What Striving to be More Tolerant has Taught Me

One of my new year’s resolutions last year was to fix something that had started bothering me about myself.

I’ve never been a particularly tolerant person, and I used to justify it as me just standing up for myself. But over the last few years I had started to feel petty, bitter and nasty. It was making me feel unhappy about myself, and I realised I was becoming a not very nice person.

8387115213_ed2918158f_o

 

I would see friends, calm and collected, non-judgemental and supportive and wonder how I could be like that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a beast. I’m supportive but I could see a side of me I didn’t like. I would jump to assumptions about people, gossip and scoff at things I didn’t understand or were different from me. I wouldn’t listen and I wouldn’t learn.

So I made a conscious effort to change my behaviour. Instead of immediately jumping to an assumption about someone, I thought about things from their side. Before I scoffed at a trait or behaviour, I found out a little bit more about it.

It’s made me feel calmer and happier about myself. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a way to go, and I could never claim to be a saint. I have times where I snap back to old behaviours, when I’m tired or stressed or caught up in the moment. But those will change with time, I hope.

6223649015_81d245eef6_o

I hate it when someone belittles me for something I’m passionate about, or tries to make a scene about something they don’t understand (even if they think they do) so why would I do the same? And when someone does behave like that towards me, I can now sit and reason it with myself, deal with the bad feelings it’s given me and move on. I don’t retaliate, or have that burning feeling that I have to defend myself for too long. And afterwards I can remind myself I’m a good person, and getting better every day.

It all boils down to the golden rule, do as you would be done by.

I’m pleased I took a step back and thought about what I didn’t like about myself and made a change. I hope I stay on this journey as long as it takes to become a better me!

4269199018_b07e80440a_o

The Kryptonite to Creative Evolution

Flicking through my Facebook feed recently a video came up. It was the commencement address made by the actress Octavia Spencer at Ohio’s Kent State University earlier this year, and whilst I’m not too familiar with her work, her words spoke to me.

One point she made, as a young female person of colour , was that if when she’d been an up and coming actress she’d taken notice of the ‘lists’ – you know 25 actresses who made it by 25, or 30 richest lists – she would have stayed in bed, and not become as successful as she is. She referred to the ‘trap of comparison’ and told the graduates not to get caught in it, because they would continue to evolve in ways people had never thought of yet.

And this is what really struck me: comparison is the Kryptonite to creative evolution. And I’m not just talking blogging because it hits home to me, or in this situation acting, I’m talking all creative walks of life.

5164839592_189c307e89_o

Imagine the world if we’d had no David Bowie, for example. He came from the same places we did, but the creativity he brought to his field were totally unique – if he’d compared himself to his peers, and allowed that to bog him down, we would have never ended up with the Bowie we loved.

Think of any outstanding creative in any creative field and you can say the same. The ones who are most revered are usually the most unique. And let’s talk diversity – you don’t have to think back that long ago, and in some cases it’s still the same today, where these lists I mentioned earlier wouldn’t mention a single person of colour, or certain race or even feature a woman.

And I’m not trying to make this about diversity – I’m trying to make this about you. Just you sitting there. We all sit and compare ourselves. We flick through social media, and read gossip magazines online. We look at the success of those around us in our field and think “Well, if they’ve been successful and I haven’t, I need to be more like them” But then we end up with a world of clones. How boring.

5363141205_a167bde767_o

It’s the harder route, to be yourself and graft until you’re successful. And not everyone will make it to the ‘big time’ in their field. But if you readjust what success means to you – it’s not all about being top of the pile, the most famous or having the most money – then you might just find, with that mindset, you might rise higher than you’d thought.

Towards the end of Octavia’s speech, the underlined message she conveyed was

“The journey you take now, will be lead by you alone.” 

It’s a scary and powerful concept, but it’s true. Only you can carve out your path for the future, and only you are going to take it. So why would you want to carve out a path someone else has taken or is meant for a different person. Your path will have failures and disappointments, but that’s all part of learning. Because of this, you don’t backtrack on this path, you simply learn and move on.

5096832206_4ebdb842bd_o

Life isn’t simple or easy – it’s hard graft, but if you really do work hard at it, you can earn your best life possible.

