Changing your mindset, building a more positive attitude, conquering overthinking - they're all things that are achieved (and maintained!) over time by the repetition of small but powerful habits and techniques. There isn't usually a split second transformation which brings an overnight change but more a gradual shift of thinking patterns and confidence levels.
A massive part of building a happier, healthier mindset is self-worth and self-value – recognising how amazing you are, giving yourself permission to be top of your priority list sometimes and accepting and learning to love yourself exactly as you are - all of these things have a huge positive impact on mindset and on your life!
And increasing your own self-value can also start with small, simple habits which over time have a massive impact – and this is why I need to talk to you about your knickers!
Have a think about what knickers you are wearing right now? Are they old, greying ones, with a little bit if loose elastic (come on, we've all got them – and we hope we never get run over by a bus while we're wearing them!) - or are they new(ish), well fitting and lovely and worthy of viewing by any paramedic?
It may seem an odd question but the answer is potentially more powerful than you realise. If your underwear today is only going to be seen by you, and it is of the old, maybe even holy variety what it is actually saying is 'it's only me so it'll do'.
So I am going to ask you, from this point on, to wear your best knickers every day (and if you haven't got any, get some!). If every morning, you get dressed and you put on lovely underwear, not only do you not have to worry if you get run over by a bus (well not about your knickers being seen anyway!) but what you are also doing is sending a tiny, almost imperceptible message to yourself that you are worth it. Even if you don't realise it, the person walking around in nice knickers all day will have a different view of themselves than the person walking around in holy knickers all day!
Remember, massive mindset shifts often happen through the repetition of small, even seemingly unimportant habits. And your daily choice of underwear is one of them.
So, whether you're going to work, doing some decorating, watching the telly or going to Aldi – get your best knickers on! You're worth it.
I've made some massive work decisions lately – things I have been working towards for a long, long time but which I have finally acted on. I am now going all out in my mission to use all my skills in painting, writing and teaching to help you move your mindset to marvellous and I couldn't be more excited – or more scared at the same time.
You see, having a positive, healthy mindset doesn't mean never feeling scared, or overwhelmed or anxious – you still feel all these things, you just become better at handling them and overcoming them.
Take this week for example. I launched my new website and sent out my first 'Monday Mindset Manouevres' email – both massive steps in spreading my word and ones which I can sit here and know are backed up with decades of knowledge and experience which I can't wait to share.
Yet, as soon as they were out there – being seen by more people than just me and my trusted friends – the wobbles set in. And I have spent the last week being visited by a massive case of Imposter Syndrome – those thoughts that hound us when we push ourselves and put ourselves out there. Thoughts that make us question if we're good enough, thoughts like 'who do you think you are advising other people about mindset?' and 'you do realise people will just laugh at you?'
Imposter Syndrome is so common – you can bet that people you admire, people at the pinnacle of their career, also suffer from it. It can give us a wobble or left unchecked, it can be enough to make us give up, admit defeat and return to something less scary.
Everyone has moments of self-doubt and an urge to run away and hide – what we have to do is stand up to these neagtive thoughts and not let them take over. And that's what I have had to do this week. And here are a few ways I have done it, and ways you too can help drown out Imposter Syndrome when it makes an unwelcome visit:
1) SHARE HOW YOU FEEL
One of the biggest challenges I still face in keeping a happy, healthy mindset is sharing my feelings. I have gone through most of my adult life putting a brave face on things, being stoic and wearing the 'everything is ok badge' all the time. I used to think this made me strong and brave but I came to realise this is actually the easier thing to do – sharing how we feel, especially at times when we feel vulnerable, is the strongest and bravest thing we can possibly do. So I shared how I felt to a couple of close friends who straight away reminded me why I am doing what I am doing and how capable I am – instead of the doubts staying in my mind and multiplying I got them out there and together me and my wonderful friends went about smashing them!
2) SURROUND YOURSELF WITH POSITIVE MESSAGES
I am a very visual person and like to be surrounded by interesting and quirky things to look at. I also use this to make sure my overactive mind is fed a constant stream of the good stuff – I use little symbols, quotes and images all over my desk and studio to keep me feeling positive (below is just a few of them!) It is like being nudged throughout the day and reminded to keep going and stay confident. So use your own environment to cheer you on – an inspiring quote on your desk, a certain badge attached to your bag or change your phone wallpaper to something that will give you a boost every time you see it. (You could of course use any of my Mindset Memos to do this task perfectly ;))
3) REMIND YOURSELF IT'S NORMAL TO FEEL LIKE THIS
The danger of the negative thoughts that Imposter Syndrome brings along with it, is that we take them as fact and listen far too much to them. As soon as we remind ourselves that this way of thinking is just a natural and expected part of us moving out of our comfort zone and doing something challenging and new then it begins to lose its power. Imposter Syndrome is actually evidence that something positive is happening – it just has a really rubbish way of showing it. And remember, we all feel like this sometimes – what Imposter Syndrome reminds us is that we are all human and prone to self-doubt.
So next time you get hit with a bout of Imposter Syndrome – remember these steps and remind yourself that the fact you're suffering with it shows that you're doing something new and you deserve applauding not discouraging. Whatever new challenge is giving you the wobbles – hang in there and stand up to the doubts. There are many times during the last week that the doubts in my mind were talking quite loudly to me and I felt like throwing in the towel and seeing what jobs were being advertised locally! But I didn't – I took the action above and kept going. Just like you can.
* The Happy Mind Army Facebook Group is a place you can come and feel comfortable in sharing your wobbles as well as your mindset victories – click here to come and join us. And sign up here to receive my weekly email full of advice and motivation to help move your mindset to marvellous *
It's my birthday today. 43 glorious years on this planet. My 30s were mostly about building a family – I had 2 beautiful babies and watched as they grew into incredible young people. Now that they're older, they don't need me in quite the same way. So my 40s so far have been a journey about building myself again and trying to listen to the niggles inside that are trying to guide me in the right direction.
