Accepting Average

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Six weeks ago a friend and I were walking down the main high street in Birmingham, when we were stopped by someone who was promoting a new photography studio that had just opened in the city. After a conversation, we came to a deal that involved a makeover and photography day for us both, complete with champagne and various treatments at an enormous discount. Since then, we’ve had the date firmly booked into our calendars and we’ve been looking forward to it.

Until today, that is.

The shoot is tomorrow. It is rare that I will discuss issues of body confidence unless it focuses on the positive, but today I had to choose a series of outfits to take with me, and the whole process left me feeling totally deflated.

I’m not fashionable or fashion conscious, and never have been. I prefer to spend my time in sweaters and tracksuits bottoms in my spare time, my hair is scraped back on the top of my head and the last time I put any effort into applying make up was in March for my friend’s birthday. My reflection in the mirror today was quite a sorry state – my hair hasn’t been cut for about two years, I have never had a manicure and my eyebrows are beginning to take over my face.

On an average day, this doesn’t necessarily bother me – I have a busy and often stressful life and have better things to worry about than whether my nails are painted. I tell myself that I’m an average woman and I am comfortable with that. However, the process of getting ready today reminded me of how many beautiful clothes I can no longer fit into – my favourite dresses won’t go past my thighs, jackets won’t fit on my arms, and once baggy tops are now tight, revealing the gut that has steadily appeared over the last five years.

It has served as a reminder of just how much I have let myself go. Having to stand in fromt of a camera tomorrow (even when there is champagne involved) is one of the most daunting things I have experienced in a while. It has made me realise that I’m accepting average, and I deserve far more than that.

What about you – do you like what you see in your reflection? Are you open about body confidence issues with your loved ones?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks and Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks

Want to find out what happened? Click the image below to see the results!

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Sorry, I’m Not Sorry

imageIn the last few months I have read a number of wonderful posts. While the content of each was different, I noticed that they all began with the same negative introduction:

You will probably find this boring / You may think that this is rubbish / I doubt anybody will be interested in this…

I have learned over time to try and ignore it – I often find that I am pleasantly surprised by the wonderful writing that follows, but admittedly there are times where I have been put off by these self-deprecating opening sentences – the writer is almost apologising for having a thought or an interest in something before they have even given potential readers a chance to form an opinion about it.

What seems to be the predominant reason for the creation of many blogs is that people have an urge to write and feel that they have something important to say, regardless of the content they create. It may be read by one or two people, it may be read by millions, but I find that lots of bloggers feel that the act of blogging is just as fulfilling as the response to the post itself. So why are so many people apologising for this?

While I am rarely apologetic in the blogging world, it made me think about all of the things that I apologise for on a regular basis in my daily life. Being British, it is a natural part of our vocabulary to use ‘sorry’ as a synonym for ‘excuse me,’ but I have also been known to suffer from anxiety and paranoia which causes me to be naturally apologetic in my conversation. The use of the word ‘sorry’ within these conversations highlights the fact that I feel inadequate and vulnerable, which has the potential to make others feel uncomfortable and there have been many occasions where I have been told to stop it by close family and friends.

Of course, it is important to be genuinely apologetic when our actions have resulted in somebody else being hurt or inconvenienced, but in the spirit of positivity and stepping out of my comfort zone in 2015, here are the things that I’m not sorry for:

1. Instantly removing myself from the company of racists, sexists, and homophobes. I can’t abide those people.

2. Wanting to have a work/life balance. In my 20’s, I lived to work. In my 30’s, I work to live. My physical and mental health has suffered because of it and I realised a while ago that being happy and healthy is much more important than earning a big salary.

3. Feeling the way that I feel about a situation. I cannot control how I feel about something, but what I can control is how I choose to deal with it.

4. Taking some time for me. There is nothing wrong with spending two hours at a time in the bath. A few of my friends think this is ridiculous. I don’t… It’s definitely the best way to spend a Sunday night. Or any night, in fact.

5. Posting pictures of my cats on the blog or any of my social media accounts. I have to look at pictures of my friends children – they are my equivalent, my family. If I have to look at little Billy in his new hat, or little Billy at the park, or little Billy with ice-cream or chocolate all over his face (which are all undeniably cute) then others can look at Daisy in a hat too.

