Category Archives: Motivation

Positivity, how it can harm and how it can help you.

Positivity has become fashionable. And as somebody who’s never taken to the EMO culture, I’m glad. But as with everything else, there’s a healthy and unhealthy approach to positivity. And as positivity focused as I am, I can also be annoyed by some of the mantras circulating on social media and among friends.

 

Positivity is harmful when you take it too literally. When you block out the hurt and sadness that comes with living by trying to shake it off with mantras like “Oh well, I’m grateful to have the gift of life”, or something equally Pollyanna like, you’re not really dealing with the negative things that come your way and that’s not healthy.

 

Imagine a dinner plate. Initially it’s clean. Then you eat fish, the next day you have pork, the next day lentils and then chicken and so on. And you don’t clean the plate between meals other than sprinkling some water on it. Though the plate is physically okay to eat from, the residue from the earlier meals will be there and eventually as you eat from the plate and never wash it, all sort of disgusting organisms might start building their own dinner plate colony.

 

By always smiling and reciting positive mantras, your mind will end up as grimy as that dinner plate. And eventually the positivity will turn on you and you might have a mental breakdown which it might take both time and professional help to recover from.

 

Let’s go back to the dinner plate. Say now that you do clean it after every meal. You’ve taken time to clear any traces of the previous meal away and the plate is as good as new. That is also how you should treat your mind. It won’t be a guarantee against long term depression, but by going through your negative experiences and dealing with them in a way that works for you, will be helpful in keeping a good mental hygiene. Everything will probably be ok and improve tomorrow, but get the hurt out so that you start off with a clean slate.

 

And what about when it won’t be ok? How do you use positivity towards someone who is terminally ill in respectful manner that’s not gonna infuriate them? I’m no psychologist, but I’ve experienced enough terminal illness with close family members that I have an idea. It’s not something that will be deemed positive in the traditional sense.. But if you think that being there by a terminally ill loved one who more than anything wants you by their side isn’t a good thing, though sad, then isn’t that a form of positivity? And as what to say to them, stay away from “It’ll be fine”; unless they believe in an afterlife that you know they’re keen on getting too. , I think the safest thing is to say “I’m here, I’m not going anywhere and I’m letting you know. It’s up to you what you wanna do with that information.”

 

Positivity isn’t just about good visible results and happy endings. Positivity is about love, self-belief, living in the now, being comfortable with yourself and your emotions, being a good friend and those moments and experiences that keep you moving forward. It is also about cleaning out the old and making space for the new.

 

Positivity is a powerful and constructive tool that can make life more bearable. But be mindful, which is another annoyingly trendy word, of how you manifest it. There’s nothing wrong with mantras. But for your own sake, it’s better to use mantras that you can live by and stand for. But I think mantras are very personal and in my experience it’s better to project positivity onto someone else by actions rather than just than mantras.

Self-improvement, conclusive thoughts

I’ve been thinking long and hard for a few days about how to progress with this self-improvement journey on the blog. I came up with a few topics for new lessons, but after assessing them, I think they can all fit in to this conclusive post on self-improvement lessons. That isn’t to say I won’t be posting more tips and advice that has worked for me to improve my life, but I will probably do it in a slightly different context rather than straight up self-improvement lessons.

 

Self-improvement hurts a lot.

I will compare it to a blister. Starting your private journal is a bit like taking a huge needle and puncturing it. The hurt, anger and self-addressing that will inevitably happen, is like that disgusting liquid that comes out when the blister is punctured… Like a blister, the puncturing and the cleaning out of the wound are likely to be extremely painful and uncomfortable. But just like the relief you feel when the blister is gone and everything cleaned up, you will feel better for addressing what needs to be addressed. You will get that fresh clean mental slate you need to start rebuilding whatever it is that you need to rebuild in your life. Keeping the journal going is like maintenance work, so that if everything starts to blister up, it won’t become as bad.

 

When you self-improve, you will lose people.

Not everyone is going to like the new you. Losing friends or in some cases family from your life can be a relief, especially if they’re holding you back from who you want to be, or it can be very painful. People appear in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. So rest assured that the lifetime people will find their way back to you. It may just be that they’re behind you in their development journey. But don’t wait for anyone to catch up with you. Keep going, because stopping or regressing in your journey will not get you where you want to be.

