Get back in your place!

So… I’m one of those people who want *more* out of life.

Yes.  MORE.  I want *more* !

There.  I said it.

Part of me cringes when I write that.  It feels greedy.  It feels selfish.  It feels ungrateful.  It feels *wrong*.  I feel like the greedy person who wants to return to the buffet table to heap my plate with third and forth servings.  I feel like I need to… apologise, even… for admitting that… (*cringe*)… I want MORE out of life.

See, I was raised in an environment where I was taught that the “good” people… are the people who choose to diminish.   The people who don’t want “more”.  The people who shrink.  The folk who make themselves small and insignificant.  The people who dutifully go about their business, unseen and unheard.  Those who put themselves lastThose who accept (without question) their “lot” in life.

These days I wonder (with much flummoxed and frustrated pondering)… what that even means.

And perhaps you can help me decipher some of this odd jargon.

What… for fuggsakeis this “LOT” in life that we’re supposed to accept and embrace without question??

Is it like some kind of vile caste system?  Is it some kind of classicist allotment?  Some kind of invisible mould that we’re all supposed to fit in… like those pre-marked spaces on the toolshed wall….?

Oooh, blimey! ... that screwdriver shouldn’t be there!  That’s the hammer’s place.  Screwdrivers aren’t allowed in the hammer’s place.  Screwdrivers must be in the screwdriver place.”

  • “She’s a girl!  A girl can’t do that!  That’s boys stuff!  Get BACK in your place!”
  • “You’re from middle-class Benoni!  That’s your place.  That’s what defines you.  Who the hell do you think you are?  You think you’re better than us?  How dare you want something different!  GET BACK in your place!”
  • “You’re a woman.  A wife.  That’s not how good wives behave!  Get BACK in your place!”
  • “You’re a South African!  That’s what defines you.  You think you’re more special than the rest of us?   Get BACK in your place!”
  • “You want to travel the world?  Why can’t you just be a normal person and be grateful for your house in the suburbs?  You should get those silly ideas out of your head and accept your lot in life!”
  • “You want to publish a book and make a movie???  Jeezyou think very highly of yourself, don’t you?  Who do you think you are?  Do you think you’re so special?  Are our middle-class suburbs too “lowly” for you?  You need to be brought down a notch or two.  Get BACK in your place!”

I’ve heard this kind of talk many… many… times over the course of my life.  And, sure, it’s not always directed at me personally.  Often, I’ve heard folk direct this kind of talk at other people…

And it’s usually:

  • People who don’t fit-in…
  • People who look differently… dress differently… laugh differently… raise their kids differently… believe differently… behave differently…
  • People who dream BIG…
  • People who don’t want what everyone else wants…
  • People who shun convention and the status quo…

And I’ve heard all manner of words and phrases used.

“LOT in life” is a popular one.

Others talk about “her place”… ie:  “She needs to know her place!”… or “Somebody needs to put her back in her place!”…

And “station”, “rank” or “position”, ie:  “He’s shooting above his station in life.  He needs to be brought down a notch or two”.

And, I’ve always wondered:  “Brought down from WHERE?”…

Is he *up* somewhere that he doesn’t belong that somebody feels the need to “bring him DOWN a notch or two”…?  And WHY would one feel the need to bring somebody “down” – and worse – feel somehow smugly justified for doing so?

Why would anyone feel justified for deliberately… purposefully… deciding to “bring somebody down a notch or two”….?

I can’t even begin to tell you how revolted I am by the whole idea. 

I can’t even articulate how violently my soul kicks against this noxious idea that we all have pre-determined little “stations”, “places” or “lots” in life… and – by God – if you don’t WANT to stay in your predetermined, demarcated station… and if you want something different… something *more*… something ELSE… and if you determinedly haul yourself out of the confinements… and aim for the “more”ness..  the OTHER’ness… the something-ELSE… (whether you want a different job… or to move to a different town… different church… different country… different community… or if you just want a different LIFE…)

Then, there is – without fail – a cluster of offended people who howl in protest… and demand that you be “brought down a peg or two” because you have “forgotten your station”… and that you need to be “put back in your place”.

Well – today – I’m just gonna call BULLSHIT on the whole ridiculous idea of caste systems, allotments and demarcated “places”.

It’s codswalloppy-rubbish-toxic-slime-oozing-STINKING… festering… hurtful… unnecessary… BULLSHIT!

There is no demarcated “place” for you (or me).  We are ALL (firstly) EQUAL… and we are ALL valuable… and we are ALL beautifully, wonderfully UNIQUE… !!

Dream the BIG dreams, peeps!  Be who you *ARE*… live life on YOUR terms!  Don’t let things like “race”, “gender”, “sexual-identity”, “nationality”, “class”, “culture”, “age”, “size” (and all the other many boxing-mechanisms) LIMIT the way you see YOURself and your OWN potential.

Don’t let the long-faced bullies with the cat-bum mouths try to bring-you-down!  Don’t let the sour pessimists POO all over your beautiful dreams!  Don’t allow people to make you feel *less* than what you are!  You are not *less*… and you have just as much right (as anyone) to aspire to be whoever you want to be.

There *IS* no Rule Book.

There *IS* no One-Size-Fits-All.

There *IS* no one, special “RIGHT” way to do life.

There is enough food at Life’s Buffet for ALL of us.  Enough big dreams for all of us.  Enough POTENTIAL for ALL of us to access.

I truly believe this.

(Even if I am an idealistic artist).

I truly believe that each human is immeasurably valuable… important… EQUAL… and yet… uniquely different to every other human.

