Being myself on holiday

SAMSUNG CSCMy work colleagues tend to make jokes on dress down days that I don’t ever dress down. They’re mostly right. I have a t-shirt and leggings for the gym and a silk bathrobe for lounging in but I don’t own any clothes that most people would consider dress down. I don’t own sweat pants or track suit bottoms. When I want to dress down I have a hooded maxi dress from Pinup Girl that’s super comfortable and warm but that I still feel like myself in. In my everyday life this suits me just fine. I’m comfortable in my dresses and cardigans. They’re my armour against the world. They help bring me confidence. I also do my hair nearly every day and my makeup. I find power in a good wet set and a red lip. I think that they give me that power because they make me feel like me. 

img_2792I didn’t always dress up. I’ve been all over the shop. I was an always manicured, full makeup, hair straightened, and never without the wrong handbag woman when I lived in New York. I was the skinny jean wearing, knee high booted, hair scraped back, with a touch of makeup yummy mummy when I first moved to the UK. I was the no makeup, big hoodie, and whatever jeans smelled cleanest mature student and also the always in a black suit, hair in a severe bun, minimal makeup mature student doing the bar in the UK. I’ve written in the past about finding my style and the reason I phrase it that way is because all my previous styles never felt like me. I always felt I was putting on a persona. I acted and dressed how I thought I was supposed to rather than how I wanted to. This all changed when I found vintage/pinup. I felt like I was finally in my own skin and it fit perfectly. I now feel confident almost all the time in my clothes and with how I wear my makeup and hair.

img_2810And then I go on holiday. On day one of a holiday I tend to scrape my hair to the top of my head, forget the makeup, and become a bit of a slob. I always think it will be a luxury to forgo my normal routine and just let it all hang out but it never is. This holiday I did still bring the clothes that make me feel comfortable, including this floaty green number I got from Top Vintage. It’s floaty and stretchy and perfect for holiday because I feel great in it. I got up the first day of my holiday, popped my hair on top of my head, threw on my dress and I felt deflated. I took off the dress and went to the pool instead. Several hours later I came back from the pool and realised I hadn’t felt like myself, even with my swishy movie star dress. I’d felt flat because I hadn’t taken the 10 minutes to do my hair and makeup. I went straight to the bathroom and did my makeup, put my hair in a French twist with a hair flower, and threw my dress back on. I felt like a million bucks. As soon as I saw Mr Westwood he said “you look like yourself, you look happy.”

img_2826I’ve taken a few days to figure out why I didn’t feel like myself without my hair and makeup done. I never care whether my friends have makeup on. I don’t care if people I see on the street have their hair done. I don’t judge what other people are wearing. Was I judging myself for these things? Did I need to feel done to feel like myself? Wasn’t that another form of not loving myself? No, no, and no. I feel comfortable with some mascara and lipstick and I feel comfortable with my hair styled. I spent years thinking that I wasn’t beautiful no matter how done or not done I was. I spent years hating whatever I wore because I was in it. I spent most of my life in a battle with my hair that I never seemed to win. If I am happiest now with some war paint, a pin curl set, and dress that makes me want to give a twirl than no one (including me) should judge. I realised that trying to do holiday woman the way I thought it should be done was the same thing I did for years. I was putting on someone else’s persona and it just didn’t fit. I am the woman in the swishy dress, the hair flower, and the bright lippy and I love being this woman. I realised that finally I didn’t want to take a holiday from being who I am and for that I’m pretty damn grateful. 

Have you ever tried on a different persona? How did it make you feel? Please let me know in the comments, through, email, or on the Facebook page.

