Writing myself better: Chapter 1

It has reached the end of a week long holiday with my family in Cyprus. I’ve eaten well, slept well, read well and been… Alright.

Of course it would happen in this way. After six nights of undisturbed sleep, I find myself jostled awake by my subconscious on the seventh night, only to feel restless and out of sync. So I get up, make my way into the kitchen, tablet in hand, put the kettle on for a brew and park myself on the sofa at the foot of the cosy little apartment we’re in.

I’ve found myself on this sofa every morning with a cup of tea, lying eyes closed with devotional music filling the room and Pinterest open on my lap. What a sweet way to ease myself into each day. I could get used to this. I should get used to this.

Guys, you were there for The Breakdown Chronicles. Months of me revelling in my own pain and darkness and genuinely unfathomable misery. After that, I spent lots of time away from my writing and especially writing here. Why? Because I couldn’t actually face the inner turmoil. Writing is my god given route to healing and I chose to ignore her because I didn’t even know where to begin. I was so caught up in this vicious cycle of ego driven fear that I had turned my back on a connection I previously invested in: a connection with myself and with a greater power of my own understanding (call it what you will: intuition, the universe, God, love). I would spend time meditating and tuning into the voice without words that has guided me to fulfillment and inner peace. I would invest time in reading books on self improvement to try and deepen this understanding. This faith was at it’s peak a couple of years ago and it meant that where difficulties arose, I could consciously navigate my way out of them, fuelled by inner wisdom.

I neglected this part of me a few months into my final year of university and in trying to reaccess it when I needed it, nothing really resonated with me anymore. So I decided to hate the self help industry in favour of my five senses, choosing to experience only what’s in front of me and to stop turning inward.

The result? Looking outside of me for sources of instant gratification and finding them, revelling in them for as long as possible so as not to feel the emptiness in the space beneath it. I ignored deep seated feelings of poor self worth and unhappiness. I looked to my relationship for comfort, leading to me putting my boyfriend on a pedestal and feeling permanently unworthy or uncool in the face of differing opinions. I looked to getting drunk as a way to be present and savour a good time. I looked to television as a distraction from the shitstorm. I took to working out all the time and focusing on the external picture more than the internal one.

One morning I woke up and was making headway through a list of mundane tasks when I went online to cancel my ‘audible’ membership (a pay monthly service for audiobooks) I had two credits left so I bought two books. One was on my ‘suggested’ tab and it was called ‘The Universe has your back’ by Gabrielle Bernstein. I had previously listened to Gabby’s lectures and I found her, for some reason, fake, pretentious and capitalising on the self help industry, much like other so called ‘spiritual’ gang members (aka people who sell dreams and are full of shit). But the previous week, a friend whose book choices I respect actually recommended it. So I thought, why not? That night, I listened to it for the first time and I was hooked and moved all at once. As I listened intently, Gabby’s words resonated with me so much that my entire body shook, my heart rate soared and I cried tears of relief, sadness and joy. I remembered after months of forgetting, a lesson so pivotal to my life that it shocked me, the degree to which I had forgotten.

Happiness comes from within. It can’t be found anywhere else. No romantic relationship, no friendship, no alcohol, no party, no food, no gruelling workout guide with a promise of abs and no amount of binge watching TV will ever fill you up the same way that a spiritual connection will.

In realising this, things have begun to fall into place. More books have fallen off the shelves. More moments of clarity have presented themselves. I feel the desire to meditate again. To write again.

I even decided to put a chunk of my wage aside to invest in a course of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help me redesign the hazy neural connections that have led to automated cycles of negative thinking and resultant beliefs of poor self worth. There are some dark places I would rather not go back to.

I want a life full of self love, compassion and alignment with my purpose. I want happiness. Real, deep seated, internal happiness. I want inner guidance in difficult situations. I want to connect again and more deeply this time, more lovingly with a view to long term inner contentment. I want to heal.

I want to write myself better.

