Trigger warning : Self Harm, eating disorders, suicide.
Myself and my mum went for a lovely long walk this morning. Being world mental health day we got around to talking about mental health. From a very young age I struggled with my mental health. Not being able to talk about it led to food restriction and self harm. My mum tried desperately to get the help and support that I needed. (I recall a doctor saying my scars were superficial and only surface wounds, as if it didn't count) it wasn't until I first attempted suicide that I was referred to a counsellor and then a psychiatrist.
It's infuriating to me that it seems that young people and their parents are still not getting the support they need.
1 in 4 people in the UK will suffer with a mental health problem at some point in their life. But still, mental health is still something people don't really talk about very much and we should.
Struggling with my mental health used to me feel so ashamed and weak. I couldn't talk about it and things just got heavier and heavier to deal with. It's so important to talk, if you feel awkward about talking to someone face to face - email them, just tell somebody how you are feeling. If you don't feel comfortable talking to someone you know you can email the Samaritans
I am not ashamed to say I have done this within the last year x
Do you remember when you were a kid and you did stuff, simply because you enjoyed it? You didn't worry if something you turned your hand to was going to turn out good, or make you a success, or if people would judge you? Sometimes you’d get the odd giggle or judgmental comment. But you managed to shrug them off, because you just did things because you enjoyed them, they made you happy!
But then, as we’d get older, the giggles and judgmental fodder thrown at us start to stick.
We start questioning if we should bother? Will this go anywhere? Will people laugh at us and think we are stupid? Is this a waste of our time?
I think back to me and my sisters as kids. Firstly, we were always playing 'businesses'. We invented libraries and restaurants. We had a jewellery business, we made little bracelets from plastic beads, but that wasn't enough for us, we made a little catalogue to go along with it and we'd try and make sales to our parents friends when they came around, telling them to buy it for their wives. We also like choreographing bodybuilding shows and dance routines to entertain ourselves. It was amazing and fun, we never questioned if it was stupid. We just loved doing these things.
I remember my older sister, feeling restricted by her fashion wheel, designing loads of amazing outfits on her notepad and watching fashion shows and freely sharing her thoughts on designs and designers.
I remember my younger sister writing full on books at 7 years old, full of exciting adventures and proudly sharing them with us.
I remember writing songs on my keyboard, protest style songs. I remember singing about poor little spiders and cows to my sisters and people who came to our house. I remember designing workout routines inspired by ‘Mr Motivator’ and excitedly showing them to people.
We were always proud of the things we created, but somewhere along the line, we got quiet about it. We started worrying about what the world would think of us. I think we each spent quite a chunk of our late teens and 20’s, like so many other people, worrying about what others thought of us instead of living life for ourselves. When you stop doing the things you love and start living to what you believe others expectations are you start losing little pieces of yourself. We are always told we have a short time on this earth but it feels a massive slog when you’re not true to yourself.
I am so proud of my sisters today. I still see them struggling between doing what they love and worrying about other people, as do I. But my older sister is working in fashion and my little sister has published two of her books.
It’s so important to start just doing things because we love doing them. I am not saying quit your job and start your own business, but honestly, if you loved drawing when you were a kid – start drawing again, If you loved writing – start writing again! Whatever it was, start doing it again because you enjoy it, do it for yourself without worrying if it’s good enough or what others will think of it!
It might turn into something amazing, it might turn into nothing or it might help you find pieces of yourself again.
I don't know about you, but scrolling through instagram used to make me feel 'less than' and fairly shitty about myself. That was until I realised instagram wasn't the problem. I was, or rather who I was choosing to follow. So I deleted all accounts that made me feel like there was something wrong with me and started following ones that helped me to nurture my self image.
These are just 5 of my favourites.
This may sound dramatic but Girls Gone Strong changed my life. I have always loved fitness and longed to work in the fitness industry, but the way fitness is marketed to women just didn’t sit right with me. It made me question if I wanted to be a part of the industry. I luckily stumbled across GGS and it showed me it doesn’t have to be about food guilt and body shame.As their website puts it.
