Let’s Stop Self-Defecating (…yes, you read that right)

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Happy April Fool’s Day!  I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely useless when it comes to playing practical jokes… and telling jokes full stop, to be totally and completely honest!  I either give the game away by giggling too soon or I screw up the punch line, and my go-to joke is the one about the panda who goes to a restaurant and eats shoots and leaves.  The one thing I am good at, however, is laughing at myself.  A couple of weeks ago, I managed to play the most ridiculous practical joke on myself while I was refilling a cook’s blowtorch.  When I (stupidly) decided to check whether it was working and pulled the trigger, the lighter fumes ignited and I was momentarily consumed by a ball of fire that not only burned my fingers but also singed off most of my eyebrows and a lot of my hair.  After the initial sobbing shock and cries of “my hair!!!” (and the call to NHS Direct to see if I needed to hop it down to A&E…) I did what I always do after I’ve done something stupid; I laughed long and hard over what an utter nob I was.

There’s nothing better than having a good ol’ chuckle, is there?  Even when times are tough having a laugh about it – y’know, a proper tear-streaming, snorting, rib-aching, gasping for air kind of laugh – is better than any kind of medicine.  And self-deprecation (or “self-defecation”, as I used to call it until someone stepped in and corrected me… yeesh…) is the one woman stand-up routine I’ve been performing since I can remember.  I slip into it so easily these days: if someone compliments my anything, I’ll launch head-first into a bit where I take out a metaphorical magnifying glass and hover it over every flaw I have and can think of.  Like, the dog hair clinging to my brand new black jeans, or my vampire skin that’s hilariously allergic to fake tan, that ketchup stain on my new shirt, my flat chest, my misbehaving hair and *tap tap* “Hey, is this thing on?”  I’ll downplay my own achievements and shrug them off as pure luck – as simply being in the right place at the right time – because – come on now – there’s absolutely no way this train wreck is capable of achieving anything on her own other than maybe inhaling three cream eggs in thirty seconds.

Har de ha.

And I know I’m not alone in this.  We’re all guilty of slipping into that old routine in social situations, aren’t we?  Whether we’re with our mates or with a whole crowd of new faces – it’s an easy way to seem more human – more relatable – to come across as humble instead of arrogant and therefore more likeable.  In theory!  But are we harming ourselves in the process?

If I’m constantly poking fun at myself and telling other people that I can’t cook to save my life, that I only wear flats because I look like drunk giraffe in heels, or that the reason I got that big promotion was completely down to luck rather than my own hard work, I’m going to start believing it myself.  And for what?  To spare someone else’s ego?  To be liked?  At that point we’re not self-deprecating anymore, we really are just self-defecating – shitting all over ourselves and our achievements!  And that ain’t cool, my friend!

I came across some sage words of advice on how to own your achievements and talents a while ago and it really stuck with me.  It’s basically all down to learning how to self-deprecate in a self-aggrandizing way.  I mean, you’re still poking fun of yourself – but you’re doing it in a much kinder, more positive way.  For example, instead of rolling your eyes and telling yourself and others “I can’t cook to save my life”, laugh at that burned slice of toast and declare proudly, “I clearly need my own cookery show – watch out Nigella Lawson!”  Next time your eyeliner’s wonky or you’ve gone in too hard with the blush, don’t pull the ol’ clown face gag out the bag – just have a chuckle and say, “Nailed it.”  Or the next time you send out an email full of mistakes (and to the wrong person – yikes!), instead of coming down hard on your writing skills just laugh and say, “Hey, I was clearly robbed of that Pulitzer.”  It’s a small switcheroo that’ll help change your mindset and have you owning both your flaws and achievements in a more positive way.

Let’s have a good ol’ laugh at ourselves without being the fool.

Anyone played any good April Fools pranks today?  The closest I got was Sunny politely informing me at 6.30am this morning that our toilet was backed up and spilling over – hilarious!  NOT.  Have a great week!  🙂

Why I’m Making Habits instead of Resolutions

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Happy 2019!  I’ve gotta admit; it feels pretty good to be back in the swing of things (even if the first thing I marked in my brand new diary was a dentist appointment for today – the most Monday-est of Mondays…).  To be completely honest with you, this post was supposed to be a recipe for Thai Noodle Soup, buuuuuuut the truth is that I spent a little too much time on the sofa during the Crimbo Limbo scoffing cheese and chocolate and binge-watching You on Netflix instead of prepping Blog Posts.  NO REGRETS.  You’ll just have to stay-tuned for that recipe, but until then how about a good ol’ chin-wag about Resolutions instead?

For the record, I’m not a fan. I’m a pantser not a planner by nature with absolutely zero willpower (see Netflix and Chocolate binge above and the fact that I bought a five pack of jam donuts this morning ten minutes after my dentist appointment…) and so the prospect of waking up on the 1st of January a new and improved version of myself complete with a laminated list of goals for the year ahead in hand is not only enough to bring me out in a cold sweat but absolutely and completely bonkers.  For a start, I’m lucky if I even get out of bed on the first day of January, and who the hell wants to pile that kind of pressure on top of themselves on the very first day of a new year anyway?  It’s so easy to make those ambitious, slightly vague statements on New Years Eve with a glass of champagne in hand, isn’t it? Before you know it, it’s February and – just like the champagne – you’ve lost your fizz and all your grand plans have fallen flat.  That’s resolutions for you.

