As you will know by now if you follow me on social media or if you've spent any time on my website, my mission is to motivate and inspire people to be who they are and love who they are. All my current work is on this theme - based on quotes or messages that remind us to be joyful, be brave and to embrace the mistakes we will make along the way.
But change can be big and scary, and getting our of your comfort zone to embrace new things is so much easier with the support of friends - and that is the inspiration for this painting. It is the belief and encouragement from my friends which has got me this far - and which has kept me going when I was a defeated heap on the floor.
So, this is my homage to them. A thank you from the bottom of my heart for their love and friendship - and a reminder that I am here for them too, always.
And it is a reminder for us all to make sure we surround ourselves with friends who build us up (not knock us down!), who we can trust and lean on when we need to (and who can do the same with us) and when we find them we need to treasure them and be grateful for them because they are worth their weight in gold.
Let us celebrate our friends.
'Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they're always there'
I can recall with frightening accuracy times in my life when people said things that left a massive dent in my confidence – like the times at High School when the cool girls would warn me against jumping in the pool at swimming lessons because I was so fat that all the water would come out, or the time one of my University tutors bluntly told me I couldn't draw. And there are many more times I could tell you about – and perhaps you too have clear memories of things that people said or did, possibly many, many years ago, that were less than flattering.
And I bet, like me, you remember them like they were yesterday. And maybe like me, instead of just denting your confidence, they also become evidence to feed the self-doubt and the crippling overthinking. I look back now, and with my older, more confident head on, I don't have any anger for the people that said these things, but I am so bloody annoyed at myself for listening.
Not only did I listen, I replayed these things time and time again. I wore them. I wore them like a badge. A really, really shit badge. I had so many fantastic badges to wear. Big, shiny, colourful badges, representing all the good things people said and all the amazing things about me. But I chose not to wear those ones. I hid them, lost them – was too timid to wear them. But the tiny, shit one – I chose to wear that one. And that is the brutal truth. I chose to wear it. Nobody made me.
And that is my point – we can never control what is said or done to us. But we can control how we deal with it. I think it is so important that we all work hard to love who we are to the point that negative or hurtful experiences can be dealt with without lasting damage – and that we are so proudly wearing a vast collection of big, bright, shiny, badges that any rubbish ones soon get hidden and forgotten about. In fact, we need to build up that collection of big, bright, shiny badges so much that they become our suit of armour – a proud confidence in who and what we are that makes us more able to cope with the bad stuff, and in some circumstances, to give us the strength to fight back because we know we don't deserve it.
We need to give ourselves permission to love who we are and be proud of it – and we need to build up our children to do the same. Yes, we will always potentially come across times and events that challenge us but we have to make sure we don't give them more of our time, attention and belief than we do the positive and uplifting times. Replay the compliments, the successes and the things that deserve to be celebrated.
As I try to grow braver and bolder in my own skin, one thing I am becoming much more aware of is the language I use and the effect it has on my behaviour – and one very strong example of this is the amount of times I say 'I'm sorry'. And so often for things that I really shouldn't be apologising for.
Now, don't get me wrong – I am a firm believer that an apology when one is needed is both a brave and correct thing to do. But, I have a feeling that plenty of you lot are a bit like me and apologise far too often – like if someone punched me in the face I would apologise to them for hurting their knuckles (ok, that's a bit extreme but you get my point!)
One example that made me think about this, was planning a Facebook post for my Art page after not posting for a couple of weeks while the girls have been off school. I was going to start it (as I have many times before) with something along the lines of 'Hi, I'm really sorry I haven't posted for a while...' but then I thought, is that really something I should apologise for? Yeah, I should probably post more often, but should I be sorry that I have spent some wonderful time with my husband and children over the last couple of weeks? Should I feel remorseful about the walking, the baking, the gardening, the days out, the late nights and all the fun with family and friends we've been having?
No, I really shouldn't.
The more aware I am becoming of the language I use, the more I realise how often 'sorry' creeps into my every day life. How many of these are familiar to you?
When eating in a restaurant: 'I'm really sorry but it seems you have forgotten the sauce...'
Catching the attention of a shop assistant: 'sorry to bother you, but could you show me...'
Turning up a few minutes late meeting a friend due to something genuine or beyond your control such as the dog escaping or the train being delayed: 'I am so sorry I'm late...'
Someone bumping into you quite rudely in a shop: 'oh, sorry...' (yes, us apologising to them!)
All seemingly innocuous, but if like me you are a serial apologiser, these are evidence of us apologising for our own wants and needs (and often, rights), and in many ways apologising for our own existence and the inconvenience it may cause to others!
So, join me in no longer being sorry that we are here – and no longer apologising for not getting the sauce we paid for or for the failings of the national rail network. By just paying attention to the words we use we can grow in confidence and become more assertive.
5 ways to stop over-apologising:
1) Become more aware of your own language. Pay close attention for a day or two and see if you do apologise as a matter of habit. Only if you are aware of something can you change it.
2) Pause. Give yourself just a brief moment of time to ask the question, 'have I done anything here that I should be sorry for?'. If not, don't apologise. Is it your fault the train was delayed? If not, don't take the blame. Was the fact the waiter forgot to bring the sauce for the steak your fault? If not, don't say you're sorry.
3) Replace the word sorry with a more confident substitute! Depending on the circumstances, 'excuse me' or even a friendly 'hello' can be enough to gain someone's attention without apologising for disturbing them!
4) Say thank you, not sorry. This change of language can be very powerful. Late meeting your friend because of that train again? Don't apologise for being late, thank them for being so patient and waiting for you. Can't make a night out with friends because you're already going to a lovely family celebration? Don't be sorry for going to a special family party that you're really looking forward to – thank them for the invite and explain with no apology your prior commitment but say how you will look forward to the next chance you have for a night out with them. No guilt, no apologies – just circumstances accepted in a much more confident and positive way.
5) Exist! One of the main reasons we over apologise is because we hate to inconvenience anyone or cause any discomfort or conflict. But life, by it's very nature, creates chaos. There will always be things that happen beyond our control (or even sometimes within our control) that mean we will have to make our existence felt – and we need to embrace this and not shy away from it. Our existence is our one and only life, and we need to stop apologising for it.
And crikey, I have really gone on in this blog post, but I'm not sorry... ;)