4 Self Care Tips for When You’re Feeling Blue 

We can’t be happy all the time, can we? No. Defininetly not. Even the most positive people have their moments when it all gets a bit too much for them. Whether it’s work related anxiety, relationship problems, a family feud, a fallout with a friend, financial woes, or just your period playing havoc with your hormones (thanks again Mother Nature). We all feel blue from time to time. 
I think the really important thing to keep in mind is the ratio of happy to sad days. Are you sad twice as often as you’re happy? If so, it’s probably time to talk to your gp. Depression is on the rise in Ireland and though it can develop so slowly and subtly that you barely even notice it, left unchecked it will catch up with you and become a very big problem indeed. 

However if your ratio is better then that, if you tend to feel happy more than you feel sad, but still experience the occasional blues, this blog post is for you and will hopefully give you some ideas on how to stop your bad days from turning into bad weeks. 

I recently had a very bad day. I woke up feeling teary. I mean before I’d even put my feet on the floor I felt sad and weepy. Initially I couldn’t figure out what had me feeling that way so early in my day, but once I’d had some coffee and woken up a bit I noticed a particular set of thoughts were swarming around in my mind. I am not good enough. I’m not enough enough to find a job I love. I’m not good enough to earn a decent salary. I’m not good enough to succeed. I’m not good enough to live the kind of lifestyle I want. There was a very clear theme at play and it became pretty obvious why I was feeling so low. 

I decided immediately to let myself feel the feeling. I don’t believe in sweeping our feelings under the rug and putting our positivity hats on just to mask what’s really going on inside. I think the only thing we ever really achieve by taking that approach is delaying and prolonging our pain. If we try to ignore it, it could last for days, even weeks. Whereas if we just own the feelings, accept them, allow them to do their thing and pass, and priotitise our self care in order to minimise the pain, it could all be over by the end of the day. That’s what I decided to do on this particular day. 

Here are some ideas for how you can spend those days practicing self care. 
1. Identify the bare minimum

Unfortunately most of us don’t have the luxury of just wallowing in bed all day when we’re feeling low. For those of us with real life grown up jobs or kids, a certain amount of adulting has to be done no matter how much we want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world. But that doesn’t mean you have to power through the day as normal and neglect your own needs. Start your day by identifying the bare minimum. What can you get away with not doing today? Planning on some light lawn mowing? Leave it for another day. Or maybe you were supposed to have the in-laws for dinner, or meet friends for post-work drinks? Text and cancel. Say you’ve a headache or whateveer you need to say to get out of your plans. Today you’re only doing the bare minimum. Don’t miss a day of work or forget to feed the kids, but beyond that I wouldn’t be bothering with much else. 

2. Fair Warning

I think one of the really terrible legacies of the social media age has been the expectation that everyone should be positiviely pulsating with happiness at all times. NO. Just no! When we’re having a down day it’s actually really important to tell the people we’re going to be spending time with. The thought of it might make you feel anxious, but saying to your work colleague that you’re having a really bad day and just want to get through it as fast as possible will make them more aware of how they interact with you throughout the day and more likely to give you some extra space. If they immediately respond by asking you what’s wrong and offering a shit tonne of solutions, don’t hesitate in letting them know that you don’t want to talk about it and either walk away or change the subject. You don’t need to be apologetic about this. You’re not obliged to be cheerful. You don’t owe that to anyone. Cut yourself some slack on these days, and don’t be afriad to ask others to do the same. 

3. Eat the Food 

At some point in the years gone by, emotional eating became a bad thing. I personally think that weight loss clubs are responsible for this, because as an alumni of them all I remember well the emphasis they always placed on the evils of emotional eating. Well guess what? That’s horseshit. Food is there to nourish our bodies and our minds equally. When we’re feeling really great and bursting with energy we tend to eat more nutrious “clean” foods right? How is that not emotional eating? It is, and it’s totally fine, no problem, awesome! As is eating chocolate fudge brownie ice cream when you’re sad. On the days when you’re feeling blue, food can really help to process what you’re feeling. It won’t neccessarily fix the problem, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find comfort in tucking into a pizza in front of the telly instead of cooking up the spinach fritata you were planning to force yourself to make even though you just want to curl up and cry. Indulge. You’re allowed. 

4. Be nice

Be nice to yourself for Christ’s sake! A really great rule that I try to follow everyday no matter how I’m feeling is this; never say something to yourself if you wouldn’t say it to your best friend. I apply that to my life everyday and while I do still slip up occasionally, it has really helped me think more positively and cultivate a true sense of self love. But on the days when we’re feeling blue it’s more important than ever! We tend to berate ourselves for complaining when we think we have no right to. We feel guilty for not feeling hapy. What is that even about? Who knows. But it’s most definitely not helpful and that’s for damn sure. So the next time that you’re having a bad day, try to apply this rule to the way you speak to yourself and you’ll notice a big difference in how you’re feeling. You won’t suddenly be happy again, but choosing not to punish yourself will mean you won’t feel as blue as you did before, and you won’t prolong it either. 

Ten Things I’d Tell My Younger Self

I’ve been experiencing a little writers block lately. I don’t want to write shite anymore. It doesn’t feel good to publish blog posts that I don’t take any pride in. I don’t want to feel obliged to post something on certain days just to keep up with other bloggers. So I’ve decided not to continue churning out blog post after blog post for the sake of consistency.  I’m opting for quality over quantity from now on. 

