Things My Mother Taught Me

Mothers’ day has just come and gone and whilst I was a hundred or so miles away from my own, the lessons she has taught me over the years are still with me today. (N.B. My dad taught me these lessons too, and many more…but you know…Mother’s day and all – sorry dad!).

*This post features a vintage jacket that my mum passed down to me – so for once these photos are actually related!

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  • Hormones are a bitch. Don’t let them ruin your life As a woman hormones are an often overwhelming part of life, you can spend days feeling sad, despondent and depressed about the world and your life, and then suddenly, you get your period and “ohhh. That’s why I was so sad…hormones!”. Whilst any feelings we have are, I firmly believe, valid, purely because if you’re feeling them, they’re real, I’ve found it’s important to check yourself, ask yourself why you’re feeling this way, is it because of a genuine problem you have, or because your body is playing chemical and hormonal tricks on you? If it’s the latter, my mum taught me to acknowledge the feeling, acknowledge that the cause is hormones and put it to one side. This helps me so much when I’m feeling completely overwhelmed by things I’d normally be able to cope with: I think “okay I’m feeling like this because I’m hormonal, so let yourself feel it, but remember that in a few days, you’ll likely feel better about things”. And low and behold – nine times out of ten – I do!

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  • There are some things you will never be able to control, so stop worrying about them.  I was recently on the phone to my mum after having had a mini break down over the phone to my dad a few days previously. The thought of graduating, of leaving a place I love so much and having no real plan or structure to my life anymore was constantly on my mind, I couldn’t stop worrying about all the possibilities that were coming my way, and how I was going to manage them. Talking it through with my mum, she reminded me that graduation and the next phase of my life was coming whether I liked it or not, and so I could continue to worry and get anxious about it even before it’s happened, or I could just cross that bridge when I come to it – which isn’t for another few months. Why feel something twice when you don’t have to!

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  • Horrible, difficult things happen to us all the time, how we deal with them is what is important.  When crappy things happen to us, it’s so so easy to feel like the world is against you, that it’s so unfair and unjust that this thing has happened and you now have to deal with it. I often feel like that – I think often as humans it’s our default setting. But mum always reminded me that A) there is ALWAYS someone who has it worse than you, and that B) when something horrible happens, it tests us, and we all need testing sometimes, if only to reaffirm to ourselves that we can survive, manage, carry on and pull through, but also sometimes to help us realise that we were stronger than we thought and that if we can deal with this, then most other things life throws at us we’ll be able to tackle.

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  • A broken heart is always a lesson learnt about yourself.  Being broken hearted is THE worst thing. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions from one day to the next, sometimes from one hour to the next. Defiant strength and positivity followed by bouts of sobbing and despair, we go through the ringer. But what I’ve found, and what my mum has been key in helping me understand is that, usually, once you can see the wood for the trees and you’re out the other side, you can see that the heartbreak teaches you a lot. It teaches you what you will and won’t put up with in relationships, the things you value most in another person, that people may seem worthy of your trust but that you deserve to have that proven to you, and above all it teaches you that no matter how much you like, loved or fancied someone, you had a life without them that was rich and full and your life after them will be equally as rich and full of love and laughter, and whats more, it will be enriched by the deepened understanding you have of yourself. So, to those that have broken my heart I say, weirdly, thank you, and thanks mum!

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  • Having standards and expectations about how other people should treat you is not ‘picky’ -it’s proof that you know yourself and what you want and need from others. This applies to all types of relationships. This could easily sound snooty and selfish, but it works both ways – if you know what you expect from other people, you know better how to treat others – both the people who you care about and strangers you come into contact with every day. It’s one of the reasons I really dislike rudeness. If I want people to be polite and kind to me, it follows that I’ll always, to the best of my ability be polite and kind to others.

 

  • Kindness is a severely underrated quality. It costs nothing to be kind. This follows on from my last point. At school I was bullied quite a lot, and a point she always made is that kindness is often overlooked in people, it’s not cool, or edgy or funny and at times it can be interpreted by others as weakness. But it takes so much more effort to be nasty to people than it does to simply be kind to them. It can be quite easy to fall into habits of laughing at people, mocking them and even being mean to them – sometimes it’s easier to do that than to stand up against a bully or someone who’s out of line. But mum always assured me that one day, my kindness would be repaid, with respect and with the kinds of people who will be there for you throughout your life. And she was right! Whilst it might not be cool at school, with age kindness becomes increasingly respected and searched for. You find yourself surrounded by kind, good hearted people and you have the ability to spot an unkind person from a mile off and stay well clear. In the words of my mum – and I’m sure many other mums – If you have nothing nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. It’s a good mantra to live by – not always easy and definitely not one suggesting you shouldn’t have strong opinions or beliefs, but something to work on and strive for.

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  • Trust your gut instinct. It’s usually right.  “Gut instinct” “female intuition” whatever you want to call it, it’s often laughed off as an old wive’s tale, but I firmly believe it’s a thing. Often I’ll somehow be sure that someone is about to cancel on me – and then they do. Or I get the feeling the person I’m seeing isn’t feeling it and sure enough a discussion arises soon after. Whether its about things happening or gut feelings about certain people, my advice, taken from my mum’s to me, is to listen to what your body and mind are telling you, more often than not that feeling will come to be proven true. Sometimes you wish it wouldn’t, but at least you know yourself!

