21 blog posts series ease eighteen

21 blog posts series ease eighteen

Eighteen: “Knowing and trusting the power of your own voice”

I’ve come to learn that having your own individuality, being proud of it and embracing it for what it is, is something of great importance. This comes in to your likes and dislikes as far as your political views and lifestyle choices. I think if we can master how to delve in and out of trends new or old that suit us, that keeps your own individual originality intact. Maybe and hopefully by doing this we can be truly happy and comfortable in our own skin.

What can stand in the way of this is simply: fear. Fear of not fitting in or even fear of those around you disagreeing or putting you down. But I will say that overcoming this fear is something so totally freeing and worthwhile that it’s worth the (possible) hassle you might face. It takes time for people to be comfortable with change but that’s helped by a little reasoning and sometimes even persuasion. If you’ve a view or opinion that can be well backed up in the form of fact and true belief from your own perspective, I think that you can fight it on any battle field.

There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re right on something or having a good idea but not having that belief there from the people around you. The convincing part of this can be a challenge but honestly, it just takes a bit of bravery and commitment in not giving up on yourself and really testing your belief in order to get it off the ground. I agree with the idea that there’s no one size fits all idea in terms of how our world should be, how politics should work, economics and even how religion fits in. But certain things that make sense for the progress of the world all the way from the richest to poorest, should be sought out. This being done by the power of the voice of individuals.

The ideas I have in mind are that of equality and feminism. Call me biased, but I don’t understand why in a democratic society we wouldn’t want to aim towards this goal? How somebody could vote in favour of the “yes equality” campaign and not support feminism, boggles me. Feminism is about equality between genders, aiming for a fairer society in which we all live. Although in its roots, the main writers on feminism were women – I believe currently that feminism has undergone and is being embraced by both men and women. (Maybe it could do with a name change to prevent confusion, but that’s another debate altogether).

What I’ve always believed when it comes to views is that you shouldn’t push them on people in terms of forcing a view onto someone. Make an argument, state your case but at the end be willing to accept that others may not agree but they should respect your idea and give you that chance to voice it. What I particularly dislike are those who take the form of a so called “keyboard warrior” who are all for one view and simply block out opposing views. These people are shutting their eyes to the world as much as those who they claim to against, making them in some of way of it: no better.

So what I would say and encourage everyone to do to counteract that fear of being opposed to is to express yourself. Whether it be through writing, getting involved in political campaigns, taking photographs or even just following things on social media – don’t be afraid to admit that you’re part of something because trust me you are not alone. Communities based on politics or political views are growing and we shouldn’t live in fear of saying who we are affiliated with, because if we truly believe in our views and opinions – they shouldn’t be something hidden.

21 blog posts series sixteen

21 blog posts series sixteen

Sixteen: “Finding common ground within family”

They say you can’t choose your family, like this is a bad thing. But it’s not necessarily, because you can choose to accept your family members for the individuals that they are and appreciate the role they play and have played in your life up to now. We all know families are complex, family secrets and irregularities are fairly common place when you think about it. But when you begin to appreciate your family, you can then go about coming to terms with your roots and be proud of the differences within family more than anything else.

Change occurs in the lives of those in your family and I think the best thing for anyone to do, is to accept this change wholeheartedly. This brings about the realisation that you can’t really pack up and start an entirely new family from scratch. Those connections we are born with and make along the way are still going to hang around. Individual things such as shared memories stick in your mind and honestly, others can always trace you back to where you started from so there’s no point in trying to hide where you came from.

More often than not, a family is a place to call home in terms of them being settled in a place or being surrounded by certain people easily identifiable. They’re never too far away and it’s important to remember and appreciate that fact. There’s a connection there that is unique and it comes in the form of knowing that something special that you share with your relatives. Whether this be parents or grandparents, these people know better than your friends what those people mean or meant to you and the relationship you once shared.

One thing of importance to note about family is that absolutely guaranteed, they’ll know you better than you can possibly imagine. They’ve watched and seen you at every stage, every phase and you really can’t hide too many things from them. I can also say that for the most part they’ll have your back and defend you to the bitter end. What we need to realise that a family isn’t complete without its people to make up the pieces, and play their individual role. We can have a laugh and reminisce on the similarities in the family, how we might do things alike or even follow the same interests – this is really important. But the differences are essential too. Outcasts shouldn’t exist in families.