With that in mind, yesterday I went on my IG Stories and asked my followers to suggest ideas for blog posts. I asked you guys what topics you’d like me to write about, what challenges your facing, what issues your struggling with. And as always, you didn’t disappoint.  My favourite suggestion was to write a post with advice that I’d give my younger self. So I’ve decided to write that one first. 

Having come full circle from self loathing to self love, my reflections on my past are inevitably tinged with sadness and regret. It’s not neccessarily a case of wishing I could go back and change things. But I can’t help but ache a little when I think of all the pain I put myself through, hating myself as passionately as I did. But hey, we live and we learn right?

So let’s get stuck in. Here are the ten things I’d tell my younger self! 

1. There is more than one kind of beautiful

I have news for you; you are actually really, quite beautiful. I know you’ll find this hard to believe. But the truth is that you don’t have to be skinny to be beautiful. You don’t have to have crystal clear skin, or sparkling white teeth. You don’t have to be stretch mark and cellulite free. You don’t need to be petite and graceful. You are beautiful just as you are. And I’ve got even more news for you; your body isn’t gonna stay the same for ever. In fact, it’s about to change in a BIG way. But you’ll still be beautiful. Because contrary to what you’ve been led to believe, there is more than one kind of beautiful and in time, you’ll learn that for yourself. 
2. Your body is not the enemy

You may find this hard to believe, but your body is the best friend you’ll ever have. Everything it does, it does for you. It will never leave you. It will never hurt you. It won’t cheat on you, or slag you off behind your back, or tell you lies. Your relationship with your body will be the longest realtionship of your life. You can never ever get away from it and vice versa. So invest in it, make it a good relationship, or you’ve got a whole lotta misery ahead of you.

3. You are valuable 

Ok so you may not be the most traditionally pretty girl in your group. You may not be the cleverest girl in your class. You may not be the most popular kid in your family. Yes, you can be difficult and you regularly challenge and test the patience of those around you. True, you can be high maintennce and tempermental. But you ARE valuable, just as you are. Never ever let yourself feel less than, or not enough. Remind yourself everday that you are valuable, because you are and always will be. 

4. Your sexuality is not wrong

Those butterflies you get in your nether regions when you see that boy you fancy, or when you watch Sex And The City while your Mum’s out of the house, there’s nothing wrong with them. There’s nothing wrong with exploring your body in bed at night. There’s nothing wrong with being curious and using the internet to find the anwers to your questions. There’s nothing wrong with day dreaming about doing the no pants dance with Him while you should be listening to your teacher. And guess what? Your friends are ALL doing the exact same thing! It’s all totally normal, so stop feeling so bloody guilty about it all! 

5. Do it for you, never for him

Don’t be bullied into doing something you’re not ready for. It won’t make him love you. It won’t make him hold your hand in public. All it will achieve is making you feel like shit. So don’t do it! If you want to have sex for the sheer shits and giggles of it, GO FOR IT! Get yourself on the pill and buy the biggest box of Johnnies you can find, and have at it girl! Sex is the bee’s knees,  but only when it’s about you! Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Make sure he looks after you and your needs. Demand your orgasms! Trust me – they’re worth it. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s something you have to do. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not doing it. You’re not stupid so don’t fall for that shit. If you’re gonna do it, do it for you. NEVER for him. Ps: if he’s trying to bully you into it, DUMP HIM. He’s an asshole and doesn’t deserve your beautiful body.

6. If they don’t get you, they’re not your friends

A true friend is someone you can totally relax around and just be yourself with. They’re someone whose weirdness matches your weirdness. Their uncoolness matches your uncoolness. You can be goofy as hell around each other. You can admit to still watching kids tv just because you like it. You can admit to being afraid to have sex, or to having had loads of crap sex. You don’t have to hide anything about yourself from them. Because they get you. And if they don’t… I’m sorry babygirl but they’re not your friends. Move on, find real ones. Because there is NOTHING better than real friendship. 

7. Wear whatever you want

Fuck fashion rules! Fuck dressing for your shape. Fuck not wearing pink and red together, or only wearing the eye shadow colour that matches your eyes. WEAR WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT! Experiment with fashion. Wear weird shit that nobody else wears. Get it wrong sometimes and laugh it off when you do. Hold your head high! Be different. Be interesting.. Stand out from the flock of sheep in their O’Neills bottoms/rara skirts. And don’t listen to your parents. They haven’t a clue about fashion! 

8. The life plan is not your friend

Please. Stop. Planning. You are so clueless about what’s in store. Stop investing in these intricate plans to have this done by that age and be married by that time etc. Live life by the seat of your pants. Choose a college course that you think will be fun. Work hard at your part time job and save half your wages every week. Plan for the year ahead, but never beyond that. And just enjoying being young. There are some very hard times ahead, so just have fun now while you still can!

9. Don’t be a bitch 

STOP TALKING SHIT ABOUT OTHER GIRLS! That is bitchy as hell, and you’ll never know how much the things you say are hurting the people you say them about. They don’t deserve it, no matter what they’ve done. Don’t be so judgey. Who the hell do you think you are? GIrls need to support girls. Be on your own team. You’ll learn soon enough how hard it is to be a woman in this world, so don’t go out of your way to make it ever harder. You’re not a bitch. I know that. So just stop acting like one! 

