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INCREMENTAL STEPS

So let me give you some insight into the kind of person I am, or should I say ‘used to be’ as I’ve taken my first small step to change.

Let’s say my goal is to make serious GAINS. Like I want to be bigger, stronger, toned from head to toe in order to tag my pictures on Instagram with ‘#fitspo #shredded #girlswholift #eatcleantrainmean’ and the list goes on. So being the kind of ‘go-getter’ I was, on making that decision I’d sign up to the gym and decide to go 5 times a week, order a £40 protein shake, buy new gym clothes and stack my fridge with chicken and lean beef. I’d even go calculate some macros and maybe buy a workout guide or two. Basically, I’d do the absolute most in hope that my results would be bigger, better and appear sooner than stated.

This mentality would last for about a week or so, 3 at the max, before I’d eat a 5 pack of doughnuts in one sitting, make a load of excuses as to why I can’t go gym and delete my macro food tracker app because my iPhone needed more space. This mentality didn’t end at the doors of fitness and body goals; I’d apply this method of instant change to every part of my life.

I confided in a friend about how much this attitude of mine annoyed me and they responded with a nugget of wisdom:

‘It is better to take many small steps in the right direction, than to make a giant leap forward only to stumble backwards’

And that was it, right there I knew that I’d got it all wrong. I’d made unsustainable life changes in good stead, only to burn out when the results weren’t coming fast enough. In the context of my analogy, if I actually decided to go to the gym twice a week or do a few home workouts and cut down on carbs rather than eliminate them; then maybe I’d still be on the fitness journey now. (Disclaimer: I know little to nothing on gains, gym, food or whatever – this analogy is purely for illustrative purposes)

If you’re trying to make a lifestyle change that’ll last, make the decision big but the action small but significant.

If you don’t read but you really want to become a book-worm (big decision), don’t force yourself to try and read a book a week. Instead, just read a page or 2 a day for the first week, then 4 pages a day on week 2, 5 pages on week 3 and so on and so forth(small, progressive action). As the weeks go by it’ll become a habit and before you know it, you’ll start itching to finish that book you started (better than anticipated result). The aim is to constantly build on a series of progressive, small but incremental steps.

Remember:The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones” – Confucius

and

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…’ – 1st half of Zechariah 4:10 (NLT)

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SUB-CITIZEN

So I recently had a brunch date with some friends who I’ve known since secondary school, an institution I left around 5 years ago (how time flies!) Annoyingly it was the mid-morning of the EU Referendum announcement and due to how switched on my friends are, I all but knew it was going to be a topic of conversation. I’m not going to bore you with the remaINder of our EU conversation but nevertheless it sparked some very important discussions.

One thing I respect about my friends (who for the record are 2 Caucasian girls and 1 African-Caribbean girl) was the acknowledgement and empathy shown towards the struggles we as individuals face in society. As women we all face injustices, some predisposed and some institutional that can result in being treated as less credible members of society. The idea of a woman being ‘governed by emotion’ is one that is widely accepted across many different cultures. The idea of a ‘strong’ woman who is not over-emotional and who maybe doesn’t cry at The Notebook can be seen as a woman who may not be in touch with  her emotion, somewhat androgynous in nature or even trying to be manly in her demeanour. (Simplified examples and ‘ ‘ terms used loosely, but you get what I mean). The majority of my friends have probably never seen me cry or really ever comfortably talk about my feelings but that’s not because I’m a stone cold woman who wants to show that I’m one of the lads, but rather that I choose to express myself differently and moreover privately.

Women and men are subject to gender role socialization and a lot of how we behave is as much due to nurture as it is to nature and I can testify to this. It’s funny to see how characteristics of strength are less associated with the female sex unless referring to roles such as motherhood. I’d hoped that by now all of society would have conceptualised that a woman is not just a child bearing object or an emotionally intelligent individual but rather a human being capable of doing most of the things men can.  A woman that expresses her emotion more overtly than another does not make her any less stable, rational or capable of being a decision maker. I for one am comfortable being a female and do not want to be a man in any way shape or form but I get extremely aggravated when women are shut down for being strong, taking leadership roles and choosing to govern their emotion in the way they want to. It’s a struggle many women are subject to in their personal and professional lives and something I can see western society is trying to overcome especially with an uproar in feminist movements. However for me, it doesn’t end there.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve been hit with the double whammy – not only am I a young woman, I’m also a young BLACK woman (and proud!). Despite how much I relish in my melanin, society has deemed me at even more of a disadvantage than my white counterparts. I would say switch on your TVs and have a look at the injustices not only black women but black people as a whole face, but that’d be pointless as these types of cases never get any airtime anyway! (I’ll save that rant for another time)

