True Colours

You can try to tone yourself down.

You can try to live your life in a palate of neutrals or pastels.

You can try to do what everyone else does. (or to do what those you admire do).

You can follow the crowd.

Follow the blueprint.

But you will never ever be anything but you.

Your true colours are beautiful (thanks Cyndi Lauper)

I don’t think many of us women can honestly say that at some point in our lives, we haven’t tried to follow a trend, fit in, or hide our true selves. It’s human. We crave acceptance.

I think in todays online world of IG and social media, it’s even more challenging.

I see it so much in people’s IG accounts and their businesses (my own included at times). My goodness, even when you are trying to be original, there’s so much influence floating around it can be hard to know what is cultivated from consumption v your own ideas. You look at a coat online, suddenly you are bombarded with images of that coat. Who decided you liked it to begin with? The same can go for your pictures, your captions. And there’s a temptation to be “seen” in a certain way. I’m not knocking it. I have been known to post a picture of a peony on my grid. I even experimented with pale colours for a brief period of time, it just wasn’t me.

I recently listened to @lucylucraft brilliant podcast What She Said, the particular episode was with Dominique from @allthatisshe Hilariously, Dominique spoke about a time earlier in her IG career where she bought clothes that weren’t her style, that she would never wear outside of the house, purely to be photographed in, to appear to have a certain style. She also pretended she didn’t watch “the telly” on IG. She was so funny, candid and self depreciating and ultimately it was refreshing to hear that even a women with mega success online, and who seems to have it all together has fallen into the mindset of feeling she has to fit in.

This is really about IG / social media, but applies to our lives as women in general.

In life, in school, in our careers, in our businesses, in our motherhood, in our faith, in our fashion, in our home decor, as well as in our flipping Instagrams, there is a temptation to follow a prescribed set of what is right, rules for “success”.

I stopped that a while ago. It’s hard to let go of all convention, and I’m working on it, but I’m seeking the me in all I do.

And for the record, I love neutrals (so cool) and pastels (so pretty) but sadly, try as I might, I couldn’t pull them off – I’m a big messy colour gal at heart, so I’m letting it out.

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This is me…isn’t it?

Here I am.

A mother, a lover, a daughter, a friend, an employee. A lot of things to a lot of people. A lot of labels. A lot of expectation and a lot of pressure.

As women (maybe even as humans) it’s easy to be defined by the roles we have. It’s easy to let those roles define us. Rule us. Ruin us.

I wonder why that is?

It’s so easy to feel that all these roles own me. To feel I’m coming up short. To feel overwhelmed. And lately I have. And lately the ME in all these things has faded away.

I’m not sure how to explain how I have felt. But the words pressured and overwhelmed definitely feel appropriate. And I know that a LOT of working mums I have spoken to feel this way. I think there’s a real danger to separate all of our “roles” out and treat each of them like a job. Then when things go wrong, you can feel like you are failing.

Voices in your head

It can go something like this:

“Being a good mum is the most important thing to me, and I screwed up today, so I’m failing”

Or maybe something is going wrong in work and you allow that one thing to define you. In my head it goes a bit like – I’m good at what I do, I don’t fail. so when the shit hits the fan, I judge myself harshly, use it as a stick to beat myself….”There’s another area of your life you are screwing up and failing in” my inner voice says to me.

Then the snowball comes. A row at home. A cranky kid. A cancelled plan with a friend. You feel like it’s all just GOING WRONG.

You aren’t getting things right anywhere.

So what do you (I) do? You (I) compartmentalise. You (I) don’t want to bring work stress home, or home drama to work. So you (I) switch the emotion off. You (I) play the part. But for you (me), that’s where the part starts to play you (me)….

Influences

There’s a lot of pressure, from society, from social media, from the world, to be a certain way, to deliver life on certain terms and it can be TOUGH.

Social media is a wonderful resource but there is another side. Even if you can avoid the comparison pitfalls and you can accept that the pictures only tell part of the story, even the positive influence can be overwhelming.

Are my family eating enough organic food? Should our home be plastic free? Do we have enough date nights? Why cant I find time to write more? Why haven’t I smashed that glass ceiling? Am I consuming too much fast fashion?

There’s a real guilt and FOMO situation going on for me at times. I’m an ideas girl. I get inspired. I get passionate. But then I flounder, because I can’t possibly do it all, be it all and again it can feel a bit like failure. Tell me I’m not alone on this? I feel like I could write a whole other blog on this topic alone…

ME

Here’s the thing I have realised recently though. I am ME. I own my motherhood. I own my part in my marriage and in my relationships. I own what I am in a work sense.