Brew up, it’s a long’un

I find it really lovely when people who haven’t seen me in a long time ask me if I’m ‘still blogging because it’s been a while since your last one’. Though most of these encounters stem from drunken and slightly disinhibited conversations in a bar somewhere on a Friday night, they make me feel like maybe this hobby has evolved into something that gives me a minute presence in the lives of a few acquaintances dotted here and there and for that… I’m happy.
Thoughts bounced about several weeks ago about whether I should take this site a little more seriously. Write more. Release more. Give more of my heart to the internet. But then the sometimes-intense-sometimes-sporadic nature of this journey is what makes it interesting and real. I’m all about real.
Sometimes I write those sorts of ‘snippet posts’ if you will, where I get to reveal some things about my life. Insight tells me I’ve actually begun to master these curious techniques like masking truth with humour or writing lists where I alternate between something revealing and something funny. Sort of a blogging defence mechanism if you will. Nothing about blogging is normal. Nothing about telling people that you blog for a hobby is normal. Especially when the follow up question is ‘What do you blog about?’ at which point you crap yourself a little and go ‘Shit. What DO I blog about? Me? My shitty life drama? Well that’s not self absorbed or 14 year old-like at all. Tell them something interesting about your Huffpost article on bullying so you seem more normal’. That spiel travels through my head in fractions of a second and the actual words that come out of my mouth is ‘Oh… stuff. You know. Life’. At which point the sky above me poops out the ‘Most Pathetic Person 2017’ award and it lands on my head. 
I truly envy people who are utterly authentic and unafraid to be themselves. The last few months have been a very interesting time where I’ve just let life wash me up on whatever shore is next up whilst I ride each wave with minimal internal reflection. (Argh I got called ‘posh’ at work by literally ALL my colleagues the other day and it’s definitely because I come out with sentences like the last one. The other day I looked at a job written in the doctor’s diary and when trying to make sense of it I said “This is a little… non contextual” and everyone looked at me like I came from outer space. How to Alienate People 101 by Gowri Nair.)
And this is it. This is what I do. I’m not sure if it comes from the whole thing where I moved to a different country and about 6 schools or if this is just normal behaviour but I go into total survival mode in new settings and said mode involves me being funny, sociable, extroverted, people-pleasing, super-intuitive Gowri. NOT Gowri who writes a blog and ‘talks posh’ (yes- because the phrase ‘talks posh’ is not at all abusive of the English language). 
So let’s talk about things that have happened over the last couple of months. And no list writing snippet blogging this time. ”Tis time for the real talk, my friends. Get your brews and sit down. (Brew is northern for tea or coffee. Did I mention I’m a Lancashire girl now?)
So it all started when I moved out of my beloved Birmingham. 2017 was the year I realised that I am not the secure person I once thought I was and actually there is some real fuckery in my foundations. You all were with me for le grande breakdown suprème which was my finals. However, not many of you were around to witness le grande breakdown numèro deux which was The Move. 
The Move was so much harder than I ever anticipated it to be. To me, it felt like a marker of failure. The first time in my life where Miss 11 A*s at GCSE failed to meet her own expectations of success and consequently I experienced some of the most enduring weeks of my life quite recently. I packed away all my things from my little house in Birmingham and put it all in the living room one sunny day in June and then my other whole came by and helped me load the car the morning after his night shift. I made him a bowl of porridge because it was the only thing left in the cupboard and it congealed pretty fast because we got a bit distracted on my bare bed in my bare room. I could’ve left that part out but including it is more fun. Then I went to medschool one last time to hand in a few bits of paper and with that, I drove down the M6 towards home. At that point, I felt very little. I was going to India the next day. I thought everything would be alright and in hindsight, I’m glad no one warned me how hard the next few months were going to be.
Following my return was the most conflicting limbo period ever. It lasted 3 weeks or so but it felt like years. I was neither here nor there. Living at home with my parents but spending every spare moment in Birmingham. Obsessed with the idea of starting a ‘new life’ but incapacitated at the thought of letting go of my old one. During limbo I graduated, went away with my friends, ate whatever I wanted and took a razor to my thigh and it wasn’t to shave. I’m not proud of how low my lows have become this year and it’s one of these things that I personally haven’t totally come to terms with yet. Hating yourself is horrible.
Limbo ended. Work started. It started with induction and survival mode kicked in. Must. Make. Friends. I joke about survival mode but as long as it’s controlled, I have a lot of love for it. Generally, I find it easy to make friends. I grabbed the bull by the horns and I went from not knowing a soul in my junior doctor’s cohort to finding people with whom I’m utterly contented to hang out with in my spare time. Those people have no idea how much they saved me actually. During a time where I loathed myself and every decision I ever made, they gave me opportunities to be extroverted, friendly Gowri. I even got nicknamed the ‘social secretary’. If they only knew that almost every day for another month I thought hard about that razor.
Being naturally empathetic, sensitive and emotional, I have a habit of letting other people’s thoughts and opinions dictate elements of my being, even when I don’t want to. That’s why it’s especially important for me to surround myself with people (excuse the hippie nature of what’s to follow) who exude the sort of positive energy that spreads. I’m quick to doubt myself, my own opinions, worry deeply about whether I’m cool enough or relaxed enough or competent enough in any field and especially by those I care about.
My first FY1 rotation is in Psychiatry and it’s a city away from the main hospital and the nature of the job is unlike any other. It’s supposed to be more chilled out. Largely it is. Other jobs are busy and intense and there are lots of very sick people. Psychiatry is in a community hospital. The patients have illnesses but not the kind that warrant acute hospital admission so no… I’m not saving any lives at all. I didn’t struggle to settle in because of survival mode. Neither was it difficult to make friends with the other doctors even though they were so far away, once again, a result of survival mode. At times however, the job has been very emotionally challenging. About a week ago, I came home utterly mentally exhausted because one of my favourite patients fell and fractured three bones so I cried for about a day. Then there was frustration of short staffing and dealing with seniors who don’t care about their patients and only their pay cheque at the end of the month. The week was topped off by talking to such acutely psychotic patients that my own sense of reality got warped. By the end of the week all I wanted was to escape. 
My next rotation is Respiratory medicine and I’m told by everyone it’ll be hellish and hard. I’m both scared and excited. But most importantly, the last few weeks where I’ve adapted to so much change in one go has instilled me with enough confidence to be able to know that whatever comes next, I can take it and I’ll take it well. I know I’m a good doctor now because I’m nice to people and I learn fast. And in a sink or swim situation, I’ll swim.
Moving back home was tough to start with. Not because being home was hard but because all I could think of was ‘Why did I leave the place I loved so much with all the people I love so much?’ Slowly it got better. Something to do with opening your eyes and seeing what’s in front of you. That being my ever loving and supportive family who treat me like a total adult. If you’d told me at the beginning of my final year that this is where I’d be in a year’s time I would have considered it absolute failure. But things happen in a way that just ends up working. And in true Gowri fashion, I’ve got a plan and am absolutely manipulating this situation to my advantage. More on that in two years’ time.
These days, I’ve got a reasonable working routine. I get up. I work out in my garage downstairs until I’ve worked up a sweat and stopped being grouchy. I go to work. I come home. I relax. I browse dresses that are bolder than I’d normally go for because all the morning exercising and meal prepping means for once, I’m feeling hella confident in my body. I wait until Friday and then I go somewhere. Usually Birmingham where I savour every minute I spend with the people I love. Then I get a train back some time on a Sunday and go home to more people I love. Having money is wonderful even though I’m more of a saver than a spender (though my recent discovery of online shopping has been enlightening). For the first time in my life, I have found myself living for a solid party on the weekend. Out of the granny pad and into the club, clad in bold dress. 
When life gives you lemons, grab the salt and pass the tequila. 
I’m still in a relationship that moulds me daily. Mostly it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. But largely it’s an investment that’s enhanced my life in ways I would’ve never imagined. 
I genuinely don’t know what’s about to happen next. Life feels the most dynamic it’s ever felt right now and I think I’m treading those waters better than before. I’ve realised that within me somewhere, there must be a level of resilience that I don’t give myself credit for and I’m just happy I got through this. I’d like to get through it better. I’d like never to think ‘life feels pointless’ ever again. I’d like to love myself. But for those things to happen, more purposeful, intentional work needs to be put in from my part. But for now, to write a dissertation about my life and reflect just a little is encouragement that internally… I myself am moving. And generally, I’ll be fine.
If you stuck around until now then I’ll make you another brew because yours must’ve finished a while ago. You look parched, honey.
Until next time, folks. 
Xo

Shortest blog I ever wrote 

Let’s be succinct. 

It never matters who likes what you write and who doesn’t. Even if the closest person to you in the whole world doesn’t really give your art the time of day. For every person who doesn’t value your craft, there are another guaranteed ten who love it. I know that when I get thirty Facebook likes on a blog but two hundred views on the same day.
Your writing is your soul speaking. Not everyone will understand that. Stand strong, warrior, in the faith that you do.

You write for you and everyone else is secondary.

Xo

Sky high

Hello people on the internet who read things I write.

Let me say it how it is. Today, I am writing a blog post on the expectations I set for myself.

The reason? Because I’m actually experiencing a real moment of clarity and acceptance right now and truth be told, I’ve not felt like this for a while. I thought I would utilise this time to its maximum potential so you, dear reader, and I can both laugh (and say a bit of a fuck you) to the ridiculousness that is me. They say the truth will set you free. Here are some of my truths:

I must be okay all the time.
If I am not okay with something, there is something wrong with me. Especially in relationships. I was having a conversation with one of my close friends the other day (kind of the male version of me but with better fashion sense, hair, career choice etc, I’m into promotion. Find him here) and we were talking about how we are in such good headspaces when we are not in relationships. It seems counter-intuitive… but really what we meant was that when we are alone, there is no longer a constant stimulus there that challenges us. It’s comfortable because we know we’re okay by ourselves. We’re both givers, so we love relationships for the focus they provide to channel all this wonderful love and energy we have but they can really wear us down sometimes too because we expect so much of ourselves.But really… what’s the worst that could happen if we are not okay with everything? Sure, you feel a little hurt. But it’s nothing drastic. We don’t have to agree with the people we love all the time. If the disagreements become so difficult to handle that that a given friendship or relationship stops becoming worth the difficulty… it’s in your better interests to leave it anyway. A better balance might be trying to understand another person’s perspective but not pushing yourself to be okay with something when you’re not. Broadening your horizons and opening your mind but not constantly putting yourself down because you have to be Miss/ Mrs/Mr/ Dr/ Lord/ Reverend Perfect and be okay with everything. I’m writing this for you as much as I’m writing it for me, lovely reader. Let’s both learn from my mistakes.

