I am a writer. You are a writer. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.
And just like you, I sometimes suffer from torturous levels of self-doubt. I haven’t published any books – yet. But I do have a couple of amateurish self-help books that were written years in the past and buried in the attic. I’ve also been writing a self-help blog for the past half a year. A blog I was putting off starting for the longest time because I was petrified of failure.
After starting my blog, people contacted me to tell me how much they appreciated me sharing my stories and advice. It was only a handful of people, but let me tell you, when you have a message to get out and you’re being authentic, it’s the most freeing and amazing feeling in the world.
No matter how rubbish you think you’re writing is, it will always entertain or help someone. And you can only get better, not worse. Though if you never start, nobody can ever hope to be moved by your words or inspired by your inner world.
Looking back on my old work, I see grammatical horrors, and an inconsistent flow. It’s all too easy to listen to that voice from beyond the cobwebs of your mind that says ‘Give it up now. Throw away the pen. Nobody wants to read that hot garbage. Everyone will laugh at you’.
That voice is meaningless. Poison. It will kill your dreams and stifle your voice if you give it so much as an inch.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a writer. As a child I would sit at home writing stories in cheap spiral notebooks, or typing up a storm on the old-fashioned style typewriter which my parents bought me; you really had to hammer the keys to get the ink onto the paper. I used it so much that one Christmas, they surprised me with an electronic one and I was beside myself with excitement, my fingers soon dancing over the keys, page after page of prose whirring onto the paper.
At school, I put my heart and soul into writing assignments, winning commendations for the stories I wrote in English. It was exhilarating to have my work read out to the whole class, and I felt proud.
Then I got older. And the more of life’s traumas I experienced, the rarer and more incomplete my stories became. I became convinced that they weren’t good enough, even though my cousin would read them, transfixed, and beg me to write the next chapter. I never did. I would screw up entire pages of prose, rewrite it, then screw it up and rewrite it again, until the story got abandoned completely.
Until recently, I would continue to write half stories, only to leave them behind until they become nothing more than a long-buried memory in Google Docs or on my hard drive. Over the years I’ve read dozens of books and magazines on writing. I formed a writing habit, but it still didn’t cure me of my endless need to perfect whatever I was working on. For me, perfectionism was another form of procrastination. As long as I was forever editing my work, I didn’t have to get it out there.
Then something happened which drastically altered that self-defeating mindset that had poisoned my writing over the years. I rediscovered one of the horror stories I had written as a child.
The story was about an alien that came into my house one day and kidnapped my family, then I discovered the family dog could talk because she helped me to defeat the alien and rescue my family. It’s cringe-worthy and hilarious to read now, but ultimately, this story has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
You see, back then, I was too young and innocent to let a lack of confidence hold back my imagination. My child-self simply put pen to paper and wrote whatever nonsense her brain had dreamed up, no matter how silly it sounded or how crazy the plot.
It’s astounding and depressing how as I grew older, experiencing trauma and setbacks, my stories eroded alongside my self-confidence.
For many years I’d been held back by my insecurities: I’ll never be any good, I’ll never write anything worthwhile, people will never care about what I write and will judge my work harshly. Yet nobody else had ever read this story. The cruellest judge of all was me.
Without a doubt I can tell you that your mind is the enemy of your pen. Whenever you put off another project, or another sentence, you are standing in your own way of success, letting doubt and fear gain the upper hand.
But you’re worth more than that, aren’t you? You know you are. That’s why you have so many words racing around your mind. So many untold dreams.
The words you keep locked in your mind are endless, just like your potential.
Whenever I feel that self-doubt creeping back in, I still my mind and get back in touch with my inner child, locked up behind bars, still poised at the typewriter. And I start to write as if I were that fearless child again, simply getting anything and everything down on paper or my screen.
Just like I finally started my blog and gained several followers, I brought down that old buried manuscript of the self-help book in the attic, and began to rewrite it with the knowledge and skills I’ve gained as a thirty-something writer.
No longer am I a writer in hiding.
Through getting back in touch with that eager and neglected inner-child who’s always wielding her pen and typewriter, never caring what others think, I’ve found that old buried confidence.
Because I am a writer.
So, what are you waiting for? Go unleash those ideas and share them with the world! Your words are worth it!
Minimalism is more than just about decluttering your home and your schedule. It can also apply to people and relationships in your life that are causing you stress or harm. So, this week’s post is all about how to deal with toxic people.
