We Need To Stop Leaving Mixed-Race People Out Of The Race Conversation

Someone said to me recently that if you don’t tell your story, then who will? This is a topic I’ve held back on speaking about because of the colourism that is still so prevalent in the UK; but we can’t speak about race without bringing awareness to all issues associated with it. I’m a mixed-race woman, born to a Jamaican father and a white English mother. I understand my light skinned privileges. I understand that I would never have the same lived experiences as dark-skinned women living in the UK, however being mixed-race (in this instance I use the term mixed-race to refer to those who have one black parent and one white parent) presents its own distressing experiences and I think it’s time we start speaking about them.

My whole life I have witnessed the mistreatment of dark-skinned men and women as they were bypassed for opportunities, labelled ‘unsuitable for the workplace culture’ by predominantly white, middle aged authoritative figures who’ve found endless ways of politely saying “they’re too black to work here.” Whether it’s because they’re too dark, their accent is too strong, or their name is too difficult for the rest of the ‘workplace culture’ to pronounce. I thought, who am I to complain about my experiences when I can see my privilege first-hand – In TV shows, on runways, in magazines, on billboards, in offices, behind the reception desk, where a light skinned or mixed-race woman was selected because not only is she competent, but she is black enough to be the ethnicity token that every industry so desperately needs to meet their diversity quota, whilst being palatable enough not to offend her white counterparts. Yes, we are the token hire, yes, we are being sexualised in the media but at least we are visible right? At least we can do something with that opportunity that allows us to exist alongside white women who carefully analyse us for any differences whilst we do our best to blend in and not make a mockery of the black communities we are supposed to represent.

Being light skinned, I was always led to believe by my white family that there were no differences between us. Growing up I believed that I would go off into the world being treated and respected the same way my mother or grandmother was, but I was wrong. When I walk into white spaces, I’m seen as black, different, other; and I’ve always found myself in all white spaces. Even during the years that I tried hiding my blackness by straightening my hair to within an inch of its life, or staying out of the sun, I was never really passing. It breaks my heart to think that a young girl would have to navigate these feelings alone, but the truth is I didn’t really understand these feelings until I grew up and saw the world in all its ugly rawness. It wasn’t me that had an issue with my blackness. It was everyone else who had the problem and in turn I confused other people’s perceptions of me and a need for acceptance with my own feelings, desires, and definition of happiness. At least if I had two black parents, I would have been gently forewarned about the experiences I would inevitably face as I navigated my way through life, being reminded I would have to work twice as hard or go out of my way to avoid run ins with the police. Instead, I dealt with daily inner conflicts regarding my identity, to the point of feeling gaslit. If I was no different, why was I battling the pain that comes with the experience of being treated differently?

I urge anyone who has a mixed-race family member to check in on them. If you are a parent to a mixed-race child, please acknowledge the responsibility you have. Understand the different experiences your child will have due to their intersectional identity. Their experiences will not mirror those of either parent. Just as it is your responsibility to keep them fed, clothed and healthy, it is your responsibility to educate yourselves on how the issues of race embed themselves deep within the history of the either parents’ lives, experiences, and mentalities. If you are the white parent, you must first learn to acknowledge your white privilege and know your child will never have the same experiences as you. Learn to recognise the racist language and beliefs within your own family, and most importantly yourself, because they do exist. It’s not about people uttering racial slurs, it is the misconceptions you and the people around you have about what it means to be black as well as recognising the flaws in the system which disadvantage those who are not white.

It’s disappointing when white people have sexual and romantic relationships with black people and believe this signifies the end of the ingrained racism passed down through generations, like the curse has been broken with them. Some wear it with a sense of pride when they brag about it with their white friends, because they’re getting the biggest cock of their life, or implying what somebody’s daughter can do with those big lips. But I wonder if they have ever stopped to consider that sex and respect don’t necessarily go hand in hand. And let’s be honest, all women will empathise with that statement, regardless of the colour of their skin. As far as we know from the patriarchal teachings thrust upon us since birth, there is a hierarchy within our society. Today, we continue to perceive that hierarchy as: white men, then white women, then black men, then black women. That is what society teaches us.

On the other hand, you have black people who have been shown the lighter your skin colour, that the better your chances in life – In regard to opportunities, and survival. It is understandable why black people would associate lightness with desirability. The media has always implied that light equals pretty, it equals privilege, and the daily encounters black people have, only proceed to confirm this notion. Somewhere along the line, mixed race babies became popular. I have seen groups of white mums showing off their mixed babies as if they were Birkin bags. We now have a growing part of our population who exist between the parallels of these two very different experiences, with white privilege on one side and racial disadvantage on the other. Mixed race people are continuously observing either side of these societal conflicts, like we’re watching a tennis match. We see both sides of the coin simultaneously, and we see them clearly. We experience them both but never in their fullest extent.