Embrace that beautiful uniqueness.  Celebrate that you’re NOT the same as everyone else.  Figure out what you want and where you want to go… and do NOT let anyone “hold you back”… “bring you down”… or try to “put you in your place”.

Lots of love… Hat x

PS:  Oh… and now that I’ve sent back-packs to all the crowdfunding peeps… it’s time to announce that my book, “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” is now available on Amazon – or you can visit my not-anywhere-close-to-being-completed website to find out more.

I’m DONE with diminishing (and I hope you are too!)

There’s a famous quote by Marianne Williamson (often incorrectly attributed to Nelson Mandela) that goes like this (bare with me if you’ve read it before):

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?”
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others

This quote… as seemingly simple as it is… has been something that has caused a LOT of soul-searching (mostly of the painful type).

You see… I was taught to diminish.

And I learned that lesson well.  Very, very well.

The lessons began when I was much, much younger (back in the days when I still loved acting, performing on stage and amateur theatre).

Here is a photo of the *me* from back then (performing and singing on stage as Boy George):

Mini Pops

And here’s another one… at my tramp-themed birthday party:


But, I was told:

  • “Stop showing off!”
  • “Calm down!”
  • “Keep quiet”
  • “Your jokes aren’t funny.  You just look silly”
  • “Your cousin (the one in the straw hat on the left of the photo above) is the drama student, not you”.

I got it.  I got the message.  I stopped acting.  I stopped performing.  I removed myself from the stage.

And Hat started thinking:  "Perhaps they are right.  Perhaps I DO need to change.  Perhaps I AM ridiculous".

And Hat started thinking: “Perhaps they are right. Perhaps I DO need to change. Perhaps I AM ridiculous”.

At the age of 16, I joined a church.  A couple of years later, I joined the church worship team… but… there was this shadow of worry that lingered like a toxic fume.  Was I *performing* again?  Was I showing-off again?  Was it sinful and wrong for me to be *seen* on the stage?  Did I think more highly of myself than I ought?  Was I sinning by seeking *approval* and *applause* from PEOPLE – instead of from God alone?

So, I told myself again and again that I would NOT perform… or be *seen*.  Instead – my job was to diminish into the background and make sure that God was always first.  I used to repeat again and again:  “More of you, Lord… less of me… less of me… less of me…”

When you keep telling yourself to diminish… eventually, you DO.


This kind of thing… passed around in Christian circles… reminding each-other NOT to be splendid… NOT to shine… NOT to be extraordinary. But rather… to shrink, to be less, to be small… a quiet little unseen mouse in the corner. But at least (we told ourselves)… we were “right”… we were “humble”… and God-was-pleased.

My mother used to talk of me “hiding behind a pot-plant”.  Because that’s exactly what I’d do.  If our particular event called for the worship team to be up on a stage… I would try to find myself a shadowy little corner at the back of the stage (preferably next to – or behind – a pot plant)… where I could hide behind my keyboard, keep my head down and put-the-Lord-FIRST.

And I believed that God was pleased by my shrinking.  I believed that’s what God wanted.  I believed that it was very Good-Christian of me.  And that it was the *right* thing to do.

At the time – I wrote a poem (I get a bit of vomit in my mouth when I recall this short excerpt):

I have no need of compliments, nor people’s vain applaud.  This is no proud performance, MY song is for the Lord.

I scorned compliments and applause.  And I believed that any kind of performance was proud, sinful and wrong.  In my mind, being a Good-Christian meant “becoming invisible”… and “serving from the shadows”.

Church – of course – wasn’t the only source of the Diminishment Doctrine.  School… society… the media… they all played a role in teaching me how to hide.   As a woman – I quickly learned that my worth would always be determined by my external appearance.  So… when I started getting fat… I tarred myself in shame and black baggies… and hid… and disappeared… and lurked in the shadows… and hoped not to be noticed.

The Diminishment Doctrine was authored by a whole concoction of pastors, prefects, parents and ad-execs.  Problem is – I lapped it all up – like the good, obedient, eager-to-please little doggie that I was.

Yet another photo of the years when I wore only black clothes and tried my best to disappear...

Yet another photo of the years when I wore only black clothes and tried my best to disappear…

By the time 2007 arrived, I had mastered The Art of Diminishment.  Mastered it.  I had managed to make myself almost completely invisible (except for a tiny tribe of very close people – who *saw* me)…

And… then…

…somewhere… somehow… I read that blasted Marianne Williamson quote for the first time.

And her words:

“We ask ourselves:  “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?

Which was – like – the story of my life.  In fact – I didn’t even ASK myself any more.  *Obviously* I would never aspire to be “brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous”… because those things were wrong… and selfish… and bad… and vain!

And then her next words:

“Actually, who are you NOT to be?  You are a child of God.  Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightened about shrinking…..”

Okay.  Slap. Through. The. Face.


What was that?

“Who are you NOT to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented fabulous?”

*gasp of horror!*

“Your playing small does not serve the world”.

I remember initially feeling offended by those words.  Smallness… “humility”… serving-from-the-shadows… diminishing… emptying ourselves… being LESS… these were all *GOOD* things…!

… (weren’t they)…?

And I was forced to ask myself this inevitable (very, very, very, VERY uncomfortable) question:

“If I truly believe that being small and diminishing has – in some way – served the world… or been a good thing… or helped others… or benefited humankind (or God) in some way… HOW might this have happened?  Can I think of a single example of how my hiding and diminishing has been helpful or *good* for ANYONE?…. Anyone at all….?”