As many of you may know, there’s been a big push on social media to unite and support the black community with movements such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ and many other melanin empowering initiatives. I think the push to empower the black community has been great and has encouraged myself and others to love the skin you’re in. And while a social media push is stimulating and facilitating that much needed discussion, the problem goes to the laws, policies and foundations of the institutions that play a huge part in our daily lives. In many professional workplaces its evident that being black is still an issue of contention. I can’t help but think whether some of the opportunities I’ve been given were a matter of reaching a ‘diversity quota’ or if they actually believed in my capabilities. Wouldn’t it be great to exist in a society where that couldn’t even be a possibility and that being black, educated and capable was just as palatable as being a white, educated and middle class? I look at the Board of Directors for some of the institutions I’ve worked and would like to work for and it disappoints me to see there’s not a black individual in sight and best believe if there is, they’re most likely a man. Many people who disagree with institutional racism will probably pull the card of “But look at Obama, leader of the most powerful country in the world, he’s black!”, and yes I agree what a breakthrough that was, but I live in the UK and struggle to see black people let alone black women in a position of any political authority. The number of ethnic minority female MPs in the House of Commons nearly doubled after 2015, from 1.5% (11 of 650) in 2010, to 3.0% (20 of 650) in 2015 (Source: Parliament UK). Sorry, but is this a statistic to be even proud of? The House of Commons are MPs elected to represent the public’s interests and concerns, but how can they do this when only 20 out of the 650 of them could even begin to conceptualise some of the struggles I face as a young black woman.

Things must change and it begins with you and me. You don’t have to be a campaigner or a social media activist to have a voice, it begins with the conversations you have with the people around you – albeit difficult ones. I guess the point of this post was to give you all an insight into some of the thoughts I have regarding the place of young black women in society.  My ambitions surpass race and gender and I have made an agreement with myself to never let that get in the way of any opportunity I go for and neither should you. Whether you’re a man, woman, black, white, bi-racial or Asian – I hope you can relate if not empathise with a few of the struggles of a young black woman.

 

In a nutshell…

“To be white, or straight, or male, or middle class is to be simultaneously ubiquitous and invisible. You’re everywhere you look; you’re the standard against which everyone else is measured. You’re like water, like air. People will tell you they went to see a “woman doctor” or they will say they went to see “the doctor.” People will tell you they have a “gay colleague” or they’ll tell you about a colleague. A white person will be happy to tell you about a “Black friend,” but when that same person simply mentions a “friend,” everyone will assume the person is white. Any college course that doesn’t have the word “woman” or “gay” or “minority” in its title is a course about men, heterosexuals, and white people. But we call those courses “literature,” “history” or “political science…This invisibility is political.”  ― Michael S. Kimmel, Privilege: A Reader

THE ART OF LETTING GO

The art of letting go is actually a difficult one to master and one I definitely haven’t, but I was exploring the topic so thought it’d be worth a share. Saying goodbye to the bad and the ugly and meaning it are two very different things. I actually find it amusing that when it comes to the opposite sex and letting go of a man/woman that’s no good for you’ll frequently hear the following quoted “I’m actually so done”, “Girl bye, I’m better than this” when we all know if he/she were to call you that evening you’d pick up the phone the same way and continue as normal. It makes you think, what will it take for you to truly let go? And why do we have to wait till we reach that limit in order to let go?

When something is negative in your life it’s draining. It brings you nothing but stress, heartache and confusion and all these things are counter-productive and not of God. What’s funny about human nature is that we usually know when something isn’t right but we do the most to convince ourselves of why this cannot be and even delude ourselves to think the situation is not as bad as it seems.

Listen to your head (or your heart – whichever deceives you less), listen to God, listen to Elsa and let – it – go!

What good has ever come out of keeping what’s not meant for you or what harms you?

