Criticism and Narcissism

Criticism and Narcissism

I am kind of sick of seeing people dragging others down. It doesn’t matter if it’s your friend,  a celebrity, a family member, a stranger. The amount of times I come across negative comments, both on the internet and out in the world, is really heartbreaking.

The thing about negative comments is that most people think it’s okay as long as the person targeted doesn’t hear them. But that is not the point.

A stranger walks past you in the street. You don’t like the way she dresses, because it’s not your style. You could tell your friend that you think she looks horrendous, or sneak a picture to send to somebody, or tweet about the horrifying sight that you just saw. We’re all guilty of looking at somebody and thinking oh god those shoes are really ugly or that hair is so tacky. But consider this: what they are wearing makes that person happy. They put on their outfit, or styled their hair that way, or did their makeup like that, and then they looked in the mirror and felt good about themselves. That person chooses to dress that way because they like it. They feel sexy in that short skirt, empowered in that blazer, or tough in those boots. And frankly, it’s not your place to decide what makes them feel good. Your opinion on somebody’s looks, in a nutshell, does not matter.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “what Susie says of Sally says more of Susie than of Sally”. It does not matter if Linda from accounting never hears that you called her perm a disaster. It does not matter if Kim Kardashian never reads that tweet you sent calling her a slut. The point is that you said it. You took time out of your day to say something hurtful about another person, to bring them down for something that might make them the happiest person in the world. Maybe you wouldn’t get married after six months, but that doesn’t give you the right to tell somebody that they are wrong for doing so. Maybe you would never be caught dead buying boots from ShoeZone, but someone else might think they’re the comfiest shoes in the world. Maybe you wouldn’t ever dye your hair blue, but some people feel really badass with blue hair. Give your negativity a rest. Being judgemental is boring.

There is more to life than your opinion. There are other perspectives that are just as valid as yours. You may not share common interests, and maybe you wouldn’t do what they do or wear what they wear, but that does not entitle you to say something mean about them. As long as they’re not offending anybody, let people do what they want. Your sly comment isn’t going to change anything. You may think that you’ve got everything right, and that your way of living and dressing and thinking is the correct way, but life isn’t a one-size-fits-all experience. Let people do whatever makes them happy, and stop thinking so much about what other people are doing. Focus on your own life and what makes you happy.

There is far too much negativity in this world, and at a time where people are constantly spreading hate, be the light that you want to see in the world. Bring somebody up, not down. Spend your time looking for compliments to give, appreciating differences without criticising, and spreading love.

In the words of Thumper the rabbit, “if you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all”.

Embracing What You Love

Embracing What You Love

As sad as it is, there are always going to be people who try to bring you down. They’ll dim your spotlight, drag you for something that you love, and make you feel ashamed for something that you used to be proud of. Sadly, that’s just life.

Before I went to secondary school, I used to write poetry. There’s nothing that will kill a kid’s creativity quite like other kids. I soon became embarrassed and ashamed of the thing that used to make me feel proud and accomplished, and I left my poetry behind me. I wish I’d never stopped, because maybe I could have gotten somewhere.

Once I got to college, my source of shame changed. Suddenly I was being made fun of for liking certain pop bands. I had one friend who made me feel like I was on a points system, and he would deduct points from me for every ‘rubbish’ band that I liked until I felt worthless. What was so bad about the fact that I liked dancing around my kitchen to What Makes You Beautiful? What impact did it have on him?

I know that these are small examples, and a lot of people suffer a whole lot worse, but it just goes to show that no matter how petty it is, someone will always drag you down for it. If I could go back in time and speak to my eleven year old self, I’d tell myself not to give up writing poetry. If I could go back and talk to my seventeen year old self, I’d tell myself to block out that friend as soon as possible and dance to catchy pop songs with no shame. Real friends don’t make you feel bad for what you love.

I’ve learned a lot about what makes a real friend over the years, and I’ve had to teach myself a few lessons too. It’s okay to admit when you did wrong, and maybe none of us have been great friends to some people. But all you need to do is support other people’s ambitions, and you’re on the right path.

If somebody is making you feel bad for something you love, or the way that you act, it’s not you that’s the problem. Don’t let anybody change who you are, and embrace your ambitions fully. Don’t hide yourself away.

