After A Relationship Breakdown…breathe!

The other day, one of my friends asked me an interesting question. But as we were on duty as that day’s media team, and the meeting was due to start, I don’t think I actually answered it. Don’t you just hate it when someone doesn’t answer your question!

I have made the decision to give myself at least a year off from guys, and allow my heart to heal. At the time, when someone suggested it to me, it felt like a really tall order, but actually….it’s great! It’s given me a some breathing space and means I’m not one of those women who jumps from one relationship to another. It is giving me time to get to know myself. Me. The person I am without someone else around. The person I am without having another person trying to dictate to me or change who I am.

Giving yourself the space to reidentify yourself after the breakdown of a relationship is good practice. Jumping from one relationship to another doesn’t allow you to learn who you are and what you stand for, nor does it give you a sense of independence. Your identity apart from another person is important.

Giving you space for healing also is being kind to your heart. You’re protecting yourself from more heartache, you’re telling yourself you matter, your heart matters, your emotional well-being matters. You matter.

And the question? “What happens after the year?”

In all honesty, I’m not sure! I am not going to rush bruising my heart, after the time we are taking to heal. I value me more than that. I don’t want to slouch around hoping everything will work out without first knowing I am walking in the fullness of a heart which is healed and strengthened, after what I’ve walked through.

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Walking Away From Destruction

There's nothing worse than dreading going home.

When you've had a long day, and an even longer drive, but you're driving slower than you need to, in order to stay away longer. Or when it is cold, raining and windy, and the idea of curling up in front of a fire, under a blanket is so appealing, but the desire to escape is more so. Or when you could have had a lie-in, but would much rather go and sit in a coffee shop, in order to get some peace and quiet, even if people do keep leaving the door open and you get cold.

Yep! I totally understand how these situations are often more beneficial than being in the house.

I remember driving up the motorway one day about three years ago, and realised I'd stopped calling where I lived, "home" referring to it as "the house" instead. A home is a place of safety. A refuge. A sanctuary away from the world, isn't it? So why should I call it home, when t felt more tense there than anywhere else.

So, why am I reflecting on this now, two years after I left that house? Because having been out from half 10 this morning for a hair appointment, and having to do a bit of shopping, and find some gloves for that skydive I'm doing in 6 days…. I realised that I didn't want to go into a coffee shop… I wanted to go home.

In fact, I really couldn't wait to go home.

Home. My place of sanctuary from the world, where I sometimes sit, listening to the rain on the conservatory roof and am in awe that this….this is mine.

And it is home.

This the healing journey I've been on, and when moments like these hit me, I know that walking away from destruction was hard, but the benefit of making the decision to trusting God, is worth it more than you can ever imagine.

Stories Beyond the Scars

Do you ever feel like God has asked you to do something, but the closer you are to doing it, the more you’re like, “Actually, God. Are You sure You meant me??”

In 18 days, I will be heading off to film a medical mission near Nineveh. As each day is crossed off my list toward going, I’m not only doubting my own capability to really do justice to what is being asking of me, but I’m doubting whether God really meant for me to do this! Maybe there’s another Steph He meant to ask, and I was somehow swapped in the process. You know like when the wrong person arrives at an interview, and somehow ends up with the dream job, but the real person who should have had the interview chases them throughout the film, trying to steal back what they believed belonged to them?

I didn’t turn up for an interview. Wrongly or rightly! I was asked outright. But that doesn’t alter the fact I am feeling like am I really the right person for this particular job.

But isn’t this how God often works. Gives us challenges bigger than ourselves so we don’t think we are doing it, but know we are able to do it with His help?! I want to capture the emotion of the trip, and not just film the stories or appointments. Not because I’m a particularly emotional woman, I don’t think. But I feel like this angle is going to be the reason I have been given this opportunity. Because this kind of experience is more than just about following a group of medics around.

It’s about the stories behind the scars.

And these, I know, are going to be some tough, and incredibly emotional stories. And this is why I feel the pressure to ensure what I do captures what I hope to achieve. I’m a writer. A storyteller through the written word. Hopefully I can achieve the same sense of storytelling through the lens of my camera, for a change. Not because I think I’ll be any good at it – but because I believe I have this once in a lifetime opportunity for such a purpose as this.

The stories.

Red Flag Relationship: Compromise for Eggshells.

She tried not to look at what was happening. She’d told herself it would be easier if she didn’t. But the pull of checking on Facebook was too strong.

“Snap out of it!” He shouted at her.

“We should be there.” She responded.

