**For details on why I have decided to publish Become the Best You on the blog, please read this. Should you wish to buy the book, you can do so here**

Question: What is the cycle of dysfunction?

Answer: A negative pattern of behaviour passed on from parent to child, which will continue indefinitely unless the person at the end of the cycle actively breaks it.

My mother had a rotten childhood. Her father was killed in a road accident when she was small. He left behind my pregnant Grandma who was carrying their sixth baby, along with five kids aged between one and ten.

They were living in the United States at the time and she came back to London where she raised her family alone. She worked six days a week to provide a roof over their heads and food on the table, yet her kids all resented her for it.

They would have preferred to have had a mum who was home more, but she thought she was doing the best thing by working. While Grandma grieved for her husband and threw herself into her job, the six of them were largely left to their own devices and brought each other up.

cycle of dysfunctionMy mother and her siblings are classic examples of a dysfunctional childhood. As adults, the four women chose their men badly and suffered affairs, violence, emotional abuse and loneliness. Although the men chose their partners well, they both had their fair share of issues.

All six had two or three children each, and the last time I saw any of my cousins it was clear that we were all (in some way or other) still reeling from what we had gone through. None of us were spared our parents’ dysfunctions.

My mother was deeply affected by her childhood and she emerged from it knowing she wanted a better start for her own children. There was no way she would go out to work all hours leaving her family behind once she was a mum. She wanted a family desperately and felt that constantly being present would be enough to ensure her kids grew up happy. Unfortunately, the reality couldn’t have been further from what she had intended.

Rather than dealing with the past, healing herself and gaining some life experience, she rushed into having a baby with my biological father when she was 18. A man who abandoned her to marry the woman he was engaged to throughout their brief affair.

She then did the exact same thing less than two years later with my step-father. She’d only known him for a few months before falling pregnant with my half-brother. My half-sister came along three years later even though they were not a proper couple.

From my earliest memories I knew my path was straightforward. I would not just talk about how my kids would have a better childhood than the one I had yet still rush into having babies anyway.

I knew I had to do everything in my power to become emotionally stable before bringing children into the world

Once they were here I would ensure I did not repeat history. In my early twenties I honestly didn’t think I had a maternal instinct. I was far too busy experiencing as much of what life had to offer to be getting broody.

For me, breaking the cycle of dysfunction meant finding true happiness within myself. I then had to settle down with a suitable partner before even entertaining the idea of starting a family. I found my husband long before I found inner peace, but both were firmly in place before falling pregnant with our eldest daughter.

Now as a mum of three, one diagnosed autistic, I know with absolute certainty that I did the right thing. I would have never been able to cope with the trials and tribulations of motherhood had I not fully dealt with my demons and put the past to rest before having my children. I also know that I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without the support of my wonderful husband and amazing friends.

the cycle of dysfunction

This is a chicken and egg situation, because without becoming the best me I would not have kept hold of the fantastic people I have in my life

I believe most negative behaviour patterns lead back to a cycle of dysfunction, and you can apply the rule to almost any negative situation. The hardest part can be realising the cycle exists in the first place. Once you are able to recognise the cycle and are committed to breaking it, you’re half way there.

You have to be willing to unlearn things that have been passed down from your family, and shun deeply ingrained thought processes. It’s time to start truly thinking for yourself.

If you have a cycle of dysfunction to break yet do nothing to actively break it, you will almost certainly pass your dysfunctions on to your children one day. The cycle has to stop with you to ensure they are given the very best start to life that you can possibly offer them. If you are already a parent then please do not feel the opportunity has been lost. As long as you are 100% committed to the cause, the cycle can be broken at any time.

Today is a good day to start your journey.

More examples of the cycle of dysfunction

Emotional and physical abuse
– Growing up in a violent environment, then going on to become violent yourself or having a partner who is violent towards you.
– Growing up watching one parent always putting the other one down, destroying their self-confidence with every comment. You may do the same as an adult or have a partner who is derogatory towards you but feel you do not deserve any better.
– Watching a parent be cheated on and generally treated badly by the other, then going on to treat your own partners badly or being treated badly yourself.