Teeney Bikini

img_2913When I was 16 I got my first bikini. I remember my mother deciding I was old enough to have a bikini if I wanted one, though I’m pretty sure she wasn’t thrilled with the idea. I remember going to the fancy clothing shop in the town where we spent our summers. I remember looking at all the different styles and colours. I remember feeling grown up as I browsed. No more little kid bathing suits for me!  As I browsed the styles my mum steered me towards the more conservative, higher waisted bikinis. As a teenager I assumed this was because she wanted to keep me as her little girl for as long as possible. As I tried different styles she gave muted opinions and we settled on what I thought was a pretty cool, grown up bikini. It had the high waist my mum wanted but the top showed off my assets (even at 16 I was proud of my boobs and learning the power of cleavage).

img_2953We drove the 20 minutes back to the cottage and I couldn’t wait to get my bikini on. The cottage is on a lake in a small community that was mostly made up of my cousins. We all shared a dock with lounge chairs for sunning ourselves. I was desperate to strut over to the dock, looking all adult, and plonk myself onto one of those lounge chairs and sun myself with the rest of my super cool and slightly older cousins. I got my clothes off and bikini on in record time when we got back. I was feeling myself like only a teenager can. As I was grabbing my towel to walk down to the beach it happened. My mother told me to just be aware of my middle. She let me know the waist of the bikini was a little tight and made me like a little flabby. She said I should just hold my stomach in and not slouch. I wish I could adequately describe what this felt like. I deflated so quickly. I wrapped my towel around myself to hide my middle. I slunk off down to the dock and spent the next few hours in the water so no one would have to see my tummy fat.

SAMSUNG CSCI have no doubt my mum was trying to do what she thought was best but that one incident kept me from wearing a bikini for 20 years. Bathing suits in general became a bit of a nightmare as I spent 20 years trying to make sure my stomach wasn’t visible and was cinched in the best spandex money can buy. I also spent a hideous amount of money on cover ups and massive towels. Shopping for swimwear always resulted in me feeling horrendous about myself. A few sentences decades before changed how I felt about showing off my body. All this happened 23 years ago and I can still remember the feelings I felt that day. They are still there but have now been pushed down as I have learned to move forward. 3 years ago I moved to a tropical island off the coast of Africa with only 800 people. It’s on the equator and the weather and location requires a lot of swimwear. Before we moved I was ordering swimwear for us all. I was tired and overwhelmed and late night, online shopping. I was thinking about the remote beaches and how few people were going to be there. I allowed myself to look in the bikini section of Amazon. I was shocked they had bikinis in my size and the models didn’t look horrendous in them. I took a chance and ordered a bikini.

 
SAMSUNG CSCAfter we’d been on the island a few weeks I decided to wear a bikini to the beach one day. I had all the cover ups and towels knows to man at the ready. I wore the bikini…out of the house! I wore the bikini to the beach and I swam in it! My husband kept telling me I looked amazing and as the beach was deserted I allowed myself to enjoy the feeling of being in a bikini. I continued to wear it for more trips to the deserted beach until a few months later my husband wanted to take the kids to the beach with all the people on it. I was terrified but I wore my bikini anyway. No one died. No one stared. No one said anything unkind. I allowed myself to relax and realized all the women, in all the shapes and sizes, were wearing bikinis! I spent two years on that island rocking whatever swimwear I wanted and I learned to love the feeling of freedom those bikinis gave me. Since we’ve moved back I’ve continued to embrace bikinis. I’ve worn them on beaches in NYC and the U.K.  There are definitely times when I get nervous or I remember what my mother said but then I shake it off and pretend I’m confident until the confidence comes. I hold my head high and I strut.

img_3008

I took these photos without filters and I have done no editing. This is entirely me. Bathing suit and wrap are from Pour Moi 

 

Imposters in London

I always find that spending time with people who have done what they can to help change the world has a powerful affect on me. It makes me feel like a fraud. It makes me feel like they are going to find out that I haven’t done enough to be in their company. The same sensation happens to me when I’m with a group of lawyers, pinups, body positive bloggers, the list goes on. When I am with a group of people who do something that I do I worry they will find out I’m an imposter. While Mr Westwood and I were at his awards ceremony we were looking around at all the amazing humanitarians and he leaned over and told me he didn’t deserve to be there. My husband, who has inspired thousands of children, felt he wasn’t worthy to be with other humanitarians. At first when he told me I was shocked. He works nearly every day to improve the lives of young people. I felt like he must know how deserving he was and that’s when I realised. He’s an imposter too.

