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That time when I truly embraced my individuality

At the age of 12 I made a conscious decision never to be the same as everyone else. I set about creating the young Penfold in many different ways, believing myself to be a true individual, and that the clothing choices I made truly exemplified that.

The truth though, was that I was merely trying to ‘belong’ to a different collection of humans, though I didn’t see it that way. I tried to identify myself amongst the sub cultures and not be a part of the main stream, largely governed by music choices. I manifested things like:

  • The Goth Era – black lipstick, tasseled skirts, ripped tights and tie dye
  • The Metal Era – army clothes, para boots, stripey tights, shaved half my head and dyed the rest red
  • The Raver Era – record bags and bomber jackets
  • The Rude Gyal Era – started out with hair in braids, then had my hair cut like a member of TLC, complete with kiss curls.
  • The Garage Raving Era – dresses, heels, big hair.

I showed my musical affiliations like badges of honour in my appearance, throughout the whole of my teens. I believed myself to be unique. And indeed I was unique, but not in the way that I thought I was then. I was (and am) Ruth Lesley Penfold – and there can never be another like her.

But I couldn’t see that then. I didn’t realise that these many disguises were tools that I was using to take myself further away from the real me. I met my ex husband at the age of 19, and slowly lost any desire to stand out whatsoever, so took myself even further from the real me than I had ever been before. I gradually succeeded in making myself invisible. The butterfly became a moth.

What I have experienced since leaving him has been a ‘second adolescence’ of sorts. I’ve used elements of my physical appearance of attire in much the same way, to stand out, to show the world just how different I am. This time though, not seeking to belong to a specific group but more so to create a whole new group of my own, with a population of one, so that no one else could get near me.

I wore my diversity like a badge of honour once more, making sure, albeit subconsciously, that people could learn everything that they needed to know about me from just a glance. Throughout this time, I seldom met with anyone who displayed any genuine romantic potential. I made fabulous friends, that span far and wide, but mainly kept at a ‘safe’ distance.

You see, I WAS sending them the message that I wanted to display at that time. That message was one of; ‘don’t get too close’ or ‘have teeth, will bite’. My appearance became my body armour. The biggest part of this was my hair. And it worked. That’s because on some levels, I still saw (and sometimes see – we all have those moments, happily mine are just becoming more fleeting) myself in the unloveable light that I had done so for much of my adult life. I had developed a new kind of invisible, just one with flashing lights and sirens.

The change in me now has been brought about by a change of perception of me and my place in the world. I realised that, by denying the world of who we truly are, we are doing everyone around us a disservice. But no one more so than ourselves. If we allow ourselves to live to our fullest potential, who knows where we might end up. Through deepening my connection with me – through leading a supportive lifestyle filled with love, movement and meditation, the body armour has started to break down.

I worked hard to project an image of toughness, of resilience, of independence. And I am all of those things, but I am also so much more. I know that the real me is soft, feminine and vulnerable – probably a little at odds with what many of the people that know me would describe me as.

I deserve to allow myself to be loved by another, in just the way I have chosen to love myself, but I need to make it possible for people to see, hear and feel me as I truly am, and what I am is truly just one thing – love.

I am finding my inner light – pure and delicate – and allowing it to unfurl. My hair is growing. My edges are softening. I have kept myself in suspended animation in many forms over the course of my life, but now is the time to live a little differently. I move through the world with an increased gentleness, and an increased commitment to bringing all of me to every situation.

I’d like to view my body armour as a cocoon of sorts, a necessary rite of passage to allow me to finally unfurl as I truly am: one of a kind, truly magnificent and capable of spreading light and love wherever I go.

I make that my mission.

I know many people who live as paired down versions of who they truly could be, but I know very few that are living in a true expression of who they really are. If you had spoken to me two years ago about this, I would have sworn I was living in an abundantly truthful and expressive way. And if I had it wouldn’t have been a lie, I’ve just now discovered the means to go a little deeper, and I can’t wait to see where my unfolding takes me next.

