21 blog posts series find fifteen

21 blog posts series find fifteen

Fifteen: “Being kind to your body and in turn, yourself”

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Body Image Movement’s Taryn Brumfitt’s documentary film “Embrace”. I would highly recommend seeing this as a woman, as it brings about the feeling of acceptance of yourself and appreciation of other women. The piece expressed simply joys within celebrating our differences in a completely positive way by hearing personal stories while exposing the harsh realities of plastic surgery, dieting and the role of mass media. The documentary covered continents and we met some very different people along the way, but the one topic of embedded negativity towards body image prevailed. Some exposures were made of the darkness within the modelling world and the film also looked to aging and how this is seen as something to be tackled instead of embraced.

A magazine editor and a fashion photographer were also met with, who exposed the harsh truths of the unbelievable power of photo-shop as well as the often cruel world of designers as well as the misleading terms used in fashion, such as “plus sized” describing a UK size 12 woman, who fit in with average sized weight and height guidelines set. It’s a crazy different world that we’re exposed to and shown as normal every single day. The picture perfect model was often described as an “alien” due to the fact that with the work of photo-shop, this woman actually did not exist in terms of looking how she does in the magazine.

Every issue that came up from the women who told their stories, (who are incredible in their own right, I might add simply as modern women) – was rooted in beauty standards we see as normal and set in our world. Depression, self-harm and even a near suicide arose as difficulties faced when these women felt they didn’t fit the mould for what a woman should look like and in turn, be – with such a high value placed on appearance in our social norms. We are sold an idea through the mass media of how we should look like, what’s in trend this season and what new fad diet can “change your life” in order to make things better.

Taryn showed how indeed, even when you’ve reached the “perfect body”, (the bikini body example we are all too familiar with) that there’s absolutely no guarantee that this will result in happiness. It all comes back to positive versus negative thinking around our bodies and which outweighs the other. These fad diets promote negative thinking towards body image and can develop into obsession that is in no way healthy. I think in the way that these diet plans work and hook a person, we are taught the idea that the body you have is something bad that needs correcting or to be fixed and worked on. But that simply isn’t the case.

Naturally, your body goes through changes throughout your life. The documentary also went about looking into our war we have with aging and this embedded fear that the beauty companies are cashing in on. It made me realise that whatever stage you’re at in life, your body is going to be with you regardless, so really – you don’t want to put yourself against it. Bring it back to asking simply, why would you want to do that?

As a woman, you can undergo pregnancy and your weight can and will fluctuate, how does it make logical sense to hate your body for doing what it does and should do naturally? For creating your family and providing your baby with the nourishment he/she needs and craves. Now, going on a health kick for yourself from time to time is something good in order to feel refreshed and energised, resulting in proven health benefits but really the idea of punishment – this has no place in your workout routine.

It’s okay to treat yourself and it’s okay to work hard on you, it’s not okay to feel bad about either of these. We need to change our mentality around weight and weight loss. The celebrity diets and the scandalous headlines about losses or gains cannot continue to influence us. It lacks dignity and respect for the minds and souls of women as individuals. So I suggest approaching the magazines with caution, be aware on social media for negative body imaging or messages and allow this natural and positive change into your life. Your body will stick with you no matter what, as a friend rather than a foe.

If you wish to find out more about the Body Image Movement, check out the website here: https://bodyimagemovement.com/.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series find fourteen

21 blog posts series find fourteen

Fourteen: “Questioning in order to understand politics”

Politics is a tough thing, ever-changing and ever unpredictable (for the most part). I have understanding for those who can become disillusioned with politics because of the nature in the way that it is. But I would hope that this disillusion would be something temporary. I understand that when the results of elections, referenda on a big or small scale don’t come together for you – that could push your interest away on a human level due to disappointment or lack of support.

