Category Archives: Personal development

I love you

I have now been blogging for a month! To celebrate, I hereby give you one of my most ‘wacky’ meetings with spirituality, but also one of my absolutely most important ones.
I love telling this story to people who know me well, as they always end up laughing several times through it and yet they actually get the point once I reach the end. Hopefully you will do the same.

In my early twenties I was severely heartbroken. To a degree where I actually think I went a bit crazy for a little while. You see, I had built my life around a boyfriend and truly believed we would get married, have children and all of the things connected to that picture. It started out as a beautiful love story. The kind where you’re so much in love that you can hardly breathe. I specifically remember telling my mother about him (about a week in), while spreading my arms out and float-flying around the kitchen in my childhood home. I was struck. Big time. And, to my big surprise, so was he.

As you have probably figured out by now our love didn’t last forever. One day I came home from college and there he was, on the couch, pretty much in the same spot I had left him during our morning fight. He was crying and, bless him, he had tried to paint his feelings in order for me to understand exactly what was going on inside him. Bottom line was that he wasn’t ready for all of it and I was – he felt trapped. Looking back, I really can’t blame him. I was so incredibly dependent on him that I have to say I’m quite impressed he didn’t leave sooner. I actually planned my week according to his schedule. Yes, it was that bad.

Nevertheless, he left me, and my life froze completely. Nothing functioned and I spent most of my time crying and wondering whether life was really worth living. With time though I did become rather good at socialising and partying especially, but when I was alone I was devastated and life made no sense to me. I remember I actually found partying to be a great escape from it all, right till the next morning when my feelings caught up with me and the hangover somehow made everything even worse. I lost a lot of weight, smoked way to many cigarettes and I was miserable!

One day a friend of mine told me about a man she knew called Dan. A healer. This was the first time I heard of one such and I found the whole thing fascinating (also, I had no better idea as to how I was to leave my own pity party). Apparently this guy had just opened up a place close to where I lived – an event space / studio / healer spot (oh yes, many hats) and my friend had been hired to play the piano at a Christian Healing Ceremony that was to take place in the large event space (as she’s an Atheist, I’m still not quite sure what that was all about).  She asked whether I’d like to come along that night, so I could meet Dan and speak to him about potential healing. Besides, she wasn’t really sure what she had gotten herself involved in so as I had nothing better to do I decided to be a good friend and off we went.

It was Wednesday evening and we laughed all the way there, prepared for a whole lot of ‘Hallelujah’ and talk of God (can I just say that none of us have anything against religion, I’m just not particularly religious myself and my friend is, as mentioned, an Atheist). However, I swear, nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience…

The Christian Healing Ceremony itself was surreal to say the least. I have no doubt, that if this is your thing, these ladies would be your heroes. However, as Dan’s huge event space was completely new the Healing Ceremony was the first of its kind and the audience was very limited. As in, we were 4 people in the audience. 2 of them were Dan and me, who weren’t supposed to be there in the first place – the other two were a couple of siblings who had apparently both experienced quite severe drama in their lives recently. To say that the place felt rather empty would be an understatement, but they went ahead with it anyway and the siblings took turns going to the stage to receive healing. Yes, there was quite a lot of Hallelujah going on, and I just sat there, stunned and unsure of what I was seeing.
Towards the end of the ceremony one of the healers turned to me and asked me whether I wanted to receive healing. She specifically said ‘I know you’re reluctant, and that’s completely ok. However, you need it and would be doing yourself a favour’. Aha. Right. Well, what did I have to lose?  If you’re in doubt – say yes, right? So I went up there. Besides, saying no would have been rude at this point.
The very nice lady asked me whether I believed in Jesus. ‘Uhm… Undecided’, I replied. I could hardly tell her that I was only there to meet Dan now, could I? She told me that Jesus loved me anyway and that he was there for me. This is the last of our conversation I remember. Suddenly tears were streaming down my face and I felt weightless. My legs seemed to somewhat dissapear beneath me and I sort of blacked out (although, as it turns out, I was standing straight all along). The whole thing felt like it lasted a matter of seconds, but it definitely lasted a lot longer than that.
I eventually turned around to walk back to my seat only to find that Dan stood right behind me! For some reason, this seemed natural at the time, but as he wasn’t part of the ‘show’ he really had no business on that stage. He told me later, that he could tell that the other healer needed help up there. That he had never seen so much negative energy escape a person before and so he had run up on stage to help her remove it. Alrighty then.

So, this was my first healing experience. My second healing experience came to me the same night, straight after the first one. The healer in question this time was Dan. It was rather late (10pm) yet he asked me whether I would like to have a session immediately – and so I followed him to his healer room and we had a chat. The next thing I know I’m crying like a baby on his healer table while struggling to say the following words to myself: ‘I love you, Katrine’. I just couldn’t get the words out. I tried and tried, but something was blocked.

Here’s a little background info for you: All through my childhood I was reminded daily that I wasn’t good enough. I was constantly criticized and never completely accepted in my home, which I guess taught me to look for love everywhere else but within (something I have forgiven a long time ago, but these were the facts I was faced with and the challenges I needed to overcome). I was always sad and cried a lot – until I found my freedom outside the house. When I was with friends it all seemed easier. My friends became family. Generally speaking I was a peoples person, and I found myself ‘there’ for pretty much anyone whenever needed. I could easily relate to pain, and I felt love and acceptance when I was helping them. Basically, I lived for everybody but myself. I was a people pleaser and did everything in my power to make my surroundings like me. So, when my rock-star of a first real love left me I felt absolutely worthless. I was 22 years old and hated my own guts. Everything I had been told during my childhood had come true – of course he didn’t want me! I believed I would never ever be happy again and I was literally unable to say those three basic and ever so important words to myself; ‘I love you’.

