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Mental health and BoPo articles

Fake it till you make it – yes or no?

Lately I’ve been seeing pushback on social media regarding the (in)famous expression “fake it till you make it”, and it got me thinking about the different ways in which we fake it, and which of them are useful.

I’m sure we’ve all heard this term in some context or other, and I think the pushback is related to the toxic success-culture that social media helps breed, and the idea that if you are not part of it, you are failing. 

Finding a balance

It’s hard to hit the right balance, whether as a private person sharing large and small life moments with friends and family, or as a business owner or influencer trying to reach your target audience. 

If you’re posting only heavily edited pictures (like using beauty and slimming filters for selfies), champagne and caviar, and quotes about loving yourself and life you will not only risk alienating people by being over-the-top, but you can also make others feel like they are failing at life because they do not live up to this polished image you are projecting onto the world. And it will make it much harder for you to ask for help when you need it, when the carefully constructed public image starts to crack.

On the other hand it’s understandable that you don’t want to share every detail of your marital or financial problems with the world at large, and that can also be something that puts people off from interacting with you or following you. Nobody wants to fill their life with negativity. 

My advice is to be real. Be true to yourself. If you are speaking your truth you will automatically be genuine. And don’t take yourself too seriously. Did the cake you attempted to make come out looking like unicorn poo? Did you take the worst selfie in the history of mankind? Did you attempt a cool dance move and fall flat on your face? That’s OK, we’ve all been there. And sharing those moments of your life with people gives them a glimpse of the real person behind the online persona. It makes it easier for people to engage with you, and it makes it easier for you to admit when things are not perfect. 

It’s great to have goals and aspirations, to be ambitious and go out there in the world and get stuff done. But it’s also totally OK to admit that right now things are not going as you had hoped, or that you’re struggling.

Being realistic

There’s also obviously a limit to fake it till you make it. You cannot fake being rich (buying things you cannot afford, projecting a social status and class that’s not in line with reality, etc.) and expect to become rich – in fact it’ll probably have the opposite effect. Faking your appearance is not only horrible for your self worth, it also only really works until people see you in real life, without makeup on, in your sweat pants, and so on. 

Faking it is a psychological tool that can help boost your confidence both inwards and outwards, but it requires work, adaptability and insight into yourself. It is not a magic trick.  It’s a process of self-development and learning.

Learning, and not doing it alone

As this article states, faking it really only works if you are still open to learn from your mistakes and from the process. 

Be ambitious, say that you are going to climb Mount Everest or design the perfect AI, but if you don’t succeed, acknowledge it and use it as a learning opportunity rather than brushing it off, getting angry or pretending you did it anyway. 

Or say you jumped into a crowdfunding venture, giving it your all, believing in it and the power of your message and that you were in fact going to walk from Amsterdam to Berlin, only to discover that crowdfunding is really hard. You could choose to see yourself and your project as failure, or you could recognise that crowdfunding for a cause, by yourself, without much of an online presence, in a sea of other good projects and causes is actually quite difficult. You can choose to be proud of how far you have come, you can choose to adapt your plans to something more feasible, and you can learn for next time. Be better prepared, get help, do more research. And remember Edison. 

Also, there is nothing wrong with recognising your limitations. If you hate public speaking but want to be a politician, recognise that it’s going to be harder work for you than for someone who is naturally outgoing and well-spoken, so you have realistic expectations going into it. I went into this day with the wish to get a ton of stuff done. But I am not a fast writer and it’s currently approaching 6 PM. And that’s OK. In the immortal words of Ron Swanson: never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing.

It is also really important to have people in your life to whom you don’t fake it. A friend, parent, partner, penpal, what have you, with whom you can share your fears, concerns, and dreams and just be you. Faking it can help you get started, help you drive your career or project further, but it cannot be all you are. Underneath all of it we are all fallible and vulnerable people, and that is a beautiful thing. Not something to be afraid of. 

