Seeking solitude

In September last year, I sat at the beach, pen in hand, and I began to write. Three nights in a row I went back, I sat in the same spot with nothing but a blank journal. I wrote about everything I was feeling, where I was going, where I had been, I made up stories about each person walking along the beach, I wrote poems, and I wrote so much about how I love the ocean. I wrote about how comfortable I felt by the water. And how comfortable I felt alone. When I first started writing, I promised myself to never lie to the paper. To never sugarcoat things or pretend. And so when I wrote those words, that I felt comfortable alone, I surprised myself.

I can’t explain just how uncomfortable I had been in my own company, for a very long time. I found it hard to wake up in the morning. I avoided being alone. I was always filling my time with other people in an attempt to run away from myself. But all the while thinking they didn’t want to spend time with me because well, I didn’t want to spend time with myself, so why would anyone else? This became such a vicious cycle of how I would spend my time. I constantly wondered what people thought of me. I became extremely anxious about what I had planned for my weekends and my free time, always concerned about what was coming next and who it would be with. I managed to keep myself extremely busy, always relying on my boyfriend to spend time with me or organising a group of people to hang out so that I wouldn’t be alone and to reassure me that I was “worth” someone else’s time.

That same night on the beach I also realised that spending time with other people had come at a cost of doing things I genuinely enjoyed, or exploring new things. This realisation came from the simple fact that just by sitting at the beach, toes in the sand, watching people walk their dogs as the sun was setting and the waves rolled in, my soul felt light, my mind felt free and I felt joyful and content. I thought back to a few months earlier, where I might have suggested to someone else going to the beach after work, but if they said no, they weren’t keen, then I just wouldn’t have gone. I would’ve sacrificed the things I wanted to do, just so I didn’t have to do it alone. If I suggested a movie, a walk, a holiday, an activity of any kind and it was declined, I would give up on that idea altogether. That night on the beach as I wrote all my thoughts and feelings was actually where this blog idea first surfaced, and now flash forward another six months, I am still growing and learning what it is like to be alone and to find peace and joy in that. Solitude was one of the very first draft blogs I ever wrote, but it was something I decided I wanted to “live” a little bit more before I published anything about it. Practice what you preach if you like. So here I am now. After a year of being single, a year since I lost a lot of friendships, a year since I lost my routine, my go-to, my safe place, the biggest growing year of my life by far; these are my reflections on the time I have spent alone over the past year. This blog is about my journey of what it is like to be single but it is also a reflection on what it is like to just purely spend time alone, regardless of your relationship status.

In the very depth of the break-up and in the immediate weeks that followed, one of my deepest fears was that I would be completely alone. I can’t emphasise enough how much of my life was tied up in that relationship. Most weeknights, every weekend, the same friend groups, same sports team, extremely close with each other’s families, all our holidays together. It was always a question of “what are we doing?”, “what should we eat?”, “where are we going?” It’s a hard thing to turn off a “we” mentality and realise you don’t have to make considerations for another person anymore. It’s also scary sometimes! What if I don’t know what I want to do or eat or be just by myself? What am I worth if I am not spending my time with other people? Am I boring? Am I failing? Am I anti-social? What is my future as an individual? There were times at the beginning where it was incredibly scary and overwhelming that I didn’t just have my person to turn to, to spend time with or talk through a situation with.

I knew I had to make being alone more normal and less scary. So I did what I do whenever I want to regain control of something: I wrote a list. I pulled out my phone and titled a note: “All the things you don’t need anyone else for” and then I started to write a list of ideas of things I could do alone to fill my time. This meant whenever I had a moment where I thought “crap I’m alone and I’ve got nothing to do and my life sucks because look at me all by myself with nothing to do, this is too hard”, I would pull out my phone and consult the list. This list consisted of some fun things but also some mundane things too. It ranged from cleaning the car, running in to the ocean, climbing a hill, going for an aimless drive, painting a picture, baking or cooking a favourite recipe or trying a new one, starting a new TV series, reading a book, walking the dog, planning a holiday, writing a letter to a friend, taking myself to a café, listening to a podcast, leaving my phone somewhere and walking away… really, the list is endless and everyone would have different ideas. The key for me was as I wrote these, I realised they weren’t second-rate options just because I was alone. They were all things I genuinely enjoyed doing and conveniently, didn’t need anyone else for. They all also happened to be things that I felt were really positive and healthy for me. I would say I have done more things I am proud of and I have enjoyed over the last six months than ever before, purely because I learnt to value my own time rather than put it in the hands of others. I learnt to find joy in the act of doing, rather than who I was doing it with.

