Category Archives: Being comfortable with yourself

Please do it your way

Some years ago, a well-known British funeral director’s business published a chart of the most popular contemporary songs chosen to be played at funerals, and at the top of the list was the Frank Sinatra version of Paul Anka’s song, ‘My Way’.

‘My Way’, of course, is about someone looking back as they come to the end of their life, but I’m certain there’s a lot to be said for a little reminiscence from time to time, anytime, as long as you neither become tied to the past nor stuck in it.

Sad though it may be, if a relationship has come to an end, there’s a lot to be said for remembering the good times you did have.

There are sure to be some.

And if you’re moving on from a project or job, perhaps things are easier if you can focus as much as possible on the pluses rather than on the minuses.

Above all, please remember that you’re unique.

There’s no one else on the planet quite like you.

So rather than behaving as you think you’re supposed to, or as you think others expect you too, be sure to be true to yourself.

Be sure to do things your way.

Trying to disguise your feelings can be exhausting, and possibly a waste of time anyway.

We may imagine that, when needed, we’re good at disguising how we feel, but the truth is we’re often spectacularly bad actors.

When I chatted to a friend a while ago, I explained that I thought my own mood had been ‘so-so’ of late.

Neither particularly bad, but not particularly sparkling either.

(In passing, I’ve learned that this often happens and when it does, I simply need to accept it. Life’s like that.)

What was illuminating, however, was that the friend said she already knew I’d been feeling that way, as it had been showing in my writing, and that came as a surprise to me.


Inevitably, a bit of how I am makes its way into these written thoughts, but on the whole I try to avoid this.

They should after all be about how you are, rather than me.

The thing is, however, others can frequently read us like books, especially when they know us well.

So maybe we should wear our masks less often, to be more open and honest?

Clearly you do this when it’s appropriate, and with people you trust.

However, I think there can be value in letting others in, and your feelings out.

Why you’re not alone in feeling as you do.

You are one of 7.4 billion, and so am I. We make up a pretty small part of the world’s population of 7,400,000,000. It’s a big number.

The law of averages makes it likely that there will be somebody else out there whose outward appearance is much like yours, to the extent that if you were both lined up in an identity parade, an eye witness could have trouble telling you apart.

Even more likely is that many others share your temperament. They’ll think like you, worry about the same kinds of things you do, and probably have similar hopes and fears.


Just as there are bound to be others like you, so too will there be others like me. But even though this logic is reasonably undeniable, it doesn’t stop us both (I suspect) feeling from time to time that we’re struggling through life in a way that’s shared by no-one else.

When you’re low, how can anyone else feel the same way? How can someone else’s state of mind possibly be like yours?

And of course when you and I think like this, it can feel lonely and a bit hopeless. But this tends to come about when we compare our own inner feelings with the outward appearance of others, and appearances can be deceptive.

If you’re anxious, you may believe those around you aren’t. If you’re unhappy, you may think you’re the only one. I’m sure none of us enjoy that lonely feeling of believing that nobody else is going through what we are, because it can end up making us uncomfortable with who we are.

But right now someone else is feeling just like you do. I’m sure that knowing you’re not alone won’t in itself solve your problems, but perhaps it can help to stop you agonising that they’re unlike those of anyone else. They may well have conquered them, and if they did, so can you.

Why being comfortable with yourself doesn’t mean giving up on hope

Quite often I write about being comfortable with who you are, but when I do I’m sometimes taken to task by a Moodnudges reader or two.

In the nicest possible way, of course. We’re an awfully civil community here, for which I count my blessings.

In general there’s much to be said for accepting yourself as the person you are, for there are certain aspects which may be pretty much set in stone.


Sometimes for instance I think I’d like to lose a few pounds, but since I enjoy my food, like a drink now and then, and am frankly unlikely to take up marathon running, it’s probably better that I should be satisfied with who I am rather than becoming dissatisfied with who I’m not.

Where people politely pick me up on this concept, though, is when it comes to the nasties such as depression and anxiety.

They wonder if I’m suggesting that someone who suffers from a mood problem should simply accept it as a given – as a permanent condition.

And, of course, I’m not.

