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“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life”[1] –J.K Rowling

Destruction is something that happens. It’s beyond your control. It’s something you’re passive to. It’s something that consumes you and you can do nothing but shrink and disintegrate. You think you’re in control and that ‘you can stop whenever you want to’. You think that all the suffering will be worth it when you have reached your goal and yet the goal posts move further and further away. One mile more and you’ll feel better. 20 less calories and you’ll have achieved something. A spoonful less of pasta and you’ll be satisfied because you think you’ve won. But who’s the real winner?

Destruction is easy. One domino Dominoesand the entire row tumbles down in a chain reaction. One loose thread and the entire dress falls to pieces. One stray spark and the forest is ablaze.

Reconstruction is a whole lot harder. It is exhausting and emotional and physical. You cannot sit back and wait for the rebuilding to happen. Only you can lay those bricks one by one. Reconstruction is slow and difficult and frustrating. Rebuilding often makes you take one step forwards and two steps back. Reconstruction is not as easy as destruction but I know one thing for certain. Reconstruction is the only way to have genuine control over your mind and body. Reconstruction is the only way to realise that your eating disorder is your enemy, not your companion. Reconstruction is the only way to bring light into your eyes, authenticity in your smile and warmth in your heart. Reconstruction is the only way to recover.

I know how daunting it is to think of the recovery journey ahead. I know how easy it is to be deceived into thinking that it’s simpler to let your eating disorder control you and destroy you. I know that realising that your eating disorder is not a trustworthy friend and that it is by no means your comfort blanket is easier said than done. I know what it’s like to have anorexia and to think that it is what defines you. I know what it’s like to not know who you are, what your likes and dislikes are and what your dreams are. I know because I am in the process of reconstruction.

I am not yet recovered but I know it’s coming. I know I will be able to go on a date with my boyfriend without intrinsic planning. I know I will be able to eat dinner with my Mum, Dad and sisters without anxiety. I know I will be able to dance like nobodies watching and sing in the shower at the top of my lungs with joy. I know I will be able to laugh with my whole body until I get hiccups.

 

I know I will be able to help others with my story so that someone else doesn’t have to be victimised by anorexia.

Recovery is coming. A day will come when I will smile with my eyes not my thighs. So I have to keep rebuilding and rediscovering who I am.

And you do too. You are more than your eating disorder tries to define you as. I hope that by reading this, you have one less brick to lay in the reconstructing process. Keep rebuilding because reconstruction and destruction have one fundamental difference. Recovery is an unmoving goal post. GoalRecovery is not impossible. Satisfaction through your eating disorder is. Choose to reconstruct and rebuild. Choose recovery.

[1] https://www.stylist.co.uk/books/jk-rowling-describes-hitting-rock-bottom-in-a-new-book-about-the-benefits-of-failure-harry-potter-author/127443

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The beautiful, chaotic, imperfect yet unapologetic reality

Mission holiday complete! After weeks and weeks of planning, countless reassurances from the hospital, friends and family and many sleepless nights in the run up, holiday.jpgI managed to have a whole week of holiday in Dorset with my family and boyfriend! And I actually had fun!

Firstly, I feel like I have some explaining to do as to why I have not written a blog post in a while. To be honest with you, I didn’t think it was right for me to write when I had no idea what to say. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say by any means, but in fact, too much! Over the past few months, I have been slowly adjusting to the Springfield Hospital Day Unit and I think I can safely say that I have now found my feet! I have already learnt so much but I know I have so much to learn, hence why I am in the Day Unit for another 6 months. My head feels like it is going at 100mph as I process all the new information and continue to recover from anorexia. Getting to grips with this new information and new territory has been baffling enough without me confusing you with incoherency and, to put it simply, gobbledygook!

Whilst on my holiday, something I have really started to think about is how social media and holidays tie together. The development of Facebook, Instagram, old lady.pngTwitter, Snapchat and whatever else the youths of today use –gosh I sound like an old lady! – has meant that, now more than ever, we are witnesses to each other’s lives 24/7. But is what we’re seeing always the reality?

