No More Apologies: Why I’m proud to be me – and why you should be proud to be you, too

I care too much what people think of me. I always have. You would think by now I would have grown a thicker skin, especially given how prolific I am on social media, which opens every one of us to ridicule and scrutiny. But I like to share and actively participate in this crazy thing called life. It’s who I am. It’s what I do. I can’t be what I’m not. No matter how much others might prefer me to be.

I thought long and hard before writing this post. I’ve been close to writing it a number of times before, but always chickened out at the last minute. Why? Because it’s difficult to admit we are vulnerable, and that the opinions of others bother us. And yet, it’s human nature that they do. Only the thickest skinned people are able to ride the waves of others’ judgement and come out unscathed; the rest of us find ourselves shipwrecked, time after time.

It’s amazing how cutting a comment can be, how deeply it can slice into your psyche, revealing all your insecurities, making you question everything about yourself. But if you can get past the sting and consider the motive, it says a lot more about the person who made the comment than it does about you. If you’re comfortable in your own skin and believe not only that you are a good person with pure intentions, but also that you have something positive to offer the world, then why shouldn’t you be exactly who you are, all of the time?

Maybe your Instagram posts aren’t to another person’s taste. Well, guess what? They can unfollow you! Maybe they feel you hog their Facebook timeline with pointless updates. Here’s an easy solution: They can turn down the frequency of your posts. Hell, they can even unfriend you if it bothers them that damn much. Nobody has to engage with another person if they don’t want to.

My point is, you shouldn’t have to tone down who you are because someone else doesn’t like it. Ever. It’s taken me almost thirty six years to realise this, but thank God I finally have. That’s why I choose not to listen to the voices of negativity. I choose to trust myself and my path and my calling. I choose to breathe. I choose to be exactly who I am meant to be. And you have every right to choose the same.

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Why Fashion Just Isn’t My Forte

I’ve never been a dedicated follower of fashion. Sure, I know what colours and styles go together (just about), but I’m buggered if I have the time, energy or money to make sure my labels are in vogue and I’m adhering to the latest trends. In fact, embarrassing as it is to admit this, I’m still wearing some of the same work clothes now that I wore to work a decade ago. But if they still fit and are in good nick, why not? They’ll probably come back into fashion again soon anyway, just like my mum’s suede boots from the sixties that she wishes she’d held onto. Then who’ll be laughing?

But the thing is, as fashion-averse as I seem to be, I’m not entirely comfortable being this way. Why? Because I care too much what other people think, that’s why. Take wearing trainers to work as an example. In London it’s virtually de rigueur to throw a pair of Nikes on with your work suit as you pound the streets to the office. In Brussels, I have learned, it is far less acceptable. In fact, it seems, hardly anyone wears trainers to work here, let alone neon pink Adidas ones like me (I refer you to my previous points re: being unfashionable). Because of this, on the days when I do dare to leave the house in them, I can feel the heat of peoples’ collective disapproval burning a hole in my feet as I walk. I tell myself I don’t care what they think, and fundamentally I don’t, but what I do care about is feeling a bit of a tool, standing out and drawing attention to myself. That I don’t like one bit.

But here’s my dilemma: The morning walk to my office takes twenty minutes, and much of the route is lined with cobblestones, so even if I could be bothered to wear high heels (which I most definitely can’t) they would be a totally impractical choice. Now the weather is becoming warmer the knee high leather boots (flat, naturally) are also inappropriate. This leaves either my lone pair of flat pumps (a throwback to last summer’s meagre fashion injection – or was it the summer before..?) or my running trainers – the former being prettier, but the latter offering more support and cushioning for my feet. And much as I hate to admit it, now I’m in my thirties I’ll take comfort over fashion any day (within reason, I’m not quite ready to purchase my first pair of Clarks granny shoes yet).

Yesterday, on my walk home (wearing the fashionable pumps, I might add), I found the answer to my dilemma: two pairs of simple, unbranded (not particularly fashionable but who cares?), canvas lace-up shoes – one pair in wonderfully neutral blend-in beige, the other a slightly more upbeat pink – that might just see me through this summer of urban living without having to hang my head in shame and avoid the reproachful glares of my fellow city dwellers.

Fashion – 0

Comfort – 1

Fin.

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On Being Judgemental

I don’t remember much about my religious education at school, but one passage from the Bible I remember very clearly was this one, from Matthew 7:1-5:

“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about the human inclination towards judging others. I like to think I’ve been brought up to be accepting, but the reality is that as a result of my experiences, education and interactions with others, a million layers of conditioning have permeated and fused with the synapses in my brain, and they are influencing me every day without me being consciously aware.

I know this because I occasionally catch myself having a fleeting judgmental thought that doesn’t fit at all with how I view myself as an accepting individual. I am so shocked, in these moments, as I cannot reconcile such thoughts with how I see myself or how I want to be. But, whether I like it or not, those thoughts are a part of me, perhaps not a part I am proud of or happy about, but a part of me nonetheless.

Why do we, as a species, so often seek to ridicule – and, in some cases even hate – that which we don’t understand or identify with? What is it that compels us to develop prejudices that serve only to blind us of the very things in our own character that are flawed and need attention? I do not, nor ever could, pertain to know the answer to these questions. But I can’t help feeling that the world would be a better place if someone could.

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It’s a hard knock life

I was walking to work this morning, entirely lost in my own myriad thoughts, when I passed a man whose appearance caught my attention. He was older than me by at least ten years, red-eyed, unshaven and carrying some bedding. It was obvious he had been sleeping rough.

When I got into work I had a meeting about developing case studies for my charity, during which I heard some harrowing stories about young people who, prior to taking part in our programme, had been bullied, thrown out of home, started dealing drugs and carrying knives..the list goes on.

Back at my desk I received an email about dementia sufferers, which said that loneliness (of sufferers and their carers) is one of the most painful and yet most under reported effects of the disease.

Why am I telling you these depressing stories? Because they’re real, and they’re all around us. Every single day people of all ages are suffering. These are extreme cases, granted, and on a lesser scale we all have our problems to work through. Which is precisely why we should treat one another with love and compassion rather than harsh judgment and criticism. I think the picture below sums this up perfectly.