A lesson on comfort zones

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After numerous fancy gins at Hove’s The Gin Tub on a Saturday night (which is great by the way), my best friend and I got onto the subject of comfort zones. Your comfort zone is your expectation of what’s normal and familiar. And we decided that sometimes it’s important to shake things up, most crucially when you feel like you need your daily or weekly routine to feel safe and in control.

Most of us are all-or-nothing people. Drinking 57 G&Ts, rolling in at 3am and eating pizza in bed at the weekends? That’s cool. But the chance of being in that frame of mind during the week? Not a chance.  During the week we freak out at the prospect of less than 8 hours sleep. We eat loads of kale and we act like nice, sensible human beings. We’re ok with this dichotomy, which means it’s just embedded within our comfort zone. In reality it’s a fairly chaotic way to live, cramming in all that craziness into one or two days. Perhaps then, there’s scope to find comfort in chaos? And perhaps is just a case of embracing chaos in a way that makes sense to us.

I’ve kind of found that the more you challenge your comfort zone, the more equipped you become at dealing with change. And yet, once you go through a lot of change, it’s very easy to become dependent on the small things that form our daily routine to feel normal. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Routine helps us gain some sort of control in an ever-changing world. But when the thought of going without your routine makes you feel scared, anxious or uncomfortable, that’s probably the precise moment you need to challenge yourself to try something new.

When I went travelling last year, I gave up make-up. This was a huge deal for me. I was incredibly dependent on make-up and the daily routine of applying it, and when challenged to go without, it was liberating. There’s no doubt about, if you step outside of your comfort zone and realise nothing bad has happened, it’s empowering.

It could be the smallest things that you challenge. It’s literally just a case of going ‘fuck it’ sometimes and living that little bit more. I’ve wanted a fringe for ages but started to find the idea of cutting my hair quite daunting.  Why? Why not just do it? What’s actually the worst that could happen. Life is too bloody short to worry over things that small. After figuring out a new identity when becoming single for the first time in five years, I was clinging onto my hair to feel like me. I decided cutting my it might help me relinquish other aspects of my life and let go. I was right. Cliches normally are.

I’m sort of starting to reap the benefits of experiencing so much change over the last couple of years. Before, I would have been reluctant to do things that made me feel anxious, now I actually crave them because I know how good it can make you feel afterwards. It’s a strange feeling when you start to notice how certain life experiences are slowly molding you into something more resilient and carefree.

It kind of comes down to your interpretation of what you’re ‘meant’ to do. How things are meant to be/ feel/ look are too often determined by the limitation of society’s ‘normal’.  Once you let go of how things are supposed to happen, you open yourself up to a whole new world of opportunity. The best advice I can give around stepping outside of your comfort zone is to stay fluid. Go with whatever feels right at the time, not whatever you think is meant to feel right at the time. Your happiness and your freedom to act are both on your terms, just remember that.

Maybe you’re thinking about booking that haircut, reaching out to that person, packing something in, starting something new, getting that cool tattoo you pinned, travelling that part of the world, buying those shoes, sacking off that social event, or maybe you’re just thinking about having a fry up for dinner when you always have a salad. Consider what you have to lose and what potential there is to gain. Sometimes you just have to be brave and say yes or no, depending on which outcome is more likely to liberate you. Take control and mix things up every now and again, you’ll be surprised how much more relaxed you’ll feel next time the universe shakes things up for you.

I like to drop this in a lot, but I have OCD. And OCD LOVES comfort zones, routine and control. Which is why I deliberately try to challenge them when I can feel them taking over. Sometimes it’s the things you think are keeping you safe that are actually holding you back. Remember how unstoppable you are. Remember there’s so much more to you and your life than what you ‘normally’ do.

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Why it’s ok to be clueless at 18, and then again at 28

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Ten whole years ago (fuck), my best friend and I were meticulously planning our 18th birthday party.

Location? The local rugby club. Partly because we’re September babies and all our underage mates could get served there, but mostly because that’s as far as our imaginations (and budgets) would stretch.

Dress code? Well. I wore a very small black sequin dress (which I’m pretty sure was from Peacocks) and Becky wore a glittery gold number. It’s funny, I felt SO grown up. Downing vodka-lime-and-sodas, I literally thought I knew it all. My god I was so clueless. We all were. But then you’re supposed to be blissfully clueless at 18.

