advice

A Space of One’s Own

In many creative industries, as well as in the wider world, women are not encouraged, but are actively discouraged from taking up space. When you don’t see women like you, or in fact any women at all, in mainstream media, it can be hard to convince yourself to take up that space. Taking up space is both physical and metaphorical here; if society expects you to be thin and petite, then being anything other than that feels wrong. When you are told be quiet, talked over, and interrupted, speaking up and out can feel hard.

A solution to this is to carve your own space. To create something that is for you and for other women like you to share in. I chatted to some women who have done just this.

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Kate Eveling is the creator of The View From The Other Side, a blog and youtube channel where she talks openly about what it’s like to have Cystic Fibrosis. The videos are incredibly informative, well-made and fun to watch. “CF has always been a negative in my life but creative writing and making videos is something that I thoroughly enjoy – so I thought, why not take that and use it to turn something negative into a positive” she told me.

It’s particularly interesting to explore CF online, because, as Kate puts it “us CFers can’t actually meet face to face because of the risk of giving each other chest infections.” When you can’t meet the people who share in your experience, creating an online space to talk and discuss (and also to explain what it’s like living with your condition to everyone else) is key to changing the conversation around something like CF.

Kate also says that it’s important most of all to keep these videos interesting. “The ‘10 Facts About Me’ video isn’t one where I sit in front of the camera and drone out ten facts. I try to make it energetic and fun but also cringeworthy – it wouldn’t be a Kate Eveling video if it wasn’t cringeworthy right?!”

I ask Kate who inspires her, and she describes how starting A View From The Other Side led her to discover other CFers documenting their lives. “This might sound cheesy but every story I read on their lives was such an inspiration to me. Because they have CF and they are fighting it every day. Simple as that.” It’s clear to see here how one person carving their own space can inspire another.

It’s a space that’s growing as well. Kate recently made a video campaigning for the drug Orkambi, which greatly improves the lives of CF sufferers but which the British Government claim is too expensive.

Find out more about The View From The Other Side.

 

Splint

Another online space for women is Splint, a platform for innovative women looking to network, collaborate and create. “We just kind of decided that it was necessary to provide a space for women to share creative skills, successes and experiences, whilst also championing the women we know and love” co-creator Abbie Claxton tells me. Abbie and her co-founder Syd interview a series of women about what they make and why, and what it’s like to be a woman doing that. “We both know a lot of women doing things that should really be talked about, and we just realised that not a lot of people know about them or what they’re up to. I am always asking people how they got to where they are today, and Splint kind of offers that answer for people.”

The wonderful thing about Splint is the way it’s pure purpose is to champion women doing cool things, and allowing them to share that.

I ask Abbie who inspires her. “The women around us inspire Splint, without them we would have nothing to talk about.” It’s the perfect description of what sharing space means for women today.

Find out more about Splint.

 

Liberate

Laura Mead is an actor and playwright whose debut play Liberate was recently performed at the White Bear Theatre. I asked her about the move from acting into writing.

“There’s a lot more freedom in writing than I personally found in acting. That goes along with flexibility. I also find I’m not having to ‘look’ or ‘feel’ a certain way to write – I just let what I want spill out on paper.” And why is theatre right for this?

“Art forms are so great because they can be enjoyable whilst also showcasing an idea, which may or may not have been in somebody’s minds beforehand. I also think it’s all about HOW you discuss it; Liberate is full of humour – so it means that feminism is being pushed to the front of the discussion whilst a joke is being made.”

I asked Laura what’s next on the agenda.

“Carry on making coffee at my little coffee-shop. Read books. Shove the candles on. And have a bloody large gin. Who knows?!”

Liberate is on for one more night at the Etcetera Theatre in Camden.

 

Words by Sian Brett with interviews from Laura Mead, Abbie Claxton and Kate Eveling.
Images from The View From The Other Side, Splint and Liberate.

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Tips for Travelling in 2018

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Whether you’re taking a quick trip away or embarking on a longer adventure, here’s a list of some of the top tips I found useful when travelling solo in the past year, and some I wish I had known sooner!