But I think once something has been passed into law or someone has been elected in, the debate has not stopped, the playing field has just changed up a bit. Are your views or opinions going to change over night? Not exactly. Often, election results present to us the view of the nation. The winner or loser knows their place and the citizens must adapt accordingly. But is that the real picture? If you look to the amount of spoiled votes and those who didn’t cast a vote at all, sometimes those levels can be astonishing and honestly, disheartening.

So what can we do to get people more focused in on politics, to act out their role and entitlement in contributing to the future of a country? I’m currently writing an academic paper on political satire and it’s place within mainstream journalism/news. One scholar notes how political satire can act as an introduction to political issues on an larger scale, being that bit more engaging and emotive. Do we need to be emotionally driven to go out and vote or is the element of duty strong enough?

Both are up for questioning here. If we aren’t happy with a politician, political party or even a Taoiseach, I think we have the right to hold them to account as members of the electorate. We were the ones who voted them in their based on what we conceived as their ability and commitment to the policies they wished to evoke. If they aren’t doing what they said they would do, peoples’ own power should come into play here. Or else, what’s the point in being involved at all?

We are seeing a lot of this recently with the number of strikes and public protests or rallies in the last number of months. I find this public participation something to truly admire. It shows the lack of fear that exists and of course the belief in the power of having a voice to back up your view. I think this activism allows us to question the way things are and really if our way of living is up to scratch. Protests are rooted in history and marked for a reason so I feel we should never live in fear of voicing our views.

As well, support is key in political protest in terms of lending a helping hand to the cause of our fellow citizens. This can come in the form of men marching at the Women’s March or those who took part in the Strike 4 Repeal campaign on International Women’s Day. Last week those with physical disabilities spoke out at the Irish Government for their lack of supports and the fact that standard law regulations set by the EU/UN has not been passed here on disability rights. Here we could see people from all different backgrounds supported by family and friends out for the cause.

I think this encouragement is vital when a group has the courage to step up against an oppressor. Even at the moment with the Bus Eireann and public transport strikes, I have seen those with no fixed personal involvement stand with these workers who feel they are up against it. The question remains, do we all have a part to play? We have the choice whether to participate in any of these campaigns, but as we know, politics is unpredictable. Each and everyone’s role as individuals is vital in some shape or form.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series take thirteen

21 blog posts series take thirteen

Thirteen: “Appreciating sport and athleticism”

Sport means something, that’s what I’ve come to learn. Whether it be the community hall annual table tennis tournament, the premier league or even the junior league. Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, team or individual – sport has a deserving place in our lives. Love it or hate it, I feel that you can’t help but admire it. The fact that individuals go to lengths to better their skills and abilities, commit to a team or even follow various ones, it shows a dedication that’s something to think positively about.

Now in all honesty I may not wholeheartedly love a certain team or sport fully, but I do enjoy watching how passionate others are about it and of course the inclusion of those of every age. This comes as I remember the most read article on this blog, a piece from two years ago I did on a football game and triumph from an underdog team locally here in Wicklow. I link to that post here: (https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/newtown-united-come-out-of-their-shells/).

That game was something incredible to be witness too, particularly in the celebratory time afterwards you could really just see and feel how much it meant to everyone and that has stayed with me since. When I was younger I pretty much tried every sport under the sun to see what would stick. There were a few faithful favourites but even now I know I could never be as good again as I once was. This month marks ten years since I competed in the Irish Gymnastics national championships in Belfast and was placed 8th in trampolining. My only claim to sporting fame, really seems like a lifetime ago.

I’ve friends and family who always think back to the sport that was theirs in their youth and there’s often a sense of regret that we didn’t stick at it. I understand that but it’s okay to accept that circumstances change and life moves on and sometimes sport can get mixed up in all of that. Facilities come into play as well as the time you have available to commit to these things. It’s tougher than it may seem and I think these athletes that give it their all week in and week out are champions in their own right for simply doing this and training hard.

