A trip to the supermarket felt like an adventure as a child. It still does. Roaming the aisles of different food categories was comforting and easily amusing. Although it’s also been a crazy last two years during the pandemic with crowded aisles, social distancing, panic buying and inflation in prices. The nostalgia of shopping is a fond memory and one of those activities that bring joy. There’s something satisfying about having a full pantry of food. It feels like a blessing and a privilege to be able to have food and to browse all the different items. It feels like a treasure hunt of trying to find all the items you’re looking for. Below are a selection of the many ways the supermarket brings me joy.
1) Being present in the moment. Going to the supermarket forces you to be present and focused by making sure you don’t bump into someone and that you get everything on your shopping list. Although it’s also easy to do the very opposite of zoning out trying to find your favourite cereal box.
2) Discovering new things. Trying new recipes, finding ingredients, discovering new products and trying new things are a fun part of going grocery shopping. I previously would make the same meal nearly everyday, whereas, buying different kinds of items makes you creative and think about what to cook.
3) People watching and listening to music. There’s probably scientific research that the music played at the supermarket is designed to make you stay longer, feel good and buy more. I have admittedly stayed at the supermarket pushing the trolley around to finish listening to a song. There’s also something amusing about watching people do their shopping.
4) The necessity of grocery shopping. There’s something very rewarding about cooking your own meal as a self-confessed previous non-foodie. When you cook your own meals it can feel satisfying and it can make you feel accomplished. Grocery shopping is also a regular routine in our lives and supermarkets are a familiar place that we go to every so often.
5) A change of scenery. It’s easy to spend time sitting in an office or being at home, but when you go to the supermarket, you can switch off and just think about what you need to buy. Something is always different each time: different music, different people, different fruit and veggies.
6) Browsing farmers’ markets. The best grocery shopping is at the markets when it’s a sunny day outside. It’s fun to stare at the dogs walking by and to find the cheapest cauliflower. There’s also a lovely atmosphere and it feels different to the feeling of when you’re shopping in a supermarket.
7) Having fun withyour loved ones. Going to the supermarket is a fond memory I have with my family. Whether being in New Zealand or Taiwan, or being at a supermarket or an outdoors veggie market. There’s something about food that quite literally brings people together.
What do you enjoy or not enjoy about grocery shopping?
We can spend periods of our lives in a cycle that repeats itself if we don’t seek the desire to change. Nature is always changing and evolving. That is the beautiful part of nature, as it takes its time to achieve great change. How we spend our time is precious. When we break apart everything, time is really all that we have. Our lives are unpredictable, and no one can be completely sure of how long they are on this earth for.
Every moment counts. The moments we stand at the traffic lights, the moments we sit on the plane flying home and the moments we are there for a loved one. The beautiful words are from Zadie Smith. It also makes me acknowledge the sad reality that there is so much time spent on the things that we don’t truly love. We live in a world where people are deeply hurting or they are bounded to a life where they are helpless.
Thoughts and Feelings / What you focus on is how you will feel. The thoughts we feed ourselves and the feelings we have ultimately affect how we view the world, how we view ourselves, how we treat other people and how we spend our days. Our thoughts and feelings impact how we experience the world around us and the world within.
Precious time / How do you spend your time? What we spend our time builds us into the person we are. If we spend time doing more of what we love, it can only benefit us in the long run. It can enable us to have a healthy relationship with people and it can make us a whole lot happier.
Leisure / The Art of doing nothing. There is praise for always being switched on in a fast-paced digital age. Being productive and busy is seen as the definition of success, when in actuality good things take time, and our focus is heightened when we give ourselves conscious rest.
People / Who do you spend most of your time with? They say that the 5 people you spend the majority of time with can impact you as a person, from your world view, character, interests and behaviour. The environment we are in and the people we spend our time with can have a huge impact on our wellbeing.
Memories / What are the good memories you can think of? Remembering memories that make you smile can bring them alive. When we focus on a bad memory, it can evoke a strong negative emotional reaction. The time that we spend to create memories that are good are often built around the foundation of love.
Gratitude / What are you grateful for in your life? Gratitude is a practice that we can actively do each day. The moment we forget all the things we have in our lives is the moment we can feel empty and unhappy. Where we put our focus and intention is everything. Our wellbeing depends on it. Remember to cherish all that you have.
Change / In what ways have you changed over time? We are always changing every day. In everyday we are learning something new. Change is inevitable and people will change, but the important thing is to know your values. What is it that you want in life? What’s important to you?
Choices / The choices we make over time influence the person we are today. What you choose to do is your responsibility. How you treat others, the conversations you have, the products you buy, the food you consume and the activities that you do all impact who you are as a person. The choices we make and how we spend our time impacts who we are as a person.
