Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Photography by Ami Ford.

I’m finally back with a new blog post after a brief hiatus due to a busy couple of weeks and some personal struggles, which I will go into more later in the post. But I’ve been wanting to write on this topic and share these photos for what feels like forever now and I’m finally getting round to it today. These photos were taken by the incredible Ami Ford, whose work I had admired from afar for some time and so was delighted to be able to shoot with her, and I’m so happy with the outcome! You can find her on Instagram here, Twitter here or visit her website here.

Today’s post is inspired by these photos and specifically, the location that these photos were taken in. This was perhaps one of the busiest road in Manchester on the Sunday afternoon we were shooting on, meaning I really had to have confidence in what I was doing as posing in the middle of a very busy road in a bright yellow midi dress with every passerby staring at you with confused/baffled looks can/could have been an uncomfortable situation. In fact, posing for photos in any situation, even if there are only one or two confused onlookers, and sharing them on social media is quite a daunting concept generally and something I’m still trying to become totally comfortable in.

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Anything that you do that is a little bit different, especially if it involves self-promotion, is probably going to be scary and weird. Since becoming more confident in doing my own thing, my life has only improved however I’m still not 100% there yet at all. So much so that, after a little (read: huge) wobble after moving to UNI last week, I considered not writing this post as I didn’t think I was qualified to discuss this topic. But then I realised that if I wait till I feel totally comfortable in myself and my interests and habits, I’m probably never going to get round to writing it as I don’t even know if it’s possible to feel that way to such an extent. So I thought I would use this post to discuss the areas of my life in which I’m trying to become more comfortable in doing my own thing whilst also providing some tips to help others do the same.

INTERESTS AND IDEAS: STARTING MY BLOG

The first area in which I’ve really had to push myself out of my comfort zone is, as you might have guessed from the first part of this post and from previous posts, starting and running this blog. Having a blog, especially one that is fashion/style-based, means your constantly having to promote yourself and, at times, bare your soul to the internet, not knowing who’s going to see it or what reaction it’s going to get. These are the reasons why it took me so long to properly commit to having a blog but, as with most things, now I have it these two things, and everything else that comes along with it, are not so scary at all.

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

I do still feel a little bit uncomfortable with the self-promotion thing and it’s definitely not my favourite part about having a blog, especially in person, but it’s something that I’ve got used to and definitely don’t feel scared or embarrassed about anymore. The only advice I really have for starting something you want to do whether it’s a blog, a YouTube channel, a music career etc. is just start it. Everyone says this but it’s so true. You’re going to have to get over being embarrassed about it and, if it’s something you feel passionately about and enjoy, you’ll get over it so much quicker than you think. Plus, if you’re surrounded by good people then they’ll support you and if you aren’t, at least it will help you realise that there are some shitty people in your life who don’t need to be there.

SOCIAL AND PERSONAL LIFE: GOING OUT AND DRINKING ALCOHOL

The next part of my life where I’ve had to try and do my own thing, and probably the most difficult part for me, is learning how I like to spend my time and realising that this is not how most people my age, in my situation like to do so. Yep, this is the part where I reveal that I’m 19 going on 90, far more inclined to spend my Saturday night watching Strictly Come Dancing then getting drunk and staying up till 5am. I’ve not always been like this, I used to love a good night out and a drink, admittedly before it was legal/acceptable for me to do so, and I think that’s part of the reason why it’s mostly not for me anymore.

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Some people don’t ever grow out of getting drunk and partying but a lot of people do and I think because I started out so early I am just a little bit bored by it now and definitely not excited by it. The other reasons why I’ve retired from being a party type of girl are much more difficult to navigate as they’re purely health related. I’ve struggled with IBS and anxiety, as you’ll probably know if you’ve read my blog before, for over 2 years now and they are both extremely negatively affected by drinking alcohol and a lack of sleep. I’m not going to go into it too much, because you really don’t want to know about my digestive issues, trust me, but after drinking 3-4 ciders on Thursday night, I was not only fairly drunk (I’ve always been a lightweight but my lack of drinking has only accentuated that) but I spent the entirety of Friday with horrendous stomach pains, meaning I struggled to stand up by the end of the day, plus any feelings of anxiety are multiplied by 100.

