10 things I’ve finally forgiven myself for

goldfinch in hand

I’ve spent a lot of my 32 years trying to change. I truly believe it’s important to understand your own shortcomings, and of course we’re all trying to grow into better & happier people.

However, over the last few years I’ve come to appreciate that some of my self loathing was targeted in entirely the wrong direction. Here are ten things I’ve finally forgiven myself for – so much so that I no can even admit them to you, here!

Ten things I no longer hate myself for

  1. Wearing sweatpants. I’m not sure where I got the notion – perhaps from glossy women’s mags in my teens, or the 1950s style guides I read like religious texts – but for a long time I was of the opinion that loungewear made be a ‘bad’ woman. In particular it made me a lazy, unattractive slob, and so I would sometimes apologise to Rory for wearing joggers & a tshirt on a Sunday morning. The sports luxe movement, combined with the increasing availability of glorious loungewear have helped, but most significant of all was recognising the internalised misogyny of the entire notion. You don’t always have to be sexy or ready for the catwalk, just because you’re a woman! Life is short – why spend it in a dress where you can’t bend your arms? Are the men doing it?
  2. Being messy. I was raised very much by my grandparent’s values, passed down to my mum; amongst them, the idea that messiness equates to being lazy, inconsiderate and unlikeable. I have tried SO many times to avoid this; to be someone with orderly drawers and a handbag where things are always in the right place. I read all the writings of Marie Kondo.
     It took a lot of living and learning to understand that those people are just as dysfunctional, and that neither approach is the “right” way to be. I spread out when I work; I can never fold things so they look neat. The inside of my car always looks a bit like a charity shop. This is just the way I am, and I’m done wasting time trying to change it.
  3. Sleeping a lot. As I mentioned in my POTS post, having insurmountable fatigue but no measurable physical symptoms has made for an endless cycle of blame and self-doubt. It’s common with depression and anxiety, too – what if you’re faking it? What if you just need to pull yourself together? It took uncovering my crazy pulse-rate for me to take myself seriously enough to seek a firm diagnosis. Even now, I sway back and forth on believing myself!
  4. My own sensitivities. I get too hot at night and like to sleep under a super-thin duvet. I get stressed when I’m not in control of my own mealtimes and food choices. I get very melancholy if I’m stuck in a gloomy house all day. Not so long ago, I felt ashamed and apologetic about these strange physical quirks, especially when staying in other people’s homes.
     Now I’ve finally accepted that it’s just how I am, and no more in my control than a kiwi allergy or aracnaphobia would be. If I could choose to be more breezy on these things, I obviously would, and there’s no shame in expressing what you need to be happy.
  5. Shooting in AV. For those without a DSLR, this is the mode where you set your aperture, and the camera calculates all the other values. It’s sort of semi-automatic, and not really designed to be used all the time – but I pretty much do, all the same.  I felt like a total dumbass fraud for this until I confessed it one day to my ace photographer friend James “It doesn’t matter!” he told me. “By the time you’ve set all your values, you’ll have missed it. Photographers use full auto when they need to. It’s the photos that count.” Mind. Blown.
  6. Lack of “willpower”. In my 20s I racked up some unmanageable credit card debts. I was miserable and lost, and deeply susceptible to the idea that buying new stuff might change my self and therefore, by proxy, my life. (Spoiler alert: it never did.)
    I spent hours trying to work out why I lacked so much willpower; I even blocked all shopping websites from my browser for a while, but still I would crack. The temptation was just so strong. Now I understand that willpower was never the problem at hand. We are targeted and sold to thousands of times a day by brands & PRs who invest huge sums of money and research into making us unable to resist.  Lonely and low, I was susceptible to the messages and spent a lot of time frequenting the media where this advertising most occurred. New research says that willpower doesn’t really exist, anyway – the secret is to avoid temptation, if you want to make a change. 
  7. Unproductive days. There is a huge list of stuff I’ve forgiven about myself through virtue of finding likeminded souls online: styled interiors, craving white space, wanting to write and take photos, shouting at my kid because I didn’t sleep enough. Perhaps biggest of all is that some days, while self employed, it can be really hard to be productive, especially if you’re swamped with tasks, or your basic needs haven’t been met. Before discovering this radical notion via my fave creative podcasts, I truly believed that it was simply my lack of willpower (again!) that was holding me back. Now I have strategies and things to check in on when I find myself struggling, and have stopped berating myself for simply being human.
  8. Never learning to run. I tried the Couch to 5k app about 6 or 7 times, and always got stuck mid-way, drowning for air in the park. Now I know about my heart rate etc, I’ve realised I wasn’t simply lazy and weak – I really *was* struggling for oxygen, just like my brain had been telling me! Now I’m hopeful that with medication and a revised training programme, I might one day be able to go for a small jog.
  9. Obsessive interests. Instagram. Capsule wardrobes. Star Wars, and Mark Hamill’s sassy cinnamon roll self. I’ve always dived into interests too much or not at all – and it’s always been something that brings me immense pleasure and a lot of new learning. Once I started working in Speech & Language Therapy I started to associate intense interest with autistic spectrum conditions, and began to see it as pathological behaviour. (SLTs are amazing & full of empathy, but there was often an inadvertent “them” attitude from less experienced staff towards people with ASC. I suppose it comes from the approach of categorising and addressing impaired social skills – a belief that individuals therefore require ‘fixing’.)  I started to worry about my level of interest, and the bloody-minded tenacity I tend towards when pursuing an interest-related goal. It was just another sign of my weirdness & failure to blend.
    Since leaving that job and starting my own business, I’ve reframed this entirely – both because there’s nobody judging any more, and because it turns out these make for incredibly useful attributes in life. I’ll never be a dilettante, never dip in and out – with the things I love, I build up deep, categoric knowledge, and make stuff happen as a direct result. That’s a good thing, in my book- and I’ve got it to thank for my whole business enterprise!
  10. Resisting expectations. I don’t mean this in a supercool ‘I will defy all your expectations‘ kinda way, but more in the sense that I find other people’s expectations (do your homework, don’t co-sleep with babies) incredibly hard to just take. I’ve always been a why-girl – why do I need to do the homework if I’m already clear on the subject? Why cant I co-sleep when it’s perfectly safe?
     I look at people like Rory, my husband, who just does what he’s asked, and long to be more accepting like him. It’s like I have to consider everything by myself and really believe the rationale before I can bring myself to do it. & like everything else on this list, I thought that made me deficient somehow.
    Then I read this book, which talks about the four personality types. I am what it calls a ‘questioner’, 100% – and that means I prioritise things in life by what seems most sensible and justifiable. Like so much else, just realising that I’m not responsible for every element of my mind and personality came as such a relief. Constantly hating yourself and trying to change everything is exhausting, and a recipe for failure, in the end.