Creativity / What do you spend your time consuming and creating. We spend a lot of time consuming content from online articles to social media. We spend more time more than ever consuming digital content and buying materials. The time we spend creating is quite possibly one of the most precious moments.
The time we spend to practice something, create something or write something is valuable. When we do the things that we love and spend time with the people we love, then we must be doing something right. Our lives are meant to be enjoyed and the purpose of being here is more than we can understand. All that one can really know is that the existence of every being is precious.
No one is better than the other person. There is a false belief that by feeling superior to someone we can feel accomplished. Whether that is through materials, status or wealth. However, it is the biggest lie that we are sold in society. External things don’t add true value into our lives. It makes me think of The Little Prince quote that reads “What is Essential is Invisible to the Eye” all that is truly important in life can only be felt with the heart “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly”.
The greatest wisdom that I hear are often in conversations, such as the other day when my husband said to me that “Humility is not seeing yourself as above or below anyone.” We all have our insecurities and flaws. We’re only human. Perfectionism can be the death of our own sense of worth because it is an unattainable desire. The lens that we look through everyday comes from the thoughts that we have. The way that we feel comes from the way we speak to ourselves. If we look through a negative lens, then we will feel negative and see things negatively. When we see things through a balanced lens, we can see things rationally and clearly.
The thought that’s been pressing on my mind recently is the ability to have empathy. The human desire to be a better person comes from knowing that we don’t know everything and that we are learning everyday. Empathy comes from listening and putting yourself, truly putting yourself in someone’s shoes by feeling what the other person is feeling. Empathy requires us to be vulnerable and have compassion. Listening allows us to hear stories and perspectives that we wouldn’t otherwise hear. Listening opens up our heart and mind in a beautiful way so that we can have empathy for others.
Humility is the ability to say that you don’t know everything. We are life long learners. It’s the ability to say when you have made a mistake. It’s the ability to be grateful for the small things. We live in a society that places value and attention to external accomplishments. Humility, sensitivity and vulnerability are misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, when in actuality they are the greatest signs of inner strength. We need these crucial elements of existing to truly display acts of love and kindness. Love and empathy can exist when we stop looking inward, and start looking around at the world.
I love this beautiful excerpt: Humility is the understanding that we can’t go it alone. Empathy is the ability to identify with the challenges that have brought other people to where they are. Combined, these two traits invite us into authentic relationships with others, allowing collaborative energy to begin to flow. Humility keeps us open to new information, new insights, new wisdom. Empathy encourages us to unite.
I recommend reading the article The Beautiful Triad-Curiosity, Humility and Empathy here.
“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”
A battle with the ego is a daily war, a mere voice in our head and a character that tortures us. The sense of our true self is experienced when we let go of thoughts that aren’t true. Those limiting thoughts creep in to consume us and eat us alive. The voice feeds us lies that aren’t true, and those feelings can be overwhelming. After reading the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, he tells us the power of resistance, and the power of our ability to concentrate and do what we need to do. He enlightens us on the true meaning of the Self and encourages us to stay in tune with the Self.
How many times in our lives do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something? How often do we encourage people in their endeavours, yet we can easily bring ourselves down. Pressfield says that “Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it. Stop.” I really felt those words, as if a wise teacher was telling this to me directly. We can often become a victim to doing something we know in our hearts that we can do, or we desire to do it, yet resistance and fear pierces us and stops us from taking action.
Resistance thrives off of stopping us through procrastination and disbeliefs that end up taking more expended energy and effort. It becomes painful. It becomes soul-destroying fighting the resistance. Resistance exists from our fear. One of the profound words that Pressfield mentions is the fear that we will succeed. We are fearful to face our fears in fear that we might become the person that we truly are. Fear consumes us, yet failure is the necessary step that we must take to survive in the world.
What truly matters to you? We are dictated with definitions of what happiness, success and love should look like in society. We are told that we are always living in lack and that there is always something that needs to be cured, fixed, improved or changed. We are told that there is product that will fix our problems, and that there is always a problem existing in our life. Pressfield states that “We live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it.”
In the consumer culture that we live in, we are told that we can attain happiness in an instant pill-like substance that will satisfy our desires and needs. Whether that be in materials, money or status. Pressfield elborates on the differences between the amateur and the professional. The Professional understands delayed gratification and is patient in the end results whilst knowing the importance of the process. The Professional knows that good things take time.