Of course…

I had to face the ugly truth.

WHAT had my decades of diminishment, invisibility and shrinking accomplished?


No – wait – not only had it not accomplished anything… not only had it NOT served or helped anybody in any situation… but – instead it had wreaked an astonishing path of destruction.

My self-esteem?… my health?… my sense of worth?… in absolute tatters.  My talents and gifts (that I’d potentially be able to use to help or serve others?)… all packed away in the dark, dusty corners of my mind… lest I be guilty of “selfish ambition” or “proud performance” or “vanity” by unpacking those talents and exploring ways to share them with others.

Not to mention the utter hypocrisy… of parenting from the shadowy places of diminishment.

“You’re beautiful, valuable and acceptable – exactly as you are!” I’d tell my daughter (whilst believing myself to be ugly and worthless).

“Follow your dreams!” I’d encourage my kids (whilst simultaneously refusing to give myself permission to follow mine).

Well.  I’m done.

Done, done… DONE.

I’ve been done with the diminishment doctrine for a long time now (the journey began in 2007 – and continues still).

But today – I was reminded – once again – of how this toxic poison regularly tries to sneak back into my life…  and especially when I’m in vulnerable-mode (as mentioned in the previous post)… and even MORE especially when I’m asking people to back my Big Dream.

When stuff like this happens, I’m bombarded with Diminishment Doctrine thoughts like:

  • “Who do you think you are, Heather Costaras?”
  • “Do you think you’re so special?  Do you think you’re so talented?  Well – you’re NOT!  You should just leave the illustrations to the REAL Artists out there”.
  • “What right do you have to think you can publish a book?  You’re not a REAL writer!  You’re not a REAL singer!  You should just give up this crazy idea… and come back to the shadows.  It’s where you belong”.
  • “You are being VAIN, PROUD and SELFISH!”
  • “Why do you think that anybody gives a damn about your stupid book and your stupid story!?  You’re not some celebrity! You’re not important!  You’re just some bland mother-of-two from the suburbs of Johannesburg.  Nobody gives a shit about YOUR story, Heather.  Pack this crazy-stupid dream AWAY!  You’re just making a fool of yourself.”

But… you know what?

I’m DONE with diminishing, shrinking, playing-small, hiding and making myself invisible.

The time has come to (finally)… SHINE.

As we are ALL meant to do.  And that nasty little voice can shout, scream and tantrum all it wants.

But… nonetheless… I’m going to shine.  And I hope that you will too.  And – as we let our own light shine… we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fears, our presence automatically liberates others.


To end off – here’s 3 recent – and very Hattish photos from our Mad-Hat tea-party (shot by my very dear friend, Tracey Kelsey):

We clearly don't take ourselves very seriously these days...!  ;-)

We clearly don’t take ourselves very seriously these days…! 😉

Much giggling...

Much giggling…

Cupcake boobs - tee-hee!!

Cupcake boobs – tee-hee!!


If you’re based in Joburg and you’d like to hear me TELL… and SING… this story (about shining)…with added artwork, photos, slides and what-not…  come along to Fisherman’s Village at 6pm on Saturday the 27th June.  There will be comfy couches and a roaring fire.  Bring some cash if you want to buy coffee, cakes or hot, freshly prepared jaffles.  🙂

And – if you’d like to pre-order your signed, first-edition copy of “How Heather got her HAT’ness back” – click here.  I only have 5 more days to raise about $2000… in order to get the book printed & distributed.  This is scary & terrifying… and a huge part of me yearns to hide myself… and my dream… from all of you.  But another (much more stubborn) part of me says:  “No!  I will *DO* this thing.  I will not chicken out!” So please bare with me.  I’m gonna promote the shit out of this crowdfunding campaign until it closes on Monday the 29th.  After that, I’ll return to *normal* blog-posts.  x

The Emancipation from the Expectation!

“Expectation is the root of all heartache” – Shakespeare

Ugh.  Expectations.  I’m sure that every person reading this post knows about expectations:  the burdensome ideals place upon your life by other people (and oftentimes, yourself):    All those things you’re supposed-to do.  The way you’re supposed-to live.  The way you’re supposed-to look.  The company you ought-to keep.  All the stuff you *ought* to do.  The things you’re supposed-to say (or not say).  The ways you’re supposed-to raise your kidlets.   The things you’re supposed-to want.   All the flaming hoops you’re expected to jump through – in order to please other people and keep everyone happy.

In order to be liked.  In order to fit-in.  In order not to piss-people-off.  In order to keep-the-peace.

I understand why Shakespeare said that expectation is the root of all heartache.  Because it is.

Expectations hurt BOTH the people doing the expecting… AND the person upon whose shoulders the expectation has been placed.

But first – a differentiation (my wise friend, Charise, reminded me of this yesterday).  There is a difference between agreed-upon expectations… and the *other* kind… (the damaging kind).

An agreed-upon expectation looks like this:

  • Charise and I have a discussion and make a plan to meet for lunch.
  • We both agree to meet at 12pm at a certain venue.
  • Because we have agreed… Charise will now *expect* me to arrive on time at said venue.
  • If I don’t arrive on time… and if I’m hopelessly late (or – if I forget completely… like I once did with my friend Ryley)… then I’m going to owe my friend an apology (and, in the case of Ryley, who sat waiting for me in a coffee shop for two hours… a fair bit of grovelling!)

