Michelle Hopewell

Michelle

Black British, faith filled, curvy actress with a love for food, great music, good movies, life changing literature and awkward moments.

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Belonging and Learning To Take Up Space

Belonging and learning to take up space

When we are very, very small and the world has not yet gotten to us, we believe, unless told otherwise, without a shadow of a doubt that we belong and that we can do anything.

The idea of taking up space used to be a concept I absolutely could not comprehend. I didn’t want to be seen and I certainly didn’t want to be heard. I did my best to squeeze myself into the smallest of places. I didn’t want to be anything but a gentle breeze because that’s how people wanted me to be right?

They needed me to be all soft features and voice and ideas and opinions, to match my equally soft body. You stay in this little corner and in this little box because you are this sex, this colour, this shape, this size and pretty soon you wind up feeling like there is no place you can go to exist.

I found I came into being whenever I listened to music or sang or read or watched movies or saw a piece of theatre. It was like a light would go on in me and suddenly the invisible girl was visible, even for the shortest of time, she was suddenly there again and I could live, but then it would end and the light would go out.

Darkness once more, but there was more light coming.

The body positive movement was that other light, and coupled with all the things that I love, it meant that finally, the light wasn’t going out so easily any more. It was starting to turn on and stay on.

A sense of belonging is important, taking up space is important and knowing we are enough is important. Along the way the things that support these truths are what help us grow into that next level of our lives. Here are some of those things:

 

1. Self Care – This the ultimate act of self acceptance and acknowledgement. When you take the time to get to know yourself and to care for yourself you are saying: you are enough, you are worth knowing, you are worth caring for and that is the gift of belonging to ourselves.

 

“Self care is never a selfish act – It is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on this earth to offer to others.” – Parker Palmer.

 

2. Purposeful Actions – Be deliberate when taking up space! Instead of choosing the easy option, the default option, make a bolder choice to step out and be brave. When you’re in that class, sit at the front instead of at the back. When you’re ordering that thing make a definite choice to speak up so that you can be heard. Whether its cleaning out your room or giving a talk in front of a whole bunch of people, be purposeful and unapologetic about being there and being present.

 

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born, and they day you find out why.” – Mark Twain

 

3. Do Something That Scares You – There are a whole host of things that actually put the terror in me and I am conquering those things one at a time. Life is too short for us to stay in a little bubble that has been created for us or that we have created for ourselves out of fear. We learn our greatest lessons when we are out of our comfort zone and challenging ourselves. So pick something, big or small today that scares you but that’s going to push and challenge you to grow!

 

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Agatha Christie

 

4. Find Your Community – It matters who you surround yourself with. It is possible to have great relationships in some seasons in our lives, and for those same relationships to turn toxic when we enter into a different season. It’s so important you surround yourself with people who are excited to be part of your journey and who are there to encourage you and vice versa. We need to know that we can be building each other up and not tearing down. Not all the relationships we start off with our capable of handling that. Its always quality of quantity. So while you’re community might not end up looking like the first unattainable pilot episode of friends, you should be aiming to have people in your life championing healing in your life!

 

“The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki

 

5. Letting Go Of The Past – We could spend our whole lives living in the past and our past circumstances. We could spend the rest of our lives grieving what was lost, how we were treated, and the ways we’ve been hurt, but there comes a time when we must leave the past and move through the present and look to the future. Until we get our hands on a Tardis, we cannot rewrite the past, and even then, we shouldn’t want to because its informing us and growing us. Forge forwards and dare to let go of the issues you tying you down or hiding you away from the person you are allowed to be.

 

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” – M Kathleen Casey

 

Nobody puts baby in the corner comes to mind when I think of how we are all searching to belong.  We are in the world but we are not strictly of this world. We are made of all of these complex, divine and beautiful things, and all of those things come together to create you, and so you are very much existing right here.

You are belonging right now.

You are alive and it is wonderful.

Now go take up some space. Go make some noise. Go spread some love.

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Body Confidence When You Don’t Feel Confident

confidence

There was definitely a point in my body confidence and acceptance journey that I assumed that once I loved myself all of my body confidence issues would miraculously melt away. I thought I would live the rest of my life out of the reach of the issues that had once pushed me so far into self loathing I could not see a world in which I didn’t view myself than less than.