Health Issues
– Growing up around alcoholics or drug addicts and developing addictions yourself. It’s imperative that you wake up to these addictions and seek help as soon as possible.
– Having a bad diet as a child which has led to weight and/or psychological problems as a result. If you were never taught how to cook and are still eating badly you are likely to be struggling with these issues well into adulthood.
– Some minor health complaints can be completely fixed and avoidable in the future through eating well and looking after our bodies.

Other examples
– You may have felt you were a disappointment to your parents when you were growing up which has led to having low self-esteem. If your parents expected too much from you as a child, this could lead to feeling that nothing you ever do is enough.
– Not being good with money and getting into debt while you are young is a curse. If your parents were bad with their cash then you have never known any other way of life.

cycle of dysfunction

What separates the cycle breakers from the cycle repeaters?

This is of course the million pound question. What is the fundamental difference between a person capable of breaking the cycle of dysfunction, and a person who goes on to repeat history and continue it?

The answer is of course complex, with too many variables to pinpoint any one defining factor. I believe there are three core steps we need to go through to break the cycle. We will look at each of them in depth throughout the book.

Step One: Awareness
It can seem so much easier to just ignore our problems in the hope that they disappear, but they never do. In fact they become harder to deal with as time goes on. To break the cycle you have to acknowledge the cycle exists in the first place. Self-reflection can be a bitter pill to swallow but it is absolutely necessary during this process. There will be lots of looking long and hard at yourself, and the company you keep, to assess the changes that need to be made so you get to become the best you. No matter how bad your earlier life has been or how messed up you think you are, it is down to you and you alone to secure your future happiness. No-one else can do this for you.

Step Two: Determination
Breaking the cycle of dysfunction is hard work. Some people convince themselves that they don’t possess the tenacity to do the job. It is much easier to just follow in the footsteps of our parents because it’s all we have ever known, but if you want to have a different life you will need to do things differently. Waking up to wanting more is a massive step in the right direction, but you’ll have to surround yourself with the very best people in order for it to happen. A supportive partner, real friends or loving family will want to help you, not try and sabotage your efforts. People who genuinely love you would only ever want to encourage your success. You have to be strong and not let anyone take advantage of you. If certain people are bringing you down then you’ll need to be prepared to get some distance from them.

Step Three: Courage
You will have to get to know yourself, and always be true to who you really are. This means not getting swept up with the crowd, and never living your life according to anyone else’s timetable. You will need to be a ‘what you see is what you get’ type of person, not someone who changes their personality based on who they happen to be. Anyone can put on a brave face but a cycle breaker will have a truly positive attitude towards life. Once we are thinking positively we start acting positively and after a short while it becomes our natural default setting. Cycle breakers do not sit around waiting for a lottery win or dream job to fall at their feet, they make stuff happen. Ultimately it’s one thing talking about change, but actually changing is a huge challenge. You must always have the courage of your own convictions, stay focused and believe without doubt you are doing the right thing.

I hope you found this useful. Please pop back next weekend when I’ll be sharing the second chapter. 

 

My first book Become the Best You was self-published on Amazon in November 2014. Several months later I was offered a deal with an independent publisher, but it didn’t work out. For many reasons, we made the mutual decision to terminate my contract earlier this year. I’ve thought long and hard about what to do next, and have decided to sell the book directly here on the blog.

You can now buy the e-book version of Become the Best You for just £1.99 (£1 cheaper than it was on Amazon)  




The print version of Become the Best You is just £4.99 including UK postage* (£2 cheaper than it was on Amazon)




What’s the book about?

For those not in the know, Become the Best You details how I broke free from a dysfunctional past to ensure that my children have a dramatically different upbringing to the one I had.

I began writing it in the January (2014) when I went on maternity leave just before Freddy was born. Most of the first draft was written on my tablet while my little man feasted on boobies in the early hours of the morning. The book started to properly take shape over the summer, and after blood, sweat, tears, anguish, more tears and undergoing two professional edits, it was published at the end of the November.

