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encouragement

Feeling like a failure… when life doesn’t go as planned

feeling-like-a-failure

Yesterday I tried for the third time to make chocolate eclairs.

Because is there anything on this earth more divine than the combination of the light, fluffy pastry, thick, rich custard and silky, chocolate ganache?

Eating an eclair is such an alluring prospect that I am willing to struggle time and time again to make them perfectly.

 

And each and every time, I am stumped as to how it all goes so wrong. The first two trials I followed the recipe to the letter and still my eclairs looked disappointingly nowhere close to the picture.

 

But in my flurry to bake yesterday I misread the recipe and accidentally missed out an entire cup of flour from the pastry. And even though I noticed and quickly tried to make amends it was too late, the mixture refused to thicken.

 

I thought that adding the eggs would help coagulate the dough but to no avail. I then put my hopes in the cooking of the pastry.

But unfortunately, they came out of oven looking deflated like a rugby ball that had been mistakenly driven over by a truck.

 

By this point I was extremely put out. I’d already used far too many eggs and a tonne of butter so there really was no going back.

 

After a brief reprieve I returned to tackle the custard filling. I then carefully sandwiched pairs of the flattened, pastry blobs together and merrily sprinkled the whole lot with icing sugar.

 

They weren’t chocolate eclairs but the custard provided an adequate distraction so that everyone ate them without complaint.


 

If there is one thing I have learnt over the past year it is that life is full of these kinds of setbacks and surprises.

 

When embarking on new adventures and sailing into uncharted territory, we are bound to make a few blunders.

 

We hardly ever get things right the first time around. More often than not our chocolate eclairs look more like flattened footballs than the perfect image we found in a recipe book.  

 

What has taken me by surprise is that the setbacks I most often come across are due to my wayward imagination and lofty expectations.

 

I’m a dreamer whose eyes are always starry with thoughts of the future. With dreams so vast and expansive it is hardly surprising that I find reality to be bitter and unkind.

 

I thought the year after graduation would be different. I thought I would breeze into a job and finally find my place in this world. I thought I would know what I want and I’d hop onto the career ladder just the same as everyone else.

 

But this year saw me working part time as a shop assistant, then unemployed for three months and finally working again as a waitress.

 

And a little part of me feels like a failure.

 

Because college graduates are supposed to have real jobs. Because adults should be working 9-5 and focusing on serious, obtainable goals. Because by now I should have a plan, a path forwards and an answer for when people ask me what it is that I want to do.

 

But I still have no answer. I still have no plan. I still don’t have a real job.

 

I’m not the woman that 12 year old me hoped I would become. As far as she is probably concerned, I am a failure.

 

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But who decides what is success and what is failure? Who sets where the goalposts lie? Who has the right to tell me how I should live my life?

 

I do.

 

I’m only a failure if I believe so. I’m only a loser if I give up on myself. I’m only hopeless if once I fall, I refuse to get up and try again.

 

I suppose that success looks different to me now then when I was a little girl. It’s less about finding the perfect job, husband and house.

 

Success for me now means knowing who I am. It means being true to myself and living each day in a way that makes me proud.

 

Loving people even when I feel tired and impatient.

Creating something out of nothing and sharing it with the world.

Challenging myself to face my fears, push the limits and try new things.


 

What I am realizing is that following your own path instead of sticking to the status quo does not make you a failure.

 

Success doesn’t necessarily look the same for everyone so comparison is fruitless. 

 

The truth is, nobody really has a clue what they are doing. Most of us are stumbling along, figuring it out as we go.

 

So perhaps my life doesn’t look they way I thought it would at almost 22 but that’s part of what makes life beautiful…its total unpredictability.


 

I’m going to attempt to make eclairs again. I cannot resist, the sweetness or the challenge.

I’ll probably fail a few more times but one day I won’t.

 

One day the choux pastry will rise and stay crisp. One day the eclairs will retain their proper, elongated shape. One day I will bake them, fill them, ice them and present them to the oohs and ahhs of my loved ones.

 

That’s what success looks like to me.

 

Never, never, never giving up.

Authenticity and finding happiness by accepting myself

authenticity

There is a temptation we face when we meet new people to put on a mask.

Strangers are blank slates. Yet to witness our baggage or keep a record against us. It is all too easy for us to morph into someone we’ve always wished we were.

