Valentine’s Day I hate thee

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Image credit: Flickr

I hate Valentine’s Day with a passion, which is ironic because the day is meant to be all about that. It’s another “New Year’s Eve” type day of the year – filled with expectation, and yet all you feel is greatly disappointed and wonder what all the hype was about. Even now as I spot cards in the shops I shudder. That day of the year when all restaurants are filled to the brim with couples sitting between bunches of roses.

I think there’s many reasons why I don’t like Valentine’s Day, although this post would turn into an essay which wouldn’t be very enjoyable for you. One, is that I don’t like the idea that there’s only one day of the year where we HAVE to express/show our love; your partner should be doing this all the time anyway. Two, like Christmas you only end up comparing your Valentine’s to someone else’s. You think you’ve had a great day, until you see that someone else was surprised with a minibreak. It’s the one day where you feel utterly shit if you partner does nothing (unless you have a pre-arranged agreement not to celebrate it).

“He explained that he “doesn’t do flowers”, yet weeks later he bought his mum a lovely bunch for Mother’s Day”

This is exactly what happened to me last year. I’d been with my ex boyfriend for around 6 months, so I was really looking forward to our first Valentine’s together, despite the fact that I had a few niggling doubts about the relationship. I went to the shops and spent ages staring at the cards trying to pick one that represented our relationship, eventually I settled on a cute one of two pea’s which said ‘HaPEA Valentine’s Day’. Corny, I know. I couldn’t wait to see what he had up his sleeve for the day, as he told me that he was going to surprise me. I’d already told him that I’d got him a card and spent the weeks in the lead up to the day hinting that I’d like him to buy me one. He’d always said that he wasn’t a “card person”, so I was genuinely concerned that he wouldn’t get me one.

On the actual day when he gave me my card, I didn’t feel special at all as I remembered how much I’d had to badger him to get it. I told him that some flowers would have been nice, yet I got nothing as he explained that he “doesn’t do flowers”, yet weeks later he bought his mum a lovely bunch for Mother’s Day. Also there was no surprise other than the fact that he was a shit boyfriend. He went on to explain that I had no present because he basically couldn’t afford one – “I was going to take you to Paris but couldn’t afford it in the end”. I SMELT A RAT. After this we went for a walk, and on the drive there we spent the whole time arguing. Then he cooked me dinner and didn’t even try and make conversation with me. It was an awful day. And yet I’d thought that because it was Valentine’s Day, hearts and flowers would somehow come into the mix.

“The best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had are the ones where my friends have sent me joke cards”

I’ve also experienced what should have been a perfect Valentine’s Day. Another ex boyfriend bought me a massive card telling me how much he loved me, showered me with gifts and had my dinner on the table when I came back from work (actually it was my mum that cooked it – he just bought the ingredients). I really appreciated how much effort he’d gone to and thought it was lovely, but I didn’t feel the same way he felt about me. So this Valentine’s was shit, but in another way. I really wanted to love this guy that had been so generous, but I just didn’t.

I’m coming to realise that I don’t like Valentine’s because I’ve never met the right guy. It’s all very well someone spoiling you rotten, but if you’re not in love with them then the day has no meaning or significance. If I’m quite honest the best Valentine’s I’ve ever had are the ones where my friends have sent me joke cards from a “secret admirer”. I love it when people take the piss out of the day and what it stands for.

This Valentine’s I think I’ll show myself some love. I could take a long bath and curl up with a book and hot chocolate. I’ll probably avoid all restaurants, cinemas and card shops. I’ll build a cave under my duvet and try and pretend the day isn’t happening, because it’s only happening if you celebrate it. I also want you to show yourself some love – because Valentine’s Day shouldn’t just be about romantic love.

What do you think of Valentine’s Day? Love it or loath it, I’d like to hear what you think.

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Lessons of 2016

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2016 was a good and bad year. It was good professionally – I secured my first full-time job working on a magazine, but not so fantastic on a personal level. This year has actually taught me more about myself and made me more resilient. So I thought I would share with you the lessons I’ve learnt from 2016 (it may even help you!)

