I’m Talking With the Girl in the Mirror: When ‘Looks’ Pressure Hits.

You Are What You Are

I start writing this blog on a Sunday afternoon when I’ve got no make up on, my hair’s dirty and scrunched up and I’m hungover as hell. I needed to blow off some steam and it got a little silly when one glass of wine turned in to several bottles and a naughty chinese takeaway (I ate a full starter box to myself, oh dear). I end up sitting in a nightie on the sofa at 3.30pm having watched 3/4 of ‘Kinky Boots’ (great movie!) and questioning my life choices.

I woke up just before 6am feeling really rough, having managed about 4 hours of broken sleep. Being unable to get back to sleep, I got up and tried to sort myself out. I still went to the gym for my strength training session despite wanting to do anything but that. This felt puke worthy to be honest whilst hungover, but it’s a routine session with my trainer I cannot and will not bail on. Besides, I know I’ve done this to myself so I just have to suck it up and I get on with it apologetically to my trainer (sorry again Tom if you’re reading this!). It goes ok (I always love my sessions) though my sumo form needs some work, and on the way back I meet with friends and my other half in town for a quick recovery coffee, and get home to film videos for my Youtube channel and my new segment ‘Songs from the Pink Dressing Gown‘.

I set up to record quickly when I get back, because I’m taking a full day off tomorrow (hooray!!) and this has got to be done as soon as possible. I’ve had little working-from-home time this week as I’ve worked 5 days at my day job to cover teaching hours, and also because I needed a few more pennies for the album mastering. This means I’ve not really devoted the time I needed to learn a new cover this week for my bi-weekly segment, so I need to do that, film it and get it uploading before lunch time on the same day to allow for the crap upload speed to Youtube and allow time for editing too.

…So I don’t change out of my gym clothes when I get back. I stretch out on my mat in the front room (I’ve been doing this ritually to help try to prevent an injury and help my body in general), grab a guitar, my laptop and my phone and I chuck on the dressing gown on over my clothes and I get it done.

Gross, you’re probably thinking… yeah, me too. But to be honest,  I really didn’t want to have to take off my makeup, wash my hair, restyle it and get dressed again properly when I need time to learn the song and also do some stretches. I didn’t sweat too much and I also want to have a long bath in the afternoon with a copy of Vogue to read and then get in my comfies because after all, it’s Sunday! (Most people have that off right?!) So I film them first, batty hair and bizarre outfit galore; then I edit and upload them and go get myself sorted out.

…Then after I start to upload the videos I can feel myself getting in to a weird mood and a going a bit too ‘in my head’, to the point when Kyle comes home later and I’m writing this blog, that I’m sitting there in tears and questioning the whole ‘Songs from the Pink Dressing Gown’ segment.

Some context: I’ve cut down my drinking quite significantly recently to help with my mental state as well as physical health; I realised that when I get a hangover it can trigger my anxiety attacks and my mood can spiral pretty badly (something to do with it’s downer effect and my no time-wasting-perfectionist tendencies I think). I know that the fact I’m being so emotional probably has to do with the hangover, but I’ve also been significantly increasing the amount I post on social media too and I think that’s got something to do with it, too.

The recent uptake in my posting has been quite organic, as I’ve been having a gym/self confidence journey, as well as just having a quite a bit more to say recently about my music. I pretty frequently post ‘real talk’ things, like the daily creative independent life struggles, or showing my zits, stretch marks, bruises and mad hair in the hope it makes other people feel ‘normal’ and like ‘Hey, me too!’. But, for all it may come off that I’m confident, I don’t always practice what I preach… and in this moment where I’m crying and writing this blog, I’m feeling really insecure, uncomfortable in my skin and questioning whether the entire segment is just a really stupid idea.

A few years ago, when I was making my first music video for ‘Home’ in Burnley where I’m from, we were filming inside at a local bar, there was snow on the ground and the kick heater we had kept shorting the equipment. I had my trusty pink dressing gown with me for outfit changes and I ended up sticking it on between takes to keep warm. I took a daft picture in it outside on the car park before driving home in it. I stuck the picture up on social media and the pink fluffy dressing gown became a bit of a laugh. I tend to sit in an evening wearing it if I’m writing or working on something, and I realised that a lot of my social media snippets feature me wearing it. So when my Dad and a couple of other people in my Facebook Group started laughing about it I realised I could make something of it and push myself to really focus on getting some new Youtube content.

I am, and always try to be, authentically me. Daftness is very much a personality trait. I’m clumsy and dorky and sweary and silly. I say stupid things, I take the piss out myself a lot (self depreciation is a good defense!) and I want everyone to feel at ease around me. The Youtube segment is a natural example of me just being me, as well as all the Insta and FB stories I’ve been doing a lot of. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to feeling truly rotten about myself.

Since starting lifting at the gym and investing in myself again physically and mentally, I’ve found my confidence has improved and my perspective of my body has changed. I’m really proud of the strength gains I’m making; my body hasn’t always been the healthiest over the years so it’s been good to push myself to counter those problems and do everything I can to take care of myself. But I still feel self conscious. I never really feel ‘sexy’ and in fact I’m really not keen to push this in my music; it’s just not me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no prude. But I do wonder how girls just seem to swan around looking like gazelles or curvy queens with their perfect hair, tummies, clear skin, unbruised legs and goddess like moves, whilst I’m over there looking and acting like a tall ginger ginny spinny on rollerskates. I’ve grown up feeling ‘big’, battling hormonal acne all over my body, with red hair and being in to things others weren’t really in to.  It’s a cliche but I’ve always felt a bit weird. Even at 26 now, I hardly know what to wear on stage, I’m awkward when it comes to photo shoots and watching myself back on video often makes me cringe.

I wonder if other women and men in music particularly feel like this… and I wonder how many of them are keen not to have the sole focus be on their image too. Don’t get me wrong it’s part of it, and we all love to look and feel great, but I’d so much rather someone told me I have great lyrics and harmonic structures, than, to put it crudely, compliment my tits (Note: this has happened several times). There’s such a pressure to look and be perfect in the industry, that when you’re not that, you don’t feel you fit the mould and if someone doesn’t ‘get’ you… well you can just feel yourself and your ego starting to fall apart. I’ve always lived by the mantra of plowing my own path… but it’s natural to look at the girl or guy with 10,000 followers and wonder what you’re doing wrong. (Ah that famous dark side of social media!)

…The truth is nothing’s wrong. I know this deep down. Everything is subjective. Everyone is different. I’m just trying to have fun with the Youtube video, my shows, my writing… and I’m trying make something good in this world, which I often feel is just too bloody miserable (top tip: stop watching the news!).

So, I’m talking to the girl in the mirror and I’m trying to show her she’s worthy of her place in the world, but it’s a process. And if you’re feeling like this today too, I’m with you and I’m sending you a hug.

X

B&W Pink Dressing Gown.jpg

 

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