How to build self-belief and not die with regrets

Photo by Edu Lauton

Photo by Edu Lauton

This day six years ago, I was walking from Bruay-la-Buissière to Arras in France. It was day nine of my Via Francigena pilgrimage and my longest walking day yet.

With few accommodation options between the two towns and still uncertain if I could make it to Rome within my 90-day Schengen visa, I felt that I had little choice but to walk the 38.5 kilometres between the two towns — and that was the shorter route; if I followed the guidebook exactly I would have walked an extra 14 kilometres. Ouch and no thank you to 52.5 kilometres.

It took me 10 hours to walk the 38.5 kilometres to Arras. I had two deep blisters on my toes that burned, arch and heel pain, and then my hips went into a spasm. The pain was excruciating. It took me an hour to walk the last 2 kilometres into Arras. Actually, it was more like a shuffle.

When I was a kid, I seemed to have the words “I can’t” pre-programmed into me and spilling off my lips whenever things got tough.

Learning (and struggling) to tie my shoelaces, I’d tell my dad, “I can’t.”

Going on a long bike ride with my dad and brother: “I can’t” make it up the hill. “I can’t” make it home; it’s too far.

My dad was ever patient and calm. He told me many times that there’s no such thing as can’t. He taught me to read the book, The Little Engine That Could whose mantra was “I think I can.”

I get it now.

I can’t usually means I don’t want to.  It can also mean I don’t know how to yet or this is really hard for me and I’m scared of failing or even just plan I won’t.

I’ve had many people tell me that they could never do what I did and walk the Via Francigena, especially alone. I never believe them because broken down to its simplest component it is just walking, one step after the other. Unless you are affected by a disability, you can most likely walk. It’s just a question of whether you have the desire and motivation to walk so far and on your own.

I was a solo pilgrim walking the Via Francigena.  I had only myself to urge me on and there really wasn’t any room for I can’t.

My mantra that day walking from Bruay-la-Buissière to Arras and every time the going got tough was I” can do it.” On repeat.

I can do it. I can do it
. I can do it. I can do it.

I repeated this over and over until I did it; I arrived in Arras. When I was saying I can do it, there was no room for I can’t.

The pain and the struggle faded away not long after arriving and flopping down on the bed in my hotel room in Arras. All these years later, I still remember that day and that I was in so much pain but the pain itself now just resembles a large grey cloud that hovered above me as I walked. I don’t feel the physical pain in my body and even if I did, I would walk the whole Via Francigena again in a heartbeat.

The Via Francigena tested me physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t arrive in Rome as the same person that set out from Canterbury. My bank account may have been lower but I was far richer in all my being; deeper, wiser, stronger and with a reinforced faith that I was guided and supported by life. I still receive gifts from this journey all these years later.

Lewis Carroll has been quoted as saying:

“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.”

Whatever it is that your heart longs for, whether it is an adventure, to learn a new skill, leave a career and start a new one, take a risk and find a way out of your comfort zone , find your way to say yes.

You can do anything you put your mind to and energy into.

Maybe you aren’t destined to be Luciano Pavarotti or an Olympic gold medallist or maybe you are and don’t know it yet…but how will you ever find out what you are capable of if you don’t try.

Imagine if Pavarotti told himself he couldn’t sing and believed it!

If you are ever in doubt that you can do what you really want to do, then borrow the Little Engine Who Could’s mantra, “I think I can, I think I can” or even my mantra: “I can do it.” Say it over and over even if you don’t believe it at first. It will still help put positive I can energy into your system.

If you’re not sure if it’s worth the risk, and if you’re still scared and struggling to take the first step then reach out to me. Working through fear and self-doubt is my specialty.

With love and courage,

Kym
xx

PS Here’s a few snaps from that hard walking day: in sunshine, a rain-free moment, in the midst of raining wearing Kermit my green poncho, my friends the cows, a lot of potatoes and the avenue of trees.

Dear Procrastination, it's time for you to stop wasting my time

Photo by Dayne Tomkin

Photo by Dayne Tomkin

Dear Procrastination

You have managed to fill most of my day with various insignificant tasks that didn’t really need to be done today.

You have also showered me with your version of inspiring thoughts and ideas that you insisted I investigate and explore immediately of which I obliged and these have also kept me very busy.

Some of these tasks brought me short-term joy, such as the instagram post I created using Canva and finding a new recipe to cook for dinner tonight that my husband will love.

But here I am at 4 o’clock in the afternoon feeling deeply unsatisfied, as well as a little bit anxious and guilty that I have managed to let most of the day pass without doing what I really want to do.

Lately, inspiration has been raining down upon me and I have a growing list of books that want me to write them.  Yes, that’s right, book ideas have found their way to me with titles and phrases and ideas, some vague and some more concrete but without a lot of detail or structure because they need me to delve deeply into a relationship with them to discover what wants to be written.  

I know that if I don’t honour these book ideas with my presence, time and willingness to write that they will find their way to someone else who will. 

The other thing I really want to do that I’m not doing is to start marketing and promoting my book, The Path We Make.  The manuscript is finalised and it’s time for me to help it make its way out into the world and into the hands of those people it is destined to support, inspire and heal. But I’m not a natural marketer or salesperson and I feel daunted and uncomfortable by this whole task.

Procrastination, I know you are trying to protect and distract me from my discomfort and fear of failure and inadequacy, but I gotta tell you something…

Letting you run the show actually causes a lot more suffering and you don’t really protect me from anything.  

With you running the show, I have ended up feeling much worse than I have in facing my fear and discomfort, which I am doing right now, sitting here writing to you. I faced the blank page and discovered what wanted to emerge word-by-word, thought-by-thought.  And once I have posted this letter to you on my blog, I will return to my book marketing plan and look at just the next step because as one of my fitness apps tells me, “Progress is progress no matter how small.”

 And as I discovered on my Via Francigena Pilgrimage on those long and steep climbs: “Sometimes you have to stop looking at the big picture and just look down at your feet in order to take the next step.”

Sometimes you have to stop looking at the big picture and just look down at your feet in order to take the next step. copy.png

Procrastination, I cannot make you go away. Like a puppy, you may still nip at my heels and beg for me to play with you, but right now, I am placing you in a basket at my feet where I can rub your belly with my foot while I sit here and do the work that I really want to do, that fulfils my heart and soul, and that feels meaningful.

 I choose to face the fear and discomfort because I know when I do only one thing happens: I grow.

 And it is this practice of facing fear and discomfort again and again that makes me free and that’s all I really want to be.

With love and courage,

Kym
xx