Useful Items to Take With You:

Before you go, make life a little easier on the road by doing some research, and make some handy purchases to aid the budget lifestyle, such as…

Travelling Clothes Line
An amazingly useful piece of kit, a packable clothes line that you can hang up wherever you are, and not have to worry about damp clothes or paying a fortune to use the in-house dryer!

Dr. Bronner’s Soap
A natural and beautifully fragranced all-purpose soap, that’s available as bars or liquid. You can use it as body soap, as well as on your hair and your clothes. You can find other similar multi-purpose products easily, both in online shops and specific travelling websites; this one’s just a personal favourite of mine.

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Universal Sink Stopper
Another absolute blessing! No more clothing shortages as this means you can do your emergency laundry anywhere! It also means you can pack minimally. They are easy to find online or in D.I.Y shops.

GoToobs
GoToobs are reusable silicon travel bottles that come in a range of sizes and colours, and are especially good for short trips when you only want to take a small amount of liquids, or if you have items you need to decant before coming back!

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Staying Safe Whilst Solo:

Use Your Judgement
Making new friends on your adventures is part of the fun when travelling, but don’t give out personal information too freely. Keep your accommodation as somewhere just you can chill and recharge alone if you need to. Even if it is a room with 8 bunk bends or a kitchen shared between 200 people…

Make Digital Back-Ups
In case you do lose anything super important, you don’t want it to be the end of the world. Keep a scan or copy of your important stuff, such as passport, insurance, and bookings accessible online or on a memory stick.

This means that if you do end up needing to replace a lost passport, you could save valuable time and worry as you have the details to hand should you need to take a trip to the embassy.

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Know Where You’re Going!
Sounds simple, yet in today’s world, most of us couldn’t imagine travelling without a smartphone, not to mention surviving without WiFi. Try not to be dependent on your phone battery or internet connection to get from A to B.

Downloading maps offline is handy, as it allows you to have a record of your route even if you can’t determine your location via GPS. Or you can even draw up your own! Figuring out my plan whilst at a hostel and then jotting down my own way there is something I did quite often.

It’s partly to do with blending in a little more; when I’m out and about I can check my notebook rather than gawking at my phone or turning a guide map upside-down, with a disgruntled expression that reads “CONFUSED TOURIST HERE” .

Writing it out yourself also helps you remember road names and details better, so if you re-visit the same area again you should be able to get there easier.

Practical Tips:

WATER!!!
It sounds obvious, but do make sure you are equipped with a sturdy water bottle throughout your trip, no matter the duration. It will save you money in the long run and is better for you and the environment, especially if BPA free! If you’re visiting somewhere where the water isn’t drinkable, you could think about taking water-purifying tablets. You can get these from any pharmacy relatively cheaply.

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My trusty Nike bottle (approx. 875ml). They are a particular favourite of mine, partly because of the lid that’s easily clipped onto backpacks/belongings and partly because there’s a discount store round the corner from my house.

Dress to Impr…ove Your Chances of Avoiding Frostbite:

Unless you can guarantee the only weather you’re facing is a beautiful beach climate for weeks on end, you’ll need more than a bikini and summer accessories to get you through.

That said, it’s surprising how little luggage we actually need. The amount of clothes you think you need to take probably ends up being half that. The key is to make sure you are prepared for a range of conditions, especially if experiencing multiple seasons and different climates.

Must-haves include:

  • A lightweight rain jacket
  • A good hoodie
  • Thermals
  • Supportive shoes
  • Good socks
  • Light layers that you can build up.

If you are going to be very active, make sure to include quick-drying materials. A travel towel is also really useful and dries very quickly, taking up a fraction of the space of a regular one.

You can also get hand-roll vacuum bags to minimise space that don’t require a vacuum/electricity to use. Or you can roll your clothes or bundle-wrap them to use up as little space as needed!

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Personal Advice:

Be prepared for periods!
If you’re travelling and you’re going to be on your period, it’s a good idea to make a note of the dates. You don’t want it to spoil your time or become difficult if you are in a particularly remote place! Also factor sanitary products into your budget if you need to. They can often be a forgotten about expense!

If you use disposable products, you can stock up before you leave.

If you wanted to try reusable products then you could go with a menstrual cup such as a Moon Cup or Diva Cup, which would again save you money whilst you’re on your travels. (Other alternatives include: reusable cloth pads and menstrual sponges.)