I personally think pre-setting boundaries is vital in the art of letting go. One cannot predict the situations you’ll go through in life and the negative people or things that will come into our life, but knowing what you are and are not willing to endure as an individual is a great starting point. For example, if you’re in a relationship you may say I will not accept my partner having a relationship with another at the same time he/she’s supposed to be in one with me. Then if your partner decides to practice polygamy whilst being with you, you know that he/she gotta go!

Make the action of letting go your prerogative! When you make a decision by yourself, you’re more likely to stick to it. Don’t ignore the help of others in advising you of people/habits/things you should let go of but ultimately the decision should be yours. A lot of people feel like when they let go they give up when, in fact, they are two different things. Giving up is admitting defeat, surrendering and connoted with the feeling of despair whereas letting go is figuratively used to describe releasing your grip on someone or something in order to set it free. And who doesn’t relish in a cheeky bit of freedom?  It is important to realise that some things are part of your history and others a part of your destiny.

Ultimately, let go and let God. Not every battle is yours to fight. Release your grip on the negative things in life and fasten your hold on what’s positive.

Remember: “Accept what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be” – Sonia Ricotti

and

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do” – Isaiah 43:18 

LOVE YOURSELF

So I’m sitting here at home writing this blog post thinking this the ugliest I’ve looked in years. Those of you who know me, know how much I love skincare and can understand how I must be feeling having not had any skincare routine for the past week! Like I’m craving the opportunity to use a Lush face mask, wear respectable clothes, put makeup on, do my hair and just feel like a normal person again. It’s funny because I say ‘ugliest I’ve looked in years’ (slight hyperbole there), but I’m pretty sure I called myself ugly last week and the week before that. Contrary to what people may think about me, for as long as I can remember I’ve been insecure and super self-conscious about how I look. Now for those close to me, when I do make ‘negative’ comments about my appearance, it’s difficult to understand. I hate most pictures that are taken of me; I need to control those angles you know so all I know is that front camera. Don’t get me wrong,  I have my good days – usually when I have a full face of makeup on and the lighting in wherever I am is just gassing me, but for the most part I go through life feeling like a 3.9 out of 10.

Trying to be my own therapist here, I think this insecure feeling stems from my school days. Now those of you who have known me since year 7, have known that I used to be so tiny (yes I’m 5’11 now but that wasn’t always the case) with the worst case of buck teeth, with rubbish hair and no sense of style. Having seen people’s glo-ups on Twitter, I’ve realised I wasn’t too far below average but at the time I felt like the only one in this position. I wouldn’t say I was bullied but I was definitely taken the piss out of on several occasions. I think it hit around Year 9 and boys became such a major thing, especially by going to an all-girls school, and being the tiny, skinny, buck tooth young girl that I was – I was definitely not on any male’s list as someone to be found attractive. This prolonged throughout school and my huge growth spurt in like year 10 just made things even more awkward, I was now obviously ugly and couldn’t be missed and to top it all off I had braces. Looking back my braces were one of the best things to ever happen to me, but at the time it couldn’t have made me look any worse.  Got to sixth form and my self-confidence issue persisted; I continued to feel like the ugly duckling out of all of my friends. I think I masked these issues well with my personality. Despite being insecure about the way I looked, I was always very confident as a person. I loved public speaking, organising things, bussing joke, keeping it 100 (in other words being blunt with my opinion) and just being the happy-go-lucky person I still am till this day! Anyway I got to uni and things kind of changed. I changed! My face actually changed, got a bit more structure, looked a bit more mature, I found makeup (major key actually because I deeped that I was comparing my bare face to girls who wore makeup which really isn’t fair on oneself) and I began to take a slight interest into the way I looked. Disclaimer: I wasn’t recreating myself, just evolving and exploring things such as makeup which I actually never delved into till I started uni!

It sounds super cringe but all my friends are beautiful, both a blessing and a curse, as it can make you feel like you’re in a never ending circle of being the ‘ugly friend’. I guess one thing I have realised is that you shouldn’t compare your physical appearance to others, let alone social media ‘it girls’ (easier said than done). Society’s ‘ideal’ is always changing, so when you measure yourself against these ideals what you’re actually doing is comparing yourself to a fleeting image which in turn creates a vicious cycle of always feeling discontent and unhappy. I remember when having a thigh-gap and being slim was seen as the epitome of attraction and now thick thighs and a big booty are now the physical attributes to aim for. We can’t keep up; I definitely know I can’t. Soon they’ll be saying back fat is the new thing and they’ll develop one herbal tea that stimulates back fat. It’s all a bit long. Love yourself whether you’re slim, thick, short, tall, chubby, spotty, chiselled, gap-toothed, big nosed, big lips, thin lips, big bum, no bum, fair-skinned, dark-skinned, whatever! If you can’t see your own beauty, at least see that you’re unique. There’s only one of you, do you know how wavy that is? You have to love yourself first as you really cannot rely on anyone to show you that love. Moreover, your love for yourself shouldn’t be found or affirmed in another’s words or actions.