“We have come together to provide a common voice of body-positive, evidence-based information about strength training, nutrition, having a fit pregnancy, women’s health, physical therapy and injury prevention, fat loss, mindset, and much more. Our Advisory Board members are the top female experts in their fields. These brilliant, world-class health and fitness professionals—along with other highly-qualified contributors we hand select—combine the latest research with decades of experience working with women in the real world to offer solutions that help women reach their goals in a realistic, sustainable, and compassionate way.”
Their Instagram is full of information about how to correctly complete certain exercises, body positive messages and the odd poke of fun at bad marketing of fitness toward women such as the post above.
Jessamyn is a goddamn legend! Yogi and author of Every Body Yoga. If you want to pull your hair out at the current ‘cookie cut’ image of the fitness industry you definitely will not regret following her and having her show up on your social media feed with wisdom as exampled below:
“The meat of a yoga practice happens off the mat- it comes up at the intersections of identity, the spaces where we’re forced to reckon with the light and dark inside of ourselves. Yoga poses are just a vehicle to a much bigger reckoning within the self. As my yoga practice has deepened, its become less about glorified gymnastics and more about reckoning with the light and dark inside myself. At this point in my life, physical and spiritual reclamation is a huge part of that. I’m sure that’s a little disconcerting for those who have been sold a different definition of yoga and who come over to my journal looking for posture inspiration- but this page isn’t about the yoga of mass marketing. This is about my yoga and my yoga is messy and complicated and NSFW and vulgar as fuck. My grandma wouldn’t approve and I doubt yours would either. Good thing this shit isn’t for them, huh?”
Jen is a trainer and former rugby player and wants to inspire people to become their best selves and to support a healthy, balanced, deeply satisfying way of life. She shares lots of demos on how to perform moves correctly without weightloss being mentioned at all!
Sylvia Mac is a Child Burn Survivor, Campaigner, Model, Inspirational Speaker, Cross Continent Swimmer, Blogger & Founder of Love Disfigure support network. Love disfigures recent campaigns have included outdoor swim challenge from Asia to Europe completed in July 2019, Launched Love Disfigure TALKS to encourage people with visible and hidden differences and much more. I encourage everyone to follow.
Bryony is a Telegraph columnist and author of Mad Girl, The Wrong Knickers and Eat, Drink, Run. You Got This. Her insta encourages good body image, self respect and the importance of mental health.
Inconsistency is the roadblock that will stop you from arriving at your goals. But when you're in a full time job, have kids and are trying to fit in quality time with friends and family, how are we supposed to stay on top of everything and not get sidetracked from doing the things we'd promised ourselves we would in order to reach our goals?
Here are 10 tips that can help:
1. Be specific!
Be SMART when setting your goals:
S – Be specific, don’t simply say “I want to be able to run” you could run for 2 seconds – job done. How far do you want to run?
M – Measurable. So for the above example let’s say running 5k.
A – Attainable – your goal should be challenging but achievable.
R – Realistic – your goal should be realistic.
T – Timed – smack a deadline on it!
Lots of people struggle with their ‘Goal Roadmap’. Start at the end, write down your 5 year goal and unravel it.
To reach it, where would you need to be in a years time, 90 days time, a months time?
Crossing these milestones offer the reassurance that we are heading in the right direction and give us a sense of achievement that keeps us moving forward.
2. Know your own schedule!
Set a time every evening to create or run through your schedule for the next day.
Assign a realistic amount of time to complete each task, if you’re not sure how long it will take, give yourself extra time.
For your big goals, give yourself small daily tasks to move you towards them.
3. Reward yourself!
Completing your goals is no small feat, so reward yourself! Even for small goals! A reward can consist of something as simple as scheduling time in for yourself to read a book, meditate or lay down and listen to your favourite music. Being consistent doesn’t mean being on the go all the time! It’s about scheduling in things that will move you towards your goal and scheduling time to rest – rest makes your more productive!
4. Make peace with failure being a part of success!
If things don’t go to plan – keep going! Sometimes even the best laid plans fall apart. There will be times when you miss your deadline, not be able to keep to your word or make mistakes. It doesn’t mean you are not consistent – it’s just life! Just learn from it and keep moving. If you don’t do a scheduled in workout, ask yourself why? Plan for setbacks! You may have had a genuine reason for missing it or just talked yourself out of it – just keep going and put a plan in place to avoid failing next time
5. Hold yourself accountable!
If you are not reaching the goals you have set. Take it up with yourself. Ask yourself what you can do to improve. Are your goals realistic? Are you planning and sticking to your schedule? The only person you have control over is you!
