THE SEXISM HANGOVER – Healthy Changes for Modern Equality – SPLITTING THE BILL

Do you still think a man should pay on the first date? Pull out a woman’s chair so she can sit down? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself WHY? Do we still buy into the lie of “ladies first” when quite clearly in most other aspects of life it has been ladies last? Is the gesture of walking through a door first really worth more than REAL equality which might mean, god forbid, walking through the door second?

If the only answer you can come up with for the question of “why?” is ‘because that’s what men should do’ then you’ve sunk just as low as those who say a wife should cook for her husband because she is a woman. There is no biological or psychological reason for it, only outdated societal norms. In my opinion, there are NO things that people should and shouldn’t do based on their gender. There are only things that they can or can’t do, for example, give birth.

Let’s take the example of splitting the bill. Women (and some men) have been fighting for equal pay for decades, and we’re still not there yet. But how can we ask for equal pay and in the same breath ask for a man to pay for our food on a date? Even if he earns more money than the woman, why does that matter? If you go out for a meal with your girl friends, would you expect the one who earns the most to pay more? Of course not, that’s not how equality works. Do you really think that a man paying for your food is a good indication of whether he is a generous person or not? Generosity is not measured in conforming to gender roles dictated by society. If you want to know if someone is generous, pay attention to how they choose to divide their time, whether they give you their full, undivided attention, how willing they are to compromise.

If historically the work place was the ‘male domain’ and the home was the woman’s then at the same time as we women enter and influence the world of employment, so too should men be invited into home and family life and valued for what they bring. Valuing equality in the world of work higher than in raising a family, is in itself sexist. If what we want is as many female CEOs as males then surely we should also be welcoming the idea of having as many fathers taking just as an important role in raising their children as mothers. I’m not just talking culturally, but legally too, men should have equal rights and protection when it comes to their children. It shouldn’t be to do with the gender of the parent but to do with the best environment to raise a child. Maybe there is a bit of that sexist hangover kicking in right about now? You’re thinking it’s justified because women are better at raising children than men? Just because someone is more practiced at something doesn’t mean others can’t learn to do it just as well. Other than the biological factors of breastfeeding etc., there is no reason why men shouldn’t play just as important a role in raising their children as women. Just as men historically said women cannot study certain subjects (or study at all for that matter) or do certain jobs because they aren’t as intelligent, we have proved that wrong. If we address the issues of ‘toxic masculinity’ and give men an equal chance at raising children, I’m certain they will prove and are already proving to us that they can do just a good a job as women.

So should a man carry a woman’s bags, they are stronger after all!? Even with biological differences when it comes to our physiology, we have proven that we women are also strong, fast, powerful. If you think about it, some women are stronger than some men, it all depends on how you choose to live your life. I am just as capable of carrying my luggage as my boyfriend, I am just as capable of opening a heavy door as my brother. However, there may be some cases where I might struggle physically and require help but I’d be just as happy for a woman to help me out as a man. It’s not to do with gender. Therefore a man shouldn’t feel embarrassed to be helped by a woman either; we all need help sometimes.

As they say, equality is a two way street. I am proud to be a feminist, and women’s rights are extremely important to me. So are men’s rights. I don’t want to undermine the incredible struggle of women thought history and still to this day. Oppression must be fought but I think we have a better chance now by working together than by hating and blaming. We have the opportunity to create a world which is more equal for everyone but to do so we must recognise areas for improvement in ourselves as well as others.

MULTI-CULTURAL RELATIONSHIPS – Falling for a Foreigner

I just celebrated my 5 year anniversary with my half Spanish half Colombian boyfriend. When you consider that I am half British and half Cypriot, that’s an interesting mix of nationalities, although I know many more exotic couples than we are! So I wanted to share, in a light-hearted way, some of the pros and cons of falling in love with someone from a different country.

I don’t really like the word foreigner. It is, of course, a relative term and I am as much a foreigner to someone else as they are to me. Or more specifically in this case, I was the ‘extranjera’. I wasn’t even looking for a boyfriend, but that night in a bar in Madrid, I met such a special man that I welcomed him into my life for the long run. So let’s start with the pros.

