4 Times my Confidence took a Hit and How I Punched Back

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Let’s be clear here; I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where my ego doesn’t take at least a little bit of a dent.  You know, those little everyday knocks to your confidence.  Bad hair days, bad skin days. Those moments when you can’t seem to get your words out straight without spitting them all over someone (“Hey, I asked for the news not the weather!”). Days when you walk down the street and end up tripping over your own shoes (come on, we’ve all done that little over the shoulder look to blame an invisible crack in the pavement – “I was framed! I’m not just a complete and utter prat!”).  Those times when you just get it wrong; whether it’s an outfit, an answer to an important question or a telephone number (oh the horror).  I mean, that’s life right?  We all need taking down a peg or two from time to time; it’s those little knocks that remind us that we’re not actually walking Gods but snorting, spitting, “whoops I slipped up!” humans.  Who knew!

But in terms of overall self esteem those are just little bumps and bruises, aren’t they? No biggie. A bit of a knock or a graze that can be sorted with a bit of Sudocrem from your emotional first aid kit by way of having a good old chuckle over the fact that we’re all capable of being a bit of an idiot from time to time.

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But then there are those times when someone or something throws your ego a suckerpunch. One you didn’t see coming. The kind that knocks you flat on your back and leaves a little bit more than just a couple of bruises.  Something breaks and you need a bit of time to recover.  Maybe you even step of the ring for a while, and when you do come back you can’t escape the fact that you’re different – altered in some way.  More skittish, more likely to duck out before you get hit or maybe you’ve learned how to punch back.  Okay, I’m going to ease up on the boxing metaphor now – I’m getting carried away!  What I guess I’m trying to say is that no matter how much it hurts at the time, it’s only through moments that shake our confidence right to the core that we find out what we’re really made of – and who we really are and want to be.  Here are four of mine. 🙂

That time a famous Children’s Author told me to “Go Away”

Yep, you read that right.  Back when I worked in a High School supporting English lessons it wasn’t that unusual for authors to come visit and read to the kids, and some pretty big names passed through.  During one of those visits the teacher I was working with asked me to do a little bit of essay marking for her during the reading; it was coming up to reports time and she was absolutely swamped.  So, “sure” I said and went to sit at the back of the crowd where I got out my green pen (apparently red’s seen as too negative these days) and started marking.  The author got maybe a paragraph into his reading when he suddenly stopped and shouted, “Uh, the woman sitting at the back with the glasses and snot-coloured top.  If you’re going to insist on scribbling through my reading, I’m going to have to ask you go away and scribble somewhere else.”

Oh man.  I’m furious just thinking about it.  If the same thing happened to me today, I’d have absolutely no problem punching back at someone like that.  In fact, I’d enjoy it.  But back then, I just couldn’t.  I felt small every single day because I hated my job, and the way he’d treated me made me feel even smaller.  Practically microscopic.  He’d humiliated me in front of the people I worked with and worse, my students – who never let me live it down.  Had it been rude of me to sit there marking while he read?  Maybe.  But was I – little old me with the messy, mousy hair, glasses and snot-coloured top – SO distracting, SO offensive that he couldn’t even concentrate on the simple task of reading a book out loud?  Would he have spoken to me like that if I was a man?  I doubt it.  The truth is that Mr Successful Children’s Author had felt the need to pump up his already bloated ego by deflating mine.  I’m sure he forgot about me the minute I walked away, but I didn’t.

That time I flunked my A-Levels

Okay, maybe flunked isn’t the right word because the truth is, I didn’t really flunk my A Levels.  I did absolutely fine, the problem was that fine wasn’t quite good enough to get me into my top choice of university… or my back up.  The day before I picked up my results the plan had been to go to Cardiff University to study History.  Well, that plan went tits up – spectacularly.  I was absolutely devastated.  I felt like I’d let everyone down, including myself.  The truth was – and I think I knew it deep down at the time – that I just hadn’t worked hard enough.  I’d gotten sloppy.  I’d overestimated myself, and it was tough coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was.  My confidence took a savage hit.  But hey, it all worked out in the end.  I went through clearing and got a place at Swansea University instead.  In the end it was good for me to get out of my home town and out of my comfort zone, and I had such a blast that I stayed on for another year with the guy I was really into at the time (…and still am, reader, I married him 😉 ) to study the other big love of my life; Creative Writing.

