Thought of the Day: No such thing as can’t

Aren’t overly positive people slightly annoying at times? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an attitude that’s mostly welcomed and has been many-a-time just what I needed to hear to motivate myself to do things or get through certain situations. Sometimes there’s nothing like a good ol’ ‘Yes we can’ Obama style speech to get us pumped up and feel ready to rule the world. However, at other times I do feel there is a level of positivity people ooze that doesn’t quite concur with the reality around them.

I remember on one random occasion saying to someone oh yeah ‘I don’t do that’ or I can’t do xxx’ and they were like ‘why not? ‘there’s no such thing as can’t’. To me, yes there is. And yes, there should be. I do admire the sentiment of the phrase but I think there can sometimes be a misunderstanding as to why someone is saying ‘I can’t do this’. I’m not saying ‘I’ll never do it’ – because. who knows I one day might! However, I’m speaking in that moment in time and acknowledging I have a gap in my ability – no I can’t do this xx CURRENTLY.

But let’s also keep in mind that just because it’s something you could in theory master or learn how to do, it doesn’t mean you should. We’re only one person with 24 hours a day and numerous responsibilities, at the end of the day. So we should pick carefully what we pour our time and energy in or give attention to.

I think being realistic and acknowledging your limitations in such a way can be empowering. I would even go as far to say not many of us do it enough. It may be a downer for some people but in all honesty that’s how you grow – you group things in different categories; primarily ‘things you can’t do’ and ‘things you can’ and then you may one day wonder, how can I tranfer this item from the ‘can’t category to the ‘can’ one?. And thus, a journey of discovery and growth begins.

*Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Have a little patience

Hello folks,

It’s been a little while so it’s nice to be back. Since I last posted I’ve moved jobs, so I’ve just been adjusting to a new work setting, getting to know new people and processing bucketloads of information.

We live in a world where everything is available on demand, so it doesn’t seem too surprising that patience is a very rare trait. Get-rich-quick schemes, schemes promising to help people lose weight or gain pleasure instantly are common scams as old as time, which evolve with the times but have mainly found their success by tapping into the lack of patience people have regarding such issues. Even I’m guilty of this, I often start a new role or project and expect to pick it up in a few days. I did this at a previous job, constantly comparing myself to people at the company who had spent years honing their craft (which really makes no sense, now that I reflect on it!)

The Bible in Galatians calls patience a Fruit of the Spirit – that is, a character trait which becomes evident in a Christian as they become spiritually transformed by Christ. Patience can be easier in some circumstances than others; I’m likely to find it easier to wait 10 minutes longer for a Deliveroo order than deal for an hour with difficult personalities in a social setting, for example. However, we can start being self-aware – what things cause and stem from our impatience? Are you, putting unrealistic expectations on yourself or a situation, for example? Reflection is key, prayer is key and hopefully, together we can work towards becoming more patient people!

*Image: Photo by Osama Saeed on Unsplash

Thought of the Day: Picking your battles

I’ve become a big fan over the recent years of picking your battles wisely. As I observe and live, I’m learning that not everything that happens to you or around you requires you to get worked up and respond all guns blazing. For some, this revelation of mine is perhaps common sense, but when you’re someone who’s sensitive and passionate/overly emotional (yes, I’m potentially describing myself) it’s easy to fall into this trap without realising.

However, making everything a personal battle quickly leads to fatigue; feelings of frustration build up and it feels like you’re banging a brick wall – not all of these ‘battles’ can be won, and in all honesty, some don’t need to be. I think it’s only insight and spiritual wisdom that will truly help us distinguish what causes we need to fight and which we need to just let pass by and pray on. So that’s my prayer for you today!

*Photo by Stillness InMotion on Unsplash

The Things We Don’t Say

It’s funny, if not tragic, that we spent much of the first part of our lives mastering the art of speech only to become adults and pretty much become rubbish at it again. Typically, when you babble your first words, your parents stumble for the camera (or camcorder back in the day) in excitement at this developmental milestone. Then, as you get older, you realise language actually only makes one part of what is this massive jigsaw puzzle called communication. So yes, you can speak – but have you fully mastered the art of communication? Probably not.

