The War Of Art And The Pain Of Resistance

Books

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

Art by Miren Asiain Lora 

Why Being Nice Is Not Always So Nice

Daily Thoughts
Art by Marialaura Fedi

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 nice all 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 mind and 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 others We 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.

Michelle writes that:

  • Being nice takes energy, tons of it. Being kind gives energy – you feel enlivened by it.
  • Being nice makes at best a small difference to someone’s day. Being kind can make a huge difference to someone’s day.
  • Being nice can feel fake. Being kind always feels genuine.
  • Being nice may be superficial. Being kind goes deep.

The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People

Books

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

Art by Kate Pugsley

We Live In A Society That Praises Extroverts

Culture

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’ world here, 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.

Art by Lieke van der Vorst

The Masks We Wear

Culture

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.

What are the masks that you wear?

Art by Marcel Dzama

The Year That Was

Personal

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.

Art by Monica Barengo

The Art Of Slow Consumption

Culture

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.

Art by Renée Gouin

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Daily Thoughts

It’s important to look at what someone does more than what they say. As you grow older, you realise the deeper meaning of the saying that actions speak louder than words. When I was younger, I was very trustworthy of what other people said, and I liked to think everyone was a good and honest person. It’s common for people to call it innocence, but it was truly because I tried to see the good in others. As individuals, we might say things in certain ways that relate better to different people. We might like to say certain things because we know that’s what the other person wants to hear. We might say thoughts that are honest, or only half said. A person’s true intention is shown through their actions. The values that they hold are reflected through their actions, and how they treat others. 

We can say kind words to others, talk about our ideas and the great changes we want to make in the world. However, if we don’t act upon it, then the words lose their meaning. The actions we take show our character. This is also connected to change. When we want to change something about ourselves, it’s easy to say I’ll change. However, in truly believing in them and acting upon them, we prove to ourselves that we are capable of change. Have you ever met someone who had a very serious demeanour about them, but did something so kind towards you that didn’t require any words? It’s those small gestures that show the real character of someone’s heart.

Words have power, and we can comfort, give advice, share ideas and be educated through words. I find that in seeing a person’s character, we should see what they do. There are many people who are smooth talkers and promise makers, but if it doesn’t translate into one’s actions, then we lose trust. Our body language also speaks for a lot of our communication, and sometimes we don’t need someone to speak to see how they might be feeling. This is why it is more exciting to keep a lot of our dreams to ourselves, as our actions will speak when it’s time. It’s easy to say something out loud, and people can always nod a long and appear to be agreeing.

You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do. We’ve all been there, where we’ve said we will accomplish this or that. I still remember a wise advice from my dear flute teacher who told me to keep goals to myself as a motivator. There are some goals that don’t need to be told to the world, because over time, they will show themselves. True care towards one another is through the things we would do for one another, not always through the things we say. We can tell someone we care for them, but when they are hurting and we’re not there for them, then the words lose their meaning. It’s the time we give, the actions we take and the way we treat those around us that show our true character.

“Life is too short to be around someone that says they love you but doesn’t show it.”

― Elizabeth Bourgeret

“I never listen to what a person says. I look at what a person does because what they do tells me who they really are.”

― Patty Houser

Art by Lieke van der Vorst

Why Introverts Feel Misunderstood

Daily Thoughts

During my teenage years, I prayed that I could be more confident, outgoing and speak my mind freely. When I entered my twenties, I accepted myself for the qualities that I have that simply are a part of who I am. I’ve really accepted being an analytical thinker, spending time alone to recharge and thinking before I speak. I learned that confidence is not defined by being loud, and that it comes from a sense of security within yourself. For a number of years, I thought there was something wrong with me, until I read the book Quiet by Susan Cain. I became familiar with the terms Introvert and Extrovert. Often, the different parts of ourselves are some of our biggest strengths. It is important to note that Introversion and Extroversion are not one singular characteristic. Every individual will have varying levels of both. Sadly, the word introvert has negative connotations attached to it due to societal expectations. However, in order to thrive and exist in the world we need a balance of both.

As an introvert, you may have a small handful of people in your lives that you feel completely at home with. You may engage enthusiastically in deep conversations rather than small talk. If you are quite a deep thinker, writing can be one of the most therapeutic, relaxing and satisfying things. You may enjoy being in calm environments, such as being surrounded by nature, reading at a cafe or sitting by the beach. That’s not to say one doesn’t like socialising, but it simply means the time spent socialising will vary. There are weeks where I may see a few friends for tea, and other weeks where I’m catching up on doing things on my own. I enjoy meeting new people, yet I also crave the need to be able to connect with someone in conversation. The way we express ourselves are all so vastly different. As someone who enjoys listening to other’s stories and experiences, it’s a precious moment to find a friend who is also just as interested in hearing yours.