I longed for the fairy tale ending of being the princess that not only chose the prince but gosh darn it, chose herself; and her perfect porcelain body with long flowing locks, sea foam eyes, socially acceptable ideals and opinions, brimming with confidence and with a glamorous bank account to match.

Only one problem: I wasn’t any of those things and nor would I ever be. The illusion was shattered and I was left looking at myself, which at the time was a busted Cinderella with braids, no confidence, an expensive degree and low key adoration for the arts that maybe didn’t adore me back.

I know what you’re thinking: how can you get to the place where you love yourself, but admit there were and sometimes are still times when you look to the girl to the left of you and don’t see a clown, but in fact a glory of womanhood you long to be? When exactly will what you are be enough for you to live a full life?

Honey, these are all excellent questions to be perfectly honest and the truth is the point of a body confidence journey is that it doesn’t always have an immediate end of destination. The travelling may take days or it might take weeks or months…or years and its difficult to think that along the road we might have moments where our resolutions slips but that is the truth of the human condition. Our perfect imperfections means that sometimes we have a bit of a struggle, but when we have hope and when we have faith – that’s when we can push on.

That being said.

Let’s admit a few things first.

    • We look at the grass and it does in fact seem greener in somebody else’s garden. Let’s be real, what are you going through right now? Financial instability, family troubles, mental health issues, pressure from work or school, failing or failed relationships, commitment phobias…the list goes on. All or some of these things are littering your own grass and you crane your neck over to see your neighbours but from your angle their garden looks clear and you’re like, HOW CAN I GET THE SAME ORDER IN MY OWN DANG GARDEN. When the truth is from your limited angle you don’t see that their garden isn’t clean but they have in fact just pushed all of the same issues you’re struggling to the back or side of their garden. So take care of your own garden even though its hard work and the temperature might seem too high or the rain and wind might seem too much. This is the only garden you’ve got and it deserves your full attention.
    • Sometimes we don’t feel that deep resounding love for ourselves. Sometimes we look at ourselves on our low confidence days and think: basic. You know what? There’s nothing wrong with being basic. How can we be this untouchable entity at all times? We simply cannot. There will be times when your crown might slip, but what matters most is how you put that crown back into place.

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  • FOMO will literally stop you from living your best life. Wait, what’s FOMO? Fear of missing out! It’s basically the same idea of the grass being greener, except instead you punish yourself for the idea that you are going to miss your chance to live a good life. This just isn’t the case! You are never going to be the same as everyone, nor will your experiences be. We are all united in the fact that our paths are unique but emphatically connected in the desire to live fully!
  • You’re not always going to be moved by body positive content. You know when you eat your favourite cookie all the time and then you start to get a bit sick of it? The same goes for pretty much everything we expose ourselves to on a regular basis – except pizza. I will never get sick of pizza. Sometimes we have chased the perfect quote or the ideal tips so hard and so desperately that the meaning of those helpful and positive things become meaningless to us. We desensitize ourselves to the things that challenge us the most as a way of self preservation, but instead of giving up, take more time to sit down and really digest things.
  • When you talk smack about yourself and you self depreciate you just prolong the process – but we still do it anyway. We find small ways to put ourselves down because to an extent we are programmed to believe that this our normal; and so after a while our default might be to throw in a little insult because how can it be okay to be so okay with yourself for so long, but actually it really is okay to be digging what you’ve got going on!

Truthfully, body confidence is a process and it is individual. It will be joyous but it will also have moments of bitterness and exhaustion because those things come hand in hand with being a human being. You are not defined by the moments where you find it hard and you struggle, but you are going to be stronger for the moments you spend fighting despite the struggles.

No matter where you are on the journey, whether it’s full blown self love affair or honeymoon phase over, you are alive and enough and you deserve to keep exploring and growing to be the best you can be.

Regardless there is a whole a community of people who are rooting for you. They love you. We love you. I love you.

You’ve got this!

 

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5 Black UK Bloggers

5 Black UK Bloggers

It’s very clear that across the world we are on the cusp of what I think will be another push forward in civil rights for people of colour. We are having to recognise that racism, prejudice, and equality are still very much present. Perhaps we are no longer in chains but we are bound in multiple other ways and these microaggressions committed daily are what stops minority groups from not only surviving but thriving.

Race. It’s not the most comfortable conversation to have but you would be surprised how much open dialogue will take away some of the stigma and fear.

Within the plus size community I think – no, I know –  that there is more we can be doing to be part of the conversation and part of seeing some solutions. Change starts at home and the plus community is meant to be a home for all of us!