With so many self-help books out there telling you what to do by qualified professionals, why should you listen to a word I have to say? I don’t have letters after my name or a rags to riches story, so why should you bother reading this book?

become the best youCan you identify with this list of demons that I had to conquer?
– Raised by parents who had dysfunctional childhoods and subsequently had one myself
– Moved house lots and went to many schools
– Suffered bullying in several schools
– Suffered sexual abuse as a child
– Left home at a very young age after not finishing school
– Struggled with depression
– Got into a lot of debt
– Had very little self-respect
– Used to sleep around
– Abused drugs and alcohol
– Put myself into unnecessary, dangerous situations

What do I hope you will achieve by reading the book?
– The ability to make peace with your past
– The ability to look in the mirror and like what you see
– The ability to find your inner strength and start respecting yourself
– The courage to re-define the rules of relationships that have become toxic
– The courage to cut ties with people who make you miserable
– The courage to break the cycle, keep it broken and become the best you

What the book doesn’t do
– Use overly complicated words or examples that are difficult to understand
– Go into minute detail telling you exactly what to do
– Patronise you and assume that you aren’t capable of turning your life around

Here’s what a Top 500 Amazon reviewer had to say about the book

“I received this book for free from the publisher in return for a review. The following is my honest opinion on this book:

Many people have a happy, well-adjusted upbringing. But plenty of us have had a dysfunctional childhood, a past that haunts us and causes us to create a repeating pattern of negative behaviour. If you feel like you’ve been stuck in this pattern of self-destructive behaviour, feel you are repeating the mistakes of your parents or just want to be able to let go of the past then this book is for you.

This book is an easy read and at 104 pages it won’t take long but the advice given will inspire anyone to motivate themselves to change. I’ve picked up many self-help books in the past and a lot of what I’ve read in this book I have already read in others, but what makes Renee Davis’ book unique is that she herself has had a dysfunctional past. The whole book isn’t written from the perspective of a therapist or trained professional who knows what to advise but hasn’t experienced it, no, Renee Davis is just a normal person who has gone through the process of breaking from her dysfunctional past and now she advises us how to do it too.

Renee is very open about her past and her own dysfunctional and destructive young adulthood. It is because of this openness that the book is really readable and relatable. While you may not have gone through the exact same things as Renee you really feel as if a friend is helping you deal with everything rather than a tone of being told what to do, which many other self-help books can be like.

Each chapter of the book starts with an inspiring quote to get you motivated.”

To learn more about the book, check out this podcast interview I did with Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham

If you still aren’t convinced, check out these blog reviews

Leigh from Headspace Perspective 

Zena from Zena’s Suitcase

*Get in touch for a postage quote if you are outside the UK. 

Would you like a FREE copy of my memoir/self-help book Become the Best You for #WMHD17?

I often question my motivation for writing, and frequently ask myself what the point of all the sharing is. I have wondered many times whether it actually makes a difference.

The short answer is yes it does.

I might not have a million plus followers, but people regularly get in touch to tell me that I’ve helped improve their well being. They say that my words have made them feel validated and heard. That I’ve brought a smile to their face, even if it’s sometimes through tears. Just take a look at the heartfelt comments on this post if you need proof. 

So I’d like to give you a gift today, for world mental health day. I wrote Become the Best You mostly for my own catharsis, but also to help others who are going through a rough time.

Become the Best You details the rocky road I travelled before settling down, getting married and having children

#WMHD17For those who are new to my story, I had a severely dysfunctional childhood, and troubled leap into adulthood at just fifteen. In the book I talk candidly about the decision to cut ties with my family.

As well as going through two mental breakdowns in my twenties, and hitting rock bottom. I talk about every thing I did during that time, to turn my life around.

I truly believe that going through this process before having kids is the only reason I am able to now cope with my chronically stressful life.

The book has 40 mostly five star reviews on Amazon, and is now available to buy directly right here. Check out this article to learn more. 