There is a certain level of comfort when we realise that in those moments that you might feel alone or misunderstood, there are those who too feel the same. We find connections in moments of vulnerability. I have found that there are only a handful of people in my life who see me completely, and those who will naturally only see certain layers of who I am or who they think I am. It may never be the complete picture, and that’s okay. Does that mean you aren’t being authentic? I don’t think so. I don’t think we have to bare all ourselves to anyone we encounter in order to be authentic. In the comfort of loved ones, you feel you don’t need to hide anything. When we are our complete selves with those close to us, it’s because we have established a level of trust and security. It’s in the silence and solitude where we can take a moment to breathe and pause. It’s in the time alone that we can recharge, reflect and stay in touch with our creativity and our true self.

The video below by Lana speaks beautifully about the many experiences that Introverts may have.

Here is an article explaining the differences between introversion, shyness and social anxiety disorder -> The Confusion Surrounding Introversion, Shyness, and Social Anxiety Disorder

Articles on Introverts:

What is an introvert?

6 Myths About Introverts To Stop Believing

6 Things Every Introvert Has To Secretly Deal With

Art by Helena Pérez García

Mindless Consumption

Daily Thoughts

The ability to take action, maintain persistence and take time to do difficult things can lead to progress and development. We can consume, listen and read a lot of good advice from people, books and online. However, if we don’t take it into action then the desire and ability for change will never manifest into reality. Fear is something that can take over each and every one of us to varying degrees, depending on the situation or when facing something new. It can be those moments that can enable us to grow tremendously when we face it head front. For example, you may have certain goals that you really want to achieve, but fear can stop you from taking the first step. It’s a matter of taking the first steps out of your comfort zone. It’s important not to rush, as the delay in a reward can make us work more carefully and use our time wisely, and when we do receive it it can be far more satisfying.

Mindless Consumption The action of scrolling down your phone, watching anything on the television, eating food without much thought or buying clothes that you won’t wear are forms of consumption that have the lack of being present and are simply an action taken for passing time. They don’t necessarily add certain value in our lives, as we are a passive consumer. This is common, and we are all part of it in some way or another.

Instant Gratification A certain level of comfort and habitual action can come from instant gratification. It can be predictable and desirable and feels good. Food is an obvious example such as a chocolate cake. Although, an example that is increasingly common and infiltrates our daily lives is social media. We have more options, voices, content, feedback and noise online. Our brains are constantly stimulated when we consume digital technology.

Digital Detox Taking time away from your phone and minimising the apps you use can allow you to spend less time using, watching, sharing, posting, reading and looking at notifications. Your time is precious, and using the time to do things that are valuable to you is important. As algorithms, content recommendations and advertisements tend to cater to our interests, it can be good to take time to read, watch or engage in conversations where it challenges our views to look at things from different perspectives.

Chocolate and Carrots After watching this video, it says that the brain will compare the chocolate and carrot, and nine times out of ten the brain will go to the chocolate as the better option. Unless you’re a rabbit like myself and would choose the carrot. However, it shows how the brain will go to the one that gives the bigger dopamine hit and allow us to consume. Consuming is the easier option, and doing is more difficult as you need to move and exert and apply yourself. Which can be more difficult. It takes time and energy.

Art of Slow We are bombarded with an extreme amount of endless options. When options are limited our time to make decisions and choose are immensely lessened. The art of slow is taking a step back to read a book and really absorbing it in. It’s being mindful and present in your daily life. Taking those moments to do nothing. We need time in solitude and peace to recharge and reconnect with ourselves. Take those moments to walk in nature, meditate, learn something new or spend time cooking a meal.

Am I better than I was yesterday? Taking a break from consumer culture can allow us to come back more productive and focused. If you are thinking about something that’s constantly on your mind, just go for it and do it. Take time to also do difficult things, and embrace the frustration. If you experience those moments that feel slow, you learn, become more patient and become more resilient. Am I better than I was yesterday? What did I learn, what can I change, what am I grateful for, and what did I do well and maybe not so well. Where can I improve and what were some of the highlights?

Art by Monica Barengo