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Back to the story: The healing session was over and I found myself on my bike heading home a little past midnight. Copenhagen was silent and I was alone in the darkness. I had spent 2 hours on Dan’s healing table and the only thing I could remember from this session was the fact that I had cried from start to finish and was unable to say ‘I love you, Katrine’.
I could hardly recognise myself in the mirror when I came home. My face was swollen, my eyes were red and puffy – I looked awful. And I didn’t care. I went straight to bed and fell asleep before my head even hit the pillow.

Next day, Thursday, I was a complete zombie. I felt like I was surrounded by fog and that I was moving in slow motion. I went to classes and spoke to people, but when I came home I didn’t remember a thing. My body was heavy, exhausted and completely drained. I have no recollection of what else happened that day, apart from this; I repeated Dan’s ‘I love you’ exercise right before I went to bed. I had promised him to do so every night before I fell asleep and he had promised me that I would be able to complete it one day.

Friday I woke up in a better mood than I had ever in my life experienced before. I was high! I was flying! Huge amounts of weight had been lifted off my shoulders and life was smiling at me. I remember standing on the balcony in the sun, breathing deeply with a huge smile on my face. I was on my way – I would get there one day. I was learning to love myself.
Believe me when I say, that this was the beginning of a true and amazing love story. My own love story. A love story that no one can mess with and a love story I continue to work on every single day.

The thing about life is that the only person you know will always be with you is yourself. Some people find this fact sad, others find it reassuring. Regardless, this means that the one place you should always be able to find love is from within yourself.
We all need love – no matter what we’ve been through. So, if you haven’t done this already, how about starting up your own gorgeous love story right now? Dan’s recipe can be found below, but feel free to create your own or see a healer, a therapist or anyone else who will be able to help you find your way.

The recipe for Dan’s ‘I love you’ exercise (min. 30 minutes required):

  1. Get comfortable. Lie on a bed, a couch, the floor – you decide. What’s important is that you’re on your back and not bothered by any sounds or things around you. Close your eyes. Place your right hand on your belly – solar plexus, to be precise. Place your left hand over your heart. Relax.
  2. Take deep, slow breaths and let your body get heavy. Concentrate on one body part at a time; Relax your toes (one at a time), your heels, your feet, your ankles, your calves, your knees, your thighs, your abdomen, your hips, your belly, your chest, your shoulders, your upper arms, your elbows, your lower arms, your palms, your fingers (one at a time), your neck, your jaw, your lips, your nose, your cheeks, your eyes, your forehead, your ears, your scalp.
  3. Now, imagine that you are standing inside your head. That you are standing right behind your forehead waiting for an elevator to arrive. It’s up to you to decide what you are wearing and what the elevator looks like. What’s important here is that you wait for the elevator – it will get to you eventually.
  4. Once the elevator reaches you, step inside and push ‘down’. Now imagine how this elevator slides down your forehead, your nose, your lips, your chin, your neck, your collarbone, your chest, and eventually stops at your heart.
  5. Once you reach your heart the elevator doors will open and you can step out. Look at your heart; see it beating – so beautiful and full of life. Now, in your own time, say ‘I love you (your name)’. Repeat. Tell yourself again and again, till you feel you have truly understood the message. Hug your heart if you like – nurture it.
  6. When you’re ready, step back into the elevator, let the doors close and push ‘up’. Now feel how you’re journey back to your head takes you via your chest, your collarbone, your neck, your chin, your lips, your nose and eventually stops in your head.
  7. Step out of the elevator and let yourself slowly come back to your senses.

I was instructed to do this exercise right before I fell asleep each night, but if you find there’s a better time during the day for you to do this, go for it.

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What a post-it can do

Ever wondered what a post-it can do for you in your personal life? What it can do for your self development? What miracles this little notepad can spark on a daily basis? Here’s what it did for me:

Quite a few years back I moved to Germany to live with my boyfriend at the time. However, I ended up coming back to Copenhagen with (what I thought was) a broken heart after only 6 days! Oh the horror, the embarrassment. I had just told everyone (including employers and newly established contacts) that I was ‘out’. Coming back was excruciating! Today, though, I smile at it and laugh – because it turns out it was all necessary for me in order to realise I needed to be true to myself. This painful event was the best that could have ever happened to me.

Long story short, I had been in a long distance relationship for 2 years – and a rather dramatic one at that (a bit about what caused the drama is to be found here). We were very wrong for each other, but none of us really wanted to admit it – myself in particular. The balance was as off as it can get. I kept pushing him away, he kept trying to get closer. I wasn’t in love, which I kept denying. My feelings were nowhere near strong enough to settle down. I would try to change everything about him and I ended up not liking myself in the process. I truly didn’t like who I had become during our time together, but I stayed anyway. The fear of being alone got the best of me – especially as everyone else was settling down, getting married and having children. Unfortunately, he had become the symbol of stability, future (although the thought of having children with him made my stomach turn) and safety. I lied to myself daily with anxiety attacks as a direct result. I was constantly grumpy when around him while my mood was fantastic when around my friends. I became so good at lying to myself, that I actually started believing my own lies! I managed to convince myself that I wasn’t that into intimacy and that it wasn’t normal to speak to your partner every day when in separate countries – a phone call once or twice a week should be more than enough.
Just for the record, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the man. He’s lovely (and as far as I know he’s just as happy now as I am)! He just really wasn’t for me, and, I guess, deep down we both knew it.

So, there I was. I had packed up my flat once again and had told everyone that this was it. I was off to Germany! We were going all in. However, I met with one of my closest friends and her sister for brunch the morning of my departure and I cried through most of it. True story. The tears were unstoppable! I kept blaming the country – that I had a hard time picturing myself living in Germany. But the truth was I had a hard time picturing myself living there with him.