This has been quite difficult for me because, as a student, the main activity that my friends engage in is drinking alcohol (FYI: I don’t judge them for this at all, everyone enjoys different things and they’re just as entitled to enjoy drinking as I am to not enjoy it). However, in my experience, the best thing you can do in these types of situations is be open with people. No one is going to get annoyed with you if you tell them how negatively you feel about doing something (even if your reasons for this aren’t health-related) but they might if you cancel on plans last minute with an obviously-fake excuse or constantly decline their plans with no explanations. My friends are always so kind to me about not drinking or not going out and try to make effort with me to organise different types of things to do, meaning I rarely have to force myself through awkward and anxious nights and even worse morning-afters, something that was a weekly affair for me during my first year of UNI when I refused to be honest with anyone about it.

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES: DEALING WITH ANXIETY

The final thing I want to discuss is dealing with mental health issues and I know this sounds weird because ‘doing your own thing’ does not usually equate to having anxiety. But I think the most important thing in dealing with a mental health problem is accepting it and being confident that you know what the best things to do for you are and doing them, no matter what anyone else thinks. If you want to eat a pack of biscuits for tea because that’s the only thing you feel hungry for and you don’t have the energy to make anything else, do it (this is a case study from my life, specifically during the last week). If you feel like you need an extension on an essay or any sort of mitigating circumstances, talk to someone at your school/college/UNI about it.

You’re the only person who knows exactly how you feel and you can’t be embarrassed about your needs or the way you’re feeling and avoid them because no one else is going to be able to guess what you want to do and help you. Something I found difficult last year and over the past week since moving back to UNI is feeling like I need/want to come home because being at UNI makes me anxious. There is such a stigma around going home from UNI, in my experience, because people feel as though they need to ‘stick it out’ to prove their independence and that UNI is the best years of their life. I felt the same way last year and forced myself to stay for UNI for weeks even though I knew a weekend at home would do me the world of good and I was very much in a position to go home. Now, mostly because of the incredible support of my friends and family, I feel absolutely no shame in coming home for a weekend or even every weekend, because if that’s what I need to do to get through the days without a panic attack then that’s what I’ll do.

I realise this post has been a little bit of a ramble but it’s something that I’ve wanted to speak about for a while and, clearly, have a lot to say about. I hope it’s inspired you to do something this week that you want to do for you, whether that’s starting a blog, saying no to something you don’t want to do or booking an appointment with a counsellor. Be sure to leave me a comment or message me on social media if you want to discuss this topic further or talk about my experiences or your experiences. My DM’s on Twitter and Instagram are always open!

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

Having Confidence in Doing Your Own Thing

 

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

I’ve now officially finished my first year of university which is a very weird feeling as this year has flown by and it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was moving into my little room in halls. This year has brought lots of ups and downs but, looking back on it, I know I definitely made the right decision with what I chose to study and the university I chose to study at and I have had a really good experience. So I thought I’d talk a little bit about the best and the worst parts of my first year at UNI, what I’ve learnt (other than the fact that there’s only so many Jane Austen books you can read until you begin to want to bang your head against a wall every time you turn a page) and how I feel different since last September. I wasn’t sure about the cliche that university is ‘the best years of your life’ back in November when my mental health was at a low, but I really do feel now that first year truly has been one of the best years of my life, because of it’s difficult times and the things I’ve learnt from them and, of course, because of all the people I’ve met, the things I’ve done and the books I’ve read. The photos included are taken in my favourite area of Manchester, the Northern Quarter, with some of Manchester’s signature graffiti, which I thought were apt for this post.

Freshers week was a weird one for me, as it probably is for everyone, but, really, it felt like freshers lasted for the first two months of university and they were probably two of the best. The novelty of being in a new city and constantly meeting new people was great and any sense of homesickness hadn’t really kicked in yet so I was really able to soak everything up in a positive way. I was also really excited about my course as, at this point, it essentially just consisted of reading lots of fiction, listening to people talk about it, and discussing it, which really didn’t feel like work to me.

November and December were probably the shakiest periods of my university experience, as I spent most of my time writing essays and less time socialising and the homesickness really started to kick in. It was difficult but it also taught me how to be resilient by myself and, although it didn’t feel like it at the time, helped me to become more independent. It was also a time where a lot of the foundations of my current friendships were set, despite everything that was going on in my head, so, really, it was an important period of university for me. And, of course, it was Christmas, my favourite time of the year, which meant making the most of everything Manchester’s Christmas scene has to offer from the Christmas Markets to seeing ‘Nativity!’ at The Palace (a highlight of my year- truly a masterpiece.)