Every morning, one of my best friends Chrissie and I crank up the choons in my reliable Nissan Micra and have a proper sing along. One of our favourite bands ‘Ward Thomas’ released a new song around two weeks ago called ‘Lie Like Me’ and the lyrics really struck me. The song is all about how it is for the most part easier to post the edited highlights of your life on social media, which, in effect, covers up the things you are struggling with in your reality. It really questions how self-fulfilling it is to close off the realities of daily life from others and instead show what you want others to see – in the words of the country duo themselves ‘God forbid you see the things I don’t want you to see’. The bridge really hammers this point home with the lyrics ‘I don’t even want to buy what I’m selling’ – I don’t even feel captivated by the fantasy I put on social media anymore!

Sorry for going off onto a MEGA tangent but I just wanted to clarify that this is not a rant that has sprung from nowhere as I am sure you have been warned of the façade of the realities of others through social media countless times! It is certainly something that I have heard so many times but on holiday I started to realise how hearing it is a completely different story to really taking it on as fact.

Over the next few weeks, it is certain that you will see picture after picture of cocktail glasses clinking together, oceans and swimming pools shimmering in the brilliant sunshine and shots of people looking sexy and mystical whilst staring at the view from their balcony. Just to make clear, I am NOT saying that people should stop posting fun and happy pictures from their holidays because I LOVE sharing in the happiness of my friends’ and family’s adventures through the pictures they post just as much as they share in mine. In truth, what I am saying is that we have to be vigilant to the fact that those holiday snaps do not tell the whole story.

I am also not trying to point the finger at anyone because all of us have the tendency to post the edited and filtered photos with a caption that took us years to conjure up. I hold my hands up to doing this frequently, and even this week whilst on holiday!

I think it is unrealistic to say that everyone should just live in the moment and post no photos on social media because photos capture memories and memories are to be shared! But what I am suggesting is that maybe we can spend less time taking photo after photo all in effort of finding ‘perfection’. Maybe we can spend less time applying each and every filter to our photos until we find the one that makes us look the most attractive in our bikinis or makes our holiday destination look like some fantastical land. Maybe we can stop trying to post THE photo and instead post the REAL photo. Photos of when Fanta Lemon poured out of your nose because you are laughing so much. Photos of when you had eaten a wonderfully yummy meal and your stomach has that gentle bloat that shows how delicious it was and how awesome it is that our bodies make new and beautiful shapes with every hour. holibobberPhotos of your children, nieces, nephews and grandchildren playing in the sea and building sandcastles on the beach. Photos of you – unedited, unfiltered and unapologetically and beautifully you.

Truth time. The photo I posted at the very beginning of the holiday does not show the truth. The truth is, I was so apprehensive about going on holiday. I was nervous about the food, the number of people and the fact that I was away from the unit for a whole week. I was not ‘an official holibobber’. I was scared.

Although I cannot go back to the beginning of the holiday and not only tell past Maisie that she had NOTHING to worry about, but also show how nervous I was about the holiday, I now have a chance to be truthful.

This is me. I made it through the week. I ate the food I had to. I challenged myself to eat out in a pub, drink a glass of wine and have a Mr Whippy ice-cream – with a flake of course! I am going back to the Day Unit on Monday and I’m really nervous about that. I am happy with how the holiday went and I laughed every single day. I know I’m not ‘cured’ from anorexia. I know I have things to work on. But I’m alright. I think I might even be more than alright. This is my reality, no filter, no punny caption and the first selfie I took.reality

I challenge you, whether you are going on holiday or not, to post your reality. Post a photo of you laughing ridiculously hard with your friends. Post a photo of your pet doing something really funny. Post a picture of you being unapoligetically you. Sad, happy, angry, silly, serious, I want to see your reality.

The beautiful, chaotic, imperfect yet unapologetic reality. It’s freakin’ beautiful.

 

 

Change – Control = Chaos OR Clarity?: I deserve, you deserve, we all deserve more than to be ‘doing fine’.

In the words of Sharpay Evans, ‘it’s out with the old, and in with the new. Goodbye clouds of grey, hello skies of blue’ – but just not quite as shiny…or pink.

Firstly, I feel the need to apologise that it has been around a month since I last posted a blog, which I’m sure you’re all deeply saddened by, right? Maybe you enjoyed the break from me popping up on your social media feeds with more and more ways methods of telling you how wonderful you are – sorry guys! I’m back!

Change and adaptation have been unavoidable in my life over the past couple of weeks, these being things that myself, along with many of you I’m sure, have struggled with since I was little. clockWhen I was a child, everyone who knew me, knew that I liked – no LOVED – a routine. A routine for getting up and out of bed, a routine for getting washed and dressed, a routine for at what precise minute I would use the bathroom before school, and even a routine for where we crossed the road to get to my school every morning! It was a little ‘quirk’ and it was accepted that that was what I did.