Information held by the UK national statistics predicted in 2011 that by 2020 1.24 million people would be of a mixed ethnicity, suggesting that mixed-race people would be the fastest growing ethnic group in the UK. Dinah Morley and Catherine Street, authors of Mixed Experiences: Growing Up Mixed Race – Mental Health and Well-being (2014), speak about the correlation between being bi-racial and mental health issues, offering practitioners insight to the unique experiences and challenges of mixed-race people. There is an awareness around the issue, but we are still not seeing it being put to the forefront of conversations around race. Why not? If mixed-race ethnicities are the fastest growing population in Britain, then why was I only learning that the mental health problems which coincide with these experiences are a commonality by digging deep into the internet? For so long I was unable to explain the conflicting thoughts and feelings I had about myself and my identity, so I had to figure it out on my own. Not a single person working in the mental health services that tried to help me navigate my feelings of depression or anxiety ever connected the dots.

Although I take pride in providing solutions to people, I’m not sure this is something I can achieve in this post alone. The truth is, I’m still figuring things out however I know that realising I wasn’t alone in my experiences and having my feelings validated would have held great significance in my journey of healing, self-acceptance, and self-discovery. Therefore, we must speak about it. It has taken a long time for me to embrace the parts of myself I tried to hide, to understand the beauty and power that is embedded within my blackness whilst navigating the privilege of my almost whiteness. I am accepting that I will continue to encounter ignorance, and that my growing comfortability with my identity (and most importantly learning to own that identity) will make some people uncomfortable, but that’s not my problem. I’ve done the inner work and I cannot be responsible for the feelings of those who have not. My attention is on my own happiness and the validation and mental wellbeing of mixed-race people everywhere.

If you are mixed-race and have been affected by these issues, please get in touch using the contact information below. I would love to learn about your experiences, so we can figure out how to best support each other.

Instagram: @daniellajadeb

Twitter: @BrookesDaniella

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How To Be A Better Ally To The LGBTQ Community

I recently had the displeasure of going to a gay club and being hit on by not one, not two, but a whole handful of men. Although this may be a successful evening for some women, it is quite literally my worst nightmare. For me, nights out have never been about finding someone to take home anyway. I simply go out to have a laugh with my friends, critique the bartenders cocktail making skills and bust my best moves on the dance floor. Even if securing a romantic interest for the evening was my intention, I would expect the best (and safest) place to do that would be in a bar or club that is for gay people. Unfortunately, I found myself having to ‘come out’ repeatedly throughout the night just to have some peace, only to have one of my pursuers ask in disgust “Gay?! A pretty girl like you?!” Yes, that’s right sir, I’m a big ol’ lezza and there’s nothing you or your ego can do about it. P.S you’re clearly in the wrong venue.

Even as a friend or family member of an LGBTQ person, you might think your lack of homophobic treatment is enough for you to consider yourself an ally, however you may not be as supportive and accepting as you think you are. Whether you’re wanting to play a more supportive role, or you plan on forwarding this to someone who needs to read it, below are some tips on becoming a better ally:

Respect the Ongoing Battle / History of LGBTQ Rights

The LGBTQ community have been fighting for equal rights for centuries. A fight that continues to this day. Even supposedly progressive parts of the world such as the UK didn’t legalise same sex marriage until 2014, with Northern Ireland dragging its feet behind, finally legalising it in 2020. In over 70 countries worldwide homosexuality is still unaccepted, and in some circumstances, it can be punishable by law. Imagine facing legal battles for loving who you want to love – To love freely without fear of repercussions is a privilege that straight people take for granted.

Be Mindful of Who You Bring to LGBTQ Spaces

Perhaps you are one of the genuine allies, but don’t assume all your friends are as open minded. Anti-gay hate crimes are still exceptionally high, so taking anyone into a gay space who will respond in a hostile manner if someone tries flirting with them contradicts the idea of having safe spaces for LGBTQ people in the first place. Straight people are accepted everywhere so you have plenty of other options.

Many spaces which are created for gay people will always be welcoming to straight allies, but please be a genuine ally and respect the spaces you are in. This includes refraining from excessively yelling “Yasssss Queen!” in our faces.

Check Your ‘Friends’

In addition to the above, it’s worth having a discussion with any bad vibes friends if they make insensitive jokes or throwaway comments because these contribute to homophobia in the same way microaggressions contribute to racism. It implies a lack of acceptance. Although you can’t necessarily change people, you might be able to educate some of them to be less ignorant. Emphasis on the might…

Be Supportive of LGBTQ Relationship Difficulties

There’s often a running joke about how quickly gay couples tend to move, or that gay relationships consist of a lot of drama. Even if your friend is on their fifth bae of the year, or if they moved in together after two weeks, please take their feelings seriously if they are experiencing troubles in their relationship and they trust you enough to approach you for help. Their choices might not make sense to you however their feelings are valid, and it is important they feel they have supportive friends to help and guide them through whatever they may be experiencing, especially if you have an indication their relationship displays toxic or abusive tendencies.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

There is no better way to support the LGBTQ community than financially supporting our organisations (which are often underfunded), establishments or creative endeavours. Simply choosing to live life as an openly LGBTQ person can come with a whole load of hardships including being cut off from friends or family, experiences with poverty, homelessness, and abuse. Anyone dealing with these types of trauma may not have access to the help and support they need and rely on organisations founded by members of our community to support them. To make it easier for you, I’ll link some notable places to donate to below.