Another agreed-upon expectation is – say – a wedding vow.  When Nick and I got married, we both promised to be faithful to each other.  This is now an agreed-upon expectation.  I expect him not to cheat on me.  He expects me not to cheat either.  Fair’s fair.

However…  it’s the unspoken expectations that are the vile and insidious ones.  Those are the ones that – I believe – are the root of all heartache.

Here’s how they look (I’m sure you’ll find a number of these very familiar):

  • “You didn’t call me on my birthday”
  • “You didn’t send condolences when my dog died”
  • “You didn’t greet me at church on Sunday”
  • “You didn’t thank me publicly during your acceptance speech”

In the case of relationships, unspoken-expectations can wreak absolute havoc.  Here’s what some of those look like:

  • “I expect you to clean up after yourself and not just leave your clothes on the floor”
  • “I expect you to do the dishes after I cook.  After all, I’m not the house-slave”
  • “I expect you to bring me flowers”
  • “I expect you to be well-groomed at all times”
  • “I expect sex.  And I expect you to enjoy it”
  • “I expect you to change poo nappies”
  • “I expect you to be good with children”
  • “I expect you to get up and see to the baby when he cries at night.  I’m not the only parent in this relationship”
  • “I expect you to fill the car with petrol when the tank gets low and not just leave it for me to deal with”
  • “I expect you to be a fabulous hostess”
  • “I expect you to visit your mother on your own – without expecting me to come with!”
  • “I expect you to dish up my supper for me”

There are, of course, gazillions of examples of unspoken-expectations.  And, unless they are all discussed and agreed-upon… (and preferably before one skips merrily down the aisle) it’s just going to cause a whole LOT of simmering resentment!

Here’s how unspoken-expectations hurt the person (upon whom the expectations have been placed):  Firstly… it feels stifling, limiting… it feels like we can never measure up… we’re never “enough”… we always seem to be doing something *wrong*… it feels as though we’re followed by a constant stream of judgement and condemnation.  It feels as though we’re constantly disappointing others.  It feels as though we just…. can’t… truly…. *BE*… ourselves.

And here’s how unspoken-expectations hurt the person who is doing the expecting:  They feel offended.  They feel disappointed.  They feel as though the person in question just doesn’t care about them – or their feelings.  They feel frustrated… ie:  “Why can’t they see what they’re doing wrong?”… or … “They’re being deliberately obstinate!  They’re doing this just to piss me off because they *know* I don’t like it!”

See how unspoken expectations cause such hurt?  And, I think we’re all guilty of placing unfair, unspoken expectations upon others.  I know I have.  And I don’t want to do it any more.

Okay… so now I’m going to speak personally.

In the interests of NOT feeling as though I’m living under a cloud of expectation… both with my blog… my book… my workshops… my shows…

I need to make it abundantly clear who Heather – or “Hat” IS… (and who Hat is NOT)…

That way, if I say “fuck”… or if I talk about (or draw) uncouth things like Dream-Poo’ers… I’m not going to receive howls of offended protest… long, earnest e-mails from folk expressing their disappointment in me (this has already happened a few times).

So… in the interests of being as real and honest as I can possibly be…  here are some of my scribbles that can possibly express my Hat’ness (better than a long-worded post)… and will (hopefully) put to rest any unspoken expectations of who folk think I’m *supposed to* be… or what I’m *supposed to* believe… or how I’m *supposed to* live… and what-not….

One of my favourite "expectation" quotes (by Anthony Hopkins)

One of my favourite “expectation” quotes (by Anthony Hopkins)

this I believe


the fuck-it list


I once wrote this post about How-to-Spot-a-Dream-Poo'er... (a Dream Poo'er is, of course, the well-meaning person who finds it necessary to poo on your dreams and aspirations and tell you that your dream is a terrible idea... and you shouldn't even bother because it will never work... and they end by saying something like:  "I'm only being realistic, you know".... or "I'm telling you this out of love"....

I once wrote this post about How-to-Spot-a-Dream-Poo’er… (a Dream Poo’er is, of course, the well-meaning person who finds it necessary to poo on your dreams and aspirations and tell you that your dream is a terrible idea… and you shouldn’t even bother because it will never work… and they end by saying something like: “I’m only being realistic, you know”…. or “I’m telling you this out of love”….

who I am

they who say

I’m going to end this post with that wonderful Anthony Hopkins quote (I aspire to *live* this quote):

“My philosophy is:  It’s none of my business what other people say about me or what other people think about me.  I am who I am and I do what I do.  I expect nothing and accept everything.  And it makes life so much easier”.

Bravo, Anthony!

PS:  I’d love to hear any of YOUR stories about expectations…  how they’ve hurt or limited you…  or any other lessons you’ve learned about how to politely extract yourself from other people’s expectations…  X

How to make peace with your weakness

I don’t know about you, but I was raised in a culture that taught me – from a young age – that my weaknesses needed to be “fixed”… my problems ought to be “cured”… and my deficits had to be neutralized.

And the message… that I wasn’t “enough” as I was – and that I needed to be fixed, was never stronger than when I was at school (and in particular, high school).

For example, I’ve never been good with numbers and maths.  I don’t like numbers and maths.  I don’t *get* numbers and maths.  And I don’t want to work with numbers and maths… and I DEFINITELY don’t want a career that involves numbers and maths. Yet, in school, this was viewed as a weakness that needed to be fixed.