There are a lot of things people say in ways other than speaking that we have to learn to be mindful of. I say ‘learn’ because it doesn’t always come naturally to read body language or apply emotional intelligence to a situation. These are things most of us learn over time and build like muscle. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though since body language and speech can at times conflict meaning you may have to rely on other factors to make an ultimate judgment call.

Eating your words

One significant thing that is a constant challenge, for me personally anyway, is saying how I truly feel to others. I think because when you’re hyper aware of how others feel; you worry that your words may negatively impact the people you want to share them with.  And let’s be honest, the worst thing is saying words and going on to regret them. It happens way more often than it should but for those of us that like an element of control over situations – such regrets can be annoying because you can’t rewind time to take the words back, can you? Keeping everyone happy starts to feel like this weird juggling match and you can find yourself having to do the mental cost/benefits analysis of the costs of being honest (meaning you feeling happier) vs just repressing your feelings (and keeping everyone else happy.)

It’s no coincidence that there are 100s of films and dramas centered around the breakdown of communication and the problems it can cause. It’s a universal issue – sometimes you can be having a conversation with someone and what you’re saying vs what they’re hearing from you are completely different things. It’s why teaching, in my opinion, is a very underrated profession, because to make sure your instructions are heard clearly, comprehended and even remembered by students is more of an uphill battle than many would think.

Your voice is worth hearing

Being honest about your feelings sometimes is not simply a black & white situation of whether someone is a coward or not. Being able to truly lay your feelings on the table, even for people close to you, can be a challenge and this can be due to several mental blocks you may have.

You may not feel like your voice is worth hearing

Maybe you’ve expressed your views before and nothing changed which was discouraging to you

Or maybe social judgment and its repercussions leave you thinking it’s better off to not ‘kick up a fuss’.

In case you need to hear it – your voice is definitely worth hearing. Obviously, to truly get your point across sometimes you have to formulate a game plan – what is the right moment, place and method to communicate how you feel, for example? People often don’t think about such things when they want to get things off their chest but it’s definitely worth doing so. On a lot of reality TV shows I watch, they’ll often just confront someone over dinner, meaning yes, your true feelings are now on the table, but you’ve also spoiled a perfectly nice dinner – miring it with confusion and anger. That can all be avoided with a bit of simple planning.

And You?

But what about if you’re at the other end? If someone bears their all to you? Well first, of all the last thing they want is an underwhelming response. But yes, sometimes you won’t know how to appropriately react straight away so it’s worth asking them for some time to respond or just offering a listening ear, particularly if the confrontation has a personal aspect to it regarding you; i.e. ‘I don’t feel you do xx properly’ or ‘You never seem supportive of my ambitions’. Instead of jumping on the defensive (as instinctive as it may feel), a little bit of empathy can go a long way, a lot of the time it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable – so acknowledge and be appreciative of that, if anything at all.

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Why not visit my new Medium blog – I’ll be using this blog to delve into more TV and film reviews, as well as explore various themes the things I’m watching cover. Would love to hear your feedback and Medium blog recommendations you have!

Mastering Confidence

Why gaining confidence is not as easy or straight forward as it seems

The more I observe in this life, the more I’ve realised there is actually nothing more powerful than a confident woman. However, it does also feel like society conspires to keep women from reaching a point of peak confidence. This is because not only is it very powerful, it’s much feared.

Attending a confidence workshop at work recently, it struck me as very interesting that much of the attendees were female. Why does low-confidence seem to be quite a gendered issue, disproportionately affecting women more than men, I wondered?

Often, instead of seeing a confident woman and being in awe and admiration, instead people will judge. Where’s her humility? She’s a bit cocky ain’t she? We see this often even in female characters/ trope portrayed in the media – from Mean Girls’ Regina George, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in Devil Wears Prada to Serena and Blair in Gossip Girl. Confidence, particularly in women is often associated with bad character and, consequently, danger or misfortune. I mean, Regina George gets run down by a bus, for goodness sake!

