Category: Opinion

Don’t Grow A Thicker Skin- Your Emotions Are Your Strengths

You’re too sensitive. You need to grow a thicker skin! Stop taking everything to heart. You take everything so personally.

Over the years I’ve heard them all, every single one of them. I am an emotional person, highly sensitive and I care a lot. In this society emotion is often perceived as a sign of weakness, so it’s really no surprise that time and again I am lectured on my feelings and expected to reign them in.  (more…)

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What Is Blogtober, And Why Am I Taking Part?

I can hardly believe it is October already, it seems like just a minute ago it was August and I was walking with my mother, staring up at the tall Horse Chestnut trees and wishing for the conkers to fall! September was a very difficult month for my family and I, but I tried to celebrate and appreciate all of the small things; Autumn months are my favourite after all. I’m really hoping for a positive and fun-filled October so to celebrate this month I’m taking part in a bloggers challenge; Blogtober!

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Guilty Pleasures

If I’m being totally honest I would say that 90% of my life is made up of guilty pleasures. That’s why I could completely relate to Meg’s hilarious post (you can find it here!) and found myself giggling along in agreement. I was super-happy to be tagged by Meg to take part in this Q&A as I love a good over-share. Okay, here we go…

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Why Nature Is Good For Your Mental Health

I recently wrote a piece for Girl Planet magazine, detailing my experiences with mental health and self-care. In that piece I spoke about how combining two of my greatest passions, nature and photography, helped me to cope with my anxiety. I am a firm believer that nature is one of the greatest healers; that it can do wonders for a range of mental health illnesses. No, it’s not a magical cure (or an alternative to medicine) but I really do believe it has a place in day-to-day life and should be a part of all of our self-care routines, where possible.

Here’s why I think nature is good for your mental health…

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Seeking Validation on Social Media

The other day I had a moment of despair; it was the grim realisation that almost none of my friends bother to read the blog posts I spend so many hours writing and editing. For awhile I have been bugging them to read, to comment and to share; to support my dreams and help me grow. I posted status after status calling for help, but my friends didn’t respond. I’ll be honest here, the frustration and hurt left me sunk deep in a pit of apathy and self-loathing- if I couldn’t even get my friends to care about what I was writing, how on earth would anyone else ever be interested? I had thoughts of deleting social media, deactivating accounts and taking a break from writing. But of course I didn’t because like all of the writers I’ve ever admired, I decided to share the experience and write about it instead.

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100th Blog Post!

Today is a special day over here at Pretty Little Finch. If you hadn’t already guessed by the title, this post is the 100th to be published up on the blog!

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind two years really. When I first started Pretty Little Finch it was a journal of sorts. Something to help me remember the good times when I wasn’t feeling so great, and an outlet for me to share all the thoughts swirling around up inside my brain. But as time has passed it has developed and grown. Looking back at some of my earlier posts I find there’s so much I want to rewrite!

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Wildflowers

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that make us stop and think about life as we know it.

Recently I found myself in such a situation, and it prompted me in to thinking about circumstance; about how we can’t always curate our lives no matter the planning we put in, no matter the hours we spend obsessing and constructing.  I am one of those people who cannot stand leaving things to chance. I have to have a plan; even if the plan is wonky or flawed there has to be something in place – it’s what keeps my bones together.

When I was 15 I decided I would grow up to be a journalist. Although my plans altered and adapted as time and situations passed it was still a path I followed in my mind and in my actions. At a certain age I’d marry. Then I’d have kids. Then a dog would follow. Everyone thinks like that, to some extent – I’m not alone in my ignorance. In my mind there was a linear timeline of events that would pan out through my life; everything would happen in the order that I had imagined for it.

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But then life threw a curve-ball at me. And then another. And another. On it went and each time something new and unplanned was hurled at me I would adapt – because that’s what we are born to do. The plan would be revisited. Re-imagined. Tailored to suit the new situation – for better or for worse. It wasn’t ideal, no. It wasn’t what I had originally wanted for myself; but it was okay. And actually, I was quietly proud of myself for being able to survive the things I didn’t think I ever could have. When a therapist told me that I was resilient I congratulated myself on it, thinking it was a strength I possessed that would see me through anything that was thrown my way.

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But I was wrong again.