Stonewall – Founded in 1989, Stonewall have been part of every major fight for LGBTQ+ rights ever since, including the legalisation of same sex marriages, adoption rights for same sex couples, protection from discrimination in the workplace and LGBTQ-inclusive education.

The Love Tank – A non-for-profit CIC promoting health and wellbeing, providing information on PrEP through awareness events as well as contributing to research surrounding PrEP and sexual health.

UK Black Pride – Europe’s largest celebration for African, Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Caribbean-heritage LGBTQI+ people.

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Maybe It’s Me… Maybe It’s The ADHD

As I navigate my way through this foggy phase, I feel the only way I can create a positive out of a negative is by documenting my experiences in the hope it will help someone else. Amid complete and utter burn out I discovered I have ADHD. My understanding of it was always shaped by the boys in school who couldn’t sit still, sucking everyone up into their tornado of chaos, ultimately pushing the teachers to the end of their tether. I assumed that when girls said they had ADHD that they displayed similar symptoms and were diagnosed during childhood like most males, but this is hardly ever the case. I stumbled upon this information by accident, learning that most females are diagnosed during adulthood, if ever at all because their symptoms often displayed differently or were treated as depression or anxiety. Reading through the list of symptoms was uncomfortably relatable as I reflected on their regular occurrences throughout my lifetime. Things such as lateness, inattentiveness, becoming hyper-focused on topics or hobbies of interest, indecisiveness, disorganization, poor money management, finding offices or busy classrooms a total sensory overload, forgetfulness… and some other symptoms which I have most certainly forgotten.

This realisation sent my brain up, down, left, right like some dance routine from TikTok. I began reflecting on moments of my life where I’d done strange things and just laughed them off, labelling myself as quirky. I remember teachers telling me off in school stating, “You’ll never get anywhere in life staring out of that door!” I just remember daydreaming of the places outside of that door that I’d rather be. Was it ADHD the whole time? Was this just overlooked my whole life because I’m a girl?

I was doing too much recently, on the verge of burnout. I could feel it in my body, I could hear it in the back of my mind, I could see it in the pile of washing that was accumulating in the corner of my room next to some payslips from 2016. I tried convincing myself that burnout only happens through doing things that didn’t bring me joy or were deemed detrimental to my health, but if this was case then why was writing or going to the gym contributing to this never-ending exhaustion?

Apart from the odd night out or dinner dates with friends in attempt to distract myself from my situation, I’ve spent most of the past two and a half weeks in bed. I’m constantly tired. My tiredness slowly turned to sadness, then my sadness quickly turned to anger.

I feel I have been let down by my countries healthcare system my whole life. I place no blame on its workers because I understand they are doing their best in an underfunded sector. Some of the people I love most in this world work for the NHS. I feel let down by the lack of resources, the funding cuts by our government and the lack of compassion I’ve received from the professionals who treat me as an item to cross off their to-do lists. I can’t help but acknowledge the lingering thought that if I was a wealthy white woman, I would be sitting in a well decorated waiting room, staring at a painting of lavender fields whilst a friendly doctor drafts up my treatment plan in the other room, preparing to give me some comforting words on how everything is going to be okay. Instead, I’m sitting here on a 9-month waiting list writing about my experiences because that’s the only way I can feel like I’m doing something constructive.

I feel like I’ve often been considered by the people closest to me as quirky or a joker. Most of the time though I wasn’t doing things that I intend to be perceived as funny. I remember calling my mum to tell her about an incident at the train station and we both laughed for ages without realising this could signify a neurological issue. I was travelling to college and missed my train. Because I had to wait 25 minutes for the next one, I sat on my phone, responding to funny messages in group chats and scrolling through Instagram, innocent and carefree. When I looked up again, I saw the train I was supposed to catch leaving the station. I must have ended up being a total of 2 hours late that day…

I didn’t get the grades I was predicted in school, and I feel like I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to overachieve in as many areas as possible to compensate for my previous downfalls. I’ve never been stupid, so tell me why I sat down several times in the past two weeks to write a blog post and my head was just empty? Yet I’ve written this in one sitting, without turning my head away from my laptop.

My biggest concern is that my progression and ultimately my career will begin to suffer if this is left untreated. Deadlines are creeping up on me and lingering around like a bad smell. If I’ve always had ADHD, why is it only now that my symptoms seem so disruptive to my everyday life?

Unpacking this, I think the pandemic initially broke a lot of the structure that was present in my day-to-day life, so I had no choice but to self-manage my time. This is when my symptoms started to worsen. If I got up to make myself a coffee, took a nap, or procrastinated in any way, there was no-one there to answer to. I’d usually blitz the work at 3am when the insomnia hits anyway. After adapting to this carefree way of working, I’ve found myself re-entering classrooms feeling extra fidgety and unfocused unless I have a keen interest in the topic being covered.

