We're facing more choices than ever in history... yet most of us can't make decisions

Remember The Sunscreen Song, which came out with the Romeo and Juliet movie in the late 1990s? When it comes to snappy truth bombs, this song is an absolute goldmine (it’s basically Pinterest in music). These lines are among the most memorable, for me: “Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance – so are everybody else’s.”
Personally, I don’t believe in ‘chance’. But I love this lyric because it reminds me not to put too much pressure on myself when it comes to making choices – because I don’t have absolute power to determine the outcome. Since that song came out and I’ve gained a greater understanding that anything I create in my life is a partnership between myself and the Universe, I now realise that I can’t possibly make a bad choice. #relief

One of the main factors that drives people to book an angel card reading with me is they’re facing a tough decision. Their circumstances can be vastly different – a job opportunity that requires them to move cities, a relationship that is no longer satisfying, perhaps – but the common thread is fear of failure. They know deep down what is right for them, but they’re scared to commit to that course of action in case they’re ‘wrong’.
I read a UK magazine article recently which suggested that people in the west are facing more decisions than ever before in history, and as a result, our anxiety over making any selection has increased. Previous generations – particularly women – did not have as many options available to them as far as jobs, relationships and lifestyle. We can now have anything and do anything we want – yay! That’s undoubtedly a good thing, and I’m not for a minute advocating our choices should be curbed, but if you’ve ever found yourself stressed out over a four-page pizza menu, unable to make a selection, you’ll know that too many choices can be overwhelming.

“From research we know that people with no choice are significantly more resilient because they can blame life or other people when they make a wrong decision,” psychologist Pieter Kruger says in the article. “But if you make a wrong decision having had a range of choice, you have no one to blame but yourself. We become much more obsessive because we want to make the right decision every time.”
US psychologist Barry Schwarz, author of The Paradox Of Choice, agrees. In an article with The Guardian he described how there are so many varieties of jeans available now – stone-washed, straight-leg, boot-fit, distressed, zip fly, button fly, slightly distressed, very distressed, knee-holed, thigh-holed, knee and thigh-holed – that his expectations of finding the perfect pair for him are high… and inevitably, he winds up disappointed. 
Adding to our decision-making anxiety is social media, which has somehow become our yardstick of success. We’re being constantly slammed with pictures of people appearing to nail their life choices – cosy relationships, chic wardrobe picks, glamorous travel itineraries and high-achieving kids. Even though we may be vaguely aware that what we’re looking at is contrived and edited, rather than an accurate summary of other people’s lives, we can still wind up feeling like everyone else is doing life *right*. The allure of achieving something equally fabulous can be strong.
If you feel crippled by decision making, it might be worth asking yourself if you’re putting too much pressure on yourself to achieve a dream result. The resulting state of stress means you’ll struggle to hear guidance from your intuition (which is your best asset when it comes to making decisions). 
From a spiritual perspective, it is not possible to make a bad decision, because every course of action you take will teach you something valuable you need to know for your soul’s journey. Even if the situation doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped, you will always be better for it. Plus, the Universe has a way of course-correcting you if you go way off track.
When I finished my journalism degree, I struggled to find employment. After three months I applied for, and got, a role on a business newspaper – which, for someone with zero interest in financial journalism, was not an appealing option. A year later, that publishing company went into receivership, owing me more than $2200 in unpaid wages and holiday pay*. This was not, obviously, an optimum result for me. But that does not mean it was a bad decision. I got the valuable experience I needed, which, as a new graduate in a flooded job-seeker market, I was struggling to get. I learned professional skills that set me up for my career path. Plus, I made a friend I instantly bonded with – and 15 years later, we remain close. I lost money, and I ended up unemployed again for several months… but if given the chance to go back, I would make the same decision again. 
The truth is, the Universe will always make sure you end up in the right place, and among the right people, for your highest good. You may not have Oprah Winfrey’s wealth, Lena Dunham’s body of work or Salma Hayek’s boobs, and probably you never will, but you do have a pure heart, a resilient spirit, treasured memories, wonderful people in your life and the knowledge that the best is yet to come.

This I know to be true: you are exactly where you are supposed to be. I imagine that some people will find that depressing – probably because they believe that they have total control over their lives, or they had expectations of something more glamorous – but I personally find it enormously comforting. It means I’m being looked after by the Universe, and it also means that while I have the power to create anything I want, my choices won’t have the monumentally dire consequences I might have imagined.
The only bad decision we can possibly make is to let fear paralyse us to the extent that we make no decision at all.
Instead of procrastination, let’s choose courage and action. 