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Know Your Budget
Depending on whether you’ve saved up huge amounts of cash for a luxury trip or you’re doing some more economic backpacking, it’s super important to have at least a rough idea of your expenses.

Not just accommodation, but activities too. Is there something you’ve specifically come to this country to do? Factor it in, and any other things you think are likely to pique your interest.

Also be realistic. If you are someone who likes to have a few beers in an evening, give room in your budget for these little extras, rather than not including them and trying to be ‘good,’ if that’s going to be tricky! This way, splashing out for the odd social night with your new companions wont ruin the budget.

Have a Sort-Of Plan
To a certain degree, you’re going to want the freedom to change your plans, to up and go to the next adventure in the spur of the moment, particularly as you meet new friends along the way. And this can sometimes be the best part about travelling, just make sure you never leave yourself in a vulnerable situation.

Always have an idea of where you’re going to stay and when. Which town do you want to be in? Check out hostel and accommodation options, and if you are leaving it late to book because you don’t know your exact itinerary, have a plan B. (And possibly C & D if travelling at peak season.)

Many hostels offer better deals if booked directly, so bear this in mind if you’re prone to using booking sites that charge commission like Hostelworld etc.

Hostels usually release their availability in the evening for the next day, so check back then if you have your eye on a certain place.

Lastly, this might come across as painstakingly patronising, but…

Have a return ticket!
This from the person who went London-NZ via Asia and Australia with no escape plan… The idea was to work, and when this didn’t work out as well as I’d dreamed up, I was stuck & had to rely on my family members to scrape together and help me back sooner than I anticipated.

Even if you are on a working holiday VISA, be sure that it’s definitely the right call; know the areas that you’re going to try and agencies that you can sign up with.

If you’re not, but you don’t know when exactly you’ll be back, purchasing a flexible ticket is a good option. STA and similar companies provide flexible tickets with a set number of changes/destinations.

 

Hopefully this mix of advice and handy products is useful to some of you first-timers. You will most likely discover your own must-haves and handy hacks. This is just a collection of things that worked for one weary traveller.     

If you want further reading, other great places to look are:

  • LonelyPlanet.com – they have lots of traveller lead forums
  • Trip Advisor – if you want opinions on particular accommodation, areas, or activities

And of course, look at posts from other independent travellers themselves. The chances are, if you Google a question or worry you have about travelling, many of us have already been in that same position. The more wisdom you can glean from other’s experiences (and mistakes) the better!

 

Words by Lauren Barnard for Anthem.
Images from Lauren Barnard, Amazon and Earth Wise Girls.

The Best Valentine’s Day I’ve Had

I am single and it’s Valentine’s Day.

I will still be single on the 15th February, so why focus on this frequently overwhelming and loved-up day? Because it gives me a chance to reflect on a great night spent with one of my favourite women and a relationship, which after eight years, is still going strong.

Last year I had the best Valentine’s Day I have had in a long time with one of my best friends!

A few weeks before this lovely evening, I was having a low, self-pitying Sunday night. Sat alone in the flat watching an old rom-com, I started to think about my own non-existent love life. My mind was busy with the bad kind of thoughts: this is it, this is your lot, you’ll never find that person, you’ll sit and watch loved ones find new loved ones, all while you sit alone. The cycle of thoughts didn’t stop until I was a weeping mess, messaging the girls back home asking for advice and comfort. (This feels like an appropriate time to say that I love you all, and couldn’t imagine my life without you, to the women who have been a part of my life for nearly seven years).

The girls sent me messages of comfort, love and laughter. In the mist of this WhatsApp conversation was my friend, Mica saying we could and should go out on Valentine’s Day for a meal and a drink, lots of drink. My immediate response was “YES! But what about your other half?”, to which she replied that she would be back from a mini break with him and that she wanted to spend it with me. I was genuinely touched.

Fast forward two weeks and I was sat in an Italian restaurant in town waiting for my hot date. We had arranged to meet at the local cinema at 6 pm for a meal and a film but our poor organisational skills plus the fact that it was Valentine’s Day meant the cinema was fully booked. With Mica running late, I walked to the restaurant to secure our romantic table for two.  