 

Improving yourself has the potential to make you very powerful.

When you are in a good place where your thoughts are more positive, less cluttered, your inner monologue strengthens you and you genuinely love yourself, you are gonna be on fire! This doesn’t mean that life will be perfect and you’ll wake up on a natural high every day. But your sense of general mental wellbeing will make it easier to go through those shitty days we all get from time to time. And when your self-development journey has taken you far enough, you will probably be able to see the beauty in the bad emotions. For example I had a very awful break-up three years ago that left me out of bounce for a very long time. But thinking back to that break-up I remember a lot of beautiful things about that time that I didn’t see then. For instance I spent a lot of time alone thinking and that developed me into a better version of myself. Had I been where I am now, I probably would have been able to take comfort in the things that weren’t so bad a lot quicker than I did back then. I’m by no means trying to glorify bad days or grief of any kind. But being in a good place mentally can help you turn the sadness into usefulness. When I feel down now, I journal and then do some songwriting. It helps.

 

Believe in yourself.

I have met religious people who put all their trust in God, who are puzzled at how they are not progressing while their atheist counterpart is doing swimmingly. Dig a little deeper into those people and the issue become clear. They feel unconfident in themselves and their abilities while the atheist has a lot of self-belief. What I’m trying to say is that whatever you may believe in, you can’t reap the benefits of your own abilities unless you actively decide to believe in yourself. “God will do it for me while I just tag along,” isn’t a good attitude. If you believe that God created you in his image and that he has a plan for your life, the least you can do to honour God, is to speak positivity into your life and take the necessary action to achieve what you want to achieve. Prayer, meditation or self-reflection, depending on what you believe in, is also a necessary step to achieve what you want. Because what they all essentially are, is your mind focusing on one issue. That alone, won’t get you where you need to be, but together with actions, it’s powerful and keeps your thoughts tidier.

 

It’s ok to be a little selfish

Not in that negative me first, me all the time, kind of way. But taking timeouts or making sacrifices in order to achieve your goals is something every expert encourages. Your friends might not understand why you choose to be at home on a Friday night, or why you don’t use social media or drink alcohol. It’s important not to be discouraged by this though. In order for you to become the best you, your need for space or new healthy practices should be high priorities. Self-development happens differently for everyone and in different phases. So it might just be that you need a short timeout from what you used to do. But don’t let anybody pressure you. As a friend who might not be going through this process now because you’ve either done it, or you aren’t there yet, encourage your friend to take the time they need for themselves. As long as it’s a positive withdrawal that doesn’t seem to stem in mental health issues, you have nothing to worry about.

 

Finally, have fun along the way.

Are you ready to take the step and improve your life? Enjoy your journey and all the blessings and good things that will follow. Take as big or as small steps as you need and share it with as few or as many as you like, though don’t exhaust yourself. Choosing 1 thing to focus on each month and achieve it is better than choosing ten things and achieving only a couple, so bare that in mind. As much as it can be painful and serious, it’s also fun and joyful.

 

Write down a list of what you do, then a list of what makes you happy and adjust accordingly where you can. You deserve to be happy and have the best life you possibly can have.

Self-improvement lesson 9. Life’s not a competition

I once had a childhood friend who at 22 was not only married with her first baby on the way, but had lived with her sighted man for 3 years prior to getting married. She was blind just like me. As a blind woman who just wants to be part of the mainstream world, I always strived to do everything I could for my blindness to become as unnoticeable as possible by trying to do what every one of my sighted friends did. I admired this childhood friend a lot, because to me she was someone who was so “normal” despite her blindness. I was just as integrated as her, but I just felt she was doing way better than me in every way.And when she had settled, I felt as if I had failed. I was 23, had no real marriage prospects and certainly no baby on the way. What I did have though, was a job in the BBC, but it’s hard to see yourself and your situation from another perspective when you don’t feel amazing about who you are which I didn’t at the time. And having a BBC job in London as a Norwegian 23-year-old is no small thing.

