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.

 

 

 

 

Lessons from you: reaching out to a virtual stranger

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As a writer, I partly put words together for the fun of it, but mostly want to catapult those ideas into an invisible crowd of strangers. I want to reach out to people because I think that’s kind of nice. To share and share alike. As a species, it’s our ability to share knowledge and  communicate that’s helped us evolve. The newspaper, the phone, the TV, the Internet. To be some small part of that, to make sure these incredible inventions are put to good use, is paramount to the success of our existence, don’t you think? Both globally and individually.

So when opportunist Rosie reached out to me, having read something I wrote for the very talented Olivia over at The London Ladybird, I wasn’t just flattered, I felt relieved. Relieved for a generation of “sharers” who risk barely communicating at all. The Internet could send us one way or the other, and it’s our responsibility to make sure we stay connected. Perhaps more than we’ve ever connected before.

So, let me hand you over to Rosie of Thinkers Brew to tell our valuable and quite lovely lesson on reaching out, and the positive repercussions of taking a shot in the dark and connecting with a stranger.

THE IMPORTANCE OF REACHING OUT, BY ROSE MUSSEN

“When I was nearing the end of my degree in English and Creative Writing, it seemed that my lecturers realised they’d been a bit stingy with career advice. I remember going to a hastily organised talk given by some men who worked at a local publisher. It was utterly abysmal. One of the speakers made a reference to Peter Pan and how it was written by an author called ‘C.L Lewis’. Not even C.S Lewis, who obviously didn’t write Peter Pan. C.L Lewis. I could feel my best friend cringing next to me (she had recently completed her dissertation on J.M Barrie). That is quite a good example of the calibre of career knowledge I left university with. That, and being told by a creative writing lecturer that the beauty of being an author is that ‘you can have two jobs!’ – needless to say, it didn’t instil much confidence in me.

Fast forward two years to me working in hospital and running the administrative side of the world’s largest randomised surgical trial. I graduated with a degree in English and worked full time in obesity surgery research. Possibly the most irrelevant career path I could have gone down. But with student overdrafts to pay off and experience to gain, it served me well. Obviously I began to get itchy feet but had so few ideas of which career path to go down, I felt a bit stuck. I knew I wanted to write, that much was clear, but I didn’t want to write novels or poetry, which were the only focuses within the creative writing modules of my degree.

A friend had suggested to me a while ago that I might enjoy being a copywriter but I knew very little of what it entailed. Until I read a series curated by the amazing Olivia for her blog The London Ladybird. The series is called The Job Centre and my partner Pearl wrote a contributing post for it, so I thought I’d have a nosy at what other people had written and that’s how I came across Corin! Her post about being a copywriter shed light on a whole new kind of writing that I could do. I cast my mind back to winning a Double Decker chocolate bar in primary school for producing the best piece of persuasive writing and decided that writing copy was the career for me.

When I landed my first interview for a junior copywriter role at a marketing agency in Bath, I was thrilled but incredibly daunted by the prospect of it. I wasn’t sure who to go to for advice. It was a job in a completely different industry to mine and I didn’t know any copywriters. I plucked up the courage to send Corin an email explaining that I had read her piece for The Job Centre and asked her if she could offer me any tips. Her response was invaluable. She highlighted different ways that I could prepare, from producing a portfolio of writing that I had done in my free time, to arming myself with examples of bloggers and writers I admired. Corin also highlighted some important questions for me to ask that were things I wouldn’t have thought to enquire about because I wasn’t working in the industry. Helpful things like ‘how will I be briefed?’ and ‘what are the processes around delivering copy?’ all proved to be useful questions to ask in the interview because I was able to gain a really good insight into the role and the agency.

I’m thrilled to say that I got the job. I’m now working as a junior copywriter and absolutely loving it. Reaching out to Corin, a complete stranger, massively paid off and helped me secure a job that transpired to be completely the right job for me. By far the most helpful career advice I have ever received came not from University but as a result of making hopeful contact with someone and picking their brain.

If you’re unsure about making a jump into an unfamiliar industry or simply progressing within your current area, I can’t stress enough how much value there is in pinging an email to someone with a job you admire. They may not be able to offer you a definitive path to progression but they’ll probably be able to help and damn well (probably) won’t be a publisher who tells you that Peter Pan was written by C.L Lewis.”

Just imagine what reaching out to someone might do for you…

Read more of Rosie’s beautifully honest musings here.

If, like Rosie, you’d like some tips on becoming a copywriter (or if there’s anything you love a piece of unbiased advice on) please don’t hesitate to comment below or get in touch.