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

After some much-needed time at home with my family and a couple of weeks of revision, I went back to UNI feeling much better about myself in January and one of the first things I did was sign myself up to the university’s counselling service, which helped me immensely and allowed me to enjoy semester two so much more than semester one whilst being in a really good mental place. Whereas the first semester’s socialising activities consisted mostly of going out and drinking, I was now socialising in lots of different ways too, which was definitely a really positive thing. With the strike period during February and March came a period of uneasiness as there was nothing forcing me to leave my room and see people but it also allowed me to socialise at different times meaning I could do different things, get some extra hours at work (I worked as a Secondary English Tutor at high schools around Manchester for pretty much the whole year) and spend some more time on my extra-curricular activities, which is when this blog started coming into the works.

The post-strike period is a bit of a blur to be honest but I think it mostly consisted off doing lots of reading, writing essays and spending time with friends and then, before I knew it, I was back home for Easter for a few weeks. This was the period when I actually started my blog and since then, I’ve been feeling constantly inspired, if also constantly busy. I went back to UNI for a few weeks and juggled probably the most work I’ve had all year with essays to write, exams looming, lots of extra tutoring hours and writing for my blog 3 times a week but I feel like I managed pretty well and the fact that I was feeling a lot more content in myself and with the people and places around me definitely helped me to de-stress. I then spent a week in Corfu, which I won’t go on about because social media has definitely seen enough of that trip, came back to sit my exam and before I knew it it was my final week of first year. This week feels like it was the best yet because Love Island started. No, I’m joking it wasn’t because of that although watching Love Island with my friends in eachother’s rooms was definitely a highlight of the week and it really was the best week of first year for me. I spent the entire week with my friends and finished it off by going to Parklife, which was one of my favourite weekends and festivals in so long. I said it on my Instagram but it was the best way to end my first year at UNI because it was so much fun. But also because drinking and ‘partying’ are things that usually make me feel very anxious but it was a totally anxiety-free weekend, which made me feel so happy and proud of myself. The fact that my first year ended in the best way possible makes me feel so optimistic for the rest of my time at UNI.

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

I’m home now and have been for a couple of weeks and I’m already missing my friends and university generally. Although I’m definitely going to make the most of this summer, I have a new job that I’m loving and have some plans to go away, it’s such a nice feeling to know I’m already looking forward to going back to UNI in September because 7 months ago I couldn’t have imagined myself feeling this way. I absolutely love studying English Literature, feel so lucky to have met some amazing people and Manchester is such a vibrant and exciting place to be (even if Liverpool will always have my heart). I’ve learnt so much about myself this year, mostly how obsessed I am with working hard and being busy which, although does carry some negativity which I’m trying to let go of, has made this year very worthwhile and meant I truly have got lots of shit done. With this though, I’ve realised that grades don’t mean everything and have made myself busy in lots of areas of my life, not just UNI, thanks to the reassuring mantra of the student, ‘first year doesn’t count’. This has allowed me to expand myself in lots of different ways but has also improved my mental health so much and I’m now in the best place I’ve been in a long, long time.

I’m sure the next two years of university will fly by and so I’m determined to make the most of them in every way. I’d especially like to take advantage of all the wonderful things Manchester has to offer next year as one thing I haven’t done enough during first year is explore the city. But, as I said, I have a few months till I’ll be back- living in a house not halls (yay!)- so I’m putting that to one side for now so I can enjoy my summer. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and I’d love to hear about your university experiences in the comments!

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

Goodbye For Now, Manchester | Reflecting On My First Year of University

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The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

Welcome (back?) to my blog! So sorry that I haven’t been as regular with posting recently. With a holiday, exams and post-exams celebrating, I’ve not had much time to sit down and write. But I have 40 minutes till tonight’s Love Island so I have plenty of time to write this post and hopefully I will be back to posting on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays weekly now. One of the reasons I’ve let myself stop posting so regularly is because it’s another way of getting over my perfectionism. I’m definitely not a perfectionist in every area of my life but in the areas where I set myself goals, I most definitely am. I’m most regularly setting myself goals within UNI and blogging, so I thought I’d talk a little bit about the pressures of perfectionism in each of these parts of my life.

I decided to discuss this topic in a post with these photos because I very much had an ‘ideal image’ in mind before shooting them, as I do with most planned shoots, and the outcome wasn’t as good as I had hoped. This is partly because we were in a rush whilst taking them but also because they were taken on a busy street in Corfu where lots of people were giving me strange looks and I’m still not totally comfortable with shooting in front of strangers, especially when the people who I’m with/are taking the photos feel the same way. I was kind of inspired to use this backdrop for my photos by Lucy Williams’ recent campaign with Mango. Obviously my photos haven’t come out half as good as hers because I didn’t have a professional photographer shooting the photos, nor did I have a full day (or maybe even days) to perfect them, plus the backing and support of a major company. Considering the circumstances in which these photos were taken, I should be happy with them and I am after thinking about it! But this is just an example of one of the ways in which I hold myself up to ridiculous standards (and a segway into the rest of the post).

