It was supposed to be a quiet night in, and yet here we were – my friend M & I – sat with wine in hand (a lot of wine) listening to acclaimed comedienne, Ruby Wax, talk about the magical world of Neuroscience and Mindfulness.
Growing up in the 90s, ‘Ruby Wax’ was always a household name for me. To put it into context, she’d be the celebrity ‘R’ when playing the Word Association game. THATs how famous she was. She was always someone I knew as saying rude things on television; someone full of energy who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind.
I like to speak my mind too. I was given the gift of humour by my parents and have come to learn that there is a time and place to make a sarcastic joke about someone who might be standing right next to you…in front of others, especially if that person doesn’t have a sense of humour.
I generally learnt my lesson the next morning when I would wake up with a stinking hangover and anxiety AKA ‘Beer Fear’ after a night out. I had a habit of replaying what I could remember – usually only the bad bits – over and over and over in my head. I wouldn’t leave the house because I felt so embarrassed and when I managed to surface and text absolutely every other person who was also out with me, asking whether I did anything really, really bad. And even after they said no I still wouldn’t believe them!
Work in my early 20s was a similar experience. My entire career has been spent supporting senior executives and so my behaviour was something I was constantly mindful of. Knowing I had a silver tongue for sarcasm, I learnt very quickly to temper what to say and when. Work drinks became something I would rarely attend and when a joke was made in the office, I would sit back and laugh with the person, rather than blow them out of the water with my comical genius mind. Lucky them.
I thought I was winning at being ‘professional’, but you know what? I was actually really damaging myself. Innuendos…no way. Sexist jokes…nada. Jokes about blondes… absolutely not (i’m blonde by the way) and I spent the majority of my early career in Rail so you can imagine how much of a struggle it was for me! Don’t get me wrong, I mean, I did release the occasional joke into the office every now any again if I was feeling fruity, but I was noticing that even they were becoming far and few between. Then I moved into corporate life where I became so sensitive to it that even now I watch what I say – even if it isn’t funny. Believe me, it’s not a good mindset to have when you’re stood up about to present to 100+ people or want to explain to your boss why you think you deserve a promotion.
You won’t be surprised when I tell you that i’m an ‘over thinker’. Thats right, another lovely skill i’ve picked up is the ability to ruminate about almost everything. I have this intense need to protect myself, as well as a wild imagination, usually resulting in several scenarios playing out in my head right before bed, that you’d generally read about in a Stephen King novel. And it’s exhausting.
So, back to Ruby.
Ruby lived up to expectations: she was incredibly funny and at points, my friend and I came close to wetting ourselves. She truly inspired me – I couldn’t believe that the woman in front of me was so successful, yet suffered with major depression like so many others. However, rather than sit back, pop as many prozac pills as directed and hope things got better, she went to study Neuroscience at flipping Oxford University! #girlpower.
But Ruby was even more than that. She was someone who had somehow managed to get up and use her humour for the good of woman and mankind. She had managed to attract an audience of over 200 women and men that night, and was using her energy to help them understand that it is OK to worry and ruminate and think bad thoughts – something that even nowadays with the perfect lives of others advertised to you on a daily basis through social media, is a taboo topic.
Finally, at almost 30 years old, I can happily tell you that i’ve been aware of my rumination for some time and have been working on it for a few years. However, it’s only been in the last year or so that I have learnt a few things that have stuck with me:
- You are in control of what you think and what you don’t think, and you’re in control of the choices you make as a result of those thoughts. So try to make the choices that will only enhance your life and forget the rest.
- When you ruminate, you’re usually worrying about the past or future. Trying to live in the present will show you that there is nothing to worry about as long as you’re healthy and can feed, cloth and shelter yourself.
- If you do ruminate, you need to figure out a way to just tell yourself to ‘Stop it‘. It solves absolutely nothing and is damaging your self esteem which you need for confidence and to feel fabulous.
- Listen, sometimes if you’re unhappy, you just have to realise that you can do so much more with your life. Work out what you’re missing and don’t stop until you’ve found it. You can do anything you set your mind to.
Nowadays, it is so difficult to stay true to yourself. There are so many big organisations, adverts and people telling us that we aren’t perfect and can always be better. But what’s better than being able to be your true self, and having the ability to live the life only you have, to the fullest?