Things to carry me over: lessons learnt from some of the smartest people I know

I’m writing this from Bali. Sounds great, I know. The truth is though that holidaying in paradise isn’t always all that if you’re not at peace with yourself, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve been everything but. I like to believe that I have the tools to deal with adversity. That wasn’t at all the case when I was younger, and it’s one of my favourite things about getting older - having found ways to call on resilience to get back on your feet during shit times. To me it’s all been fairly spiritual stuff - yoga, meditation, Kallis sessions, soul searching and soul mapping. All inward facing stuff, simply because I struggle opening up mid-crisis. I know it’s because of shame - somewhere, somehow I probably think my problems are special little snowflakes that no one else could possibly understand and therefore I feel ashamed. Of course I know that my problems aren’t special little snowflakes, but somehow I can’t see that when I’m in a bad place. As a result I hide, or as Gabby Bernstein aka my household god would’ve put it, I choose fear and isolation and I start to question a lot of fundamentals. It’s harrowing. On a more basic level, it fucking sucks.

I’m still figuring out ways to tackle it head on.

Until that sunny day comes along, I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with some brilliant minds. Somehow they all seem to come out with pretty profound stuff that stay with me, way after they’ve casually said it in passing over a coffee, in a meeting, or even in a DM. I write them down as though they’re little prayers or affirmations, and return to them when I struggle seeing a way forward.

Here are two things I’ve revisited over the last week.

There’s no such thing as cheating
This one is for the women out there who live with the impostor syndrome and credit their surroundings for their success, even if just quietly and to themselves. You are where you are because of you. Acknowledging this isn’t the same thing as turning into Margaret “there’s no such thing as society” Thatcher - quite the opposite. It’s fully possible to be humble and aware of the opportunities one has been given, while at the same time recognising that you’re the one who’s done the actual work. And when you fall over - which you will - don't think that that discredits everything that's been achieved to date. It doesn't. Also, getting a way in through your earned network isn’t nepotism. This is important. Men have gone through history climbing the ladder via cigar rooms, and not necessarily because they’re the best people for the job. Use your network, recognise your worth, remember there’s no such thing as cheating.

Perfection will kill you
I’m not sure the person who said this meant it literally, but I sort of do. In my case, perfection and anxiety go hand in hand in that if you’re obsessed with the former, the latter will ultimately come knock you down. I didn’t grow up in a world where failures or even imperfections were celebrated as an inherent part of learning and improving. Remember that imperfection and failures are only explicitly celebrated in highly privileged environments. Failing to fill out a form properly when you’re signing on, possibly resulting in having to choose between eat or heat, would hardly be celebrated at your local Fuck Up Night. Over the past few years I’ve been going through a process of relearning the meaning of failures and perfection, where failures are to be embraced and perfection is to be avoided, as opposed to the other way around. This constitutes a rewire of some of my fundamentals, so obviously it’s hard.

On a slightly more spiritual level, I think there’s something to be said for eat, pray, love. Not just because I currently happen to be in Bali, but because of what that actually means. A friend and I recently spoke about high vibration foods and how it contributes to your wellbeing. I tend to eat very little when I’m feeling low - or mainly just carbs - and that hardly helps. Eating your greens does. I’ve also recently realised that I turn to prayer a lot more than I’ve previously thought, though I’m not sure what or who I’m praying to. Perhaps myself. Perhaps the universe. Who knows. Because I don’t kneel at an altar I haven’t thought of it as prayer, but prayer it is. I pray for love, gratitude and forgiveness. The strength to be kind, to myself and others. And all of that is really summed up in love. It’s hard to see sometimes, but it’s there. I’m sure of it.

And finally...