But hey – despite all of that – I still can’t resist that squeaky clean, brand spanking new, fresh diary feeling you get at the very start of a new year. Of course, there are a few things I’d like to change and try my hand at this year, but instead of making resolutions, I’m making new habits.

Why? Well, the problem with resolutions is that they’re usually a bit vague (I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money) and/or a bit extreme (I’m never eating dairy again, I’m going to read 50 books) with no realistic plan in place to actually achieve them.  They demand perfection without a blink at the planning and hard work that needs to be put in; so it’s really no surprise when we flunk out come February. Habits on the other hand, are specific changes in behaviour that need a bit more thought and planning to put into practice.  Habits become a part of your daily routine – you have to actually make time for them – and so they’re much trickier to break and a more realistic way to achieve a new goal.  They’re more about the long road to perfection than perfection itself.

For example… 

RESOLUTION
“This year, I’m going to get fit.”

HABIT
“This year, I’m going to go to Pilates class every Wednesday night at 7pm.”

RESOLUTION
“This year, I’m going to find a new job.”

HABIT
“This year, I’m going to spend an hour every Tuesday night between 8 and 9pm applying for jobs.”

See what I’m saying? Think of it this way; the resolution is the goal, the habit is the plan you’re going to put into place to make sure you achieve it! …Or that’s the idea, anyway. 😉

So, which resolutions am I hoping to turn into habits in 2019? Honestly, they’re all really boring! Firstly, I want to read more books (she says, for the third year running… resolutions, ugh!); I love reading, but I’m terrible when it comes to making time for it. So this year I’m scheduling in an hour of reading time every day between 5 and 6pm. Be there or be square! Secondly, I want to add some more recipes to my midweek meal repertoire, especially some healthy ones. I’ve got a handful of go-to recipes that I’m getting bored of making all the time, so I’ve decided that I’m going to make it a new habit to spend an hour every Sunday researching a brand new recipe to cook for dinner during the week. And thirdly, I want a cleaner house (See? I told you they were boring!). Just before Christmas it became very clear that my old cleaning routine just wasn’t cutting it (the whole house was pretty much buried under a layer of Bungle’s fur…), so this year I’m going to try and set aside an hour a day to keep on top of the cleaning, one room at a time.  If I come up with something that works, I’ll let you know.  And that’s it! For now, at least…

So what about you? Are you making any changes this year? Also now’s the perfect time to let me know if there’s anything you want to see more (or less!) of here on the blog in 2019. Let me know in the comments! Hope you’re having a great start to the year! 🙂

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? 🙂

 

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? 😉

5 ways to get that Spring feeling (when it’s not Springing outside)

Is it just me or has this felt like the longest winter ever?  True to form the British weather has been a right old tease the past couple of months, from that false flash of Spring back in February to the March deep freeze.  And despite the fact that we’re now over a week into April, Spring seems to still be playing hard to get.  So, if like me you’re getting tired of waiting for warmer weather to arrive, here are few things you can do around that house to get that Spring feeling. 🙂

T Shirt & Sunglasses – Primark, Trainers – H&M (similar here), Scarf – really old! (similar here)

Have a Wardrobe Clear-out

On a soggy Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I was bored enough to feel like tackling my wardrobe.  I made myself a cuppa, put Youtube on, scooped out my clothes and chucked them on the bed, and then I slowly started putting them into piles.  It actually didn’t take very long, but at the end of it I’d sifted out all the clothes I didn’t wear anymore and the ones I wasn’t going to need until next winter (I held a few jumpers back knowing full well that 1. Spring got lost in the post this year, and 2. Uh, Wales).  And bonus, I found some clothes I’d completely forgotten about, worked out what I was missing and made some room for some fresh Spring/Summer togs (you should see my ASOS wishlist…).  Ah!  That felt goooooood.

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Bring the Outside Inside

Ever since Bungle moved in, I’ve become a really neglectful plant parent, and over the winter my indoor greenhouse kind of turned into a plant mortuary.  Oops!  Last week I decided enough was enough and had a crispy leaf clear-out.  I got rid of all the dead plants, cleaned their pots and then trimmed, fed and re-potted the survivors (…there weren’t many… *ahem*).  It’s surprising how empty and bland the house feels without a bit of greenery though, and so – even though I should probably be banned from ever owning vegetation again – I’m going to think about buying some new plants. 🙂

Make a Spring/Summer Bucket List

Okay, so the weather’s crap and it’s just too miserable to go out.  So, I’m going to start making a list of everything I do want to do when the weather eventually cheers up.  That way, as soon as the sun makes an appearance there won’t be any dithering and deciding where to go and what to do!  I’m ready and raring.

Eat Fresh

I find it so hard to eat healthy when it’s cold and wet!  All I want to do is stuff my face with chocolate and pizza.  But I always feel so much better and more like summer is on its way when I ditch the heavy comfort food and start eating more fruit.  Time to look up some new recipes to try!

Deep Clean the House

There’s nothing better than having a good old Spring clean, and this year – let me tell you guys – a deep clean was definitely needed.  It’s been a wet winter and Bungle’s muddy paws had not only done a number on our carpets and skirting boards, but he’d flicked wet mud off on the walls so much that they were starting to look like a Jackson Pollock painting.  Before Easter I took a couple of days and cleaned the house from top to bottom.  And I mean really cleaned.  I washed the curtains, wiped and repainted the skirting boards and went through about five bottles of Zoflora, but IT. WAS. WORTH. IT. 

So whenever Spring actually feels like turning up, I’m ready for it!  Have a great week everyone! 🙂