Impostor syndrome

I have impostor syndrome in pretty much everything I do. So a certain level of faking it is simply necessary for me in order to get through the day, and not curl up in a ball on the floor (a slight exaggeration, but you get the point). Even now, writing this article, I experience imposter syndrome. What do I have to say about this, why should anyone listen to me? When are they going to realise that I have no idea what I’m talking about? But partly exactly because I have this experience, I do know what I’m talking about. And every time I overcome that feeling, and I give someone advice or embark upon a project and I realise that I can do it, and that people appreciate my help and advice, it becomes a little easier. That voice in my head becomes a little quieter. So, I keep going, even though it terrifies me sometimes. 

The upside of impostor syndrome is that I get to be amazed and surprised every time someone tells me I am doing good work. 

Positive self-talk and confidence

There is some truth to the saying that what we give energy to grows (the whole “the wolf you feed” concept). It’s not the be-all-end-all, and having negative thoughts is not why you are depressed, why you have cancer or why you are poor. Positive thinking does not cure (mental) illness. 

However, there is definitely an advantage to using positive thought as a tool to achieve a genuinely more positive outlook. It’s OK to fake confidence when you’re nervous, to get stuff done. 

And to take a personal example: I have struggled with body image most of my life, and it has taken a lot of me saying that I love myself and I love my body before I genuinely started to feel like it was real, true and lasting. It honestly helped to repeat this over and over to myself, and also to others. Of course, just saying the words is usually not enough. You have to try and feel it. Maybe love is too much to begin with. Maybe you can try to feel like you accept your body, or there are certain things about your body that you can appreciate, and try to build on that. Megan Jayne Crabbe’s tips for belly love in her book Body Positive Power are great for this (in fact the whole book is great for anyone who struggles with body image). Try starting with gentleness, kindness and understanding. Touch your belly in a gentle way, appreciate that it is part of your body and that it is necessary, remove judgement from the thought process. If you can manage that even for a few seconds, it is something you can build on.

Another great tool for getting into a positive frame of mind is energy tapping.

Positive energy tapping

As an energist, I use a certain idea of faking it till you make it in my work. With modern energy tapping we acknowledge the negative emotions, we accept that they are there, and they are valid, but we do not feed them. Instead, by focusing on what positive energies we can use to evolve the negative feeling, we feed the other wolf, so to speak. Again, this is not a magic trick. It requires knowing yourself, being open, using your imagination and connecting your energy body to your mind and physical self. But by connecting to the power of positive energy, by feeling it in the body, by breathing it in, we can in a very real and helpful way fake it till we make it. 

Categories
body positivity walk Body Positivity Walk 2019

Test walk 2 – rain, pain and blackberries

Distance: 19.36 km
Time: 4h14m
Speed: 4.57 kmph
Soundtrack: Rammstein – Ich Will

So I was not looking forward to today’s walk for several reasons. I’m on my period and it was scheduled to rain all day. But I told myself that on the way to Berlin I would surely encounter more or less these exact conditions so I might as well try and get a feel for them. The third reason I was not terribly keen was that my little toes have been quite sore ever since my walk on Monday.

Well, I patched myself up a little, put a rain poncho over my backpack and out I stepped. And boy did it hurt. I mean like already the first step was pretty much “owowow my toes!”. I considered turning back several times within the first 5 km, but told myself I better go on a bit, as surely I’d also encounter pain during the actual walk and then I wouldn’t have the option to just turn back.

ohwellselfie.jpeg

Now I don’t have a very high threshold for pain  – I’ve heard it attributed to HSPs, but I also know HSPs who have very high pain thresholds, so it could also be a Sarah thing. So I don’t generally subscribe to “no pain, no gain”. I do enjoy a few aches the day after a hard workout, as I feel it means I made an effort, but generally pain is a thing I try to avoid. So this was kind of a rough trip.

Though I guess there is something to be said for the “it’s all in your head” thing, as not long after those 5 km I started to manage to push through it and just walk. The exception being any time I stopped – even for a minute – and then started walking again. At some point I thought my toe had actually exploded.