The last few years have been one hell of a journey – driven by a rather frightening amount of self-reflection, self-discovery and self-doubt! And an impressive amount of mistakes. But I have also learnt an awful lot – and I would like to share some of my words of wisdom with you now (and I have got very grey hair which means I am incredibly wise so you should listen!).
So, here are 5 life lessons from Helen McNicholas, age 43 and 30 minutes.
1) You've got to make friends with making mistakes.
I was a high achiever at school and this meant that I always had an audience when grades were given out or exam results released. This also meant that I piled a ridiculous amount of pressure on myself to never be seen to do anything wrong or to 'fail'. I struggled with swimming lessons because I didn't like the idea of being watched while I was unable to do something and I learnt to ride my bike on my own when no-one was watching.
This fear of failure was crippling – a massive trigger for my overthinking which went into overdrive with thoughts of all the things that could go wrong and all the bad things people would say about it. Letting myself leave this old, mistaken belief behind and embrace the idea of 'failing' has been one of the most important factors of me moving forwards and acting on my own dreams and ambitions.
Over the last few years, as I've thrown myself into the adventure of building my own business, my own brand, and I have made some massive mistakes – and I have done them in full view of friends, family and Facebook! Now this still doesn't come naturally to me and it has taken many deep breaths and leaps of faith to keep going. But every time I have made a mistake or tried something that hasn't worked, it didn't kill me. And there weren't queues of people lining the streets to point and laugh at me. In fact, most of the time, most people didn't even notice. And those that did didn't mind. One thing is for sure – every mistake I have made, in the solace of my studio or loud and proud on Facebook, has taken me onto something better or helped me learn a valuable lesson. If I hadn't made all these mistakes, I would still be where I was years ago. And I don't want to be there.
2) Some roads you take will be dead-ends
Part of embracing any new adventure in life involves taking paths never trodden before. And to fully embrace these adventures we have to be willing to try some roads that might take us where we want to go, but also might not – but we won't know that until we try. It is much easier to stick with what we know but then we will never go anywhere new – and that doesn't just mean new places, but also new thoughts, ideas and experiences.
So, sometimes coming across a dead-end is ok – it is a valuable part of the journey. Or even if it's not a dead-end you might just decide you've had enough of travelling in that direction and want to turn around.
In my work, I have tried many new ideas and products and not all of them have worked. Not all of them took me in the right direction. And it is ok to change things, get rid of things or stop doing certain things as you adjust your direction to get you where you want to go. As long as you are moving, towards whatever your goal may be, the dead-ends and the u-turns won't stop you, they'll eventually help you towards your destination. Only if you stop will you go nowhere!
3) Don't wait until you're ready!
Think about the iPhone. Now if Apple waited until they had perfected it we would still be waiting. In fact, the iPhone would probably never make it to market. So they launched it when it was 'good enough' and they keep on updating and improving it as they go.
The same goes for us. We keep changing and evolving as we go through life so waiting until everything is perfect to make a big decision, to take a leap of faith or to have the confidence to just be ourselves could take forever.
We need to take action now – and keep updating and improving as we go. Progress is better than perfection, action more powerful than just dreaming about something. The time will never be right, conditions will never be perfect. Whatever it is, do it now!
4) Ask for help when you need it.
I wouldn't have survived on this journey as long as I have without the help and support of my friends and family. Again I have to admit that I do still struggle to ask for help sometimes and this is because of the same fear that makes me worry about failing or taking a dead-end – it is the worry about what other people think and I truly believe that this is at the heart of a lot of overthinking for many people. It is this fear that makes me think I can't show weakness, or worry or need because people will think less of me. But I have done and more importantly they haven't – even having some very uncomfortable conversations with people about money when things got really tight (no, I mean, really tight!)
Whether it's some small, practical stuff or something massive, embarrassing or awkward – asking for help can be so hard but can make the biggest difference. And you will find that with very few exceptions, people are ready and willing to help. In fact, they would be devastated to think that they could have helped and didn't because they didn't know the help was needed.
They say it is often a strong sense of pride that stops us asking for help but I disagree. It is the fear of being judged, of being seen to have failed or of being thought less of that often stops us. But true friends and family won't judge or pity, they will help just as they know you would help them.
And I can't stress this enough – especially in our recent times of increasing mental health problems and people coming under constant stress and worry – there is someone who is ready to help. Always. Please, please ask them.
5) We all need to give ourselves permission to be human
All of the above, plus many other lessons I have learnt along my crazy journey, all seem to culminate in one main message – we need to go easier on ourselves.
The crux of all my overthinking lies with a concern about what other people think. I want to please people and yes, impress them and make them happy and I'm devastated if I ever feel I have let someone down. But the danger of this is that I place a number of impossible demands on myself to never do anything wrong, to never show weakness or require any help. And this is just bonkers (but may sound familiar?)
The minute we give ourselves permission to cock things up sometimes, to not have all the answers and sometimes need help, we immediately allow ourselves to live a fuller life, a more authentic life. We are humans, not robots, and none of us are perfect. We live in a world where we feel like we have to live up to impossible standards and match some non-existent ideal – but we don't.
Who we are is enough. It's more than enough. But the real us, with flaws, weakness and cock-ups galore. That's where the wonder is. Not in a restricted version of ourselves, one which edits what the world sees and overthinks every step we take.
We need to shake off the self-imposed shackles of 'robot' and start dancing the imperfect dance of real, wonderful human life.
So before I sign off to spend the rest of my day eating cake, I will leave you with this reminder...