“It’s not just a self-help book, it’s a manual for life!” – Michelle Reeves

What you need to do to claim your e-book version of Become the Best You

  • subscribe to my mailing list
  • if you are already a subscriber, send me a quick email to mummytries@gmail.com 

Footprints on the Heart, Open Wounds and Letting GoLike many others, I have met thousands of people so far. First came blood relatives and the ones I met through going to eight schools when I was growing up.

Next were the numerous work colleagues in the dozens of jobs I’ve had over the years.

Then came the houses I’ve lived in, the parties I’ve been to and the people I met on my travels. More recently I have met other local mums, as well as a ton of people through blogging.

Some have left distinct memories, but many I wouldn’t recognise in a line-up

I’ve written before about how fortunate I am to have the amazing people I do in my life. My rock solid husband, who is everything and more you could want out of a partner. His lovely family, who welcomed me from day one. My ridiculously awesome friends, who are always there when I need them.

Of the distant friends that I only interact with on Facebook, I have tons of great memories. Music has the ability to take me right back to a place and time. I get random flashes of deja vu, which will leave me rooted to the spot. I only have to think about certain people to feel warm and fuzzy.

Footprints on the Heart, Open Wounds and Letting Go

Some of the many people who have left a footprint on my heart

I enjoy hearing news through the social media grapevine. Such and such got married, so and so had a baby (two, three). More recently a friend’s father passed away – a wonderful man, who gave me a job when I was living in Melbourne.

These are the people who have left footprints on my heart. Even if I never see them again in real life, I will look back on our time together fondly

Then there are others. The ones who hurt me, and treated me badly. Toxic friendships based on lies and mistrust. Sacred bonds broken, never to be repaired.

The two boys who abused me when I was a young girl. The mean girls who bullied me at school.

The older work colleagues who took advantage in various ways. The one who tried to pin a crime on me, even though he had a security camera above his head, recording his every move.

footprints on the heart, open wounds and letting goThe family I walked away from.

The boss who literally destroyed my soul, and left me incapable of working for anyone else. Instead of getting another job I haphazardly set up a business on the cusp of the financial crisis, which led me to bankruptcy.

The raft of ‘frenemies’ over the years, who were oh so lovely to my face and downright awful behind my back.

I spent far too long allowing the ghosts from my past to haunt my present

Although time certainly goes some way towards healing wounds, letting go has to be a conscious decision. The first step is forgiving ourselves, and others who have caused us pain.

Other people’s words or actions can have a lasting affect on our confidence, but it’s vital not to become a victim. You must take back control from those who have taken it away from you.

Likewise, when we know we have been the cause of someone else’s pain, we can let that torture us, but we mustn’t. What’s been done has been done, and the best thing to do in these cases is hold up our hands and say we are sorry. A genuine apology can go a long way in helping to rebuild broken ties.

Devising a basic set of principles could help guide you through difficult times

footprints on the heart, open wounds and letting goWe are living in an age where depression is at an all time high. Failed life expectations, and not being where we thought we would be account for a lot of it. Social media portraying the very best bits, and making us think that everyone else is having a better time than we are doesn’t help. Don’t put off conquering your demons.  

The best way to stay happy in world full of sadness, is by living as authentically as we can. I have three guiding principles that I try and adhere to, which keep me on track when the going gets tough. They speak volumes, and have helped me tremendously.

“I will be true to myself today.”

“I will be kind to myself and those around me today.”

” I will make good decisions today.”

Always aim to leave footprints on people’s hearts, not open wounds for them to have to heal

what-i-learnt-from-my-recent-book-promotionLast week my self-help book/memoir Become the Best You was on offer on the Kindle store for 99p. I was hoping the promotion would revive it a little, and I’m pleased to report that it did just that. I also learnt a thing or two along the way, which is always a bonus. 

