Often when I feel upset, tired, stressed or angry, I ignore it. Every little niggle ignored adds another layer to a dark store at the back of my mind, and it usually ends in me blowing up at an innocent someone over something fairly minor.
So this year I have endeavoured to stop ignoring that negative voice – or rather that elephant.
Annette Earl is a life coach and author of The Elephant In The Mirror. Her book aims to help readers identify their elephant and how doing so can help them to take charge of their lives.
“The elephant is always a part of us, not separate from us. It’s just sometimes the elephant turns into a big thing because we ignore it… the elephant is never out to get you – it’s just asking you to acknowledge some part of yourself you’ve neglected for too long.”
Her strategy is simply: Acknowledge, Appreciate, Accept.
Annette’s way of speaking, matches this. Her tone is warm and compassionate – an easy, familiar read. It is as if a friend is giving advice, telling you what you have always known, but needed a nudge to recognise.
The book encourages self-acceptance through looking at your nasty thoughts, what you want what you might be disappointed with, and understanding that nobody is perfect.
And it’s interactive. Usually self-help books can get dry and boring but with simple exercises to fill in, the teachings of the book stick in your mind.
And if you think writing in books is a sin, Annette’s got all the worksheets to download on her website.
Here are some parts that stood out to me:
“It is almost impossible to feel confident unless we have a sense of control, whereas when we feel out of control or even helpless, confidence rarely breaks through.”
Annette says being confidence enables people to be happy in their own skin, to be themselves. But confidence often only happens when people have knowledge that they are capable.
She argues that you need to remind yourself of the context, assess whether you are valid in your insecurity and then reason whether it is natural to feel unconfident in that particular area. She says you should remember those things you can do, even if it is as simple as saying: “I am confident in my ability to run the perfect bath – with just the right temperature, number of bubbles and soundtrack”.
“Our relationships with others offer a reflection of the relationship we have with ourselves – respect, trust, kindness and love are all required if we are to lead a purpose-filled and meaningful life”
So Annette asks us to sort those we know into four categories:
- Constructive critics
- Negative critics
It’s pretty obvious after that who is worth your time. (In short, people who don’t make time for you, not your time). And hey, that might sound unfair but “this isn’t about not caring but it is about only putting into the relationship the amount of time and energy that they are giving you”
“What we want for ourselves may not always be the same as what others want for us. No matter how hard we try, we will always be subject to judgement. And not only from others but from ourselves too.”
We are all aware of the pressures on us to fit a certain image. If you’re a woman edging towards 30, you’ll be asked when you’re having children. If you’re with a long term partner, you’ll be asked when you’re getting married. If you have a job which isn’t your end goal, you’ll be asked why you’re doing it.
It is ok to not meet expectations – because nobody ever does completely. This book may not offer any huge revelations, but it does urge you to look at aspects of your life you might ignore or skip over. Examining these areas, understanding why they make you uncomfortable, is a step towards leading a happier life.