  • Learning another language – I had been in Spain for almost a year when we met but my Spanish still left a lot to be desired! Google translate was the 3rd wheel on all our first dates and it was hilarious. There’s no better motivation to get good at a language quickly than when you are desperate to communicate with the person you’re falling in love with.
  • Gene diversity – this might sound like a joke but there is actually scientific evidence that gene diversity is linked to disease resistance. Good news for our future babies!
  • Open mind – living in another country will certainly open your mind but actually sharing your life with someone from another country will involve you day to day in another way of living so being open-minded is the only way it will work for both people!
  • More tolerant – learning about another culture from someone you love is bound to make you more tolerant and understanding of other people’s views and beliefs. You will realise that often there is no ‘right’ way to do things, rather, different ways. Part of the fun of a multi-cultural relationship is combining your two lifestyles and making a hybrid that is even better than either of the originals.
  • Know yourself better – the combination of opening your mind and becoming more tolerant inevitably leads to some self reflection. I cannot express how grateful I am to have learned so much about myself and to have questioned things I considered to be ‘right’, ‘normal’ and ‘good’. You get much closer to some kind of ‘truth’. It is so liberating to free yourself of your ‘home’ culture and to create your own life together with your partner, it’s like a fresh start.

I could only think of 3 cons which is a good sign!

  • Argument fails – the first time I tried to argue in Spanish was such a fail! You take it for granted being able to express yourself in your own language. It’s also when you realise how your brain doesn’t function quite the same when emotions are running high. The words didn’t come and I ended up reverting back to English even though I knew he didn’t understand. That also taught me about my lack of self-control in arguments so in the end it was actually useful. Even if you are quite advanced in the other language, if you don’t share the same first language as your partner then some misunderstandings are inevitable. There will be some mis-translations and even just some cultural differences in how you express emotions. It’s definitely a learning process.
  • Food differences – eating habits can differ greatly from country to country. We don’t realise how important our eating habits are to us until we can’t eat what we want when we want. But again, you keep an open mind and learn to adapt. In Spain the biggest meal of the day is usually lunch, with dinner being a lighter meal. Of course that is the other way around in the UK and I wanted my huge plate of pasta in the evening. I did get used to the Spanish way of eating though and learned to thoroughly enjoy my big bowl of plant-based pasta in the afternoon. It actually makes more sense to have the bigger meal for lunch!
  • Timing – this was a tricky one. It takes a bit of adapting to relax your concept of punctuality. That is a must if you live in Spain. However it’s a whole other level when you’re trying to navigate that in a relationship. I had to learn that ‘ya llego’ (literal translation – I’m arriving now) actually means ‘I’m on my way and I’ll be arriving in 10-20 minutes’. In the end there was some meeting in the middle on this one!

 

In the end, these cons just reaffirm my points about becoming more tolerant and openminded. So it’s really all positives! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, it’s just a bit of fun 🙂

THE POWER TO CHANGE THE WORLD – We Have It, Let’s Use It!

Sometimes it might seem that the ways of the world are so ingrained that changing them is impossible or at least highly unlikely. Things are the way they are and we just have to accept them…!? Well imagine where we’d be if everyone throughout history had thought like that. Things are much more malleable and less stable than we are lead to believe.

I wanted to write about this today after watching a video on the YouTube channel The School of Life entitled Why You Can Change the World. I quite often take the way I think about things for granted and I forget the ways I used to think and the different ways people see the world. This video reminded me of that and of the importance of knowing that positive change is very much possible.

I’ve always been passionate about justice. From a little girl making sure my two siblings and I had the same size piece of birthday cake, to debates with my uni housemates about racism and sexism to stopping eating meat 3 years ago. I don’t accept injustice just because my culture or society does. I will speak up for what I believe in and try to converse calmly (the calmly part is a work in progress) with others who are open to an exchange of opinions. Could I do more to fight it? Yes, of course I could. I could join activist groups, protest, sign petitions (I do sometimes). For now, I’m writing this blog post.

So without really realising it, I have obviously always had the belief that things could and should get better. Where did that come from? My parents? My education? I’m not exactly sure, but I think it’s important that everyone has that hopefulness for a better world. We don’t have to look too far back in history to see huge changes which would have been unthinkable for the generation which preceded them- ending apartheid, votes for women, gay marriage.