Because you see, even the best laid plans can fall apart. And even the strongest or most resilient of people can struggle to pick up the pieces after something bad has happened in their life. And even if you think you’re ready to take anything on, the chances are you’re not.

So when this latest bad news was delivered to me, I finally came to understand that although I thought I was prepared for sadness, upheaval, change etc… I really was not. And in part I still think it’s down to the fact that I hadn’t planned for this to happen so I hadn’t ever imagined it as a scenario that could play out. It made me think that I had a taken a lot for granted, just expecting things to be a given because well, I was too ignorant to imagine an alternative.

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Now I feel as if I finally understand the fickle nature of life. And I’m just about beginning to wrap my head around the idea that you can’t truly plan a single thing in life; each day is precious and you never know what’s around the corner. But that’s not where this post ends.

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I still believe in planning a future. I still believe in hoping for things. I won’t stop trying to carve the path I want for myself and my life even if in the end those plans don’t come to fruition. I won’t give up on my hope for a better future.

That said, I will appreciate and treasure the smaller things in life that I failed to appreciate and treasure before all of this happened. I will stop taking things and people for granted. I will not overestimate my ability to cope when things are tough. And I will take each day as it comes. Each day of rain, of wind and of storm.

Because like a wildflower, I will seek beauty in the bleakest of landscapes. Moments of happiness in a time that stretches ahead with uncertainty.

Like a wildflower, I will grow where I am planted. I have to bloom and strive towards the sun in order to survive- we all do.

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The Lost Art Of Writing In Books

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember writing your name and the date in the front cover of your favourite book? When I was around eight years old I found the most perfect – albeit battered and falling apart – book on birds for sale in our local library. I loved it so much that I wrote my name, the date and my age inside of it, thus claiming it as mine forever and ever.

I no longer have that book, and I no longer scrawl my name inside of book covers. But to this day, I’m still fascinated by finding secret hidden messages in books.

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Life Updates.

It’s been a little while since I wrote a personal blog post and today I thought I would just check in with where I’m at. I like to reflect on what I’m doing every now and then as it’s good to look back and see how far I’ve come and acknowledge what I have achieved. I don’t think I do it often enough!

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Spring Appreciation Post

Sunlight filters through lush green leaves and the sky is a brilliant blue,  dappled with soft, lazy clouds. The scent of lavender hangs on the crisp air and birds can be heard singing and chirping from high above. Everywhere you look there is life and colour; Spring heralds a new season and new beginnings.

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There’s something about the seasons Autumn and Spring that speaks deeply to my soul. One brings death, the other brings birth; both bring a spectacular change in the flora and fauna around us. Both dazzle me with their beauty.

And there’s something about Spring that always makes me feel like I have a fresh start. A fresh chance to take adventures, appreciate natural beauty and find inner peace. March through to July are happy, calm months for me. I enjoy sitting outside in the comfortable climate and soaking up my surroundings. Walks in the countryside are particularly pleasing; I still feel a thrill every time I see a white cotton tail darting out of sight or spot some delicate crocuses pushing through the soil to soak up the sun.

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The moment I spot daffodils I feel that Spring is on its way in. The buttery yellow flowers are symbolic of the changing of seasons to me, and I love how cheerful and bright they make everything seem. I love the flowers that begin to bloom as it gets warmer, and the heavily scented blossoms that hang from the trees.  I love to watch the butterflies finally emerge with their powdery wings, and the bees buzzing between the flower beds and borders of a beautifully manicured garden. Most of all I love to watch the birds collect twigs and straw to make their nests, raise their young and start to fill the mornings with their beautiful song.

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Spring feels like a gasp of fresh air after the dark nights, stark trees and bitter chill of Winter. It is a beautiful season and it is almost upon us. Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how wonderful that is?

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New Publishing Schedule & Blog Updates For Pretty Little Finch

My blog has been going for a little over a year now and, whilst I think I’m pretty good at updating it monthly (I haven’t missed a month yet!) I’m starting to feel that it needs to have a more structured publishing schedule. That said I’m going to aim to update it twice weekly on Wednesdays and Saturdays, starting from next week. I have a blogger event this weekend so I’ll try to get that written up and on the blog by Wednesday.

In the meantime if there’s anything you’d like to read or see here at Pretty Little Finch please let me know and I will try to cover it! Suggestions are really welcome as all the additional blogging is going to require more material!