You create the reality you live in. We decide our attitude regardless of the situation and we must remember that our emotions can distort reality. This is the wisdom that I strive to live by and often the truth is that as humans we are aware and knowing of many things, but the absolute difference is in practicing it. We can think about how we live in a world with two strong emotions of fear and love. When we have fear, we judge others.
Pressfield says that “Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.” This may be a beautiful rarity in its purest form, but a practice we should all aspire to each and everyday. This world desperately needs more kindness, love and empathy. The ability to see things deeply and truly from another’s perspectives, to have true empathy, to have deep compassion, to act with integrity and love and to not judge others out of fear.
When we are chasing the finish line, we lose focus. When we focus on the journey, we learn and we grow. This is our own journey. It’s like the tortoise that persists and keeps taking that one step ahead, rather than the hare rushing to get ahead. Pressfield reminds us to “Remember, Resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. It wants us to stake our own self worth, our identity, our reason for being, on the response of others to our world. Resistance knows that we can’t take this, no one can.” He reminds us that Resistance is a bully that has no strength of its own. Its power comes entirely from our fear of it.
Whatever it is that you enjoy doing every day, whatever it is that brings you joy, whatever it is that makes you feel a sense of purpose – please don’t ever stop doing it. There are moments where our mind tells us it’s too difficult to start, but often making the small steps count. Whether it’s playing an instrument, writing a book, or painting an artwork. Pressfield’s words beautifully says that “When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates us. The Muse takes note of our dedication.”
Our mind can be the biggest battlefield that we will ever fight in our lives. It will tell us all the lies to tear us apart and it will try to tell us that we can’t face the world. The mind can be a prison where escape seems impossible. We are trapped in our continuous cycle of negative thoughts, until we come to realise that the key is within us the whole time waiting to unlock and free ourselves. One of the greatest choices that we can make for ourselves is to fight to be our true self and to strive to go past the resistance.
We all have the ability, but as we get older, it’s easy to forget it. We watch the beauty of nature, and how it flows effortlessly and watches the season goes by. It’s as simple as a child sitting down, being lost in play and being completely present in the world. The child doesn’t judge him or herself for the artwork they draw, the child just draws because they enjoy it. The power is within us. The ability to get up and do something. The ability to fight through the fear. Whatever it is that we do in our lives, the ability to have humility in all that we do is one of the greatest.
The principal of organization is built into nature. Chaos itself is self-organizing. Out of primordial disorders, stars find their orbits; rivers make their way to the sea. – Steven Pressfield
The self is our deepest being. The self is united to God – Steven Pressfield
The word nice is often said as a compliment to say that someone is lovely, sweet and friendly. “You are such a nice person, Katie!” was a very common phrase I heard growing up. As time passes by, it has been a blessing and a curse that has taught me many lessons. Being nice is different to being kind. However, from my own experience, it is difficult because my personality is naturally very caring and friendly. It often takes energy to be nice, and there are moments where I really do want to listen and help someone. However, it is important to be careful where you put your energy, otherwise you will experience emotional burnout.
The word nice has connotations of being modest, likable and well-mannered, but it also has negative underlying meanings of being weak, unaware and naïve. As an introvert, I prefer to spend more time having no activities in my calendar. Therefore, learning the art of saying no is very important. There’s nothing wrong with being friendly, but it’s important to know that there is a distinction between being kind and being nice and to set your boundaries with people. Don’t let people walk over you, and take control of who you are.
The pressure to be niceall the time The words we are told throughout our childhood have impact on our identity. The repetitive nature of being told something can make us believe those words. We begin to associate who we are as a person with those descriptions. The truth is no one can define who you are except for yourself. However, breaking a life time of believing what someone might say is good or bad can take time. It’s not realistic to be positive all the time and this expectation can create added stress and pressure.
The ability to be kind and assertive The moments I have been assertive are the moments I’ve felt the stress and worry decline. There is a misconception that being assertive means being loud and outgoing. You can be assertive and direct, but still be gracious and kind. Learning to communicate assertively in a fair and kind manner can be a relief to express yourself calmly and directly, yet still stay true to who you are without having to pretend to be anyone else.
Being taken advantage of A common experience I had growing up was being bossed around or being told what to do. I want to highlight that there is a difference between being asked for a favour, or designated work in a kind and direct manner. As opposed to someone who is taking advantage of you out of dominance and narcissism. There are many kind people in the world, but it’s important to know that there are people who will only engage with you when they need something or want something from you.
Stop caring what other people think Being caring and compassionate is being human. We have to remember that that is one of the greatest strengths we have as individuals. However, it is also important to stop caring too much what others think of you. The moments I care too much what someone might think, the more I want to try avoid situations that might upset anyone. No matter what we’re doing in our lives, people will always judge no matter if you succeed or fail. When you start to care less, you begin to live for yourself.