So – due to my low marks in maths,  I:

  • got into a lot of trouble with maths teachers
  • was placed in the “Donkey Row” in maths class (the row of desks in front of the teacher’s desk – designated specifically for naughty kids and “dunces”)
  • was scolded a lot for my low maths scores (on tests)
  • was punished – regularly – for daydreaming in maths class, staring out the window (and desperately wishing to be anywhere else in the world – but there)
  • was told that I ought to just concentrate… and focus… and “pull-up-my-socks”
  • was repeatedly told that my low maths test scores would damage my future potential and that I would struggle to get a job (one teacher told me I’d end up sweeping streets… another told me that I’d end up selling-cheese-in-Checkers)

So… due to this perceived problem… this alleged deficit… this weakness-that-needed-fixing… a lot of time was spent (by me) and money spent (by my parents)… on *fixing*… this “weakness” (regular after-school maths lessons, extra maths homework, break-times spent doing extra sums, etc).

Of course (and I’m sure nobody is really surprised to hear this)… that when all that forced coersion ended… and the Master Maths lessons stopped… and school days were over… all of that supposedly “learned” material that was foisted upon me… magically vanished into thin air – and I never thought of trigonometry or calculus… ever again.

To this day… the only maths I do (or care to do)… is basic sums (like add a 20% tip onto the bill at a restaurant)… or a few simple baking conversions… or pricing on a new product.   The rest – I leave up to the people in this world who are genuinely gifted at (and interested in) numbers.   And yes – there are lots of people who love numbers.

I – however – am not one of them.

My point is this:  I truly believe that the obsession with my weaknesses came at the expense of my gifts and natural talents.

There’s a great quote in the Strengths Finder book by Tom Rath:

“What’s even more disheartening is the way our fixation on deficits affects young people in the home and classroom.  In every culture we have studied, the overwhelming majority of parents (77% in the United States) think that a student’s lowest grades deserve the most time and attention.  Parents and teachers reward excellence with apathy instead of investing more time in the areas where a child has the most potential for greatness”

Zactly, Tom!

Imagine if, instead of focusing on fixing my weaknesses (like maths) – that my parents and school teachers, instead, INVESTED into my natural strengths… my natural gifts… the areas where I had the most potential to  thrive and shine.   And what if all that time and money… had been spent on investing in growing my skills and understanding in the fields of art, design, music and literature (the stuff I genuinely loved).

And I think that many of us learned… way-way-back from our school days… that weakness equaled “failure”.  And failure equaled shame.  And shame equaled rejection and isolation (whether self-inflicted or otherwise).   Because it was shameful to fail certain subjects… or just not be GOOD at certain things (like the kids who were always last in the running-races… or those who were always picked last for teams… or those who were placed in the Donkey Row in maths class…)


What if… it was just OKAY… to suck at something….?

What if – there was NO SHAME attached – in any way – to our weaknesses?

And when I say “weaknesses” – I refer to a plethora of areas where we’re just not strong

Like…  it’s okay to suffer from depression.  It’s not a shameful condition.  It doesn’t mean that you’re a self-centred, self-obsessed loser.  It just means that, well, your brain works a bit differently to others… and you’ve probably already figured out that you need to find ways to manage that condition…

But it’s not a shameful thing.

And – it’s okay to be addicted to something (most of us are!)… whether it’s food, drink, prescription meds, gambling, shopping, soap-operas or gossip! (to mention just a very short list).  It’s not a shameful condition.  You are not an evil monster for struggling with addiction!  You are not a ‘lesser’ human being!  In fact, I think society does addicts an enormous disservice by shaming and isolating them.  Why can’t we just be honest about our addictions (without fearing an avalanche of shame and ridicule from others)…. (?)

Because it’s OKAY to say:  “Y,know what?  I am really, really struggling with this thing.  I can’t do it on my own.  I need some help – can you help me?”

And it’s okay to GET help… and to discover ways to manage your addiction in a way that works best for you.  And to be supported – instead of shamed.

And… it’s okay to say:  “I can’t”

You’re not a loser or a weakling for saying:  “I… just… can’t“.

You are not a failure for saying:  “I am just NOT finding this possible!”… or a screw-up for saying:  “Actually – I just don’t want to do this”.

It’s okay to ACCEPT and MAKE PEACE WITH your weakness (in fact – I’d go as far as to suggest… that it’s the only way to move forward)… (as I think anyone who has journeyed with AA would concur).

Quick example:  I could either bully and shame myself… indefinitely… until the end of time… for being messy, disorganised and bad with numbers and money.  I could berate myself, scold myself, tell-myself-to-muster-up-the-willpower to *fix* myself… (and then wallow in the mud-pit of self-hatred when all my Plans-to-Fix-Myself came to naught)…  OR… I could make peace with my weaknesses in that department…. and compose a blog post – sharing my weakness with the world – and ask for help in the areas where I am just NOT naturally strong…. (I have found my “Andrew” – by the way!!)

This is what I want for you:  I want you to make peace with yourself – exactly as you are, right now.   We ALL have flaws.  We ALL have weaknesses.  We ALL have areas of our lives where we’re just not naturally… strong.

But… instead of spending your life… your time… your money… your energy… trying desperately to *fix* all the areas where you feel like you’re not measuring up – try investing in your strengths instead!  Spend your time, money and energy doing the stuff you love… investing in your passions and what makes you come alive!   Do the stuff you’re good at!  And – encourage your kids to do the stuff they’re good at too!

I cannot emphasise enough – how that decision – to stop shaming myself,  make peace with my weakness…. and focus, instead, on my strengths – has turned my life around.