6. Be patient – change takes time!
When we decide we want to make changes in our lives it can be very exciting and tempting to throw in a massive list of new habits we want to establish. Be mindful and realistic about the time it can take to implement and see changes.
In a study examining 96 people over a 12-week period attempting to form new habits, it was shown to take anywhere between 18 and 254 days, with the average amount of time being 66 days. So don’t give up if you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere after a few weeks.
7. Challenge negative thinking!
Negative thinking is one of consistencies biggest enemies. Make sure you catch negative thinking before you let it in. When negative thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this' start to sneak in, turn it around. Simply saying “I can do this” may feel a little forced. So try “I’m struggling with this at the moment, but I’m going to keep at this, I am further along than where I started”. If a goal is becoming overwhelming there is no shame in revising it, break it into smaller steps or change it slightly.
8. Make sure your goals are your own!
I can’t stress this one enough. It may seem obvious, but it often isn’t. What we think we want is often heavily influenced by friends, family, the music we listen to, the shows we watch, the things we read and social media. Our goals are not always influenced by the things we are actually deeply passionate about.
Take time to question the goals you set for yourself and why you want to achieve them!
9. Get organised!
Make sure you are using a calender and know what is in it.
Tidy your cluttered desk!
Plan everything e.g 7:00pm – 7:15pm plan tasks for tomorrow.
10. Know why you started and remind yourself of this regularly!
It’s easy to become bogged down with things you need to do to reach your goal, don’t forget why you wanted to do this.
Revisit your goals on a daily basis!
It's quite natural to struggle with self belief in some way or another. It could be lack of belief in your own intelligence, your body image, your judgement, your own abilities... the list goes on.
One of the reasons we struggle with self belief is because the main thing our brain wants to do is to keep us alive, this can sometimes work against us, making us shy away from anything we don't perceive as having an 100 percent success rate. I don't know if any of you have seen the film 'Home' (SPOILER ALERT If you haven't) Oh and the other Boovs run from anything they perceive as having less than a 100% success rate, until he meets a human girl and learns that you can succeed even if success looks minimal... honestly watch that film.. it's a cryer!
Anyway, self belief is like that, it seems illogical at times, our brain is trying to keep us safe, but it can be our downfall, if 'Oh' didn't have self belief planet earth would have been destroyed. It's that serious people!!!!
But how can we make ourselves believe in ourselves?
1) Learn to fail
That's right we need to learn to fail in order to succeed, or at least accept that failure is only a temporary part of the process. It's like those short stories you were told in assembly. There is a life lesson in there somewhere, pick it out polish it off and learn from it.
2) Set Realistic Goals
I have said this before and I will say it again, as well as setting realistic goals, set yourself up for small wins. Something you know you can achieve - It will do wonders for your self belief.
3) Acknowledge your accomplishments
Write them down - as many as possible!!!
4) Don't compare yourself to others.
It's impossible to fairly compare yourself anyway, we all have our struggles we all have things we are slaying, if your looking at social media you are only looking at someones best bits.
While discussing how damaging negative self-talk can be I will often get the response “you don’t know what it’s like, You don’t hate yourself, your body is normal, my negative self-talk is inevitable because of how I look, you’re so positive about body image – you don’t know how this feels”
And while yes, I don't know how you feel, I'm not you. I have struggled with the relationship I’ve had with my body since I was a small child. I’ve physically harmed my body with self-harm and disordered eating. As an adult I’ve argued with friends and family for daring to take a photo of me and/or put it up on social media and I’ve not attended parties or events because I thought my body was too disgusting and that people would judge me.
The final straw was quite a few years back, discovering that my husband took sneaky pictures of me, ones that would never see the light of day and he said that he felt as though it looked like he was a widower as I was absent from all photos. From then on I read all I could and took courses on how I could improve my body image, my self-esteem and more importantly my self-worth.