6. Being ‘fussy’ with my food – there are so many who like to comment on my personal culinary tastes. I love tomatoes and tomato ketchup, but dislike tomato soup. I like peas, particularly petite pois, but hate mushy peas. I hate all variants of egg – omelettes, boiled, fried, poached, but really like Spanish omelette. I also like to put chips (and by chips, I mean fries) in my soup. There’s nothing nicer than soup and chips – try it, or at least don’t comment about it when I do.

7. Sobbing hysterically at animal charity adverts on the TV. And at romantic moments in my favourite films and books. And at beautiful cards and letters I have received. In fact, I don’t apologise for crying at any point – crying is good for the soul.

8. Hating, and I know that hate is a strong word, but perfectly acceptable in this situation, everything about the Twilight Saga. Bella Swan is the worst role-model for young impressionable teenage girls and… I’ll stop there, or this post will be twice as long.

9. Adoring karaoke sessions on a Friday night. I’m not exactly going to win the next X Factor, but I can hold a tune and there’s nothing better than having a few drinks and singing my heart out to a crowd of complete strangers. It’s fun and therapeutic.

10. Not wanting to have children or get married yet, despite being in a secure and happy long-term relationship.

11. Removing people from my life that were toxic. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

12. Taking photographs of everything. I love recording a beautiful moment or a fabulous place.

13. Writing about my battles with mental health issues – it’s still a taboo subject in many areas of society, but I make no apologies when I tell others that I’m struggling.

14. Ringing in sick to work when I’m ill. If I’m ill, I’m ill – there’s no point going in and infecting the entire cohort of staff and students at my school. And when I’m well, I’ll give it 100%, and work most evenings and weekends unpaid.

15. Smoking a cigarette, and thoroughly enjoying it! I don’t do it that often but I know the risks, I don’t do it in people’s personal space, and mind your own business!

16. Not learning to drive. I had lessons when I was 17 years old and I crashed my learner car into a car transporter, and have never been back. Trust me, the world is a safer place without me behind the wheel!

17. Instantly judging someone who is rude to employees working in the service industry – bar and fast-food staff, waiters, retail assistants, baristas… I’ve been there and all are challenging and exhausting roles and those that work within them deserve to be treated with respect.

18. While I’m on the subject of judging others, I’m not sorry for judging those that wear fur for fashion. That’s a whole post in itself…

19. Dressing like a teenage boy. I like jeans and sweaters most of the time. It’s comfortable.

20. Asking for what I want. I’m an adult, I’m polite and respectful and I never demand anything, but as I’ve aged, I have learned to be more articulate in requesting things that I need.

21. Similarly, asking for help. This is something that I have learned to do recently – I used to try and take on everything myself and would find that I couldn’t cope with the pressure. Now, I make no apologies for asking for help from others.

22. Being proud of my achievements. Pride is not to be confused with arrogance – I don’t believe I am better than anyone else, but I proud of things that I have done well.

23. Having a dream, taking the risk and working my hardest to achieve it. Some have been hugely supportive. Others have scoffed. However, my belief is what keeps me going.

It’s important to remember that we don’t owe anyone explanations in the form of apologies. The act of explaining ourselves is often an attempt to justify our actions to another person, as if a decision needs validation. We don’t have to explain ourselves for the way that we choose to live and who we choose to live with. We don’t have to explain our priorities in life and what we do with our time. We don’t have to explain our likes and dislikes, our passions, beliefs, hobbies, interests, ideals and ambitions. We don’t have to explain our decisions to have or to not have children. If what you are doing makes you genuinely happy and fulfilled, you’re doing it right. So for all of these things, I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry for liking who I am and how I live. I’m far from perfect, I have a million flaws, but I do my best.

Therefore, I am going to set a challenge both for myself and for you. Stop apologising for having an opinion and wanting to share your thoughts! Don’t begin your posts with a negative statement – send your message into the blogosphere and be proud of it!

What about you? What do you apologise for that you shouldn’t?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

 

On Being Vanilla

 

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In the world of ice-cream, my friend is definitely Rocky Road with extra sauce and sprinkles. She’s striking. When she walks into a room, people don’t just notice, they stop what they are doing to stare, and some will even get up and walk over in an effort to speak to her.