Walking towards the candlelit table, I passed a sea of couples and actually had to stifle a laugh. I was laughing at the fact that this was my most romantic Valentine’s Day to date. Sat with a glass of water, I saw my date approaching, with the accompanying words “Is this the lady? Yes, this is my lady.”  

Neither of us could contain our laughter as we looked around at all the other diners at their candlelit tables. We were the only two women sharing a table together. Mica asked the question, “What if they think we’re a couple?”, to which I quickly responded, “And what a lovely couple we make”. It was a wonderful night filled with great food, lots of drink and the best company. We spent the meal catching up on everything we had missed since we last saw each other: her recent trip to Oslo, her other half, my last year of uni, films we had seen and loved, and as always desperately finding a time for all of us to meet up again.

Just as we were tucking into our dessert for two, Mica suggested a film next, returning to our original plan. She was still yet to see La La Land and I couldn’t think of a better film to see with a friend on Valentine’s Day. Mica fleetingly suggested seeing the new Fifty Shades film, but I protested. I would not be giving that film my money.

As we were waiting for the bill and getting excited to see La La Land, we joked that we were celebrating ‘Galentine’s day’ a day late. For those of you who don’t know, Galentine’s Day was thought up by Amy Poehler’s character Leslie Knope from the show Parks & Recreation as a day for women to celebrate the importance of female friendship in and amongst the build-up to Valentine’s Day.

Still waiting for the bill, we realised that we had missed the last screening of La La Land, and contemplated calling it a night. Mica pointed out that we had finished a whole bottle of Prosecco between us, and therefore might be drunk enough to endure the new Fifty Shades film.

Cut to us in our seats, a glass of wine in hand and already shocked at the number of couples around us. I genuinely thought this was the kind of film you would see on a drunken night with friends (hence me spending money on a ticket). Regardless, we laughed until we cried, and for all the wrong reasons and in all the wrong places. We stuffed our faces with chocolates and ruined the romantic atmosphere for all of the couples in that screening.  

I texted Mica on the way home, thanking her for a wonderfully unromantic Valentine’s Day and for being a part of one of the funniest cinematic experiences I had in a long time.

This year, I will once again be using Valentine’s Day to catch up with a friend and will continue to treat this day like an extended Galentine’s day… which I hope would make Amy Poehler proud.

Happy Galentine's Day

The women who show me love, every day.

 

Words and images by Lara Scott.

How’s It Going?

Hello, there. Happy first week of February! How is it going? Have you given up on all your resolutions yet? Have you realised that you cannot alter your entire being in just 31 days? Will you promise to set yourself easier targets next year? No? Alright then, fine.

My new year resolution, if you can even call it that, is to watch lots of films – preferably ones I haven’t seen before. I did this last year and I did a great job and it made me feel better so I’m doing it again. I’m not really bothering because I don’t truly want to lose weight or eat better or run more. Sure, I’m trying to get back into swimming a couple of times a week, but I’m not totally grilling myself for it. What’s the point?

I don’t really bother with resolutions because not only do they not make sense (are you supposed to lose weight for the year, or forever? Is there a time limit on it?), but also because I have never once kept a resolution in my life that wasn’t something super easy like watching a bunch of new films. Surely, it is better to enter into a new year promising to yourself that you will look after yourself and endeavour to make yourself proud. So this year, I’m not really bothering at all, and so far I’m doing pretty damn well.

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With no real resolutions or goals to fulfil, I have managed to finish three whole (and admittedly rather short) books in January that I loved, and I’m now halfway through a fourth. I’ve read an autobiography, a professional toolkit and a book on women in ancient civilisations. I’ve learned so much in such a short space of time, and I’m genuinely quite proud of myself. I never finish books, I just carry them around London until ultimately putting them back on the shelf the next time I clean out my handbag. So I’ve celebrated, and I’ve bought new books to try and keep myself going. I’ve not set a target, I just want to read some more books.

When I was ill in the middle of January, I had two days at home that led me to finally starting my self-taught British Sign Language course (which I paid for a long time ago). I had so much free time because I was off work, that I had time to complete multiple lessons from it. Hell, I even signed up for a free online screenwriting course this week, because why not? I’m learning, and learning is what really makes me happy and makes me feel accomplished. It’s what I love, and when there are so many opportunities available to me to learn new things, and for free(!), I’d be a fool not to have a go.

