Embracing your inner child

I heard the cry of my inner the child the other day

The wails took me by surprise

It demanded it be heard

And said I must crawl again to truly rise

Children do not have a monopoly on creativity. Or on taking risks or truly embracing freedom either. However, we arguably seem to value these skills more in children, making sure we place them in environments where these skills can be encouraged and nurtured. You come across parents who ‘ooo’ and ‘ahhh’ over scribbles that their child has made and insist on hanging it front and centre on the fridge. Of course, this is not because it looks great (let’s be honest, most of the time it’s looking very…abstract) but because they’re early indicators of a child’s creativity and that’s exciting for them to see.

On the other hand, as an adult, you find that you quickly become more rigid in your ways, an  overthinker when it comes to risk-taking and due to work and other time-consuming commitments. You see something intriguing online for a course that’s slightly ‘out there’ but nevertheless looks fun and you think ‘ooo, that looks nice’, then you scroll past it and move on because reality calls and you realise there’s no space in your crammed schedule for such things. Next thing you know you’ve become a full-time resident of the comfort zone, which gets its name for a reason; it’s a cozy habitat, after all! 

Final results from one of the many paint kits I’ve completed since lockdown

Stepping out of that zone and picking up a new skill as an adult can be thrilling but also quite scary. It requires commitment and will but also the willingness to be vulnerable and make mistakes. During my piano practice with my teacher, I could always feel myself getting worked up when I wasn’t getting things right straight away when, in fact that’s literally part of the learning process.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been finding myself reconnecting to the things that made me the happiest as a child. Painting, singing, creative writing, even learning to play the piano recently. In fact, I was mistaken to think they ever stopped bringing me joy. I think at some point during the end of my teenage years I thought to myself, ‘I need to abandon these things and properly be an adult now, as if there is one correct way to be an adult. Boy was I wrong – from here on out, here’s to being bold and testing new waters! 😎😉

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!

The (belated) Christmas Post

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas! 🎄😃

Christmas is losing its spunk. Or so, that’s how it’s been slowly starting to feel over the last few years. Originally when I started to think this, I thought ‘surely not’, maybe it’s just a one-year thing, so I pressed the thought down and tucked it away. Kind of like a teen would do when tidying their room – stashing their clothes into a brimming wardrobe and slamming it shut, hoping they won’t have to open it again and experience the cascade of clothes that would occur if they did.

Lovely modern Christmas tree spotted in South London by moi

I suspect, at the root of this feeling is a fruitless comparison to the Christmas days experienced as a child – where it was a holiday that dripped with anticipation. I would watch fun films or bring toys into school to play with, eagerly open my chocolate advent calendar in the run-up to that day and help my dad set up the tree and streamers across the living room. My family would collect Christmas cards like Pokemon cards, often eventually running out of space in the house to hang them. Presents were always an expectation, as is still the case for many children today. I would religiously make lists of what to get each of my closest friends and would also sift for ages at a time through the Argos catalogue to create a present wishlist of my own for my parents.

Nowadays, the holidays aren’t too consumed with presents for me – I typically buy myself one or two gifts to get into the spirit and may also give gifts (if I can) to selected friends. We don’t really bother with a tree and decorations anymore so it’s simply an occasion of Christmas tunes, food and music now. To be fair, I don’t mind having Christmas this way that much, I think my celebrations are less consumer-ist focused now which means I can properly appreciate what matters most  –  family time, ending the year on a high and most importantly, for me as a believer, the significance of Jesus’ birth to [the fate of] humankind (John 3:16).

Thinking about all of this recently it was therefore profound to see this tweet which talks about dwelling less on the Christmas of our childhood and creating a new reality of Christmas which fits our current lifestyle and expectations as adults.

I think there’s an important point to be made there since otherwise, without making a deliberate choice to create this new reality, we’ll always be comparing Christmases that have passed to Christmas now and we’ll always be disappointed.

Who knows, perhaps when or if I have children I’ll change my tune and insist on Instagram-worthy Christmases every year but for now, this is where I stand.

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?

We’re all walking paradoxes

Despite trying to categorise ourselves into many clear-cut boxes, quite often we’re full of paradoxical traits. It’s one of the things that makes getting to know other humans more, let alone yourself – so interesting. Many that know us well will learn and understand this, but for those that don’t it can often be a source of confusion, frustration or even resentment.

I see conflicting traits in myself quite often. For some example:

– I’m pretty hard working and proactive in my view; I love to plan, do research and make things happen. However, I can also be incredibly lazy at times, meaning things may slowly sink to the bottom of my to-do list that I mentally pledged to complete two weeks before.

– I also tend to be quite a realist; I don’t tend to tire of being a reminder about the potential ways an event can unfold or what history tells us about certain beliefs or ideas. Simultaneously, I can also be fairly fantastical; a trait that every now and then causes me to mould idealistic versions of people that widely differ from who they really are.

– Lastly, I love people; getting to share their struggles and joy; receive encouragement from their words when it seems I have none left to motivate myself with. However, I can also be quite antisocial and quiet, a trait that does sometimes make social situations hard to navigate and enjoy.

I doubt I’m alone – I think we all have these conflicting traits in us; some go under the radar of our consciousness and others we are fully aware of. Perhaps you love fiercely but can also be very spiteful if someone gets on your wrong side. Or maybe at times you can be shamelessly selfish whilst there are many moment you find yourself in where you’re moved with compassion for others. We tend to just paint a picture of consistency because that’s what makes sense to the world most in certain situations. For example, if I’m working on branding myself for a business I own, people want to know I’m dependable, a good leader and one that’s confident. They don’t want to know that I have moments of doubt and periods of low-confidence that make leading people hard. It may be very real, and very true but being upfront about it won’t necessarily get me clientele.

Yet, it feels quite important when we can to be honest about these conflicts within us; otherwise we perhaps fall into the habit of creating a version of ourselves for others that isn’t entirely truthful.

This is why having close people who you can expose all sides too without judgement is beneficial. Being able to freely be you and let your guard down around people -or even just one close person – is an incredible source of peace. Mentally, it’s like how a person might feel when they get finally home after a long day, loosen their tie, or remove their bra and just flop onto the sofa. Rest and ultimate comfort at last. I was reminded of this when reading the tweet above, since I think it articulates my thought very well – you don’t feel the need to censor yourself or put on a forced façade when you’re around the right people. You can be yourself in all your flawed, paradoxical glory- and that’s the way it should be.

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.

War of the Streets

We live in a city where dwellers roam the intersection of boy and man

Carrying blades close to skin

And the weight of a masculinity seeped in poison

Ego eats the mind, reincarnating itself as blood on the streets

Darkness which eclipses the heart

Dagger is protection

Person is foe

Two truths can exist

But in the end only one life can live

How did it get to this?

If we’re not careful ‘the grass is always greener’,

Is a mentality that can dictate our lives

Like an angry colonel, deafening and persistent

It turns split second smiles to plastic

It eats away at our happiness as we stand in the midst of it

A relentless fire that starts to burn the ground of your security

Perhaps, the grass is only greener because you’re scorching the ground

of the life-giving grass you already stand on.