So what can we do at home to be more inclusive of plus women of colour? Well, we have to know who they are first, so I want to shout out some of my favourite plus size WOC bloggers changing the game.

5 Black UK Bloggers
Political, radical, fashion forward, and unapologetic. She is the definition of “get you a girl that can do both” or in this case, it all! Within the last few months alone Steph has not only been invited to speak at Parliament as part of the youth select committee to discuss body image, but has participated in multiple panels for Black British young people, and has recently written an incredible important piece, “Fat Black Women Matter Too“. Steph is that woman we all wished we had had as an example growing up. She isn’t afraid to speak up and fight for those of us who haven’t been fought for. She is an important voice not only for women of colour in the UK but for the plus size community as a whole, challenging us to reflect on how intersectional we truly are. Make sure you follow Steph closely.

5 Black UK Bloggers
There is nothing more satisfying for me as a woman of colour than seeing the other women of colour achieving their goals. Not only is Dennetta a fierce plus model, lifestyle, stylist, and beauty blogger but she is now also a qualified fashion buyer!  This body positive goddess’ blog Livin Phat, Livin Large is relevant, current, vibrant, and bold. This woman sets goals and crushes them. She is fierce and you should have your eyes locked firmly on all the exciting things she’s destined to do for the plus fashion industry.

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5 Black UK Bloggers
This plus model and blogger is on fire. Honest, current, and gorgeous. There’s no need to wonder why Lauren Nicole is signed to a top agency and regularly sporting some of the top plus brands. I for one am grateful for all the young black girls coming up who will get to see such a beautiful melanin queen as their example of body confidence.

5 Black UK Bloggers
Online content creator of beauty, fashion, and lifestyle, Chanel is a boss lady. This woman is taking business to a whole other level, working with UK based brands and internationally she is non-stop. Open, bubbly, and slaying, there is something so beautiful about a confident black woman and she’s on the up and up.  Her aesthetic is clean, trendy, and bold and she’s the independent black woman we can be here for.

5 Black UK Bloggers
The brows are beat, the aesthetic is vibrant and the joy is real with Kayela. I can’t help but watch her vlogs with a big grin on my own face. Giving Nicki M a run for her pinkprint money, from fashion hauls to beauty reviews, hair tips and make up tutorials I know Kayela is about to blow up and lead us all to a bright and stylish future.

The biggest lesson these incredible women are reinforcing to me, is that there is no right way to be black. Our blackness is varying and beautiful and able to inspire.

When we get to know each other, when we stand as allies against ignorance and hate, when we listen, when we celebrate, when we love – that’s when we see real change.

It’s important that you know the these women will have come up against obstacle after obstacle, ignorance in all forms and stood regardless and fought regardless to be unapologetic in their blackness and I am proud to witness their journeys.

You should be too.

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To Glow or To Grow

glow

So if you’re on any of the popular social media platforms I’m sure you will have come across the phrase “The Glow Up” by now; and for those of who aren’t so familiar with the phrase, here is the definition according to urban dictionary.

“To go from the bottom to the top to the point of disbelief. An incredible transformation.”

An incredible transformation? Visuals matter to us as a society now and so we are talking about a change to our outer appearance. We’ve all seen the transformation Tuesdays on instagram, and I have posted a few of them myself, BUT and there is a big but here, figuratively and literally (jokes), I have to say I think there’s a flaw to how we approach the glow up.

You see to glow up, we have to assume that we were previously in a place of lower status. We’re saying that the person that we were before wasn’t nearly as great and aesthetically magnificent as we are right now. Now, even though everything around us is pointing to that being a fact, let’s play a little with the idea and see if we can’t be a bit better in how we look at things.

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When I was younger, like so many of us I assumed that everything I was wasn’t good enough. The way I looked, the way I talked, the way I interacted with my peers. I felt supremely different to them in every way. I thought they were superior. They were slim, and beautiful and knew how to talk to guys, and knew all the latest fashion trends and went to all of the coolest places and just seemed to be excelling socially.

I on the other hand felt like I was just me, which meant I didn’t stand on the corner of my street and drink, I wanted to finish reading that chapter in Garth Nix’s Sabriel for the 100th time because escaping into a world full of fantasy and possibility was the perfect balm to help ease some of reality of life, and dealing with the difficulties of some of the things happening in my life at the time.

