How to live your most authentic life (and be super happy about it)

I think that one of my biggest problems during my twenties was the fact that I didn’t know how to live my life as I was made to; I didn’t know how to live an authentic life. What I mean by that is that I spent all of my time trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations and then had no time left to explore what was important to me.

When I was at school I was a straight A student so I turned to my parents and my teachers for guidance in what I should do when I left. The feedback I got was that I should be a doctor because I was clever and that was what clever people did. However, this did not take into account any of the things that I enjoyed outside of school; it was a decision based solely on how well I retained information.

So, off I went to college to pursue this ‘dream’ and I came royally unstuck inside of the first twelve months. I dropped out of college, found myself pregnant and eventually addicted to alcohol, and that nightmare continued for a whole decade.

If I had paused for a moment and thought about what I really wanted to do with my life, I would have known that I liked the more creative subjects like English and Art. I may not have landed a job that held the esteem that being a doctor held, but at least I’d have finished college and started doing something that I was passionate about.

I think that a lot of people do this; my case not a rare one. Of course, not everyone finds themselves so desperately unhappy that they turn to alcohol, but there must be millions of people out there, stuck in jobs they hate because they didn’t listen to what their heart was telling them at crucial points in their lives.

So what would my authentic life look like? Where would I be if I just did as I pleased and didn’t listen to society? I’ve had a think about it and it’s a really fun game to play. It even gives you a starting point from which to start turning your life around; a goal to aim for that is more in line with what really makes you happy.

My authentic life would involve being a writer who is a little bit reclusive. I would just visit the shops in my local village and I would have a pug that I would dote on. I’d be super conscious of the environment and never be wasteful or drive a car. The most interesting thing to come out of my research was that I would like to live in slightly more unconventional lodgings. I thought a van or a tiny house would be ideal until I stumbled upon cob houses. They look like little hobbit houses and they can be built really cheaply and quickly. I don’t know whether I could ever live this life in reality, but it feels more true to me than the life I currently live.

If you want to find out what your authentic life could look like here are a few questions that you can ask yourself and a few exercises that you can do:

  • Does the work you are thinking of excite you? If it’s really true to you then you should actually feel a flutter in your heart when you think about it. You will know that it’s something that’ll never give you that Monday morning dread. It will inspire you constantly and never fade.
  • Where would you want to live? Some people thrive in the bustling city whereas I know that the Lake District would be far closer to my ideal.
  • Try free writing or journalling to see what comes out. When you’re not consciously thinking about the societal pressures that you have on you, some interesting things might emerge. For this same reason, meditation can be useful too because you’re not thinking about the hear and now and the bills that need to be paid and what the kids want for tea.
  • Think about what you can do to be of service to others. This is the cornerstone to a happy life because you get satisfaction from helping others rather than constantly competing. Even if you dream of being a CEO, the saying goes that if you’re not prepared to serve then you’re not ready to be a real leader. You won’t inspire anyone by just barking orders and the novelty will soon wear thin for you, so keep that in mind.
  • Be open to being vulnerable. It is not weakness and it will help you to learn a lot about yourself.
  • Don’t let fear stop you. You only need to make one small change at a time. If you’re scared it’s probably get a lot to do with being worried about what others will think. I’ve been scared to go and tell my family that I want to live in a hobbit house because I know they’ll think I’ve gone bonkers.

But most importantly, just enjoy yourself. Life is supposed to be fun and a lot of the time we force ourselves into boxes that don’t fit and it just makes us miserable. Other people don’t know what’s best for you; only you know that, so do some homework and find out what it is!

Much Love,

Rachel xx

How to love a sucky job (and maybe get a promotion too)

I have a child and that means that I have had to work part time and evenings for nearly all of my twenties and early thirties. I’m looking forward to the day when I can waltz into a normal office job, but for the time being I’m stuck with the sucky jobs that very few people actually like. I’m talking the retail and the hospitality jobs that are low pay and sometimes really thankless. Some of these jobs are amazing but I bet there are more people complaining about them than raving about how great they are!

But are they really that bad? There are some people out there who seem to love them; always happy and joyful when the rest of us are grumbling about nasty customers and physically demanding tasks. It got me thinking about how these people do it. How do they remain so perky when the rest of us feel like we are on our knees?

And after lots of reading and watching talks and trying things out myself I have realised that kindness and caring is the key. I thought that was a bit of a cop out of an answer but it really is true and this is why.

As human beings, we are wired to be social and to live and work in community. The world as it is, makes this soooooo hard to do. It just takes one bad thing to happen in your day and your mood is ruined and you are far more likely to pass on those bad vibes to the checkout girl who is taking her time scanning your shopping!

But what if that checkout girl breaks the chain of ill will? What if she smiles back at the angry customer and at least tries to be pleasant? It’s not necessarily going to appease the angry customer but it might do. And if the next person that he comes into contact with is also very pleasant, it might have even more of an effect. If everybody he comes into contact with gives him excellent service and a smile it’s going to be hard for him to stay mad at the world at large.

And then the effect on the checkout girl is positive too. Just the act of smiling and being nice floods our bodies and minds with all those happy chemicals. Providing the customer doesn’t scream at her she can just carry on with the next customer and forget about him, knowing that, at least she has done the very best that she can.

The positivity of that checkout girl has a snowball effect, gathering more speed and more force for both her and the people around her. It’s infectious and that is a very powerful thing.

The point is that we can’t counter bad behaviour with more bad behaviour. It just doesn’t make anything better. We need to make a mental note that we should come out of every interaction having made a positive difference in that person’s day. We should never leave somebody having made their day worse.

We also feel happier and more successful when we behave in this way. It’s truly very difficult when we deal with droves of nasty customers, but those that are happy and joyful in their ‘sucky’ jobs are the ones that don’t let that first one completely deflate them and cause them to be ‘off’ with everybody else. Feeling like you have made everybody’s day better is the ultimate way to feel successful too. Stop measuring your success in money and measure it in how good you feel!

And funnily enough, it is the happy and positive people who are less stressed and more likeable and ultimately more likely to get promoted through the ranks (if they want it, because let’s face it, they’re normally pretty happy anywhere!).

So next time you have a crappy customer, smile and wish them a nice day. At least you can feel good within yourself even if they choose to remain miserable and angry.

Cheeky little bonus poem

You sometimes need to give a smile,

And go the extra freaking mile,

When someone’s getting on your wick,

And being quite the little pr*ck.

Just ask them how their day has been,

And until they’re gone, keep your language clean.

Want to be successful? Then be a bitch…. (plus a bonus poem)

Or that might be what it feels like sometimes, doesn’t it? If you’re a quiet and sensitive person. If you’re living your life in a way that involves not stomping all over people’s hopes, dreams and self confidence, it can sometimes feel like you are not deserving of success and happiness.

I was in the grips of alcohol addiction when I first watched The Devil Wears Prada. I was therefore craving money and attention and general adoration from everyone around me and so there was something about this movie that just resonated with me and everything that I wanted. I looked at Meryl Streep’s character like she was some sort of goddess; the epitome of what I wanted to be. She was rich and successful and everybody worshipped the ground that she walked on.

I also didn’t seem to be aware that the reason these people all bowed down to her like she was a goddess was because they were actually terrified of her. The respect people had for her was born out of fear and it’s not like anyone would ever want to go out to the pub with her after work. She wasn’t loved like a friend or a mother figure. And people only wanted to impress her so that they didn’t get stomped on, or because they wanted to impress her to advance their own careers.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a world where Meryl’s character was a jolly and rotund woman who dished out hugs and invited people into her office for cups of tea when they were stressed? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could celebrate kindness rather than fear? Is that even possible or would society fall to pieces if we took away those ball breakers who ‘make things happen’?

I would love to see that happen and I hope that my little online community and friend group can help to make this a reality. I don’t see why empathy and kindness can’t win the day and I would love to hear people’s thoughts and ideas on whether this could be encouraged. Because now that I am free from my addiction and not so focused on power and money I realise the level of misery that ball breakers can inflict is high and unnecessary! Why spread all that pain when it’s not needed?

So let’s all pull together and try to help the nice ones rise to the top. And here are a couple of tips for being kind in the work place (or anywhere else in the world):

  1. Try not to get on other people’s wick,

Because it just makes you look like quite the little dick.

2. If you have nothing nice to say,

Just save it for another bloody day.

3. If something said, hits a little nerve,

Don’t hate back, but smother it with lurve.

4. Rise above the gossip and the hate,

It’s not worth it, don’t take the fucking bait!

5. And lift the the nice ones way up high,

Because manners, empathy and love are never things that you can buy.

Boris, Brexit and self-promotion

Does anyone else worry about putting themselves out there? Why are there some people who seem to be able to step out and look out for themselves more easily than others. In the UK we have been inundated with news about Brexit and how the new Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is handling it. Some would argue that he’s not doing any better than the person that he took over from just a few weeks ago. But if you ask Boris how he is doing, I’m pretty sure that he would say that he is doing pretty bloody well.

I do sometimes wonder why I can’t be a little bit more like Boris, putting myself as number one. I wonder what it would be like to have success and people underneath me, all looking to me for guidance. I sometimes think that it would be nice to not give a toss what other people think of me and to only care about where I want to go. It’s this tenacious self promotion that has gotten him to where he is and there are tonnes of people that have come before him who have done the same. They have all achieved their goals and they have most definitely had to trample over some heads to get to where they wanted to.

The real question is whether they were happy when they got there? Did they reach the top of their mountain and look around at the view to find that it wasn’t all they hoped for? I wonder if Boris wakes up every morning and thinks of how lucky he is that all his dreams have come true? I have a feeling that he doesn’t. My thinking is that there is something gnawing away inside of him every day, pushing him onto the next goal and also making him feel uncomfortable and empty.

I don’t know Boris or what his personality is like but I do know that when I was ruthlessly pursuing career and sporting achievements it was because I was looking for anything to fill that hole inside myself that left me in terrible pain each day. The main thing that forced me to get help when my life was falling to bits was work. I was always desperate to get promoted because I felt like a new position would make me whole and the extra money would make me a better and more respected person. I didn’t care if I was going to step on people to get there because it was the only thing that was going to remove the pain in my own life.

It was only since getting sober and going to therapy that I’ve started to see that if I’m not enough for myself then how on earth can I be enough once I have the weight of a stressful job upon my shoulders. You often see this buckling of a person in the case of pop stars. They chase fame relentlessly because they feel that it will make them better and more loved and instead they find themselves crushed by the weight of expectation and the outpouring of love from fans is kind of empty. Fans don’t really care what happens to you. They love you while you’re on top but when you’re down they’ll soon move on to the next best thing. A fan won’t drop everything for you when you’re feeling sad and need a shoulder to cry on so just remember that when you feel bad that you only have two or three real friends. At least you have real friends.

That said, perhaps we can learn a little something from Boris. He has made a twit out of himself a few times (think the zip line incident in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympics), and yet he has still ploughed on without really stopping. A lot of us have so many doubts about ourselves and the sensitive empaths among us are constantly worrying about how we make other people feel and what they think of us. Somebody like Boris doesn’t seem to give a fuck and I wonder what it must feel like to be that confident in my own ability.

I sometimes have crushing lows and bow out of opportunities because I’m worried that I’ll either offend someone, I’ll make a mess of everything or people will just laugh at me. Maybe I do sometimes need to take a leaf out of Boris’s book and plough on regardless. If this self promotion is done for the right reasons and to push us on as humans to a good and decent common goal, then surely that’s a good thing, right?

It’s such a difficult balance to strike and it’s something that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently. Do I deserve success and am I allowed to push for it? Now that I’m sober have I proven my worth? If I do push will people start to roll their eyes at me and like me less? Will the extra stress potentially make me ill again? There are so many questions that run through my head every time I think about doing something difficult.

I think that the way around this is to do something great that is also for the greater good of the people around me. I’m not sure if Boris has had the right intentions throughout his political career. I guess we’ll never know what his reasoning has been when he campaigned for leave (a lot of us would maybe lean towards the thinking that it was not for the good of the country), but the fact of the matter is that now he is in the perfect place to do some good for us all. His relentless pushing has actually put him on the best platform in the country.

What I would like to do in the future is to push for a career that does not hurt people and that empowers people but what that looks like or where it will lead me is only really known to God right now. I would love for this blog to be a way for me to do that. What a wonderful thing it would be to write for a living and make people feel good at the same time. Wouldn’t it be nice to do something I love and be able to help and inspire people at the same time. I don’t know whether that will ever be possible but maybe that’s the thing I should plough on to (not trampling on any heads along the way though!).

So, in conclusion, I would say that I’m not entirely sure that Boris is happy and that the career is making him feel better in some way. But then maybe we all need a little more confidence, just like he has. Think of all the things we could achieve if we pushed that hard and for things that we really believe in. I’m going to make the pledge today to try hard to make a difference without worrying that other people are laughing at me. Hopefully my endeavour won’t end up being as crazy as Brexit but if it could make a little bit of a splash then I would be happy.

What do you think that I should do? Do you think that maybe I should start a campaign for happiness with lots of colourful art and lovely slogans. Maybe lots of videos on being happy like Brenee Brown or Russell Brand? Maybe I should start running up and down the country like Sean Conway? So many things I could do and I am going to do one of them unashamedly and without apology. I AM allowed to self promote and look after people! It IS possible and I’m going to give it a go. Just watch me!

Much love

Rachel xx