*I got back about $345 of this around a year later, after the liquidators had settled the company’s affairs. Sad face. 

Why criticism stings so badly, and why we can't afford to hide from it

*Trigger warning: contains bullying themes*
What is the worst thing someone has ever said to you, or about you? The thing that stung so badly you can feel yourself plunging into a barbed-wire pit at the memory?
Maybe you had to think about it. Maybe a dossier of vitriolic words sprung into your mind immediately. Maybe you simply don’t care what people think of you (if you fall into this category, I’m assuming you’re either a cat or Lena Dunham).
I’ve written a lot about my difficulty in accepting compliments and praise, but it wasn’t until last week at a talk by prominent vulnerability researcher and TED Talk star Brené Brown that I started thinking about the ways criticism, and the fear of it, have shaped my choices and behaviours.

Brené, who was in Sydney to open The School Of Life, described the eye-wateringly savage comments made about her 2010 TED Talk (which, incidentally, remains one of the top five talks of all time). These included nasty remarks about her appearance and her weight, and expressions of “pity” for her husband and children. Because if you really want to wound a woman, and you are protected by the anonymity of the world wide web, you go straight for the jugular – her looks (which is how society measures her value) and her worthiness to be loved by others (which is how she measures her value).
Brene Brown speaking at School Of Life SydneyFor me, the most devastating criticisms were made in my adolescence. Unlike the other kids at my small religious school, I was not from a rich family. I did not wear surf labels, I wore clothes handed down from my older cousins. My dad was in the building trade, not a lawyer or accountant. I had zero interest in watching, or participating in, sport (this was a cardinal sin in provincial New Zealand). I was a sharp, eager learner, and I knew big words that other kids did not. In essence, this is the (unrequested) feedback I got: you’re different, you don’t belong, no one wants to be your friend, and, most stingingly, no one will ever marry you. These junior emotional assassins managed to cut through to the core desires of me and every human being: to be loved and to belong.
While I was reflecting upon this ugly chapter of my life, I came undone under the weight of one very heavy memory. I remember going to a school disco and being so ridiculed for what I was wearing that I ran into the cloakroom, climbed to the top of the locker cube and spent the entire night lying against the wall so no one could see me, counting down the hours until Dad arrived in his ute to pick me up. This happened more than 25 years ago, but in many ways I am still that little girl in the pink corduroy skirt making herself as small as possible. I am still searching for acceptance. I am forever mourning for the cool, popular, enviable person I will never be. 
That’s the thing about the most hurtful criticisms, the ones we never forget – they maim us because they appear to confirm a belief we secretly held about ourselves: that we are not good enough. Yes, bullying is an extreme example, but the intensity of the criticism is not the point. When you are criticised, either for what you’ve done or for who you are, it will make you want to retreat and protect yourself. It will make you sorry you tried to do that brave thing, and highly unlikely to do so ever again. It will make you want to hurt other people. It will make you paint yourself as flawed, inadequate and unworthy; you will be wrong on all three counts.
Woman's chest holding heart
Bestselling author Liz Gilbert does not read reviews, an experience she describes as biting into a sandwich of broken glass. Brené carries around a one inch by one inch piece of paper on which she’s listed the names of the few people whose opinions she cares about. If your name is not on the list, she will disregard your feedback. Because if you are sitting in the cheap seats passing judgement on others instead of standing up, baring your soul, living a life you are proud of and risking getting your arse kicked, Brené has no time for your opinion. 
Brené absolutely 100 per cent cannot let fear of criticism stop her from making herself vulnerable in her work, her relationships and her life choices. Because she knows from her research that being vulnerable is how we grow and connect. Vulnerability, she says, is showing up and being seen when you don’t know what the outcome will be. Courage is risking people judging you. It is unwise to stop caring what people think of you, she notes – because then you stop connecting. Human beings are wired for connection – and (in my opinion) those connections are what gives life meaning. For many years I held back from connecting with people because I was not willing to risk being truly seen. I was safe, but one-dimensional. One of the ways I have made myself vulnerable is by being open about my ability to communicate with angels, and risking being labelled a weirdo.
If we want to live full, satisfying, meaningful lives and experience deep relationships, we must risk criticism, judgement and negative feedback. We must dare to stand out even though we may be mowed down by the people who are playing safe. If we do not, we will never know all that we can be and all that we are capable of.

As one of my favourite quotes (the one on my Facebook page cover picture) declares: “Our tragedy isn’t in the failing, it’s in the not trying. We are here to risk our hearts.”