History is not only a matter of the past but also the present. Every decision we make today, every conversation, is determining history. I remember wondering as a teenager why the world is how it is and never really finding an answer. Of course now I understand that it is because the world we live in was never destined to be as it is now, it is arbitrary. It could have been very, very different. It could still be very, very different but in order for that to happen, people need to believe that it can change.

I know at present it’s not easy to stay optimistic about the future of humanity, never mind the world as a whole – yes, there are plants and animals too who are also living on this beautiful, fragile planet. But the first and most important step is to NOT accept things as they are just because they have been that way for X amount of time. We live in an age of incredible knowledge, let’s use it for the better. Let’s stand up for what we know is right and not just easy.

The internet is an incredible thing and, as with everything, can be used for positive or negative ends. Let’s focus on the positive – we can now join together in numbers never before possible to raise awareness and show our support for certain causes like ending domestic violence or the refugee crisis or animal cruelty. It also gives us access to ways of thinking that we may never have come across in our day to day lives. What a wonderful opportunity for personal growth as well as positive change in society.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or straight-forward. I am very lucky in that the only way injustice affects my life is people complaining that my diet is difficult to accommodate or trying to ‘educate’ me on why they think I must be protein deficient. Or my boyfriend calling me annoying because I made a comment about the misogyny in the series we are watching. Or an awkward moment in a social situation where I let someone know that I consider something to be unacceptable. Or rare occasions of having to deal with sexist behaviour towards me. These seem almost ridiculous when compared to the injustice millions of people (and animals) suffer every single day.

I am incredibly fortunate to be safe, healthy, educated, which means there is all the more reason for me to be aware of the injustices others suffer and have open conversations about it. The only people who will lose out in a more equal and fair world are those who abuse power. Of course there are those who are privileged and therefore powerful (whether they realise it or not) and would never dream of abusing that power, but that’s not enough. We should use it to help those who don’t have it. The first step is to NOT accept things the way they are, the second is to let people know what is unacceptable and why.

If you have made it to the end of this blog post, thank you so much. I realise this was quite philosophical, political even, but there will be a few of these between the lifestyle stuff, after all, everyone should be entitled to live a happy, healthy life.

 

POSITIVE LIFE CHOICES – Long-lasting Changes for Health and Happiness

These days we are told that we have the power to transform our lives into everything we want them to be. That the only thing holding us back is ourself and our laziness. Wow, way to feel guilty if things don’t go to plan. Truth is, it’s about a lot more than positive thinking and self-discipline.

Of course there are some things we can change through pure willpower alone. But if we stay in the same place, see the same people, do the same things day in and day out, we are not just swimming against the tide, but eventually a huge wave is more than likely going to come and wash us back to where we started.
What we need is to find a different beach with calmer water. Regardless of whether we want to eat healthier, feel calmer, find more fulfilling job, increase our motivation, etc. There are factors outside of pure willpower which have a much more profound impact on our lives than perhaps we appreciate.
1 – The Place
This is not just the city we live in, not even just our house or apartment, but the places we spend the hours of our day. Our physical environment has a huge impact on our health and happiness. I’m not saying you need to move (although maybe if it’s something you’ve been thinking about – consider it more seriously), but make the time to go to places you feel calm, happy, disconnected, connected; what ever it is you need. Whether it’s a park, a friend’s house, a little cafe, a woodland walk or somewhere further afield. Find a way to visit your happy places more regularly. Notice I didn’t say comfortable places. Acknowledge that your sofa although comfy, homely, easy, safe, and can be great; it is not necessarily always a healthy, inspiring place.
2 – The People
Sometimes the people and the places go hand in hand. Positive and negative. I know that stepping out of our comfort zone and meeting new people can be very intimidating, but if the people who we see on a weekly basis don’t have an overall positive impact on our lives, maybe it’s time to meet some new people. That’s not to say cut people out completely, but the more positive, genuine people we have in our lives, the better it’s going to be. It can be so lonely being around a lot of people but feeling disconnected from them. It can also feel lonely being around only your partner all the time, it’s nice to have a bit of diversity. It doesn’t mean they have to be your best friends, but just being around other kind or inspiring or wise people helps. Of course we should always strive to be that kind of person to our friends and loved ones too.
3 – The Routine
If there is something you want to implement in your life but your routine does’t change, just hoping that little voice in your head that’s saying ‘don’t do that’ will be enough is such a struggle. Say for example you want to eat healthier; that doesn’t just happen in the moments you are about to make something to eat, it happens in your weekly routine. Change how you shop at the supermarket, change where you buy your lunch, change the restaurant you meet your friends at. If you want to include more exercise then rather than feeling bad that you didn’t go on that jog you said to yourself you would do in the morning – join a fitness group, a sports club or a dance class. Having a specific time to do things and a teacher or coach to motivate you makes things more straightforward. Exercise can be tiring enough without having to exhaust ourselves over finding the time or making the decision to start. Include it in your new routine and if others hold you accountable, not just yourself, then even better!
What I’m trying to say is that of course we have the power to change things but sometimes the changes might need to be on a bigger scale to become long-lasting. Having gone through a lot of this myself this year back in the UK it has made me realise that although I consider myself a motivated, positive, hard-working, happy person, it doesn’t just come from within me. Life becomes so much smoother when things are reflected in my environment. Being in a place I feel connected to, having my own space, seeing my friends, having the financial independence to create my own routine. So take the time to consider your day to day environment – physical, social, emotional. You don’t have to struggle day to day fighting against an environment that isn’t conducive to the way you want to live. I know that bigger changes are more scary but in the long-run they make life so much more enjoyable and fluid.

MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR MOVING TO SPAIN – How to Survive and Thrive in Spanish Cities

Moving to Spain is an incredible adventure and the best decision I ever made. If you’re considering relocating to the country of sunshine, smiles and sangria, here are my 5 top tips to help you get the most out of your time in España!

1- Get a job

One of the most common jobs for fluent English speakers in Spain is teaching English. If you have good communication skills, enjoy being around people and like working independently then this might be a great option. While I lived in Madrid I taught English in businesses, to adults for the Cambridge exams, in private classes and to children in schools and extracurricular classes.
It’s a great job because you get to know Spanish people even if you can’t speak Spanish yet. It’s sociable and rewarding and it’s the kind of job that when you go home you can completely disconnect and enjoy your time in your new city! If you would like to teach English there is also the Auxiliar programme. In my opinion it is definitely worth getting a TEFL qualification before applying for English teaching jobs although some schools may accept native speakers without qualifications (they will pay less).
Of course there are many other options, perhaps your company already has an office there. Maybe you have an online business which allows you to work from anywhere. Perhaps you already speak Spanish, in which case you can apply for jobs directly in the Spanish job market. In any case, be prepared for your salary to be substantially lower but also know that the cost of living in Spain is also much lower. You can really enjoy your time in Spain with a very modest salary.

2 – Find an apartment

Do your research. Read about different areas of the city, find out about prices, the kinds of people who live there, the vibe of the neighbourhood. Check transport links and proximity to amenities like supermarkets, etc. Renting a place in Spanish cities is similar to most big European cites. If you have been renting before, take into consideration that your rent should be cheaper in Spain and check if bills and internet are included.
I recommend the website idealista.com especially if you are looking for just a room to rent in a shared property but also for whole apartments. It tends to be cheaper because there aren’t as many estate agents advertising on that site. You can also look at fotocasa.com. If you are renting from the landlord you will probably need one month’s rent plus a deposit (fianza) which is usually the same amount as one month’s rent. If you’re going through an estate agent you will also need to pay the administration fee.

3 – Learn the language

It is a good idea to learn at least basic Spanish before you go. The more you know, the easier it will be. Find a class, download a language app, watch films in Spanish, listen to music in Spanish. Become familiar with the sound of the language and practise as much as you can.
Once you get to Spain you can continue with classes but you also have options such as language exchanges which are free. Something I’d also recommend is to have somewhere on your phone where you can write down new words you learn throughout day so you don’t forget them. Watch the news in Spanish, it’s great because they use more formal language and speak clearly so it’s easier to understand and you have images for context.