Screens and Screams: The Pain of Social Media

Screens and Screams: The Pain of Social Media

Social media is damaging. I’m sure that this is something everybody is aware of. In this digital age, it’s easier to be a part of a world that never switches off than to distance yourself from it. It doesn’t really matter what Sally got up to this weekend, and yet it feels necessary to know. Not only that, but it feels necessary to keep people updated with your own life, too. And that’s a lot of pressure.

The problem with social media is not that Sally tells us what’s going on in her life, it’s that we are consumed by a constant need to rate and compare. The thing is, we create a different version of ourselves on social media. We use platforms like Instagram to put on a front that everything is okay, and that our lives are fun and interesting. We cover up the bags under our eyes with Juno or Valencia and increase the brightness until everything looks less bleak. Then we post it and wait for the likes to rack up, craving validation from all these people that we never speak to, because that little heart or that little thumbs up confirms that yes, you did look nice today, or your view looked pretty today, or your life gets my approval today. But why are we so desperate for everybody’s approval? Why are we so concerned with what people think of our lives?

My life is fully immersed in social media, and I’m sure yours is too. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest… all those little apps waiting for me to open them every morning, to validate other people, to read about their lives and feel a pang of jealousy over the way they look, the places they’ve been, or the things they own. How materialistic and sad. But do I stop? Of course I don’t. And I’m not sure I can pinpoint why.

There is something nice about feeling included in somebody’s life, getting a glimpse of the way they live, and telling them that you like it. But this is life through the lens of a smartphone, and not life as it actually is. If I was brutally honest on Instagram, my account would be full of pictures of me in bed looking like a potato, flashing my double chins, probably crying. But of course I’m not going to upload that kind of thing, because that’s not how it works. We all manipulate our image to come across as much more put together than we actually are. And that’s what I have to remind myself of every time I find myself getting foolishly jealous over somebody’s social media posts. This is a tiny piece of their life – a front put up purely for the internet. Nobody’s life is perfect.

The ability to follow beautiful women, dedicated gym-goers, and adventurous travellers as they go through their seemingly rosy lives has caused me to tear myself apart on more than one occasion. Why don’t my legs look like that? Where’s my jawline? Why can’t I afford that dress? Why don’t I have their motivation? It’s all too easy to self destruct over a heavily filtered image. It’s all a set up. Instagram’s menacing little magnifying glass is the bane of my existence, showing me all the lives I’m not living, all the women with the defined bone structure and abs that I just don’t have. I have spent many nights scrolling through endless square photographs, slaughtering myself from the inside out, because I don’t look like some girl I just found on the internet. I cannot even tell you the amount of times a single photo has reduced me to tears. I have looked at my reflection and picked myself apart, finding something to dislike about every inch of myself, until I can no longer stand to see myself – all because of social media.

The thing is, all of these platforms are supposed to keep us connected, and yet they make me feel so detached. Surely I can’t be the only person who feels like social media has distanced us. Why meet up for a coffee when you can just send a Snapchat? Ten seconds of interaction through a horrendous selfie, hiding yourself behind a filter of a dog or a flower crown, is much easier. You don’t have to show people what you really look like or how your life is really going. You can take a picture at the right angle, smooth out your skin, make your face look slimmer, and then you don’t have to worry about if they’re staring at your spot the whole time you’re talking or thinking about how big your forehead is. Somewhat convenient, and yet unmistakably damaging and deceiving.

I have just dug in to the newest series of Black Mirror. Don’t worry, I won’t dish out any spoilers, but I’m going to talk about the first episode of season three. Charlie Brooker never fails to amaze me as he pushes the boundaries and tests the limits, forcing us to think about what direction the human race is heading. In this episode, people don’t just offer up a like on your social media posts, but they provide star ratings for each other as they meet in real life. Rate people as human beings from one to five, and affect their overall score. That score dictates how people react to you, the kind of chances you can have in life, and even the places you can go – it becomes a label, one that people use to judge you. Just add it to the long list of other things that people will discriminate against: skin colour, sexuality, gender, class, and now your social media score. This episode made me think – just how far are we going to go? Which point is too far? Have we already gone past it?

In a world where we obsess over likes and shares, it’s hard to get a break. Our whole world is moving online, and it’s hard to take time away and just breathe. I feel anxious without my phone, bored without Twitter to scroll through, lost without Facebook messenger. What if somebody needs me? What if something important happens? I’m scared of missing out, of not being a part of something. I’m aware of how pointless it all is, but I can’t seem to stop myself.

