Monday, 11 June 2018

The Truth About Love Island

So, I have never watched Love Island before (other than one episode last year that my sister was desperate for me to watch with her!!) This year, I've kept relatively up-to-date with the happenings.

And it has a massive influence. It influences our social media conversation, our real life conversation, our view of our face, our view of our body, our view of relationships, our view of hook-up culture, our view of their lifestyles, beliefs, values, opinions. And more.

What I want to share with you is a bit of my reflections on the impact it has had on my view of my self and my body.

1. I don't look at the other guys' bodies, I instinctively look at the girls
2. If I try not to look at their bodies as I watch, I fail instantaneously
3. If I haven't gymed or have eaten 'badly' that day, I feel worse (p.s. it's ok not to gym and ok to eat badly)
4. I wonder whether I need to find/buy the clothes they wear because maybe then I'll look good or like them
5. I get frustrated that they're literally half naked the entire time
6. 1 hour every night and 7 hours a week of subconscious, direct comparison to the girls on my TV screen can't be healthy for my 'self-esteem'
7. It feels like the only glimpses of realness and normality are seeing them without make up
8. I start to wonder what % of the population actually look like they do
9. I feel energised to keep doing the work I'm doing; speaking truth into girls' lives

(It's an odd number of reflections, apologies)

Possibly the thing I find more frustrating is the fact that this would all be so different if the people on the reality show were representative of real life.

Imagine if all shapes, sizes and ages were represented...actually imagine that...

I can imagine that we would spend a lot more time, even if only in our heads, focused on their personalities and characters rather than their flat stomach, toned legs and curvature.

Possibly the thing I find more scary is the fact that girls are watching Love Island with absolutely no awareness whatsoever. I liken it to the influence that America's Next Top Model had on me when I was younger: a very small proportion of the nation's women prancing around in minimal clothing with doll-like bodies.

So what do we do about this? And what do we do if we're already hooked on the show and not willing to give it up...

SELF-TALK: you've got to do a lot of positive mental self-talk a day to make up for the hours worth of negative mental self-talk you're already doing. I give examples of how to do this in my book but here's a general jist:

Negative Self-Talk = negative start of thoughts + negative end (i.e. 'their bodies are so much better than mine' + 'my body is therefore rubbish' + 'I feel rubbish about myself')

Positive Self-Talk = negative start of thoughts + positive end (i.e. 'their bodies are so much better than mine' + 'but their bodies don't represent the "ideal", nor do they represent all female bodies + my body is inherently GOOD' + 'I feel good about my body')

GENERAL TALK: talk about what you're watching and how you're feeling. The likelihood is that others are thinking the sane. This also means that you can mutually support eachother in your encouragement of your real bodies. Speak life-giving, body-assuring words to your friends. Actually, take the focus away from their bodies (we get enough of that right!) - speak life-giving words about who they are!

I'll keep you posted friends.
Pre-order More Than Just Pretty here #10daystogo

Monday, 4 June 2018

The Truth About Girlhood Today

What scares me the most about Girlhood today, currently, in the 21st century, is that it’s so different than for previous generations.


Now, there are many things that aren’t different. For example, I talk about ‘corset controversy’ in the 16th century in my book; the expectation for women to drastically alter their bodies as fashions change (being slaves to their body). This isn’t too dissimilar from the pressure to drastically alter our bodies or appearance with changing fashions and craze’s today. Again, this is only one example of many.


However, I recently had a conversation with a teenage girl who was explaining her struggles. She explained how she wished her parents had even the slightest inkling about what she was going through on a daily basis – but that they didn’t because things have changed so much since their teenagehood.

The pressure to fit in is monumental because the failure to do so is threatening to their identity. The promotion of perfection through posting pouting and posed photos, full of pretence is overwhelming and constant.

Most of all, the feeling of isolation is mega. Community and conversation is digital. Mentorship is incredibly low. Spaces to have fun, escape, be still, fail, let go and just ‘be’ are minimal. Funding for chaplains, mentoring and support in schools is struggling. There is a lack of people who emphasise with their struggles in their lives. Competition and comparison is predominant at school, even in friendships. Authenticity  and openness is risky.


I have frequent conversations with my husband in relation to our role as Youth Workers. We talk about how we need to be real about our story with young people, what we experienced at school/in life, to emphasise with their story and allow them to open up about it. Otherwise, we risk alienating ourselves from their lives in entirety.  

This is one of the aims of Belle Workshops; to be real with my struggles to allow girls to be real with their own. This creates mutual empathy and conversation and allows for the exploration of perceived ‘norms’ and ‘realities’. I.e. the thought that we are what we look like can be assessed for its reality; it’s not true.

I wonder how you can be a driving force behind change for girlhood in your family, church, community and/or nation?

Let’s discuss.

#17days until #MTJP

Thursday, 24 May 2018

The Truth About The “Toblerone Tunnel”

Oh my. If I could scream through computer screens then I would. I am currently trying to compose myself and my thoughts so I can write a relatively helpful blog post about this very new craze/fad/trend, The Toblerone Tunnel. And no, it’s nothing to do with chocolate (shame).
Did you think the thigh gap was far enough? Think again. The Toblerone Tunnel is taking over Instagram and is about women forming a triangular-shaped gap by the bottom and the tops of the upper thighs.
Because I couldn't face putting a photo up of the actual Toblerone Tunnel

I did some research (as always right!)
When I googled ‘Toblerone Tunnel’, the first few articles scared me. This is what I found in articles 1 to 5:
- “Celebrities show off ‘Toblerone tunnels’ on Instagram” | Daily Mail Online
Why does it matter what celebrities are doing? And why are they doing it in the first place? I can’t help but feel saddened and frustrated by their blatant inability to not care for the wellbeing of women and girls who are influenced by them (whether explicitly or implicitly). 
- “What is the Toblerone Tunnel thigh gap and how do you get it?” | The Sun
The question we don’t need to therefore be asking is how to get it. Neither do we need to be giving women and girls tools for how to be unhealthily obsessed with their body’s; not an unlikely response to this article. 
- “Ladies, Do you have a Toblerone Tunnel?...”| The Sun
So what? The problem with asking these questions is that our minds, uncontrollably, race through reasons why we don’t, whether we should, how we could, what would happen if we did, etc.
- “Toblerone Tunnel is the Latest Sexy Craze Sweeping Instagram” | Maxim
Lets not start labelling this stuff ‘sexy’. Lets not glamorize what is unhealthy, unhelpful and purely damaging to the health, wellbeing and esteem of women and girls.
- “Kate Wright and Kendall Jenner show off their Toblerone Tunnels…” | The Mirror
Again, it makes me sad that influencers choose to conform to this craze. It makes me sad that popularity trumps morality.
- “The Toblerone Tunnel: A Bikini Body Trend to Ignore” | Womens Health
FINALLY. They go on to write about how being healthy is about fitness and strength, not aesthetics; which this craze is trying to sway us back to. 

Remember this is promoting unrealistic expectations, and you’re not the only one faced by it. Lets not conform to it. Lets rise against it. Lets be assured of our worth and be confident in who we are today. 
The Toblerone Tunnel is a “must-need” that you DON’T NEED this Summer (and every flipping day for that matter). Remember that healthy looks different on everyone. Remember that your body is not against you. Remember that your thoughts should not bully your body. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

The Truth About Adulting

One of the biggest things I’ve noticed in the last couple of years (now I’m 22 years old, ha), is that we tend to think everyone has their life sorted.

I don’t know about you but I remember being in reception and thinking how big the year 6 kids were. I remember being in year 7 and thinking how big the sixth formers were and I remember finishing school and thinking how big the uni-goers were.

I’ve just noticed my repetition of the word “big”. Now, there would be the obvious height difference in most cases; implying the use of the word “big”, but not in every case. I think often we look at those ‘above’ and ‘beyond’ us and something about them seems more competent.

Similar thought processes happen for me even today:
  • I observe the business people taking the tube to work and how professional, neat and qualified they look.
  • I observe the stay-at-home parent and how organised, patient and proficient they look.
  • I observe the twenty-something-year-old travelling the world via social media and how adventurous, brave and capable.
  • I observe the social media influencer and blogger and how inventive, creative and accomplished they are.

Notice the use of the following words in my observations;


Often when we look at other people, we seem to think that they are more qualified, proficient, capable and accomplished when, on paper, they may well be. But, in reality everyone is winging it. And at times they, too, will feel like imperfect failures or frauds.

Adulting is being thrown in the deep end: figuring out how the heck to pay bills, look smart for a job interview, do 21st century dating, cook relatively healthy meals and not binge-watch too much Netflix. It's all a bit messy, and that's ok!

Today I was at the audiobook recording of ‘More Than Just Pretty’. Neil, the very talented audio-guy, and myself were chatting about how it’s been suggested that everyone is between the ages of 15 and 20-something years old in their head (no matter their age). It’s funny isn’t it. We’re ‘adults’ yet we’ll always be young at heart (and in mind) and just kind of winging it.

Well, I know I am!

So, how do I cope? I know that God doesn’t ‘call’ the qualified, he qualifies the ‘called’. I think this means that God has designed purposes, dreams and plans for each of us. We may not feel capable but as soon as we step into those purposes, dreams and plans, God equips us and gives us what we need to accomplish them.

My hope is that I am allowing God to use me; even if it means doing things that feel so out of my comfort zone, a little unconventional and that I don’t feel qualified for.

My trust is in Him because He is in me.

I don’t want to be someone who says, “Not me. I’m stupid, poor, weak, incapable, afraid.”
I want to be someone who says, “If that’s your dream for me, then help me.”

Step into “winging it” with boldness and courage because God is with you.

P.s. I think that this whole topic is part of the reason I love books so much. Books are a means for someone to communicate with honesty about their experiences. It sure encourages me on my journey of adulthood. And hopefully More Than Just Pretty will encourage young women on their journey too; that their experiences aren't isolated.

P.p.s. Audiobook is coming soon for #MoreThanJustPretty

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Truth About My Mental Health for #MHAW18

It’s Mental Health Awareness Week. I don’t know what ‘mental health’ conjures up for you. 
Maybe it’s what you battle with daily. 
Maybe you know a close family member or friend who battles with it themselves. 
Or maybe you live in fear of the return of mental health issues.

"Take no.13"

I’ve never publicly spoken up about my experience of mental health.

And I’m not going to delve into it now. But what I will do is share a quote from my book:

“It wasn’t until I experienced anxiety that I realised rationale and logic don’t keep you from it”

Anxiety made (and makes) me feel like I'm out of control, lost, afraid, exhausted and alone. I couldn't bear the realisation that there was no quick-fix or way of rationalising my way out of it. Anxiety defies logic and I found that the scariest thing of all. 

You may be surprised to find out that I've experienced this. Part of me hates that it surprises you. I wonder whether it's because of the unseen stories of many smiling social media posts...even mine. 

Behind every social media smile is a story. Like I've hinted at, what many people don’t know about my story is the place that anxiety plays in it. My hope is that no matter what the story is behind your smile, you know that you aren’t alone.

When I experienced anxiety, what brought me a sense of comfort and courage was sharing my story with people I trusted. We don’t always see the story behind someone’s smile. Most stories contain a battle or a few. But, when we share our story, we release others to share theirs too. Be assured that you are doing well. You are seen, you are known and you are loved.

I do hope that I am and can continue to become someone of authenticity (or genuineness); sharing the whole truth about who I am and the life that I live (the pretty AND ugly truth). And this MHAW, I want you to know that I haven't got it all sussed...I'm on a journey when it comes to mental health too.

Read more by pre-ordering More Than Just Pretty.


Monday, 7 May 2018

The Truth About The Impact of Comparison

We talk about comparison quite a lot nowadays, thank goooooodness.

What we don’t talk about as much, probably because we can’t fully embody or understand it, is the extent to which comparison impacts us.


Comparison moves us from the mentality of ‘Me And You’ to ‘Me Versus You’. There’s no wonder we’ve found ourselves in a movement of “female empowerment” because our minds are so disempowered by one another (if we’re not careful).

What do I mean? I mean that when we scroll through Instagram we see other girls posts and rather than feeling inspired or excited by them, our default is to find something negative about them. Although we don’t always say this kind of this out loud, our minds are already composing their thoughts…

“that outfit is so last year”…“her boyfriend isn’t even that good looking”… “it’s a little lame to take selfies nowadays surely, she’s just done her make up for no reason and is sat in her bedroom”… “she’s stunning, I’d never look like that”… “pffft I’d pull that off WAY better than her”

Some of these are extreme examples, and I promise they actually took me a whole to conjure up!!! It’s not nice trying to work out how our minds trick us into ‘Me Verses You’ mentalities. But it’s also not a new concept. Psychologists saw ‘Me Versus You’ or ‘Us Versus You’ mentalities occur from the simple act of putting two peoples into groups. There is something in human nature (when it isn’t challenged) which creates comparison and leads to competition.

One thing you may have noticed is that social comparison seems to lead the mind into two different categories of thinking:

  • Extensive grandeur (words relating: flashiness, swankiness, lavishness, pretentiousness): “pffft I’d pull that off WAY better than her”.


  • Depressive inadequacy (words relating: deficient, scarcity, absence, failure): “she’s stunning, I’d never look like that”.

Both categories of thinking lead us into isolation. We either ‘big ourselves up’ or ‘big ourselves down’, and are left alone in both of those places.

No one can relate to one another. And then, our longing for be-longing isn’t satisfied.

So, let’s step into authentic, genuine female empowerment with our heads held high, our minds aware of their tendencies, our hearts full of love, and our actions openly and honestly supportive of what girls and women are doing all across the nation.

Oh, and the men who openly who embrace all of those truths too.

I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Truth About Loving Ourselves

As I sit and write this on a shockingly rainy Monday morning from my sofa, I’m staring at the words ‘The Truth About Loving Yourself’ with a pretty blank response.

The Truth About Loving Yourself is that it’s pretty damn hard.

I talk in my book about my daily routine at school. I talk about how it was a constant ‘checking’ of myself in mirrors at every possible opportunity. To ‘love myself’ I had to feel like I looked attractive.
The trouble is that feelings are subjective and temporal. Feelings flutter about and come and go. When we base our love for ourselves upon the feelings we have towards ourselves, we are fighting an uphill battle.

The Truth About Loving Yourself is loving people.

My husband (still weird to say after 5 weeks…) and I watched a movie called “Wonder” last week which “tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters 5th grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time”
It is a beautiful story about the journey of a boy from tolerating, to accepting, to loving himself. 

There is some dialogue between Auggie and his mom after his first day at school which I found to be powerful:

Mom: “You are not ugly Auggie”
Auggie: “You have to say that because you’re my mom”
Mom: “Because I’m your mom, it counts the most, because I know you the most

Firstly, I can’t help but think that God, our creator, knows us the most because he planned, designed and made us. Therefore, he knows us most. Therefore, what he says counts. Therefore, we have to create time to hear from him about who he thinks we are. His words about who he created us to be help us to love who we are.

Secondly, whose lives are we speaking truth into? Who do we know and what gifts, talents, characteristics do we see in them that we love? When do we create time to tell them what they are? Another thing the movie highlights is that we don’t know what battles other people are facing. Simply telling them what we love about them can create an awareness in them which never existed before.

The Truth About Loving Yourself is letting go of yourself.

If I’m honest, I dislike all this language about ‘loving yourself’. Part of me thinks that the worlds obsession with ‘self’ is what leads to the thought that loving ourselves is a destination each person must get to, and get to soon. But it can be unhealthy. We become more self-analytical, downtrodden and isolated if it becomes our life goal.

I like to think that we were designed to BE ourselves and to LOVE other people. 'To be' means to exist, to have being, to live. When we do that, we know and accept who we are which catapults us into freedom to live out our God-given purpose, talents and skills. It means that we aren’t pre-occupied with self, but that we’re encouraged and fired up to live out our passion for others. 

So, let’s not get hung up with loving ourselves. It’s not possible every minute, hour, day. What if it’s just an illusion anyway? What if the truth about loving ourselves is actually a lot simpler than it seems: being ourselves and loving other people.

Monday, 23 April 2018

The Truth About Publishing A Book

Book Proofs!!!

What a journey of book writing it has been! If I’m honest I can barely remember when I first received an email from SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) Publishers who made my quiet dream a very tangible reality. 

An email from SPCK Publishers is how it all began!

The editor of SPCK contacted me about the prospect of writing a book, asking the question of whether it’s something I had ever thought about. I still remember where I stood when I read the email and absolutely BURST with excitement and bafflement (I think that’s a word?)!!

P.s. it had always been a dream of mine. I thought it would wait a few more decades but I now see that God had another plan. Some may see my age (22) as a danger, I see it as a gift to the readers. I’m in this “stuff” with them, I “get it”, I can relate. I am thankful to have this opportunity and to have one of my dreams realised.

I met with the editor (who is absolutely incredible by the way) and we bounced ideas off eachother and shared our passion for girls; the need for them to read the truth about who they are!

More Than Just Pretty has been in the pipeline ever since.

What has been the easiest thing?
It sounds nuts but when I sat down to write, more often than not, I found it the easiest thing. Some days I only managed a hundred words, but other days I smashed out a few thousand. 

How?! I have to put it down to God to be honest. I feel like the opportunity to write this book was a gift from him because it is something so close to his heart and it’s something he desperately wants communicated to his daughters. I feel like he inspired me daily, weekly and monthly with the words, stories and testimonies to share in the book.

What has been the hardest thing?
For me, the hardest thing was finding the time to write during the final year of my degree…that was fun! Whilst I didn’t struggle too much to find the words to say (or ‘write’), it was prioritising book writing over essay writing that sometimes proved tricky. What helped was the fact that my dissertation was on 21st Century Beauty Standards, feeding into the book and keeping my passion to communicate the truth to girls ALIVE.

I also found deciding on the book cover with the SPCK team VERY difficult. When you write a book all about how not to judge yourselves or others by their ‘cover’ (image) it proves interesting to come up with something that ‘isn’t judged by its cover’… When you write a book all about how we’re more than just pretty, somehow your book cover cannot JUST be pretty… Do you get me?!

Some days I don’t feel worthy to be having a book published. When those days hit, I tell myself off. I remind myself that this book is all about communicating WORTH to us girls!! How silly of me. And flipping heck, I’m praying that every 24 thousand ish words plastered throughout this book are dripping in truth, worth, freedom, encouragement, and hope for girls. 

All in all, it’s been one of the most surreal journey’s I have ever been on. And, in some ways, it’s only just beginning…

MORE THAN JUST PRETTY. Released June 21st 2018.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Book Title Reveal

Thursday 8th March 2018 - International Women's Day and the title reveal of my book:

'More Than Just Pretty', coming June 2018 with SPCK Publishers by Jessie Faerber

YAYYYYY (can you tell I'm excited?!)

The pages are written.
The editing is in process.
The cover is coming soon. 
The calligraphy is being designed.
The author is buzzing.
The book is out June 2018.

But what about YOU (i.e. the reader)? Are you ready for a book that speaks honestly and openly about life as a girl in the 21st century? Are you ready to be encouraged and challenged? Are you ready to laugh, maybe cry, hope and dream? Are you ready to take a look at your true self?

I have kept you in mind throughout the journey of this book coming to life.

I believe I have kept my promise to you that this book is for the girl who is trying to figure out who she is, the girl who looks in the mirror and hates what she sees, the girl of faith or of no faith. It's for the girl who doesn't know her true value, beauty or purpose. It's for the crazy girl, quiet girl, confused girl, worried girl, happy girl. You name it!

'More Than Just Pretty' doesn't shy away from our culture of social media and unattainable beauty standards. It doesn't shy away from the fact that society so often focuses on our image. It doesn't shy away from my story about my own hurt, pain and insecurity.

It explores what all of this means when our identity is as God's masterpiece. 

Bring on the book written for every girl, by a very normal girl, because every girl's story matters. 

Together, let’s make ‘More Than Just Pretty’ a reality and normality for girls, not just a statement and not just a book title. 

Coming JUNE 2018.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Imposter Syndrome

I've spent the last few weeks reading a book called 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg (the COO of Facebook). It's all about women achieving their full potential and it has absolutely fascinated me!

A term I have been introduced to is "The Imposter Syndrome":

"is a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a 'fraud'" (Wikipedia)

Sheryl refers to a talk she heard (by Dr. Peggy McIntosh) explaining that this 'syndrome' is especially noticeable in women. Here is what she says:

Women especially..."feel fraudulent when they are praised for their accomplishments. Instead of feeling worthy of recognition, they feel undeserving and guilty, as if a mistake has been imposters with limited skills or abilities." (p.29)

It is the plague of self-doubt: suffocating and stalling the achievements of women and girls.
It is the outcome of underestimating ourselves.
It is insecurity-driven.

So, why are we thinking that this is especially existent in women?

I couldn't write this part of Sheryl's explanation in any better way, so have a read of the following:
"Ask a man to explain his success and he will typically credit his own innate qualities and skills. Ask a woman the same question and she will attribute her success to external factors, insisting she did really well because she 'worked really hard', or 'got lucky', or 'had help from others'." (p.30)

I have to admit that I often feel afraid of being exposed as someone who does not have it all together, someone who doesn't have it sorted. But actually, I'm not afraid of being exposed as that person, hence my openness to be real and vulnerable. I'm actually afraid of what others will think, say and do as a result...It's a double-edged sword.

Now I understand that, biblically, we mustn't think we are better than we are (Romans 12:3) BUT I believe that as women, historically, we have gone so far as to not viewing ourselves exactly as we are.

Perhaps us women have a tendency to evaluate one another cruelly; looking not to find their 'better' but to find their 'worse'. Perhaps we need to assess the heart of other women because only then will we see their accomplishments and success in their rightful light; exactly as they are. 

We have to stop being so afraid of the analysis of others and the over-analysis of ourselves and focus on the personal assignment given by God to each of us - to be where we are and to do what we're doing with UNSTOPPABLE grace, humility, passion, desire and fervor. 

Only when we do that will we see overflow and outpouring of the same culture into the lives of young women and girls too. Let's be the fire-starters.

I'll keep you posted.