Disagreements, arguments and fall outs can happen within families and really that tarnishes things if they aren’t handled in the best way. What I’ve learned is that losing an argument is not a hard price to pay in order to keep the peace. There’s a little bit of self control involved in this is knowing your relative well enough to know where and when that point is, that point of no return, to be aware of it and not to go on further. I would say voice your concerns if you disagree with someone’s actions but remember: you will still have to look this person in the face again tomorrow and the next day, so definitely decide beforehand if it’s worth it. A little bit of forgiveness goes a long way in family.

To those reading this who may not identify with any of this, I’d recommend reaching out – no matter how difficult it may seem. Rekindling a family relationship is probably something tougher than that of a friendship. But, if a small bit of forgiveness is what it takes to reconnect with someone you’ve lost who you once cared for, that’s not such a big thing. You can still remain headstrong, knowing you were right deep down but for the sake of peace, keeping it to yourself when you need to.

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

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 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/

21 blog posts series ease eight

21 blog posts series ease eight

Eight: “The curse of social media”

Love it or hate it, social media is something that has marched into our lives with some amount of force. Gone are the days of giving the love on Bebo, sending mini messages on MSN or updating your presence on Myspace. Bigger players have taken the scene and trust me, it’s hard to block out the bad form the worthwhile in the online world even more than it is in reality.

The outliers who have chosen to avoid social media have proven to me that it can be something good. These examples are the infamous Ed Sheeran who threw his phone away and went on a years hiatus. Not saying that’s something that could really be in our paths, but it’s not something to be knocked either. My aunt is giving up social media for Lent and I think that’s a little bit more up our alley for the minute.

I think social media really can draw us in and with the constant updates available by simply refreshing a page or feed – you can really get trapped online sometimes where it’s very hard to switch off (literally). The fear of missing out is a factor, whether this be a Facebook competition, a funny meme or a shocking Snapchat story. Is it a crime to miss the latest scandal, a Snapchat streak or a Twitter argument between two celebs? I’d like to think it isn’t but I strongly believe that social media is growing in power.

Actually, there’s a lot of similarity going on across the boards of social media. Within the last couple of months, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat have gotten quite similar and maybe that makes it easier to update them all. I don’t know about you, but I preferred when each had something different to offer and I’m just not sure if that’s going to continue to be case.

I ask you this honestly, do you think that having social media accounts now is essential for living in the world? As regards jobs, more and more now businesses of all types have social media accounts and it can be seen as essential that employees have something to contribute on that front if needs be. Maybe social media is something now part of every day life that we can’t possibly avoid.

But that’s not to say that there aren’t some toxic things out there. Social media encourages gossip and even the very real and annoying, “keyboard warriors”. I don’t know what it is that makes people think they’re more powerful when looking at a screen than someone in the eye. It’s hard to know whether we are unintentionally contributing to this world of social media. As it’s primarily us providing the content for the most part on these various platforms.

I sometimes find social media as a huge place for unfiltered bragging and sometimes people can share to much leaving nothing really else left to know about a person. Is that the best way to live and allow people to get to know you? How much of that is real? I’m no psychologist but it’d be interesting to see how having a high social media following could affect a persons self-esteem. Friends or followers, which is better for a person socially (without the media part)?

One thing I find to be the real curse of social media is that of the time stolen from us by it. Time does not seem to exist when it comes to social media as it can really hook a person and I feel social media demands our time. But it could be us after all that are placing high importance on it. So take a step back, it’s actually not that important.

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

21 blog posts series six

21 blog posts series six

Six: “Loss happens and plays a role”

As I’ve gotten older and I suppose in some sense matured, I’ve started appreciate the role that the happening of loss plays in our lives. Life is a fragile thing, even when it doesn’t feel that way all of the time. I’ve experienced loss in my life, I only know of a few people who are yet to experience it. Circumstances play a part in terms of where to place blame on the sadness and even anger that you feel from loss. But sometimes the circumstance isn’t great and the loss simply shouldn’t have happened.

I think loss rattles us and brings up feelings you never even knew you had in you. This year and late last year I saw two dear friends experience loss and both had completely different situations that brought about the loss. But it was interesting then in contrast to see how both of my friends  has similar experiences in terms of how to possibly deal with the emotions of loss.

I write this on Mother’s Day, thinking of those I love who don’t have their mother to spend this day with. It’s something incredibly hard because that person who was once in your life is truly irreplaceable. No matter the individual strength of the relationship between mother and child, it is something that holds importance and is special in its own way.