When Fear of Missing Out, Turns to Burn Out

It’s safe to say I’m on the older end of the age spectrum compared with most of the bloggers I come across. I’m still shocked when I hear bloggers I follow talk about taking their GCSEs.

I guess it’s only a shock because way back when I was doing my exams, it was really really geeky to own a computer, let alone admit that you used the internet.

These days everyone appears to have a background in marketing. Kids know how to brand themselves from 16, so as soon as they’re allowed an instagram account, they’ve got their ‘thang’ going and they’re hitting all the likes, follows and they just *know* how to maximise hashtags.

laptop featuring instagram influencers

But one of the things I’m noticing on twitter more and more, is young bloggers asking how people manage to blog, maintain their social accounts AND work either full-time or complete a degree, without burning out or one of these aspects suffering.

I work full-time, I run a blog full-time, instagram and YouTube, as well as managing two twitter accounts. And it’s not easy. But I realise where things need to give in order for me to maintain a balance.

IMG_2030

And I put that insight into knowing how to manage these things, down the different kind of world I grew up. When I was growing up FOMO (or Fear of Missing Out) didn’t really exist for me. The world wasn’t so accessible. You couldn’t find out anything and everything just by picking up a device. As a result you missed out on things. Most of the time I didn’t find out about the thing I’d missed out on until after the fact – I just didn’t know they were happening.

And so now, with knowledge at our finger tips, it’s easy to be tempted into things. Notifications on Facebook telling us that people we know are off to events nearby. Twitter telling us about fun Blogging meet-ups and events. Twitter chats every night – sometimes so many, I’ve been known to participate in multiple chats at once.

But it’s knowing where and when to step back.

img_0464

My full-time job is more important that my hobby. It’s how I pay for a lifestyle that allows me to blog, buy fun things and attend awesome events. For a while I was trying to do it all; twitter chats 4 times a week after a full day looking at screens at my job, blogging every weekend (including photos), posting a YouTube video weekly. It all got too much and too tiring, and the schedule that I’d set for myself became a chore. I could feel the first inklings of resentment creeping in.

So I took a step back. I decided to schedule multiple blog posts ahead of time, so I would be able to have weekends off. I decided it was time to reduce time spent on my older twitter account and just focus on one. I stopped YouTube altogether, and decided to take a break until things at home settled a bit. I stopped taking part in ALL the Twitter chats, and only did the ones with subjects that really interested me, or when I was at a loose end.

The result was a more relaxed, less tired Erin. I was also able to spend more time with my husband, who is TOTALLY supportive of my blogging hobby btw. But I realised on nights I was taking part in twitter chats, I was totally ignoring him. I missed him, and we’d been sat right next to each other.

Taking this step back meant that when I was writing articles, I was enjoying it more. I was able to take more time in what I was writing, and I wasn’t just doing it for the sake of hitting a schedule.

It’s so important to remember you don’t have to do it all, in order to feel part of something. If you’re at University and you’re not able to post according to a schedule you’ve set, then change your schedule. If your IRL social life interferes with taking part in a twitter chat, so what? We’ll still be there next week – go live your life. No one worth following you is going to mind if you miss a normal posting day. Plus you’ll have fun stuff to write about next time!

RC8

 

So, if you’re one of those people who sits down at their laptop and wonders how you’re going to stay awake or motivated enough to write AND live your life – go live it. You’re not going to be missing out if you’re taking YOU-time. Sit and smell the roses, and then come back when you’re ready.

IMG_2028

 

You’ll feel amazing for it, and you’ll realise that life carries on without you – in the best possible way!

Are You On a Quest for Positivity?

I follow a YouTuber called Justin Scarred. Justin is from California and is primarily a Disneyland Vlogger (well that’s how I found him) but he also does random vlog around his life, the area he lives in and also Knotts Berry Farm, which is local to him. He’s recently travelled the whole length of Route 66 and back, which was very very interesting to watch, and I’d recommend watching it if that’s the kind of thing you like.