I left Copenhagen and a few hours later he picked me up at the train station. We had a fight first thing – a big one. Then we had another one later in the evening. We had a few more the next day and so it continued. We fought from morning to night every single day for 6 days and in the end he cut the rope. He finally put his foot down and we were both free (I have thanked him for this action a million times since in my mind). Of course, it didn’t feel good at the time – on the contrary (I panicked big time!) – but this goodbye, this curtain fall, marked the beginning of something amazing – a new and absolutely gorgeous scene.

Life started over. Once back in Copenhagen I hid for a while as I was so embarrassed about the outcome of what was supposed to be a big love adventure. And then slowly I returned to life, picking up the pieces and looking ahead.

I saw Lis once a week and I spent a lot of time with my friends. I joined a running club and generally got back to my healthy habits. I created a fantastic mind map (if you don’t know what this is, you can read about it here) and used it as my screensaver. Slowly I stopped lying to myself and I started living the life I had dreamed of.

After about a month or two I came home from a night out and I was so genuinely happy. You know, the kind of happy, where you’re all bubbly inside and just know that everything is right. A bit like being in love, but with noone and nothing in particuar to aim it at. Nothing special had happened that night, I was just at complete inner peace and felt fantastic. I was in love with my freedom, I guess. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I was free to do whatever I wanted going forward. I decided to make some sort of reminder for myself of that feeling – the feeling of complete bliss. So I wrote ‘I LOVE MY LIFE’ on a post-it and stuck it to my mirror. Then I smiled at my reflection and remember thinking ‘looks like we’re on the right track, Kat’ after which I went to bed.

That post-it stayed on my mirror the next 6 months as a daily reminder of how blessed I truly was (and still very much am). It became my promise to myself – my promise that I would never again ignore my own signals. I still have this post-it somewhere, as I brought it with me to London. And the words stay true; I LOVE MY LIFE. I honestly do. I feel blessed that I was redirected at such a crucial time and that I’ve learned to be true to who I am.

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If you find that your are in the middle of a storm right now, keep in mind that every ‘no’ takes you closer to a better ‘yes’. This hurt and frustration you’re going through shall pass and you are currently being re-directed to something better than what was.

So while going through the necessary motions, keep an eye out for the good moments. The times when you smile, laugh and truly enjoy living. When you recognise them (and they do happen, believe me), write down what you’re feeling on a post-it and stick it on your mirror. Do this as a reminder to yourself that a great feeling happened once, so it will most definitely happen again. And, by all means, don’t limit yourself to just one post-it. Fill out the entire mirror! Just make sure there’s a tiny space clear so you can send yourself a wink and a smile from time to time.

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‘No’

When studying to become a teacher, I specifically remember listening to a radio show one morning where the host was interviewing a Danish Family Therapist called Jesper Juul. The subject was ‘the importance of ‘no” when raising children. Jesper Juul claimed that parents today have such limited time with their children that they tend to say ‘yes’ and allow pretty much everything – mainly out of guilt. He claimed that parents are afraid of saying ‘no’, as they fear the child might feel unloved otherwise.
The interview was rather long so I’ll go straight to his point which was that a ‘no’ can be a huge declaration of love – quite often even more so than a ‘yes’. Children need their parents to set limits. A world with no limits is big and scary. Children need structure and they need specific guidelines as this gives them a sense of security. So really, saying ‘no’ can be the best you ever did for them.

As Jesper Juul is a family therapist, his theories and thoughts will obviously mainly deal with family issues. However, I find the point from above rather transferable to all relationships in life.

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Speaking to friends and family I’ve noticed how the fear of saying ‘no’ has become a common tendency. Even more so is the fear of hurting others, which I guess is a very positive thing – not a pretty picture if we all wandered around hoping to hurt one another. What is striking though is, that the fear of rejecting – the fear of saying ‘no’ – is present even when wanting to protect one self and set own limits. But why do we fear this so much? There are so many ways to say no, to set limits and define oneself. Why has setting boundaries become the equivalent to hurting or even violating others?

I recently wrote about meeting Lis (if you missed it, you can catch up here) and how she has showed me a new way of perceiving the world. The fear of hurting others was a subject we spent a rather large amount of time on – not because I’ve ever been that scared of conflict, but because I simply didn’t want to push particularly one person away even though he was driving me insane!

I had this person on the phone almost daily during a long period of time as he was panicking about his relationship in which he seemed to be constantly running his head against the wall. He blamed his parents, his partner, his job, the weather – you name it – for the pain he was going through. It was never his own responsibility and every time I came up with ideas as to how he could confront his partner in order to move forward (i.e. take action), he would somehow avoid doing anything by coming up with a negativity of some sort. I often felt like shaking him! I desperately wanted him to wake up and smell the coffee. He was being run over by his partner to such a degree that it was scary, and not because his partner was a bad person, but because he was so incredibly afraid of defining his own limits. He knew exactly what to do – he even said it out loud – but he was scared of the outcome, so he never did a thing.

With time, I found myself becoming rather honest with him. Frustration got the best of me and once in a while the truth became slightly brutal, resulting in him excusing himself and hanging up. I actually hoped he would tell me to back off, but he never did. He never said ‘enough is enough’ – not to me and not to his partner. He just succumbed to these ‘strong women’ – regardless of what they did to him.
It came to a point where I no longer felt like picking up the phone when he called me. My heart bled for him, I just couldn’t stand being the witness to how he slowly resigned from life. No matter what advice I gave him, he didn’t listen. He just let life be the way it had always been and as a result I backed off.