I’m really not.

Of course there may be a few for whom long-term treatment is the only answer, and it’s crucial that they get the support and care they so vitally need.

For millions more, however (and I’m convinced that it’s the majority) the real you isn’t the you who’s currently experiencing problems.

With the right help, the right mind-set, the right level of acceptance, it should absolutely be possible to visualise yourself being in a better place.

Almost certainly this can’t happen overnight.

While moods fluctuate day to day, real change takes place over time, and we hear evidence of this all the time from Moodnudges readers.

Patience is a necessity when it comes to emotional repair.

Yesterday I talked about not being defined by your current state of mind, if it’s a low or troubled one.

So maybe the ‘us’ we should be comfortable with is the true ‘us’, not necessarily the one we may be feeling right now.

Why parts of life are like the back of a tapestry.

Have you ever studied the reverse side of a tapestry?

You don’t often get the chance, of course, because they’re often framed when finished, but now and then you may come across someone working on one.

Take a look at the back.

Often you can kind of work out what’s going on on the other side, but generally the side that’s hidden from view can be a bit of a mess, with hanging threads and tangled stitches.

Does this matter?

Well, not really.

The Tapister (and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, that’s what tapestry-workers were known as) beavers away from both sides, but of course the goal is to produce a woven image which looks good just from the front.


So, what of the back then?

Should we criticise its messiness?

Should we snip off all the hanging threads?

Should we somehow try and tidy it up?

Well, again, not really.

The structure of the tapestry’s reverse is what makes the front work so well.

It’s what holds it all together.

It’s what gives the work its shape and form.

Perhaps there are elements of your own makeup which you may wish were different?

Maybe there are episodes of your life that you long to have been able to handle differently.

But (and it’s a big but) isn’t it those loose threads and uneven stitches which have been instrumental in making you who you are today?

Instead of unproductively wishing you could change the unchangeable, maybe there’s merit in recognising their value?

Celebrating them even.

In fact, here’s (wholeheartedly) to the messy background embroidery that’s got you to where you are today.

It’s all part of the two sides of life’s rich tapestry.

The copywriter who thought he could

One way or another I write pretty much every day of the year, even if it’s just a page in my diary.

When I work of course, I need to be – and am – very productive.

I’m fairly convinced that all this practice has helped me get better at what I do, but even so I’d describe my skills as workman-like rather than excellent.


Now these are maybe not the words you’d expect to hear from someone who hopes you’ll buy his book at the end of the month.

But my bigger point is that I think it’s important to be comfortable with who you are.

Who I am is an ex-advertising copywriter who, through his own struggles with depression, stumbled upon a way of supporting others with regular boosts that hopefully feel neither too patronising, nor too unrealistic.

People have told me that receiving my moodnudges is like getting emails from a friend, someone you cares and wants to gently help you, while also knowing first-hand what it’s like to deal with that damned black dog now and then.

The nudges in “Nudge Your Way To Happiness” are a little different from those you’re used to in my emails.

For a start they’re tailored in such a way that you’ll read a nudge that’s explicitly designed to relate to the way you currently feel.

They’re also accompanied by a couple of questions, which the book asks you to answer. These are designed to help you put the nudge into action.

Finally, each of the nudges is presented in the style I probably know best, taking a form which is similar to a newspaper or magazine ad, with a headline and image that aim to sum up the broad idea behind the nudge.

I think they work and in fact already have good evidence that they do from our tests last summer.

It’s taken me a long time in life to accept that I am who I am.

Not Charles Dickens.

Not Sigmund Freud.

I’m just copywriter who understands a bit about psychology.

And I want to do all I can to help as many as I can.

On the whole I’m comfortable with that.

Today perhaps you too will persuade yourself to be more accepting of who you are, because you know what?

You’re pretty unique, pretty special.

You don’t expect your friends to change, so why are you so hard on yourself?

Do you have a list of your friends tucked away somewhere, detailing the ways in which you’d like them to change? Unless you’re a closet therapist, I suspect you don’t. Even though they undoubtedly have their little idiosyncrasies (and who doesn’t?) you’re friends with them because of, or sometimes in spite of, who they are.