Anyhow, the other day Justin vlogged an update on his Quest for Positivity (or Q4P) and it was a really inspiring video. A few years back Justin went through some big life changes and somewhere along the line he made a conscious decision not to be a victim of the unhappiness he was feeling. He felt he was spiralling into a bitter cycle of feeling sorry for himself, which was projecting into the world around him, and he was tired of it.

1346355948_bd8ee867a5_o

Listening to him talk about this Q4P and how he was getting on with it, range true with me. I’d like to think I’m a fairly positive person, but I can feel really negative too, and when I do it definitely spirals. Many years ago, I considered the practice of counting my blessings on a daily basis, and that’s where my Q4P began.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not all the way there yet, and I have MANY off days. But I know I’m trying. I’m certain that perspective comes with age. I’m about to hit 34 years old, and though no drama has really affected my life, I’m sure the things I’ve dealt with, seen and helped other people deal with, have given me the unique perspective I have on life. And by unique I don’t mean that I’ve got life all sussed in my mind and you haven’t – I just mean my perspective is different from everyone else’s – as is yours.

IMG_1955

 

I often see people being victims of their circumstances – they’re so deep into the emotions they’re feeling about something that’s happened to them that they get stuck in a rut. Even if they feel like they’ve dealt with the drama they’ve experienced, they’re now in that negative mindset and so that’s now how they deal with every situation that comes to them. Even positive circumstances will be tarred with a negative or dismissive brush.

I’ve come to realise that in my life, I need to accept negativity, then step back from it, brush it off and look at the bigger picture. I have to reset my mind to the middle ground – nice and calm, neither good nor bad – and then take the next thing I have to deal with as a brand new situation.

I’ve gotta admit, this isn’t easy. It takes a lot of practice and I’m not there yet. But once you accept a crummy situation as just that, it’s easier to deal with. No point in fighting it – just use the same amount of energy as you would feeling bitter, and put it into finding a solution.

Justin was right when he pointed out that if you keep hold of that negativity or anger, you’ll spit it out into the world, and eventually you’ll be one of those bitter and twisted old people you saw when you were a kid, but never wanted to be. That’s no way to live!

IMG_1957

So, you want to begin your own Quest for Positivity? A simple place to start by consciously counting your blessings every day. It can be as simple as;

  • Someone asked me how my day was
  • I heard a great joke today
  • That was a lovely cup of tea
  • I have a roof over my head
  • I’m feeling better in my self, than I was last week

There are so many things we can be grateful for, each and every day. And counting your blessings is a fantastic place to start.

We can gain perspective for ourselves, by considering the perspective of others’ in a non-judgemental way. Why did that person act this way? If I was in that person’s shoes, what would have been the catalyst for that behaviour?

As part of considering others, I’ve found it naturally leads to a change in my behaviour, because I won’t do things that might cause anger or hurt to others. I have more insight into how my actions might affect the emotions of others, and in turn I become a better person for it.

IMG_1942

I’m a crazy emotional person, and I find it very easy to jump to anger in many situations, but my quest for positivity has definitely helped me to gain perspective and stay calm in situations where I might not have in the past.

I’d be really interested to hear about your Q4P, if you’re on one. You might not call it that, but if anything you’ve read today rings a bell to you, I’d love to hear what practices you take to better yourself and help you along to a happier and more positive life.

Social Media and your Mental Health: Can they ever be good for each other?

When my family first got the internet back in 1997/96, it was a unknown place. Online predators weren’t something to think about and I was often in chat rooms. They were never inundated with pop-ups back then, and my friends and I had a lot of fun chatting to people all over the world.

Nowadays we are more aware of the dangers and as an adult the internet feels like a relatively safe place. But in reality, are we just closed off to the silent but deadly negatives of social media.

Since the arrival of instagram, people who are now referred to as ‘Influencers’ show us the epitome of aspiration. But in reality, the term Influencer should give us a nudge towards their true purpose online.

laptop featuring instagram influencers

Whether your chosen platform is YouTube, Instagram or blogs, it’s easy to get sucked into the realm of perfection and beauty these people portray. And in return, it’s easy to begin feeling inferior to these people. Yeah, they’re down to earth, might be living near you, and seem to be of the same social class – BUT – they have a new designer bag every two weeks, are being flown out to amazing countries, and appear to be making big bucks just by showing off brands products. It’s the dream life, isn’t it?