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  • Fake it till you make it – the appearance of confidence = confidence. Throughout my teenage years mum would always tell me to straighten back and hold my head high, it was partly about having good posture so I didn’t get a bad back (not even a great mum can stop genetics in their tracks), but also standing tall with your head held high gives the appearance of confidence even if you don’t have it. And lets face it, there aren’t many of us that can boast of being full to the brim with confidence at the age of 15 – I certainly wasn’t. But often, if you fake confidence when you walk into a room full of strangers, people will assume you are confident and that affects how people interact with you. Eventually you’ll realise that you’re not actually faking it, you just are confident and comfortable. It’s an ongoing process that means having to go back to basics and fake it when walking into a room full of new people, starting a new job or anything unfamiliar and scary. But with each new uncharted territory, more confidence is faked, and more confidence is felt.

These are just some of the things my mum has taught me in my 21 years, in reality there are probably so many things i’m not even conscious of that both my mum and my dad have taught me that have gone into making me who I am today. And it doesn’t stop once you get to be a kind-of-sort-of-pretending-adult, my mum will continue to teach me lesson after lesson long after I feel I should be still learning lessons.

  • Jeans – Topshop –  Similar here,
  • Shoes – Zalando – Similar here
  • Blouse (tucked in dress) – Here
  • turtle neck – Topshop – Similar here
  • Jacket – vintage

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Always A Woman.

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N.B.: Photos were taken in my tiny non instagram/pinterest friendly student flat because I don’t have a photographer on speed dial and the weather is making me want to cry.

Wednesday was International Women’s Day – and whilst there are some people who will proclaim “What about a Men’s day?” or “it’s just an excuse for middle class white women to feel good about themselves”, on the most part it was a day that, probably for the first time, filled me with a real sense of pride, love, solidarity and most importantly of all – hope.

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With all that’s going on in the world right now, it can be hard to not to switch on the news and think: “fuck”.

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With the current President of the United States a serial sexual harasser of women, AND having signed an executive order in his first week essentially blocking funding for abortion   organisations and charities abroad, AND with women disproportionately facing the brunt of austerity measures around the world, AND taking sole responsibility for birth control, AND having to make the choice between a successful, long lasting career and a family…AS WELL AS having to put up with subtle, normalised sexism and misogyny on a daily basis…It’s hard not to feel like we’re going backwards not forwards.

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But then I woke up to a stream of messages from my girlfriends telling each other how much we loved each other, and were inspired by each other. My instagram and Facebook feeds were FULL of friends – both men and women- paying tribute to their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, friends. Not just that, but people were paying tribute to women. not women they knew, or women they owed their life to, or women they were in a relationship with, but just women. Woman Kind.

Because why do you need to know a woman to respect all of them? Granted, if you don’t know one single woman, frankly, where have you been living all your life – we are 51% of the population, but nevertheless, respecting women-wanting gender equality and simply coming out of your mum’s vagina are not mutually exclusive.

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The strength and solidarity amongst people emanated from every laptop, tv screen and woman I encountered. For once, women felt entitled to feel proud of being a woman, not to feel ashamed for simply having a vagina and breasts, for covering up too much or not enough, for not being pretty enough or being so pretty you’re asking for it. Those pressures and double standards were still there of course, they will be until that pesky patriarchy is dismantled, but women seemed to bond in defiance of being pitted against each other and the idea of ‘sisterhood’ became almost tangible to me.

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Lots of people like to criticise things because it might make them seem cool, aloof, cynical and above it all. International Women’s day is no exception I’m sure, and there may be some legitimate criticisms to raise in order to help the women’s movement progress, but really, what is so wrong with celebrating women all over the world. We are all different yes, we all face different challenges depending on the colour of our skin, the class we were born into, the countries we live in. But we are all women. We all share a history of oppression and degradation, but we also share a history of victory and humanity, and strength and a belief that this cannot be the best it gets.

 

A simple way of stopping the progression of gender equality is to pit different demographics of women against each other. These women over here only care about themselves, don’t listen to them etc. But feminism IS intersectional – and is getting more so everyday, difference and unity are not mutually exclusive by any means and being white and middle class, or white and working class, or black and working class (Etc) does not mean you have no part to play or voice to be heard.

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Women are the lifeblood of this earth in more ways than one. When women prosper, the world prospers. I have truly amazing women in my life that give me strength, direction and guidance in a world that can often seem like its out to get you. I have amazing men in my life too. Who would never tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a woman, or blame me if I was raped.

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International Women’s day showed me all of the things I have to be grateful for as a woman living today. I have family who see me as no less than my younger brother. I have friends who are constant source of support and inspiration and solidarity, and I have wonderful women and men from around the world filling up my news feed with messages of support and feminism and love, and that is nothing if not reassuring and heart warming.

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