Looking back, I can now see why the whole thing bothered me so much. For one, I truly wanted him to be happy and seeing him in this state was awful. But what’s even more striking is that he reminded me of my ex boyfriend. Oh yes – the painful truth. My ex and I were so out of balance that I became more and more nasty trying to push him away and he became clingier as a result – it was horrible! Claustrophobia, right there. So why didn’t I just leave? I was scared to. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid letting go of him would mean turning into the strange cat-lady type (let’s be honest – we all fear that scenario). But, as it goes, the lesson kept repeating itself and eventually I was forced to let go. Thankfully.

I spoke to Lis about my struggling friend and how I should cope with it all. Lis asked me what I believed would happen to him if I straight up told him how I perceived the situation. Easy question! (I had pretty much done this already, although he got the ‘light’ version) I knew he would get hurt.  The particularly painful part though was that he wouldn’t fight back – he would just let me do it and maybe not call for a few days till he desperately needed someone to talk to again. Then Lis asked me what actually happened to him when I hurt him. This was more of a difficult one. Erhm… He would get sad? Lis smiled. Calmly she said ‘By confronting him you might hurt him. True. But hurting someone isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You start this person’s self-development as you force him / her to look within and deal with the issues at hand. In the end, not only are you claiming your own limits – which is the most important for you – you are also forcing him to set his own limits. You are doing him a favour. He just can’t see it yet.

As she said those words I had an epiphany. My older sister who didn’t always have a lot of patience when we were growing up, would sometimes be quite honest with me. As in, brutally honest. And I would hate her for it from time to time, but the truth is she has sparked quite a few of my most rewarding self developing adventures this way. Tough love, some would call it. Well, today I’m grateful – because it worked. So maybe Lis had a point?

I’m not saying we should all walk around criticising each other on a daily basis. I’m saying that if someone does something that, in one way or the other, somehow crosses your boundaries or asks you for advice and giving it ends up as a frustrating experience, there is absolutely NO reason not to do something about it. Just make sure you deliver the message in the nicest way possible. Constructive criticism, some would call it. It’s a win-win really. You set your own limits (which basically means you feel you are in control of your own life) and you might end up doing this person a favour – potentially a life altering one.

Is someone doing something that frustrates you? Something that crosses your boundaries? What’s holding you back from being honest? How do you feel about the word ‘no’? Do you fear rejection? Do you fear conflict? Why?

Or has someone been slightly more honest than you would have preferred recently? Did it hurt you? How and why? Is there some truth to it? Remember, that no matter how painful it gets, it triggers your self-development when used wisely. You can choose to hate anyone who confronts you or you can listen to what this person says, take it in and do something about it. Might the situation help you in the long run? Maybe one day you will end up being grateful to this certain someone..

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Life lessons in disguise

During my first session with Lis (not sure who Lis is? Read about her here), she asked me what the meaning of my life was. Just like that. ‘What’s the meaning of your life, Kat – Why are you here?’ What does one answer to a question like that? I remember thinking something along the lines of ‘Let’s be frank, if I could answer that question easily, I’m quite sure all the hard working philosophers of all times would get pretty annoyed.’ However, striving to be the good student in this ‘the school of life’, I obviously gave it a shot; ‘Uhm.. To help others?’
Lis smiled; ‘No. Just like the rest of us, you are here to learn.’ Simple. After several sessions I realised what she was trying to tell me with this:

Have you ever noticed how you’re constantly faced with the same challenges again and again? The setting and the people might change, but the actual challenge is the same?

A typical scenario would be dating the wrong people / being in the wrong relationship: Always chasing? Never being chased? Or slightly claustrophobic due to constant phone calls from this person?
How about work? Constantly in a role where someone is being nasty to you? Or do you find you hate waking up to go there in the first place (and are you feeling like this about your fifth job in a row now)?
Always in conflicts with your friends? Never lose the weight you were hoping to get rid of? Do your kids / partner / friends not respect a ‘no’?

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Especially during my early / mid 20’s I found myself pretty much chasing every date I had. Truth be told I did have a few dates where the guy ended up chasing me (even worse), but most of the time I did the chasing. It wasn’t because I necessarily believed this was the man I would marry – I just wanted the chance to find out whether he could be.

Most of my friends were in steady relationships during these years, moving in with their partners, having children, tying the knot and I was just never part of that scenario. I was always quite a few steps behind; single, confused and often heartbroken. I blamed the men for being ‘bad guys’, my parents for being divorced and thus not being proper role models, my friends for not being supportive – you name it. I played the part of the victim, that’s for sure. Thinking back, I really don’t miss my 20’s (although they were a lot of fun too) – but they were so incredibly necessary. I learnt so many lessons during these years, and this was definitely one of them. You see, I was always, generally speaking, focused on what everyone else was doing. It never occurred to me that I should rather focus on myself.

When dating it was all about the men; How great they were, how interesting, how beautiful, how talented, how mysterious. I would find something that fascinated me and then I would obsess about it! It would consume me completely. And, basically, I would end up scaring them off.
The worst part was that I, at some point down the line, became fully aware of the fact that I was pushing them away, but I just couldn’t control my obsession. I would even start ‘playing the game’ by deliberately not calling them (obviously hoping this would make them call me) – but I would still think of them 24/7. I would plan our future in my mind and imagine what our babies would look like (ok, I might not go that far, but you get the picture). Here’s the deal: Relationships don’t only work physically, they also very much work on a mental level. Energies reveal so much more than one would think. Bad luck 20-something Kat.
The men I was obsessed about were not stupid. I could play any game I wanted – they very well knew that I was still around. It wasn’t till I literally gave up (or met someone new I could obsess about) that they would give me a call or send a text – and at this point I would either not care any longer or the whole nightmare would start over. (I have actually created a theory about this, which I’ll write a post about later on, so stay tuned here on facebook, twitter or instagram.)
Looking back it was the same painful experience again and again. I so obviously had something to learn.