However, at age 17 I was diagnosed with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) which changed my whole perception on why I loved routine so much. I was obsessed with order and control and so when change barges its way into my life, chaos has a tendency to follow.

Nearly three weeks ago, I FINALLY started the next chapter of my recovery from chapter.jpganorexia – I got my place at Springfield Hospital’s Eating Disorder Day Unit. After having left University back in December last year, being on the Day Unit waiting list for nearly 5 months and being diagnosed with anorexia last Autumn, I was finally in. You’d think I’d be ready after all that preparation time?

Not quite.

I was overwhelmed that my current routine of sitting at home, watching Jeremy Kyle with my puppies and quite frankly being bored out of my mind new.gifwas going to be turned on its head as I was going to a new place, with new people and new challenges. I don’t know about you, but I would definitely class myself as someone who would rather live in my safe little bubble of my routine and my rules than have any of that challenged and changed. In my head, someone else trying to move me from my complacency was only going to cause chaos – why get other people involved when I’m perfectly fine by myself, right? That in itself is a concept that has been challenged after just three weeks in the unit!

All of my control around food and fitting it to my routine was replaced with the exact opposite – even to the extreme that I was not allowed to butter my own toast! At first, I was frustrated and felt as though I had taken this massive step backwards in terms of my recovery. This change initially felt unnecessary because, as I said before, I was doing fine by myself. But these emotions brought something into my attention: is ‘doing fine’ enough?

Don’t I deserve to be doing better than fine? Shouldn’t I be thriving, and laughing, and living? We were built for relationship with others and to be sharing experiences. We were born to work together and not on our own. Maybe this new routine had some sort of a purpose after all? Maybe my way was not necessarily the best way. And that’s ok.

Letting other people in gives you an entirely different perspective of your situation than your own head lays out for you. Letting other people hold the reigns, though petrifying, is sometimes necessary. Although an admission of ‘I can’t manage this on my own’ is the scary first step, this is conjoined with the declaration of ‘I want to LEARN how to manage this on my own’. The only way of doing that, much to my initial dismay, is to go back to basics and watch and learn from the doctors, the nurses, professional.jpgthe dieticians, the psychotherapists and the occupational therapists (in my case), or more generally, the professionals.

I am learning to accept that they are more qualified than me to know what I need to be doing in order to get better – the areas in which I am ‘doing fine’, are their areas of expertise and knowledge. Pride, need for control, stubbornness and independence aside, I am learning to accept that in order to have a healthy relationship with control, I need the professionals to help experience the complete opposite! I am learning to accept that I deserve better than to be ‘doing fine’ because I don’t want anorexia to hover in the background –  I want to be freed from this malicious illness that makes me think that I am in control when actually I am merely the puppet and itself the puppeteer.

You deserve more than to be ‘doing fine’. You deserve to be more than a puppet in your own life. You deserve to be healthy, you deserve to be happy and most importantly, you deserve to thrive and build relationships and seek help when you need it. You deserve the wonderful future God has planned for you in your life.

You deserve more than ‘fine’. You, my dear, deserve to be doing flipping fantastic, amazing, wonderful, incredible and terrific!Slow down to speed up.jpg

You deserve the help, love and support of the people around you, both professional as well as in a social setting. ‘Doing fine’ can never be more than fine. But seeking help and ‘doing better’ leads to doing better to better to better until you thrive.

‘I’m fine thank you. How are you?’

Happy. Sad. Angry. Silly. Argumentative. Laid-back. Relaxed. Stressed. I have absolutely no idea how I’m feeling today other than confused! British tea.jpegWhen asked ‘how are you?’, 9 times out of 10, I bet you say ‘I’m fine thank you. How are you?’ true to the British nature.

Just yesterday, one of my best friends pointed out an aspect of my personality that I had not noticed before. It was a part of me that came naturally and to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I even thought it was in anyway problematic! I have mastered the skill of diverting the conversation from talking about myself to talking about ANYTHING else! Why talk about yourself when that’s all your thoughts give you privy to all day? tiny violinI tell myself that my worries will bore people and people are so sick and tired of listening to the ‘woes of my life’. I think that someone will pull out the world’s smallest violin or, even worse, GENUINELY PITY ME! I convince myself that talking about myself is arrogance and that my problems are less important than those of the people surrounding me.

