For me, it means women having the freedom to be the badasses we are, without getting a hard time for it. It’s being treated with respect when we share our thoughts and ideas. You know, being able to speak our minds and express emotion without some idiot saying “is it that time of the month?” or being labelled a “b*tch”.
2. What woman/women do you most admire? Why?
In my personal life, my mum and my sister. My mum is one of the most resilient people I know. No matter what life throws at her, she somehow manages to bounce back. As for my sister, she’s fierce and independent. I’ve always admired that about her.
Beyond that, Michelle Obama. I love the fact she stood up in her own right beside Barack Obama, rather than hiding in the shadows behind him. She had people, projects and things which she was passionate about, and she used her role as First Lady to really make a difference.
3. Share with us a story, drawing, or video that you think says “empowered women.”
It’s going to be vague, but it’s a story I’ve read a lot of the last few months, in various different forms. When I see the women who have turned blogging into a full time career, that’s amazing to me. Not only because of the amount of work it takes, but because they usually have inspirational reasons for doing so. Some of them hated their jobs, some wanted more time with their kids. Taking things in to their own hands, sometimes having to work on it on the side for YEARS, and being able to now do something they love is truly admirable to me. The very thought of them having a moment where they decided “this isn’t enough for me” and acting on it screams empowerment.
4. Share with us the best lesson you’ve learned in leadership.
Be nice – but not too nice. I think there’s an association with being a leader and being tenacious, but it’s entirely possible to be a gentle leader. You don’t have to be overbearing and forceful, you can guide people in the right direction. There’s no harm in telling people they’ve done a good job, rather than being cold and aloof. The important thing is to make sure your kind nature isn’t manipulated and becomes a weakness rather than a strength.
5. What cause do you most want to bring awareness to? Why?/What does it mean to you?
For me, this will always be mental illness and, more specifically, encouraging people to get help for it. There are a list of organisations in the U.K. who can help here. So many people seem to have the attitude that they just need to muddle through, or that people will think less of them if they admit things aren’t right. I was the same way. I ignored it and desperately hoped it would just go away. But it only got worse.
I’m not suggesting there’s only one way to come through the other side, but I’m definitely saying you shouldn’t settle for it. Reach out to someone – anyone you’re comfortable with – and take the first step. It’s hard. It’s really hard, and your heart will break as you say it out loud, but it will be a turning point.
Today’s guest post is from one of my favourite bloggers. Rachael’s blog is full of useful tips for blogging and social media. She is very in-depth with her research and I know I’m in for a treat when she publishes a new post! To top it all off, she’s a wonderful person who always makes me smile so it’s a pleasure to share her guest post with you today.
Full disclosure here… when things aren’t going well, I am guilty of the occasional pity party. As much as I try to limit these episodes; because I mean how productive are they? Sometimes the woe-is-me-itus appears and I must catch myself.
Before I go on, please allow me to clarify: I’m not talking about a bad mental health day. I have those too. I understand the depth of that despair, and I know that it can’t be lifted simply by thinking happy thoughts. Although in my experience some external positivity can help to break through the heavy mental fog.
With this post I’m offering some uplifting ideas for those times in which we can choose between two paths.
Bitterness or gratitude.
Let’s dive in.
You Literally Beat the Odds Man
I read a statistic today. It kind of blew my mind and put a lot of things in perspective. Did you know, the fact that we exist at all, is nothing short of friggin’ miracle?
Scientists estimate that the probability of you being here right now is about one in 400 trillion. Yep, that’s ONE in FOUR HUNDRED TRILLION. Anyone else feeling those warm fuzzies?
We are all on this crazy ride together. Through the heart-breaking sorrow, to those moments of pure elation. The fact that we are alive at all, and can experience this big old buffet of emotions, is simply amazing.
I don’t know about you, but this encourages me to be the best I can be. This doesn’t mean you have to go a million miles an hour every day or to see/be/do everything all at once.