Not only must I be okay, I must be happy all the time.
I’m going to take a moment to do a massive Derren Brown and shit all over the self help industry. Fuck you Rhonda Byrne, Gabby Bernstein, Oprah, Abraham Hicks, Tony Rob… (no never, I love you Tony Robbins you freaking rockstar legend, I would never berate you on a blog, you gorgeous soul). I’m going to take a moment to point out how utterly stupid it is to encourage this notion that we need to be happy all the time, feel good all the time, generate good thoughts and feelings and they will manifest in your life. So let me get one thing straight: I believe in the law of attraction. I believe that whatever you give to the world, you attract back. I truly believe that if you give love, love will come back to you. I believe that reality is something we create and it’s important to see the good in life and focus on those things. I believe that if I think I’m good enough to achieve something, that thing will come to me in a seamless, resistance free way. However, I do not believe that you should ever force yourself to be positive because you think that’s what you need to do to be happy. It’ll backfire on you. It’s backfired on me so much that I’ve ended up in some dark places, drowning in my own self-loathing. And reading about the glorious universe wanting me to be happy has made it worse. If you feel sad, just be sad goddamit. Being sad is so much more satisfying when you allow yourself to revel in your own misery, cry like a baby and validate all those feelings that are begging for your attention. It’s so much better when you just decide, in those moments to be your own best friend rather than your own worst enemy and hug yourself instead of hurt yourself. It doesn’t come easily to perfectionists because our expectations of ourselves are sky high all the time. Although I love reading about the mind and the universe and their interaction, I’ve learnt, the hard way, to take this all with a pinch of salt. The Secret might be a world best-seller but it wasn’t written for people with more than a milligram of intellect.

I must communicate really well all the time.
This is a good one. Let me tell you about me because I’m very self righteous and this blog is all about me. I’m intensely emotional: my highs are high and my lows can (as I have recently discovered) get very low. I’m very sensitive to other people’s emotions. I take criticism really personally. I will give until I’m drained from giving. That’s the basis of my drive to be a doctor. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than another person appreciating me for who I am and what I do. I have a tendency to overthink things because I have this need to be perfect so I tell myself that if I think about something over and over again, I will solve my problems and be ‘okay’ and ‘happy’ like I’m supposed to be. I write my feelings on the internet and in thick paper diaries and I have a compulsion to talk to people in order to feel better. I am better at talking to people who are detached from my life than those who are deeply embedded within it because I tell myself that fewer consequences exist if people who are detached from my life judge me for not being perfect (though in reality, the only person who judges me for not being perfect is me). There is so much going on in my brain at once that even though I’m actually a good communicator… I need to mull over things. I need to write things down a lot. It is hard work for me to wring the emotion out of a situation before I can allow my rational mind, my frontal cortex, my better self to articulate what this grand concoction of emotions is actually trying to tell me. So lovely reader, in the hypothetical situation that you and I have a heated conversation, let me tell you now that I will be overcome with emotion and I won’t be able to tell you there and then what I’m feeling because I need to figure it out first. So this sky high expectation is a deeply personal one. I expect myself to communicate well at all times. Given the right headspace, I can do it too. Just look at the way I write: language is my ultimate strength. But sometimes I can’t communicate well. Sometimes it takes me hours, if not days or even weeks of writing to learn what’s going on so I can communicate well. My issue is that I expect this to be instant. I’m actually in the process of learning how to do rationalise better in heated moments but it’s spectacularly tough and it’s tougher if I expect myself to deal with everything perfectly and then communicate it even more perfectly.

I must be more: rational, efficient, smart, disciplined, positive, open-minded, spontaneous, relaxed and free thinking.
People can change. But if I became all those things that I think I should be, I wouldn’t be me anymore. Being overly rational means I might lose touch with my sensitive, empathetic, emotional side, but I’d like to be rational enough that I can cope with hardship better. If I became even more disciplined, then I’d be boring as fuck because I’m disciplined enough (do you know how hard it is to wait for Fridays before you pour yourself a glass of red? I do.) If I became more positive, as I often force myself to be, I would end up in a far worse place because I’d be suppressing my real emotions and honestly, I’m positive enough anyway. If I became overly spontaneous, then I’d lose the responsible, sensible part of me that’s going to make me a good doctor, a good parent and the owner of a tidy house (cleanliness matters). When I write all this down, I realise that I don’t actually hate myself. I’m quite fond of myself. I think I’m alright. 

Self-acceptance is a rough ride for me. The truth is… it’s especially rough when I’m with someone, even if it’s someone I love right down to their core and want to spend eternity with because I revel in self doubt. Perfectionist tendencies have me always comparing myself to other people. Therefore, the next natural step is that I compare myself to the one person who I think is the absolute bees knees.

Ridiculous.

Humans. What we feel is not who we are. There is no such thing as ‘an angry person’- merely a person who gets angry at a lower threshold than what humans have dictated to be a normal threshold for anger. However; we all have a tendency to think and behave in a way that is dictated by evolution, genetics and conditioning. We call it personality. If we want to change our personality or aspects of it… we can. It takes a whole re-wiring of our thoughts but it’s possible. But 99% of the time- we are confined by our personality. The next best thing is to accept it and work with it.

So, gorgeous reader… you’ve come this far. Someone said to me the other day that they like my blog because I write what everyone is thinking. If you find yourself relating, then let’s do something for ourselves today.

Let’s give ourselves a well deserved fucking break from these sky-high expectations.

G

xo

 

