Friday 14 August 2015

Feminist is I

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Feminist. It's such a dirty word isn't it?!

As soon as you say it or claim to be one there's a hush around the people nearby as if you've just admitted to some heinous crime. Males start flaring their nostrils and preparing for war because you've just said one of the most hated words in their particular dialect.

I jest of course. But really, what does being a feminist mean?

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With Emma Watson's speech from last year inviting people from all around the world to join the #HeForShe movement and claim that they are feminists, there's a continued debate amongst people as to what exactly it means to be one and how it has an impact on today's society.

There's several anti-feminist women's groups which completely baffle feminists and a lot of women in general saying if it weren't for feminism, we wouldn't have come as far as we have.

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I was discussing this with a close friend of mine ages ago when we were talking about makeup and other girly things. I told her I was torn between my need to oppose the beauty industry and everything it stands for, but at the same time I saw it as a rite of passage to wear makeup, especially in my 20's.

She told me that feminism means whatever you want it to mean. Ultimately it means equality for all, recognizing that women are people not objects like the media has portrayed and led us to believe over the years.

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For me, feminism means being able to be comfortable in my own skin, my own clothes, my own life, without thinking or feeling like I owe anyone, least of all a male for everything that I have or that I've achieved.

In the religious society I grew up in, it seemed the message was the complete opposite. So often I heard or was told 'Wives, submit to your husbands'. The example of that for me was mum doing everything she could for my dad, and him just being happy with it that way. From the outside it seemed all give all the time and there was no reciprocation involved, well none that I actively saw.

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In my household, mum believed that she had to be the dutiful wife and mother that hers was before her, even if that meant putting herself last in everything and not complaining about it because that's what she was taught.

My brother seemed to take full advantage of this and didn't oppose to her doing his laundry or cleaning up after him even though she told him off for it time and time again.

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Many times she would have just finished the washing up and was glad to sit down again when he'd call out for a sandwich or some kind of a snack. Having just seen her sit down and look completely exhausted, I'd ally myself with her and call out to him that he should get it himself since he was closer to the kitchen than mum was. He'd yell something back disliking my attitude towards him not getting what he wanted from mum and mum would intervene telling him it was fine and she'd get up again to make something for him. It frustrated me endlessly that she was treated like a personal slave and she never stood up for herself even though it tired her out. On occasion if I was standing in the kitchen when a request was made for a snack, mum would ask if I could make something for him but I'd counter saying that he was more than capable of making food for himself (he was a teenager at the time) and I didn't know how to make whatever it was that he wanted and preferred the way that she made it anyway.

Don't get me wrong, I love my brother dearly and this isn't to slam him or his treatment of mum, I've heard from lots of mothers that boys prefer to let their mothers do the work for them whereas girls tend to do it themselves, or something along those lines.

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More recently though (6ish years ago) I had a boss from a Middle Eastern background who had certain expectations that because I'm a female I'd wait on him like his wife and other females in his life did. He came into work one morning when I was doing an invoice or whatever I had on my to do list and he made a point of saying that I hadn't asked him if he wanted a cup of tea that morning. I just looked at him blankly. No male, hell, no one had ever said that to me. My brother didn't drink tea or coffee and my dad either made it himself or mum made one for him if she was having one. Sometimes I'd offer, but no one had ever commented that I'd hadn't gone out of my way to ask if they wanted one. Nevertheless, my boss made himself one and sat opposite me drinking it and glimpsing at me every now and again almost as if to say 'nevermind, I made one myself!'.

I remember getting home from work after that and telling my dad about it, he was amused when I exclaimed that if my boss had two legs and beating heart, there was no reason why he couldn't make one himself. Maybe he thought it was in my job description that I'd automatically make one for him even though I'd never done so unless he'd specifically asked for one, in that case it was just another task for my to do list.

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A friend of a friend posted a Tweet screenshot about a year ago on Facebook which was sent by a guy getting up in arms about feminism and declaring that he didn't want a bar of it. I commented underneath saying that I read it as some guy who was insecure in his masculinity and wanted to blame it on women when it was really his problem to deal with.

If a guy can't handle a strong woman who knows what she wants and won't settle for less, then he doesn't deserve her.

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By the same token, my view on feminism extends towards males as well. I think a guy should also feel comfortable in his skin, clothes and life without shame or prejudice. As Emma said in her speech, guys not being allowed to show their feelings made her realise that she was a feminist.

I believe that if a woman is being belittled or mistreated in any way by a man, or even a woman, she should be able to know her worth, stand up and walk away. The same thing goes for a guy. I keep picturing all the tacky material girls who end up with the loveliest guys and treat them like a means to their own ends and the guys just putting up with it because they don't think they deserve better.

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If a guy wants to cry then dammit he should let the tears fall, no shame in that. If he wants to pick a girl flowers or write her a poem instead of spending half a paycheck on fancy jewelry and a 3 course dinner, then let the man be!

If feminism means equality for all, guys feel their feels with no shame, girls feel confident with no blame, then feminist is I!

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Friday 7 August 2015

It All Started With Olive Oil...