 

If you are of the obliging sort like me, when you meet someone new you will agree to almost anything.

I so hate making waves that I will bend over backwards just to keep the peace.

 

I will nod along to their every suggestion. I will eat whatever is placed before me. I will go wherever they want me to go and do whatever they want me to do.

 

I’m a puppet on a string with a clumsy, oblivious master.


 

But after awhile of this masquerade I begin to feel exhausted. Worn out from pushing myself to be an extrovert, an adventurous type or the kind of person who stays up past midnight on weeknights.

 

I get this icky, sticky feeling of something not being right. The uneasy, conflicting feeling of not being true to myself.

 

Authenticity it seems is a necessity for me. Much like a lack of oxygen, without it I am breathless. Like an absence of food, I get queasy in my stomach. Like the deprivation of sleep, I get sharp and unkind.


 

I have been out of town for the past couple of weeks and with the change in routine I’ve found myself withdrawing from my blog and social media.

I haven’t written at all since I left and it has made me feel smaller and less valuable.

 

Because writing is a part of my identity. The part that makes me feel most connected to the world around me. The part that allows me to create and add something rather than just taking all the time.

 

Without my blog to fall back on, I have felt dry and empty. And like a vicious cycle, the worse I feel the less inclined I am to write which in turn makes me feel less and less useful.

 

On the other hand, my absence from social media has been refreshing.

 

I hate uploading every part of my day on Instastories. I hate retweeting pointless things on my Twitter feed. I hate the edited, filtered, lack of spontaneity that I see all over Instagram.

 

It just isn’t me.

It doesn’t align with my values. It doesn’t fit my brand. It doesn’t fill me with joy.

 

And yet as a member of the millennial generation I don’t know how to escape it. As a struggling creative who is desperate to share her work, I don’t know how to avoid it.


 

Authenticity is an internal struggle. A fight to remain the truest version of ourselves when all around us we are tempted to fix our flaws, patch up our problems and become someone better.

 

I have discovered that a lack of authenticity breeds discontentment.

 

It fosters ideas that something is missing from our lives and if we just had that one thing, we would finally feel fulfilled.

If only we could lose that last 5 kgs. If only we had a wider social circle. If only we had a supportive partner. If only we had more time to pursue our passions.

 

But it’s just a mirage. Chasing after an ideal that we can never obtain.


 

The pursuit of authenticity leads to increased creativity, deeper relationships and an abundance of new ideas.

 

When I am being myself I feel happier. Because I don’t waste energy pursuing things that drain me. Because I use my time to write, create, bake, and share, to do the things which make me feel alive.

 

When I am being myself I find more pleasure in the company of others. Without the fear of judgement or pressure to perform I find I have more patience to listen to other’s stories and more compassion for them.

 

When I am being myself I feel more inspired. Because I take the time to notice things I might otherwise miss. Because I feel confident, secure and comfortable in my own skin which enables me to stretch out, take risks and explore new ideas.

 

Authenticity requires courage. Looking in the mirror and accepting myself as I am. Going out and facing the world without make up to hide behind. Speaking up and sharing my opinions even though I could get shut down.

 

authenticity, being yourself, accepting yourself, finding happiness, love yourself, just be you, self love, be authentic, be yourself

 

I’m a big fan of self improvement so I’m always looking for ways to extend and grow myself. I want to increase my productivity. I want to tap into my creative side more. I want to push myself to try new things.

 

But perhaps an even greater challenge is to grow into myself rather than trying to imitate someone else.

 

Maybe what I really need is to become more self aware and to live from a place of authenticity everyday.  

 

For me I think that looks like withdrawing in social settings because I am an introvert and being around people for too long makes me feel exhausted.

Or making the time to write because of all of my hobbies it is the one thing that makes me feel most alive.

Or not posting all the time on Instagram because it feels like a chore to me. And when I do, not being fussed that it makes my feed look scattered and unplanned because that is what real life looks like.

 

Authenticity is a daily practice of accepting who I am and finding new ways to allow myself to shine.

Because I have spent a lot of time trying to change myself but I’ve never been happier than when I was just being me.

 

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

The antidote to shame

 

You will never be enough. The voice whispers over me. You don’t belong. It calls out as I go to sleep in the all-encompassing darkness. You are just an impostor. It greets me as I open my curtains to the beckoning morning light.

