Kindness at Christmas

I thought it fitting to write about kindness at Christmas as it is the season of giving.

I think kindness is the most admirable quality in a person, though it is often misunderstood as a weakness; I remember a senior colleague of mine told me that my kindness will be thrown back in my face, she gave me an example of a young social worker like myself who worked hard to raise money, food and clothes for a underprivileged family at Christmas; the family accepted this gift and appeared very grateful. A few months later, the parents of this family stood in Court and told the Judge what a terrible social worker this young women was; the social worker cried to her colleagues relaying what she had done for the family at Christmas. 

I hope to always remember this story, not to discourage me from being kind but to remind me what kindness is. Kindness should not carry expectation, we should not be kind with the expectation that we will be thanked or reimbursed for it. Kindness is the quality of being friendly and compassionate; it is the ability to make a positive impact; if someone chooses to reject your kindness that is okay, this says more about the person than it does about you. Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, we buy gifts for our loved ones in the hope that they will like their gift; we may fear that they may not like their gift or we may become upset if indeed, they reject their gift. This is not dissimilar to kindness, we may fear that a person may reject or take advantage of our kindness. Kindness can be mistaken as naivety or weakness because we think that it makes us vulnerable to humiliation; for example, I recently gave a gentleman who is homeless £40 in the belief that this will fund 2 nights at a hostel, as he told me it would. My friend asked if I was not worried that he may have spent the £40 on drugs or alcohol; I was not worried because my intention was pure and kind, how this person chose to respond to my kindness is a reflection on them and not on me.

Kindness often requires courage and strength because it involves giving some of your self, it is the ability to put yourself in someone elses shoes. This can be particularly challenging in a society that has engraved a ‘survival of the fittest’ ethos which is associated with selfishness and putting ourselves first. Kind people have mastered the art of self-discipline because their wisdom overrides the need for self-righteousness; it is easy to be rude to a rude man, it is far more challenging to consider the rude man’s motives and wish him well. In this situation, who walks away with more power? Undoubtedly the kind person because they have not enabled this man to affect their own emotions, their dignity remains intact and there will be no post guilt. Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of personal work and has come to a great self-understanding.

A friend of mine shared a post on social media asking for food and clothing donations for a person who was homeless in our area, I will refer to this person who is homeless as Mike; she received a handful of comments offering help. A few weeks later a post about the same Mike was shared on social media, only this post said that Mike had put food donations in the bin, was picked up in a luxury car and had rejected help from a charity worker earlier in the day stating that he was scared; numerous people in my community commented on this post degrading Mike. When I read this post a number of concerns went through my mind; who is this man in the luxury car? Human trafficking is real! What is Mike scared of? Did the people donating the food ask Mike if he had any dietary requirements? People who are homeless have food preferences too you know! How does this person sharing this post know all of this? Yet all of these people took this post as fact. I reflected on this and came to the conclusion that perhaps people find the blaming stories easier to accept because then they feel less guilty for not having offered help or shown compassion (that’s just my opinion).

Mike told me about his childhood and his deceased parents; he told me about his passion for food and cooking; he told me about his previous jobs and why he was let go more than once; he told me about his addiction to craic cocaine and his naivety when he first tried the drug 20 years ago, never believing he would become a homeless drug addict. I just wonder if the person who shared this post and those commenting, had given a second thought to Mike as a person and to the circumstances that led to him having to beg on the street, where he is mostly avoided; verbally and non-verbally degraded; judged and will be lucky to make £10 per day. Think about it, how bad must a person’s situation be?

I will never know if what Mike told me was truth or not, I don’t mind either way; whatever the truth of the situation, I believe it is always best to choose kindness. When you come across a situation that does not look like your concept of normal, try to think about the bigger picture; the kind option may be to not say anything at all, rather than to share a judgmental observation or opinion. Christmas is a time for giving and kindness may be the most impactful gift you ever give; it doesn’t cost a thing yet it can accomplish a great deal!

The Power of the Right Relationship

A friend of mine recently shared a very inspiring post about the power of self-love, she had spent years battling with who she was and changing this to please the people she was spending time with; she wrote that it was only when she made friends with herself and started to put herself first that she was able to make space for a genuine relationship. I absolutely agree with everything she wrote but I wanted to share my experience because in hindsight whilst I always thought I was a strong single women, I realised that it was my relationship that taught me how to make friends with myself, how to forgive and how to enjoy life more.