I won’t lie to you, it’s something I have to constantly work on and keep in check, there are days when I catch myself saying vile things to myself but now I do catch myself, it doesn’t go unchecked and now we take photo’s all the time, although being comfortable with other people taking photos of me does still make me feel a little anxious.
These are 5 important strategies to start building your self esteem:
1. Make your own needs a priority.
We live in a world where people talk about how selfish people are. Yet most people put their own needs on the bottom of the pile. Ask yourself “What do you need?” I am not talking about the type of immediate gratification that comes with pouring yourself a nice whiskey. What fulfills you? What makes you happy? Where do you want to be in life? It isn’t selfish to take the steps to get closer to those things.
2. Challenge your own negative self-talk
Most of us are good people. Why is it then, that when we are alone in front of the mirror, we give voice to the cruelest of inner critics? Imagine if you said the things you said to yourself to a friend, imagine the look on their face, imagine how damaging saying those things would be to their self-esteem. Yet we do this to ourselves regularly throughout the day. STOP. Start to catch yourself doing it, start to question those things as if you were defending a friend from spiteful and harmful language.
3. Set Achievable goals.
Sometimes, if we have arrived at the point where we want to set goals for ourselves it is because we are eager for change. It can be very tempting to say "I want to be able to do 10 pull ups by the end of the month" but if you are currently struggling to do 1, is it achievable. When we set goals that are way out of reach it can diminish our self esteem when we do not reach them and damage our self trust.
4. Experience Success
Think about how we motivate children. If a toddler attempts walking for the first time, takes half a step, stumbles and falls down. Would you say “well that was rubbish, that wasn’t walking at all” or would you clap and encourage them with “yay, that was amazing, you walked, well done!”
Seek out situations and projects that stretch your abilities but don’t overwhelm them, situations where your probability of success is high. Then praise and celebrate your accomplishment, do not say “oh well, it was easy anyway”. Getting some ‘wins’ under your belt will help you to build up faith and trust in yourself. It’s a great way to get your motivation rolling.
5. Free yourself from the shoulda-coulda-wouldas
You know this bit in the original cartoon version of the Lion King:
Simba: I know what I have to do. But going back will mean facing my past. I've been running from it for so long.
*Rafiki hits Simba on the head*
Simba: Oww. Jeez... What was that for?
Rafiki: It doesn't matter, it's in the past.
Adult Simba: Yeah, but it still hurts.
Rafiki: Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.
Seriously, don't get bogged down with what you could have done, it's done. Focus on what it taught you and how to apply it to now - do not use it as a stick to beat yourself with!!
For this Wonderful Woman Wednesday, I had the pleasure of talking to Suzanne Heaven of ‘Heaven’s Homebaked Cakes’. Heaven’s Homebaked cakes is small, local, independent company who love to work with other local businesses and baking for their local community. Suzanne’s business started out with her making celebration cakes and cupcakes. It has now expanded into takeaway afternoon teas, bakes, postal bakes, catering for allergies, doing talks, workshops and demonstrations.
Emma: Suzanne, what gave you that push to turn your passion for baking into a business?
Suzanne: I’m a qualified librarian and had worked in a high school library for 11 years previously. I experienced a few major life-changing events and decided to take the plunge.
Emma: Did you ever have doubts about doing that? It must have been quite daunting after working for someone else for so long?
Suzanne: Not really to be honest. I’ve always wanted to run my own business and work for myself and love baking (I’m definitely one of life’s feeders), I’m not getting any younger and thought if I don’t do it now when am I going to do it?! I lost my mum and my Nan within a few weeks of each other, it definitely changed my perspective!
Emma: I'm so sorry to hear about your Mum and Nan. That must have been pretty difficult, I definitely can see how that would change things.
Suzanne: Thank you. It was incredibly hard and extremely tough. I definitely lost my way for some time.
Emma: I can imagine, how did you pull yourself out of that?
Suzanne: To be honest I reached out to friends and family, my daughter was my reason to get up in the morning.
Emma: I think a good support network is essential to overcoming anything. What do your talks involve?
Suzanne: I’ve done a talk to an Age Well group for over 65s, so I talked about running my own business and demonstrated some buttercream and fondant work on cupcakes.
I was extremely nervous but in the end. I loved it!
