Tag Archives: Self-image

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.

Advertisements

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 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.