When you really take the time to get to know you, you will find that as a result of paying attention to your feelings, opinions, needs, expectations and desires, you are not only armed with a great deal of self-knowledge and self-awareness but you have so much more power in your life because you know your own bullsh*t (BS).

As humans, we’re all prone to BS’ng ourselves to lesser and greater degrees but the great thing is that when we know our own and we own it instead of believing it, we are coming from an entirely different level of awareness to somebody who doesn’t acknowledge their self-deception for what it is.

What we have to be careful of when we find ourselves engaging with somebody who lacks self-awareness and connectivity to reality and even consideration of others, is that if we don’t recognise that they just don’t see things the way that we do, we’ll do the equivalent of bashing our head on the table in frustration because we’re trying to make sense out of nonsense. We forget that, for instance, if we have a conscience, empathy, integrity, a need for respect, that a person who doesn’t have those things or certainly doesn’t care about those things, isn’t coming from our perspective and is not going to be inclined to come over to our point of view.

NEVER argue with someone who believes their own lies

I’ve dealt with my fair share of people who believe their own lies – I just don’t even engage anymore. If you take the bait or don’t step back when you realise that they’re smoking way too much crack and living at Deception Projects, you won’t take protective measures and will end up drained out. It’s a misuse of your energy. It’s like when you have one of those ridiculous arguments with a drunk person when you’re sober (or certainly not as inebriated) – complete waste of time! And they keep repeating themselves or they latch on to one word or part of a sentence that you said and go completely off topic and forget what they’ve said and done.

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At a surprise party a few months back, I noticed something about the birthday girl: she was near having palpitations due to not being the organiser and she was visibly stressed about receiving gifts and compliments. She didn’t know how to receive.

If you struggle to receive compliments, gifts, help, support etc., you have receiving issues and in actual fact, you’re also likely to be an over-giving people pleaser (over-givers tend to under-receive), possibly because each time somebody does something for you, you feel as if you have to bump up your efforts and almost prove that you were worth the effort. A gift can’t be a gift and help can’t be help; you’ll be stressing over how you can show your appreciation and privately relieve the uneasiness caused by the gift or help.

Sometimes you just need to say “Thank you” or accept whatever it is rather than trying to be and do everything yourself. You also don’t have to be in control all of the time and there doesn’t need to be payback. Let [the right] people in.

When you struggle to receive, what people don’t often realise is the internal struggle that you go through when people try to do things for you. They don’t know about how it can trigger feelings of low self-worth or bring up unpleasant associations. It can bring up the secret fear that they have a perception of you that they’ve based this giving on that you worry about not living up to. There can be an irrational pressure where relieving that discomfort comes about from either shooting down their efforts or reciprocating (possibly over-reciprocating).

While there are people out there who give to receive (which is not the same as giving or gifting), what you forget when you have receiving issues is that a genuine gift is something that the person willingly gives because they want to.

It’s done without an agenda or expectation of what you will give in return and it’s their way of saying, Thank you or I really appreciate you or I was thinking about you.

If you feel guilty and even obliged to come up with a gift of equal level (or more), that’s kinda killing the whole gifting vibe.

You’re saying, Thank you for the gift. It made me feel really uncomfortable and I was worried about what you (or others) might think of me if I didn’t give you something back. What if in not doing so, I committed a faux pas? I don’t understand why you’re doing something for me? What are you expecting? I’m the pleaser – what are you trying to do? Usurp me? Ugh. You got all of that from a gift? That sounds more like a burden!

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Habitual lateness sends the message that you and your time are the only factors worthy of your consideration

If you’ve ever stood (or sat) around waiting for somebody who is late, you will understand how frustrating and downright awkward this can be, especially when they either don’t warn you that they’re going to be late or they have a habit of being late on the regular. Equally, if you are typically late and have received flack for it, you may struggle to understand what the problem is because from your end of things, you either feel that there are genuine reasons for your lateness or that they’re making an unnecessarily big deal out of it.

A friend of mine was recently kept waiting for four hours – yes, you did read that correctly. Four feckin hours. That is far beyond the bounds of acceptability. My first thought was, What’s so special about this guy that you’d circle around Victoria station for a few hours while he hung out in the pub with his mates?