It wasn’t till I started focusing on my own well being that things changed. I started working out, quit smoking, found the right course at university, got a few really interesting internships that took up all my attention, got a job with an employer that was no less than amazing and found a genuine interest in eating healthy. Now, all of this didn’t mean everything magically fell into place over night, but I was on the right track and, most importantly, I put myself first. Finally.

So, if you’re finding that you’re constantly faced with the same challenges, there’s definitely a lesson in there for you somewhere. Search and you will find. Scary boss? Is it time for you to stand up for yourself? Maybe your job description isn’t right for you? Would you be better off having more responsibility? Constantly chasing others? Maybe it’s time you put all that attention on yourself instead? Not losing the weight you need to lose? Are you truly doing everything you can?

In the end, most of these scenarios are triggered if you don’t have enough self-love (there’s a reason why clichés become clichés). Maybe you were never taught how to love yourself. Maybe your role models weren’t the best they could have been in your eyes. Maybe your thoughts are mainly negative (in which case read this). Regardless of the excuse you come up with for this one, the good news is that your life is yours. The future is now. Don’t get hung up on the past. Take what you can from it and change it so you can live the life you want to live. Maybe try this exercise for starters? You are the only one responsible from here on – so take this responsibility seriously and do something about it.

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The painful truth

You know that feeling of complete annoyment when your superior is bossing you around? Or when you get annoyed because it’s as if your partner has lost his / her spark – life has become booooring? Or when you feel like the girl from class is being such a bimbo (while trying to get the cute guy’s attention)? Or how you can sometimes hardly stand the fact that you are related to a specific person? How your father / brother / sister / mother says these awkward things in public? How they draw too much embarrassing attention? Why can’t everyone just be a bit more like you, right? Here’s the deal. Here’s the painful truth; They are. They are exactly like you.

All these actions / people represent a side of you that you are not at peace with. Let’s take the example with your superior. Any chance you could be slightly jealous of this person? Deep down inside, do you wish you were the boss? Or, could it be that you, yourself, are bossing someone else around and being rather unpleasant?
And moving on to the example with your partner having lost his / her spark. Before you start pointing fingers and telling your loved one how incredibly dull life has become in his / her presence, have a look within. How’s your own spark doing? Do you wake up every morning excited about the day ahead? Do you enjoy what you do for a living? Have you got a great hobby and fantastic friends that you socialise with? Making you happy and sparking your spark is not your partner’s responsibility – it’s yours. So next time your partner annoys you ask yourself whether you are annoyed with your partner or with yourself?
And what about the girl from class getting all the attention? Slightly jealous, are we? Why not go for some attention of your own? Or is the issue rather that you act exactly like her (maybe even worse) when in a similar situation?
Last, but not least, the awkward relative; Is this person in reality saying or doing what you would have said or done? Do you, in all honesty, resemble this person? Or could it be that you used to resemble this person (you probably still do – just saying..) and have been told to stop doing so by a partner, a different relative or a friend, which is why you can’t stand when these ‘forbidden’ actions happen?

We are all born whole in every way. Look at babies! They are perfect and flawless. They never get embarrassed. They do exactly as they feel like doing exactly when they feel like doing it. Then they grow older and in come the surroundings to teach them what is right and wrong. Society, friends, family – they all have a say in how this little person turns out.
So what were your surroundings like? It is inevitable that you at some point have been told to stop doing something in a particular way or that you have been told you should always behave in a certain manner. The right manner. Obviously.
Keep in mind when digging up the past that these people who have had a say in how you turned out have (hopefully) all done what they did the best way they knew how. And no matter how well they did, nobody is ever perfect! They did as they believed was right and acted the best way they were capable of, so this isn’t about starting ‘the blame game’. The past is brilliant, as it can help us understand the present. But then that’s that. Once you’ve discovered what you need to discover, leave the past in the past and focus on today.

The-secret-of-change-is-to-focus-all-of-your-energySo, what can you learn from your past? What have you been told to stop doing? What have you been taught was right and wrong? And do you, as an adult, agree?

Right now, this very minute, you decide. You set your own limits and your own rules. So if there’s something you’re not happy with, have a look within and try to figure out what it is. Once you know what sparks your annoyment, accept that this is a part of you and make a conscious effort to either do something about it or remove yourself from the situation. But never blame the person who sparked the feeling in the first place. You are an adult – how you behave and what you feel and think is all your own responsibility. It’s true that you can not (always) control what happens to you – but you can definitely control how you react to it.

Your surroundings are reflections of you. Accept them as they are, use them as a mirror and concentrate on yourself and your own development. Once you do this, you will find that the truth doesn’t have to be quite as painful after all.

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Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn

Surely I don’t believe that? Oh, but I do. It’s another way of saying there is always good to be found in all situations.

When an athlete plays football and the team doesn’t win, what does the coach do?  You can be perfectly sure the coach will have analysed everything for the next time the players are back in the field – making sure what was once a weakness becomes a strength. The coach will strive to make his / her athletes better at their game and eventually make them go as far as they possibly can go.

Obviously we don’t all have a coach by our side in everything we do, but why would this scenario be any different in general life, love or work? When something doesn’t work out as you had planned it’s time to analyse and get back in that field with a new and better strategy based on your learnings. Be your own coach!

There’s no such thing as losing. Your partner left you? Give it a little time and you’ll probably find that this person did you a massive favour. You got fired? Chances are the job wasn’t right for you – something better is out there. Didn’t get the pay raise? Now you know your current approach doesn’t work with your boss. Study the subject and come up with a new and even better approach for next time. Your blind date turned out to not be the one? Get back out there! Didn’t get the house / apartment you were hoping for? Count your blessings! It was probably full of mould – there’s a fantastic place waiting to greet you right around the corner. Every ‘no’ takes you closer to a ‘yes’! Don’t give up!

