Article for Wear Your Voice – 5 ways I became more body confident

I wrote this article for Wear Your Voice. The link to the article is below where you can also subscribe to their website –

http://wearyourvoicemag.com/body-politics/five-ways-started-implementing-body-confident

When I was 16, I was told by a nurse that I was creeping up on “overweight.” I was a UK size 8/10. I was stick thin. My hips stuck out and I was flat-chested. My peers asked if I was anorexic or bulimic. I was encouraged to eat more so that people would stop assuming I was anorexic.

So when this nurse gave me her opinion, I was left confused, upset and hurt. My confidence took another knock. These opinions were so conflicting. They were also dangerous.

I was an impressionable young girl who looked up to celebrities who were portrayed as having the most amazing figures. Magazines aimed at girls like me were all about fashion, looking great and having perfect hair, skin and teeth.

I spent 16 years of my life worrying about having the “perfect figure” because of other people and their opinions. Words hurt and they are very damaging. I would feel so miserable if I was a size bigger in one shop than another. I would deny myself treats, exercise too much and count calories. By doing this, I was preventing myself from living life and enjoying myself. I was forcing myself to be a prisoner, trapped in my own world of insecurities and low self-esteem. I would worry people would gossip or laugh at me if they either thought I was too skinny — or too fat.

Sixteen years is a long time to live your life this way. After 16 years, something finally made me become body confident — almost overnight. I decided to stop worrying about what others thought of me.

Here are five things I did to make that change sink in:

1. Accept that life is too short.

In 2010, I miscarried. It took me five years to get over it.

In those five years of grieving, I didn’t allow myself to laugh, live or love. I didn’t feel that I deserved to be happy. I just couldn’t let myself go. I was full of guilt and remorse. I wasn’t able to control my miscarriage, but I could control my life by continuing to punish myself. I also allowed myself to be defined by the various opinions and views of others.

I faced another potentially life-changing hurdle in 2015 after finding a lump in my breast. As I sat in the waiting room with other women waiting for the outcomes of our examinations, I realised how short life really is. I started to look back at missed opportunities. I had denied myself laughter, fun and the chance to make memories, all because I worried what others would think of me.

Luckily, my results were nothing to worry about. As I left the hospital with my husband, we decided we needed to grab life and not let go. We had experienced too much darkness, negativity and anxiety. We might not be able to control what happens in every aspect of our lives, but I wasn’t going to let people’s opinions of my weight affect me anymore.

2. Learn to accept compliments.

When someone compliments you, accept it! Embrace it and enjoy it. For too many years I would wonder if people were being sarcastic or if it was a joke at my expense.

I also felt I had to respond to compliments with negativity: “Your hair looks lovely!” “Ha, it needs a wash!” But my responses made people feel like their compliments weren’t valid.

Now, I accept compliments. I say thank you and I smile. If someone tells me my dress suits my figure, my mascara looks lovely or my shoes are really pretty, I take it. A compliment can easily boost your confidence and make your day.

3. Stop comparing yourself to others (or your former self).

We compare ourselves to how we used to look — not three months ago, but three years ago!

Life moves on and times change. Our diets and daily routines change. I recently looked at some photos of myself from five years ago. I have gone up three dress sizes. But a lot has happened in that time! I have quit smoking — not once, but three times. I have also had my gallbladder removed. I am now 33, not 28.

But one thing I notice that really stands out and resonates in these pictures is my smile. I might have been slimmer five years ago, but I wasn’t happy with who I was. I was sad, miserable and just existing. I was hunched over, arms wrapped around myself. How unhappy I was comes across through in my smile. The smile is sad. It is forced and my eyes look lifeless. In pictures now, my smile reaches my eyes. I am no longer existing, I am now living!

We also compare ourselves to celebrities, our friends, colleagues and peers. May may be doing this because we think they have the “ideal figure” — but you can be sure that they, too, are comparing themselves to people who look ideal in their eyes.

Instead of making comparisons, we need to appreciate ourselves for who we are and learn to love our true selves. Remember, the grass is never greener on the other side!

4. Accentuate the positives.

I am happy to go makeup free and I do so regularly. But there is nothing wrong with admitting that I also like to wear makeup. I love makeup! I have a drawer full of the stuff and I love to experiment.