You can’t force or hurry success

I was thrilled at how well the book initially did when I first self-published at the end of 2014. I took annual leave from work, and approached the launch like it was my job (while all of my children were at school or nursery). It was impossible for me to keep that momentum going though, and pretty quickly I was in the territory of not having any time to promote the book at all. Without promoting the book, sales rapidly dropped.

I can imagine that every author, especially self-published ones, hope they’ll have a viral success on their hands, and that word of mouth will sell their book. Unfortunately having a great product that people rave about simply isn’t enough. Competition is fierce in the book business, and there’s a ton of hard work and truck load of luck that is needed along the way. A little help from our friends doesn’t go amiss either.

Special thanks to fellow bloggers Vicki and Tim for featuring me on their super successful blogs during the promotion. You can read my guest post on Honest Mum here, and interview on the Meet the Parents Podcast here

You need a seriously thick skin to survive as an author

There’s only so much self-promotion I’m comfortable doing, yet I still feel like I’m in danger of boring everyone by banging on about my book. If you haven’t snagged a fabulous agent or huge publisher who will champion you and treat you like part of their family, then you’ll need a massive audience into the hundreds of thousands to guarantee sales.

john-irving-thick-skin-quoteCards on the table, my book selling mission mostly feels like pushing jelly up a hill. The effort it takes to sell one book can be immense, because people don’t like parting with their cash unless they know they are going to like what they get. Even then it can still be tricky. The upside of being one of the little guys though, is that the lucky breaks are unbelievably awesome when they come, however small time they might be.

I’m proud of this book

Shortly after I published the book, one of the school mums asked if I felt that I was on display now, and whether I felt uncomfortable about people having access to all this knowledge about me. I honestly hadn’t even considered I would feel like that until she asked, but I suppose I do in some respects. I guess I’m giving anyone and everyone the opportunity to pick at my old wounds, and reopen them, if they wish to do so.

Mostly people have been supportive, but I have been trolled. I was told in no uncertain terms that walking away from family is the biggest sin you can possibly commit. That I should be ashamed of myself for taking drugs and sleeping around when I was younger, and that I deserved everything that came to me.  

Do I wish I had never written the book? Absolutely not. Am I proud of this book? Hell yeah.

Small consistent progress is the best kind of progress

“You need to remember why you wrote the book in the first place.” My husband said recently, while I dried my tears of frustration. When I was writing the book, all I could think about was getting it finished. I thought that publishing it and holding it in my hands would be enough, but who honestly goes to all that trouble (and cost) of writing and publishing a book, to have no-one read it?

I’ve come to the conclusion that success for me is making a genuine difference in real people’s lives. On that note, I’d like to leave you with an email that I received from a reader.

“Reneé, I really enjoyed your book and getting to know you a little better by reading it. 

Firstly, I thought that the beginning of the book was very easy to identify with. I would have liked to have found it when I was a lot younger, when I first started to analyse my life and patterns of behaviour. Great to introduce you into thinking in different ways and questioning the repeat offenders in your life, including yourself.

When I got to the middle of the book, I found it pricked my conscience on a number of issues I had brushed to the side conveniently and ‘not dealt with’. Once I stopped mentally squirming uncomfortably (thanks for that!) I decided to lay to rest a couple of issues which really needed to be confronted and I have to say, it wasn’t easy.

After a bit of further support from a very old friend, I kind of did though! I’m not sure I would have started the task of cutting a tie, let alone completed the task if i hadn’t read your book and spoken to my mate, but the combination worked well. It may take a repeat though as some ties are bloody stubborn but I know it can no longer be ignored.

Some relationship patterns are so ingrained in you it’s really, really hard to break it along with other associated enforcers. I’d like to know how to keep them at bay…………any tips? I seem to need to repeat them every few years or so with the same person.

The end of the book, is also very easy to follow. It gives you practical, black and white advice for many situations you can find yourself in and a perfect ending to a book that gives you a wake up call in the beginning.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do the exercise because firstly I feel I’ve already been doing that for the last ten years at least. Your book was a really good reminder of how I used to be and pushed my refresh button.

Thanks for sharing it with us.”

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