I am by no means suggesting that complete solitude is the best way to live your life. Humans are designed for connection, and there is a reason why solitary confinement is used as an extreme form of punishment. Spending too much time alone breeds isolation and disconnection. However I have found in my experience that the thing I was so afraid of, has actually been very good for me. Taking the chance to spend some time alone has forced me to get to know myself better, to enjoy my own company, to make decisions and to learn new things. It has given me time to think rather than speak, and to do rather than wait for anyone else. I have spent my entire life being described as an extroverted person and I think I let that become far too much of my identity, letting myself believe that I needed other people for anything to be enjoyable or worthwhile.

We also live in a world that is becoming increasingly connected through social media. In many ways this is creating hyper-connectivity. We are constantly connected and in communication with one another, constantly comparing ourselves, constantly aware of what others are doing. In order to be intentional about spending time alone, it is important to leave the social media world behind as well. I would suggest the picture many people conjure up when they think about solitude is one of sitting alone at home on your phone or watching the tv. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for this but from my experience, you are not truly alone. If you really want the benefits of solitude, put the phone down, get off the couch, maybe go outside. Beneficial solitude is not confined to lazy habits and is not dependent on the use of technology as a crutch. In my opinion, spending time truly alone helps me to break free from the cycle of social media altogether. We are being fed the thoughts, feelings, opinions and ideas of other people every second of every day as we engage with social media, advertising, reading, conversations. Give yourself a break and let your mind rest. Let yourself mull over a situation and gather your own thoughts and feelings. You might have an original thought or create a new idea or come to a new realisation. This is so much easier when you don’t have the thoughts of thousands of other people flooding your eyes and ears.

There are so many ways that intentionally spending time alone has benefited me, and many of these ways are intertwined.

I am relaxed. When I look back at “the old Bernie” I see someone who was quite often highly strung and stressing about the next thing or about the future. I lived on a hamster wheel that went round and round from one thing to the next with no time to stop and reflect. I felt anxious about many things including work, my relationship, my perceived lack of friendships, my health and fitness, money, and just the future in general. But as I prioritised social activities and the time of others over spending some time by myself, I wasn’t dealing with any of these worries or concerns head on, and they began to weigh heavier and heavier on my mental and emotional health. I have also realised that I would often become quite stressed by other people’s perceived enjoyment. If I organised an activity or I was doing something with a friend or a group of friends, I would feel solely responsible for their enjoyment, making it hard for me to relax and just enjoy myself. I am so content going for a walk barefoot along the beach, sitting and watching the sun set, taking myself for an aimless drive with the music up loud, and I feel genuine joy doing each of those things. But if I was to bring someone else into that, I would be worried it wouldn’t be good enough or enjoyable enough for them. When I am by myself I am not worried about anyone’s else’s enjoyment and I get to do the things I truly enjoy.

I am positive. I’m not sure if I ever would have described myself or been described by others as a particularly positive person. I felt negative about a lot of things and often felt like I came across to others as a pessimist and quite sarcastic in nature. Developing a mentality of finding gratitude in all things over the last year has made me a much more positive person in every aspect of my life, and spending time to cultivate a routine of gratitude in the solo moments of my day has influenced that positivity immensely. Life is far more enjoyable when the glass is always half full and I’m glad I learnt early-ish in life that perspective can be a choice.

I am strong. If anyone told me the list of events that would begin to unfold about this time last year, I firstly wouldn’t have believed it possible, and I secondly wouldn’t have known how (or if) I was going to handle it. I certainly wouldn’t have thought that this blog or that sharing my journey in any sense would be where I would be. And I often sit in awe of myself and my own strength over the last year and over some particularly hard days. There hasn’t been one day where I haven’t picked myself up in my own strength and carried on, sometimes with the support of others, but a lot of the time, in moments of solitude.