You know the kind of person; they walk into a room and the atmosphere becomes dark and oppressive, almost as if someone sucked the light and energy out of it. They whine and complain, moan and berate. Punch and stamp. The world is a terrible place. They’re always a victim. It’s always your fault.
But I’m not talking about people who’ve had a bad day once or twice, have a moan and say something they later regret. I’m talking about the people who constantly whine, complain, talk about others behind their backs, take without gratitude, and never ever give back.
I’m talking about people who raise their fist and use fear to gain control over others.
Personally, I don’t like the word ‘toxic’ for these people. Rather, I see them as damaged individuals who may or may nor be conscious of the effect they’re having on others. It’s the behaviour that results from that damage that’s toxic.
Please understand that I’m not giving these people a free pass to abuse or belittle others – there is no excuse whatsoever and it’s not acceptable in the slightest. I’m also not asking you to feel sorry for them. I’m simply trying to shed some light about what’s really going on with the so called ‘toxic’ individuals.
For example, a person who spent their whole lives being smacked around by their alcoholic father might go on to abuse others in the same way, or become an alcoholic themselves (I realise that not all abused people go on to abuse!). But the person with that behaviour was once a pure soul who came out of their mother like everyone else.
These kinds of people appear in all walks of life. They’re parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends, colleagues, and people in authority positions.
At best, they make you feel annoyed and fed up. At worst, they start to have a huge impact on your health and mental resources, or even pose a danger to your life.
It doesn’t matter how serene or minimalist your life is behind closed doors, if you constantly hang around people who drain you in such ways, your life will always feel like a hellish whirlwind and you’ll constantly feel exhausted.
But how do you deal with that kind of person without resorting to nastiness or reacting to their behaviour in the exact same way that you despise from them?
I know the feeling; you want to finally say something. To take action. But you worry about feeling guilty, and perhaps hating yourself. Maybe you’re scared.
The reality of having those feelings becomes even more of a worry when you consider that many of these damaged people are also manipulators who know all the right buttons to press to make you feel that way and forgive them , time and time again.
The alternative, is you play tit-for-tat. Perhaps you shout at them and call them even worse things than they called you. Maybe you threaten them with not doing favours for them in the future, or withhold something from them in the hope that they will change.
THIS NEVER WORKS. Reactions such as promises to change will likely be based on fear and/or control. People cannot change overnight. They have to want to change themselves, and it takes many months or years.
Here’s the thing: it sounds crazy but you can still forgive these people without hanging around them and further forfeiting your well-being. You can let go of these people while still remaining a friendly and caring person.
You see, when we hold onto negative feelings for too long; hate, upset, frustration, fury, sadness, despair, helplessness, it becomes emotional clutter that weighs even more heavily than an excess of physical possessions. Eventually, you can no longer function.
But you don’t have to hold onto to all of those feelings. Here’s some ways to deal with those people who are wearing you down, without playing tit-for-tat.
Gradually reduce the time you spend hanging around these people. Or massively cut down on the time you spend responding to them on social media or other means.
On the more extreme end of the spectrum, cut them out of your life completely. This might be the only option if the person is extremely mentally and/or physically abusive or has worn you down over many years with no possibility that they will change.
If you really must be around them, frequently attempt to change the topic of conversation to something more positive. Refuse to engage in negative discussion, especially if it involves bringing others down or going against your own values.
Encourage them to be positive by being positive yourself. Be kind and friendly to them at all times. Be a positive influence in their life. This doesn’t always work and you might find that they re-gravitate towards more negative people, instead. Remember, kindness doesn’t mean you have to accept abuse!
Raise your standards of the kind of people you allow into your life. Many times I’ve heard people say “Why is it I only seem to attract assholes?”, “Why don’t people ever treat me with respect?”. If that sounds like you, consider the Law of Attraction. If you’re negative yourself, orbit around people with toxic behaviour, and you see yourself as that’s all you’re worthy of, I can guarantee without a doubt that you will attract more of the same . The universe will send more people like that your way, and it won’t stop. Manipulators and other damaged people will sense your weakness and take advantage, even if they, themselves, don’t realise they’re doing it.