Inch by Inch and Life’s a Cinch
If you are feeling like your life is out of control, you can start by taking small incremental steps towards a “good” life. A good life is whatever you deem it to be. Your priority may be interpersonal relationships, career aspirations, family etc. What is important to you? Aim towards that.
It’s easy to focus on the full mountain ahead of you and quit before you even start. But all mountains are made up of incremental steps that you have FULL control over. When I first contemplated this, I felt really empowered. The more micro steps you take, the clearer the view of the horizon.
The most important act is taking that first step.
Without the Dark, Light Means Nothing
“Even the smallest light shines in the darkness.”
-The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (2007)
To emphasise the above quote, picture a little angler fish. Let’s call him Kurt Angler Fish (any wrestling fans in the house?!) He lives 1,000 metres below sea level in the “midnight zone.” It’s bares this name, because no sunlight penetrates this far down. But Kurt Angler Fish evolved this adorable lantern on his head to help him find his way. Try to picture how brightly his little lantern must shine in the pitch-black depths of the midnight zone.
Positive World Trends
When I think about the steps taken by previous generations, it gives me hope. The people of yester year struggled and fought (in some cases died) for us, so that we have the best possible chance at life. They believed in us; their sons, daughters and grandchildren.
For the more pragmatic among us (myself included) I have compiled some positive world trends to highlight that modern life aint all bad.
Extreme Poverty has Reduced
According to Steven Pinkerauthor of “Enlightenment Now” about less than 10% of the world now lives in extreme poverty. Just three decades ago, the figure was 30%. Obviously, there is more work still to do but WOWSERS. This is significant progress towards ending extreme poverty in a relatively short space of time. When you consider that the worlds population as also increased in the last three decades, this trend is even more impressive.
Average life expectancy at birth for the world was 64.2 years in 1990
Average life expectancy at birth for the world reached 71.4 years in 2015
This means that WORLDWIDE on average between 1990 and 2015 we gained an extra 7.2 years of life each. That’s an extra 7.2 years to do the things you love (like eat pizza or write awesome blog content!)
Worldwide Medical Breakthroughs
According to an article published on Forbes.com in 2017:
“…the World Health Organization unveiled a new vaccine that’s cheap and effective enough to end cholera, one of humanity’s greatest-ever killers.”
“Leprosy is now easily treatable. The number of worldwide cases has dropped by 97% since 1985, and a new plan has set 2020 as the target for eradicating the disease.”
Anyone else think that’s a damn cool development?
The intention of this post is not to preach at you. I am by no means recommending that you repress all negative feelings or emotions. This does not help, things don’t have to be amazing every day. You do however deserve someone in your corner. These are the kind of things I think about to move towards a better head space. If this can help or inspire one other person, I have succeeded.
I would like to end on a quote.
“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”
In this post, I will be discussing self-harm. If you expect you will find this triggering, please do not continue reading. If you are struggling with this, there are people who can help you.
When I was 8 years old, my grandma died. It was a heart-breaking experience, and one I didn’t truly understand until I was much older. In fact, my counsellor thinks this event has been the root cause of several issues along the way – including, but not limited to, my intense fear of dying. That’s probably a blog post for some other time, though.
In the same month as her passing, a boyband emerged on the scene. Westlife. You may have heard of them. They had an incredible career for 14 years before splitting up in 2012. A few weeks ago, they announced they were reuniting and it’s one of the happiest moments I’ve had this year. So, to be upfront, this is partially an excuse for me to fangirl publicly about their reunion (ridiculously excited) but I do also have another point.
I had a huge gaping hole inside of me when I lost my grandma, but I was too young to make much sense of that. I didn’t know how to express it because I didn’t fully get it. In fact, I sometimes feel like I lived through losing her twice – once when I was a kid, and then several years later when the force of that loss hit me.
What I can make sense of is the fact Westlife seemed to crawl into that space and make me feel whole again. Sure, it helped that they were good looking and singing love songs that made me swoon, but rather than feeling a huge sense of loss, it was replaced with a sense of gain. They were to me what a comfort blanket is to a baby: something that brings peace.