Looking back, I’d always had the routine of school and work to keep me somewhat focused throughout my lifetime. There was always an external factor holding me accountable. My first year at university seemed more structured than it is this year and having lectures at home meant I was still free to drift in and out of focus without consequences. As soon as the summer holidays hit, I was focusing on looking for work, new experiences and starting independent projects. I worked a few different jobs in that time, travelled, visited family etc. When I was working my life had structure. When I wasn’t I was just enjoying the ability to be carefree. Although my symptoms were still present during this time, they weren’t as disruptive, however I can now see the habits towards work and productivity that I’d developed during this time are clearly what has contributed to my inevitable burnout.

An increased conversation around ADHD is the only reason I’ve connected the dots and began to understand why I am struggling recently, which is why I am documenting my experiences and contributing to the conversation. I feel like I’m at the start of a whole new chapter, where I can learn new things about myself, discover better ways of working and hopefully help other people in the process.

If you relate to this post and believe you might also have ADHD, I urge you to persist through the resistance of the healthcare system and get yourself the support you need. Speak to a loved one that can help you through this process – including keeping track of your appointments, provide a shoulder to cry on (because lord knows I’ve needed this), and assist with the never-ending paperwork which is like a sadistic joke in itself – if you know, you know.

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Healing Through Art

What does a world look like where art is no longer viewed as just for art’s sake but seen as a tool to provide healing, bring together communities and becomes a viable and respected career path for those who want it? Oriana Jemide, a fine artist, therapeutic art life coach and the founder of The Medela School, is redefining what a career in the creative field looks like as well as the positive influence it can have on our wellbeing.

The Medela School is a visual arts platform that facilitates art classes and workshops to help people improve their emotional and mental wellbeing. Oriana explains ‘I am passionate about eradicating the exclusivity of art by showing people the tangible impact it can have in their lives, not just through consumption but practice. I am a British Nigerian and second-generation creative entrepreneur in my family. Most people from my background are often encouraged to pursue academic careers because of job security. Fortunately for me, my Nigerian parents overcame that narrative by deciding to pursue their creative passions (my dad, a cake decorator and my mum, a screenwriter/poet) after finishing their academic degrees. Between helping my dad sketch out cake designs and going to film sets with my mum, I was immersed in the culture of creativity. I got the privilege to experience both the impact of creativity on one’s self-development and what it looked like to build a sustainable career doing creative work. Realising that not many people especially those who looked like me had the same opportunities is why I created The Medela School.’

Art has been used as a means of communication and self-expression dating back to ancient times, however somewhere along the human timeline it began to lose its significance with academic focus being highlighted as holding the most significance. Processing and communicating our thoughts and feelings amongst the chaotic demands of modern-day life can be challenging, but art therapy provides an uplifting, interactive solution to this. Reconnecting with our creative side is like reconnecting to our inner child. It is fun, freeing and encourages us to think outside of the box. 

“Many of the participants we have worked with often share how our classes remind them of their primary school art class, helping them reconnect with fond childhood memories. It has become a great space for them to relax, reflect and see the value of art in their current lives. Some have even come back after a class to enquire about where to get materials so they can start painting regularly.”

In addition to increasing representation and promoting positive mental wellbeing, The Medela School is bringing people together with their community focused groups. Research on the benefits of art therapy suggest that creative practices alter our brains in a positive way, prompting new patterns in our cognitive processing, making this a great choice for team building exercises. The Medela School is an engaging alternative to the standard birthday get together, date night or baby shower, which is sure to impress and inspire those you bring along.

Art within the UK always felt primarily reserved for the privileged, but this is a truth that is being broken down and rewritten within our communities which are filled with talented creatives. It is innovative entrepreneurs such as Oriana who understand the significance of creating safe spaces for women like her, where creative abilities can be encouraged and nurtured. Sometimes all it takes is for one inspirational person to remind you that your talents don’t just have a valid place in the world but are paramount to the future of other creatives.

All information and services can be found here on The Medela School Website.

Oriana Jemide

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Gossip Is Killing Our People!

As my life starts to get busier, I’m being far more intentional with how I spend my time, and how the activities in my life alter my mood and perceptions. I’ve recently started swimming because it was a good way to be alone with my thoughts, away from technology and all the physical reminders of the things on my to-do list. Having go-to relaxation techniques is incredibly beneficial for managing stress levels. To maintain balance and variety of my activities, I started going to the park to get some fresh air and do some not-so-subtle people watching. As I observed passers-by, usually travelling in twos, I noticed they all had something in common – They were all gossiping about people they knew.

We are all guilty of venting our opinions, with spilling the Tea being an integral part of social dynamics, however this got me thinking how much of our time do we spend talking about others, and how is this dialect positively or negatively impacting us?

Think back to a time when you had a conversation with someone that uplifted you. The other person probably made you feel good, happy, confident etc. They probably took an interest in something that was important to you, whether it was a new career prospective or something you are passionate about. They may have given you words of encouragement, validation, or helped you to see something from a new perspective.