Hotchpotch

hotchpotch

NOUN

‘A confused mixture.’
– Oxford English Dictionary
  • Isn’t it utterly ridiculous how your own mind has the power to convince you so thoroughly? Leonardo di Caprio (fine gentleman that he is) says it beautifully in the movie ‘Inception’. He says ” An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” This is true of more than just inception, right? It’s true of belief. Belief is such a funny thing- it’s the end result of power hungry thought consumption. Real talk: there is this belief I have about not being good enough that has risen angrily to power once more and chipping away at it feels like I’m crawling through Mordor (two movie references already? Bonus points) except my burden is this total lack of self acceptance.
  • Despite fear of sounding like a total douchebag… it literally boggles my mind how there are some wordpress bloggers who can’t string a sentence together with half the vigour I can but have such tremendous following. Good thing I write out of love.
  • I paid WordPress a generous amount of money (okay, not that generous) after much deliberation so I could get my own internet domain. I think this makes me a serious blogger? No, not really. I think we can conclude that blogging isn’t a passing phase but an actual, legitimate, instagram bio-worthy pastime.
  • TAKE THIS PERSONALITY TEST: https://www.16personalities.com/free-personality-test. It’s so accurate that it’s scary.
  • So does anyone else have it where you’re in a relationship and you feel like you don’t know who you are anymore because your essence has fucking merged with your partner’s? Bloody hotchpotch. I have this. I literally hear his voice telling me to get out of the middle lane on the motorway and I can’t remember whether it’s me who hates middle lane cruisers or him. This is not a comfortable place for a person who is crawling (?cruising) through Mordor.
  • I am now directly addressing you. I am so glad you’re in my life in every way. Your presence is everything. I love you to no end. My poor heart is more wasted on you than you are on a night out with your friends. I know you despise that phrase. I think I hate middle lane cruisers too.
  • I was right about medschool all along. It was shit. Having a job is so much better. Let me tell you right now that humans were designed to have a purpose and when the vileness of medschool sucks that purpose away from you like the dementor it is, you lie there on the cold Azkaban floor, weeping at your misplacement on ward 12. And then this thing happens where overnight, you’re allowed to sign your name on a prescription and suddenly EXPECTO PATRONUM BITCHES, I’M A DOCTOR, COME AT ME WITH ALL THE ADMINISTRATIVE, BEAUROCRATIC CRAP YOU WANT ME TO DO AND I’LL DO IT WITH A SMILE ‘CAUSE IT’S STILL BETTER THAN BEING THE SPARE PART ON WARD 12.
  • God, I really am a nerd.
  • Simple clues exist in your life as to how much you value yourself. When I stay up until ridiculous-o-clock, on the phone, knowing I have to get up early and making a habit of it… I’m not really valuing myself very well. Food for thought.
  • So I have a friend who loves to bake. She does not just love to bake but she is a Pâtissière. For those less acquainted with the French language, that translates to Pastry Chef. From Le Cordon Bleu. Years ago, I convinced her to set up an instagram account for her beautiful pieces of culinary, confection perfection. Now she’s a goddamn rockstar and you can follow her here: @amee_bakes.
  • I also have a friend who can put a thrifty outfit together like nothing I have ever seen in my life. As a person with an alarmingly poor and predictable fashion sense, I have a personal incentive to lure her into my wardrobe in a non-creepy way and force her to turn me into a goddess. This incentive (and her minor talent) in mind, I too co-erced her into creating an instagram account because I am the root of all success. You can find her here: @forwardthinkingfashion.
  • If anyone thinks I should quit medicine and pursue a career in shameless promotion, you can find me right here, in my bed wearing my pyjamas, contact lenses slightly drying my eyes and with a sore throat emerging.
  • I think my relationship with my mum is on the mend. Yesterday, there was this really beautiful moment in my house where I was lounging on the sofa with a cup of earl grey, still in my work clothes watching ‘Mama Mia’ with my sister. My mum walked in, wearing her dressing gown and a towel on her head and plonked herself down with us because she loves the last scene, where Julie Walters sings ‘Take a chance on me’. It wasn’t long before the three of us burst into full blown Abba, belting out the song with absolute fucking gusto. It was glorious. I love my family (and earl grey).

Hotchpotches don’t have conclusions.

Goodnight all.

G xoxo

 

Not together

You know how there are people in this world who are really, what I call ‘together’? Honestly, I’m referring to women here, although I’m sure a male equivalent exists… I just haven’t paid a great deal of attention to them. This is because my warped conditioning means I compare myself to other women almost reflexively, eyeing up their waistlines in proportion to my own on the regs.

Anyway, I’m actually deviating right now because what I’m trying to say is that I’m really not together. And today is the least together I’ve felt in the longest time.

See, together people have this vibe about them, where confidence appears to be this trait that they’re born with. They walk in a certain way, dress with class, are poised in all their actions from the way they drink, to the way they toss their hair behind their shoulders, right down to (probably) the way they shit.

Now, everyone knows ‘together’ people and I bet you, right now, reading this can conjure up the image of someone who is very together in your mind. I can certainly think of two or three. If you can’t think of someone, that’s probably because you’re one of them (but I don’t feel like together people read my blog, so then again, you’re probably not).

The thing that really sucks about me is that I genuinely try so hard to be together. I do. Take my pre-employment check for example. I thought I was being so together: I organised my documentation into three labelled folders, I wore a shirt that day and I even walked with my shoulders back (a genuine struggle for a lanky individual such as myself) and then I rocked up there and there was a whole online thing that I’d forgotten to do. I swear this happens to me all the time. I always think I’ve done it… then I miss something important.

The way I act is absolutely not together either. Unfortunately, I have one of those really honest faces so I feel like if I’m absolutely bricking it, you can read it in my eyes like an open book. That’s stressful. Also I suck at faking it. The other week, I went to this amazing, michelin star meal which I didn’t even have to pay for but I was really tired and emotionally drained. Two glasses of expensive wine later, down came the wall and I couldn’t even be bothered to socialise, so I switched off. Even now when I think about it, I cringe at the number of together people at that meal who witnessed my lack of togetherness.

Also, women, I wear flats. I don’t wear heels. EVER. Exactly. Because I hate them, they’re painful, our bodies are not designed to stand on such a tiny pressure point and I refuse to let society push me into believing that I have to wear them, even in my best. So I always end up looking a little less together but I am taking it on the chin and saving my calves.

So I guess this level of confession usually leads to something a little deeper and you’re right, yes, it does. Tomorrow is my first day as a doctor.

And I’m not together enough for this. And I can’t even fake it.

Perhaps not something I should be admitting so publicly, but I am bricking it to some other level. I feel like all the Medicine I ever learned has drained out of me. Worse still, as I filed away my academic transcripts yesterday (in another desperado attempt at togetherness) I realised that I’ve got this piece of card that says I’ve done this degree but I don’t feel like a doctor at all. Sure, I wore the gown and walked the walk but it doesn’t mean a thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I fluked my way through certain parts of medical school.

I know everyone feels like this and at some point, through repeatedly falling on my face (metaphorically) I will somehow get back up and learn how to do this job. The thing is though, the falling really scares me and I’m not together enough to fall gracefully.

I still don’t know if I’ve missed anything from the horde of emails I’ve been sent. I feel like there will be something. I don’t know the route to my new work place. Does my car even have enough petrol in it? To add to this, we’re having some big indian party today at the house (sigh, I live at home now, together points -2) and this means I can’t be a stresshead all day which is my way of coping.

I’ve just thrown my head back on my pillow in utter exasperation. Such is the catharsis that accompanies writing. It’s 10.56am. What respectable human is still in bed at this time? Not a together one, I’ll tell you that.

Anyway. I have a day to fake my way through. Time to get up and paste that smile on for the arrivals and pretend to be oh so excited to start my new job tomorrow, yay! God, I hope I don’t get too drunk.

Til next time, I wish you all the togetherness that I do not possess myself.

Love and all,

G xoxo

P.S. I know my blogging consistency has been crap recently. I act like I’m so popular… sincere apologies to all my fans and loyal readers lalala  bullshit. Honestly, my head has been so screwed up and when I write, it means I have to face the reality of what is happening in there and recently, I haven’t wanted to. That’s the whole truth.

P.P.S. Despite the lack of togetherness, one thing every goddamn tutor I’ve had over the last five years has said is that I’m ‘enthusiastic’. And actually, I am. I can’t wait to start work. I can’t wait to have a purpose. I can’t wait to feel absolutely exhausted because I’ve done something good with my day. So it’ll be fine. It’s all going to be okay.