Self respect and self assurance Clearly stating your needs and being fair and open minded shows that you respect yourself. When you are sure about your choices and decisions, then you can communicate these more directly. When you know who you are, when you accept yourself and when you love yourself, that energy shines out into the world. Our self-esteem is lifted when we have a positive self-image of who we are and our identity.
Healthy disagreements are okay We can’t escape disagreements with people, and having wisdom to not be involved in unhealthy conflict is a good skill to have. However, it’s okay and very normal to have conflict, because we are all human and we can’t agree on everything. There will be problems and situations we get into that may bring discomfort, and learning to face the discomfort and find the best solution is important.
Avoid passive aggressiveness and emotional outbursts I can say very clearly from personal experience that one of the worst things for your mental health is bottling your emotions up. Learning to regulate your emotions and finding methods to feel calm and communicate clearly to others will save a lot of distress. The periods of my life where I felt deep depression was after a period of bottling everything up without sharing with anyone.
Pain of perfectionism and self-criticism The strive for perfection is impossible. The more we create an unreachable standard for ourselves, the more stress and pressure we create for ourselves. It can be debilitating and increase feelings of anxiety. I remember thinking if I upset someone, if I spoke up about a certain topic or said something that might cause negative feelings, then it would mean that I’m not a ‘nice’ person. The self-criticism is very intense in my mind.
Speaking your mindand being honest When we stay silent in the moments where it counts to speak up, we lose our voice. When we are honest in an authentic and well-intended way, we stay true to who we are but we still have the ability to be assertive. Knowing when to stay silent and when to speak up takes wisdom. Being kind means thinking before we speak and considering how our words may impact on the other person. It means seeing things from someone else’s perspective, and then expressing your views. Being nice is often associated with potentially hiding your true feelings, however, you can always be kind and express how you feel.
The power of saying no When you say no to things that you can’t commit to, you aren’t interested in or you don’t have the desire to engage with, you are setting your boundaries. The choices we make each day will impact on the life we live. If we say yes to everything, we don’t create space for ourselves and we make ourselves too available for others. It will become a set expectations from others that you are always readily available which can make you end up being taken for granted or attracting only those who will get in touch when they need you, not because they want to.
Set clear boundaries for yourself As a nice person, it’s easy to want to help others and invest yourself into doing more. The more you set boundaries for yourself, the more that other’s can’t take advantage of you, and the more you are clear about where you stand. Our boundaries keep us safe and conserve where we place our energy. It shows the respect that you have for yourself. Boundaries help to keep your emotions in check, avoid social pressure, be clear about what you don’t tolerate, and stay true to who you are as a person.
Avoid burnout by prioritising yourself When you prioritise yourself, you prioritise your mental health and wellbeing. This is a hard one, because if you are naturally caring and sensitive then you tend to put others needs before your own. It makes me think of when you’re on the plane, and the safety video tells you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping someone else. You have to take care of yourself first. This doesn’t mean that you are being selfish, it means that you are practicing self-care.
Unrealistic expectations of othersWe can’t control how other’s react or what they say, we can only be in control of how we react to a situation. When we’re too nice to others, it builds unrealistic expectations that others should do the same. When they do not meet these expectations, you may feel upset or resentful. I’ve noticed this in situations such as in work or friendships. The truth is we shouldn’t waste our energy towards people who don’t care or who only come to you when they need something.
Being kind is the care and compassion we show through our actions. We can be outwardly nice and polite to those around us. We can smile and be friendly with strangers. When we are kind from our heart, it shows genuine care and empathy. Someone can have a serious demeanour, yet they may show their care through their actions. Someone can be outwardly nice all the time, yet in the moments where it really counts, they aren’t present. This is why it’s important to strive to be kind and assertive, and work at it everyday.
Being assertive means that you stand up for your own rights and set your boundaries clearly. There are many situations in my life where I let things slide by, when all it takes is a moment to speak up. This created a lot of unnecessary pain and hurt. I really hope someone reading this can know how important it is to practice and learn to be assertive, and know that being kind and assertive go hand in hand.
Humans are wired to connect and to have authentic conversations. Being sensitive, empathetic and vulnerable are traits that allow us to truly connect with people. A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world through a heightened way through high sensory experiences. This may be through crowded places, strong scents or loud noises. It is said by the clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron that 15-20% of the population are HSPs. HSPs process and feel emotions more deeply than others and they are highly empathic and tend to have rich inner lives. The emotions they may feel are very deep whether that may be positive or negative.
