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The lesson I learned at 10 years old that changed my life

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‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted’ ~ Aesop

When I was in Grade 5 in the early 1980’s life was pretty sweet. I lived in a time where the local neighbourhood was my playground, and the milk bar at the end of my road was my favourite place to visit (how did those milk bar owners not go crazy with our interminably long mixed lolly orders!)

School was fun, and I was a happily engaged student with a big group of friends. I never really considered my standing in my friendship group: I knew I wasn’t the most popular girl, but I was happy with wherever I slotted in.  Like everyone else, I looked up to Stephanie, the new girl who had bewitched us all with her perfect blonde hair and tanned long legs: the photo above may give you an idea as to how she was viewed by all the Grade 5 girls (and a good portion of the boys as well!)

One fateful day, the big topic of discussion was what we were all going to wear to the school photos the next day. Stephanie pulled me aside and informed me that I should wear my bottle-green cords and windcheater (oh yeah, they were as snazzy as they sound!) as that was what all the girls were wearing. Deliriously happy to be singled out and forewarned with this extremely important bit of information, I ran home that afternoon, and implored my mum to wash and iron my cord pants, which she duly did. I woke up excitedly the next day, put them on and rushed to school…only to find ALL the girls in my class except for me and two others were wearing their tartan checked Winter tunics.

BP2463-BottleGreen000104890Yes, these two incredibly attractive items of clothes forever more changed the way I looked at friendships and people that were different to me!

 

“Oh my God, Mel,” exclaimed Princess Stephanie with a delightfully smug yet disgusted look on her face, “you have totally ruined the school photos: what a loser!” and with a flick of her perfect blonde ponytail, that was it: I was done, persona non grata, no longer part of the ‘it’ crowd and decried to be a dweeb, a dork, a Scott Nomates. Did I protest? Did I stand up for myself? No, I thought I had no hope swaying my so called friends away from the golden tyrant who ruled the class.

For while I had been mildly bullied before (you didn’t get through Primary School wearing glasses in those days without copping some name calling) I had never experienced such deliberate meanness. That night I went home and cried my eyes out about how unjust it was, then got up the next day went to school ready to accept my fate as a forever friendless four eyed dork (not surprisingly, I had an active inner mean girl at work in conjunction with the actual mean girl!)

While standing morosely by myself at lunchtime, watching my ‘friends’ hanging off the monkey bars perfecting their backflips, I saw my fellow outcasts sitting close by. I had always dismissed these two girls as nerds, girls that didn’t quite look right, say the right things, eat the right sandwiches (yes, this was actually a thing!). The quiet larger girl named Pam shyly looked at me, and said ‘you can come and sit with us if you like’. Grateful for anyone to talk to, I moved closer and the three of us started to talk.

I soon discovered I had much in common with these so called ‘nerds’. We loved the same books (The Hobbit was a revelation to me at this age) and TV shows (M.A.S.H) and had lots of interesting things to talk about.  I soon moved on from my hurt and eventually moved into a different class and life was carefree once more. However, I never forgot the kindness that two young girls I had been so quick to judge and dismiss in the past had shown me.

I very quickly realised that being popular doesn’t necessarily equate to being nice, and that everybody has something to offer, if you simply give them a chance to show you. I learned that I wanted to be the type of girl (and woman) who looked beyond the clothes, the hair and the sandwiches, and took the time to ask questions of people, and most importantly: be kind. This early lesson has held me in good stead throughout my life, and it has led me to meet some amazing and interesting people over the years.

As I now watch my own daughters prevail the slippery slopes of tween friendship (BFF’s one day, on the outer the next) I tell them my own stories so they know that it’s not what you look like or what you have that makes you ‘cool’, but how you act. Because kindness truly does matter.

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it-is-cool-to-be-kind-30x40-11563Do you have a story from your childhood that has helped shape the person you have become? Feel free to share your thoughts with me in the comments below 

Are you worth it?

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“Make your self a priority once in a while. It’s not selfish. It’s necessary”

Do you want AND believe you deserve time away from your family, just to focus on your own needs and wants?

If I were to be honest with you, I would say that in the past, I definitely wanted to have some quality time to myself every now and then,  but I didn’t truly believe I deserved it. I think I felt that I should be happy and content with all that I had in my life (and believe me I am grateful for the all the blessings I have) and I remember feeling guilty for even thinking to myself that wasn’t enough, and feeling I would be seen as a ‘bad mum’ if I even acknowledged that I wanted time away from my family life sometimes to just be ‘me’.

But over the last few years, I have made many changes to my life, and acknowledging my own wants and desires (along with ditching the mummy guilt) has been high on the priority list!