The thing is, there isn’t anything specific about my friend that makes her stand out. She’s pretty, but couldn’t anywhere near be classed as model quality, she doesn’t go overboard with her clothes and make-up, she’s intelligent, but not a genius, she’s classy and well-spoken. She possesses that ‘something’ – that special X Factor quality that separates her from the pack. Even more frustratingly, she’s genuinely a very nice person and has no idea about the power that she holds. Her life, to me, seems exciting – she likes to travel and experience new things and isn’t scared of taking risks. She’s a natural leader without being bossy or rude.

I have always been, and always will be, vanilla. This isn’t said in an attempt to hunt for false compliments, it is simply fact – at the age of 33 I have had plenty of time to realise my own strengths and weaknesses. In a group of people I have never been the one to stand out from the crowd – I am that person that merges into the background, the one that blends in. I am not the risk taker – I’ve always been more of a follower than a leader.

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Vanilla is used as a derogatory term to describe someone, or their lifestyle as unexciting and conventional. Boring. I used to feel that being thought of as vanilla was a negative thing. Indeed, I used to feel a little short-changed when I was offered ice-cream and then handed vanilla. However, vanilla surprised me. I discovered that:

  • Vanilla is the second-most expensive spice after saffron.
  • It is thought to have calming effects and reduce anxiety and stress.
  • Vanilla is used throughout the baking and cosmetics industry and is often placed in certain foods to eliminate acidity.
  • Despite its labour – intensive growth and expense, vanilla remains a popular spice in the western world.
  • From the thousands of ice-cream flavours that exist, vanilla is still consistently voted as the favourite.

As I have aged, I have grown to like being vanilla. It may be a standard flavour, a basic flavour, but to me it is a dependable one that doesn’t change, and yet can be incredibly versatile at the same time in that it compliments the flavours around it. Vanilla doesn’t pretend to be anything else, it is what it is. I like my life and it’s vanilla existence.

And besides, this means that us vanilla girls get to add a cheeky topping occasionally!

What about you? What flavour of ice-cream are you?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to visit my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

January Round Up: An Exciting Month for Suzie81 Speaks and Advertising Opportunities

imageJanuary is usually the most depressing month for me – after the excitement of my birthday, Christmas and New Year’s Eve I often find that the start of a new year leaves me feeling as dull and cold as the weather.

I decided to approach 2015 with a positive outlook and  just one goal for the year: to take the risk. As Suzie81 Speaks does not have a theme or a niche, my posts have been eclectic and have reflected the thoughts and feelings I have experienced and the events happening at the time. I shared some blogging hints and tips for new bloggers, my ideas for beating the January blues, my thoughts on how to build self-esteem and confidence and highlighted a beautiful story that proved that there is still hope for humanity. I decided to have a bit of fun and shared stories of my dating disasters and experiences of working behind a bar. I also edited some of my photography – something that I haven’t done in a long time – and posted a beautiful poem written by Roger McGough. I have been amazed at the response that I have received to these and some of my earlier posts – my ‘Tale of a Sociopath’ post continues to be shared on StumbleUpon, two of my posts were featured on the Sits Girls ShareFest and Mumsnet Bloggers promoted my post on Fox News’s ridiculous report about the Muslim population of Birmingham as their ‘Blog of The Day.’

I also made a little promise to myself that I would develop the connections and friendships I have formed and give other members of the blogging the world an opportunity to promote themselves. I found that I had been falling behind with the comments that I received, and now instead of posting something on a particular day, I try and take the time to reply to every single one on the blog and all of the social media links that are connected with it. I have continued to host my weekly #SundayBlogShare on Twitter, which I started three months ago, and have been delighted that hundreds of people now participate every week, with over a thousand posts being shared. This week I am pleased to announce that I have a guest host for #SundayBlogShare – Gene’O from Sourcererblog (who was instrumental in the promotion of #SundayBlogShare in the early stages) has kindly agreed to look after you all this Sunday. (For those of you that are interested in participating, there will be a post later today with the information and rules).

While I made no resolutions, I decided to take Suzie81 Speaks to the next level and started advertising for sponsors. I had no expectations of the sort of response I would receive, if any at all, but within hours I was contacted by a number of bloggers. Consequently, over January I have featured both Jolene from Valley Girl Gone Country and Helena from Helena Turbridy and have been delighted by the feedback that I have received from them – both have seen a huge increase in their traffic… Even more amazing, February sponsorship is completely full and even spaces for some of March (and even a space in July) have been booked. Awesome.

