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A series of blog posts about life, lifestyle and thought pieces.

Body confidence: what if you’re not ‘body positive’ about yourself?

*In collaboration with UK Swimwear.

📍Arenal d’en Castell, Menorca.

In an online world full of contradictions, do you feel conflicted about your body image?

This post is about how a simple bikini photo shoot (pics courtesy of Dan – thanks) led me to feel more confident and ask myself if I should feel guilty for not always being happy with my body.

When you go on a week-long beach holiday do you take enough bikinis for a month or is that just me? I love the sea and swimming (and apparently bikinis) so when UK Swimwear reached out to me about collaborating I said yes straight away. You’ll find designer swimwear to suit all different needs and styles – for me I loved every single item by Watercult (their stuff is beautiful!)

But then, I realised for this blogpost that I would have to photograph myself in a bikini and put it up for everyone to see and I wondered if I wanted to do that… It’s weird because I post photos of myself wearing outfits, so why should this be any different? I’ve been struggling with my body confidence so now, so I was worried about putting photos of me semi-naked on my blog…

Hannah with on hand on her head in the sea.

Wearing Watercult Bandeau bikini*

So, originally I was going to write a holiday checklist (I always need to do this before every trip, so I’ll still publish that) but now have these bikini photos ready to post, I thought that talking about body confidence in this post would be more fitting.

At the end of this blog post, I have three points for you to take away that I hope helps if you ever feel bad about yourself… or feel bad for feeling bad about yourself.

Conflict of feelings

I feel ashamed to say that I’m not happy with how my body is at the moment.

Whatever body shape or size you are, unfortunately, you’re not immune to feeling body-conscious. We’ve come a long way in the representation of women’s bodies but there is a lot of damage to undo. We’ve seen the supposed ‘perfect body type’ presented by the media and advertising for so long now that social media and society has created an ingrained pressure for women to look a certain way.

But now, there are conflicting messages in the media too – “you should be proud of your body whatever it looks like!” “Don’t conform to the patriarchy’s ideals of beauty!” “Be confident” and other slightly aggressive demands amongst all sorts of inspirational quotes. We still see ‘perfect’ images of Victoria Secret models everywhere in magazines but we’re now being told we should always be positive about our own bodies.

80% of people have stretch marks and 90% of women and 10% of men have cellulite. That’s 90%! How can that be something we are embarrassed by when literally almost every woman has them? Click To Tweet

Hannah sitting on the beach in the waves. Arenal d'en Castelll

It’s kind of confusing.

And it’s making me feel guilty that I’m not always ‘body positive’. On the other hand, I don’t feel like I can use the expression ‘body positive’ because I don’t want to appropriate a message that’s been created for plus-size women. I’m just an average size with the average concerns… I’ll obssess over so many things wrong with my body,  yet I would never think so harshly about other people..

It’s not just me or you that feels this. Here are some quotes from other people that we can probably relate to:

“I obsess about my weight constantly, and I really hate myself for it, especially for being such a hypocrite. I preach self-love all the time to my friends and can’t seem to find any for myself.”

From article: ‘’I feel guilty but I hate my body’: a feminist confesses’

“If you’re one of the girls who still feels inferior no matter how many body-positivity articles you read, you’re not alone.”

From article: ‘I hate my body and think I always will’

Everyone has scars and ‘imperfections’

I am able-bodied, thanks to a surgery I had when I was two. If it weren’t for the NHS and a fantastic surgeon, it’s possible that I wouldn’t be able to walk properly. So, why am I putting my body down when it has managed to go through so much with me?

Ever since then, I’ve had a large scar on my right leg and hip and one going through my stomach across the pelvis. Yet I’ve never been ashamed or embarrassed by the scars. I never mind telling people where they came from when they see it and ask. I’m actually proud of them – my war wounds 🙂

Hannah doing scynchronised swimming in the sea. Arenal d'en Castelll

(I used to do synchronised swimming but I’m rusty so don’t judge my technique!)