I’ve been proud of myself for also signing up new people to Anthem; for finding great new people to join this family. I’m happy that I made it to the cinema a few times, particularly when I missed so many releases last year. I socialised and met friends (see below picture of cake for proof) for dinner, which is frankly an achievement for anyone working full-time in London, let alone someone desperately trying to budget their spending, living with anxiety, and only knowing a handful of people in this big ass city.

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I’ve been struggling to finish off this article because everything I think sounds really lame in my head, but it’s got some truth to it. We need to celebrate the happy more and stop being such a pain in the butt to ourselves when we make mistakes or feel sad. Life happens and part of that is that we feel sad and angry and we do things wrong, but if we focused on the things that we did well and the fun times we have with the amount of energy we focus on the bad… we’d probably be a lot happier. The thing about happy and wonderful times is that we only recognise how happy and wonderful they are because we’ve experienced the kind of shitty times. If every day was wonderful, we wouldn’t be able to appreciate them the way we can now.

So revel in the goodness. Make it your new motto to celebrate the teeny tiny victories. Buy yourself flowers and comfy socks. Go to a free exhibition or make time to see that new release in the cinema. I looked after myself this week by having one evening in to tidy my bombsite of a room, shower, eat, and watch a cheesy film from the 90s. You don’t have to spend all your money or scream and shout to do this well, you just need to remember that you saw a tiny dog in a tracksuit this morning. How great is that?

The next time you’re hard on yourself for not losing 1000lbs in two days, make a note to find a way of enjoying exercise so that you’ll actually want to go (Zumba, dance, boxing, swimming etc) and don’t waste your evening bullying yourself about it. The next time someone says you did something good at work, say thank you and smile and believe in yourself a little bit. The next time you spend a day reading in your room, be happy you had the time to read and be grateful that you’ve had the chance to learn more and experience new lives and worlds through that book.

There’s good and bad to be found in everything, it’s just up to you to do the searching. Here’s to February, guys. You’re going to do great!

 

Words and Images by Briony Brake

Shame, Catholicism, and Sex Education

If I am being honest, my sex education never came from school but from books, film and television – like most teenagers. When the time came for me and my year nine form to have our allotted hour of PHSE sex ed, it felt a bit pointless; this was sex education from a Catholic perspective. This, of course, meant no talk of contraception or the range of contraceptives available, no talk of the lgbtq+ community, and ultimately being taught that sex was purely for procreation. The only privilege of my non-Catholic school friends was being able to put a condom on a banana, but as I look back I realise that in the confines of a Catholic school when discussing sex, it’s what isn’t talked about that creates the most damage.

When writing on Catholicism and its teachings on sex, a quote from the actor Rupert Everett – of all people – comes to mind. Upon being asked about his Catholic upbringing and how it affected his life as a gay man, he didn’t speak of the Catholic belief around homosexuality, but rather the damaging effect Catholic teachings can have on women. I sadly can’t find the exact quote so forgive me for paraphrasing: “When it comes to the Catholic church, women can’t win. The only two female roles models are Mary Magdalene, a prostitute, and the Virgin Mary, who conceived through immaculate conception. Women are being compared to the one woman in history who could give birth without committing a sexual act, no wonder the church attach sin and shame to sex.” On reading this, all my questions on why and how the church view sex, in particular female sexuality, were answered.

After reading Everett’s thoughts on Catholicism, it shocked me that this one way of looking at the world can be perpetuated through schools to teach such an important part of life. It rang true with my own problems surrounding sex and religion, for example, I have never understood why the strict teachings on sex are taught solely by men who have chosen to take a vow of celibacy. In life, the general rule of thumb is that when looking for advice you go to an expert, or a least a person with some knowledge and experience of your problem. However, when I look back on my sex education taught through this narrow prism, the residue that is left is shame.

For most of my teenage years, actually until I discovered feminism and feminist literature, I always felt a degree of shame about sex. As a young girl, the lack of information, and the age-old story of sex for reproduction left me with so many unanswered questions. I felt ashamed of having sexual feelings, of wanting to find out more through books and films. I was scared of the internet for the same reason I was scared of talking to adults; the embarrassment of googling, of asking, being expected to know more. It’s the catch twenty-two of being too naive in front of school friends and growing up too fast for your parent’s liking.

