Putting your best face forward

My mother lived for many years near a beach front area with a beautiful promenade. We’d often go for walks in the evening but before we left she always had to do her face first.

She is not a vain woman so it would make me all the more frustrated that she HAD to touch up with a little foundation, mascara and eye-liner beforehand. And being the brat that I was I would always go big on the moaning and whining about having to wait for her. “We’re only going for a walk, why do you need to do your face?” Standard question and the standard unapologetic answer, “You never know who you’re going to meet.”

What I didn’t realise back then that I know now is that there is this subliminal pressure in society to always present your best self to others. To present the face you think other’s think is the perfect you.

You meet an old school friend for coffee and she glosses over all the real shit stuff happening in her life and presents you with her best photo-shopped version. She leaves out all the cellulite and stretch marks and only talks about the toned and tanned.

So there you are thinking wow, Debbie’s doing so well. All the while she actually feels unappreciated by her husband, is stressed and overworked in her job, is struggling financially and can’t get a handle on her kids.

And we all do this. You. Me. Debbie. Because no-one wants to be a downer, no-one wants to be judged, but mostly, we do this because we’re taught to ‘pack up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile, smile smile’.  We’re not really encouraged to talk about the less than pretty, to unpack the ugly, to let it go.

We use social media sites to present the best packaged versions of ourselves.  We get on Facebook and write snippety status updates because we’re hip like that. We get on Twitter and write witty one liners because we’re smart like that. We get on to Instagram and shimmy up all our pics because we’re cool like that.

And yes people naturally want to hear and see all the positives. People like the good and warm and fuzzy. I like the good and warm and fuzzy. But life is not all about the good and warm and fuzzy.

Have you ever wondered what makes Nelson Mandela or Oprah’s life stories all the more powerful? It’s the fact that they’re not perfect.

Yes, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison sacrificing his personal freedom for the greater good of his country. And for this he is adored and respected. But he has also not pretended to be the perfect man. He is twice divorced with a strained relationship with his children. He has endured personal struggles.

And yes, Oprah is one of the most powerful and successful woman in the world. But she has also not presented the standard ‘poor black girl makes good’ story. She’s exposed the sexual abuse, the promiscuity, the lack of self worth, the emotional eating and I’m sure a whole lot more. She has endured personal struggles.

And it’s in these personal struggle stories that we can relate to them.  We have context for their lives and we have truth. And in some ways it makes us feel a connection with them knowing that they too have struggled.

You don’t look at them and think, damn, I’m never going be like that. You look at them and think hell yeah, I want to be like that and I can be like that. Their personal struggles didn’t stop them from being all that they can be. Just like ours don’t have to stop us from being all that we can be.

It took me a long time and a lot of tears to come to this realisation. It took me an even longer time to know that you don’t have to be perfect for people to like you, to respect you, to love you.

In fact, if you are truly engaging with people then you are being the imperfect you. You’re revealing the cellulite, the stretch marks, the chicken skin, the acne scars, the lumps and bumps and rolls.

Now I’m not going to lie to you, some may turn away in disgust and run.  But that’s ok because you’ll never do it for everyone all the time. In my experience the people that matter the most stay and hold your hand and love you all the more.

I only managed to unpack my old kit bag about 3-4 years ago. And when I did I had an emotional break-down of magnificent proportions. This of course is not really recommended. Not unless you don’t mind not being able to sleep, eat, drink or speak. And you like crying for days.

Don’t be like me. Don’t stash away your struggles. Don’t try to be perfect. Don’t minimise you by maximizing a version of yourself.

Be imperfect. Be you. Be free.

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Why I’m choosing to be job-less, home-less and car-less!

In less then 60 days I will be job-less, home-less and car-less. Yes that’s right; I’ll be less less less. How would you feel about that? Scared? Worried? Stressed?

Well, I’m about to have a showdown with the Unknown and I strangely have never felt better. In fact, I’m relishing the prospect of it.

Could I be updating my CV? Yes. Could I be looking for a job? Yes. Could I be looking for a car? Yes. Could I be looking for an apartment? Yes.

Am I going to? No

No no and no.

And I know you’re probably thinking I need to be committed right now. You know, to one of those places where everything is white and sterile and zombie-like.  And who knows? Maybe I do

All I’m saying is that I have choices and I’m choosing to say NO…….right now. Gasp! Why would I say no to a job, home and car?

The answer is simple really, because I don’t want to be tied down to decisions that are based on what’s in my headspace. I want to follow what’s in my heartspace.

Headspace

It all starts like this: You need a degree to get a good job. Then when you have that, you need your masters to get a good job. Then when you have that they say, oops, see here, you have no experience. Then you need experience to get a good job.

So with your degree and masters and who knows what else, you start your career at the far end of the board room table and try to manoeuvre your way around it so that you end up at the head of the board room table.  And why do you do this? Because sitting at the head of the board room table gives you that big bloated salary which in turns gets you that shiny sports car and that beautifully sculpted home with all those designer gadgets.

I lived in this headspace for a while and even had a sliver of a career and a well padded bank account, a pretty little home, a nice car and a few gadgets. You would think a person might be happy with all this, wouldn’t you? I know, I’m such an ungrateful little cow: the more I got, the harder I worked and the more I earned, the more depleted I felt. On paper my life seemed a success but the problem was it was not significant. Not to me anyway.

Heartspace

This is where what you do is what you love. It’s an extension of who you are. It flows from you. It leaves you feeling Full. Of. Joy. It gives you a rush. It expands you. It challenges you to leap.

For me this is about Creation. The Arts. Design. Food. Travel. It’s about breathing life into all those small ideas I have and giving them a chance to become big.

We’ve been given the gift of choice in this life. We get to choose full vs. empty; nourishing vs. depleting; love vs. fear; risk vs. safety.

The thing is most of us choose on the side of comfort. We choose the clear path, the one where we can already see what’s in the distance. We choose to stand in the shelter trying to protect ourselves from the rain.

And I’m not saying there is any wrong or right in this. I’m just saying it’s not for me.

I’m saying no to a job because I’m choosing to believe in my ideas and abilities. I want to work on my own projects. I’m saying no to an apartment because I’m choosing the freedom to lay down roots in a country other than my own. I want to continue to explore the world. I’m saying no to a car because I’m choosing to live in a place with a great public transport system. I want to feel safe taking a walk or riding a bike.

I’m choosing to make a dash for it and risk getting wet. I may slip and slide along the way. I may even fall. I may get soaked. But if you’ve ever taken a walk or had to run in the rain, you’ll know it leaves you feeling refreshed and completely alive.

And it’s in that aliveness that I’m choosing to live. This does not mean that everything will turn out all right and I’ll find a gold pot at the end of the rainbow. It just means that I’ll be happy with me no matter what happens or where I end up.

The magical thing about life is that we don’t all have to make the same choices to feel our energy rising. My risk is not necessarily yours. My path to personal fulfilment is not necessarily the same as yours. My passions are not necessarily yours. My dreams are not necessarily yours.

We are all connected though, in that the source of life comes from the same place. The source of love comes from the same place and the source of happiness comes from the same place. And that is within us.

Tapping into it is a choice.

What are you going to choose to do?