I wasn’t confident in my body, in fact there was times were, sadly, I absolutely detested it and so I didn’t want to dress myself up in the clothes my girlfriends were wearing because not only were they form fitting and bold, but a lot of the time even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t have been able to get them in my size. I mean, let’s hold a moment of silence for those of us who we wearing men’s white office shirts as our school white shirts.

Make sure you play something lit within that moment though, we’re not here to rub salt in wounds.

Right, so back to what I was saying.

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
Maya Angelou

When you don’t relate to your peers or to your body as a young person, and you already dealing with a host of issues and hormones and mental health and family issues, you are just one ball of toe up.

You’re already telling yourself you’re not good enough, you’re ugly, there’s no hope and any other negative thing you can conjure and let me tell you from first hand experience it does not take much. We were and we are bombarded with images and articles that try help solidify those untruths as facts in our young minds. We are at war with ourselves and the weapons we are given are often in the form of our favourite tv show, whatever high street brand is popular, sometimes our friends and family, and sometimes ourselves.

I remember being consumed with the idea that maybe one day I’d get older, and I’d be enough to exist. I didn’t know that the girl who was wishing for those things was already enough. She was waiting on the glow up, when she should have been hungering for the grow up.

I had a host of positive influences in my life, including my mother and my sisters and my brother and my dad, but I couldn’t always hear them. They told me I was beautiful, but when I looked in the mirror I didn’t see my friends or the women on TV and so I told myself, “Michelle, you’re not what the world wants or needs” and that couldn’t be more untrue.

You see whatever stage of growth we are at, whatever age we make it to, the world needs us, even if we don’t recognise that. What I didn’t understand was that it didn’t matter if other people thought I was cool or “beautiful” – I was already all of those things because I wanted to be me, and my future was bright because I was loved and because I wanted to love and bring love into the world.

We think that if we achieve a goal weight or have a certain amount of money or followers or make up or clothes that we will be happy and we would have reached the ultimate glow up, but the glow up is eternal, the glow up is learning to love you, for you. It is being tolerant, it is striving to help each other, it letting yourself be open, it is about making steps to bring balance to your body, mind, soul and spirit.

I wish I could tell 16 year old Michelle that the most important glow up would be an internal one, where her foundations would be in faith, and hope and love and care. It wouldn’t matter if she walked around in a paper bag, she would still glow up to be beautiful.

Talking to a friend recently, I said I felt like I was having a second wind as a woman. Suddenly I was enjoying making my exterior look good, because it wasn’t about doing it for other people or reaching this ideal in my mind because of the things I see around me. I’m not doing my nails or my hair or my make up because I want to be the woman I imagined I should be, I do it because I am happy being me and sometimes that is just sitting in my underwear going over audition stuff but actually using that as a front to watch Netflix, and sometimes its putting my very best wig and my very best heels and going out with my friends. Not to mention everything and anything in between.

I am happy to just be me. That is the ultimate glow up. Who cares if the old you didn’t have great eyeliner skills or acne or was bigger or smaller? It is all a reminder of the war that has been won for your life, all those things make you, you and that is beautiful. They are triumphs and tales of a story that is not yet done. So that’s my definition of the glow up. I hope its yours too.

 

 

 

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7 Amazing Plus Size Actresses

If there’s one thing that helps me on my journey as an actress its being able to hear about the testimonies and celebrate fellow actresses. Part of my journey to learning to love myself is to love others and seeing others succeed is a sure way to fill me with joy, plus who doesn’t want to hear about women in any industry slaying and conquering?

There was a time where certain things weren’t discussed and the lack of representation across industries was one of them. There was a norm and we stuck to that norm because the status quo was held with more regard than the ushering in of progress, which for most of us could not have been more detrimental to a lot of us as as we grew up, but things are changing.

Now we seem to be much more comfortable opening up and having honest dialogues about where we are at and who we are and trying to debunk and undo years of unhealthy brainwashing. I love that we are using the arts to help change and challenge perspectives so that the audiences being reached are as diverse as the people telling the stories.

Those changes are paving the way for novices like me who are still green and grafting. These women are challenging what it means to be woman in the industry. We are being seen and heard, we are no longer just poor stereotypes, but we are getting to represent three dimensional women that we know in our everyday. Beautiful, funny, talented, complicated, kind and generous women.