I am more tolerant. This one is huge. I didn’t realise how much spending time with people was burning me out. Taking time out for myself to regroup and reevaluate my own thoughts and feelings means firstly, I am so much more aware of the potential thoughts and feelings of others and how much they might have going on and secondly, I have had time to chill out and so I am better equipped to deal with other people.

I achieve more. I am so much more productive by myself. I am less distracted, I can focus, and I can set goals and tick things off. This is evident in the very fact that I ever actually get these blogs finished and published. The fact that I can run further than I ever have in my life. The fact that I have planned an overseas trip by myself in my own time.

I feel more knowledgeable. Creating more time for myself means creating more space for learning. More time to read books, research things of interest, google incredibly random thoughts that pop into my head and listen to a variety of podcasts. In the years that I studied my degree I became quite adverse to learning. Maybe due to a fear of failure or an uncertainty of what I wanted to do. I have loved becoming more akin with learning over the last year and having the time to really dive in to all sorts of topics and reignite a love of reading, writing and learning.

I am more intentional. With my time, with my thoughts and with my words. I now understand the value of my own time and the effect of my thoughts and my words on myself and others. I want to live an intentional life and build lasting memories, friendships and an identity for myself rather than just floating through my years on this earth.

I am in touch with nature. Having time to myself means a lot more time to do what I love and as I have touched on before this often leads me to the beach, the sunrise, the sunsets, the walks, the views, the fresh air. I have spent so much time outside over the last year and I’ve fallen in love with nature and the way it refreshes my soul.

I have clarity. I have spent a lot (aloooot) of time over the last year thinking about the break up, the relationship, every aspect of it. I discovered early on that although I like to talk things through, I gain the most clarity about how I really truly think and feel about the situation when I am by myself. When I am not being persuaded by someone else’s thoughts or emotions or subconsciously saying what I think someone else wants me to say. I am the most honest with myself when I am by myself.

I am confident. Realising that I enjoy my own company, that I find myself fun and funny and all of the other good things has given me so much confidence in my interactions with others. I value myself and know that I am worth every good thing and so I appear with much more confidence in every situation than I would have a year or so ago.

I know myself better. I am far more aware of my own thoughts and feelings. I am aware of the things that irritate me and the things that bring me joy. I understand the reasons I react to things the way that I do, the ways I have acted in the past and the connection between my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. So much of my self improvement has come from just this time of reflecting in solitude and understanding myself past and present.

I am more genuine and true to myself. When you are alone it is the only time where you are truly free of compromise, negotiation, judgment, conformity. I listen to the music I want to listen to, the podcasts I am interested in, I eat the food I want to eat, I go the places I want to go. It sounds selfish but what it really means is that I’m being true to myself without any outside influence and this in turn helps me to remain true to myself when I am with others too.

I am independent. I make my own plans. I think about my own future. I get myself places and create my own memories and experiences. I am known as me and not as a member of some friend group or one half of a relationship because I have formed my own identity and interests in my own time.

I have stronger friendships. Ironically, spending time alone has made the time that I spend with others so much more enjoyable. Probably because of so many of the other benefits listed here, I am more tolerant, probably more interesting, more positive, more confident and just generally I believe a better person to be around for lots of these reasons already listed here.

I love the person I am becoming. It’s a journey. But I’m stoked. I never in a million years imagined I could be so in tune and so happy with the person that I am today. There’s room for improvement and there always will be but the girl I was a year ago never even dreamed that (short of some magic personality and body switch) she could be so happy in her own skin and in her own identity. I credit a lot of that feeling to the time I have spent alone working on myself.

In the times that I used to spend alone, I felt lonely, afraid, worthless, bored, and like I constantly needed the approval of others. I truly feel that looking back, I would spend most of the time I had alone, waiting for other people; waiting for the next plan or waiting for them to finish work or waiting for them to contact me. Now when I am alone I feel content, happy, proud, I have fun and I’m not thinking about what anyone else thinks. And I go and do whatever it is I want to do!