NEVER PUT UP WITH B***SHIT

I had this friend who I had what I can only describe as a love/hate relationship with; sometimes I really loved her and other times I really didn’t like her. She would call me names, bombard me with phone calls and get jealous if I got a new boyfriend. I put up with her behaviour for years, because despite all the emotional abuse she was sometimes really nice to me and couldn’t do more for me. Earlier this year I made the mistake of moving in with her, even though deep down I knew she was a bad friend. She picked on me and accused me of things that she herself was guilty of. So I decided that enough was enough. I moved out of the flat and texted her that our friendship was over. She was like an abusive boyfriend, shouting at me one day, then showering me in cuddles the next. I couldn’t live like that; she made me anxious. No one should put up with this. Not ever. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been friends; you don’t owe anyone anything. Never keep someone in your life if they make you unhappy.

PAY ATTENTION TO RELATIONSHIP RED FLAGS

2016 is officially the year of bad relationships for me. Earlier this year my ex boyfriend dumped me. In hindsight I should never have got together with him. At first he was lovely, but as the months wore on the mask slipped and his controlling behaviour was unveiled. Towards the end of the relationship, he ridiculed me and insulted me so much that I couldn’t believe I had been with someone so inherently nasty. How had I not noticed any signs? Then someone said to me: “If you think back to the beginning there must have been red flags, but you probably ignored them.” And she was right; even if I couldn’t see his controlling behaviour at the beginning, he used to talk about his ex girlfriend so much, to the extent that it was obvious he still loved her. MASSIVE RED FLAG. I deserved better. And yet I was probably so desperate for a relationship and to be loved that I ignored the warning signs. Never again will I ignore the red flags.

DON’T DO THINGS YOU DON’T WANNA DO

Have you ever gone to a party you didn’t want to go? Just cause well, you felt like you needed to show your face. In future, don’t bother. I read this book over the summer called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight – everyone was reading it, so I thought – what is this all about? That book definitely opened up a new window in my brain. Sarah essentially says that you should do exactly what you want to do, and never feel the need to put in an appearance at something. For example your friends keep inviting you to quizzes but you hate quizzes, and you don’t want to seem rude by turning down the invite. Guess what? You don’t have to go, just explain that you hate quizzes. I’m such a people pleaser, so it was great to think that there’s a way of putting a stop to this and putting myself first. The friend I mentioned earlier, who I used to live with would pressure me into watching TV with her when I came back from work, but I really didn’t want to – I was tired and needed some alone time. Yet I would always agree to sit with her for a bit because she guilt-tripped me. Never do this; do what you want to do and if people don’t like it – well that’s their problem.

TURN DISAPPOINTMENT INTO OPPORTUNITY

Over the summer I desperately wanted to take a holiday, but I had no one to go with. It seemed that most of my friends had already booked stuff up. I was gutted and had no idea what to do. I certainly didn’t feel confident enough to holiday on my own. But then I just thought – come on, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to get more independent and this is the perfect opportunity. So I started researching organised group holidays – and ended up travelling around Croatia with a bunch of people I’d only just met. I even got a holiday romance out of it. So it pays to be a bit more fearless.

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These are my three big lessons of 2016. I’m sure there’s smaller lessons I can think of, but they seem insignificant compared to the one’s I’ve mentioned. So with that, I hope that I form better relationships and stand up for myself more in 2017.

Moving to London

Last July I moved to London (ok, admittedly I no longer live there – maybe I’ll save that story for another time), but the fact is I experienced it, even if it was for a few months or so. I’m proud that I managed to take the leap and move there as I had convinced myself it was impossible for a number of reasons.

I was sucked into the propaganda widely distributed by the press and pretty much every human being that London is VERY expensive and consider yourself lucky if you can find somewhere half decent to live. It was drilled into me that you have to have a wacking great salary (probably from working in financial services) to be able to rent there or rich parents. Therefore, moving to London felt like a lofty dream that probably wouldn’t come true.