img_1717

My husband and I both suffer from imposter syndrome. Wikipedia describes imposter syndrome as “a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.” Even this description makes me a little nervous. I don’t feel like I’m a high achieving person. I may have spent years training as a lawyer but I never feel like a real lawyer. I may post pinup photos online but I don’t feel like a real pinup. I may blog about important issues but I don’t feel like a real blogger. I do an excellent job of faking that I believe I am these things but it’s a struggle.

img_1663

After our weekend in London where Mr Westwood struggled to accept he was a real humanitarian and I struggled to accept I was a real pinup despite his receiving an award and me doing a few photo shoots I decided to see if I could find out how to tackle the fear of fraud. I realised that looking at myself as ‘a lawyer’ I was looking at a label that I would always struggle to make fit. Instead of looking at all the labels that make me I started looking at myself as a whole human, something I would struggle to have imposter syndrome about. I also started to accept that I have played a role in all my successes. Maybe I don’t feel like a real blogger but I have written the posts, designed the site, and directed the photos. Surely that has to count for something, even in my doubting mind. I also had to accept that if my accomplishments didn’t define me than how could my failures? A small failure doesn’t mean I’m no longer lawyer, it just means I need to work harder at being a better lawyer. I also realised that the comparing that we talked about in the last blog was part of the issue. I’m not going to be Amal Clooney, Dita Von Tease, or the author of the Curve Creation blog and that’s ok. I can admire them and still have my own successes in my chosen fields and withdrawing completely would mean robbing the world of me. I know that sounds arrogant and I’m ok with that. I can accept that on a small level I help people and withdrawing means I wouldn’t be able to help anyone.

SAMSUNG CSC

Mr Westwood and I spend so much time trying to help others believe in themselves. It’s felt nice over the last few weeks to think about helping myself. I’m starting to  accept I am deserving. Writing this blog so far has helped me with my own self acceptance. If I can’t help myself how can I help others? Or in the words of Mama RuPaul “if you can’t love yourself how the hell are you going to love anyone else?” Please let me know how you are faring on your own journeys. Have you been able to reassess your assets? Have you stopped comparing yourself as much to other people? Let me know please through email, this page, or social media. I’m so interested to know about you all. If you’ve suffered at all from imposter syndrome I’d love to know if any of the tips I’ve come up with for myself are helpful to you.

 

 

Love in LDN

Mr Westwood and I recently went down to London as he was one of New Covent Garden’s Souper Stars. We travelled down on the train on Saturday morning. Travelling by train always brings to mind Agatha Christie and old movies for me. It brings to mind a time where the women travelled with hat boxes and the men wore hats and gloves. I’m well aware that travelling on British trains these days can often be cramped, crowded, and overwhelming but on a sunny day in an empty carriage I can let my mind wander. Mr Westwood was receiving the award as he has spent years working with kids from different backgrounds. He has spent more than a decade trying to lift these kids up. He teaches them to believe in themselves. He asks them not to compare themselves to each other and strive for their personal bests. As we rode the train and then headed out to Highgate to see one of Mr Westwood’s oldest friend I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids that Mr Westwood has worked with. When did they start doubting themselves? Mr Westwood has worked with the very rich, the very poor, and lots of kids in between. The self doubt affected all of them. They doubt their intellect, their looks, and their value. At what age did they start comparing themselves to everyone else and why do they always seem to come out sub par?

img_1349

Arriving at St Pancras

We spent the afternoon reminiscing with our friends and discussing what life is like for New Yorkers living in the UK. There was lovely food and lovely company. We watched their young son play with his trains and read books about trains. He hasn’t started school yet. He doesn’t yet have peers to compare himself to. Will the comparing start when he is around other children more frequently? I couldn’t seem to shake these thoughts even as we were leaving to stroll back to the tube to head to Marble Arch and were rewarded with the most beautiful skies. As we were getting ready for the awards presentation I put on my Pinup Girl Ava dress in silver taffeta. It makes me feel sophisticated and sexy but is stretchy enough that I don’t need shapewear and have room to enjoy a good meal. I realised I haven’t worn this dress enough. I’ve spent too much time looking at how other people look in this dress and I’ve spent too much time comparing myself to others. As I looked at myself in the mirror I realised that I was slowly starting to shed the shackles that have kept me from dressing as I want and yet I still compare myself to others and always seem to come out sub par.