I’m not ashamed that I struggle to keep things organised and neat.  I’m not ashamed that I count on my fingers.  I’m not ashamed of my body.  I’m not ashamed of my limited cooking skills.  I’m not ashamed that my brain sometimes doesn’t co-operate in the way I’d like it to.  I’m not ashamed that I’m not sporty and can’t run fast.  I’m not ashamed that I can’t hit a ball with a racquet.  I’m not ashamed that I suck at acting.  I’m not ashamed of my eating disorder.  I’m not ashamed of my big bum… or my cellulite.  I’m not ashamed of my quirks and oddities.

I have found ways to quietly manage (whilst not obsessing over) the areas where my weakness has the potential to negatively affect my life.   But the vast majority of my time is now spent on investing in my strengths.

And it has changed… everything.


PS:  As some of you have already surmised, I genuinely enjoy hearing other people’s stories!  Any strengths or weaknesses that you’d like to share the the comments section?  I’m listening…


The video (of me) that I almost never posted

I’m going to post a video.

But before you watch this video… I need you to understand the back-story behind the video.

I created the video in 2009 as a part of a social upliftment project that I had embarked upon called Tapestry of Dreams.

The video was created for a show that we produced – and basically – I was trying to encourage the audience (and myself) to escape One-Day-When Land… and to give ourselves permission to live – in the “now”… and not continually put life on hold… and wait, wait, wait…. until all kinds of magical circumstances fell into place… (in my case, being *thin*)… until we gave ourselves permission to actually DO the things we wanted to do with our lives.

The video – in a sense – was a leap of faith for me.  It was my way of putting myself out there… of exposing my favourite One-Day-When excuse… and it was also my way of cutting off any escape routes or excuses to bolt  (Quick Heads Up:  I’m doing the exact same thing with this post… and you’ll understand why when you read the paragraph at the bottom).

Because – if I was going to make a very vulnerable, public video about my One-Day-When excuses… and if I was going to end the video by saying:  “No!  I have the right to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous… exactly as I am… right now!”

Then… by God… I *HAD TO* actually DO what I said I would do.

I had to pursue my goals and dreams… regardless of my weight… regardless of my terrible self-esteem… regardless of my body-shame…

… and I had to learn to love myself – exactly as I was… instead of waiting … and waiting… and waiting… for the ONE DAY… WHEN… I *got thin*.

So – that’s what I did.

I stopped waiting to start living.

And at that show – in 2009… I got up on that stage, in front of all those people… (in spite of my body-embarrassment)… and I sung a song that I had composed which was titled:  “I want to shine” (it was the first time I had sung on stage in many years).

Here’s a photo:

tod show

And… after that show – from then… until now… I have slowly, steadily and very deliberately… learned to un-hate myself… and to treat myself and my body with the love and respect it deserves… and to actively pursue my dreams and the life I want (regardless of my addictions and failings).

YES… the “me” in the video below is significantly fatter than the “me” of today (about 30 kilograms… more-or-less).

But I don’t just want you to focus on the weight.  Please.

I don’t want the video to be *about* the weight… because I also don’t want to give anyone the idea that this journey is all about weight-loss… or that Fat-Me was somehow “bad” or “disgusting”… and that Current-Me is somehow more acceptable or worthy than Fat-Me.

Because I was always worthy.

But – for the longest time – I just didn’t realise it.

I had bought into the bullshit lie (perpetuated by our toxic society) that my worth… or value… as a human being… and, especially as a woman – was based on my weight and my external appearance.

The reason I’m showing this video is NOT so I can say:  “Hey!  Look how much weight I lost!  Look how disgusting that person in the video was… I’m sure glad I’m not her anymore!”

The reason I’m showing this video is – instead – to say… how very proud I am of (the me) in that video.

That person in the video?  I’m proud of her bravery… I’m proud of her willingness to be vulnerable… and I’m proud that she took the steps towards deliberate living and self-love… in spite of her insecurities and struggles.

That “Me” in the video set me on a beautiful journey… that continues to this day.  And the (numerous) wonderful changes that have happened in my life since 2009 – can be attributed to “that” me… when she decided to stop waiting to start living.

I am still reaping the rewards of that choice.

So… without further ado – here’s the video:

 And… speaking of putting myself “out there”… it is with (MUCH) fear and trepidation that… I have launched a crowd-funding campaign.  This – by the way – is the FIRST… EVER… crowd-funding campaign I have ever launched (long-time followers of this blog know that I don’t ask for stuff… or try to sell stuff… and I’ve certainly never done anything like *this* before) … and I can barely type these words because I’m experiencing an over-thinking meltdown… and a gazillion what-if’s (“What if my blog followers think I’m taking advantage of them?”  “What if they tell me to stop begging?”  “What if nobody donates a red cent?”  “What if people think less of me because of this?”  “What if people unsubscribe because of this?”  “What will people think of me?”)…  *cringe-cringe*… okay – so without further ado (insert further cringing and much freak-out here)…  here’s the link:

Okay.  I’m going.  I need a hot bath….and Nutella.

Hugs & love to all…. X

We ALL want the freedom to be ourselves

So… something new happened on my blog recently.

A post of mine went a bit viral.

Not viral (in terms of the internet)… not *truly* viral… but certainly viral for ME and my lil’ ol’ blog.

I usually get around 100 visitors (to my blog) every day.  That number triples or quadruples on days I post something new (by the way – I only checked my stats yesterday.  Usually – I never check stats).

But 3 days ago… my in-box started pinging wildly with new folk signing up… new twitter followers… and, when I looked at the blog… I realised that 3 days ago, I had 28 000 visitors to my blog.  Yesterday it was 36 000.  This morning, it’s steadily climbing at 15 000.