What I know VS what I think; the internal struggle

I am 26 years old, an occasional size 10, a frequent size 12 and I’m 5ft4.
These are my numbers. Well some of them, the ones I feel most comfortable sharing. These days I feel like my life is dictated by numbers, most notably the number on the scale (which I’m less keen to share.)

I know I’m not alone. In today’s society I am just one of many in a sea of despairing women (and men) obsessed with their body image and weight. Dieting and exercising relentlessly, putting my frame through hell and back to lose a couple of pounds, to go down a few numbers, to fit. Where I am trying to fit though? Or rather, what am I trying to fit – what are we all trying to fit? Well, a size 8 pair of skinny jeans ideally, but I’d like to feel like I was one of the lucky few society viewed as ‘beautiful’. That would be nice too.

So here’s the thing, despite the fact that at times I am a walking cliche’ and at others I am bordering on hysterical, I have common sense. I know that despite my numbers I am worthy of love, of friendship and ultimately, of happiness. These are my fundamental rights as a human being and being a size 6, 12 or 20 should not affect that. It does not affect that. I tell myself this on a daily basis.

Despite my numbers I am beautiful. I may not be beautiful in a ‘conventional’ sense but everyone is in their own way right? Because beauty is subjective, and what is lovely to one is hideous to another and vice versa – you get the picture. I know I am not a swamp monster living at the bottom of the lake. I have flaws, sure. But so does everyone – I know this.

I also know that in the end, none of these numbers I obsess over so are going to matter. When I die, no one will scrutinising my pile of ash and wondering if it could be just a tiny bit smaller. The only thing I’ll need to ‘fit’ in to is a box placed six feet under the ground. I know that sounds morbid, but it’s true. So in the scheme of things, does my weight really matter?

Well, yeah, kinda.

Because even though I know the aforementioned to be true, it’s not what I really think and it certainly doesn’t change how I feel.

When I look in the mirror I can remind myself of all the lovely compliments I have ever received. I can think about my adoring boyfriend and how he loves the way I look. I can tell myself ‘ beauty is subjective’ – but when I look in the mirror what I see is fat. What I feel is fat. And what I think is, sure, I’m not a swamp monster, but I’m out of proportion and people are going to stare at me.

I do this every single day, multiple times a day, and that feels truly horrible. I stopped wearing jeans because I hated how they highlighted my legs and made them look even chunkier. I don’t wear tight-fitting clothing as it shows my lumps and my bumps. I can’t wear baggy clothing as it looks like I’m wearing a sack. Sleeveless dresses are out of the question because my upper arms are shameful. I wear skater dresses and black tights. It’s what I wear everyday in order to feel comfortable going out in public. To flatter my horrible figure as best as I possibly can.

And even though I know my weight shouldn’t affect my happiness, it inevitably does, especially when it leaves me feeling so ugly and restricted. I exercise every single night. I am on a constant diet and I have been for 8 months now. A lot of my day revolves around how I look because I am always thinking about what meal I can eat and how many calories it contains, or how I can improve my workouts and boost my weight loss. I spend more time than I care to admit researching diet and exercise plans. When it comes to weigh in day, my whole week can be ruined entirely by the absence of a loss. To say it affects my mood, is an understatement. It positively controls my mood.

Finally, I know I am deserving of love and friendship. But this is the thing. It doesn’t feel that way. I annoy absolutely everyone I know by accusing them of lying, by disbelieving anything nice they say, by flying off the handle. I almost always feel that people are looking down on me, that they are judging me or trying to deceive me. At best I think people are just trying to be nice because they are sympathetic.

And that’s the struggle of it all. It sounds so conceited and vain – that’s why I don’t talk about it so much. Because it makes me feel ashamed that something as insignificant as how I look could shape my life in such a negative way. But I know I am not alone with it, there are other people who feel exactly like I do and suffer just like I do.

I see it all the time on social media. And I see the hate too. When a large lady tries to show some body positivity to herself she will often be ripped down with critique such as ‘it’s not healthy to be that weight’ ‘you shouldn’t promote fat’ and etc etc. We’ve all seen it.

Truthfully weight can be an important issue for many and we should be striving to be active and eat healthily.  But in the same vein it’s important to show kindness to yourself, even if you’re overweight/fat/obese…because being horrible to yourself is damaging and it leads to a path that’s hard to come off of. Ultimately it won’t help you.