The Pressures of Perfectionism

So, personally, I am mostly a perfectionist academically. This is something I’ve talked about previously in my post on work-life balance as well as my post on my experience with anxiety, so I won’t really go into it too much. But it is interesting to consider how much of the pressure I used to put on myself (and still do sometimes) academically is really created by myself rather than influenced by social factors. The pressure I put on myself during A-Levels was mostly generated by people telling me how difficult they would be and perhaps maintained by the feeling that I would inevitably be letting people down if I didn’t do well. Although it really was me and, mostly, no-one else putting this pressure on myself, I think it was created by my social situation i.e. the fact that doing well in A-Levels is seen as the be-all and end-all during sixth form. My first-year of UNI has allowed me to be a lot more laid back because rather than being told that grades mean everything, we are instead told that grades don’t matter this year, which has been endlessly helpful for me.

Moving onto university (I’m on a roll with the segways today), this post was actually inspired by conversations I’ve had with various people about the social pressure of university, particularly inspired by one with my friend Lucy at Parklife festival this weekend. You might be surprised by the amount of people who have dropped out of university this year based on the appearance of their Instagram feeds. Social media definitely suggests that EVERYONE is having a great time at university because, as my friend Katy said, no one is going to post a picture of themselves during one of the (probably) many times that they are crying in their bedroom. First year of university is difficult for most people but because we are constantly told that it should be ‘the best years of our lives’ and that we should be extremely social, there’s lots of guilt attached to feelings of sadness, boredom and loneliness at university and I think the pressure to be perfect is extremely prevalent here. I’m glad I’ve been able to share some of my more difficult experiences with university on my blog because it is so isolating seeing people with lots of new friends going out every night on Instagram, when you’re spending your 5th night on a run eating leftover bolognese and writing an essay on a Jane Austen novel (I’ve written on three Austen texts this year which might just have put me off her forever). But no one, that I know of, is really having an amazing time all the time so just remember that. I’m definitely going to be making more of an effort in second year to talk about some of my more difficult moments at university on Instagram. Even if I don’t post a photo of myself crying in bed- because, quite frankly, I don’t want to do that and I am 100% sure that no one wants to see it- I might talk a little bit about my shitty week in the caption or on Instagram stories. Not to moan but to prove to anyone who might think that my life is in any way ‘perfect’ that I have as many shitty times as they do and so they should never feel bad about them or pressured to have to feel better.

My perfectionism is something I’m trying to let go of in all areas of my life and I think I have been able to do so in lots of ways. I’m never going to be totally laid-back and I really don’t ever want to be as my motivation and determination has been really good for me in lots of ways. But when it starts to affect my mental health is when I know I’ve taken it too far and hopefully in ignoring and abandoning any pressures to be perfect I won’t have to let it get that far again. My Instagram and Twitter DMs are always open if you want to talk about any of your experiences and if you’ve gone through anything similar, do get in touch! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it’s reminded you to focus on yourself and ignore any social pressures around you.

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

The Pressures of Perfectionism

Dress- Zara

Bag- Zara

Sunglasses- Mango (No longer available on the website, will update the post if they re-stock them)

Shoes- New Look (old)

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My Experience with Anxiety

This past week has seen a great deal of discussion around the subject of mental health as it has been Mental Health Awareness week. Dealing with anxiety is something I’ve mentioned briefly in previous posts on my blog but is something that affects my life significantly, so I thought I’d take the opportunity of this week being specifically dedicated to mental health awareness to discuss my experience with anxiety. The photos I’m sharing alongside this post don’t really have anything to do with the topic of mental health but I wanted to write about this topic and share these photos on my blog so it made sense to include them together. Plus they were taken in one of my favourite places that I like to go to to de-stress. I want to share this because I’m very aware that social media and blogs only present the best bits of life, which can be really disheartening if/when you’re feeling bad and so I want my blog to be a space that is honest and really reflects me as a person. I’m also hoping that in sharing my experiences I can help anyone reading this who might have struggled with similar experiences feel less alone. I thought I should also mention that I know people have it worse than me and I’m really not writing this post to complain but just to bring awareness to the fact that all mental health struggles are legitimate and you should always try to look after yourself and those around you.