The awards presentation was held at Home House, a private members’ club in SoHo, and the theme that ran through the evening was ‘lifting each other up.’ I often get a bit of social anxiety so Mr Westwood and I hovered around the fringes until the New Covent Garden staff came to chat to us and make us feel welcome. We sat on a table with some other award recipients and staff members. The conversation flowed easily and the food was outstanding. It was a truly wonderful evening that felt special the whole way through. All the award winners did such great things to help humanity and were so impressed with each other, yet none of them thought they deserved the award.

As we were drifting off to sleep that night I spent some time thinking about how we can learn to believe in ourselves a little more and how we can compare ourselves to each other less. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet but I think it’s time that we stopped judging others and ourselves so harshly. Maybe we all need to take a page out of Mr Westwood’s book and focus on lifting up those around us and reminding them how they are unique. My ultimate goal for this blog is to help remove the stigmas we put on ourselves as children and learn to appreciate ourselves more. I’m really interested to hear what you think. What’s one thing about yourself that you should stop comparing to others. Please let me know in the comments below, on the facebook page, or via email.

A different kind of love

SAMSUNG CSC

Check out my Instagram for all the details of my outfit and accessories. 

I read something recently about thinking of yourself as a friend and it’s really resonated with me. The article talked about how much we judge ourselves versus how much we judge those we love. I read the article before bed one night and I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head. Loving myself like I loved my friends seemed revolutionary. The thought stayed with me as I went to work the next day. I stood in my office and looked around at the stunning, intelligent, hilarious women I work with and realised that they would never see themselves the way I see them. When I give them compliments they seem to hide from them. They have collectively told me they are too tall, too short, too skinny, need to diet, not muscular enough, and the list goes on. I don’t want to detract from just how smart these woman are. They have many, many brilliant qualities but I want I focus of body image today. These woman are stunning, they all see it in each other, but they just can’t see it in themselves.

SAMSUNG CSCI want you to think about your best female friend. Think hard about how she looks to you. Do you focus on her cellulite or the warmth of her smile? Do you think about every flaw she has or do you focus on her positives? Imagine if we could see ourselves through the lens of others. What if we could focus on our own positives? Those who matter to us don’t focus on a belly roll, or our height, or our spots so why should we? I can guarantee your assets outweigh your negatives. If you don’t believe this is the case then you are not perceiving your assets properly. I have an enormous ass. I have a big, beautiful booty. I’m sure I could look at my ass as a negative. I’m sure I could wish it were smaller and worry about how many squats I was doing. That seems like a waste of energy to me. If I looked at one of my friends and they had exactly the same ass I would think it was an asset, a big beautiful asset. Why then should I look at the same ass on myself as a negative?

SAMSUNG CSCValentine’s Day is coming up. I love Valentine’s Day because I love love. I am asking you to spend this week looking at things you think are a negative and deciding if you would think of them as an asset on someone you loved. I want you to spend the week loving yourself the way you love your friends. Focus on your positives. Recognise your assets. Be kinder to yourself as you would towards those you love. Give yourself compliments and then accept them graciously. If you struggle with this think about these actions as doing something for the people who love you. If someone else insulted you your fiends would have your back. They would defend you. They would surround you with love to block out the negativity. Don’t be the person picking on yourself and you save them a job. You give them the gift of having a little extra time and energy to love themselves. Don’t spend this week wishing you were something else. Spend this week loving yourself and just see if after a week you start to stand a little taller or put on the scary outfit that you were going to wear when you lost a little weight. Give yourself the gift of love this Valentine’s Day and then let me know how you feel and if it’s changed your outlook on yourself. 