I wonder, as I put some plans in place for my next looming birthday (still with Becky, thank God), how clueless you’re supposed to feel at 28?

Because honestly, at 27, I thought I’d got to a place where life would be pretty safe and steady. I thought I’d done enough groundwork to see me through. I was living in a lovely two-bed garden flat in London. I was planning my wedding. I’d just travelled for six months, beating a terrifying episode of OCD, I was finally being paid decent money to write. I had it all going for me.

And then, somehow, I didn’t.

Well, that’s not strictly true. I still have an awful lot going for me. I may be single and living back home, but I still have a successful career, a taste for travel, my mental health in check, and THE most supportive friends and family.

I actually feel closer to my 18-year-old self than I have done in years. Not because I’m sleeping in her dodgy pink and burgundy bedroom, but because we’re both on the precipice of something. 10 years ago, I had no idea what was going to happen next, and, right now, I kind of feel the same. It’s daunting, but everything I’ve learned leads me to believe that if you trust the journey, challenge yourself and follow your instinct, you’ll be more than ok.

What would I say to 18-year-old me?

I’d tell her to stop stressing. You’ll pass your A-levels, you’ll have a ridiculous time at uni and still get a good degree, you’ll get over that ex boyfriend, your acne will disappear, your hair will grow, you’ll learn the value of looking after yourself, you’ll develop your own style, you’ll move to London, you’ll work for free and it will be worth it, you’ll get the job you love, you’ll travel with the man you love, you’ll feel comfortable with who you are, you’ll learn to be true to yourself and trust no matter what. You’ll have your heart broken, you’ll break hearts, you’ll learn the value of true friendship, you’ll make terrible mistakes, you’ll go off the rails for a bit, you’ll have therapy, you’ll find your way. You’ll live, basically. And you’ll come out the other side stronger every time.

I kind of know what 18-year-old me would say back.

She would reassure me that if all of that can happen in a decade, just imagine where you’ll be in 10 years time. At 18 you were clueless. At 28, you’ve learned enough to know that feeling clueless leaves nothing but opportunity to learn and grow. You’re not supposed to know or have everything. Because where the bloody hell would be the fun in that?

So now I’m trying really hard to imagine what 38-year-old me might want to say at this exact stage in my life. To pre-empt any time wasted by not learning from the last 10 years. And I’m guessing it’s very much the same. Stop. Worrying. Stop trying to control what’s beyond your reach and just trust. Do not give up. Don’t you dare. Because there’s so much coming for you, if only you just open your heart and let it.

 

 

 

 

A lesson on new beginnings 

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I haven’t written about my life for well over six months. Well, I tell a lie. I have written. Quite a lot. But I’m not sure the frantic ramblings of this particular mad woman have quite found their public platform. My personal notes are brimming, and my blog is devoid of life. Sometimes facing up to your truth has to be done in stages I guess. Thoughts, paper, public.

It’s weird. Blogging can be such good therapy but it’s terrifying to be sharing this. My world has changed so much in the last six months that I’ve just about caught up. Life does that. It runs away with you. Catches you off guard. Just when you think you have it all figured out.

I don’t even feel like I’m the one qualified to be sharing my experience, because I definitely don’t have all the answers yet. Questions, yes. Answers, not so much. Questions like, “How the hell did I get here?” and “Am I losing my mind?” tend to be the theme.

So rather than delve into too much detail, I’m going to talk about having the strength to face the truth, even when it causes more pain that you’ve ever felt before. This post is about having faith even when it makes very little sense at the time. Of trusting in the order of things even when you don’t feel particularly strong or proud of yourself.

I’m writing this post because I’m kind of done. Done overthinking. Done trying to make sense of everything.

Here goes.

As some of you will know. Not too long ago I was engaged. I am no longer engaged. And right now that is all I have to say on the matter. I am, slowly but surely, learning to let go. Learning to embrace a new beginning.

I’ve learned that you can be completely in love, but it won’t guarantee you can give each other what you need to thrive. And that’s hard to say. Believe me. It’s all hard. I just wish I’d realised all this in a way that reflected how deeply I cared.

Everything kind of simultaneously happened while my parents’ divorce became official. I suppose you could say that each situation has helped me better understand and come to terms with the other.

