Edge of 21

Today is my last day of being 20. I’m not quite sure how to feel about it all, really. I know it’s just a number. It doesn’t really mean anything. Just time, jogging along, as time unavoidably tends to do. Saying that though, it’s undeniable that there just seems to be something symbolic about turning 21. More so than at age 18, I think, there seems to be some kind of auspiciously grown up connotation to 21. I taste the words in my mouth, and they feel slightly strange. Twenty one. A proper adult. Isn’t 21 just for…more responsible people? 

Terrifyingly, I remember thinking as a kid that anyone over 20 was practically ancient. In case I wasn’t already feeling my age today, my yoga teacher informed me this morning that she’s concerned one of my hips is weaker than the other. I’m clearly already a pensioner trapped in an (almost) 21 year old body. Get me to the Mecca Bingo centre and let the good times roll. Admittedly, I always did feel like I was just a bit too invested in the daytime TV programme ‘Cash In The Attic.’ Quite clearly, I didn’t choose the pensioner life, it chose me, fifty or so years too soon. 

Twenty has been quite a strange year for me, to be honest. Not my happiest. I think it’s a slightly liminal age, 20. Not the heady, reckless, ‘look-at-me-I’m-of-age-and-I’m-going-to-drink-jaegerbombs-til-I-puke’ 18 and not the slowly-starting to get settled mid twenties. At 20, I feel like I lost quite a bit of confidence. I’m hoping to rebuild that, slowly. I’m much less sure, in a way, about everything really. Though maybe that’s not all bad. It’s good not to have a too rigid idea of the future. Frightening, but then we can never really know what’s coming round the corner, can we? 20 certainly wasn’t all bad for me – far, far from it. There was a lot of good. I’m so grateful for all my beautiful friends and family – I’m so lucky to have such amazing, supportive  and inspring people in my life. I’m just hoping that in my 21st year I’ll be in a better headspace, able to make the best of whatever opportunities life throws my way. 

Fingers crossed and touch wood, my 21st birthday is shaping up to be a lot better than my 20th, even though the forecast is, weather wise, abysmal. I’m hopeful that 21 will be sunny for me on the whole, however. I’m entering the year happier, which is a good start. On my 20th birthday I was caught in a rapidly spiralling and terrifyingly all-consuming calorie phobia, terrified of gaining weight and dreading eating out to celebrate. I point blank refused a birthday cake or even a solitary bun, and my mum half-joked that we’d have to put a candle in a strawberry. I was the only one that made my 20th birthday slightly sad – it was self-sabotage. I got beautiful presents. I was made a fuss of. I was surrounded my dear friends that celebrated with me on a night out, but I rigidly controlled how much I drank and tallied up the mounting calories in every celebratory cocktail I was offered. Not this year. This year I am getting a cake and I am going to eat it and I am going to enjoy it. I am going to drink as much as I want (though ideally, I’d like to still be fairly vertical at the end of the evening). I am going to be with loving family and friends, as I was last year. But this year I am going to celebrate with them. I am going to be in the moment. I’ve never really been a party girl, and am pretty reluctant to be centre of attention. I hate planning events, especially when they’re centred around me. But the driving force for my 21st plans has just been a sort of quietly defiant voice in my brain saying ‘f*ck-it.’ I’m going to soak up turning 21, and I’m going to milk my celebrations dry. 

I’ve had a pretty lovely last day as a twenty year old so far. I went to yoga. I went and treated myself to new makeup I didn’t need. I got a spray tan, surprisingly. It’s my first one, and though the lovely lady that sprayed me with what she slightly unnervingly called her ‘gun’ has promised it will develop overnight, at the moment I’m looking releivingly unlike a) David Dickinson b) an Oompa Loompa, or c) the shade of a Sainsbury’s carrier bag. The full effect remains to be seen. I’m hoping tomorrow will be a good day. I’m feeling lucky that some of my friends can make it out to celebrate with me, and incredibly touched that people have sent cards and presents. 

The overall mood tonight is: ‘hopeful.’ I’m quietly excited. I’m hopeful that tomorrow is going to be great. I’m hopeful that I’m going to love 21. I’m hopeful. Excited and hopeful. Excitedly hopeful. It’s nice to be excited about things again, even in a quiet way. 