When I look back on the past year, I am proud of myself for believing I was worth it, and saying a wholehearted ‘Yes’ to:

  • Leaving my children behind and travelling to Greece with my husband for 2 weeks
  • Spending a full day focussed on my self care and creative wellbeing at a local workshop
  • Enjoying a relaxing week in Bali with my girlfriends for our annual getaway mumcation
  • Attending two local inspired networking days with a group of amazing speakers and connecting with other inspiring entrepreneurs

‘Yeah, well that’s all well and good for you’, you may say. ‘You’re obviously lucky enough to have the money and support around you to allow you to do these things’.

To which, my answer would be, ‘well, kind of’.

Yes, the trip to Greece was a wonderful one off opportunity, but I really had to work on myself to leave the guilt behind and say yes to going, and it took a lot of logistical planning to make it happen.

I really ummed and ahhed about spending the money on myself on a self care day, but then I told myself you need this, and so I prioritised it and made it happen.

I realised that I wanted the in person connection with other life coaches to uplift and inspire me, so when the Sydney day was announced, I told my husband I wanted to go, and I made it happen.

I knew that a week in Bali with my friends would be restorative after a busy year working on my business, so although there was a massive amount of planning, you guessed it, I made it happen.

I recognised that one of the downsides of working from home, was a lack of in person connection with other entrepreneurs, so when I read about the Inspired Networking days, I bought my ticket, and made it happen (even when my son smashed a window on the morning of one of the events: I took a deep breath, quickly boarded it up, took the kids to school and off I went, better late than not at all).

With any of these events or opportunities, I could have easily said no:  that it costs too much money, that I don’t know who could look after my kids, that my life is busy enough without trying to plan and organise the logistics of attending any of these events.

But what I have grown to realise on the other side of forty, is that I have a choice. I can choose to automatically say no to the things that are hard, or I can choose to see if there is a way to manage it if it is something that I truly want to do. I can choose to prioritise spending my money on things that light me up, and I can stop spending it on things that aren’t as important to me (farewell takeaway coffees and impulse clothes shopping!) I can also choose to ask my friends and family for help with my kids (and be ok with whatever the answer is).

I can also choose to remind my husband and family, that I am a happier more centred person, when on occasion I prioritise myself and recognise that I am worth it.

Now, I completely understand that a 2 week trip to the Greek Islands isn’t on most of our radars very often, (which is a damn shame really!) and there have been plenty of events that I would have loved to attend in the past year but haven’t been able to. However, maybe a self care day or a weekend retreat is possible for you. Maybe you just need to acknowledge what you want and need to yourself, and then ask your loved ones for help and see if you could make it happen.

Indeed, you might forget about the guilt, work out the cost, and really value the benefits of giving time and space to yourself, because you know what… I believe you are worth it.

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Fabulous Women on the Other Side of Forty: Michelle Marie McGrath

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HOW HAS LIFE CHANGED FOR YOU ON THE OTHER SIDE OF FORTY?

I can wholeheartedly report that I was delighted to turn 40 and close the door on what was an extremely challenging decade in my 30’s. It was not pretty and for many years I felt as though I was in a never-ending dark tunnel. To say it was a period of exploring my shadow would be an understatement.

I experienced many life changes in my 30’s including an unusual type of miscarriage (molar pregnancy), cancer scare, divorce, depression, insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks. The end of my marriage was a huge catalyst for me. I felt incredibly betrayed, but really it was a great metaphor for where I was not listening to my own inner wisdom.

I was depressed for a number of years and I learnt what it really meant to start to learn to love myself. Many of my close friends also fell away as I experienced some huge internal shifts. I explored and studied many healing modalities during this time too. Although it was painful, these were invaluable experiences that brought me so many gifts and different perspectives. Many blessings came from these experiences and it gave me more compassion for other people. Our biggest challenges are often hiding our greatest gifts. That’s the short version.

I feel this is really the best time of my life and I’m very excited about what’s happening in my life currently and what’s to come. I have so much more clarity and confidence in who I am and what’s important to me. I also care so much less what other people think and I don’t have the same desire or need for external validation. What a relief!

ON YOUR WEBSITE ’SACRED SELF’, YOU HAVE CREATED SOME GORGEOUS PRODUCTS THAT ARE DESIGNED TO REMIND YOU TO LOVE YOURSELF UNCONDITIONALLY. WHY DO YOU THINK SELF LOVE IS SO IMPORTANT?

To me, self-love is THE answer to most challenges. It’s become quite a buzz word in the past few years and I think there is often confusion about what it means. It’s not all about green smoothies and coconut oil, nice though they are. It’s about self-responsibility, being truly honest with yourself and taking ownership of your life.

