They say that social media portrays a false image of your life. A parallel universe in which everything goes perfectly for you; you don’t burn that avocado toast, you catch the sunrise at that perfect moment, your lipstick hasn’t smudged. Yet I can look back through my own personal accounts and tell you exactly how I felt at the time of each photograph. Whether I was sick, depressed, hopeful, happy, grateful. It’s all there. Sadly, though I can count a few incredible experiences and some absolutely outstanding days of joy, the past 6 months has been overcast by my niggling and sometimes overwhelming feelings that I had made a very wrong decision. That decision and its associated feelings came to a head a few weeks ago, when I lost my job. When you lose a job, despite it not really being your fault and a redundancy borne of financial unpredictability in your industry, you lose a lot more. You lose your income, your ability to pay rent, your colleagues, and worst of all, faith in yourself. For that to happen in the space of just a few hours is fairly crippling, but then something else happened. I found relief.
6 months ago, I moved away to start a new life, one of a better quality, where I could live somewhere beautiful, have more time for myself and more money to boot. Well, the reality never quite hit the expectation and I ended up questioning myself daily. But my god, did I try. I tried to throw myself into grasping opportunities; diversifying in my career and making the most of the space I was in. Sadly the latter fizzled out when I quickly found myself just wanting to sleep all the time. Again. I ground myself into the ground trying to impress, and to not be ‘awkward’, I put up and shut up. Be happy. You should be happy. Look what you have. Look where you live. Smile. Ignore your sadness. I ended up, naturally, ill. The stupid thing is, I knew I was good at what I was doing, but my desire to please other people (story of my life) overtook my self care, and I didn’t speak up enough when things were not right for me.
I felt crushingly lonely, and felt sure I would have gone quite mad without Remy – my tiny, furry support system, and the calming words of my boyfriend, who happens to be the kindest person I have ever met. In the 24 hours that followed my sudden world implosion, however, I gained perspective, saw the true colours of those around me, both good and bad, and drew strength from the fact that I had no discernable ties, and was now able to carve out a life that suited my aspirations and me.
In that first 6 hours, though, nobody could tell me to view this as just an ‘opportunity’, no matter how hard they tried. ‘Just let me mope for one day,’ I cried, petulantly, ‘I’ll make a plan tomorrow.’ As far as I was concerned, I’d just had the rug pulled from under my feet, having only just been able to reach a state of ‘okayness’ with it there. Annoyingly though, they were right. This was an opportunity. I just had to use it properly. I resolved to fix it when I had gotten back from Canada, pulled the blankets over my head, and cried myself into a fitful 2.5 hours of sleep.
When I was in Canada, I worked from dawn until dusk for Mudstacle. I was in a bubble of worry about my financial situation at home, but thankfully didn’t have much time for dwelling, as I had Mudstacle TV all morning, live streams all afternoon, and a live show each evening to contend with. I’ve never had legs as sore from those three days of filming, not even when I was competing in the bloody races last year. Luckily though, busyness overruled my anxiety about a myriad issues.
Once home, I changed the way I approached things. Houses. Jobs. I made no apologies for who I was, what I was capable of and what I was and wasn’t prepared to do. I did not allow myself to feel shame for what had happened. I got on the phone, the drums, Twitter, of all places, and I hustled. I took advice (and sympathy) from good, trusted pals, and I shut out the voices that told me that I had failed, and that I was terrible and useless. That was the hardest thing to do. I listened to the people that really knew me, and took their thoughts and feelings in. Realistically, I know the opinions of people who don’t really know you don’t actually matter that much, but I’m kinda sensitive and anxious, so it is incredibly hard not to let doubt and negativity creep in, especially when you are at a low ebb.
But the lesson? Since I stopped trying to contort myself into a mould that I thought other people needed me to fit in to, I have achieved a lot more than I thought possible. Since I stopped underselling myself, and politely but firmly stating my position on things, I have gotten offers for things that were previously closed to me because I was ‘too nice’ to ask for them. But guess what? I’m still nice. I’ve just done one thing differently: told the absolutely truth about what I want and what I’m prepared to do to get it.
For example: my new house came with the most extortionate letting fees. I really wanted the house, so didn’t want to be ‘fired’ before I had even begun, but I sent a polite email asking to negotiate them. Money off. That easy. Would I have asked before? Nope. Did it take me having my world quietly and quickly fall apart over one afternoon to realise this? Yes. Could I have just taken my own advice and grown some courage before that? Yes, but where’s the drama in that?
Quite honestly, asking for a clarification on a fee, or stating a preferred salary would have had me melted in a puddle on the floor a few months ago. Now, I am astonished at what you can get for simply having the gall to ask. I am genuinely frustrated at all the times where I undersold or overstretched myself, or paid too much for something, when a simple question could have made all the difference. I feel massively empowered by my progress just from changing one thing: practicing what I preach. Knowing my worth. Never overstate it, never undersell it, and doors open.
So far, anyway.
So this is me, turning my back on the doubts, and wandering towards opportunities. I hope maybe if you’re feeling doubtful or worried about something, you’ll stop apologising for the space you take up and make some positive steps for yourself too. Once you overcome the initial face-melting fear of putting yourself out there, it gets easier.