 

However, when it comes to my cellulite, my stretch marks, and my lumpiness it fills me with disgust. But it’s totally normal and natural for anyone to have these. In fact, 80% of people have stretch marks and 90% of women and 10% of men have cellulite. That’s 90%! How can that be something we are embarrassed by when literally almost every woman has them?

I feel ashamed to say that I’m not happy with how my body is at the moment. I know that’s because there’s more to life than our bodies and, to other people, there may look like there’s anything ‘wrong’ with my body. And there isn’t – so that’s why I feel bad sharing my insecurities.

I shared an Instagram post a few weeks ago saying I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and everyone was so kind; a lot of you were saying that I had nothing to be worried about. There’s nothing wrong with how my body is but right now I feel that this isn’t my body.

That probably makes no sense.

I’ll explain…

Hannah faces a rock in a rock pool, with both hands on head clutching hair.

It’s more of a psychological issue than a physical issue.

Never before have I had any issues or worries about how my body looked. I did a lot of exercise and managed to maintain the same weight for years. That was until I took some medications a few years ago which had the side effects of weight gain. Ever since I took those, they changed how I felt about myself; now I’m focused on so many ‘flaws’ I never had or noticed before. I’ve been struggling to get back to where I was – the ‘old me’ who didn’t worry about that.

It’s not that I think my body shape or size is not nice and I don’t want to write anything that would make someone else upset or self-conscious. But, I don’t feel like my body suits me. I feel uncomfortable having a bit of chub I didn’t have before. I look at my old photos and that is a happy person who didn’t worry.
So, I suppose my problem is not how I think I look but how it makes me feel.

The body I have now is one that hasn’t healed itself yet. My scars from my operation have healed. But, the lumps, the extra cushioning around my cheeks and waist are scars that haven’t healed yet… because they are reminders of a mentally tough period in my life which I’m not over yet. When I’m out the other side I’ll either have lost these parts I don’t like or I’ll be happy enough to accept them.

But that’s why I’m not joining in with the movement of shouting from the rooftops that I have flaws and I’m proud of them. Does that make any sense?

Hannah stands in the sea wearing black and white balconette bikini.

That’s one of the reasons I like fashion. It makes me feel better.

You may look at my photos and think I have nothing to worry about… And I know that I shouldn’t worry, which where this guilt comes from. You may also say, well if you’re not confident why are you posting these photos?

To that I say, well, it was a lot of fun taking these and I felt more confident as we went on. I feel happy with how these came out. They have happy memories behind them. My boyfriend and I were on holiday together, having a laugh playing around taking these photos and I felt good wearing this bikini*. Also, it helped that I knew that no one on the beach knew me that day so I didn’t worry about looking silly.

Sun is behind Hannah's face

I wish you could see behind-the-scenes of this photo… I’m demanding that Dan ‘get lower down’, ‘no, lower so the sun is behind my face’ … Him: ‘No I don’t want to get all sandy; I’ll have to go and wash it off in the sea again!’ ‘I can’t see you, it’s so bright!’

And trust me, these photos aren’t all realistic themselves – I’ve put up the best photos of the bunch and we took a lot of photos… and a lot didn’t make the cut. In these I’m stretching out, facing my back to the camera, and trying to angle myself so the lumps and rolls don’t stick out. Same as what models do on photoshoots and everyone does on Instagram. Just take Iskra Lawrence’s example that we can all hide certain things when we pose a certain way.

So, the last thing I’d want is for anyone to compare my images to themselves and feel bad. These are just some photos that I think turned out well.

What you wear makes a difference

Putting on this bikini, I could tell it was of a much higher quality than the bikinis I normally wear… As soon as I put it on I felt really good in it; it fits well and the bikini top gives the support of bra. (A good supportive bikini top is necessary when swimming – trust me! I’ve had a few rogue floating bikini tops after diving into the pool before!). I love the embroidery and the elastic on the bottom is supported with Petersham so I’m sure these will last for quite a few holidays to come.

Close up of the bikini bottoms - black with white aztec embroidery with tie-sides and gold filigree pineapple charms.

Look at the little gold pineapple charms!!!