You either win or you learn. Keep this in mind next time you’re disappointed or beating yourself up for one reason or another. You did the best you could have done – now take home what you have learned and find a new tactic for next time.

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You can do it!

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Why smiling is important

Recently I posted a challenge on Facebook. The challenge was rather simple, but something very few people think about in their every day lives. I challenged you to smile at a minimum of 3 strangers that day. A rather simple task really, but one not many people would consider on their own. I’m quite sure the majority don’t even register how they interact with their outer world just by physically being in it, but the truth is we do. Every time you pass someone on the street, buy something in a store or bump into someone randomly you are interacting. So imagine if everyone made a conscious effort and smiled at a minimum of 3 of these people daily. Imagine how beautiful the world could be!

I grew up in Portugal as a diplomat child, so meeting strangers was a part of everyday life and, in all honesty, not something I always enjoyed, but it taught me to smile and be polite to everyone – something I am more than grateful for having learnt as a natural part of life. My mother would tell me I had a responsibility when interacting with others and that smiling to people can brighten their day massively whereas being grumpy can affect someone’s day negatively. I never really thought much about it – maybe because she always smiled so much herself, so I figured this was just what people did. Maybe because I was just a kid. However, as an adult I have to admit that people don’t all naturally smile, which was probably my mother’s main reason for making a big deal out of it in the first place. Little did she know she had science on her side!

First of all, smiles are infectious. If you smile at someone or someone smiles at you, the smile will be almost immediately reciprocated.
What’s more is this; Smiling at others and brightening their day this way actually makes you happier! Research has shown that acts of kindness towards friends and strangers alike lower your stress levels and contribute to your enhanced mental health! The author of ‘The How of Happiness’, Sonja Lyubomirsky, found that when asking test persons to complete 5 acts of kindness over the course of a day, these people reported back that their happiness levels not only increased, but that the happiness boost continued for several days after the experiment was over!
When you’re happy, you smile. When you smile others get affected and smile too – what’s not to love about this chain reaction?

Just make sure your smile is genuine! Zygomaticus major (the muscle on each side of your face, that raise your lip corners) is involved regardless of which kind of smile you choose to show off to the world – also the fake ones. Genuine smiles of enjoyment, however, require the involvement of orbicularis oculi too (the muscle that circles both of your eyes & lifts your cheeks and creates crow’s feet when contracted). According to American Psychology Professor Barbara Frederickson, showing insincere positivity, i.e. not smiling fully (with the eyes / orbicularis oculi) can be equated to anger when it comes to health. The short version of this specific piece of research is, that anger can cause severe health issues and it turns out insincere positivity / fake smiles can do the same trick. Better stick to the real thing then, huh?

But what if you’re having a really bad day and a smile just feels wrong? Well, you can actually provoke a genuine smile just by doing the facial gestures it requires:
Next time you’re standing in front of a mirror, lift those lip corners and those cheeks. Stay like this for as long as it takes – I promise you you’ll end up smiling ‘just because’ sooner or later and you’ll probably return to whatever you were doing beforehand with lifted spirits and maybe even a huge smile on your face for someone else to receive. (If nothing else, you can smile at the exercise being silly)

So there you have it. Smile fully! For the sake of your health and for the sake of the health of others. Several times a day! A smile is free. It doesn’t cost you a penny and it can make the world of a difference to yourself and those surrounding you.

But then, what if you smile at someone and this person ignores it? Will it make you look like a fool? Absolutely not!

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Smiles are beautiful – share them with everyone you meet.

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What you want more of!

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I don’t actually remember exactly when I started making these ‘mind maps’, as I call them. Nor do I remember where I heard of them first. Nevertheless, I have now constantly had a mind map as my screensaver for about 4 years.

Research shows that most people tend to focus on what they don’t want as opposed to what they actually do want, which is a real shame, as what we focus on tends to grow stronger. Negative becomes the dominating factor in many lives and the positives suddenly seem further and further apart. I wrote a little something about this the other day – catch up here.
But then how do we focus on what we want? Good question. If you, as most people, have grown accustomed to sneaking in negatives during most of your day, positivity can seem like quite a challenge. You might want to start with simply reminding yourself daily of what you are grateful for. In the post ‘Dancing in the rain’ I go deeper into what I mean by this.

Another way to focus on what you want more of is by creating a ‘mind map’. Although doing this is slightly time consuming, it is worth every single minute! You can go ‘High Tech’ (min. 30-60 minutes required) or ‘Low Tech’ (min. 1 hour required). What’s important is that you take your time while working through this exercise.

If you don’t find you have time for being creative right now, bookmark this website (maybe do so regardless) and return when you have the time. However, I’m assuming you’re up for the challenge this very minute, so grab a cup of tea or coffee and let’s get started.