Finally, to add the cherry on the proverbial cake, I was offered an really exciting opportunity the other day, which has cemented my decision to take the risk.

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My family, my friends and, of course, The Bloke has been absolutely wonderful throughout it all. As always, the blogging community has also been there every step of the way. I’ve been blessed to have received so much support from people that I consider to be friends and have been able to meet lots of new people who have taken the time to make me laugh, encourage me and have contributed to one of the best months I have had in a long time. Thank you.

Are You Interested in Being Featured on Suzie81 Speaks?

I have decided to expand this further and offer opportunities for sponsored one-off promotion for WordPress bloggers. Each Sunday, (when my own stats usually exceed over a thousand views during the day), as well as hosting #SundayBlogShare, I will feature a WordPress blog as the ‘Blog Of The Day.’ This will include a single post about the blog, a reblog of one of your posts and promotion through #SundayBlogShare. While I obviously can’t guarantee a huge increase in your traffic and/or following, I know that my sponsors have informed me that they have indeed seen quite a significant rise in their stats on days where I have promoted their posts.

For those of you who are interested in being my ‘Blog Of The Day,’ here are my details:

Cost: £9.00. This may seem like an odd number, but I have had to add on a little extra to cover the PayPal charges. (Please take into account that conversion rates may change in countries outside of the UK).

January Stats (at the time of posting): 17,265 views

Followers: 10,425 (6,126 on WordPress, 4,179 on Twitter and 120 on Tumblr). I also have 221 followers on my Facebook page. All are growing on a daily basis.

If you wish to be featured, please email me at suzie81blog@hotmail.co.uk

 

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and you don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Be The Honey Badger!

The Honey Badger is a badass. Despite it’s size, it will willingly challenge, kill and eat animals that could be considered to be at the top of the food chain. A popular Internet meme and a YouTube video highlighted the concept that the ‘Honey Badger don’t care’ – it knows what it wants, seemingly has no fear  and it will go for it. While the poor grammar in the meme drives me insane, I love the sentiment.

Last year, That EJ over at the Whimsical Eclecticist discussed the concept of adopting the Honey Badger ‘don’t care’ approach to life and after reading it I was so inspired I had to resist the urge to run outside and yell “I AM THE HONEY BADGER” as loud as I could. While the fabulous post was written a while ago, I still feel that it is just as relevant to my current situation and the students that I work with.

It made me think about the importance that we put on the opinions of those around us and how we allow these to affect our confidence, self-esteem and even influence the decisions that we make about our lives.

EJ made an extremely good point:

‘Decision isn’t being based on want, or even need. It’s being based solely on fear. On ‘what ifs’. On possible negative repercussions.’

As a teacher it always amazes me how many of the teenagers that I work with who are obsessed with what others think and will change themselves for fear of not being accepted. Everything that they do and/or say is for the purpose of being viewed positively by everyone else – their look, hair, shoes, bags and phrases have to be a certain type or style in order to gain acceptance from their peers. What I have discovered over the years is that the students will put an awful lot of pressure on themselves to fit in and this results in a huge lack of confidence amongst them. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard students as young as eleven years old proclaim that they are fat, stupid or ugly and some are so paranoid about their appearance that they won’t wear headphones that are attached to keyboards (I’m a music teacher) in case their hair gets messed up. Certain students almost refuse to participate in performance based activities (that I know they actually enjoy) for fear of being laughed at. A badly-worded comment from a peer will result in tears, arguments and Facebook backlash for months and I’ve heard older girls recall something negative that was said to them several years ago as a reason why they dislike somebody.

It bothers me that they are missing out on experiences of life because of fear.

I was bullied mercilessly at school. I was clever, I worked hard and was a high achiever. A classmate made the decision that he absolutely hated me, almost from the first day, and over five years he took it upon himself to make my life miserable. He learned how to flick spit with the end of his tongue and so would spit on me every time I walked past. He told lies about me, made up ridiculous rumours, tried to get older girls to beat me up and he and his followers would tell me daily that I was ugly and wouldn’t get anywhere in life. I didn’t realise it at the time, but he absolutely destroyed my confidence – I would go home and cry, I’d fake illness in order to be allowed to stay away from school and I lived for the weekends so I wouldn’t have to feel afraid of walking up the school drive.