I met my boyfriend of 5-years when I was a very lively, ‘happy go lucky’ 23 year old, I loved socialising and spending my weekends drinking and dancing with my girlfriends. I hadn’t been in a relationship for 6-years, whilst I had enjoyed a few short-term flings, I struggled to develop emotional connections and quickly got bored. I had expected the same would happen with my current partner. On reflection, I had spent the first few months of our relationship up to my usual tricks; distancing myself and then showing interest; finding buttons to push and making a drama out of tiny mishaps, of course I didn’t realise I was doing this at the time. Each time my partner would brush them off and love me all the same, I remember saying to my sister “I think I might be with this one for a while”. As I started to feel more secure in this relationship, I started to fear that someone would take my partner from me. I had never been a jealous person, I believed I had so much self-love that I didn’t need to worry about anyone else, but the first two-years of our relationship brought a real ugly and vocal green eyed monster. Whilst this was infrequent compared to the majorly happy memories we were making, it was enough for me to worry that my partner or even myself may get fed up and leave. I remember once saying to my partner “what if I’m like this forever” (a jealous girlfriend) and he replied with absolute certainty “you won’t be”. His faith in me encouraged me to figure out where these insecure emotions were coming from.

Whilst I wanted to find the root cause of my insecurity because I wanted to stop harming my relationship, I found that I couldn’t really take this seriously until I wanted to do it for myself;

Lesson number 1

I had to accept that I wasn’t this confident, empowering, radiating with self-love woman that I had believed myself to be for so long. If this was true I would have no reason to fear losing the man I loved. So whilst my relationship forced me to recognise that I didn’t have so much self-love, it also forced me to find out why this was; this helped me to know myself better and to show myself compassion. Consequently I began to love myself enough to not want to hurt myself and this meant releasing any negative emotions that were causing me pain; in this case that was jealousy or fear of losing my relationship.

Lesson number 2

I remember I once said to my partner that the reason I would get jealous and fearful of losing him was because I had suffered bereavement of my Grandad and my dad when I was a child; he told me this was not an excuse. I remember at the time I thought this a heartless thing to say but on reflection he was right and in turn this taught me that I had a habit of blaming; I wasn’t taking responsibility for my actions and whilst I was doing this I could never get better.. because you can’t fix it when it’s not yours to fix.

Lesson number 3

I didn’t realise how much of a control freak I was. One of the reasons I enjoyed being single so much was because I had my weeks planned like a rota; I knew exactly what I was doing at exactly what time and I could get quite upset when someone messed that up. My partner is fun, spontaneous and is always late. My relationship has taught me to live in the moment; it has taught me that being 10-minutes late is not the end of the world and spontaneity can be more fun than it is scary. I am a lot more adventurous and carefree since the beginning of my relationship.

Lesson number 4

I had no idea how selfish I was!! My partner never told me I was selfish or insecure or blameful, in fact I can’t remember a negative thing he has ever said to me about my personality or appearance. My partner gave me time, patience and a lot of love, when he tried to give that to anyone else I got fearful and demanded that he give it all back to me. It’s not fair to expect your partner not to be kind, not to laugh with or not to give attention to another person. I think a lot of people, particularly those who have been betrayed in a relationship struggle with this; but know that your relationship will fail if you continue to put a barrier between your partner and the outside world, it is not natural.

Lesson number 5

Forgiveness is the key to a happy life; my partner never brings up the past, when I am angry I can say some pretty hurtful things but he has never used them against me. I used to live by the motto ‘forgive but never forget’; if someone hurt me I could quite easily accept their apology but I would hold a grudge for a while. My partners ability to forgive and forget has taught me that if you choose to forgive a person you must also choose to forget because otherwise it will eat you up, you will bring up the past and you will destroy relationships; so essentially you are not forgiving at all.

I cannot give my partner full credit for my personal development since the beginning of our relationship, I could not have learnt any of this had I not chosen to be aware of my actions and their impact. I made the choice to grow and to learn; nobody has the power to change us, but anybody can set an example that can nudge us in the right or wrong direction, without them even realising they are doing it. The right relationship offers a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, it can be and should be empowering. So while I agree that we need to focus on loving ourselves before we go searching for someone else to love us for us, don’t let the journey put you off a blossoming romance, it just might help you reach the destination.

Accepting Death

Accepting death taught me to release fear and find self love

It may be assumed that an Article titled ‘Accepting Death’ is written by someone nearing the end of their life; perhaps an elderly person or someone who has been given a terminal diagnose. I am not unwell, I am healthy 28-year-old; I have learnt to accept death through my childhood and adulthood experiences of bereavement. Acceptance has changed my life and I hope it can help you too.


