Show yourself some love!

The notion of loving oneself may sound bizarre and ego-centric, but I assure you it’s not! In fact, I believe it is a necessary undertaking for anyone who wishes to understand themselves – and others – better. Fully learning to accept yourself (for it does take time) is a antidote to low self-esteem, intolerance towards others and negative relationships. Plus, it provides a great deal of fulfilment and enjoyment.

So, without further ado, here are some of the ways through which I show myself some love. Enjoy….

JOURNALING
Despite always enjoying the medium of writing, I only really discovered its therapeutic nature about 2 years ago, when I embarked on my ‘documentation’ journey. Long story short, I decided that it would be a good idea to tend to my diary at least 3 times a week, in order for me to clear my thoughts and also immortalize both the mundane and stand-out daily life experiences. What I’ve come to realise is how comparatively easy it is for me to express myself through writing, than through any other medium. I’m not sure whether this is to do with the fact that no-one else (for the moment) will or has (to my knowledge!) read my diary, allowing me to write in a completely unfiltered, honest and open manner, but it works! I am able to fully evaluate my feelings, work out where they have stemmed from, and try to, effectively, write my way to a solution. It has also helped me to chart my growth over the past month, which has been so invaluable to me. I can’t wait to see what future notebooks will hold.

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Side note: There’s something about a sexy, narrow-ruled leather-bound notebook that makes me spend unjustifiable amounts of money, obliging me to fill them and get my money’s worth. But honestly, a good looking notebook just does things to me.

FINDING A ‘COMFORT’ SPACE
This is something I became conscious of very recently. The importance of finding a space or place in which I feel comfortable or ‘at home’ is something I cannot stress enough. For me, that place is home, as in HOME home, not the one I stay in while I am at uni. Just to be surrounded by my family and nestled in a familiar environment is something that I look forward to. It gives me an opportunity to balance out a hectic week, and take some time out to relax and think! And also breathe. That’s important, too :).

STARING AT MYSELF
Okay, so this might be considered slightly cliché, nevertheless, I actually enjoy looking at myself in the mirror. Admittedly, I don’t always love what I see, but then there are also those days when I appreciate my reflection. Try it and see, place yourself in front of a mirror and stare at any part of your body: I like to start with the face and then whole, nekked-ass, body. What this does, is it allows you to confront yourself, and view yourself from YOUR perspective (for this excercise to be more effective, I recommend doing this in private – it is also less awkward….). One of the many reasons why we come to feel discontented with ourselves is that we internalise and validate other people’s opinions about us over our own, to the extent that we often start to believe them, and to negative and dangerous consequences. A way to tackle this is to learn yourself: mentally, emotionally, spiritually and PHYSICALLY. Of course, this is a process, but you’ve got to start somewhere, sometime. Personally, over time, I have come to accept appreciate my whole self even if, inevitably, I do have moments in which I can feel inadequate.

….and that constitutes part one! Part two coming up :).

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on turning 20.

age.
age is….
ageism

In just over a month I’ll be set to celebrate another turning page, my 20th one, and I must say that this 19th year of my life has been an incredibly productive and growth-filled year. At many points throughout it, I have reflected on, recorded and recalled my experiences of the past year with a sense of accomplishment and overall contentedness with the point at which i am. However, one thing that has surprised me each time is the fact that I forget that….I am still only 19. I cannot possibly imagine the person I will be in 5 years and beyond, and this thought excites me. I feel as though this is a very liminal point in my life so far; without wanting to sound like Britney, I don’t necessarily view myself as an adult woman, but I am also not really a ‘girl’ anymore. And I like that. I honestly really enjoy watching myself from the outside and observing the person I am growing into.

On the greater topic of age,  it seems that as many of us grow older, the word employs greater meaning. The concept of age goes from just that: the word ‘age’, in which we seem unconcerned with it, as if we will live forever. This then transforms into (potentially) endless justifications for it: ‘oh, but age is nothing but a number…’, which subsequently morphs into the fight against ageism and a society which rejects this natural and universal inevitability of life. But this needn’t be viewed as a pessimistic outlook towards growing up, it is simply an observation that a lot of us make and experience. I, for one, am a strong believer in the beauty and grace of growing up and growing old: it is one of the few, or many, things that the majority of us can look forward to. One thing I am particularly excited about is the opportunity to read my journals and notes from days gone, and recall the memories of the awesome life I have lived. But back to the present – this is where I am. I will not wish these days away, I very much intend to live them fully :).

On connections with people | Love, Soulfulness and ‘finding home’

For a while now, I have been fantasising about what it would feel like to find ‘home’ in someone else. Not a tangible one, but in the same way that a physical pile of brick and mortar can provide a shelter and haven from the world outside, a home for the soul, as it were. In many ways, I feel as though I have found home in myself – over the past few years I have learned an incredible amount about the kind of person i am: what I love, what I don’t want in life, who and what is important to me, and how I define god and more, all based on the events within my life. Despite this, I find it weird to think about how this level of comfort and honesty that i have with myself will translate when I come to share this with another person (whether in a romantic relationship or not). To an extent, the idea of finding a home in someone else seems foreign to me. At the same time however, I strongly believe in the importance of collaboration and partnerships between individuals, and the creation that can come out of these deep, ‘beyond the surface’ type of relationships.

Of course, I can’t ignore the significance of family and friends in my life – as i’ve grown, I have appreciated them so much more and I try to show my love in any way I can. However in many ways what this leads to is the fact that I have recently been feeling a growing disability to strike deeper connections with people, not necessarily because of disinterest, but maybe because of distrust. The feeling of vulnerability that comes from fully opening up to someone and feeling free with them, while creating an environment for the other person in the relationship to freely express themselves is really attractive to me however, sadly, not everybody is interested in exploring their emotions, let alone fully and unashamedly expressing them. Simultaneously, I am unwilling to let my emotions be devalued or trivialised, and this is in large part why i don’t tell just anyone about personal issues. My personal information is not to be shared unless I say it is, nor is it something you can can use against me.

In saying all of this, I’ve met many wonderful people who value deeper, more soulful connections, and those are the people I am most comfortable with and around. Ultimately, while i value time with and by myself, I really come alive when I find people with whom I can talk about truly anything, and who also feel they can do the same. I guess my focus for the year will be to take my time and value the great relationships I have with people in my life currently, while also nurturing the relationship I have with myself.

The UNIversaliTY Project: TONY

I’ve recently started a series called ‘The Universality Project’, with the aim to encourage us to (figuratively) swap shoes with each other. Through films, interviews and articles, I’ll be introducing and presenting the stories of day-to-day people I come across, including friends and family :).

In this first video I present Tony, a stylish man and calm of pace, who I spotted strolling along Portobello Road on a December afternoon last year. Here, he discusses his current internal struggles and his self-perception.

Thank you for watching, and I hope you enjoy the project. Check out more at http://www.universalityproject.com

🙂

We are not just as statistic: Youth unemployment doesn’t affect the economy alone

The Prince’s Trust has recently revealed that hundreds of thousands of young adults are either facing or battling mental illness due to a lack of jobs and desirable secure futures. The survey reports the hit that many young people have taken as a result of not being able to find a job. High unemployment figures of over one million 16- 24 year olds across the UK and an even higher proportion across certain parts of Europe (where the continental average is 22%), have stayed persistent for a while have acted as deterrents towards securing a hopeful future, leaving an unfortunately large proportion of young adults out of the picture and feeling hopeless.

I don’t doubt that this is a widespread discouragement felt across the university population, either. For many of us, and increasingly competitive market has meant that postgraduate degrees have become the default ‘next step’ in order to secure the careers that we desire that is, if we know the career we wish to pursue post-graduation. However, it is no longer guaranteed that even qualifications will provide a shield against joblessness. Nonetheless, and without wanting to adopt a pessimistic outlook, the hike in tuition fees has not negatively affected the number of undergraduate applications to university, which has the potential to improve international opportunities for graduates if such opportunity is unavailable in the UK.

While the focus has long been on the economic impact of youth unemployment, I believe it is just as, if not, more important and will potentially be more impactful in the future to consider the effect that high unemployment figures and a lack of opportunity is having on the wellbeing of young people, whether graduates or not. The instability and uncertainty which has been caused by ever-decreasing opportunity in the job sector has resulted in almost 40% of unemployment victims being affected by mental illness, low self-esteem and deflating confidence. Furthermore, The Princes Trust reveals that 75% of young people affected feel that they have nothing to live for, with one third of those in long-term unemployment having contemplated suicide. The problem of unemployment has always been more profound than its figures however, this is an often forgotten reality. Especially among younger victims, feelings of depression and vulnerability as a result of this are highly understandable; a concurrent theme running through the testimonies of a few of the young people interviewed revealed concerns towards the hope they have for their futures not just economically, but emotionally as well. The optimism and ambition held by  those affected has diminished and become replaced with feelings of unworthiness.

Furthermore, not only does concern lie in a lack of jobs, but there is also an issue in the kind of opportunities available for young people. Temporary and part-time jobs which many students take on as a supplement to their income while studying, can become the form of employment that they stay in for a long while after leaving education. For most, this is not initially anticipated and as a result, the problem lies in many young people feeling as though they will be left unable to fulfill their ambitions due to a lack of wider opportunity. Consequently, questions arise concerning the value that apprenticeships, work experience and further education hold, if a disproportionate amount of participants are not able to pursue their desired paths.

However, all hope is not lost. Mentoring programs and organisations such as The Princes Trust provide a solution and source of inspiration where other options have failed. Also, a dismal economy has not suppressed the innovative spirit of some: the absence of jobs has led an unprecedented 71,000 affected by youth unemployment to start their own enterprises, according to the ONS. Ultimately, while these are encouraging figures, I believe that in a situation such as this, where a lack of employment has been shown to negatively affect personal wellbeing and not just ‘the economy’, rebuilding confidence and self-worth within individuals affected will be more effective in helping our generation to overcome feelings of angst caused by a loss of ambition ad opportunity.

 

Scroungers? I Beg To Differ

Quite often and, rather unfortunately, the discussion surrounding immigration to the UK is imbued with outward resentment, nationalist sentiments and to some extent, xenophobic undertones. However the notion expressed by many that immigrants come to the UK to ‘steal jobs’ and ‘scrounge off the state’ hail from a rather misinformed and stereotypical perspective. Having always supported the ‘for’ side of the immigration debate, I was particularly pleased when a report from the Center for Research and Analysis of Migration at UCL was recently released, revealing that “immigrants overall are less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits and are also less likely than natives to occupy social housing”. It is not news that immigration throughout time has elicited hostile reception at some point: countless examples tell this story. However The ‘immigrant as the parasite’ is an image that sadly, even contemporary policy makers have chosen to adopt and exploit. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that the anti-immigration rhetoric spread by UKIP has recently gained ground among the UK voting population partly as a result of these negative assumptions surrounding immigration to Britain. Moreover, these beliefs are shown to be reflected across the continent: in the 2008 European Social Survey figures revealed that 8% of European citizens that participated believed that the rights of immigrants within the receiving country should not be equated with that of native citizens, while almost half of all participants were of the opinion that immigrants received disproportionately more than they contributed to the the economy.

In terms of the UK, hopefully this sentiment can now be overridden. The study, which measured immigrants’ net fiscal contribution to the UK economy found that within a 10 year period ending in 2011, European Economic Area migrants contributed 34% more than they received. Additionally it was revealed that spending habits on average were likely to equal that of native citizens and, relatedly; second-generation immigrants are also likely to contribute to successive generations by paying taxes at a later stage in their lives. Moreover, the fact that almost double the number of non-European Economic Area migrants to the UK obtained a degree than British citizens in 2011 – 38% of the migrant population as compared to 21% of that of the UK – is testament to the fact that the majority of immigrants are not relocating to the UK solely to take advantage of its state benefits.

This report is highly illuminating however, it will be difficult to gauge its subsequent effect on public perception regarding immigration. I am particularly looking forward to how these findings will play out in terms of policy concerning tighter immigration controls. While I understand that logistically, it would be impractical to open up the borders to more people wanting to enter, I do not believe that immigration warrants hostile reception and awkward discussion. From my perspective, I am a firm believer in the fact that immigration has some great benefits – not only economically – but socially also, in the way that it can promote cultural exchange and potentially better opportunities for migrants. My hope is that this statistical evidence will to some extent put to rest the negative connotations surrounding immigration to the UK and enlighten a fair few of Farage’s fan club.