Emma: So the talk was received really well?
Suzanne: The talk was great in the end and the response was great. They even laughed at some of my jokes. I took brownies and flapjacks for them to enjoy afterwards with a cuppa, and they’ve invited me back near Christmas. As a spin off I then was invited to do a cupcake workshop with small groups of kids at the local youth club. The children did some hands on cupcake designs and it was good fun! I’ve got a few other things in the offing but not finalised yet.
Emma: Wow, that sounds like a great result, you're obviously good at what you do! What have been the biggest struggles in running your own business and how have you overcome them?
Suzanne: I try my best!
I now have built up a lot of very loyal supportive followers who interact on Facebook and promote me on plane and by word of mouth.
There’s been lots of struggles, and continue to be many! Sometimes it’s like a stamina test trying to get through the day baking, posting on Facebook, responding to enquiries etc. I find it very full on most of the time, but I love what I do and consider myself very, very lucky.
Emma: That’s great to hear! One last thing, what's your favourite part of what you do?
Suzanne: I love taking someone’s ideas for a cake and creating something they love. But I also love going to toddler groups to sell my cakes and bakes and talking to the mums and grandparents and children about what I do. I also love the interaction with customers and a positive review and recommendation is the best!
Emma: I agree. Thank you so much for talking to me and sharing your experiences.
Suzanne: You’re very welcome, thank you for the opportunity to share it with you.
I love working with and supporting other small businesses!
If this has tweaked your tastebuds you can find heaven's homebaked cakes on facebook or here.
I've been meaning to do this segment on my blog for awhile. 'Wonderful Woman Wednesday' where I get to talk to everyday women like you and me, that happen to be doing wonderful and extraordinary things. I couldn't think of a more fabulous person to start with than my own mother.
My mother has always taught me to speak up for the things you believe in (even if they have gone against her own way of thinking). She currently campaigns for more awareness surrounding Pancreatic Cancer and let me question her about it below:
Mum, as you know I've wanted to start featuring 'ordinary women doing wonderful things' on my blog. It seems very natural to start with you. You do a lot of work raising awareness about pancreatic cancer. Can you tell us what your work currently involves and what inspired you to start raising awareness?
We lost our cousin in 2004 to Pancreatic Cancer just 12 days after diagnosis . It was a shock, but then 3 years later we lost Mum's brother to the same disease. It didn't stop there. Mum was diagnosed January 2010 with Pancreatic cancer and died 7 weeks later, March 11th. I couldn't accept that 3 of them could die from a disease that I hadn't heard much about. I started out Fundraising for Pancreatic Cancer UK for better support for patients and to raise awareness. It kind of escalated to me doing some media interviews, public speaking and helping campaign for a debate into funding at Westminster. Being naive I didn't realise health issues in Wales are devolved to Welsh Assembly, so am currently pushing for a debate on Survival Rates and earlier diagnosis with Welsh Assembly
What will a debate on survival rates and earlier diagnosis do for those who are and who will be affected by pancreatic cancer? What problems are there currently with diagnosis? How low are the survival rates after diagnosis at the moment?
Mam: Pancreatic Cancer is currently the deadliest common cancer. The survival rate at 1 year is around 23%, and to 5 years is just 5%. Every hour someone in the UK is diagnosed. The best chance of survival is surgery but....and it is a big but, it takes early diagnosis to have a chance of that....ideally at stage 1 or Stage 2 diagnosis. Unfortunately, due to lack of awareness, people are unlikely to get diagnosed until Stage 4, when the disease has spread to other organs. We need to raise awareness, and also equip our GP'S to recognise symptoms quicker.
What are symptoms to be aware of? Also you mention GP's need to be equipped to recognise symptoms, meaning currently they're being overlooked, do you think people should be straight forward with their GP's and say "look, I have these symptoms, I'm worried it could be PC"
Symptoms include upper abdominal pain just under the rib cage going around right side to back, (roughly where your bra strap is), unexplained weight loss, swollen tum, floating pale and smelly poo, dark urine, jaundice. Obviously some of these symptoms could be something less sinister, such as gallstones or other digestive problems, but the sooner you are checked the better.