What you wear really can dictate how you’re feeling about your body and image. When I’m dressed in something I love, I feel confident and am therefore happier with how I look. When I’m in panic-mode and having ‘nothing to wear’ (we all know that’s not true, but we’ve all been there) and I chuck on something I’m not quite feeling, then I know I’m not going to be thinking positively towards my body. I’m fairly sure that I’m not alone in this.

So, if you’re going to a pool or a beach, my advice is to find a swimsuit that fits you really well in the style and design you really like. It’ll make all the difference to your confidence.

And if you want to do what I did, try taking some photos and you might end up with ones that you think you look banging in.

Hannah sits on the sand looking out at the sea.

What’s the conclusion to this then?

I have three things that I’ve realised:

1. You’re not alone if you feel guilty for not always liking your body.

In today’s world of social media, it’s hard not to escape the paradox of ‘this is how to improve yourself!’ and ‘be fine with how you are!’. We can’t blame ourselves for having mixed feelings about our image.

2. Don’t compare yourself to images online

Although almost it’s unavoidable seeing these images everywhere and it’s become an unconscious thing to do – comparing ourselves is not healthy for our esteem. When you catch yourself with these thoughts make a conscious point to tell yourself that a photo online doesn’t always tell the full story.

3. Make a small step towards body confidence and dress up in something that makes you feel good

I’m not meaning that you should ‘dress nicer’ and I’m not insinuating you need a magic makeover, not at all. This isn’t just surface-deep. On a psychological level, you can boost your self-esteem if you’re happy (or happier) with how you see yourself on the outside.

Now go out and treat yourself! It’s the perfect excuse 😉

Have you ever felt bad for feeling bad or are you always confident no matter what? Honestly, I’d love to hear different points of view on this. Leave me a comment and maybe we can start a discussion.

 

*This bikini was gifted.

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10 Instagrammable places in Mayfair

*This experience at the Dorchester was gifted by hotels.com, but all views are my own.

📍Mayfair, London, UK.

Looking for the perfect Instagram spots in London?

Look no further than Mayfair.

Mayfair is arguably one of the prettiest, best-kept areas in London. Well, that’s not a surprise given its status and has the top spot on the Monopoly board. There are few places that you’ll always see on Instagram but you might not necessarily have known where it was.

If you’re coming from out of town and are looking for a location that’s within walking distance of tourist attractions, the West End, shopping and anything really, consider hotels near Mayfair, because whilst it’s amongst all the buzz, it can also be a bit quieter than other areas.

Dining

1. The Dorchester

You know us Brits love our tea, and I’m no exception, so when I was invited for afternoon tea at the Dorchester, there was no way I was missing it.

Built in the 1930s and recognised as one the world’s most prestigious hotels known for hosting Hollywood icons throughout history, you can’t imagine a hotel much more luxurious. Walking into the Promenade, you feel the glamour of the Golden Age wash over you.

The waiters and concierges were so amenable and helpful. This experience isn’t just about eating lunch and drinking tea; it’s about receiving the VIP treatment and dining in such a beautiful setting which makes it special. Whether you’re a local or a tourist, an afternoon tea at the Dorchester is simply something you have to do at some point.

Afternoon tea at the Dorchester

2. Sketch

It’s no surprise that bloggers flock to Sketch in Mayfair to get a snap for their ‘gram thanks to its beautiful powder pink decor and velvet furniture. Plus it has a reputation as one of the best restaurants in London with two Michelin stars.

 

 

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A post shared by sketch (@sketchlondon) on

 

Shopping

 

3. Fortnum and Mason

Okay, so I had to make a trip here. My friend introduced me to the cocktail salon hidden away in the men’s department. It’s a lot quieter and easier to get a comfy chair than its other bars. So, shhh don’t tell too many people about this secret!

It’s well worth a visit here around Christmas time! They have already opened up their Christmas shop. I couldn’t resist getting a tree decoration in the form of their iconic F&M wicker baskets. Expensive but worth it.

Whilst you’re there, stop for a sweet treat in this cute little pastel perfect 50s style ice-cream parlour. Guaranteed to get some really cute selfies here.