Low Tech version

  1. Get out a piece of paper or cardboard (A4 should do for your first one – you can always upgrade to A3 or bigger later on), some glue and maybe a sharpie / permanent marker or two.
  2. Grab all the old magazines you can get hold of (make sure no one else wants to read them before you do this as you might become highly unpopular otherwise – you’ll find out why in a sec). Image wise, we’re looking for humans, houses, desirable places, dancers, office workers, children, jewellery, cars – anything that speaks to you.
  3. Now, go through each magazine one page at a time. While doing this ask yourself one, simple question: ‘If I could have anything in the world, what would it be.’
    Don’t read the magazine, just look at the images and cut out anything that appeals to you. Anything that sparks your dreams and gives you a relaxed, happy feeling. Don’t be critical (e.g. ‘In reality, I could never afford that!‘) – just go for it. Let go of all negative thoughts! Sky is the limit. You can have anything you like this very moment. If anyone has ever told you otherwise and this person’s voice is replaying in your mind, block it! This is your dream. You control it. And you are choosing, this very moment, to focus on what you really, truly want from life. Happiness? Go through the magazine and find an image of a truly happy person. Relaxation? Search the magazine for a beach, yoga course, a sunset, a field, a bed even – whatever works for you. A car? Find that car and cut it out. A pet monkey? Find it!
    Keep in mind that no one will ever see this (unless you show it to them, obviously). This is yours and yours alone. Nothing is silly; nothing is unachievable – go for it. Own your dreams!
  4. Once you have cut out all your images, stick them on your piece of paper / cardboard (this is the part where an A3 might all of a sudden be more appropriate, but I’ll let you be the judge of that). It’s your mind map – it’s your design.
  5. When you have glued all the images you want on your piece of paper / cardboard, place it somewhere where you know you’ll see it every day. Stick it on the mirror, in your cupboard, fold it and place it in your wallet, take a picture of it and use it as your screen saver. Again, this is completely up to you. The important part is that you see it every single day. In the end you might not notice it any longer, but your subconscious will still pick up on it.
  6. Now leave it where it is (unless you want to move it to a new place once in a while) and let life work it’s magic.

Focus

High Tech version

  1. High tech people will laugh at me calling this a high tech version, as the minimum required here is a computer with either Word or PowerPoint installed + an internet connection. But compared to the above it is, in fact, rather high tech.
  2. Start by opening up one of the above-mentioned programs and start a fresh page.
  3. It’s time for Mr Google (images). Positive words that mean something to you is what we need. What would you like more of? Success? Type it in there and see which images appear. Someone standing on top of a mountain? Thumbs up? A quote? A jump? A large corner office in Manhattan? Save your preferred image and paste it into your open document (who cares if you live in one country and have dreams of living in another although you can see no possibility of this happening! This is your dream – everything is realistic).
    Money? Google it and see what comes up. Save an image and paste it into your document.
    Health? What is health to you? A fruit & vegetable bowl? Someone running or lifting weights? Google it, save the image and paste.
    Love? See what Google comes up with and pick the image that speaks to you. Save it and paste it. You know the drill by now.
  4. Keep going till you feel you have gathered the images that represent your inner most amazing dreams. Remember that this is your personal mind map. No one gets a say but you.
    Place the images as your wish in your document. If you have a favourite inspirational quote of some sort, maybe put it in the middle or the corner. It’s your mind map – you decide. Just remember to save your work as you go.
  5. Once you are happy with your mind map print it out and hang it where you’ll notice it every single day. On the fridge, the mirror, in the cupboard, in your diary, wallet. You know best.
    As you chose the ‘High Tech’ option, chances are you use your computer just as much as I do, in which case you might want to consider using you mind map as a screensaver.
  6. Now, just as in the ‘Low Tech’ version, leave your mind map where it is (unless you want to move it to a new place once in a while) and let life work it’s magic.

As I wrote earlier, I started doing these mind maps about 4 years ago – creating a new one each year (but how often you want to create a new one is entirely up to you). Recently, I came across the first one I made. I had honestly forgotten about it, but finding it made me smile. Every single image / dream on that mind map has either come true or is literally coming true this very moment. Now, how do you like that?

A little less than a year ago I randomly met a girl in a café. We were sat next to each other with our computers and all of a sudden the Internet stopped working, so we started chatting. Time passed and the conversation turned personal. In just a few hours she went from seeming slightly down to shining – the transformation was outstanding and I’ll probably write a post about it one day. For now though, the end of our conversation is what’s interesting;
We were saying our goodbyes when her eyes caught a glimpse of my screensaver – my current mind map. In the corner of my mind map is an image of a veranda with an ocean view. She smiled when she saw this and asked me whether this was a place I would like to go to? I replied that I would love to. That this was my idea of complete relaxation. Full of joy she said the following words: ‘Let me know when you want to go and I’ll make it happen! That image could have been the view from my familie’s holiday home in Ireland.’ What were the odds? Keep in mind that this girl was a complete stranger just a few hours before.

So, if you’re wondering whether to spend a few hours doing a mind map, I’ll say as I always do; What have you got to lose? What’s the worst that can happen? Exactly. Just do it.

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Let it go

About a year ago I had a call with a prospective client while I was enjoying some down time with a close friend of mine and her children in their holiday home. I had left the living room and placed myself in the garden for this call – nice and professional, away from the noise. Half way through the call, my friend’s 4-year-old daughter decided to make her way to the garden in order to pitch in with a little background music. So there she went (extremely loud and slightly off-key) ‘Let it gooooo, let it goooo’. Elsa had joined the party and I suddenly found myself discussing Frozen during a business call. #thingsIthoughtwouldneverhappen
To be fair though, Disney does have a point with those lyrics.

There are several ways to let go. Disney’s version above, where you don’t hold back is one of them. Another way we often need to let go is when obsessing with unfortunate situations. Random example: You’ve accidentally said something inappropriate during a mind wonder and it’s too late to take it back.
Quite often no one else remembers this situation 30 minutes later, but you hold on to the shame, the guilt and the need to do something about it.

Let’s be honest. This happens. And these scenarios are typically the smaller, less important parts of life. But somehow these small things can grow really big and we end up beating ourselves up about it. I have especially one friend who does this. A lot. She’s the ‘think out loud’ kind of person we all know so well – and she will almost always call me up the day after we’ve seen each other to apologise for something she said to me or tell me how upset she is about something she said to someone else in the room. I honestly rarely remember the situation she refers to. I do know the devastating feeling though.

A few years ago I said something really silly at a job interview. My heart wasn’t really in it and all of a sudden it was too late to take back what had come out. It bothered me to a degree that I found myself twisting and turning the whole situation again and agaian trying to figure out how I could have handled it differently. I’m quite sure I even had sleepless nights about it. I eventually spoke to my older sister about it and this was what she had to say about it: ‘Remember that you’re not the centre of the universe’.