I know this doesn’t sound like an entirely debilitating trait but I have started considering how the way in which I try to assert control in a conversation, could reflect the way in which I view myself and my own needs. Diverting the attention away from the things that are causing me upset, worry and stress speaks truth as to how I view myself – in every conversation I am inadvertently and completely unintentionally ranking myself as less important than everyone else around me. I am ranking myself as less worthy of having my emotions acknowledged and validated. I am ranking myself as less whilst simultaneously expecting those around me to rank themselves as more! Quite frankly, I’m a hypocrite!

How can I expect people to be open with me about the spectrum of their emotions in their entirety if I refuse to talk about my own? I consider myself a problem solver and an Agony Aunt to some extent – question mark.jpgbut even the problem solver needs a problem solver and the problem solver’s problem solver needs a problem solver and the problem solver’s problem solver’s problem solver needs a…I think you get the idea.

Secrecy and diversion are coping mechanisms used not only by me but, maybe, by you as well? Maybe I use them to avoid embarrassment? Maybe I don’t want other people to think that I am not ok because then they won’t share their problems with me anymore – why add to a full plate? Maybe I find power in having those around me at least THINK that I have everything together?

So now, let’s have a go at being the problem solver’s problem solver – i.e. myself – on the problem of problem solving!

Firstly, the embarrassment is based on assumption, not proof. proof.jpgDo I shame other people for their problems? No. Do I think that the problems of anyone else is something they should be ashamed or embarrassed about? No. Have I ever been shamed for sharing my struggles? No. So maybe sharing my emotions is not embarrassing after all. In fact, it takes guts and courage to share your problems so talking is a sign of strength, not weakness! Sharing your struggles means that someone else with an outsider’s perspective can make your jumble of unorganised thoughts and feelings make sense – you never know, maybe there is some truth in ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’. Maybe, ‘a problem shared is a problem solved!’.

Secondly, the fear that others will not be open about their emotions to me if they think that I already have enough worries of my own is another idea – or lie even – that needs challenging. This, like the embarrassment, is based on assumption when instead we should be looking at the factual evidence. My blog posts have been my attempt at opening up about my emotions and the struggles I am facing. Since I have started the blog, have fewer people come forwards to share their stories and struggles with me? No. In fact, quite the opposite! People seem to be following my example of being more open about both the good and the bad moments and more people than ever have come forwards to share their stories and struggles with me! Sharing your worries may give other people the courage to talk about the things they are struggling with! And they may give courage to someone else to talk about their struggles and then…etc. Long story short, it may not look like there is any room on my own or your own plate for more worries and problems to think about, but there is ALWAYS room for dessert! Bring me your ice-cream sundae of work stress and I will give you the chocolate fudge cake of my struggles of battling an eating disorder. When I was little, I was taught that we have a separate stomach for pudding. EVERYONE has room for pudding. Always.

Thirdly, do I find power in secrecy and the façade that ‘I’m ok thanks’? No. In fact, I find more power when empowered, encouraged Super team.pngand supported by those around me! Superman by himself is strong, but no-where near as strong as if he teamed up with Spiderman and Wonder Woman as well! – please don’t criticise my super hero references if they are 100% incorrect! I’m more of a Rom-Com girl myself! A team is at its strongest when all the members know the things that plague the fellow members! That way, they can use their assets to build each other up and protect each other from danger or upset.

A day cannot be defined by one emotion in isolation. A longer period of time cannot be categorised as exclusively good or bad. But with that in mind, I don’t want you to brush the sadness, worry or stress under the carpet either! Although one emotion need not dominate everything, I want to know about both the good AND bad aspects of your day. In return, you can hear about mine.

It is not arrogant or self-centred to say your own problems are just as important as everyone else’s, it is just as important for you and I to talk about our emotions as it is for everyone else and you and I are just as important as everyone else. There is no inferiority or superiority. Just humanity.humanity‘How am I feeling today?’ – I don’t know the answer to that, but will you help me search for it?

 

 

My Baptism: It’s like passing ‘Go’ in Monopoly. You collect the instant reward of £200 but then you keep on moving forwards. It’s only the beginning.

