to describe yourself and assessing whether you view those as positive or negative attributes (or both) and how you can change the way you view yourself or use those traits for the better!

Become your own number one fan. I don’t mean you need to have a shrine to yourself or prance around singing your own praises and boasting about how great you are to everyone on the street. But be your own cheerleader, speak kind words to yourself, remind yourself of what you are good at, what you are proud of and what you enjoy. Spend time alone. Do what you love. Be who you want to be and grow and change. But appreciate and love who you are every step of the way.

If you are struggling, I promise, you can change the way you view yourself, and when you do, it will change your world. Just remember, you are the person that has got you through every single obstacle in your life up until now. You are the foundation of every friendship that you have. You are the person you will wake up with, every single morning for the rest of your life. You heal your papercuts and your bruises, you put yourself to bed at night, you get yourself to work in the morning, you choose clothes to dress yourself every day. You cry for the things that break your heart, and you laugh at the things that tickle your unique sense of humour. You remember to give yourself food, water, to keep breathing. You will be on every holiday you ever take, you will be at every family event, you take yourself with you to every job and in every career change. You have culminated your likes and dislikes, your favourite food, favourite movie, favourite song. You have created your life up until this point, and you are the person who creates every day from here onwards. And maybe only you will ever really think the way you do. It sounds cliche but no one is like you. No one can be you. And likewise you are the only you that you will ever be. Don’t waste away your days wishing you were someone else, or that your personality or circumstances were different. Love yourself, and if there are parts that you don’t necessarily love? Only you have the ability to change them. Put time in to growing yourself and your character, and as you do so you are investing in all of your future relationships, all of your future moments and even, for some of us, your future children.

Over the last four months, I’ve challenged a lot of my own thoughts, reckoned with my beliefs about myself and my relationships with others, and my life has been a lot better for it. I am generally more confident, more content and more positive. I understand my thoughts and feelings and where they come from. I’m really proud of myself for that. I’m excited to see where me, myself and I can go. I can genuinely say I appreciate my life, I appreciate others and I appreciate myself. And I hope that even if you can’t yet say all those things, that reading this little series of blogs has put you on the map of appreciation or given you at least one thing to think about or work on.

As always, thank you for reading, you basically know me as well as I know myself now. My hope is that it will spark something for you, and I would love to hear your thoughts ❤️

With love and appreciation,



Appreciating others

In the last blog I focussed on appreciation, which is recognising the good in something or, as I want to focus on in this blog, someone.

I would hazard an (educated) guess that when you actually think about it, appreciation is at the core of every single one of your friendships and relationships. Or at least it should be in a healthy relationship. Think about what attracted you to that special someone, your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife. What did you appreciate in them when you first met? Maybe it was their smile or their sense of humour. Maybe it was the way they spoke to you kindly. Maybe you had the same taste in music, or books or film. Maybe they held the door for you, and you appreciated it. You recognised something good in them. If you haven’t had a relationship, maybe it was a crush, there was something you appreciated about that person. Think about your closest friends, you appreciate them right? Of course! They are always there for you, you love all the fun memories you share and that you can talk about anything with them. What about your parents, grandparents, siblings, your school teacher or your best friend’s mum? They all have qualities that you appreciate and admire, and they have all had an impact in your life.

But how do we know we are appreciated? The most basic way for us as humans to recognise that we are appreciated, is to hear it. This is where compliments and positive affirmation from the people around us help us to know we are appreciated. Appreciation is at the core of healthy human interaction and development. We learn our whole lives what to do and what not to do by the appreciation we receive. If we do our chores right, our parents thank us. If we do well at school, they recognise it. If we do something nice for someone, they say thanks and we know it has been appreciated. This expression of appreciation is gratitude.

So do you tell people you appreciate them? Do you express gratitude? Do you thank your grandad for never failing to deliver a birthday card or show up to your important events? Do you thank your parents for dinner every night? Do you tell your friends how much you appreciated them listening to you during your difficult time? And for the parents out there, do you remember to thank your kids when they are helpful? It is so easy to simply think about how much we appreciate someone or how much they mean to us, and then keep those thoughts in our head. Silent appreciation, the knowledge that they mean something to us, but never expressing it, means the other person may be unaware of how you feel about them, and if it goes unsaid for long enough, may lead the other person to believe or perceive that they are unappreciated. Saying thanks, or “I appreciate you” is so easy to do, it costs us nothing, and yet sometimes we still struggle or forget to vocalise our appreciation.