“You can’t guilt trip me. They’re your friends, I was only invited because of you, so why should I bother!”

“Because they’re my friends and we were invited together.”

“They’re not bothered. Anyway. I didn’t say you couldn’t go!”

“No. But based on last time, it’s not worth the hassle when I get back. And why should I keep lying to cover you?”

“I didn’t ask you to lie for me!”

“Not directly. But in your attitude after saying we would.”

“Oh shut up! Stop banging on about it. You should have just left me alone, it’s clear where you’d rather be.”

 

Maybe I have a romanticised view of relationships, but…. any man who expects you to lie for him, and who tries to separate you from your friends…really?! Is he really the kind of man who makes you feel safe?

Being in the kind of relationship where I was constantly having to make excuses to my family and friends, trying to find new ways of saying, “he’s not coming” without offending or insulting anyone, was exhausting. Not to mention disrespectful and yet another example of learning to walk on eggshells.

A woman’s (or man’s) integrity and character is what she is known by, so having to kowtow to another person’s character, in order to meet unspoken expectations and demands puts pressure on who you are. It’s all very well and good others saying you should stand by who you are, but having been there, I know it is not so easy.

Having to negotiate around a controlling person whose fluid rules are never fully known because they constantly change; tiptoing to avoid walking on eggshells without being hurt – emotionally or physically – this is a reality which most people will never understand.

But eventually, a time comes when even you realise you have a decision to make. You can’t walk on eggshells forever. And you can’t bury your character to appease someone else forever. I know. You think you’ll try. And you think that in time you won’t need to, because he will change. If only you just bide your time, and keep things as smooth as possible, if you just bite your tongue and do things his way, in time, he will change. In time, you’ll be able to sweep away those eggshells and walk normally.

Won’t you…?

For as long as you push down your character, for as long as you do everything you can to “keep the peace”, and even if you rise up now and again to do anything you can to make him see things from your perspective, nothing will change. Because it isn’t you who needs to make it change. It is him, the other person.

Maybe I have a romanticised view of relationships, but as far as I can see, real love is  about both partners giving, and both partners taking. Real love is about encouraging each person to grow in your integrity, not feel coerced into hiding who you are behind fear, intimidation and grief.

Who are you? And who are you in your relationship? Are you a different person? You should be better than who you were! Or do you find yourself compromising on who you are?

One day, just like I did, you will have to make a decision on what you will allow to continue to be acceptable to you.

Don’t Disrespect You, Either!

Don’t Disrespect You, Either!

Over the weekend, I wrote about how important it is to not reject who you are, in parts one, two and three. But then, I see splashed all over a couple of hashtags I “watch” on Twitter (to find opportunities for work clients), a number of women who are prepared to sell themselves, rather than using their brains!

Come on ladies!! In a world where girls’ shoes are named “Dolly Babe” while boys’ shoes are called “leader“, isn’t it time to break the ceiling of sexism?! Stop contributing to it by buying into the lie that women can’t achieve anything without the use of their “womanly wiles”!! And how ironic that a few weeks after I wrote about women being more than the shoes we wear, children’s shoes hit the news!

I am astounded we are still fighting against #everydaysexism so much – even from a young age. Why do children’s shoes need to have names anyway – never mind such ridiculously sexist names like those?! How are young girls supposed to break the glass ceiling which potentially holds women back, if the message they are receiving comes down to being called a “babe”?

In a world where women and girls are being disrespected so much about how they can achieve so much more, in a world of grey suits, I would love for every woman and girl to hear the message loud and clear – STOP DISRESPECTING YOURSELF! Stop buying into the culture that how you look is what will bring you success, and rise above this man’s world-view! Stop selling yourself on social media, and find a way to break the ceiling which threatens to hold you back from achieving your fullest potential!

YOU, my dear sister, are more than a “Dolly Babe!” You are a woman to be respected! You are more than a revealing photo on social media, you are the crowning glory of creation – worth so much more!

If you don’t believe this about yourself, or about other women – how on earth can we help the man-folk to understand this simple, but important truth!!

Stop disrespecting yourself!!

5 Similarities Between Influencers and Leaders

What Really Makes A Leader? 5 Similarities Between Leaders & Influencers

The other day, I was talking to someone in my new job. She had overheard something about me going to Iraq, and thought it was a bit random, but concluded, “this is Steph, so she’ll be going to do something inspirational.”

This led me to think a bit about the difference between being inspirational, and being a leader, and well…what actually makes someone a leader? It’s easy to follow someone you find inspirational. This is why so many Instagrammers have so many followers, who are inspired by the pictures they are posting. But are the most influential people always great leaders?