I’m sorry that this post is pretty uninteresting and slightly rambling, as ever. I just felt that I should document my last night of 20, in some small way. But now, I’m going to stop being so self-reflective, possibly pour a small pre-celebratory tipple, and ponder the big issues – i.e is my Burberry ‘Summer’ perfume strong enough to mask the pretty potent smell of my spray tan? If not, one thing is for certain is this – I will enter 21 smelling vaguely of digestive biscuits. There are worse things, I suppose. 

I hope tomorrow is a wonderfully happy unbirthday (or birthday!) for you all. See you on the other side of twenty. ❤️

Love, Lorna. X 

Mental Chatter: Some Of My Recurring Worries And How I Try To Deal With Them

Minds are messy. I sometimes find myself trapped in a tangled web of worries regarding how others perceive me. I’m often anxious that there’s a disconnect between who I am and who others believe I am. I rarely take an action without worrying what others will think of my decision. This results in me stalling and dithering, a ball of frustrated anxiety, trying and failing to find a solution that pleases everyone, and achieving only mass-dissatisfaction.

A technique that I’ve found mildly successful in silencing these worries is simply asking myself: does it actually matter? Does it matter what people think of me? Have I behaved in a way that I, personally, think is acceptable? If so, good. If not, I need to reconsider my actions and go from there. I must be my own judge and not let others’ perceptions of me haunt my every action and influence all of my decisions. Crucially, when we worry what others think of us, we project our own insecurities onto those surrounding us. We assume that everyone has noticed what we conceive as our ‘weak points’. We construct others’ perceptions of us. This is pointless and a waste of mental energy. It is all guesswork. Please yourself, do what you think is right. Make yourself proud and I believe the rest will follow.

We think that people think about us a lot more than they actually do. I actually find this thought incredibly comforting. I often feel incredibly conflicted – on a sensible, intellectual level, I know that no-one actually gives a damn if, say, I eat a muffin. But sometimes the mind is neither sensible nor logical. ‘They’ll think you’re greedy if you eat that,’ a nasty little voice occasionally whispers into my ear. ‘Disgusting, greedy pig. Lazy. You’ve barely done anything today. Of course they’re allowed to eat it. But not you, you don’t deserve it.’ And on it goes. This cruel, irrational, bullying self-punishment for a crime I haven’t committed. Unless, that is, I make a conscious and overt effort to battle against these thoughts, disregarding them as illogical. Would you ever think less of someone you love for eating a muffin? Um, no, me neither. I make an effort to pause, and halt this internal diatribe against myself. Eat the damn muffin, smile and be happy. None of this matters. Most of the time these days, I am able to do just that.

I worry. Who am I? Why don’t I have a clear perception of my own identity? How is everyone else so sure, so confident of their place in the world and how they fit in to it? When I am able to think rationally, I wonder, is everyone quite as sure as I think they are? If they aren’t, we are alike and our struggles are similar. If they are, then their confidence has likely been gained through experience. If they are as unflappable and self-assured as I perceive them to be, then good. Life is not a competition. If we are not in competition with those around us, it makes sense that we cannot then ‘fall behind.’ The ‘but-they’re-doing-so-much-better-than-me-because-I-saw-that-one-post-on-facebook’ mentality is so draining and poisonous. I am trying to restrain myself from comparing my journey to the journey of those around me. Sometimes the answer to reducing our stress-levels is as simple as ‘don’t think too much.’ Many of us inflict unnecessary suffering upon ourselves by analyzing situations needlessly, hypothesizing on a future that we can never fully be sure of until it arrives. I am trying to stop sweating it about the small stuff.