All of those “roles” have ME at the centre of them. They are mine.

I think it’s easy to let the “Me” in all of those things get lost. And there’s the danger. I cannot possibly be any of the things to any of the people unless I am ME first and foremost.

I wouldn’t be a mother or a lover of any of the other things if I wasn’t first and foremost myself. And I really want to challenge myself to see how much of my true self I see in my many roles. I want to push back on society, on notions of what I should be in each of these roles and think about who I WANT to be in all the areas of MY life, to all my people. I want them to have ME. I want my life to feel authentic (sorry I know that’s such an overused word – but it’s appropriate, ok?)

My kids don’t need a mum, they need me. My husband doesn’t need a wife, he needs me. My parents, my friends, it’s me they want. And my job, well I hope I’m employed there because of ME, but if someday that’s not why I’m there, then I hope I have the courage to find a job where the real ME is at the heart of what I do.

Owning it

Writing this has been quite therapeutic and I want to challenge myself to really stop separating my life into one giant to-do list. I want to avoid the temptation to rush through life going through the motions to tick off some imaginary list of achievements. I want to give myself a break and I also want to put myself front and centre. I want to own my life, with all its various roles and I’m pretty sure everyone in my life will be better off for me being the best version of myself. Are you with me?

I want to encourage you tonight to think about the roles that you are struggling with. If you feel like things are running away with you. If you feel like you are failing. Stop. Ask yourself to look for the YOU at the heart of it. Recalibrate. Be gentle with yourself. You are human. Real. Flesh and blood. Not a label. Not a function. YOU.

Honest


Instagram. Those squares get a bashing sometimes. “Don’t believe everything you see on insta”. “Life isn’t insta perfect”. Yes I agree BUT there’s some real life honesty right there too. That’s what keeps me there. To share, to listen, to be real. I am a huge believer in looking on the brightside 😉 but I also firmly believe in woman being honest about life and especially about motherhood.
I read a post the other day from the lovely Anna @blossomingbirds on Mum guilt and it really resonated with me. I’m talking working mum guilt. 

As a Mum, there’s always guilt and mostly it’s unnecessary, but sometimes, you have to stop and listen to it. Lately I have felt overwhelmed, stressed and generally like I’m about to drop ALL the plates. Work has been incredibly busy and by June, coupled with all the end of year school events I needed to be there for, sports days, concerts, fetes etc. I was like a crazy lady trying to be all to everyone.
Our break couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed some time to just be mum. To gather myself, to unwind and let myself enjoy the slow days of simply being there and doing very little. Our days have been gentle and easy and rich and wonderful. I haven’t shouted or ranted or felt like “I can’t cope”. Its been more needed than I ever realised. 


I made a decision this summer NOT to over schedule or try to cram too much into our days. I realise now, that was as much for me as it was for the kiddos. 

I’m back into the office tomorrow, but with a determination to change my mindset. To leave the stress at the office door. To look after myself and keep this chilled out mood alive a little while longer. Sometimes trying to do it all seems impossible, but I’m gonna keep in trying, I ain’t got much choice (unless those lotto numbers come up). If anyone else has the answer to how to make it all work – send answers on a postcard please.
So all my recent #beachspam may have seemed excessive but I’m sorry not sorry. It’s been a tonic. And I’ve loved snapping away and capturing simple little moments. I feel like a slightly better version of myself after 2weeks of rest. Now watch out world – tomorrow I’m taking you on.

But first, skin care


I am loving my skin. That’s a weird thing to say right?? It is definitely weird for me, as I have never felt that way though. As you may know if you have been following along for a while, here or over at thebrightsidediary, I decided at the start of the year that this would be my time, to get my skin sorted, healthy. I’ve always had issues and grumbles with it. Spots and blemishes. Oil. Uneven skin tone. Being the busy person I am, however I allowed any kind of skin care to drop to the bottom of a very long list. It’s wasn’t a priority. 

I think as we get older though, we start to think and feel differently. Enter The Skin Health Clinic. You can read some of my previous blogs on my journey here and here, but essentially for me, my goal was to have healthier, clearer skin so I could wear less make up / even go wild and make up free the odd time. I also wanted to educate myself about skin, sun damage and, yes, aging. Those fine lines and wrinkles may be a privilege and a sign of a life well lived, but I still wanted to know how to take proper care of my skin as I get older and prevent premature aging (is that possible with kids like mine….???)