 

4. New bond street

Chanel. Prada. Saint Laurent. Louis Vuitton. Cartier. Tiffany. Name a designer. It’s on this street.
Whether you’re splurging or window shopping, taking photos down this beautiful street is free. So take a snap and upload it to the ‘gram and keep people guessing as to which one you’re doing 😉

 

 

5. Dover Street Market

It’s not really a market – not in the traditional sense. It’s not anything like Camden. It’s more a multi-brand retailer or a ‘concept store’ with installations of different boutiques and exhibition areas.
It was created by Rei Kawakubo of the label Comme des Garçons. It also sells streetwear and high-end designers like Gucci and Loewe.

Expect some quirky props like fluffy flamingoes that you can pose in front of!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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COMME des GARÇONS SHIRT Basquiat installation has arrived at Dover Street Market. Ground Floor. @CommeDesGarcons

 

A post shared by DOVER STREET MARKET LONDON (@doverstreetmarketlondon) on

 

 

6. Burlington Arcade

My first memory of this small shopping lane was when I was a lot younger – we always saw a show at Christmas time after looking at all of the department store Christmas windows. Full of tiny tiny boutiques, it’s really quite a unique place to shop.

Back then, I never recognised any of the brands, but now there are more recognisable ones, like Manolo Blahnik.

Touristy spots

7. Speakers’ Corner on Hyde Park

At the top of Park Lane, I stopped by Speakers’ Corner. If you haven’t heard of this before, it’s basically an area of Hyde Park, where anyone can take their soapbox, and speak until their heart’s content. It’s open-air space for public speaking, debates and discussions.

I saw two interesting characters there this Sunday. An American man wearing a cowboy hat, boots and bootleg denim jeans speaking the word of God, contrasted with a eighty-something-year-old tattooed Eastender, Ronnie, accompanied by his shopping trolley which had a plastic bird perched on the handle.

If you have time I definitely recommend getting involved or just going to listen!

8. Buckingham Palace

Okay, it’s technically not in Mayfair, but it’s just a short walk and if you’re in the area, you might as well pop in to see if Her Majesty is home.

9. Shepherd Market

This has a bit of everything: eateries, shopping, cute houses – definitely a cute place for an outfit shot.
Whilst doing my research, I discovered that this was where Mayfair actually began.
In the 1730s and ’40s local architect, Edward Shepherd started a 15-day market and festival to become Shepherd Market Mayfair.

And you just have to go and see the Christmas lights there in December.

 

 

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Festive wishes from a very quiet Shepherd Market • • • #shepherdmarket #mayfair #5hertfordstreet #christmasinmayfair

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10. Marble Arch

Cute fountains and 19th-century architecture – such a photogenic spot. This was erected as the state entrance to Buckingham Palace. It’s just at the end of Oxford Street, so if you’re out doing some shopping around Westminster you may eventually reach it. It’s based on the Arc de Triomphe in Paris… see the similarities?

I hope you enjoyed this post! Has it inspired you to go to any of these places? Anywhere you would recommend? Leave me a comment 🙂 As always, thanks for reading!

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#FAIL: I’m shit at blogging

This one is for everyone that has ever got stressed out about not being able to fit in the things you want to do around the things you need to do.

I suck at this.

So… I’ve been slacking. Anyone empathise?

I’m sure you’ve all have had that moment (or a lot of moments) where you’re doing something (or not) and just question if you’re doing it right, or whether you should be doing it at all?

Yeah, that’s what I’m wondering.

I started my blog because I wanted to have a project outside of my full-time job – something to allow me to be creative and have something to show for it.

But, checking my homepage I realise my last post was over THREE months ago!

Blogging requires posting frequently and I haven’t been. Just because it’s a side-project, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t stick to a schedule. Or does it? Now, I’m just second-guessing what the point of this is. I shouldn’t be stressing about it because it’s meant to be for fun and stressing isn’t fun.

Instead of accepting that I’ve inadvertently taken a blogging break and taking the time to recharge, I’m just getting worked up over it. My health hasn’t been great recently (something I’m not sure whether to go into here or not yet) and when I get in from work I’m too exhausted to do anything.