That brings me nicely onto the beginning of my ‘journey’ with anxiety, as I dismissed my feelings as ‘nothing’ for some time. My anxiety is very much linked to the education system, as I will discuss a little bit more later on, and they began when I started sixth form and studying for my A-Levels. From day one of sixth form, I was prepared to do crazy amounts of work because I had been warned again and again and again about how difficult A-Levels are. And from day one I pushed myself very hard to do as much work as possible. For the first few months, I thought I was coping fine and for most of the first year of sixth form, I felt like I was. It wasn’t until after my AS exams that I realised the extent to which I’d exhausted myself mentally and was left feeling a little empty (I know this sounds vague but I can’t explain it in any other way). I don’t think I’d really developed anxiety at this point but I’d definitely planted the seeds. By setting my standards so high in terms of work, I became so overly-organised, becoming overwhelmingly angry and disappointed in myself if I didn’t reach both my daily and long-term goals, which, in turn, inevitably led to lots of feelings of stress.

Going into my second year of sixth form were when things started to get really difficult, with the stress of applying to UNI and, of course, the exams. Again, I worked myself crazily hard from day one but, both because of the standards I had already set up for myself, the exhaustion I was still getting over from the previous academic year and because this year’s exams were much more important than the ones I had just sat, the pressure and the stress really started to get to me. The ‘work-life balance’ I had managed to mostly maintain in my first year of sixth form fell through the roof and the only thing I could focus on was work. I declined most plans because I was too busy revising and if I did do anything social, I spent most of the time resenting myself for leaving my desk and worrying about how I would fit all the work I had to do in around it. It’s important to mention that, at the time, I really did not think my academic habits were unhealthy because totally overworking yourself to the point of exhaustion has become such a norm within society, especially within the education system, that I thought what I was doing was normal.

Basically, to cut a very very long year short, I spent the entire academic year working towards my exams whilst feeling rubbish about my life and constantly worried. The only thing that was getting me through my exams was the thought of a couple of months off for summer; this thought, though, only further justified the amount I was working because it allowed me to maintain the mindset that I would have time for rest and relaxation later, which, as a mindset, is fine for a week or two but not for two years. During my exam period and the months leading up to it, I was so stressed that social interaction was genuinely too much for me. Having to even talk to anyone who wasn’t my boyfriend or in my family took so much energy that I felt like I was going to cry. I really didn’t understand this at the time and had no idea where this feeling was coming from and it obviously really damaged my friendships, which I endlessly regret now, but all I knew was that I couldn’t do it and that I would rather walk to my boyfriend’s house (mine was literally too far away) during sixth form lunchtime hours than simply sit in the common room for half an hour. This time in my life honestly feels like a blur and I can’t even remember if I had started having panic attacks at this point. But if I had they were infrequent and it was the general anxiety (feelings that my head might explode at any moment, sickness in the back of my throat and the constant holding back of tears) that affected me more.

Anyway, I got through the exams. But the feelings of relief that I had expected after sitting my last exam on a Wednesday morning (I remember this very vividly) just didn’t come. After finishing my GCSE and AS exams I remember feeling so relieved and happy to spend the bed in day catching up on TV and sleeping. But this time I could not relax. All the feelings of anxiety that I had been pushing away throughout my time at sixth form because I had ‘more important things to focus on’ now materialised. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this but I often find that, during the winter months, when you feel a cold coming on, your body will keep holding it back whilst your busy. But as soon as you have a lie in or let yourself relax in whatever way, the cold develops. This is what I think happened with my anxiety. My brain didn’t even have time to process it during sixth form so as soon as that was done with I had 2 years worth of worries and stress to deal with.

At the time I didn’t realise that this was why I was having almost daily panic attacks though. I was so confused and had no idea what was wrong with me because I was supposed to be happy now exams were over, wasn’t I? It didn’t help that the people closest to me were constantly asking me ‘What’s wrong?’ or telling me ‘I don’t know why you’re worried- everything’s fine’- not that they had bad intentions (I am so grateful to them for offering me support and help) but one of the worst things about anxiety for me is that often there is no reason (that you can identify) for it, which makes you think something is wrong with you, which leads to more worrying- it’s a vicious cycle.

I guess this constant anxiety throughout the summer months culminated on results day. I got into my first-choice University but I just didn’t get the grades I wanted and I was devastated. I understand that I was in a much better position than lots of other people and I totally sympathise with that- I wasn’t, nor am I now, comparing my position to theirs. All I could think about was the hell I put myself through with the end goal of the grades and I was just gutted because I felt like it wasn’t worth it- and all I wanted was for those terrible years to be worth it. I’ve been waiting for something good to come out of those feelings that I felt last August as that is what I would describe as the worst I had ever felt and recently I feel like it has. That day and those feelings made me realise that nothing is ever worth damaging your mental health for. Nothing. And if you’re in the midst of exams right now, please remember that.