P.P.P.S. ‘Enthusiastic’ is so much better than ‘together’.

On the strong, independent woman

As a person who is finding herself becoming increasingly obsessed with gender equality by the day, I can assure you, loyal readers, that this post has been brewing for a long time.

 

The ‘strong, independent woman’. Alas, one of the most overly used catchphrases in popular culture. Images of Beyoncé spring to mind almost instantly and we practically hear the harmonious voices of Destiny’s Child crooning in our ears.

 

Being strong and independent are excellent characteristics which allow humans to thrive in our world today. Yet I can’t help but feel as though popular culture paints a picture of this woman as one who is career driven, gorgeously sexy, financially thriving, loves and values herself above all else in the world and most of all… doesn’t need a man.

 

And thus, the basic bitch who lives inside my brain screams at me to fit into this stereotype. ‘I WANT TO BE ONE!’ she yells with such overwhelming vigour that it ends up consuming my thoughts and actions. However the more closely I examine this stereotype, the more I cannot help but feel as though it is rooted knee deep in inequality.

 

First of all… where is the ‘strong, independent man’? Holler at me, fine fellow, let my very eyes see you in the flesh. Wait, you’re not a ‘thing’? Ah. But of course. Men are expected to be strong and independent so they don’t need a catchphrase to accompany them. The strong independent woman holds equal value to… the man. Not the strong, independent man. Does this, thereby imply that women are weak and dependent on the men in our lives so we need to justify to the rest of society that we are not these things?

 

See, my concern here is that adherence to this stereotype is almost a message to women that they need to overcompensate in order to be as strong and independent as men.
Men don’t feel the need to justify that they are strong and independent and don’t need a woman to validate them.

So why are women repeatedly telling themselves this message? Sharing memes of it? Overcompensating to the maximum? If we were to truly align ourselves with the belief that men and women are equal then shouldn’t we all just behave as though this is the case rather than making a big deal of it?

 

Another point of note: when we consider the strong, independent woman, our minds have been trained to conjure up images of those who are highly driven by their careers. It goes without saying that we have really moved past the time where a woman’s job is at home, looking after the kids they’ve painstakingly pushed out of their uterine cavities. But it’s imposing to make out that strong, independent women live and breathe their careers too. Everyone, regardless of gender has the right to choose what kind of balance they want from their lives. I come from a family where all the women I’ve known have worked full time and also had children. Is that the right way? The strong, independent women’s way?

 

I challenge society to see strong, independent women AND men, simply as people who make informed decisions as to what kind of balance they wish to adopt into their lives. Women don’t need to prove that they’re strong or independent by trying to fit an ideal associated with thriving careers, neither do they need to be ‘better’ than the people who choose to devote their lives to caring for their families (because they’re not)… and neither still is the perfect ideal to ‘get you a woman who can do both’.

 

True independence, surely, is to do what fills you with happiness and purpose, devoid of other people’s judgement?!

 

Point number three. The stereotypical strong independent woman appears extremely focused on herself. Whilst valuing oneself with the same love and care that you would value another is extremely important, the stereotype can mean that we suffer from extreme tunnel vision. People love to talk about how our twenties are a time for ourselves. We should be making our marks on the world, chasing our dreams, working long nights in glass offices and having really great instagram profiles. Even more so for the wannabe strong, independent women. So does that mean that the minute you get into a relationship you’re not doing your twenties right? That it’s bad to invest in another person because you should be 100% investing in yourself? And in addition, when in a relationship, the right thing to do is never ever compromise because being independent is about getting what YOU want?

 

This is where I’ve grown to disagree. I used to think of strong, independent women as sexually liberated people who don’t engage in relationships because they’re ‘too busy loving themselves’ and ‘don’t need a man’. Of course, no one should be sitting around waiting to be validated by a partner, that’s dangerous. (Also, being sexually liberated is something I not only support, but encourage- cue aubergine emoji. Cue several).

 
However, I have come round to the idea that those who display characteristics of strength and independence, men and women alike, invest in relationships that are right for them, at the right time, based on sound judgement. And whilst willing to compromise, do not make sacrifices that devalue or take away from their priorities.

 
Ultimately, strength and independence are qualities accessible to both genders.

 
Girls, women, ladies. Let’s stop overcompensating. Let’s stop comparing. Let’s stop letting our inner basic bitches fuelled by their diets of instagram and buzzfeed convince us that the ‘strong independent woman’ stereotype is the only correct way to live.

 
Whilst it’s important that we are aware of the little spikes of sexism we’ve accidentally internalised, we should also be intelligent enough not to fall for gimmicks that actually just perpetuate it further.

 

Create your own definition of what’s strong and independent, whether you identify as a man or a woman.

Now, go live it.

*Mic drop*

Gowri out

Xo

God & me

It’s half past 7 in the morning and the air is cooler than I imagined. I’m wearing my patterned churidhar with sandals and I’ve thrown my hair up in a plait to stop the humidity from prying it loose. It’s actually the first time my grandmothers have let me walk to the temple alone. It’s only ten minutes away from my grandma’s house in Trivandrum (Kerala, India) but the fear of a young woman walking alone is usually so deeply instilled within them that my freedom is virtually non existent in these parts.
As I walk, I realise how anglicised I’ve become after all these years, always watching my footing and looking behind me in case a motorbike comes hurtling towards me round an unanticipated bend. A real Indian girl would walk with much more confidence.
I wonder if I’ll cry this time. I usually cry because the feeling is a little consuming. Yet, as the stream of bhajans from the temple’s speakers gets louder and starts to dim the noise of the traffic, I feel myself being increasingly unattached to the entire spectacle.
My relationship, belief and understanding of God has evolved throughout the years and I’ve no doubt that my constant search for meaning and purpose means it will continue to do so.
Like many brought up in the Hindu faith, my understanding of God came largely from familial traditions rather than being derived from scriptures or books. My mother was undoubtedly the greatest contributor to this conditioning and I thank her deeply for it.
She taught me to believe in Lord Krishna. So I did. Fervently. I read comic books of all his stories, my mother would recount them whilst feeding me balls of rice and yogurt and I would pray each day to him. Thus, I developed a close relationship with this idea of God that was given to me. I really believed he was there, that he cared, he listened and that I knew him. He was naughty and manipulative and challenging and though sometimes he let you feel like you were sinking, he would never really let go of you. I was only 7 or 8 years old when Amma told me that the reason it’s good to believe in God is because in times of hardship, people who have God by their side will not resort to measures like drugs and alcohol to numb their pain. I am so lucky to have grown up with such strength and faith.
The questions only really started when I began university. A confusing time for most people in a lot of ways was made even more confusing for me because I questioned my faith for the first time in my life. Surrounded by a large number of Muslim friends, I learned about their religion to greater depths than I had previously understood it and I was wrought with major Qur’an envy. In fact, I wished so much that I belonged to an Abrahamic faith because it felt so simple compared to Hinduism. How convenient for these people to be able to read a book for guidance and answers. My faith came from Amma: one person. These other folk had entire communities of people believing the same thing from the same texts. Variety may be the spice of life but I couldn’t help but feel like it was the downfall of Hinduism.
And in this way, my quest for answers began. I attended my university’s Hindu society learning events, even personally contacting their speakers so I could learn more about my faith. I realise now that what I craved so deeply was validation for 20 years’ worth of belief. I also started reading. I’ve read most Hinduism articles on the net. I’ve read Hinduism for dummies. I read the Gita, cover to cover. Hell, I even wrote an article for the National Hindu Students Forum magazine. Even with all this behind me, I wasn’t any closer to getting answers.
I’m not dismissing Hinduism. It’s a beautiful faith. I’ve even given talks and lectures about it. But the truth is that when I tried to understand it, I found it too complex and abstract; to the extent that even when lecturing I feared I wasn’t knowledgeable enough.
That summer, I met an aunt of mine when I came to India. We connected so instantly and with such depth that it felt like the same blood ran through our veins. It did. She introduced me to a realm of spiritual thinking that year.
As the years went by, I began exploring other avenues. I took up meditation, I learnt about Buddhist teachings on why we suffer and found nontheistic, parallels to Hinduism. I became drawn to its simplicity. I read more books. More articles. In fact, spiritual reading turned into a divine, philosophical obsession (I’m still obsessed). You may be wondering where this left me and my faith (or you may not because you don’t care but since you made it this far I’m going to continue spewing). Oddly, I felt liberated. It felt good not to be so reliant on God and to instead be able to rely on myself when I needed it. I detached a lot more.
The aunt I told you about that summer was the first person who introduced me to the concept of the ‘Law of Attraction’. Now I have my qualms with this term and all the literature surrounding it, but allow me to introduce it as a basic concept.