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Well technically, Olive oil spread.

I was doing grocery shopping last weekend on an empty stomach which everyone knows is the worst time to go. Anyways, I had a craving for a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich but rather than buying one from Michel's Patisserie on my way home when I already had a decent sized container of hot chips smothered in gravy and a Lebanese pizza in a separate plastic bag, I thought I'd just get the ingredients to make one at home.

As I was going through the butter/spread section of the fridge and looking for the usual generic branded olive oil spread I'd become accustomed to purchasing, I looked briefly at the brand name spreads just next to them and deliberated on them for a few moments.

There was about $1 price difference between the two. Not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, yet I'd always gone for the cheaper option, after all, they were the same, weren't they?

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I started to think about it some more as I looked between the two. On a sub-conscious level, what message am I giving myself by saving an entire dollar on a spread that I didn't use that frequently anyway.

The brand name spread was made by a company which was founded in the 1850's or something like that and claimed to be experts when it came to quality olive oil. Assumedly a company which had been around that long weren't bad at their jobs and should be taken more seriously.

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Usually when I purchased generic branded items it was because of money fears as I'm sure many people know. The only problem with my fears was that they were based on my childhood of not having money. Dad had the occasional contract which didn't last too long because he was overly qualified and a fair sight older than other candidates. Mum had given up working shortly after my parents got married because the stress of her job was getting to her, plus she wanted to be a stay at home mother when my brother and I came along. Between the two of them, money was always tight and many of my parents fights were over mum spending more than my dad was getting in. Not to say that mum was materialistic, she just came from a household where everything was provided for her so she brought the same principle into her marriage even thought it didn't work so well.

Don't get me wrong, I'm incredibly proud of my thriftiness, resourcefulness and bargain-hunting skills which I developed from my childhood and with strong encouragement from dad. The thing is, my life is different now. I'm working 30ish hours per week, I get paid a pretty good wage plus commissions on any sales I make. I've never been left wanting for something, even if I can't buy it straight away, I'll always get around to it in time. (I remind myself of this every time I get my therapy bill and check my bank balance).

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As I'm sure so many people know, it's very hard to change behaviors which have been drummed into you from a young age and made to feel like they're law. But, I've found that if you just do one thing differently, you'll gradually unravel the tangled web of beliefs you had to believe because of the circumstances you were living in.

On a much more personal level, the same can be said about beliefs towards yourself as a person and your body image. My mother was always negative about herself. Whenever she was getting changed in the dressing room and asked me for my opinion on something, I'd oblige, but moments later she'd go back to bagging herself out. "My arms are too flabby", "My stomach sticks out, I need to do more exercise", "I look dreadful in this!", the personal insults go on and on.

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I was always determined to not end up like mum which her negative beliefs. Unfortunately, as I told my dad and my therapist recently, as much as you try not to follow in your parents footsteps, if they're present in your life and are the only role-model that you really have, you inadvertently pick up a few nasty things from them.

While I've never looked in the mirror and thought 'eww, gross!', I generally didn't have an opinion about myself. I didn't have enough, much or really any consistently positive reinforcement to make me believe that I looked good. At the same time, I refused point blank to adopt my mother's negative mindset, so I settled for somewhere in the middle. Indifference. When I looked in the mirror I thought neither yay nor nay. I'd just look and think or feel nothing, more accurately I'd only use the mirror to brush my hair or squeeze a pimple, no words of reinforcement were ever uttered or really thought by me about myself.

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My mother, with her insecurities and mental illness, made it hard for me to appreciate myself as a person. As they say, 'Do as I say, not as I do' yet it's usually the opposite for children, so I was sent the mixed message that I could be negative about myself but lift others up at the same thing. It's all well and good for others, just not for me, but apparently that's okay. I deserve it.

I explained this to my dad and my therapist and both agreed that it made sense. I also told my therapist that as hard as dealing with the loss of my mother is to deal with, it's also dealing and processing all the false beliefs I've held for so long that were unintentionally reinforced by her.

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It's a hard thing to do, going against everything you've been taught and believed for so long, but it's the best thing you'll ever do for you.

I started being kind to myself, lord knows it's about time I did so! Instead of beating myself up for continually buying and eating chocolate and chips, I do whatever makes me feel better.
Instead of chastising myself for daily stalking people on Instagram and spending a few hours searching through Facebook photos and downloading them to my computer to be deleted later on when I'm past this particular period in my life, I recognized that it's only a few hours (a few seconds to a few minutes on Instagram) every now and again. I don't spend my entire day or night on there, I don't follow/unfollow, friend/unfriend people mindlessly. Hell, I was still able to do my work and make a sale or two at the same time. Not bad if I do say so myself! Instead of adding up the cost of the things I want to buy then doing a kind of 'I want this but I like having money' pee-pee dance, I'll buy whatever it is that I want and remind myself that I deserve it, I'm getting paid and I can always return it/throw away something else that I own.

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The good news thus far is that I've really started to appreciate my body and myself. When I look in the mirror as I'm getting dressed, I don't think negative things. I think things like 'I have a nice shape'.

