Be An Encourager, The World Has Enough Critics Already

Do you find it difficult to do nothing, I don’t mean mindlessly scrolling on social media or having a binge fest of Netflix, I mean absolutely nothing at all? It’s a challenge isn’t it to allow ourselves to pause for a while and just be. At the moment I am in the lull between finishing my book and publishing it and the truth is I am tired. Worn out and a bit frazzled as it has been a summer full of challenges on the home front.

Two months ago I could not see how I would finish my book let alone publish it by my self-imposed deadline of October. So when the book was finished my initial thoughts turned to what’s next? What do I have to do now? How can I fill the time once more?

Then a small voice within whispered – ‘Stop. For now just stop. You are running on empty and have to recharge your batteries’. I knew this to be true and yet still I automatically tried to ignore and overrule the warning signs.

We have been programmed and conditioned to be in a continuous flow of doing, if you’re not busy then you can’t be doing life right, right? Being a busy bee is seen as an achievement, you can wear the busy badge of honour with pride but we are not encouraged to openly share the ‘I am busy doing absolutely nothing’ one.

Whilst reading another blog post by another business owner who has just published her own book she shared how she was feeling. She was tired, emotional, proud and knew without a shadow of doubt that she had to stop for a while. Therefore her husband encouraged her to have a lie-in in the mornings, she took herself off to her favourite places to wander and chill and she began to increase her movement and exercise once more after spending hours and hours sitting at her desk. All she needed to do was to focus on taking care of her immediate needs because everything else could wait. It was time to honour herself and embrace the lull, before attempting to embark on anything new. There was also something else she needed to prepare herself for. Releasing her book into the world was going to take up even more of her energy. Therefore she knew she had to rest and recharge as much as possible before the publishing promotion frenzy began.

Much needed Note to self

It sounds daft but this bit hadn’t crossed my mind. Rest and recover in between, her words and wisdom were a welcome balm to my weary soul. Reading this gave me permission to do like-wise. Because writing and publishing a book does not mean the work is done the moment you finish the last chapter. There’s more to come. Much more.

When we expend all of our creative juice and energy to any project we have to factor in time to pause in order to allow our tanks to re-fill and re-energise, before we can consider what comes next. If we don’t we risk grinding to a halt completely. I’ve had a summer of sore throats and sniffles, my body is telling me it’s depleted this much is obvious. But also my throat being sore is another significant sign as I am and have been using my voice to expel and express things that I desperately needed to say and share. Which translates into more healing required. Once I understood and acknowledged what my body was trying to tell me I have been doing my best to slow right down and embrace the pause for the time being.

What always replenishes my body, mind and spirit is to get outside as much as possible and I have been purposely enjoying the September sunshine, even sitting in my garden doing nothing. No pottering just pondering. I’ve taken myself off on ‘Artist Dates’ so that I could have a change of scene to re-ignite some creative energy and given myself time to reflect on how far I have come. I’ve also been enjoying sitting down with a nice cup of tea. This has become a ritual in itself. When I need to stop for a moment then I know it’s time for tea. A simple but effective tonic for me.

What will people think of you?

The other big thing I am currently navigating is letting go and allowing my book and story to go out into the world. I’ve never opened myself up publicly like this before and there have been many moments where I have thought ‘Why am I doing this?’ It feels daunting, overwhelming and sometimes the negative chatter in my mind gets in a tizz wondering what will people say and what will they think of me?!

Often our inner critic will do whatever it takes to get in the way and prevent us from doing something where we feel vulnerable and exposed. Especially opening ourselves up to others. But if I didn’t finish writing my book or even publish it I know without a shadow of doubt that this would become a huge regret in my life. So I’ve also been working on releasing my fears around this too.

So much for sister-hood

And then there’s the dreaded ‘outer critics’ to consider. One of my pre-readers said to me ‘you know now you are going to have to cope with negative comments too’. Of course I know this - it’s part of the territory isn’t it, when you use your voice to speak your truth there will be some who dislike you and what you have to say. Somebody will criticise. Somebody will think nothing of posting a flippant or nasty comment somewhere online. Some even do it for fun. Most of the time it will be from people you don’t know. You’ll never meet them in the real world. Thank goodness. But sometimes you do. Sometimes someone you know well decides that when you share a post on Instagram about your new book – she will unfollow you. Yes, really.

Having spent over ten years working with the Internet and social media I have an open door policy, everyone is free to come and go as they please. And I do the same. I am not going to change what I want to say if and when this happens. Funnily enough three new people joined me shortly after, so there you go life rolls on.

Whose opinion really matters to you?

If we want something to change but allow the potential opinions of others to derail us, absolutely nothing will change for the better. We’d all be living in fear and our wisdom, insights and knowledge will be forever wasted. What a tragedy this is. As for the potential critics in reality the majority of people aren’t giving us a second thought, they are too immersed and busy within their own worlds to care or even criticise what anyone else is doing.

At the moment there are two incredible young women at the forefront of my mind for speaking out with courage and bravery. One is Jesy from Little Mix for her must-see documentary ‘Odd One Out’ and the other is Greta Thunberg for her empowered speech on the climate crisis. If you haven’t watched either of them – do. Because we cannot allow critics to stop us. This is not the time to shrink back or hide. Do not turn down the volume in case someone doesn’t like you anymore and leaves your social tribe. Because it’s not about them, in the grand scheme of things, they really don’t matter. You and the people who need to hear from you absolutely do.

And so as I embark on another new life chapter I have considered whose opinion and feedback really matters to me? Whose insight and wisdom do I trust? Who has my back and will continue to love and support me no matter what? These are the people who truly matter in my world. What about you and yours?

Time to trust and let her go into safe hands

When the jiffy envelope containing my book plopped through our letterbox my husband shouted up to me ‘It’s here’. Christmas arrived early. We opened the package and there it was, my book, a proper book, filled with my own words on the pages right in front of my eyes. This was a transformational moment holding my precious book in my hands.

My biggest supporter Mr M beamed and told me how proud he is of me. And I felt pretty proud of myself too. Somehow I’d done it. Everything became very real so this called for a little celebration tea time and of course some cake.

Somehow despite all the setbacks and challenges I’ve had to overcome my book has come to life and as my word for this year is ‘trust’ I am letting her go out into the big wide world and simply trusting that 'Living With Amazing Grace' will go exactly to the right people and into the welcome hands that need her.

When she is published on Monday 7th October instead of fretting at home about what people may or may not think of me, or worrying about book sales or comments I will be going away for a retreat by the seaside and celebration with another of my biggest supporters, my lovely Mum. Without her support, wisdom, encouragement and belief in me and the book, it would never have seen the light of day.

Surround yourself with encouragers and tune out from the critics

If you are doubting your voice, your words or wisdom here’s a reminder from Theodore Roosevelt – ‘It’s not the critics who count’. Instead of man I have taken the liberty to change to woman because us women are definitely in the arena now too.

Are you with me?

The Woman In the Arena

’It is not the critic who counts: not the woman who points out how the strong woman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends herself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if she fails, at least she fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.’
— Theodore Roosevelt Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910