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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Blogging & The Curse of Self-Doubt


"The more you can be yourself, the more successful you will become." Michael Atavar

Apart from all the things about me that look nothing like her, I'm a dead ringer for a 1960s Twiggy. Basically it's the hair. I have cropped hair. 

My cropped barnet has, in a round about way, played it's part in a) a downwards spiral into self-doubt and b) making me feel very left out when the messy top knot landed. I'd love a messy top knot.

My androgynous locks had got me wondering why I was paying in the region of £50 every five weeks for a trim, when I had little hair to come off in the first place. With a non-conformist air of "we'll see about this" I started getting my hair cut at a barbers. No appointments. no washing, just a short back and sides for £8!! I had beat the system (the over priced hair salon system) and was thrilled. 

As the months passed however, I started to miss the luxury of a salon and my hair was starting to resemble a thick winter hat shortly after each cut. I was also growing tired of being queue jumped by men at the barbers, assuming I was waiting for someone else. "Get in line mate wudya, it's actually ME that's waiting for a 4 on the sides, 5 on the top."

My hat hair and I longed for a salon visit again. 

With my hair struggles in mind, for our 3 year anniversary, Oliver, (my boyfriend who I'll name from now on because 'boyfriend' sounds a bit wanky) told me to book in at whatever salon I liked as his treat. I chose Trevor Sorbie in Manchester. So there I was, three weeks ago, happy as Larry flicking through a magazine while my colour set. 

As the red dye started to slowly seep across my hair line, one of my favourite, and huge, fashion bloggers sat in the chair next to me. I follow her blog regularly and always check her Instagram so to see her randomly in the flesh was completely surreal. Star struck, I nearly fell through the floor!

Should I say hello or not?? As a firm believer in signs and fate, it was too much of a coincidence to not say anything. 

It is with deep regret that I write to say, I fangirled. Badly. My heart was pounding, I couldn't string my words together properly. I suspect she feared for my sanity and her safety. 

Despite me behaving like a 13 year old girl meeting One Direction. she was, as I'd expected her to be, completely lovely. She chatted and answered my questions and said she'd look up my blog. I should have said that that would mean the world to me, but instead, through nerves, I asked if my hair colour made me look like Sharon Osborne. To sum up, I hit her with a barrage of questions then talked about myself. 

On the train ride home I started to cringe. 

Over the next couple of days I wondered if she would ever get round to looking at my blog? A few days passed and I never heard anything from her. I came to the following conclusion. She had either;

a) never actually looked because I couldn't have sold it to her any worse than I did ("it's a bit funny and there's a coffee shop in it") or b) looked and thought it was dreadful. 

That was decided then. My blog was awful. 

My salon trip began to really trouble me. My ego sensed a vulnerability and had a field day. I couldn't shake off the feeling that I just wasn't good enough.

A few days later, as I was packing for what was to be a dream get away to Italy, the nagging feeling wouldn't leave me. I was about to be living La Dolce Vita with Oliver, so why was I still obsessing over an embarrassing introduction to who was essentially a stranger on the internet?

I'd started blogging as a hobby, a bit of fun and a chance to practice writing. I didn't expect at the age of 32, to get wrapped up in self comparison to the extent that it would start making me feel bad about myself.

Instead of enjoying the content that other bloggers were creating I had, without realising, started to soak up everything that they were sharing. I was comparing my life to a snapshot of a stranger's life created for the on-line world. I'd even been going hell for leather at the gym* in the run up to our Italian adventure, trying to get honed and toned before I donned a bikini.  

*not quite 'hell for leather' but I HAD been going to the gym

I'd underestimated the influence of the blogger. 

In the run up to our holiday, and during my self-doubting slump I received an email from a homeware company asking if I would be willing to include their products in a post. They weren't however going to be sending a product sample. Instead I would have to imagine what the product might be like and write about that. 

I wasn't willing to write about a product that I had never seen in the flesh and from a company that I had never heard of? I had no way of vouching that the product was any good.

I politely declined, unhappy with the direction my blog had started to head in. Not only was I expected to write about imaginary bed linen, been shunned (not really but sort of) by one of my favourite bloggers, but I hadn't toned my legs or stomach how I'd wanted to. I would have to go to Italy with my legs still wobbling a bit at the top. I knew it was all ridiculous and highly unimportant but I just couldn't shake feeling bad about myself.

I had become completely swept up in trying to mirror the images on-line that I was scrolling through daily.

Not Your Nine To Five was never started as a platform to shove products at people. It was started so that I had somewhere to write and to make people feel a bit better about themselves. Instead it was starting to slowly chip away at my happiness. 

I finished packing and was raring to escape. All I needed to do was get my head out of social media and stick it slap bang in the middle of 'real life'. Italian 'real life' as it happened. 

If I couldn't get my perspective back after exploring Milan, Chiavari, Portafino and Florence then I was beyond all hope...

... To be continued 


"...be careful of the pull towards conformity." Michael Atavar

Monday, 8 August 2016

The Blogosphere Summer Party


Blogosphere Summer Party
Lumiere London, Location for Blogosphere Summer Party

I can't believe I almost didn't go to the Blogosphere Summer Party yesterday. I'd been excited during the run up to spend a Sunday afternoon in a stylish London venue, sipping tea, eating cakes and getting to know fellow bloggers, but when the day came round I was torn. Networking is not my strongest point BUT drinking tea is. 

Attending blogging events alone is daunting. I had cold sweats at the thought of not knowing anyone and potentially skipping round the room frantically in a manner not dissimilar to the Grinch, while I try to look totally fine hanging out on my own. 

In the end I was swung by dreamy velvet sofas, the sponsors (The London Tea Company and JewelleryBox.co.uk) and the promise of an ice breaker. 

Monday, 1 August 2016

Coffee Shop Monday: Ham & Jam, Preston.


Caffeine. Needed on a Monday more than any other day of the week. With that in mind let me welcome you to the ingeniously titled 'Coffee Shop Monday.' From now on, at the first Monday of every month you can find a post that contains me hurled up in a favourite coffee shop snacking and supping tea in the interests of spreading the word about spots worth a visit. 

Am I willing to dedicate the time each month hurled up on comfy chairs, snacking and supping tea in devout dedication to 'Coffee Shop Monday' and to you? 

Well OK, but only because it's you, I'm just that sort of person.

Without further ado step inside Ham & Jam, an independent coffee shop in Preston City centre. You might remember me singing their praises in a previous post when they played host to the Lancashire Fringe Festival. If you didn't catch that post you can here.

In no way over dramatising things, on my maiden visit to Ham & Jam I declared it my favourite local coffee shop and vowed that I'd be back. I stuck to my word and also got stuck into a 'proper' sized toasted tea cake.

Reasons why it's worth a visit (in no particular order):

The interior is my ideal d├ęcor. Modern and minimalist with clean lines and comfy chairs. The nicest setting to while away an  hour or two.  

The menu is wholesome and offers locally sourced ingredients in support of the local community. As living proof, a delivery of fresh tomatoes for that days soup arrived just as I did.
It's gonna be your choice should you visit to make the decision between indulgent handmade brownies or light and healthy fruit cups with yoghurt. Let the kind of day you're having be the decider. 

Hot water refills for your tea put a stop to that feeling of being rushed that you can sometimes get in larger chain coffee shops. At Ham & Jam you're encouraged to relax and spend your time. Pitched as "a welcome retreat from a busy life" it lives up to it's aspirations.

Free Wifi speaks for itself. 

Daily newspapers secured bonus points for being that days papers.

Events worth keeping an eye out for. A 'Punk Fiction' artwork exhibition arrived just after my visit, with a launch evening taking place this Friday the 05th August and a Comic Workshop the day after on the 06th. Something different to try that needn't cost you more than a cup of coffee, unless handmade brownies happen to be your Achilles heal.

As a space "where artists and artisans can express their skills" you can stay up to date with what's on via Twitter @HamandJamPR1 or www.hamandjamcoffeeshop.com.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Ham & Jam is a breath of fresh air in Preston. Give me a stylish interior, a good cup of tea and I'm in.


Thanks so much for reading. May your Monday be short and your coffee strong!

You can follow Not Your Nine To Five on Twitter and Instagram too. xx