You’re going to get judged so you may as well do it anyway

I do not live a life free from judging people. I make snap assumptions all the time. I have the voice in my head (and too often spoken aloud) that says “I wouldn’t do that”.

What I have learnt about that voice is that everyone has it. We all see other behaviour as just that… “other”. Not the same as us. And things that aren’t the same as our things can take a bit longer to wrap our heads around. Lack of understanding generally leads to lack of empathy.

In a recent conversation I said “I wouldn’t do that…” and the person I was talking to said “that’s ok because we’re not discussing you”.

I’m now trying to take that extra second to change my “I wouldn’t do that” to “I wouldn’t do that and that’s ok because this isn’t about me”.

~

The flip side of this is realising and recognising that other people’s judgements of you do not matter. You’re never going to please everyone.

To paraphrase Elbert Hubbard: “To escape criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

You’ll be judged for being too fearful but also too fearless. You’ll be judged for jumping in at the deep end but also for wading in cautiously. For leaving a steady career and taking a business risk, but also for playing it too safe and not just quitting if you don’t like your job.

You’ll be judged for turning down the potential job of your life to follow love.

You’ll be judged for walking away from the potential love of your life to follow a dream job.

For eating too much cake. For eating too much kale.

Mothers, you’ll be judged for natural birth without medical aid, you’ll be judged if you get an epidural, a c-section, gaining baby weight, losing baby weight too fast, formula feeding, breastfeeding, letting them cry it out, for spoiling them. For going back to work and for not going back to work. Seriously you’re just gonna get judged left, right and centre. You may as well enjoy it.

Fathers, don’t worry, you won’t get left out. You’ll be judged for not setting an example of a man who provides for his family, but also for working too much and losing sight of what’s really important; for being too tough on them, for being too soft.

People without kids, you get to navigate the judgement minefield too. Perhaps you don’t want them, perhaps you do but can’t. Don’t worry, you’ll get judged for both of those, even if the factors at play are out of your control. Sometimes especially if they’re out of your control.

You’ll be judged for not wanting to get married, but also for wanting to. For taking your husband’s name. For taking your wife’s name. For keeping your own. For making one up.

In society at the moment it seems you get all sorts of judgement for keeping quiet and minding your own business, but also for talking too loudly and getting involved in things that don’t concern you.

~

None of this is new wisdom. You’ve heard it all before. I’m not professing to be a revolutionary with this. I only write this to say: please don’t sit on the fence, too scared worrying about what “they” think to start doing what you truly think is the best decision for you.

Actually, even if you’re not sure, don’t let the fear of the disapproving looks of others stop you from at least giving whatever it is your full consideration.

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My thoughts on Caesareans

I feel like this post has been a long time coming, both in terms of actually sitting down to write and also in the content itself.

I’m going to write about Caesarean sections. “Oh no” you cry, “not another mummy blog post about c-sections, we get it!”

Well, you may get it. But based on some recent observations, enough other people out there don’t and I really feel I need to express my thoughts on this matter. As I say, it’s been a long time coming. 18 months to be exact.

So I want to talk about c-sections. I want to talk about pity. I want to talk about unfulfilled expectations. I want to talk about fear. I want to talk about disappointment.

When I hear that a women who experienced a vaginal delivery pities one who hasn’t, I’m ok with that. I really feel that most of the time that projection says more about the way that woman feels about herself and how she wants to be perceived by others.

What I find harder to stomach is the implication by society as a whole that you have failed as a “mother” from the get go. Never mind the fact that you grew this little human for 9 months, if you didn’t push it out, and didn’t feel the connection to women and mothers who have done this throughout millennia… can you really count yourself among that exclusive group?

Now, I don’t know about you, but the biggest thing I’ve learnt about parenting is sacrifice. Doing what you need to to keep your child safe. Sacrificing your own wants and needs for this tiny thing that needs your love, your help, your time, your energy is what it’s all about. Was I willing to put my pride in proving that I was A WOMAN and MOTHER above the safety of my child? Absolutely not. Did my ego have to take a back seat? Yes. 100%. And it won’t be the last time it has had to do so in this parenting journey. I didn’t worry about not bonding with my child because I hadn’t pushed him out of me, I knew I’d already been a parent by making the choice that was best for him. I was so scared that he wasn’t going to be ok, I didn’t care what I needed to do to make him safe.

I went from utter fear and exhaustion to acceptance and relief in an instant.

I have never known such a sense of relief washing over me as when the delivery was taken out of my hands. The words from my obstetrician that she “didn’t want to be a hero” just for the sake of giving me my planned vaginal delivery. She just wanted it to be a safe one.

But that brings me onto the hardest part for me to wrap my head around. The shame that came with that relief. Not at the time, but afterwards.