The helpers

As you may have noticed the people who tend to make the biggest impact on my life are the helpers. They are the people who give themselves freely to make others lives better. I have been so blessed to have so many helpers in my life. My grandparents and parents have always helped others. I was raised to believe in the spirit of helping those less fortunate them themselves and I think that’s why I have surrounded myself with friends and family who try to improve others lives before their own. From my children’s Godparents to the friends I’ve played roller derby with to the family I knit with every Tuesday night, I am surrounded by helpers. The desire to improve other people’s lives has always been a cornerstone of my life. It’s also one of the reasons I am started this blog.SAMSUNG CSC

About a month ago I was having lunch with some incredibly talented instagram influencers and we were discussing what message I was trying to send. I had known for a little while that I wanted to start blogging but I had been unsure of what direction to go in. I have so many varied interests. They asked the what the single most important thing in my life was and all I could think of was helping others. Being a mum, a wife, in my career, and in my volunteering the one thread that runs through everything is helping others. Once I realised that I wanted to help others foremost I needed to decide how. What did I have to offer that might in any way help those who were reading my blog or looking at my photos of instagram. I spent a lot of time thinking about where the past few years has taken me and what has had the most influence on my life. I realised that helping others gain confidence in themselves would be the best gift I could give others.

img_1771My journey has taken me from an insecure and confused human to a powerful confident women in only a few years. Five years ago I didn’t like the way I dressed, I didn’t like my body, I was scared to try new things, and embarrassed of myself. I didn’t feel worthy of love and most of the time I didn’t even feel worthy of being liked. Today I am confident. I try new things, I raise my hand first, I open my mouth when I have something to say, I wear the clothes and makeup I want, and I seek out new adventures. This did not happen over night. This did not happen by accident. I had a lot of help to get where I am but I also learned to help myself. Through my transition I became a helper and the person I have helped most is myself.

Who’s next?

Two people have come into my life in the past few months who have inspired me by the way they put themselves out there. I have always been aware of social media. I’ve used it the same way most of us use social media – to keep up with friends and dream about what aspect of our lives we’d like to improve, be it our fitness, our wardrobe, our houses, where we’ll travel to next. We look at social media to inspire. I’ve always looked at those online as a bit untouchable and not quite real. This all changed for me last summer.

img_0474

Ei at her first fashion show for men’s fashion week in London


My youngest daughter has always struggled with her style. I was looking online to find someone Ei could relate to in terms of fashion. She’s always seemed so uncomfortable in her own skin and I wanted to find her alternative styles to what she saw in the mainstream. I stumbled upon the menswear for women movement and found Danielle at @shesagent. I felt drawn to her instagram and when I showed Ei she was thrilled. Seeing how Danielle dressed gave Ei the confidence to go into the “boys” section when shopping for clothes and she was suddenly so much happier. Over our summer holidays my mother and I took Ei to buy her first suit. When she put on that suit my mum and I couldn’t help but well up. Ei looked like the best version of herself and so comfortable. The whole experience was emotional and I was just so grateful to Danielle. I had to reach out to her. I emailed her the same day, never thinking for a second she would have the time to respond. I just wanted her to know  how she had changed our lives. We had the biggest shock when she emailed back to say how much our email meant to her. Since that email we have kept in contact and she has been a constant source of inspiration. She is so unapologetically herself. Though our styles differ massively she has influenced the way I want to project myself to the world. She has shared her knowledge and her confidence. She has given me the confidence to share myself with you and to be unapologetically me.

 

img_0071-1

Slowly becoming more confident with my makeup thanks to Sarah

The other woman to come into my life recently has been my former co-worker Sarah, who’s @sarahafzal_01 on instagram. Sarah works in the same field as I do and I met her when I started my new job in August. I spent a lot of time admiring Sarah’s warmth, knowledge, sense of humour, and her makeup. Sarah’s makeup was always on point and it’s something that I’ve often struggled with. I didn’t really understand how to do a winged eyeliner until I was 35. Once again my lack of confidence was the thing holding me back but Sarah seemed to revel at trying new things. I finally worked u the courage to tell her how jealous I was of her makeup skills and then she revealed that in her free time she made YouTube makeup tutorials. I couldn’t get over how brave she was! Sarah put herself out there for the whole world to see. She hadn’t trained as a makeup artist but she had a gift and she was sharing it with the world. During the months we worked together I saw how much time and effort she put into her videos but she really seemed to love helping people. She was always patient with my questions and guided me in finding what worked for me rather than putting me into a mold that didn’t fit. Sarah and her videos have really helped me feel like I have the right to be bold and to put myself out there.