10. Self hate isn’t worth it

Reality time. You cannot change yourself. Yes, you will change over time, but not deliberately. Life will change you, you’ll learn lessons and grow. The people in your life will change you, they’ll make you a better, stronger person. But you CANNOT change yourself. So please stop torturing yourself trying to. Get used to who you are. Learn to live with the parts of yourself you’re not too keen on. Remind yourself everyday that you’re basically a really good person at heart, and you’ll soon make peace with yourself. Because if you only take one thing away from all this, let it be this; self hate is not worth it. 

Sarah xo 

Dramatic Weight Change; Time to Think About the Why! 

Some thoughts I’ve been having around weight loss and weight gain on my holiday… Musings, if you will! 

We tend to see weight as a problem, the problem. When somebody gains or loses weight, we look at that as the problem. But we never really wonder why. 

When somebody gains or loses weight rapidly, it’s an indicator of far more than the amount of food they’ve been eating. Sure, we often wonder how they’ve lost or gained it. We regularly speculate about their eating and exercise habits. We’re always very interested in the how but not the why

I gained about six stone in a ten year period. The how? I binged on shitty food. The why? I was battling self loathing and depression. If somebody lost six stone in the same period, the why is equally important. 

Why is that person losing so much? What’s going on inside their brains to result in such dramatic weight change? What demons are they facing? Are they sitting at home crying every night? Do they hate who they are? Are they having suicidal thoughts? Are they self harming? Do they have anyone to talk to? What help do they need? 

These are just some of the questions we should be asking when dramatic weight change occurs. But we never do. 

I wish my family would ask themselves these questions when they look at me, instead of always focusing on what I eat and how often I exercise. Maybe then, they’d realise that I am not my weight. Maybe then, they’d realise that I am more than just a number on a scales.

Are you struggling with body confidence and self esteem? Join The Self Love Sisterhood today to get weekly newsletters jam packed full of aweome resources and tools that you can use to boost your self love RIGHT NOW! 
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My Five Favourite Self Love Accounts 

Following bopo accounts on Instagram is crucial to developing self love and body positivity. Why? Well considering the fact that these days most of us spend more time on our phones than off them, it’s no wonder that the messages we receive through our social media have an immeasurable impact on how we think and feel. 

When we make the decision to start working hard to cultivate self love, a social media clear out is the best first step. Unfollowing/unliking accounts that make us feel bad about ourselves is an incredibly powerful thing. Often we feel guilty about this, as though we are somehow obliged to follow fitness bloggers, celeb chefs and models for motivation. But society has totally warped our understanding of the word ‘motivation’, and the truth is that those accounts do nothing except make us feel guilty, ashamed and inadequate. Goodbye! 

It’s not enough just to unfollow and unlike these accounts though. We’ve got to replace them with accounts that promote self love and body positivity, and will have a positive impact on our thoughts and feelings. Luckily for us, there are countless accounts on both Facebook and Instagram in particular that provide just that! If anything, it could be argued that there are too many accounts that promote the same things, making it difficult to see the woods for the trees. 

That’s why I’ve decided to share my five favourite self love Instagram accounts here: 

1. @strutbymic

I adore this account. Strut post and repost anything and everything to do with self love. They’re truly inclusive, boasting one of the most diverse pages that I’ve come across to date. I particularly love their celeb content that promotes celebrities who are blazing the trail of positive mental health. This account is an essential resource to anyone and everyone! 

2. @effyourbeautystandards 

This account was created by plus size model and bopo badass Tess Holiday after the hashtag (also created by her) took the internet by storm. It’s now an encyclopedia of all things self love, boldly promoting all kinds of beauty. The account is a shining light for the unconvential and the brave, and is a wonderful resource for those learning to love themselves. 

3. @chooselifewarrior 

The wonderful Danni is an aussy girl who has quite literally changed my life. She was the first bopo account I came across on Instagram just over six months ago. But her account is about more than just body positivity, is about fat activism, which was particularly important to me at the begining of my self love journey. In addition to posting about fatphobia and fatacceptance, Danni is all about inclusivity and diversity. She’s an absolute sweetheart, super down to earth, devoted to her followers, and will be your friend if you need one. 

4. @omgkenzieee 

This girl. DANG! Kenzie Brenna, Canadian bombshell and creator of #cellulitesaturday, is a living breathing rainbow. I shit you not. Everyday she helps almost 200k people across the globe to love who they are, as they are. Kenzie’s message is a simple one, that speaks to people of all race, religion, weight, body type, ability, sexuality and whatever else. Her message of unconditional self love is so powerful, her unwavering passion and conviction shinning through every word and every image, that following her can only improve your quality of life. 

5. @gracefvictory 

Last but by no means least, is Grace Francesca, a plus size social influencer, presenter and author. This girl is my idol! On her Instagram account she posts about everything from body positivity and mental health, to women’s issues and current events, to plus size fashion and style. She’s probably one of the ballsiest women I’ve come across, and she’s just soooo likeable! Her account has shown me that fat chicks can be super stylish, trendy, and current too. Before following her my wardrobe was full of skater dresses and floral blouses. Now I’ve got more body con than anyone would ever need! For a daily boost of sassy self love, look no further!

So that’s my five favourite self love accounts on Instagram! If you’re not following them, please do. I can guarantee that they will help you in your quest for self love just as much as they’ve helped me in mine! 

xox

Sarah 

Are you struggling with body confidence and self esteem? Join The Self Love Sisterhood today to get weekly newsletters jam packed full of aweome resources and tools that you can use to boost your self love RIGHT NOW! 
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Five Things I’ve Learned About Self Love 

This time last year I had just recently embarked on the most important mission of my life; to fall in love with myself. Like most people, I suppose, the idea of self love was completely alien to me back then, and I made all kinds of crazy assumptions about the concept. Since then though, I’ve come to understand self love for what it really is, and let go of the misconceptions I had initially, and being the nice guy that I am I thought I’d share them here. 