What things do you blame yourself for that you might need to let go? Have you forgiven yourself for anything lately? Tell me in the comments below.

  • Thanks so much for putting this out there Sara! This really resonated with me. Firstly, you’re so right about sweatpants! I’ve decided to forgive myself for putting my PJs on the moment I get home for the evening. It’s just more comfortable that way, and you know what, if I’m comfy I’m happy. A lack of will power and having unproductive days also struck a chord for me. I recently read The Chimp Paradox which I highly recommend. It’s given me a whole new way of thinking about will power, but y’know sometimes you’ve just gotta let yourself take a day off and get with the Hygge trend!
    http://www.craftingcountry.com

    • PJs are housewear – 100%! I feel as stupid wearing my uncomfy clothes in the house as I do shoes or a coat. Since going self employed this has admittedly become a somewhat blurry line – but fortunately I tend to sleep with nothing on, so I can argue that none of my clothes are actually pyjamas! ?

  • I love this post. It really resonates with me. I love point 1 about sweatpants. I try very hard to be feminine because it doesn’t come naturally to me: I brave the salon, I let the Clarins lady sell me blusher and lip pencils when I only want BB cream, and sometimes I scrub up pretty well. Deep down though, I just like to be comfortable. I prefer flat shoes, can never be arsed to do more than moisturise and pull a brush through my hair in the mornings, and I REALLY REALLY like sweatpants. I’m finally learning to stop feeling embarrassed when I pass stunning, immaculate women in the street, and I’m makeupless and dressed in an old jumper.

    I had a boyfriend from the age of 18 – 21, and although of course I am remembering it in a very biased way (and perhaps he wasn’t ALL that bad), he used to really make me feel rotten about certain personality traits and habits that I had never thought of as problematic.

    Now that I’m older, happier and healthier, and in a relationship in which my quirks are admired, I feel very silly for ever punishing myself over those things.

    • YES to this. YES to sweatpants and BB cream (have you tried CC cream? Even better I think!) and maybe also a blanket and some toast. The wrong boyfriend sets you off on all the bad paths. A lot of my hang ups can be traced back to a couple of mine; you’re so impressionable, and society has brainwashed us by that point to think that its our responsibility to make sure they don’t cheat or leave. Ugh. Exhausting.

  • trona

    YES! I can identify myself in pretty much everything you’ve said. The sweat pant thing is something I struggle with rather ridiculously. The reasons are slightly different though. Because I’m unable to work due to health/disability I feel even more ‘slobbish’ isn’t that just silly? Society’s expectations have a LOT to answer for. Also, once I start something I need to know *everything* about it too, as a result I’m now a specialist in fake followers 😉 (amongst others things).

    I was also completely the same with co-sleeping, I read a lot about it and from non-wester societies too and decided it was the best for us to do. I guess it *would* be easier to accept everything without questioning but I’m just not wired that way.

    I do still have a lot of issues surrounding my disability that I need to just let go, sometimes it’s easier than others.

  • Wild & Grizzly

    Well can totally join you on the running front i constantly try and fail and doing this in any successful way what so ever lol. Great post and good to take a mental note from. At the moment i’m really trying to channel the self love x

  • Old Fashioned Susie

    Yes to most of what you’ve said especially the sweatpants!! Who knew!! According the the 4 personality thing I’m a Rebel, but I knew that anyway! Great post darling xx

  • Such a precious post. Thanks for being so open about everything. I guess i need to forgive myself as well hah i always feel like i’m too hard or expect the world from me!

  • Oh gosh, so many things. I feel guilty about being unproductive, even on the weekends (when you’re supposed to be unproductive) or for ever making a mistake at work, or for not eating enough fruit & veg, and so many other things that I should probably just let go. I’d love to get to a place where I can forgive myself for those things! (I am so an Upholder!)

    One thing I *have* gotten over this year is my unashamed love of ‘trashy’ books. What started with an ironic read of Jilly Cooper has turned into a full blown love affair with romance novels and other things of that ilk, which previously I would have avoided – as someone with an English degree and a love of literary fiction, it seemed a bit ‘beneath’ me (god, I sound a snob!) but now I am embracing those books in all their trashy glory. Who cares if I enjoy them, right?

  • Loads! I’m a very self-critical person and so I’m trying to improve on myself a lot of the time – which is great, but sometimes when I’m too tired or can’t really be bothered or just get caught up in things, the ‘improvement’ turns into ‘blame’ and ‘faults’.

    I think the main things would be procrastinating (I’m pretty good at that!), making the wrong decisions and making the same mistakes!!

    This book sounds brilliant, I’ll have to give it a go!

    JosieVictoriaa // Travel, Fashion & Lifestyle

    • You’re right that tiredness and mood have so much to do with our interpretations. Procrastination nearly made my list… but I procrastinated it! bahahaha xx

  • Lisa

    I can relate to many of these! Particularly the last one. The biggest benefit of growing up has been accepting and forgiving myself. Why can’t we nail this in our 20s? Can I go back and do them again but with less self flagellation?!

    • OMG yes. Give me back my twenties – I need a do-over!

  • Jessica Emmett

    Great post Sara. I think a list like this ought to be made mandatory for every woman in their early thirties when you finally start settling into yourself. I’m intrigued about the creative podcasts – tell me more! I’m constantly beating myself up about my lack of discipline when it comes to sticking to time and schedules, the fact I’m a night owl and late riser and that I seem to be instilling the same body clock in my daughter, and don’t get me started on co sleeping. I’ve spent too many nights on the Dr Sears website trying to quieten my conscience on that one.

  • This struck such a chord with me. Lots of the things you mentioned I also feel shame for – sleeping a lot, being unproductive, lack of willpower….and OMG shooting in AV!!!!

    It’s my most used setting and I so often sneakily switch it to manual when nobody’s looking so it seems like I know what I’m doing. LOVE this post 🙂

  • Jo Pillinger

    Heaving a big sigh of relief reading this! We expect so much from ourselves don’t we? – especially as mothers. Thanks for sharing, you will have inspired a lot of people with your honesty and so many others will be able to relate to it! x x

  • Paula Solar

    I’ve read this post just now, just before bed and probably I will read it again and again while meditating how this applies to my life, to my self. Not point by point but in general I have similar issues and things about my personality and behaviour that I need to work out. So thank you for sharing your self forgiveness with us. Now I will sleep the whole night through (I hope) and tomorrow, pen in hand I will make my own list, one step at a time. Sweet dreams to you all 😉

  • Pingback: The Love It List (#5) - Sophie Cliff()

  • As soon as you started describing your questioning tendencies, I thought, oh I must tell her about Gretchin’s book, but you already know 😉 The most recent thing I have forgiven myself for is saying ‘no’. I try not to do anything just to be liked, but only do things that I want to do but– that may include taking care of the people I love. I need to work on your number 4 because I am a very sensitive person as well.

  • Maria G

    Hi Sara, thank you for this post! I really needed this today. I’ve just spent the last two hours putting myself down, not only to me but with my husband, as well. To the point where I suggested we should go our separate ways….now at, 53, it is really difficult to accept and try to alter yourself (especially if you’ve been raised super conservative and see any change as Hypocrisy.) However, your soft words have soften my heart and mind, too. I think I need to find some quiet time and create my list as well. Thanks again.

    • Maria, this comment went straight to my heart. I’ve definitely been there, and it seems (from the response to this post) like almost all of us have and do, at some point.
      It’s easy to tell yourself you’re just being honest and realistic, but we’d never say the things to a friend that we say to ourselves!
      I’m glad this lost found you at the right time, and helped you find a little solace. Sending lots of love xxx

  • Alexandra Donnelly

    Love the post Sara! I’m always trying to be the best version of myself at all time when the the real version who’s in her jammies by 6pm eating her fourth french fancy while watching the millionth Friends episode is an alright girl too. Also took that test and I am a fellow questioner it seems!

  • You have inspired me to write my list!

    So many people are guilty of setting themselves unachievable and quite frankly unnecessary expectations as a result of other peoples/society’s perceived views and opinions. I work with two other women that are harsher on themselves than anyone else could ever dream of being. This has struck a cord and is something I will be advocating. A way to understand and accept your own uniqueness.

  • Shannon Thomas

    Love this Sara, thanks for sharing. What are your favourite podcasts that you referenced here? xx

  • What a perfect piece of writing. I 100% agree and feel like hitting 30 was a magical turning point and I just started accepting myself instead of beating the mental crap out of myself!
    Thanks for sharing, it is really nice to see others feeling the same.

  • What a beautiful post, Sara. Thank you for sharing!

    On #1, I have a very vivid memory of watching an Oprah episode when I was about six or seven, during which she spoke about a theory that women should only ever wear things that make them feel wonderful and sexy. Lounging at home? Don’t wear your old trackies, wear chic (expensive) lounge wear instead. There was definitely a brand attached to sell the proposed sexy-all-the-time at-home clothes.

    The message really stuck with me over the years, but I’ve slowly come to realise it’s a quick set-up for failure that was created to advertise products and keep women buying more. Sometimes comfort and good sense has to win out instead!

    And who cares what you’re wearing while you watch netflix or cook or clean or garden? As long as you feel good in yourself, which doesn’t have to equate to mainstream sexy or beautiful.

    *end rant!*

  • Okay I’ve been recommending THAT BOOK to EVERYONE. I’m an Upholder/Obliger. Put a tick box next to anything and I’ll complete it out of compulsion to colour things in.

  • I totally felt this way about running as well, it really helped to have a trainer tell me that running is not for everyone by any means – and if you hate it, why on earth do it when there’s so many other ways to get exercise? And shooting on AV, ha, that’s fully me, and I’m glad to hear you say it too! Heehee. And I think I’m finally finished with apologizing… as a Canadian who lived in the UK for 7 years, I had a pretty huge wall of Sorry to break down, but it’s taken me moving to Germany, where they really don’t apologize unless they’ve actively damaged you in some way, to realize how waffly and ridiculous I was being. Sorry is now reserved for stepped-on toes (literal only) and no longer for me being inconvenient to someone else.

  • Jay McLaughlin

    Never be ashamed of loving Star Wars!!!

  • Amazing post very nice information to share in this article so really thanks to this post.I am sharing to this post….

  • Love this Sara, thanks for sharing. What are your favorite podcasts that you referenced here..

  • Lindsay Davison

    I love this, and particularly sympathise with obsessive interests. I’m just the same! It drives my partner mad, but I am an ‘all or nothing’, and always will be ?

    Lindsay | http://www.lindsaydavison.co.uk