If spending time in solitude is something you feel you could benefit from, something you know you don’t do enough of, or even something you fear, then I would strongly encourage you to give it a go (somewhat consistently) and watch the benefits flood in. If it’s hard for you, start with the list. If you are an extremely busy person, I would recommend blocking out a time in your calendar to spend with yourself and make it non-negotiable. I still love to hang out with friends and family and so I am such a “yes” person when anyone asks to do something. Sometimes you need to say “no” and spend some time alone, intentionally. I should also say it will be hard sometimes. I have come to a point where I can genuinely say that I love my own company and seek it often and really enjoy those times. But there have been days and there will still be days where I would rather be around people that I love or where I struggle with the idea of loneliness. There is value in solidarity and value in connectedness and it is so important to find the balance and the benefits in each and participate in both regularly.

This is what I have learnt: No one else fills my cup. I have spent so much of my life relying on other people to build me up and fill my cup and it has always failed. I made excuses that I needed other people to make me happy. As cliché as it sounds, what I needed was inside me all along. I hope you might also find the courage to look inside yourself, to fill your own cup with the things you love, and to value yourself enough to make time to reflect and learn and grow. I would back the fact that not only will your relationship with yourself improve, your interpersonal relationships will thrive as well.

Aroha nui

Bernie ❤️

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Dear Bernie

A letter to Bernie of May 28, 2018.

Open your eyes. Breathe. Look forward. I know it scares you. I know it all appears dark. I know right now, every inch of your body feels weighed down by grief, regret, sadness, what-ifs, fear and loss. It’s the worst day of your life. You have hit rock bottom and at quite a speed. Today you buried your friend, watched your friends grieve and you ended a relationship of six years with the only person you have ever known and loved. I see you. You are curled up on your parents bed. Even they aren’t here right now. But I am.

I wish you could see me and hear me when I say this. But you would roll your eyes at me. Say it’s all cliché. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be you, so cynical, still hiding behind a wall of fear and negativity. You don’t know this yet but I do: things are going to get so much better. Better than you have ever known or experienced. Trust me, because I have lived every moment of it. In the next 365 days you will rescue yourself, rebuild yourself and learn to love yourself the way you were always meant to. In the coming weeks and months, you are going to lose some of the people you considered your closest friends. But there will be people you never expected, who will step forward and hold your hand. They are your people now. There will be hard days, where you feel rejected, you blame yourself, and you question your worth. There will be days when you wake up and think it’s all been a dream, days when you cry yourself to sleep and days where you want to punch something or scream. There are days where you drive an extra few laps of the block because a song makes you cry and you can’t go home looking like that. I promise you, those days will become fewer and fewer as the year passes by. And there will also be days where you laugh so hard you cry, days where you feel overwhelmed by the quality of your friendships, and days where you overflow with gratitude. One of those days, your first nephew is born into the world and you have absolutely no idea how much you are going to fall in love with him! Another, you get to go white water rafting with one of your best friends. You will spend Christmas Day with your whole family. You will turn 24 and celebrate with all your favourite friends. You definitely won’t believe me now but you will even jump out of a plane. And scattered in between those big milestone days are so many other things you love: brunch dates, ocean swims, concerts, walks, floorball games, sleepovers, netball games, tramping trips, dinner dates, movie nights and weekends away exploring this beautiful country. You will move out of home. You will also come crawling back. Both are ok. You will learn to love running. And at some point you start to lift weights and discover you love that too. You will get stronger. You are uncertain about your job right now. But you will begin to really enjoy it. You will take more responsibility. Your workmates will become some of your very best friends. You will become far more competent, knowledgeable and confident in yourself. You will read books, ask questions, dig deep into yourself and you will start to write in a way you didn’t realise you could. This will heal you. You will heal you. Right now you are scared of being alone, but in the year to come you will learn to enjoy your own company, seeking it often with bush walks, long drives and solo beach dates. You will even go on a week long road trip by yourself.

My promise to you is that it will all be ok. It will hurt, in fact there is more painful news to come for you before it starts to get better. Sometimes it will feel unbearable, other times it will feel like one big joke. Many times you will wish it all never happened, you will wish you could go back and change it. But I promise you in 365 days you will look back and you will be proud. Proud of how you have handled it all. Proud of who you have become. Proud that you didn’t stay curled up on that bed feeling sorry for yourself. This year is going to be the best year of your life so far, even though that seems impossible from where you are right now. But when you get to where I stand at this moment, you will realise you have stopped looking back and you are looking forward to all that is ahead of you.