This one is embarrassing to admit because it’s so shallow, but I think it’s something many of us worry about: on bad self-image days, I worry that others think I’m unattractive. I can see a bad photo of myself and still be thinking about it long after the camera has been put away. I’m ashamed to say that there have been times that I’ve been having fun, enjoying myself and not caring how I look and someone has taken a candid photo of me. I’ve afterwards looked at this picture, been horrified, and it’s spoiled the otherwise fantastic time I’d been having. This is obviously pretty sad, self-obsessed, and not to mention pointless. I could spend an eternity analyzing my own reflection for flaws. At times we suffer with negative self-image, I think it’s helpful to remind ourselves that we are our own worst critics. No-one else is critiquing our profile side on, obsessing over whether our bellies look noticeably bloated or not. If you spoke to a friend in the same way that you think/speak about yourself, would you have many friends left? Thought not. I know that these ideas are easy to say and much, much harder to put into practice. I know most of us would probably feel pretty ridiculous standing in front of the mirror telling ourselves non-ironically; ‘I love you. You’re gorgeous, you’re wonderful’ (not that you shouldn’t tell yourself these things – you are undoubtedly both!) Most of the general populous, however, aren’t going to be parading around Gilderoy Lockhart style, waxing lyrical about the wonder of ‘me, magical me’ anytime soon. I’m not suggesting that we all can or should take self-confidence and self-love to those dizzying heights. But just making an effort to silence the negative thoughts surrounding our appearance that subtly chip away at our self-esteem over time can make a significantly positive impact upon how we feel about ourselves

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I would buy a self-help book written by Professor Lockhart. Pre-Memory Charm, obviously. (If you haven’t read Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets….where have you been?)
Self-love goals. Urm, maybe not.
I worry. ‘Why am I such a coward?’ I think, desperately. ‘Why do I find it so hard to take risks? Will I always be so afraid?’ Yes, that’s right, I worry about worrying. Incredible. If they did a degree in worrying, I would graduate with First Class Honors. How do I quieten these thoughts? I’ll be honest – sometimes, I can’t. Writing helps. So does yoga, usually. A good book. Consciously releasing any tension I am holding in my body. Smiling. Fresh air. Looking up at the sky. Remembering that I am a spec in a vast and incomprehensibly wide universe. Reminding myself that I love and am loved in return. 9 out of 10 times (an unofficial stat, but still), the things we are worrying about are usually not that significant, even if they feel vital at the time. If I f**ck up occasionally, I am learning that that’s okay. The world around me will not collapse. It sounds counter-intuitive but, actually, sometimes thinking about why we’re worrying and getting to the root of the fear we feel can actually be useful. For example, when I stop and think about it, I am able to understand that two reasons I find it hard to take risks are that;

a) I have a perfectionist streak, am terrified of failure, and as such find it hard to take leaps into the unknown. I am afraid that things will go wrong and I will be unable to deal with it. I will not be able to be ‘perfect.’

b) I am afraid of making a mistake and looking silly.

After I’ve identified the root of this fear, I am able to deal with it head-on. Do I really want to miss out on opportunities and life experiences because I will be chasing the impossible construction that is ‘perfection’? As for point B), again – is it worth missing out on all the things that life has to offer due to a fear of looking ‘silly’? Every mistake is an experience.

I read an article recently about the importance of developing a personal manta. This can sound slightly hippy-dippy, but having a go-to phrase just to silence the incessant mental chatter of worries can actually be really calming. It doesn’t have to be fixed. Mine varies daily. One that often works quite well is just reminding myself ‘there are good things happening all around me.’ I also like; ‘this is not as scary as it seems.’ Sometimes I need to reconnect with the present, ground myself and touch back down to Earth after floating away on a grey storm-cloud of anxiety. When I hear my voice raised a couple of octaves (and believe me, my voice is already pretty high-pitched) and tightened with anxious energy, I exhale, pause, and remind myself ‘I am doing my best.‘ These five words continue to motivate me to try my hardest, to fight becoming sucked in to a vacuum of suffocating stress, and help me to give myself a much needed reality check.

The crux of this post is, I suppose, that if you’re someone that feels your mind is constantly whirring, writhing with what-if’s and worries at any given moment, you cannot simply indulge or give-in to this negative mental chatter. I hope that some of the techniques I’ve explored in this post prove in some way useful – I feel I can only really loosely call it ‘advice.’ These are just some methods that I use when I’m bogged down in a marsh-land of insecurity and worry. They work for me, usually, and I really hope that they work for you. I truly hope that you can find the serenity you’re searching for, and that, for the most part, you can regain control of your thoughts and tell your mind to STFU.