Similarly, the ‘you’ they count as their friend is the person you are today, not some idealised version of your personality that you maybe aspire to be.


Given this, given that we generally accept others as we find them, and expect them to accept us as WE are, it’s sometimes surprising to realise that we’re not always entirely comfortable with who we are, especially if we’re going through a rough patch.

Maybe we imagine that things would be so much better for us if only we were a little less over-conscientious, or a bit more outgoing, or a tad more positive.

There’s no doubt that we may all be capable of small degrees of change, but the key words there are ‘may’ and ‘small’. Circumstances and genetics have acted in tandem to create the you who wears your clothes, and the chances of you becoming someone very different are frankly pretty slim.

Better by far to embrace yourself for who you are today, and to accept that, having got this far in life, you already have a strong foundation to build on.

Think about the people who like and respect you just as you are. Maybe they’re right?

The real you is already inside you

Five hundred years ago, Michelangelo was going about his business creating some of art’s most enduring images: extraordinary icons, such as his statue of David, on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and as a full-sized plaster-cast replica in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum (the latter complete with a nearby half-metre-high (ooh-er) plaster fig-leaf, used to cover up David’s nether regions when official visitors of a blushing and nervous disposition came to call).


When asked how he went about producing sculptures such as his David, Michelangelo suggested, of course, that he didn’t find it that difficult:

‘In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.’

In his mind, he wasn’t creating something new, just simply releasing what he believed already existed there inside the stone.

Maybe this is a helpful metaphor when it comes to viewing who we are now, and who we want to be? While some may approach this with the view that we could be literally anything we choose, perhaps it’s more helpful to be comfortable with the thought that our ideal form is already there, and simply waits to be revealed?

Be comfortable with who you are, fig leaf or not.

Take care when you compare

When I ran an advertising agency, I was in the privileged position of getting to see how big businesses operated behind the scenes.

I also often had occasion to talk to people working in those businesses in a way which entailed them confessing to me how things really were.

It was common to find that beneath the shiny surface veneer, most organisations spent quite a bit of their time flying by the seat of their pants.

Their people are often poorly motivated, and inter-departmental (even intra-departmental) warfare is rife.

Yet, as I say, look at that organisation from the outside, and you’d probably believe they were a paragon of virtue.

My good friends at Action for Happiness in London use a powerful line in one of their posters (which promote, well, actions for happiness) that suggests we shouldn’t compare our insides with other people’s outsides.

I love this idea, as I think it describes exactly what we’re often inclined to do.

Even worse, we probably take a jaundiced view of our insides, which we then compare with the ‘grass is always greener’ conclusions we draw when we observe others.

If your life goes through a grey patch, you may peer around and imagine everyone else is fine, compounding your own despair.

But this is because you’re comparing you own inner feelings with the masks that many others may be showing to the world.

You’re comparing apples with oranges.

Better by far, if you can, to accept that most of us are flakier on the inside than we seem.

Perhaps in some ways we’re all slightly mad.

Well, I do speak for myself, of course.

Being comfortable with who you are is like a favourite pair of shoes.

What do we actually mean when we say shoes are comfortable?

I suspect it’s simply that they don’t rub or pinch. That they’re neither too tight nor too loose. And that when we’ve slipped them on, we more or less forget we’re wearing them.


I wonder whether something similar applies to the idea of being comfortable with who we are?

Just as we may not really stop to think about our favourite pair of shoes, the fundamental principle of accepting ourselves for who and what we are has little to do with pride or consciousness, but is instead about getting on with things without constantly fretting that our life doesn’t fit us.

Of course we can all occasionally make fundamental changes to our circumstances, and sometimes life does that for us, whether we like it or not. Broadly speaking though, we are who we are.

You could have a few pairs of shoes stashed away in a cupboard somewhere, one of which is more comfortable than the rest. You can choose to wear these whenever you like.

In the same way, there may be more than one ‘you’. Perhaps you behave differently in different circumstances, and with different people? I know I do.

But which of them is the equivalent to those comfy shoes?

Maybe it’s a good day to be yourself, and in particular to be the self you’re most comfortable with?