It’s essentially a universal law that some people believe in. It states that thoughts are things; essentially what you think is what you attract into your life. The law can be used, therefore to attract events, situations and people into your life through what is described as the ‘creative process’ of ‘ask (ask the universe or pray for what you want), believe (trust that it will come to you) and receive (live as though it’s already yours and practise consistent gratitude for it and all else good in your life). It adheres to a concept first introduced to me in 2012 by ‘The Alchemist’, that when you want to achieve something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.

This is simplified and not all the information; but the point that I’m coming to here is that the sheer power of thought and belief is phenomenal. It can move mountains. It has, for so many people; including my aunt. Most people dismiss LoA as bullshit. But I personally think there’s a lot to it.
We are conditioned to believe that life happens to us, it’s out of our control and we deal with the consequences. Whilst to an extent, we cannot control what happens to us and an element of uncertainty exists, to a large degree I think we can. I think the creative process works. (That’s what’ll happen to you when you watch as much Oprah as I do).

Back to me walking down the street, dodging ditches and vehicles and wondering whether or not I’ll cry.
I see the stairs. I used to know exactly how many stairs there were because I would close my eyes and visualise climbing them to quieten my mind before every medical exam I sat. It became a good luck thing. I thought about how I don’t do that anymore because I know I create my own luck.
I would always wear my orange churidhar to climb these stairs. Today, almost as a statement to myself, I decided not to. No more ritualistic behaviour from me. Also that churidhar may have been the trend in 2007 but I have since moved forward both spiritually and fashionably.
I took my shoes off and began to ascend the flight of stone steps. The smell of oil and incense lingered in the air. I inhaled it so deeply that it diffused through every particle in my body. I walked to the shrine and there he was in all his glory: Lord Krishna surrounded by flowers and lamps and delicious things. As I looked at him, all else left my mind and it was just me and my senses. I broke contact to look around. The stone walls are so cooling and the grounds are covered in tall, green trees. Everything exudes peace. Is it peace I crave?

I looked at him once more and this time I thought. I thought of how I’m a qualified doctor now, all the people I’ll get to help and all the amazing people in my life. I asked for their happiness. I asked for my happiness. I asked him never to leave my side. A lot of this is out of habit but that’s okay. I stayed a little longer (one of my favourite songs came on in the background but then Mr Judgey priest walked out and shot a glance in my direction because I forgot to take money with me for prasadam. Obviously I don’t engage in ritualistic behaviour sir, can you not comprehend?) Anyway, with that, I left.

I think it’s okay not to have answers all the time. It’s okay not to have backing or proof for our belief system because that’s what faith is. And faith (in my mind because of law of attraction) can do amazing things in people’s lives.
I will always read and search and write in order to expand myself. But five years into this spiritual journey, I’m content with the hours I poured into self directed learning. I’m glad I no longer rely on God to such a degree that I need to engage solidly with religion to deal with my own wavering emotions, but instead chose to learn how to control my mind a little more and get sucked into bad thoughts a little less. I’m pleased that my years of childhood conditioning mean that I find places of peace within me and am decreasingly attached to the places outside me. I’m happy. And I’m learning what to do when I’m not.

Credits:

  • Amma
  • Lord Krishna
  • Gowri’s persistence
  • The internet
  • All books ever
  • All people in my life
  • All people about to come into my life
  • You, for reading this.

May the universe bless you like it’s blessed me and a whole lot more.

G

xo

Managing unhealthy thought patterns

“We should all strive to be emotionally healthier, happier people”
– Me, just now

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Once you’ve had a minute to recover from the profoundness of the above quote, fresh from the mind of yours truly, actually take a moment to think about it. How many of us actually strive to be happier?

Of course, we think we’re striving to be happier by setting ourselves goals that we then go onto accomplish. Then, when we accomplish them, we experience a fleeting moment of happiness which then passes and we are left feeling somewhat unsatisfied because we were eagerly seeking that happiness from an external source.

As a human race, we are constantly on the road to self sabotage and it’s deeply saddening; largely because 99% of the time, we don’t actually realise we’re doing it. It has become so normal to us. In his book ‘The Four Agreements’, Don Miguel Ruiz describes it as the equivalent to all humans having a skin disease.

“Imagine that the human mind is the same as your skin. You can touch healthy skin and it feels wonderful. Your skin is made for perception and the sensation of touch is wonderful. Now imagine you have an injury and the skin gets cut and infected. If you touch the infected skin, it it going to hurt, so you try to cover and protect the skin. You will not enjoy being touched because it hurts.

Now Imagine that all humans have this skin disease. Nobody can touch each other because it is going to hurt. Everyone has wounds on their skin, so the infection is seen as normal, the pain is also considered normal; we believe we are supposed to be that way.”

In what ways do we self sabotage?

We constantly allow ourselves to be hurt by our own thoughts, words and actions. We experience negative emotions like anger, jealousy and fear and let them blow out of proportion and rule our lives. When these emotions snowball so out of control that it becomes debilitating, we call it mental illness and if we have enough insight, we seek help. However, since we have not been equipped with the means to develop the emotional resilience required for life in the first place, we allow it to get that far before we do something about it.

I know. I’ve been there.

Once you actually take the step to realising that the thoughts you’ve been having all this time aren’t that healthy and perhaps this isn’t the way life was meant to be lived, you will realise that there is actually a minefield of information out there that can help to pull you out of negative thinking. It broadly exists in a field known as ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ but incorporating principles of mindfulness and even adding a spiritual realm can all be beneficial towards managing unhealthy thought patterns. I am also a glorious lover of self help books so if y’all be wanting a book review I will defs get on that hype.