Simply accept them as they are but put boundaries in place. This doesn’t mean tolerating disrespect and abuse, but understanding why they are the person they are and seeing things from their point of view. Show them warmth and understanding, but have boundaries in place to protect yourself. For example, you will gladly listen to them but under no circumstances will you join in with bad mouthing others, and you will not pick up their messes for them. You are not on beck and call 24/7. Recognise that unless they have a severe mental illness, they are, ultimately, responsible for themselves and their actions. Again – you do not have to put up with any kind of abuse.
If you’re deeply worried about a person and what they might do without you, or they make threats of suicide, either call the emergency services to protect them, or provide them with helpline numbers and services they can contact. As tempting as it might be, try not to play the part of the rescuer unless it’s absolutely necessary. Use common sense and trust your judgement, but don’t be manipulated.
For those of you who aren’t sure what to look out for in a manipulator, some signs are:
threats of suicide if you leave them or don’t do as they ask
Sudden bouts of aggression or dramatic weeping when they’re denied something or don’t feel in control.
controlling behaviour e.g controlling who you talk to
constant phonecalls/texts/social media communications
saying or doing things to make you feel guilty, either by saying something to make you feel sorry for them or by buying expensive gifts.
Please take what I say as a guide only. How you choose to deal with the people in your life will depend on many factors including: your situation,how long it’s been going on, mental health, the ages of the people involved, their relationship to you, and your beliefs.
Whatever you take away from this post, let it be this: you are a worthy human being who deserves love and respect. Learn to love yourself and don’t let others devalue you.
That being said, if you frequently suffer from depressive thoughts and feelings, or can’t seem to pull yourself out of a slump, talk to your GP, or consider therapy such as counselling.
Now, if you’re reading this with two fingers down your throat pretending to vomit, I urge you to consider why that is. Do you feel vulnerable?
It’s hard to admit but it makes me feel vulnerable whenever a sappy scene plays in a movie or game. I sometimes recoil and make immature comments or start acting silly in general.
It used to make me feel vulnerable when my husband acted sweet and romantic towards me (he still does, although I’m now much more mature and accepting about it).
Why? Because it might expose my feelings. Because others might ridicule or judge them, and therefore, ridicule and judge me.
But why, in a post about dealing with ‘toxic’ people, am I telling you this?
Because by becoming better in tune with who you really are and what you really want out of life, you can start to recognise and deal with the toxicity around you.
With that, I leave you with a few questions to think about.
Who are you and what do you stand for?
Who and what do you want in your life and why?
How do you want to spend your time and who with? Why?
How do you want to be treated? Why?
What kind of person don’t you want in your life? Why not?
How don’t you want to be treated? Why not?
How don’t you want to spend your time? Why is that?
What’s the worst way you can imagine yourself or anyone else behaving? Why?
If you allow yourself to be treated as less than human, why is that? Are you scared of being alone? Do you feel unworthy? Why?
You may have noticed that the above questions contain a tonne of ‘whys’. So many they might just be driving you nuts. The reason is because without a ‘why’ it’s next to impossible to understand yourself and others. Without a ‘why’ you’re more likely to give answers without much thought. It makes it easy to avoid difficult truths and feelings.
Remember: never settle for less than you’re worth (you’re always worth far more than you think) and always be kind.
Self-growth requires confronting and accepting hard truths about ourselves and our situations and learning to move forwards while becoming better people in the process.
Because that’s what it all is. A process. A journey. And a bumpy one at that with twists, turns and long stretches of smoothness.
I used to be what I call a tidy hoarder (although I didn’t realise I was a hoarder at the time). Candles, mugs, trinkets and figurines lined shelves and window sills while cupboards and drawers were bursting at the seams and collapsing under the weight. Boxes hid under my bed collecting dust and the top of my wardrobe towered with boxes, storage containers, and soft toys.
My hoarding habits were a source of frequent arguments and discussions about my ‘trash’ in the home.
I kept all sorts. Masses of keyrings collected over the years, old party invitations, old school work, old defunct cables, those little badges you can get with rebellious statements on, old jewellery, old stationary, little notebooks and relics I’d got from cereal boxes as a kid (including a Rugrats flip book).
I’d even kept a ring from when I was seven years old, simply because I’d worn it at primary school.
As a person I was angry, unfulfilled, lost, and confused, with severe identity issues which caused massive problems in my relationships. Until I discovered minimalism, I didn’t realise that the state of my stuff reflected the state of my mind, and my past.
Just like with my drawers and cupboards, I kept parts of myself hidden away in dark dusty corners of my psyche, and every so often, bits would burst out and everyone around me would be left picking up the mess, only for it to end up back in the box it all burst from.