This post isn’t about self-pity (I’ve had more than my fair share and it really, really doesn’t help). It’s about navigating an unexpected journey to reach a destination you never thought you’d need or want to discover. And here’s the thing. With every passing day, I can see the horizon of that destination a little clearer. And the closer it comes into view? The more beautiful it seems.

Time can teach you so very much. It never ceases to bewilder me. All of a sudden, enough time has passed and lessons from weeks, months or years before start to reveal themselves. Things that were so jumbled up and confused at the time start making sense. The raw pain eases and your true emotional reaction kicks in.

With time, I have learned so much. Mostly about who I am. And I’ve kind of worked out who I need to become to truly grow from this. Not just learn, but actually fucking grow into the best person I can be.

I look at my parents now. They are different people in the best way. Stronger and making the most of life. I’m proud of them. And I know, despite the confusion and unexpected derailing of my life, they are proud of me too. The saddest, most difficult times really do bring you closer to the people who truly love and understand you. People who trust your judgement and your dreams for the future, but who also tell you when you’re wrong. People who help you get back on your feet even after you’ve properly fucked up, because they know you’d do the same for them.

I’ve behaved irrationally. I’ve hurt people I love. I’ve been weak. I’m not proud. But I’m not afraid to admit that I’m human. We all look back and wish we handled things differently sometimes. All that matters is how you move forward. Make peace with your decisions, because every single one will make you a better human if you let it. And don’t let people make you feel worthless just because you inadvertently did something that ended hurting them too. True friends would try to understand.

The most difficult times make us if we let them, which is why I’m writing this post. Believe me, if I can embrace this new beginning, you can do bloody anything. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever experienced, ever thought I would experience, and my biggest, most important, most sacred life lesson.

I made a pact with myself a while ago to turn an unsettled time into a positive future. To do things I never would have done before. To love harder, to appreciate more, to rise to the challenge, to feel grateful for all the good things in my life and never get complacent. I’ve taken on a senior role at work with my own team of writers to manage. I ran my first 10k. I’m reading LOADs. I’ve booked a yoga retreat. I’m writing this post. Right now, these are monumental achievements.

And perhaps most importantly, I’m learning not to worry what other people think. Acting for yourself and facing the truth when it would be easier to please others is fucking hard. But it’s fundamental when it comes to making the most important decisions of your life.

Love is complicated and exists in so many different ways. Only you know what’s right in your heart. Only the people in a relationship know the details. It has very little to do with anyone else. I’m trusting love and what I truly believe that to be. And right now, that means having the strength to be on my own.

Honestly, just cherish the people who will support you and love you no matter what. The people who know you well enough to trust that you’re doing things for the right reasons, even when it means uprooting your (and sometimes their) foundations.

I saw this quote today: “whatever you’re looking for is looking for you too”. And right now, all I’m looking for is total inner peace, strength and acceptance. And when we find each other, I know I’ll be bloody ready for anything.

 

Like Her Type has been nominated for a Leibster award

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Like Her Type has been nominated for a Liebster award, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you so much to Rosie over at La Grenouille Anglaise for the incredibly thoughtful nomination and, of course, for taking the time to discover my blog. It means more than you might think.

I think about my blog pretty much every day. I write posts on my phone, I conjure up what to say in my head and how to build relatable stories around anecdotes and passing thoughts. The ideas come easily, so why have I stopped posting so much?

It’s a combination of things. Occasionally I worry that I’m sharing too much information. Plus my Macbook died a few months ago and posting on your phone has its issues. But mostly, I can’t seem to find the time at the moment (‘find’ it, like its lurking somewhere in a dark corner, covered in dust?) and I feel guilty every day when I go too long without posting. Like I’m failing someone I care about. And it’s purely because I love doing it. Not having time to do something you love is not ok.

And then Rosie nominated Like Her Type for a Liebster Award. It lifted my spirits to say the least. The Liebster Award was created so that emerging bloggers could help each other gain exposure and recognition.

Like Her Type is about connecting people through the life experiences we all share, turning them into valuable lessons that might help someone else in need of honest advice.

The Liebster award is built on connecting chains of bloggers. It serves as a reminder that there really is a “social” element to social media. One that helps people to connect on a personal, useful level that we often don’t experience face to face.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I contemplated giving up my blog because I feared I wasn’t connecting people in the way I hoped, and this incredibly thoughtful nomination proves otherwise.

A stranger read my thoughts and felt compelled to share with other strangers to benefit them in some small way. And that is kind of beautiful, isn’t it?