Below, I’m going to outline some techniques that I have been practising which have really helped me to manage my thoughts. As a result I’ve been so much happier, more present and more able to deal with situations effectively.

I’m going to begin by putting forth a simple concept as I’ve read in ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Prof Steve Peters and reinforced by my dad (role model, best friend, GP, legend) and modified by me (the greatest blogger you will ever encounter). This has helped me so much. Bear in mind that this is an exceptional oversimplification.

  • The human brain is divided into two areas: the limbic system and the pre-frontal cortex.
  • The limbic system is the seat of our emotions and contains the hippocampus which is a centre for memory. It is a primitive part of our brain, active in fight-or-flight responses. Prof Peters calls it the chimp.
  • The limbic system is usually the filter through which new information goes through before it gets processed (i.e. something happens; cue immediate emotional response).
  • The pre-frontal cortex is the newer part of our brain; it is responsible for our personalities, decision making and ‘executive functions’ of analysis and cognition. It is the part of us that makes us different from chimps… Prof Peters describes it as the human.
  • In order for new information to get to the human part of us (prefrontal cortex), it has to go through the emotional chimp (limbic system) first.
  • The problem is that for most of us, myself very much included- our limbic systems are out of fucking control. We get so consumed by our emotional reactions to a given situation that we aren’t even giving our pre-frontal cortices a chance to sift through the information.
  • Result: anger, tears, crying, sadness, fear and no solution.

Now I’m not saying for a minute that we don’t need our emotions; they are absolutely vital to our functioning. What I’m saying is that far too often, they make our decisions for us. They leave us feeling a certain way. If we let our pre-frontal cortices work, we’d be creating space for rationality, analysis and creative thinking.

So how can we apply this knowledge to the way we deal with life? Through trial and error, I’ve found it to be a several-stage-process. Remember: this takes serious mind control. The parts where we fail are recognising it as a problem and in finding the resolve, in that moment, not to allow our emotional selves to get the better of us.

  1. What am I feeling?
    The first part of managing unhealthy thought patterns is actually recognising the emotion itself. I feel emotion most prominently at the pit of my stomach and over my chest area. Suppressing emotion is like adding fuel to a fire so the best thing is to really feel it fully; breathe through it and if needed: cry- just don’t allow any more thoughts in that will make you cry more.About an hour ago, I was on the phone to someone who I was supposed to see after they finished work. I took their call, sitting in my car and I said ‘When shall I swing by?’ and they replied with ‘I kind of want to watch TV for a bit first although you can always hang around while I do it. Or you can come after?’ I put the phone down and I felt sort of upset. It felt like a fullness in my chest, near the bottom of my throat that was close to bursting. I’d been really looking forward to seeing this person all day and I felt a bit rejected. The thought that quickly rose to the surface was ‘You’re clearly ridiculous for wanting to see this person when they don’t even want to see you’. Thankfully, I have a little more self-awareness about me and instead of allowing further thoughts like this and unhealthy emotions to be perpetuated by this situation, I was able to stop and go ‘WHOA- LIMBIC SYSTEM. Melodrama much. Can you not?!’
  2. What thought gave rise to this feeling?
    The second part of managing unhealthy emotion is realising where it came from. Through repetitive, learnt behaviour, we have built up a collection of thoughts in our heads which very quickly form reactions to situations without even thinking. A classic example of one of mine is ‘My mum doesn’t get me’. This is utterly ridiculous because it means that this pre-formed idea dictates the way I feel about everything she does and I lash out at her for no reason and am left feeling angry unnecessarily.Going back to the melodramatic situation in my car outside my driveway, I said to myself ‘Okay- so you’re upset. You yourself are feeling a little silly over it but don’t judge yourself. Why are you feeling this way?’ Immediately, my mind opened up and said ‘I feel this way because I expected that this person would want to see me as much as I wanted to see them and that’s not the case right now. I then went on to assume that the fact they want to watch TV for an hour after work is because that is somehow more important than seeing me. Well, if we break that down a little further, they’ve just had a long day at work and they want to take an hour to unwind. It doesn’t mean that seeing me is not a priority. I don’t know what kind of a day they’ve had and maybe if I’d had a long ass day at work, I’d want a huge cup of tea and to sit in front of my computer, sifting through the shit I read so I can write blogs like this for an hour, before I can contemplate someone else’s company, no matter how much I want to spend time with them’. The feeling at the bottom of my chest quietly began to dissipate and I felt light again.
  3. Expectations vs Reality?
    Managing expectations is everythingIt doesn’t mean being a pushover or settling for any less than what you deserve: it is simply a tool that creates peace of mind and actually guarantees happiness. The gap between expectation and reality is where our state of mind lies. When reality exceeds our expectation, we’re thrilled, when it doesn’t match up, we feel like shit and when they are equal to one another we feel peace. It’s very simple.Where my expectation fell short of my reality here is because I made an assumption. We know the old adage: to assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’ and it is so damn true.I am not superhuman and therefore, I’m not going to tell myself that I’ll never make an assumption again- but for the future, I’ll be wary of this particular assumption and really, that’s the best I can do to manage my expectation better. 
  4. Congratulations me!
    I’m not even kidding: I congratulate myself for every teeny tiny victory where I didn’t let my limbic system win. It might seem small but it isn’t. Through repeatedly doing this, I’ve stopped having beliefs that were massively self-limiting. I stopped thinking that I was crap at my degree, I started seeing every day situations with way more clarity and I’ve since been able to communicate my thoughts and feelings so much better and come up with actual solutions.Just to hammer my point home: let’s envisage how this situation could have gone. I could’ve become upset. I could’ve thought ‘Gowri, you’re a fool for feeling this way’ and berated myself for feeling upset which would’ve made me feel worse. I could’ve cried a lot. I could’ve let my irrational thoughts of unworthiness consume me so that when I eventually did get to go hang out with my TV-watching friend, we’d have a rubbish time. I’d eventually recover but what a waste of my energy it would’ve been.

This is obviously a minor example of an every day encounter that can go wrong because of our flawed thought patterns. Yet, it highlights my point from before: without the tools to recognise and the resolve to think straight, we let our chimps win and we sabotage our own happiness bit by bit, day by day.

It is both empowering and inspiring to stop being victims of our own automated thoughts and self limiting beliefs and start the gorgeous journey that begins with exercises like this one and results in a version of you that you were truly destined to be.

STAY HAPPY FOLKS,

Love and affection,
Your friendly neighbourhood Gowri x

 

P.S. If you liked this post, do let me know because my brain is full of this shit right now, just takes me an hour or two to throw it down on here.

P.P.S. I’m now late for my TV- watching friend. Oh the irony.

 

 

 

My journey with my body

I was always a tall, skinny girl.

When I was nine years old, I could put away a full english breakfast and I’d be hungry two hours later. My legs looked like hairy little matchsticks and there wasn’t an inch of fat to be seen anywhere on my body. Honestly, it’s not even like I exercised much. I’ve never been good at sports and being the overtly competitive person that I was, I would never even attempt something I wasn’t good at.. so I didn’t. This continued into my teenage years, until I hit sixth form and my metabolism slowed down a little.