 

Then there is this sticky feeling, like molasses poured over my head. It drips down over me until I’m covered from head to toe. I’m blanketed in it. Blinded by it. It discolours everything that I look at. It destroys everything I touch. So I withdraw. Better that I wallow in the sticky fog than drag anyone down with me.

 

Shame.

 

The thick, blinding fog that mars every thought, misinterprets every encounter and paralyzes my fragile heart.

 

Its’ barbed tongue pierces my delicate flesh.

You are too young, nobody will take you seriously. You aren’t pretty enough, you aren’t clever enough, you aren’t fun enough…nobody will want you. You are too emotional, it’s exhausting for everybody around you.


 

I find myself crawling on my hands and knees to church every Sunday. Weighed down by these lies that shame hums over me seven days a week.

 

The first song starts and I stand motionless, gripping my hands together. I can’t look anyone in the eye. I can’t even look myself in the mirror. I can’t face a God who is so without fault.

 

So I stand as my fellow church-goers and friends sing a rising song. Shouting their adoration, clapping the rhythm of their joy.

 

I’m bitter. I’m empty, hollow like a crystal vase. You can see right through my pitiful display. I’m not fooling anyone.

 

They can see my failure. They know my shame.  

 

The guitar keeps twanging. The drums keep beating. The worship leaders keep singing. I remain glued to the spot.

 

I close my eyes. I bow my head. I slowly whisper the words, not the ones they are singing but the ones in my heart. The ones I’ve been hiding all week. The ones I’m afraid to say. Am I loved? Do you see me? Am I enough?

 

My heart is drumming as I await an answer. I expect a booming thunder. A roaring wind. A blaze of light. And instead the room begins to glow. Gold light shimmers down from above. I’m swept in a glow. The antidote to the dark, sticky molasses.

 

Love.

 

Gently the gold glitter rains down on me. Settles on my hands which are now outstretched, on my eyelids, lips and shoulders. Seeps into my skin and filters right down to my core.

 

A thousand failures disappear. All my shortcomings are erased. I slip on this new robe of grace and it is well with my soul.

 

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How can it be?

 

How can the one without fault find me under my blanket of shame? How can He lift my chin from the ground, meet my eye and love me all the same?

 

I was wrong about Him. I thought he would be mad at me for all the ways I’ve let him down. I thought he would be disappointed in the little I have amounted to. I thought he would agree with that voice I hear day and night…I thought he WAS that voice.

 

I was wrong.

 

Where there is light, there is no darkness. Where there is truth, there is no deception. Where there is love, there is no shame.

 

He doesn’t care if I can’t sing the words the others are. He doesn’t notice that I haven’t washed my hair in three days or that my socks don’t match or that I sang that note out of key. He’s just glad I’m here. He’s absolutely delighted that I came to him.


 

I hear whispers from neighbours. I see glances from people on the street. I know that there are people in this world who want to take advantage of me. There are people who only want me for my body, my success, my superficial attributes.  

 

And their approval feels good. It lifts me up and for a few seconds I’m flying. But it’s a temporary buzz. Over almost as quickly as it began. And I’m sinking again. Because all they saw was my pretty face and funny story.  

 

I’m thirsty for attention. I’m parched. Absolutely desperate for love.

 

Their attention and affection fills me up but like drinking salt water it only leads me further into dehydration.

 

I need more.

 

I need love that’s unconditional, unfailing, unending.

So I keep crawling back to church every Sunday. Not because I was raised that way. Not out of habit or to impress anyone. Not because I need the affection of the other desperate souls I find there.

 

But because I’ve found a well there. A well that springs up a different kind of water. A living water that finally quenches my thirst. In this place my need for love and approval is met. I find my worth and I am unquestionably different because of it.

 

I’m anointed with oil and the shame won’t stick. It drips down and slides right off me.

 

I am healed. I am whole. I am home.

 

“When you get to a place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness is a birthright and not something you have to earn, anything is possible.” – Brene Brown

 

Here’s to the ones who dream

Heres-to-the-ones-who-dream

I used to be afraid that eventually I would run out of ideas.  

That all of my words would run dry and I’d have nothing left to say.  

But I’ve learnt that my writing is a gift.  

It’s God’s abundant grace spilled out in black and white.  