Since then, I can’t tell you how many situations their music has helped me through. I listened to them when I was falling in love for the first time. Then, had them on loop when that same individual broke my heart in one fell swoop. I listened to them when my family were going through some tough times. When I felt lost and alone, I had their music to remind me that I wasn’t. Having moved around a lot when I was younger, I view them as the longest friend I’ve ever had. Their time in my life spanned over a decade. I don’t have a lot else I can say that about. They were – and still are – my safe place.
Something I haven’t disclosed previously is that I self-harmed when I was a teenager. There were events that happened, which left me feeling so raw with emotion, that I needed a release. These things triggered a spiral of self-blame and hurting myself seemed like an appropriate punishment. I needed to let that pressure out somehow, and that was the route I chose.
I did this on several occasions and went so deep that I still carry the scars to this day. Once was on my hand, and despite my attempts to hide it with my sleeves, people at school saw it, immediately knew what it was, and called me a freak. This didn’t help with the situation.
One night, I felt that temptation creeping in, and my head was very cloudy. I didn’t really want to be around anymore. Although, I want to make it clear that I never planned, nor attempted, ending my life, I felt the strong urge to disappear. So, I turned to that coping mechanism. I was about to do it when one of Westlife’s songs called Try Again came on. I’d listened to it a thousand times before, but this was a different experience. I heard and felt every word.
The opening lines are: “Hush now don’t you cry, there will be a better day, I promise you” and one of the later lines is “Smile now, let it go – hey, you will never be alone, I promise you.” So, you see why it helped? The song is actually about lost loves and relationships but that’s not the point.
It stopped me in my tracks, and I haven’t self-harmed since.
It’s not always like that. The relationship with self-harm is complex, but that was my light bulb moment. That’s what it took. I know, they’re not the coolest band to associate with recovery, but that’s how my story goes. I’m not going to rewrite it to impress people.
During school and college, I was bullied for being so obsessed with them. People scoffed, made jokes and had nothing pleasant to say. I never told those people WHY they were so important, because nobody cared to ask. But, what it meant was that nothing they say could have changed my mind. The value of this “stupid boyband” transcended whatever nonsense was being thrown my way by my peers.
These reactions only got worse as I grew older, because it was no longer just a case of “it’s not cool to like them” and became “aren’t you a little bit old to like them?” Considering I grew up listening to them almost every day, there was no way it was going to stop because I’d hit 18 and apparently ventured into adulthood.
The worst part of it all is that, at this stage, it worked. It was now other adults essentially telling me to get a grip, and I thought they had a point. For a while, I stopped mentioning the fact I liked them. When people asked about my favourite music, I’d give a vague answer, mention a few genres and hope they didn’t want to know specifics.
Thankfully, that phase was short-lived, because it didn’t feel right to me. There was no way I could keep it to myself forever, so why not be upfront about it? I love Westlife, for all that they are, and all that they represent. To hell with what anyone else has to say about that. It’s not really any of their business.
2018 has been one of the most challenging years of my life. It’s the year I became completely overwhelmed by my emotions, lost all sense of who I was and felt hopeless. I’ve made a lot of progress, but Westlife reuniting is symbolic to me.
Why? Because they are part of who I am, and just as I’m starting to rediscover EXACTLY who that is, they have reappeared. Realistically, I know that’s because it’s their 20thanniversary but there’s a little piece of me that feels it’s all happening for a reason. Just like they arrived exactly when I needed them 20 years ago.
We live in a culture where people try and shame you for liking certain things. Every single day, people make remarks about the things other people enjoy. I’m tired of it – maybe because I’ve lived with it my whole life for daring to own my boyband obsession, or maybe because I just don’t get it.