I’ve spent so long being horrible to myself that I have forgotten how to be nice to myself, and that’s pretty sad. If only I could have kept just a little bit of kindness and support for myself, perhaps then losing weight would have been easier / less of a punishment and more of a journey. Whatever the case I would have been a happier person and that’s what really matters.

In the end your numbers and my numbers are really nobodies business but our own. If people compliment you, or critiscise you always try to remember that it’s your body and it doesn’t exist to please everyone. Body positivity is important for everyone regardless of size and of shape and in the long run feeling comfortable with who you are / what you look like is going to be far more productive than giving in to the hurtful and destructive thoughts that our society sadly forces upon us. There is always going to be someone who disagrees with you and your lifestyle. I’d like to think those people are welcome to their negative thoughts. Instead of imitating what they think and taking it out on yourself,  stick to what you know to be true – show yourself some kindness, you are deserving of it and you are not alone!

Top tips for taking care of yourself this month

As I enter the new year heavier around the stomach and lighter in the pocket I can’t help but experience those post-Christmas January blues. Christmas has been and gone, the festivities are over and the time for washing every meal down with a creamy snowball and a fistful of Quality Street has passed. Getting in to the swing of working and not laying in bed until noon is difficult and walking to work with my cheese, biscuit and sugar-clogged arteries is nothing short of an exhausting chore.

If this is all sounding familiar then rest-assured, you are not alone. It is universally acknowledged that January is a horrid month; the fact it exists is downright offensive to all. Joking aside, January can be a real struggle to get through. Here are my top tips for taking care of yourself this month.

Take a mental health day

Maybe you spent the festive season slumped on the couch in a mince-pie induced coma despondently watching Eastenders, or maybe you spent it ferrying between friends and family and fitting in as much as you could. Whatever you did, it probably wasn’t as relaxing as you had anticipated. Whilst it’s nice spending time with loved ones it can be exhausting. All those parties and special events to attend are fun but can leave you feeling wiped. Not to mention a month of eating horrific processed food and drowning in booze – it can all take its toll. For me Christmas is always a fun time. I love seeing my family and hitting the boxing day sales gives me a buzz – but it’s not relaxing. Even so, getting back in to the swing of work can be really difficult after taking some time away. If you find it’s all a bit too much, take some time back to recover. January is a good time to take some leftover holiday or pull a sickie for the sake of your mental health. Use your day to take a refreshing walk in the woods or to catch up on some much needed sleep. Just as long as you’re not skiving left right and centre you should be fine.

Treat yourself

This might sound a little odd after you’ve probably been spoilt rotten by friends and family at Christmas. But I think it’s always nice to give yourself a tiny treat to perk yourself up when you’re feeling sad. So maybe you’re on a strict diet or detox to get rid of that festive flab – but it won’t hurt to have a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit once in a blue moon. Or maybe you fancy a new book to get stuck in to. You don’t need to overdo it especially if you’ve overspent this month – one small gesture of kindness to yourself can really lift your mood. Be selfish, you just spent your hard-earned wages on friends and family, now it’s time to treat yourself.

Get organised

A new year – a new you…or maybe not. January is a month of change though and people often use it as a platform for motivation. Whether you want a new job, lifestyle or partner or want to stay in your cosy little rut, getting organised can help keep you on track. My aunt recently suggested I buy a planner as she swears by hers and I’ve been on the hunt ever since. As a serial list-maker I find it’s really conducive to put thoughts/dates/aspirations down on paper so I can free my mind up to think of other things. Everything is a bit wobbly in January, a diary or planner can really help you to keep track of those all-important goals you might otherwise conveniently forget.

Take time for yourself.

When you feel sad it’s important to make sure you’re talking to and spending time with friends and family. These people are best-placed to cheer you up however it’s also good to have some alone-time. Sometimes we can become overwhelmed with all the plans we’ve made and all the people we have to fit in to our already tight schedules. If you’re feeling like you need some space to just relax, cancel your plans and have a night in in front of the telly. As long as you don’t isolate yourself or become a social hermit, it’s perfectly fine to have and want time to yourself. Friends and family are sure to understand, don’t forget – they are probably longing for a rest as well.

Be kind

Don’t forget to do everything with kindness. Other people are sure to be suffering this month too. A little bit of consideration can go a long way.

How do you improve your mood when you’re in a funk?