When one or both people in a friendship or relationship either don’t appreciate the other person or don’t show this appreciation outwardly, this takes a toll on the relationship. Appreciation grows connection between us as people, it automatically feeds into our worth and our identity. A relationship void of appreciation will inevitably crumble eventually. Trying to gain appreciation is like running on a treadmill, it gets you nowhere. If someone doesn’t appreciate you and see your worth, then no amount of kind deeds or gifts or words may change that. And while it is great to do nice things for people, a true or perceived lack of appreciation is degrading and discouraging and ultimately leaves the person feeling taken for granted and starts to gnaw away at the connection between you. Don’t let the people in your life wonder if you love and appreciate them and run on that hamster wheel of approval. Show them you value their efforts, their friendship, their love and their time. Show them you value them for who they are.

I believe that appreciation is the opposite to entitlement. If you believe that you are entitled to an education, or a guaranteed job, a house to live in, a family who loves you or a certain friendship or relationship, then you are less likely to appreciate them. You actually aren’t entitled to anything. The world doesn’t owe you anything. And when you begin to realise that, everything becomes a blessing. When your life is stripped bare to just you, no material belongings, isolation from all relationships and no guaranteed experiences, what would you miss? What would you suffer the loss of? If you are a wordy person and you really want to reflect, I would suggest writing some of these things down that come to your mind, as many as you want or as you can think of. And then challenge yourself, do you truly appreciate and show appreciation and gratitude for each of those things, people, experiences or opportunities in your life? And if the answer is no, how are you going to start? My hope is that if every person that reads this blog goes away and thinks of one way they can show appreciation and gratitude for someone in their life this week, then your life, the other person’s life and the relationship between you will be enriched and maybe even healed a little bit.

On a more personal level, something I have recognised as being so good and that I so appreciate in my life over the last few months is the incredible people in my life who basically rushed in to rescue me from a (metaphorical) burning building. When everything came crashing down, there were a few key people (some that I knew would be there and some that seemingly appeared out of nowhere), and when they saw the fire, they ran in, rather than away from the problem. This happens in life, sometimes we need to hold a flame for others, or we need someone to hold it for us. Maybe we lose sight of hope or we feel like a failure or things are just tough and we just need someone who we trust to truthfully tell us it’s going to be ok and we are doing ok. Through the storm, I learnt who the people were in my life that appreciated me and my friendship, because they stepped in and stepped up to show me I was valued and cared for, and I am eternally grateful. If you know someone who is struggling, hold that flame for them, and show them you appreciate them. Tell them specifically what it is that you appreciate. Yes, self worth needs to come from within, but sometimes we need that external affirmation of ourselves and our abilities to help us light the way.

I’ll say it again, appreciation grows connection. If you want healthy friendships and relationships, show the people around you that you appreciate and value them. It doesn’t have to be just saying “I appreciate you”, although it could be. But maybe you see something in a shop window your friend would like, or you shout them their coffee or you thank them for picking you up and giving you a ride home, perhaps you can invite the friend you haven’t seen in a while for a dinner date, or maybe you just send them a message saying what you admire about them and that you are rooting for them. Tell the person you love, that you love them and do it in their love language so they hear it (google if you don’t know what this is, it’s relationship gold). Heck, maybe you cook dinner for your parents so they can relax after years of cooking it for you. Thank your colleagues for their hard work over the past few weeks of your project, and check in that they are coping with the workload, maybe provide afternoon tea to show you appreciate the work they have put in. Whatever it is, make sure they know that it is a sign of your appreciation and just watch the goodness unfold in your relationships with those around you. Nothing is guaranteed, there may be times in your life when you are stripped bare of these people and these moments, so appreciate exactly where you are and who you are with.

When you start to live a life of appreciation, I can (almost) guarantee you that like a boomerang it will start to come back to you. The next blog will be about appreciating yourself and the importance of it. But for now, focus outwardly and spread the appreciation to all the people that matter in your life (or just the guy who collects your trolley in the supermarket carpark).

As always thanks for reading and I hope you gained something from it- I’d love to hear your thoughts (or stories about how you will show appreciation to someone in your life this week!)

With love and appreciation,



Appreciate your life

Appreciation has become a pinnacle word in my life, particularly in the last few weeks. I’ve been thinking about it in basically three different aspects: appreciating your life, appreciating others, and feeling appreciated yourself. As I was writing this I wanted to touch on all three but I have a lot of thoughts on appreciation so I’ll dedicate one blog entry to each of these aspects, although they do overlap in some places!

The basic dictionary definition for appreciation is “recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.”

Firstly the big boy that everyone probably struggles with at some point: appreciating your life exactly as it is. I read a quote a few days ago that just had me stumped.

“In order for your life to be great, you must first learn to appreciate it.”