Sorry to break it to you. You are still not perfect. You don’t have it all figured out. You don’t know the plans that lay ahead. But you are far more present, more intentional, more positive, more loving, more confident, more knowledgeable, more compassionate, more adventurous, more productive, more relaxed and more energetic. You are healthier, happier, stronger and enjoying your life for exactly what it is at this point. You are a better friend, and I believe you are the best version of yourself so far. So I guess what I’m saying is: keep going, please don’t give up. There is so much love, laughter and joy waiting ahead of you.

With love,

Bernie of May 2019

Love thy physical self.

You only get one home. One shell. One Earth suit. Mine has climbed mountains, traveled on planes, worked 18 hours straight, been immersed in the ocean too many times to count, turned purple in the snow, red in the sun, and green on the Interislander. Everything I have done in this life. Everything I have seen, felt and experienced has been made possible by my physical existence in this body.

On the night that I began writing this blog, I was driving home from my parents house, after another discussion about diets, weight, health and our goals. And I just felt the urge to write. To get it all out. You see I’ve been trying to start again, eat healthily, hopefully lose some weight, and better my habits and my overall health. I’m not sure where this tunnel of thoughts began but it was something along the lines of “imagine if I actually succeed this time”.

This blog came about as a way of sharing my journey to loving myself and I would be lying to myself and to every person that reads it if I denied my physical self and only talked about my mental and emotional well-being. Not to mention the fact that my mental and emotional well-being is undeniably attached to my physical well-being, as much as I try to ignore it. You should know, I never ever in my wildest dreams thought I would say the words I’m about to write, let alone pen them and publish them.

When I say, “Will I succeed this time?” I mean the ten thousandth time. Tomorrow morning. Monday. The start of a new month. That’s when I will start my new “diet”. I started to think about all the times I had tried (or not really tried at all) and I wondered why I hadn’t succeeded sooner. Before I could ponder that for too long the answer had already popped into my head. “Because you see it as your identity, you see it as who you are”. And I was right. But I had never said those words to anyone before, or allowed myself to really hear them either. I have let myself believe for as long as I can remember (and I’m talking primary school until now) that I am a “big girl”, “fat girl”, “overweight” and all the other words that describe my body composition. Not only did I think that about myself, I believed that was all anyone else thought about me too. I genuinely let it become who I was, rather than just a description of my physical features. It followed me through school where I didn’t push myself at sport because I was embarrassed. And where I didn’t feel like I belonged with my friends who were all much skinnier than me. I flushed red with embarrassment whenever one of my friends would grab the tiniest little roll on their tummy and says they needed to lose weight. It followed me into my romantic relationships, where I didn’t believe any person could ever be interested in me because of the number on a set of scales, and when I found someone who was, I still let it follow me and plague my thoughts about myself and therefore what he thought of me. It follows me in to every new room, when I meet every new person, and I wonder if they dislike me or think less of me for my weight. It threatens to taint my relationships with others, nothing makes me grumpier than a diet discussion with my parents, or hearing my thin friends talk about how they need to lose weight. It followed me into my career, cringing every time someone talked about overweight patients, and thinking they must be judging me too. Wondering if anyone would want someone in healthcare who so blatantly can’t even look after their own health. So much of what I have talked about already in these blogs is actually deeply rooted in insecurities surrounding my body image, I could provide endless examples.

The reason why seeing it as ‘who you are’ hinders any changes is because you don’t believe you can be anything different. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe I can’t do it, and so I just don’t even try. I believe I will fail, and so I just give up. Right now, I’m going through a time of change. Of undoing. And overcoming. I want to shift my identity. I look back at so many times in my life that I have either not taken an opportunity, or I have enjoyed something less or felt as if I couldn’t do something, because of the way I looked and felt in my skin, and I don’t want to continue my life letting my body image be in charge of my decisions. I want to go tramping, without fear that I won’t be fit enough to keep up or to reach the top. I want to go kayaking, paddle boarding and rock climbing, and know that I am strong enough to do those things comfortably and have fun. I want to be able to jump into the ocean in my bra and undies because I don’t feel the need to cover my belly. I want to be healthy, physically, emotionally and mentally. I want to not hesitate to do whatever it is I want to do. I have thought many times about the day I will get married, but always followed by “I want to lose weight first”. I have thought about going on a big OE, but not wanted to go until I am thinner so I will look better in the photos. I’ve wanted to reach out and make new friends and try new things, but only after I finally succeed at reaching a goal weight, no one will like me otherwise. I even thought about not posting this blog until I had lost some weight, because who would listen to someone who hasn’t actually “succeeded”.

