Life doesn’t come with a rule book, which is both exciting and frustrating.
Your life is yours to carve, yours to enjoy and yours to create memories.
But it can be tricky when there’s a stumbling block because more often than not, we have to experience something in order to recognise how to deal with it.
Think of the first time you got a bad mark in school or fell out with a friend. It felt like the worst thing in the world because your experiences of going through that were limited.
Think about when you lost your first pet, it’s your first experience of grief and of loss.
It’s difficult to deal with and while guidance from your parents can certainly help, you have to pull through and steer yourself in the right direction.
We learn something new everyday, which is what makes life so varied and so interesting.
But in my (almost) 24 years of living, I have a set of small, flexible rules that I live by that keep my anxious thoughts at bay and help reassure me that I’m carving my path my own way.
I try not to compare it to others paths, but I allow myself to admire what those around me have created.
We’re all following our own individual journey – and we all have our own stories to tell.
But while I’m still in the process of writing my story, here are just a few little rules that I think are important to recognise in everyday life.
Photography by: Kyle Galvin
Everyone is equal
You know when you get that anxious feeling when you’re meeting someone important?
Or someone famous – or perhaps even a YouTuber you have watched for years?
It’a anticipation that you have to be on your best behaviour, anticipation for what they’ll be like and what they’ll think of you.
Or perhaps you’re meeting someone who is very wealthy or has an incredible job. Maybe they have an overwhelming number of followers on social media. You feel like you have to treat them in a certain way and you don’t want to get it wrong. You don’t want to step up and say the wrong thing. You feel like you have something to prove.
But really, we’re all human.
We’re all equals and regardless of what each individual chooses to do with their life, we’re still all made of the same flesh and bone.
We all have to eat to survive and go the toilet.
We all have problems (relative to our life) that fluctuate our mood and we all have a variety of experiences which shape us.
My boyfriend David very early on in our relationship taught me a vital life lesson in not to be intimidated by who you’re meeting, because in the grand scheme of things – we are all equal. Don’t put anyone on a pedestal because it doesn’t gain anything. Admire but still appreciate their humanness. Just because somebody is richer, poorer, prettier, more glamorous, more successful or less qualified, everybody deserves to be treated with the same respect that you’d like shown to you.
When you level everyone out onto an equal playing field, you can just be you and let your best qualities shine, rather than letting nerves take over.
What happens next is then what’s supposed to be. Which leads us onto the next life lesson…
Not everyone will like you
I reaaallly struggled with this one for a long time, because I’d always followed the mantra – treat others how you’d like to be treated – and so when somebody hurt my feelings, isolated me or was unkind, I thought it was a reflection of something I’d done. I couldn’t fathom why someone would be so cruel or would criticise me unfairly when I hadn’t mistreated them.
One book that really helped me overcome this confusion was ‘The Chimp Paradox’ which is a fabulous mind management model that helps you understand that we’re not all perfect and sometimes we let our inner ‘chimp’ (or our inner child) take over. We act irrationally. We act in a way that has been shaped by our past experiences. We have off days.
But more relevantly to this life lesson, not everyone will like us and we have to accept that in order to live happily. It outlines that on average, out of 5 chimps, three will like you instantly, one could be swayed to like you with experience and one will never like you, regardless of how nice you are to them or how you treat them or how hard you try to win them over.
As the saying goes, you could be the juiciest peach in the basket but there will always be someone that doesn’t like peaches. Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you change your opinion of yourself. Don’t waste your finite time and energy trying to win over people that can’t see your value. It doesn’t mean they are a bad person (or that you are), it just means they’re not your cup of tea and you’re not theirs. That’s okay.
Accept, move on, be polite but remember you can’t control what others think about you.
Be you, the rest will fall into place.
“You could be the juiciest peach in the fruit basket but there will always be someone that doesn’t like peaches.”
Eat to make your body and mind happy
This is a BIG one for me, because for so long I punished my body on various different diets in a bid to lose weight. I deprived myself of things, I counted calories, I didn’t eat enough food. I wasn’t showing my body and mind the love it deserved. I wasn’t providing it with the good fuel it needed.
I had totally the wrong mindset and I was fixated on aesthetics which blinded me from what really mattered.
Our bodies are amazing things, they come in all shapes and sizes. They are hard-working machines, they exude beauty and we have ultimate control on maintaining it and treating it well. You have to make it happy. And when I changed from the mindset of ‘I want to look good and lose weight’ to ‘I want to make sure my body is happy and functioning properly’, it’s like the dark cloud had lifted. I didn’t have to feel guilty anymore.