Someone who is seen as inspirational can have more of an impact than the leader. Which is fine, for those who are on your side. But what if you have someone who is given the title of leader, but without the qualities of leadership? And apart from being someone who can influence those they are leading, what makes a leader a leader? And… last question…can an influencer be a leader?

Now, depending on whether you look at secular or biblical principles, will determine how you personally would define a leader. But most people seem to agree:

1. A leader has a following
Look behind you! If no one is following who you are, what your vision is, or what you’re doing…. errrr…who exactly are you leading? A dictator will force and coerce people to follow them. A leader naturally gathers followers who see something they connect with, and feel inspired by.

2. A leader knows they aren’t always the best person for the job
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not talking about a lack of confidence, or a false humility. I’m talking about recognising your strengths and weaknesses. Seeing the strengths and weaknesses in others, and playing to people’s strengths more than their weaknesses. AKA – delegation. A good team leader not only knows how to confidently direct the rest of the team, but how to encourage and inspire the weakest person to their strength. Moving people from where they were, to greater places.

3. A leader knows how to communicate, even when they don’t have the answers
It surprises me how many people don’t realise how important communication is. When leaders don’t communicate, their followers will start to talk amongst themselves! And the message will more likely than not, be a very different message altogether. Communication isn’t about having all the answers, it’s about continuing to engage and influence – even in the storm! I find those who are honest about not knowing or understanding something, are easier to identify with – because (believe it or not) I don’t have all the answers.

4. A leader isn’t intimidated by the inspiration of others
There’s a certain quality in the leader who knows their own sphere of influence has its limitations, and rather than feeling insecure about it, they look to those more influential than themselves. None of us ever reaches the top – there’s always somewhere further to go. Especially when you entrust your life to God, He always has more for us to accomplish. Leaders know they need to be inspired as much as they desire to inspire. And there are some great leaders who are secure enough in who they are that they don’t feel intimidated by the influence of others in their following. Rather than putting them down, they learn how to build on this to continue to lead and inspire.

5. A leader has a way of connecting with people
The best kind of influencers are those who make time to find out about the person who follows them. Attracting the followers can be easy in comparison to inspiring them to continue following you. It involves crouching down to where they’re at, in order to inspire them to attain greater potential for greater outcomes. An excellent leader is able to connect with people outside their normal sphere of influence as well as those who are following – it’s easy to connect with those who are already with you!

So, whether you are (or think you are) a leader, an influencer – or both in one package – there are many other elements to what makes an influencer a leader, like accountability, God’s calling (Christian ministry) or, knowing where you’re going.

And while as a Christian I do think there is an element of God’s directive in some areas of leadership/management/influencers, both in the workplace and in Church, I also think a large chunk of it is humanity. I think people can force their way into becoming a leader, through a variety of techniques, manipulation and “training”, but influencers, especially the ones who God moves through, like Joseph, like Daniel, like, Abigail….these are the ones who have a real ability to lead people – not by saying the right words, but just by who they are.

 

Don’t Reject You, Part 3

Psychologically, one of the biggest fears a lot of people have, and carry, is a fear of rejection. But as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, when we allow the fear of rejection to cloud the message we receive, we inadvertently end up rejecting those around us. Even when we don’t mean to!

We miss the right message, because we are too focussed on the wrong one.

But if we fully recognised the right message about who we are, then the fear of rejection no longer has such a strong influence over how we see ourself, or how we think we ought to behave.

The ultimate way to beat the fear of rejection, is in knowing that we have never been rejected by One Man. Jesus. When we recognise we are accepted by Him, for every aspect of who we are, including those parts others have rejected in the past, it releases us from fear. Perfect love, after all, has no cause for fear.

I am a work in progress. Having dealt with the rejection of a failed marriage, it can very easily cloud how I perceive future relationships could go. But God is working in me, to change the message I thought about myself, and is bringing it back round to correlate with who He says I am.

And this is the final message for you.

I don’t know what kind of rejection you have experienced, in love, in life, in relationships. But I do know you are not defined by that. I do know that remaining authentic to who you are, as a Christian, means remaining authentic to who God says you are. This, my dear friend, is what will allow you to kick back that fear of rejection. And, it will allow you to learn to accept yourself, rather than reject yourself,

You are not defined by what people rej do about you. We are all fickle. We change our minds all the time. But God – He is constant. And He has chosen to accept you, in spite of your rejection of Him.

Don’t reject who you are, but don’t reject God’s declation of who you are either!