I left school in 1998 and I haven’t spoken to (or really thought about him) since. His comments have made absolutely no difference to the way I live my life, I am proud of everything that I have achieved and in my adult years I care less and less about the opinions of others. It isn’t that I ‘don’t care,’ it’s more a case of I prefer to value the opinion I have of myself. I’m not perfect and I make mistakes all the time, but ultimately I know I’m a good person (or at least I try to be). More importantly, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of each day, I like what I see and know that I’ve done the best I can. If somebody doesn’t like me, it’s their loss.

This is why we should take the Honey Badger approach to life. This is the attitude that I am trying to encourage my students to adopt. I don’t want to see them to living half-fulfilled lives – I want them to be able to have the confidence to accept themselves for who they are and take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. And in the future, when they are faced with fear or doubt about something I want them to ask themselves… ‘What would the Honey Badger do?’

What about you guys? Do you adopt the Honey Badger approach to life?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn, Is Just To Love… Yourself

istock_loveyourselfI love being a woman. In particular, I love the process involved when getting ready for a night out and can often spend hours excitedly deciding on what to wear, carefully applying my make up, straightening or curling my hair, adding accessories, choosing shoes that look beautiful (and will undoubtedly make me lose the feeling in my feet and give me back ache after about half an hour). I do this solely for myself – I like to leave house before meeting my friends or with The Bloke feeling good about myself and my appearance. Those nights are special, a break from the daily grind of normal life and I think that occasionally it’s an uplifting experience to spend a little bit of time pampering myself after working hard all week and I don’t think that there is anything wrong with this. However, most of the time I dress very similarly to the teenage boys that I teach every day – spending the majority of my time outside of work in sweats, hoodies and jammies with my hair tied back and no make up. I make no apologies for this – I have a stressful job and seem to spend a large amount of my time feeling tired and anxious and I take comfort every evening changing out of my suits and putting on something cosy. When I meet friends for a quick drink in the pub or go to the cinema with The Bloke, this is how I usually present myself, sometimes swapping my sweats for a pair of jeans.

When watching television last night, it occurred to me how many advertisements appeared in a very short space of time that were designed to ‘help’ women address the things that are deemed to be wrong with their bodies – dull, lifeless skin, bags and dark circles under the eyes, tired eyes, small eyelashes, thin lips, limp hair, frizzy hair, dry hair, hairy legs, hairy faces and endless workout videos designed to assist us in weight loss or the development of abs and curves.

It made me look at myself and think about all of the the things on my own body that were highlighted in those adverts and that I am insecure about. After gaining 60lbs in the last five years I don’t have a flat stomach (sporting more of a keg than a six pack), I have a large bottom and thighs, I have my father’s large chin, a pointy nose, my skin is oily in some parts and dry in others… I could go on forever. I took the opportunity to ask some of my female friends what they would change about themselves if they could, and the results were extensive:

  • Eyes too small
  • Small eyelashes
  • No waist – flat shape
  • Flat bottom
  • Bottom too big
  • Too skinny
  • Fat
  • Hair too thick
  • Hair too thin
  • Boobs too small
  • Boobs too big
  • Too tall
  • Too short
  • Acne
  • Skin too pale

It’s no wonder that last year the beauty industry in the UK employed more than one million people and was worth £17 billion. However, it isn’t wrong to want to make the best of ourselves. It isn’t wrong to want to spend time making ourselves look and feel good. It isn’t wrong to go to the gym, wear make up, dress in a certain style and regularly visit the hairdressers, as long as this is what makes you happy and helps you maintain a positive lifestyle. Nevertheless, I am always concerned when women (and indeed, men) are doing this for the benefit of others and stop liking themselves and their bodies when they do not match the so-called beauty ‘ideals.’.

Why do we feel that we aren’t good enough the way that we are? Who creates the rules that tell us how our bodies should look?

We could blame the beauty industry. We could blame the magazines, the media, the fashion designers. We could blame the film industry, the actresses, the models. However, I think that, as women, the only people that we can blame for our insecurities are ourselves. Instead of celebrating who we are and how we are made, we allow others to dictate what the ideal of ‘beautiful’ is.