Now think back to a conversation that left you feeling drained or negative. It likely involved complaining, worry or bitching of some kind. Studies show that negative language actually stimulates the activity centre in our brain responsible for fear – the amygdala; subsequently releasing stress hormones into the body which contribute to ill health and disease. On the other hand, positive language is proven to strengthen our frontal lobes, promoting better cognitive function. What you say is just as important as how you say it.

Often, those with the deepest insecurities can be quick to negatively judge others. This is usually because the thing they dislike about the other person reflects something which they don’t like about themselves. Identifying and working through this refers to shadow work. It’s one of the most important things you can do to improve your relationship with yourself and others (without the assistance of therapy). Insecurities embed themselves in unresolved trauma. Shadow work (although painful at times) allows for the shedding of these beliefs by acknowledging the physical and emotional triggers. By identifying the root cause of them, you’re able to work through the darker parts of your identity which get pushed back into your subconscious.

This act of increasing your awareness will probably bring a lot of things to light. Noticing the quality of the conversations you’re having with others will provide clarity on the relationships which are worth nurturing and which ones may require a little distance for your own sanity. Creating healthy distance from the people who only want to engage in negative conversation is bound to impact how you feel and how you think. If distance is difficult (perhaps this person is a co-worker or family member) then see how you can change the conversation from a negative to a positive topic.

Sometimes we get so caught up in our negativity bubbles that we don’t see how it’s harming us. It’s almost like it becomes part of our routine. By making this change you could positively impact people around you, and they won’t even understand why they feel better around you. They just will. We all love a bit of Tea, but if you’re serving more tea than Twinings and really don’t have anything interesting to say it could be harming you just as much as it harms other people. Don’t default to speaking about others. It’s not nice and it doesn’t say a lot about your character. Equally, be aware of people who always talk about everyone else because they’ll probably have something to say about you too once you’re not in the room.

The smallest changes can make the biggest difference to our everyday lives, whether it’s implementing a new activity or altering the way we converse with others. Being mindful of how you feel, when you feel it, and why you feel it is vital for anyone focusing on growth, happiness, and wholeness. When you feel happy other people pick up on that positive energy and you will begin to attract likeminded people into your life.

I think the negativity and uncertainty we’ve been bombarded with over the past couple of years is enough to throw anyone off balance. We all deserve a little more positivity in our day to day lives and sometimes that change needs to start from within. It needs to start with you. Never underestimate the power you hold to change your surroundings with your mindset and attitude alone.

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A Lesson on Time Management & Productivity

I was in the middle of making some notes on my phone, when the screen began to flash green and white and eventually faded out to black, completely giving out on me. Whilst initially devastated at its impairment, I quickly began to realise how much time I’d reclaimed without the use of my phone. Similarly to when I took a break from social media, I had an interruption to my routine that allowed me to identify where positive changes could be made. It’s like clearing out the old to make space for the new, and this is exactly what this experience has done. The answer behind managing my time better and increasing my productivity levels had been starting me in the face the whole time, literally. My phone. Ironically, the very device hindering my way to improved time management was the same device I’d been using to scroll through endless content on how to improve it.

As soon as my phone broke, I immediately emailed my two closest friends to advise them I would be temporarily absent from the group chat which I bless with voice notes (containing information of zero importance) several times a day. Emailing my friends gave me a nostalgic flashback of the noughties, where the ability to email was a blessing, especially if we had spent all our credit on heavily abbreviated text messages or used our £10 top-up to buy ringtones that would equally make us want to both bop and cringe if we heard them today.

I rolled my eyes and blamed this misfortunate situation on the mercury retrograde (especially since WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook went down the same day) however it was really a blessing in disguise. Being forced to be on my laptop to have connection with the outside world meant I began to immerse myself in tasks on my to-do list without constant distractions of messages and notifications, and get shit done. I’m even up to date on my emails.

This break in my routine allowed me to reclaim my time. It proved just how much my mobile phone eats into my productivity. I generally spend short bursts of time working, picking up my phone to check something, notice the time and conclude that it is in fact time for another cup of tea. Simply removing my awareness of the time resulted in unbroken focus on a single task for longer periods of time, allowing me to be far more productive and subsequently almost put PG Tips out of business.

The only negative side to this increased concentration is that sitting, unfortunately, is the new smoking so I must keep reminding myself to get up and move around.

Once my phone is fixed, I will be limiting my phone time during specific hours. I’ll even go as far as leaving it switched off, buried in the back of the wardrobe if necessary. Tell my loved ones if there is an emergency, don’t contact me, contact 999. I’ve had a revelation.

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Ready To Quit Your Job? – Find Your Passion and Live Intentionally

There comes a point in all our lives where we seek answers to the deeper questions – “Who am I?”, “What is my purpose?”, “How do I know if I’m making the right choices?”, “What do I want from life?” etc. And for a long time, I was unknowingly looking for these answers externally. I’d look at people I admire for inspiration, listen to the guidance of others, or affirm my life choices based on the validation of those around me.