Growing up as a classical musician, I was deeply moved by music during a performance, a painting in an art gallery, reading a book or watching a movie. Taking actions such as surrounding myself in nature, sitting at a library or taking time to pray or meditate would bring peace and calm. Discovering that I am an HSP explained so many factors from my childhood, career and the unexplainable feeling that there was something wrong with me. The act of practicing loving yourself and being gentle with yourself is one of the most kindest and lifechanging things you can do for yourself.
I recently read The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People by Mel Collins, and felt touched by a lot of the ways she describes the experiences that HSP’s have during their lifetime. The book is separated into three sections. The first section expands on the term HSP. This includes the definition of an HSP, the Environmental and sensory triggers and the challenges HSP face. The second section looks at different strategies through processing emotions, practicing self-love and tapping. The third section talks about the spiritual perspective from exploring our past lives and maintaining inner balance.
The book is a great introduction for those who want to have a better understanding of being an HSP. The book reminds you that you are not alone in this journey, as it invites HSPs to recognize their strengths rather than look at themselves as flawed. Collins expands on the top ten challenges faced by HSP’s. These include being empathic sponges, deep emotional sensitivity, a feeling of not belonging, a difficult childhood, self-esteem and self-worth issues, relationship struggles , health issues, difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’, parenting parents or other family members and feeling unfulfilled.
Being empathic sponges can be draining due to the HSPs being kind-hearted and highly empathic by nature. When surrounded in a negative environment it can leave them feeling over-stimulated. Collins says that “HSPs often feel a need to withdraw from the outside world to release the energies absorbed and to recharge.” Deep emotional sensitivity is felt through the positive (joy, kindness and love) and negative emotions (guilt, shame, fear, hurt, loss, unworthiness, jealousy, anger and feelings of betrayal). A feeling of not belonging can start from a young age particularly for those who have experienced a difficult childhood.
Self-esteem and self-worth issues may arise due to the HSPs sensitive nature being criticized or judged from a young age, causing shame and embarrassment because of it. Relationship struggles can be common for HSPs such as nurturing friendships, as they are natural givers and good listeners. This can attract the friendship patterns that are one-sided. Health issues can be a problem as HSPs are extremely sensitive to pain. For example, they may experience disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or insomnia.
Difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’ is a common trait for many HSPs. HSPs tend to be kind-hearted people who want to be good to others. Collins states that “They often have difficulty accepting what is viewed as the ‘darker’ side of themselves. This can lead to them suppressing what they see as their more negative emotions.” The words Collins adds rings true “whatever you resist persists.” It’s important to find healthy and safe ways to release any suppressed emotions.
HSPs can grow up taking the role of the parent subconsciously. This is common for HSPs whose parents were emotionally unavailable. The final challenge Collins states is feeling unfulfilled. Collins states that “In my experience working with HSPs, many have a strong drive to feel they are making a difference in the world. As a result, many believe that if they don’t feel fulfilled in this way, they are in the wrong career.” Many may find that there is a long period where they may spend searching for what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing. However, she says that “In reality, however, any job has the capacity to reflect an aspect of themselves or meet an inner need […] Every job can be viewed in this way if you make a choice to do so – as a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling purpose.”
For many HSPs it can feel like you are spending a lifetime finding your purpose and understanding the depth and complexities of your emotions. Embracing your inner self and accepting that you feel deep emotions will free you from the chains. The pain was only extended through the deep fear of judgment and rejection for how I was feeling. Taking steps and finding specific ways that help you with your feelings is an important step to healing. I really hope in writing this, that it can help even one HSP know that you are not alone. I spent many years with depression and anxiety. I found methods such as meditating, praying, journaling, walking, being in nature and self-havening incredibly healing in the moments where I’ve felt helpless or overwhelmed.
Your sensitivity is your superpower. The ability to empathise towards others and deeply connect to animals, nature, music and the arts is a gift. The search for meaningful connections means that you give your all or nothing in friendships and relationships. Sensitivity is both a blessing and a challenge, but sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness. We live in a world that tells us that we need to be a certain way, but when we acknowledge the strength of being sensitive, it opens the door to understanding. The characteristics that you may have not seen as worthy are the very aspects that make you beautiful.
“By becoming conscious of what it is in the ‘darkness’ or ‘shadow, you are shining light into the darkness and encouraging it to dissolve.” – Mel Collins
Is freedom giving up the need to be understood by everyone? The exhausting part of our daily lives erupt when we feel the need for most people to understand. Every person is deeply complex. The greatest blessing can lie in feeling understood by those who truly care. I was reading the article Introverts are excluded unfairly in an extraverts’ worldhere, which was incredibly thought provoking and eye opening, as I spent many years thinking that there was something innately wrong with me.