Yes I have a few extra kilos, but I'm not obscenely overweight. It's not like I don't do any exercise whatsoever, I just don't like the label of 'exercise', it sounds like such a dirty word to me. I can fit comfortably into my clothes and if I can't, I give them away to someone else who would appreciate them just as much, if not more than I did. It also helps seeing so many more curvy women in the spotlight, even if I'm not the biggest fan of them (Kim Kardashian, Beyonce, Lena Dunham, Jesy Nelson of Little Mix, just to name a few).

When it comes to myself and my friends, I'm continually grateful that I've attracted some truly wonderful people into my life. Yes ME! I did that! I click so well with my friends and the people that I'm closest to that even though it's still a work in progress, I can now start to be happy about the person I am because of the people around me.

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Sure when it comes to shopping I still balk at the price of things, like when I spent $100 on Damart clothing because mum used to order it and it kinda makes me feel close to her, the same way that ordering Avon does, but I say that I'm investing in myself. The same goes for whenever I buy ecourses on self-love and creativity or whatever. They're not usually terribly cheap, but as a close friend told me the other night, by spending money you're also bringing it back in, AKA manifesting. Like when you put love or kindness or gratitude out and it comes back to you sometimes in the strangest of ways. There's no finite source of money in the world. That's the thing we all need to remember.

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As I gradually learn to loosen the wallet zip for fear that I'll run out of money, I remember that I'm still working, still getting paid, there are weeks that no sales come through and weeks that I supplement more than half my income. Either way, I'm not going to be destitute any time soon.

For those of you still reading, thank you for staying with me. And for those who are still wondering, yes I did buy the brand name olive oil spread and I'm still feeling pretty damn good about making such a small yet monumental step towards being happy with me.

It's funny where a simple thing like grocery shopping will take you.

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Thursday 6 August 2015

I Survived!

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It's funny, (in the completely unhilarious kinda way) that whenever we hear someone say 'I survived', we usually think along the lines of cancer, shark attack, alien abduction or something else of that magnitude. We never tend to think that someone is lucky to have survived the day and not been in some kind of humongous peril.

Sadly however, this is the case for so many people when it comes to things like mental illness and yet very few people speak up about it.

No thanks to society, our problems have been belittled to a point where if it isn't life threatening and an obvious/easily fixable thing, then we don't think or talk about it.

There's also this notion that there's a 'one size fits all' approach to life, which doesn't help anyone and will hopefully be weened out in the coming generations and replaced with understanding, acceptance and most of all, love.

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I've seen a few quotes and posts on Instagram which are aimed at people who struggle through life on a daily basis simply with the words 'it's okay if the only thing you did today was breathe'. I don't know about you, but I find that incredibly powerful, profound and really makes you think how lucky you are that that isn't something you even need to think about. Yet for some, that's all they do.

When I think back on my life, depending on my mindset, I'll feel tinglings of pride for what I've overcome. I haven't had cancer, been attack by a shark, been cornered and assaulted by someone, abused or anything else that would be considered newsworthy. Yet my life has been far from easy and I'm still here today, writing this post. Can I get a WOW or even an AMEN?!!

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I survived all of my schooling experiences to the point of graduation.

I survived essentially a lifetime's worth of bullying by way of verbal and emotional abuse.

I survived continuous neglect, isolation, and feeling ignored.

I survived (and am still surviving) low moods, depression, extreme anxiety.

I survived toxic friendships and relationships to the point where I've been able to rekindle them and find myself much happier the second time around.

I survived my first job in the food industry. (It only lasted 3 months but that's still an achievement)

I survived my first job after finishing high school. (Just over 2 years in employment as an Office Manager).

I survived constant emotional abuse and borderline verbal abuse from a previous employer. (No amount of knowing that he means well underneath it all will ever make it okay).

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I survived my first counselling session at Headspace.

I survived my first therapy session. (Still going, 5 years this year, woot!)

I survived growing up in a household heavily impacted by mental illness and not knowing how to deal with it.

I survived my childhood.

I survived my teen years. (Just!)

I survived my suicidal thoughts.

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I survived 2 spinal operations to correct severe Scoliosis.

I survived my lung collapsing and spending a weekend in Intensive Care.

I survived my first night moving out of home.

I survived the 3rd move I've done in my life. (Still loving where I am).

I survived some ridiculously heartbreaking times in my life.

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I survived my first solo holiday.

I survived my first plane ride.

I survived my first driving lesson.

I survived the first crash I had in my brother's car. (Bumper damage only, but it shakes you up a bit).

I survived the first dent in my beloved car. (Some lady ran into me at a roundabout).

I survived my first online dating meetup. (He wasn't a creep or anything).

I survived my first day at uni.

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I survived my first year at uni.

I survived my first long distance drive. (Sydney to Blue Mountains is a fair trip if it's the furthest you've ever driven).

I survived my 2nd and current job. (3 years and counting!).

I survived the sudden loss of my mother and her funeral.

I survived yesterday.

I'm surviving today, I'll survive tomorrow and every day after that. Because that's what I do.

I survived, so can you!

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