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That time my hair started falling out

I used to have really long hair.  I mean it was always quite fine, but I had a lot of it and it used to grow really fast.  I used to steer clear of the hair dressers and didn’t really need to bother caring for it.  I brushed it, I washed it and that was about it.  Then during my twenties, everything changed.  It became very dry, very brittle and even started falling out in massive chunks.  My confidence took a nosedive.  I stopped wearing my hair down and felt really bad about myself and how I looked.  In the end, I had to get it all chopped off just to take back some kind of control over it.  Nowadays I never take my hair forgranted!  I get it trimmed regularly and take care of what I’ve got.  It’s not perfect by any means, but these days I put in the work to keep it on my head!  (If you’re interested in reading more about how I got my hair back, I wrote a whole post about it here).

That time I was called a liar during an interview

Oh the shame.  This happened during one of my first interviews after graduating .  I was  so excited to have finished university and felt fairly optimistic about getting out there and finding a job I loved, although the truth was that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.  I was entertaining the idea of moving to London and was looking at jobs in marketing and publishing.  I managed to bag an interview for a job in sales with a big marketing firm in the middle of London and went in feeling super confident.  But it all went south during the interview.  I don’t know whether I was nervous or got a bit tongue tied, but the man who was interviewing me smirked the entire way through.  At the end he raised his eyebrows, scoffed and then said, “Sorry love, I don’t believe a single word of what you just said.”  I can’t remember what I did or said next – I must of repressed it – because I was absolutely mortified! I couldn’t get out of that room quick enough!  It was a good few months before I felt ready to go on another interview, and I didn’t apply for another job in sales after that.  Good thing too, I’d have been bloody awful at it!

How do you cope when your confidence takes a hit? 🙂

 

5 Lazy Breakfasts to Try This Weekend

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Lazy weekend breakfasts and brunches are THE BEST.  I think they’re probably my favourite meal of the week and there’s a good chance that my death row meal of choice would be a big-ass brunch with all the bacon.  There’s something extra special about getting up after a long lie in, whacking on the kettle and then whipping something you wouldn’t normally have time to scoff on a weekday morning.  I know for a fact that I’ve got some leftover buttermilk in my fridge that’s destined to become a big stack of pancakes tomorrow morning and I CANNOT WAIT.  But if you’re in the mood to try something a little different this weekend, here are five lazy brunch recipes fresh from the archives. 🙂

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1. Frosties Battered French Toast

I love French Toast.  If you’ve got some stale bread (brioche, even better), milk and a couple of eggs then you’re golden.  But, let’s take it up a notch – and this is genius – once you’ve dunked your french toast into the milk and egg mix, try adding a crunchy coating by dunking it into a bowl full of crushed cereal before you fry it!  And, bada-bing bada-boom, you’ve got yourself some Battered French Toast.  I like to use Frosties, but you could literally use any cereal you fancy.  The possibilities are endless.

2. Halloumi Hash

This is one of my favourites things to have for Brinner (…breakfast for dinner – am I the only one who calls it that?) and I probably cook it at least once every couple of weeks.  Obviously the halloumi, potatoes and fried egg are non-negotiable, but as for everything else?  Add whatever you fancy or whatever you’ve got hanging about in the back of the fridge.  Cherries tomatoes on the turn?  Throw them in.  Half a red pepper?  Be rude not to.  Leftover salad?  Go for it.

3. Dutch Baby

Oh baby.  If you’ve ever wondered what might happen if you baked pancake batter instead of frying it, then wonder no more.  The result is basically one big, sweet yorkshire pudding.  The edges rise and crisp up to create a kind of bowl shape that you can fill with whatever you like.

4. Hair of the Dog Shakshuka

I call this Hair of the Dog Shakshuka due to the generous glug of vodka stirred into the herby tomato passata that makes up the foundation of this cosy breakfast.  There are literally hundreds of ways to make shakshuka, but all of them end with a very runny, very dunk-able egg (or eggs!) swimming in the middle.  It’s an easy one pot breakfast to share.  Yum!

5. Parfait Pots

If you’re not a fan of heavy brunches or putting in some time in the kitchen on the weekend, then this one’s for you.  Yoghurt Parfait Pots are basically sweet yoghurt pots topped with fruit and granola.  You can whip them up the night before and then just add the toppings before you’re ready to eat them.  The perfect breakfast to take back to bed with a massive mug and a magazine. 🙂

What’s your favorite weekend brunch? 🍳

September Home Style Shakeup

It’s no surprise that I seem to spend more on homeware and interiors in September than I do any other time of the year.  It makes perfect sense; the dog days are done, the nights are drawing in and there’s a distinctly Autumnal chill in the air (I wore my winter coat for the first time this morning… and then ended up shucking it off ten minutes later because we’re just not quite there yet!).  It’s time to get the house feeling warm and cosy and – ugh, yes – THAT Scandinavian word.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been stocking up on candles like a squirrel burying nuts, rearranging things a bit and just generally freshening everything up ready for winter.  I’m definitely feeling ready to hibernate 🙂