Around seven years ago I discovered the term introvert and felt a greater understanding. We live in a society that praises extroverts. In the article it states that “The main cultural problem is that introverts are widely seen as not adapted to the environment, instead of it being acknowledged that the environment is designed to profit extraverts. Society’s praise and acceptance of extraversion as the norm has led many introverts, along with many ambiverts, to suppress different aspects of their personality, or to see them as flaws. This state of affairs is bad not only for introverts, but for society as a whole.”
Susan Caine cites studies which suggest that the majority of teachers think the ideal student is an extrovert, and more extroverts are groomed for leadership positions in the workplace. However, the level of introversion or extroversion does not equate to one’s level of competency. We need to live in a world that supports both introverts and extroverts in all environments. We need to create environments that allow both to shine through their positive traits.
Negative connotations tend to be associated with introversion and introverts can often be stereotyped as shy, socially anxious, awkward and quiet. However, shyness is not the same as introversion and being an introvert means that you need to spend time alone in order to recharge your batteries. The two important areas of our societies are schools and businesses. These are areas that individuals spend a significant amount of their lives in. These are designed largely for extroverts and the extrovert’s need for stimulation.
A person should not be measured by how well they can engage in small talk but in the ideas, values, character, opinions and empathy they express. The greatest freedom is being yourself. As children we are taught to play with other children, and isolating oneself is seen as an issue that needs to be resolved. In some cases there may be clear signs that the behaviour may be concerning, however it’s common a child may feel more stimulated through activities such as reading a book or painting a picture
The implication that it’s a fault is created by societal expectations and norms. Social exclusion through not conforming to societal expectation can also increase feelings of isolation and rejection. The ending of the article beautifully says that “More importantly, we must remember that introversion is not something to be fixed – but a blessed source of human diversity that comes with many strengths. The way to advance our personal and collective growth is not by eliminating this diversity, but by embracing it.” Every person has the ability to create change and to contribute towards society.
The complexities of the human condition are deeply reflected in the layers that we each have. The antidote to this are the authentic acts of vulnerability and empathy. The fear of judgment causes us to hide our childlike self under a hard shell, rather than allowing our true self to flourish. It takes energy to not be ourselves. The masks we wear can become definitions that we create for ourselves and the ways that we present ourselves to the world. Reflecting on my own masks, I thought about how the words we are told as a child are powerful and they can become deeply ingrained into us as facts throughout our whole lives. The powerful truth is recognizing that only you know who you are and only you are in control of changing who you are. No one can really define you, unless you let them.
Growing up, I was often told that I was shy, quiet and reserved. This was repeatedly said to me throughout my life to the degree that I thought that there was something wrong with me. As an Asian New Zealander, there have been many moments throughout my life where I felt an unexplainable invisibility. The stereotype of the ‘Quiet Asian Woman’ has followed me all my life, deeply affecting the way I previously saw myself. My experiences, though, have really helped me to understand the harm of minimising people through categorizing them. The undoing of a lifelong feeling of not fitting in a mould came through the development of self assurance within oneself despite external voices. You are the author of your novel and the beauty and freedom of this is that you can create whatever you desire.
Masks are an internalisation from how other people perceive us. It can make us succumb to the perception of the world to protect ourselves. The fear of vulnerability can hide our true self as we wear a false mask as a protection to feel safe from the world. The desire for acceptance leads to wearing a mask that society puts on us for fear that being your true self is not the way the world wants to see you. Our identities are constructed on how others perceive us, but the lack of vulnerability constrains the diversity of human nature and potential. Vulnerability openly invites us to talk about how we feel without judgment, builds trust and a sense of security and connection, the freedom to be ourselves and the deliberate act of being kind.
When we struggle with our mental health, we often cling to our masks even tighter. For example, when you have experienced depression, you may have fought to bear a smile on your face. We experience an inner battle when we hide our depression and anxiety; holding tightly on our masks can provide temporary relief, but never allow us to fully heal. The surface may not reflect the reality. The dangers of this comes in the deterioration of authentic connections when we create an appearance of perfection to the world that doesn’t exist. Perfection is a false façade to create an illusion of happiness to the world but it never achieves true happiness. True happiness is the freedom we feel when we are living in the world as the person that we were born to be.
Our true selves tend to shine when we let go of external pressures or validations. True understanding comes from taking the time to listen and see through different lenses. When we judge ourselves or other people, it comes from a deep rooted insecurity within ourselves and a desire to feel a false sense of superiority. Wearing masks are a learned practice that we have picked up as a survival tactic as a way of hiding what we are feeling. Masks are worn as a socially expected concept such as when we may have to keep a polite demeanour even if a situation is difficult. When we really unpeel everything, everyone wants to be understood and loved.
