After delivering a keynote to a network of businesswomen the other day, someone asked me – what’s one thing you know now, that you wish you’d known growing up?
One thing? Man, I wish I’d known a lot of things.
- I wish I’d known in advance that the guy I fell in love with at the age of nineteen would turn out to be an absolutely massive twat and cost me a lot of money in therapy
- I wish I’d known that I will NEVER have a flat stomach, so just eat carbs and be merry
- And I wish I’d had some warning that doing it doggy style can make you more prone to a fanny fart
Ah the list goes on, as I’m sure it does for you.
While there’s no doubt that all this knowledge would have been incredibly helpful, I am indeed in possession of one piece of information that would have been a game changer – and can be a game changer for all other businesswomen out there.
It would have helped me to reign in my need to prove myself, and in doing so minimised (or perhaps eliminated) my tendencies for perfectionism, self-sabotage and even depression.
It would have prevented me from feeling perpetually unfulfilled, because I would have been more comfortable being myself and walking my own path, rather than trying to fit into something I’m not.
And it would have allowed me to have a lot more fun, and get a LOT more shit done.
But alas, I know that I wasn’t meant to learn this until recent years. I was supposed to go through all that bullshit, so I could arrive in this very spot and give this learning to you from a place of true empathy and understanding.
So you want to know what it is?
The one thing you need to know to be successful without working your arse into the ground is…
Your brain’s number one priority is survival
I’ll say it again, because it’s so important – your brain’s number one priority is survival.
So everything you think and everything you do is actually a strategy employed by your brain to keep you safe.
Your anxiety, your procrastination, your insecurities, your worries about what people think, your inability to stick to a health plan, your poor choice in partners, your emotional eating, your binge drinking, your fear of asking for a pay rise – all these things are strategies devised by your brain to keep you safe.
Yep, even eating a whole family-sized block of chocolate or spazzing out at your partner for breathing too loudly are protection mechanisms gifted to you by your brain – thanks brain!
We haven’t changed
Even though the world has evolved at an amazing rate, our brains have not. We still operate in the exact same way we did back when we were cave people.
That is to say, when our brains sense danger they put our bodies into fight or flight mode, in order to protect us and ensure we can survive to keep our species alive.
Back then this response was absolutely necessary – because the danger was a vicious wild animal or rival tribe, so we needed the ability to physically fight or run away.
However, today the “danger” is mostly mental, in the form of thoughts, worries and expectations.
Since the brain doesn’t know the difference between real and perceived, it responds to these mental dangers in the same way as physical ones and triggers fight or flight mode – which unfortunately is happening constantly due to our inability to switch off.
As a result, we’re more stressed, unhealthy and unhappy than ever before. Just look at the statistics of lifestyle related disease and mental health issues – they’re through the roof, with no sign of decline. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that right now you’re feeling tired, anxious, unfit or overwhelmed. Or quite possibly all of the above. Am I right?
That’s because, like most businesswomen, your brain has been in this protection mode for some time, and it’s taking its toll.
If you were to dissect your situation and look at all the things that have led you to this point, they could all be traced back to this priority to survive.
Perhaps you’re tired because you’re doing too much. This will partially be due to the fact that you need to make money to afford the survival essentials – like a roof over your head, food for the family and laser hair removal to keep your mate, or potential mates, interested.
But also partially (or largely) due to the fact that you’re simultaneously trying to live up to unrealistic expectations, show the world you’ve got your shit together and keep everyone happy.
As far as your brain is concerned, you must do all these things to prove your worth and ensure your “tribe” and society don’t reject you. Because if they do, death is most certainly imminent – you simply can’t survive on your own, according to your primal brain. It takes more than one person to fight off threats, hunt for food and procreate.
So your subconscious is constantly comparing you to the people and things around you, to ensure you’re measuring up and you will be accepted (or more importantly, not rejected). The only issue is, the ideal to which you’re measuring yourself up to is fictional and completely unattainable.
So you never feel good enough, meaning you never feel completely secure, meaning this cycle of mind fuckery and fight or flight mode continues – until you burn out or something bad happens and you’re forced to learn how to do things differently.
Holy shit that’s depressing isn’t it! But I’m afraid that’s life in its current state.
HOWEVER, now you know what I know (that the brain’s number one priority is survival), you can change the story – before the shit hits the fan.
You can manage and overcome your stress, anxiety, depression, health issues, relationship struggles, and whatever else life has thrown your way.
Because you can get to the source of these challenges and build simple strategies into your day that constantly validate who you are and how you roll, and therefore constantly communicate safety to your brain.
You see, when you feel comfortable in who you are, you let go of the need to prove yourself and the fear of rejection. Which means you let go of a large proportion of the thoughts and worries that unnecessarily make your brain think you’re in danger and trigger the fight or flight response.
As a result, your body can operate at its optimum and you can operate with more confidence, energy and ease.
How bloody good would that be!
Optimising your body and brain
So to summarise, the key to managing and overcoming the stress response, so you can optimise your body and brain, and live the life you want, is to constantly communicate safety to your brain.
And the best way to do that is to be yourself. Or as we like to say – be Uppy.
Uppy = You, the real you and nothing but the real you.
That doesn’t mean you have to always be happy – that’s simply not possible. You just have to be whoever you are and feel whatever you feel in every moment.
I’d like you to think of a time when you were 100% yourself and living in the moment – maybe you were on a holiday or with a particular person, or maybe you were in full flow with your work.
And now think about how you felt. I’m guessing words like calm, energised, happy, excited, focused and free are coming into your mind?
And when you’re feeling like that, how do you feel about life? Positive, hopeful, optimistic? Like anything is possible and you can do this?
Can you see how the only difference between that and how you normally feel was a change in attitude towards yourself? With a simple mindset shift to believing, “I’m good enough just the way I am,” your whole life can shift.
Change is simple
Now I get that while it sounds simple in principle, it’s not that easy in practice. Remember, I’ve been through all this. And that’s exactly why Uppy exists – to shine a light on what’s holding you back from being the real you and show you some ways to let her out to play.
I’m not going to give you all the answers right now, because that’s simply not possible in one article! The purpose here is simply to make you aware of the notion that your brain’s priority is survival, as that is at the core of everything you think and do.
You can gather the rest of the information and solutions you need to create change (and be entertained) throughout the website. So I urge you to get immersed in our content, as everything we produce is 100% geared towards helping you to be and have everything you want – while having a bloody good time in the process!