 

Without the three women I have written about so far I would be putting myself out here and you would be reading what I’ve written so if can please show these women a little love. 

Niamh – https://www.instagram.com/gypsyrosehair/

Danielle – http://www.shesagent.com/

Sarah – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMXrqULt32c4FGGlUTRwHUA

Why I am here?

Why have I started this blog? Why I have I decided it would be a good idea to bare my soul to you all? Why have I decided that now would be a good time to start making my feelings and thoughts very, very public?

These are all good questions. The last year of my life has been a series of awakenings. I have had people come into my life that have changed me in a way I can’t ignore. I can’t pretend the current political climate hasn’t helped influence me as well. I think the easiest way I can explain to you why I am here is to introduce you to the people who have changed my life and propelled me towards this platform. I’ll introduce them all to you over the next few blog posts. I’ll start chronologically.

SAMSUNG CSC

Early attempts at victory rolls

@gypsyrosehair – Her name is Niamh and I met her at a party. She had been on the periphery of my friend group for a while. I knew of her before I knew her. The most important thing I knew about her was that she was far, far too cool to be friends with someone like me. I’ve never really had much of an identity because I have floated from one thing to another for as long as I can remember. I always move on before I have a chance to fully embrace any identity. I can pull out labels like hashtags that I identify with but my venn diagram is pretty unusual. The one identity that I had for a relatively long time when I met Niamh was roller girl. I have been involved with roller derby as a skater, coach, and manager for several years. During that time I had started to get to know myself. One of the things I realised I yearned to be was a stylish, vintage, pin-up. Many of the women I skated with were involved in the community. They all seemed so cool and so put together and so confident! Niamh was queen of this look and attitude in my mind. She’s a singer who has a voice that can give you goosebumps. She dressed so brilliantly and her hair was always on point. She also projects an attitude that says “I’m here, this is who I am, like or leave it but I’m not changing.”

img_8766

Becoming more comfortable with hair flowers

During the party I got talking to a nice man who seemed to not know too many people. He was easy to talk to so I spent much of the afternoon happily chatting away to this styling and affable gent. It was only long into our conversation that I realised I was talking to Niamh’s partner. This led to an awkward encounter in the evening when Niamh came to join the conversation and I fangirled hard over Niamh and she for some reason didn’t notice. As I was talking to Niamh she oozed a confidence and a coolness that I just wanted to be near. I knew I had to find out what made this woman tick. How can anyone actually be so clever, cool, and confident? After talking to her for a while I found a way in. Niamh is a hair stylist. Now, I have hated my hair since as long as I have had hair. The only way I could figure out to sort it was to get it chemically straightened. My hair had no style, despite the hours I spent on pinterest looking at vintage hair styles. I lived in fear of my hair. When I found out Niamh was a stylist I booked in right away with her.

img_0857That first appointment she put a streak of colour in my hair. It may seem like a little thing to people who have dyed their hair every colour under the sun but for me it was a watershed moment. That streak of blue was me saying to the world that I would not be defined by what they saw. I was not just a mum, or a lawyer, or a wife, or plus sized, or any label they wanted to put on me. I was an individual and it was the start of me tackling the fear that held me back from so many things. Through many further appointments Niamh helped me grow more confident. She may think that she only showed me a few hair tricks but she changed my life. I now rock my curls every day. I dye my hair whatever colour I want. I style my hair in a vintage style and when I get funny looks I just smile back. Niamh also directed me to finally take the advice of my friend Zoe. I had been admiring Zoe’s style but just never thought I could pull off her looks. With Zoe and Niamh’s help I found a style of my own. I’m no longer afraid to be sexy and loud and vintage and pin-up. I have found my style. Maybe it was inside me all along but without the women in my life it would probably have stayed hidden.