It’s day three in the pre-order promotion for Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself, a book about taming your inner critic that features 40 stories from Tiny Buddha contributors.
Over the next month, you’ll have a chance to meet some of them through daily interviews here on the blog.
Today’s featured contributor is An Bourmanne of ownyourlifecoaching.com. Born in Belgium, she now lives in Brussels where she works as a consultant-coach in a financial services company and mentors people pleasing perfectionists so they can do their thing, unapologetically.
Her contribution for the book explores how we often get stuck by stressing about everything we think we should be doing—and what we can do to both relieve that pressure and live up to our potential.
A little more about An…
1. Tell us a little about yourself and your self-love journey.
Well, if I would describe the me I was about 15 years ago, I’d describe her as a chameleon, always adapting and blending in, striving for perfection and working hard to be a good girl, living the life she was supposed to live, doing the things she was supposed to do, forgetting what she wanted and needed, evaluating herself through the eyes of others, analyzing their every move for signs of approval or—oh, drama!—disapproval.
And the interesting thing is, I didn’t realize that I was being a chameleon.
It was only when lightning struck (as in being seriously ill), that I started to question the way I lived my life.
And no, I didn’t turn my life upside down—on the outside, very little changed in those first few years, but on the inside, things started shifting.
I read every self-development book I could get my hands on (after I managed to overcome my Everest-high resistance against anything that even remotely looked like self-help). I absorbed blogs. And most of all, I started seeing things from a fresh perspective—an empowering, nurturing one instead of that exhausting people-pleasing-perfection-driven one.
I allowed myself to do things that fascinated me (even though my mind screamed “silly!”). I allowed myself to do things that made me lose track of time (even though my mind screamed “waste of time!”). I allowed myself to do new things, make mistakes, and fail. I allowed myself to not being liked by everyone. I allowed myself not getting approval from everyone.
And gradually, things started shifting in my outside world too. I took photography classes, I reconnected with my long-lost love for writing, I took loads of personal development classes, I started mentoring and teaching.
2. Have you ever felt there’s “something wrong with you”? If so, why, and what’s helped you change your perception?
Oh my! I sure have! That’s what that sneaky voice of people-pleasing perfection tends to do with us—finding flaws everywhere.
Don’t like the books they like? You are such a failure. Haven’t been to that hip restaurant yet? What’s wrong with you? Haven’t got those bigger-than-life stories to tell? You are so boring and ah, well, let’s just face it—there is something wrong with you.
What changed my perception were the self-loving, compassionate, empowering perspectives I read in books and blogs.
It was embracing some harsh, yet undeniable truths—you will fail, not everyone will like you, you will be judged.
It was questioning my crappy thoughts—seeing how they were (most of the time) not true and (all of the time) not helpful. It was taking lots of teeny tiny actions that brought clarity, confidence, and the quiet trust that I got what it takes to do my thing.
3. Have you ever thought something was a flaw only to realize that other people actually appreciate that about you? What was the “flaw”?
Ah, reconnecting with my writing has been a real struggle. I believed I was no good and that writing was just a waste of time and not something worthy and valuable. But I allowed myself to start playing with it nonetheless.
The beginning of my writing journey looked a lot like a game of “attract and repel”! I’d start writing a thousand times, I’d stop a thousand times, only to be pulled toward the writing again so much that I’d pick it up time and again.
And gradually, I started uncovering my voice (if you’d have asked me upfront, I never ever would have thought I’d be writing poem-styled perfection busters—that is the magic of allowing yourself play!) and owning that I am a writer. And that feels so good.
4. What was your biggest mistake (that you’re willing to share), and what helped you forgive yourself?
Did you know I am an engineer? No? Well, I am, even though engineering is not my thing. Yet, engineering felt like logical thing to do. I was good at math (and you need a lot of that!), got good grades, and sailed smoothly through the one week of entry exams. So what’s a girl gotta do? Right!
Am I angry with myself or anyone else for having done these five year-long intense studies only to find out it was not my thing? No, I am not.
Do I forgive myself for making that choice so many years ago? Well, the funny thing is that I don’t tend to argue with the past, but rather focus on creating what lies ahead of me.
And so I actually don’t feel any need to forgive as I feel there’s nothing that needs to be forgiven. It was part of my journey and I fully accept and honor that. And there’s so much I gained—a bunch of good friends, loads of skills, and a ton of maturity and persistence.
5. Complete this sentence: When other people don’t like me, I…
…accept that they don’t.
6. What are some areas in your life where you’ve compared yourself to other people, and what’s helped you let go of these comparisons?
Oooh, I used to be in comparing mode quite often, even though I didn’t realize it back then. I was always looking at others, and, most importantly, falling short in comparison. Not fast enough, not good enough, not creative enough, not funny enough, not serious enough…
It was when I started to see how draining and exhausting and unfulfilling it was to live in constant comparing mode that I promised myself to start doing my thing, at my pace, with my voice and my style.
Does that mean that I don’t look at others, ever? Sure I do. But instead of using their achievements and unique style as a reason to bring myself down, I use it to get inspired, to ignite fresh ideas, to learn from their stories and wisdom.
Instead of seeing them as a measure of my worth, I started to see them as an example of what is possible. And that is much more fun and helpful!
7. What’s one thing you would tell your younger self about looking to other people to complete you?
Looking at other people to complete you just depletes you and makes you less of you. You are complete and you don’t need anybody else to complete you, nor can you complete anybody else.
Let more of your unique you out, so others can genuinely love you for you.
8. Have you ever felt afraid to show people your “real” self? Why—and what’s helped you move beyond that?
Sure! I was afraid that they might not like what they saw, that they would walk away and that I would end up alone.
But the irony is that I when I don’t show my real self, but some manufactured version of myself, I still feel alone, even though I’m surrounded by other people. I just find myself working hard to get a conversation going on some topic that doesn’t really interest me, and I don’t feel that genuine sense of connection and belonging.
Now the amazing thing is that when I talk about something that genuinely interests me, and they get me, that is where the magic of genuine connection happens.
And yes, as I started sharing more of me, some people disappeared from my life or connections just faded out, because all of a sudden it showed that they were never the nurturing connections I pretended and hoped they were.
But there are also old connections that have gotten deeper and better, because we now really see each other. And there are new ones that feel like “home.”
9. What are the top three things you personally need to do to take good of yourself, mentally and emotionally?
- Writing (I just love it!)
- Resting (I often need to remind myself! though)
- Hiking (I love soaking up the fresh air and the beauty of nature!)
- And – sneaking in a 4th one 🙂 – taking pictures (I love Instagram!)
10. What’s something you do regularly that makes you feel proud of the difference you’re making in the world?
Writing my weekly poetry-style blog posts. Sharing nurturing, self-loving, and empowering perspectives to inspire brilliant women (that forgot how brilliant they are) to do their thing in the world (because they are so much more than they give themselves credit for!).
*Note: I edited this post to remove info about the pre-order promotion, which ended on October 8, 2013. You can learn more about Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself here.