What happened when I said yes to everything for a whole year
When I say everything, I mean everything.
And when I talk about "saying "Yes"" I don't mean accepting invitations to do things instead of always introvertedly turning people down, like in this book (which I really enjoyed reading even though the author basically had the exact same book idea as me, and is super-famous) I'm talking about "saying "Yes"" to discomfort, making peace with reality instead of fighting with it all the time.
It wasn't like I just flipped a switch and suddenly found it easy to accept and make peace with everything in my life. I failed to "say yes" more times than I can count. But every time, I understood myself a tiny bit better and I prepared myself for a making a "yes" more easy to produce next time.
A little back-story to fill you in...
Before I embarked on my Yes Quest, I was in a state of constant disappointment. I was stuck in the perfectionist trap of always wishing every aspect of my life was better, easier and more successful.
To make things worse, I was a full-blown control-freak with RIDICULOUS expectations of everyone, myself included. This meant that I was always feeling let down by people (myself included) because they didn't live up to my crazy expectations.
Every moment of my life felt like a fight with reality.
I started to become aware of my struggle and decided to do something about it, but what? Serendipitously, I happened to be reading "The Happiness of Pursuit" by Chris Guillebeau at the end of 2014, and the idea of a "quest" was planted in my brain.
My very own Yes Quest was born.
I set my objectives to:
- Give up the fight with my life
- Make peace with my reality and to
- Let go of my expectations, perfectionism and false sense of control
For an entire year!
Once I proclaimed my quest, it was so much easier for me to identify my stumbling blocks. I watched my reactions to life as it happened around me, and noticed how and when I used to unravel.
I started to catch my negative thoughts before they spiralled out of control, and make some big changes to negative beliefs and behaviours that had been automatic in me for pretty much ever.
Sometimes I totally nailed it, and other times, I completely unravelled before I could stop myself sinking into the pit of disappointment.
Often I could reflect on the situation and pull myself out of my disappointment hole, but sometimes I wouldn't scramble out until the next day, full of guilt and embarrassment, but ready to somehow do it better next time.
So what happened to me on account of saying "yes" to my life?
1) I stopped trying to run from my reality.
Yep. I'm usually a total coward. Ready and willing to jump ship when life gets too hard.
I would spend my days dreaming about a better, different life. One with more money and less annoying food intolerances.
I would obsess over houses that I couldn't afford, pine for beautiful clothes that would never look good on a short-ass punk like me, and plot my escape to a different state (or country.)
I've only actually succeeded at running away to a new state twice, but that has been enough for me to know that it doesn't really change anything, and that I'll probably be miserable again as soon as real life catches up with me.
I knew that running away wasn't a useful solution, yet I still spent much of my life wishing it were different to how it was!
My Yes Quest taught me that my reality wasn't just acceptable, it is fucking phenomenal. Taking the time to reflect on what I did have, gave me the opportunity to switch from a lack mentality to one of gratitude and presence.
2) I stopped spiralling into anxiety.
If you've followed my story at all, you'll know that my journey into mindfulness, self-healing and ultimately saying "yes" to shitty stuff all began with a long, paralysing struggle with anxiety.
Anxiety played a big part of my life for over 10 years. It owned me. I carried it around with me like a baby that needed constant attention. And most of the time, that baby was so difficult to console, that it was easier to just stay at home and hide from the world rather than participate in it, just in case the baby didn't cope.
Mindfulness, Spiritual Therapy and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy set me free. I'm lucky that I valued myself enough to seek help, to find an answer, to heal myself. But even though I had, for the most part, recovered from anxiety, it still hung around, causing me to over analyse every decision, to feel nervous about going out, and to sometimes lose the plot in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep.
During my Yes Quest, my objective was to accept things, just as they were. Once I mastered acceptance (no small feat), I noticed another layer to this idea.
What if I didn't just accept this? What if I learnt to love it?
Love my anxiety? That demon that awakens in the dead of night? What the fuck?!
Yes. Love that motherfucking anxiety. The same way that I love the good things in my life. At first it seemed impossible, but I slowly warmed to the idea, and (luckily?) found plenty of opportunities to practice and perfect loving my anxiety over the year.
3) I forgave people who I've resented for a long (long) time.
I've done my fair share of forgiveness work, but to be honest, there have been quite a few people who I just haven't wanted to forgive until recently. I enjoyed resenting them. I got satisfaction from hating them.
I don't believe that there's any point in trying to heal, move forward or let go until you are ready. I say this to my clients all the time. If you try before you're ready, you won't really try at all. Or you'll relapse into your old ways of being pretty quick.
I've been ok with not being ready to forgive some people, and have mostly just avoided thinking about them (not a long-term solution, I know) but during my Yes Quest year I was given the opportunity to dive deep into forgiveness practice, so I took it. I felt ready.
I cannot describe how great it feels to let that shit go!
Doing the big, heavy forgiveness stuff had some unexpected results for me.. not only did I put myself back together a little bit, I also started feeling more compassionate and less judgemental towards everyone! Bonus!
4) Disappointment mostly became a thing of the past.
You've seen my story about my chronic disappointment right? It was out of control.
Disappointed was my default setting.
Even when positive things happened in my life, I expected them to go wrong, be a mistake or to let me down in one way or another.
