Vanilla

I thought I would continue with the idea about turning up with what we have, not only because everything I seem to write ends up coming back to perfection, but also because I feel that it is important to realise how powerful it is to just be ourselves. No forcing. No faking. Real and raw.

As I scrolled through a list of podcasts, I saw that Russel Brand has been talking to Elizabeth Gilbert. Her words never fail to inspire my creativity, and creativity was exactly what they were talking about.

In the podcast she admits that when she first started writing, she knew what good was, but she couldn’t create it. She said she felt like a toddler having a tantrum. She was frustrated and devastated, and it really resonated with me. If my vocabulary was a flavour, it would be vanilla; I need spell check as well as my boyfriend to point out my grammatical errors, and because of that I beat myself up. I don’t feel like I’m a good writer, but I know what I want my writing to look like, so why can’t I create it? It is frustrating. And it is devastating when I find myself doubting, can I actually do this?

When my words aren’t flowing, sometimes I just need to take a few minutes, to make a cup of tea, to go for a walk or read the words of someone else, because the longer I stare at my own, the less sense they seem to make. But when I open up a book and I read the lives of expertly crafted characters, beautiful words that I have to look up the meaning to and feel emotion that I’m worried I’ll never allow a reader to experience, I think, what is the point of me even trying if my work will never be like this?

Elizabeth told her creativity that she never promised that she would be a good writer, she just said she would be a writer.

‘If I could do it better I would, but this is all I have.’

She would rather have something finished and lacking than it never be completed. That is what allowed her to write.

Not only did her words fill me with hope in terms of my writing, it made me think, what if we also applied that to our anxiety and the way we look at ourselves?

Maybe we have a party to go to, but we aren’t feeling our best. Spots have flared up; every outfit we try on looks a mess and our eyes are red and puffy from crying after a bad day. Maybe our anxiety is telling us not to go. It’s better that we don’t go at all than allowing anyone to see us in this state. Everyone else will look so glamorous and will be talking about their extravagant lives; full of success and achievement. Then there will be us; sitting awkwardly in the corner, trying to avoid conversation and hide our bloated belly that our dress is so kindly accentuating.  But what if we went, and instead of beating ourselves up about not being our best, we told ourselves that this is all I have today? We are allowed to be human. A human with emotions, mental battles, bad days and a real body.

Or maybe you had already given all you had. We shouldn’t allow our negative thoughts to stop us, but we also need to recognise when we’ve pushed ourselves far enough for one day and when we just need an early night to recharge.

What if we also applied ‘this is all I have’ to how we looked at our body? Negative thoughts often flood my mind when I look back at photos.

‘If only you hadn’t of eaten so much leading up to your holiday, you wouldn’t have had those tummy rolls in your swimsuit.’

‘If only you had exercised more, so your legs were toned and didn’t look so flabby next to your friends.’

But what if I said to those thoughts, ‘that was all I had’?

Maybe you feel insecure about how you look because your body has changed, whether that be from having children, an operation, age or health reasons, but we need to accept that we can’t have perfect bodies because our lives aren’t perfect. We have days when our routine gets disrupted or life throws something at us, causing us to pause. We might eat more, maybe less, we can’t exercise, or we just don’t want to exercise, but this is your body. No matter what it looks like. It’s all you have.

I think perfection just likes to skim over the idea of ‘life’. It forgets that things happen, which means we can’t constantly do what we know to be our best, or what we want our best to be. It doesn’t realise that our best can’t be compared with anyone else’s because we are unique individuals, not robots.

Or maybe you just don’t feel comfortable because you don’t feel as though you fit into the unattainable standards of society.  But our bodies are no better when they’ve lost weight or toned up, and it doesn’t always make us healthier because we could still have an unhealthy relationship with food and our body. But what doesn’t change and what has never changed in all the photos you look back on is that you are still you. That is all you need to be. That is all you need to have. No pressures, no diets, no status or success. Just you.

Even if I had cut out all my carbs a month before my holiday and stuck to a strict exercise programme, it wouldn’t have made any difference to the people I went on holiday with, the experiences I shared with them and the memories I made. Is that not what is important? I know we can’t suddenly love who we are after years of battling with our insecurities, but we can tell ourselves that this is the body we have right now; this is who and where we are right now, and that is okay.

What if like Elizabeth, when she spoke to her creativity, we tell ourselves that we are not going to have a perfect body, we are just going to have a body? That we aren’t going to perform perfectly at work every day, we are just going to perform our best (which could vary every day). That we aren’t going to be the perfect parent, partner, child or friend, we are just going to bring love, care and kindness into our relationships.

What are we leaving unfinished or what are we missing out on because we are not meeting perfection’s requirements? What is it stopping us from doing? Is it pushing us away from events, opportunities or people? Is it allowing us to be our true self?

So, this is me, saying ‘this is all I have today.’ Even though I know this isn’t the best I can do, a vanilla ice cream is better than no ice cream at all.

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