Did you ever wonder why some people walk through life with a permanent smile? Wearing invisible shields, and the problems just bounce off them, right? Like they never even existed.
I don’t know about you, but as I worked my way through the Kleenex, the Invincibles were getting promotions and new boyfriends. I wondered what they had that I didn't? Was there such a thing as an unlucky person against whom the world conspired?
It took the whole of my twenties to realise that the only thing that separated me from the movers and shakers was mindset. The narrative we tell ourselves. The story we’ve created to describe who we are. Once I started digging into this, amazing things began to happen.
It's no secret that brain scan studies reveal those with higher self-esteem have a quicker bounce-back rate and resilience that often leaves others aghast. But it isn't magic, and it's totally possible to learn the skill of confidence-building. But we must be willing to look honestly at our beliefs and be prepared to go at them with a sledgehammer.
Would you like to be challenged without questioning everything you are? Would you welcome an opportunity to learn and grow from mishaps and disappointments?
I wanted these things and wouldn't spend a moment more in doubt.
I knew that the process of transformation could be overwhelming and maybe unsustainable. I tried to find a way to roll it out in palatable pieces. It went something like this.
Firstly, be kind to yourself. Figure out what we like about ourselves and what we stand for. This was one of the hardest parts for me, as my early years were about ego and pretence. It had been so long since I'd honestly done something for the soul, I couldn't remember what made me tick anymore. I started making notes in a diary by my bed.
What are my strengths? What am I proud of? As my list grew, I vowed to remind myself of these things every single time I faltered. I stopped comparing myself to others. I made my own affirmations and slogans. 'I am Me, and no one else will ever be Me, and that makes me authentic’. With this in mind, it was much easier to apply step two.
Be kind to others. When we like who we are, we start to see qualities in other people and feel them worthy of praise and admiration. To talk about and admit that in no way diminishes us and our proposition. In the cut-throat world of music, I had hidden my respect for other creatives, often feeling resentful of their talents.
I worked in a world where scathing comments and slanging matches in online forums were a way of life. But when I started putting good into the world, it absolutely came back in droves. I earned respect and love in abundance from others, and the cycle continued as negative influences were organically weeded out of my world.
As I honed down further, I remembered what made me happy. What resonated. What filled the void. The activities and pursuits that created my peace and light. Silly make-believe games with the kids or watching a retro movie. Writing funny poems or brainstorming my new book ideas. I trained my brain to think of these things every time my mood dipped.
And that's another thing. We can't maintain 'up' forever. Life is up, and life is down. And that is fine. That is 'normal' and makes the ups all the more joyous. From this comes an acceptance that things will change, that feelings ebb and flow quite naturally, confident we will hit those highs again soon. I let go of fear and anxiety and found a peace I never thought possible for me.
People can pay me a compliment, and I won't find a way to shrug it off or lessen it with banter. I can go through the alphabet and find 26 positive words to describe myself with every letter. Try it. Once your pen hits the paper, you won't believe how much you've actually got going for you. How many people you can list that have your back? More than you thought, right? It's eye-opening, and it's beautiful.
If we all worked on ourselves for even a fraction of the time we work at careers and boxsets, the world would be a happier place for sure. Try it today. It's worth the investment. Trust me.
Natalie Reeves-Billing is a Liverpool-based author with a focus on children's books. Follow us on Facebook for regular updates on her books and other projects.