Although feedback or advice from the people closest to you is important, it isn’t always useful if you are pursuing something which they cannot relate to because it isn’t reflective of their own journey or career path. Validation from others won’t help you to understand yourself on a deeper level. If anything, it can be counterproductive and push you further from discovering your truth. Perhaps you’ve been making choices about your own life based on other people’s expectations of you and find yourself becoming unfulfilled or resentful.

Acknowledging it’s time for a career change is daunting, often leaving you with conflicting thoughts on whether you’re making the right decision. There is always an element of risk to the unknown and any doubts you have within yourself may be amplified by those around you. For example, when I left my full-time corporate job to get my degree in an unrelated, creative subject, there was certainly scepticism and pushback from those closest to me. Initially I found this frustrating, yet I understood their views originated from a place of fear – Fear that I was pursuing a different path to the one they had pictured for me. Fear that I wouldn’t be financially prosperous from this decision. Perhaps even fear that they would no longer be able to provide guidance or relate to me due to the lack of familiarity to my chosen path, however those same people now express pride in my achievements.

Many people know they’re unhappy in their job but aren’t sure what to do about it. Below are my key points to identify before taking the plunge.

What got you into this situation in the first place?

Maybe you took a job you had no interest in to pay the bills and found yourself stuck there wondering where the years went. Maybe you were told at some point you wouldn’t amount to anything better, creating limiting internalised beliefs about your own abilities. Perhaps the effects of an unmanaged mental health issue or disability has unfairly limited your options and you’ve been lacking sufficient support systems to overcome this barrier. Perhaps you’re an immigrant who has learnt the hard way that the country you now call home does not treat you with the respect you deserve.

Make a list identifying the reasons you are at this point so you can identify early on any self-sabotaging thoughts that you may use to talk yourself out of taking the plunge. Remember, adversities make us resilient when faced with new challenges and these negative experiences do not define us.

Which of these barriers are still present?

Does this situation that got you here still apply? If so, what elements of these same barriers are still in place? Take time to consider what has changed and what else needs to change. For example, if it’s financial concerns, start by working out a budget with your current salary identifying where cutbacks can be made, followed by your minimum figure/salary for potential new employers. What has changed might be the length of time remaining for these financial commitments e.g 6 months left of your tenancy agreement or finance payments. Then set a timeline in which you aim to make the necessary adjustments to your situation with a positive mindset. Working toward something with intention and resolving problems in the form of achieving micro-goals will already begin to make you feel better.

Recognising barriers that have previously held you back does not mean they’re worthy of all your energy. Focusing too much on them will only amplify their significance because your reality is governed by your perception. Simply use them to identify areas for growth. Let them motivate you to take the next steps in your pursuit of growth and happiness.

Tune in and seek out your passions

If you have no idea of what you want to do, first consider what it is you enjoy. What makes you feel good or what made you happy in the past? It could be that you find satisfaction in building or creating something, or maybe you just get a sense of satisfaction from helping others. Explore new things, revisit old hobbies, staying mindful of what makes you feel good and what doesn’t.

You may have had something that has always called to you, yet you never considered it a viable career option. Only you know what makes you happy and sparks joy, motivation, and excitement. If it’s multiple things, write them down and explore them individually or be innovative and consider how you could bring multiple talents or interests together.

Understand what you want your life to look like

Without knowing exactly what you want, how can you create or become it? So many people place limitations on themselves to be ‘safe’ or ‘realistic’ which subsequently limit their achievements and earning potentials. If you want to be a billionaire, live in LA, drive a Bugatti, then go after it. You’ll just have to figure out viable ways to achieve this.

The higher you set the bar for yourself, the more you are likely to achieve in the long run. Use visualisation techniques and vision boards to keep you motivated – Many successful entrepreneurs and celebrities swear by these methods.

Research, research, research!

Whether it’s finding new ways to overcome some of the challenges that have held you back or gaining a deeper understanding of what skills or qualifications are required to do the job you want, research is key. Knowledge is invaluable and the research stage is crucial. There may be something you initially find intriguing but after doing your research, find the dynamics of the job are quite different to what you originally anticipated. Ensuring you have a realistic expectation of what is required of you in any field will help you understand what you need to do next.

Putting in the Work

Now you’ve prepared yourself by identifying barriers, defining what you want to achieve and begun making the actions required to get you there, take action. Make a list of short-term plans (achievable in the next 1 – 3 months), mid-term plans (6 – 12 Months) and long-term plans (3 – 5 years). Work towards your achievements with specific daily or weekly micro-goals.

The hardest part is often showing up and putting the work in. Self-discipline is like a muscle – The more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes.

Changing direction at any point in life is difficult. Our brains become hardwired to follow the same thinking patterns and behaviours day in day out. Making adjustments to the ‘norm’ is going to feel unsettling, however taking a leap of faith can pay off if you approach it in a smart way with an intentionally thought-out plan. I know for a fact I would rather die than keep myself in a position where mediocracy and mundanity become my life for the unforeseeable future. If we are living in a way that merely feels like existing, shouldn’t we ask ourselves if we are even living at all?