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I hope that your mind feels as peaceful at some point today as this picture I took on aeroplane last summer looks. Image @lornsmae

Reflections On Flowers and Weeds: The Objective Nature Of Beauty

“I did not decide which were the weeds and which were the flowers, my child.” These words were not, surprisingly, uttered by Tolkien’s Gandalf and ripped straight from the pages of ‘Fellowship Of The Ring.’ They were, in fact, proclaimed mystically by mother over an otherwise fairly normal phone conversation. I paused, impressed by the profound theological impact of this statement. “Wow,” I said, “that was wise.” “Hmm,” she replied, unruffled. “Well, I’m sick of your dad digging all my nice flowers up.”

Spiky, but sweet. Images from personal Instagram account @lornsmae
I have to say, I align with my dad on this one – I have on more than one occasion dug up some of mum’s bulbs in the garden under the mistaken impression that they were weeds. I found that whilst helping out in what I privately like to dub my ‘Paddington Style’, i.e ‘doing a magnificent job of well-meaningly f**king everything up’, it was actually really difficult to differentiate between a weed ripe for plucking and a sprout in need of cultivation. As much as I adore photographing, smelling and being generally appreciative of the existence of flowers (and some weeds, in fact) as a concept, Alan Titchmarsh will not be calling me up for gardening tips any time soon.

I actually find that the flower analogy is incredibly useful in thinking about our own beauty. An orchid doesn’t look much like a lily, and yet both are beautiful. People have different preferences, much as they are likely to in terms of physical appearance. Where someone else sees a weed to be eradicated, you may see a flower. You may prefer poppies to sunflowers. That doesn’t negate the fact that someone else might wish to fill every available surface in their home with the jolly yellow flower. (Disclaimer – the sunflower method is not necessarily a recommended style of interior design – the way my year 8 art teacher told it, it didn’t seem to cheer Van Gogh up much, unfortunately). A bluebell, I recently discovered, is technically a weed. I would actually argue that it’s my favourite wildflower. It’s all a matter of perception.

Model and actress Cara Delevingne mused on the subjective nature of beauty on a thought-provoking recent Instagram post. Her previously long, sleek, Barbie-esque blonde locks shaved off completely for her latest role, she looks powerful and starkly beautiful. This new, raw aesthetic is a complete departure from her previously carefully cultivated appearance.

“Its exhausting to be told what beauty should look like,” writes Delevingne. “I am tired of society defining beauty for us. Strip away the clothes, Wipe Off the make up, cut off the hair. Remove all the material possessions. Who are we? How are we defining beauty? What do we see as beautiful?”

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Image sourced from Cara’s Instagram @caradelevingne. Cara advises in her Bio: “Don’t worry, be happy ❤️ Embrace your weirdness 💥 STOP LABELLING, START LIVING.”
Indeed. How are we defining beauty? Why should we be given rigid, and often paradoxical, standards to conform to in terms of how we should look? Why should we let society decide for us what is a weed and what is a flower?

Ultimately, as trite and cliché as the saying is, beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. The tulip doesn’t wish it were small and dainty like the daisy, and the rose doesn’t berate itself for the existence of its thorns. They just bloom where they are planted. We shouldn’t waste our time comparing ourselves to others, or view someone else’s body/smile/general appearance as ‘goals’. As hard as it is, we should aim to appreciate another’s beauty without questioning our own, without wishing that we were beautiful in the same way. As Miranda Kerr states; “All flowers are beautiful in their own way, and that’s like women too. I want to encourage women to embrace their own uniqueness.”

Like the flower, we all need sunlight, water, and space to spread our roots in order to flourish. Live a life that nourishes you, and you will undoubtedly bloom.

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Images: @lornsmae

#Unfiltered: Lily Collins, autobiography, and why we all probably need a #realitycheck

The news often vaguely ominously informs us that we live in the “Age of Social Media.” I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what this actually means, about the impact of social media upon all of our lives, and particularly about its impact upon Generation Z – those of us born from the mid 1990s to 2010. At the risk of sounding like I’m playing the world’s smallest violin over here, I actually think us Z-listers have it pretty rough in a few respects. First of all, unlike our parents before us, we do not as of yet have a Spice Girls song named after our generation, which I feel is a problem. Spice Girls gripe aside, I also notice that the creeping encroachment of social media in every aspect of our day-to-day experience is something that older generations (understandably) struggle to comprehend. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can actually prove as damaging as they are connecting. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, as though everyone else’s life is picture perfect. Sometimes your life can feel like a bad night-club photo. All of your friends look beautiful and perfectly poised, whereas you’re not looking at the camera, have accidentally shut your eyes, and half of your head has been cropped from the photo frame. Unfortunately, real life has no ‘untag’ option.