It’s limitless.  

It’s infinite.  

It’s not something that can be lost because it’s within me.  

As long as I have breath in my lungs, I can write.  

Because my DNA is the alphabet strung together.  

My blood is the stories of my ancestors.  

My heartbeat is the poetry of life.  

I create because I was created.  

This is my purpose, this is my life, this is me.   


 

I think my whole life I’ve been trying to squeeze myself into a box.

There is this particular type of person who I’ve always believed I am supposed to be. This girl is intelligent. She’s scientific and she’s loud. The kind of person who always knows the answer and readily volunteers it.  The kind of person who always sticks their hand up, voices their opinions and doesn’t let anyone scare them.

 

I’m am slowly coming to the realization that I am not that girl.

 

Since finishing my studies and stepping away from the arduous pursuit of intelligence. For the first time I’ve given myself permission to be the creative, romantic, whimsical person I’ve spent my whole life suppressing.

 

Suddenly, no longer bound by the labels of a major I have been free to pursue the things that really make me feel alive. Namely words and the compelling task of piecing them together perfectly.

 

And it feels as though I’m fighting everyday to prove my worth.

 

Because society says success looks like a hefty paycheck, a stable job, a clear direction. I had this wonderful idea that once I graduated I would glide effortlessly into a job. That I would jump into the world of adulthood and land gracefully on my feet.

 

Except that daydream was promptly shattered about five minutes into job hunting when I realized that path was not going to be for me.

 

Endless piles of paperwork are not for me.

Sitting behind a desk all day is not for me.

Mindless work to secure a salary is not for me.  

 

My heart longs to pour itself out in poetry. My hands ache with this need to create.

 

It seems that my art is no longer just the thing I squeeze into the hours I have spare but what my whole day revolves around.

 

And art is anything but certain.

Art is mystical, emotional and ever-changing. 

 

This calling makes me uncomfortable because it’s anything but conventional. I feel the pressure to conform. To be the university graduate who gets a steady job and makes her parents proud. 

 

I, like so many others have bought into the lie that my worth is found in other’s opinions of me.

 

It’s not true. Their opinions don’t matter. It’s all just noise. Noise that prevents us from doing the real work; the daring work our hands were called to.

 

So of course my opinion doesn’t matter either, but I will give it nonetheless.

 

heres-to-the-ones-who-dream

 

And to that end I will say, here’s to the ones who dream. Thank you. All of you for the work you do. You are all valuable. Your work is important and necessary.

 

Thank you all you authors and poets, you give words for the feelings I cannot express. Thank you to the scientists whose minds are never satisfied. The ones who cannot sleep until they figure out how things work, even if that means pulling things apart and stringing the pieces back together again.

Thank you to those who spend their whole lives working on puzzles I cannot begin to fathom. For the ones who design buildings, take stunning photographs and raise children.

For the ones who make history come alive again, give me music to dance to and fix me when I fall apart.

 

Each and every one of you make this world go round.

 

And my heart breaks at the thought of us carelessly snuffing out your song.

 

Imagine a world where musicians never played, philosophers never pondered, teachers never instructed, astronauts never flew. Imagine a world where we never dared to dream. 

 

We are quick to celebrate those who frequent stadiums, operate in theatres and grace the red carpet. But there are the humble few whose work goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Those whose worth is underestimated.

 

So to you I say this, don’t give up. Just because we fail to recognise your worth, does not mean your work isn’t valuable. Keep creating, studying, showing up and giving it your all.

 


As for me, I’m sick of being a square peg in a round hole. Squeezing myself into a box I was never meant to be in. 

 

I’m tired of trying to live up to the unfair expectations that others place upon me.

 

I long for this world to be a safe place where all of us are free to be our most authentic selves. That choosing vulnerability wouldn’t be considered brave but commonplace.

 

But I guess it starts here. With me writing these words to you. I will lay my cards on the table in the hope that you will do the same. My courage will spark courage in your heart and yours in anothers.

 

So this is me. I’m not loud, scientific or overly intelligent. I’m a writer. A dreamer. A hopeless romantic. I’m a square peg.

 

I might not fit society’s definition of success but that will not deter me.

 

“The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

 

Beauty for ashes

Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by this sensation of carrying a weight on my shoulders. I’ve had a weary heart. I’ve been walking around with heavy, labored breathing. As though getting through every day is a struggle.