When I embarked on my personal quest to open up to 100% self-love about 15 years ago, it was so foreign to me that I didn’t understand what it meant. I was depressed for several years and kept asking myself what was wrong with me and what I most needed. The answer was self-love. It was just an intellectual concept and I had to dig deep and keep asking myself some very confronting questions. Gradually I started to see the external shifts that came as a result of deep self-reflection and making different choices.

My business never started as a business. It was really my own personal exploration and the start of listening to the intuitive guidance that I was receiving. As I turned inward I started to have a lot of clairvoyant and clairaudient experiences that often meant I didn’t get much sleep. The more I listened and trusted this wisdom, the more unfolded and most of it was a surprise to me.

The alchemical oils in particular took on a life of their own and started coming through in 2003. 9 years later and there were 33 that created a self-love range. I felt like I was just observing really and sometimes wondered if I was crazy (I still do!). This expanded into a busy face-to-face energetic healing practice, then distant healing and intuitive readings, self-love cards that have just been reprinted, roll-on perfumes, coaching and my podcast.

YOU ALSO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL PODCAST TITLED ‘UNCLASSIFIED WOMAN’ WHERE YOU INTERVIEW WOMEN WITHOUT CHILDREN WHO ARE LEADING INTERESTING AND AMAZING LIVES. CAN YOU TELL ME A BIT MORE ABOUT THIS AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT?

This has been another one of those experiences that I wouldn’t really have foreseen but it was the seed of an idea for a couple of years. I felt like the subject chose me and I did have some resistance to it as it just felt like such a HUGE and sensitive topic. The idea just wouldn’t leave me alone though and I’m so glad that I listened to my intuition and let it lead the way. It’s been so enriching for me personally and I receive so many messages from women thanking me for creating the podcast.

Ever since I was a little girl I was never convinced that I would definitely have children. It seemed like one option but I never felt excited by the idea, in the same way I did about other forms of creation. I got married when I was in my mid-20s and it seemed like there was lots of time to think about it. I never felt any urgency or need though to ‘make it happen’ as I was always (and still am) interested in so many other life experiences.

However, through my own family and our society, it is how we are culturally conditioned to believe that being a mother and wife should be a central driving force of our lives as women. If it is not something that you feel strongly about then there can be misunderstanding and judgement. There are soo many reasons for this and so many outdated stereotypes that are unsupportive for ALL women. We need to all support each other’s life choices as women, mothers or not. Every woman’s life is sacred. Your body, your life and your choices.

These conversations, that I am so grateful to be having with podcast guests, are living examples of women all over the globe, who are creating lives of meaning beyond traditional paradigms. I wanted to create this resource for women who may not necessarily have women like this in their immediate circle and for them to feel understood, supported and inspired. Each woman has so much wisdom and so many gems to share. I love it. There is nothing that I find more inspiring than working with women who love themselves enough to express their truth and set themselves free to live a life that is truly theirs – and not one that is ‘expected’.
WHAT ARE SOME SIMPLE THINGS THAT YOU DO FOR SELF CARE?

I’ve learnt to make this a priority and start each morning with lighting incense or a candle and contemplating my intention for the day. Most mornings I go for a short walk and connect with nature. I find if I don’t do this then my day doesn’t really feel as productive as it can. I use my oils daily and I’m a longtime lover of vibrational essences. I also love some EFT and hypnotherapy. My partner and I also go for massages regularly. I find travel really inspiring and nurturing and over the past year I have started to make time offline more of a priority. This is only going to increase moving forward.

I AM BIG BELIEVER IN FINDING THE FUN AND JOY IN EVERYDAY LIFE. WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY?

Walking in nature, yummy food and of course even better quality chocolate! I have always been a bit obsessed with crystals, soy candles, chai tea and raspberries. Preferably all at once! I am a Piscean so I tend to have all my best ideas in a candlelit bath or at the beach. I meditate in the bath and elsewhere and I’m also a complete bookworm. There is nothing quite like diving into a book. I spend a great deal of time in the library. I also love travel and exploring new places. I’ve got some great travel lined up over the next year and I’m excited with the direction of my life and who is in it. Live music and stand up comedy are also extremely enjoyable for me.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF?

Listen to your intuition as you know what’s right for you. Your opinion of you is the only one that matters! The only time I’ve ended up in places where I didn’t want to be, were the times I didn’t listen to myself. There were so many times in my 20’s and early 30’s that I look back on with compassion as I became an expert at ignoring some inconvenient truths. Keeping busy, slapping on a smile and saying everything is fine can only keep you going for so long before you crash and burn. Commit to being your own best friend and watch the miracles unfold…..