I wasn’t actually fussed about the rain. You get wet and you get on with it. Plus it looked really lush and green out and smelled amazing. And I had pretty good cover under a tree for my lunch break. It’s definitely a different mood than walking in the sun though. I would have expected that I’d walk faster in the rain but I guess the whole toe debacle prevented that.

watercrossing.jpeg

Though I enjoyed parts of today’s walk – the scenery in particular, it did worry me a little that it was such a struggle. I think I only got through the last 5 km thanks to Rammstein on my Bluetooth headphones and the sweet, juicy blackberries I picked along the way. Could I have gone another 5-15 km today? I don’t think so. Maybe, if I really didn’t have any other options. I am hoping that my feet will heal properly and get used to the shoes, though I may have bitten over more than I can chew here.

blackberries2.jpeg

So, because of this concern and the fact that my current funding level is at 30%, I am starting to consider plan B.

Plan B is going from Amsterdam to Antwerp, with a detour along the coast, making it roughly 200 km. Which is something I could do in 2 weeks with less extreme dailies, and maybe even at the current funding level. Plus, as I think I’ve established before: Sarah + sea = happiness.

I’ve not completely abandoned the Berlin plan though, and will see how things go over the next week. Rather than a let-down it honestly feels good to have a plan B and to know that I am not failing, I am just making adjustments to make sure I will be able to complete my project one way or another.

Upwards and onwards,

xx Sarah

 

 

Categories
body positivity walk Body Positivity Walk 2019

Test walk 1 – 23 km

Distance: 23.28 km
Time: 4h57m
Speed: 4.68 kmph
Calories burned: who gives a flying fuck?!

trees in water

After a relaxing weekend away I decided to take the shoes I bought last week for a test run, or more accurately, walk. This was the first time I wore them for more than a couple of kilometres, so starting with 23 was maybe not the best plan. Then again it wasn’t so much a plan as it was “let’s see how this goes, oh that’s 12 km, better turn around!”.

My little toes have turned into blisters, and there’s a few others blossoming here and there, and I’m sorta hobbling a little bit, but it’s the first time in a very long time that I’ve walked this far and with almost brand new shoes. So it could have been a lot worse.

Besides, I was talking to this woman who cycled from Amsterdam to Berlin the other day and she said you feel pain the first few days and then you get over it. It’s mostly a mental thing.

But.. That got me thinking… Is this really a body positive thing to do? You know, choosing pain?

I’ve been grappling with this question since last week and I have come to the conclusion that for me the answer is: YES (convenient, I know..). I think it’s mainly down to motivation. I am not doing this to punish myself or to lose weight. I am pushing my body to the limits, but I am doing it lovingly and while listening to my body, trying to connect with it. My top priority is making sure I’m adequately fuelled and hydrated while on the road, and as well rested as I can be.

I am someone who only really started appreciating physical exercise in her 30s, and I enjoy exploring what my body is capable of. It is a wonder to me, and something I appreciate and am thankful for every day. By mindfully and joyfully moving my body and supporting a cause that is very dear to me – acceptance for all bodies – I think I can only become closer to myself, be truer to myself. It is a form of meditation and of gratitude, though there are admittedly some physical discomforts.

green path.jpeg

Thoughts and observations

  • If I can walk 23 km with no buildup in almost new shoes and only slightly mangle my feet, I can totally, totally do this (at least with a little help from my friends, and my strangers…)
  • Asphalt sucks, forest paths rule
  • Walking close to water is soothing, even if I can only hear it
  • A cheese sandwich and a peanut butter sandwich after 8 km taste pretty much as bland and boring as after 0 km (but it was handy fuel to bring with me)
  • An apple after 16 km tastes like magic juicy awesomeness
  • Judging by the number of flattened mice I saw on the bike paths, they do not have the best survival instinct
  • Why is it that flies and some other bugs seem to simply insist upon flying right into my ears? What’s the appeal?
  • At some point during this whole walk I’m probably gonna have to pee in a ditch next to the highway and just not give a fuck
  • Pizza (yes, that is a complete thought)
  • Carrying 2+ litres of water in my backpack with the stomach strap clasped feels almost literally like nothing, which is encouraging (though of course I’ll be carrying more stuff once this thing kicks off for real)
  • I have this strange reluctance to stop, even to get some water or food or my phone from my pack once I’ve started walking
  • Fire bad, tree pretty
  • Oh and did I mention that asphalt sucks?

selfie under bridge.jpeg

Until next time,

Sarah

Categories
body positivity walk Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPo walk – the route (UPDATED)

So after a lot of planning the route is now more or less done. It’s now a total of 674 kms, which means an average of 27 km per walking day, with the longest day being 37 km (not looking forward to that one..).