When you look at the bigger tournaments like the Olympics or World or European Championships, you can’t help but admire the athletes coming from across the globe to represent themselves and their country in so many sports. I really think that sport is something simple to unite a country rather than segregate it. I know there’s such a thing as hooliganism and often cases of racism in sport, but for the majority of supporters – they’re simply involved to follow a team and to purely enjoy seeing what their men or women do best.

Athleticism is something excellent. Whether you work out alone in the gym or you show up for your team each week on the field, you’re doing something worthwhile in my view. Not only is being active rewarding for your mental and physical health, it’s something that sets an example for others. I’d love to have a personal trainer just to be in awe of what he or she can do and push others to do as well.

There’s money to be made in sport and I know there are plenty of various outlets cashing in on it but I don’t think it’s all bad. People feel good wearing the emblem of their team or the colours of their country and that little bit of pride goes a long way. The support is so rewarding for athletes that it can nearly be seen on their faces. So go to the matches, watch it on TV, clutch the match day programme tight – because you’re involved in something good that’s unique and special in its own right.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series take twelve

21 blog posts series take twelve

Twelve: “The respect and responsibility nature demands”

Recently, NUI Galway students took an initiative to bring about the college to divest money in fossil fuels. Following a petition and an independent report, they were successful and supported by the University and the Students’ Union. What was remarkable about this was that they did not stop there. Following their success, they held a public meeting to generate further ideas about what to do next to the challenge facing the human race and the environment.

I think that this speaks volumes in terms of what we can do and must do as citizens of this planet. It is the people that must have the strength to change their ways and then encourage others to do the same. When we look at the big contributors to climate change, of course the indicators point to large businesses/factories and of course the oil and gas companies. We are consumers and this is the service we are receiving. If we aren’t happy with the service provided in terms of how the environment, our home is being treated – don’t we have the right to demand a change?

I would think that we do. Climate affects everything from what we do, how we do it to the food we eat and clothes we wear. It really is everything and without a healthy climate, wouldn’t everyday life be utterly changed? Change is never easy especially when we’re used to doing things a certain way, but when you look at the bigger picture here, it’s clear that changes are needed. We have endangered species, changing landscapes and ozone layer above our heads to protect. To really get the idea into our heads, it’s important to think ahead to the future of the planet.

The population is rising and technology is booming, as the first world grows – there’ll be more demands on resources and if current trends follow on, the inequality gap between rich and poor is surely to extend. This in turn could result in more people on the poverty line and a climate trying to cope with change as well as its people and governments. Interestingly, last month NUI Galway hosted TD Simon Coveney to present a discussion on how Ireland will be in 2040. Topics were discussed about what we can expect and plan for, from how people will work to where they would live. Obviously this is much down the line, but again it was something rewarding to experience that the country is investing in planning and realises the importance of input from everyone.

It comes back to the power of peoples voices to tackle challenges that we all face. I think the planet we live on demands respect, dignity and we each should have a sense of responsibility embedded into is. We’re being terribly careless if that is not the case. I understand that we live busy lives but with this, we must think long term. We’ve learned that decisions we make today can change the outcome of tomorrow and this is true too with the climate but on a much larger scale.

We all know that Trump has done a lot of things since coming into office early this year. But one thing that really upset me was the change in direction of dealings with climate. I felt this was an insult to everyone and especially to the idea of progress. It was also an insult to the people behind the previous findings, the academics and those on the ground who had put years of research in on which to base past policies on. I’ve heard the idea that climate change is bad for business but really, it’s about adapting a new way of doing things in order to improve on the current mistakes being made.

Nature is beautiful and we are so rewarded by it each and every day. Think of the beautiful sights within your own land as well as those abroad and it’s clear to see that natural beauty is an extraordinary thing that doesn’t compare to man-made beauty. This is what we are conserving, the enjoyment of nature. We don’t want to take that simple and quaint joy away from future generations.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series ease eleven

21 blog posts series ease eleven

Eleven “Managing your money”

We’re always told about saving for that “rainy day” occurrence. It’s something that’s planted into our minds from an early age from pocket money to cashing in for brithdays or special events. I agree with saving for the rainy day and rightly considering that you might not have an influx of money in the near future. But sometimes, with the money demands that come with being a student, it can feel like it’s constantly overcast and the rainy day is happening constantly, just above our heads.