Last year, I signed up to train for a half iron man. Which writing that now feels like a joke. But honestly, my main driving factor behind that was that I wanted to lose weight. I wanted to be fit and strong and I wanted to be thin. At that point in my life, I was incredibly unhappy, truthfully I had been for about two years. But I knew if I went to a doctor, the first thing they would say is that depression is linked to obesity and I needed to lose some weight. I hoped that the iron man would solve that, and it would then in turn also improve my mental health. Life (God, fate, a guardian angel-whoever you believe in) however had different plans for my year. With all of the emotion and stress that came with a major break-up and the death of a friend, I couldn’t hack the training day in, day out. And so I gave away the opportunity to train for the half iron man. However in that month, I dropped 10kgs. I’ve never had so many compliments on weight loss in all my life. And the worst part was, I knew compliments were far from appropriate. I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t sleeping. I could barely stomach water most days. I was absolutely devastated. And people were complimenting me on how good I looked? It felt so backwards. One day at work someone asked me what my weight loss secret was and I turned around and said (very sarcastically) “first you have to fall in love, dedicate seven years of your life to someone, and then on the day you bury a close friend, get them to break up with you and start dating someone else, that should do it”. Upon reflection, I realise this was probably a really unfair and somewhat cruel response, but I was a hurting human, right in the midst of a tonne of pain. And I can guarantee you I would have gained the 10kg back in a heartbeat if I could undo the hurt that I had suffered. It made me realise people really were paying attention to my body, but no one knew what was happening in my heart. I still wanted to lose weight, but I knew I had to pay some real attention to what was going on inside first. I committed to working on the internal stuff, hoping the rest would follow.

As part of my journey to self-love, I spent a few weeks going through a program with Courtney Durr through what was then called Body Love, now called Worthwild. We talked about limiting beliefs and self-worth and met regularly to discuss different topics and as the name of her business would indicate, body image is a big part of her message and what she deals with. But even at that point, I couldn’t bring myself to talk openly about it. I talked about every other insecurity, personality defect, heartbreak and hang up that I had, but the second body image entered the conversation I’m a stone-cold-walls-up-good-luck-getting-in kinda girl. And that’s the way I realise I’ve always been when it comes to my body, my weight, my appearance. You couldn’t find a more open book than me when it comes to feelings, but bring up weight, dieting, appearance and I shut down faster than a pool with an unwanted floater. These meetings with Courts helped in lots of areas in my life (would 10/10 recommend working with her for any female looking to better themselves) but it would be months later until I would start to open the floodgates of body image and try and change my thought processes around my physical body.

I’ve been trying to unpack where it all began. Where my first thoughts of loathing my own body started. But when I genuinely think about it, it’s the only thoughts I’ve ever known about my body. It’s the only way I’ve ever been taught to think and feel about my body. To put it down. To say it’s not good enough. It’s the way the female role models in my life talked and continue to talk about their bodies, it’s the way my friends have talked about theirs too, and it’s the portrayal of one “perfect” body type in the media. Outfits have been picked out for me my whole life based on what is “flattering”. I’ve been told what to eat and what not to eat. I’ve been compared to my fit and athletic brothers. I’ve looked back on photos of times where I thought I was big and wished I could go back to the size I was then. I’ve had people much smaller than me complain about their size to my face. The list goes on of all the ways the world brings our physical appearance to the forefront of our mind, and paints us a picture and a belief that skinny equals success.

My struggle with my weight caused a massive disconnect in my desire to be a good nurse. I felt like a fraud, as if I was on the wrong side of the stethoscope so to speak. Just as the saying goes “never trust a skinny baker”, I felt as if no one should ever trust a fat medical professional. It wasn’t until the end of last year that I realised how this was really affecting my level of job enjoyment and satisfaction. I had counted myself out, decided I would never make a good nurse, and so similarly to all attempts to lose weight, I just didn’t really try my best. This is a slight detour, but I can’t explain how immensely my level of confidence, enjoyment and contentment in my work has gone up in the last 6-8 months as I have been journeying to love and support myself more. As a nurse, day in, day out, I see the cruel reality of how quickly our bodies can fail us. And I am reminded of how much I value my health. How much I should value my health. And how much effort I should put into preserving it. This includes finding a healthy weight.