I didn’t even really notice at the time. As far as I was concerned, I was still the tall, skinny girl who could eat whatever she wanted. And thank heavens for it because I absolutely love food. When I went on a girls’ holiday to a greek island at the end of my A-levels, I walked around shamelessly in my two-piece blue bikini, eating junk food, drinking cocktails made from cheap alcohol and flirting with lots of boys. I was the epitome of self-confidence. Never once did I look down at the tiny band of subcutaneous-something-or-other that wrapped itself over the lower half of my stomach and hips as anything more than normal.

A few months later, I started university. One of the girls I lived with at the time was particularly body conscious but as far as I could see… she had a beautiful figure. This was the very first time I began to question what my own body looked like. I remember particularly one night out where I was looking in my wardrobe for something to wear and nothing I tried on ‘worked’. Now we’ve all had this dilemma. But it hit me particularly hard this time when I looked in the mirror. Objectively speaking, I hadn’t actually piled on any extra weight from sixth form; like I say, I’ve been blessed all my life with a decent metabolism. The real change was the filter through which I saw my own reflection and stopped liking what was there.

That’s when the unhealthy behaviour started. The reason I know exactly when I gained that tiny bit of weight was because I obsessively stalked my own photographs to see when it happened. I began to look at other women’s bodies with either criticism or jealousy until it turned into a habit. I wouldn’t wear anything that hugged my figure. I joined a gym in my second term but whole experience was futile because I had no idea how to work out and I hated the whole gym environment with it being full of hench men and hot girls, all of who looked like they knew what they were doing.

At the beginning of my second year, things got a little more drastic. I began calorie counting and restricting what I ate. I drank gallons of green tea, did exercises in my room before lectures every day and fixated on my stomach area whenever I looked in the mirror. I learned to cook which gave me a sense of better control. Feeling constantly hungry became normal. One Saturday night I went out. After stumbling out of the club at around 3am, I wound up in a chicken shop with a couple of other people. I didn’t plan on getting anything but my friend (who was plastered) shoved a box of chicken wings in my face. I stared down at them, still a little woozy from the alcohol. I was so hungry. So I caved. By the time I got home, I was so washed over with guilt that I walked into the bathroom, knelt down by the toilet bowl and shoved a couple of fingers down my throat. Nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. Exhausted, I gave up and retired to my room.

The surprising thing was that I continued like this for a while, not really even acknowledging that anything was particularly wrong. It never spiralled out of control and thankfully, I never contracted an eating disorder. Months later, I told my best friend about the episode, almost in passing. It was only when she said ‘Gowri… are you even hearing what you just said?’ that a little more self-awareness began to creep in.

What I didn’t realise at the time was that the thing that started as a seed flourished into a fully grown garden of poison ivy, watered by my incessant negative self talk. This continued for years.

The interesting part of the story, I suppose, is where I am now. I have previously mentioned that I’m working on several aspects of myself at this point in time so that I can stop self-sabotaging and become a happier person. My relationship with my body is one of those areas that is undergoing constant improvement. So what did I do?

In November last year, I decided I was going to try, for the first time, to properly work on my body after my constant cyclical liking and loathing of it.

My previous experiences of going to the gym have been crap: to the point where I was just scared of gyms so I would stay away. I knew I had to stop letting this fear get in the way of a potentially positive change so I got onto google and searched ‘Ladies gyms in my area’ and found one. I joined.

For two years, I had been following a fitness figure on Instagram whose posts I really liked because she really encouraged women to focus on the way they felt rather than the way they looked. She had a workout guide which was a 12 week programme that only required a few weights and a mat. I took the plunge and bought it.

I started going to the gym regularly and eating clean, filling, healthy meals. Yes- quinoa was quick to become my best friend. I stuck with this really good routine, honestly, for just over a couple of months. My trips to the gym waxed and waned a little around February time when I started rehearsing for a dance competition and my focus on exams after that meant that gym turned into a bit of a myth.

Still there were a whole host of positives that rose from this.

  • Firstly, and most importantly, I stopped being scared of going to the gym. I’m way less put off by the other people there and instead, I rock up with my workout guide, headphones and a water bottle, do what’s on my sheet of paper and leave. Sometimes I even feel like one of those hot girls who knows what she’s doing.
  • Secondly, I’ve been focusing much more on how I feel than how I look. Eating clean and working out consistently makes me feel amazing inside and I get a genuine sense of pride from it; especially when each weight gets a little easier to lift. I can relate to ‘post leg day’ pain and I massively thrive off the routine.
  • Thirdly, my real saviour was the workout guide because it told me what I needed to know. I didn’t feel lost; I don’t look around wondering what I should be doing next and it gave my workout total structure.

That said; there’s a lot more I have left to work on.

  • Swapping jealousy for admiration

Yesterday, at the gym, there was a beautiful tanned girl with gorgeous, toned arms. I looked over at her curling weights heavier than the ones I was squatting and immediately, that faithful pang of jealousy burned inside me. Ever heard the phrase, ‘Real women lift each other up?’. Well, by definition, jealousy and comparison means I’m doing myself an injustice. So instead, I replaced that toxic thought with ‘Gowri, you have such long, great legs and they’re only going to get stronger if you keep working on them, like you are now’. Once I was happier with myself, I could actually look over at this girl and admire her for the work she’d put into herself. Credit to her; she absolutely 100% earned those gorgeous arms. Why be jealous when I could instead be inspired?

This is a simple exercise in self awareness; being conscious of my thoughts as they arise means that I can analyse them a little more and then replace them with more objective, more healthy ones.

  • Focusing on what I like about myself

My height, my legs, my hair and my butt are all, frankly, gorgeous. Sadly, years of putting myself down means I only ever see my stomach when I look in the mirror. I suck it right in and put an arm over my torso even when I walk around the house alone in my underwear. It is going to take a lot of reverse- conditioning for me to embody that super confident girl in the blue bikini from five years ago.

However, with increased awareness of my thoughts, removing myself from sources of comparison (ahem Instagram) and really taking the time out to look at myself and feel good about what’s there- my poorly learnt behaviour can most certainly be unlearnt.

  • Maintaining consistency

The time during which I had the most self confidence was the time where I was consistently working out and eating clean. Consistency creates habit, habit is a form of discipline and discipline bridges the gap between your goals and your accomplishments.

I intend on completing all 12 weeks of this workout guide from beginning to end by the end of 2017.

Thoughts

There will be times, as I have found out, where it’s only too easy to fall off this personal journey not only physically but mentally.

However, the beautiful thing is that it’s so much more than about getting rid of the band or having a flat stomach. It’s about being tremendously happy with what I already have and working on it further so I can be healthier and stronger and in love every little bit of it.

For anyone else out there who has felt the way I’ve felt: remember that the society we live in these days makes us feel that we have to look a certain way or fit a certain ideal to be beautiful. But we are beautiful. Inside and out. The more we can begin to see that in each other, the more we can stand strong as a female race and truly be inspired by one another, rather than envious.

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Love to all,

Gowri x