What I’m doing wrong

1. Not having enough time

Or should I phrase that to be ‘not making enough time’?

I’m at work all day – I’m not an early riser, as I suffer from insomnia from time to time, so during the week, getting up early to blog before work is a no-go and the evenings are the only time I have left. Except that’s when I have dinner, spend time with the boyfriend and see friends. Plus, being sat at a screen all day in an office then continuing to do that well into the evening cases headaches (literally and metaphorically).

Also, we’ve been looking to buy a house since the New Year, (no luck so far) and if you’re familiar with the process, you’ll know that you need to book viewings as soon as you have a spare minute free, which, yes, of course, is after work. There is a lot to cram in! I am busy, yeah… but am I really more busy than everyone else who has a full-time job and other responsibilities? This is something I wondered before – we’re always ‘on’ so we always feel rushed off our feet and so the things we enjoy and don’t ‘need’ to do get pushed to the side.

So what about the weekends when I’m not at work?

As I’m sure, this happens to everyone, no matter what you want to do, the weekends end up jam-packed with plans with people you can’t see during the week, the things you need to do, the things you don’t need to do but feel obliged to and suddenly you haven’t got any time left to yourself.

When do you have time after all that, you just feel too mentally and physically tired to do anything other than veg in front of the TV.

2. Not finishing posts

I contacted the lovely Primrose, who you probably already know blogs at Style Petal, to ask for her input into a post that I’m writing on Influencer Marketing and I’m also writing a collaboration post with Luke Christian about getting your motivation back (ironic lol) and I feel sooo bad that I haven’t published them yet!

The first post is written, so I don’t know why but I decided it needed to go more in depth. It needed to be the MOST DETAILED post ever written on influencer marketing. And it snowballed into a post that is longer than a dissertation and I can’t seem to structure it or put it into a logical order.

So, now I’m thinking it’s too long and messy and the perfectionist in me is not satisfied with posting it. I know I’ll end looking like this when it’s finished 👇 (and so will anyone who reads it).Skeleton waiting

(I’m sorry for being crap! I promise I’ll get around to publishing it).

So, not wanting to deal with the imperfect post that I’ve already started, I decided to write this one 😂. Which leads into the next point —> that I’m too much of a perfectionist.

3. Having too many expectations

I just have to admit it. I can’t do everything all at once. I’m not a robot.

The perfectionist side of me wants every single post to have high-quality photos that I’ve created myself that are also relevant. For example, if I’m writing about office culture or fashion, I’d want a photo of me in the office. Can you imagine? Me lying on a desk in the middle of an open-plan office posing for a camera, like, “what are you looking at, Barbara from Procurement?!” It’s just not always possible to create the vision in my head, which is why I end up with a long list of ideas and unfinished blog posts.

4. Freaking out about what I’m not doing

Argh, I haven’t scheduled any Twitter content to promote my posts… I need to go and take loads of photos for Instagram, I’ve got to spend three hours commenting on other people’s blogs, I’ve not replied to that email about car tyres, I’ve been meaning to make business cards for four months now!

Okay, THIS does not help. I will always do this though, it’s just the way I am!

I’m happy that just one person has read my blog, so that is what I’m going to focus on – there is at least one person who’s read what I’ve written!

What I’m going to do instead

1. Low stats equal low mood Don’t let stats affect me!

So many bloggers comment that when the stats go down, so does their mood. We really shouldn’t let this get to us. (Easier said than done).

I haven’t posted frequently on my site or on Instagram and the unfollows ensue and the page numbers drop. Ugh. I’ve put in so much effort for people to become disinterested. I know why they are low, so I know how to fix it. Frequent and quality posting is key to an engaged audience and I can’t expect numbers to rise when there’s nothing new to see.

There really is no point getting bummed out about something that really doesn’t matter all that much.

I’m happy that just one person has read my blog, so that is what I’m going to focus on – there is at least one person who’s read what I’ve written!

2. Don’t compare

Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

Yeah, there’s something in that.

I look at bloggers who have been doing this for years, turned it into their full-time career and churn out quality content consistently, alongside going to events and travelling and I think ‘wow, that’s amazing, why can’t my blog be like that?’.