1. Self Love isn’t Narcicism or Vanity

Whoever coined the phrase, ‘she loves herself’ has done humanity a great disservice! Most people believe loving yourself is about thinking you’re better than everyone else, looking down on others and acting superior and conceited. This is soooooo not what true self love is about! Instead it’s a humble acceptance and appreciation of ourselves as we are. Funnily enough, self love even helps us to see the good in everyone around us, so if anything it boosts our opinions of ourselves and others simultaneously!

2. Self Love isn’t Selfish or Self Centred

Another misconception is that self love means prioritising yourself over the needs of others. It’s understandable that people make this mistake, but it is a mistake. Self love means taking diligent care of yourself, so that you can function more efficiently and easily. Someone who prioritises self love eats well, sleeps well, makes good use of their time, cuts out parts of their lives that drain them of their energy, and frees up time to spend with the people they love. They become better parents, better friends, better employees and employers. Who doesn’t benefit from that?

3. Self Love isn’t a Destination

I remember when I was in counselling for depression and learning to love myself. I used to get so frustrated and moan to my counsellor that it was taking too long to learn to love myself. I couldn’t wait to get where I was going, to arrive at self love. After all, it sounded like such a beautiful place. But what I didn’t understand was that self love isn’t a destination. Imagine self love as a never ending spectrum, with no end in sight. You can never love yourself enough. You can never be kind enough to yourself, or show yourself enough compassion. You can always love yourself more than you do right now, and you’re never finished learning how to do it.

4. Self Love isn’t all Manicures and Massages 

Thanks to  Instagram and the endless array of hashtags that accompany images of pampering days, meals in fancy restaurants, retail hauls and pretty, pink, peonies, many people believe that self love is all about treating yourself to the things you want. Unfortunately that’s not true. Believe me, I wish it was! But self love is about hard graft. It’s about knuckling down with your thoughts to understand yourself more. It’s about dragging your tired ass off the couch and into bed an hour before you want to. It’s about finding the courage to stand up to your boss, or your friend, or your partner that’s been taking advantage of you. It’s about getting the hell out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to finally treat yourself better. Sure, buy yourself the peonies, but don’t think that it means anything other then the fact that you love peonies.  

5. Self Love isn’t Linear

This is so true of mental health in general. Everyday is different, every moment is unique. Some days I love myself more than others, and there are some hours when my self love is higher, or lower, than it was an hour before. It isn’t a case of finding self love one day, and then just having it for the rest of your life at a constant, unchanging level. I still have mornings when I wake up and have to consciously choose to love myself. And I have mornings when I wake up positively bursting with self love. Everyday is different and it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. 

Are you struggling with body confidence and self esteem? Join The Self Love Sisterhood today to get weekly newsletters jam packed full of aweome resources and tools that you can use to boost your self love RIGHT NOW! 
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Call Me Fat. Please.

The word ‘fat’ is one of the most loaded words in the English language. Fat means ugly, lazy, irresponsible, slob, unsuccessful, unattractive, unsexy, undesirable, unhealthy, uneducated, weak willed, and about a hundred other negative things. 

Growing up I was always mortified when other people called me fat. And they did. To my face. All the time. They used it as an insult, so to me that’s what it was. To me the word ‘fat’ was a weapon, quick to fire but hard to recover from. By the time I was in my late teens I had developed a deep hatred for the word. I flinched every time I heard it, even when it was used to describe an inanimate object. Every time I heard that word it hurt me. Every time I heard it, it reinforced that self loathing that had been building inside me for years. Every time I heard it, the little girl inside me burst into tears all over again, reliving those horrific memories of humiliation that scattered my childhood. 

So its not surprising that soon after stumbling upon the body positivity movement, I was appalled by how often seemingly bopo activists were referring to themselves as fat. As if it was no big deal, these girls described themselves as ‘fat chicks’, ‘fat babes’, and ‘fat activists’. I couldn’t believe what I was reading, seeing and hearing. I almost felt betrayed by these women. They were supposed to be on my side, but here they were throwing that word around without a moments consideration for how much it was hurting me and countless others. 

However one day I stumbled on a post by one of my favourite bopo activists. The post described how words can be used as weapons only if we allow them to be. She talked about how by having a fear of a word, we give it a power over us, and in turn we give power to others who use it against us. She referenced Fat Amy from the Pitch Perfect movies as an example of how taking that word for yourself and owning it as part of your identity dissolves that power and immunises you from the pain. 

I was gobsmacked. This made sense to me. Suddenly I was questioning my attitude to the word that I had allowed to terrorise me for years. Maybe if I could change it’s meaning I could change its impact? 

I realised that I had allowed the word ‘fat’ to mean so many things to me over the years that I had forgotten what it actually meant. Like bones, or platelets, or eyelashes, it was simply an anatomical term for a part of the body. It was not an emotional weapon but a scientific term. Like any other word used to describe my appearance, such as blond for example, it wasnt a reflection on who or what I am. 

Eurika! 

Though I still felt uncomfortable using it, I began to work the word fat into my language on my Instagram. I started using hashtags like #fatacceptance and #fatblogger. The more I used it the more comfortable I became with it. 