I imagined moving to London and struggling to pay my rent. I had visions of being on the doorstep of a wealth of culture and experiences, but not being able to leave the house because I couldn’t afford a bus ticket.

Then there was the fact that I was scared. When I was a teenager I remember reading so many newspaper reports about crime in London which thoroughly convinced me that it was an unsafe city, with danger lurking at every corner. For a girl from a small village you can see how London seemed daunting. I imagined being mugged, having my house burgled and all sorts; the reality is that these things can happen to you wherever you live.

However when I moved to London I found that my preconceptions were not accurate. It really is possible for a young professional that works in the creative sector to move to London. I wasn’t struggling for money, I didn’t get mugged and I managed to find a nice flat with reasonable rent. I wasn’t living in a bedroom the size of a small cupboard eating tins of beans, which is how the press often convey London life. I ate quite well and had a massive wardrobe and a beautiful fireplace in my room.

I really loved living a short tube ride away from Central London. I had a real feeling of independence and excitement; I couldn’t actually believe that I was living in the capital. I’m so glad that I did it and can’t wait to move back there when the time is right.

I suppose what I want you to take from this is that sometimes you need to try things out yourself rather than listening to what other people or even the media say. It’s better to try something out and realise you made a mistake than never take that leap of faith.

The social media illusion

Earlier on in the year I was on a skiing holiday, on one of the days I was skiing I stopped for a lunch break. Whilst I was sat outside, a blonde woman in the distance sat at an adjacent restaurant caught my eye. She looked model esque and immaculate and somewhat far removed from everybody else in the resort. She looked kind of familiar but I couldn’t think who she was.

It wasn’t until I got back to the chalet later on that it hit me – oh it’s that model/socialite (I won’t name who) whose Instagram feed literally gives millenials “life goals*” or whatever that is.

If I’m entirely honest she didn’t look remotely happy, she appeared uncomfortable and was awkwardly picking at a salad. She was also very fidgety and held herself in such a way that suggested she was conscious of her appearance. Ultimately she appeared far removed from the glowing and glossy pictures she posts of herself on social media, in which it appears that she lives a very “blessed” and happy life.

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So why am I telling this story? I guess because it’s a strong reminder that what you see on social media is not always an accurate reflection of someone’s life. It’s the edited version, the best bits that they want us to see. Some people perform for pictures and set up staged shots, but that’s definitely not someone’s reality.

Some people, especially celeb types want you to think that they lead a fruitful life when in fact the very opposite could be true. It’s so easy to fake a smile for a photo and pose in a beautiful surrounding, but that doesn’t tell you very much about a person other than that they’re possibly photogenic and enjoy nice scenery.

It’s impossible to be happy every moment of every day, and I think some people’s Instagram pages fool us into thinking that every day is picture perfect and incredible. What it probably won’t show you is the tears, arguments and quiet moments.

This story just goes to show that you shouldn’t think that everything you see on social media is real. There’s absolutely no point in comparing your life to a series of staged shots which each took about 10 takes.

*A modern expression I’m not fond of.

Have you ever noticed a disparity between someone’s social media and their real life? Let me know your thoughts on this topic in the comments box below or tweet me @Anna_Fearon

Why we need to stop bingeing on social media

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Image credit: magicatwork on Flikr

Hands up who says they’re going to bed, but then spends a whole hour or more browsing social media? Yep, the majority of us have probably done this at some point (or on a regular basis if you’re anything like me)! Just when you’ve finished looking at one person’s profile, you then discover one of their friends and move onto digitally stalking them.

With the popularity of the likes of Instagram and Snapchat we now have a greater window into other people’s lives. You don’t even have to know someone personally to know what coffee they have or what handbag they own. People are sharing more of their lives with the internet, which means that there’s a constant stream of updates for us to keep up with.