We know when we’re going to be fifteen minutes late and a person who is four hours late knew this some time between one and two hundred and forty minutes before they decided that they would bother to show up.

The way that you feel about and deal with timekeeping is really a matter of values, namely your personal values, the ones that speak for your character.

Sure, there will be people who will argue up and down about how culture has its part to play in the acceptability of lateness but we can all think of generalisations that are made about cultures and races that are not actually true of the people we encounter from these.

It’s not that things don’t happen and that none of us can ever be late but how we typically treat time does say a lot about how much we respect other people’s time as well as our own.

People who don’t really care about keeping people waiting or disrupting their schedules, have an over-inflated sense of their own importance. When did common courtesy die a death? In an age where you could almost say that we’re over-connected, how the hell can a person fail to notify us that they’re going to be late when we have mobile phones, texts, email, Facebook, WhatsApp, IM, Skype, Twitter, Instagram and the list goes on?

We’ve got to quit with this bullsh*t, super busy malarkey. Habitual lateness (super late people) is just an extension of this whole carrying on as if we’re busier than a world leader. No we’re not!

When we don’t respect and value our own time (boundaries), we over-promise ourselves in the name of pleasing and fear of saying no, winding up malnourished in the self-care department. We also don’t acknowledge where our concept of how long it’s going to take to do something or get somewhere, is inaccurate.

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self-esteem offers a great deal of self-protection, something you don't get when you're reliant on external esteem

Do you remember many moons ago when the internet was shiny and new and you used to get excited about receiving an email? I remember when dating websites started and how love was blossoming all over the place. I also remember two things that most of us gradually became aware of : there are people out there who send spam designed to either wreck your computer or gain your hard earned money, and there are people online who are not what they seem.

Back in the day when my friends and I used to spend our weekends in nightclubs pretending to be on a girls night out but secretly hungering for ‘Mr Right’ to show up on the dancefloor, we used to wisecrack to slippery guys who were laying on the charm and trying to sell us a fantasy, “Are you trying to 419 me?”

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with what 419 means, it’s a type of fraud typically associated with those emails telling you that the person has come into a large amount of cash that for some OTT reason, they cannot have access to or put it in their own bank account. Incidentally, it’s called 419 due to a section of Nigerian law that deals with it (419 is very associated with Nigeria although not limited to it by any stretch). They promise victims a share of the money for handling the funds on [the scammer’s] behalf and then shazam, clean out their accounts. Some of them offer a share of the money for a fee and then on receiving it, just keep tapping up the victims for more. I watched something a couple of years ago or so (I forget which show) which highlighted how some people had been scammed numerous times and were kept on lists by criminal gangs.

Over the years, many of us have become savvy about spam and recognising that a person’s online persona may be very (or entirely) different to their true self.

As a result, we have installed anti virus and we know that our banks won’t ask us to email our password or bank account details; we know to check the email address of the sender because often it’s entirely different to the company that they’re claiming to be from, and we also know to be suspicious of glaring typos from so-called big brands asking for our information. We tend to be suspicious of attachments when we’re unfamiliar with the sender, and people get exposed all the time for making up backgrounds and experiences in order to gain a following, money etc. Basically, we’ve gradually built up a knowledge base of things to look out.

When we found out about spam and viruses, we could have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and stopped using computers and email… but instead we’ve opted to try to be a bit more street smart and self-aware. We approach with caution and take our time. We have our Safe Senders which is the equivalent of our Circle of Trust. Similarly, there’s no need to give up dating and relationships.

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I knew it was going to be one of those crazy busy weeks – I have a Baggage Reclaim stall at the Blogtacular conference tomorrow and am currently waiting for my youngest to finish her first ballet exam (she had a meltdown ten minutes beforehand – give me strength!) – and so I made another video, and this time, it’s on the subject of when somebody tells you that, “No one will love you better [than me]”, and the equally as bad, “I’m the one who loves you the most”. Talk about having a big ego! I mean – how exactly do they know what the potential is for you to be loved and how exactly did they come to the conclusion that they love you the most? And that’s where you get a really big clue about how that person is perceiving you and how they basically have an overinflated sense of their own importance. Check out the video below. You can also listen to the audio version.

