Complacency and An Extended Blogging Break

At the beginning of August I felt fired up and motivated. My head was spinning with ideas about what I could do and achieve over the month and I had a whole bunch of plans as to how I was going to move forward. 

It lasted two days. 

It wasn’t intentional, but I ended up having an extended blogging break. I tried to convince myself that it was needed, but the truth of it was that I simply couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to post anything on a regular basis. After six and a half years and thousands of articles the mental burnout was real. Continue reading

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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

A New Start and Positive Thinking

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After a genuinely wonderful few weeks, work starts back today. I work in a good school with lovely colleagues, but many of my teacher friends aren’t as lucky and consequently my Facebook feed has been filled over the last few days with proclamations of dread and anxiety, funny memes and a wish for a time machine so they can relive the last two weeks all over again. Over the years, I have joined them – it’s difficult not to focus on the dark, cold mornings and the fact that this term (for me at least) is the most pressured.

In the spirit of a New Year and a new start, I have decided to adopt a more positive approach. Therefore, I was awake bright and early this morning, I’m dressed and ready to go and I’m actually looking forward to catching up with all the people that I haven’t seen in a while and hearing about their holiday escapades. In an economy where millions are unemployed and cannot afford to heat their house or buy food, I am lucky and I am grateful to have a stable, well-paying job, and this year I am determined not to forget that.

I hope you all have a lovely Monday!

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog

How To Get Motivated: Things To Do Today

Motivation, motivated, list

As the self-proclaimed ‘Queen of Procrastination,’ I have found myself in quite a slump as of late. The smallest tasks, however menial, seemed daunting and impossible to achieve and I fell behind in all areas of my life.

It’s been extremely difficult to get back on track, but over time I have been able to very slowly pull myself out of the rut and change the way that I was living on a daily basis. Here are some of the hints and tips I have learned that have helped me along the way.

1. Get up at a reasonable time. Have a shower. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. (Thanks to Ray for this – it’s possibly the most important, the most obvious and the least overlooked).

2. Get some sleep. Where possible (and this is easier said than done for people who are parents and those who work long hours), try and get as much sleep as possible. The more tired you are, the less likely you are to remain motivated.

4. Break things down into small steps. Instead of looking at the big picture, work out the small things that you need to do now, today.

5. Tackle just one task at a time. Trying to juggle too many tasks in one go will become overwhelming. Start a task, finish the task, then move onto something else.

6. Do things when they need to be done. Don’t allow yourself to sit down with the idea of ‘doing it later.’ The quicker you start, the quicker you’ll finish. If you’re anything like me, you won’t be able to truly relax until it’s finished anyway!

7. Ask for help. If someone joins you in a task, whether it is cleaning, working out or organising something, it is more likely to be done in a shorter amount of time and you’ll almost certainly have more fun doing it!

8. Create the ultimate playlist. Music is an integral part of my daily life, and I have a playlist of songs that genuinely pump me up and make me happy.

9. Get excited about it! Try and gain inspiration from other people – talk to them and ask for advice. Try and see the benefits that are to be gained from completing something rather than focusing on the negative.

10. Read about it. If I’m not sure how to begin something, I’ll search for articles about the same subject. I’m always left feeling inspired afterwards.

11. Find places and activities that inspire you. This could be a building, a park, a museum or your local coffee shop. It could be a dance class, a book reading or a film. Whatever it is, visit and/or participate.

12. Reward yourself! If you know there is a positive reward at the end of it, you’re more likely to push yourself.

13. Remember that it is ok to fail. Fear of failure is often reason for not doing something at all. If you fail – stop and start again.

14. Don’t initially set the bar too high. If fear of failure is a barrier to achieving your goal, lower your sights and build it up.

What about you guys? Have you got any useful hints and tips for motivating yourself when you are in a slump?

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

 

Seven Good Things For The Day

Those of you who follow my blog regularly will have noticed that my recent posts have been a little more on the negative side. I’m not ashamed in admitting that things have been tough – The Bloke and I have not been as great with each other as we usually are, the building work still continues, The Bloke’s place of work is going through major changes which has left us questioning potential issues that we haven’t had to consider before, Daisy (the cat) is still a regular (and expensive) visitor to the vets while we are trying to adjust her insulin levels and to top it all off I’ve had an awful bout of flu that has knocked me out for almost a week.

Yesterday I received a comment from somebody who has always been extremely supportive of the blog, in which he listed all the different ways in which I was very lucky. While I reserve the right to use my blog to discuss my feelings, both positive and negative (indeed this was the reason for starting the blog in the first place), he made me think about things in a slightly different way. Yes, things have been tough and will continue to be for some time, but I’ll deal with things as I usually do and eventually things will be fine. Continue reading

P and D – An Inspirational Story

As a teacher there are certain students who touch your life more than you could ever possibly realise. P and D are two such students.

Both were in some of my very first classes as a newly qualified teacher. P was quite shy and socially a little awkward, but she worked hard and was a high achiever despite dealing with the fact that her mother was dying from breast cancer. D was visually impaired but was often the saving grace in many lessons because of his positive attitude and high spirits, despite finding it difficult in a mainstream school. If I’m being honest, neither of them had an easy time at school from the other students – children can be incredibly cruel. However, they never let any harsh comments or criticism affect their self-confidence and their studies.

Over the years I watched these two grow and develop into wonderful young adults. D was an enthusiastic member of my performing arts and music classes, performing several times in front of his peers. I started teaching P the piano and she discovered that she was naturally musical.

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In the year before I left the school, both had to deal with enormously cruel trials and tribulations of life. P’s mother passed away when P was just 15 years old and D was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of 16. I visited D after he had started chemotherapy and was so proud of him for his ability to look on the positive side of things. P worked hard during her exams and did very well, continuing her studies into sixth form.

Over the last few years we’ve become close. I no longer teach either of them in school but we keep in toucImageh through texts and Facebook and I still teach P the piano occasionally, workload permitting. When I left the school, I told P that I would take her out for cocktails for her 18th birthday. P and I did the Race For Life together last year while D watched, being too ill to participate. D texts me a lot to let me know how he’s doing and I was delighted to see him on TV not long ago as part of a documentary about the NHS.

Earlier this year, The Bloke and I attended D’s 18th birthday party, which was packed with his family and friends. As promised, on P’s birthday a few weeks ago I took her and D for cocktails at my favourite restaurant, where we had a great time, particularly watching D consume his entire bodyweight in chicken wings and P attempting to balance in her fabulous but ridiculously high shoes.

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They’re currently doing extremely well for themsleves. D has fought hard against his illness and is in remission. He starts college in a few weeks where he is planning to continue his performance studies and regularly holds fund-raising events to raise money for Cancer Research. P helps out at her church regularly, where her father is the vicar. She has passed her A-Levels and has been given an unconditional offer to her first choice university, where she will be studying theology. What strikes me most about both of them is how happy they are. Yes, they both have their down days, but they pick themselves back up again and make me laugh with their thoughts and musings on life.

These two young people are an inspiration. Both could easily have given up on their dreams and wallowed in self-pity. Both could have blamed everyone else for their adversities and become angry and bitter. Instead, they have grabbed life with both hands and made the absolute most of everything they possibly can.

Their stories and characters serve as superb role-models to the rest of us. On days where I am upset by things that are essentially insignificant in the big picture of life I am reminded that there are always others that are dealing with huge issues and still maintain positivity and goals.  I’m proud of them both and the fact that I’ve been able to be a little part of their journeys. I know that they’re going to continue to be wonderful members of society. They remind me why I do the job in the first place.