We do not think about death until tragedy strikes and we are forced to acknowledge it, however even in these circumstances we will try to avoid talking or thinking about dying or bereavement. We find something to keep us busy, to take our mind away from it; we prepare a conversation topic that specifically does not involve death, dying or the departed. I remember a colleague of mine pep talking me before meeting with another colleague whose Grandfather had recently passed “do not ask about her Grandparents, be careful what you say about family”. I then became very reserved and awkward in fear of accidently saying something that may upset her. Those of you who read my recent Blog with Let’s Talk About Loss “I didn’t know what death was”( letstalksaboutloss.org/2019/07/28/i-didn’t-know-what-death-was ) have an insight into my experiences with bereavement and consequently my passion for encouraging others to talk about death. I want to make it very clear that whilst many of us have experienced bereavement, none of us will experience grief in the same way. We all have our own way of processing death and grief because we are all individual and unique, and therefore we will not heal in the same ways and at the same time as one another. Some may want to talk about their bereavement soon after their loss others may need time and space to process their grief. What is crucial is that they know someone is there and willing to listen when they feel ready to talk.

Anxiety & Fear

Anxiety and Fear are common emotions in the initial aftermath of the passing of a loved one because we have lost a part of our familiarity, our safety net. Following the sudden death of my step father I became neurotic about danger; I would go over all the terrible things that could happen in a day, I was no longer able to sleep in the dark, ambulance sirens evoked a fear that one of my loved ones was in danger and I would often send a casual message to family members just to get a reply to reassure me they were OK. Amongst all of this I had developed a fear of dying myself, I became fearful of dying young, what I would miss out on and what I would or would not leave behind. I blamed myself for not being able to save my step-father and subsequently I lost a lot of self-esteem and sense of self-worth. This went on for several months before a GP mentioned the possibility of post-traumatic stress disorder, my research into this reassured me that my fears were not real and thus began my healing journey. 

Faith

Faith brings great comfort to those going through bereavement; I believe my strength is derived from my faith in the afterlife and that there is a Higher Source protecting and guiding me throughout my life. I understand this is not for everyone and therefore I will not delve into this area too much. I will mention that my research into Near Death Experiences was the catalyst to me releasing any fears I had about death and ultimately excluding the emotion that is fear from my daily life. Many wellbeing coaches advise that worry is a pointless emotion, it can cause so much turmoil and take over our enjoyment of life. There is nothing positive that can come from worry; worrying will not change the situation or the outcome. Worry is fear, it is unwarranted fear. We are taught that human beings need the emotion fear because it is an intuitive warning that we may be in danger, however I was unjustifiably fearful in my daily life; I was not in danger. The way I look at life’s challenges now is significantly less bleak than it was because I have accepted death. When we think of a bad situation we may be advised that it could be worse, we could be dying or to appreciate the fact we are alive and those still living; if you were to release fear of death then what is the worst that could happen? There is nothing left. When we let go of the emotion that is fear, we release many other negative emotions; jealousy, anger and anxiety are all derived from the emotion fear. A really big one for me was self-love, we no longer fear rejection and therefore we are open to being and accepting ourselves as we are. I will argue that when we learn to love ourselves, fear is no long useful because when we love ourselves we take care of ourselves, we make sure we are kept safe and therefore we do not put ourselves into situations that evoke fear.

Emotion is energy and energy attracts like energy

Ever notice when one bad thing happens another follows? Our feelings create our reality and therefore a negative emotion in the morning can determine the rest of our day (another topic for another day). So when we are fearful we attract things to fear! I do believe the key to letting go of fear is talking and being more open about death and bereavement because death is always the worst case scenario and is the cause of many peoples anxieties; health anxiety, anxiety about flying/heights/water/small spaces, anxiety about losing a child/spouse/parent etc. By letting go of this fear and subsequent negative emotions, we are able to enjoy and appreciate every second of life more. We are told that fear can help us to survive and prompt us to protect ourselves when used for its primal purpose; for example people often account a sudden gut feeling in the pit of the stomach and a ‘sixth-sense’ knowing not to take a particular turn when they have found themselves in a dangerous situation but we don’t need to experience the emotion fear to keep ourselves safe in this situation. In fact we are more likely to keep ourselves safe by replacing fear with love because we love ourselves enough to listen to and respect what our body is telling us. We love ourselves too much to put ourselves in a situation that may harm us. People may even ignore the emotion fear in a dangerous situation if they do not have self-love because they may dismiss themselves as just being paranoid or silly (how many times have you ignored your gut feeling about a person or a situation only to kick yourself later for it?). I am not suggesting that releasing fear and being full of self-love will make you immune to danger, I am advising that life is more enjoyable when we learn to let go of every day fears about situations we may or may not have control over. Wayne Dyer (motivational speaker) famously once said “it makes no sense to worry about things you have no control over because there is nothing you can do about them, and if you do have control over it, there is no need to worry”.

Some exercises that I have found helpful on my journey to releasing fear and finding self-love include mediation, running, self-healing books and self-love affirmations. These may not work for you but I suggest spending more time doing the things you love as a really good starting point.


This blog is an insight into my ongoing healing journey and whilst I hope it helps others, I do not expect that your journey will be the same because we are all individual and unique 🙂