I find Instagram and Twitter especially addictive and waste so much time visiting people’s profiles who I don’t even know. I regularly visit celebrities’ social media profiles and lap up pictures of their gorgeous holidays, designer clothes and yummy looking meals. I’m addicted to getting my daily social media fix.

I check in to see what normal people are up to as well (this has to be the equivalent of curtain twitching but in a digital arena). I’m curious as to what people my age and in my profession are doing. After a scroll of a profile I’ll then start to compare myself to them.

But why do I binge on social media? More importantly why do we do this? It wastes so much time and does nothing for our own personal development. In the time I spend browsing social media I could have written a blog post, read a book chapter or swam 20 lengths in a pool. Just because some people put every moment of their lives on the internet, doesn’t mean we need to look at it.

So next time you go for a browse on social media and get carried away looking at anybody and everybody’s profiles, ask yourself these questions: “Is this productive? Am I achieving anything by doing this? How does this help me?”. Remind yourself that every time you go on a social media binge and spend 30 minutes looking at someone’s holiday pictures, that’s 30 minutes you could have spent planning your own holiday!

It’s time for us to focus on ourselves, never mind others.

Are you guilty of spending a lot of time looking at people’s social media profiles? How do you stop yourself from doing it? Let me know in the comments box below.

Why I’m anti #SquadGoals

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Not a fan of #SquadGoals, sorry Taylor! Image credit: www.youtube.com

If there was a word of 2015 it was probably “squad”. The word used to be more commonly associated with the army, but has somehow taken on a new meaning, and is now widely known as a social group that regularly hang out with each other and post group pictures on social media accompanied with the hashtag #SquadGoals. The idea is that every squad thinks that you should aspire to be like them. The poster girl for this term is undeniably Taylor Swift who has accumulated a massive girl squad made up of the likes of supermodels Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne.

The concept of a squad is all well and good if you’re in one. But what if you’re not?

I am not part of a “squad”, at least I don’t see myself as being part of one. I don’t have a big group of friends who I regularly see, instead I mostly have a few close individual friends who I meet up with separately. I’ve never been part of a group of friends who religiously spend every Friday night together and I don’t think I ever will be.

We’re bombarded with images of massive groups of friends on social media sites accompanied with the hashtag #SquadGoals and it’s even prevalent offline too. Only yesterday I saw two girls wearing T-shirts which said something along the lines of: “If lost please return to my squad”… *sighs*. The term is frustrating for those of us that don’t have a tight knit group of friends; it makes us question why we’re not part of a squad.

There is something more threatening about a squad than a group of friends. You feel that you wouldn’t even be able to talk to a member of this cliche without getting the third degree from their squad.

I’ve decided that I’m #AntiSquadGoals because it makes those of us that aren’t in one feel left out. It’s very easy to feel like you’re inadequate for not having a squad when it’s become a word ingrained in popular culture and shared widely on social media. BUT it’s OK to just have a few close friends and not be part of a tight group. It doesn’t make you any less of a functioning human being. As you get older you realise that it’s not about the amount of friends you have, but the quality of the friendships you do have.

The more I think about #SquadGoals the more I think that it’s a myth. What a picture of a beaming group of friends conceals is the in-fighting and bitching that may take place. #SquadGoals is a term designed to make people feel insecure about their social circle; don’t fall into that trap!

Just in case you need a reminder that being part of a squad isn’t all its cracked up to be…

Why its great NOT being part of a squad:

  • Friday and Saturday nights are FREE. You can have a Netflix binge and watch any trashy TV that no one will watch with you!
  • You don’t have to deal with the petty arguments and backstabbing that often arises in large groups.
  • You have more time to spend enjoying your own company and doing your own hobbies.
  • You’re separated from the peer pressure which can often arise in groups.
  • You don’t have to impress anyone but yourself.

Do you think of yourself as being part of a squad? What do you think of the term #SquadGoals? Let me know your thoughts in the comments box below.