The way I have calmed my anxiety over social media might sound silly, but it’s worked for me. One word: animals. That’s it. I ditched the gorgeous billionaire models and swapped them for furry friends. My Instagram feed is purely cats, dogs, foxes, any kind of animal that you can think of. Have you ever seen a video of a hedgehog getting its tummy rubbed? I see that kind of thing ten times a day now and it’s the greatest, most soothing thing ever. Videos of dogs running about plague my timeline on Twitter and overwhelm my Facebook news feed. The Explore function on Instagram is now nothing more than the happy faces of animals worldwide. I don’t have to worry about taking another blow to my self esteem when I just watched a video of a kitten playing with a piece of string.

Of course, there are still bruises. Social media is wonderful and harmful all at once, and no amount of cuddly raccoon pictures can reverse the damage that has already been done. We are increasingly social media obsessed, and while I may have been lucky in having a childhood that was mostly free from the grasp of the online world, children today are growing up in an environment where they are learning that their value is based on how many likes they can get. Instead of fretting about the photoshopped images and distorted messages pushed upon us in magazines, we have to worry about the more constant and increasingly accessible threat of social media, where millions of people can be influenced by a single image. An opinion voiced in a tiny package of 140 characters can be infinitely more influential than the 2000 word columns of a tabloid or fashion magazine, and they can build somebody up or horrifically tear them down with the same amount of strength, if not more. It’s a powerful tool that can be used so brilliantly, and yet more often than not we use it in the wrong way.

We are all consumed by this online obsession, but sometimes it pays to take a step back. It is through Facebook that you find out someone you love is in love with someone else, Snapchat where you discover your friends went out without you, and Twitter where you read a sly comment and wonder if it could possibly be about you. It’s a lot to handle, and it’s emotionally very weighty – ignorance would be bliss, and yet we deny ourselves that release.  It’s hard to separate ourselves from the rush of posts and messages, but taking some time to ourselves, just to breathe and think, is what we all need once in a while.

Ditching the Razor

Ditching the Razor

For some people, four weeks without shaving is absolutely nothing. For others, it’s an eternity. Personally,  as somebody who usually pulls the razor into action at least twice a week, it felt like a very, very long time.

I love shaving. I love feeling like a baby dolphin when I emerge from the shower, fresh and as smooth as a cod liver oil capsule. It’s like a new confidence washes over me every time I get rid of those pesky hairs.

But what I don’t like is the itchy skin as the hair starts to grow back, the occasional shaving rash, the dry skin from where the razor has irritated it. I hate how long it takes to shave, and that I have to wake up twenty minutes earlier than usual just so that I can wear a dress without tights. Most of all, I hate the feeling of stubble. So over the summer, I decided to ditch the razor (and the wax, and the epilator) and just let everything go.

My skin no longer felt like sandpaper from the mixture of stubble and dry skin. I no longer felt the need to scratch my legs all day. I didn’t have to worry about waking up earlier to shave. Life was easy-going and glorious and itch-free.

Despite the fact that I know that a hairy body is seen as unattractive purely because of our darned patriarchal society, I still didn’t feel sure getting out my overgrown underarms or flashing the forests on my legs. It’s not something that I’m courageous enough to do, and I wouldn’t have felt happy and comfortable with myself. For this reason, I stuck to tops with sleeves, long trousers, and tights for the entire month. I found it tiresome finding something suitable to wear every day which covered the hair I was so uncomfortable with. I found myself feeling frumpy, unattractive, and lazy. I know that these are ideas that have been purely driven into my mind by society, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to let go of those thoughts. I wanted my confidence back.

The thing is, I never actually think those things about other people who choose not to shave. I never look at somebody’s legs and think “they’re just lazy” or “ugh that’s ugly”. I think about how confident they are, and how much braver they are than me. Because I don’t think of body hair as a gauge of how attractive or unattractive somebody is, I think of it as a scale of confidence. They’re openly fighting the beauty standards that are pushed upon women in magazines, on television, and by men, they’re sticking a middle finger up at all the people judging them, and they’re embracing their hair. Because it’s natural.

When I finally shaved, I must admit that I felt a little bit like I had been reborn. I had forgotten how smooth my skin could be, how great it felt to wear a sleeveless top, and how much more self-assured I felt. I wish that I could have been confident enough to whack on a sleeveless sundress with four weeks of hair growth poking proudly out from my bare legs, but that’s not the case. Maybe one day I will have the confidence to let go of all those inbuilt fears and strut out of my house without a care in the world, but right now that’s not something I feel I can do. It’s a shame that I’ve been made to feel so embarrassed about my own natural body hair.