Such quick judgements and misconceptions around female confidence make it more of minefield to navigate, which is why many women don’t try to at all. Period. After all, why be loud and confident when you could just be in the low-confidence zone, quietly mind your business and be free from the judgemental eye of others?

A cultural taboo

Speaking as someone from the UK, it’s quite deeply ingrained that talking about oneself is quite un-British. I remember writing my personal statement (university application, to non-Brits) and thinking, wow, I have to write a whole page about me and just me? Well, that’s weird. Even, many years later when I’ve found myself applying for jobs and I have to talk about how I did this and I achieved that, when in actuality it was a team effort, it’s still very weird to get used to.

It’s not even just talking about oneself that can feel quite taboo – even accepting compliments can be quite hard. Anything that draws attention to you almost has to be swatted like a fly and stopped in its tracks. If you’ll pay attention, you’ll often notice it – especially with women. You compliment someone ‘Oooo that new haircut really suits you!’, and they’ll never directly accept it. Often it will be met with a semi-self-depreciating reply like ‘Oh, my cousin cut it actually – I didn’t even go to a proper salon!’. That way, the compliment is heard but kept at bay and you can fake a sort of fake humility that people love so much.

Pushing on and through

How it is in my imagination when you unlock the level of ultimate confidence.

Truthfully, I suspect, like for me, that sense of uneasiness when a moment requires confidence, never really leaves you. Originally, I thought confidence in adulthood would be more of a linear journey, and perhaps for some people it is – many influencers do talk of it as such. Over time you perhaps build confidence, maybe in similar way to how Mario collects gold coins in the original game, until you (bingo) reach a point of completion and you’re suddenly confidence royalty. However, I’ve found it’s more like ocean water – it ebbs and flows for me; there are moments where I will be full of it, and other times when I won’t. The difficulty is getting better at controlling that ebb and flow so confidence can be demonstrated at the moments it really counts but may not come naturally.

When you’re asked to lead a workshop

When you have to be honest with a toxic friend or colleague

When you have to attend a large family gathering

When you have to perform at an important function or recital

…the list really goes on!

The key to confidence

Let me not sell you dreams since I’m trying to figure that out myself! But some quick tips that might help:

1. Self- examination; what is often at the root of your low confidence? And is it something you can actively start working on? Perhaps you need to confront a friend who has been making sly digs at you and knocking your confidence. Or perhaps you need to rejiggle your timeline and start following new people on social media.

2. Bad habits – time to undo them. It’s not possible for everyone to go from 0-100 straight away when it comes to increasing confidence but we can always slide up the scale slowly by undoing one bad habit at a time. Maybe, like my previous example, you find it hard to accept compliments. If so, you can make that a point to work on.

3. Prayer – my ultimate confidence comes from God, so prayer has always been important. When the time comes to step your confidence game and you’ve done all the prep (or worrying!) that you can, a prayer can always be calming. It centres me and reminds me everything is under control.

Do you have any tips to share growing in confidence or overcoming fear?

Home: there’s no place like it

“They say home is where your heart is set in stone

It’s where you go when you’re alone

It’s where you go to rest your bones

It’s not just where you lay your head, it’s not just where you make your bed…”

Home by Gabrielle Aplin

Don’t you love travelling? Particularly as many of us have spent much of the last 18 months cooped indoors, the travelling bug has been gnawing away at us as people have just patiently waited for the moment they could jump on a train or plane again. I love the sense of discovery, especially when you go somewhere new. The overwhelming of the senses – smelling and tasting unfamiliar/new foods, witnessing the indescribable beauty of nature or city architecture, watching as residents come and go; it’s really fun.