Anyway, after this very emotional day, I had a few sessions with a counsellor. I don’t think it helped very much because my head was still in too much of a mess to be able to process my own problems and I generally spent most of the sessions crying and feeling shit about myself.

After this, I left for university and the first couple of months were great. There were some panic attacks and moments of anxiety but generally, I enjoyed them so much and felt the happiest I had done in a long time. But, once again (will I ever learn??) I had started pushing feelings of anxiety, to one side, which led to frequent panic attacks throughout the months of November and December. When I say I pushed them to one side I did so to such an extent that at one point, I had to leave a seminar to run to the bathroom (to avoid not having a panic attack in front of everyone in the room) and then miss all of my other classes that week so I could go home for a few days to recover. So the end of first semester was a little bit rocky. But, unlike during my A-Levels, I now felt comfortable talking to my family, boyfriend and close friends about how I felt and treated my mental health as something that was important, which helped a lot.

After returning to university after Christmas, and a difficult first week or so back, the first thing I did was book myself in for an appointment with the university counsellor. I had around 3-5 sessions with her and they helped me so much. I can tell you right now that before these sessions, I would not have been able to write this post because, firstly, I would have been too worried about what people thought about me but, mostly, because I had absolutely no idea where my anxiety came from or what caused it. My mental health has been much much better over the past few months and being able to talk through my experiences with the counsellor with a clear head allowed me so much clarity.

So now, here we are. My mental health is the best it has been in a long, long time and I’m learning (if slowly) not to push myself too hard. I’ve enjoyed my first year of university so much and feel like I have cultivated a really good ‘work-life balance’, whilst also being able to do other things that I am passionate about and enjoy, such as running this blog, plus a part-time job. I’m lucky enough to be heading to Corfu in a few days and will be spending the entire week before my only university exam there. This is really going to be a test for me of how far I have come in terms of allowing myself to become more relaxed about academics and right now I’m feeling great about it so let’s hope for the best. First year doesn’t count anyway, right?

Anyway, this has been one hefty post and I still really feel like I could have gone into much more detail… I’m bet you’re glad I didn’t! But if you are feeling like you’re struggling with your mental health in any way, please tell someone. Even if you feel like your struggles aren’t legitimate because they’re not on the same scale as some other people’s, they are and you should treat them as such because, as you can tell from hearing about my experiences, they can build up and get worse very quickly. Everyone struggles in some way or another and you should never feel embarrassed about your own struggles. Speak to anyone, just speak to someone because holding things in only makes them worse. My DMs on Twitter and Instagram are always open if you want to talk about anything you might be struggling with at the moment!

Top- Old Hinds Merchandise (no longer available but they sell more merch here)

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Making Your UNI Room Feel Like Home

Moving into UNI halls is most people’s first experience of living away from home, and what a weird experience it is. It’s the only time in your life when you’re thrown into living with people who you’ve never ever met before and then expected to become best friends with them straight away. Not only this, but your home is literally a corridor. It’s a pretty weird experience when you think about it. It’s a really fun and exciting one too but something I really struggled with (and sometimes still do) is not feeling at home. The amount of conversations I had with people during the first few weeks/months of UNI about the fact that we all felt like we were on a seriously long primary-school residential trip was crazy. Choosing to live in UNI halls means you have little to no choice about what your living space is going to look like, which can make it feel a little weird (especially when you go into your flatmates bedrooms and realise they’re completely identical). This is why it’s really important to make it your own. ‘Home’ is different for everyone but these are some of the things I’ve done to make my UNI room feel a little more ‘me’ and I’m hoping they’ll be helpful for others too (they’re going to be more catered towards living in halls but will obviously work for accommodation in 2nd year and beyond too).

1. Flowers

I only realised the power of fresh flowers fairly recently after I was bought some in February. They brightened up my room so much and  the concept of having something that is alive and growing in your room is such a positive one, even if you’re only thinking about it sub-consciously. They don’t have to be expensive either. These cost £4 from Tesco and will probably last about 2 weeks and you can get them for even cheaper than that. Plus, I didn’t even need to buy a vase as this jug that my flatmates stole from Wetherspoons works perfectly.