Don’t Reject You, Part 2

When we look to other people for affirmation of who we are, or when we try to be like others who we think are better than we are, we end up missing what’s right in front of us. We end up in danger of rejecting ourselves because we stop being authentic to who we are, in order to appear to more acceptable to others, out of a fear that like many times in our past, we will continue to be rejected if we let people see the real version of who we are.

In constantly seeing the negative in the situation, we are in danger of missing the heart of the message and messenger – those people who fully accept you, and who genuinely love you.

Oh my days, I really can’t imagine what life must be like for those “mood hoover” type of people, who make everything about them. It’s literally like no matter what others do for them, they miss the love and positivity, all the time. It’s like, no matter how much time you spend talking with them, trying to engage them, or inviting them to share life with you, they feel rejected by one thing you do or say “wrong” in their eyes, and so you’re living in their rejection all over again.

There are times in life, I’m not going to lie, when I have focussed on the wrong messaging, missing the right message real friends are trying to communicate. Like when I handle something on my own, and then tell my closest friend what I’d been going through after I’ve come through it, when she has always said, “I’m here for you, stop trying to do it alone!”

It doesn’t make me any more reliant on God, or holy, just because I am trying to go it alone. It means I am foregoing the support He places around me, in order to help me through it. Is this me rejecting Him? Is this me rejecting the place of friendship in my life?

We all have the capability of rejecting people. But learn who you can safely allow into your life, and don’t reject them. When you allow yourself this “luxury” of trusting others, you’re allowing yourself to be vulnerable with your own fear of rejection. And you begin to see that actually, there are a lot of friends who don’t reject you. Don’t base your whole opinion of who you are, on the actions or reactions of one or two people.

Don’t reject you – because they have chosen not to. And if your friends see something in you worth loving, isn’t it time you did too?

Don’t Reject You

Sometimes, life doesn’t go the way you hoped it would. Sometimes, it hurts. Actually, scrap that – a lot of times it can hurt! Like when you give your heart and life to someone, only for them to turn around and reject you. I know – that makes you feel like you’re not good enough, like you’re not worth loving, like there’s something wrong with you.

So you try a little harder.

Try to make yourself more loveable.

More acceptable.

More like the kind of person who won’t get rejected. Again.

You try to fit yourself into becoming like some of those others you see who have it all. They don’t have to deal with the heartache, the pain, the tears in the middle of the night. Right? They have it all. The house. The job. The marriage. The family. They have it all together.

And so you watch, try to work out what they have which you don’t. Try to make yourself fit whatever mold would make you accepted instead of rejected.

But life doesn’t work like that.

You only have to look at some of the “beautiful people” out there to see that rejection doesn’t care about how you look, about how nice you are, about whether you’re the pop princess, or have a zillion instagram followers. Rejection is not a respecter of any of those things.

It’s not a respecter of you.

And that’s what it comes down to, at the end of the day. You. Being authentic to you. Sure, you can try and match the “popular kids”; or try to be what that guy wants you to be, but at the end of the day – are you really being you, or are you just trying to avoid being rejected. Again. And again. And again.

In a world where people are fighting for acceptance, at almost any cost… and I totally get it, when they reject you it hurts. Rejection hurts. Rejection is lonely.

But don’t… whatever you do… reject you.

5 Tips for Being Your Most Productive on #NationalLazyDay

On #NationalLazyDay here are my 5 crucial tips for you to make the most of most decadent of national days, and definitely not consider doing on August 10th:

  1. DON’T miss those crucial deadlines. Streamline how you’re working, so you only do what is necessary, and not get side-lined by something which looks appealing, but is only going to make you work harder as your deadline approaches! Seriously, if it can wait until another day, put it off without guilt! Don’t let anything distract you from what you really need to do today.
  2. DON’T text – make a call! Says the queen of texting and messaging!! But think about it logically – there are, what? 11 digits in the average phone number – less if you have them on speed dial? How much effort is involved in typing out a text, or a message?? Ugh! So much effort!! Don’t do it – just make a call! You don’t even have to make notes – record it, and then you can come back to anything later on!
  3. DON’T do it all yourself – delegate! I know… you probably can do it better yourself, but if your diary is chocca-block, why stress over it?! Pass it on, train someone else up, and allow yourself time to breathe! It’s not laziness – it’s delegation! Don’t fill up your to-do list with stuff you know someone else in the team is capable of!

I know I said 5 things, but come on! It’s national lazy day! Why are you actually expecting I would actually do any more than three!!

Enjoy your day and… be lazily productive!