Victoria at The Skin Health Clinic told me when I met her that skin care should be simple. She also said that good skin comes from commitment and ongoing care – not an overnight miracle. Her knowledge, expertise and passion for healthy skin above all else convinced me from day one that I was in safe hands. After a few months of visiting her for treatments and following a simple skincare regime at home with minimal products, I was already seeing huge benefits to my skin.

So when Victoria suggested stepping things up a gear and having some Microneedling, I didn’t hesitate.

When carried out by a trained professional who has taken time to prepare your skin and get it healthy first, like Victoria did with me. Microneedling has enormous benefits for all skin types. Many people turn to it to help with scarring or pigmentation. It promises to help reduce fine lines and the appearance of pores and to help skin recover volume.

Unlike other “trendy” skincare procedures such as lasering or chemical peels which actually damage the skin’s dermis, Microneedling causes no damage and on a basic level (not too much of a science lesson I promise) it works by helping stimulate the production of fresh collagen which in turn helps your skin become renewed, rejuninated and all the good stuff that comes from that.

I’ve had two treatments now, so I feel able to write about my experience with some confidence, having already seen the results after just one treatment.

So what actually happens?

Upon arrival, Victoria prepped my skin with a gentle enzyme treatment, then we moved on to the main course.

So having needles repeatedly jabbed into your skin…does it HURT? I have heard of some pretty unpleasant outcomes from Microneedling, but believe me blood shouldn’t be dripping from your face. A well trained professional will not damage your skin. The team at The Skin Health Clinic will ensure your skin is prepared and healthy before they begin treatment and are careful to explain that this isn’t a one off, miracle treatement; the prep work must go in before hand and the follow up care is important.

I’ll be honest it didn’t tickle, but it was mildly uncomfortable at worst. Afterwards, Victoria applied a soothing cooling mask, then applied a serum to restore moisture and calm my skin. After my second session I also had some LED light treatment, which helped boost the impact of the treatment and helped settle my skin.

Immediately afterwards, my skin was pink and felt a little hot to the touch. You can’t wear liquid foundation or ideally any make up immediately after, but Victoria applied a little mineral make up after my first session as I had to be out and about that day. On my second visit I went home and keep my skin make up free for the next 36 hours. 

The science behind it all means you will start to see results after 14 days, when the new collagen is produced. 

I can already see great results from my first session so I’m excited to see how things will have progressed in another few weeks when the effects from session two start to show.

Ultimately, my goal is to have healthy skin I don’t need to worry or think about. To be able to run out to drop the kids to school make up free, without feeling self conscious or feeling the need to cover up blemishes, and uneven skin tone. This is really helping me and I’m so glad I have taken some control back over my skin and taken this time to prioritise a little time to look after myself. Goodness knows with a busy life and small children, it seemed impossible to think I had the time or energy, but it’s been effortless after my initial worry and I am so grateful I did.

For more info, contact The Skin Health Clinic to find out more, or book a consultation.


My skin imaging after just one session -shown above. Look at the improvement in my forehead lines and general skins tone.


A cooling mask, post Microneedling.



*I’d like to add here, for the sake of full disclosure, that I was lucky enough to be gifted some of the products and treatments through this journey. I haven’t been paid to blog or share this, but do so from a place of genuine and honest opinion. I rarely work with brands or companies and have chosen to do so on this occasion because I firmly believe in the results. It’s important to be transparent.

Sunshine & showers


I’m sitting as I write looking out at a grey June morning, there’s a light mizzle of rain drifting down. I’m sipping coffee and I have wrapped a blanket around me to ward off the unseasonal chill in the air. It’s a while since I last blogged. Life’s been busy and we have been enjoying some unusually lovely weather here in little Northern Ireland. There’s been plenty of outdoor activities and exploring with the kids and making the most of it. Little time to put my thoughts down on paper. As I look out at that damp, gloomy morning though, it’s hard to imagine the glorious sunshine was here just a few days ago. It got me thinking how much life can feel the same.

Sometimes it’s glorious, but then the storm clouds gather. The rain bursts through. It’s hard to imagine or believe, in that moment, that the sun was ever there. But if you close your eyes and stand still, you can smell life in that sweetly scented rain. It’s cold but it washes and cleanses and brings new life.