4 – Get involved

When you move to a new city and especially a new country, it’s important to feel connected. A good way of doing this is to get involved with an activity you enjoy. It can be an existing hobby – join a sports club, find a yoga class, join a choir. It can also be a new activity – try a flamenco or salsa class, get involved with a charity. Not only will you be doing something fun but you will also meet new people.
Spanish people, in general, are very welcoming so make an effort to talk to them and make new friends. Not only will you feel more at home in your new city but it’s the best way to improve your Spanish too. You can also get local recommendations for places to eat or things to do.
It’s also nice to speak to people in English so join Facebook groups of other English speakers in your city and go to meet-ups. As much as it’s great to immerse yourself in the new culture, I know it can also be very tiring, especially if your Spanish isn’t fluent. It’s also nice to speak to people in your native language and share experiences with people who are doing something similar to you.

5 – Be open-minded

Moving to another country is a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. Allow yourself to be open to new experiences and new ways of thinking. Just because you are used to doing things a certain way doesn’t mean that it’s better than a different way of doing things. By being open and interested towards new places and people, you’ll find you learn things about yourself that you never would have otherwise.
It is possible to live in another country and stay close-minded and stubborn in your ways of thinking but you will never get to truly enjoy the experience and grow as a person if you don’t become more open. Re-evaluation of your own lifestyle and beliefs can be hard and even realising you were wrong about certain things, but it will make you a more tolerant, understanding person. For everyone I know, living in another country has been one of the best decisions they’ve ever made. It certainly was for me and I can say with absolute certainty that it has made me a better person. Plus I met the love of my life in Spain.

HOW TO KNOW IF YOU’RE WITH ‘THE ONE’ – Soulmates or best mates?

Looking for that one special person who will complete you, love you unconditionally, make you happy for the rest of your life? Before finding someone else we first have to be a whole, content person on our own, we have to genuinely love ourselves and commit to honouring and respecting ourselves for the rest of our lives. This is real life after all, not a Disney film, so what does love look like for modern day princes and princesses?

Here’s the thing… I don’t believe in ‘the one’, I certainly don’t believe in soulmates but, my goodness, do I believe in love. I actually think believing in the ‘romantic’ idea of true love and living happily ever after, will more than likely prevent real romance from blossoming in a long-term relationship. Having unrealistic expectations of fairy-tale love will only lead to an unattractive sense of entitlement and ultimately, disappointment.

I think there are many people out there who we could be happy in a relationship so it’s about recognising when we meet someone who is special to us and deciding to commit to building a relationship with that person. After all, what could be more endearing than two imperfect people, who are not ‘destined’ to be together, making a commitment to grow together, to learn from each other, to bring out the best in each other, to forgive each other.

That is not to say we can make it work with anyone. If there is something I have learned through my own experience and watching some of my closest friends go through it, it’s that as much as you might want a relationship to work with someone, if they are not willing to change, you will never change them. That can shake your confidence in your own judgment, you thought they were ‘the one’, but it didn’t work out. Sometimes it is about situations, circumstance and timing as well as the person.

There are two things which I think are so important in making the right decision for a long-term partner. First of all we have to love ourselves and be clear about how we should be treated and the high level of physical and emotional respect that we deserve. If we have that clear from the beginning then we won’t waste time with people who won’t be a good partner for us long-term, no matter how fun, talented, good-looking or generous they are. Respect must come first.

Secondly, I think it’s about recognising real commitment. Real commitment isn’t about a getting a ring or a changing your second name. It’s about the willingness to resolve problems in the relationship, it’s about listening, admitting when you’re wrong, it’s about forgiving and moving forward. It’s making time for the person you love and giving them your undivided attention. All of this needs to work both ways. Everything we expect in a relationship we must be willing to give.

What I realise is that when you find someone you love, who loves you back in the same way, who is also your best friend and who is as committed to building a future with you as you are with them, you’re onto a good thing. There is no guarantee that is will be forever, only a consistent recommitting to each other everyday will make that possible, not one day of repeated vows at an alter. I’ve been with my boyfriend for nearly 5 years and I know we are both in it for the long haul. I don’t need a proposal or a promise, I know from his actions every day. He is absolutely my best friend and he has shown me a depth of romantic love that I never even knew existed. We have given everything to each other and to our relationship even, and especially, in the hard times. I have let myself be completely vulnerable and now I understand that is the only way to truly love. We have to trust them with our whole heart. I don’t believe in doing anything in life half-heartedly and certainly not love.