Never fear, these challenges can be tackled with a small bit of planning and some self control. Before I get into this I will say that it isn’t very good to live your life in fear of spending. What I’ve learned is that with each purchase or investment we make, we must decide on the how worthwhile the action is that we’re taking. Start with devising in your mind whether the thing is a want or a need, like a form of pro or con list. At the end of the day, every time we make a purchase we are making a choice whether something is worth it or not in terms of parting with your money.

However it is you get your income, money comes with responsibility attached. It can easily enough become something scarce when not handled or managed properly. A smart way to go about spending less is to get yourself well set up to deal with the unexpected. There are some great apps out there for money management which are worth a try for sure. But what I’ve found most useful is having two accounts to work off one as a spending and one as a saving account.

It’s not really that much of a hassle, it just divides your funds more fairly so you can attempt to stay on top of things, having something to fall back on if you really need it. I think there’s something built in us to love spending money, I don’t really know of anybody who doesn’t partake in the act. But I think surrounding yourself with people who you know may entice you to spend can sometimes be an act of harm. But this doesn’t have to be a thing you avoid if you put a bit of planning into it.

If you’ve arranged to meet a friend out somewhere, say a café or restaurant – familiarise yourself beforehand with the price range of the place. How much are you willing to spend here? What’s your budget? For me, budgets and weekly expenses can fluctuate. I’ll have more money in if I get more hours at work but I won’t if that doesn’t come together.

So what do I do? Lock myself away from the world if there isn’t a certain amount in my account? No. I would say, always do the thing if at all possible, but think ahead of what you might need to draw in on and make sure you keep your wits to do that. Plan out what the likely expenses will be and see if there are alternatives to these in the situation. This can be applied to any sort of social event when you really give it some thought.

Student life can bring with it huge pressures, from money to exams and really the balance is sometimes impossible to get right. Should you get more hours at work or in the library this week? It’s hard to know. So I’d say if you’re really stuck, don’t be afraid to go for the student loan option, be that from a bank or another source. We all place value on our degrees and if a loan is what you need to get that done, so be it. Grants are great things and should be thoroughly appreciated but when it’s a tough time financially, do what you have to do.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts take ten

21 blog posts take ten

Ten: “Learning from mentors, appreciating wisdom”

I’m learning to drive at the moment and I now see exactly what all the fuss is about. You hear about the trying times and the challenges it brings along and I get that totally. You’re placed in control of a machine that has potential to be very powerful and it’s not something you should take on lightly. But I will say, when you’re learning to drive to make sure that you’re surrounded by those you trust when you’re in the car. Be this the instructor, family members or friends. These people are forms of mentors and rightly demand the respect that experience brings in these situations.

Sometimes it’s better to shut your own inexperienced mouth and listen to what the other person has to say, but I will say don’t be a robot. It’s about striking the balance of self trust between taking on the instructions of others. Appreciate the fact that skills take time to learn and practise is very much key, a little reward or two is fine as well during this time. So the point being that I would see my driving instructor as something of a mentor to me, but I’ve come to realise that mentors and wisdom can come from many sources, not just your elders or those with a certain skill set.

Everyone can possess wisdom and I feel it’s something very disrespectful to doubt the thoughts and ideas of a person just because they’re younger than you. Sure, young people are trying to find their feet and place in an ever changing world but really, it’s not your job to make that task even harder by placing doubt in their abilities. I think wisdom comes from understanding, and each and everyone’s youth is something that was involved in that process.