The key message that I really want people to take away from this video is, don’t allow anybody to devalue you and to keep inflating their crumb contribution into a loaf while trying to make out as if you couldn’t do any better. That’s not love; it’s control. It’s also very bloody patronising. Once you stop caring that much, they stop having that much control and you’ll stop being weighed down by the mind effery of being involved with them.

Take care of you.

Your thoughts?

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At what point do we say, “Enough”? It needs to be at the point where we’re feeling so desperate to keep someone in our life that we’re willing to let go of everything that needs to matter to us – our sense of self, our values, and most certainly, our boundaries and standards. It pains me when readers tell me harrowing stories of how they’re near begging somebody who doesn’t treat them with love, care, trust and respect, to come back or stay. They’d rather have some crumbs rather than no crumbs because the relationship has robbed them of the strength to leave. I’ve often threatened to show up at their homes by coming through their roof in an orange jumpsuit, intervention style. I may make this a reality the way some of you are going!

That’s why I made this video, Set The Standard. We cannot accept substandard treatment, least of all from ourselves. Watch the video, or you can listen to the audio, or read the transcript below.

It’s vital that we set the standard for how we are treated. This doesn’t mean that we take responsibility for other people’s feelings and behaviour but what it does mean is that we have to recognise that if we do not treat and regard ourselves with love, care, trust and respect, we are putting out the wrong message. We are sending out a message to anybody that is around us that, Hey, this is the standard that I have set for myself. It is OK for you to treat me similarly or worse.

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Women thinking, "I need my support" and "I can care for others and care for me too" while hugging herself

One of the fears that people who are considering improving their sense of self and boundaries struggle with, is the worry that in finally focusing on taking care of their own needs, expectations, desires, feelings and opinions (rather than expecting others to do so), that they’re going to be perceived as “selfish”.

What we essentially do by taking responsibility for our own feelings and behaviour is put us on equal footing with others, so ironically, this fear that some of us have is basically a fear of being equal. It’s not wanting to recognise that everyone has their own life to lead and also has their own needs, desires, expectations, feelings, opinions, motivations, experiences and purpose.

When we don’t put us on equal footing, we come from a place of inadequacy and dependency because we’re essentially reliant on people to “do the right thing”, to take care of us as a result of us putting everyone ahead and above, and to also live up to our ideals. When we worry about being selfish, we also have to acknowledge that on some level, we think that people who consider their own values and boundaries and as result, may not want to be and do as we would like, are selfish. Because we are willing to extend ourselves to such a degree that we’d forget about us including our own values and boundaries, we can feel perplexed and in fact shortchanged, by people not wanting to pay up the debt created by us not having our own back.

Selfishness is about lack of consideration for others which doesn’t have anything to do with healthy self-esteem and healthy boundaries.

It would be fair to say that the people pleasers of this world are too considerate in the sense that they over-feel, worrying excessively about other people’s feelings and behaviour and making themselves responsible for those said feelings and behaviour, resulting in going about trying to be and do things to influence and control it. They don’t honour the separateness that we all need in order to retain a sense of self and to have healthy boundaries. Of course, by taking on this unnecessary responsibility, it means that when they feel bad, they correlate improving their feelings with other people amending their behaviour. When these people don’t, they feel shortchanged because on some level they’re thinking, What? After everything I’ve been and done for you and you won’t just do this thing that will take away my pain?, and then they feel that they haven’t been “pleasing enough” which just reinforces the sense of inadequacy.

People pleasing is not a selfless pursuit; it’s a transactional one with an underlying expectation about what we will receive in return.

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Acknowledging what you've been through isn't so that you beat you or others up for it; it's to understand the map you've used to get to this point in your journey so that if you want to go somewhere else, you can now choose a different route.

Many Baggage Reclaimers are dealing with people who have an attitude of, “Yeah, I beat you, cussed you down, ignored you, tormented you, abandoned you, abused your parent or siblings, breached your boundaries and all sorts of malarkey, but we’re family. Blood is thicker than water. Why aren’t you carrying on as if we’re best friends / giving me your money / licking my feet / telling everybody how great I am?” And here’s a good one, “Well your friend Bessy’s mother used to beat her and call her names and they’re very close. Why can’t you be like that?” What the what now?