2. Fairy Lights

This one is a bit of a cliché for students but for good reason! Fairy lights make your room feel so much cosier and look so much prettier. I particularly love these heart attachments I picked up from IKEA to go on top of them. Since buying these, I’ve definitely started enjoying the appearance of my room a little bit more. I’d also really recommend buying a lamp! It seems simple but it’s easy to forget and having a lamp is so much more cozy and less harsh than having your ceiling light on at all times.

3. Decorating My Walls

This is probably the easiest way to make your room feel like your own. As you can see, the designers of my accommodation decided to go for these prison-style brick walls so I was desperate to get them covered. Whether it’s with posters, pages cut out from magazines or some of your own photos, in my experience, it’s best to cover as much wall space as possible. I picked this poster up on the first week of UNI at the student poster sale (really feeling like a walking, talking cliché in this post) and it was probably the first thing I did to make the room feel like my own. Also, a quick tip, most UNI rooms don’t let you use blue tac so get your hands on some adhesive strips! They work in just the same way and won’t leave any marks on your walls.

4. Adding A Personal Touch

Pack as many personal photos as you can when you go to UNI. They’re such a comfort to have around your room and will always remind you of the people you love if your ever feeling down. I put mine predominantly by my bed as I most often feel down when falling asleep but the more around your room the better!

5. Bed Sheets

This is a super simple one as obviously everyone has to buy bed sheets, so make sure you buy ones you like if you can! They’ll be on your bed from the minute you arrive at UNI and will stay there for the rest of the year, so it’s important to have ones you like and, in my opinion, ones that really brighten up your room. I was lucky enough to receive this blanket and pillow hand-made as a gift from my wonderful Aunty Chris specifically for moving to UNI and it’s the best gift I could have ever asked for as it always reminds me of family and, clearly, brightens up in my room in every way possible. (Also, there is no shame in having a cuddly toy or two as exhibited by my bunny that I got last Christmas who has also significantly helped in making my room feel more homely).

I hope you’ve enjoyed having a little look into my UNI room. Living in halls has been a weird experience for me but having a room I actually like has made it so much better and really improved the experience. So take some time to think about what you want in your room and how you want it to look next year as it really will make a difference! I’d also love to here what you do to make your room your own! Here are some more photos of my room if you’re feeling a little bit nosey:

The aforementioned lamp along with my record player, some ‘coffee table books’, and some gold bowls, one of which I got in a charity shop for £1!
If you ever feel bad about your UNI room, just be thankful you don’t have these god awful curtains. Also, top tip, keep fruit as the only food in your room so if you want to snack it’s more likely to be on something healthy!
My studying area is happily an organised mess.
An illustration of the Liverpool skyline that always reminds me of home, along with some great notebooks.

 

Pretty ornaments to make my room, well, prettier. Also, invest in a diffuser! I always get compliments on the nice smell in my room and it really makes me feel like I’ve got my life together.
I keep these photos right next to my bed to remind me of all my amazing friends and family (and my cat of course- notice how frequently he features).

Becoming Comfortable In Yourself

Photography by Jenny Gavan.

‘Being comfortable in your own skin’ is a phrase that has been used lots over the past few years as body confidence has become more and more of a ‘hot topic’. This is something that I think is really great and I wish this emphasis on being confident in your body was more prevalent in my high-school years as I know it would have helped me to accept what I looked like, and specifically my body, much more than I did. However, pushing my journey with being comfortable in my own skin aside, today I want to talk about simply becoming comfortable in yourself as a person. I’ve changed so much as a person over the past three years and it’s something I’ve struggled to adapt to. But now I’m coming to the end of my first year at University, I think I’m becoming much better at unapologetically being myself.

I’m including these photos with a post about self-acceptance because they were taken on a main road and in an arcade, two places where I got a multitude of strange looks while posing. So, on this day, I really had to feel confident in myself and what I was doing. I’ve mentioned this before, but the reason it took me so long to re-start a blog is because I wasn’t comfortable enough in myself to do so. Posing for photos then sharing them all over on social media and taking part in almost daily ‘shameless self-promo’ is just something I couldn’t see myself doing, even though some of the people I look up to most do this every single day as part of their full-time job. Since launching my blog 3 weeks ago (I can’t believe it’s been ONLY 3 weeks), I feel like I’ve begun to accept myself for who I am more than ever before, not just in doing things related to my blog but with everything I’m up to in life.

Throughout my high school years, I was a huge extrovert. Socialising was what I most looked forward to and I especially loved drinking and partying on the weekend with my friends. I’ve always enjoyed time on my own even during this phase in my life. But at this point, a Saturday night-in was rare and I was happy that this was the way it was. I’ve always been conscientious and enjoyed (most parts) of school and education but I never took it too seriously during high school. But when I started sixth form, almost three years ago now, my attitude totally changed.