The lounge is the room I spend my life in and I finally feel like it’s “finished” – if there is such a thing.  This corner was a bit boring, so I’ve turned it into my Miranda from Sex and the City “You no longer exist” trashy magazine reading space.  I’m going to be sharing it with Bungle though, his bed is right next to it and he has a habit of sprawling right in front of the chair and leaving his toys everywhere.  We picked up this cheap little side table from IKEA about a year ago but the space underneath it was just wasted; it just seemed to collect tangled cables and dust (…and Bungle fur).  So to make better use of it, I picked up some baskets from IKEA to slot into the gap.  They’re brilliant for storing all of Bungle’s favourite toys.  I also picked up a new Yucca – which I’m not going to kill.


So here’s a tip; don’t ever stroll into a customer collection point stating that you’re there to pick up a “big clock” because the guys behind the counter will misunderstand what you’re saying.  Oh, and also don’t say “oh wow it’s huge!” when they appear with the package.  True story.  Anyway, this “big clock” is from John Lewis.


Some of our sofa cushions were looking a bit worse for wear, so I picked up these fancy  grey chevron ones from Tesco for £7 each, and I didn’t even realise until I got them home that they perfectly match our little footstool.  I also re-purposed this massive pirex pie dish and turned it into a little tray for the coffee table.  It’s nice to have somewhere to store lounge bits and bobs like flowers, tissues and candles.  Speaking of which, I’m absolutely loving this little Autumn Pearl candle that Yankee Candle Cardiff kindly gifted me.  It’s from their new autumn range and smells absolutely gorgeous – it’s getting me all excited for cosy nights in. 🙂

I also restocked my terrarium.  The old one was a graveyard.  It was tragic.  Oops!  I really love the cactus right at the back – mostly because it’s called a “Bunny Ear Cactus”.  Too cute!

Lastly, in the kitchen I’ve added a few bits and pieces around the hob.  Sunny and I made it to our fifth wedding anniversary at the end of August and so my mum and dad bought us this heart-shaped chopping board – because wood is the traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary. 🙂 I also picked up another plant (again, I’m really going to try not to kill it) because it’s nice to have some greenery inside during the winter I think.  She’s called Vera and the pot was a total bargain from TK Maxx.  Cute, huh?

Have a great weekend everyone! ♡

Can we stop being “Busy”?

I bumped into an old friend in Tesco’s a few weeks ago.  See, I’ve started doing my weekly food shop on a Monday morning when it’s practically empty; I slunk in there with my list at 10am bare-faced with a (very) messy bun and wearing the same jogging bottoms Bungle smeared with mud on his walk that morning safe in the knowledge that it’s okay because I’m never going to bump into anyone I know.  Except a few weeks ago – oh the horror! – I did.  I was in the middle of one of those deep internal conversations I have with myself down the bread aisle when I’m trying to decide whether to buy that six pack of jam doughnuts even though I’ve promised myself that I won’t, when she completely caught me off guard.

And then we did the dance.  You know the dance, the old “Hey!  I thought it was you!  I haven’t seen you in ages!” dance-off, where you fling small talk at each other until you run out of things to say (whilst also very sneakily checking out the contents of each other’s trolley – there’s a two year old child in hers and a six pack of doughnuts and a box of laxatives in mine).

“So, how’s things?” she asked.

And that’s when I said it.  “…Oh, you know, really busy.”

Busy.  It’s not so much a lie, but more of a reflex; automatic, impulsive, my go-to response in exactly this sort of situation.  But okay – yeah, you got me – it is also a lie because at that precise moment in time “busy” isn’t the word most people would choose when describing my life.  “Stalled”, is probably a better word (as if the doughnuts and laxatives weren’t clue enough) because actually, things have been a bit quiet; Sunny’s been away with work a lot and I haven’t really had any plans. And despite the fact than I’m completely fine with all that, I still regurgitate that same lie.  Why?  Maybe it’s because I want the conversation to be over as quickly as possible, or maybe – just maybe – it’s because I want to give the illusion that I’m living my best life, that I’m successful and important but without directly saying that I am.  Maybe I’m trying to reassure myself that I’m those things too, as I stand there in my muddy joggers wondering whether I washed that blob of face mask off my cheek that morning that I smeared on to get rid of some super-sexy cystic acne.