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In the spirit of maintaining a positive outlook for 2015, I took the opportunity to look at my body and highlight all the things that I am grateful for:

1. The ‘Barnes’ hips. All of the women – my mother, my two sisters and I – on my mother’s side of the family have large, childbearing hips that we inherited from my grandmother, whose maiden name was Barnes. While one of my sisters has desperately tried to get rid of hers over the years by going to the gym six times a week, she has now accepted that the Barnes hips is part of her genetic make up and a link to her ancestry, and I’m proud that we all share the same shape – it’s probably the only thing that we all have in common.

2. My eyes. I have inherited my mother’s blue eyes and they are usually the thing that is commented on the most when meeting new people.

3. My slightly curved fourth toe. While some may balk at this and suggest getting it straightened, this is another feature that I have inherited from my mother and her father and over the years I have become quite fond of it.

4. Strong legs. After years of participating in sporting teams as a teenager, my legs have always maintained their strength with small definition in my lower calves, even when I have put on weight.

5. My shoulders. I swam for years and consequently have wide shoulders that look good in halter-neck tops.

6. My ears. They aren’t too big or too small for the shape of my face, and I occasionally like to wear drop earings to accentuate them.

7. My hands. I have always been told that I have perfect piano players hands with long, thin fingers, and even though my nails could use a bit of work (it’s impossible to maintain manicures when working as a teacher) I like the way that they look when I wear simple, silver rings.

Remember, the greatest thing you’ll ever learn, is just to love… yourself.

For the New Year, I am issuing you with a challenge. Instead of thinking about all of the things that make you unhappy about yourselves, I would like to to focus on something that you like about your body, and post it in the comments below.

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks

 

Image Credit 1: bobchoat.com

Image Credit 2: beauteousliving13.wordpress.com

Zoella: When Success Breeds Jealousy

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I’m 32 years old, and I’m not exactly what would be considered to be educated in up-to-date fashion and beauty. Indeed, my own fashion sense mimics that of a 15 year old boy, and when this is combined with frizzy hair that Monica Gellar would be proud of and make up that looks like it has been applied in a quickly moving car on a bumpy road I project an overall sense of ‘never mind, at least she tried’ when I leave the house each morning. Because of this, I don’t follow many beauty and fashion blogs or vlogs, namely because the content doesn’t often relate to my lifestyle.

However, there is one particular vlog that caught my attention about a year ago: Zoella. While I had nothing in common with her, I found myself glued to a number of her videos simply for one reason: I like her, and from the numbers she’s acquired on her YouTube account, so do over 6 million others. She’s positive, she exudes a happy and sparkly personality and above all she seems to genuinely enjoy what she does.

Recently, Zoella has started to appear everywhere here in the UK. She has her own make up line, she has become a spokesperson for Mind, a mental health charity, after discussing her own issues with anxiety, she’s recently been the recipient of two Teen Choice Awards, her YouTube following grows daily and she deserves every bit of it. She’s a nice girl with a positive message to lots of young people, and it’s nice to see that, for once, somebody is being represented as a role model for all of the right reasons.

However, as it always seems to be with the British Press, I was disheartened to read a rather unprovoked and scathing article in The Independent that openly attacked Zoella, hiding behind the premise of debating the mixed messages that she appears to give out to her fans. While I can concede that the writer made one or two valid points on these contradictions, (and am trying to avoid going all Belieber about it), I was infuriated by the fact that the majority of the article served no purpose other than to belittle a young woman who has made a success of herself.

Unfortunately, success often breeds jealousy.

The world is full of stories that need to be told every day – war, poverty, famine, abuse, cruelty, triumph – isn’t it about time that these columnists started focusing on these issues rather than wasting their talents on trying to bring others down?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

A Question of Beauty

 

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After a conversation I had with my friend in the pub, started by the fact that he was lusting after one of the barmaids, I started thinking about the idea of beauty.

imageSamantha Brick made herself a household name in the UK a few years ago by claiming that she was victimised for being ‘too beautiful’. Consequently the backlash that she received was immediate and on an enormous scale – some chastised her for being arrogant, others accused her of not being anywhere as beautiful as she felt she was, while some simply assumed it was an April Fools joke. She made the headlines earlier last year again by proclaiming that her eating disorders had allowed her to remain skinny and that her husband would leave her if she put on weight.

I read the article and I must confess that I was among the people who, when they saw a picture of Samantha, responded with ‘really?’, – in my opinion she isn’t a particularly attractive woman (both inside and out after reading the awful things she’s written), but it did get me thinking about the role that beauty plays in our lives.