I found my sister’s remark rather harsh at first. After all, I had been obsessing about this ever since it happened. But after a while, what she had said made perfect sense; People have problems and worries of their own. Sure, they might register your silly remark, action or tone, but by the end of the day they will forget it pretty much as fast as it happened. They will move on to the next thing on their list. Several things will probably be more important to them. Who knows? They might be going through a divorce, be really exited about an upcoming holiday or be trying to make it home to their kids in time for dinner. In other words, you should let it go just as easy as they probably did.
As one of the experts in the new documentary, The Abundance Factor, put it: ‘The world forgives and forgets. Only you remember.’ I wasn’t the centre of the universe. I didn’t get the job either – which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me.

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Personally I have always found the exercise of letting go very difficult. Although I am a lot better at it now, it has taken me years to work out a way to handle the prospect of someone not liking me or thinking bad things about me.

When faced with this battle I find the following to be a really good exercise. It’s all about reminding yourself that you are just a tiny piece in a massive puzzle. My thoughts go something like this:
‘I am Kat. I come from a little town north of Copenhagen. Denmark. Scandinavia. Europe. The World. The Universe.’
All of a sudden you become so incredibly small in the bigger picture, which makes something you have said or done on a random day even smaller than it probably already was.
I also remind myself that my time on earth is so limited that really what does it matter if a former colleague thought I handled something the wrong way or I said something that was meant nicely, but was misinterpreted?
Life is too short. Move on. Focus on something great instead and let it go. You can’t change the past anyway so really, what does it matter now? You didn’t get the job? You scared somebody off? Keep this in mind:

luck

You might be the centre of your own universe. But you are not the centre of the universe. Remember this with a big smile on your face next time something small and unimportant has turned big and scary. Let it go and be grateful for all the good that surrounds you.

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Dancing in the rain

I had lunch with a girl today that I hadn’t seen for a few years. She was actually one of my first acquaintances after coming to London – a brilliant artist with a stunning personality. Meeting her during my first time in London was a gift. However, for some reason we lost contact (although in this day in age you never really lose contact with anyone due to social media).

After starting this blog and sharing the news I have been blessed with hearing from old and new friends, but especially people I haven’t spoken to for years. It has been such a fantastic experience and everyone has been so incredibly positive about this little venture of mine – so thank you! The friend I met up with today was one of these people.

It turns out that during these last years she has gone through quite a lot of pain and suffering. She got married to a lovely man that turned out to be struggling with challenges bigger than what he has been capable of handling. As a result, she has put up with daily negativity and rejection adding to which she has been the victim of heart breaking stories. Recently she left her husband and has consciously taken life into own hands. She is crashing at a friend’s place at the moment and is trying to figure out where to go from here. She is starting over.
Seeing her today – so strong, brave and full of positive energy while telling her story – reminded me of my own adventure and especially of my first few months in London.

I moved to London about 3,5 years ago as a result of a nasty breakup and the urge to get away from the settled life I desperately wanted to live, but  found I had never been further away from achieving. I had been the spectator of my life falling apart for quite a few months at the time, so the chance I took by moving countries didn’t actually seem that crazy or even that challenging (although everyone seemed incredibly impressed by my decision). Yes, I was worried about the outcome, but in the end I just did it. Little did I know that this move would end up changing everything.

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When I first came to London I stayed with my older sister and her family in a gorgeous little town about a 40-minute train ride from the city centre. I would get up in the morning, buy my train & tube ticket and spend the rest of the day roaming the streets of London, trying to figure out how everything was connected, which parts of the city I liked more and hanging out with Mr. Google during meals to find a job and some sort of living arrangement for myself.
I’m not going to lie – these weeks were hard-core! First of all it dawned on me that rent was going to gobble up pretty much all the money I had for survival each month. Secondly, I realised that getting a job in London was extremely up hill when London is not already on your resume and you have no contacts that can help you out. Last, but not least, I often felt that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.
Every night I would come back to my sister’s place and either catch up with her and her husband in the kitchen or sneak straight into bed (the bottom bunk of my 7-year-old nieces bunk bed to be precise), ready for what the next day had to offer.

About a week into my struggles I came home rather late one night and snuck into bed, conscious that I shouldn’t wake up my niece while doing so. As I lay there under the duvet it suddenly hit me that I couldn’t stay in this bottom bunk forever. My situation was unexpectedly very clear to me: I was 31, single, homeless, jobless and planning a life that would have me pretty much broke by the beginning of each month. Things could hardly get any worse.
Then I started laughing. I laughed and laughed to a degree that I was sure I would end up waking up my niece. Tears were streaming down my face.  I was happy! Never had life been more exciting. Never before had I had so many options. I felt so alive! I was dancing in the rain.

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That night was my turning point. I had successfully managed to switch my way of thinking – I was focusing on the positive and could feel deep down inside that this move was going to be one of the the best things I had ever done for myself.

Truth be told, several times after this night I had the feeling of everything seeming hopeless, but then I would remind myself of how far I had come and how lucky I was. Suddenly all the pieces started falling into place and I have not looked back since.

One of my best exercies during this time, was reminding myself of what I had to be grateful for: Every night before I closed my eyes, I would write down a minimum of three things I was grateful for. It didn’t have to be massive things. It could be something as simple as:

  1. A stranger smiled at me in the supermarket
  2. The sun was shining today
  3. My favourite song played on the radio

Try it. It might seem silly at first (maybe even hard), but one day you will find this exercise easier and you might come up with five things, seven things or even ten things you are grateful for. All of a sudden you will notice positives all through the day and the times of darkness will seem far away. Trust me.

If you’d like to know more about what positive thoughts can do for you, have a look at this post: Positivity vs. Negativity

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