The mix of teenagers, sex and rumours cause misery and years of problems. Teenagers battle enough questions about their future without having to fight off the invasive questions: have you done it yet? Who with? Why are you waiting? Then again the shame that comes with both a yes and no answer. Slut shaming can come in all shapes and forms, from people you would least expect. Teaching sex using Catholicism seems to give people permission to judge a woman’s sexual behaviour, because as Rupert Everett pointed out, the church has the perfect spectrum on which to judge.  

The age-old tale of secrecy being more exciting is never truer than when sex comes into the equation. The Catholic veil of guilt and mystery does nothing to educate teenagers or even take away the fear and shame from the shy and anxious like myself. Most importantly, by not teaching teenagers about contraception, STDs, and how to practice safe sex, you are doing them a disservice. The more people know, the more power they have over their own lives and their choices. If a school must bring in the Catholic church’s teachings, then perhaps it should be one part of a much broader education. Sex education can’t be a cross between a biology lesson and a confessional. It must be taught with the same importance as the three core subjects and with the same enthusiasm and improvisational skills as a drama class.

Teachers, I implore to use every teaching tool in the box. Be brave, be honest, talk about the gory details, the joyous details. Point kids in the right direction and talk about sex’s place in culture. Even take inspiration from Channel 4’s recent documentary on sex education, and give teenagers a sex quiz. Make it competitive, make girls want to know what contraception is right for them, the importance of knowing their rights to their own body. Make boys want to know about a woman’s pleasure as well as their own, talk about the clitoris and masturbation as an important and healthy part of men and women’s lives. Hell, give UCAS points to everyone who acknowledges that NO means NO!

Give them an education void of other people’s shame and uncertainty. Take away the fear and replace it with the knowledge they will need to go out into the world. Give them knowledge they can use.

 

Words by Lara Scott
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

Halves, Wholes & Other Emotional Maths

We all grow up differently. Some people are self-conscious about their weight. Some people hate their noses. Some people think no-one is ever going to like them. Whatever it is, everyone has their insecurities, and from my experience, sex ed didn’t really make anyone feel better about them. The teacher was awkward, the students were worse, the curriculum was reeled off and that was pretty much it. The biology was covered, and ‘pastoral care’ mentioned, but what no-one really touched upon was how big a role emotions and self-image play amongst all this growing up.

I spent a lot of my teen years feeling uncomfortable in my body and insecure about how I looked. I was one of – in hindsight -many people that thought no-one would ever want them. I doubted that anyone would ever feel anything for me, yet maintained the hope that should something happen, it would be the answer to everything. I’d be fulfilled, complete and wanted, entirely satisfied with myself and my life.

Looking in the mirror and not only seeing the ‘ugly’ and the negative seemed an insurmountable thought for me. I was stuck in a rut of worthlessness, hopelessly looking to be wanted and reassured. I had the expectation that finding someone who saw more in me than I did would automatically bring happiness, irrespective of how I was feeling. I was not prepared for the emotional experience that thinking would bring about.

21244662_10211805042095761_2026440898_nThere’s that saying; ‘looking for my other half’, that people use when they talk about finding that person who is their soulmate. Whether that’s important to you or not, I think there’s something about this quote to bear in mind. No-one else should ever be your other half because you are already a whole. This is actually quite a new revelation for me, but one that has made all the difference, both to my relationship with others and with myself.

Adopting this perspective is, in essence, very flexible. It can mean that you need to go and be single and find happiness with yourself completely alone, but it doesn’t have to. It can mean constantly surrounding yourself with family and friends to build up morale, but only if you want it to. Whichever suits, my point is that no matter how endearing your environment is, the positive words from people around you cannot fill the sadness of how you see yourself forever. You must give yourself time to learn, to help yourself.

I am a huge advocate of drawing from the people around you. Having hated myself for so long, I have found so many parts of myself that I now love through other people and how they saw me. A few years ago, however, these positive words will have needed to be regular; I was in constant need of recognition that I was of any value. What they were saying wasn’t sinking in, because deep down I still couldn’t see past what I saw.