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As a woman I believe that we are under a lot of pressure to be ‘beautiful,’ despite the fact that nobody really knows what the absolute definition of beautiful is. However, I do feel that beauty is often directly linked to weight, and as women I think we put a lot of this pressure on ourselves. We can blame magazines for projecting the image that skinny is best, and yet we still continue to buy them. We idolise celebrities who are skinny, with the exception of a few, and take great delight in ripping them to shreds if they gain even a few pounds. Kim Kardashian is the perfect example of this: when she was heavily pregnant her increasing body size and shape was the subject of daily ridicule on the Internet. The poor woman must have been feeling awful about herself as it was (although I could argue here about being fame hungry and the perils of achieving it).

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I always wonder who it is we are trying to look beautiful for. I suppose, essentially, we try and make ourselves as attractive as possible for the purpose of receiving attention from potential mates, like many different species do in the animal kingdom. However, I think we as women have an unrealistic view in our minds as to what men want. Ultimately, yes, most people instantly are attracted to looks, but not all men want a skinny girl with big boobs and false eyelashes. The majority of my male friends and The Bloke want a ‘girl next door’ look, and their girlfriends are natural looking women who take care of themselves but don’t look ‘plastic fantastic’ when they leave the house.

I’m not beautiful, but I don’t consider myself to be hideous either. I’ve never been fashionable or interested in following trends, and I prefer to spend my time in jeans and hoodies. At school I wasn’t one of the popular ones – I remember that the person in my year who was considered ‘attractive’ was the opposite of me-short, skinny, brown curly hair that was moussed to within an inch of it’s life – the boys practically jumped on her whenever she walked into the room. When I went to Sixth Form I started to get a little bit of attention from the boys, but nothing of significance.

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It was only when I went to university that I started to become aware of beauty and looks. I lived with a girl who was on a fashion course. She was generally considered to be a beautiful girl – fairly short, very skinny, always wore fashionable clothing etc… And the boys loved her. She couldn’t walk down the street without someone whistling at her or stopping to stare or try to talk to her. I remember one night, as poor students, we went clubbing with £5 between us. We returned home hours later with £20, we were drunk, we’d eaten, we’d been into several clubs and we’d had a taxi home paid for us. All she did was to smile and talk to men, and they fell over themselves trying to offer her free stuff. She was gorgeous, but she knew it, and had developed the art of using her beauty to exploit men into getting her what she wanted. Her beauty afforded her an easier life than some – she bagged several rich boyfriends that paid off her debts and living expenses, and she was often given presents.

I read an article by Sidney Katz, who explored the idea that beautiful people have a better quality of life simply because of their looks. After spending time with AG, I can believe it. It leaves me questioning my own beauty and how it affects my life. For example, I’ve noticed that when I go shopping I will be treated differently depending on the way I’ve presented myself. If I’m wearing a hoodie and jeans, I’m ignored. If I go in ‘suited and booted’ with good hair and make-up on the shop assistants won’t leave me alone. I’m still the same person with the same salary, but it is assumed that I can afford more if I’m smartly dressed.

However, the issue of weight with regards to beauty is always a contentious one.

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Lots of ‘plus sized’ and curvier women naturally get very defensive about the subject of weight because of the stigma that surrounds it. I have often heard it proclaimed that there is ‘no excuse’ for a woman gaining weight, and this isn’t helped by the fact that many high street stores make it difficult to buy clothes in adequate sizes, despite the fact that the average UK size for women is a size 16. I have gained 60lbs in the last few years and cannot shop in the same stores that I used to, simply because they don’t make items of clothing that fit me comfortably, and have been demoralised when I have found a beautiful outfit that would suit my figure perfectly, only to find that the sizes made are two sizes smaller than my own. I have had comments made by people that I know, and have even been asked ‘when the baby is due.’ The truth is, I don’t consider myself to be fat, and have been embarrassed when it has been suggested that I am. The fact that I am embarrassed seems to prove to me that fat is deemed to be a negative thing.

Similarly, my naturally skinny friends have often had to justify themselves for their weight. One in particular once told me that no matter how much she eats she can’t seem to put on weight, and has been upset on more than one occasion by being informed by complete strangers that she needs to ‘eat a cheeseburger.’