Life is hard, and whatever brings you joy is nothing to be ashamed of. So, you like watching Big Brother and becoming enthralled in all their drama? GOOD FOR YOU. You like to dance to One Direction when nobody’s home? AWESOME. You get your knickers from Marks and Spencer’s because they’re comfier than Ann Summers? EXCELLENT. Maybe you have a story like mine where something seemingly uncool has had a HUGE impact on your life. That’s wonderful.
Because the way I see it, life sucks sometimes and if there’s something, anything, that brings you a little bit of joy in amongst all of that, then you should be proud of it. Take those distractions and run with them. You shouldn’t allow anyone else to make you feel ashamed. Hold onto the things that make you feel happy, whether it’s what everyone else loves or not.
Next time someone has the cheek to question something you enjoy, just reaffirm yourself and respond with “well, I enjoy it.” That’s it. You don’t have to launch into defending yourself.
For the better part of my teenage years, I adamantly defended myself and Westlife, occasionally getting into very heated debates about them and it was a waste of my energy. I should have had the guts to say “well, I like them” and left it at that, but I felt the need to justify it. Although I never delved into those deep, personal stories, I’d reel off a list of reasons why I thought they were awesome, but I was never going to change those people’s minds any more than they were going to change mine.
Everyone has their right to an opinion. Part of what makes the world so interesting is that we are all different, and there’s a degree of value to that. But when these opinions slip into shaming, everything just becomes very unpleasant.
Love what you love, and screw what anyone else thinks. You probably have your reasons, and that’s all that matters. I could be delusional, but I’d like to think that the more we stand up to these people, the less they will do it. I can’t imagine it gives them half as much entertainment if they go to attack someone’s tastes and that person responds with “so what?”
These people usually feed off the frustration of others, when they try and stick up for things. Or, they go on a power trip because they’ve told someone something is stupid, and that person has been shamed into silence. So, don’t give that to them. And, I know, it’s hard when you’re in the situation, but take a second to think about what they’re getting from it and if you really want to give them that.
And – I can’t imagine any of my regular readers falling into this category but in case anyone else stumbles across this – if someone tells you they love something, if they’re in the middle of an enthusiastic speech about their favourite film, or song, or anything else, don’t cut them off with some judgemental remark. Let people bask in those moments, because they’re more important than any of us give them credit for.
Do you have examples of this? Talk about them in the comments – embrace it, own it and be proud of it.
During October, I completed Ell’s self discovery journal challenge. The thinking behind it is to dig deep and explore what you really want out of life. It was the first time I’d done something like this, but I really enjoyed it!
The reason I decided to do this is that the future has always freaked me out. I’ve never had any idea what I wanted to do, or the direction I wanted my life to go. My usual tactic is to avoid thinking about it but, lately, it’s been popping up in my thoughts more and more (possibly because I’m on a few years away from turning 30). With the help of my counsellor, I’ve been trying to identify who I am, and what I want. This activity was perfect to accompany and aid that process.
There is a great mix of questions which are general and left up to your own interpretation. They cover different aspects of life, both personal and professional. I doubt I’ll ever put much emphasis on career so I loved that the questions weren’t too focussed on that.
There are 31 questions, so doing it in October seemed like a natural fit. It was a great incentive to use one of the many unused notebooks I have lying around. At the end of September, I wrote each question out, and left a couple of pages for my response.
There were a couple of things I enjoyed about this:
It was an activity that didn’t involve a screen. Given that I spend most of my day on my laptop, it was refreshing to have somewhere else to focus my attention.
It became “me time”. After the first week, I began looking forward to those 15 minutes of deep thought and reflection. I mostly wrote my answers in the evening, but I did include it as an act of self-care on a couple of afternoons.
I did struggle to answer some of the questions. This, for me, highlighted things I need to think about a little more. For example, I’m not very good at giving myself credit so any question that asked me to note things I’m good at were a little tricky. In all honesty, some of these are either unanswered or half answered, but I’m working on it! I managed to come up with some answers and doing so made me feel good. It made me realise I need to invest more time in thinking about what I’m good at, rather than what I think I’m bad at.
