Chloe posts

Failure

One of my favourite teachers from school had a poster on his wall that read “fail – first attempt in learning.”

He viewed failures as nothing more than a bump in the road, a stepping stone towards later success.

But even if failures are only first attempts in learning, it doesn’t make them any easier to deal with. It is incredibly difficult to face failures, especially if we fail at something we really care about, or something we think we’re good at.

But unfortunately, no life is free of failure. We all are only human, and it’s completely natural and inevitable to fail at things from time to time. Being afraid of failing and viewing mistakes in a negative light will only do more harm than good. Luckily, it is what you do to pick up the pieces and put things back together again that counts.

It is our failures and mistakes that help us to learn and grow, then adapt and change our tack so that we can do better next time. Everybody has to start somewhere, and failing is nothing to be ashamed of.

It is helpful to avoid viewing failure in “black and white” or “all-or-nothing” terms. Although we may feel that we have failed, and that things have played out horrendously, it is likely that not everything has gone badly, and there may be a lesson to be learned amidst it all.

When things aren’t going so smoothly for me, I find it’s helpful to remember that everybody who has succeeded has also failed. Even the most successful people have failed at things, and several famous people were first high school drop outs. Life is full of second chances and new opportunities, and none of us can succeed at everything, all of the time.

Although it’s difficult, it’s important for us to try and change the way we think about failure. Instead of seeing it as a setback, we should try and use failure and criticism constructively to push us further.

I have heard about a stress management strategy called compensation, which involves building up other areas of your life, to compensate for the areas you feel you’re failing in. So if you feel that you’re failing at work, for example, working on other areas of your life such as your hobbies and your social life could be a good step to take. This then allows you to think “so work might be going badly, but at least I have my guitar playing, which is going well, and my social life is good. I’m really enjoying spending time with my family at the moment, and I have a good circle of friends around me.” This can be a useful tool, to help lighten the shadow that failure casts, and to help you to feel as though you’re succeeding in other areas of your life that you care about.

Generally, it’s good to make sure that you also consider the things you’re good at, alongside the things you feel you could improve on. Reflecting on failures and using them to improve is so much better than constantly going over them in your head and berating yourself for them.

Chloe posts

The Pressure to be Perfect

In 2019, I’m convinced that looking after our appearance could be a full-time job. We live in a world where the way we look is of increasing importance – we must have a toned hairless body, a full face of makeup, manicures, pedicures, balayage straightened-then-curled hair, tanned, blemish-free skin, white teeth, eyelash extensions, Instagram-ready eyebrows, and the perfect outfit, with shoes to match. Society’s beauty standards are excruciatingly high, for all genders, and they’re practically impossible to live up to.

Perfection (or our idea of what perfection is) may seem desirable, but the truth is that striving for perfection can be exhausting, and it is difficult to maintain in the long run. Often when we spend too long trying to make something perfect, it can stop us from enjoying the activity, or we can spend hours agonizing over it, and picking out flaw after flaw. Nothing is perfect, and the definition of ‘perfect’ is highly subjective, so pursuing perfection can be a waste of time.

This can be a hard pill to swallow, especially for the perfectionists amongst us, but constantly pursuing perfection can prevent us from enjoying life. It’s better to start living our lives now, rather than waiting until we feel that we are the perfect version of ourselves. In reality, the way we look is actually quite irrelevant, and it doesn’t matter half as much as we think it does. Our bodies are just bodies; they’re just things that kart us around the world, that allow us to jump, walk, talk and enjoy life. It’s important to appreciate our bodies for everything that they can do for us, rather than hating them because they don’t measure up to an impossibly high ideal.

The message that ugly is bad and pretty is good has been transmitted to us from a young age, so it’s a difficult myth to debunk in our heads. In Disney films, the villains are portrayed as evil and ugly, whereas the princesses are presented as kind-hearted, with an otherworldly type of beauty. Because of the messages we receive from society about the way we are expected to look, we can feel compelled to seek out treatments and enhancements to improve our appearance, so we can finally become ‘perfect’ and eradicate our insecurities. Perhaps society’s standards are so unobtainable for a reason. If society made people feel comfortable with themselves, we wouldn’t feel that we have spend money on improving ourselves, and it wouldn’t be good for business. Though we can use things like makeup and beauty treatments to express ourselves and increase our confidence, it can quickly become harmful if we begin to feel that we’re not good enough without it. Even if we don’t look like supermodels, actresses and popstars, we are good enough, and we are completely fine as we are. The way we look is only one tiny fragment of who we are, and though it can be difficult to remember this sometimes, it is not the only thing that matters.