I think my eyes are one of my best features and I like to accentuate them. My eyes are blue; contrasted against big mascaraed lashes, defined eyebrows and dark hair, they definitely stand out.

We all have something about our bodies that we like; we should embrace it and not be body shamed for doing so!

If you have “killer” legs, don’t cover them up! If you are proud of your bust, wear something that accentuates it. Don’t hide away and cover up what you are proud of!

5. Don’t be afraid of the label in your clothes.

I used to hate clothes shopping in case I had to get something a size bigger. I soon realised that it wasn’t me that had necessarily put on weight; it was the fluctuation of sizes in different stores! Once I realized this, I stopped feeling depressed about it.

There is no “standard” sizing for women’s clothing. What is a 12 in one shop might be a 14 in another. You might be a size 16 in jeans but have to get an 18 to be comfortable when wearing another brand because that particular brand’s size 16 runs small.

It’s the same with lingerie. I am several different bra sizes depending on where I purchase them from. I used to be bothered that I was bigger in one store than another. Now I just accept it. Wearing a bigger size doesn’t make me any less of a person.

I am much more comfortable in my skin wearing something that might be the next size up, rather than trying to convince myself I am still the same size I was ten years ago. By wearing something that is a size too small, I am not only uncomfortable, I am more self-conscious — and therefore less body confident.

Article for Wear Your Voice – 10 ways to rediscover (and love) yourself

I wrote this article for Wear Your Voice. The link to the article is below where you can also subscribe to their website –

http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/lifestyle/10-ways-find-love

We all get caught up in the daily grind. We get bogged down with commuting, working and hitting those targets. The roles we play in the world can overwhelm us and make us forget who we are.

While we juggle the responsibilities of our professional and social worlds, we often neglect the most important person in our lives: ourselves. We need to make sure we take a step back and rethink our priorities. We must take time to rest, relax and just breathe. Say no to extra work. Turn off our phones. Turn off social media. Spend time getting to know ourselves again.

1. Make time for you.

You can’t pour from an empty cup! You need to make time to recharge your batteries. A specific time or day where you stop. Unplug the phone, turn off the laptop, stop checking your work email. Don’t let yourself get drawn into responding to just one more. Look after yourself: take a long bubble bath and indulge in a good book. Learn how to listen to your body. Those feelings of anxiety and stress are a warning. You will come to recognize your limits, and you should not let yourself to be pushed past them.

2. Play.

Yes, we’re adults. That doesn’t mean we cannot play anymore. Our childhood memories are often ones of “freedom” from stresses. Children play. It is a great way to express yourself. There are lots of ways adults ca play. Take yourself to the beach and fly a kite. Build a sandcastle. Grab a coloring book. There are many on the market specifically aimed at helping adults unwind and de-stress.

3. Re-discover a favorite hobby.

What did you do when you were younger that you loved? Was it a sport, a game or a craft? Get back to it. You probably only stopped because life got in the way. Pick that hobby up again.

4. Say no.

You are only one person. There is only so much you can realistically achieve in one day. You need to set boundaries and ground rules. If you have too much of a workload, don’t take on more. If you have a busy week, don’t try and squeeze in anything extra. If you haven’t finished everything on your to-do list, don’t see unfinished tasks as failures. Instead, recognize how much you have taken care of!

5. Try something new.

Sometimes you can get to know yourself better by trying something you’ve never done before. You could try learning a new language, taking a dance class or learning to cook something new. Take an art class. Try books from a new author. Getting caught in the vicious circle of a mundane routine can smother the internal fire that sparks our creativity. By trying something new, you might discover a new passion.

6. Gratitude.

It’s easy to get sucked into feeling down and out. One way to turn this around is to make a list of things we’re grateful for. There’s always something. Your list doesn’t have to include big things; they can be as simple as a cup of coffee or a beautiful day.

7. Help others.

If you have spare time, there is nothing more rewarding than helping others. This can be done through charity work, volunteering or simply being kind to strangers. You have the power to change someone’s day. Compliment a stranger. Help someone with their groceries. Trying to have a kind and positive outlook can help to raise your own spirits.

8. Let go of toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships are incredibly draining and suffocating. Don’t let others control your happiness. Notice who affects you and how. If someone is making you feel miserable, let them go. You can be kind and positive to others, but if all they do is suck the life out of you, they are not healthy to be around. This applies to friends, colleagues, working environments — even family. You need to surround yourself with those who lift you up. Make choices that are based on your well-being. Being stuck in any kind of toxic relationship can make you lose sight of who you are.

