There are a thousand reasons to be cynical. Don't. Just believe

Woman opening box of light and sparkles
Sometimes I feel like a bit of a hypocrite when I’m doing angel card readings. So often I relay angel messages to clients about having faith that everything will work out, and trusting in the Universe’s plan. Then I finish the reading, go home or log out of Skype, and fall to pieces because cashflow is slow or a guy I like hasn’t texted me back. Really, I could do with taking on the guidance I’m dispensing myself – there are often messages in there for me too. As a very wise friend once told me, we are here to teach what we need to learn.
Keeping the faith is a recurring theme in my readings and, consequently, in this blog. In fact it was the subject of the very first post I wrote on this blog, in November 2014. It’s an ongoing struggle. 

Every day we are asked to believe in things which we cannot see or that are not guaranteed – weather predictions, job security, recovery from debilitating illness and relationship longevity, to name a few. Sometimes we do this easily, other times our desire for control and our obsession with timeframes get in the way. 
My love life is where this shows up most for me. I have been told again and again and again in my own readings that I will not be single forever. I have been sent signs, been delivered messages in dreams and even had a message from a deceased relative (via a spirit medium) all reassuring me that I will meet someone wonderful, and I will know him when I meet him. This should be all the reassurance I need. But I lose faith all the time. I look at all the beautiful, outgoing women in Sydney and I think, well, since I can’t compete with that, what else can I offer that would be attractive to men? And with no answers springing to mind, my descent in a negative thought spiral begins.
Little girl in angel costumeOn Saturday night when I was leaving the Taylor Swift concert, I was feeling miserable because I’d seen a selfie in which I looked really old and haggard, and I felt that no-one would ever want to date me at this late age and stage. For the past few months I had been feeling, for the first time in recent years, really fine with being single and quite relaxed to let things play out as they are supposed to. This storm of doubt had come out of nowhere. Then I got a ridiculously obvious sign that I needed to snap out of it: I was jabbed in the shoulder with some angel wings. Literally, not metaphorically. As I was walking among the bustling crowd heading to the train station, a girl in an angel costume (dressing up is not unusual at a Swifty concert) bumped into me, the sharp corner of her wing pressing into my shoulder. It would be difficult to overlook the symbolism. In fact I would have laughed out loud if I hadn’t been feeling so sorry for myself. I probably should have laughed out loud. The Universe has a sense of humour, after all, and I definitely deserved a prod for being so self-pitying. And I could certainly do with lightening the fuck up.
What the Universe was saying to me was exactly what the band Journey expressed lyrically in the 80s: don’t stop believin’ (hold on to that feelin’…). We live in a cynical world, and of course we have no proof of anything much, so it’s only natural that our faith will falter from time to time. The challenge is to keep rising back to that place where you believe in your dreams and in your luminous, tantalising future again. Nothing is a given – that’s why they call it faith instead of certainty. But believe we must. Without faith, without hope, the world is a very bleak place. 
I know that my present situation is not my future. I have no evidence of this but I believe it anyway. I know I will doubt it again and again, but I also believe I have the resilience to return to all the things I believe in: transformation and beauty and human kindness and miracles. And now I know that if I don’t, the Universe will find a way to jab me in the shoulder and remind me.

PS I thought I should expand this story by adding what happened the next day. I was prompted to draw a card for myself from the Romance With The Angels deck. This is what I got:
"Stay Optimistic About Your Love Life" angel card

See what I mean about that sense of humour?

How do you get back up when life kicks you down? Start with your words

Angel hugging own knees looking despondentIt’s hard to pick just one standout quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, an exquisite book I have come back to again and again throughout my adult life, but this one would certainly be among my favourites: “The secret to life is to fall down seven times and get up eight times.”
In less poetic terms: “I get knocked down, but I get up again.” (Thanks for that, Chumbawamba.*)
Picking yourself up again after failure, humiliation and heartbreak is achingly difficult, but very necessary if you want to move forward in your life. What Paulo Coelho is describing so lyrically is resilience.
So that’s the ‘why’; this is the ‘how’. The words you use are extremely powerful when it comes to getting back up when you are down. I know this because science.

There’s a well-known study in which Japanese researcher Dr Masaru Emoto took two identical jars of cooked rice and wrote “thank you” on one, and on the other “you fool”. He had school children say the labels out loud to the jars every day as they walked past. After 30 days the jar that had received positive affirmation was healthy while the one that was abused had become mouldy and rotten. The conclusion: words have the power to affect us on a cellular level, so it’s important to choose positive ones. In the interests of balance, I should probably point out here that the scientific community have been fairly critical of Dr Emoto’s research techniques. Still, the finding is an intriguing one.
Improving my self-esteem has been a real focus for me this year, but what I’m realising lately is that it’s actually self-compassion which is more beneficial to my confidence levels and life successes than self-esteem. And just like Dr Emoto I’m fascinated by the power of words – specifically, how the language I use in speaking to myself (both internally and externally) could play a key role in making me a better me.  
The difference between self-esteem and self-compassion, explains respected US self-compassion researcher Dr Kristin Neff, is that the former often involves us comparing ourselves to other people. Which no one does, obviously… except me and, you know, every woman ever. (And potentially a lot of men too.)
Woman kissing out love hearts
Comparison might briefly boost your self-esteem if you conclude that you’re better than other people in some way... but when you feel like everyone else is doing life better than you, your self-esteem is going to suffer – badly. (Guilty as charged.) Self-compassion, on the other hand, doesn’t hinge on you feeling special or different – all it depends on is you treating yourself like a human being who deserves love and care.
Here’s what happens: when you criticise yourself, cortisol (the stress hormone) is released in your body. The resulting stress lowers your mood and motivation. So basically, criticism is being absorbed by your cells**. Yikes! But if, instead of criticising yourself, you can pick yourself up in times of darkness and reassure yourself that the failure you’ve suffered doesn’t diminish your value as a human being, you’ll be better able to get back up and try again, says Dr Neff.

In other (my own), words, kicking your own arse only works if you do it with kindness.
Perhaps this could go some way to explaining why so many women struggle to lose weight in the long term. If you slip up with your exercise and diet plan, then start beating yourself up and call yourself fat, you’re unlikely to get back on track with your weight-loss journey the next day.
I don’t know what you guys take from these findings, but for me, it’s made being nice to myself a far greater priority. It’s looking very much to me like being my own best friend is the secret to getting back up again when life kicks me down. This is a friendship worth making time for.

*Here’s a Chumbawamba throwback, because I know you want it. (Lets just overlook the fact that the song’s about drinking, ’kay?)

**Did you know we have more than 50 billion cells in our body? Whoa! I learned this at a recent seminar by wellness guru Dr Libby Weaver.