Well, it can’t. Because this is just a hobby that I do after work and at the weekends (when I can – see point 1 above!). I shouldn’t feel bad about my work because of comparison. So, I haven’t posted in a while… I can’t compare that to someone whose literal job is to do just that.

You know that saying ‘you have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyoncé’? It’s meant to be motivational, but it’s not.

True, you can’t make more time, but no one is in the same position as her. If you’re a single parent, who works a day job and are trying to make it as a musician, comparing your success as a musician to Beyoncé’s isn’t logical. She has a huge support network, people who’ll look after her children when she can’t, assistants, cleaners, chefs, etc etc etc. So, she has as much time as she needs to put 100% effort and concentration into her craft. You get the point.

Everyone’s journey is different, so just be proud of what you’ve achieved 🙂

3. REST and don’t make myself ill

There’s a reason I took a break (even though I didn’t mean to). I’ve had some difficult months and instead of just focusing on my health and my family, I’ve been beating myself up about not doing enough for my blog. And that’s been making it worse.

In the future, I’ll just listen to what my body’s saying, post a little notice on the blog saying ‘be back soon’ and don’t worry. This is for fun and I don’t know why I’m putting pressure on myself.

Thanks for reading, if you made it this far! Do let me know if you’ve ever felt the same and if you have some advice to share.

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Be kind this Christmas: this one gift will help the homeless

How you can easily help the homeless this Christmas by buying a £10 calendar

‘It’s the most wonderful time of year’ as it’s famously sung. For others, though, Christmas can be cruel.

A couple of days ago I was wandering around Spitalfields Market, walking amongst the stalls and the Christmas lights; everything felt so festive.

I was stopped by a volunteer with a charity box. A lot of people would be thinking, like I did: ‘what am I going to be roped into now?’.

But I stayed to listen. And I’m glad I did.

I had just been wandering around the city doing a spot of Christmas shopping. I saw something sparkly in the window of a luxury watch boutique with a price tag that had a few noughts on the end. I thought, “I wish I could just go in and buy that!”

Then, I feel a pang of guilt as I thought about people sleeping rough, who are probably wishing they could afford a £3 sandwich.

That’s when this lovely lady approached me and explained Café Art’s initiative: the MY LONDON calendar.

Café Art 2018 MYLONDON calendar

In the middle of Spitalfields Market there is currently a photography exhibition of stunning imagery of London life.

COVER OF 2018 CALENDAR: Angel Kid, Shoreditch.

Cover of 2018 Calendar: https://www.cafeart.org.uk/gallery

All of the photos you see were taken on disposable cameras and by homeless people. And they are amazing.

This is what the MY LONDON calendar is all about:

Thirteen beautiful photographs, taken by 100 homeless people over five days, are part of the 2018 MyLondon calendar.

“Every year we have a photography contest with disposable cameras. We give them out with the goal of empowering people affected by homelessness – to give them skills, confidence and eventually to earn some money by selling the photos and the annual MyLondon calendar.

On 30 June 2017, 100 Fujifilm one-time-use cameras were given out at St Paul’s Cathedral. The goal was not to focus on homelessness, but to capture the London they love.”

I love this whole idea. The photos are stunning and showcased some beautiful hidden sides to London. It makes sense that I should buy the calendar. London is my favourite place, the photos are amazing and you get to give back at the same time. It is wonderful to allow people to be creative in this way, and benefit from it, in more ways than just monetary. Plus, the calendar is such good quality.

This is such an easy way you can be a part of this amazing project. Just pick up a copy when you’re out Christmas shopping or just add it to your basket if you’re online; it’s easy. By buying the calendar, we help complete the circle and give back to those people who captured such brilliant shots of the city.

Buy the calendar here!

If you’re getting one anyway, it might as well be this one.

So, for 2018, instead of buying a Harry Styles calendar or whatever, why not give a gift with a purpose that gives back?

*Image belongs to Michelle Goldberg and Café Art in the 2018 calendar. Buy your own copy here.

It was lovely to meet you, Café Art!

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