Whatever the reason, the lie leaves a bit of an aftertaste in my mouth and so I chase it by asking her the same question.  I feel instantly better when she tacks on a smile, rolls her eyes and says, “Busy too!”

We all are.  Or, we’re all lying about the fact that we are.  Social Media especially is full of people hustling, side-hustling, seeing the world and building relationships.  We’re all eager to let the world know that we’re on our way to our next meeting, climbing the ladder, heading out to dinner, meeting a friend or that we’re getting on another plane… but not so eager to let everyone know when we’re taking the day to do some washing because we’re out of fresh knickers again, or invest in a bit of self care.

When you’re constantly blasted with images and videos of other people being busy, the fact that you’re not can feel like a failure.  And yikes!  No one wants people thinking they’re a failure.  So we’re all – perhaps unintentionally – buying into and perpetuating this lie, keeping up with the Insta-Joneses and purposely documenting/telling people how busy we are, and therefore how in-demand we are, how happy we are, how successful we are… and on and on and on.

So, what should I have said instead?  Should I have just thrown down the veil for a second and just been completely and brutally honest?  Should I have just picked up the laxatives, shook the box and said, “Oh, I’m working on something really important right now”?  Sorry! TMI and probably not, but “I’m good thanks, things are a bit quiet at the moment, but that’s fine” would have been far better and far more honest.  Would it really have been so hard to say that instead?  I don’t want to be that girl who’s always “busy”.  Too busy for the more important things in life.

It’s time to lift the lid and break the myth of “busy” being a soft synonym for “successful” and using it as a crutch when we feel exactly the opposite. And similarly, it’s time to realise that “quiet” doesn’t mean “boring”, and doesn’t necessarily need to involve a beach to be a good thing.  Just because work is slow, or you haven’t eaten out this month or travelled anywhere interesting recently doesn’t mean that your life is meaningless. The truth is that everyone loves a bit of quiet time now and then, it’s everything else around us that’s working hard to convince us that we shouldn’t.

So anyway, how are you, how’s things? 😉

New Year, No Pressure

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A couple of days before the New Year a bunch of daffodils sprung up and bloomed in our front garden – which is weird, because traditionally daffs have got at least another month or so of underground snoozing to go before they’re expected.  But nope, these guys are up and ready to go.  You know, as if they’re raring to smash 2018.  I mean, if they were human they’d have quit smoking, organised their bullet journals and vowed to go vegan by now.

And it’s not just my eager daffs, during the first week of January there’s always that pressure to get up, get going and – like a crash test dummy on their first day of work – throw yourself at 80 miles an hour into a brand new year.  There’s that fresh page right in front of us and the chance to start over and reinvent which is exciting…

…But also TERRIFYING, and comes with a huge amount of pressure (if you’re a writer then you’ll know how terrifying empty pages are!).

I wish I could say that I had the same January Get up and Go attitude that my daffodils have, but the truth is that it takes me a bit longer than that.  For me, January has always been a massive struggle.  I used to dread the trudge back to school and the old routine after spending time with my family at Christmas, and I’m always falling foul of the January Blues.  It’s a dark, cold and miserable time of year; not exactly the easiest month to feel motivated to get up early and get crack-a-lacking on those goals, amiright?

For people like me, the expectation that I’ll wake up on the 1st of January bright eyed having switched into a new mindset overnight is completely unrealistic (…the truth is that I spent the first couple of hours of 2018 with my head down a toilet… but I digress…). And yet the pressure to do that is everywhere, so it’s easy to beat yourself up when you wake up in January and just want to groan and bury your head under the covers instead.

My January Self-Care Kit: Plenty of reading material, fresh flowers to brighten up the house on dull days, lots of candles and fairy lights, hot tea, sticky buns and lots of time spent with the beardo and Bungle ♡

I’m not saying that I’m not excited for 2018, believe me, I really am (2017 was one of my favourite years so far 🙂 ).  But I’m going to need some time to ease myself into it, and January seems like the perfect month for some self care and self reflection.  I’m going to hold off on the resolutions and goal setting until February at least, and spend the month quietly feeding myself instead.  Not with food exactly (although there are still two Chocolate Oranges in my kitchen cupboard that I’m very excited survived Christmas…), but with all the things that I’m going need to inspire that fresh mindset when Spring arrives.  I want to read, I want to write, eat good food, go exploring and then come home and cwtch up somewhere warm and cosy with a cup of tea.  Unlike those eager daffs, this girl needs just a little bit more time sleeping underground before she can be expected to bloom.

What’s in your January Self-Care Kit? 🙂