I know that shaving isn’t for everybody, and letting your hair grow isn’t for everybody either. It’s a personal choice, and nobody can dictate what you do with your body. I don’t shave because I feel like I have to, I shave because I feel more confident in myself when I do. And that’s okay.

Do whatever you’re comfortable with, whatever makes you happy, and whatever makes you love yourself that little bit more.

My Love/Hate Relationship with Makeup

My Love/Hate Relationship with Makeup

Okay, here’s the deal. Makeup is my best friend and my worst enemy at the same time. I spend a ridiculous amount of money on the stuff, and my makeup bag is the size of a small suitcase. I have more foundations than I know what to do with, a lipstick for every outfit, and different mascaras for work, casual outings, and fancy nights out. I love watching makeup tutorials and imagining all the looks I could create. But do I ever create them? No.

The fact is, I hate applying makeup. I hate the long routine and the seemingly hundreds of products that I have to sieve through. I hate the ten minutes I spend in front of the mirror before work, trying to make my overgrown eyebrows look somewhat groomed, and trying to cover that giant hormonal spot that appeared on my chin overnight (which, to be honest, I always think looks better before I tried to cover it). I would much rather spend those extra ten minutes in bed, and go to work fresh faced. But the sad thing is that I feel obliged to make myself up every day, whether it’s a ten minute job before leaving the house, or spending a good hour blending at my eyeshadow and trying to achieve the most precise eyeliner possible.

There is so much pressure to look good every day, but honestly I can’t be bothered. I’ve gotten lazy when it comes to my makeup nowadays, aiming for the least amount of work possible and leaving the house looking half-done. My skin isn’t the kind of flawless, poreless canvas that can get away with being left alone, but spending ages blending out foundation is the last thing I want to do every day.

And yet, despite all of this, I just can’t seem to stop buying the stuff. A new foundation came out? Get that on my face immediately. That eyeshadow palette must be mine, even though I already own all the colours in different palettes. Yes I do already have a lipstick this colour, but this one is matte. I can’t be stopped. I watch all the YouTube tutorials, and something inside me just breaks. It’s like I need that blusher more than I need food next week, even though I know full well that I use the same blusher every single day and I have done for months. I can’t remember the last time I wore eyeshadow, but this £39 palette is obviously vital right now.

I don’t know why I do it, and I don’t know why makeup deliveries bring me so much joy when I hate applying the stuff so much. I hate the feel of it on my face, and yet I continue to splatter everything from the expensive glass bottles on my face.

I envy those people with flawless skin that can roll out of bed and through the front door without a second thought. I know that I could do that too, but I’d look more like a real-life moon emoji rather than an effortless beauty. So until the day I wake up looking like a goddess, I’ll continue to splurge on the stuff that makes me look a little more alive.

SSU – More Than Meets the Eye

SSU – More Than Meets the Eye

Southampton Solent University has got a pretty bad rep amongst people I know of being a rubbish university with courses that aren’t real subjects. There’s a pretty big assumption that everybody who goes to Solent is stupid and only goes there because they couldn’t get in anywhere else. I wasn’t aware of this reputation until I got here, and the rivalry between Solent and University of Southampton became very clear. When I tell people which university I attend, I’ve had a lot of responses telling me that I go to “the rubbish one”. But here’s why they’re wrong.

The Lecturers

I cannot express to you enough just how incredible my lecturers are. They don’t do this job for the money, but they do it because they are genuinely passionate about their subject, and it’s very, very clear. I have never seen somebody light up about poetry the way my lecturer Tom Masters does. They are such amazing, caring people who have a pure passion for their subject and their students. The thing is though, they feel sort of like your friends. When I went to other universities for open days, the lecturers seemed cold and disconnected from their students, and they just seemed authoritative and not particularly open. I am so lucky that I can open up to my lecturers. They’re the kind of people that you can go and see for a chat and they’ll offer you a cup of tea or coffee. They get so enthusiastic about their lectures and seminars, and they get excited about everybody else’s thoughts and ideas. The atmosphere in our seminars is completely different to anything else that I have ever experienced in the best way possible. These people love what they do.