From day one of sixth form, I was doing excessive amounts of work every day, completely pushing myself to my limits. During my first year of sixth form, I coped with this. Socialising was still a big part of my life and I was going out most weekends. I had a new boyfriend and my ‘work-life balance’ was pretty good- even if this meant getting up super early to start work or staying up all night to finish it. Although my social life didn’t suffer this year, my mental health definitely did. I didn’t know it at the time but I think this is where my anxiety really began to develop. I set my targets so high academically that I would make myself feel bad if I wasn’t getting everything I needed to done. So, in my second year of sixth form I decided, and I’m not sure whether this was conscious or sub-conscious, that I needed to spend most-all of my time working towards my A-Levels.

A whole post would be needed to talk about the effects of A-Levels on my mental health and I’m not going to go into that now but essentially, my attitude towards work kind of led me to become more introverted than I already was. It was also in my second year of sixth form that I developed a sort of intolerance to alcohol. I haven’t got a formal diagnosis but I basically become very ill off as little as one or two drinks, so this also obviously discouraged me to go out as much. I was never unhappy to have to stay in though. At heart, I think I’ve always been an introvert because some of my happiest memories from my teenage years are being sat on my own in bed doing something creative, which is my absolute favourite thing to do now. But I think the pressures of A-Levels and my practical inability to drink alcohol really allowed the introvert within me to materialise.

I’m also a very anxious person so this combined with being an introvert and my issues with drinking obviously don’t mix well with British UNI culture, which mainly consists of socialising and drinking alcohol. So since starting UNI in September, it has been kind of difficult because I’ve felt like I really do know who I am and what I like doing but because I didn’t want to isolate myself from people at UNI (which I’m glad I didn’t because I’ve met some amazing people) I kind of had to go against what I knew about myself.

Now I’m a little bit more settled in at UNI and I no longer constantly feel like I need to try and make friends, I feel much more able to be myself. I used to be really embarrassed about going home for the weekend because I was feeling anxious. Avoiding doing so actually led to a pretty bad panic attack during a seminar back in November. Now, I know that there’s nothing shameful about going home for the weekend, even if I’m not feeling anxious and am just doing so simply because I want to. Everyone’s different and some parts of UNI are great for people and others are not. I personally love the academic side of my degree, but living in halls isn’t something I love. Some of my friends though hate/hated their degree but love/loved living in halls. There’s nothing wrong or shameful with being in either of these situations and I admire anyone who is brave enough to admit to this and change their situation for the better. Also, I’d just like to point out that I really don’t hate the social side of UNI. I struggled to adapt to the constant socialising but I feel like I’ve managed to find a balance now and am really enjoying it at the moment, even if I need the odd weekend at home to spend time with myself.

So I just wanted to write about my ‘journey’ (lol, cringe) with becoming comfortable with who I am to try and help others accept themselves and those around them. I’m no where near 100% comfortable with myself and still feel guilt for lots of the things I do. But being able to identify that guilt and shake it off is really important. You should never feel bad for doing something you want to do because life is too short to put yourself through things you don’t enjoy, most of the time. That’s enough clichés for one post anyway, moving on to talk a little bit about my outfit…

This is very much a staple outfit for me during the summer, if the loafers were swapped for my Vans. But I would definitely style it with the loafers for a more formal, evening-appropriate look. This is my absolute favourite blazer (even if everyone and their dog owns a similar one) because, despite it being patterned, it goes with everything and the Prince of Wales check adds such a classic look to all of my outfits. I lived in this denim skirt last summer and am planning on doing the same in the coming months. A denim skirt is, again, such a classic piece and is so easy to wear. On colder days I like to style it with a chunky knit and on warmer days with a crop top. For British summer-appropriate weather, I’d style it somewhere in the middle, similarly to how I’ve worn it here with a T-shirt and a blazer. I love this Mia Wallace t-shirt with this red bag as, I think, the subtle colour-combination really ties the outfit together. Plus, a printed t-shirt and a bag that is any colour other than black always makes an outfit that little bit more interesting, in my opinion.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post! I’d love to hear about your journey with self-acceptance in the comments. I’ve linked everything I’m wearing or similar alternatives at the bottom of this post.

Top- Bershka

Skirt- Pull & Bear (old, similar here)

Blazer- Pull & Bear (old, similar here)

Bag- MissGuided

Shoes- Pull & Bear (similar, almost identical, here)