“Sharing our humanness is one of the most incredible gifts we can give to ourselves and others”
What do I mean by this, well…
As someone who experienced childhood trauma, I was historically prone to overthinking, perfectionism, and the need for control. At my core I was insecure and lacked any sense of self-worth. I always looked for external validation through work or relationships and had little sense of self; this was due to having spent my childhood siphoning away my own feelings and needs, attempting to appease my suicidal father. If I was ‘good enough’ he would stay alive and in the world. Or so I hoped.
Consequently, during my teens and early 20s, I used all of my energy to portray what I considered ‘normality’ to the outside world. At that time, I was deluded and self-absorbed, believing I was the only person who struggled to keep on top of life.
Naively I assumed the majority of people had it all sussed out and I was alone, scrambling to keep up.
Sadly, lots of us are struggling with the aftermath of some trauma or other, our mental health challenged to stay in balance. Life can be overwhelming, even at the best of times and in apparently optimum circumstances; it is far too easy to romanticize the lives of other people and focus on our own shortcomings.
Social media is an absolute curse in this respect, as we are mostly prone to showcase our happy moments over the challenges, we have to battle. I will show you my beautiful front of house pictures, but the backstage carnage I would rather keep to myself.
Intense therapy and yoga helped me to shift my perspective. Yoga has taught me a lot about self-compassion and kindness. Prior to my yoga teacher training my internal voice was brutal, “Well, that’s not good enough”, “You are an idiot”, “You will never be as good as (insert the name of any other human here).
This vicious self-talk also impacted my judgement of others. I set unattainable standards for myself and consequently others. My insecurity mildly subsided when I belittled someone else’s efforts as to how they choose to live. It was not a happy time, for me or for those around me.
Learning to be kinder to myself and more forgiving was the starting point in a shift in perspective for me.
During my yoga training I was introduced to Ahimsa, which means ‘do no harm’, not only to others but also to yourself. My teacher used this word to encourage students to work within the limitations of their own body, rather than competitively trying to keep up with fellow students; pushing the practice so far that they were struggling to breathe, out of alignment and at risk of injury.
Through authentically connecting with my own body and breath and its limitations in the moment, I started to learn that we are all different. We all come to any given situation with different bodies and emotional experiences, viewing the world through the lens of these individual experiences. To continually compare ourselves to others robs us of the ability to truly engage with ourselves.
As my self-compassion grew, my self-talk became less judgemental, softer, and kinder. I started to identify how my own challenges had impacted me. This allowed me to create goals and expectations for myself based on who I really was rather than adapting myself to be like others, this was incredibly freeing.
I released myself from pretending. Through this deeper understanding and acceptance of myself I was able to authentically connect with other people. Enabling me to expand the lens through which I saw and understand the world and my view of others. Comparison is not helpful or realistic. However, a genuine interest, curiosity and desire to meet others as we are and as they are is beautiful.
Once I had gained more of a sense of myself, I got a strong urge to give something back, some form of volunteering maybe. This is when I stumbled across SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide).
My father had tragically eventually gone on to take his own life and bereavement by suicide was something I had lived experience of. By coincidence, or fate, my local SOBS group was looking for someone to take over the running of it and from the moment I stepped in the room I knew this was what I was looking for.
Facilitating these support groups is incredible, it is a privilege to sit and hear people sharing their experiences, to be among this amazing group of brave individuals, sharing our deepest pain and at the same time consecutively holding each other up. There is a strength in our vulnerability and a resilience grown out of sharing in community. Sharing our humanness.
Rather than feeling the need to project our best selves into the world, we should rather bring our authentic selves, not a two-dimensional photoshopped cutout but our three-dimensional, fully rounded selves, the wonder, and the gore. This honesty would help us all to feel less isolated and enable us to support each other through life’s inevitable challenges.
You can purchase The Confession: A Journey to Acceptance by Maike Mullenders.
About Maike Mullendersi & the Speakers Collective
Maike Mullenders is a volunteer for SOBS (Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide), heading up their Reigate Support Group. After working for ten years as an actress I proceeded to train as a Relate counsellor supporting couples and young people.
The Speakers Collective is a Social Enterprise. We work together with a shared commitment to challenge stigma, facilitate important conversations and promote learning on a variety of social issues. Please do contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8123 8250 with any enquiries.