1st April 2018. The day I decided. They day I decided that I need to let God be ‘the captain of my destiny’. The day I decided that I need to declare my love for God. The day I decided I need God. Simple fact. I need God to show me how to love others the way that Jesus loves me. I need God to show me how to be kind to others in a way beyond purely human capabilities.God's love.jpeg I need God to show me how to love myself, to see myself how God sees me and how to help others so they don’t need to repeat my story just to realise how they too are God’s perfect creation. I have decided to love God and to let God love me.

As I said, baptism is like Monopoly (to some extent – please don’t take this metaphor too literally!) I got the instant £200 reward for passing go as this sense of pure joy washed over me and my cheeks hurt from smiling so much the minute I was lifted from the water. I was filled with the Holy Spirit and I couldn’t be happier. I thought I would never step off of cloud nine. I thought life would be like skipping through a field of flowers from now on. But then I had a realisation. At some point, I would HAVE to step out of the baptism pool. I would HAVE to go back into the big bad world. In that moment, it was just me and God but eventually I would HAVE to involve other people! That’s kind of how life works!

So I stepped out of the pool, I was wrapped in my towel and I went and got out of my soaking wet clothes. I went back into the service and I felt joy that seemed to be flowing around my body in my veins. I felt unstoppable with my lungs blaring out worship songs and with my arms to the sky, reaching out to be filled with more and more of the Holy Spirit. My friends, family and I all went back to my house, prosecco on icehad a wonderful lunch and WONDERFUL prosecco. We laughed and talked and I taught my nieces some cracking dance moves. All in all, it was a truly wonderful day and I felt like I had enough joy to sustain me for a lifetime!

But then, my guests started to go home, I changed into my pyjamas and took off my makeup. We put the plates into the dishwasher and we covered the uneaten food with cling film. The party was over. And I started to feel the joy that made me feel so unstoppable fade. I felt like I’d done something wrong. Wasn’t baptism supposed to be a permanent fix to all my problems? Had I not been baptised right?

I was panicked but then I began to think about WHY I chose to be baptised in the first place. I wanted to let God into not only the good days but also the bad days. I wanted to be part of God’s army and accept Him as a part of mine. I wanted to declare my love for God and the love He has for me and every single other human on His beautiful planet. I wanted to accept how life can never be 100% easy but that I need God to help me through my rough patches as well as celebrate my successes with me. I wanted to declare that just because things may seem bad at the moment, God made us for more than our suffering and He has awesome plans for every single one of our lives. I wanted to declare that I am trying to trust that God can see the bigger picture and so He should guide me through my decision-making processes. God is the way, the truth and the life. God is for me and so nothing can stand against me.

The immediate joy was my £200 reward pound coinsand I will receive that gift from the Holy Spirit many times in this life. The funds will eventually need replenishing and I need to invest the money wisely so that the piggy bank that is my body can continuously be refilled with the Holy Spirit.piggy bank.jpg My baptism represents how I accept that the funds may start to run out but there will ALWAYS be a time when they will be replenished. I trust that even through the bad times, God will bring me joy again. My baptism is the beginning of the work I will do on this Earth as a loved disciple and child of God. I may have lapses in faith and times when I feel low and sad but joy comes again. You will reach ‘Go’ again and again and again and collect £200 more.

There is one thing I want you to remember and something that I need to remind myself of: Even when the funds of the Holy Spirit seem low, God is with you every roll of the dice and move of the game piece. God is there with you not only when you pass ‘Go’ but also when you could really do with a ‘get out of jail free card’, Mayfair.jpgwhen you’ve landed on Mayfair with a hotel on it and when your chance card reads that you have a massive parking fine to pay. He is with you all the time through the good and the bad. Don’t let the £200 reward be the only time God is noticed and acknowledged to be working in your life.

The £200 is just the beginning. We are loved. We have God working in our lives whether we acknowledge Him there or not. God wants to give us incredible opportunities and lead us to incredible people in this life. God wants us to have a relationship with Him and to follow Jesus’ examples of kindness, faith, forgiveness and love.

baptism.jpg

So God, how do you want me to invest my £200?

Eat or be eaten: I consume food so food doesn’t consume me.

On the surface, I do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – no full-time job, no university studies, no running, no dance classes, no responsibilities. I can lounge around all day, take nap after nap and am not expected to be ‘productive’.Sofa day If anything, I’m told not to be! Some pity me that I have had to put life on hold for recovery in terms of studies and new friendships and life experiences such as exploring bars and clubs. Some envy me because ‘I HAVE to do nothing all day!’ and I must admit these pyjamas are awfully comfy!!