As a blogger and sometimes YouTuber, I know how much hard work blogging and vlogging can be – 2-3 hours per blog post, and countless hours on YouTube videos, not to mention promoting your platforms. Even though it all looks easy, it’s blooming hard work. But some of these influencers have people doing all that for them. Some of them portray a down to earth personality but in real life wouldn’t pee on you if you were on fire. Some of these influencers are taking photos of their meals, but not really eating them, and pretending their healthy lifestyle is to thank for their fit physique. And some of these influencers haven’t come from quite the humble background they’d have you think they did.

And so we get to the effect all this has on our mental health when we see it. I often see a meme floating around the internet, wondering where the awkward ‘I’m figuring out how to apply eyeliner, and ooh let’s try this blue mascara’ phase has gone from our pre-teens. I see these young girls walking around with epic contour and highlight, looking like they’re out of Teen Vogue. Little California Girl clones walking around Milton Keynes, because they’ve seen it on instagram. And I wonder, if they didn’t paint their faces this way, would it effect their social standing. When they get to 20 and have no money (because let’s face it, who had money in their 20s?) are they going to put themselves into debt trying to afford another designer bag AND choose the white marble worktop for their kitchen?

And let’s move on to the subject of obsession. More and more I’m seeing people disenchanted by those they follow on social media. And as soon as this happens, you’d expect them to stop following them, right? Nope. They continue to read their blogs, watch their videos and look them up on twitter, creating a big jealous knot in their stomachs. Tabloids have created this obsession with car-crash tv, celebrity and reading about people more famous, but possibly less fortunate or intelligent than you. The drama is addictive and soon you can’t wait to hear what’s happening with the Kardashians or on Love Island. But as you’re reading or watching, you’re feeling bad about yourself. You’re not as tanned, your lips aren’t as big, your hair isn’t as shiny, you’re not as skinny. No attractive man will ever want you if you don’t look like them. And this can be applied to social media – your bag’s from Primark, you don’t have the latest eyeshadow palette, you don’t own anything white marble……

All these things just make you feel bad about yourself, and my concern is for the young girls and guys who think it’s normal to have all this stuff, look this way and behave as if you’re an It Girl. When I’m 70 is our country going to run by TOWIE extras?

At this point, I think it’s important to point out that this is not all influencers. My choice of reading and watching has been carefully curated to only include those of substance. These people are real, they disclose what they do and how they do it. They post photos of themselves looking bare-faced as well as wearing full makeup. They don’t hide the real parts, and that’s so important.

I wonder if you, reading this, have identified with anything I’ve written today? And if you have, here’s what I’d recommend (and what I’ve done):

  • Curate your feed. No matter what platform you use, it’s YOUR feed.
  • If you scroll and something makes you feel bad about yourself, unfollow that person.
  • Take people’s feeds with a pinch of salt – people choose what they post, just as you choose what you post. Even if someone is posting every day, multiple times, that doesn’t mean what they’re showing is what’s happening right now.
  • It’s okay to want material things – but work hard for them, and they’ll mean so much more to you when you achieve them.
  • Don’t be a clone of everyone else. Being unique and not following the pack might not make you an overnight success on instagram – but you’ll have integrity and you’ll be real. Your followers will appreciate that, and no doubt be the kind of people you’ll want to stick around!

There’s so much talk of keeping on top of your mental health at the moment, but it’s important to remember, that when so much information is being thrown at you, from brands to your peers, that you CAN choose what you see. Delete your facebook if you need to. Unfollow that YouTuber if she’s making you feel jealous or bad about yourself.

Influencers need you, you don’t need them!

Look inwards – learn about you, what you need and what you want for your life and from your surroundings, and go from there.

Be happy!

 

 

 

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

This is more of a life update post than a weekly update, but I’m sure you’ll allow me some creative licence!

The past few months have been pretty heavy going, with life changes and busy things happening. The attacks on the UK have been very triggering for me, so I was pleased I had a few scheduled posts ready to go, so I didn’t have to think too much about blog content when, being truthful, I just didn’t feel like blogging.