5 ECO-FRIENDLY LIFE HACKS which will help the planet and save you money!

Plastics have had a lot of bad press recently, and rightly so. It’s great that people are now trying to reduce their plastic consumption but I often wonder how it was even allowed to get to this point. Truth is, governments are way behind when it comes to eco-friendly policies and don’t even get me started on big corporations. I know it can feel frustrating and that the problems are much bigger than any individual, but there are things we can all do – consumer choices have a HUGE effect on the demand and therefore production of more eco-friendly products and offering more environmentally friendly services.
1 – Swap face wipes for a flannel

Just imagine a pile of 365 used face-wipes. A year of removing makeup makes a LOT of waste, and the large majority of face wipes (and bay wipes for that matter) are NON-recyclable. Using a natural cleanser and a warm, damp flannel is not only better for your skin but also better for the bank balance, and of course, it’s much more eco-friendly. If using wipes for whatever reason is unavoidable, we can at least choose a recyclable brand with a more environmentally friendly ethos.

2 – Reduce meat and dairy consumption

This is probably the single biggest change an individual can make to help the environment. We have 3 chances a day to reduce our negative impact on this beautiful planet. A reduction in the consumption of meat (especially red meat) and dairy would have a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption, deforestation and antibiotic resistance. I personally don’t eat any meat or dairy, but even if everyone just reduces how much they consume on a weekly basis, it will make a huge difference! Plant-based protein sources such as lentils and beans are also much cheaper than the meat alternatives, plus they have a much lower fat content.

3 – Turn down the temperature

Lots of us are lucky enough to live in houses or flats with lots of rooms. In winter we can save energy and therefore money by turning off the radiators and closing the doors of rooms which we’re not using. The same goes for washing machines and dishwashers. 30 degrees is usually plenty hot enough to get things clean!

4 – Choose re-usable packaging

We probably all own a ‘bag for life’ which is wonderful (as long as we remember to take it with us)! There are also many more ways we can use less plastic when it comes to our shopping. Choose the loose fruit and veg instead of pre-packaged. A bunch of bananas can go in the trolly without being put in a little plastic bag first! For other products we can try to choose products which come in recyclable or reusable packaging – look for the little symbol on the back of the packet. I was unpleasantly surprised by how many aren’t actually recyclable. They’ve been going in the ‘green’ bin for nothing.

5 – Move towards minimalism

Production and delivery always have a carbon footprint. Less consumption, less damage. Whether you want to think of it as minimalism or just a more thoughtful way of living, choosing to say NO to the superfluous will save you money and create more freedom. A more conscious and deliberate lifestyle leaves more room for what is really important. If you’re interested in learning more, I have a blog post on minimalism for beginners.

 

HOW TO LOVE YOURSELF and Why It Makes You a Happy Rebel

Learning to love ourselves is an on-going process which takes a lot of questioning outside influences, reassassing our internal discourse and establishing respect for ourselves and understanding the power of saying no.

I guess a question we should first ask is – why don’t we love ourselves? If you have spent time with very young children I think we can all agree that the majority do not suffer the same self-doubt, don’t have the same negativity towards the way they look and don’t worry nearly as much about being judged. So what is it about our society which means that as we grow up and become young adults we love ourselves less, instead of more?

We start to worry what others think of us, people point out things which make us different and we start to resent those things, we see more images of a ‘perfect’ face, a ‘perfect’ body, a ‘perfect’ house, a ‘perfect’ life. What does society tell us about our own beauty and self-worth… Want that face? Get a nose job and botox! Want that body? Go to the gym and get a boob job! Want that house? Get a higher paying job! Want that life? It’s attainable, you’re just doing it wrong. We’re told that it’s all within our grasp and if we don’t have those things then it’s our fault, then we’re failing.

It’s an interesting concept which is very much promoted in the West which comes from the ideas of individualism, autonomy, self-affirmation. It is this idea that we all determine our own paths, our own lives, our own thoughts and that we are powerful enough to override our social and cultural pressures. We are constantly told we are capable of making better choices; that happiness itself is a choice. But we don’t fully understand and appreciate the overwhelming power of outside influences over our lives.