I’d grown up with such a turbulent school life among other things, that by the time I got to college and made the life-long friends I have now, I’d become a master of wearing a mask of silliness and extreme cheer. I was so skilled at this it became a genuine part of who I am today.
The first time I got confronted with my hoard was a wakeup call for me. I was renting a house with the man who is now my husband, when mum brought over all my old stuff from their attic. Bags and bags of stuff. Bin liners stretching with the weight of the memories inside them I’d carelessly stowed away.
At first, I just saw it as a monumental physical task I needed to work through. I couldn’t escape it because there was nowhere else for it to go. The attic was already rammed with game consoles, Christmas decorations, old memories, and other paraphernalia I’d just shoved up there when we moved in.
But as I emptied the bags and started to work my way through them, I felt all kinds of emotions, even over innocent things like soft toys.
Sadness, grief, nostalgia, warmth… such a mixed bag of feelings all attached to these objects, many of which I’d owned since I was a child. There were several piles of old school work, even my old school planner, complete with sad, angry scribbles.
To the people around me, that was all junk. Why hadn’t I put it in the bin ages ago? Why was I storing all that garbage? But to me, they were feelings and parts of me.
That school planner represented the part of me that expressed my feelings when nobody else would listen; proof that I experienced those feelings.
My school work was a trove of teacher praise, writing, and essays which I’d poured my soul into. I’d even kept hilarious pieces where it was clear I hadn’t understood the task or concept.
I found gifts from people who’d long since left my life, and a tower of children’s books I used to treasure.
By the end of the day, I charity-shopped about 90% of the bag’s contents, and I felt so light that I could have floated a metre above the ground. It was as if those bags had never been stowed in the attic but been tied to me the whole time.
I also felt emotionally drained.
That was my first step into self-growth and into what would later reveal itself to be the path to minimalism, but it took a long time for the universe to make me and the concept cross paths.
Since discovering minimalism, I’ve not only unearthed many parts of myself that I didn’t realise existed, I’ve discovered and reignited my dreams, and have worked persistently to accept the past and make way for who I’m becoming.
Clearing the clutter in my life was the same as clearing out the drawers of my heart and the closets of my mind. It took a lot of soul searching, confronting parts of myself and re-discovering where I wanted to go.
I had spent a lifetime living in the past, believing that I was worthless, and that the feelings I had were nothing but a lie if I got rid of the stuff I associated with them.
Without going into too much detail, this is because I grew up unable to express my feelings. It was taboo. It was wrong. It was weird. So I ended up attaching them to tangible objects.
When my heart got too heavy and full, it got emptied into cupboards and boxes, instead.
Of course, minimalism isn’t a cure-all and I’ve had to do a great deal of self-growth. Self-growth is something which never stops and should never plateau because people are forever experiencing life and taking on new beliefs and values.
For me, minimalism is the foundation to grow a new successful self. One not weighed down by stuff, the past, and outdated subconscious beliefs.
It’s my hope to help you on your journey, too, whatever your values or your past may be. It’s deep, hard work, but you can get there.
Remember, just as you don’t grow from toddler to adult in a day, you won’t change and grow your core values and beliefs overnight, either.
Since we’re entering the festive season, let’s consider Scrooge from ‘A Christmas Carol’. He changes from a lifetime of being cruel, miserable, greedy and selfish, to jolly, charitable, fun, and caring. All in one night.
While the story is great and has a powerful message, in reality, Scrooge would have taken years to change because his persona would result from various factors throughout his life; beliefs instilled into him by his parents, the people around him, his circumstances, and his environment.
Every single person has their own story, background, and beliefs. You can’t change a lifetime of beliefs and behaviours overnight, no matter how much you want to. And while throwing them out with the trash is freeing, you still need to do the emotional work to prevent returning to old habits and circumstances.
This week, I finally completed a videogame I’ve had for years called Alien Isolation. For years I would make a certain amount of progress, only to get stuck, scared out of my wits, and quit.
It’s only in the past few months I plucked up the courage to restart it after a friend said, “don’t let your fears rule you”. I realise how cheesy that sounds, but that’s exactly what I was doing. I was acting the same way I used to in real life.
In the end, I pushed through that fear, and my failures when the alien killed me again and again. And in doing so, I finally reached the end credits. I was successful.