The post – in question – is pretty short (especially compared to some of my long, ranty posts).  Mostly – it’s about a story from Ken Robinson’s book “The Element” – that deeply moved me.

And the reason why that story deeply moved me… is because I related – in so many ways – with the story of the child who just didn’t *fit* into school… into the System… into the box.

In so many ways – I identified with the all-too-common situation of being a unique, creative individual – up against a school-system that continually tried to box me, mould me and force me to be something I’m not.

A system that continually told me that I ought to *fix* my weaknesses (like maths, science, accountancy)… instead of truly invest in – and focus on – my strengths (like art, music, storytelling).

A system that told me that the highest qualities to aspire to was loyalty (usually to another system – like government or religion)… obedience, patriotism, following-the-rules, fitting-in, being “sensible”, “practical”, “responsible”, “respectable”, “acceptable”… and being a good, obedient, dutiful, un-questioning little citizen (and later, raising good, obedient citizen-children).

It’s not just the school-system that does this, by the way.  The school system is where the moulding begins… but, in many way, our toxic westernised society simply endorses and strengthens these unspoken rules.

We’re told that life works a certain *way*.

That there’s a “right” way… and there’s a “wrong” way.

The “right” way works like so:

  • Go to school for 13 years (or more).  Obey the rules.  Pass the tests.  Impress the powers-that-be.
  • After school – go to university (regardless of whether you even know who you are – or what you actually want to DO with your life).  Get a degree.
  • After university, get a job (doesn’t matter whether the job is fulfilling – or whether it makes you happy – or whether it plays to your unique strengths.  Or whether the work is something relevant and important that makes a difference in the world. What matters is The Money.  You get “a job”… for… “the money”)
  • And – after all – you need the money… because now you’re already in debt (usually student-debt… for a start).
  • Buy car.
  • Buy stuff.
  • Get married (with big, expensive wedding and short, expensive honeymoon)
  • Have children.
  • Buy big new house.
  • Buy new stuff for new house.
  • Maybe get a promotion at job (money used to buy bigger house, bigger car or more stuff).
  • Send your own kids to school prepare them for the ‘zact same process.
  • Save for “Retirement” (on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to live the life of your choosing – “later”)
  • Get into more debt.  Buy more stuff.
  • Exist on a routine of working, eating, sleeping, TV-watching, shopping and bill-paying.
  • Until – eventually – you’re old… and (maybe – if you’re one of the fortunate ones) you retire with enough money to chug around your nice retirement village in your golf-cart.
  • Die.

But… y’know… what if this “Right Way”… doesn’t work for everyone?  What if there are people who are different?  Or who want something different out of life?

  • What if there are people who don’t want to send their kids through the System of School (usually because they – themselves – were damaged by that same system)…(?)
  • What if there are those who couldn’t give a steaming turd about things like “status” and the accumulation of more *stuff*?
  • What if there are those who would rather live in the *NOW*… than spend their lives fretting and what-if’ing about the future? (The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying is a useful wake-up call in this regard).
  • And those who would rather travel the world than ‘settle down’ in the suburbs?
  • And those who don’t give a damn about the-latest-fashions… and what’s on-trend… and what’s-hot-right-now… and the latest celebrity scandal… and what’s on Reality TV…?
  • Or those who just – want something *more* than rush-hour-traffic, dull-routine, suburbia, shopping malls, soap operas, office cubicles, fitting-in, measuring-up and being “normal”…?

And… I think that for me… and certainly for most people – deep down inside of us… fighting to be *heard* amidst the din of societal expectations… is a very human desire for freedom – and the right to just *BE* who we are.

And I wonder why that’s the reason why my post has been receiving so much traffic.  Perhaps we’re all just searching for ways to embrace the unique individuals that many of us lost sight of… after years and years of forced compliance.

My natural self… my *real* self is creative, adventurous, spontaneous, messy, wild, un-tamed, slightly potty-mouthed, risk-taking, idealistic, considerably stubborn – and brimming with questions.

Here’s a photo that pretty-much sums up the Real Me (taken on my 8th birthday):

tramp party

But – for so many years – I conformed to the expectations placed upon me by school, church and society.  For so many (miserable) years – I completely lost sight of who I was!

And life became about fitting-in, obeying-the-rules, being sensible – and “normal” – and doing what was expected of me (and it almost killed me… in more ways than one).

Here’s a photo taken during the I-Must-Fit-In-And-Be-Normal years:

sad heather5

I am SO done with that now.

And maybe you are too.

And maybe we can journey forward together… and find ourselves again.

PS:  I host creative workshops and send out downloadable “Hatbooks” that tackle this kind of thing in a unique, hands-on way.  For more info, send me an E:

Sorry, I judged you

I have a friend who has suffered from depression for many, many years.

She’s been on depression meds for many years too… without which (she says), she would “slit (her) wrists in a warm bath”…

I never understood this.  I kinda-sorta empathised (because that did sound rather ominous… and rather drastic).. but I never *understood*.  I never *got* it.

I’ve always been a naturally optimistic, upbeat, laid-back kind of person.  Even during the really shitty times of my life (and there have been some really shitty times) – I would always manage, somehow, to find a silver lining to the darkest of clouds.  I never understood how some people just seemed to go through life… continually depressed… even when life seemed to be going reasonably well.