I say I’ve been busy lately, but I’ve also had some down days. A bit of a dip. My old friend anxiety took over a little and made my days feel hard. I’m ok. Nothing to write home about really, but it has made me realise how important it is to look after myself and that I can’t take feeling great for granted.  

When the sun proverbially shines on us, its wonderful, but I’m coming to understand that the showers are necessary, even the odd storm is inevitable. When it comes, baton down the hatches and look after yourself.

The sun will come back out and when it does, you will feel stronger for it and all you weathered to get there.

I have stood my ground. Rested. Kept a lid on it. Talked about it some. Carried on. There’s no right or wrongs I am learning, just trying –  and remembering to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

We all hear how important it is to talk about these things. To make them the everyday. Well this has been my everyday for a while now, not many know or have noticed – I’m a typical plodder on-er. To the world I’ve just been my usual self. And maybe I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I have this notion when I am in the grips, that if I talk too much about it, if I give it “life” then I am allowing it more power than it deserves. So I keep a lid on it. It’s my coping mechanism. I am feeling much stronger (hence maybe feeling ready to let it “out” there).

Here’s something I am learning though. If you can feel the storm clouds gathering around you. If you are standing in the rain right now; all is not lost. Know that it’s ok and it’s temporary. It will pass. And what comes next will be beautiful. Just keep going.

For the Weekend


Jeepers I’m so glad to see you Friday. It’s been another franticly busy week in work. I’m really looking forward to slowing down and getting some much needed rest. 

Tonight, my girly said all she wanted to do was watch a movie with me and snuggle. How could I refuse? So it’s Moana and pj’s for us. Rock and Roll

Speaking of rest, the uber wise Mel Wiggins wrote on her blog recently about turning the notion of rest into a mindset rather than something we ration. Worth a read for sure!

Another of my favourite blogs right now is Amble & Ash from the beautiful Emma @littlewoodlife her blog post today embodies some of my very favourite things, as she explores our beautiful country with her kids and captured the most stunning photos as forever memories.

Have you been following along with my home girl @mylittleduke? She has created the most special collaborative journal Mighty Mothering bringing together stories of motherhood to raise up, celebrate and share stories of motherhood. It really is something special.

Another mama worth checking out tonight is @blossomingbirds a girl after my own heart, working and doubting and juggling and maybe just taking a few minutes tonight to celebrate her own achievements.

If you are a fellow explorer like me and love nothing more than an adventure on home soil, finding hidden gems or celebrating some of our best know spots, then join in the new hashtag over on instagram from Alex @thefullshilling #thelocalwayfarer and maybe even find some new spots to venture to.

Don’t forget my readers can still claim a £20 voucher to use when booking a skin consultation with The Skin Health Clinic just quote BS2018 when booking. What better way to rest and look after yourself.

And finally on the theme of rest, I’m addicted to these beauties, sent to my by Annie from @birchandbay The Deep Sleep Aromatherapy Spray and soy Massage Candle are filled with essential oils of Lavander, Roman Chamomile and Vetiver. I’ve been spraying it on my pillow all week to help me relax and sleep deeply. Organic, Handmade, Ethical and AMAZING, made by a mama and perfect for all us tired mamas out there.

So whatever you are doing this Friday evening and for the rest of your weekend, enjoy and don’t forget to find time to rest.

JUGGLE


I ain’t gona lie. The jump from mama to girl boss gives me whiplash on a fairly regular basis. Yesterday I was at home, school runin, nose wipin, lookin after a sick kid and generally mummin. 

Today I had meetings, thousands of emails to catch up on and a big pitch I delivered to a potentially huge new customer. I left my house before 7am, I’m not long home. (Here’s to my mum and my husband for nailing bedtimes and picking me up from the train).

I know I’m lucky to have a career and small children and a degree of flexibility in work. Not everyone would chose it, but similarly lots of mums unfairly lose their career as soon as the babies come along – check out #flexappeal over on insta for some tough stories and some inspiring work. I know I’m lucky in that respect. Nevertheless, the #strugglewiththejuggle is REAL.

The next few weeks in work are going to be mental, I’m speaking at a number of events with work whilst trying to juggle my normal day job on a four day week and still be the ever present mum – and keep my sanity.

There could be some tears. There will probably be some dropped balls. There will certainly be wine. Be prepared for some work / stress spam on stories. I have warned you in advance 😉

SIMPLE SKINCARE


For anyone who has been following along, I started off 2018 on a crusade to improve my skin and get a skincare regime in place that was simple, using products I trust.

