When I was born, I was a little unexpected. For a start, I was a "mistake". My parents were expecting a boy when suddenly out popped this little girl that looked a bit like Mowgli from The Jungle Book and couldn't sit still. From the start I was a very independent child, unlike my sister who had to be sat on my mother's hip at all times, I was running around and causing havoc from the very beginning. I was going to be called Jack until this creature who was very obviously a "Lucy" arrived. It makes me wonder, if I had been born a boy what would have been different - would I still have become a journalist and quit my job to travel the world? Would I still have an unhealthy love for cheese and wine? Or would I be a completely different person? I feel like my entrance into the world helped set the tone for the rest of my life, which so far has taken some pretty unexpected turns. I remember when I first announced to friends that I was coming travelling, some were shocked I was giving everything up and going it alone. Others, who knew me well, were unsurprised. More than one of them actually said they kind of expected something like this from me, that I'd always been a bit of a free spirit even when I was working full time and in a long-term relationship. I guess not much has changed about me since then, I just cast off all the shackles that were keeping me tied to one place so that I could experience total freedom for a while.
Growing up, I was always more of a boy's-girl than a girl's-girl, I always had my gang of close girlfriends but would always find myself spending more time with the guys. Back then I struggled with the bitching and "girl talk" that came with one particular gang and it kind of put me off female friendships a bit. I've never had any interest in people who want to talk about others negatively - I love the kind of people who want to build each other up and celebrate each other. But then some amazing women came crashing into my life that changed all that - I'm a very lucky girl to have a pretty special group of female friends both at home and on the road and they have completely changed my opinion. My friends at home are these amazing, creative, independent and exciting women who have an opinion on everything and will stand by you until the end. They're the kind of women who will never make you feel bad about yourself, won't make you judge other people and won't make you feel insecure. Instead they bring light into your life, and colour, lots of it. A night with them is well spent whether you're debating over a glass of wine, setting the world to rights over dinner, or dancing like fools in the club. They're wild women, they're passionate and have dreams. They don't sit around waiting for a guy - they go out and work hard to earn their own money and they make their own dreams come true. They're fearless and bold, they're brave and they inspire me.While nothing will ever replace those incredible creatures that keep cheering for me and supporting me even when I'm the other side of the world, I've met some pretty amazing souls since travelling as well. The kind of women who make you feel like you can take on the world and do anything you set your mind to, the ones who will be your cheerleaders, who will be your shoulder to cry on, your tough love when you need it and the kind of women you will be friends with for life. I feel like when you meet people travelling it is so different to making new friends at home, it's like you see their soul laid bare from the very beginning and people aren't afraid to dive in the deep end. I've lost count of the amount of times I've met these beautiful characters who have laid their cards on the table from the first day and by the end of it we've been declaring our love for each other. People aren't afraid to be exposed, if anything they're more willing to be themselves no matter what. I love that, I love when people are unapologetically themselves. It's refreshing to meet people who are fearless in expressing their ideas and opinions, who don't try to fit in with any crowd or way of thinking. They're free spirits and wild women and they're everywhere. I saw a quote the other day and it really summed up what I'm trying to say in this post:
There is no competition between wild women. Their spirits are too free to be caught in a tiny space of envy. Instead they dance together and allow the good to flow abundantly amongst each other.
I love this. This is something to be celebrated. Not just among women, but I wanted to use this excuse to focus on the incredible women I have met in my life. We should always make it our business to be as wild and free as the world will allow - to follow our hearts and to dream big. And, even more importantly, we shouldn't allow envy or jealousy to make us judge the achievements of others. At the end of the day, life is tricky sometimes and we all need a bit of help and support along the way, we should do our best to give this to all the women in our lives because we never know when we'll need it returned to us. To all those who live their lives meekly and afraid of what others will say - stop. Live loudly and proudly, be excited and passionate and chase what you want out of life. Be one of those women that inspires you, be one of those women that inspires others. Whether your free spirit travels the world, creates something amazing or loves with great abandon - go full throttle on life and you'll never look back with regret. I've spent the last three months living in the outback and it's made me more grateful than ever before for my tribe: the girls here in town who have got me through, the girls across Australia who have kept cheering me on, and the gang at home who have been a ear when I needed to vent. Every single one of you have kept me inspired, supported and excited about life even after the toughest day at work. Thanks to you, I made it through. So I'll end on this note, make it your business today to think about the women in your life, the ones who are wild and free and inspire you at every step. Let them know what a big part they play in your life.
Have you got an amazing gang of girlfriends? How have your girls inspired you?