If you found this post useful and have started a new venture, please get in touch and share your experiences at wordsofintegrity.contact@wordsofintegritydb

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Is Marriage Like Vegetarianism? – Rewriting The Narrative

I’m a hopeless romantic. As soon as my heart belongs to someone, I find myself picturing white picket fences and hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet, but I’m also a realist. Things change, people change. It’s inevitable. The ugly truth is that the factors which cause change are almost entirely out of our control, therefore it is important to understand our core belief system to aid us in making big decisions that apply to our future. In the process of trying to unlearn and relearn everything I know in pursuit for personal growth and truly understand my own desires I’ve had to question everything I thought I knew about love and marriage.

As a female, it’s almost impossible to escape the notion of marriage. From dressing up in puffy Disney gowns to using pillowcases as a veil; to quickly diverting away from aunties and uncles at family events when they raise questions about who we will marry and when.

I started to wonder if marriage was only something I aspired to because society implied I should. As I become more comfortable with accepting and embracing my sexuality, I’ve realised my path will never mirror the visions others initially had for my life. I get to rewrite the narrative. A concept I unconsciously started doing years ago when I quit eating meat.

Whenever I visit family, they always question my choice to be a vegetarian. “You don’t eat any chicken?? No fish??!” I shake my head and wait for the tumultuous concerns about my protein intake to come flooding in. I reassure them I eat plenty of protein and am not malnourished in any way. I understand the concept of my lifestyle choices won’t always resonate with them because they grew up learning different ideas about how to live and survive. The same applies to marriage and family structure. I am fortunate enough to live in a time where I have the option to choose what is best for me – Both in love and in the kitchen.

I sometimes joke about my theory that marriage is like vegetarianism – That you commit to a life without meat, but as soon as you’ve had a few too many tequila shots you start eyeing up someone’s kebab at the end of the night and consider asking them for a cheeky nibble, forgetting the vows that you made.

But on a serious note, I realised that marriage itself was something I had been taught to aspire to, but this narrative for how my future should play out lacked emphasis on the things it should rightfully represent – Love (which I now define as “the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth” – as analysed by Bell Hooks in All About Love). To me, romantic commitments at their very core should be built on mutual support, care, and respect.

Maybe the reason that 65% of marriages end in divorce is because marriage wasn’t historically created with the intention of being built around unconditional love. It was an agreement between families, a protection of wealth, a sense of security to assist in survival, a social construct, an introduction to monogamy as a means of appeasing poor men. Despite ideology around marriage (within the western world) evolving through the years, elements of the core foundations on which marriage was built has inevitably transpired to the modern day.

For heterosexual-women, there is an added pressure to marry whilst they’re young due to the significance placed on everything that youth may symbolise – beauty, purity, innocence, and obedience. In a world built off misogynistic ideals, women are often taught through media representation that they must look or act a certain way to ‘attract a husband’, giving power to the idea that we should feel lucky to be chosen or shown the attention our hearts desire. Whether gay, straight, or anywhere in between it is our responsibility to stop aspiring to marriage and start aspiring to healthy, loving relationships. If that healthy, loving relationship should result in marriage, we are setting positive examples of marriage for future generations however if it does not, we are still showing future generations that happiness and long-term commitment can exist without being validated by the notion of marriage.

Although diamonds are, supposedly, a girl’s best friend, I don’t need a ring, dress, or piece of paper to affirm the commitment I am making to the person I want to spend my life with. It is far more important to place value upon people than material objects. As I enter ‘The Panic Years’, a phrase introduced to me by Nell Frizzell in her humorous autobiography, I realised I should no longer put unnecessary pressure on myself to be anyone’s wife, and neither should you.

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What I Learnt From Quitting Social Media

I’ve always found social media quite demanding. Almost like it comes with its own set of unspoken rules and expectations. I noticed that even the pattern of comparing myself to others was unavoidable. I would log on because I was bored and come away feeling like I should be doing more with my life. That I should be interesting, funnier, smarter, prettier, busier, or richer. On top of that I felt like I needed to have an opinion on the latest political or celebrity scandals, or ensure I was complimenting my friends on their most recent posts. But what did I gain out of trying to keep up with these trends or stay relevant? Nothing. The more I tried to maintain these unrealistic expectations the more I experienced anxiety. The more time I spent on social media the more I procrastinated, felt bored and had trouble sleeping. So, I quit. I deleted all my profiles and said adios to social media for about two years.

The first few days, I’d open my phone to check for the apps that were no longer there. This alone gave me a wake-up call. How often did I actively share and consume information without really thinking about it because of a habit that was ingrained in my muscle memory? I wondered if people would think I’d blocked them…or died. My ego wanted to believe that people would care enough to miss me. I’d tricked myself into thinking social media was an efficient way to build and maintain relationships and it was only the absence of having it in my life that showed me this is a lie. Although I have made connections with like-minded people, these relationships often lacked authenticity. They served a less meaningful purpose. This experience, if nothing else, taught me who my true friends are. Calling and texting the ones who genuinely cared and checked on me led to more meaningful conversations because people are far more willing to share the intimate parts of their lives in a 1 to 1 conversation.