My answers would have been completely different if I’d done them before I started blogging. My enthusiasm for blogging popped up on several occasions which was a nice reminder of how much I love it.
Several of the questions also encouraged gratitude and these were my favourite ones to answer. Thinking about what makes me happiest, and what I’m most grateful for, gave me perspective on how lucky I am. Unsurprisingly, my family, Neal and Juno were the most common answers here.
I found the self discovery journal challenge encouraged me to think about who I am right now, and who I would like to be in the future. It highlighted what’s really important to me. Although there weren’t any surprises and what came out was more or less what I expected, writing it down helped me to regain some focus.
It will be interesting to look back at my answers in a few months to see how things have progressed or changed!
Have you tried, or would you try, a self discovery journal challenge?
The last guest post about body positivity was a huge hit, so I figured you would all enjoy another one. Today, Claire is delving deeper into the relationship between body positivity and the fashion industry.
For decades, the fashion and beauty industry has been so innovative in terms of design. Yet, so limited when it comes to actual people consuming its products and ideas. With their catwalks, campaigns, magazine covers, and retouched images beyond recognition, they have created a culture of beauty universality. It’s one that is evidently unrealistic and in a clash with real life. It has brought about a slew of changes in how we perceive ourselves, as well as what we expect from ourselves.
On a more positive note, the very highest ranks of fashion designers have noticed the gap between real beauty and its fake representation. So, they have decided to make a difference and use their creations to take a different, more inclusive stand.
Changes to the size chart
Ashley Graham, a celebrated influencer and a model has made history several times since her debut in the Michael Kors collection in 2017. From that moment, this beautiful woman has shown several times over that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Her own attitude while strutting that black bodycon dress proved the world, but mostly fashion, wrong.
After this designer’s leap forward into greater diversification, more collections started boasting incredibly gorgeous ladies well above the traditional size 12. This year, she once again caused a positivity stir in the beauty ranks by landing a Revlon contract with a statement that “Lipstick does not have a size.” Hopefully, we will be seeing much more of her and other ladies like her taking a stand for real-life beauty.
If you’re getting sick of those cliché ads that invite you to get ready for summer in order to have a beach body, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there! We’ve felt nauseated with the very idea that only physiques deserve showing off their looks in a swimsuit, or at least feeling normal while doing so. The thus-far pushed beach-body campaigns have made many women feel miserable in their own skin every summer. That is until Swimsuits for all took over the throne.
Sneak a peek at their Instagram page. It’s a splash of constant positivity, empowering messages, and an invitation to live and enjoy your life to the fullest – no matter your size, shape, shade, or age. You’ll see Ashley in there, too. Even more importantly, so many other models that are ready to take on the world of swimwear by storm, sexy and sensual as hell.
Athleisure with a diverse twist
Another campaign that busts the truth of just how deep these beauty stereotypes and issues go is every athlete’s favorite brand that recently decided to include a Swedish model with unshaven body hair in their commercials. Once again, Adidas and other brands in the sports and athleisure realm are doing their best to inspire you, the human being, to be yourself the way you wish to be.
They are debunking a multitude of beauty myths and showing how causing an outrage is what the world needs to see its own self-imposed, mind-bogglingly stupid limitations. They are letting you know that you don’t have to be a fitness model, wear a bucket-load of makeup and have glossy legs to be proud of yourself or to feel comfortable, powerful, and capable in your own skin. And until the world’s only comment to such statements becomes “it’s about damn time”, we’ll still have many lessons to learn.
Although Dove was among the pioneers in their fight against beauty stereotypes and creating fake perfectionism, there are so many brands emerging nowadays that show the same appreciation for our natural looks. The likes of Aerie and Missguided have started leaving out retouching out of their practice for the purpose of celebrating authenticity. Some of them, including Missguided, didn’t even make an official statement until customers began noticing the difference.