9. Spend time in nature.

Open your eyes to the beauty the world has to offer. Go for a walk. Grab
your camera. Enjoy the peace and quiet. Get up early and watch the sunrise. Go horse riding. Rent a bike and go out for a picnic. Visit somewhere you have always wanted to go. Explore.

10. Get rid of clutter.

Every last bit. Free yourself from items you’ve been keeping for years. Donate it. Burn it. Sell it. Make space in your house and in your heart for the present and the future. Don’t be bogged down by the past. Anything that holds toxic memories needs to go.

Article for Wear Your Voice – Workplace Bullying

I wrote this article for Wear Your Voice. The link to the article is below where you can also subscribe to their website –

http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/social-justice/workplace-bullying-looks-like-happens

Have work colleagues ever made derogatory comments to you? Have co-workers ever made you feel isolated after you agreed to take on extra work, or made you feel uncomfortable after you were offered overtime? Have you ever been included in an email thread that insulted or belittled you, or overheard people discussing and mocking you in the office? Have you been shamed by co-workers who took on part of your workload while you were ill? All of these behaviors are forms of workplace bullying, and they’re not OK.

Bullying can harm your confidence and self-esteem, whether it comes from colleagues or managers. Supervisors who pressure you to return to work when you’re sick or pile extra evening and weekend hours on you may be mistreating you. When managers treat us this way, we often feel that if we refuse, we’ll harm our chances at a promotion or a boost in pay. We may feel controlled, as though we have to give in to a supervisor’s demands.

Or maybe you’ve let your manager, the company and even yourself down; these experiences can maintain a hold over you. After such an experience, you might find yourself saying “yes” when you want to say “no,” remembering the trouble it caused last time. Other times, bullying makes its way on to social media, where co-workers’ derogatory status updates are aimed at others in the office, creating a situation in which everyone is “in on the joke” except the victim.

We first experience bullying in childhood. But as we grow older, we begin to realize that bullying continues. We might all be guilty of bullying on some level at some point in our lives. Whether we’re the perpetrator or the victim, as adults we need to remind ourselves that we can do the right thing. We need to educate people that bullying shouldn’t be tolerated. (In some cases, it’s illegal.)

Often, people are too afraid to report workplace bullying to a manager or to someone in human resources, fearing they’ll be seen as a troublemaker. They may worry that they’ll be fired for making accusations, or fear that the company will protect a manager instead of investigating a complaint against him or her.

Gossip — which is rampant in many workplaces — can prevent workers from reporting bad behavior. People might not want their personal issues discussed in the office, or they may fear being labelled “the troublemaker.” They would prefer to do anything not to draw attention to themselves. It mimics the behavior of children who don’t report bullying to a teacher, for fear of repercussions. But we are no longer children. We are adults who, in theory, should know better.

How sad is it that, as adults, we are afraid of the repercussions of reporting bullies? We are still eager to people-please, walk on eggshells and avoid controversy. But in doing so, we allow ourselves to be dominated and controlled by the opinions and actions of others. We put our feelings, well-being and happiness on the back burner. Or, if we see someone else being bullied, we may not stand up for them.

But we should. Workplace bullying can prevent us from progressing further in our career. We might choose not to go for a promotion, fearing we’ll be accused of stealing it from a colleague. Workplace friendships might go south when one is upset that the other was assigned a special task.

We are all adults. It would be nice if we could work alongside each other in harmony rather than feeling the need to bully, belittle, intimidate and create a volatile working situation. This toxic environment can send shockwaves around an entire department, office or firm. It can lead to worry, anxiety and stress. Often people bring this worry home, which then interferes with their life outside of work. They get caught up in a vicious cycle feeling as though there is no escape or breathing space.

Adults are expected to know better and to behave in a mature, responsible manner. We can set an example for kids by showing that people have feelings and they deserve to be treated with compassion, kindness and respect. We can treat others how we wish to be treated. Always trying to be kind and positive can help make you a better person. Simple acts of kindness can immediately put a stop to bullying, mean comments and negativity. We all have the ability to make a difference. We can all be a positive influence and take a stand against bullying.