There is a beautiful photography series by Justin Rosenberg that you can view here that brings to light the reality of how we tend to perceive things through what we see rather than for what they are.
The most whirlwind year was filled with the most unpredictable turn of events. I never could have truly imagined as soon as the clock turned midnight that the year would be filled with all the crazy things that happened. The year gone by has taught me an immeasurable amount of lessons that I will take on for a life time. I learned that through all the hurt and pain something has to change, and I have this moment to change all those parts of myself that are deeply hurt. Healing takes time. The important thing is to allow yourself to truly feel those feelings. The more you try to escape how you’re feeling, the more those painful moments will consume you in the long run. God puts us in the most unlikeliest places in life and in moments where we don’t expect but when we look back we realise that they were some of the most beautiful and precious moments in our lives.
You are the author of your life. There are aspects of our lives that we cannot control and we have to accept them as they are. However, there are many aspects of our lives where we have a choice. We can decide our attitude regardless of the situation. Our mindset determines the kind of life we want to live, as you become what you think about all day long. The limitation we create often starts in the mind when we tell ourselves that we can’t do something or that we fear the chance of failure. If we don’t go for what we want in life, we may never discover if it’s what we truly wanted.
It takes energy to not be who you truly are. The greatest blessing of a lifetime is to live as the person you truly are. We can spend too much time caring about what others think who don’t truly care about us. There was a sense of relief in accepting that I’m an introvert, empath and HSP and that that’s not a complete definition of who I am but a part of myself. Our true self shines through our character, personality and actions. No one can define who you are and one of the greatest freedom is embracing completely who you are.
We don’t need a lot in life to be happy. In a consumer society we are encouraged to obtain more materials and possessions. The truth is we don’t need a lot in our lives to be truly happy. Happiness that is based on instant gratification is not sustainable. If you have a roof over your head, water to drink, food to eat, clothes to wear and electricity then you have much more than many people in the world have. If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you have left? We take on memories, experiences, relationships and love for the rest of our lives.
Be kind to yourself. We can often tear ourselves apart in our minds by saying words to ourselves that we’d never say to anyone else. Think of the moments when your friend tells you how upset they felt when something didn’t work out for them. We tend to feel a sense of hope for them. We tell them they can do it, we tell them that everything will be okay and yet often we can tell ourselves the exact opposite. We can be incredibly hard on ourselves. I highly recommend reading Kindness: The Little Thing that Matters Most by Jaime Thurston. The book reminds us that it takes the smallest actions to create a ripple effect of positive change.
Practice gratitude everyday. We become what we focus on all day long. Do you notice when your mind starts focus on everything that’s going wrong, it’s increasingly difficult to see all the beautiful things in life. Gratitude isn’t the denial that life can be incredibly hard at times but it is recognising that even in the midst of struggles there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Gratitude reminds us of what’s important in our lives and it allows us to remember that very often it is the small and simple things during our daily lives that can bring us the greatest joy.
When you judge yourself, you hurt yourself. When we judge ourselves, we are harming our selves. The times I felt the lowest in life were when I was constantly judging myself and magnifying every small perceived flaw. The deep fear of rejection, the fear of being vulnerable and the unrealistic high expectations I held for myself did not help support, reflect or allow my true self to shine. Cultivating empathy and kindness towards yourself invites your heart to let go and embrace all the beautiful parts that make up who you are.
Our society needs empathy and compassion. Everyone has the ability to be kind. We live in a broken world and we desperately need empathy and compassion more than ever. There are many broken souls in our world and hurt people hurt people. It’s heart breaking because pain can latch onto pain and create a cycle, but empathy and compassion comes from love. Empathy is putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes and really trying to understand what they have been through.
It takes time to heal. We must allow ourselves to feel instead of burying the pain and causing it to erupt later. The only way we can truly heal is when we allow ourselves to feel those feelings. We tell many lies during the day when we say that we’re okay, that nothing’s wrong or that everything will be alright when we completely ignore, deny and suppress that there are areas of our lives that need attending to.
Imagine if you had a broken leg but you still walked around as if you weren’t wounded. Over time your leg would collapse and become worse because you didn’t allow it to rest. When we allow our heart to heal we are pouring it with love and forgiveness and empathy. The trauma that we experience in our lives do not disappear on its own. We have to face them even though it can be the hardest battle we may ever fight.
