Sometimes I don’t take my own advice. Ok, so most of the time I don’t take my own advice, or anyone else’s for that matter. In fact, I’m usually way too busy metaphorically speeding down the M4 in the wrong lane wearing a blindfold to even bother opening my ears. I like life a little exciting, but terrifying will do. Anything but dull is appreciated, but I’ve realised recently that that’s a really stupid way to live your life. I look back over the years and there are so many horrific situations that I have sleepwalked into, all because I’ve been looking for a story.
I really should take my own advice.
But it’s one of those things, isn’t it? It’s easy enough to tell someone else not to look down, but when you’re the one on the tightrope, you just want to see how far you’ve got to fall. And it’s a long way down.
Lately I’ve been trying to listen to myself more. It’s not that I think I’m that great at advice, although obviously I wouldn’t give it to my friends if I thought that it was somehow going to result in them screaming out for Spiderman. It’s just that I want to practice what I preach in life, and I want to see what sort of gift I’ve been giving, and whether I should keep doling it out.
This is shaping up to be a super interesting year, and everything’s gone crazy in my world, so it’s the prime time to be looking for some semblance of control, and control to me always comes in the form of rules. I use them to bar my way and beat myself with, but I also use them as what they’re designed for – structure. And some structure right about now would be pretty sweet.
So here are some of the things I say when times are tough and I’m asked for advice, and the reasons I’m starting to listen:
“Be kind to yourself”
Why is this so hard to do?! When I look in the mirror, my knee-jerk reaction is to pick myself apart. I grew up with a mother who grabbed at her stomach and yanked it hard, whilst moaning how fat she was, and I’ve started to do the same. It’s not just physical either. Every time I make a mistake, I can’t help but call myself stupid. The worst F word is failure, and it’s right there, on the tip of my tongue. I can spend all day beating myself up emotionally, and where does it get me? Sulking in bed with a large tub of Booja-Booja, watching America’s Next Top Model and hating them ALL. Hardly a dream destination. Clearly this needs to stop. If my friends had the same masochistic approach to their self-esteem, I would knock some sense into them with a self-love stick.
So I’m updating my vocabulary. Now if I don’t know an answer, I ask, and I’m not dumb, I’m learning. If I look in the mirror, I’m Bootylicious, not fat. I am challenging myself to reframe everything, to look at it all from a new, sunny direction. I am reminding myself that I am a human being, with feelings and needs and all the squishy emotions of a child, just packaged differently. And it feels so much better so quickly! I am no longer terrified of my own reflection, despite making no change to the size of my derriere. I am nicer to other people too, way more understanding. I think I’m just more aware of the battle they might be having inside their own heads for the silliest reasons, and I want them to know, subconsciously, what I’ve learned: “You are beautiful and you are doing just fine.”
Put Into Practice Rating: 4/5 (I’m not Tyra fierce, but I’m getting there!)
“Don’t worry, it’ll be fiiine!”
Yes, I am one of those annoying ‘glass half full’ people, and I do say it with exactly that emphasis. It’s in my nature to be so enthusiastic and positive that it’s irritating, verging on ‘calm down dear’. I believe in the goodness of life, I believe in my friends, and I believe that they will land on their feet with a million pounds in their bank account and a free teacup pig. Unfortunately my sunny side up stance doesn’t translate to my own life. It’s not because my positivity ends at my doorstep, but because I examine every possibility in my life with the finest of toothcombs.* Of the myriad futures that flow out before me, there is a large amount that will be negative. If you look at the theory of the multiverse, somewhere, somewhen, there is a version of you that’s in prison. Another one’s considering suicide. Another one is about to be probed by aliens. Another one is a fan of Robin Thicke. All these things could happen to you, or me, or any of us, and that is utterly terrifying.
But I’m trying not to think about that.
Lately I’ve been turning my back to any possibilities with a hint of gloom. I’ve barely spent any time considering the likelihood of my worldwide televised embarrassment, which, really, I should get a medal for.** My future is being hardcore shined with a J-cloth and a bottle of Cif. Everything is supposed to be amazing unless proven otherwise. If I have an interview, it will go awesomely. If I take a test, I’ll pass with all the flying colours of Rainbow Dash. If I have a date, he will fall in love immediately and whisk me off to the beach. Of course, these things might not happen, but so what? Does being prepared for failure make for less bruises? Nope. It just means that you get a double dose of misery, and who wants that? I’m liking the sunny side of the street and I intend to hang out here for the foreseeable. At least if I trip, I’ll have had fun on the fall.
Put Into Practice Rating: 5/5 (I may not be realistic, but I’m happy!)
This is related to the last piece of advice, but is less about wandering around with a big grin on your face, and more about wandering into the Danger Zone with the same big grin. My friends could be about to make a really stupid/impossible/insane complete mistake, involving rabid dogs and Z list celebrities, but if they ask me what to do, I tell them to jump. Now this is not because I’m an awful friend, but because I don’t know for sure if it’s a bad idea, but I know that jumping is the way to find out. A lot of things look bad close up, but when you step back or turn around to check them out from the other side, they’re actually brilliant. So many impossible things have happened in this world that wouldn’t have even been bothered if someone hadn’t been blinkered against the massive pile of cons and said f**k it. And even if it all goes horribly wrong, hey, at least you’ll have a story. An anecdote about the time you tried to drunkenly ride a dog and discovered that it was a little old lady named Dorothy, who was wearing a fur coat and bending over to rescue a dropped Werther’s Original ALWAYS goes down well at parties. Trust me.
So I know all of this, but can I take my own advice? Hahahahahaha…No. I think it helps with this one to have a devil on your shoulder prodding you with a pitchfork, or at least a best friend threatening to tell all of your secrets to the FBI*** if you don’t do the awesome thing right now and take pictures. Doing crazy, impossible, epic things is scary and hard. And it’s sooo much easier to push someone else off a bridge than jump yourself. It doesn’t help that I have a habit of building things up and up and up, until they can only be disappointments. Even if the apocalypse started right now, and buildings were ablaze and aliens were tweeting their mass murder plans from a spaceship that looked EXACTLY like a glitter ball, I’d be like, “Where the hell are all the zombies?” So I become unwilling to risk day-to-day humdrum for the mediocrity of a poor apocalyptic performance, and when Jesus comes back and is all like, “Now?” I’d shake my head and say, “Not now, Jesus, not now.” And he’d be sad and I’d be sad and where would that leave us? Exactly.
Put Into Practice Rating: 0/5 (I am a coward when it comes to the big, scary, possibly life-threatening stuff.)
The lesson here is that I give awesome advice, and someone should really pay me for it. I’m thinking a Ricki Lake-type show, with added unicorns. Ooh, and a gunge pit for men who fail the paternity test and anyone who tries to wrestle the security guards. And the security guards will be dressed as Smurfs and carry tasers! Yes. This is brilliant.
So for my final thought****, I just want to say that life is really difficult sometimes, and sometimes it’s the easiest thing in the world, but it’s all the same life, all the same journey. Everybody is going through some stuff. Even when someone’s smiling, you really can’t tell what pain they’re smiling through. So the best advice I can give you, and the best advice you can take and use and share is to:
“Take care of yourself, and each other.”
*You NEED to Google toothcombs. The universe is epic.
**Not even joking.
***Please note, government spies, that my secrets are the really boring sort, and you’d be as pissed as me if she told you. Plus I’m British, so all of my secrets involve things you wouldn’t understand, like Marmite and top hats and Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.