 

I’m aware that this darkness scares some people, but not me.

 

Because I feel things very deeply, I am affected by the burden of pain a little more than most. I am blessed to be aware of so much love, beauty and delight in my surroundings but this comes with the struggle of feeling equal measures of despair at the suffering I see.

 

I’ve got my hands in fists on each side. In my right hand I hold the darkness, in the left I hold the light. And each day I battle to keep this balance. Exploring the light without being lost in the darkness.

 

How can I hold all this suffering within? How can I live in this world which is so broken? How can I cope with the pain I will inevitably suffer?


 

I’m thankful that God is gracious in his approach to us. That we are free to wrestle with these fears and doubts. That we are allowed to feel angry and sad and come at Him with a billion questions.

 

What matters most I’ve found is that in the search for truth, it always comes back to Jesus. We’ll always end up at the foot of the cross staring into the face of the one whose love protects all things, forgives all things and perseveres through all things.

 

I’ve been searching for answers.

I’ve been angry with God.

I’ve questioned my faith and coddled my doubts.

 

What I found wasn’t a clear answer or divine revelation but rather a gentle whisper, a heart nudging, a deeper appreciation for the beautiful, mysterious way that God works.  

 

I had to look outside of myself. I had to move beyond the cynicism clouding my vision. And in nature I found an answer which satisfied my crumpled heart.


 

Have you ever considered the life cycle of a humble flower. Seeds drop into soil, dig down and find their place. Awakened, they send up shoots, gather light and fight their way through the earth. Buds turn to blossoms which are admired by all and then they droop, wilt and fall back down to the ground.

 

Which is where we tend to believe the story ends.

 

But as the flower, leaves and stem decay, the nutrients return back to the soil and provide sustenance for the next flower to grow.

The death and decay feeds the new life.

 

It seems that nature always moves towards harmony, peace, rest. Shalom.

 

And we see that in our own bodies too.

On New Years Eve I hosted a party at my house and during the evening I retreated to my bedroom to grab something and in my haste to get back to the fun, I accidentally slammed into a door and cut the back of my hand.

Over the past few months I’ve watched with fascination as the wound has slowly healed itself.

The cut was gradually coloured in with flesh and blood and the scar has eventually blended into my skin.

 

Our body always moves towards balance. Our homeostasis is healing.

 

Right now, what I see all around me is suffering. Around every corner I am faced with brokenness. Our world is a mess and if we dwell on that for too long it’s easy to fall into depression.

 

Families are breaking down and leaving shattered pieces. Countries are being torn apart and are spilling their inhabitants in all directions. Diseases are choking out the life from our very veins.

 

If ever there were a time for a mighty flood of destruction, I would say this is it.

What good can possibly come from a wretched place like this?


 

I feel that darkness beginning to close in.

 

But then there is a stirring in my heart which is calling me to say, hope is here.

 

God is making all things new. He is trading beauty for ashes. He is binding up wounds, drying up tears and pushing up flowers from the dry, barren ground.

 

His intention has always been redemption. His promise has always been restoration.

All creation beats to this rhythm. It’s humming in the bees and rustling through the trees.

 

Some of you may be in a situation that feels hopeless, but know that new life is just around the corner. The seeds are dormant and still but they are there underground.

 

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I have this hope that none of the pain or loss is wasted. The death and decay filter down and provide the foundation for new life to flourish.  

Our bitter losses and tragedies are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.

 

I take comfort in knowing that my God is BIG.

My hands are easily weighed down because this burden is too great for me to bear. My humanness is insufficient for such a task, but God can hold it all. He can hold both darkness and light without strain. He can be all consuming love and righteous judgement. He can dance with us in our joy and weep with us in our sadness.

 

Over everything, He is our redemption.

In all seasons, He is our hope.

In the longing, searching and seeking for truth…He is our answer.

 

I waited and waited and waited for God.

   At last he looked; finally he listened.

He lifted me out of the ditch,

   pulled me from deep mud.

He stood me up on a solid rock

   to make sure I wouldn’t slip.

He taught me how to sing the latest God-song,

   a praise-song to our God.

More and more people are seeing this:

   they enter the mystery,

   abandoning themselves to God.”

-Psalm 40 : 3-5 (MSG)