 

 

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/

 

A lesson on confidence, health and hungover Sundays


How introverted are you? Enough to notice visible effects on your confidence? Your health? Your drinking habits?

If like me, you’re the secret kind-of introvert (going above and beyond every single day to come across as anything but shy because you annoy yourself so much), you’ll appreciate the, erm, interesting challenge I faced recently. I was with almost-strangers (albeit incredibly lovely almost-strangers), non-stop, away for two days on a work training programme. Endless networking, dinner, a hotel, presentations, name badges, the works. Hell, basically.

As I stood up to do a presentation with my new group of mates, I couldn’t help but notice the subtle shaky hands of pretty much everyone in my group, despite their confident, assuring voices. I wondered just how many people in the room felt exactly like me. Shy on the inside, determined to hide it, drained by the unnatural performance. I felt so bloody tired the whole time and I knew exactly why. Introverts recharge their energy levels by being alone, while extroverts tend to feel energised by socialising. So in a group of 25 people, it was probable that half of us were becoming more and more fatigued, while the other half were actually gaining energy. There was no ‘alone time’, other than peeing and sleeping. I must have gone to the bathroom at least 10 times just to get it together. Which can’t be right.

I wonder if people persons (people people?) are more likely to succeed in life than people who prefer their own company. Actually, I don’t wonder. It seems pretty obvious. If you live by ‘the system’, which in my experience means working in a busy, open-plan office, competing to have your voice heard in meetings and constantly networking,  then anyone with introverted tendencies is going to have to put on a self-sacrificing show if they want to do well. You could say I’m in the wrong job, but I’d say writing is pretty spot on for an introvert. 

What I’m getting at is that over the last three months (exactly three months since I started my new job) I have felt more tired, drained, wiped out, sapped of energy, dead practically, than I can last remember. My job is challenging and interesting, sometimes I work late and often I work through lunch, but it’s nowhere near as taxing as the results seem to suggest. Not the job itself anyway. I’ve kind of realised that it’s actually the whole ‘wearing a different hat at work’ thing that’s done it. Thanks to years of repressing my shyness, my faux confidence comes as naturally to me as my desire to be alone. But when it’s switched on 24/7, my poor introvert-style energy levels start to wear thin.

Then the weekend comes and I treat my self to a teeny bit of wine. And sometimes dancing because I have forgotten how tired I am.

Hungover Sundays.

And the cycle of tiredness continues.

It has to stop.

Ok, so my introverted nature isn’t directly damaging my health, but my extreme fatigue and desire to drink away my stresses isn’t exactly a healthy bi-product. I’m in no way inclined to take on a more reserved personality at work (or ever), so I’m somewhat forced to address this whole drinking thing. My sister has been training to run a half marathon and says she can notice a difference in her performance after just one drink the night before. This scares me a bit.

Let me make this clear, I’m by no means an alcoholic. I only really drink at the weekends. But I will hold my hands up and say I’m pretty alcohol dependent. I would really struggle to give it up. I like drinking. A lot.

What I’ve stopped enjoying is devoting every other Sunday to my sofa.

Another product of having demanding job is the horrifying realisation of how precious, rare and easily wasted your free time is. Precious enough to have a break from blogging (it’s been a while, I know), but also precious enough to consider sacking off the pub in favour of something more rewarding.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.

All I know is that being an introvert has never held me back, but being hungover certainly has (again see lack of blogging).

Believe it or not, you have far more control over your personality than you might think. Throw a hefty hangover into the mix and you’re just putting another barrier between you and the person you really want to be. Drinking might help you to feel confident and stress-free at the time, but it shits all over the long game.

Blogger, Steph Style, a good friend of mine, recently wrote a really insightful post about how she overcame her shyness. She’s one of the most productive, time efficient, go-getters I know. She’s also naturally shy on the inside like me (and so many of us) yet never ever comes across as anything but enthusiastic and outgoing. She works in PR. Not your average job for an introvert. Because really, in more ways than you might dare to believe, your life is your choice. Read her post here.

And here are my 5 tips on being confident for introverts:

1. Ignore the voice in your head that automatically says ‘no’ every time someone asks if you’d like to meet up. Give ‘yes’ a chance and you’ll build up evidence for why it’s usually a good idea. It becomes easier every time, trust me. Nobody looks back and thinks ‘I’m so glad I said no to all those fun things I was invited to.’

2. Stop overthinking what to say in a group conversation. Nobody analyses your words like you do. Better to put your thoughts out there than sit there all quiet. Concentrate on listening to what other people are saying rather than indulging that internal monologue in your head that’s louder than the interesting people around you.

