The ‘Lazy’ Approach That Keeps Me Motivated to Hit the Gym

“All or Nothing”, “Go Hard or Go Home”, “Don’t Stop When You’re Tired, Stop When You’re Done”. These are the kinds of quotes that I often see pop up on my Instagram feed in gritty typography against a backdrop of an oiled-up muscular bodybuilder, flexing intensely in a dark room dimly lit by downlights.

These quotes sound nice. If I’m already at the gym, reading something like this might get me to increase the incline on the treadmill, load up some extra weights on my bar or keep going past my set number of reps until failure. After all, nothing worth having comes easy, and feeling sore today means being strong tomorrow, right? (Why are there so many of these fitness adages stored in my brain??).

The ‘all or nothing’ approach isn’t just found in fitness discourse, I also see quotes like “hustle and grind 24/7, 365” and “give 110% all the time” thrown around in other contexts like business, career progression and even in relationships.

Again, it all sounds really nice. Who wouldn’t want to hire someone who is self-motivated enough to work 24/7, 365? Who wouldn’t love being in a relationship with someone who puts 110% effort in every single day, not just on Valentine’s Day and anniversaries?

The problem that I have with the ‘all-or-nothing’ approach is that, for me at least, it isn’t sustainable. There might be some people out there who really can show up to the gym every single day, complete their set workout and stick to a certain diet plan perfectly. I am not one of those people.

I’ve had a gym membership for over 5 years now and the longest I’ve ever been able to stick to my ‘ideal’ diet and exercise goals perfectly has been about 2 weeks.

Max.

I used to think that maybe if I set myself really ambitious goals, like hitting the gym 7 times a week for at least an hour, then at least if I missed a few days, I’d still be going quite a lot… right? I think the saying goes “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it, you’ll land among the stars.”

In practice though, if I missed one day of hitting the gym for whatever reason, my ‘all or nothing’ mindset would kick in and I’d think that there was no point in continuing since I had already failed. “I might as well eat pizza and brownies while watching Netflix shows for now and start again next week…” Or, if I only had 30 mins spare to exercise, rather than a full hour, I thought to myself, “what’s the point? I won’t even work up a sweat or have a chance to get my heart rate up.”

It’s the perfectionist’s fatal flaw- holding oneself to impossibly high standards, inevitably followed by failure, guilt, demotivation (and sometimes a whole tray of Tim-Tams in bed).

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Tim Tam Goals

Something Is Better Than Nothing

What I’ve found helpful in getting myself out of the “all-or-nothing” mindset, without giving up on my goals altogether, is a “something-is-better-than-nothing” mindset. Small, consistent actions towards fitness, career, business or relationship goals are much more effective than short-lived but intense spikes of activity followed by long periods of doing nothing.

By giving myself permission to go off track a little bit and not allowing myself to use it as an excuse to completely disregard my plans, I feel like I’ve been able to achieve more, increase confidence in myself and get more out of the journey as a whole. After all, hitting the gym 3 times per week for 45 minutes might not be as good as going every day, but it’s better than skipping out altogether (and feeling super guilty about it!)

Finally, in the spirit of including lots of tacky motivational quotes, I find it helpful to remember:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

An Ode to Summer: 7 Things I’m Keen for Now That the Sun’s Out

If you, like me, live down under in Australia then I’m sure you’ve noticed the temperatures steadily rising, the days getting that little bit longer and the sun shining that little bit brighter every day.

My Instagram feed is starting to fill up with beachy shots from my actual friends, not just the aspirational bikini brands and fitness model pages I follow, and, perhaps the most definitive signal that summer is well and truly on the way, McDonalds has started running its Monopoly ticket campaign! Bring on the drive-thru frozen coke spiders and McFlurrys on the way to the beach, am I right? (Not sponsored by Maccas, just a die-hard fan).

Here are 7 more things I’m super excited for now that the weather is warming up!

  1. Coastal Walks

For me, there’s nothing better than getting outside and burning a few calories before cooling off in the ocean or sitting down to a beachside brunch (RIP house deposit), but even if you’re not the biggest fan of working up a sweat, there’s no dispute that Sydney has some of the most breathtaking coastal views in the world. Rather than trying to find a parking spot at the always packed Bondi beach, I like to drive up to Coogee, Bronte or Clovelly and walk from there.

Other favourites of mine include the Barrenjoey Lighthouse walk in Palm Beach (short but steep) and the walk to Wedding Cake Rock in the Royal National Park. The beauty of living in Sydney is that there are so many pretty places to explore, and most of them are easy to access, fitted with amenities and close to cafes and shops so we can easily refuel afterwards!

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Standing on this rock may be illegal and unsafe but it’s oh so Instagram-able.
  1. Trips to the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains National Park will always hold a very special place in my heart. I have so many fun memories there from when my dad used to take my brother and me bushwalking as kids (stopping by the lolly shops in Katoomba on the way back), camping up there with my school in Year 5, swimming in the waterfalls during the semester break and even my celebrating my cousin’s wedding up there last year.