 

In the same way we look at someone else’s life and envy how perfect they seem, we look to others who achieve things we ourselves want to achieve and envy how they did it before us. But life isn’t a competition. And there is a different time for me to achieve something you already nailed.

 

I have come to believe in divine timing and that we can only progress with what we want when we’re truly ready. That might not always be when we think we’re ready though. My childhood friend clearly was in the right place for family life at 22. And although I wanted the same, I can see now that I was far from it. I have come a long way emotionally, spiritually and even physically from when I was 23 and I am much better equipped to deal with taking care of someone else apart from me now.

Likewise, I look at young wonder talents and feel a little twinge of envy. Imagine if my career could have started young like Beyonce, Rhianna or Britney Spears. Or imagine if I had received Young Journalist of the year award, something you have to be under 26 to achieve. And why couldn’t I have published my first novel at 23 like my favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? There certainly was no lack of will or passion from my side to achieve either. But there was a lack of both maturity on my part and the right nurturing to achieve it.

 

I am no longer 23, but my skin is thicker and my mind is a lot more focused. I still have decades ahead of me where I can achieve great things in my chosen fields. Just because I started later doesn’t mean I’m lagging behind.

 

It doesn’t matter if you do something before or after someone else. The important thing is that you do them when you have the capacity in the form of maturity, ability, economy time etc. It can be easy to look at life as a competition. But when that happens, it’s important to take a breather, disconnect from the pressure you create on yourself by meditating, journaling, exercising or relaxing in any other way that makes you forget about life just for a bit. And then come back with renewed strength.

 

I mentioned in a previous post how I sometimes look at other female artists I feel I can compare myself to and feel a little envious of their success. And even understanding that what they have now can be mine next year, doesn’t always help to make me feel better. But after having taken that timeout, I try and turn those negative feelings into a positive force that will make me go forward and achieving that success on my own terms and with my tools.

Self-improvement lesson 8. Don’t live the life someone chooses for you. Live Your own life.

I remember getting a letter in the post from the Norwegian association for the blind one day. Not an unusual occurrence since I’m a member. But I remember this one well because of what happened after I opened it. It was in Braille, and mum, being curious as always, asked me to read it out loud.

 

The letter was about the setting up of a Goalball team. Goalball is a ball game played completely in the dark which means that if you have any level of sight, however little, you have to wear blindfolds. You have to wear them anyway though, because you throw yourself after the ball on the floor and it can get tough, so the shades which are huge protect your face. You need a lot of other protective wear too. The ball has a bell in it, so the players can hear where it is. It needs to be completely silent during a match which lasts seven minutes in total.

 

When I was done reading the letter, mum commented sarcastically that I seemed so very interested in joining. She was right though. I couldn’t care less about Goalball. I preferred sprinting and swimming. The thought of squatting on the floor to wait for a rolling ball with a bell wasn’t my idea of fun. But I went to the practice, I joined the team, became Norwegian champion and I played for three years. Why? To please my parents.

 

All parents have certain expectations when it comes to their children. In fact, we all have some degree of expectation for everyone we interact with. But there are healthy expectations and unhealthy expectations. As much as my parents loved me, they’d tried to decide my path from when I was a baby and continued to change their desires for what they wanted my life to be as I grew up. This was especially true for my dad. When I was very young, he told me that I was going to become a world champion in short distance running. When it was discovered that I could sing, I was going to become a pop ballad singer with dad as my manager. I thank God that never happened. Then, he wanted me to become a teacher like my mum. He traveled a lot with his job and was absent for large parts of my growing up, so he couldn’t understand how teaching children to me sounded like Hell on earth when mum loved it so much. He didn’t know me at all, but he wanted a safe steady job for me. The opposite of what I wanted which was travel and excitement.

 

I was often told how disappointed my parents were when I didn’t prioritize to socialize in the very small blind community and I felt guilty about it. They only wanted me to be around people they thought I could relate to, so it came from a good place. But as a teenager that wasn’t quite my perspective on the situation. Since I’ve always been as stubborn as a donkey, I went my own way. However, only recently am I feeling truly not guilty about my choices though I have made mistakes along the way.