I’m all for forgiveness and moving on but, come on now! It’s not about bearing grudges and holding stuff over people, and I think it’s safe to say that things were very, how shall we put this – “different” back in the day. I was brought up in Ireland plus I have the Afro/Caribbean culture and there was so much turning a blind eye and ‘rules’ about what so-called ‘elders’ (the grown-ups) were allowed to do that hell, everyone might as well have been blind! I’ve often wondered, Erm, when do I get to be a grown-up with rights? When you all kick the bucket? When I’m 99? I don’t feckin think so!

I really feel for the many people I hear from who spent most of their childhoods not having a voice and feeling scared, who are now adults who are still trying to figure out who they are and where they fit into this world. Some of them still don’t have a voice (or don’t believe that they’re allowed to) and are still scared.

These experiences that are dismissed as being part of being in a family deeply impacts people, affecting their interpersonal relationships, their self-image, their assertiveness skills, and their habits of thinking and behaviour. It can have lifelong impacts because the way in which we judge ourselves as children becomes our reasoning habit that we keep using into adulthood until we become more conscious, aware, and present.

The problem with being dismissive of childhood experiences that have left their mark on us, is that we can be left with the wrong associations and actually not be fully aware of how they’re weaving their way into our interactions. We may find ourselves unwittingly gravitating to partners/people who reflect old patterns from our childhood and feeling bewildered as to why we feel so triggered, so scared, so small, and wondering why we find it so hard to say, Um, hold up a frickin second here! Your treatment of me doesn’t feel right. I don’t like it. This is wrong.

Why is this?

Because we’re still mixing up those associations where we were told that certain things were happening because we were loved or that they wouldn’t have been done ‘If only…’. No wonder it’s so easy to blame ourselves or to feel confused in bound loyalty. To acknowledge that certain things that have been happening are wrong or certainly not right for us, causes us to feel in a bind, because to step away from those patterns is to cause us to feel disloyal to the original people connected to those patterns.

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Why am I still stuck?, is a question that I’m asked pretty much every day by people who find it difficult to move past somebody or something not living up to their hopes and expectations. They are gutted by disappointment and struggling to keep their head above water as they struggle against the tide of self-criticism and blame.

Sometimes as humans, we fall into the trap of feeling entitled to not be disappointed. We set our hearts on something or we work out, even if it’s subconsciously, a set of conditions under which we feel that we will be ‘OK’ or where we’ll ‘win’. If we feel that we have met these conditions and yet our desires have not been realised, we feel wronged. We feel a pervasive sense of injustice.

It’s not fair!

  • We expect people to ‘act right’ even if it’s not their typical rule of behaviour.
  • We expect people to express remorse when they wrong us, to feel suitably bad about the discomfort they have caused us, and to reflect all of this in their subsequent treatment of us. We expect that they will not repeat the very thing that they know caused a problem.
  • We expect people to know that we have been through so much that surely we should be cut some slack or rewarded.
  • We expect that because our parent(s) inadequately parented us and said and did certain things that set up a pattern of us being sensitive to conflict, criticism, rejection or disappointment, that they should either want to make it up to us and fill that void or that somebody else [that brings out similar feelings in us] should do it instead.
  • We expect to be paid back for our people pleasing which is the equivalent of creating a debt and expecting others to pay it off.
  • We expect that if we feel intensely about something that it should be matched with the outcome.
  • We expect not to be ‘rejected’ if we have gone to the trouble of accepting the unacceptable.

It’s not fair!

This is not what we predicted.

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There's no dating equivalent of a get rich quick scheme. if we want a mutually fulfilling relationship with love, care, trust and respect, it takes time and vulnerability.

Back in the day when I first started blogging (can’t believe it’s about to be eleven years – eek!), I briefly dabbled with using a website to meet a potential date. I describe it this way because the term ‘online dating’ is so misleading; they are introduction websites, not some sort of technology that we can use to simulate a relationship, though goodness knows many thousands try. Until we meet and date a ‘prospect’, they are just that and we are essentially at ‘stage 0′ until such time. All the texting, calling, IM’ng, sexting and whatever else in the world, won’t change that but it will ensure that we build sandcastles in the sky and overload ourselves with assumptions that will ultimately leave us with an Imagination Hangover and a sense of being misled by our ‘feelings’.