Help! I think I just did something brave... and I'm terrified!

Taking a chance, pushing through fear
Ever done something bold and thrilling and daring, then woken up the next day and thought, ‘what the hell have I done?!’
I’m not talking about a party flashback (although, God knows…). I’m talking about the big life-changing decisions that force you into a frightening place of immense vulnerability where your future no longer seems secure as it was. The result: terror and regret. But mostly terror.

Yesterday I signed a lease on a practice room at a holistic health centre in Inner West Sydney, from which I’ll be offering reiki and angel card readings, two days a week. I’d been talking about doing this for months, and I think everyone was as bored with the subject as I was. It was time to put up or shut up. So I did. I put down a hefty deposit and signed a lease which I’m bound to for a year. At the time I felt emboldened, confident and optimistic. But within hours I had that gut-wrenching ‘oh-God-what-have-I-done’ feeling. I don’t need to tell you this is a significant financial risk on my part. There’s also more than a small element of emotional risk too – if I don’t get a healthy client base I’m going to look and feel like a failure. 
As the landlord was asking me about my target audience (um, anyone with a pulse?) and my marketing plan (don’t even know what that is), I suddenly realised I’m in way over my head. I do not have a single client, and I don’t know the first thing about how to get any. I know I’m good at energy healing and angel communication (well, so my feedback indicates) but I also know ability and talent are immaterial if you can’t get anyone to walk through your door.
Guys, this is terrifying. The only thing keeping me from having a full-blown panic attack is the faintest hope that this *just might* work out. And the sense that if I don’t give it a go, I’ll always wonder whether it might have.
In a way, this reminds me of last year when I quit Auckland and moved to Sydney – a decision which also defied logic and threw me into an uncertain future, both financially and personally. And here I am again, staring at a foggy road ahead. Feeling woefully unprepared, but mildly buoyed by some brilliant person's quote that goes something like this: ‘No one is ever really ready for anything’. I’m whispering that silently, and often, to my Richter-scale-level thudding heart.
I know how much is riding on me backing myself and promoting my skills, and I’m genuinely unsure whether I can do that. There’s only one way to find out.
Risks uncertainty brave bold

Everyday heroes. I wanna see you be brave!

Person jumping off cliff and flyingFollowing on from my post about non-conformity, I’ve been thinking more about bravery, and what it looks like. The reason for this: recently in my part of the world there was a news story about the survivors of the December 2014 Sydney Siege possibly receiving bravery medals as recognition of their ordeal. This sparked some public debate, with a prominent politician suggesting simply being a victim of crime, as horrific as this event was, didn’t come under the banner of bravery, and that medals should be reserved for extraordinary acts of heroism. I’ve no intention of wading into that particular debate, but I would like to riff on what the word ‘bravery’ actually describes, and whether I need to reframe my understanding of this powerful word.

To me, bravery is in the everyday choices we make to overcome Fear. The unfit woman who chooses to go to that gym class even though her inner-saboteur is telling her it won’t make any difference. The journalist who conducts interviews every day despite a stutter occasionally sneaking in and testing his composure. My sister, who is disabled, and dyes her hair blood red – because, she reasons, people are staring at her anyway.

I’ll never forget a conversation I once had with a friend who had thrown in her six-figure-salary job in IT to go to medical school for six years, which made her a poor student until she was well into her 30s. I told her I thought she was incredibly courageous, and her response floored me. She remarked that it wasn’t an act of bravado but of desperation. She had been miserable and felt she simply could not continue to live the way she had been living. I thought she had made a brave choice; she felt she had had no choice at all. As I pointed out to her, plenty of people feel disappointed with their lives but do nothing about it. They decide to accept the status quo rather than take the gamble of changing it. Deciding to make a change is brave, and worthy of applause.

What does bravery look like to you? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

I'm not scared! (Actually I am. And that's OK.)

Today I read a Facebook post that was so on point that I felt inspired to write a post of my own on that very topic. Then I thought, why redo something that someone else has already done so well? (Advice that Madonna would have been wise to take when considering doing a cover of American Pie; amirite?) 

The post in question is about fear, and how trying to overcome it completely is a waste of time and energy. Fear is, and should be, a constant companion in your life, Liz Gilbert writes in this excellent column, and trying to rid yourself of it is futile. The object is to acknowledge it but to not let it stop you from doing what you want. 

Here's Liz's brilliant piece on this topic, which I encourage you all to read. She says it much better than I could.