Never underestimate the power of advertising, of the media, of companies. They aren’t just making it up as they go along, they use the world’s leading psychological research to influence your decisions every single day. Do you know all about the world’s leading psychological research to be able to counteract the ways they are trying to manipulate you? Think about why all these things exist – so you decide to buy something, read something, watch something, do something, vote for someone. That’s not to say they are all bad; ideally we would buy the products and services that we genuinely need from the companies who care about their customers, not only their profits. We would vote for the political parties who offer a hopeful future not only for ourselves but also for others and for the planet. We would try to find trustworthy sources of information and not just pick up the cheapest (or free) newspaper because it’s easy and convenient but full of propaganda and negativity. But what does all this mean for our relationship with ourselves?

Especially for women but more and more so for men too; the more you doubt yourself, find things to criticise about yourself, are aware of your ‘imperfections’, feel inadequate – the more power they have over you. Everyone in sales knows the first rule is not to list all the great things about the product but to make the consumer feel like they not only want it, but even better – that they NEED it. Do you think companies will sell more or less makeup if people think they look ugly without it? Think of the magazine articles shaming celebs without make up.

Once we stop denying the powerful influence that companies and the media have over us and take practical steps to reduce it then we will become happier. It also makes us rebels – not just producing and consuming. Say NO to the newest lip product, say NO to the faster car, say NO to the people who don’t respect us and instead be grateful for what we have, what we can do and who we spend time with. Deciding our own worth based on the positive things we choose to do, the way we treat ourselves and others, the healthy bodies we nourish – now those are truly rebellious acts.

Here are some things I have done to limit the influence companies and the media have over my life:

  • I don’t read gossip, fashion or beauty magazines. Nope, none. I don’t miss them. I’m happier wearing less makeup now, I’ve stopped analysing every centimetre of myself and I think I still wear nice clothes.
  • If I see an advert for something I don’t like on Instagram, for example, botox or fur clothing I will either report the advert as ‘offensive’ or I will, at the very least, say that it isn’t of interest. That means that I will never see adverts from those types of companies again. Don’t underestimate your Instagram newsfeed; scrolling between two airbrushed photos of two beautiful YouTubers and you see an advert for lip-fillers… think that has no impact on your self-worth? Think again. I’m not overreacting, just think about this for a second – adverts for plastic surgery? Damn right that’s offensive – suggesting that I need to change anything about myself!
  • I don’t get my information from any one newspaper or TV channel. This is a huge one and so important. If you want truthful information the best people to ask are academics, so find sources which at least try to include experts in their field, people who have studied the subject and not just some news channel which brings on two random guests who have opposing opinions.
  • Unfollow people on social media who don’t inspire you, make you laugh, inform you, motivate you or something similar. Why do people have a flowing just because they are good looking?! If all they are promoting is more makeup, more clothes and more botox, maybe it’s time to unfollow. Even if they are ‘fitness’ influencers, if all they do is go to the gym and you’re someone who doesn’t really like the gym then unfollow them and go and follow someone who does something you do like – hiking, swimming, yoga, hip hop, basketball, ballroom dancing…
  • By choice, I only watch food videos which are mainly healthy (and plant-based). Why? Because we are human and the power of suggestion in a real thing. I don’t need to be watching adverts for fizzy drinks or programmes with cholesterol and sugar laden desserts. Why? Because it makes me hungry for the wrong types of things. On the other hand, if I watch a YouTube video about healthy lunch ideas then I’m much more likely to crave a lentil and sweet potato salad than a 3 tier sponge cake!
  • I try to mainly eat food which isn’t produced by a company, but by the earth. Guess why you hardly ever see adverts for mushrooms, carrots, strawberries, rice (no I don’t mean Uncle Ben’s)!? Produce which can’t be patented by companies doesn’t mean big profits in the same way as a tube of crisps or box of doughnuts. So we are bombarded by processed foods because that’s where the money is, but it’s not where the health is.
  • Spend more time away from screens, doing things which you enjoy and spending time with people you love. Simple and universally effective!