Mindfully using my free time, I remembered just how much I enjoy my own company and began learning, pursuing, exploring things I found interesting. When I was younger, I was obsessed with Fashion magazines, and picked up a copy of Vogue and Elle on my lunch break. Not only did it reignite my interest in the Fashion industry, but it made me reflect on all the hobbies and interests I loved and lost touch with over the years. Reading being one of them.

I signed up to the library (a sweetly nostalgic act in itself) because I hadn’t set foot in a library since leaving school. I rented 3 books and read in the park whilst soaking up the sunshine, sipping an iced latte, channelling the kind of inner peace and satisfaction that Julia Roberts exudes in Eat Love Pray. My romantic moment ended abruptly when it began to rain, and I remembered I live in England. This moment stands out in my mind because I had the bittersweet realisation that I’d forgotten what it was like to slow down and enjoy the bliss of these seemingly insignificant moments. I was taking time to reflect, be alone with my thoughts, and that my dears is a powerful thing.

A social media detox reignited something within me that made me question how much our lifestyles in the modern day are serving us. How many habits do we acquire, or mentalities do we accumulate throughout our lives just by following the status quo?

5 years later, I am studying Fashion. Becoming an active reader also inspired me to start writing. Creative outlets have become more than just a hobby; they are part of my lifestyle. They allow me to monetize off skills I fear I may not have nurtured without this necessary period of self-reflection.

I am now back on social media; however, I use it much more intentionally. I stopped following people just because they were popular or pretty, or because we went to school together and made a conscious effort to fill my timeline with people who inspire and affirm me. I no longer follow people out of obligation or fear that I might seem rude if I choose not to. Sorry, not sorry. Removing this overload of information or toxicity has freed up space for me to become more secure in myself. Using social media in a mindful way has taught me that it’s not all negative. It is the user’s responsibility to take control of how much time they spend on apps and stay attentive to how content they view makes them feel. The moral of the story is use social media, just don’t let it use you.

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Why Being an Introvert is Your Secret Superpower

Being introverted generally comes with qualities such as shyness, quietness, and sometimes awkwardness, which in a world where the loud and eccentric are praised for their outgoing nature, introversion can often be seen as a negative trait. In fact, it is believed up to 75% of the world’s population are naturally extroverted. If you’re here because you’re an introvert, I’m sure you’ll relate to this post. If not, you can utilise this information to better understand your introverted loved ones.

Most introverts are told at some point in their life to ‘you should come out of your shell’ – A suggestion which implies there is something wrong with our natural characteristics. News flash, there isn’t. I used to resent being an introvert, until I realised that the qualities I possess contribute to my greatest strengths. Introversion, may be a silent superpower and here’s why:

You have more depth

This isn’t to say that extroverts don’t have depth, but introverts are often deep thinkers and observers. Due to our naturally quiet nature, we are able to sit back, take in and observe more information in comparison to our extroverted counterparts. This ability to be at peace, analyse and learn, results in a better understanding of people, situations and social dynamics which aids us to evolve into more understanding and empathetic people over time – Qualities which also make us excellent friends and romantic partners. Because of these qualities, people often approach us for advice with their problems. Just be sure to protect your own beautiful energy in these circumstances!

You can enjoy your own company

Have you ever made your excuses to avoid a night out so you could sit at home and read a book or catch up on your favourite tv show? Me too. There are an endless number of benefits to alone time, but the key thing is understanding yourself on a deeper level.

Enjoying your own company doesn’t have to mean being isolated at home. Taking long walks or enjoying a scenic drive alone can be absolute bliss, allowing you to clear your head and reset your energy.

Understanding who you really are can give you the confidence to know what unique power or strengths you bring to every area of your life – from romantic relationships to your job, to the way you apply yourself to skills or hobbies, which leads me nicely to my next point…

You can master any skills that spark your interest

From your love of alone time, you have probably found many things that interest you, whether this be creatively or academically. I discovered my love for writing by spending time isolated with my thoughts which I felt required a creative outlet. It’s common for introverts to prefer writing to talking, so maybe this is a skill that you’d find beneficial to nurture too. Your ability to reflect on yours and other peoples’ actions could provide inspiration for great content that others find incredibly useful.

Similarly with music, I have found solace in learning different instruments. Whatever it is, these are skills you can master in private until they’re ready to be shared with the world. You may even be able to earn a living from your hobbies eventually!

The most genuine act of self-love is acknowledging and embracing what makes you unique from everyone else. Too often we make the mistake of trying to change ourselves to fit in, in attempt to be liked and accepted by others, however the more comfortable you become with being yourself, the more you will attract likeminded people who’ll love you for who you truly are.

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