 

Chloe posts

Coping with Stress

Few of us cope well when we are stressed. The most put-together, organised person may still be prone to crumbling under pressure. Stress occurs when the demands of the situation are greater than our perceived ability to cope with it, and none of us are immune to the effects of stress. It can weaken our immune system and cause stomach aches, colds, and headaches, yet we still persist with work and projects that trigger our stress responses. Though it is practically impossible to avoid stress completely, there are many strategies we can use to try and cope a little better with it. Here are a few tips and techniques to try:

Problem-focused coping vs avoidant coping

Distraction techniques such as having a bath, relaxing, and doing something you enjoy can be helpful, but they can often lead us to avoid the stressful situation, rather than face it. In the past I’ve found that when I cope with my stress by avoiding it, the stress reappears as soon as I’ve stopped distracting myself. For example, if I’m stressed about a difficult assignment, and I spend the day socialising to avoid thinking about it, the stress will come back once I’m on my own again. Problem-focused coping means thinking about the root cause of your stress and identifying steps you can take immediately to solve the problem. If I’m stressed about work, I’ve found it’s far better to be pro-active by writing a plan, e-mailing my tutor for help, or getting started on it, rather than distracting myself and pretending that the work doesn’t exist. However, when we are incredibly overwhelmed and stressed, thinking of solutions to the problem can seem an impossible, insurmountable task. Distraction techniques can be helpful when we feel this way, because they allow us to improve our mood so that we feel able to get started.

Avoid taking too much on

Having high standards of ourselves can be wonderful, because it means that we’re challenging ourselves. However, there is a fine line between pushing yourself, and taking on more than you can handle. If you find that you have more things to do than time to do it all in, it can be useful to remove a few activities from your to-do list so that you can quickly reduce the number of things you are worried about. If this is difficult, try thinking about your values and the things that matter to you most. It can be helpful to make a list with 3 sections: things that I must do, things that I like to do occasionally, and things that I do not like to do. You might find that your life is very cluttered, and you are wasting a lot of time doing something you do not enjoy (scrolling through social media, getting distracted by the television…). You may realise that you could swap the half hour you spend scrolling through social media in the morning, for something more enjoyable and productive. It’s important to remember that it’s completely okay to be assertive and say no to things that don’t appeal to you/activities you don’t have time for. It is your life and your time to spend how you please, and protecting your mental health will always be more important than pleasing other people!

Think about the situation from another person’s perspective

It’s easy to become our own worst enemies, and this can become even easier when we’re stressed. It’s easy to beat ourselves up about all the things we said we would do but didn’t do and ruminate about everything we are worried about. But this style of thinking isn’t productive for anybody, and it only serves to attract more negative thoughts. Thinking about what you would say to a friend if they were in your situation and practicing self-compassion can be useful to combat these thoughts, and it helps us to stop being so hard on ourselves.

Focus on what you can change

There are some stressful situations that we can change. We can cancel going to a social event that is worrying us or change jobs to one that won’t stress us out so much. We can control how we react in situations, where we work, what we say, and how we act. There are other stressful and worrying events that we are powerless to change. We cannot control the disturbing events on the news, what other people say about us or the way that they act, so it is pointless to spend lots of time worrying about these things.

 

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Chloe posts

So, what do you do?

‘So, what do you do?’ is a question that most of us have been asked at one point or another. It is a question that can ignite dread, pride, or a strange mixture of the two. It is hard to know what to say, and often I just want to shout, ‘honestly no idea mate’ and run away.

So, why does this question tend to fill us with so much dread? For me, this question is unnerving because it invites judgement, and it makes me worry about what the other person will think of my response. Will they think that what I do isn’t good enough, and will they judge my poor life choices and lack of intellect? Will they think that I’m lazy? What if they unconditionally hate everybody who does the job that I do?

These are normal worries to have, because it’s completely natural to want other people to like us. However, this question can be really damaging, and it can lower our self-esteem. We often complain about our society because it sets unrealistic beauty standards and places a lot of importance on our appearance, or how much we weigh. But society can also influence the way we think about our careers and achievements, and it can make us worry that we won’t measure up to our peers.

This is silly though – because you are worth so much more than what you do for a living. You might be a friend, football enthusiast, book-worm, baker, carer, or artist. You are your personality, hobbies, qualities, quirks and talents, and so many other different things. You are worth so much more than your career.

Regardless of this, people still seem to love this question, and this is often because they are simply curious, or trying to make small talk. They probably didn’t intend to make us feel uncomfortable by asking about our job. When approached with this question, it can be helpful to remember that you can choose how you answer it, and you can shape your answer in any way that you like. You don’t owe anybody details or a full explanation, and somebody who judges you based on your career alone might not be the best friend to have anyway! You don’t even have to tell them about your job role – you can always answer the question by telling them that you’re an artist or musician instead, and then talk about your hobbies for a while. You are still an artist, writer or musician if you make music or art, regardless of whether you have made money from it or not. Your job is not the only component of your identity.

Judging our self-worth and sense of self based on a few tiny aspects can be unhelpful for our mental health, because we are worth more than our grades, career, and qualifications. Often these are just numbers on a piece of paper. Having a career is wonderful, but there are other things in life that matter too. You are more than ‘what you do’, you are free to construct your own identity, and you can choose what defines you. You are not what you do for a living, you are a life!