The whole region is just so unassuming and relaxing. Even on the drive up, the roads are usually empty, and everything feels slower. Now that the weather is warming up, if you can’t reach me on my phone, blame the lack of reception in the Blue Mountains.

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The Three Sisters in The Blue Mountains
  1. Swimming (Everywhere and Always)

Summer and swimming, it’s really a no brainer. Whether it’s heading 5 minutes up the road to the local pool to swim laps or trekking out a bit further to find a scenic spot, we’re really spoilt for choice in Australia when it comes to watering holes where we can cool off. Some of my favourite places to go for a swim (that haven’t already been mentioned) are Wattamolla in the Royal National Park and Bents Basin towards good old Penrith.

PSA: for anyone who holds back from swimming in summer due to body insecurities, you do not need to live up to society’s “bikini body” standards or rock visible abs to qualify. Trust me, no one is looking at you at the beach, just wear what you want and jump right in!

^^yup
  1. Shorts and Skirts

There isn’t really much to say here besides that pants and jeans are the devil I can’t wait to stash them in the back of my wardrobe for another six months in favour of cute shorts, skirts and dresses.

“Why do you always wear pants then?” I hear you ask. Well, my laser lady and I may have taken a bit of a break over winter, but now that it’s bare leg season, I’ve come crawling back. Ain’t nobody got time to be shaving their legs every day.

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preach Cookie
  1. Longer Days

One of my favourite things about summer is that even though each day still goes for 24 hours, the sun is up for so much longer. Waking up to no frost on the car and leaving work or Uni at 6pm while the sky is still light is a huge mood booster for me.

What’s more, I’m much more inclined to stay out late with my friends rather than calling it at 8pm (when I start to lose feeling in my fingers from the cold and am on the verge of falling asleep). Everyone knows: the later the hour, the better the banter.

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Watching the sun set with friends, it doesn’t get much better.
  1. Topping Up My Tan

When I was much younger, all I wanted was to be whiter. That was until I realised that everyone and everything looks better with a tan. Since I have no idea how to fake tan (it sounds like a lot of effort), I always take sunny days as the perfect opportunities to get that natural glow.

Thanks to my natural melanin, I don’t burn easily, but I would be remiss not to stress the importance of sun protection for everyone- especially in Australia where we have a giant hole in our ozone layer. Weirdly enough, the threat of skin cancer isn’t enough to scare me into wearing sunscreen regularly (Sorry Nanna), but the thought of premature ageing and the proliferation of freckles on my cheeks is. Thankfully, SPF15+ is built into most daily face creams and foundations, but I like to wear an extra layer of SPF50+ in summer, just to be safe.

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Do it for Lizzie Mcguire
  1. Summer Food + Drinks

I love all food and I don’t discriminate. That being said, there’s just something special about food cooked on an open fire or outdoor grill, whether it’s the sausage sizzle at Bunnings on a Saturday morning, a seafood BBQ by the beach or just grilling up some skewers in the backyard. For me, summer food is a mix of nostalgia and tradition, cold beers and warm smiles, family and friends.

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Throw another…

Finally, no article about the positive aspects of summer would be complete without giving a shout out to my favourite cold drinks and desserts. Iced coffee, Iced milk tea (with pearls ofc), frozen coke, gelato, magnums and paddle pops. Watch out, because I’m coming for you <3.

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Actual footage of me in summer.

Are you a summer or a winter person? What are your favourite things about summer where you’re from? Comment below!

Sometimes, I Get SAD.

When I spent a year living in Munich, I discovered something about myself that I hadn’t previously been aware of. I left a cool and cloudy Sydney to arrive towards the end of what had been a sweltering German summer. I couldn’t believe that I was out there sweating through 30-degree days as I settled in, attending class in shorts and singlets and eating gelato by the lake after Uni, while my friends in Australia were still rugging up for tops of 8 degrees. It just seemed so backwards to me that it could be warmer and sunnier in Germany?

In Summer, the sun didn’t set in Munich until 9:30pm. My friends and I would hang out in the evenings on my balcony drinking Radler and eating fresh berries, before putting on our ridiculous dirndls around 10pm to head out for the Oktoberfest (which, for complicated reasons is actually held in late September).

Weekends were spent soaking up the sun in pretty Biergartens with Weissbier and pretzels, or bike-riding through lush green parks and cycleways. All the thick winter jackets and sweaters I had packed were hung up untouched, taking up most of my very limited wardrobe space, while I dressed in as little material as possible in an attempt to stay cool throughout the long, sweltering days.

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Englischer Garten, Munich

But alas, like all good things, Summer had to come to an end. As we approached the end of the year and the Christmas season, temperatures began to drop, Biergartens closed for the Winter, and the sun pretty much stopped making an appearance. Every day was grey and dreary. Even in the middle of the day, it felt dark outside, like the clouds were a heavy blanket pushing down on the whole city and sucking the life out of me. I felt like I had no energy. I stopped wanting to go out. I missed my home and my friends back in Australia. I was too tired to go shopping, cook, clean or eat out. Without any sun, my normally olive skin turned transparent white and I developed dark circles under my eyes. I spent days at a time alone in my tiny house, watching Netflix shows and Ted Talks in between long naps and working on assignments.