I’m strong. I pride myself on it. I’ve got broad shoulders and wide hips. My body can do what I want it to if I put my mind to it. And my body failed me.

That aspect of having a c-section has been harder for me than any other. I said that my ego had to take a back seat, but I didn’t say I liked putting it there. I spent just the first few months saying I had made peace with my delivery, but I didn’t believe it. It took a long time for me to have faith in my body again. How ridiculous! My body, which safely housed my little man for 9 months, and fed him afterwards, felt like it had let me down because of what happened on a single day.

The need for me to get fit and strong again after pregnancy was so much more than I thought it would be. The need to be able to run faster, lift heavier, swim further stemmed from the need to feel like my body can do great things. My post-baby #bodygoals have not been about fitting into a pair of jeans again, they have been about beating pre-pregnancy PBs. I thought I would want to get pregnant again straight away but I have realised I need to relearn what my body is capable of, outside of its ability to grow a baby.

So finally, the conversation always rolls around to ‘next time’ and VBAC. I felt very obliged early on to say that of course I’d love to try for a vaginal delivery next time because “if at first you don’t succeed” and “you came so close last time!” But then I met with my obstetrician and she gave me facts and statistics. I love facts. And I love making my decisions using them. So now I proudly say that if/when (let’s face it, none of it is a given) baby number two comes along I will be having an elective c-section. And I’ve truly made peace with that now, even if some might pity me for it.

5 ways to reduce single use plastics

Before I get stuck into my list I want you to know that I am not some sort of Earth-mother-eco-warrior, I just don’t like the amount of single use items (mostly made of plastic) that get thrown away everyday. I have made some small changes to the way I live and the products I choose to try and make a small dent in the amount of waste we generate. If you’re interested in doing the same read on…

1. Drinks on the go

I bloody love a takeaway coffee. When I plan on going to a new place for a walk, a significant factor is always whether there’s a good cafe nearby for me to try. When I noticed this was becoming an almost daily habit I decided to invest in a reusable cup to take with me. I have a glass KeepCup and I love it. 


I have walked away from one cafe that said they didn’t allow customers to bring in their own cups (but after emailing the manager I was told they were ok with me ordering a “to stay” coffee then transferring it myself) but most places are really accomodating and some even do discounts for customers that use reusable cups. 


I also carry a water bottle everywhere. I have quite a collection but my favourite for day to day is this smallish one from Macpac because it fits in a handbag.

My newest investment is a stainless steel drinking straw. Plastic drinks straws are in the top 10 most washed up items on beaches causing things like this so I decided to try and curb the habit. In case you’re thinking that a reusable straw sounds a bit unhygienic, you can get little brushes to clean them out.

2. Shopping bags

I know everyone in the UK will be familiar with the idea of taking your own bags to the supermarket after the introduction of charging for plastic bags in 2015. I think this is a fantastic initiative and apparently it is working, with the number of plastic bags being used dropping significantly. I hope they introduce it in Australia. I am a huge fan of keeping a simple canvas tote bag (I have a canvas bag full of canvas bags) and I use the sturdier “bags for life” whenever I go to the supermarket. I always try to return them to the car as soon as I’ve unpacked the shopping so there’s no excuse. 


So now I’m trying to reduce the amount of plastic I use during the actual shopping process and have started using these reusable produce bags from ChicoBag. 

3. Reusable nappies

This will be irrelevant to anyone who doesn’t have a baby so I will just direct you to my earlier post if you want to read about how and why I use reusable nappies (my favourite brand is Hippybottomus in case you’re wondering)

4. Toilet paper

Wait, what? Reusable toilet paper?! Don’t worry, I definitely get rid of my toilet paper but I get it from Who Gives A Crap, which is another company doing great things. You get it delivered to your door as frequently as you like, it is made from recycled materials, it is wrapped in paper not plastic and the company donates money to WaterAid. Amazing. It is not the most luxurious of toilet papers but it is by no means bad. It’s available in Australia, the UK and USA. 

5. Sanitary products

Ok, so if you thought the toilet paper was bad, you may want to stop reading now. This one goes out to all the ladies. 

My latest discovery is Thinx knickers (there are a few other brands that seem to be equally as good) who have reimagined the way we deal with our periods. I’ll let their website do the talking but I’m a fan, as are Mila Kunis and Mindy Kaling so you know you’re in good company if you follow this one up. 

Thinx is another company that gives back and they have set up a foundation to support girls and women in the developing world so they can access menstrual products and safe spaces to learn and talk about their bodies, health, safety and finance.

Listen to Miki Agrawal, the Thinx founder on The Freakonomics Radio podcast. 

So that’s my five ways to try and reduce your single use item waste, what other ones are there that I’ve missed? 