Then, one  day last week a guy commented on one of my posts. The post included a topless picture of me from behind, showing the rolls of fat on my back. He commented under the picture saying that I was fat. And a wonderful thing happened. My first thought when I saw that comment wasn’t that I hated my body, or that I felt humiliated or degraded, or any of the thoughts and feelings that used to wash over me when I heard that word. This time, my first thought was this; ‘no shit Sherlock’. 

I wanted to jump up and down to celebrate, to phone all my friends and tell them about this major breakthrough, to run to my counsellors office and share my joy with him. I was so proud of myself for overcoming such a deep rooted fear. I couldn’t believe it. I knew then that the word fat couldn’t hurt me anymore. 

Now I use it all the time, in my Instagram posts, on my Facebook page, in my conversations with people. I can see that people react with shock at hearing a fat person call themselves and others fat. But I explain that to me, the word fat isn’t a weapon to hurt people with, but a descriptive word just like blond, or tall, or freckly. 

How I Handle Pressure

There’s no doubt about it; once you embrace self love and body positivity there’s no looking back!!! But what do you do when other people don’t share your enthusiasm? How do you handle the pressure to conform?

I’m a year into my self love/body positive journey, and there’s no question that I’m immeasurably happier and healthier for it. But unfortunately not everybody in my life gets it. And the pressure to conform persists. 

In my experience, the pressure comes primarily from family. I come from a big but very closely knit family full of avocado loving, athletic, juicing runners who take vigilant care of their physical health. As the fat sheep of the family, I’ve always felt under massive amounts of pressure to tow the line, get my shit together and fit in with the rest of them. 

And while I don’t put myself under that pressure anymore, I do still feel that their expectations of me haven’t changed. Now let me be clear about something, my family love me. They don’t want me to lose weight because they hate me, but because they want me to be happy, to be healthy, and to thrive. And while I don’t internalise that pressure anymore like I used to, it can still be hard to deal with the inevitable, ‘how’s the diet going’ questions that come my way at family occasions. 

So how do I handle that continuing pressure? 

Its easy to get frustrated when you feel you’re constantly having to defend your new found self love. Its just as easy to become defensive about your choice to stop hating yourself. Why can’t people get it? Why can’t they just see that I’m happier than ever before and accept that? 

The key thing to managung your response to this is to be compassionate towards whoever it is that’s putting you under pressure. 

In my case, I have to remind myself that this person, whether it’s a parent or an uncle, has been conditioned by society in the same way that I have to believe that there is only one right way to have a body. More often than not they’ve been conditioned in that way for forty/fifty/sixty years. And what’s more, they’ve lived their lives according to the standards of society without ever having had those standards challenged. The bopo movement is still new, still niche and still unkown to most people. So of course it’s going to be difficult for them to get their heads around your comparatively radical way of thinking. 

Thinking this way helps me to find the compassion to respect where they’re coming from. In the same way that their need to change me is wrong, it’s also wrong for me to try to change them. I have no right to impose my beliefs on them. I have no right to denounce them as conservative or backward. So I don’t. 

Instead I simply try to respect their experience, understand their perspective and be grateful for their love. 

The pressure to conform is something that we’ve all lived with from the day we were born. Society says we need to look a certain way, be a certain size, shape, weight, live a certain lifestyle and behave a certain way. And the harsh truth is that even after you’ve made the commitment to yourself not to conform, to live an authentic and loving life, there will always be pressure from society to do the opposite. You can’t change that, so don’t waste your precious energy trying. 

But we have the power to choose how we respond. Do we internalise that pressure? Do we allow the claims of others to infringe on our own convictions about who and what we are? Or do we accept that every single one of us, body positive AND body negative, is simply trying to do our best with the knowledge, understanding and awareness available to us? And that at the end of the day, our only goal should be to love ourselves so unconditionally that the opinions of others simply don’t matter.

 

Let’s talk about shame. 

Shame is a topic that is very close to my heart. At the beginning of my counselling journey I discovered that I had been completely controlled by my deep sense of shame for years. And while this may sound like a depressing realisation to come to, it was incredibly empowering and liberating.

Shame is a complex thing. While most us if asked whether we feel shame on a regular basis would say no, the truth is that our behaviour is influenced by a deep rooted sense of shame more often than we would like to think. 

Brene Brown is a foremost authority on shame. Having spent her life researching what it is, how it works, where it comes from and how it varies according to culture/gender etc, she has created a body of work that really demistifies what can seem like a very mysterious subject. 

Having read her book The Gifts of Imperfection as my first reading assignment when I began counselling in January 2016, I began to see quite quickly that I had been self sabotaging in every area of my life, and more importantly, that I had been doing this because I was ashamed. 

Let me give you an example. I had this job, a dream job, the kind of job I had always wanted. But I didn’t feel worthy of the role. I was convinced that I didn’t have what it took to succeed, so I compensated by working my damn ass off and taking on WAY too much responsibility. I was so eager to please that I was literally doing other peoples jobs for them, taking on their projects so that they’d be grateful and admire my work ethic. It shouldn’t have come as a shock then, when after just a couple of months in I was drowning in work, afraid to ask for help and behind on all my deadlines as a result. I was holding up other people too, because I had assured them that it’d all be done on time, no problem! 

