The Importance of Being Yourself (& Why You Can Always ‘Sit’ With Me)
We all compare ourselves to others, that’s just flipping life, right?
Comparison gets a lot of bad stick in my opinion, though.
It can be a positive call to action. Comparison can inspire, keep you on track and even make you fight for what you want in life, helping to ignite a fire in your belly or prompt you to visualise your own success and happiness.
It allows you to follow by example (and ultimately lead in your own way).
There are no limits to how big you can dream when it comes to comparison, too.
My heroes are Oprah Winfrey, Tina Fey, Marie Forleo, Shonda Rhimes and Sheryl Sandberg to name but a few.
The darker flip side to comparison means becoming becoming wrapped up in others’ selective snapshots of life as a means to fuel our own self-doubt. An instant way to tell ourselves we’re not enough. It’s in those moments that we often forget that being our unique badass selves is our magic, our USP.
Existing online often means basing self-worth on the amount of likes, follows and now, blue ticks, by our names. By how many people recognise us on the street or the media we might appear in that month.
Dangerously, we can stop valuing ourselves on what matters most: how our work makes us and others feel and by our kindness, openness, forgiveness and of course the quality of our art (whilst accepting this will always be subjective).
Once you value yourself based on your actions, you become less dependant on the opinion of those who don’t know you. It’s a tricky balance, you must remain open to others’ views but selective about those you take on board and careful about what you let define you. You must be strong when it comes to your values and vision. You must direct your energy into knowing yourself and doing what makes you happy.
That fuzzy warm feeling is a two-step process for me. Firstly, it comes from the act of creation: the writing and filming. Then the sharing. The reception, the debate, hopefully the fact my work will resonate with others. That my story might feel universal in some way.
The audience are a vital part of the relationship yet the first part is critical. If I don’t enjoy creating my art before putting it out into the world, what’s the point of it all?
This is why I always encourage others to find out what they love, first, and to crack on without fear of the reception. To do what makes you feel alive first without worry as an audience will find you. Content is Beyonce, basically.
And an audience will find you. That’s the beauty of online and SEO, search engines will bring like-minded people to your (online) yard.
So, please if you’re feeling lost or caught up in a negative whirlwind of comparison, get back to basics. Ask yourself how writing that heartfelt post made you feel? How sharing what you love arouses in you?
Apply value to the measure of the emotion, and in some cases, the sacrifice it took you to create something first, and not just the reception it received.
We wait, of course, we all do, keys balanced on our boards for others’ feedback, for we don’t create in a vacuum but it’s vital we return to why we want to do something in the first place and remind ourselves of that, however long we’ve been writing, blogging and shooting, for.
We can often get lost in the view of, ‘Did it actually happen, or worse, matter, if nobody saw it or responded to it?’. That can be debilitating for an artist. Focus on the story, on creating and everything else will come. Maybe instantly, maybe years down the line.
Yes blogging is about communication, the transferal of emotion and the universality of your story, your narrative and how it resonates, but so often, the value is hinged too heavily on the audience and that balance needs to be addressed to prevent you from stopping.
If my Mum was the only person who read my blog as in the beginning, would I still blog? YES, of course I would. I blog for myself as much as others, because I need and have to write, in the same way I still draw in notepads by my bed, despite never sharing those doodles to the world.
I think to value yourself is to understand who you are and what makes you tick, and to act in a way which allows you to respect yourself.
When you do that, others’ views of you, which are often based on snap judgements or not truly knowing what you’re about, can’t alter and potentially damage the way you see yourself or your work.
I’m so sad to read of bloggers feeling bullied or torn down by others online resulting in them abandoning their work or core values. It takes strength to DO YOU but you owe it to yourself (and your readers).
Plus, the endless pursuit of applause, can drain the life out of you.
I will always stand up to those tearing others’ down. I will not lay low and allow the small-minded to tarnish others, full stop. I have your backs, people.
I won’t let people change my story or make me feel I need to morph into who they want me to be, either.