If you want to join part of the walk, the best thing to do is to contact me (thompsonworks@gmail.com or @thobopo on Instagram) so we can arrange roughly where and when we’ll meet up. Most days of the walk will be during normal working hours, but joining for an hour or two in the evening/afternoon is always possible. I expect that most walks will start around 10 AM in the morning, possibly earlier for some of the longer (30+ km) hikes. I’d like to reach each destination while there’s still daylight.

Accommodation: In order to save some money I have decided to travel back and sleep at home the first 5 nights – this also means I can have my first rest day at home. For the rest of the journey I have booked a combination of cheap hotels/(Air)B&Bs and couchsurfing (though I didn’t have much luck with the latter as their location filter is not great and most people take a long time to respond – it’s a great idea, it just doesn’t work too well for a trip of this magnitude where exact locations are kind of important).  While I do have accommodations booked they are all still cancellable, so I’m still open to tips and suggestions.

 

Final version (I hope):

September 1: Amsterdam – Almere (Buiten), 35 km

September 2: Almere (Buiten) – Lelystad, 22 km

September 3: Lelystad – Kampen Zuid, 35 km

September 4: Kampen Zuid – Nieuwleusen, 30 km

September 5: Nieuwleusen – Slagharen, 21 km

September 6: REST

September 7: Geesbrug – Wieteveen, 30 km

September 8: Wieteveen – Meppen DE, 24 km

September 9: Meppen – Herzlake, 24 km

September 10: Herzlake – Quakenbrück, 26 km

September 11: Quakenbrück – Vechta, 26 km

September 12: REST

September 13: Vechta – Ehrenburg, 32.5 km

September 14: Ehrenburg – Balge, 37 km

September 15: Balge – Steimbke, 18.5 km

September 16: Steimbke – Wedemark, 30 km

September 17: Wedemark – Celle, 25.5 km

September 18: REST

September 19: Celle – Hohne, 23 km

September 20: Hohne – Ehra-Lessien, 31 km

September 21: Ehra-Lessien – Neuferschau, 21 km

September 22: Neuferschau – Kalbe, 25.5 km

September 23: Kalbe – Stendal, 35 km

September 24: REST

September 25: Stendal – Schönhausen, 20 km

September 26: Schönhausen – Nennhausen, 35.5 km

September 27: REST

September 28: Nennhausen – Nauen, 28 km

September 29: Nauen – Staaken, Berlin, 22 km

September 30: Staaken, Berlin – Berlin HBH, 17 km GOAL

 

 

Categories
body positivity walk Body Positivity Walk 2019

BoPo walk – an introduction

Backstory

One morning in May I was out running, and seemingly out of nowhere an idea fell into my head. What if I were to do a walk to promote body positivity, love and acceptance? I could walk from Amsterdam to Berlin. I’ve long wanted to see Berlin anyway (at this point I had absolutely no idea how man kilometres this would be) and this would be a cool way to do it. 

This was immediately followed by the usual thoughts I have when I get a slightly unusual idea. “That’s crazy”, “I can’t do that”, “I’m afraid”, “It’s overwhelming”, “Better forget about it”. But this time I didn’t let these thoughts get the better of me. For while on the surface this was just a spur-of-the-moment crazy idea, it had actually been a long time coming.

Traditionally I am not someone who does things. I am a dreamer, not a doer. I am not a natural entrepreneur. But over the last few years something has started to shift. 

I have identified three major threads in my life that have woven together to create this path that I am now on. 