Instead of being honest with myself and others, I started to lie. I’d pretend I was on target with my various projects, I’d ignore important emails in an effort to avoid being found out and claimed my laptop was broken, or a family member was in hospital, or my car had broken down. Anything to avoid the awful truth that I had taken on way too much work from day one and hadn’t a hope in hell of getting it all done. 
In the end, I burned out and left the job drenched in shame. I had earned myself a reputation as a liar too, something I could easily have avoided if I’d only been honest. 

The truth is, I felt like shit about that experience. I’d blown my dream job opportunity. I’d confirmed my own belief that I wasn’t good enough. I’d strengthened the self fulfilling prophecy. And to make matters worse, this wasn’t the first time. 

I’d been following a similar pattern for years, trying to compensate for my extremely low self worth by pretending. I had tried to convince boyfriends that I was worthy of their love by pretending to be the person I thought they wanted, and just wound up hurting them in the end every time. I had tried to convince my Mum that I was worthy of her love by pretending to be the person I thought she wanted, and wound up almost destroying my relationship with her forever. I had tried to convince my friends that I was worthy of their love by pretending to be the person I thought they wanted. And guess what? I ended up losing most of them. 

All that I had gained through those years was a strong reputation as a compulsive liar. One which people weren’t shy about discussing both behind my back and to my face, and which only served to lower my sense of self worth even more. 

I was so ashamed of who I was, so convinced that I wasn’t enough for anyone or anything, and had spent so many years trying to change myself for others that I’d actually lost any sense of who I really was. I’d become completely disconnected from myself. I was living my life in a blaze of shame and creating more fuel for the fire every day. 

The thing is though, I had no idea! I hadn’t identified the pattern. I thought it was all random. It wasn’t until I read Brown’s book that I started to see the similarities in all of those situations. I started to connect the dots, to analyse and understand. And when I finally understood fully the extent of my shame and it’s influence on everything I’d said and done for almost a decade, I felt so… Free. 

I realised that these things hadn’t happened because I was worthless. These things hadn’t happened because I was fundamentally bad. This pattern didn’t have to continue and I didn’t have to spend the rest of my life constantly trying and failing to be enough for others. 

It was incredible! That was the first time that I really committed myself to my counselling. It was the first time that I saw a glimmer of hope, and the first time that I vowed silently to myself that I was going to ignore everything else in my life and dedicate myself solely to my new mission; letting go of my shame. 

Since then I’ve worked hard to tackle my shame issues head on. Rather then erase my sense of self loathing, I’ve worked hard to suffocate it with radical, unapologetic, unconditional self love. I became obsessed with self love. My bedroom walls became four giant inspiration boards, covered floor to ceiling in self love quotes, self love art, and other inspirational ques. I adopted the affirmation ‘I love myself, I accept myself, I am enough’ as my mantra and recited it over and over again when cooking dinner, in the shower, on the loo, brushing my hair, on the bus, whenever I possibly could. I meditated every morning and night as if my life depended on it, setting myself daily challenges to meditate for twice as long as I could the week before, or playing the radio in the background to force myself to focus my mind more and more. I ordered every book on self love that I could find, downloaded guided meditations to listen to while I was sleeping, replaced my social media accounts with new ones that focused solely on self love and wrote in a gratitude journal every night, sometimes for 10 pages or more. I was obsessed with loving myself. Manically obsessed. 

Thankfully today I can say with absolute confidence that I fucking love myself. I love who I am. I adore the unique combination of traits that make me me. I’ve even come to see my shortcomings as endearing little quirks. I definitely still stumble upon shameful thoughts on a daily basis. But now I recognise them immediately for what they are, and by simply recognising that they’re shameful thoughts I can dismiss them without hesitation. Self love has liberated me from the shackles of shame and led my into a life that is utterly authentic. 

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on shame! What does that word mean to you? Have you acted from shame in the past? How do you deal with it? Im constantly trying to learn learn learn and hearing stories from other perspectives has been a great way for me to educate myself on all things, so make sure to share your thoughts below and we can get into it together! 

Why The BoPo Community is so Important

For those of you who don’t know, ‘bopo’ stands for body positivity. And there is an enormous, and rapidly growing, bopo community online, particularly on Instagram.

The online bopo community has had such an impact on my life over the past few months. But I have noticed that when I mention it to my family and friends, they typically brush it off as more social media bs. So I decided to write a post explaining why it’s been so much more than that to me.

First of all let me provide some context. This time last year I found myself on antidepressants and in intensive counselling. I won’t go into all of the details (follow me on the gram for deets of my experience with depression @sarah_tyrrell_), but it’s fair to say that I was profoundly unhappy. Over the course of the following twelve months I came to realise that every problem I was facing in my life was rooted in my relationship with myself. I hated myself. I absolutely hated myself. And this negativity had seeped into every single area of my life.

Once we (my counsellor and I) had identified my self hatred as the root of all my unhappiness, it became clear that by addressing this alone everything else would fall into place. So as part of my ‘homework’, my counsellor asked me to start searching for body positivity online. I was pretty dubious initially, but as soon as I typed those words into my Instagram discovery page I was blown away and have never looked back.

Here was a world of girls who were every possible shape and size, every colour, height, sexuality, religion, nationality, age and ability. The only thing that they had in common was that they were promoting unapologetic, no strings attached self love.

They weren’t saying I could love myself if I lost a little weight, or if I made more of an effort with my appearance, or if I dressed differently, or if I was a little more successful. Nooooooo. What they were saying was really quite radical. They were saying, every body has the right to love themselves. Every body. As in, every single person. No matter what! 