As a busy mum with a hectic schedule, looking after ME is way down the list of priorities but I had become increasingly disheartened with my skin and really wanted to make some time for this small act of self care.

Enter The Skin Health Clinic. I was invited along to visit Victoria and her team early in January, see my blog about it here.

My skin care regime following that visit  has been so simple, using my Dermaviduals cleanser morning and night, followed by the moisturiser, which Victoria blended especially for my skin. 



Using these products has been so simple and easy, the baby wipes have officially been banished!! I always envisaged a skincare routine to be time consuming with  loads of confusing products. How wrong I was. 


Victoria’s mantra is that Skincare should be simple. And it has been!!

My skin has felt cleaner, clearer and I have had some compliments about my skin looking great. My makeup has been going on better, has more staying power, but also, importantly for me, I feel confident to reduce the amount of makeup I wear, as my skin feels better and clearer already !

Again, if you have been following me lately, you will know I have been poorly. The winter months take it out of your skin at the best of times, but for me, after being ill for weeks on end and after a few courses of antibiotics, my skin was in need of some TLC.

So my visit on Saturday back to The Skin Health Clinic couldn’t have come at a better time.

Victoria treated my skin to an enzyme treatment to gently exfoliate my skin. 

Next she applied a vitamin infusion including Vitamins A, B and CM Glucan which strengthens the skin barrier and isgood  for skin compromised due to illness. With the vitamin infusion in place, Vitoria then applied an Alginate Mask which helps the vitamin infusion penetrate the skin.

The whole treatment was so peaceful and my skin felt amazing after, not tight or sore, just rejuvenated and glowy.

Victoria also took some fresh skin imaging and it was amazing to compare pictures and see the improvement to my skin in just 4-5 short weeks. The overall skin tone had improved, my oily t-zone had balanced out and my skin looked plumper. All that from ditching the rubbish products and using the SIMPLEST cleanse and moisturise routine daily.

Ladies, I am not one to rave but honestly, this has been a game changer for me!! 

If you would like more info on booking a skin consultation, or about the treatments and products on offer at The Skin Health Clinic, click on this link. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

I will continue to share snippets in my stories and don’t be afraid to ask any questions. 

As a side note I’d like to say that I am lucky to have been gifted these products, with no expectation, from the team at The Skin Health Clinic. I am genuinely writing from a place of honesty and enthusiasm about the experience and results!! I don’t partner with or advertise brands or products often, but I am firmly in their camp and couldn’t recommend Victoria more highly. If you want to ditch the multiple products that don’t work, sort your skins health out, use products you can trust and see genuine results – this is where to go!

DAY OUT

The finest mizzle of rain.

Salt tang in the air.

The grey haze of mid-day.

The smell of the earth and the trees and something richer, floral.

Warm hands and cold noses.

The inevitable photo call.

A new leaf to carry home.

A sleepy drive homeward.

A fire to warm wet toes.

These are the things I remember.

ENOUGH

When you are surviving not thriving, sometimes you need to remind yourself, that is ok.

This motherhood gig is a tough one.

Add work into the mix and it gets tougher.

The struggle with the juggle – I’ve written about that a lot here.

But this isn’t that.

This is just plodding along.

Making it as cheerfully as possible from one day to the next.

Just keeping the head above water. Not failing it but certainly not nailing it.

That’s a season and that is OK!

This month has been just like that for me.

I’ve felt ill, below par, stretched, drained, but I have got up, showed up, drank the coffee. I’ve had setbacks in work and handled them, sorted them, turned things around. I haven’t exactly killed it but I’ve managed it. I’ve had poorly children, a lack of sleep, been late to school or work a few times more than I would like and some commute from hell moments thanks to the snow and ice.

There has been very little to celebrate, but then again – I’m going to celebrate the plod, the slog, the showing up, the keeping going, the just dealing with it.

The season for killin it, for being ON IT, for bossin it, well those days have been and they will come again.

I’ve realised, you need the slow, the steady.

To gather.

To charge up that sparkle.

Cos here’s the thing.

Those babies of mine – to them everyday, I was mum. They still needed me and I gave them everything regardless. To them I’m still mum, still home, still where they want to lay their heads, who they want to babble their stories from school to, who they want to tuck them in at night.

So mamas here’s some words of encouragement if you feel trapped or lost in the trundle of everydayness (did I just make that word up??)

You will always be enough and so much more besides.