Alternative Ways of Being #8: Empowering Self-Talk

sarah powell international womens day
‘That inner critic voice you hear that tells you you’re rubbish, that you’re never as good as so and so, or you’ll never be good enough to do blah, is talking bollocks. It’s lying and you should never listen to it.’ 
– Sarah Powell
Fantastic words of wisdom dished out by Sarah Powell @thisissarahpowell at our Hearst offices on International Women’s Day this year. We regularly have guest speakers and Sarah was on point!
sarah powell international womens day
@thisissarahpowell

The concept of the inner critic is very familiar to me thanks to quite a few years of therapy. I started therapy after a difficult breakup but stuck with it because it’s so valuable and you learn so much about yourself, people, relationships and psychology in general. I now see it as an ongoing investment into mental wellness.

My therapist does a psycho-dynamic and classic psychotherapy style that helps to analyse behavioural patterns, and the inner critic and the self critical voice is something we cover a lot. So it was brilliant to hear Sarah reference this, especially as recognising your critical voice is the first step to actually being free of it and living a happier life.

Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’ but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful.
Sarah called it the mean voice, my therapist calls it the ‘old brain’, but what ever you call it, it is often destructive and rarely helpful. It’s usually connected to past experiences – perhaps formative years, childhood or teenage years. Understanding this has helped to soften it so it has less hold and control.


A regular therapy session might involve recognising when the old brain has reared its ugly head – it might be a confrontation at work or with a friend or an argument with a sibling or parent – and digging around to hopefully identify its roots. Then I may know why I reacted so irrationally or over-emotionally and cut myself some slack. So therapy has been a great place to learn to be kinder to myself too.


From what I understand the inner critic isn’t the rational adult brain talking – that’s why Sarah says it’s talking bollocks – but it comes from an old part of you that’s triggered when confidence, ego or self-esteem, for example, has been threatened and then it jumps in to say, ‘Ha! I told you were rubbish and no good and that nobody likes you!’


I’m now pretty good at recognising the awful inner critic – usually comparing me to the other girl in the room – so when it does pipe up, I just give it a nod but then push it firmly away and try to replace it with something more positive and helpful. I really have very little time for it these days and that’s testament to the therapy work.

 

My sessions are fortnightly now and still, after several years, walk away from nearly every appointment (they are 50 mins long) having learnt a little bit more about myself and better ways of dealing with things.

 

Sarah had a whole heap of other stuff to share about self-empowerment, confidence and just managing life in general when it feels overwhelming AF. So check her out on IG where she spills more of her inspiration for positive self-talk.

3 Great Gifts for International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! Last year I celebrated with a post about why we still need International Women’s Day. This year I’ll mark the day with a choice of awesome gifts you can give to celebrate female power.

Selfish Mother t-shirts

Selfish Mother is a brand making fabulous sweatshirts, tees and accessories stamped with power messages designed and created by Molly Gunn and various collaborations. Not only a cool addition to your wardrobe but products support a long list of amazing charities too.

Strong_Design_supports_Yazda_1_grande

we are wonderwomen bag

My lovely friend Laura, founder of Cocoon Child bought me a Selfish Mother Y sweatshirt and popped me on her Instagram page with her gorgeous daughter Zelia.

sisterhood sweatshirt yazadi women

£10 from every sale goes to Yazda, a charity that supports women from the Yazidi community in Iraq who have been through horrific abuse. I was going to add a link to Yazda charity but it seems Yazda has been shut down according to this Guardian news report, which is terrible news. As my family heritage is Iraqi I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting, thoughtful or powerful present. Whatever the charity’s situation really hope they can continue some of the work they do in Iraq in some way.

Buy Selfish Mother at thefmlystore.com

International Women’s Day t-shirts at Teespring

There are a heap of tees and bags celebrating women at Teespring, most carrying bold and beautiful messages. Some are available for a limited time only but this yellow Girl Power tshirt seems to be from a permanent range and 25% from every sale goes to Catalyst.org, a charity supporting diversity in the workplace. Healthista.com where I work is giving away a few awesome Teespring tees so enter here if you fancy your chance at winning one!

girl power t-shirt teespringBuy Teespring t-shirts here

Fifty Shades of Feminism book

Another great present from a friend (thank you Charlotte), Fifty Shades of Feminism by Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach and Rachel Holmes is a book full of anecdotes, opinions, musings and stories from female writers and opinion formers about feminism and women. It’s a book I always pick up when I have spare reading time and always feel inspired or moved by an extract I read. Highly recommended to give or keep!

Fifty Shades of Feminism book

Buy Fifty Shades of Feminism at Amazon here

Finally if you’re still uncertain about what feminism means or if you are a feminist check out musician and activist Annie Lennox summing it up in this quick clip with Channel 4.

“To boil it down it is about human rights, it’s about protection of women, it’s about justice, and it’s about equality.” – Annie Lennox

Let me know if you have other great gift ideas for women or International Women’s Day xx

Do we still need International Women’s Day? 

I’ve heard this question come up and debated this year, which has made me think: Could it be that so many women feel they have won the rights to education, employment, birth control, career progression, etc and feel there’s fewer battles left to fight? If so, do we still need to mark this global awareness day?

Of course we do.

Part of International Women’s Day is about celebrating ‘the economic, political and social achievements’ of women (which is where gender equality criticisms come in: ‘what about men!’ in which case they can be directed to International Men’s Day) and then acknowledging the paths paved for us by women years before us, but it’s not just about celebrating success. It’s about highlighting injustices.

It’s about recognising the struggles of women still fighting because their battles have yet to be won. Because there are so many women who still need our support.

Natasha Walter, one of my favourite feminist writers and campaigners, said: ‘International Women’s Day is a chance for us to connect to women’s struggles in the UK and across the world‘. So true. Natasha founded Women for Refugee Women an amazing charity which campaigns to stop the unjust detention of women seeking asylum in the UK.

For every woman among us enjoying her (seemingly) equal life there are countless others living under real threat of violence, oppression, injustice and discrimination. Rape is still a weapon of war in so many countries. Even in our peaceful UK, two women a week are killed by a violent partner and one in four will experience violence from a male. I blogged about this last year, see here.

As long as there are horrific statistics like that, we will need to observe International Women’s Day and stand by their side.

Actress Thandie Newton has been blogging about #SayHerName campaign by the African American Policy Forum which is a reminder of all the women who have died under US police enforcement and promotes women’s rights in the context of racism.

Back in the UK, a massive 54% of domestic violence services have been forced to close since 2010. Save Doncaster Women’s Aid is a campaign to stop the closure of South Yorkshire’s last remaining support service in the district for sufferers (women, children and men) of domestic violence. Watch their video here, I think it’s great.

 

Their ‘Women’s Lives Matter’ campaign is still on so please sign the petition and pass it on!

 https://www.change.org/p/doncaster-metropolitan-borough-council-stop-cuts-to-domestic-violence-services

Imagine a world run by women – for International Women’s Day

What better way to mark today’s International Women’s Day than with the French short film, Oppressed Majority, that went viral earlier this year with 8 million hits. It follows a man’s typical day in a matriarchal society, playing out his everyday experiences as well as a sexual assault.

The best bit for me is in the police station – the way the policewoman breezes over the attack, doubts the details of the man’s account and is more concerned with her ‘cutie’ colleague – which is so representative of the way violence against women is still treated today.

Reminds me of a great Instagram post (via make-up artist Kay Montano) from One Billion Rising which tells a story we’ve probably all heard – that one that suggests women are somehow partly responsible for crimes committed against them.  

One Billion Rising International Women's Day

What shocked me this year is the treatment and reactions towards Bridget Harris – the former advisor to Nick Clegg – whose allegations towards Lord Rennard caused an avalanche of shocking responses from men and women. I happened to listen to her interview on Radio 2 and was completely stunned by the women calling for her to ‘stop being so silly’ and suggesting there are more important things to worry about than a creepy touch up the leg, or that reporting is simply playing the victim. Why should any level of touching or groping become something women dismiss with tut or a slap? No level should be accepted, let alone by a high powered male senior.

It’s absolutely shocking that women have not stood in solidarity against stories like this. Today the Guardian debates feminist dissent with fabulously wise words from Selma James:

“There is a new division among women…they are at best an instrument of the other side; at worst they are the other side.”

If we start judging ill-treatment against women on a scale then how, who and where do lines get drawn? Should we not complain about a colleague’s sexual advances here because there are women being stoned in Iran? If we start becoming indifferent about battles in our own yard then battles elsewhere won’t get won. As Bridget says,

“…to all these young women coming into workplaces now I just want to say: please don’t think you have to put up with that, with sexual harassment or bullying by men. Shout as loud as you can.”

And if that’s not enough to get you fired up then let’s not forget that two or more women are killed each week in the UK by violent partners – a shocking reality that still goes relatively unreported. And what about the misrepresentation of women in the media, an issue that never goes away.

That’s why we must never close our ears to what is happening to others; that’s why we must never stop seeking out stories of injustice or discrimination because even if they do not affect us, then our turned-backs just pave the way for more.

I hope the day will come when being female doesn’t play a part in our experiences of crime, careers or politics. When we’re not seen and judged by our gender. A point perfectly expressed by Danish Prime Minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt when she was interviewed for the FT earlier this year and berated the journalist for focussing on the wrong things:

She looks intently at me: “To be honest, I don’t want to engage in that conversation. I think it’s a shame if you interview a female politician that the first half of the interview has to be spent on being female in politics. It sort of defies the object.”

Well said! When was the last time an interview with a male politician revolved around his experiences of being a man? That’s because we live in a man’s world. But imagine we lived in a woman’s world… now, wouldn’t that be good?

For more inspirations and discussion around women follow today’s Women of the World event at Southbank Centre via hashtag #WOWLDN on Twitter and check out a few of my favourite female voices:

Natasha WalterSuzanne Moore, Helen Lewis, Hannah Pool, Bidisha

Happy International Women’s Day xx