 

Every child should respect their parent, even as grown-ups. But every parent also needs to respect their child. I am not yet a parent, but I am a human and I know that the children I will have will be individuals with their own personality and mind from before they’re able to communicate verbally. I have also been a child with a lot of expectations placed on me as to what is the right life for me. And it feels very suffocating. When I look at me and my parents and other people I know and their parents, it seems to me that where the relationships have soured is because the respect between the child and the parent isn’t mutual. Not that there’s always disrespect and total disregard for all feelings, but often the parents are so set in what they want that they forget that their child has their own mind. I’m by no means saying that a five-year-old should decide their bedtime, diet and if they feel like going to school, but it’s important that as children grow up, they should be free to make their own choices and live the life they want. A parent might want their child to become a lawyer or a doctor. But do they want their children to be unhappy if they hate law and medicine?

 

And it’s not just parents that can shape your life in a different direction to how you want it. There are times in most people lives where following friends and peers are important too. Meaning they take up a study because their best friend does it, or join a football club to please a sibling.

 

But the truth is, that you can’t happily live your life according to others expectations. And you know what they say. The truth shall set you free. Do what’s right for you, even if it may not go down well with parents or friends. As long as it doesn’t harm you or them, you should have the last say. You only have a shot at this life once, so make the best out of it.

Self-improvement lesson 7. Loving yourself will drastically improve everything

Knowing this has also been fundamental in changing my personal wellbeing. There is no way of escaping it though. Other people can make you feel good for a while, but unless you feel good within yourself, that feeling is not gonna last.

 

I personally believe that not loving oneself is the reason many relationships fail. People enter into relationships thinking it’s going to fix them. That if they can just be loved, they will love themselves. I think we’ve all been there at some point. I know I have. But for me, that’s never worked. If you don’t love yourself, and as a result of that have a low self-image, leaning emotionally on one other person to help you fix that is not only going to push that person away, but it’s going to drain their energy and make you feel even worse for having that effect on them.

 

Having said this though, we all need to be loved. Love from others boosts, encourages and can even improve us. But we need to stand on our own emotionally to truly benefit from what somebody’s love for us can do. And giving back to somebody what they are giving us is such a precious gift. do. And in order to give love, we need to have self-love.

 

If you have spent your life beating yourself up over practically everything, it’s not gonna be easy to just start loving yourself overnight. But start with the little things. Most of us talk to ourselves in our head or out loud. Sometimes subconsciously. The first step I suggest you take towards self-love is to listen to your inner voice. What does it sound like? What would you like it to sound like? Think about who you go to for advice when you’ve messed up for others or yourself and why you go to that person. Try to adjust that inner voice to fit with your ideal advisor. Make it even better if you can.

 

When you manage to talk yourself through mistakes you’ve made or upcoming challenges in a constructive and soothing way rather than telling yourself what an awful and incompetent person you are, you are on your way. If you’re already doing that, then that’s amazing. I am getting there.

 

Love yourself. Because though it won’t solve all of your life problems, it will lighten the burden of life and make you feel so much better. You deserved to be loved by you.

Self-improvement lesson 6. Nobody knows what they’re doing all the time

It’s so easy to look at someone else’s life and feel down because their life is perfect while yours is far from it. And social media is very much building up under the idea of everyone having a good time. But that’s in a way also the beauty of social media. You can edit and filter until your life looks enviable even to yourself.

 

If the world population would be charged with lying on social media, I guess at least 90% of us would be found guilty. And the truth is, when you sit there and edit a photo or think of a status to sum up a version of your life you want other people to see, there are millions around the world who do the same.

 

It may look like the next person has it all. A good job, a nice house and a perfect family. But behind the carefully constructed facade, there might be hiding some ugly ghosts, or at least some frustrations and insecurities.

 

And it’s good to know that we’re not alone. Nobody knows what they’re doing all the time, or have a secure future. We all have days; weeks and even months when we feel lost and like the world is working against us. And if that’s how you feel, my best advice is to stay away from social media as much as possible and even withdraw yourself a little from people who intimidate you until you feel able to cope with them again.