Twitter has become a hostile place to hang out, at times, with a lot of unnecessary bitching and drama for drama’s sake. I’ve taken a bit of a step back on there too. Instead I’ve been enjoying taking photos, and looking up from screens a bit more. Seeing what’s around me, and then sharing it with my followers on instagram.

As well as bits and bobs happening in my life, that I won’t go into right now for fear of jinxing, we did get offered the opportunity to take an amazing trip, which we decided to go ahead with and will be venturing out on in October.

Friends of ours are going to be in Orlando for a couple of months at the end of the year and offered us use of one of their spare rooms whilst they’re there. If you’re a new reader you may not know, but I am a huge fan of Florida (and Disney!) and fell in love with the place when we visited last year for our 10th wedding anniversary. This was an opportunity too wonderful to pass up, so we booked out tickets and are starting to form plans for our week there. Neither of us can wait, and we’re so grateful to our friends. I don’t want to wish the year away, but I really can’t wait for October now! It’s given us an amazingly exciting thing to look forward to, after what could potentially be a very stressful few months.

So other than that, there’s not been a huge amount going on. We’ve cancelled a few plans, a few events have been cancelled out of our control, and the country seems to be in a bit of disarray at the moment. I’m taking each day at a time, and I’m not going to lie and say I’m doing fine, because I’m not. My mental health is taking a battering, but I’m putting a smile on my face and getting on with my life, because what’s the alternative? I don’t have a bad life, people have things much worse than me, and I know I’ll keep on going. One great thing I will add is that the warmth and sunshine we’ve been having has done wonders to lift my mood, as have my friends and family. Never underestimate the power of laughter and turning your face to the sun when you’re feeling down.

So that’s my little update; a bit of a brain fart I know, but hey, this is what my brain is like right now!

Anxiety: What It Took Me A Long Time To Learn

I’ve suffered with GAD for as long as I can remember. I remember realising I had something odd going on with my mind when I was in about year 5 or 6. I was having OCD tendencies, which I knew I wanted to stop and made a mental note to do the opposite of what my mind was telling me to do.

8722795609_f7889a9497_o

Members of my family suffer from OCD so I knew it was something I’d been exposed to, but it still surprises me to this day that as a child I knew this was an issue and something that needed stopping.

It wasn’t until many many years later I was diagnosed with GAD and found out that this was something another member of my family suffered with. And it wasn’t until a few years after that, that I read a blog post online that really helped to change the way I dealt with anxiety.

I honestly don’t remember where I read the article. I was doing research for a blog post in my job and happened across the post, with relation to something else. But the post struck a chord with me.

Simply put, the author noted that she’d been trying to suppress her anxious feelings. They’d been weighing her down to the point where she was saying no to meetings, new business and opportunities. She’d been allowing her anxiety to define her and it was preventing her from moving forward in a business sense. Until one day she had a breakthrough. She decided she would greet her anxiety – acknowledge it. She moved forward knowing that she would have this reaction and instead of causing herself more stress trying to fight it, she described herself moving forward with the anxiety walking alongside her.

She soon found that it wasn’t there as much. Because she’d decided not to pay attention to it so much, not use up her energy analysing it or fighting it, that it wasn’t getting the attention it wanted and so it didn’t seem as important as it once had.

4968506226_2c663afd8b_o

This idea was really powerful to me. I hope it is to you, too.

Anxiety is a big snowball of horrid. You have it, you analyse it, you feel guilty for it, and then you have more of it. It’s a cycle that seems so unnecessary and is very tiring. It can debilitate, numb, paralyse. It’s in no way fun.

14451388146_e624db7b05_o

It’s different for everyone, but I hope, if you suffer, that by reading this you might find some sense of relief. It won’t work every time, it doesn’t cure, but it might offer a little respite on occasion.

 

Mental Health: A New Trend?

Trying to explain an anxiety disorder to someone who doesn’t have one is nearly impossible. It’s kind of like trying to describe a migraine to someone who’s only ever had a headache.