I am guessing the reason reading this hit me so hard is because it’s not always (or ever) the message that the world feeds us through vessels such as social media and advertising. If anything, the message we hear daily is that “In order to appreciate your life, it has to be great”. And when I stopped to really think about that, I realised how unattainable that belief system makes any form of happiness and contentment in our lives. If we can’t stop to appreciate our lives exactly as they are, then they will never be great, because we decide if and when our lives will be great.

That’s the key. It actually is a choice. And it’s a choice no one else can make for you. It really doesn’t matter if all your friends, or your Facebook and Instagram followers, or your family or colleagues think you have an awesome life. Or in fact if they think you have a crap life. They don’t get to decide that for you. It won’t suddenly be great because they say it is or because they gave you likes on a photo you posted. And it also doesn’t have to be terrible because someone else says it is either. Absolutely everyone’s ideal life is totally different. What your parents or your friends or even strangers may define as a great life may look completely different to what you would like. You and you alone have to actively choose to appreciate exactly what is going on for you in your life, then you step in to a great life. You could be living your dream life, or you could be living your nightmare, and in both of those cases, being able to appreciate the good is what makes it worth it.

Side note: I am aware this sounds like the ramblings of someone who has had such an easy life that they can sit back and say “just say it’s great and it will be!” But I can assure you, this revelation and understanding has come to me at the hardest time of my life. Truly, I have never been more appreciative, or more able to say I love my life than I have during this time, just by changing the way I think about things. From the outside, my life probably looks in the worst state it’s ever been, I had essentially hit rock bottom. However my ability to appreciate and embrace the potential positives of the situation, no matter how far off they sometimes feel, has helped me to understand how great my life is and how great it can be.

As I have been thinking about appreciating life no matter what it brings, I was reminded of two opportunities I’ve had in my own life that influenced my understanding of this concept. This was travel to both Vanuatu and Nepal. I recall my resounding impression of the people living in both of these third world situations being almost shockingly happy and content with their lives, even through hardship. I realised what the people of Vanuatu, Nepal and other such countries have in common isn’t just a fake or naive perpetual happiness, it is their appreciation and gratitude for the positive things in their lives. We live in a culture that often reverts to messages of striving to be more, have more, do more, achieve more and while it is great to be ambitious, the desire for more can often disable us from stopping and seeing the things we already do have, appreciating them and expressing gratitude for them. Without the ability to recognise and appreciate the good in our lives, we are left feeling unhappy and discontented. How many people do you know that feel this way?

They always say there is no magic pill for health or happiness but if I could market one I would definitely say it is appreciation. I don’t claim to know all the answers but for me over the last 3-4 months, learning to appreciate my life exactly as it is, not how it was or how it might be in the future, has been life changing and life giving. When you appreciate having legs to walk, you are more likely to head out for a walk with a friend in the fresh air. When you appreciate having an income, it is easier to get out of bed in the morning for work. I am able to honestly sit and say I appreciate so many aspects of my life. You may be asking “but how do I just magically start appreciating my life?!” Again, only you can choose this for yourself. For me personally, it was and still is an active journey to finding my own self worth and believing I deserved to live a life that was worthy of appreciating (separate blog on this particular journey to come). In my case, it takes spending time alone, writing and reflecting, but maybe there is something else that works for you to figure out what you think about yourself and about your life.

I have learnt the key steps to appreciating my life are:

1. Enjoying it. Making time for things that genuinely spark joy for me. Whether it’s playing sport, going to the beach, reading a book or going out for lunch with a friend, having things you know you enjoy is so important. And know that you deserve to do those things, you deserve joy, make them a priority.

2. Spending time genuinely reflecting. What have I enjoyed doing? What am I learning? Who have I been interacting with? What was the best thing that happened to me today? When I stop to reflect, I realise how much I have to appreciate and be grateful for. We spend so much time letting the negative aspects of our lives consume the storage space in our brains. Choosing to reflect on what has been positive in our lives actually opens our eyes to see how many blessings we have received.

3. Expressing gratitude. When we appreciate something, whether it is something someone has done for us or something that has happened to us, or maybe we just enjoyed spending time with another person or enjoyed the chance to spend some time alone, we close the loop in the circuit by expressing our gratitude. Making a practice of writing down three things I’m grateful for at the end of each day has highlighted for me day after day after day, just how many things I appreciate and I am grateful for. Alongside this, I’ve also been making an effort to express my gratitude to other people where possible, because it is so important for us to give and receive appreciation to and from other people. Which leads me to the end of this blog post and to the start of the next one, the importance of appreciation between people.

If you made it this far, then hopefully I didn’t use the word appreciation too many times for your liking. I do however appreciate you taking the time to read this and would love to hear your thoughts on appreciating life, whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts or whether you feel like you are nailing it or drowning without it, feel free to reach out and share your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, I hope you took something out of it (and hopefully see you next time),