Yet why does my brain feel like it’s working on a PHD and my body feel like it is running a marathon even as I sit on the sofa doing ‘absolutely nothing’?

This time last year, if I were given the option to sit and watch movies all day in my pyjamas, I would have jumped at the chance! movie day.jpgI worked myself into mental and physical exhaustion revising, working and exercising whilst always raising the bar as to what I could manage. My body wasn’t fuelled by the food it needed yet my mind was too scared of the fuel itself. Food.

Think about something you are afraid of. Heights? Darkness? Clowns maybe? Now you would most likely go about your life avoiding these things and other people would respect that – everyone is afraid of something and, most of the time, you can get through life without the avoidance of these things being problematic. For example, if scared of heights, it does no harm to never go rock climbing. If scared of the dark, have a night light and get on with your life!circus And if scared of clowns…well, let’s just say that no one has ever been diagnosed with circus deficiency!

Yet for me it is not that simple. I am afraid of my medicine and the only thing that will make me stronger and healthier and happier. I’m not afraid of the food itself but myself around the food. Every single day I have to eat and eat and eat mountains of fear foods which means I fight and fight and fight my head every 3 hours. But that is just the surface of it. I can’t just pop out shopping. I can’t just meet up for a coffee. I can’t always be there at the click of the fingers. I have to plan every aspect of every activity. Does it involve me walking too much? Does it overlap with a meal time? If so, is there a way of bringing food with me or can I prepare it there?

I am busier than I have ever been and challenged every single day by the decisions and planning and consummation of food. I am exhausted by resting my legs that are itching to go out and do a 5k run. thinkingThe cogs in my head are still turning and processing information and I am working so hard.

Now, as I lounge and seemingly do ‘absolutely nothing’, I am in fact holding down a full-time job in eating. I am studying possible meal plans. Running and dancing has been replaced by knitting, writing and sitting still – something I find far more of a challenge! And I have one responsibility that is more important than any I have had before regarding school or work. I have to eat.

Facing your fears is exhausting. Trust me, I know. But I am reassured by the fact that my fight now will make me healthy, strong and happy in the future.fearless Every mouthful brings me closer to a ‘normal’ life. Every bite is a little ‘fudge you’ to anorexia. A year ago, I was consumed by food in and entirely different way to how I am now. I consume food so, one day, food will not consume me.

Choose to eat. Not to be eaten.

 

Beauty is as consistent as the weather forecast.

Who’s hot and who’s not this week, day, hour, minute, second? What do I wear? What do I say? How do I style my hair? Do I need a bigger bum today? I’ll probably have to shrink it tomorrow. Hair extensions go in and out and in andhair style back out again more than when my nieces do the Hokey Cokey – and trust me, they LOVE the Hokey Cokey (well it is what it’s all about!) I need smaller boobs, bigger thigh gap and piercings galore one week but breast enlargement, thicker thighs but tattoos only the next. And guys, you have it just as tough. Bigger muscles and tanned skin one minute and then the Ed Sheeran look becomes the next big thing.

At what point do we reach beauty perfection? Beauty is framed as the sign that you’ve won a game. Beauty is trophy that will always be on display for the world to see in the trophy cabinet that is your muscles bursting through your t-shirt sleeves and your stomach flawlessly tucked and toned. Who wouldn’t want to play that game when the prize is ALL you’ve ever wanted!? Here’s the catch: the rule book of the game is rewritten and republished every single day. So, who’s the real winner?

The answer is ALWAYS the multi-billion-dollar beauty industry. They set the standards of what defines beauty this minute and advertisesMagazines the magic potion, cream, gel, skirt, hat that will make your beauty obsessed dream a reality. Yet, when you’ve purchased and applied this extortionately priced potion, you realise it is not enough. Before you have the chance to notice the massive flaw in the advertisement campaign in that it revolves around the product being UTTERLY USELESS at what it claimed it would do, the company unleash their next product which we obviously buy because ‘It will definitely work this time’. When the next product fails, companies are always quick to bring out their next ‘permanent solution’, creating a vicious cycle from longing for a ‘solution’, to rejoicing when the cure to our woes is released, to hoping and praying that this one works, to feeling disheartened when it doesn’t and so you revert back to your state of longing once more.