I think the concept of ‘self-love’ is a journey, if you’re anything like me it definitely won’t come overnight but slowly and surely you begin to accept yourself for who you are.  I personally find it really awkward to look in the mirror and say motivational things to myself, but when negative thoughts come to mind regarding my appearance, my mantra is ‘for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’. I don’t even have to actually utter these words but mentally telling myself that I was personally hand crafted by the creator Himself makes me feel kind of special. I’m gradually ditching the ugly year 9 girl mentality of being buck toothed and unattractive and realising I’m an exotic Amazonian gazelle…LOL I JK… (or do I?). Okay I am actually joking, but the point is I am not ugly. Ugly is defined as ‘unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance’, I’m yet to make anyone feel sick at the sight of me and even if I did that’s their issue. I challenge you to come on this journey of self-love with me, because what damage could feeling content do?

Remember: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:31

 

 

JUST DO IT.

Nike feel free to sponsor me for this one!

Quick mid-week motivational ramble to ask you, ‘What are you waiting for?’… Like what are you actually waiting for? In life we spend a lot of time aimlessly waiting for big signs and wonders to give us a reason to take action on thoughts, feelings and dreams. I for one can be quite an impatient person; slow readers, walkers, talkers, thinkers annoy me (unless it’s a disability, I get very irritated with the above – It’s bad I know but I’m working on it okay!) Despite being ‘so impatient’, I still find that I spend a lot of my time pointlessly waiting for things to happen. So I asked myself “for why is this?” and I decided to look closer to home.

I was so hesitant to start this blog for a couple of reasons, one being the fear of failure – I’ll have to write on this someday, but in summary, I hate losing and didn’t want this to be a flop. Another reason was the fear of the other – I was concerned about negativity and the general hate you get from those people who are otherwise known as enemies of success. I didn’t want people to think that I felt I was a know-it-all because I’m imperfect like the majority of people in this world and if anything as I write to you, I write to myself also. As you can probably tell, it was a bunch of excuses that all came down to one thing, fear.

In my case, I was fearful of imagined threats. I’d built up an image of pure negativity and had basically convinced myself of the reaction I’d get before even letting any content out or sharing the idea with anyone but my mum. Don’t let fear control you, just do it. Take the plunge because you don’t know what life has in store for you. If it’s not a life or death situation then it’s never that deep. Just think what is the worst that can happen from you doing something you’ve always wanted to? When you realise that no matter what you do you’ll have people hating on you, you stop caring and start doing.

Remember: ‘If you’re tired of starting over, stop giving up’ – Shia La Beouf

 

ALL FALLS DOWN

At least once a month I’m let down. To be honest it’s probably more frequent than that but unless it was big, I’m not one to remember these things. At several points in your life you’ll be let down by others or even be a let-down to others. It’s just part of life and something I’ve come to accept cannot be avoided. I admire men and women of their word. It’s a beautiful thing for your ‘yes’ to be yes and your ‘no’ to be no. In my head it’s so simple, if you say you’re going to do something – do it. Otherwise don’t say anything. Using words like ‘definitely’ and ‘100 percent’ show full commitment to something, they’re sign-off words showing completion (whether actioned or pending) and so it’s not surprising when others expect a result. Easier said than done, trust me, I know – hence why I write this for my benefit and hopefully yours.

If you find yourself letting people down on a regular basis then the following notes are for you:

  • Do not fully commit to something if there’s an iota of doubt – using phrases like ‘I’ll see’ or ‘I’ll try my best’ can actually avoid disappointment as it informs the other person that there’s a possibility you may not come through on the agreed action.
  • Prioritise effectively – do not waste time on the unimportant things in life because you end up side-lining the things and people that matter. Spend your time wisely, in my opinion there’s 16 actionable hours in a day, you can make time for the things that matter.
  • Hedge the let-down – if you’ve agreed to call/Skype/Face Time a friend but you haven’t got the time, then send a courteous text to let them know you haven’t forgotten but to reschedule for another time.