When is it time to up your game? 

One of the reasons I love sport and physical challenges is the way it acts as an analogue for the way we approach so many areas of our lives. I can obsess about talking over why I have decided to approach physical activity in a particular way before realising it says much more about my broader personality. With that in mind, I have been thinking a lot recently about whether to stay in my comfort zone or to push myself regarding triathlons. 

I wrote a post a few months ago about completing my first triathlon after having a baby. I decided that I simply wanted to complete one, regardless of length or the time it took me, and when I did I felt elated. That was in December, and since then I completed another of the same distance in January, and another of a similar distance last weekend. (These were “super sprints”: 250 m swim, 7-10 km bike, 2-3 km run). In the one I just completed I got a PB, including the events I had done pre-baby! I felt great at the end of the race, and didn’t feel sore at all the next day. 

Now, one of my frustrations with the sport of triathlon is that there are no ‘in between’ distances, to step up to the next distance means doubling what you did before. So for my next race, should I repeat the same distance again or should I step up to the next one (the “sprint” distance: 750 m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run)? Should I stay firmly within my comfort zone but try to go faster or should I see what I’m capable of in the further distance? I have done this distance before, a few years ago, so I know that I am capable of doing it. But can I do it well, or will I just have to switch to survival mode to get it done? 

This got me thinking of goal setting in general, and whether it is better to set yourself smaller goals that you know you can achieve, or grander ones that introduce that feeling of doubt in your abilities. Two quotes spring to mind when I think about this:

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo 

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” Henry Ford

I love the Michelangelo quote, as it really sums up how limiting it can be to stay within your comfort zone. Applying the quote directly to my triathlon: How could I fall short if I choose the longer distance? 

My worst discipline is running, it’s always in that final leg that I struggle. I hear so many people at the start line panicking about the swim and saying that once that part is over they’ll be able to relax. For me it’s the opposite. I have a lingering dread the whole race knowing that the run is still ahead of me. During my recent event one decision I made was to leave everything on the course, in every leg. So often I have been worried about going out too hard in the bike leg and saving ‘something’ for the run. This reminds me of being told that most people who have died of thirst in deserts are found with water still in their bottles. They’re saving it for the future instead of using it when they need it. I know, of course, that there’s a fine line between squandering something too early instead of waiting for when it’s needed and one of the great things about hindsight is knowing when that applies and when it doesn’t. In the moment you have to make the decision. 

So what’s the worst that can happen*? I have to walk on the run. If I truly have nothing left I know what my strategy will be. And that’s ok. 
What’s the worst that can happen if I pick the shorter distance? That I won’t be as fast as I was in the recent event? Or that I could have gone further but will have to live with the not knowing? For me, the missed opportunity to find out what I’m really capable of would be worse than a disappointing race. 

So, as you can probably work out I have entered the longer distance. I have just under three weeks before I take part in the race so I will let you know how I get on. Has there been an occasion where you set the bar too low for yourself and felt dissatisfied with achieving your goal or do you have an example where you went so far out of your comfort zone that you regretted it? Maybe only let me know about the latter in three weeks time… 

*I no longer regard finishing DFL as something to be scared of, following my friend’s recent epic windsurfing race.

I feel obliged to tell you about this podcast

If you’ve spent any amount of time longer than approximately 30 seconds with me recently, I will have mentioned my latest obsession with podcasts, specifically the ‘Happier’ podcast by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft. 

I came across Rubin after I read her book The Happiness Project and, although her personality is vastly different to mine, a lot of her ideas and strategies for building more happiness into your everyday life really resonated with me. 

The Happier podcast features lots of tips to try at home, ways to know yourself better and the hosts are incredibly honest about their shortcomings as well as their successes. One of the biggest parts of it is how to build habits into your daily life, and how your personality makes this easier or harder to do.

Rubin has identified four personality types or ‘tendencies’ in her latest book Better Than Before, and they are based around how you respond to external and internal expectations. For example, an external expectation is something like a work deadline and an internal expectation could be a New Year’s resolution. 

The four tendencies are upholder, obliger, questioner and rebel. If you want to find out which one you are she has a quiz on her blog

I am a classic obliger: I find it very easy to meet external expectations but struggle with internal ones. I have numerous examples of this from both my professional and personal life, as well as my approach to studying, exercise and diet. 

For example, when I was going for a promotion that involved putting together a portfolio of my work I simply couldn’t get around to it. My manager kept saying that I could work on it in my own time and just submit it whenever I wanted but I had to ask him to give me a specific deadline. I then found it easier to stick to the arbitrary deadline, because I didn’t want to appear to be the person that couldn’t do it. 

Another example was getting a personal trainer when I wanted to get fit. The obligation of having to show up at a certain time to work out suited me perfectly. You couldn’t cancel on the day of your session without losing money and I never missed one. When I recommended it to a friend she wasn’t convinced, because her theory was that I wasn’t doing any kind of exercise that I didn’t already know how to do, so what was the point in paying for it. My answer to that was that even though I know the steps to get to where I wanted, I needed some kind of external accountability to get there. That is the overall philosophy for the obliger tendency. 

I’ve started to look at everyone around me and try to understand their personality type, and I think it might (fingers crossed) be making me more empathetic to the way others approach tasks. 

If you want to find out more about the four tendencies you can read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin or listen to episode 13 of the Happier podcast for an overview on personality types and episodes 35-38 for a deeper look at each of them (or start from episode 1 and work the whole way through). I’m so interested in this and love discussing it with people and hearing how the different types work when making and breaking habits, so let me know what tendency you align with and how you make it work for you. 

Finishing DFL

I have a friend who has become obsessed with windsurfing in the past year, so this summer she packed a board and sail (or three) and came to stay with us for an epic five weeks on the water. The culmination of her trip was to be a windsurfing ‘marathon’ event in Lancelin, a couple of hours north of Perth. She didn’t know if she was ready for such a major event, if she had the windsurfing skill, the fitness or simply the balls to go as far offshore as the race would force her to. She decided to give it a couple of weeks before signing up.

During her time here she chatted with locals, went on road trips to check out new windsurfing location and continually pushed herself out of her comfort zone. The consensus? She would give the race a go, because… well, why not? She was capable and she was as ready as she could be. 

On the day of the race I waited to hear from her. My phone rang and am elated voice was at the other end:

“I did it! I finished it! I came DFL, but I finished it!”

“What’s DFL?”

“Dead f****** last!” 

She said towards the end she lost sight of the person in front of her and approached the finish line with the support boats in a convoy around her. 

She couldn’t care less about her place in the race, she was overjoyed to have taken part and to have made it to the finish.

Finishing last in an event has often been something I’ve been afraid of, but has never happened to me. I’ve often said I wouldn’t mind if I did because “you know, someone has to” but I don’t think I’ve ever truly believed it before. But now, I don’t just believe it, I think I’m even prouder of my friend because of it. 

She started. She stood on the beach at the start line, wondering if she’d taken on too much. The starting signal went and she picked up her gear and headed into the water, over the waves and out to the ocean. 

She finished. Which means even when she lost sight of the competitor in front of her she kept going. When others dropped out part way through, she kept going. 

She finished last. Which means out of all of the people out there she was one of them that found it the hardest. She was one of the people that had to take a leap of faith in her own ability and have a go before she knew she was ready.

Now that she’s done the event once, she seems pretty keen on coming back and having another go in 2018, with a whole extra year’s worth of experience behind her. I hope she does, and whether she has a cracker of a race or one that she finds to be a huge mental and physical challenge, she can rest assured knowing that even by lining up at the start ready to have a go at something that pushes her to her limits is truly admirable. 

End of 2016 thoughts

It’s no surprise that as the end of the year rolls around we all start reflecting on the last 12 months before starting another trip around the sun. I think it’s fair to say that 2016 has been a roller coaster, and for many, with more lows than highs.

I feel particularly conflicted as I look back on the year that’s been, as I compare my personal life with my thoughts on a global scale. 

For me, in my own little bubble in my corner of the world, this year has had the biggest highlight of my life: having a baby. It has been an eye opening, humbling but utterly joyful experience. I was worried that having a child would make me lose some of my identity and I would become just “mummy” rather than the person I have been thus far. I really feel, however, that in the last 6 months I have become even more myself, and have a stronger sense of my own identity as I spend my days with this tiny human. I know I want to be the best version of myself to act as his role model and so he inspires me to take care of myself, both mentally and physically. I feel grounded when I’m with him. 

And yet. I watch the news. I read comments online from hateful people. I look at the events of the past 12 months and feel scared about the future. I’m reminded of our own mortality with every notable death that gets reported. I feel anxious about the decisions made around the world that I have no say in but are likely to affect me. So I think “what can I do about it?” And most of the time I feel pretty useless. 

So here lies the conflict. To be so content on a small scale and so anxious about the state of the world. How can these two states coexist? 

And here is my conclusion as we come to the end of 2016. All any of us can do is try to leave this place in a better state than we found it. I now think this means teaching our children the values that we know are out there but we can’t always see. Compassion. Honesty. Empathy. Sustainability. And to teach them these things we have to model them everyday. 

In doing that, and remembering that I am raising a tiny human who could go on to have a big impact on his world, I must try to remember that I am doing something. I am no longer a passive bystander when we talk about the future, I am a stakeholder.