The Students

Another thing that I love about this university is the other students. Pretty much everyone does a creative course or a sports course, and I have met the most diverse range of people. When I ask people what course they do, I’m never given the boring response of “history” or “maths”. That’s not a dig at anybody who studies those subjects, but let’s be honest, they’re not anything very exciting or out of the ordinary. At Solent, I know people who do animation, special effects, acoustics and audio engineering, game design, marine engineering, personal training, adventure and outdoor management, and so much more. I’m always getting excited about people’s courses. And you know what else is great about that? When you need a favour or some kind of creative job doing, you will always know somebody who can put something together for you. It might be a film, a website, an illustration, or anything else – you will more than likely know somebody who will help you out. Oh, and a bonus, nobody is pretentious and believes that they’re better than you. The people I’ve met here are the greatest people I have ever met, and I’ve made lifelong friends.

The Location

When you study at Solent, everything you could possibly need is right at your fingertips. Located right in the heart of the city, you’re a five minute walk from the high street. You don’t have to worry about catching a bus to uni, or wasting money on a taxi to get to the clubs and pubs. Everything is just right there for you without having to faff around. Southampton may be small, but it still has everything that you need. And the most exciting part is that you get to hear the boats honking their giant horns quite a lot. That never gets old.

The Facilities

I could waffle on about tech and all that fab stuff, but honestly I don’t know much about it. All I know is that Solent has got everything you could possibly need, with all the fancy tech that you could possibly dream of, from cameras to computers. Not to mention the library. Our library is open 24 hours when deadlines come around, and I’m pretty sure that it’s saved a lot of grades (and lives probably). There’s nothing I appreciate more than knowing that I can go to the library to use the vending machines when I’m craving chocolate at 3am. Oh, and I can’t forget the printers. This may sound sad, but the quality of the paper in the library is so nice. Obviously the paper isn’t the most exciting thing about the facilities at uni, but I just really appreciate it.

Yes, it’s far from home, and Southampton is a pretty small city where, honestly, not that much goes on (though it is getting a bit better). But I wouldn’t want to study anywhere else – I would pick Southampton Solent University over Oxford any day.



What Fashion Means to me Now

What Fashion Means to me Now

For years, fashion was my life. I spent hours looking at clothes, talking about clothes, writing about clothes. Fashion Week was always exciting, no matter where it was. I had a pile of fashion magazines as tall as myself, and I took so much pride in what I wore. When it came to applying for university, picking a course seemed straightforward for me. It was obvious.

After spending three months studying Fashion Journalism, I decided that enough was enough. I did not have the passion for fashion. I became bored looking at pictures of models in ridiculously expensive clothes, and even more bored of the monotonous writing I seemed to be churning out, if any at all. What difference could I possibly make to the world whilst writing about silk shirts and leather loafers? I had pigeonholed myself, and I wanted out.

Now, I am about to go into my second year as an English Literature and Creative Writing student. My course has opened my mind to so much more than the often shallow world of fashion ever could. It’s not just about books – it’s about life. I’ve learned so much about so many unexpected and important things, like the expression of gender, feminism, and Marxism, and I’ve learned how to use my voice powerfully in the right places. This is where I’m supposed to be.

So what does fashion mean to me now? Pretty much nothing. It’s funny how something that once consumed my life is now something I take very little interest in. I wear the same three pairs of shoes all the time, I live in my pyjamas unless I have to leave the house, and when I do leave the house, it’s in the comfiest clothes possible. Once upon a time I would have put so much time and effort into my outfit, choosing carefully from my overflowing wardrobe. Now, around two thirds of items from that wardrobe have found new homes in charity shops.

As fun as fashion was for me, my life is different now. I would much rather spend my time reading about an important historical event and using my voice to talk about real issues. That doesn’t mean dedicating your life to fashion is a bad thing, but it’s just not what I want for myself. Of course, I still love to dress up every now and then, but only if it’s comfortable – and you can forget the heels.

I feel as though in the year since I released myself from the icy grip of the fashion world, I’ve changed a lot. I’ve actually become more confident in myself, despite the often repeated casual outfits rather than the one-off flashy dresses and sparkling skirts. I’ve found a new love for a much broader spectrum of things, diving into every opportunity and embracing everything that I can. I feel like I closed myself off from life for so long, because I was so wrapped up in nothing else but the fashion industry.

Putting yourself into a box is one of the worst things you can do, and that’s exactly what I did. Broaden your horizons, and you’ll see that there’s more to life than just what’s under your nose.