 

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other people and beat yourself up over not having gone as far as them. But you don’t know their struggle to get where they are, or even if everything they’re posting is real. The worst thing I can do when I’m down, is to go on Twitter and check the updates of artists I feel I can compare myself too. Their amount of followers and radio plays just end up depressing me. But when I’ve stayed away, lived a rich offline life and feel confident that I’m doing everything I can to progress at that moment, I can manage to feel happy for them and what they’ve achieved, knowing it will be me one day as long as I stay consistent.

 

So next time you feel you’ve not got your shit together and that everyone else is doing way better than you, remember that those people probably have the same feelings about other people and maybe about you. And take a timeout and do something that makes you happy.

Self-improvement lesson 5. There is a time to talk and there is a time to shut up.

When something good happene

When something good happened to me, I used to have the urge to tell everyone who would and wouldn’t listen about it. A new boyfriend, a new job, even projects in the planning stage. I used to love getting praises from people about how well things were going for me.

 

There’s nothing wrong in sharing good news. But what I found so tiring about it was all the explaining I had to do when things didn’t go as I had planned or hoped. I hated having to tell what seemed like countless people about break-ups or why a certain plan hadn’t developed into fruition. And what I also realized, is that not everybody is always gonna be happy for you. Someone may be going through a hard time and might not want to hear about your amazing life. And instead of being grown-up about it, their envy comes through in bad ways.

So my conclusion is there is a time and a place to talk and there is most definitely a time and a place to shut up. This is true for everybody, but especially if you have a certain following and visibility. I talked about having someone look up to you that you may not know about in my previous post, and there might also be people out there who are jealous of your progress, good relationship or great job. So saying less is definitely better than saying too much to too many people. Just look at what happened to Kim Kardashian last week. And I could also mention other celebrities and even friends who have had good things in their life affected by being to public too often.

 

Keep your council and choose your confidents very carefully even when seeking advice.

Self-improvement lesson 4. Don’t underestimate yourself

All my life, perhaps as a result of having been bullied through most of school, I’ve had very low thoughts about myself. I thought everything about me was stupid, from my name to the way I looked and I would have given anything to be someone cool and popular with an exciting life

 

I remember the first time I was confronted with being someone’s role model and it felt very strange. I was complaining to a friend on MSN Messenger in emo teenager style about how much things just sucked, to which she replied saying “How can your life suck? You’re so damn perfect!” And then she went on to list all the so called perfect things about me. I was shocked to say the least that anybody could think this about “stupid me”.

 

That incident didn’t turn my self-image around. I continued to not like myself well into my twenties, which probably affected all my life choices. Let me tell you, I wasted time on some terrible relationships, both romantic and platonic. And filled my time with stuff to do so I didn’t have to just be, think and reflect.

 

I didn’t have a eureka moment when I suddenly saw my own worth. It came slowly, as I received affirmation from people that really, I was doing alright and I seemed to know where I was going in life. I wasn’t fishing for those compliments, but these things come up in conversation when you spend time with people. I probably relied too much on other people to find my own self-worth, but at least I found it. And I’m glad it didn’t take even longer.

 

I now know that I’m somebody who can be a role model to people and somebody who is a role model. And those people, who are giving me the greatest affirmation on this today, are internet trolls. Because for someone to sit down and write hateful messages to me, they have to actually spend time following what I’m doing. What they’re projecting on to me is jealousy and envy because I dare to do something they haven’t done and I do it with confidence. Someone who may just dislike me or my music won’t take the time to put their heart and soul into hateful messages that are meant to hurt. They probably won’t message me at all. And it’s fine to dislike or disagree with someone. There are artists I am not keen on, but I respect them for what they do and don’t feel the need to hate online.

 

Without you knowing, there is probably someone out there who has you as their role model, or looks up to you because of something you’ve done. And unless you live under a rock, I can almost guarantee you that this is true. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a million people in a foreign country or someone at school, work or in your family. You are being looked up to because somebody thinks you’re awesome.

Self-improvement lesson 3. Making that sacrifice

Nothing good comes easy and if it comes too easy, it’s probably not that good. These are very used up clichés, but clichés are clichés for a reason and this one seems to ring true. I don’t know anybody who has gotten whatever they need or want dumped in their lap without doing any work. It might seem like it sometimes, but the truth is, you never know what they went through to get their success.