I found so much comfort in that message having spent more than a decade feeling the exact opposite. I immersed myself in this community and bathed my soul in the self love they shared. I felt my mind absorb their words. I felt my subconscious shift its beliefs. I felt myself come alive with hope.

I watched others post pictures of their bodies in nothing but underwear, pictures that highlighted the parts of their bodies we are taught to hate. I watched videos of girls dancing round their bedrooms in a bra and nickers, smiling from ear to ear as their bodies shook and jiggled and jirated to the music. They challenged everything I thought I knew. They seemed to ooze sunshine. I was mesmorized. I wanted to feel like that.

I began to participate in the community, posting about my own experiences, my own challenges, my own demons. Rather than the ridicule and intolerance I know aired I might encounter, I found support and compassion. I got messages from my followers that filled me with so much relief, they often brought tears to my eyes. They understood me. They understood what it was to feel worthless. They were there for me. They were becoming my friends.

I took it a step further by posting pictures of my own body, my cellulite, my stretch marks, my rolls of fat and double chin. Every time I did it I experienced the same initial anxiety. The same anticipation of rejection. The same fear of vulnerability. But invariably that was replaced by a feeling of profound empowerment when my followers commented on how I was inspiring them, or how they could relate to my words. I felt I had purpose for the first time in years.

For me the bopo community has been transformative. It’s provided me with a safe space where I can find comfort and support, where I can explore my own relationship to my body and my self, where I can learn from others and where I can find peers and people to look up to. When you hate yourself and your body, you’re so ruled by shame and fear that to do these things is really quite impossible unless you find that community to envelope, protect and nurture you.

I don’t think that my relationship with myself could have improved as much as it has done without this community. And I’m so grateful for it everyday.

X

Putting on Your Positive Pants; How to Keep Positive When You’re Feeling Down

It’s all very well and good being super duper positive when the sun is shinning right? But what about when the the clouds come out and start pissing rain down on you? 

If you’re reading this post it’s safe to say, you’re a human. And if you’re a human, it’s definitely safe to say that you’re well aware how unreliable the sunshine can be! We all have bad days. No amount of therapy or mindfulness or meditation is going to change that. 

But how do we stop the bad days from spirilling out of control and leading to bad weeks? How can we stay positive when were feeling anything but? 

This morning I woke up feeling crap. My throat was sore and phlemy, my wisdom tooth was aching, my gum was swollen, my eyes stung and I just generally felt like poo. 

It wasn’t long before I noticed the effect all of this was having on my mood. I was being crabby and short tempered with my daughter, I was grumbling and scowling my way through the morning. 

I noticed how negative my mood was, and of course this only made me feel worse! But I decided I wasn’t going to let this one bad day beat me down. 

So I made myself a cuppa, curled up on the couch with a pen and paper and started to jot down a list of all of the good things I’d done that day. When I do this (generally only when I’m feeling down) I get super specific. For example I might write, ‘I walked my daughter to school which gave us both a great dose of fresh air, some really great exercise for our bodies, a good brisk walk for the dog, and was better for the environment than driving’. 

Once I had a really good detailed list of all of the positive things I did so far, I then turned to a new page and began to jot down a list of positive things that I could do throughout the day. For example I wrote, ‘I can  cook a homemade Shepard’s pie for dinner which will be far healthier than ordering a take away, will be a delicious comforting dinner for me to enjoy when I’m not feeling so good, and it will give me a sense of accomplishment knowing that I didn’t take the lazy option and order in’. I kept going until I had run out of ideas. I didn’t include anything unrealistic, or anything that I really didn’t want to do. 

Writing these lists helped me to feel less negative then I had been feeling and it gave me a real sense of the small positive steps that I coud work into the day. But t probably most importantly of all, it gave me back a feeling of control of my day. I no longer felt like my day had been hijacked by my low mood. Instead I thought, ‘OK this isn’t ideal but I can work with this’. 

So maybe the next time you’re feeling down you might try this method. And if you have any tricks or tips for putting on your positive pants, please let me know in the comment section!
Sarah x 

My Experience with Mirror Work 

Mirror work is a controversial subject. Some see it as a revolutionary practice which allows us to influence our sub conscious minds in a profound way. Others see it as new age bs that achieves nothing but a waste of time. 

When my cousellor first broached the subject with me last year, its safe to say I belonged to the more cynical of the two camps. Mirror work? Does he actually expect me to start chatting away to myself in a mirror! Definite bs! 

However my counsellor quickly picked up on the reaction that I was trying to hide, and his response was simple; what’s the alternative? 

I realised that I already knew what NOT doing mirror work looks liked. I had NOT been doing mirror work all of my life. And what kind of a life did I have? One ruled by fear, hate and hopelessness. I knew what that was like, and I knew I didn’t like or want it anymore. 

But this mirror work stuff? It just seemed so… Airy fairy. I recognised that I needed to be more open to trying new things in the effort to cultivate self love. I recognised that my initial gut reaction to his suggestions was always one of fear and suspicion, and that that proved just how vital it was that I started to step outside of my ever shrinking comfort zone. 

But seriously? Talking to my reflection? 

I decided to do some research into this practice on my own time away from the seemingly judgemental eyes my counsellor. *please note: my counsellor saved my life and I adore him and don’t have any reason to believe he ever judged me. 

And once I began my research, I found to my amazement that mirror work is an extremely popular tactic used and promoted by an enormous number of self help gurus and thought leaders such as the incredibly Louise Hay and Lisa Nichols. Suddenly it wasn’t just an idea being thrown around by my genius, if at times a little nutty, counsellor but now it was a legimite approach worth consideration. 

So I decided to give it the old college try. I waited until my daughter had fallen asleep one night (god forbid she should wander into the bathroom and catch her antidepressant dependant mummy taking to her reflection like someone in need of a butterfly net), I laid a blanket down on the bathroom floor in front of my full length mirror and sat down cross legged and stared at myself. That’s all I did for about three whole minutes, just watched myself, observed my reflection. By the time the three minutes was up I had reached to the loo on my left and vomited violently into the bowl. Looking down at a toilet full of vomit and wiping my mouth on my sleeve, I knew that this shit works. 

Since that day I’ve begun almost every morning (five per week) with ten minutes on the bathroom floor. I’ve graduated from simply observing myself and have incorporated affirmations according to whatever challenges feel more relevant to me on the day. 

I have had violent physical reactions since that first day. I’ve thrown up several times, I’ve found intense headaches manifesting after a couple of minutes, I’ve even noticed that sometimes I broke out in the shakes. And although you may read this and think to yourself, ‘Christ that sounds horrific, why would anyone do that to themselves’, the truth is that the stronger the physical reaction, the more noticible the benefits are. On those days when my morning practice produced intense and sometimes frightening results, I noticed major positive changes in my behaviour throughout the day. For example, I often felt much more confident than I usually would, or I made braver choices than I typically would, or I was less short tempered and hot headed than on a normal day. 

These results stood out to me, and I made the commitment to incorporate mirror work into my daily routine. These days my mirror work is much less extreme I’m grateful to say. All of that vomiting and shaking was beggining to take its toll. These days I begin my morning by taking my usual position on the floor and telling myself how much I love myself. I say, ‘I love you Sarah, I love you so so much’. I make eye contact with my reflection. I say it with as much feeling as I can possibly muster. Sometimes it comes so easily it strikes me as really quite wondrous and beautiful. Other times its a struggle to hush the negative voice in my head who never really leaves and affirm those loving thoughts instead. But regardless, I uncross my legs and clamber up to my feet every morning feeling refreshed, renewed and reenergised. 

So, tell me if you’ve ever practised mirror work. If you have, how has it been for you? If you haven’t, what the hell are you waiting for? 

Sarah x 

Vulnerability… 

The word itself makes many of us tense up automatically. Whether its the vulnerability of being naked with a new partner or sharing your ideas in the workplace, there’s no doubt that its scary. But here’s the thing… It’s because it’s scary that it’s so important. 

I hate being vulnerable. There’s no point in denying it. Even now after all that I’ve learned about self love I still can’t help the knot that forms in my stomach when I think about putting myself out there. I used to lie constantly to my friends and family in order to hide my vulnerability, to protect myself. The world can be hard and judgemental and cruel sometimes, so is it any wonder we do what we can to shelter ourselves from critic, shame or ridicule? 

No, it’s not. But there’s a problem with this attitude. Without vulnerability there’s no opportunity. 

Think of someone who inspires you. Maybe its a relative, a friend, a successful business woman, a politician, a celebrity or a spiritual guru. Whatever! Think of someone who you admire, someone you want to be like. Now ask yourself this; has that person gotten to where they are today without being vulnerable? 

I don’t know who you chose, but I do know the only possible answer to that question is, ‘no’. 

This week I decided to put my fear if vulnerability to the test by posting pictures of my body on Instagram. I forced myself not to post in angels that were slimming. I made myself take pictures that highlighted the parts of my body that I’ve been most ashamed of in the past. And once I clicked that post button I felt overwhelmed with anxiety every time. But the payoff was so much greater then I could have hoped for. I gained new followers, received messages of admiration and support from total strangers but best of all, I felt a little bit if my shame fall away with each picture. I felt a little bit stronger, a little bit braver and a little bit more body positive. 

In vulnerability there’s magic. When we allow ourselves to be stripped down (physically, intellectually, creatively) we open ourselves up to a wealth of opportunity that otherwise isn’t available to us. It’s like holding up a great big neon sign to the universe that say, ‘open for business’. 

But when we refuse to be vulnerable it becomes impossible for us to grow, to progress in any real way. Without vulnerability we just coast through life, always playing it safe. Maybe we get hurt less. Correction! Maybe our EGO gets hurt less. But we gain nothing. 

True friendship is impossible without vulnerability. True love is too. What kind of lives do we lead if we don’t open up to friendship and love? The more we stand to gain, the higher the risks. 

When I think of vulnerability online in particular, I think of incredible women like this gem who has literally taken off her clothes and jiggled her cellulite on the internet!!! I think of this inspiration who’s courage and tenacity in the face of online hate is mind boggling. And I think of women like Kenzie and Christine who just strut around Instagram half naked. Not because they are vain or narcissistic, but because they recognise thst we all need to turn our backs on our comforts zones and embrace vulnerability. Those people are living in constant vulnerability and you know what? They are living and breathing magic. Without their vulnerability they’d just be a bunch of normal, unnoteworthy girls. But with it, they’re changing the world. 

By deciding to start my own company of course I’m taking huge risks. I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable to criticism and judgment online. The trolls ARE going to find me, and they ARE going to hurt me. I’m also opening myself up to the posdibility of the f word… FAILURE! 

But without being vulnerable I can’t achieve the things I want. I know this, and so I push myself to embrace that vulnerability and see it for what it really is; an open for business sign to the universe.