One of the things that I am grateful for is that not only are these women getting to share the narrative of being a plus body, but they are also making it so that soon it wont matter what is in front of you, it will be inclusive, it will be loved and lovable and it will be a true representation of the world we live in.

That makes for a pretty exciting future!

So in no particular order, because how on earth could I compare these incredibly unique, extremely talented and outstandingly gorgeous women to each other, here’s the list of my favourite seven plus size actresses.

Danielle Brooks – Well known for portraying the role of “Tastyee” on OITNB Danielle is not only an incredible young actress but she is now an important voice in the body positive movement and in the plus size community. It’s her journey to become more visible from the acclaimed Netflix show that pushed Danielle to start exploring her own body positive journey and speaking out about her struggles and her triumphs!

actressImage courtesy of Glamour

Jolene Purdy – Another OITNB cast member, (can you tell I’m a fan of the show), but Jolene has been around for a long time, and if you think back you will definitely remember her from some of your favourite tv shows and movies! For example Jolene breakthrough came in indie film Donnie Darko as character Cherita Chen. Yes that’s her! The beginning of her career Jolene has gone on to be in some other really fantastic shows. Unapologetic, hilarious and with a wicked sense of style, she is also representing the under-represented Asian community. I can’t wait to see what Jolene moves onto next.

Adrienne C. Moore – Okay so you can tell I’m mildly obsessed with the cast from OITNB, but to be fair can you blame me? I’m in a candy store with the amount of fierce, plus sized, racially diverse incredible actresses. How could I not put them on the list, considering the release of the new series! Adrienne makes the list because she is perfection; known for her part of “Black Cindy” in the show, Adrienne is a force to be reckoned with. Her ability to guide us through such a colourful emotional journey at any given time shows that her ability to be versatile is not only incredible, but still untapped. She is another actress and body positive activist that will remain on my radar and continue to inspire me!

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Octavia Spencer – Now Ms Spencer has been working for years, and as a kid I grow up knowing her as one of the few black and plus sized women that would appear in tv shows and films as a secondary character, but regardless she had been doing something that is tough for any act and that’s working consistently. It wasn’t until the 2011 film adaption of the book “The Help” that Ms Spencer became a household name and Oscar winner for her performance as a 1960s African American maid during the civil rights movement. We all know that now iconic line “Eat my s***” which catapulted Ms Spencer, now in her 40s, into a completely other place in her career. She is a living example of being incredible and consistent and being rewarded for that. She is an inspiration to us all, never changing or molding herself to fit into the hollywood “standards” of what is beautiful in order to get the acclaim she deserves.

Sharon D Clarke – I’d argue that Ms Clarke is most definitely a black british counterpart to Ms Spencer. Ms Clarke has been a role model of mine since I was a child. Now if it was hard to see a plus size African American body on the screen, it was even harder to see a black British one, and Ms Clarke became just that for me. Her career spans TV, film and theatre and she is undoubtedly someone that I look up to and admire. I recently had the privilege of seeing her at the Southwark playhouse in a musical called “The Life” and if it wasn’t a matinee and I wasn’t too scared of embarrassing myself, I would have yelled even louder than my inappropriate but formal yelling would allow.  She has and will always be a force to be reckoned with. She has a presence that is unmistakable and more importantly she is representing the hundreds of young black British and plus sized actresses like myself. She paved the way for us and for that I could not be more grateful. Thank you Queen D.

Dascha Polanco – Guys, don’t berate me this way, this is the last OITNB actress I’ll talk about I SWEAR, but believe me Dascha deserves a mention. Nurse turned actress and now body positive and Latina activist, she is not only an inspiration, but an example of how its never too late to achieve your dream. I’m sure if you told her ten – no, five – years ago that she would be where she is now, she wouldn’t have believed you, but her she is being a voice for those who don’t have one. She represents the plus size and Latina communities beautifully and I can’t think of a better and more talented ambassador. OITNB is just the beginning of this gorgeous women’s career and I’m excited to see what the future holds for her!

actressImage courtesy of ET Online

Sharon Rooney – Glaswegian Goddess, Rooney is well known for her phenomenal portrayal of Rae in E4’s My Mad Fat Diary. A look into the world of a fat teen with mental health issues, and a troubled home life. For the first time it was like a light was being shone on the issues that most of us have faced or are facing as young people in Britain. How many of us watched the often heartbreaking but also inspiring journey of Rae as she navigated loving herself, her family and friends while battling with anxiety, eating disorders and body image? Seeing some of her own stories played out in front of us was a gift that kept on giving, but also a responsibility that Rooney herself did not take for granted. A body positive babe herself, as an actor what greater gift can you be given than to tell an important story, a unique story, and a story that could change and sometimes save someones life? And that’s why we do what we do.