 

I have a few people I look up to, who have really helped my development process through their material. Those recognitions will be a separate post. But what they all say is that they have not made good headway with themselves and their brands or projects without making some kind of sacrifice. Some swear by celibacy, or giving up drinking or smoking, while others who are not ready to make those kinds of commitments are sacrificing time they spend on general distractions dedicated to whatever it is they’re trying to achieve. The latter must be done anyway though. But the point is to temporarily, or indefinitely give up things that distracts you from putting in the required work, or demotivates you.

 

For me that is alcohol. I am not a big drinker, so it’s not like I don’t do what needs to be done because I drink too much. But I am someone who very easily gets depressed by alcohol, even if I’m in a good place. And when I have been feeling down after having a few drinks, and perhaps argued or had negative conversations with friends because of how I felt, I think about that a lot over days and my motivation is gone.

 

I am by no means giving up an occasional drink for the rest of my life. But for now, I need to stay focused and positive until I’ve been in that good place for long enough that I feel it’s ok to try and see how the drink affects me. Though if I like my alcohol free life, then that’s cool too. What’s less cool is that I’ve already had people asking if I’m pregnant. It’s funny, but says something about how deeply alcohol is embedded in our society. We shouldn’t have to defend not drinking it.

 

But if you feel that you can’t give up sex, alcohol or chocolate, I definitely would be miserable without chocolate, you should never force yourself to do that. If you want to try sacrificing something you feel is holding you back from achieving what you want, try something small, like less TV or Limited social media use, or anything you spend lots of time on. And start with a short period. Seven days is fine. And when those seven days are up, you can go on, or go back. You may feel stronger for just trying.

 

If you haven’t yet reached the stage where you feel any sacrifice is needed, that’s cool too. It may be that it doesn’t come for a long time. But that doesn’t make you less dedicated to what you do. Just know that hard work is needed whatever you choose or not choose to sacrifice.

Self-improvement lesson 2. It’s not you, it’s them!

This is perhaps the most powerful lesson I’ve learned. I guess we’ve all been in situations where we’ve been unfairly criticized by someone we know, or being knocked down about our ambitions and goals for no reason. And unless you know you’re receiving some form of constructive criticism, I can almost certainly tell you that the negativity you receive is the insecurities and envies of the person doing it.

 

This should really make sense. We’ve all been in a place where we might envy somebody, generally had a shitty day, or just felt that everyone else seems to do so much better than us, and come with crass remarks we don’t really mean when someone is being all positive. Or if not, the thoughts of what you’d like to say to them might have been there. But it can be very easy to forget this. Especially if the person knocking you down is someone close to you and if the thing they’re discouraging you from is a dream you’ve had for a long time.

 

When I decided to pursue my music, I received quite a few negative comments. Some of them were concerns for my wellbeing, but in hindsight I know a number of the comments were envy from people who’d never had the guts to pursue their dreams or people who had failed as musicians.

 

The next time somebody is being especially harsh towards you, just stop for a second and put yourself in their shoes, or try to see it from their point of view. Instead of getting defensive, ask yourself what’s going on in their life for them to be the way they are. You’ll probably still feel hurt by their words, but you’ll save a lot of energy that you might previously have used to analyse why, how and are they right. Constructive criticism usually comes out of good conversations and has a whole different feel to it. And whilst we never need to be knocked down, a dose of honest criticism is something we should appreciate.

 

I’ve also noticed that some people thrive on fighting and constant disagreement, because it’s a way for them to keep you in their life. Especially if they know that you wouldn’t necessarily be there otherwise, if you have nothing in common. So in some twisted way, it can be a compliment if someone is constantly aggressive towards you. But whether you’d like such a presence in your life is up to you. I know I can’t deal with it, because it drains my energy. So I move away from those situations. I firmly believe that if someone is meant to be in your life for more than a season or a reason, they will come back. In this instance, meaning that those people who approach you with negativity will come back to you differently. And if not, it’s okay. Especially if you’ve done what’s in your power to improve things.