However, I do always get to a point where that willingness to explore and absorb new things is threatening to expire. For me, at that point I long to be at home – somewhere familiar and snuggly where I can properly rest and eventually slide back into my normal routine. I understand this might be a rare feeling – I see on social media and speak to people all the time who have travelled for months upon months, or even years and never gotten tired of exploration. I even talked with a friend casually after church about having this feeling and she gave me an incredulous look. At the time I thought okay maybe I am weird, but perhaps this feeling is a good thing; it does have some benefits. When travelling back from an amazing holiday it makes the transition from rest -> back to business as usual a lot easier. Of course, it doesn’t mean the grass won’t always be greener; when I’m back home, making my way through my week, I will, every now and then, definitely wish I was back in country x and y, still on holiday and getting more sun and sleep. But 80% of the time I’m happy and grateful that my journey has come full circle and that I’m back and settled.

Home Sweet Home

The Gabrielle Aplin song quoted at the start of this post is one of my faves – it highlights that there is more to the concept of home then we think. The comfort that we associate with home can typically transcends a building or the four walls of one room. Home can be an escape but is also you’re an anchor. For some reason that feeling never properly dawns on me until I’m thrust into a new environment and blindly trying to find my way around – an experience that can be both simultaneously fun but frustrating. A funny example that comes to mind was when I was trying to reunite with my friends whilst in the States, in Manhattan (New York) and instead got completely lost. The reality check of not being in the UK, where I call home and where navigation personally comes a lot easier for starters, was never stronger than in that moment.

I can’t really explain it but often when you travel to a new place there is a lot of energy that has to be spent to gain a feeling of comfort, mainly because everything around you is unfamiliar. Whether voluntarily or by force, you’ve been uprooted from all you know and have to adapt so you can navigate yourself around confidently (even if level of confidence is fairly limited.) After a period of time its therefore nice to be able to just rest and return to somewhere familiar where things are easy, flow naturally for you are and known well.

Being rooted

I think being cooped up in my house this last year or so, as frustrating as it has sometimes been has also helped me become more grateful for having a place of stability in such a time of upheaval and unpredictability. It’s definitely a privilege to have somewhere – or even someone you can label as ‘home’. For those that are still on the journey to finding a home- in whatever form that may be – I pray God provides it for you soon so you can finally feel settled and at peace.

Gift giving: the nice, the bad and the stress

There’s something incredibly satisfying about giving gifts to people. The brainstorming of the perfect gift which makes you really reflect on the person as an individual, the fine print of their personality. The hunting down of the gift. The presentation of the gift and the look of genuine joy, surprise (or both) once it finally goes from your hands to theirs. Priceless. It’s a language within itself. For me, when I give someone a gift, I want them to know – you are special or I appreciate your role in my life and all you do for me.

Memory Lane

I remember when I was younger, I would take Christmas and birthday gifts really seriously. Each Christmas myself and my friend – both very young teens at the time – would stroll to a nearby Claire’s Accessories and buy little trinkets or random accessories for friends of ours in need of a gift that year. Hours could literally pass when buying gifts – immersed in the bright colours and lights of the store – I would be deep in thought wondering what item would be an ideal fit for each friend. Almost as if the appreciation I felt within hinged on the gift; which it really didn’t, of course.

I would get pocket money from my mum for the trip and make sure to buy surprise gifts for each family member – this has ranged from home made Christmas cards to perfume from the £1 shop. However, I did quickly get to a point where I had the realisation that there wasn’t really any point of using my parents’ hard-earned money to just go and then buy them random gifts. From then on, I long looked forward to the day where I could treat my parents to gifts, with no worries about where the cash has been coming from.

VIPs only!

Over the years the people I buy gifts for have dramatically decreased in size. This is on the account of many factors including the fact I’m on a budget (otherwise all the world would probably get a gift lol) and that I’m quite selective with the title of ‘friend’.

Don’t get me wrong, I find gift giving rewarding and yet, there can be a political element to gift giving that can, to some extent be a bit draining if you bog yourself down in it too much. I’ll give an example.