 

michellemariemcgrathbeloveMichelle Marie McGrath is a Self-love Mentor to women who are committed to having a lifelong, loving relationship with themselves. She’s the host of “Unclassified Woman” podcast series which features inspiring childfree or childless women around the globe, creating lives of purpose and meaning beyond traditional paradigms. Part story sharing, part myth busting these conversations explore what it means for a woman to create a life on her own terms once she knows that having a child is not going to be a part of her story, whatever the reason. Michelle is also a co-author of “Love and Oneness” alongside luminaries such as Marianne Williamson and Danielle Laporte. Michelle is passionate about falling in love with all parts of herself, and creating tools that assist others to do the same. She creates Sacred Self’s self-love range of alchemical oils, self-love cards and I ❤ MY LIFE Organic Perfume Collection. 
Download your FREE ebook “100% self-love” – 7 weeks of self-love reflections at http://www.sacredself.com.au and tune into her podcast series at http://michellemariemcgrath.com/category/podcast/

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It is time to love your body

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Oh yes, once again it is my favourite time of the year. When all the magazines pop the Kardashian’s away for a couple of weeks and excitedly reveal their best celebrity bikini body makeover stories for 2016 (actually forget that,  there is probably a Kardashian in there somewhere!)

Yes, after a few weeks of eating cheese, Christmas pudding, pavlova, and more cheese, I can’t wait to scan the supermarket shelves and indulge in a bit of body self loathing as taut bikini bodied celebrities tell me how I too can be happy and successful, if only I was ‘half my size!’ Hmmm, if I was actually half my size, then I would spend my Summer in hospital, but don’t let that get in the way of a good story!

Well, I am sorry ‘Woman’s Who New Weekly Idea Day Magazine’ I won’t be joining in your ‘fun’ and berating myself for not looking like Elle MacPherson, I’ll be too busy actually enjoying my life.  Because guess what? She’s got her genes (tall, long limbed, lean and tanned) and I’ve got mine (tallish, medium limbed, pear shaped and white as a lily). She makes her dietary choices and I make mine (mine would probably involve more carbs I’d hazard a guess). She has her exercise routine and I have mine (or I will do when I actually get moving for the year).  I’m also reasonably sure that even if I follow Elle’s 4 week diet plan that I saw on a recent magazine cover, I will still look a lot like me (albeit a little more miserable from depriving myself of pasta).

My body is that of a woman in her mid forties who has given birth to three children and god damn I am proud of it. Here are but a few reasons why:

  • I can still wrestle and pin down my 13 year old son to land a kiss on him (although this is getting admittedly harder)
  • I can still jump and bounce on a trampoline with my daughters (providing I have been to the toilet first)
  • I can still dance the night away like I am 20 (although unfortunately I can no longer ‘drop it like it’s hot’)
  • I can still comfortably walk, hike, jump, and even run short distances if need be (but not skip: I never have been able to skip for some reason)

In other words, my body works pretty darn well: I certainly have a few aches and pains brought on with middle age, but on the whole what a blessing this body of mine that gives me life is.

So why would I care if my tummy isn’t perfectly flat, my thighs have a bit of jiggle, and my bum is of the biggish variety: I am ok with that. My husband is ok with that. My kids are ok with that. I’m pretty sure my friends are ok with that. I’m guessing what they wouldn’t be happy with is a wife, mum, and friend who hated the way she looked, who sat on the sidelines of life because she cared what others might think of her. Who won’t ever get in her bathers in case someone sees those jiggly white thighs of hers. Fuck that for a joke. Life is for living, for having fun, for diving into the ocean…and for eating cheese.

Except, for one thing. The media tells me I shouldn’t be ok with that. Instagram tells me I should be thinner to feel good, people on Facebook fat shame normal sized women all the time, and those god damn magazines tell me that the celebrity bikini lifestyle is what I crave,

But I know one thing they don’t know: I know myself. I am Melissa, I am on the other side of forty and I choose not to give a shit what anyone I don’t love thinks about me.

So here I am at the beginning of 2016, I’ve got my mum bathers on and I’m whooping and dive bombing into my swimming pool with my kids. You may not see a photo of it on Instagram: but that’s ok, I’m having too much fun to get my phone out anyway!

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P.S. When I first saw this photo of me from my holiday to Greece (which is now one of my favourites of myself) my immediate thought was how my billowing top made me look so huge. Is this the first thing you noticed? I’m guessing you saw the beautiful scenery and a woman who is loving her life. If I had listened to that little voice, this photo would have never seen the light of day. Remember we always have a choice in whether to listen to those negative stories we tell ourselves, x

 

 

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