My BIG goal for my Yes Quest year was to conquer this disappointment. To be ok with whatever was going on. To stop making myself feel bad for no reason.
I didn't have much luck at first. As I tried different things to combat this disease called disappointment, I finally stumbled across a miracle idea that changed everything (you'll have to read the book to find out what it was!) and I started realising how unnecessary (and ridiculous) all my suffering really was.
5) I opened up to opportunities that I would have usually shut down or hid from.
I'm not one of those people who always says "yes" to everybody and puts themselves at the bottom of the list. I've never understood that problem.
My problem is one of keeping people at arms length, saying "no" before I've even heard all of the details, and training the people in my life to assume that I won't be interested in what they're trying to get me to participate in.
No. No to playdates. No to parties. No to that event you're organising. Just assume I won't be making it.
The biggest NO's for me were definitely related to other Mums. If I could say NO, I would. But if I couldn't get out of it, I would force myself to do it and just suffer through the experience. I begrudgingly dragged myself to Frozen party after Frozen party for my daughter's sake, I went to playgroup and talked about childhood milestones, sleep and eating habits, I even hosted a (non-Frozen-themed) party for my 3-year-old.
This doesn't sound too bad I guess, but what you might be forgetting right now is that... I'm a weirdo! I get NOTHING from hanging with crazy-boring Mum's who talk about crocheting, breastfeeding and babies all day, and they don't get anything from me when I try and talk about OTHER STUFF.
My experience with a newborn was basically hell, and it turns out that most other Mothers don't actually want to support you, they just want to judge you, criticise you, and tell you that your parenting approach is wrong. It's shithouse. Not my style. Avoid. Say NO.
I've never felt more alone than I did when I first went to playgroup.
During my Yes Quest year an opening became available for the play group at my daughter's future school. I couldn't say no. We've started it now and I wish I could say that it was amazing and I just met my new BFF there, but no. It's fine. My daughter loves it and that's what matters.
Over this past year I've said YES to plenty of things that I didn't like, many of which turned out to be perfectly fine, some even enjoyable. This saying YES process has broken down my expectations and allowed me to accept (and love) all of my experiences, and find the gifts in them.
6) I went all-in on self-love.
Like with forgiveness, I feel a bit like I've *been there, done that* in regards to self-love.
I sometimes go through rebellious phases where I just want to dislike myself for a while before I'm ready to attempt thinking about self-love again, but during my Yes Quest year, I set myself a goal of trying to mostly operate from a space of self-love and self-compassion.
Just to make this self-love stuff trickier than usual, I put on weight during my Yes Quest. I might have said YES to cleaning the house and losing my wallet, but I also said yes to cake, biscuits and endless cups of tea. I never used to be a hot-drink-drinker, but halfway through 2015, something in me snapped, and I just started drinking tea everyday. The weight gain was noticeable.
I also attribute the weight gain simply to not being as active as I was when I had a baby. I would take my daughter for power walks in the pram every day when she was younger, and now she walks by herself, slowly. And it doesn't help that her favourite thing in the entire world is crafting, beading and painting, all things that require me to sit with her, or hover to pick up the beads next time they spill all over the floor!
So, now I had to go all in on self-love while being flabbier and heavier than I'd ever been. It was hard, but I was up for the challenge.
I loved myself when my jeans were too tight. I loved myself when I went up an underwear size. I loved myself when I went to the beach in a bikini. I loved myself when I was mistaken for someone who was PREGNANT! I even loved myself when I found dessert too hard to resist.
Self-love is easy once you practice it enough. I haven't lost much weight just yet, but I love myself anyway. LOVING myself is the goal, not looking perfect.
7) I learned to love my challenges with the same openness and gratitude in which I love and appreciate all the good stuff in my life.
This one took me by complete surprise.
I set out to accept my circumstances rather than fight with them, which always left me feeling disappointed. I did not expect to come out the other side of my Yes Quest year LOVING my circumstances.
I didn't even know that it was possible to love your challenges. Still, it sounds sort of crazy to me.
Even crazier... it seems to me that since I've allowed myself to love the undesirable moments of my life, they actually occur less! Almost like the love has set them free.
In the past, I used to hate the negative stuff. I would despise myself for things I did "wrong" and I would hold onto disappointments for months and turn them into great tragedies, when in fact, they were just life.
When I started to love these things that were "just life" it unlocked something within me that I didn't even know was there, boundless joy and appreciation. BOUNDLESS.
I went from being neutral, sad or stressed most of the time, to being properly happy most of the time. It was fucking epic.
I always tell my clients that epic change is never as easy as flicking a switch. Well, here I am, standing corrected. I went in and flicked the damn switch and now I'm happy most of the time! So maybe I should reframe my belief to something like... if you've done some groundwork and you're fully committed to trying something that seems completely bonkers, then you might be able to find the switch and flick it easily. Maybe.
Like I said, this was a pleasant surprise, a very welcome by-product of an experiment that seemed super-hard, but actually turned out to be mostly easy, because I was willing to stick it out through the tough bits.
So yeah, I can probably stop eating biscuits and drinking tea, and start working out whenever I want, coz I'm SO good at this commitment thing now, yeah?
Yeah, except I'm going to finish this damn book first alright!
NOTE: I FINISHED IT!