The Rules of The Liebster Award

1. Thank the person/blog who nominated you and post a link to their blog on your blog.
2. Display the award on your blog. This can be done by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a widget (note: the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog/post).
3. Answer the 10 questions about yourself that your nominating blogger chooses for you.
4. Nominate blogs that you feel deserve the award. These must be new bloggers (less than two years blogging) who have fewer than 1000 followers.
5. Create a list of questions for your nominated bloggers to answer.
6. List these rules in your post (feel free to cut & paste!)
7. Inform the blogs that you nominated that they have been awarded the award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it.

Question Time

Great questions Rosie – here are my answers.

Q: City break or countryside escape?

A: Oooohhh that’s actually a really tough question. Living in London, there comes a point every now and again that I crave fresh air and greenery. Like an environmental detox. There’s something incredibly humbling about staring at a powerful waterfall or the sun setting over a vast canyon or calm sea. You feel insignificant in the best way possible. The scale and wonder of nature often helps put worries and problems into perspective. It’s so important to switch off mentally every now and again and exploring a busy city simply doesn’t allow you to do that. However, once my batteries are recharged, I always welcome the excitement of a new city with open arms. Bright lights, bars, historical architecture, museums, great food, new cultures. The appeal of the city is often just as strong.

Q: Which country could you never tire of visiting?

A: Japan. Without a doubt. I was lucky enough to spend three weeks there in April this year and I cannot wait to go back. Japan is an astounding place to travel. The people, the culture, the history, the landscape, the buildings, THE FOOD, the nightlife, the authenticity, did I mention the food? If you’re after a culture shock, Japan is like nowhere I’ve ever encountered. Every day was an adventure. One moment we were lost in a labyrinth of bars in Tokyo’s Golden Gai, and the next we were looking for snow monkeys and skiing the Japanese Alps. I cannot recommend this mesmerising country enough.

Q: What’s your favourite dessert? (Because let’s face it, the last course is the best one).

It would probably be some sort of chocolate cake, with raspberries and cream. Oooo or apple crumble with loads and loads of custard.

Q: If you were your country’s Prime Minister/ President, what’s the first law you would pass?

I would propose a three-day weekend. I’m all about the work-life balance, and I think fours days on, three days off would work perfectly…

Q: Which holiday destination do you think is over-hyped?

Oh God, definitely Phi Phi in Thailand. Don’t get me wrong, I love a party, but give give me Ibiza over Phi Phi any day. Phi Phi is kind of fun, in a way that Magaluf is fun if you’re a 16-year-old boy, but it smells, ‘The Beach’ is a tourist trap, the food isn’t exactly Thailand’s finest and the bars are cheesy as hell. I’ve heard there are nice parts of Phi Phi, but if you’re travelling on a budget you’ll never find them.

The internet. Best or worst thing to happen to humanity?

Where is your “happy place” and why?

What inspires you to connect with strangers?

If you could travel back in time, where would you visit first?

What’s your biggest fear?

Why your tattoo demonstrates a beautiful faith in others

Although I got my first tattoo two weeks before the US election results, it’s only recently dawned on me how important it is to have faith at a time when it would be much easier to withdraw from the unknown. When I read the news at the moment, all I want to do is withdraw from civilisation and live on the fringes of the Amazon rainforest. When what I should be doing, what all of us should be doing, is standing up and shouting about what we believe in louder than ever. For this reason, my tattoo (and yours) means more to me than I fully anticipated; it demonstrates complete and utter trust in a perfect stranger to create a part of you, a hidden message to the world, which is kind of a big deal when you think about it.

The very notion of having faith in others might seem like a fragile thing after the catastrophes of 2016. Many of us have hoped and prayed for an outcome that the unexpected majority passionately prevented. It’s a strange thing, to feel like democracy has screwed you over. To be reminded, cruelly, how very little control you have. To feel like a minority, to fill negative space, when you were so convinced all of humanity should surely be on your side.

Does a majority vote make it the right decision? Of course not. But is there proof that you were right either? God no. Because the truth is, nobody on this earth knows the direction we should be heading to reach the best-possible outcome. After all, rock bottom can only mean a upwards climb ahead. Brexit and Trump. It’s impossible to digest, but digest we must.