If it wasn’t bad enough that the products to reach optimal beauty are constantly changing and failing, the idea of what beauty is is mutually as inconsistent. But don’t just take it from me. See the facts for yourself:

Way back in the Egyptian era, black (sometimes even blue) hair and wigs were the pinnacle of beauty along with high waists and narrow hips – not a Kardashian bottom in sight! Then, progressing into ancient Greece, long hair was a sign of wealth and, although hard to believe based on current beauty standards, a uni-brow was so desirable that women even went to the extent of drawing one on! Then we move onto a time of black painted teeth before rounded stomachs (yep that was considered beautiful then – why not now?). This is followed by double chins, curvy figure, big hair to tight bobs. There was even a period of time where a woman was considered Oooo La Laaaaa Anklesraunchy for showing her ankles!  Beauty has changed so much over time – why do we panic by thinking that it will no longer change and therefore we have to change to fit it?

What if the next beauty craze is stomach rolls, stretch marks and soft arms? Would you pay to have your tummy untucked, stretch marks tattooed on and consciously stop using the dumbbells? But then BAM! bamStretch marks are out but you’d better have those wrinkles drawn back in! Then out, then in again!

Or, there is a much simpler solution. Instead of changing yourself to fit the flitting ideal of beauty, make YOURSELF your own beauty icon! YOU as you are in the present moment says more about beauty than a million magazines, adverts, billboards and Photoshop ever could!

Last week, I had a revelation. I was getting ready for work as I usually did. Showered, dressed, teeth brushed – you know, the usual routine. I then, without thinking, went to reach for my makeup bag,makeup filled with tricks to make my cheek bones more defined, my eyes pop and my eyelashes look like they go on forever. I saw my reflection.

No makeup
No Makeup Alert!

I stopped my hands from opening the zip of my bag of tricks. I stopped my hands from slathering on layer after layer of foundation and concealer and bronzer to cover every sign that I’m a REAL human. What’s wrong with spots on my face? What’s wrong with bags under my eyes? Who decided an uneven skin tone was not attractive? Why do I need to cover up the beauty marks and pale eyelashes and pluck my eyebrows into a perfect curve? What’s wrong with just looking like me? NOTHING!

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means ANTI-MAKEUP – it is a form of expression, a work of art and I feel more glamourous when I wear it. But I think the question to ask yourself before applying it is: who am I putting this makeup on for? Is it genuinely because you enjoy putting on the makeup? Is it because you like experimenting with different styles and colours? Or is it in truth a form of hiding? Is it to please others? Is it to fit in? Makeup is not an obligation, my dear, but a choice. You do not have to cover your beautiful face for the sake of the opinions of others. Makeup does not make you more beautiful – you were beautiful before youpaint brush made the first stroke with your paintbrush. I realised that I need be comfortable in my own skin and stop thinking there are ‘flaws’ that I need to conceal before I can even open the paint bottle.

And this is just ONE example. Ladies and gents, the next time you grab your gym bag and exhaust yourself for hours on end on the treadmill and lifting weights, think about WHY you are doing it? The next time you say no to a slice of what is usually your favourite cake, think about WHY you are doing it? The next time you sit there dreaming about what your body COULD look like if you just worked a bit harder, DON’T. You are the newest and most original beauty trend there is.Your beauty is timeless and it grows with every second you appreciate the perfect creation that you are. However old or young, rich or poor, big or small, tall or short and regardless of sexuality, age, gender, culture and race, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. Not only by appearance but by simply being you.

perfectly imperfect

So, don’t spend another penny on getting ‘the look’ before realising that you already have it, just as you are.

Zoom, beep, *insert expletive here*, accelerate, 40 to 50 to 60 to 70mph aaaaaaand red light. Stop.

When was the last time you just paused? When was the last time you deliberately did absolutely nothing? When was the last time your only company was a cup of tea and your own thoughts? My guess is that it was a pretty long time ago, am I right?