This might not resonate with you at all, and if it doesn’t? Fabulous; we are all benefiting from your light already.

For those of you, however, that are thinking about whether they are limiting themselves, by even asking yourself the question you already know the answer. You know there is so much more of you than you are showing us all right now. What might it take for you to show us a little more of your light? How might you break down a little more of your body armour?

I am, and can only ever be a work in progress, and proudly so. But work I shall.

 

That time when I discovered that I am ‘enough’

I love the Facebook page Humans of New York. So often there are people and posts on there that inspire something within me. Today I read a post that did just that, it said: 

“I came to New York to forget about him. We did everything together. We cooked together and studied together and we even had our own song: ‘Toi and Moi’ by Guillaume Grand. He didn’t like birthdays, so I was the only one he told and I’d bake him a little cake. On Valentine’s Day, we spent the whole day walking around Paris together. It seemed like so many times he was about to kiss me but he’d always pull back. It made me wonder what was wrong with me. I’ve had scoliosis since I was a baby, and I’m fine with it now, except when it comes to guys. Because I always end up thinking that if maybe I was taller, they would like me. So if I had known he was gay from the very beginning, it would have hurt so much less, because I wouldn’t have spent so much time thinking about what was wrong with me.”

Your self esteem becomes eroded when you are with a person who doesn’t want to be with you. It doesn’t matter why they don’t want to be with you, or why you don’t fulfil them, the fact is you don’t. 

I know this because I have lived it. I was with a person for 12 years who was habitually unfaithful with other women. I wasn’t brave enough to face it fully until I was brave enough to leave him. I knew what was happening each and every time it happened, and often asked him about it, but was happy to swallow the set of cleverly orchestrated lies and emotional blackmail I was given, each and every time. I had no love for me, and filled that void with each false promise he gave. 

I am not the victim of this story. I chose to stay. But living in such a manner for such a pro-longed about of time, meant that I was left with no self esteem at all. Instead of being able to view it objectively and say: this person isn’t right for me, instead I, along with many, defaulted to: ‘what is wrong with me?’.

This question festered in my soul for the entire time I was with him. I could never understand why I wasn’t enough for him. Instead of leaving, I gave him more. I tried to be the best wife ever, provide the best home ever, cook the best food ever, in the hope that I would one day become ‘enough’.

You will never be enough for that person. You have to choose to leave and you have to realise that the world won’t end when you do, because actually, you will be able to create a world for yourself that is more wonderful than you ever imagined. Once you do, you will never allow yourself to live under those terms again.

What you need to do is become ‘enough’ for yourself. 

My journey towards becoming ‘enough’ for me started with the explosion of someone new into my world. Someone who showed me that life could be different, that you should/can live an amazing life, full of love for yourself and that in turn, you can be tremendously happy. That person became my best friend.

I met her 9 months before my wedding. Before that I hadn’t really let a friend be a friend to me for years, keeping everyone at arms length. She refused to be kept there. She saw all the possibilities buried deep within me, and encouraged me to look at my life as it was and to strive for better, in all senses. One of the first things she successfully encouraged me to do was to leave the role I was then working in. When I did and I joined a new company, I was exposed to working with men who loved their wives and treated them wonderfully, showing me something I’d forgotten existed. She continues to challenge, inspire and support my evolution to this day and I couldn’t love her more for it. 

I still married him. But I had started to listen to what she had to say and my journey towards love had begun.

Another important part of my evolution came in the form of weight loss. I met someone at my new job who was doing Weight Watchers. Inspired by her, I lost 2 and a half stone over 6 months, and have kept it off to this day. Suddenly the world started to view me differently, and so did I (I will write a separate post about this at some stage).

I had been ignoring my intuition for a long time – my head, my heart and my gut. Gradually though I became acutely aware that something was wrong for me in how I was living but I had lived for this person for so long, I still could not see it was him.