One has to do with all the projects I have ever dreamed of doing throughout my life but never had the energy or the guts to follow through with. Most of them have in some way been travel-related, like travel and work experiences when I was younger, going on an interrail trip, studying abroad and more recently going on longer solo hiking trips. My father was a busker who spent most of his life on the road, so I probably have a good portion of restlessness and curiosity from him. And I was very inspired and slightly terrified when I read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild a few years ago. Her journey was so meaningful and she wrote about it so beautifully, it really spoke to something deep within me. However, hiking something like the PCT by myself is way too hardcore for me. 

The second thread is related to work and the desire to find meaningful work, the desire to help people and to use my sensitivity for something good. A couple of years ago it would never even have crossed my mind that I would be starting my own business and that I would be heading out on this trip. Oh, I wanted to, but those thoughts that I mentioned earlier? It was more like a thousand hairy horsemen shouting at me in my head. Constantly. I had a job. I had an income. You need money to survive, to live, and I was not about to take a chance on losing it. So for a long time I felt trapped and miserable. I kept looking for other jobs in web content management, because that’s what I was already doing. The problem of course being that I didn’t want to be in web content management. Then I got a burnout and suddenly staying in my job seemed to be the only option I could not consider. It became clear that I needed a drastic career change and gradually it started to be OK to consider the scary but exciting things I hadn’t really let myself think about before. Which leads me to the last thread…

The third and last thread in this tapestry is my history of eating disorders, body image issues and self-loathing. It took me so many years, experiences, books, therapy sessions,  conversations, so much introspection and reflection before I managed to make friends with my body. And to this day we still have the occasional fight, but mostly we work as the perfect team that we are: body, mind and spirit. 

So what do you get if you combine the lifelong wish of doing a travel-related project, the need to do meaningful work, and the desire to spread the body positivity message? Well, you get a crazy-ass idea falling into your head one morning in May while out for a run… Or as I now like to call it:

Body positivity walk 2019

My goal is to walk from Amsterdam to Berlin during the month of September. I anticipate that it will take me the entire month (I have a tentative route mapped out), including 5 rest days during the journey.

The goal of my journey is twofold:

  1. I want to spend some time with my body, appreciating what it can do, how it can move – just being. It’s a form of meditation and of showing love. Both the metaphorical and literal journey have strong transformational powers, and by moving our bodies mindfully and joyfully we can start to heal the mind and body divide. 
  2. I want to start a movement (pun intended) around being kind to ourselves and others. Accepting our bodies as they are, and even appreciating them and what they can do. I want us all to be talking and thinking about self love and body acceptance for everyone.

Be a part of it

This project works better the more people are a part of it, so if anything of what I’ve said speaks to you, I encourage you to contribute to this project in any way you can. There are 4 ways in which you can do this:

  1. First and most importantly you can help me spread the word to even more people. Anyone you think might be interested. Friends. Family. Friends of friends. Colleagues. Enemies. Strangers on the street. 
  2. Come walk with me. I don’t anticipate that people will be able to take the time out of their lives to come and walk the entire route with me, but if you can come and join me for a few kilometres here or there that would be great. We’ll walk and talk and spread the word that every body can move (at least a little bit) and is worthy of love and respect. Your weight, age or any other physical attributes are irrelevant. If you’re wheelchair bound you can also come along for a little bit. At least in the Netherlands it’s pretty flat and we have bike paths everywhere. 
  3. Offer a place to stay. As free camping is not allowed in the Netherlands or Germany I’ve decided that the most practical solution (and also safest) is to find places such as B&Bs to sleep along the way. However in an effort to save costs and to meet and engage with people I’m also looking for people along the route who are willing to host me for a night or two for free. What I can offer in return is publicity for your accommodation if you are listed on a holiday rental site, or alternatively I can offer a free “introduction to energy tapping”-session. 

In addition to these more tangible ways in which you can be a part of the journey, I am also planning to post regular updates here on the blog, and maybe even do some vlogging on my YouTube channel (I’m a YouTube noob, so we’ll see how that goes), and post some pictures/impressions to Instagram (@thobopo)  – so you can follow the journey virtually as well.

I hope to see you and hear from you. Together we can make a positive change and create a kinder and more compassionate world. Are you with me?

Love,

Sarah