There is nothing wrong with being who you truly are. The words that we are told as children are powerful and can etch in our hearts and minds for a lifetime. As a child you can feel as if the words are defining who you are as a person. Growing up I was often told that I was quiet and shy. Only you know who you are in every layer of your being and all the complexities that can come a long with it. Only you know what you have experienced in life.
Forgiveness is powerful, letting go is freeing for the soul and feeling is a part of healing. We have to forgive ourselves and forgive others. We will all make mistakes, we have all hurt someone or been hurt by someone and being human means that we will all experience pain or negative experiences. Forgiving frees your heart as holding onto things can weigh heavily on us. Letting go is letting the bird fly out of the cage to breathe and see the world. When we let go we set free all the past hurt. When we allow ourselves to feel, we invite our heart to heal.
Change is hard but it’s worth it. There are many things I reflect back on that I felt that I could have dealt with better or that I need to work on within myself. There were moments where I wish I spoke up or I had expressed what I was thinking. I was watching a video recently that quoted Ernest Hemingway ‘There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.’ The truth is that the grass is not always greener on the other side. True change comes from wanting to continuously grow.
Love can sometimes find us in the most unexpected ways. Life is unpredictable and the unknown can come with surprises. The most beautiful thing I will treasure was marrying my soul mate. It’s a rare moment in life where everything feels completely right in your heart when all the pieces of the puzzles connected together. Love is a choice you make each and every single day when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep. It’s a choice you make as you lay beside your loved one, it’s a choice you make as you both may experience a hard time yet you are still at each other’s side to support one another, it’s the choice you make knowing that you cannot change anyone but you want to grow together.
The way our present self looks back ultimately creates the past that we have experienced. Reflecting on the hard times that were experienced made me think about how much they pushed me to grow. Reflecting back on how in the moment it felt like it was the hardest year of my life makes me reflect back on how it was quite possibly one of the best years of my life. Through all the tears, pain and hurt there was an overwhelming amount of love, growth and healing. Every moment of pain experienced before was worth it to experience a tremendous push to change and grow as a person. Life isn’t a destination that we arrive to and receive a lifetime subscription of happiness. It’s an ongoing journey that we experience each and everyday.
The psychology of sales, discounts and promotions tend to convince the need to buy in order to feel a sense of satisfaction through saving. This is a powerful marketing tactic as it encourages consumers to buy and therefore increases production demands. The use of special offers and a strong favourable brand image deliver a lifestyle and a promise of happiness that is attainable through purchasing the product. The cycle boosts the long-term profitability and sales for the company, but it also comes at the price of feeding on our insecurities and telling us that we need materials in our lives to fill up the spaces to attain a certain status, appearance or lifestyle. However, the increase in mass production encourages mass consumption. The increasing consumption cycle is damaging to our environment, well being and mind set.
In our rapidly changing world, we are more impatient due to instant gratification and being bombarded with more choice and opportunities. The gamification of smart phones have also caused a change in socialising, communicating and interactions. The fast paced society has caused an increase in stress, depression and anxiety. It reminds us to take a moment to practice mindful consumption in buying, reading, exercising, cooking, socialising, eating and so forth. We can take time to have a more leisurely approach to life rather than conform to the rush of a busy life. Over-consumption presents an ecological threat to individual, social and global well-being. The ideology that should be shared is that buying less things that are better quality can help us lead a more fulfilled, less wasteful life.
In The stuff of life, Immig writes “What if you piled up all the stuff you’ve ever owned and consumed in your lifetime? Would it make a tall tower reaching into the sky like a high-rise building, or is it more of a discreet mound?” The article is fascinating and creates visualisations of the waste that we have contributed to in a lifetime. It seems as if we can obtain everything we could possibly imagine if we have the financial means to, yet large numbers of people remain deeply unhappy. The chase for personal status and material wealth is built from consumer culture which encourages extrinsic goals that bring an illusion of temporary happiness. We are increasingly obsessed with superficial ideals such as material possessions, wealth, fame and status which is a result of the declining care, empathy and concern for others and for our environment.
The garments we hold tend to lack meaning due to the idea that they’re instantly replaceable or out of trend through the fast-pace cycle of the fashion industry. Adopting the models of slow consumption creates more respect and value for what we have, rather than affording cheap clothing that creates a throwaway culture and encourages the cycle of fashion produced under exploitive work conditions and are environmentally unsustainable. A focus on environmental ethics would help bring the focus on a collective level on the impact and change that can be made for global well-being. If we strive to be conscious consumers, we make the first step in deliberately trying to minimise permanent footprints on the environment. We consider the difference between needs and desires and to purchase and consume slowly and accordingly.