But most people don’t keep on pushing through when they fail. Like I once did with Alien Isolation, they give up at the first few hurdles. So many people stay stagnant.
They won’t go for that career opportunity, or start a new business, or ask that guy/girl out, or attempt to learn a new skill, or travel somewhere new, or stand up for their beliefs.
Life is tedious but safe. Unfulfilling yet secure.
At work I stayed in the same old position for ten years, despite many opportunities for growth. Why? Because I was too terrified of failure to try anything else. My life was on autopilot. Go to work, get paid, buy new shiny stuff to feel more alive, dream of winning the lottery, dream of writing, rinse and repeat.
Because of turbulence in my life as a young adult, I felt that I should be grateful for even having a job. My mother often drilled the last part into me.
The message was clear: Stay where you are. Don’t try anything else. Don’t push your luck. Don’t even think about it.
And I didn’t. I fought the symptoms of undiagnosed chronic illness, and when I finally got diagnosed, I thought, This is it. My cards have been dealt. Now I need to fight to keep going, to keep my job. It was the first job which I genuinely loved (and still do).
Supporting students was highly rewarding, and I grew over the years. I became a better TA, better able to build relationships, gained more empathy than ever before, and a wider view of the world.
But there came a point where I started longing for more. Dreaming about creating content that would help and inspire adults. Fantasising about becoming an author. About helping people with their life problems. And I stayed like that for many more years.
Just dreaming and wishing.
Whenever I saw somebody else become successful, it was like looking through a telescope from across a vast, raging ocean. Success was something that only happened to gifted people. Whenever students left the school with their grades and a blank slate, I longed to go back to the past.
If only I had chosen the right courses (journalism or creative writing). If only I hadn’t been so scared to pursue what I really wanted. If only I didn’t have a chronic illness.
All of that was faulty thinking based on limiting beliefs I had at the time: That I was now too old to chase my dream. That I was a crap writer and had nothing worthwhile to say. That I was dumb and didn’t deserve better.
The truth is, if I had made different choices, and if I was free of illness, I wouldn’t have learned the things I have. I wouldn’t have met my husband, and most likely, would be a completely different person. I wouldn’t be writing my first book which is all about coping with chronic illness, and I probably wouldn’t have discovered minimalism and grown as a person, so I wouldn’t be writing this blog.
It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in life, or how old you are, you choose how you play the cards you have been dealt in life. You choose if to keep playing or surrender your hand.
It’s only over the past year I’ve wrestled back control of the steering wheel and have a clear aim. Minimalism helped clear my vision. And once I had a clear view of what I wanted and how I was going to get there, I just went for it.
I made this blog and carried on writing even when the writing gremlin told me I was crap. I applied for a BACP counselling course, even though the sneering voice of self-doubt piped up, Pfft. You? You’ve spent years on the wrong path. What makes you think you can help others to find theirs?
I could have listened to that voice and not applied for the course. But I remembered that it was because I had gone down the ‘wrong’ path that I came to the revelation I did.
It’s the people I met along the way. The lessons I’ve learned by teaching others, and by overcoming challenges in my relationships. Relentless studying and reading every book on success and communication I could get my hands on.
Slowly but surely, as I kept reading, applying what I learned, and clearing more clutter from my home, my old limiting beliefs fell away.
I had proved that I could become minimalist, even though I was a hoarder for most of my life. Why couldn’t I work for myself when there are people who have overcome massive adversity and still achieved their dream?
Reading about some of these people, I realised there was always a common thread. They all had a clear vision of what they wanted. And they all worked their asses off to get there. They all kept pulling themselves out of the quicksand. They stopped drowning and kept kicking their legs until they started swimming.
It turns out that some of the world’s most successful people had also been told they would get nowhere in life. Often by teachers, other authority figures, and by the attitudes of the people they were surrounded by at the time.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s parents noticed his affinity to physical labour and suggested that he could become a furniture maker, or a mechanic. But what he wanted was to become a famous body-builder. His friends at school thought he was weird for his strong desire to go to America, because he talked about it all the time.
Do you think any of that stopped him?
Can you imagine if Arnold had played it safe, instead? If he had only done what others expected him to do?
One of my favourite authors, Bryan Hutchinson, struggled throughout his education, and was told he would never be a writer. He was even humiliated in front of a whole class once by a tutor who didn’t believe in his abilities. Eventually, he pushed through his limiting self-beliefs and the remarks from his past. Now he owns a successful blog and has published several books.