Life seems to moveSpeeding around us at 100mph whilst we move with the flow of traffic. Here’s a thought, if you stood, still central to the action of life, but just paused, what would you see? You might see someone nervously getting down onto one knee with beads of sweat on their forehead, proposing to the love of their life. You might see a star shoot across the sky at lightning speed. You might see a drink get thrown in someone’s face in a flit of anger. Or, because life doesn’t always work like soap operas (and thank flip for that!) you might just see someone spill some mayonnaise from their sandwich onto their clearly new shirt before trying to ‘discretely’ lick it off (I sound really mean when I say I secretly laugh at this but come on, you can’t say you wouldn’t laugh too!). My point is, in our society, you are only deemed to be ‘successful’ if you are continuously moving at maximum speed and in a ‘forwards’ direction.

NEWS FLASH!: The ‘forwards’ direction…DOESN’T EXIST! In life, we take steps, leaps, tiptoes and even sashay – if you’re feeling particularly fabulous – forwards, backwards, sideways, diagonal, up, down and even in a circle throughout our lives! We have absolutely no control over which direction we will go in next – our lives follow God’s plan, not our own. So why do we devote so much energy to forcing ourselves to continuously move in the ‘forwards’ direction and then kick ourselves when we don’t?

Another thing to consider is: who decides what is classed as a step forwards and what is a step backwards? Again, we often fall into the trap that our societal values have set for us. We often Academia.pngonly determine career, academic and financial success and progression to be this illusive ‘step forwards’, whilst simultaneously discarding any other life experience as we view them as insignificant and maybe even hindrances.

All of this comes back to one fundamental question: what do you want to be defined by? What are your assets? Do you really want your defining feature to be your academia, your career or your money? You, my dear, are so much more than that. I could go on and on about all of the things that make you wonderfully you (message me if you need some encouragement – I have fabulous things to say about every single one of you!) but do you honestly think you’ll accept it wholeheartedly as the truth if it comes out of my mouth? I know from experience, you can receive all of the compliments and encouragement in the world and still hold chronic insecurities in your heart. You have to see for yourself.

I know, I know, I promise you I know that this is far easier said than done. But the first step you need to take is to pause. Stand central to the buzzing world around you, take a deep breath, and have nothing but the company of yourself. Think about the most significant moments in your life. Think about the times you laughed right from your gut, the times when you gavehug or received a hug that was so tight that it felt like, in that moment, everything was held together, the times when you smiled with the entirety of your face and the times when you felt the warmth of pure and genuine happiness seemingly pulse through your body. These moments, the location, the people they involve, the reasons why you laugh and smile, are how you should define yourself. You are defined by your unique laugh. You are defined by the people who surround you that you love. You are defined by both the people who make you smile as well as the people that you make smile. You are defined by your caring, loving, warm, compassionate, supportive and resilient nature. When was the last time you gave yourself credit for all of the wonderful things that make you, you?

These are the steps that you have been discarding for years because they are not the ‘step forwards’ you were on the lookout for. Maybe something you considered a definite step backwards was actually written into your plan by God? Maybe it looks like a step backwards now but we have to trust the One who can see the bigger picture that this is something that will make you stronger, more thankful, more compassionate, more forgiving, wiser, and more resilient. These ‘steps backwards’ may be the moments that strengthen your defining traits.

This is something that I have felt inclined to talk about for a while. This is a battle I am currently in as I have chosen to temporarily withdraw from university in order to focus on recovery. As someone who has always seen their academia as their defining feature, you can probably imagine my frustration, upset, and pure confusion at what I do now. Leaving university seems like a massive step backwards for me at this moment in time because I earnt my place there fair and square through a ridiculous number of hours spent revising last year and now those grades mean nothing. But maybe, this is a learning curve for me. I have never before had a chance to stop and simply observe the education system from a far. Never before have I had an opportunity to see how unhealthy my relationship with not only food but with work and school success was.eye Never before have I had the chance to stop and think: what makes me, me?

After the red light, comes amber and then, eventually, green where you can rejoin the flow of traffic and the rush of life.

But just as we need red lights on the roads to keep us safe, we need the moments of pausing and reflection in our lives to reevaluate our steps both forwards and backwards. My apparent ‘step backwards’ is the reason why I can commit to recovering from anorexia, it is the reason why I am starting to learn the importance of appreciating and looking after myself AS WELL AS others and simply, it is the reason why I have the privilege of writing for all of you wonderful people every week. Without this ‘step backwards’ who knows what mess I would be in?

Don’t speed through the red light. Pause. Refresh. Take in your surroundings. Reevaluate. You will find that, when the light turns green once more, you will feel like you have far more fuel in your tank and be in for a smoother ride.Full fuel tank.png