Something that actress Lily Collins explores brilliantly in

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#Unfiltered but still, presumably, filtered. Taken from Lily Collins’ Instagram @lilyjcollins

her autobiographical book ‘#Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me’ is the value of transparency in the age where Instagram reigns and no post is complete without a smattering of hashtags and a flattering filter. I related to a lot of the issues she explores within the novel, as many others within my age bracket will undoubtedly do so. Collins tackles everything from relationship issues to eating disorders, body image struggles, and articulates that gnawing feeling that you’re just plain old weird. She does so with a tact and wittiness that came as both a surprise and pleasure to me. The book was courageous. There’s an incredible bravery in laying yourself bare. Sure, some of the sentiments were slightly saccharine, but the book was ultimately inspiring and uplifting. It made me smile. It made me cry. It was jarring to see some of the feelings I struggle everyday to express articulated clearly on the page by a celebrity that I had admittedly previously admired more for her beauty and style than for her emotional intelligence.

All in all, I think we (myself included), need to unplug and appreciate the value of living #unfiltered. Like Collins so brilliantly says,  “We all want to feel part of something greater. But sometimes, though we recognize this shared instinct to connect, we get stuck in our own heads, convincing ourselves that no one else could understand our problems, that we’re outsiders.” Scrolling  through an infinite feed of posed photographs, it is incredibly easy to get caught in a spiral of self-hatred and to just feel utterly at sea, wondering if everyone else has been given some kind of manual on how to succeed and yours has gotten lost in the post. ‘I’m not enough,’ we sometimes tell ourselves, getting trapped inside our own minds and giving in to crippling waves of insecurity. In a concluding chapter, Collins lays out a stark sentence that I absolutely adore. “I will never need anyone to complete me,” she states. “I am enough on my own.” This simple mantra is so empowering, and one that we often forget. You are ‘enough’ without any validation from anyone else. You are not a number of ‘likes’. You are not as worthy as your best selfie. There is beauty in the unposed. There is beauty in your ‘bad angles’. There is beauty in you, as you are, even if you cannot quite see it yet.

When someone is brave enough to be transparent about their thoughts, feelings and life experiences, we can often see facets of ourselves reflected within others. To me, there is a complete purity and comfort in looking at someone else and feeling slightly less alone. There’s a serenity that comes with knowing that our dissatisfaction, our problematic behaviours and our insecurities are not unique. And not only that, but knowing that they are common. No-one is permanently living a life that is #instagood.

So, I’m going to follow Lily’s advice, take a chance, and be a little more #unfiltered. As she so rightly says, if no-one acknowledges the inherent artificiality of social media, and the problems tied with the construction of our lives as a roll of staged ‘best-bits’, the more people will grapple with feelings of unworthiness in private. “A conversation can’t start unless someone speaks up,” writes Collins. I will freely admit that for every selfie I post on social media, there are twelve others on the camera roll that I’ve rejected, mercilessly looking for any visible flaw. Each picture is filtered, blemishes blurred, red-eye corrected. I might post a picture of myself smiling in a hot tub on holiday in a bikini, but the day before I was crying in the mirror, feeling lost and completely alien in my own body. I am far from perfect. I am deeply flawed. Sometimes I smile and mean it, sometimes I cry and mean that too. This is true of every other single human being on the planet. We need to be mindful when engaging with Instagram and Facebook. We need to remember that those that we follow are likely only posting the snapshots from a ‘highlights reel’, and that a smile is easily faked. Perhaps we all need a little (or a large) #realitycheck. Social media is not a true representative of reality. So glory in your perfectly imperfect self. To quote Dr. Seuss, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” Be true to what you feel, and I firmly believe that magic will happen. Self-love and gaining confidence is a slow process, but I truly hope it’s possible to achieve, even in an age where self-esteem is easily shattered and appearances are deceiving. I firmly believe that when you’re truly happy, filtering your life will become unnecessary and redundant, and Instragram will feel a hell of a lot less important.