Once you start believing, and you put in the hard work, the life you envisioned materialises bit by bit, like the sun after a heavy storm.
I decided I was never again going to let myself be told that my dreams were ‘unrealistic’, or that I was being ‘ungrateful’. Of course, I’m grateful. Gratitude is important. The problem was, I took being grateful as meaning to always stick with what you have.
I never took risks because ‘realistically’ I could fail and look like a fool. I could see people saying “told you so,” with a satisfied smirk. I could see readers making fun of my writing. But being realistic and safe was making me miserable and unfulfilled.
Not too long ago, I put all talented people, or people in a higher position than me, on a pedestal. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I was so fascinated by these people that I saw them like a celebrity. In my eyes, I saw a mystical human before me and felt privileged just to be around them.
You can imagine how I saw myself.
I didn’t see the seeds they had planted in the past. All the years of grafting and climbing the ladder, while feeling just as insecure as most other people.
After chatting with these people for a while, I started to notice how different their attitude was. They didn’t complain or hang around in cliques. But they avoided negative people and meaningless tasks as sure as a cat avoids showers.
I was one of those negative people, and I didn’t even realise it. So it was no wonder these more successful people didn’t talk to me for too long.
You attract who you are.
You’ll notice that gossipers tend to hang around and attract other gossips, that toxic people are never far apart. But the successful ones are well out of the way, hanging with positive people and doing whatever it takes to live the life they want.
These people still treat everyone with respect, even if they’d rather be elsewhere in that moment. They understand the importance of positive relationships, and that what they say reflects who they are or who they are becoming.
I’m not talking about people who are in a successful position, but who then abuse that power to make others feel small. You could argue that they’re not successful because their power plays come from a place of deep insecurity and fear. They haven’t mastered their fears and perceived shortcomings, so project them onto others.
Truly successful people are living the life that they want to live, never stop growing, are humble, and treat everyone with respect. They aren’t perfect, because nobody is perfect. But they know that the best way to live a sub-par life is to bring others down, brag about their life, and stop learning once they’ve reached a certain point.
Notice how I never said that successful people are all walking around with high-paying jobs and a briefcase? That’s because it’s nothing but a stereotype. An idea sold to you via the media, through marketing, and by the rest of society.
Success isn’t about having a certain job and wearing a custom-fit suit. It isn’t the amount of stuff you own, or the amount of money you have in the bank. It isn’t the amount of friends you have or the sexual conquests you’ve had.
In fact, there are some obscenely rich and popular people out there who are drowning in misery and can’t quite figure out why.
Success is living the lifestyle you want to live, with the job you want, with quality friends, and continuing to grow as a person.
If happiness, to you, is working a 9-5 while voluntarily working at homeless shelters, and that’s what you do with your life, you’ve been successful.
If it’s about having a happy marriage, and you have many joyful married years behind you, you’ve been successful.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent who values raising children, and you have happy kids, you’ve been successful.
Be careful not to mix happiness up with mediocrity- that is staying safe and settling for less than your potential.
It’s important to know that there are many areas of success which add up to a whole: job, marital, friendship, financial, parental, spiritual…
And you can be successful in as many areas as you want. Not perfect. Successful.
Owning a big house just because you can is meaningless. Owning the latest gadgets wears off fast. Wearing a suit to work every day and earning hundreds of thousands a year is meaningless if you’ve got no plan but to chase more.
People who tie happiness to possessions, or success to a suit and briefcase are destined to become mere shells of themselves.
Some people get caught in the trap of waiting to become a certain way before they go after what they want. But they forget one important thing: It’s our experiences that help shape who we are and how we think.
Without failing, you can’t grow. You can’t know what you need to do to improve, to move further along.
Yes, hone a positive growth mindset. But don’t wait for perfect. Because perfect never comes, and success never comes to those who sit and wait.
Always remember your values. Don’t stray from them. And value yourself highly.
I know that I said my next post was going to be about bedrooms (it is), but this morning I’ve been thinking about the other ways minimalism has helped me, which doesn’t just involve the physical stuff in my life. It is of utmost importance to share this because so many people think of minimalism as just being an extreme form of decluttering, when it is about so much more than that. What follows is a deeply personal post which I feel could help those of you who have struggled all your lives with your possessions, with the people in your lives, and/or with yourselves.