Take Robin Williams.  I was terribly sad when he committed suicide… but – for the life of me – I just didn’t *get* it.  How, I wondered, could somebody – who seemed to have everything (including a loving, supportive family)… been miserable enough to take his own life (?)

Sure, I wasn’t screaming judgement and condemnation… and I wasn’t voicing any disapproval of his decision (to end his life)…

But – I think – if I’m honest with myself… on a deep level, there were those lingering questions about Robin Williams, my friend and anyone else who has struggled with depression:

  • “But, why can’t they just get over it?”
  • “Why can’t they just think happy thoughts?”
  • “Why can’t they just get involved in charity work or something that will take their minds off their own irrational woes?”

“Why can’t they just….?”

To be honest… I want to make a bit of vomit in my own mouth when I hear those words.  “Why can’t they just…?”

Because – I remember when those words were applied to ME and MY life… and MY issues:

  • “Why can’t you just eat less?”
  • “Why can’t you just exercise more?”
  • “Why can’t you just control yourself around food?”
  • “Why can’t you just say no?”

And I remember how F*R*U*S*T*R*A*T*E*D… and humiliated… I would feel after those conversations… because – unless you have walked down that road yourself… and unless you have been an addict yourself… and unless you *know* and *get* the deep, internal struggles… the feelings of worthlessness and failure… the feelings of self-hatred… the constant yearning for the taboo… the obsession… the feelings of helplessness…

… well, unless… you *know*…

… unless you’ve BEEN THERE…

You have no right to spout forth judgement on others.

NO right.

Like… NONE.


At the age of 19, I got married to a man 10 years my senior.  It didn’t go well.  He’s a very different man now (all these years later – and he has apologised and made right with me)… so I hesitate to tell you the full story.  But… let’s just say that it involved lots of alcohol, prostitutes and emotional abuse.

It lasted for 5 years.  At the end of it… I was an emotional wreck… and self-abusing (binge eating, hair pulling and cutting… mostly).

The church I attended decided that I needed help (which was true).

So… they packed me off to a Divorce Recovery Workshop… facilitated by (I kid you not)… 3 married couples… who had never been divorced (or abused… or self-abusing… or, well, anything really).

Instead, I had to sit under the condescending tutelage of three shiny, happy Christian couples who were hopelessly equipped to deal with the mess-that-was-me.

And how could they?

They hadn’t walked in my shoes…

They didn’t *know*…

They didn’t *get* it.

They just told me to “pray more”…. and “have more faith”… and that God would miraculously fix me.


(I wonder how often depressed people have been told the same thing?)


About 4 months ago, a doctor put me on some very strong antibiotics to deal with a lingering chest cold that just didn’t want to go away.  The side affects of the antibiotics (which I didn’t realise at the time)… was depression and anxiety.

Well… it hit me like a freight train (only months later, I worked out why).

And all of a sudden… the “normal” me… the upbeat, positive, silver-lining me… was suffocating under the weight of the thick, black smog of depression…

I have never experienced anything like it.  And I never, ever want to feel that way again.

It’s like all the life and the joy and the purpose seemed to have been sucked out of the world… and out of my life.  All the things that used to make sense… no longer made any sense.  All the purpose that I used to feel… now seemed pointless and irrelevant.  All the beauty and the positivity that I used to see around me… seemed to have faded – like a bright shiny apple that goes brown, rotten and worm-infested.

The rational part of my mind could NOT get to grips with this craziness.  I remember thinking:  “What is wrong with me?  This is not like me?  I’m not like this!  I’m a happy person!  Where did my happiness go?  What is happening?  I can’t carry on like this?  I can’t live like this!!??”

It made no sense.

And the FEAR… and the ANXIETY.

I would be gripped by sudden, inexplicable panic.  My heart would beat so fast and so loudly that I was sure that others could hear it.  I would break out in a sweat – and be utterly convinced that some terrible disaster… some tragedy… was about to happen either to me – or to my loved ones.

I became convinced that I was dying… of some god-awful disease.  I started thinking:  “That’s it.  I’ve lost my mind and my health.  My life is over.  Nick is going to end up raising the kids without me”.

The world just became… a very dark, dark place for a while.

A dark… lonely…. purposeless place.


I *get* it now.

Sure, I don’t *get* a life-long struggle with depression and anxiety because, thankfully… I experienced that dark place for only a month… and once the course of antibiotics wore off… the depression and anxiety left too – and I returned to my normal (generally optimistic) self.

But… now I *get* it.

And I suddenly have this abundance… this deep well of empathy… for those who struggle, on a long-term basis, with depression and anxiety.

Never again will I think:  “Why can’t they just think happy thoughts?”  or “Why can’t they just do something positive with their lives that will make them happy again?” or “Why can’t they just get over themselves?”

Never again will I think those things.

Never again will I judge those whose shoes I have NOT walked in.


Going through that experience has given me a lot of food for thought.  It has made me wonder about who else I judge (even if only on a deep, internal level).

Who else am I inwardly scorning and judging… even though I’ve never walked in their shoes (?)

Who else do I quietly ridicule… even though I have no idea about their circumstances or journey?

Maybe the world needs more love and compassion from the likes of me.  And maybe I should keep in mind this quote from Ghandi (which, I think, could pertain to pretty-much anything):

“Mine is not an exclusive love.  I cannot love Moslems or Hindus and hate Englishmen.  For if I love merely Hindus and Moslems because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, as they well do any moment.  A love that is based on the goodness of those you love is a mercenary affair”

 “A love that is based only on the GOODNESS of those you love… is a mercenary affair”.  

Chew on that for a bit.

I am…