It kind of helps to look at it this way: they weren’t  votes for evil (although the racist, sexist, fascist, homophobic undertones are hard to ignore, I know). Most of the votes were cries for help. For change. The outcome might seem horrifying now, but it could be the catalyst that people like you and I need to actually start paying attention. Have you invested a greater interest in politics, the economy, and the future of the world since these shocking revelations began to unfold? ME TOO. That must be a positive thing, right?

It’s amazing how far you can push yourself to cooperate with the world when you have to. Look at the brave souls who lived through WW1 or WW2, or, amazingly enough, through both. We feel hard done by now, but in all honestly, most of us have no idea how it feels to be well and truly fucked over by the system and dictated by the elite. Trump might look worryingly like the next Hitler, but we have to believe he isn’t. We have to have faith in the order of things. We have to let this shit unfurl before we come to grand conclusions. Because if I’ve learned anything over the last year or so, it’s that worrying about the future doesn’t solve a thing.

I’m writing this post because I want to talk about putting faith in a stranger on a personal level, and how it might just help us to maintain the crucial level of trust we need to be able to hold humanity close. Little gestures have big consequences, maybe we’ll understand that now more than ever. So rather than fearing the stranger that may or may not be on your side, remember there is more that binds us than our political standpoint. I will never understand why someone voted for Brexit or Trump, but I sympathise with a nation that truly believed that was their best option. I’m devastated at the sheer amount of hate that fuelled these campaigns, but I flat out refuse to be the hater. I will never add to that.

So erm, what’s the tattoo got to do with it?

I always dreamed of having a tattoo, but I never actually thought I’d get one. Which is a sad kind of dilemma when you think about it. Wanting something so much but not actually having the balls to make it happen. I let the fear of regret get in the way. This frame of mind is pretty much the opposite of how I decided to live my life last year when I headed off around the world in a determined flurry of free-spiritedness. It wasn’t supposed to be a temporary thing, to worry less. To make stuff happen and feel alive. So on 22nd October 2016, I got my first tattoo.

It symbolises even more than the painting in my Grandparents house it was based on. It demonstrates a shift in my frame of mind. A symbol of change, freedom and identity. Something I can hold close forever in an ever-changing world. Sometimes we need to be bold and take risks to feel alive. That’s just human nature. But ultimately, we crave the familiar. Your tattoo probably represents both.

Aside from my tattoo reminding me why people often go to extremes to gain a sense of control, it also serves as a beautiful declaration of putting my body (and the way it will look for the rest of my life) in the trust of a complete and utter stranger.

Well,  Martha Smith isn’t exactly a stranger any more. I couldn’t recommend this talented lady enough. She perfectly captured the inspiration I sent her, and now I have the first and only thing I know will be mine forever. The permanency of tattoos once scared me much in the same way that change did. What if something goes wrong that I can’t go back and fix? Having finally learned how to worry less, it kind of struck me that there’s so much comfort to be found in both the tie of forever and the opportunity change presents, if only your interpretation will allow for it.

So I guess this post is an attempt at comfort, and a plea to keep the faith in the little things you do if the bigger picture is too hard to take right now. Give up your seat on the train, smile at passers by, and hey, maybe even trust someone enough to get that tattoo you keep thinking about. Because the more intimately we all interact, the closer we’ll come to understanding how a nation can become so divided. We’re all in this together, after all.

You can find Martha Smith at Xotica in North Finchley, London.

Here’s a little look at some of her wonderful work: http://marthaellensmith.tumblr.com/

 

Lessons from you: transforming your body

I love a strange coincidence. Earlier this week, when I was thinking to myself “I really must start asking people to guest post”, one of my close friends sent me this and asked if I’d like to feature it. I don’t know what moved me more; the story behind Omar’s incredible transformation, or the fact he’s associated such a positive life lesson with my blog. If there’s anything to inspire you to turn something negative completely around, it’s this. Enjoy.

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“Let me take you back a year or so and introduce you to my past self. I was skinny-fat, unhealthy and binge drinking every weekend, constantly planning my next big night out. Eating was just something I did to fill my forever-growling belly. I didn’t care what it was. If I was hungry, I would eat anything, never pausing to consider what effect it might be having on my body. Exercise was, in my opinion, a myth. And as for people who posted on social media about fitness, well, they were absolute losers that needed to get a life.

