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July 08, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Thrifting & Slow Fashion Online

It's been a few months now since pledging to spend a lot less on fast fashion, and in that time I've purchased some of my absolute favourite items in my wardrobe currently and also - at risk of tooting my own horn - gotten pretty good at sourcing stuff I like. Charity shops and vintage stores in the UK will *always* be where I point anyone to if they want to buy more slow fashion pieces and help recycle old items (as well as you know, help charities by spending your money in their stores - check out this post all about it), but sometimes it's not feasible to visit an actual store or if like me, you really enjoy online shopping and not so much in-store because ugh, people.

Therefore I thought I'd put together this post, detailing what apps, stores, and tips I use when shopping online that help me keep to my ethic of only purchasing slow or sustainable fashion, and hopefully you can pick up some ideas or feel inspired to make the same pledge!

Have a list of things you're looking for
Just like any old online shopping, it can overwhelming and daunting having so much choice out there so having a curated list of items you're looking for is the best way to go about finding a gem. If I'm looking out for a particular item and I know it might be difficult to pinpoint in a charity shop, I always turn to certain websites that I know will have a selection at my fingertips. Just as I said in my last fashion-related Sustainable Sundays post, having this list not only makes it easier for you to find what you're looking for, but it also stops you from potentially getting side-tracked and purchasing things you don't need.

Have a rough limit to your spending per item
Another point I made in my last post covering thrifting/second-hand shopping but of course transfers over to online shopping in knowing your budget. Of course shopping second hand/thrifting clothing can be much cheaper than shopping items brand new, but it can also occasionally be drastically overpriced. Keeping in mind a limit to what you want to spend on each item can be a good habit to get into to avoid over spending. Typically speaking, I think anything over £30 is a lot for new clothes so it is certainly my limit for second hand. There have only been a couple of times when I've went over this price and that has been to buy coats or originally very expensive footwear. If you see something you really have fallen in love with but it's out of your price range, try justifying it to yourself but always look elsewhere. As lots of items such as Levis and Harley Davidson tees have become hugely popular, these are often sold for extortionate prices and were probably picked up charity shops a bargain price to begin with.

Don't overlook certain sites
When people think shopping second-hand fashion, they instantly think of eBay and Depop. I like using both of these sites/apps but they're not the only options out there. I typically search eBay first then a plethora of other sites/apps if I can't find what I'm looking for. If I'm looking for straight up just second-hand pieces, I will typically check Depop, Vinted (an app similar to Depop and one I used to prefer & use regularly! You can swap items on this one too rather than buy), and Oxfam's online shop. If I'm looking for vintage items though or want a selection of more curated, possibly more suited to my taste or what I'm looking for items, my next stops are Etsy, Asos Marketplace, Rebelle (for second-hand designer items), Rokit, and Beyond Retro.

Here's some more shops I'd recommend checking out:
- Loot: great for second-hand items that are reworked to fit current trends, styles, and cuts
- Brag Vintage: a reasonably priced store that always has a good range of items in (particularly coats!)
- True Vintage: a go-to for sportswear or more casual items
- The Stellar Boutique: vintage gems with a more bohemian feel
- It's Vintage Darling: if vintage handbags are your thing or you need a vintage wedding dress, this is the store for you
- Waiste Vintage: the only store you need for those 70s vibes

Know your measurements
One of the biggest downsides to buying secondhand online is obviously not having the opportunity to try things on. Therefore, it's worth knowing what your exact measurements are so you have every possible chance of only making good purchases. Of course, depending on what kind of items you're buying, you can be a little lenient with sizing (e.g. if you're after an oversized shirt), but knowing your measurements just makes shopping so much easier. Most secondhand sellers and sites will list the exact measurements of items because vintage clothing in particular is often very different to contemporary clothing - for example, a ladies vintage size 10 is often much smaller fitting than a modern-day size 10 - so always check these and if a seller has stated that a sizing is off, believe them! Items such as vintage Levis are usually not accurate and the waist size can be much smaller than what is listed on the tag. As I mentioned in my last sustainable/slow fashion shopping post, you always have the option of having items altered, but you play a bigger risk with buying items you've not physically seen "in the flesh".

Don't be afraid to haggle
Although some folk can be extremely cheeky on Depop/eBay etc. and want to purchase items for essentially negative money, don't shy away from offering lower prices to sellers for items you're interested in. As vintage and second hand clothing has gained so much popularity over the past few years, it does unfortunately mean that many sellers and stores have inflated their prices to make ridiculous profit so don't shy away from asking them to reduce their asking prices where possible. You know your spending limit but you also may know which items are worth what so don't be afraid to make a seller aware of that and politely offer a lower amount. Many times I've offered lower prices on eBay/Depop and been pleasantly surprised to see the seller accept because they simply want to get rid of the item in question because let's face it - you won't get if you won't ask!

Buy with certainty and confidence in your purchase
The last point might be common sense to some, but make sure you really want the item you're buying because secondhand shopping online can become a slippery slope of wasted money if you take the same consumerist mentality as you might with hauling clothing on fast fashion sites but you can't return vintage/secondhand items so easily the majority of the time. If you're certain you want an item, double check with the seller the condition of the item too. Of course items might not be in perfect condition, but asking sellers to be completely transparent about the condition of items isn't rude or unjust. I've made a couple of regrettable purchases in the past from reputable secondhand stores via Asos Marketplace or Depop purely because they've not mentioned all of the defects or shown them clearly in the photography. They will have mentioned in a wishy-washy way that the item isn't perfect due to age and use, but won't have stated that big stripe of paint on the back of it - you see where I'm going with this? By asking you might get a more straight-forward clear answer and if you're really unhappy with an item and feel the seller hasn't told you enough about the condition before your purchase, you will have conversation evidence which can help you claim a refund as the condition wasn't declared/wasn't truly stated. Cover yourself and your purchases always!

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July 02, 2018

Embracing my Non-Existent Style & the Confidence that Comes with it

Ah, blogging. How I love and loathe thee for immersing me in the world of fashion; for making me find great styles and trends that I fall in love with, but for also changing overnight and making me feel self-conscious and like I'm always one step behind. Fashion has always been something I've been incredibly interested in since a young age. At secondary school going through my GCSEs, I was convinced I was going to study fashion design at university one day and the ultimate dream was to become as fantastically eclectic and grand as the queen Vivienne Westwood. I would create my own "collections" by drawing and painting various outfits, even detailing the material choices, and I even attended taster weekend courses at Northumbria University (and was pretty good at it too!). Somehow along the way I lost confidence with the idea of me pursuing a fashion-focused career and it became just something I was interested in. My mam has always been a big supporter in the "wear what you want and experiment with your style" mindset and although I think back on past outfits and cringe, I'm so pleased I was brought up with that openness and acceptance. That might sound very OTT when we're "just talking about clothes" but personal style and wearing what you want is so much more than that. It's a simple way of expressing yourself. It's an opportunity to feel the most confident in your own skin. For some, it's even the chance to pretend they're someone else. It can be a coping mechanism for many but by equal measure, it can be something people hate because of the pressures on presenting yourself well and fitting in with the status-quo. It can all be a bit of a mess to be honest.

Growing up for me was great because my mam was very open for me to wear what I wanted which was lucky for me really - I was a MySpace generation scene kid through and through so you can imagine how many pairs of stripey elbow-length gloves I owned that I would pair with clashing neon fish net tights and band tees. Back then I dressed like that because it was what was expected of my music taste - how else would someone know I listened to Alexisonfire and The Devil Wears Prada on repeat if I didn't literally wear it all on my sleeve?! As I got older, I realised that dressing to your music taste doesn't need to be a hard and fast rule and I started to dress more girly, more "boho", but also realised that actually? I don't have a set style. Not having a set style has honestly worried me for years. I, again, feel incredibly dramatic typing that but it's true - it seemed like as soon as everyone started moving into their 20s, they all knew exactly what clothes they liked, what suited them, and that was that. I was somehow steamrolling my way through Primark picking up a bit of everything then throwing it all on together like Joey when he wears all of Chandler's clothes in Friends.

(wearing: Asos Fedora Hat [old], Abercrombie & Fitch Dress via my local Hospice Charity Shop, Swedish Hasbeens Clogs)

Looking back on all those years of worry and experimentation, I don't regret any of the "stages" I went through but I do regret the pressure I put on myself to find a style and stick to it. Growing up in the peak of social media, it seems that many of us feel that we're under a watchful eye and therefore have an unreasonable and sometimes not even real expectation to live up to. I'm sure you've seen some of your favourite bloggers and YouTubers come under fire from people about this that will point out how their style has changed over the years as if it's some sort of crime and frankly, it's ridiculous. Fashion is there to enjoy and if you want to wear the same hoodie and jeans from the age of 15 until your 87, you do it. If you want to dress like a "girly girl" one day and then wear the whole Topman catalogue the next day and alternate from now until the end of time, do it. Your personal style might well be an outlet of expression, but it shouldn't define you and it certainly shouldn't pigeon-hole you and take the enjoyment out of getting dressed each day.

Now that I'm 27 (fuck me, I know) and now switched to slow fashion second-hand or sustainable shopping only for most of my wardrobe, it's given me a chance to step back and recognise a few things. It's okay that I don't have a set style. Even recently I've tried to narrow down my fashion choices and selections in an attempt to streamline my wardrobe but you know what? I just can't always do it. Sometimes I just reach for things that are out of my comfort zone. As I've already said, fashion and clothing in general is there for us to consume and enjoy and putting a label on myself takes the fun out of that for me. Don't get me wrong, I know fine well that if you saw me on most days I'd be wearing a Breton stripe top, a pair of high-rise blue skinny jeans and a pair of clogs, but I also know that some days I might be dressed in a maxi dress to rival those of Free People and then others I'll look like I've stepped straight out of a Tony Hawk's game. Fashion doesn't define you and finding the comfort in that can create so much confidence.

Thinking ahead to being 40, 60, even 80, I know that my personal style will evolve and change and maybe revert back to certain things then change once again but it's no use losing confidence over it. Think of it as a fun timeline to look back on. There's outfits on this blog that I wouldn't dare wear now and there will be countless in the future, but just being comfortable with yourself to experiment, make mistakes, and also good choices and finding what you love and feel your best in is the best thing about fashion. Live it, love it, and never let your confidence be knocked because of it.

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June 28, 2018

Book Club No. 15

Hey bookworm gang, I hope you're all having fantastic weeks and have been reading some good books. In this Book Club post, I'm going to share a variety of books with you that are all works of fiction and some that I very much enjoyed and others that were just okay but might sound appealing to some of you who enjoy that particular sort of fiction. So let's get into the reviews:

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
The Lie Tree is a book I hadn't even heard of nor had come across, but after a visit around some local charity shops doing some book-spotting, Matt handed this to me as he figured I would like it after reading the blurb. The title of this book gives some strong indication as to what it's about so I know by giving you a brief description, I'm not going to spoil anything for any of you who might want to give it a read in the future! The Lie Tree follows the main character Faith as she deals with her father's mysterious death after the family (herself, her parents, and younger brother) relocate to Ireland. Faith's father is a renown natural historian as well as being a Father of the church and thus has an interesting life. When he mysteriously dies, Faith is the only one who seems to be concerned by the possibility of foul play and thus makes it her mission to find out just what happened and why. Upon rifling through his notes, journals, and countless collectables and oddities, Faith discovers a strange plant which she comes to discover is much more than your typical plant.

When I first started reading The Lie Tree I thought it was just okay. The story was easy to follow and it was an easy read, but it just wasn't grabbing me for some reason. But after Faith's father dies, the plot truly comes to life. It has a wide range of quirky characters who range from the stereotypical to the outright bizarre of the Victorian, "explorer" era. The frustrations of being female and therefore shunned from certain lifestyles and activities is peppered throughout the story too which I really liked. Although it's easy to guess the general storyline as you continue to read, there were some occasional twists and turns that I wasn't expecting that helped the story take a darker course and also throw some curve balls into the mix. The story definitely has some of those classic murder mystery vibes, but it also has a uniqueness as it's a story about growing up, being a strong woman, and wanting answers.

Although I initially wasn't totally sucked in by this book, I can honestly say I was by the end. It's high-action and it has you rooting for particular characcters whilst hating others. It makes you empathise, question, feel utterly frustrated, and curious all at once. One thing I liked about this story especially was the level of description Hardinge shares in her writing. This is the first book by Hardringe I've read and I'm certainly going to check out more as I find her descriptive language great for setting the scene, but she doesn't over describe so it gives you wriggle room for character appearances, buildings, landscapes etc. that is never contradicted or comprised further into the novel. Faith is a strong main character and whilst a little predictable, still a good protagonist to follow. Hardinge totally won me over once I got the "dreams" Faith has and I'll leave it there before I tell you all too much! You can pick up a paperback copy of The Lie Tree for £6.49 here

Hollow City: The Second Novel of Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Back around this time last year, I raved about the first novel in this triology and for my birthday this year I was kindly gifted the final two books so I could continue reading this epic story. For those of you who don't want to read my last review of the first book, Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children follows the lives of just that - Miss Peregrine and the peculiar children she has in her care. They each have weird and wonderful abilities and have been alive for hundreds of years. Due to things that happen on their quiet welsh island home (I can't say anything more than that without ruining the first book's plot for you all!), the peculiar children and Miss Peregrine start the arduous journey to London, seeking answers, allies, and friends.

This second novel was so *so* enjoyable for me. I really loved the first book and was keen to get stuck into this next one and I'm so pleased I did. I enjoyed Hollow City so much more than the first and that is a huge rarity for me with trilogies. The action, drama, and anticipation is stepped up a notch in this novel and feel like the doom and gloom is stepped up too which makes the story all the more heart-racing to follow. Despite a year-long gap between reading the first novel and the second, as soon as I picked up Hollow City I was instantly reacquainted with the characters and their personalities and it was as if I had read the first novel yesterday. Riggs is a brilliant storyteller and the life he gives to each and every character is palpable and really immerses you in the story. So many additional and new characters are brought into this second novel and each of them are as unusual and unique as the original troop and thus make it just as exciting to read.

I'm making sure I read the third and final book in this series ASAP because I don't want to wait another year to see how it all pans out, but I can't urge you all enough to give this book a try. You feel part of the main group in this tale of adventure so much so, I found when they were discussing their next plan of action and taking into account everyone's thoughts and opinions on each matter, I was thinking to myself "well I'd agree with Bronwyn in this case because..." and that's exactly the sort of level of lost I want to feel in a book. Grab a copy of Hollow City here for £7.83 in paperback

The Red House by Mark Haddon
The last book to mention is the one I've finished most recently and that is The Red House by Mark Haddon. You will possibly recognise Haddon's name as he is the author of the very popular (and one of my favourite books) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which I have to be completely honest, is the sole reason I picked up this book in the airport. The Red House sounded kind of interesting from the blurb as it made it seem like the book would reveal some sort of dark secret and it would take a dark turn at some point which, let's be real, are my favourite kind of books. Unfortunately I didn't quite get that dark reveal but weirdly, I didn't put this book down a lot either.

The plot of this story basically follows an estranged brother and sister agreeing to go on holiday together in a remote Welsh cottage with their partners and children. The storytelling does not have one sole narrator and is instead shared through a stream of consciousness from each and every character. This sort of storytelling can work and often reads so much better aloud or as poetry but for this book? I just don't think it worked. The paragraphs jump from one character to the next throughout the week-long story and whilst its obvious which character is which and it's easy to make the transition as a reader, it just seems forced and can be jittery and disjointed. I feel like this stream of consciousness could have been executed in a much cleaner way if Haddon didn't spend a lot of the time describing things found in charity shops or the colour of the coffee in the café. The over description throughout this book meant I often got bored of what I was reading, but the relatable characters that are mirror images of anyone and everyone's family members are what kept me hooked. They each go through real-life events such as thoughts about divorce, pregnancy, teenage lust, discovering yourself, and even the small thoughts of an 8-year-old which feel huge at that time, making it a very relatable and comforting read if only Haddon didn't flit from character to character in such a jerky fashion. The more you read the book, the smoother the ride gets, but it's unfortunate that it reads as mismatched as it does as it ruined the actual storytelling element of it for me. If you enjoy books that have that stream of consciousness, very contemporary almost poetic vibe to them, you can grab a copy of The Red House for £8.46 here

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June 24, 2018

Sustainable Sundays: Making an Eco-friendly Home

Hi folks, and welcome back to another Sustainable Sunday. This week I thought it was high-time that I shared some more ways in which you can be a bit more eco-friendly and green by simply changing some small things in your day-to-day life that will help you ultimately become a more green person overall. Back in December, I shared with you all a variety of ways I try to be more eco-friendly but of course, there's many more I didn't mention especially when we consider our bad habits around our homes. So if you want to make some small changes that will have a big impact on how green your home is, keep on reading!

Stop buying one-use batteries. And switch to rechargeables! I'm in the process of doing this myself because unfortunately, most single-use batteries end up in landfill and are obviously not the cleanest things for the planet to be left festering in landfill. Some supermarkets and high street stores do provide a recycling station for batteries, but for the cleanest and most effective way to use batteries, investing in a rechargeable set will always win hands down. There's also the Brucey bonus of it being a one-off payment so it will save you money in the long run!

Switch off your electricals. This one might be obvious to some or new to others, but making sure you actually switch off electrical items at the socket can make a huge difference to how much energy your home uses. Leaving items such as laptops, TVs, consoles etc. on standby whilst plugged into the mains can use a surprisingly amount of electric and means that you're paying extra in your electric bill too. When you're finished using an item, make sure to fully switch it off and see the difference in your energy consumption and your spending over time. Also linked to this might again be a little obvious, but you'll be surprised with how often we all fall into bad habits and leave every light on in the house. If you're from the north of the UK, a parent or family member might be rather fond of saying "what's this? Blackpool illuminations?!" if you're notorious for switching every light on where ever you go, but just be sure to switch it right back off again as soon as you don't need it.

Check your thermostat. Gang, how easy is it to turn up the heating when you get a little chilly and then kind of just forget about it? I know I know, I used to be guilty of this exact thing but programming your boiler/thermostat to only come on at certain times of the day and/or turning down the minimum room temperature to prevent the heating kickstarting too often can make a huge difference to the energy your home consumes. This doesn't mean you have to live in an ice box and be uncomfortable (lordy knows I can't due to my Raynaud's disease making me need heat), but try doing things like putting on a thick jumper or cardigan if you're feeling chilly or popping a blanket over your lap whilst you're watching TV etc. before reaching for that thermostat and see the big differences it makes.

Buy fruit & veg that is in season. I've talked about the benefits of buying loose fruit & veg if this is an option for you before and also mentioned how great it can be to eat less meat & consume less dairy too but another food-related tip is to buy what's in season when it's available. Depending on the time of year, certain fruits and veggies will be more readily available in green grocers, supermarkets and at farmers markets too. Buying these products when they're in season means that not only are they easier to get your hands on, but they're often at a bargain price too. I can remember working in the Co-Op supermarket when I was younger and the rock-bottom prices strawberries were sold at during summer was ludicrous. They're often sold cheaply because fruit & veg have a short shelf-life due to their freshness so supermarkets for example become overrun with the same products from their suppliers. Take advantage of the great discounts not only to benefit your own pocket, but to benefit the farmers those products have come from too.

Cold washes of all kinds. We all know running the shower for a long time costs you more money and more electric, but using eco-modes and a colder temperature can also help. Eco settings do exactly as you'd expect and are more eco-friendly as they use less energy. My shower has this setting and the only noticeable differences in the temperature is lower on the same number as the "normal" setting and the pressure isn't as strong. Eco settings are also available on many washing machines now too and again, are an easy way to earn that "eco-friendly warrior!" badge. If you don't have such a setting on your machines, try simply washing both yourself in the shower and your clothes in the washing machine on colder rinses. It's a myth that you need to wash your clothes in hot water and actually washing them in colder water will not only save you money, be kinder to the environment as you're consuming less energy and thus reducing your carbon footprint, but it will also help the longevity of your clothes increase. What's not to like?!

Speaking of clothes... Stop tumble drying. Tumble dryers are common - particularly in family homes where it seems someone constantly needs a certain item of clothing immediately like, yesterday - but they're also notorious for bumping up your energy usage and bill. Hang your washing out if it's an option (weather and space permitting) but failing the luxury of outside space, purchase a clothes horse or two and you'll be all set to go indoors. I managed to live in a studio flat with Matt for 4 years and we found space for 3 clothes horses for air-drying our clothes so if we could do it, anyone can.

Use energy saving lightbulbs. The clue is definitely in the name with these products, but energy saving lightbulbs make a world of difference to your energy consumption and bill. They have greater longevity than non-energy saving bulbs and save you money and keep you greener the longer you use them.

Actually recycle & compost. You're probably rolling your eyes right now like "really, Amyleigh?" but taking the time out to recycle thoroughly is something not all of us do. It's great to see how much England has started to recycle more with more focus on packaging from various brands encouraging it and local borough councils enforcing it too, but make sure you're really doing it. It's really easy to glance at an item and assume it can't be recycled when it's possible just a part of it can't be. Some items that come to mind are things like hairspray cans with plastic lids, yoghurt pots with cardboard covers, and your dirty used ear buds can 100% be thrown in the recycling, just make sure you're really separating what can and can't be chucked in there. It's worth taking that extra little bit of time as every small step has a ripple effect on the planet. I've mentioned composting here too as this is something I want to look into more myself. Composting your food waste is an option and can benefit your garden or simply just give you another avenue in which to be more eco-friendly and I'm all for it.

Ditch the shop-bought household products. You heard me - make your own cleaning products! Many household cleaning agents have tons of chemicals added to them that are entirely unnecessary and not only that, have a tendency to come in plastic packaging - no matter how eco-friendly branding tries to be! Minimise your plastic pollution and buying into harmful chemicals by making your own cleaning agents at home. You can reuse old cleaning product bottles etc. once empty or purchase glass bottles such as these if you want to make a true eco-friendly switch and then it's simply a case of making your own home remedy. I will be publishing a post soon on my fave homemade cleaning product "recipes" so keep your eyes peeled for that if you want to make this zero waste switch!

Toilet roll, kitchen roll, cotton pads... Change it all. The last one I'm going to mention here gang is all of the things the majority of us definitely do need to use and have available at home, but can switch to more eco-friendly and/or zero waste options. I'm pleased to say that my home only ever has toilet paper made from recycled materials, kitchen roll which is made from bamboo that can be reused (so it is *extra good* in my opinion), and reusable "cotton" pads made from fabric. These small changes mean I don't waste half as much materials as they're part of a recycling system, are reusable, and aren't clogging up our planet with more throwaway items. If bamboo kitchen roll doesn't float your boat, simply use fabric cloths instead as they are just as good for absorption and cleaning as they were originally intended for such a purpose. Having reusable cotton pads/rounds has been a massive game changer for me as I feel I'm not only pampering my skin, but I'm not being as wasteful, I am more in control of them as I am aware when I need to wash them etc. and they are *so* much easier to pack if I'm staying overnight somewhere or going away on holiday.

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June 17, 2018

Love Yourself, Not Love Island

Hang on, don't frantically search for any web address other than this one in horror at this title... I promise you it's not what it seems. Nope, I'm not going to write about how much I love Love Island. Quite the contrary (but I also promise I'm not shitting on it for all you outward and inward lovers of it, so hear me out). Love Island is popular. It's the show that I'm finding I'm "muting forever" on Twitter yet again this late spring/summer because it's just not my cup of tea, but I know many of you out there really love the show. The reason I can't get with the programme is because honestly? I know if I watched it I'd pull a Legally Blonde moment and be eating my weight in chocolate shouting "liar!" at the TV. Not at the show in particular, but more the beauty of every individual on the show.

Anyone I know who loves the show always say these same two things in this order when trying to tell me how much the show is worth a watch:
"Omg I love it - I don't even care!"
"Everyone on it is so fit and beautiful though so it makes you feel disgusting haha"

It's a show that works on the basis of beauty standards and it's worth reminding ourselves that it's not realistic and that "us mere mortals" shouldn't try to draw any comparisons from it. We're very much a gossip and drama consuming species as much as many of us would like to say otherwise, programmes like Love Island (and many others such as TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, the 'classic' soap operas, Big Brother etc.) help feed that hunger for many of us as it gives us a glimpse into others lives, emotions, the rollercoasters they go through and more with no consequence for us and no need for us to make difficult decisions.

The fact that everyone who's mentioned the show to me points out how beautiful the individuals are on it and instantly compare themselves to them is sad to hear each and every time. The people chosen to participate are chosen for their appearance and most of the time? Their appearance alone. That's not me shitting on any of those individuals at all, but it's worth remembering when you sit down to watch it that many of them are people who's jobs and lives revolve around image. Modelling, personal training, sales, social media... Many of the roles of the contestants either involve strict regimes for the body, hair, makeup, skincare etc. or at least include the pressures of making positive first impressions which let's be honest - your appearance can more than help with. Of course there's some contestants who work in completely unrelated roles so I'm not tarring all with the same brush, but many of them have pressures of looking a particular way that is not reflective of day to day life for the millions who tune in to watch the show.

With that in mind, it's *so important* to remember that Love Island focuses on beauty standards. In fact, the show focuses on one - the one that the beauty, fashion, even the food industries thrive on. We have one beauty standard that is widely accepted and so many businesses and brands push this ideal onto us as the only acceptable way to look, act, or be. Think about how many skincare items you buy because they promise X Y & Z that your skin doesn't do (I know I buy into it a lot). Then think about how many of those skincare items get sent out to your favourite celebrities and influencers to test out and promote yet those particular individuals already have the high skin standard that the brand are trying to promote as the result of their products. It's clever simple marketing at its finest and all of us collectively are suckers for it. That's not necessarily a bad thing, I as much as the next person like trying out new skincare for just this one small example, but we do consume *a lot* in the hopes that it will make us richer, thinner, prettier, etc. (sweeping generalisation, I know). This one beauty standard for all to meet is ridiculously unattainable but it's always parcelled up as completely feasible if you just work hard enough, spend more than enough of your money, and expect instant results. Seeing it perpetuated through entertainment on TV isn't groundbreaking nor new or different, but it is having somewhat of a desired effect, but don't ever let it lead you to putting yourself down.

One beauty standard fits all just doesn't logically work and oh, think how bloody boring the world would be if it did. Although many of us roll or eyes at this phrase, our imperfections are what make us beautiful. They make us unique, they make us desirable, they make us *us*. Not everyone should be a model who looks A+ in a bikini in the entertainment industry standards because that "A+" rating is subjective. One man's trash is another man's treasure and one person's beauty preferences and expectations are not another's cup of tea. Being happy and whole in your skin can be tough and many of us - including myself - find it to be a constant battle to feel remotely "okay" on a day-to-day basis, but you are loved, lusted over and most importantly, valued for being exactly who you are no matter you shape, size, colour, skin conditions, hair, lack of it, or anything else you can see or feel that makes you, you. Love Island might promote the contestants' worth based solely on their looks, but your worth in reality does not reflect that as you're not objectified, you have more to give and offer than that diluted entertainment focus, and your beauty in all realms of your life make you a unique and beautiful character both inside and out. Fight the good fight and ignore the one standard we have - fight it with acceptance but an educated mind. Enjoy it in consumerism, in media, in entertainment, but don't compare yourself to it. It's not realistic, you have more value, and any flaws you're led to believe that you have? They're the treasure in many other people's eyes, you just need to see them with fresh eyes.

I'm fully aware that many of you will love this show and be completely comfortable and happy within your own skin and that's exactly how things should be, but I do just wish that this show - due to it's popularity and therefore ability to affect a lot of the population - would include a wide variety of "beautiful" people. Have contestants who meet and advocate a variety of beauty standards: people of different cultural backgrounds, races, shapes, and sizes. As this show could have such an impact on viewers, it's a shame they don't utilise that to promote a healthy view of beauty of all varieties.

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June 14, 2018

It's Okay to have a Bad Day

... week, month, or year. Something I feel like many of us are starting to realise over the past couple of years is just how much pressure we are all putting on ourselves all of the goddamn time. I'm as much to blame for this as the next person, but particularly recently, I've realised just how much of a front I can put on - especially on social media. For those of you who follow this blog and my Twitter, you will no that I'm no stranger to being honest about how I'm feeling (if I'm in a foul mood and there's a certain reason why, y'all best believe I go on a Twitter thread rant,) but I've noticed that I don't always do it. Sometimes I will gloss over how I'm feeling and just say "I've been feeling down" or "I've been quite negative lately but it's A-Okay now!" and that's not the honest truth; truthfully sometimes I've been hitting rock bottom. So, why do we hide it?

It seems that especially with this social media-focused world we live in, we like to show face and pretend everything is hunky-dory. We will purposefully filter what we want others to see and tailor our personalities, thoughts, feelings, and appearances to portray either our best selves or the preferred self. I'm definitely guilty of this on the likes of Instagram where I will share my real life and photos, but I won't necessarily have it in order, have it reflecting my true self, or sometimes even giving the whole story. We all seem to be competing to have good lives and living up to this "success society" we millennials have developed. We also seem to see it as a weakness to say "hey, I'm not having a good day" and take time off, slow down, or ease off the pressure - it's okay to have a bad day and more than okay to share it all however you see fit, and here's why:

You're Not Alone
First and foremost let's state the obvious. Absolutely everyone has bad days at some point in time. We can have bad days, weeks, years and more. It can just be from things seemingly snowballing in the luck department and just irritating you for a day, or it can be something deeper than that causing issues such as mental health, bereavement, relationship problems, money worries... there's so much to consider but to coin a cliché, everyone is going through shit. Always. People are always dealing with a variety of things and you should never feel you need to hide it or smooth over it. You're as entitled as the next person to feel how your feeling and sharing can help as someone else can vent about it all alongside you and you both will feel a load lift from your shoulders.

It Won't Always be an Easy Fix
The reason I think so many of us hide our bad days as sometimes going to bed early and thinking "tomorrow is a new day" won't fix things and I know I worry about sounding like a broken record - so it's much easier to just say nothing at all, right? No! Speak up. If I'm having a particularly bad time with my anxiety for example, I tend to share this with my colleagues and students because I don't know if the feeling will improve in an hour or in several months. I find being honest about it helps those around me understand what headspace I am in so things run a little smoother. It stops me from losing my patience with someone or snapping and that really helps things. Although I would never say "I'm having a hard time right now" is some sort of *get out of jail free* card or an excuse that should be thrown around, admitting it can be the first step to getting on to the right track, however long that track might take to improve to a satisfactory level. Sharing how you are can help with the fixing as it can take a long time or several steps may need to be taken to reach that end happiness and stability once again, but outside help can always be welcomed.

Know Your Bad Day Comforts
As no one is a stranger to bad days, I think many of us have therefore developed coping strategies and comforts for when those bad days roll around over the years. For me, music always helps, tea heals a lot, and having a cry in sheer frustration often lifts the hazy mist that clouds my judgment and logical, problem-solving thinking. I am one of those people who go into complete melt down when I'm having a testing time and that can be catastrophic for my mental health, my sleep pattern, my friends and family, my job, and diet. It can effect it all so knowing how to intervene to soften those blows really helps me. If I'm particularly strung high about something and panicky about it, I find making a cup of tea will calm me down and make me start to think "right, what am I actually going to do to get A to B?" and that can help me form a plan of action. It doesn't always work and you should never beat yourself up about not being able to form a plan of action as sometimes? It's just the way life is panning out and there's sweet FA you can do about it, but if you think it's a tangible problem you can solve, know how to improve your mood to snap you back into problem-solver mode, seeking the joy and happiness for your soul once again. If I'm just in a terrible mood as I mentioned before, having a good cry or listening to music (certain bands/singers/songs for certain moods) can also help. If you coping mechanism tells you to sit in bed all day watching Netflix - do it. If it tells you to get your butt to the gym and to punch the living shit out of the punch bag - do it. It's your bad day, you decide how to deal with it in the best way for you.

Start Over. No, Really.
This might sound silly to some, but if your bad day is just stemming from that "woke up on the wrong side of the bed" feeling, literally kickstart your day again. If you have time, take a couple of minutes to just lie on your bed, close your eyes, take in some deep breaths then get the F back up. Hop in the shower, clean your teeth, get dressed in new clothes, do your hair, makeup again etc... Starting all over again is like wiping the slate clean and giving yourself a second chance. I have very rarely taken this approach myself in the past but I'm trying to adopt it now as it really helps the mind get refocused, re-energised, and realigned to take on the day. It can halt things before they get out of hand and stop a whole day being wasted or ruined.

Appreciate that it's Never Forever
Not only does every single person go through bad episodes, but you should always remember they are just that - episodes. They might have longevity but they never last forever and that makes you appreciate the good times *so* much more. Think about that relationship break up that tore you to pieces as a teen - you got over it. Think about that awful job with the bullying manager that you used to hate going to everyday - you change your situation and things got better. Even if you're sat reading this right now, and you're in one of those positions and it feels like it will never end, I've never promised anything more than I will right now: everything will be okay and things will always get better. I know some situations may never seem like they have a light at the end of the tunnel, but they will and it might be only small, be bittersweet, or maybe even not the outcome you were expecting, but things do change and "this too shall pass".

If you're someone like who likes to think that everything happens for a reason (whether it's fate, divide intervention, cosmological, or something even beyond our philosophical thinking), bad days can just be blips in the road that are there to test us, make us more resilient, make us good at making decisions, and making us the people we are today. If we didn't have bad times, we wouldn't appreciate the good we have, we wouldn't exercise all of our emotions and honestly? I feel that life would be kinda dull. This isn't meant to make anyone feel terrible for having a bad day or make people think "yeah but you've no idea what I'm going through!" because of course I don't - every bad day, feeling, or more is subjective to the individual experiencing it. It's unique to each person but as I've promoted throughout this post and will continue to do so in life, talking about it and getting it all off your chest is healthy and helpful for many. Don't feel pressurised to having a seemingly perfect life that is only filled with joy and laughter. Tears, tantrums, pain, suffering, and guilt are all feelings that are just as valuable to our existence and should be exercised as so.

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