So here I bounce between a strong “you are perfect at any size, love yourself!” vibe, to a practical “you need to lose some weight to be healthy” train of thought. The key here is, both are right. For me, I am currently overweight. Scientifically speaking, if you looked at my BMI I would fall into the overweight-obese category. However, this in no way makes me less worthy of love, from myself or from anyone else. It doesn’t make me less likeable, less fun, less kind. This is where I was trapped for a very long time. I put my whole self-worth into my weight and my appearance. I decided people didn’t like me, and wouldn’t like me until I lost some weight, until I reached a goal weight or size. I decided I therefore shouldn’t like me until I reached that goal either. And then I became really stuck. I didn’t lose the weight, but I didn’t want to live in that body either. I pushed people away, telling myself that I would let people in when I was thinner.

I have thought for a while about the message I wanted this blog to send. I didn’t want it to be about just losing weight. But I also didn’t want it to be reckless, eat what you want and just let loose, disregarding the importance of a healthy weight. It is two things, hand in hand.

It is finding out what you value. For me, I know that it is health. And how I show what I value is by investing in it. Investing my time in moving my body, through sport and physical activity that I enjoy and that I know is good for me. Investing my money in nourishing my body, through delicious, healthy food and learning to be a better cook. And also investing in learning more, about how I can best take care of myself by reading and absorbing information. I also value fun (a lot). I want to live a life doing all the things I love with all the people I love and having a good time! That means throwing away the fear of what I will look like, getting fit enough to do the fun things, and just getting out there and doing it.

Secondly it is the old self-love. You are loveable and you are loved, regardless of your size. It sounds cliche but I totally understand now what people say about needing to love yourself and your body first in order to lose weight and get healthy. I never understood that. I know I had almost zero love for myself, and I loathed my body. I thought that I needed to lose weight so that I could finally love myself. But over the last six months, I’ve grown so much in love and admiration for myself. And now, just like what I want for the other people I love, I want the girl I love most to be comfortable in her body, healthy and strong, fit enough to do anything she wants to do, and able to live the life she dreams of. The life where she walks, climbs, swims whenever and wherever she wants. Wears the clothes she loves, eats delicious food and takes photos of her beautiful smile without her body holding her back. I want to live a long life, be able to be a positive role model for others and hopefully one day, for my own children. I want to have the knowledge and experience to teach them about nourishing their bodies and enjoying movement but also about loving everything about themselves along the way.

I also want my identity to be so much more than what I look like. When I look at each person that I love, their physical appearance is never the first thing that comes to mind. Their kindness. Their generosity. Their support. Their laughter. The happy memories we have shared. Their thoughtfulness. Their intelligence. That’s what I think of. And I need to keep that in perspective when I think about myself too. I’ve found so much joy in falling in love with who I am, all of it, and seeing myself blossom, that suddenly it seems to matter less and less what I look like and I just want to enjoy being who I am, trusting that the healthiest version of myself will follow. I want the people who love me to know me and remember me as thoughtful, kind, and fun, not as someone who was obsessed with the way they looked or the food they were eating.

This isn’t just for people who are overweight. It’s for everyone. You are more than your body. Your body is your vehicle to live and breathe and experience this life. If you have legs that walk and eyes that can see then yes, you should use them. You should be grateful for them. And you should look after them. But if there is a few extra kilos on your body, it doesn’t make you a bad person. You are so much more.

It is still a journey, likely a life-long one in all honesty. I’m rebuilding an identity that is based more around love and care and less around judgement and assumptions. I’m choosing to see myself as what’s on the inside rather than the body it is all packaged in. I’m making every effort to be grateful to my body for all the incredible experiences it allows me to have, like I said at the beginning, it’s the only body I’ve got. And I’m choosing to value and protect my health: physical, mental and emotional. I hope something in this writing encourages you to do the same.

All of my love,

Bernie ❤️

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 ❤️

Vulnerability

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 https://linktr.ee/worthwild.co, 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

07.10.18