3. Don’t play with your hair, bite your lip, fidget in your seat or hunch your back. Stand tall, make eye contact with people, say hello to everyone you vaguely know, ask questions, be conscious of speaking a fraction louder of what comes naturally.

4. Make an effort with your appearance. When you know you look your best, confidence becomes a lot more accessible.

5. Know when you’ve reached your limited for socialising. Take a moment, an evening or a weekend to recharge your batteries.

And recharge is exactly what I’m taking the time to do right now. You can only push your mind and your body so far. Recognising when it’s time to have a few weeks off drinking, or some time to yourself to just relax is incredibly important for your health.

You’ll be amazed how much more productive you can be.

Giving up makeup (more or less)

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Four months ago, the night before my flight to Bangkok, my sister helpfully went through my backpack in an attempt to reduce its embarrassing size. I’m proud to say that I agreed to leave a pile of clothes behind, but after bulk-buying my favourite beauty products for my six-month trip, I struggled with the idea of being without my lifeline: foundation.

“You’re taking two full bottles of foundation, four pressed powders and how many bronzers?!” she demanded in confusion.

“I don’t want to run out..”

Actually, I was terrified of not being able to buy my favourite and trusted brands abroad. It hadn’t really occurred to me in a serious way that I might turn my back on them altogether. That I would finally let my skin properly breathe for the first time in years. That my skin would behave normally of it’s own accord, without smoke and mirrors, if only I’d just let it.

A while back, I wrote a post about feeling comfortable in your own skin, detailing my experience with acne as a teenager and the affect it can have on your confidence. In the past, I’ve put a huge amount of pressure on myself to look ‘perfect’ all the time. I hoped from the bottom of my heart that travelling would help me confront my dependency on makeup, but in all honesty I never really believed I would be happy looking at barefaced me in the mirror. Now it feels weird to think that I never used to leave the house without a thick layer of high-coverage foundation. No wonder my skin was so unpredictable.

OLD MAKEUP ROUTINE:

Primer > concealer > foundation > pressed powder > loose powder > bronzer > blusher > various eye shadows > eye liner> mascara > eyebrow pencil > lipstick

Which is a fairly typical daily concoction for a lot of us. The result? Your face purposefully looking completely different. I’ve only recently come to realise what a shame that is. That so many of us want to look nothing like ourselves. I’m not sure at what point I started wanting to hide my normal face, but it was a very long time ago. It wasn’t enough that my boyfriend professed how ‘beautiful’ I am without makeup. Why wouldn’t I want to look better if I could? Even when it meant getting up at the crack of dawn to apply my face, spending a small fortune on products and feeling strange and ugly without them. Beauty is an addiction. So many of us have become obsessed with our own faces. Only now I’ve taken a step away from my old life do I realise how much time I was spending trying to make myself look ‘right’. And for who? Do people really notice or care if you’re not wearing a full face of makeup?

Those of us who wear makeup every day tend to have a fairly psychological relationship with it. Before, if I didn’t wear makeup, I didn’t feel like me. I felt as though I was being lazy, akin with not bothering to get dressed. Which, when you think about it, is completely ridiculous. It’s just my face. It’s nice to look nice, and I will always make an effort with my appearance, but nobody should feel like a slave to their makeup bags every single day. Nobody should feel less like themselves just because they’re not wearing mascara. It’s hard to think that way when you wear makeup every day. Which is why I’m so glad I’ve learned to like my face again.

So how did I do it?

Quite simply, makeup and travelling do not sit well together. You live out of one bag, you’re always on the go, you’re active, you have to be practical, you’re often sweating, swimming or in the rain, and there are 100 more interesting things to be looking at than your face in the mirror. I am so very glad that travelling forced me to stop feeling so dependent on makeup, I just wished I’d realised all this at home years ago.

I reluctantly gave up foundation first. Thailand’s humidity made sure of that. At first I felt hard-done by, moaning that even my expensive foundation was melting right off my face. Pretty soon however, it became a blessing. My morning routine was so much quicker. I felt self-conscious about spots and dark circles under my eyes, but my skin soon responded by being less shiny. I persevered despite feeling uncomfortable and pretty soon I wondered why I’d ever worn foundation at all. My skin could breathe.

Next came mascara. The longer I went without wearing mascara, the more I came to like my natural eye shape and long blonde eye lashes.  A few weeks in and I was going about each day without any eye makeup at all and feeling completely normal. It sounds ridiculous, but I honestly never thought I would be able to do that. I’m actually quite ashamed at how much I used to hide my face. There’s nothing wrong with it. I just convinced myself there was thanks to an ongoing obsession with thinking I should be looking a certain way, to please nobody but myself.