My then boss, seeing that I was at some kind of crossroads, introduced me to a wonderful woman called Zofia Sharman and she became my coach. At first I did not want to hear what she had to say. It was 3 months after my first meeting with her before I was brave enough to do a second. De-constructive coaching is a wonderful thing. It helps people who have chosen to live like me, to clear away all of the emotional debris, and re-connect with who they really are and what they really want. My first meeting with her was in July and by November, I had walked out of my life, and had taken the biggest step of all towards building and finding a new one. 

I am ‘enough’. I continue to be inspired by the wonderful people in my world each day and am grateful to every single one that does. I believe you meet the people you are meant to meet in this way, right at the time you are meant to meet them.

I am proud of my story, and am delighted to tell it to those who ask and are interested, in the hope of inspiring them to become ‘enough’ for themselves.

Let us all check in with who we are in our current relationships, whatever that relationship might be. By choosing to remain in damaging relationships, we are preventing each other from realising true happiness, from being ‘enough’. Don’t be afraid to be the one who chooses to let it go, because letting go was THE best thing I ever did. 

That time when I decided to get happy

Happiness is a choice and I choose to make that choice every day.

I often see posts about how to be happy at work and advice on how to achieve that. The reality is: happiness in life IS happiness at work. You can’t separate different parts of your existence into neat little segments. Choosing to be happy means that you choose to do/be/surround yourself with things that make you happy, and apply that to all parts of your life. 

This was the lesson I learnt a few years ago, and something I will never let myself forget. 

In my 20’s I chose a life full of excessive responsibility and lived a very stressful existence. And that’s just it. It was my choice. 

As humans, we have a dangerous tendency to set happy destinations in our life; a new job, a wedding, a baby – when in truth, what matters is each and every moment you are living in. I fell foul of this, and spent my 20’s waiting for the happy destination. It never came. Happily, I experienced a total revelation on turning 30, left my former life, and set about creating a new one. To quote a million quotes, happiness really can only come from within. 

After the upheaval of changing my former life, although I began to re-settle, I still hadn’t realised this, and was struggling to find my new place in the world. It seemed to me like other people just were happier and more fulfilled than me. 

It was a conversation with a dear friend that was my turning point. He asked me:

‘Does Penfold deserve to be happy? Well, to be happy Penfold has to choose to be happy.’

I asked; ‘How do I do that? Where do I start?’

‘Just make little positive choices each day. When faced with a question or a decision, ask yourself, what does Penfold really want to do? The more positive choices you make that make you happy, the happier you will be.’

And he was right. And slowly but surely I began to base every decision, no matter how small, around what made me happy. My view of the world changed to one of fascination, joy and delight. And sure enough, I found happiness. It really was that simple. 

People who know me now would (mostly) class me as a happy person, largely not realising it wasn’t always the case. I often get asked, why are you so happy? The last time I got asked this question I was at work, it was 10am and I was grabbing a bottle of water.

When I said; ‘Because life is amazing and I’m really lucky.’, they weren’t convinced. That’s the trouble with working in an office full of smart people, they question everything! So I broke it down:

‘This morning I left my house and the clouds looked beautiful and the air smelled fresh and that made me smile. I pressed play on my iTunes and played an intoxicatingly brilliant array of music during my ride to work. Today I got the tube, and smiled at a bunch of people and they smiled back at me. Then I bought a delicious decaf soya latte at the station, it tasted awesome. Then I came here.’

They were like: okay wow, fair enough.

Now I’m not saying this is a perfect science, sometimes life deals some cruel blows and we are right to let those things sit with us a while. And nobody is perfect, sometimes I still make little choices that I know don’t make me truly happy – but now they shine out like beacons, or sound out like warning sirens, and I feel awkward making them. 

Happiness isn’t about portraying a false shine to the world, it’s about making great choices, and getting to know who you really are and what makes you tick. It’s the tiny things, the little changes you make in the way you see your daily life and the way you make decisions, those are the things that will help let you see the world as it truly is. 

Changing your perception of your day to day can really improve your whole experience of life. Trust me. It works. Find whatever makes you happy and keep choosing it.