Self-Love with Songs

Achieving self-love is a hard concept if you've never dared to try it, and there's no set method of getting there. However, in the spirit of sharing a lot of my journey in previous posts, I thought I'd share one of the strange-yet-successful methods that I found.

I discovered it by accident and it's something very personal to the type of person I am as I'm very noise orientated. It's self-love with the use of songs.

I've always been more aural than visual when it comes to entertainment. Not that I don't love art and books (and House of Cards on Netflix) but at home (or anywhere for that matter) I spend the majority of my free time listening to music or podcasts. Aural adds to visual, even the Night Tube can feel a bit magical provided you're listening to something which makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
For younger readers, this is a cassette which holds a groundbreaking 90 MINUTES of music

This discovery was accidental. It was during one of my lunchtime walks last summer and a song shuffled on to Spotify. It was Clean Bandit's Rather Be.

I love this song. I love the sentiment behind this song, as I had no one particular in mind when I was singing it, I realised I was singing it to myself.

Have you ever tried singing a love song to yourself? I found it disgustingly hard. Despite battling with disordered eating and negative body image for years, it's been a long time since I said terrible things about myself. I wasn't even one of those people who said awful things about themselves when they looked in the mirror (I quite like my thighs, actually). However, singing something to myself, especially a love song, felt alien. Aren't these songs meant to be for someone else? Someone who inspired the writer so much that the muse brought the lyrics into their brain? Someone who they worship for all they do for them? Someone who is a constant companion? Someone who they can't live without? 

'When I am with you there's no place I'd rather be ...'

That's me! I'm that. I'm all those things to myself. I genuinely would prefer my own company to that of most people on the earth, too (small handful of exceptions apply).

Suddenly silly love songs (romance quota = zero) seemed to have a whole new meaning and yet I also understood what people were singing about all those years, Maybe that's not the intended purpose for the song but if something so simple and easily accessible can be used to help heal? Spotify, take my money!

It obviously won't work for every song. For example I think the most romantic song in the world ever is John Denver's Annie's Song; that's one I see as intended for another, so I can't work with that. Fleetwood Mac's Everywhere works a treat (and makes me really happy, as it's one of my favourite songs). 

Okay, it's a bit weird but for me this worked and still works. Singing nice things to myself is on par with standing in the mirror, looking at your reflection and saying nice things to yourself (and it makes that easier too). 

Self-love is something very personal and can seem like the easiest or hardest thing in the world to achieve depending on how you treat yourself. Healing is not linear. However, next time a silly love song comes on and you want to skip past it, try thinking about saying those things to yourself and why you deserve to hear them. 

Because hanging out with yourself can be pretty awesome, as you're pretty awesome to hang out with.

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WE: Gillian Anderson & Jennifer Nadel

Last week was the Women of the World Festival in London, an event which champions gender equality, celebrating the achievements of women and girls everywhere and examining the obstacles that keep them from fulfilling their potential.

Women of the World Festival 2017

I was new to the festival last year, when I went along to see Caitlin Moran launch Moranifesto on IWD, so as soon as the festival was announced for this year I had a good browse of the brochure to decide which event I wanted to go to. 

Of course, as soon as I saw this book launch announced, my tickets were purchased. 

WE: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere is an uplifting, inspirational, and intensely practical manual for change, providing nine universal principles that offer a path for dealing with life's inevitable emotional and spiritual challenges. It's for anyone who wants to see her own life and the world around her change for the better.

By combining tools that are psychological, political and spiritual, WE takes readers on a life-changing journey. It asks: Why are so many of us—and our daughters—still, in the 21st century, locked in depression and addiction, self-criticism, and even self-harm? How much more effective and powerful would we all be if we replaced our current patterns of competition, criticism, and comparison with collaboration, cooperation, and compassion?

Putting these principles at the center of our lives offers an antidote to our me-first culture and allows each of us to be freer and happier, and to replace unhelpful habits with a more positive, peaceful, and rewarding way of living. WE is a rallying cry for women to join together and create lasting change in our own lives, our communities, and across the world.

Authored by ... Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel.

Gillian Anderson Jennifer Nadel

Empowerment with a hint of woo? Sign me up. 

I'll fully admit I came into this with my Gillian Anderson fangirl flag waving. I love this woman and have done since I was 15 years old. She's one I've grown up with; from Agent Scully to DSI Stella Gibson, Gillian has championed strong female roles in her TV work, and in all her work -  if you caught her in A Streetcar Named Desire you'll wonder how she didn't win all the awards for that performance, it was incredibly powerful. She's involved with a fleet of charities and is a fierce advocate for getting involved in volunteering. 

Jennifer I knew very little about until I bought tickets for this event, but a bit of research soon rectified this. A journalist, writer, environmental activist, a Green Party member and champion for women's rights. A decade long friendship between these two women had to lead to something incredible and WE seems to be it. 

The ladies, along with Jude Kelly, spoke to a 2000 strong audience at the Royal Festival Hall for an hour, explaining their motivation behind creating the book. Jennifer described it as the book needed before things got too much in your life; both her and Gillian answered very candidly questions about their difficulties in life and they put so much emphasis on self-love and the need to be kinder and more accepting of ourselves in order to be of use to others in life, something I'm fully onboard with.

After a good half an hour of questions from the audience, both kindly took up residence in one of the conference rooms and signed copies of the book.

Gillian Anderson Jennifer Nadel Book Signing

It was great evening listening to other women say that sometimes they struggle too, which shouldn't have to be said to glean understanding, but at the same time it's nice to hear it. It's comforting and reassuring to see that even someone who you can admire so much that they seem beyond your realm is just as human as you are.

I left very keen to read my copy, I think it's going to be a very useful book to have in the world.

Gillian Anderson Jennifer Nadel WE Women Signed Copy

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The February Round-Up

February over and done with. Hooray and BYE. Spring, I am ready for you.

I mean, it's not as bad as January, but it's not as good March. Thankfully February IS short, so it's done with before you can really get ticked off about it.

I started the month like this:

I needed a weekend at home to clean up the place and not talk to anyone for a couple of days. Those introvert resets are so blissful and result in a lot of sleep.

And beer, because at the end of January I treated myself to a big box of Brewdog. Gotta keep my investment going! 

Once again, my month went a bit crackers after that. I went to watch This House at the Garrick Theatre. I love a good political comedy drama and this one has the best set design - it's like having Westminster on the stage, you can even sit in the seats ON the stage and use the Westminster bar during the interval. I'm able to laugh at politics again, which is a good sign that I've managed to distance myself from the screaming chaos that is UK and US Governments right now however watching UK politics from the 1970's; discussing devolution of Scotland and leaving the EU filled me with a little despair. Don't things ever change? I mean, yes, they do - in the 1970's at least the opposition parties worked ...

I went to see Richard Herring at Leicester Square Theatre do a mash-up of work from his last 10 years of Edinburgh shows, which was great value for money.

As part of my 2017 goals, I wanted to get more involved with causes I believe in and I went to my first demo with the Sister Supporter team this month. This is a group who demo outside the local Marie Stopes clinic to drowned out the religious vigil that stand outside it every day and have the audacity to judge women for having autonomy over their own bodies. I've watched them do this for the 10 years that I've lived in my borough and it makes my blood boil. So, when I discovered this group I couldn't wait to get over there and support women. There's no legal buffer zones outside clinic to prevent women being harassed by religious groups and Sister Supporter are actively campaigning to the Government to discuss this. 

My friend Keira cooked me the most amazing dinner. Fois gras, pasta, a pancake stack and loads of wine? Yes please!

And finally my friend Emily came to stay. I hadn't seen Emily since she before she left for Australia last January, so we were well overdue some cocktails and catch-ups (we had 16 hours of both, that led to a fierce hangover!)

I watched a couple of films this month. Arrival was one I missed the first time around but it appeared at my beloved Prince Charles Cinema, so I went along to see that with Martin and a ton of Maltesters. I really enjoyed it. There's a lack of smart sci-fi around which involves alien life (why does everyone assume they'd be hostile and looking for a gun fight?) and as the premise of this film was based in linguistics it really intrigued me and I wasn't disappointed. It's one I will be rewatching. 

T2: Trainspotting was an absolute delight. I cackled so much when I watched this film. It was so good to see the cast back together and I loved the plot of the film. Well worth the wait for a sequel so well done. 

Aside from making sure I keep a clear weekend to myself this month, my 2017 goals continue:  my swimming has been going well:

I'm enjoying my Great Barrier Reef challenge on SwimIO and can easily cover well over half a mile in 30 minutes, it's crazy how much my fitness has improved over 7 weeks. 

Oh, and I bought myself a bike as an early birthday present.

I can't wait to get out and about on this more during the warmer months. I've not owned a bike for well over a decade, so I've got to start slowly, getting my road confidence back up. Between the swimming and this my gym membership has been binned off, less outgoings mean more cash in the fun savings account.

March is a busy month because it's birthday month! My long wait to see Harry Potter & the Cursed Child is almost over. We also get International Women's Day, which I'll be celebrating by going to a book launch by someone I'm very excited to hear speak about feminism, I'm going to see some magic, I'm going to eat some cake, I'm going to do celebratory drinking. It's already looking like another great birthday.

The final thing I have to mention this month is the new addition to our knowledge of exoplanets; the Trappist-1 planetary system.

source: NASA


This might be the most exciting thing discovered in my lifetime. Seven planets orbiting a star and three in the Goldilocks zone. I cannot wait to find out more about this system, the planets within it and whatever those planets may be home host to. Life just got a little more sci-fi and a lot more exciting.
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My 23andMe

Ever the science geek, last year I ordered a DNA collection kit from 23andMe.

23andMe review + results

After having a chat with someone who had done one of these, and hearing about the information you can get from them, I decided to treat myself to a kit. They currently vary in price (running from £125-£140 depending on where you buy it) and to some that might seem like a massive outlay, but this is an actual breakdown of your DNA, so to me it's worth the outlay. Tests like this would not have been on the market at all a few decades ago, and back in 2007 in the US this test cost $10,000. Only £140 for genotyping? Shut up and take my money. 

My primary interest was my ancestry, and seeing where my DNA has been over the years geographically, but the added extras of health information (in case I fancy a bit of biohacking) and the ability to search for other people with DNA matches was a bonus.

In brief; a kit arrives in the post, you spit into a tube, seal it up and send it back in the box. Then you wait patiently a good 8 weeks for your results ready email to drop into your inbox.

The Ancestry wasn't that thrilling for me as I expected, it was almost as I had predicted:

23andMe review + ancestry

I am so very British and Irish. With a drop of Scandi, French and German. With hints of Italian. And North African (?!). I think I'd show more Scandi if they could have some male family DNA to play with (so I might be buying my brother one of these kits for Christmas), given my ancestors are Danish Vikings, my original surname is of Danish origin and I am very, very blonde.

23andMe review + health data

Oh, and I'm a smidge more Neanderthal than average too. Explains my massive brow bone that my mum keeps kindly pointing out to me.

There's also the maternal haplogroup information, which will tell you which major branch of the mitochondrial phylogenetic tree you fell off. Mine's the same one as Marie Antoinette and Prince Philip. All well and good (and I could have a Danny Dyer moment about this) but once you've been to a lecture on genetics by Adam Rutherford (thank you Brian & Robin's Christmas Compendium of Reason), that gets slapped out of you. Doesn't mean I won't be attempting to perfect my Claire Foy in The Crown impressions, though.

What I really enjoy in this section is the ability to search for people with the same DNA as you. There's so many! I currently have 706 matches for various segments of my DNA, which is lovely as it makes me realise that we're pretty special and unique to ourselves, but share so much with other people out there in the world. How wonderful. You can reach out and ask these people to share their details with you (health, not personal), see their maternal haplogroup and see how connected you are (so far I've found no one higher than a 3rd cousin, but you never know, we're a big family and a broach church).

Anyway, onto the health information, this is what I really enjoyed looking through and reading about. It's broken into a few different sections, as outlined below.

Genetic Risk Factors with contains locked results for Alzheimer's, Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, Parkinson's and open results for other things like cardiomyopathy and thrombophilia. The locked results you just have to re-enter your password to unlock. I'm of the mind that if the tests are done, the information is there and I've paid for it, I'd want to know it, so I unlocked mine immediately. There was nothing controversial on mine, but if you have a good grasp of your family medical history, you'd be aware of any red flags in advance.

Drug Response to popular medications, like Warfarin, Hepatitis C meds, Statins and so forth. I have a fast response to PPI drugs (as I have a bit of a fast metabolism) which means I'd need to have a higher dose (or a different drug) to have an effect. It's also an idea for me to stay away from Statins as I'm at risk of myopathy from them (remind me to keep an eye on my cholesterol!).

Inherited Conditions. These will simply display in two ways: Variant Absent or Variant Present. These conditions are recessive, meaning that they only occur when you have two variants for that condition, one inherited from each parent. One variant makes me a 'carrier', which has no effect on me directly, but if I was considering procreating, the father of my children would need some tests too. The big red flag for me was for a type Muscular Dystrophy, which I am a carrier for, and therefore could have repercussions if I was baby inclined.

Traits. These are fun bits. It can have a go at predicting basic things like hair and eye colour (both correct), lactose intolerance, norovirus resistance, alcohol flush response, if you're likely to be an addicted smoker. The bio-hacks kick in here too, as the results can look at muscle performance (so if you're like me you're a better sprinter than distance runner), how you metabolise caffeine (fast), if you're like to be obese (nope), when you're likely to hit menopause (early), response to diet (fats have little effect on my BMI) and how you respond to exercise (no change in my glucose tolerance, increased insulin sensitivity and that low-impact cardio is the best way for me to lose weight). It's not concrete and a lot of it is research-based but they're quite interesting little bio-hacks. 

The information is constantly updated with new discoveries and scientific information, more people taking tests and sharing their DNA, so even after digesting your results it's worth having a log back in to your profile in a month or so to see what's been happening and who has got in touch.

Is it worth the money? That depends on what you want. As a bit of a nerd who likes science and stats, I get a lot from this (you have access to your raw data, which you can run through various websites to get some further information and explanations about gene mutations). It's also a mild pyramid scheme as a few of my friends have followed suit and done these tests (so we nerd out over the data together) and as I said earlier, because I'm curious about my paternal line I now need to buy a kit for my brother to have a go as well.

The big thing to me about such tests being available to the masses is where this kind of thing could go next; besides biohacking for health and fitness purposes, such easy DNA collection could make for easier diagnosis of conditions, advanced health warnings from home (to avoid having to queue at the doctors to see if your sickness is viral or bacterial and so on). In this form it's far from perfect but it makes me a little excited about what the future might hold for this type of testing and if it's this easy now, what's next on the commercial market?

Basically, if this kind of thing interests you and you like to science for fun, it's worth the money.

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The January Round-Up

January, done! HOORAY!

Considering how much I hate January, this one was probably the best one I've had in years. I've suffered with Seasonal Affective Disorder for as long as I can remember and this winter I took it to task. I made a big effort this month to look after myself; rest, eat well, move and laugh, which seems to have had a great impact. There's been the usual hiccups and bumps along the way, but nothing feeling apocalyptic, which is a hell of a change given how awful I felt towards the end of last year (but I think a lot of that was the political landscape changing beneath our feet). Maybe that's what put me in good stead for this year? Maybe a fresh start was what I needed? Whatever happened, it's been a good first month, which are words that I rarely say.

I spent the first half of the month hibernating. This is quite typical of me as I find the first week back at work after the holidays really tough going, so the first weekend is a write-off (I stayed in, cleaned my house and binged a boxset). The second week I felt slightly more social, and by the third week all systems were go.

I went to see Embrace, which I talked about here. I went to see Festival of the Spoken Nerd, who I've seen many times at Christmas Compendium, but never their full show and it was fantastic -  highly recommend to my fellow science / maths nerds.  (An easy guide to work out if you're one of these is based on how you answer this question - do you cheer at spreadsheets? If so, welcome, you are my people).

Festival of the Spoken Nerd

I spent a weekend with my friend Martin, who is such good company and fed me so well that I didn't want to come home!

Then it was just the long, slow wait to payday. OMG how long is the wait until January payday?!

I spent the last bit of the month back home with my mum, keeping her company while my step-dad had some heart surgery. Given I'd only been home the month previous, this is starting to feel like a routine! It's good to help out, though, and I do miss my mum a lot when I'm in London and she did need some TLC.

Didn't mean I didn't run back to London for a gig on the 31st, mind!


(That was Train at Islington Assembly Rooms; it was gorgeous and intimate. I hugged my friends and sang my heart out).

Speak of family things, my brother has written a book! As I'm rather partial to a philosophy book I was very excited to read Gary's book (he's the one feed I look forward to seeing on LinkedIn) and it hasn't disappointed. I laughed myself silly at the acknowledgement he gave me at the start of the book, too. 

Now we're well into the swing of 2017, it's time to share my goals for the year and how I'm getting on with them. I didn't make resolutions as such (as I'm not really down with this whole *new year, new me!* bollocks) but there are a few things I wanted to do this year (HASHTAG GOALS) and have made a good start on during the month:

  • Set up a second savings account for 'fun' spending. This is my way of using my credit card less, if I have a 'fun' spending account I can use that for holidays, gigs, theatre tickets, airbnb stuff and festivals. Starting from zero is very good for me with savings as I'll keep to see the total increase pronto, it also means I'll not have to dip into my other savings account anymore. As it's not flexi-access, I was mugging my interest rate every time I touched it. I have a very big adventure that I want to save up for this year, so I need to crack on with counting the pennies and be able to access my fun funds as and when I need them. 
  • Sort out my outgoings and reduce them. This meant getting rid of a few unused subscriptions (Audible, Tesco Delivery Saver etc), they might seem like small outgoings but you add up three subscriptions like that and it's almost £25 per month - and that's my gym membership! After cracking out my finance spreadsheets and jiggling some things around, I've been able to tuck an extra bundle into savings for the forseeable. My credit card has been cleared too.  
  • Be more mindful with my spending. I've gone old-school with this and I write down everything I spend that's not in my *essential life* section (bills, food, Spotify, Netflix) and then see if I've been a prat. I've also been withdrawing cash and only using that for the month. That's not a perfect system and some things will inevitably end up being paid for with my debit card (like getting halfway to the shops and realising I've forgotten my £20 note), but handing over cash is making me far more aware of my spending. Contactless is great and a flipping disaster zone for me all at once. I managed to get through January using only the cash I'd withdrawn. I'll be having another go at this during February. 
  • Go swimming weekly. My housemate suggested this and I thought it was a great idea. I've not been swimming for a good handful years and I have missed it. I commented on Twitter in the first week that no matter how fit you think you are, swimming is a great leveller (like Zumba, in that respect). On my first session I was knackered after 5 minutes (but I persevered for 30, with lots of rests between sets) but it motivated me to get better. There's never a better competitor to battle against than myself. I downloaded the SwimIO app to my phone to log all my swims and I've set myself a distance goal to swim the Great Barrier Reef by summer, which is 16515m. 
  • Get really f'kin fit. Not so much a vanity project as a wellbeing one. I miss being *really* fit so I'm working to fix that this year. The swimming helps, the occasionally gym date helps, the daily extra walking really helps. I committed to daily (weekday) crunches every morning for January and it stopped the lower backache that I had for half of last year within a week. Clearly my core needed some strengthening. It's funny how little things can make such a big difference to the way you feel, and almost immediately too.
  • Say 'No' to more things and start setting up 'Me' dates. Last year I said 'Yes' to almost every social event that came my way and some weeks I ended up absolutely knackered. As much as I've nailed dedicating time to various people and things in my life, I'm still a bit shit at committing giving time to just me and I've a nasty habit of taking it whenever I can get it and binge sleeping through it. The weekly swimming date works with this as that's something I'm committing to for me (along with a weekly gym date), I need to get better at allocating time for my stuff, not just winging my life via the gaps in my calendar.
  • Delete Facebook. Which I did on New Years Eve. It's been a lovely month without it and, even better, I'm not missing it. I realise FB can be a great communication tool but honestly I filtered down my newsfeed so much that I only had about 5 people on it. I really didn't like it; I didn't like the pressure it puts on people to tart up their lives (and I don't like liars), and after the amount of shit flying around it after US election and UK referendum last year I was officially done. I did let people know I was going and put my contact details on before I left, but if you were on my friends list and you missed my post let me know via one of these ways, I'm pretty free and easy with my phone number.
  • Get more involved with causes I believe in. If there's one thing that came out of the shitshow that was 2016 it was that I'm as mad as hell about certain things in the world. Women's health being discussed and defunded by dudes in suits, the UK's heavy dependence on food banks for survival, for example. So far this year I've written to my MP twice and contacted a few organisations to get involved in. I am fired up and not taking it anymore. FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT! 

Women's March London 2017

The world feels a massive mess right now, I figure if people want to make changes then they should find something they feel passionate about and get involved with it on a local level. Will it change *the world*? No. Will it change *your world*? Yes, and right now that's the best thing for us. Make *your* world a place to be comfortable and safe for everyone.

So, that's my year off and rolling. Tonight I'm going to see Chris Gethard's Career Suicide show at Soho Theatre, which will involve much Morrissey, setting the month off on the right tone.

Next week, I'll be walking home from work in daylight again. Spring is on the way, my friends. Here comes the sun. 

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I Have Embraced

If you're as deep in the Body Image Movement (body positivity, self-love, body image confidence etc) as I am, then there's no way you've escaped seeing the trailer for this movie online: 

Needless to say, when I found out Taryn was bringing screenings of Embrace to the UK and doing a Q&A at the premiere, I bought tickets immediately. I've been waiting for this film since the Kickstarter was up and running. 

After all, who doesn't need a good, healthy dose of body image love in January, when every diet on the earth is jammed into our faces?

Embrace Taryn Brumfitt

Taryn's film is kind but alarming; I know women talk badly about themselves (I've been there and done that) but standing on *this side* of the body acceptance fence, looking back to the other side is shocking. It's comforting to see how far I've come over the last couple of years but horrible to see that so many people, women in particular, still say terrible things about their bodies to themselves and to others.

She interviews a broad range of women from all over the world about their perceptions of themselves and their bodies; not all of it is negative, some is so fabulously positive that it brings you to tears (Harnaam Kaur is so fucking fierce that it's unreal and Nora Tschirner is my new favourite person EVER).

Embrace is essentially a love letter from Taryn to her daughter, Mikaela, encouraging her to not waste her lifetime stressing about getting the *perfect* body and to simply embrace the one she has and live her life to the fullest - a message that every woman (and man, for that matter) can benefit from hearing and taking onboard.

The UK premiere was in Covent Garden, a red carpet was set up for anyone who wished to have their photo taken with Taryn to do so. I was almost last in the door as I was rushing over from work, but walking in to a cinema foyer and seeing these two amazing women immediately set the tone for the night:

Body Image Movement

That's Megan, you might know her as BodyPosiPanda on Instagram, she's fabulous. Look at her hair!

The Q&A afterwards was almost as emotional as the film itself, with many questions being posed about how get in the right frame of mind for embracing your body, how to inspire daughters, younger girls in schools ... hearing the voices of women break as they asked for help and guidance really brought home how important this film is and the changes it can make to the world if we all take heed of the notion and begin to make the first change with ourselves.

Embrace screenings are happening all over the UK right now, and they're demand-based, so if you don't buy tickets, they don't happen. I cannot recommend this film enough. I wish something this positive was out there when I was starting my body acceptance journey 2 years ago, so if you're just starting out, or on the way, or looking to support others on their journey it's well worth a watch.

Tickets can be purchased here (or here if you're in Ireland) and you can get involved with the Body Image Movement here

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