Anyway, I digress…

When I put up my profile, it was minus a photo with a bit about me and specifying that I was only interested in a relationship and the age range was 25-34 (I was 27 at the time). I heard from guys right up to seventy years old and received a lot of messages and winks. I found the experience so bizarre that I decided that I didn’t have the patience for it (I would have ended up firing off replies with just, RTFP in them (read the effing profile). Almost all of the messages were inappropriate (too forward) with some being explicit. I’ve always been a bit of a Cautious Carol, so in much the same way that I shied away from drugs when pals were off their face on E’s, coke and speed because I figured I’d be the statistic that would keel over, I also figured I’d be the one who ended up going on a date and being found under a carpet in some dingy flat somewhere.

I’m not crazy about dating (introduction) websites because many people who are actually looking for love and a relationship, have underlying expectations that essentially set them up for a fall. It’s not the technology; it’s the way that people use it and the chaos and pain that results. Putting aside the shady folk that misrepresent themselves online and the persistent collectors of attention, many of the people I hear from, see these websites as an opportunity to meet people in a ‘safe’ way (i.e. in a way that involves less vulnerability and is less time/energy hungry), after all, these days, all we have to do is swipe from left to right or do a few clicks instead of dolling ourselves up and dragging ourselves out to various social occasions while keeping a hopeful/hungry look on our faces.

If we have our feet planted fairly firmly in reality and we know who we are and are relatively personally secure, trying to meet potential partners online can actually be an enjoyable experience albeit punctuated with gritted teeth moments from dealing with time wasters and inappropriate folk, but if going online in an attempt to meet people is a means of avoiding vulnerability, of escaping ourselves, of looking for attention and basically external solutions to our internal issues, we can unwittingly end up feeling aggrieved because we on some level hoped to strike gold immediately or very quickly.

We inadvertently feel entitled to not be disappointed and to be made an exception to the rule of the ‘online dating’ experience that many millions have to go through.

Who do you know in this century, no scratch that- this decade, who met up with the first person they linked up with online and lived happily ever after? What are the odds? Even the people I know who met online in the late nineties encountered some foolishness and effery before that happened!

Why do we go on a site like Plenty of Fish or apps like Tinder or the myriad of sites and apps out there, and expect to strike gold?

I know it would be “great” to have a series of dubious relationships or go through a painful breakup or other loss and then go online or open up an app and come across somebody you like the look of and then shazam, you hit it off and ride off into the sunset as a reward for all of the pain and suffering you went through before that, but that’s not how it works!

As I’ve said many a time before, you practically need Columbo/Jessica Fletcher skills combined with hide of rhino to use these websites, or at the very least, you need to not have a do or die attitude about it as if finding somebody online or in fact, finding somebody full stop, is going to be your salvation, because that’s a recipe for Fast Forwarding and Future Faking (by you and them) as well as codependency and pain.

If we approach dating post breakup with the same (or even worse) mentality that we had in previous relationships, we stand to replicate the same problems. Expecting to ‘strike gold’ with somebody who is already being far too forward or who we haven’t met yet, or who we have not consistently spent enough time with in real life to see them unfold so that we can get an accurate reading, is a guarantee of a rude but necessary awakening.

Rather than us holding on to feeling angry, resentful, wounded and disappointed that we didn’t ‘strike gold’ immediately and that we have to actually take our time and opt out of anything that doesn’t align with who we are, we have to turn these understandable frustrations into the valuable turning points that they are. We must get grounded. We must take a few moments to reflect and have an honest conversation about what we’re trying to do. We must home in on whether we are able to deal with the emotional consequences of engaging virtually with strangers because if we have a tendency to to see potential very quickly or to feel attached very quickly, we have a duty of care to go slower and to recognise those signs in us so that we can be more self-aware and pay attention. We have to also be willing to note any recurring themes that come up with the people or situations so that our blind spot is no longer a blind spot. If messaging, attention, or sex (or whatever) is our kryptonite, these (or the prospect of them) have got to be our cue to be conscious, aware, and present.

When we have a strike gold mentality with dating whether we’re meeting people on or offline, we are coming from a place of fear; it’s a sense of scarcity and fear that a relationship might not be coming to us. That’s not a good space to be in not least because we end up spinning our wheels and being so ‘on’ the prospect of it that we’re blinded and keeping ourselves away from something good because we’re too eager to chase after anything and everything.



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My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!
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