People often find it rare or unusual when they see others confident and happy in their skin or simply on a mission to chase their dreams. The media has told us all time and time again to endless reject or remodel ourselves, so self-doubt becomes the default mode. We must collectively be the change we (all) need, in this online and offline world.
We need to rewrite the negative voices telling us that we’re not good enough, mostly said to ourselves, by ourselves. We need to silence the words which disempower and deflate us.
It’s scary being an artist, we are so often out on a limb, naked, really. Waiting to be judged in many ways.
I’m blown away by the love I receive here and on my social media platforms, every comment gives me the confidence to keep trucking.
I didn’t start any of this to reach millions, I’m as surprised as anyone by that fact, but I don’t value myself on how many twitter followers I have or views I get on a FB Live.
I value myself on the quality of my work, on how hard it was to share something which in turn felt cathartic and resonated with others. I’m lifted by the emails I receive thanking me for inspiring others to find the confidence to start a blog, change careers and embrace technology.
I felt lost and alone when I started this blog, with a mission to carve a creative space for myself and connect with others. It’s given me real friendship, a creative outlet and a career I adore.
I was never the popular kid at school. I was too much of a non-conformist. I was academic yes, but incredibly rebellious, mostly out of boredom. I attended a private prep school before an all girls high school and looking back, many in my year seemed deeply unhappy there. My first week of starting high school is the worst memory for me. It ended up impacting the many years that came after it. In fact, weirdly despite having dealt with it long ago, it still feels raw writing about that time, today. I suppose I’m still sad for 11 year old me.
Full of excitement, nerves and anticipation at starting school, with Carpet World sample style eyebrows, a huge curly mane and a body clinging onto puppy fat like my crap af life depended on it meant I wasn’t the school catch when it came to BFFS at the time but I had a BIG personality and a lot of love to give.
I made friends with a group of 4 girls on my first day and we spent the first week chatting about boys we fancied (out of school) during killer friendship bracelet sessions which involved a lot of neon thread. I was ecstatic. The foursome were sweet, smart, funny and seemingly, kind. One week later though, they deserted me. I don’t know what I did. I was just myself. Maybe I was too loud, too open and honest, too me.
The me you lot like and I like about myself now! The real me. Nope, they didn’t like that me. And it happened overnight. Girl has friends to girl has none.
By that point too, everyone else in my class had made their friends, their clique, their groups so I was cast off, friendless, forlorn and bereft. I literally had no one to sit with Mean Girls style. Not at break time or lunch. I felt so embarrassed.
I would spend any free time ringing my Mum on the school pay phone, mostly crying but also relieved to have something to do to pass the time where I was visibly alone.
What felt like an eternity passed over the next few weeks but new friends were eventually made even if never fully trusted.
Unlike mates made out of school I felt loved me unconditionally. It was an odd time.
I left for a Catholic Sixth Form which was the antithesis of that school. Everyone mixed with one another, were treated like adults by the teachers and I started to build my confidence back. I was popular too. It was hard to get my head around that at first, that everyone liked me. It was the same at uni, too. Now, I find friends everywhere I go and have a tight circle I can depend on.
Yes, there will always be people who don’t like me or assume I’m someone I’m not, as they bring their own baggage to the table but that’s something I’ve learnt to accept (or hopefully have proved wrong to some). I and you, don’t need to be friends with the world which just need real friends who know, love us and can tell us when we f*** up.
I won’t ever forget that frightful time at school nor the real lesson of it all, that everyone simply wants to feel valued and loved. That no one wants to be alone.
I don’t want anyone to feel excluded or not able to ‘sit’ with me, metaphorically or in real life.
That’s what I love about being online.
There’s always a new friend to make, a person to connect with, who thanks to algorithms, hashtags and organic SEO means you can be brought together from all over the world. A Greek Cypriot recipe of my Dad’s on here connected long-lost family members in Australia to my family in Leeds and Manchester. That’s the magic of the internet
…And, before you know it, you can find hundreds of thousands, even millions of people by your side, holding you up, reminding you to be keep being yourself even if at one point, you felt you had no one.
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