Come say hello on Twitter… @Anna_Fearon

Motivational social media accounts

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Image credit: www.commons.wikipedia.org

There are ongoing debates about social media and its impact on society – it is said to induce anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. However, social media can be really great sometimes – if you follow the right accounts.

There are some fabulous people/brands on social media which are filled with positive, motivational energy and encourage people to focus on their goals and lead a more fulfilling life. If you’re going through a hard time or you want to feel empowered or you just simply need some reassurance then read on!

I’ve picked my favourite accounts across different social media platforms which will help you to feel stronger and remind you to develop a more go-getting attitude:

The Self-Esteem Team, Twitter: @_SelfEsteemTeam

This does exactly what it says on the tin – encourages people to develop a better self-esteem! The Self-Esteem Team focuses on reducing stigma around mental health and visit schools across the UK to deliver lectures and workshops. I absolutely love their Twitter account because the tone is so gutsy and they encourage us to love ourselves more and develop a healthier mindset. Here’s a few tweets which just rock:

‘If you’re hating on Monday, try a ‘what can I do to make this better’ mindset, rather than an ‘everything is shite’ outlook’. –  posted 02/11/2015

‘Sometimes, you just got to give yourself the pep talks. Like, ‘Hey You’re a badass, don’t be sad, you’re doing great. Love you.’ – posted 19/10/2015

(www.selfesteemteam.org)

HuffPost Women, Instagram: huffpostwomen

Another fantastic account but on Instagram! This is the The Huffington Post’s Instagram account for their women’s section, so expect lots of posts on feminism and what it’s like to be a woman. I love it because they post some real kick-ass bold statements like:

“u r so full of yourself” – no i had a lot of insecurities & low self esteem which i worked extremely hard to overcome & now i’m fabulous bye.’ – posted 1 week ago

‘You will never influence the world by being just like it.’  – posted 3 weeks ago

The Single Woman, Instagram: thesinglewoman

This is a blog created by author and speaker, Mandy Hale which ‘aims to inspire single women to live their best lives and to never, ever settle’. You don’t have to be single to appreciate the punchy, life reaffirming quotes which Mandy posts on Instagram. I enjoy reading the posts because they impart wise words and encourage women to believe that they ARE good enough and deserve the very best. Here are some great quotes posted by The Single Woman:

‘If you take a chance good things might happen or bad things might happen. But if you don’t take a chance nothing happens.’ – posted 5 days ago

‘Never do the envy, jealously and insecure stuff. Be the hustler, the well-wisher, the go-getter.’ – posted 8 weeks ago

(www.thesinglewoman.net)

Madeleine Shaw, Instagram: madeleine_shaw_

If you haven’t heard of Madeleine Shaw she is a health coach and author whose philosophy is to eliven ‘the hottest, happiest and healthiest you’. I really like the positivity which surrounds Madeleine’s posts (which is apt because she wrote a book called Get The Glow). She mostly posts photos on Instagram of yoga poses and nutritious and healthy recipes which give off a bright and healthy vibe. I particularly like the captions in which she sometimes shares her advice and thoughts. Here are some of her wise words:

‘One of our biggest downfalls is the ability to put ourselves down. If you’re not in a position in life that you want to be in, make realistic stepping stones in order to achieve your dreams. It might seem impossible at first, but sometimes the only person telling you that you can’t do something is yourself. If you can dream it, you can do it!’ – posted 3 weeks ago

(www.madeleineshaw.com)

Amy Poehler Smart Girls, Facebook: Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls

This is a website founded by the actress and comedian Amy Poehler and producer Meredith Walker which motivates young girls to simply be themselves and not what society wants you to be. It’s all about celebrating smart girls! They post links to really great articles on Facebook (mostly about girls going for it and achieving great things) and are really encouraging with their followers. It’s worth checking out their social media channels and website if you want to read some uplifting content!

(www.amysmartgirls.com)

I really enjoy looking at inspiring and feel-good social media platforms. If you know of any I haven’t mentioned then let me know in the comments box below or tweet me at @Anna_Fearon