Would I be living this life if I was skinnier or more attractive? Would I have a different career? Different friends? At least I can be sure that I have what I have because of me, and not because of how I look. The Bloke has seen me at my absolute worst, and still wants to be with me. And more importantly, while I would like to improve my fitness, I can still look in the mirror and be proud of what I see.

When it comes to beauty, I think that it is far more important to value your opinion of yourself than that of others. We’re all unique, and we all deserve to celebrate our lumps, bumps, small boobs, big boobs, big booty’s, skinny legs and flat butts without feeling that we aren’t good enough. I’ll leave you with a quote from the fabulous Marilyn Monroe:

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What do you think? Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Do women create false expectations for themselves?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

 

 

Liking To Be Liked

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When I was in my teens, I shared a lot of mutual friends with a girl that attended the same sixth form college as me, and consequently we seemed to spend a lot of time around each other. This would have been fine, other than the fact that she really disliked me. It bothered me and I would go out of my way to talk to her, try and make her laugh and do little things that I thought might please her. It didn’t work – she continued to be cold and distant when she was around me and remained that way until we finished our courses and left. I haven’t seen or heard from her since. Looking back, I can’t believe I wasted so much time and effort – I didn’t actually like her that much to begin with…

The simple fact is that we all like to be liked, even by people that we do not like ourselves. We seek approval, validation and even empathy. We want to be understood, to be praised. Our social media activities are focused on the amount of ‘likes’ and followers we can gain, and the respect that we are often given in the online world will depend how big our numbers are. It’s an inherent, irrational human trait and the overall desire for approval from others can often result in a compromise of actions, behaviour and lifestyle. Indeed, I have compromised myself on many occasions to try and please those around me.  It took until I was in my late twenties to realise a few valuable things about people and friendships.

1. Regardless of who you are and what you do, there will always be those that simply don’t like you.

2. That’s ok.

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After years of bending over backwards for others I stopped being a people pleaser and started to focus on improving myself for me and me alone. I realised that I was the only person that would remain with me throughout the entirety of my life and that it was my own opinion of myself that was more important that those I spent time with.

Does the knowledge that you are disliked upset you? Here are a few questions you need to consider:

1. Can you look at yourself in the mirror and know that you are a good person?

2. Do you live life with morals that you are proud of?

3. Do YOU like you?

If you can answer ‘yes’ to these questions honestly, then nothing else should matter. Go about your business, continue to be a good person, be there for others when they need it, but make sure you are content with yourself first.

And if others don’t like you? They clearly weren’t worth your time in the first place…

What about you? Do you go out of your way to please others?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

So, How Does That Foot Taste? Quite Good, Apparently!

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Replace Carli with Suzie and this is pretty accurate right about now…

The weather has improved dramatically here recently and what has seemed to be an endless, dreary winter appears to be finally coming to an end. Consequently, I decided to treat myself the other weekend and took myself shopping for some new clothes. I found a beautiful summery top that fitted perfectly – it was a nice pattern, flattering and made me look and feel pretty good.

The perfect opportunity to debut this new top presented itself yesterday when I woke up to glorious sunshine, and so I decided to take advantage of this and spend a little more time getting ready for work. As I don’t drive, I decided to order a taxi as The Bloke had left by the time I had finished. The driver was a man who I knew from previous journeys, but I haven’t seen him in a while. Smiling, I greeted him and asked him how he was, and we made polite conversation for the first five minutes. All of a sudden, he said:

“So, you look like you’ve got some good news? When is the baby due?”

I’m not pregnant.

I was unsurprisingly caught off guard by his question, and could only mumble in response that I had put on a bit of weight since I last saw him, but I wasn’t pregnant.

Most people would appear uncomfortable or embarrassed and would generally be attempting to pull their foot out of their mouths. Not this guy – he followed up his question by helpfully and tactfully giving me diet tips. All. The. Way. To. Work.

In the fifteen minutes it had taken for me to get to work I had gone from feeling good, confident and happy to repressing the desire to punch someone in the face. While I made a joke out of it when I was regaling my colleagues with the story I was secretly mortified – my self-confidence can be quite fragile and this wasn’t something that I particularly needed.

So, Mr Taxi Driver, I’ll take your advice, and eat it – after all, I’m apparently eating for two! And as a side note, I hope that your crotch becomes infested with the fleas of a thousand camels, and that your arms are too short to scratch.

What about you? Have you ever had your confidence knocked by insensitive and tactless questions?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog