Monday, 6 November 2017

'Beauty is Seductive'...

Girls. I’ve been thinking a lot recently (shock, horror!) about the ‘beauty standard’ displayed by the media for women to follow. It scares me. It leaked into my dissertation and become a profound piece of research that I don’t see talked about that much….

I really want to share a few things with you!

The definition of beauty is actually much unknown: there is no external voice or authority to state what is objectively beautiful. 

The dictionary says: ‘beauty’ is “a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight”

This means it’s dependent on personal taste. BUT, who’s taste? The answer to this question is filled by our culture: magazine covers, advertising campaigns, internet searches or social media influencers and it’s having a scary effect!!
The results from the GirlGuiding Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2016 reinforces the idea that our culture fills this void, with girls declaring that, “the media is a major force in shaping the culture that girls live in” and that advertisements show that “our media culture mainly chooses women’s sexualized bodies to sell products”. Also, through social media, “girls are scrutinizing each other’s bodies and competing…to validate their physical attractiveness”. 
We see the shift from beauty as a ‘quality’ to ‘competition’. 
Just look at Cosmopolitan’s August 2016 cover:

It ties together the words ‘seductive’ and ‘beauty’ – frightening – it’s saying that the two go hand in hand!! ‘Beauty’ has shifted from a quality, to competition, to a weapon. 

PLUS: It only takes a brief glance at those rated ‘Instafamous’ to see a lot of bare skin seductivity.

It could be argued that the objectification in the media has shifted into women objectifying themselves through their social media accounts in order to gain and build their value.

I can’t hack it anymore. This is becoming popular and normal and, personally, I struggle with it. It seems to say --- in some cases --- that there is beauty in sexiness, seduction and provocativeness.

I am inclined to say the following;


BOYS/MEN – THERE IS NOT. The women given airtime on Sky Sports and/or FHM etc. are not the definition of ‘beauty’ and ‘normality’: these things aren’t determined by skin exposure and seductivity. Don't rate girls based on that.

Let me tell you about two conflicting diary entries by girls, from ‘The Body Project’ (by Joan Jacob Brumberg):

Before World War I - girls rarely mentioned their bodies in terms of strategies for self-improvement or struggles for personal identity. Becoming a better person meant paying less attention to the self, giving more assistance to others.

21st century - ‘I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can…I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got a new haircut, good make-up, new clothes and accessories’.

Why have we moved from internal, selfless character to outward, self-obsessed behaviour?What happened to beauty being a QUALITY? What happened to beauty being more than just what meets the eye? What happened to cultivating our character? What happened to turning heads because of the beauty of our character, not the seductivity of our pose?

Now, I really don't want you to think I'm moaning, nagging or over-exaggerating. I just want to challenge and question what society is so nonchalantly pointing towards as the norm.

By all means, I encourage you to come to your own conclusion.  

I encourage you to build a picture about what 'BEAUTY' means to you.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 2 October 2017

My Wish for Girls

Having head space is a beautiful thing. It allows the mind to ponder what it wishes to ponder. This morning, being the INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL 2017 I felt the urge to write down my wish for this (and the next) generation of girls. As my pondering unraveled, I realised this wish would become a list (and not even an exhaustive one):

  1. That girls can walk down the street without fear of being cat-called
  2. That girls can enjoy a night out without fear of being spiked (or more)
  3. That girls aren't treated differently from boys
  4. That girls aren't restricted by gender stereotypes
  5. That girls aren’t judged on their appearance
  6. That girls have a fair, diverse and positive representation in the media
  7. That girls feel empowered in their contexts
  8. That girls move away from competing
  9. That girls don't feel fear from 'man'
  10. That girls don't feel they have to display their body to gain their worth

You may disagree, you may agree - that's ok. I want to encourage you to ponder your own wish for girls, and whilst you're at it, your one for boys too.

In response, my commitment is to turn these wishes into prayers and to continue the work of Belle to create a positive impact on girls in the 21st century.

My hope is that my upcoming book will champion girls across the nation and turn some of these wishes into a reality. 

Until next time xxx

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Dear My Younger Self

I had the absolute privilege of working with a team over the past week to host, lead and serve 700 14-18 year olds in our Thirst Venue at New Wine. It was the most incredible week seeing God move and the passion of young people ignite and deepen.

On Monday night I was speaking and, I must admit, I was terrified. I prepped my talk a week or so previous but the day before felt a prompting to start my talk by reading a letter to my younger self. I felt compelled to be real and vulnerable with the young people to allow them to be real and vulnerable themselves.

The letter is by no means perfect. It's simply a couple of scribbles of thoughts in my journal! A few people expressed how powerful it was for them personally (which came as a shock to me), so I wanted to make it accessible.

I pray that it gives you hope. 

"Dear my younger self,

Well done. You're navigating life pretty well, believe it or not. You may feel lost, inadequate and confused but that's ok because a lot of other people actually feel that way too. You aren't alone with your feelings and you're not an insignificant life.

14, 15, 16 etc are difficult ages. But also super exciting. Try not to get bogged down with grades, boys, popularity and image, you'll soon learn that life is so much more than that. It sounds simple but it's one of the most profound mindsets that you can adopt. 

Remember that some friends will let you down, people aren't perfect. You may also let them down too. Remember that everyone is just trying their best.

You'll soon think that the perfect image in reality and on social media will give you the ultimate happiness but I'm sorry to say that it most definitely won't - the validation of others will never prove your worthiness and perfection itself is an illusion: no one gets there, no one achieves it and no one is sustained by it.

Don't worry - this isn't a dead end. You know that Jesus guy that you've learnt so much about but never known personally - well, you're gunna choose him and he's gunna change everything. He is a constant. He is perfection. He is and holds the true truth about who you are, not the false truth that the world presents. He is the centre of everything and you're privileged to have a part to play in his master-story because he calls you his masterpiece. What he says counts.

So stand firm and stick in there and seek him first. Soon your struggle will become your story and your passion will be made known to you.

And to top it all off, you'll meet friends who will stick by your side for life. You'll build real friendships that support in struggle and you'll celebrate one another's stories. Because every story is an original. 

One of the most important things you'll learn - scrap that - one of the most life changing things you'll learn is that the world will be so focused on the outward appearance but it will fail you. You are so much more than your appearance. Don't strive to be pretty. Strive to be pretty compassionate, pretty humble, pretty patient, pretty passionate and pretty loving. Assess the condition of your heart, not your face or body.

You are enough.

Over time the bruises will begin to heal. And as you get to know God more personally, you'll grow in the assurance that what he says counts. You'll soar. You'll dream. You'll be ok. You'll be more than ok.  You'll be doing life with the creator of life itself. And it has been, is and will continue to be the greatest adventure of all.

Love from your slightly older self x"

There goes. I hope that has been helpful for you in some way.

I am buzzing to continue to work on my book for teenage girls in the next couple of months will explores some of these themes in more detail. Girls need hope. We need hope. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

How To...'Manage' Anxiety

It feels like a very long time since I last posted on my blog and for that, I apologise (assuming that you missed me!)

You may be wondering why I've been so dormant, and I intend on explaining why! Last year I endured a period of anxiousness. I think it's something we all face at different points in life, to varying degrees. It would take another blog post for me to explain why I think it happened in hindsight (i.e. perfectionism...) But for now, I want to talk about how I've cultivated rest into my lifestyle in order to look after myself: mind, body, soul.
Let me put it this way:
Life is busy isn't it. I'm in the last 3 months of my degree, writing a book, working, running Belle, and all of life's other fun things (i.e. eating) - I'm sure all the things you're busy with are coming to mind for you too. Anyway, I had to explore and invest in SELF-CARE. I figured I would try this whole 'work from rest, don't rest from work' malarkey. Note: Maybe read that again and try to understand it before you continue.

Everyone is different, everyone has different limits and different lifestyles. However, everyone has the potential to be inspired. BE INSPIRED by a few things I try to do to create a lifestyle of rest to try to manage any anxious thoughts (knowing that this list is by no means exhaustive, and by no means difficult):

1.   Sleep

Ok, maybe I shouldn't have started the list with 'sleep'! But, at the same time, what a fabulous place to start. I mean, if you're not sleeping, you're probably not awake enough to function - and therefore, not awake enough to ponder ways of instilling 'rest' in your life. 
My housemates and I joke about how 10:30pm (sometimes, 10pm, yes, 10pm) is 'bedtime' in our house, but it's only because we know we'll be pathetic at life the next day if we don't make it!

I think it's partly a psychological process. I know that by resting my body, my mind and soul will wake refreshed.

2.   Comfy-ify

Life isn't solely concerned with work, though we're all created with a purpose to fulfill. Whenever I'm home, I like to create a cosy oasis with the simplest of things, i.e. CANDLES (invest in them!)

The Danish word, 'hygge', was short-listed as Oxford Dictionaries' word of the year 2016: it's a feeling and a lifestyle. It's making the little things special. Highlighting the 'extraordinary' in the little things, takes our mind away from the large, overwhelming, anxiety-provoking things of life. 

N.B. try to process what it is that drives anxiety - I understand how hard this is in the moment, but please feel encouraged, you are not alone.

Be mindful of your needs, feelings and emotions - but don't let them RULE your mind. Acknowledge them and let them pass. 

For me, it's making a mug of green tea and taking time to reflect.

3.   Be Energised

Cultivating rest allows you to give yourself fully (an 'undistracted' mind, body and soul) to the fun, crazy, silly things in life. We were created to live fully. Check your diary and guard time to do new and special things with friends. Whether it's getting your nails done, a spa day, adventure day, walk, exploring a new city, baking a crazy meal etc.....
Acknowledge what energises you and make time for it. I know that for me, the gym energises me (or walking outside for however long or short each day), reading a good book, spending time with God, creating good food, and staying in for at least 3 nights a week...

What we value, we guard. Guard your time, guard time for FUN because fun things will remind you of the joy of life. 


There is power in vulnerability. There is power in your voice. There is power in acknowledgment. 

This blog is about cultivating rest to manage anxiety. Yes. But I cannot publish this without convincing you of the power of speaking out about what makes you feel anxious. Even the mundane, stupid-sounding things. Text a friend, ask them to pray for you or keep you in their thoughts. Get home, tell a parent/housemate/sibling about what seems to be niggling at your mind. Get it off your chest. Allow the burden to begin to lift. We were created to be interdependent (to depend on eachother). Try - you WILL be ok. 

At the risk of sounding paradoxical, to live fully = to simplify. We make things more than they need to be. By cultivating rest, we allow our mind, body, and soul to settle - we make room to do the things that energise us, bring life and inspire.