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It might come as a surprise to some of you that me and the boyfriend don't live together after being together for such a long time - everyone seems to be moving in together at the moment! But actually, our living situation has enabled us to enjoy the best of both worlds. On my wage, I would have been seriously poor if I lived with him and would have had no life, but staying at my parents' house has given me an opportunity to save money while paying low rent and it gives me an easy way out of any contract when I go travelling. In Wolfy's case, he lives with a friend in a house that is owned and has been remodelled by his parents. Both quite independent people, we really like our own space so living apart has actually been quite nice, we have the option to see each other whenever we like, and the money I save on rent can also go towards us doing fun things together like all the festivals back in the summer.
Since moving out of his parent's house, Wolfy has lived in two homes and the first one, which he shared with two other boys, provided me with quite an experience. I know a lot of people who are in shared homes - some with couples and a few other friends, others are trios or groups of four - many find this is the only way they can afford to live out. So I know I'm not the only one who will have had some pretty hilarious and gross experiences in my time spent staying over at a shared house. I'm quite lucky that now Wolfy lives in a house with just the one friend it is kept really nice and clean, and that this house-mate knows not to just barge in when you're getting changed. But the old house did make for some rather entertaining times.
20 experiences every girl has had while staying at her boyfriend's shared house
Any classics you want to add to the list?
By now you guys will all know how much I love my girls, whether they're the ones that live on my doorstep, halfway across the country, or even thousands of miles across the world. They mean the world to me and I love the fact that I have managed to find so many amazing women who all share the same attitude as me to life. Even more so, I love that they have been with me through the very worst and the very best of times, have seen me in a complete state and at the top of my game, and love me no matter what. Men may mock girl friendships - and yes, some are a complete sham - but I reckon we girls have one up on you guys when we do things right.
You will, of course, get those friendship groups who chat shit about each other behind each other's backs, steal each other's boyfriends and generally make each other feel bad about themselves. Just like you do in some male friendship groups... But when we women club together, we have something you guys don't - and that is a closeness that can't compare to guy friendships I have seen. These girls are more than "just friends", they are my sisters and my family - the ones I have chosen to share my deepest, darkest secrets with and the ones who will pick me up in the middle of the night when it all comes crashing down. As they say, your friends are the family you choose - and my friends are firmly an extension of my family.A few particularly good girl dates recently have inspired this post because they really got me thinking about what makes my friendships special - then I realised, they aren't special at all to anyone other than me. Women up and down the country share equally incredible friendships with their girls - and while mine are completely unique and special to me, the general principals are exactly the same. For most of my life I have been more of a boy's girl, but amazingly I have found myself at this point of my life with more girlfriends than ever before, and I have to say, my tastes have definitely changed. I love being surrounded by girl power, loud voices, fierce personalities and loving support. It makes me feel stronger as an individual, and forever grateful that every single day I know I have a tribe of equally strong women fighting my corner and cheering me on.
What do I love about my girls?
Don't worry, I'm not shooting down guy friendships as I have plenty of my own. I'm just saying that girl friendships can sometimes get a bad rap thanks to those who don't understand the concept of true friendship. But the point is that actually we really have something going for us and girl friendships, in my experience, seem to reach a level that guys should be jealous of and that we should be proud of as women. If you ask me, some women need to realise that supporting each other and cheering each other on is far more admirable than tearing each other down and casting judgement.
What do you love about your girls?
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I stumbled across something wonderful last week and it made me feel so happy to read about that I just had to share it with you guys. The Jubilee Project is a team of volunteers who work together to create short films and documentaries in their spare time to increase awareness and inspire action. Their vision is to produce entertaining content that will empower, enable, and inspire others to do good as well. Three guys started the project following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when they started busking with hopes of raising $100 for the relief efforts. They fell short so made a video about it, they ended up raising over $700. Now they continue to create meaningful videos that will affect audiences and make them think about wider issues, with the mantra #DoingGoodIsContagious. So their latest video - which you'll find below - is what I wanted to share with you.
It shows the incredible difference between adults and children - culture and society. With 50 adults and children asked the same question - If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be? And without a moment's hesitation, all of the adults launch straight into things they don't like and parts they wanted to change. The children? They seem stumped at first, unable to think of anything to change. But then they launch into superhuman additions they would like to have - mermaid tails (yes please!) and cheetah's legs - because they don't think there is anything wrong with the body they were given. So innocent and pure, they minds are yet unchanged by society and the horrible body shaming and expectations that are thrust upon us over time. Is this not yet more proof that no-one is born hating their body - we are the ones teaching them to?
I know I've written before about body confidence (here and here), but I haven't yet focused on the problem of body shaming in society. The fact that you can be as confident as you like, but advertising and media and even just people on the street are often waiting to tear you back down again. It's so sad to see how the views of these youngsters will change over time as they become more affected by the views of those around them, which in turn have been placed on them by advertising campaigns like the Victoria's Secret one, or even music like the Meghan Trainor song. You can take either of these are you want - and to be honest, the song doesn't really bother me a huge amount as I think it's garbage anyway, but the underwear campaign is a different story. I don't really understand why anyone would have let that campaign be released in the first place when it gives such a clear message that anything other than a Victoria's Secret model is not perfect. What planet are these people on? Do they really think that 99.99999999% of the world's population are the exception instead of the rule?Hearing all of the adults listing several things they would change and clearly feeling very uncomfortable about parts of their bodies was really sad. To think you have these amazing individuals who have had lives, friendships, have loved and had children - and yet they are still unhappy with the way that they look. It really warmed my heart to hear one of the young girls saying she actually really liked her body and wouldn't want to change a thing - I wanted to scream at the screen and say DON'T CHANGE! Don't listen to the media, ignore those billboards and stay happy as you are. She was one of the slightly older ones and you can tell it won't be long until she too is affected by both and becomes insecure about her appearance. The clock is ticking. But then that final clip of the video makes all the difference - the oldest lady in the video says that she is happy with her body, her grey hair and her wrinkles because without those she wouldn't be her. That woman is an inspiration and someone we should all take note of - I know I would much rather be like her than any of the other adults in the video.
It makes me feel quite sad that the majority of people will go through their lives without feeling truly happy with their appearance, despite it making up such a tiny amount of who they are. Why do we have to spend the majority of our lives - from being a child to entering our golden years feeling insecure? We've all got bits and piece that work, legs that get us from A to B, noses that can smell and tongues that can taste... So why, when we have all this on our side, do we have to go full circle before feeling confident again? Well as far as I'm concerned - we don't. We all make our own decision to be happy or to be sad. We choose whether to let the haters bother us, whether to listen to those around us. Whether to feel fat on the beach in a bikini. So it's time we all stopped listening to everything around us and start listening to that voice inside that says "You're fabulous". It's easy to miss because it often gets squashed down by the one that says "You look gross" or "You're fat" - but is far more important to pay attention to. I'm not saying it's the easiest thing in the world, but changing your mindset is the first step to feeling content. The best way to change your mindset? Stop jumping straight to telling yourself about those ugly, fat or wobbly bits when you look in the mirror, make it your business to compliment the bits you like first. Three nice things for every one complaint and you'll soon start thinking and feeling differently.
What part of your body do you love the most and why? How do you feel after watching this video?
I was too busy to write this post last week, but it's been playing on my mind ever since and I've now actually delayed another post to share this with you guys today. Those of you who don't follow many blogs might not be aware of the scathing column written by Independent journalist, Chloe Hamilton, about the nation's number one blogger and vlogger, Zoella. This attack came completely out of the blue, and interestingly at a time when Zoe Sugg is at the top of her game, winning awards, becoming a charity patron, launching a beauty range and more. Perhaps more to do with attracting attention than actually making a valid comment? Zoe has the amazing success most bloggers dream of and aspire to. She is a beautiful young girl, both inside and out, who vlogs to share her experiences and struggles with anxiety with others, creating a support network for teen girls across the world. Pretty amazing for a 24-year-old! With over six million subscribers on her YouTube channel, she must be doing something right and is nothing short of an inspiration to a lot of us.
I'm sure you can already tell I disagree with the column, but my concern is not so much the viewpoint of the writer, but the fact that she felt the need to be so nasty while making her point. Chloe is welcome to feel that Zoella reinforces certain stereotypes and perhaps doesn't represent the "typical" view of feminism - but where is the need to describe her as "the latest creation spat out by the YouTube machine" or slate her "brand of sickly sweet girl power"? And what is the "typical" view of feminism anyway? There are so many stereotyped ideas of a "typical feminist" that I wonder how anyone could say what a feminist looks, speaks and acts like. This column is pure nastiness and really just embarrasses both the Independent and the "journalist" behind it, who quite frankly both appear to have published the piece to stir up reaction and page views. Well I'm sure it has worked, considering the reaction from countless bloggers and vloggers across Facebook and Twitter, and I hate to give the article the time of day because I know it just gives the writer what she wants. But I'm more concerned with the greater cost to "feminism".Too many already consider feminism a joke - a way to justify beating down men at every opportunity, to not conform to society expectations, to just kick up a fuss at every given opportunity - I've seen and heard these views given several times over the years. They don't understand that in its purest form feminism means "the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes". The reason they don't understand this? Well, because feminism has become a bit of a fashion statement, I'm not saying everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but all too often I am seeing women using feminism as an excuse for their behaviour, when actually there is no excuse. I'm not talking about those who are campaigning, who stand up for those who are mistreated because of their gender - those who are underpaid, treated with no respect, or even abused simply because they are women. These are the good feminists, the true feminists who are paving the way for women. They are the inspiration to us all to follow their lead and do the same, to stand up and say something when we see real-life sexism and inequality.
I'm talking about those who are using "feminism" as an excuse to slate successful women and who use their own medium, whether blogging, writing, vlogging, "journalism", social media or something else, in an attempt to bring them down or leech off their fame. I've seen a few examples of this recently, a couple over Twitter that were indirectly attacking a woman seemingly out of jealousy because she was successful and yet they felt the need to attack her looks and the way she dressed, and the way she wrote. How sad. No matter how indirectly you dress it up, we all know who you're talking about, and honey, it doesn't make them look bad - that's all on you.This latest attack by Chloe Hamilton is far worse because it targets not only Zoe's success - which has caused her to become an inspiration for millions of teen girls. But it also launches an assault on how she has made her living - I just struggle to understand how a young woman who has found a hobby that she loves and turned it into a huge career through hard work can be seen as anything less than inspirational. Although many may not realise it, blogging is hard work - it takes up a huge portion of your life and is a massive commitment. You spend hours each week writing posts, videoing them, shooting pictures, brainstorming ideas. We do it because we love it, but as a professional journalist, an editor and a blogger, I can say I spend a lot of time perfecting my posts and I know others are the same. So the fact that Zoe has dedicated so much of her time to creating a brand, to promoting it, to working with her viewers and communicating with them is no mean feat. And the fact that for a long time she wouldn't have been getting paid for any of it - just shows what a hard worker she is.
My next question is why does Chloe Hamilton hate Zoe so much for enjoying make-up, for trying out hairstyles and for liking getting dressed up? Since when has any of this stuff meant you are any less of a feminist? I love make-up, fashion, getting my hair done and styling it, not because it makes me pretty for men to look at, but because I enjoy the process of treating myself. But I also love equality, I love that my gender does not prevent me from getting an education, that it doesn't have to hold me back from certain career paths and I hate that there are women out there who are preyed on because of their gender, who are raped and attacked and persecuted. Isn't that the essence of feminism? Not what lipstick I've put on today. Or the fact that we choose to wear lipstick at all.
Chloe needs to try watching Zoella's videos about her anxiety and feeling confident in your own skin, she represents and covers all these important issues alongside beauty and hair - that doesn't mean she is going back on what she has said. Instead she gives us the boost we need and represents the girl-next-door, showing that everyone struggles with confidence and fears, but that it's okay and that we don't have to worry. She then gives girls the techniques and the tips so they can do make-up and hair well if they need it to boost their confidence or make them feel better individually, not for men.
Perhaps Chloe needs to spend a day in a high school to understand that the majority of teen girls want to learn about make-up and hair, they want to feel pretty and confident. I was a real bookworm at school and loved spending time with my friends, but that doesn't mean I didn't want to get dressed up as well. Zoella isn't playing on insecurities of youths, she is talking about her passions and her loves and they are obviously shared by girls across the world or she wouldn't have such an enormous following.Taking a quick look at the bigger picture here, something that Chloe seems to have missed. When Zoe is encouraging teen girls to enjoy innocent hair and make-up tutorials, or videos about anxiety and coping with it - shouldn't we be grateful that all these millions are tuning into her videos? All that time they spend watching them is another few minutes they are not watching and idolising "celebrities" like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and the rest of the women who feel the need to take their clothes off or dance provocatively while aiming their music at teen audiences. Zoe Sugg is making a credible difference to young audiences already because she respects herself, she is a successful woman who has forged a career in an industry that is only just beginning and she is a real girl, who doesn't have a team of make-up artists and retouching equipment that makes her seem perfect. She isn't afraid of her imperfections, she just finds ways to live with them and be happy with them.
Sorry this has ended up being such a long post, but I think it is something that really needs to be said. Women need to stop attacking each other and instead look at the real problems. Green is a terrible colour on some people and jealousy is a nasty emotion. Isn't it time we all started building each other up and being proud of our success stories? I'm happy and lucky to have a fantastic group of women as my friends, all strong feminists with big personalities who support and encourage each other to the bitter end. And the blogging community has been such a warm and welcoming place full of words of encouragement, congratulations at every small success and generally a huge amount of support at every stage of the game. We all believe in equality and women's rights, otherwise we wouldn't be voicing our opinions on the internet, creating these little spaces for our voices to be heard. THAT belief, THAT support and THAT passion is what we are proud of and what we love about blogging. That is what we should focus on and that is the future.
What did you think of the Independent column? What do you think about the Mean Girls who are calling themselves feminists?