So there’s my list, I hope you hung in there with me, I hope you will go and look up these ladies yourself, and watch some of their work, but more importantly I hope knowing that they are out there encourages you! I hope knowing that we have champions in our community fighting to tell our stories gives you hope, and reassures you that your story is just as worthy as anyone else.

 

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Thoughts About Body Confidence and How To Get It

Thoughts About Body Confidence (2)

There’s something I’ve been thinking in the last week or so… What is confidence? How do we get it and how do we keep it?

How can we be confident in ourselves, but also in our bodies?

Body confidence as a movement is sweeping the world; reaching across genders, races, cultures, and backgrounds. We are reaching a point in a society that not only are we rebelliously trying to love all that we are, but we are fighting against the oppressive standards that have been holding us back for hundreds of years.

Every day we are dismantling stereotypes about body image and mental health. We are making moves in exploring intersectionality and breaking down the barriers that have kept us from being unified.

The actual definition of confidence is this:

“the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.”

I have been raised to know that faith is the substance of things hoped for with the evidence of things not seen. Therefore, there’s no right way to be confident and the manifestation of it in everyone will be different. But it’s important to know that you are worthy of living your best life, and living it in the fullest way.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there will be days where you won’t feel so confident. It can take years to find personal and practical ways to build up a strong foundation of confidence, and even when you have the strongest of roots, because we are all human, you will of course have times when it feels like your confidence is not at its strongest.

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I know I can be real with you guys and admit that I have been feeling similarly myself. I have my moments where I second guess myself, over analyse, question every single decision I’ve made, feel terrified at the unknown nature of my future, and feel this weird little gremlin running around.

The thing is – gremlin or not – I need, and we all need, to be able to keep learning and growing.

So what are some ways to do this? Here are some of the things I like to do!

  1. Think POSITIVE  – For my stagey sisters out there we all know that moment in Legally Blonde the musical where Elle’s friends become her “GREEK CHORUS”. Sometimes you need to be your own Greek Chorus. When you’re struggling think of 3 things on the spot you can be positive about. There’s always something to celebrate about yourself!
  2. Get to know yourself – We can go our whole lives being strangers to ourselves, never really taking the time to delve deeper and find out what our strengths and weaknesses are, our likes and dislikes. Take yourself out! The more you know about yourself, the easier it will be start building a more positive self image. There are always ways we limit ourselves, but getting to know yourself will give you ways to work past that. You’ll start to learn how to separate fact from fiction.
  3. Affirmations – Perhaps this doesn’t work for everyone but it is certainly worth giving it a shot. Positive affirmations are ways of speaking positivity into your life in a practical sense. Put some things about yourself, about your life, things that encourage you and things you are good at down on post it notes and stick them around your room. Surround yourself in life affirming messages so that you are forced to reinforce positive truths about yourself.
  4. Do something for someone else – We are stronger as a collective than we are as individuals and so sometimes when you invest your time and energy into something or someone else, it helps build up your own. What can you do for someone else? How can you encourage or sure up someone else? When we are open about how we can help one another we not only change each other, but we change ourselves.
  5. Declutter –  My space often reflects my inner state, and so if chaos is surrounding me then chaos is what will be ensuing internally. This is as good a time as any to clear out the cobwebs and get rid of anything you don’t need, and also reflect about if there’s anything or anyone toxic you need to think about removing from your life.
  6. Get organised – When I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m meant to be, and I’m basically driving a runaway train into procrastination station, I feel somewhat useless. We cant control everything, but we can try and help ourselves out when possible – sometimes that means putting a little bit of organisation into our lives so we can be confident we’re utilising our time.
  7. Don’t compare – If  there’s something that life reminds us of everyday, its that everyone’s journey is different. Our paths and experiences will be different and that’s wonderful because when we come together to share it means we can help each other in different ways: but don’t compare yourself. Just because someone is one place doesn’t mean you are behind or ahead of anyone else. Enjoy your ride, take pride in your journey and let yourself love yourself, as you are, right now.

There is no wrong way to help build confidence in yourself, unless it involves tearing other people down, in which case you’re not building any real or lasting confidence. So build up yourself, build up others and have faith in yourself.