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When no-one was around to reassure me, I plummeted back into sadness, which took a toll on almost every aspect of my life. As I watched myself let everything slip away, I realised that I was losing myself. I decided that something had to change. I took a deep breath and a step back. I spent a summer with less social media and less communication with friends. It gave me a chance to reflect on myself, the words of others, and how I wanted to see myself. I built up confidence, proving to myself that I was of value rather than needing someone else to tell me this. It was a long process, and how I went about it may not suit you at all, but what matters is making that change.

I finally allowed my friends’ words to change my own mind, and as a result, I’m starting to embrace a happiness which is beyond fulfilling. This happiness comes from within. This is where we come back to that quote because that is what we all deserve. You are – always have and always will be – enough, but we need to take charge of our own self-worth to truly realise that. No-one can permanently plug that self-doubt you have, no-one can fill that space of insecurity forever. Using the people around you and their appreciation for you, you can build up the image you have of yourself into a whole that you become happier with.

While I think that’s important for wider life, it’s also important for the health of your relationship. You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t let go for the benefit of yourself or your partner because your entire world depends on how their opinion of you builds you up. Even whilst in a relationship, you are two very different individuals who have their own lives but needn’t depend on the other. Value one another for the love you give but have enough confidence in your self-worth that you don’t need it to be satisfied.

As I said before, everyone is different, and everyone improves themselves differently. Your environment, be that a relationship, friends, or family is a gold mine for learning about what others value in you. The importance of the emotional awareness that sex ed neglects, lies simply in seeing this within yourself. In no time at all, you’ll find yourself taking the world by storm because knowing yourself – the ‘to-be-improved’, the value and the good – is nothing to be afraid of. Rather, take your happiness into your own hands and go for it, in love, ambitions or everyday life, all while knowing just what a good egg you truly are.

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Images from Rubyetc, Picture Quotes and The Online Odyssey.
Part of the September Sex Education Week, 2017.

Blue Monday, Blue Winter, Blue Year.

Blue Monday is not the most depressing day of the year, nor is it any more or less depressing than any other day of the year.

January can be a difficult month as we tend to pile even more pressure onto ourselves with sweeping New Year’s resolutions that often force us to think we should be fitter, stronger, or better than we already are. My New Year’s resolution for 2017 is to watch more films because I keep watching the same ones over and over .

I do not plan to get smarter, thinner, or better at riding my bike because I have as much control over the year as I do the weather. This year I’m going to try my best to look after myself while I attempt to embrace the mess that is life after uni.

I don’t believe I will be happy all year. I don’t believe I will be healthy and happy for the next New Year because I don’t know what life will bring. My attitude differs to the popular resolve I’m sure, but it seems fair to me.

As such, I know people will think I’m being negative by saying that Blue Monday is as depressing as any other day. I feel I should however remind you that Blue Monday is false, has no scientific backing, and was made up by holiday company Sky Travel in their 2005 press release. Blue Monday is pseudoscience, and an angle for marketers. So all of this (see below) is bullshit.

bue-monday-is-bs

My point with this piece isn’t to mock you, or to tell you how foolish you are to buy into all the companies and newspapers telling you to be depressed every January 16th. My point is to tell you that for many people, the entire month, season or year can be so awfully blue, that one day won’t make a difference.

We should not see Blue Monday as a day to feel bad about ourselves unnecessarily, but as a reminder of how much work we need to put into looking after ourselves, as often as we can. Whether it’s a seasonal affective, or year-round depression, it’s important to focus on the good.

Articles from the Daily Mail (*cough* trash) telling us why things are terrible and ‘more depressing than usual’, should be replaced with good news, and things to be happy about. We should not feel bad for being upset, and we should definitely not feel bad on behalf of others when we are sad. It is a human right to feel. It is a part of living to cry and feel down, as much as it is to laugh and feel joy.

This Blue Monday, I ask that you stop reading articles about the bad in the world and to instead watch a film, or have dessert or a hot chocolate. I don’t want you to feel bad because you’ve been told to. I ask that you look after yourself as well as you should every other day of the year, and to do your best to keep it up from now on.

Blue Monday isn’t real, but your health and feelings are. Look after what counts, and be kind to yourself.

 

Words by Briony Brake