Person A gets their friend a gift. This gift is both unexpected and quite lavish. The friend is flattered and very grateful. But simultaneously this friend, as the overthinker they are, feels a bit guilty – they definitely need to up their game and buy Person A a gift when the next opportunity comes. When they get home that day the friend googles the gift’s value to ensure they get a gift of similar measure when that time comes. Goodness, is that the price?? That’s definitely out of their budget. They must make sure they send a top-up thank you text to display their gratitude, after all that was an expensive gift .

Sound familiar? I think if anything it’s because we’ve all been there at some point but there is perhaps something to be said about the thought counting. We hear it all the time, ‘it’s the thought that counts’ but when it comes to gift giving there is no joy to be had in it if we lose sight of the ‘thought’ – the energy and careful consideration that goes into each gift given to us (or given by us!) Don’t get too bogged down in the material aspect since most of the time it’s just a symbolic gesture. For me personally – limiting who I give gifts to helps; they tend to mainly go to those I know well and I only have to give them a few times a year which means my approach can be more deliberate and tailored to the individual. Plus, it means I can afford to splurge on myself when my birthday comes; after all, we must gift ourselves from time to time too! 😉

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What do you think? Do you have a certain approach or a strong preference when it comes to gift giving?

*Featured photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash

‘The Customer is King’ and other lies we’re told.

I am a stickler for good customer service. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and neither should you.

However, as you go through life you realise good customer service is often in rare supply, many a business promises it but only a few actually deliver it. Unfortunately, most of us find this out the hard way; when we’re face to face with a rude waiter at dinner or listening to music as we’re placed on hold in the midst of a battle with customer services of some online retailer. I for example, was in a battle with a courier company late last year who had a package of mine that they decided to deliver to a random address I did not even put on the payment form at checkout. However, because of the pandemic I really had no one to complain to because this courier company thought it would be great idea to close down their call centres throughout most of last year – a business decision which makes no logic sense to me but I digress. Sigh.

Fighting for your rights

Me when I’m put on hold by customer services (again)

As much as it sucks to accept, that age old marketing phrase ‘The Customer is King’ doesn’t always seem to translate in the reality of how many businesses operate nowadays. If you, as the customer do not push for what you want (in a reasonable manner, of course) you will often not get the results you want to see. Whether it’s having your burnt food replaced with a new dish, or getting a refund for a holiday cancelled by an airline (as many flocked to do during the start of the pandemic.) It may require lots of angry emails to customer service, visits to store and even letters and phone calls but hopefully it will be worth it when you’re tucking into your newly made dish or rolling around in refund flight money.

This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to know our rights as consumers – there’s many podcasts and online resources out there which can help with this. Many in the UK, for example, will be familiar with TV and consumer finance expert, Martin Lewis who offers a lot of advice on customer rights on his site MoneySavingExpert.

Of course, I hope you’ll never get to the point where you need legal ammunition but it’s always worth having in your arsenal if a company gets lazy and won’t budge regarding your query.

The right formula

From the retail side of things, I can understand that good customer service can be tricky, you’ll often get a variety of customers you have to serve and not everyone will be pleased with the type of service you offer – even if you think it’s great and quite extensive. Some may like the chat bots you offer on your site for example, whilst others – like me – may find them extremely annoying and ineffective – just get me a human to talk to, please!

Yet, customer service at its core is quite simple. People want transparency, quality products and when being dealt with, want it to be done with respect and honesty. Although how those components look on a pie chart may have changed percentage-wise, those demands themselves have not. Additionally, as people within the age of social media, users of brands are being more vocal than ever before about their experience with brands and what they want. In other words, what customers want is not exactly a mystery – businesses just need to make sure they’re doing leg work and keeping their ear close the ground to figure out what we want and then actually make steps to make it happen.

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What do you think? Let’s talk! Do you have any good or bad customer service stories to share and what do you value most from customer service?

If you liked this you may enjoy my previous article on our toxic relationships with brands.

5 Struggles with Adulting

What is it about being an adult that is so hard?