You are so worth believing in.

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Beach Body Ready

Summer is about to be all the way here and, quite frankly, I don’t think any of us could be more excited! Enter vitamin D and twerking in the park to bad girl RiRi tracks stage right. Some of us are at a place where we cannot wait to slip on that sexy two piece or smoulder in an elaborately designed one piece; big arms, big tummy, thick thighs out for the whole world to see. Some of us are still inching towards the finish line, and want to feel cute, but are still a little afraid to reveal all this greatness to the world.

That is totally fine, regardless of where you’re at on your body journey there is something for you and that’s what counts because we couldn’t have said that 10 years ago. When a lot of us were growing up there weren’t options to feel sexy or cute or practical and our age. Every body, female or male, has felt the dread of summer and beach holidays or swimming pools. We would sit in class and try to figure out which drawer we’d buried that oversized t-shirt in, which would inevitably become our summer armour. As much as it pains me to think of that little kid who was too afraid to let their skin breathe and their body exist in whichever form it wanted, we can end that cycle. We can be the ones that pull on the thread of that t-shirt until it unravels, reveals our most public and private glories and proudly stand up as examples to those looking up to us.

Beach Body Ready

At the end of the day it’s true what they say: being beach body ready is simple if you let your body go to the beach, but we know that the journey to get there is probably not as cut and dry as that.

So what are some tips for getting beach body ready?

Start Small
If you’re not ready to make your glittery entrance on a beach that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean you can’t still have an experience, even if it’s slightly more private. Get your swimsuit, get your beach towel and pick a closer location. Whether that’s your bedroom, back garden, your car or the park, find a space that’s safe and build up your strength from there.

Make a list
Lists are an essential part of life, but also a low key indulgence of mine. They have a way of bringing me peace by exposing and pinpointing my fears, I think when getting beach body ready that’s something that has to be done. Lists are a great way to exercise some of your fears. Confessing and acknowledging fears can often take a lot of the mystique away. Debunk some of these myths so you can be on your way!

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Find the one
Finding the right swimsuit for you will be imperative. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sexy two piece or a cute all in one. What matters is that you feel confident and comfortable.  It is super important to make sure you can feel like your inner light is reflecting!

Ditch the ideal
Our bodies are perfectly imperfect and that’s what makes us so darn beautiful. There may always be a part of our bodies that we aren’t completely in love with, and there might always be someone that we can compare ourselves to and feel lesser than. Instead, see yourself as the ideal. Just by being you the world’s already winning.

Hair today, gone tomorrow
Hair is a part of the human body. We all have it regardless. When getting ready for the beach or the pool we usually hit up the beauty salon, or grapple with uncomfortable positions in the shower, to make sure we’re all squared away in the hair department. But in reality: it doesn’t matter. If you’re cool with having hair, or you’re determined to be sleek as a seal, all of it works.

Document
You know how we were talking about the years of covering up with t-shirts? Those were probably also the years of dodging group photos and refusing to have self portraits. We didn’t want any evidence of the traumatic experience of existing. That’s got to change. So document the life out of your beach body slay. Keep every shot. Flattering or not. As a reminder that you are alive and you are taking up space that you deserve to have.

There’s no day like today
Some of us are always finding new reasons to say that the time isn’t right for something we want to do. Instead of planning some far off date for when you’ll finally don that swimsuit, why not move the date forward and jump in? What are you waiting for? Life’s too short to regret not living each day to the fullest.
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What’s On Your Mind? Mental Health Awareness

 

This post mentions a wide array of mental health issues and has the potential to be triggering to some readers.

mental health

The words you can see above are just some of the phrases we’ve all let fall from our lips and that we have had spoken to us and inevitably digested to help fuel the unhealthy idea that there is a problem with mental health.

Mental health issues affect us all in varying degrees. Perhaps you don’t have a name for it, maybe it manifests differently than some of the stories you’ve heard or read about, but be it stress, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, anger management, panic attacks, disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, obsessive compulsive,  phobias, hyper manias, post traumatic stress, psychosis, sleeping problems … every person you know will have suffered with their mental health at some stage of their lives.

It can be a little intimidating to realise that, statistically, you are likely to suffer a blip in your mental health, but the stigma surrounding mental health issues needs to be eliminated for that intimidation not to become fear and exacerbate any potential issues you may have.