And it’s not the person to whom you’re talking’s fault. It’s no one’s fault. It’s just really hard. In fact it’s even hard to explain your kind of disorder to someone else who suffers.

Personally my anxiety disorder presents itself in lots of ways. It can be triggered by many things, and it’s so inflicting that it can make all my muscles seize so I can’t even move. My brain can switch off, everything goes slow motion and I sometimes won’t even know until after it’s happened.

4575089937_20c4620030_o

But this blog isn’t about that. We now live in a time where it’s more common to speak out about mental health. And as much as there’s still a HUGE way to go and reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues, people are still going for it, and trying to make others aware of it.

But I have a few concerns. There are so many people who will just fling terms around. “I’m so OCD I have to keep all my shoes in pairs” or “That ugly sweater gives me anxiety”. No one can tell whether these people really suffer, and who am I to say that they don’t. But it is starting to appear that a select few are wearing mental health issues as if it will make them more interesting. Something to add a little drama into their life.

Even Jennifer Lawrence, whilst being interviewed on The Tonight Show alongside Jessie Eisenberg recently, flippantly said ‘You’re the most interesting person’ and ‘I want weird quirks’ just minutes after he had opened up about his severe OCD. No one who has OCD *wants* OCD.

And in an episode of Veronica Mars (if you don’t know what that is, you seriously need to Google it and watch!) students were claiming GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) to get out of exams. It was so normalised that it penalised any students that really did have it.

My fear is just that, that people who really suffer from it are being washed away by those seeking attention. I hope I’m wrong.

4448471103_04c7b84715_o

My second concern is one that I have zero basis to believe will happen – it’s merely a fear (heck, it’s an anxiety). I love how much anxiety and mental health disorders are being talked about. It’s fantastic that people are trying to end the stigma surround them. I myself don’t openly talk about it to my colleagues or even really bring it up to friends unless it’s relevant. I know, not with friends or family, but in the work place mainly it can alter how people treat you. I’ve seen it happen, not so much in my current job, but in past places, where I feel like your capabilities are questioned. Luckily if ever I’ve had to mention it at work to my direct boss I’ve been met with support and understanding. But I do have a concern that if having a mental health problem is normalised too much, it won’t be taken seriously.

I’ll go back to my headache analogy. If someone tells you they have a headache you expect them to take a pill and carry on, but you have no idea how it’s affecting that person. Their head might be splitting, it might have gotten so bad they need a dark room or a sleep. It might even be a migraine. You have no idea how it’s affecting that person. But headaches are normal, they affect so many people and they’re so common. Anxiety is common, affects so many people but you have no idea how it’s affecting someone at that time. My fear is that I tell someone I have really bad anxiety and because it’s so normalised they tell me to sit quietly or take a pill and expect me to carry on as normal. They just brush is off, and don’t realise how seriously it’s affecting me at that time, because it’s ‘just anxiety’. Sometimes with a migraine you need to take days away from normal life to recover. Sometimes with anxiety you need to remove yourself for weeks.

4361882943_72293881e7_o

It’s selfish and hopefully wrong, but for that reason I almost don’t want GAD to be normalised too much. I guess I just want it understood. I don’t want to feel brushed under the carpet, because my struggle is real, so so real. And I really don’t want it to become the next fad, like veganism or yoga.

I think for now, I’ll leave it at that. I don’t really want to go into my own experiences in too much detail. I still find talking about it, and even reading other people’s experiences, a bit of a trigger. I just wanted to put words to ‘paper’ and put them out there. I also don’t want to offend with anything I’ve written, so hopefully this hasn’t. I can’t control my fears and in this instance, this is just how current events have made me feel.

I wonder if anyone else feels the same as me?

Christmas Time!

blogxmas

Hello shutterbugs! It’s been a while since I last posted. I’ve been so busy work and life-wise and I’ve been taking down time to get my head straight.

I’m starting to feel better, and with Christmas only 5 days away I’m feeling very festive!

G-Man and I are off to New York on Christmas Day, so someone better warn Sephora I’m coming….

I’ll be back to my regularly blogging self on my return, but for now Merry Christmas to all my readers and I’ll see you soon!