I guess for me personally I still feel like my 18-year-old self at times. To explain that further, when I turned 19 I felt no different than I felt when I was 18; this feeling happened pretty much every birthday until next thing you know – BAM, you’re in your 20s. Yes, you’re technically an adult and everyone is treating you as such but your mind is still in the teenage zone and not ready to adjust. The only way I can describe the feeling is like when as a child you were prematurely pushed down the playground slide before you felt ready; usually by an impatient child crouching behind you. The things that make being an adult hard can’t really be pinpointed or reduced to one thing so I’ve placed five I’ve thought of below. I can guarantee you there is more than five but since I’m writing a blog post and not a book, five it is.

1. Fending for yourself.

Love makes the world go around and so does money – and you start to understand that more as you grow. The inadequacies of the education system coupled with traditional financial institutions leave one very confused adult. Three areas to master are; spending -making wise purchases, budgeting – looking for opportunities to help you spend less and saving – putting money aside for a certain goal or future rainy day. Key to mastering these areas in self control – something we can have in droves and at other times not have at all. It’s especially hard when your#’re about to purchase an item on a website’s check out and have to ponder the question ‘do I really need this?‘ – trust me, I’ve been there way too often!

To avoid your mind scrambling I recommend getting a ‘money manual’ a go-to guide explaining some finance basics that you can keep in reach on the shelf; mine is Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley.

2. Navigating the World of Work.

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Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Especially when you’ve never had a full-time job before – the world of work can be quite confusing to navigate. From job applications and interviews to steering through office politics, difficult colleagues and performance anxiety on the job – it can all be very daunting. I remember reading my first payslip and thinking ‘what does this evening mean?!’ On top of that, there are the indirect things linked to work like figuring out your ‘personal brand’ and networking which aren’t exactly necessary but are advised. These are things no-one properly talks about in-depth, or they expect you to get used to such concepts very quickly. The truth is, that it can definitely take some time – and a lot of googling!

3. Balancing Self-care with other’s needs

This is one of the never-ending tightropes we have to walk in life. I’ve written in the past about listening to others and how caring for others is linked to our self-care; this is because as a Christian I believe that loving others as much as you love/care for yourself is very important.  

That being said, don’t lose yourself in the process. Seek to help others but do so whilst being rooted in an unshakable sense of self-worth. One way this might manifest itself is by you demanding your time be respected; yes, you’re giving it freely but that doesn’t mean you should be taken for a fool. Additionally, find those that will pour into you when you feel your most down – there’s nothing better than receiving some TLC from close friends when you’re at your lowest. Because yes, it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes village to keep an adult sane!

4. You need to figure out who the hell YOU are

Adulthood undeniably forces you to face the question of personal identity upfront. What are your passions? What makes you tick? What are some life long goals of yours?

Some people may find that their childhood has helped them to answer these questions very clearly. But for what I expect is the majority, it takes a lot of trial and error experiences to properly know these things. Passions and goals have a habit of even changing over time which is why you may meet people in their 40s or 50s who still may not know what they want to do with their lives.

For me, my identity journey has involved embracing what it means to be black, a woman and a person of faith. Society talks very loudly – all it takes is a 30 minute scroll through Twitter to feel like my brain is going to scramble from subconsiocusly absorbing eeryone’s thoughts! Making it a daily point to take a step back and look upwards instead of outwards or inwards is important.

5. Confrontation becomes unavoidable

When I was younger my mum would happily march to my school when she thought  anything or one was getting in the way of me having a positive educational experience – i.e incidents of bullying.

Adulthood still has its bullies – they have similar traits but just look different. They’re often people with little regard for others, who have unchecked previlege and are in a position of authority in some form. Although my mum is very much around, I know she can’t fight my battles for me anymore – I have to confront problematic people head on. The need for necessary confrontation will likely psotively correlate with age as you realise the growing importance of accountability and proper communication. It cna make all the difference if you are able to say – whether to a partner or manager etc – ‘You doing [x] makes me highly uncomfortable so please stop’. 

I’m by no means a master of confrontation so envy those that are. One thing I do know is that it has to be done with tact – there’s a right place, time and way to do things so it is worth covering these bases before jumping on the confrontation train!