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Working in the arts mental health is something affects me daily. In a report done by the Victoria University in Australia it was found that people in the performing arts are ten times more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than the average population. Ten times. The report goes on to say that symptoms of depression are five times higher and statistics suggests they can be linked to issues such as financial instability and poor working conditions – which, of course, are proven catalysts for ill mental health in themselves.

I can put my hands up and say I’ve experienced that anxiety. Sure, I get to do what I love, and its a given that your life will be in flux. But the strain of living your day to day with no idea where you’ll be in a couple of months with little financial support, and sometimes poor living, working and travelling conditions, whilst having your very best demanded from you daily is exhausting.

The same goes for all of us, really. Every single day our responsibilities, our relationships, our jobs, and everything in between demands everything from us, and we often do our best to give everything that we have. But sometimes that drive to perfection or that desire to do our best leads us to the ends of our tethers – which can often be our weakest point.

The only way to really tackle these issues head on is to be completely open and honest about them, in order to remove the stigma and get us all talking. Mental health problems are always going to be there, so the priority needs to be making them easier to cope with. So here are some of my top tips for helping yourself, and your friends and family, deal with mental health awareness.

  1. Talk About Your Feelings – Whether we were told not to cry too much or to stop being too sensitive, we’ve all got memories of being shut down by someone or something when we have tried to talk about how we’re feeling, but please don’t give up because of one ill fated moment. Keep talking, even if you find it the hardest thing to do. I remember a time where the idea of discussing my emotions or problems seemed like a harsh imprisonment, but eventually I found a person I could talk to, and then people and brick by brick, I was able to tear down the wall I had been keeping up for so long. Its hard, but let people in. Let them know that you’re struggling. If its a stranger or a best friend, reach out, and let it out. You don’t need to have it all figured out.
  2. Take a Break – Life has a way of trapping us into routines and tough schedules: keep working with yourself on taking breaks. It’s okay to just give yourself a minute, to just sit with yourself and your emotions and process. I have recently started using the app Headspace (hashtag nonspon) to add to my normal time of meditation and prayer and its been working wonders on helping me start my day off in the right frame of mind.
  3. Keep in touch – It’s super important to have time on your own to recharge your batteries, but its also often a symptom of depression or anxiety to want to pull away from even our nearest and dearest. Try your best to do the opposite. Ask people to check in on you so that you are accountable to someone, so that you have light coming into your life.
  4. Do Something you’re good at – Ego boosts can be good for our mental health and self esteem – and absolutely vital for somebody who feels like they have no talents to speak of. So do something that you excel in. If that’s duvet days, give yourself a gold star for best PJs. If that’s visual art, set up your materials and get to work. If that’s cooking, you better season that meal to the heavens. Do you!
  5. Accept who you are – I know what’s like to feel like I’m not enough. We all do. We often flip and flop between feeling like we’ve got this and don’t need no man, and feeling like we are dirty little gremlins and pox upon the earth. The latter is not true. No matter what we’ve done, what mistakes we’ve made, where we fall short – we are enough. Yes there is always room for growth and learning, because life is about that, but you need to know there is no one else like you and that is amazing. The world can’t be as it is without you and I for one am grateful you exist.
  6. Ask for help – Do not be afraid to reach out. Easier said than done, I know, but if there’s one thing we can think the internet for its access. We are suddenly open to things we never used to be, and when it comes to mental health and resources we are open to a whole new way of getting help. If you need urgent help please know there are things you can do! We are here for you! So many of us are, and maybe you’ve heard someone say that before and they have let you down or maybe you just find it hard to believe, but take one last chance and one more and one more and more and reach out because there will be a hand to take yours!
  7. Care for others – Pay if forward baby. There are times when we feel on top of things, there are times when we don’t. If you feel like you’re in a stable place right now and you owe it to all the people that have helped you, show your gratefulness by being there for someone else. Give your time to a friend in need, volunteer, be vocal with your own experiences, share links to resources on your social media platforms. Talk about mental health even when it isn’t affecting you, because an open and ongoing conversation is the only way to completely end stigma.

Everyone’s self care when it comes to mental health will differ, but we are all united in the fact that we must look after ourselves, our mental health and each other. None of us our perfect, we all have the things that we’re battling, but what’s important is that we fight together!

You’re not alone. You are enough. We will do this.

National Suicide Prevention
0800 273 8255

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TW: Mental health, anxiety, depression etc discussed in article.
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