CURRENT MAKEUP ROUTINE:

primer > powder > eyebrow pencil

Giving up makeup is like giving up any addiction; you absolutely have to be in the right frame of mind to be able to do it, and you’ll surprise yourself by how much better you feel without it. You’ll wonder why you ever depended on it so much and how it could possibly form such a big part of your identity, your confidence, your ability to go about your day.

I can’t help but think that with the new obsession with contouring, beauty filters and lip fillers, we’re not used to seeing natural faces any more. If we all give in, we’re in danger of all morphing into the same person. I’m not sure who she is, or why so many of us want to look like her, but she exists as nothing but a symbol of our insecurities. I don’t want to be her, I want to be me. Real beauty stems from having the confidence to be yourself. Makeup is a wonderful confidence-boosting tool, and one I could never turn my back on entirely, but there is simply more to life than wanting to look perfect all the time.

I still want to wear makeup and will never be the kind of girl who rolls into work barefaced. It’s polite to make an effort. I also love being part of a generation that has access to so many life-changing beauty products. It’s more that now the idea of having to go without them from time to time doesn’t completely terrify me. Makeup gives us an element of control over how we wish to look, but choosing to forego it sometimes surely gives us the most control of all?

Lesson 22: learning from Dad

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More than just a Daddy’s Girl, I am my father incarnated in female form. We are identical in so many ways it’s actually quite weird. Our eyes, mouth, nose, ears, legs (cheers Dad) and feet all look exactly the same. And more than that, we often think the same. We’re moved by the same things. We’re not afraid to say how we feel and we like to think we’re pretty in-tune with our emotions. We’re over-thinkers and people watchers, happiest either staring out to sea and pondering life or dancing to loud music with an endless supply of beer.

I have learnt more from my dad than I could ever say. Not only did he perform the miracle of ensuring I got an A in GCSE maths, he’s had me believing I can achieve the unthinkable ever since. Almost 10 years on, I might have forgotten Pythagoras’ Theorem, but I’ll never forget the importance of working hard to get what you want. My dad’s ambition, work ethic and motivation are qualities I feel incredibly lucky to have witnessed firsthand. They are the reason my sister and I went to good universities and followed our dreams of living and working in London. They paid for family holidays to beautiful places. They ensured we all lived in a spacious house in a nice area. They provided security, health and opportunity. The very foundation of my life has been outlined by my dad’s hard work, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.

My dad is really good at giving advice, but, like most of us, he doesn’t always practise what he preaches. When he dropped me off at my halls in Exeter for the first time, he handed me a note that told me to work as hard as I could whilst having as much fun as possible. My whole life still revolves around this rule, but I’m not convinced that my dad, or many people of his generation do the same. And there is absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t. If I’m not still dancing until sunrise on my 50th birthday, then something has gone horribly wrong. If anything, once you reach your 50s and 60s and your children are able to support themselves, you have more of a right to have a good time than the average teenager. You’ve brought up happy, ambitious children who love and respect you. Surely the rest of your life should be one big celebration?

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Father’s Day seems like the perfect time to document some of the most valuable lessons my dad has taught me, whilst hopefully reminding him and others to take his wonderful words of wisdom on board.

  1. Do things today, not tomorrow. It’s easy to push back the things you want to do. Life gets in the way far too often. Some things we can control and some we can’t. It’s so important to be impulsive no matter what, making the most of the opportunities in front of you and continuing to dream big through the hard times. My dad taught me the value of having a life plan, and together we’ve learnt that plans are often only made to be broken. Expect the unexpected and learn from the surprises life can bring. Change is terrifying, but it forces us to grow in ways we didn’t realise we could.
  1. You can’t please everyone. And you should never aim to. You can only spread yourself so far. Trying to fit into different moulds of expectation will only leave you wondering who you really are and what you really want. Save your loyalty and energy for the people who really appreciate and deserve it, because otherwise you’re in danger of being all used up by the time the ones you love need you.
  1. You are never too old to do fun, crazy, ridiculous things. At the end of term at university, my dad would drive all the way down to Exeter to collect me. On a few occasions, I took him for a night out. Like a proper night out. I took my dad to Timepiece. And we didn’t just go upstairs, we went upstairs-upstairs. Only Exeter goers will understand the significance of this. But just imagine my dad discovering that Jager bombs are only £1 after he just withdrew £100 at the cash point. He stayed up drinking cans of cider with my friends while I passed out. I find this weirdly inspiring. My dad is cool. My dad rides a motorbike. As he gets older, I want my dad to embrace this fun, carefree side of him more than ever. And I hope reading this inspires you to do the same.