At this time of year, we often think about how we can change, but is change really possible? My experience tells me it is.
Over the holidays, I read a novel that reminded me just how much I've changed. The lead character suffered with bulimia. The author described, with extraordinary insight, how she bought stacks of binge food then scurried home to eat it, feeling huge momentary relief, only to be consumed by shame and self-loathing just minutes afterwards.
Those scenes took me back to my binge eating days, and especially to the evening when I ate my way through a box of oat-based muesli, first with an entire tub of yoghurt and then on its own. I remember shovelling those dry oats into my mouth, feeling them sticking in my throat but not being able to stop. I remember rolling off the sofa onto the rug, clutching my aching tummy and then crawling into my bedroom, where the pain I'd been trying to numb with the food eventually found its way to the surface and tears streamed down my face. I remember the next morning, waking up bloated and in a fog, knowing I had to do something to get rid of the calories - in my case, run around the park as many times as I could.
Today, I am free from the desire to self-harm with food, so I know that I can change. And if I can, then change is possible for all of us.
If I can recover from an eating disorder that began in my teens and followed me around the world and back to London in my thirties, then change is possible.
If I can learn to fall in love after years of running away from relationships because I was scared of intimacy and of getting hurt, then change is possible.
If I can find the courage to leave a well-paid, secure and prestigious job to find my way back to myself and into a career I truly love, then change is possible.
And if I can muster the courage to leave my cosy London flat and start again by the sea in my 40s, then change is possible.
Change isn't easy
But change isn't easy, especially not for those of us who struggle with anxiety or with fear of life, people and the future. Change requires real commitment. It requires vision, clarity, courage and the willingness to ask for help and take a risk. It requires vulnerability.
My recovery from my eating disorder began the moment I emerged from denial and told a good friend, a recovering alcoholic, that I had a problem with food. As I admitted the behaviours I was so ashamed of to myself, to him, and then to others, and as I sought help, I began to recover.
The same goes for falling in love. To some, it seems to come naturally. I needed help. I needed to learn to love myself deeply and take good care of myself. I needed to heal the pain from my past. I needed to identify and change my dysfunctional relationship patterns. I needed to learn to set healthy and loving boundaries, with myself and others. And I needed to learn to trust myself and trust a man. I began that journey when I acknowledged that what I was doing in the area of love and relationships definitely wasn't working.
When it came to leaving my job, I had to see the truth. I had to see that the career I'd worked so hard for was making me ill with anxiety and stress. I had to be vulnerable and honest with myself and others. I had to take a leap of faith and believe I could find a way to earn a living and be happy and healthy. I had to find the courage within to challenge my perfectionism, write my book and believe in my ability to coach others.
And as for leaving London, I was scared of that too, but as you probably know, often the things that scare us are the ones we need to move towards - the things we truly want. So I shared my fears with others, worked through them and took a chance. I've never looked back.
Do you hear the call to change - your life, your career, your home, your behaviours or your relationship status? If so, I encourage you to answer it.
Are you afraid? Take that as a sign that you're moving closer to your dreams, to your heart's desires. Don't expect the fear to go away but walk through it, preferably with support.
How to change
How to change is a big question and the steps will be different for all of us. But I believe that the first and most important step is to get honest and vulnerable with ourselves and then with others, with people we trust. Share your truth. Share your pain. Share your hopes.
Is your work making you sick? Are you desperate for more freedom in your life? Are you deeply lonely and in need of human touch? Do you feel trapped, at home, in a job or in a relationship? Are you self-harming, with food, alcohol, drugs or sex?
What's your truth? Can you connect with it, really connect with it on a deep level? And can you let it out into the open, write it down, or share it with a friend, a counsellor or a coach?
I spent years wearing a mask. Hiding my true self beneath a competent, confident exterior, binge eating in secret to numb my pain and forget that I was living an inauthentic life.
If this New Year is prompting you to change, begin by telling the truth. It will set you free.
Join me in London on Feb 12 for Fall in love with yourself, with life and with another, in partnership with Psychologies and NOW Live events. For a free taster, join my free webinar on Thursday Jan 4 at 1 pm: Create the Life & Love You Want in 2018 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you missed it and would like the recording.