I was bullied all through school from the day I started to the day I left, had terribly destructive relationships with some of the most important people in my life, and grew up with horrendous self-esteem. This manifested itself in a myriad of ways, including: over-the-top anger, being quick to defend myself in innocent conversations, allowing others to verbally abuse me (and feeling I deserved it), not having a true sense of identity or purpose (which caused a lot of issues in intimate adult relationships), inadvertently hurting others, and clinging onto people much like I did the stuff I continued to surround myself with.
By the time I went to college, a few years after leaving school, I had made a handful of real friends, entered a relationship, and perfected a mask of being happy-go-lucky, which eventually became a genuine part of myself. I’ve always loved helping others and it didn’t matter how others treated me, so long as they were there in my life. Just like I thought that owning more cool stuff would make me happy, I thought that the more people I had in my life, the more worthy a person I was.
As I went through life, I struggled to hold down jobs due to long-term health issues, fought with my identity, and exhibited inappropriate and negative behaviours which caused friction with the people I loved. Eventually, I got diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum ,which gave me answers as to why I struggled so much at school, as well as having chronic illnesses Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Fibromyalgia. Many years later, I learnt to manage all of those things, but I still had major issues with accumulating and hoarding possessions, with the people in my life, and with who I was as a person. Even after landing a stable job and having a beautiful son with my lovely fiance, I was a mess. I wanted to be the best parent I could possibly be, as well as being a reliable partner, friend, and co-worker. I wanted to inspire my son, and others. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t see the light illuminating my path , for all my possessions were hiding it.
There were several factors which propelled me towards discovering minimalism; the fateful day where my mum brought all the anchors from my past down from her attic and over to my house, and the deaths of some people I knew. I haven’t spoken about those deaths but I started to think about how people were remembering them and I wondered if they had any regrets in the ways they lived their lives. If they could go back in time, would they do things any differently? Would they have followed their true passions in life? My passion has always been writing, my ultimate dream to be an author of several books, yet everything I had written was hidden away in the attic and on Google Docs. I was too under confident to share my writing, even though I so desperately wanted to help and entertain others.
Thinking deeply about my own life, and about how I wanted zero regrets, I started on a journey of rapid self-growth, reading every self-help book I could get my hands on and completing all the exercises, consistently applying the concepts to my life the best I could. I read books about how to be confident,how to talk to other people, how to heal from the past, how to achieve my goals, how to recover from toxic relationships, how to heal my inner child, how to discover my purpose in life, and how to handle my emotions in a more positive manner. While all of the books I read certainly helped me to a degree, nothing helped me grow as a person half as much as when I discovered and started practicing minimalism. I devoured every book and website I could on the subject, as well as discovering for myself, the amazing long-term benefits of the lifestyle.
As I dramatically reduced my possessions and started to think deeply about what was important to me and why, my true self started to emerge. My true values, my true beliefs, the false beliefs that had been keeping me chained. Once I was satisfied with my new environment, I began true self-growth which was far more rapid than before. I looked at everything from my job, to my writing passion, to my beliefs, to the people in my life, and I started to intensely evaluate those things just like with my physical stuff. Instead of trying to change the people around me, or hoping they would change, I started to change myself. Because, ultimately, the person I was least happy with was myself. I was giving off a negative self-image, and I certainly wasn’t inspiring to others. By being so ashamed of myself, I was allowing others to treat me how I was feeling, so the solution was to start treating myself with and believing myself to be worthy of love and respect, just like everyone else on this planet.
As my confidence and self-esteem grew, I worked on some of my closer relationships, and cut off some which were bringing me down. Cutting off the toxic ones was even more freeing than decluttering my belongings, because suddenly there was more room, and far more time and energy for the relationships that mattered. I was also able to look at the toxic relationships for what they were, and why I was clinging onto them in the first place. The most amazing thing? I felt no guilt for doing so. Because cultivating my self-respect and self-worth, and putting more energy into the positive relationships is far more rewarding. I’ve since, also taken my writing far more seriously and began working towards achieving my dream of being an author and inspiring others.
Without minimalism, I never would have been able to do that.
I still have a ways to go, for true self-growth is continuous, never stopping, even for a moment. Just like the image above, life continues to be blotched with the shadows of challenging times, but I am far more equipped to take those challenges head on, and learn from them. As I continue on the minimalist path, I hope to continue growing and helping others to do the same.