In an effort to start presenting our bodies the way they actually look, the fashion industry has finally started to take a stand against beauty bullying. Hopefully, the youngest of fashion consumers still have time to free themselves of the molds and patterns they have become accustomed to, for the sake of their own health. After all, fashion and beauty industries should strive to teach us how to love ourselves. Not constantly look for ways to alter ourselves.
I am super excited about today’s post because, last week, I received the most gorgeousblogger mail ever from Under The Rowan Trees and now I can finally share it with you.
I’ve made no secret of the fact I am, like most bloggers, a fiend for stationery. Notebooks, pens, stickers, the lot. So when I say this is just about the dreamiest review I could be offered, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble believing it.
Under The Rowan Trees is the wonderful creation of Danielle, who launched her business back in 2014. She originally juggled this alongside a teaching career, before eventually leaving teaching to focus on it full time.
There are a variety of treats available on the site, including stationery boxes. There is a subscription service available for these, or you can purchase the boxes individually. Each one has a different theme, and mine was Woodland. If you’d like to see previous themes, take a look here.
I received a message to say the box had been sent, and it landed on the doormat the very next day! As I was keen to see it, I loved the fact I didn’t have to wait long. I know, having a little patience wouldn’t go amiss, but it’s stationery! One of my greatest loves.
My first impression when opening the box was complete and utter delight. Staring back at me was the cutest deer bookmark I’ve ever laid eyes on. Not to mention some other equally sweet items! Immediately, I knew this was going to be good.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure where to start. Everything looked amazing. In my excitement, I contemplated dumping the contents out so I could see it all that much quicker. However, I decided that might not be the best idea. So, I started carefully picking things out, one by one.
As I began unboxing the goodies, I only fell more in love.
Cue the “this is too cute words” squeals. (They’re a real thing, and a regular occurrence in my life.)
By now, I think you’ve grasped the fact I’m a complete sucker for anything cute and just look at those adorable woodland animals stickers. I genuinely want to stick them everywhere because they make me so happy.
The hedgehog has to be my favourite, although the squirrel, the fox and… who am I kidding? They’re all so precious!
Lacking in any artistic talent, I’m always searching for stickers to liven up my bullet journal. This box is going to keep me well stocked through the winter months!
My absolute favourite thing about autumn is the colours of the leaves. Opening the contents of this little box made me giddy. What I thought was tape actually turned out to be some bright and beautiful stickers. YAY!
Speaking of tape, there was some of that included, too. My autumn-loving soul felt right at home.
There were also some charming decorative sheets, too. I’m probably going to attempt to get creative with these. My current thinking is cutting them up and securing them in my bullet journal using the tape (or glue) – what do you think?
I realise I have completely gushed over this box, but it’s very hard for me to contain my excitement. Everything feels like it was hand selected for me personally, like a carefully curated gift from a friend.
Best of all…
This is only a small selection of my favourite bits. I actually received a whole lot more:
My absolute favourite thing about this box is it’s all things you wouldn’t find on the high-street. Don’t get me wrong, you can get some fantastic stuff in the shops, but the uniqueness of these products makes the unboxing process twice as exciting.
I really can’t thank Danielle enough for being kind enough to send me this because it had me smiling from ear to ear. Having never tried a subscription box like this before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Safe to say, Under The Rowan Trees is a business which clearly makes every effort to make its customers happy. That, for me, is a business worth backing.
I urge you to go and have a nosy on the site. I’m confident you’ll want to buy one of everything. I know I did!
Fancy one of your own?
…And why wouldn’t you?…
Well, the boxes individually are between £15 and £20. Given how many fabulous things you get it, I think that’s more than reasonable! You can also choose from various subscription options to get a little bit of happiness through your letterbox every month. I’d like to say it will satisfy all your stationery needs but we all know that limit doesn’t exist.
With Christmas coming up, it’s worth keeping these in mind for gifts, too! I know my sister would have been absolutely over the moon with this box in particular.
To keep up to date with the latest, check out Under The Rowan Trees in the following places: