Self-Confidence

Katy has written us a post that on the surface, is about self-confidence.  But really, it’s about much more than that…it’s about accepting who you are, about letting someone else love you and what that can bring to your life, about letting yourself believe that you are more than you see in yourself.    Some people are born with a sense of self-worth.  Some people have to work just a little harder to find it, and Katy found hers from the love of her life.  This is her story:

 

Like a lot of people who read this blog… No, like a lot of people in general life. Like nearly every person you pass on the street, probably, didn’t have the easiest time at school. Kids can be mean, society can be mean. Anything can make you feel like you don’t fit in. Everything you see around you can make you feel too ugly, or fat, or weird or unpopular.

Nearly every girl I know has carried some negative feelings about themselves from school. Maybe lots of boys too, who knows? And that includes me.

I’m not sure I can blame it entirely on school, that’s a bit unfair. I wasn’t exactly bullied; I just always knew I was never kind of in the popular crew. And my defence was always that I didn’t care, that I wanted to be myself and that’s all that mattered. Which is true, but doesn’t stop the negativity seeping in to your mind and slowly chipping away at your self-confidence.

For years I was confident in a lot of things, like my intellectual ability or my few good friendships, but not at all confident in myself as a woman, as pretty or desirable. Maybe people are saying right now that you shouldn’t need to feel pretty and desirable if you know you are clever and strong? To those people I say, maybe you’re right. But I don’t think so.

So after that depressing introduction this is probably not where you thought this post would go.

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Categories: Body Image, Life Experience
4 interesting thoughts on this

Being Kind

When I was giving birth to Ellie, my midwife was Jenny.

Jenny was no-nonsense and very practical, and had steely eyes and gentle hands.  Faced with my very vocal conviction that I could, simply, not give birth anymore and I’d appreciate it if she’d cancel all proceedings (a polite way of saying I was hanging off the side of the bed sounding bovine and increasingly desperate), Jenny knelt down beside me and said “Anna, labour is hideous, that’s why it’s called labour.  No-one is getting this baby out but you.  You can do it, and you will do it”.  And then she calmly stood up and went to the other end of the room whilst I processed that unfortunate information.

Jenny had the measure of me and she knew I didn’t need tea and sympathy.  Jenny’s kindness came from tough love.

*****

When my great Aunty Barbara was alive, she told me she was lonely.  Not in a way that sought sympathy, she  was tough as old boots.  She just matter-of-factly informed me that since her husband of 69 years had died, of course she missed the company.  ”Radio 4 just isn’t the same”.

So together, we picked out a rescue cat.  I’d just started a new job, and bought the cat as a gift.  I remember feeling proud that I’d earned money that could bring someone else comfort.

I’d envisaged a fluffy moggy who’d sit on Barbara’s lap and watch the news with her, rubbing her face against Barbara’s arm, mewling gently.  Instead, “Puss” was a black-haired tyrant who roamed Barbara’s garden and arched his back and circled and hissed at her whenever she dared venture out.  Of course, Barbara loved this and rose to the challenge admirably, hissing back at Puss and waving her trowl threateningly.  Barbara and Puss loved each other because they gave each other space, because they respected each other, because they looked out for each other, because having each other stopped them being lonely.

I should have suspected something wasn’t right when I saw the vet bills that Barbara had been paying, piled up on her desk.  ”Oh he’s an old cat.  Old cats require a bit more maintenance” she’d say, airily.

I was on a train, I don’t remember where it was going.  Barbara called me and I couldn’t hear what she was saying through her tears.  The vet had discovered a shard of lead in Puss’s brain, from when he was mistreated when he was a kitten.  He’d had to be put down.

For a really long time I felt wretched, like I’d brought more grief into Barbara’s world.  A few weeks before she died, I told her that.  She looked at me askance.  ”You do have some funny ideas, dear.  That cat brought me happiness.  Your kindness brought me happiness.  Kindness doesn’t always have to end well.”

*****

I signed myself out early from hospital.  Maternity wards are a similar temperature to that of the core of the Earth, and contain lots of women with grey faces shuffling around at 4am looking totally bemused, holding newborns. I couldn’t face more than one night there.

Unfortunately Mr K was at work the next day (for reasons beyond his control) and so my first day at home with the baby involved me not really able to move, holding a baby, learning how to breastfeed.  I wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed, but I was pretty close.  I didn’t know enough about babies to be confident of putting her down anywhere, I’d slept for four hours in five days, my critical reasoning and resilience were subsequently non-existent and if I sat down I couldn’t get back up without wanting to cry because of the scar.  And the thing that really got to me, ridiculously, was that the house was an absolute tip, and I didn’t have any hands free to do any washing or cleaning. So I just sat there, staring at the mess, holding Ellie, thinking “is this what it’s going to be like?”.

There was a knock on the door.  It was my neighbour, who has a 4-year-old boy, and is a GP, and is possibly the kindest person I’ll ever meet in my life.  She took one look at me, assessed the situation, made me a cup of tea, put the washing on, helped clear away the worst of the mess, helped me position Ellie so I could feed her more easily, talked to me, made me another tea.  She took one look in the fridge and one swift phone call later, her husband dropped by with the greatest lunch I’ve ever eaten (cheese and Worcester sauce on toast).  She left me feeling brighter, and as though I could do this.  And then she dropped round that evening with dinner for me and Mr K.  And she kept dropping round, never obtrusively, just to do the small things, until we were on our feet and we knew what we were doing that little bit more.

She’d been there before.  Her kindness came from empathy.

*****

When I was eight years old, my sister came running up to me one evening before bedtime.  ”I’ve got a surprise for you!” she exclaimed.  ”It’s in the bathroom”.

Excited, I ran into the bathroom. She’d put toothpaste on my toothbrush for me.

“That’s a RUBBISH surprise”, I told her.  Her face crumpled.

It’s a running joke between us now, but I have thought about that, and how awful that made me feel, my whole life.  I try to never, ever dismiss anyone’s kindness.  Toothpaste on a toothbrush isn’t the best example, but the lesson rings true.  You don’t know what someone’s kindness has cost them.

*****

I remember a long time ago, when someone very close to my husband died.  One morning shortly afterwards, he said to me “you’d go without.  So would she.”

I asked him what he meant.  He has a theory.  You get given a box of chocolates as a gift.  They’re good chocolates, ones you love.  You offer the chocolates around.  It soon becomes apparent there aren’t enough chocolates to go around, and if you keep offering, you’ll go without.

“Some people”, he said, “will keep a chocolate for themselves, because it’s their box, their gift.  She wouldn’t have.  She’d have given away her last without a second thought”

I think about that theory a lot.  There are people who keep something back for themselves, and people who instinctively go all out, who don’t even think of what they’re doing as kindness.  It’s just what they’ve learned to do.  To write and send a card when someone is going through a hard time.  To give someone a hug.  To  give up what they want to make someone else happier.  Acts of kindness big and small.  Sacrifices of the heart, or just letting some else know they are not alone.

Kindness should be everyone’s default setting, but it’s not.  I wonder why some people have it naturally, some have to work at it, and some don’t bother with it at all.  I’m pretty sure we aren’t born with inherent kindness, I’m pretty sure we’re taught it.

Sometimes it takes a great deal of effort, but I’ve never heard anyone say they regret being kind.

Categories: Life Experience, Written By Anna
34 interesting thoughts on this

My Story of A Miscarriage

Today, we have something different for you on AOW.  Kim has asked us to share her experience of miscarriage.  

Kim’s story is a long one, much longer than the posts that we usually run on AOW.  We felt, however, that to cut too much of Kim’s post risked masking the story itself, the context and everything that Kim learned during her traumatic experience.  

Kim has laid her heart out here; her story is long, detailed and harrowing.  We hope that by sharing this, we can help others who go through similar experiences.  Thank you, Kim.  Over to you:  

 

Pre-Pregnancy

My husband and I were married on 10th February 2012 after nearly eight years together.  The driver behind our timing to get married was always when we were ready to settle down and start a family.  We both wanted things to happen in that order and were quite happy to hold off until we were truly ready for the commitment of marriage and children.

 

When we got to the summer of 2013 we started to discuss next steps.  I was 34 and my husband was coming 37 and we both knew that time might well be running out and that the risks of pregnancy were increasing exponentially with every passing day.  I was still holding off for us to be settled into our own house…ideally the rural family home I had pictured in my future…and also being promoted again before we proceeded with our family.  However, my husband and many of our friends and family felt that there was no “ideal” time to do it and there could forever be reasons that it wasn’t quite perfect but I still wasn’t convinced.

 

I was concerned that, as the main income earner, it could be difficult to afford to take much maternity leave as I only get three months full pay from my employer and thereafter, my salary would drop by 70% supplemented only by statutory maternity pay.  In addition, as the head of a team in my company I was worried that that there could be adverse implications for my career of taking a significant amount of time out of work.  Did having a baby mean to others that I wasn’t committed and ambitious in my job?  That couldn’t be further from the truth but I was still deeply worried about that and how I would be able to juggle being a great parent with being career driven…quite a quandary for the modern woman!  I was so concerned about the financials that I called my HR department to ask what my financial position would be if, on my current salary, I decided to get pregnant as the written policy was incredibly complicated but they refused to work through a hypothetical scenario that would help me to plan things properly.  They needed a form from my doctor confirming my pregnancy before they could discuss the numbers with me…not much help once I was actually pregnant.  There was me trying to plan ahead and be responsible and yet everyone was telling me I was over-thinking it!

 

I just didn’t know how to get comfortable enough with all of that to allow me to relax and enjoy the experience of trying for a baby…a totally new and exciting chapter in our lives.  I felt a great deal of responsibility about moving ahead with this decision most especially as I had spent my whole late teenage and adult life desperately trying NOT to get pregnant by mistake as I always knew I didn’t want to have a child that I wasn’t 100% prepared for.  I felt like a naughty schoolgirl even discussing it with the nurse.  I had to continually remind myself that I was now a 34 year old woman and that it was perfectly normal for me to be having this sort of discussion!

 

I met one of my closest friends for lunch one day, determined to tell her we were planning to get pregnant and get her support for my careful planning.  She had recently had her first baby and was one of those people who just seemed to have taken the whole experience of pregnancy and parenthood entirely in her stride and I was sure she must have planned it to perfection.  But rather than agree that I was being very sensible and responsible, she agreed with my husband that I really was stressing too much about everything.  I should just accept that we were in a reasonable financial situation, we were committed to being the best parents we could be and we’d figure it all out in the nine months between getting pregnant and having the baby.  There was no immediate need to panic and there was a limit to the amount of planning I could do anyway.  Let’s face it…I might not get pregnant for many months or even years…I certainly couldn’t plan what time of year I would be having the baby so that I could be on maternity leave in the summer!  I realised then that I was getting myself wound up about a host of things that were impossible for me to control.

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Categories: Health
11 interesting thoughts on this

The Right To Be Who We Are

Gwen, who writes over at The Foodie Historian,  recently heard some astonishing stories from incredible women.  And we are lucky that she has decided to share some of the (anonymised) stories that she heard.  The right to be who we are should be a given.  For many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities, that right is not absolute.   

Over to you, Gwen:

 

I really wanted to write something witty or sharp for AOW’s International Women’s Day campaign this year, but every time I sat down to do it – or thought about it – I couldn’t. I didn’t have anything to say that I could convey in a couple of lines.

 

This is largely because I spent last IWD on a training course. I work in social services – most of the training courses I go on are terribly dull or frankly terrifying, but this one was different. I spent the day with a group of older (65+) LGBT volunteers, the Highland Rainbow Folk, who travel around Scotland telling stories about their experiences.

 

There was the lady whose parents had tried to have her “cured” because she was a lesbian. She had to move to away to be with her partner, to a place where they were anonymous. When her partner was dying of cancer, and visiting was limited to “immediate family”, the nurses bent the rules so that she sit with her for the few minutes that they had left. They understood, in the days before civil partnerships and marriage equality, that the love was more important than the label.

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Categories: Family, Friends and Relationships
6 interesting thoughts on this

Thing I feel Like A Knobber for Complaining About*

*But I’m going to anyway

SELFIE LOL PREGGO INSPO

Easy with the hypocrisy, Alsopp. I will admit to using ‘LOL’ – mainly (actually, only) in Whatsapp conversations with Rach because holy crap she really DOES make me laugh out loud approximately 84890 times a week and typing out ‘good grief you are so funny I just laughed out loud’ all the time gets a tad dull. Even then, I like to think I’m being ironic. (I know. Loser.) But ‘selfie’ – NO. ‘Inspo’ – NO NO NO. Even ‘preggo’ with all it’s adorable and joy-filled associations, makes me squirmy. I think it’s because it’s an extension/development of text-speak, which I have never used. When my mum uses ‘u’ in a text instead of ‘you’, I won’t reply until she corrects herself, inevitably calling me an old woman in the process. It just makes my eyeballs want to jump out of my face.

Why, lovely readers? Where have these non-words come from and whyyyyyyyy are we using them? Why do they bother me so much and should I shut up? (Yes.) And what ones have I forgotten?

NB I totes overuse totes. Pot, this is kettle….

RENTING

I have a perfectly pleasant, safe, solid, family-appropriate home. It’s in a good area, with excellent schools and brilliant transport links, it’s close to Phil’s work and there are loads of parks and a few decent shops within walking distance. I am very, very lucky.

We rent this house. I hate that. It’s funny, I didn’t mind renting at all when we lived in the beautiful little cottage in the idyllic village in the middle of nowhere. To buy the cottage would have been far outside of our financial capabilities, so it felt like renting was giving us this wonderful chance to live a picture perfect life we could otherwise have not experienced.

Then we moved. And I am still not in love with our home. I have days when I like it, so that’s good. But renting suddenly seems like a waste of money. It feels transient and temporary and expensive, despite the fact we’re saving far more money than we could living in the cottage. Maybe it’s not just leaving the cottage that’s done it? Maybe it’s having Stella and feeling the urge to put down roots? Renters – do you feel like this? How do I get out of this funk?

LOSING TOO MUCH WEIGHT AFTER HAVING A BABY

Do you want to punch me? Or are you rolling your eyes? Because I want to punch me and I roll my own eyes at myself whenever I bring this topic up. I don’t know why, exactly, but even though it something that bothers me hugely, I feel like I’m just being a Smug Sally if I do complain. ‘Oh, woe is me. I eat ALL THE THINGS and I’m still SO SKINNY.’ What a knobber.

It’s standard to worry and to talk about ‘baby weight’, as long as you’re talking about the weight that you can’t shift. No-one wants to hear about you how you lost all your baby weight and then some over a 12 week period. You’re a dick if you complain about that. (No -one has ever called me a dick, by the way. Except me.) But that is what happened to me, and I’m not happy about it. I hate it. It makes me miserable. I’m happy at about 10 1/2 stone, I’m now 9. I was fast approaching 14 stone when Stella was born… so yeah, I’ve lost a lot of weight. Too much.

I didn’t mean to lose any of it, by the way – apart from the actual baby bit, obviously. There was no plan, no diet, no exercise other than walking with the pram every day… my metabolism just went mental post-birth. I was my pre-birth weight when Stella was 3 months old and I thought quietly to myself, ‘gosh. I’m so LUCKY.’ and I stayed very quiet on the subject of ‘baby weight’ because how bloody annoying must I seem to all the new mums around me who didn’t feel quite themselves yet? But then the weight just kept falling off. My pre-pregnancy wardrobe that I’d been so excited to fit back into no longer sat properly. My collar and hip bones started to protrude, my mum and Phil started nagging me to eat more. And no matter what I eat, what portion sizes I scoff, how many servings or snacks I have, I cannot regain that extra weight that was never meant to go.

I’m tired of my clothes not fitting but I refuse to buy new, smaller ones. I hate the way I look, all I see is angles and hollows. My families anxiety about my diet and appearance is exhausting. And yet I never talk about it (apart from in WSS – see below) because I’m afraid of being shouted down. And because I also hate…

NEGATIVITY ON THE INTERNET*

*I KNOW. I’ve just spent 1000 words yacking on about my woes on the Internets. Bear with me, it should make sense.

This is a sweeping statement. It’s also the crux of this post/brain-dump, where it all started. I don’t mean it, not really – free speech and all that. I am responsible for what I read at the end of the day, so go forth and whine away – I am! What I really mean, I think, what I’m advocating, is a Whiny Safe Space. A Whiny Safe Space is a place to go, a person to talk to, where you can be 100% totally, brutally honest with no judgement. Sometimes, yes, Twitter or Instagram or whatever your social media of choice is IS that safe space; but, honestly, a lot of the time it isn’t. A lot of the time there’s a voice or voices out there who will hurt you, make you sad, make you doubt yourself or question the validity of your feelings – with Whiny Safe Space this just isn’t an issue. You say what you need to, your WSS partner nods, done.

I use WSS frequently, it’s made me unquestionably happier. I chuck up whatever it is that’s bothering me, give myself a shake and move on. It makes me less negative in social situations – in booth real and virtual life and so I feel lighter, more capable of getting on with my day or week or life in general.

But. Is WSS really better for me? Or am I cutting off my nose to spite my face? If I was more honest about my grumbles and issues and negativity in more open forums, would life be easier? This post is my experiment – getting my grumbles out there, seeing if it helps… What do you think, readers?

Categories: Life Experience, Written By Aisling
50 interesting thoughts on this

Weekend Wonderings

This is a difficult video to watch.

It’s is about female genital mutilation, and is from the We Are Equals campaign.  It aims to make a horrific topic something we can better understand, via the medium of decorated cupcakes.

 

 

The cupcakes aren’t necessary, and you may feel they are a gimmick.  But what’s important here is the message, and what these women are doing to try to make people understand more about the effects of FGM.  They talk about the subject clearly an compassionately and they’re who I’d want our daughters and sons to listen to speak in a school assembly.

You can read more about FGM , and you can help support the Guardian’s campaign to end FGM.

Categories: Weekend Wonderings
2 interesting thoughts on this

Any Other Photo {IWD2014}

The insanely fabulous Steff sent Anna and I this not long after our International Women’s Day 2014 extravaganza. We were blown away – not only by her tech skills (types the woman how is defeated by her laptop on a daily basis) but by the thoughtfulness  of the gesture. We both now have this as our screensavers and I know we’ll treasure it forever.

Behold:

Categories: Any Other Photo, International Women's Day
15 interesting thoughts on this

Why I shan’t be posting a #nomakeupselfie

Today’s post from Cecily is very relevant – this past week has seen the #nomakeupselfie explode on all forms of social media. I don’t have Facebook and I keep my Twitter fairly quiet, so I will admit that the craze passed me by initially. It was only when it crept over to Instagram and the media caught on that I began to follow what was going on with some interest.

I risk writing my own post here but this is Cecily’s ground to cover, I will just say that whilst I feel like the whole thing was ridiculous and started from something silly and vain there is no question that it grew into something magnificent. Yesterday I saw a tweet doing the rounds that said enough money had been raised to fund 10 new trials to try and fight cancer. If that’s true, kudos to the person who had the brains to actually donate, rather than just smile for the camera.

 

Over the past week I’m sure your Facebook and Twitter feeds have, like mine, been full of pictures of your friends’ unadorned faces accompanied by #nomakeupselfie.  Although the craze wasn’t actually started by a charity, they are now mostly accompanied by a screengrab of a text donation to Cancer Research.  Part of me wants to think that anything that raises awareness and money for a worthwhile cause is a good thing, yet the more I think about it and the more of my friends I see posting, the more determined I am not to join them.

The whole thing smacks of an uneasy mixture of vanity and insecurity.  On the one hand, certain posters have obviously taken the time to carefully pick the right angle, the right light and the right pout and seem to be defiantly showing us that they look fabulous without make-up.  Yet the very concept of a no make up selfie and the number of accompanying comments along the lines of ‘eek, can’t believe I’m brave enough to do this’ just promote the message that we are not good enough just as we are.  It’s just a picture of your face – why should it be brave to show it to your friends?

I have no problem with make-up.  At work, it makes me feel like a more polished version of myself and when I’m getting dressed up to go out, a slick of red lipstick or a smoky eye adds a touch of glamour, much like slipping on a pair of stilettos.  Yet, I also don’t have a problem with going out bare faced.  I never want to be ashamed of how I look.  The nomake up selfie seems to be telling women that we need to disguise ourselves before we face the world, that our face without make-up is an inferior version and, at the same time, that not wearing make-up is somehow brave or even un-feminine.

The worst part of all – this was all started by a woman and women are responsible for its success.  The bemused comments from our husbands, boyfriends and male friends show that, for the most part, they don’t really get it.  They think we look quite nice without make up.  Once again, wewomen are proving that so often we are our own worst enemy.  To raise awareness of and money to help fight prostate cancer, men grow ludicrous 80s-style facial hair or, for those who can’t, patchy little pencil moustaches.  I’m not a big fan of moustaches, November is definitely not my favourite month, but at least it shows that men don’t take themselves too seriously.   Why oh why couldn’t have we have done the same?  Not growing facial hair, obviously, but something fun and silly.  #Nomakeupselfie is such a tragic wasted opportunity.  Now, #clownmakeupselfie, there’s an idea I could get behind.

Categories: Body Image, Politics and Feminism, Uncategorized
35 interesting thoughts on this

Behind Closed Doors: Obsessive. Compulsive.

At Any Other Woman, you can talk about anything. Anything you want at all. Any subject, any time. We are proud to be able to provide that platform for you, it makes our hearts sing. But we do understand that sometimes there are topics that are too sensitive, too divisive, simply too hard to write about and broadcast without a second thought. No-one wants to hurt their loved ones unnecessarily and yet sometimes a story needs to be told.

This is your place for those subjects. A place for you to tell those tales you’d not considered telling before. No names, no justifications, no apologies.

You can send your BCD submissions to behindcloseddoors@live.co.uk and we promise that you’ll remain anonymous throughout the entire process.

If you know me, you’ll know that I am a sharer. I love to tell people my life story on park benches in a way that makes Forrest Gump look closed. There is no topic left unspoken.

Actually that last bit is untrue.

Today I want to share the thing that I only ever speak to my closest, closest friends about, mainly because (this next bit sounds like I am still in high school) it’s not really my secret to tell.

The secret is that my husband has severe OCD.

OCD, or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, must be one of the most misused mental illnesses in society today. Daily, I overhear people making comments like: “I’m a bit OCD about how I like my tea” or “Being OCD I like to write lists” and I feel that this trivialises what is a horrible illness. So often, what people describe as being “a bit OCD” is just not OCD, and is instead people being picky or having specific preferences or habits. The best example I can give of this is cleanliness. People associate OCD with cleanliness because a common symptom of OCD is sufferers obsessing about keeping things spotless. But liking things to be clean and tidy can often just be a symptom of control freakery (I am totally guilty of this), rather than OCD. My husband is not a clean or tidy person. He could live in a pit of filth and be perfectly happy. This difference in opinion about a ‘normal’ standard of housework has in fact caused us to argue until I caved and got a cleaner. OCD does not necessarily equal tidiness, or organisation.

(I should caveat this last paragraph: I don’t think there is a one size fits all approach to OCD or any mental illness. I actually had one of those heart to hearts where you block out the rest of the restaurant noise chatter with my best friend on Saturday about people’s mental health and how for any mental illness, everyone sits somewhere on a spectrum from healthy to unhealthy and where you are can and does change periodically.)

For a while, my husband wouldn’t talk to me about his OCD. He is, as he describes himself, “highly functioning,” (translation: “good at hiding it”). Looking back, there were some clear signs (continually turning off plug sockets, waiting outside the door for a just a handful of seconds too long before being able to lock it up and leave it…), but without something to link these behaviours to, I or any of his other close friends or family didn’t connect them together. Now he is more open about his illness to me (our friends and family still do not know), but his confidences come out in snippets, whispered under the bedcovers, apologetically admitted to mid-argument. He does not find his mental illness easy to talk about.

At its worst, OCD is like ‘someone else’ has taken over my lovely husband. There was the time he came back late to our flat and quite literally wouldn’t stop flexing his hand in a funny way because he was convinced something was wrong with it or it wasn’t there anymore. And the times he has walked off without me at night on public transport because he convinced himself he shouted something inappropriate at a member of the public. He goes into a kind of trance and won’t look me in the eye or speak to me. These episodes are frightening.

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Categories: Behind Closed Doors
18 interesting thoughts on this

Weekend wonderings

 

 

A little something for the #bookswappers… via here

Categories: Uncategorized, Weekend Wonderings
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About

Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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