Alongside appreciating the worth of youth, is respecting the place of the wisdom age brings with it. With this I would say, place value on the time you spend with older people. The stories they can have of their past lives and challenges they faced can be something truly fascinating. No matter how highly or lowly educated these people are, they’ll possess knowledge of things that you really wouldn’t think.

It just takes a little bit of time to dig this information out. But once you dedicate yourself to doing just that, it can really be something eye opening. The most important thing when it comes to this is how indeed you can apply this wisdom into your own life. The past generations had some good ideas and qualities and of course I know that times have and are changing, but it doesn’t mean that this way of life be completely lost.

For the most part anyway, we all love our grandparents and we cherish the fact that we are lucky to have them around. Show that you respect that fact and give your free time to sit down and lend them an ear. It doesn’t have to all be stories from way back when, you can throw in some of your own as well. The best way to start a dialogue is to simply freely open it. This can be something truly rewarding.

I attended a family reunion last month which had over 160 attendees of relatives from near and far. Looking around the room at happy faces it could be seen how although everyone lives separate lives, there was a respect and honestly about the room as everyone wanted to listen to one another and just simply share a joke or an old story.

This is something we should place value on. These stories get passed down through generations for a reason and I think we all have a part to play in keeping this alive.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/

21 blog posts series know nine

21 blog posts series know nine

Nine: “Don’t apologise for your preferences”

This week NUI Galway held their annual societies awards ball. This is the first year of being on college that I didn’t have the pleasure of attending the event alongside friends that I’ve made and met through societies. Although I was a little saddened by this fact, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on what being in a society meant to me and the difference it made to those first two years in college. I realised how different things would be if I hadn’t have given my time to it in that way.

First of all, societies are wonderful things. Sure, they are known to involve heavy commitment which can be a challenge at times during college, but it being something that you love, it shouldn’t feel in any way like a chore. Societies in their essence should be inviting, welcoming and open to those who wish to be involved. This comes particularly true for first year students or those on Erasmus or an international study abroad, trying to find their feet in college through the platform of societies.

Truly, societies within their structure and place in college show us that nobody should apologise for their particular preference, no matter how mainstream or very particular it is. NUI Galway welcomes new societies each year and often they’re something completely different to the 100+ that exist already. From my experience, societies open doors and pathways to new friendships that you probably never imagined.

As I write this, in Dublin this evening, the national inter-varsity student poetry slam is taking place in NCAD. When I came to college, I had written a few poems and mostly they had never gone further than a drawer in my bedroom. It was only when I came to college that I realised I wasn’t alone in the solitary act of writing. Skip forward some time, I was competing in this national poetry slam which was something entirely new to me with an original poem of my own. (I link here for those interested: https://cathyinconversation.wordpress.com/2016/07/28/a-political-poem/).

These niche interest we  might have can often go under the radar during secondary school times which can be a shame. But I think for the most part college brings with it a new confidence and sense of freedom that can be enriched through taking part in societies. Whether it be dance, drama, anime, film, debating, fashion – these are unique interests that can really come to life and be celebrated during the college years and I don’t think these interests are too likely to fade after the gown and cap are given back.

I don’t think we need to justify to ourselves or anybody else why we have the interests we do and why we give it our time, it’s simply just something we do as an all important form of self expression. I can give dozens of reasons why being involved in societies was good for me from the friends I made to the unique events we ran together and the new connections even outside of college that were made.

But it’s more important to say to those who aren’t involved in societies in college, I can put my hand on my heart and say that you are missing out. Even if you only start by going to the odd college event, it’s important to challenge yourself to get somewhat out of your comfort zone or college dorm. There’s so much happening and it’s easy to see the hard work that each society is putting in in order to make sure something good is up and running for students to take part in. So seriously, the next time the weekly email comes in telling you what’s happening in the world of societies this week, don’t place it in the trash or skip on – give it the glance and a half it deserves. You could pleasantly surprise yourself.

All images used are from my personal Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/cathyleex/