For GP'S I think its difficult to diagnose in a 10 minute appointment, especially if the patient doesn't explain all the symptoms they are experiencing. If they are more aware in the first place then yes, asking the GP if it could be pancreas puts them on the right path. Surely it's better to rule out the worse case scenario first?
I completely agree. Since you've started campaigning, what have been your biggest 'wins'?
Being part of the team involved in getting the drug Abraxane approved. Although it only increases life expectancy by an average 2 months, with this disease that is almost doubling the time the patient has. It gives them a chance to put their affairs in order, and to spend precious extra time with loved ones. That and being invited to a garden party at Buckingham palace, where I got to talk to people from other charities at the same time as raising awareness about Pancreatic cancer. For me personally, my "win" is gaining confidence at speaking publicly to Politicians...its something I never thought I would be able to do. I'm no Politician or public speaker. Also, and probably the most important, setting up support groups. A diagnosis of cancer is terrifying. To be able to speak to others in the same position helps so much.
Tell me a bit more about the support groups you've set up.
The first one I helped to set up was on Facebook and we had 6 members after the first week. 7 years on we have almost 3,000, plus sister groups in USA, Scotland, and more recently Wales. I also run a face to face group in Cardiff that meets once a month. Its generally a coffee and a chat. If there is something concerning them about their diagnosis or treatment I put them in touch with Specialist Pancreatic Cancer Nurses. Sometimes it's just a relief for them to talk to a stranger as they worry their "chat" will upset family members.
That sounds really helpful, I remember when Nan was diagnosed and discussing any worries or fears with anyone close made me worried that people would fear I was giving up on her. Is it possible to have the links for the groups so anyone reading can join for support?
What you said about Nan is exactly right. One of the main topics that they struggle with is end of life care... not because they are giving up, but they want to be prepared for whatever comes next. Mam: On Facebook its Families In Support of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness or Team Wales for Pancreatic Cancer. They can also check out support groups in their area via website www.pancreaticcancer.org.uk or email me MrsLinda.email@example.com
What have you found most challenging/frustrating since you started campaigning and how do you ensure it doesn't de-motivate you and what you're fighting for?
It's the same answer every time. When people say its impossible to diagnose. Yes, it's tough to diagnose, tough to treat, but nothing is impossible. The very word itself says I'M POSSIBLE! Breast cancer, prostate cancer - they had low survival rates 40 years ago. They have improved so much with better funding. Breast cancer now has survival rates of 85% plus. That's down to better awareness of symptoms and seeing a GP earlier. Whenever I feel helpless I remember how hard my Mum fought to stay with us, how she campaigned for cancer awareness, animal rights etc and that makes it a no brainer for me. I have 3 amazing daughters, 3 beautiful grandkids. I have to keep fighting for change so that there is a better chance of survival in the future!
To nominate a wonderful woman that the world needs to know about message me - firstname.lastname@example.org
Handy Little bag for your kit... Just click the rafflecopter link above to enter xxxx
Body positivity is now talked about a lot. However, if you're struggling with it, you're not alone & you're definitely not failing. Despite wanting to be positive, pressure to look a certain way is everywhere. It's no surprise that niggles are likely to keep in. Body positivity, self-praise and self-value is something we should always check in on.
You may be familiar with the phrase ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’ on the face of it, it appears to be saying ‘be kind to others’. But if you look more deeply at this phrase it assumes that we are already being kind to ourselves!
When alone in front of our mirrors, many of us say things to ourselves that we’d never dream of saying to our worst enemies. If you were saying the things you say to yourself to a friend, can you imagine how much that would chip away at them?
Learning to be kind to ourselves can be surprisingly difficult, so to start with this week, I just want you to notice when you are putting yourself down, try to catch yourself, try to stop yourself. Write how frequently you are doing this down in a notebook. After a few days revisit it and reply as you would if it were a friend saying those things about themselves. If you feel brave enough get a friend to reply to your self-critique. They often are quicker to see how fabulous you are! xxx
This Is me:
I’m Emma, I train women (Offline and Online) who may struggle with their confidence and self esteem. I believe that women need more options that suit different lifestyles and needs, some of us don't have time to stick to a rigid plan, some people are to scared to even set foot in a gym (I have been there).