If you find yourself feeling let down on a regular basis then the following notes are for you:

  • Lower your expectations of people – now you don’t have to make them aware that you’ve lowered them (unless you’re about that name and shame life) but realise that just because you’d do something for someone doesn’t mean they’d do it for you. We get upset because we put the people we love and care about on pedestals and so when they let us down, it cuts deep. Take people off the pedestals and line them up instead with your nearest and dearest first in line that way there’s no drop and as a result it will be less of a let-down.
  • ‘Make excuses for people’ – something my Pastor said that resonated with me. If someone said they’ll meet you at 7 and turns up at 8, just say to yourself that the traffic on their 10 minute walk must have been really bad because there’s no way they would have intentionally had you waiting on them for an hour. Silly anecdote, I know, but you’ll be less easily let-down if you make excuses for people that may or may not have deliberately set out to upset you.

Remember: ‘Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?’ – Isaiah 2:22

And for the non-believers out there…

‘The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.’ – Bob Marley

YOU VS THEM

One of the most humanely annoying things we do is compare ourselves to others. It’s like even when we consciously try not to, we can’t help it. We start thinking “How can he bench more than me?” or “We’re using the same makeup, why doesn’t my face look like that?” or even “He got a 1st in this exam and I got a 2:1, I’m definitely an idiot”. I’m sure you feel like what I’m about to say you’ve heard all before and if you’re anything like me you hate people repeating themselves, but there are always exceptions to the rule – so make this blog post one of them.

Comparing physical attributes is actually the dumbest thing we humans do. Unless you have the same genetic makeup as someone (shalla to all the identical twins out there) you will not and never look like someone else no matter how much cosmetic surgery you undergo, how many reps you do or how many products you buy. Don’t get me wrong it’s annoying that you may never have a bum as big as Kim K or, if you’re female, bulk as fast as your male counterparts but you gotta realise it’s just not in your  genes. When it comes to comparing physical attributes, the best person to compare you to is yourself. It’s all about being a better version of you, that’s why progress photos are a great tool. If your eyeshadow game is weak right now, take a picture of your current state then put in the work. (YouTube is a great tool –Jennie Jenkins, Carli Bybel, Uchjn and EatSleepShop are great channels to check out on how to blend to perfection.) In a month’s time, take another picture of your eyeshadow and compare your then photo to your now photo. That cut crease is getting better right?

It’s not just physical, I feel in education we compare ourselves a lot. The book I’m reading ‘David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell’ states an anecdote of young lady being a high achiever in Chemistry in her sixth form/college made up of mediocre achieving students. She then progressed to a university of a high calibre, such as Oxford, where she took a module called Organic Chemistry and suddenly became a mediocre achiever in a pool of extremely high achievers. She ended up dropping out of her course completely due to that one module, as she lost all self-belief in her intelligence. Why? Well because she was comparing her weakness to another individual’s strength.  This is a big no no, it’s like me comparing my football knowledge to that of my brothers who bang Fifa every day and live for Sky Sports news – of course I’ll look like an idiot.  I will say, for some, comparison can be motivational. A bit of rivalry can push you to be better but there is a fine line and be careful you don’t cross it and end up even more demotivated than you started with.

If you’re African and more specifically Nigerian like me, I partially blame our culture. When you’re younger its literally everyday comparison. If you say something that your parents will obviously class as rude despite your intentions, you’ll most likely hear “Does Yemi talk to her parents like that? Of course not”. Or if you get a B in an exam “How can John be getting A’s and you be getting B’s; does John have 2 heads?” Now while this underhand encouragement to be the best is great, it’s really not every day compare. Whilst Yemi comes across as a pleasant young girl when greeting you aunty and uncle, she’s got the foulest mouth when on road. And whilst John is getting A’s in every subject, he’s also a massive cocaine user to keep him awake to study for those extra hours. Point is, you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. And until you know someone’s full story, traits, strengths and weaknesses then there is no point comparing yourself to them. You are running your own race and will be judged on what you do, not how you did in comparison to another.

Remember: ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ – Theodore Roosevelt