I became quite ill earlier in the year, and food was suddenly something I had to pay a lot of attention to. Monitoring what foods my body could and couldn’t tolerate daily became a huge part of my life. I went from life and soul of the party, to sitting at home in pain, feeling sorry for myself. I was put on medication, which thankfully made the pain go away. I started feeling better and came off the meds, looking forward to getting on with my life as normal. Only, the side effects of the medication meant that I’d gained a lot of weight.

I had no choice but to re-evaluate my entire lifestyle. If I wanted to remain healthy and live a normal life, I would have to make some serious changes.  My diet was in check, but I just didn’t feel or look good. I set about trying to lose the weight that I’d gained by doing youtube workouts at home and I really enjoyed it. My friend and I would meet up every day after work for some high-intensity interval training and ab work outs. I started to feel really good, although progress was slow at first; I was feeling better in myself.

Then, I made the best decision I’ve ever made; I joined the gym. Armed with knowledge of the weight room through various youtube videos, I tackled those dumbbells everyday on my own. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing at first, but as my knowledge grew, I set myself a muscle split for the week and it became my life.

My goal was to gain a six-pack. I achieved this after three months of training and completely changed my body. I felt amazing. Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want six pack abs?

And now?

Well, after those initial three months, I decided that I love the sport of sculpting your body so much that I’ve set myself a new goal. I want to compete. I want to be on stage and show off what I love to do and what I’ve achieved. So, now I have a coach, Kyle from Colossus Fitness, who helps me with nutrition, training schedules and general motivation. He’s helped me so much. I think my friends appreciate Kyle as much as I do – they don’t have to listen to me go on about the gym (as much) now that I have an outlet for that. I still have a long way to go, but I am so proud of my progress so far.

Why am I boring you with the story of my life? Quite simply, I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy. And it might sound silly, but if I can inspire anyone reading this that is feeling stressed with life, fed up or just wanting to look and feel good to get in the gym, I’ll feel like I’ve done my good deed.

If I’ve had a shitty day, as soon as I start training I immediately forget it. And if I’ve had a good day and I get in the gym, the day is even better. There’s no greater satisfaction than feeling like you’ve achieved something every single day.

Going back to me a year ago, him reading this would have laughed and told me to jog on (whilst eating an XL doner kebab with chilli sauce/salad boss). I’m the last person anyone would have expected to be living the way I do, if I can do it, seriously, so can you.

I’m not saying you need to dedicate your life and compete in bodybuilding. Just have a think about giving this fitness thing a try. Get in the gym this winter and you won’t have to shy away in the summer. What have you got to lose? Apart from maybe a bit of belly fat.”

Feeling inspired? Follow Omar’s progress on Instagram @omargod1

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Her Review: #facefoward by The Pool and Clinique

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For any of you who haven’t heard of The Pool (seriously, where have you been?), it’s a very clever, very useful online destination for busy women seeking interesting news and information. From politics to beauty tips, it breaks down everything worth knowing into bite-size pieces that make you wonder what you ever did on your lunch break before. Plus, co-founders Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne are both brilliant, having put their combined writer-editor-author-presenter-DJ-comedienne experiences to the best-possible use – one of those things that looks good on paper and actually is.

Anyway, last night I was lucky enough to be invited to The Pool’s #facefoward event, in partnership with Clinique. And aside from the generous goody bag (always a nice surprise), I took so much away from the evening. I don’t usually review places and events, but I do love to talk about inspiration and motivation, which is exactly what the evening centred around. Laverne interviewed four very driven, very different women, quizzing them on the women who inspired them before inviting ‘future selves’ onto the stage to ask unfiltered questions.

Internationally acclaimed war photographer Lynsey Addaroi kicked off the evening; followed by Liberty London Girl’s very own Sasha Wilkins; England cricketer Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent; and Channel 4 news broadcaster Cathy Newman. Although these four women are experts in very different fields, striking similarities run through their four incredible journeys – namely that it is impossible to learn, grow and thrive without experiencing the really hard times, whatever they may be. Addaroi was captured on the frontline and threatened with execution, Wilkins slept in her car and kept her identity a secret, Rainfort-Brent was told she would never walk again and Newman has suffered the worst kind of sexism throughout her entire career. Four strong, fiercely independent women who simply refused to give up. Each time they took a knock, they built something stronger and more resilient in return. It isn’t the money, lifestyle and celebrity status that we should be aspiring to, it’s to develop an ability to believe in ourselves no matter what. The evening depicted this beautifully.