Admittedly, a lot of my initial motivation was sparked by the fact I was really poorly. Aged 21, I was pretty much bed and bathroom bound with my troublesome tummy and I was fed up of it ruling my life. I realised what I could control was making sure what I was putting into my body, was making it happy (and not making me run to the loo or feel sluggish and gross).
So instead of eating a huge gooey chocolate cake (which admittedly satiates your cravings in that moment, so it can give the impression it’s making your body ‘happy’) and feeling tired, sluggish, sick and bloated afterwards, I opted for something I knew was going to give me a boost of energy.
If I fancied a chocolate cake, I’d eat it – but I kept an extensive food diary of how it made my body feel. And the answer? Well, I was sitting on the loo about twelve hours later. Now I find swaps for the things I love that love my body too. You don’t have to give up everything you love, but always be aware and in tune with your body and how what you put in is making it feel.
If you feel sluggish, with little energy – you probably already know your answer.
“Our bodies are amazing things, they come in all shapes and sizes. They are hard-working machines, they exude beauty and we have ultimate control on maintaining it and treating it well.”
If in doubt, be kind
Kindness is so underrated and I try and bring it into every situation, regardless of how upset I am, how frustrated I am or how angry or offended I am.
Take for example, when I receive criticism on my YouTube channel. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it happens. You expect it, because you’re putting your life online and up for discussion with those watching. I totally understand that.
But when somebody takes time out of their day to leave negativity, I question what could be going on in their day to feel the need to do so. Because a happy, self-fulfilled, driven and positive person doesn’t leave negativity in someone else’s life. If it’s constructive and is written in a way that is trying to provide helpful support, than that’s totally different. If someone critiques my lighting and says a video is too bright, that’s not negativity.
I can take the comment how I want to (usually, I’ll agree) but negativity is where someone has taken time to be hurtful, nasty, unhelpful and unkind to you. Something that isn’t constructive at all, but exudes an air of bitterness. Because as I said – a happy, fulfilled person doesn’t feel the need to be nasty about another person’s life.
If I ever do receive these type of comments – and it happens – then my instinct is to react with kindness, because I think it’s the only helpful way you can deal with an unhappy person who invites negativity to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
I think it’s important to always try to be kind, even if it’s hard, because we don’t know what’s going on in their lives and if we react with the same negativity, it only embroils you into the rabbit hole of negativity too.
And then it’s a catch 22. And so if they throw a nasty comment my way, I’ll wish them a good day or that I’m sorry they’re not having a great day but that you’re there to chat if they need to.
You might be completely ignored or a barrage of insults might be hurled back or they might stop, apologise and realise that you’re human too and don’t deserve what has been thrown at you.
It will say a lot about a person in the way they react, but you cannot control their reaction. You can only control your actions and if in doubt, be kind.
Exact matches: Top, Primark | Skirt, Primark | Coat, Zara | Bag, Saint Laurent
You’re carving your own path
It’s important not to compare your chapter 2, to someone else’s chapter 20. Everyone is at a different stage in their life, which isn’t relative to age or experience necessarily. We all experience different things, we have different things to offer.
No-body else in this world is like you. Even if you have an identical twin, there’s still something you offer that’s different to them.
You are YOU and you’re carving your own path. Your story is so different and so unique, it’s not worth comparing it to anyone else’s.
It doesn’t gain anything and as the saying goes ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, so don’t deprive yourself of happiness because you’re putting your story and another’s side by side.
Plus much of the time, we’re comparing our reality to another’s highlight’s reel – so it’s completely incomparable anyway.
Don’t worry about what others are doing, how fast they’re progressing and what their goals are.
The most beautiful things in nature aren’t concerned with whether something is blooming greater than they are, they just bloom the best they can. Similarly, everything and everyone is a genius, but if you judged a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it would go through life thinking it was stupid. We’re all carving our own path.
Some people are better at different things, but that doesn’t define YOU. You’ll find your thing, just trust and put faith in the journey.
Honour your pace and admire others journey’s without questioning your own.
Be contented that life is a journey not a destination
This is probably one of my favourite and most important rules of all, because we’re all guilty of being caught up in the ‘race’ – reaching for our goals, working hard, achieving but striving for the next thing.
I am constantly asking myself ‘What’s next?‘ and while this is incredible at showing myself how driven I am, it’s key that I enjoy, savour and praise the moment rather than constantly looking forward to what’s ahead of me. Because if I continue in this way, I’m going to miss the journey.
If I keep pushing for the next goal without appreciating the journey to it, I’m going to feel pretty unfulfilled by the time I reach those goals.
It’s a catch 22.
The joy is not found in finishing an activity, but doing it. The irony and paradox of the human condition is that we are so focused with reaching ‘THE point’ on our journey, a goal, or some happiness, that we seem to forget it’s the journey itself where life happens. It’s the journey we’ll cherish when we’re old, not the completion of a momentary goal.
It’s definitely worth having goals, but we should be contented in the fact that life isn’t a one dimensional destination.
Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.
You never know what pages the surprises, twists and love will feature on until you start reading the book.
And it’s the art of devouring of the pages of the book, not the feeling of completion, that is most enjoyable.
“Enjoy, embrace and encourage the vivid dance of life!”
You don’t always have to be tough
When I was younger, I thought I had to be tough in order to succeed. I thought I had to restrict my emotions, stay strong and be there for everyone else, instead of letting myself feel and release.
I thought that by wearing armour, I was protecting myself and earning respect from others. But in reality, your emotions are not a weakness, they are a strength. It takes a strong person to express how they feel, to let their emotions run wild and to go with gut instinct. I will openly admit that I’m a sensitive person, I now wear my heart on my sleeve and sometimes, this can be at my own detriment, but I’m not ashamed of it. I’m open, I’m aware and in tune with my own needs, when others show emotion it makes me feel connected not uncomfortable, I show that I care and I give myself permission to feel.
Feeling is one of our key instincts, it’s what makes us human.
The human brain is insanely incredible, we have coping and defence mechanisms, we can put ourselves into fight or flight mode and build up our own adrenaline in preparation for something, we allow ourselves to feel pain, loss, grief, relief, drive, disappointment, happiness.
Feeling is powerful and by allowing ourself to feel, we also acknowledge that all emotions are temporary. Happiness is not a constant state of mind but an emotion and we need all that goes with happiness (sadness, frustration, anger), in order to appreciate the glory of basking in happiness.
You don’t always have to be tough, because there is merit in feeling and power in emotions.
Embrace the shades of grey
And nope, don’t worry – I’m NOT talking about that book. But life isn’t black and white like we think it is when we’re a child. Life isn’t about deciphering who is a ‘goodie‘ and who is a ‘baddie‘. But that’s how we made sense of things when we were young, so we carry it with us through life too.
Just because someone makes a mistake, it doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad.
I recently watched a film called ‘A Monster Calls’ which is incredibly well done and also incredibly heart wrenching, but it brought this very important life lesson home through a series of stories as told by the monster. Sometimes good people make bad choices, it doesn’t mean they are bad, it means they are human.
Take our parents for example, when we’re young we put them on a pedestal – we believe they can do no wrong. We look up to them – and rightly so – I know my parents are both incredible people, but I also know they’ve made mistakes and I would never judge them for that. Just as I would expect them to guide me in the right direction, but let me make my own mistakes and not say ‘I told you so‘, but just be there to pick me up.
Real life, the exciting things in life, the scary things in life – they all happen within the shades of grey. So embrace them!
Everything is subject to change
And change is good.
I suppose I’ve been quite lucky in the sense I had to get used to change from a young age.
My parents divorced when I was 8 years old and from then onwards, we moved house every couple of years until we settled around aged 13-14.
So I’ve never really been sentimental about a family home nor have I tied sentimental value to certain objects or situations.
Change has been a big part of my life and I’ve always just got on with it.
However I suppose unwelcome changes can still shock you and still permeate your life and it’s more so about how you deal with them, then what they are.
And when you self-reflect, sometimes you realise that change is needed in order to progress.
As Einstein once said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
And so it might be that you’re worried about the upheaval of quitting your job, or coming out of a negative relationship or friendship or making sacrifices for a longer term goal.
But “When the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”
Perhaps a slightly cringeworthy quote but an important one at that.
In the beginning, change is hard, it’s messy, it’s emotional, but a year down the line, you’ll forget who you were before. We’re always growing as a person, to grow, to change and to overcome, is to live.
Change is the only constant we can rely on in life, so we have to embrace it, love it and let it encourage us to cherish moments before they become memories.
Do you have any important rules that you live by?
Photography by the incredible Kyle Galvin
PS: I apologise for all the soppy, cringeworthy quotes I’ve included – but I do think they hold a lovely meaning so I hope you don’t mind me including them!