When it comes to loss, I would firstly say that it’s something that happens and is something we must accept as part of life without a choice in the matter. I know that’s crappy and doesn’t really have a lot of positives but maybe, there’s something good to take from that about appreciating the time you have with a loved one. When somebody dies we are left with memories to cherish and hold dear, which of course we all do in our own way.

But for those left behind, death acts as a reminded of the frailty we are faced with. It gives the renewed chance to try our best to appreciate the time we spend each day, month or every once and a while with the ones we love and maybe even make more of an effort to appreciate that the power is in our hands to make the time for people that deserve it, be they family or friends.

Always place value on those around you that we may be sometimes guilty of taking for granted. It’s really about recognising that fact that you’ll truly miss these people when they’re gone and vice versa. Make the most of your time with them and create the memories yourself as I think we all have a role to play.

A slam poet I know recently realised a video for his spoken word poem that deals with appreciating our mothers and the role they play in our lives, demanding our love and respect for simply being themselves. The Irish Times did a feature on it too and I think it’s something spectacular, having seen him perform it himself. Follow the link here: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/watch-mother-s-day-video-reminds-us-we-are-only-given-one-mother-1.3023336?mode=amp

We have a bit of a habit here in Ireland of not talking about the difficult things and I think death and how the ways that people die come into that. I get that it’s uncomfortable and we create these nicknames and things as escapism from reality. But, from what I’ve seen and experienced of it – dying by suicide is the worse than death as a result of any disease. It leaves behind a heavier grief, an impossible one. So please, if you’re having any form of suicidal thoughts be they big or small, seek the help that you deserve and should get. Your life is as valuable as anybody else’s.

http://www.yourmentalhealth.ie/about-mental-health/common-problems/mental-health-problems/suicidal-thoughts/

http://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/different-ways-you-can-get-touch/what-happens-when-i-email

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

21 blog posts series find four

21 blog posts series find four

Four: “Avoiding the pitfalls of relationships”

Relationships are complex things. This is because, as I’ve come to realise, every single person on this planet is different. In reality, you aren’t going to find your perfect match, your perfect date or even perfect person to spend a chunk of your time with (not in the space of a day anyway).

So to tackle that challenge, I propose two pieces of advice:

  • Don’t be a settler
  • Don’t be a chaser

Now it may seem difficult to do both as surely one of the above would be compromised, but if you really try hard enough and value yourself highly enough – both can be avoided to result in your own happiness coming first and foremost when letting someone into your life in an intimate way.

You don’t want to half ass it. You’ll be sharing your inner most complex thoughts, your body, soul and mind with this individual. Would you like someone who lashes out and blatantly blabs all of your personal business about the place if you guys were to break up? To answer that for you, no you do not.

So with that, don’t settle. If you’re not 100% about a person, don’t push yourself into a situation that you aren’t fully comfortable with. Settling does not look good, I can tell you that much.

But neither does chasing. I guess in truth, it’s a form of desperation and need that may come across as a little bit over the top. I think chasing is nearly worse than settling as you just waste your own time, not being yourself and fitting in to someone else’s agenda (and they might not even realise that you’re going to such efforts).

I admit that this advice is coming from my own guilty conscience of having participated in both of these scenarios. Honestly, neither of the two makes you feel any way good about yourself. You aren’t be true to you or the other person involved and really that’s not fair to anyone. If this is happening, the reality of it is that both people could be off exploring other paths elsewhere, it’s a bit of a time wasting activity.

Now to take you to a metaphor.

I was on airplanes twice last week, going and coming home from the Netherlands. I realised that no matter where you sit on a plane, it’s impossible to see out from both windows at the side of the plane and once.

Now this does leave the passenger in a bit of a dilemma, where do they look? Which side will bring them more satisfaction in terms of the view? Or which side will they be disappointed to look at?

This comes back to the settling vs. chasing argument. If you’re too focused on the view from one side, you’ve settled for it and it is impossible now to see any of what’s happening on the other side.

When you focus too much on one person for too long, and in really being honest with yourself you see that the view isn’t changing – you’re missing out on the potential views from the other side.

This is the same of potential relationships. If you spend all your time chasing the one person, you could be just punishing yourself by missing what’s really going on around you in terms of the full picture.

So I would say, take a step back. Look away from the window. If it’s right and meant to be, the attention of the person should make its own way back to you, or even notice your absence as you take your focus away from them.

I admit that this is something challenging, but these things are sometimes truly impossible to control. Being kind to ourselves should be first and foremost.

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