"She’s a bit full of herself” is not intended as a compliment, is it? And that’s a tad weird when you think about it. OK, so no one wants to listen to someone else bang on endlessly about how fucking brilliant they are (especially if they happen to have a dramatically different view of that person’s self-proclaimed brilliance). And I appreciate that that’s what the saying is getting at. But it’s still a weird way of expressing it.
Because what are we supposed to be full of, if not ourselves?
Are we supposed to be empty?
For me, being full of myself means being open to exploring and understanding who I am. To engage in the ongoing process of learning to know, like and trust myself. To open myself up to who I am, to my potential, to celebrating what’s good about me and working to change the patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving that don’t serve me. And isn’t all that A Bloody Good Thing?
With hindsight, I can see that’s how I’ve ended up in this rather wonderful place in my life, where I’m in a healthy, loving marriage; doing work that matters to me, and able to trust that happiness and gratitude will eventually win out over difficult thoughts and feelings. As is usually the case, my story is not linear or neat, but I see now that the momentum and key shifts were all down to opening up to my sense of self in some way – for instance:
✨ I was able to end a marriage that had not made either of us happy for some years only when I acknowledged my limits to myself and accepted that it was ok to have those limits – that I was allowed to be who I was and feel as I did.
✨ After 20 years in the same organisation, I was in a very well paid but soul-destroying role, with every Sunday evening marking the start of a countdown through gritted teeth to the following Friday evening. But everyone said I was lucky to have such good money, so obviously I was just being ungrateful and should make the best of it, right? When I recognised that the cost of that money was me wishing away the majority of my life, I knew with absolute certainty that I did not want to pay that price any more, and I was able to actively seek redundancy.
✨ Following my teenage son’s decision to live with his father, my mindset swung erratically between burning martyr, vengeful victim and shitty, guilty mother, almost destroying my relationship with my only child. When I listened to the little voice that said “This isn’t who you are”, I started looking for help to manage my difficult thoughts and feelings. And as I started to connect back to a sense of who I was at my core – my truest me – and to live my life accordingly, my relationship with my son improved and grew in a way that I would never have thought possible.
✨ Being honest with myself about how I was feeling and how high my stress levels were allowed me to decide to leave a job in the not-for-profit sector, finally acknowledging that doing a demanding role (well, technically two!) with a 3 hour commute was not benefitting either me or the organisation, however much I wanted it to.
✨ When the fledgling idea of becoming a coach triggered huge fear of judgement (surely everyone would be thinking “Who the hell does she think she is to be able to help others in that way? The nerve of the woman!”), my growing sense of my values and trust in myself allowed me to push forward anyway.
It’s when I open up to myself - feel full of myself - that I can step away from fear of judgement, speak my own truth, set boundaries, find where I belong, trust myself to deal with whatever happens.
It’s being full of my sense of self, of who I am, that allows me to live in accordance with what truly matters to me – my own values and beliefs rather than those that I blindly accepted from the people and society around me, or hid behind in a vain attempt to fit in where I didn’t belong, to convince myself that I was happy when I was not.
And it’s not just a case of me wanting it to be true that being full of yourself can make this difference. My clients get it too.
One client fed back that they had started “to acknowledge my strengths, see and celebrate my wins (current and past), and recognise that, yes, I can trust myself” - pretty damn cool, right?
Another talked about being a sheep: they felt they were living according to other people's values and expectations, and although they craved a sense of belonging, they didn't like being herded, didn't feel part of the flock. Opening up to a sense of their true self allowed them to recognise that they were not a bad sheep but rather a brilliant goat, and created a new, positive, joyful (and, indeed, goaty) perspective for them.
I would like to be full of myself all the time.
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