I have no doubt the headmistress prepared for this meeting and she believed she was about to impart some valuable insight into my future, which would make me think twice about bailing on higher education.
She started the conversation:
“I know you won’t listen to a word I have to say, because you’re one of those sorts of girls…”
Genuinely, to this day I don’t remember another word she said. After that first sentence I switched off. I can only assume that one of those sorts of girls meant free-thinking, standing on my own two feet, and not wanting to be controlled by others’ ideas and expectations of what I should be doing. Don’t get me wrong, education is important. In fact, girls around the world are still fighting for one. But for me, where I was, wasn’t healthy or helping me get where I wanted to be.
That headmistress couldn’t have known that when the time was right I would train as a therapist (something you couldn’t – and at the time of writing still can’t – do under a certain age), or that I would work with a pioneering mental health charity which changes lives for the better. That I would have a successful tv and media career. That I would raise two beautiful, talented, funny and intelligent children. Success should be defined by how many moments of joy we can experience each day, not the car we drive, or the house we live in.
Did I feel guilty and ashamed, that I could be letting the school down, disappointing the headmistress and possibly my parents? Yes. It was a big step.
But as it turns out, I didn’t need to feel guilty at all. So here are five things you should never feel guilty about:
1) Being authentic. Understanding who you truly are is something most people struggle to define. You may describe yourself as a Mother, Son, Husband or Employee but this doesn’t necessarily reveal who you are at your core. What makes you “tick”? What nourishes your soul? When do you get those “glowy” sparkly feelings that make your chest puff up with pride or reward? Often, you will know when something feels “right” or “wrong”. Stay true to your values, follow your gut and talk about the things that matter to you. Don’t feel you have to compromise on them unless that seems fair and reasonable to you.
2) Saying it as you see it. In the job I do, being transparent is the only way to encourage open and honest dialogue. When people are at risk of harming themselves, asking them directly about their intentions can save lives. Being open can extend to all areas of your life, though. People will know where they stand with you if you say it like it is. If you are worrying about something, whatever that may be, it’s okay to talk about it. The people who love you and support you will be happy to reassure you and put your mind at rest. If it’s a constant worry and it won’t go away, explore the possibility that there is an underlying issue – perhaps a trigger from your past or an anxiety about the future – and maybe seek the help of a professional who can unpack this with you in a safe space.
If you are worrying about something, whatever that may be, it’s okay to talk about it. The people who love you and support you will be happy to reassure you and put your mind at rest.
3) Saying no. (Or saying yes.) Smallest words are sometimes the hardest to say. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be said. You have a right to be heard, a right to put your needs ahead of others especially where your health is concerned. Practice saying no (or yes) and if the answer is received badly use the golden question for negotiating a positive outcome – “What can we do about this?”
4) Having time out. If you’ve ever stopped for five minutes to put your feet up, within 90 seconds you’re already thinking about what you’re going to do next or what you could have done with the time you’ve spent resting. Your body and mind need quiet time in order to stay healthy so don’t feel bad about making time to do this. Schedule time in your diary if prioritising down time is proving difficult and really think about what truly relaxes you. Take a warm bath, listen to music, meditate, play golf, sing, go for a walk. Whatever you need to just breathe and “be” – do that.
Your body and mind need quiet time in order to stay healthy so don’t feel bad about making time to do this.
5) Walking away. Creating positive space between you and someone else is healthy, especially if conflict is rising. It doesn’t have to be permanent although of course if a relationship is becoming toxic the elephant in the room needs to be talked about. Consider mediation if it’s getting difficult to stay calm during a tense discussion and always make sure everyone involved has equal time to speak and be heard. Don’t ignore the problem – or the person. Decide what is acceptable to you. If someone has cheated or lied (or hidden something) you have the right to say how you feel about that. Stay focussed on a peaceful outcome though and you’ll never go to war. If you’re going to walk away even if just for five minutes, make it clear that’s what you’re going to do – and what you need. You may not know at the time if it’s permanent but again people who love you will be there for you when you’re ready to talk.
Why not take a look at my article “5 reasons it may be time to walk away”
“I don’t believe in guilt, I believe in living on impulse. As long as you never intentionally hurt another person, and don’t judge the people in your life, I think you should live completely free”. Angelina Jolie
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(Copyright Delphi Ellis 2015)