I felt like a failure, I was on exchange in another country! I was meant to be having the time of my life, staying out every night and enjoying every minute, but instead I felt like I was trapped in this weird zombie state. I thought maybe that I was just lonely, but when I went to visit my family in England over Christmas, that heavy feeling didn’t go away. In fact, I felt so relieved when I was finally back in my tiny upstairs room back in Munich, where I could be alone to mope around in my own space. Although I found it pretty cool to see snow falling outside my window, and would sometimes take walks through the frozen park near my house, I still spent most of my time inside, alone, shutting myself off from the rest of the world.

I wondered if this feeling would go away. Was I just homesick or was something very, very wrong with me?

As you do, I turned to Dr. Google and discovered something called Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD for short. Basically, it’s just like normal depression, but symptoms only start to show up during the winter months and then go into “remission’ during the rest of the year.

Although the specific biological causes of SAD are still unknown, it’s believed that for some people, a lack of exposure to light can affect our melanin and serotonin levels, which in turn disrupts our sleep cycle and ability to regulate mood. Apparently, severe cases of SAD which need to be treated with medication or therapy are rare, affecting only about 1 in 300 people.

Fortunately, I wouldn’t put myself in that category. But surely, if some people can be so significantly affected by “winter blues” that is crosses over into full-blown clinical depression, there must be some people who experience the phenomenon on a smaller scale. The weird thing is that I had never noticed the cold weather and grey days having as much of an impact on my mood before I was exposed to weeks and months of it on end.

Since coming back home, I’ve definitely been more aware of how significantly the weather outside affects my state of mind. I think that’s it’s been super helpful for me to be able to “rationalise” the way I feel as a normal biological response rather than blaming my situation, work and Uni stress or family and friends for my sour mood. It’s also been helpful in finding ways to perk myself up and get out of the rut. Rather than isolating myself and wondering what’s wrong with me, I know that I can:

  • Do some exercise
  • Text a friend
  • Go outside and get some light
  • Make a To-Do List and smash out simple tasks
  • Delete social media apps off my phone for a set period
  • Journal
  • Put the sugary snacks down and prepare a healthy meal instead

If all else fails, it’s comforting to know that the sun will come out again, and with it, bring back my normally positive mood. I still find it much more difficult to get out of bed when there’s no sunlight filtering through my blinds in the morning, and my productivity always takes a hit since all I want to do is curl up into a ball and go into hibernation. However, feeling down and lethargic when the sun doesn’t come out is just another thing that I’ve learned to accept about myself. (Also, that I’ll always have to live in a sunny country… Anyone keen to move to Fiji with me?)

I’d love to know if anyone else out there feels the same around winter time! Comment below or send me a private message if you can relate to sometimes feeling a bit SAD.

Disclaimer: As always, whenever I write something, I do it in the hope that someone, somewhere will relate to my experiences and feel just that little bit less alone. I recognise that my mental health journey so far has been smooth sailing compared to so many who struggle with severe depression and anxiety, day in-day out, regardless of whether the sun is shining outside or not. When I share some things that work for me, I am by no means suggesting that everyone’s mental health battles can be ‘solved’ with a bit of diet, exercise and mindfulness. If you, or someone you know needs help, please reach out to:

First We Make The Beast Beautiful: A New Story About Anxiety

Let me preface this review by saying that I‘ve never been medically diagnosed with anxiety. I’ve never even selfdiagnosed myself with anxiety. In fact, if I had to rate myself compared to the average person, I’d probably say that my experience with feelings of anxiety is probably average, if not below average.

I‘d like to think that I’m a pretty relaxed person. Pretty laid back. I try to see the positives in every situation and I’ve been described as thick-skinned by others (well, one person, and I’m still not sure whether I agree.)

That being said, I definitely have experienced that tight feeling in my chest, the swirling in the pit of my stomach and the random desire to scream or cry or run away and start a new life that lingers on my nerve endings just long enough to scare me a little bit. This feeling that there’s just too much to do and too little time and that I’m all alone in a sea of people and no one could ever possibly understand. Where, despite everything being fine on the surface, this feeling that “No. It’s Not Going To Be OK.” keeps randomly assaulting my mind throughout the day.

It was when I was going through one of these weird anxious spells, that I decided to finally pick up a copy of “First, We Make The Beast Beautiful”. I’d been following author, Sarah Wilson on Instagram for a while and had seen her posts about the way this book had been making such an impact on her fellow anxiety sufferers. People were highlighting and underlining their favourite lines and sharing them all over Instagram.

I picked this book up at Kmart (on one of those trips where you go in for socks and come out with 3 scented candles and a pot plant), partly because I’d been curious about it for a while and partly because the cover was so damn pretty. As far as the contents of the book, I have mixed opinions.

What I Liked…

The Concept

The main idea of this book is all about reframing anxiety from its perception as a problem that needs to be solved, or a burden that needs to be shouldered, into something beautiful (hence the title). The author picks up the notion of anxiety and examines it from all angles, unravelling some of the complexity of the anxious experience. It’s described as a lens through which some people are wired to experience the world, in some ways, limiting, in other ways advantageous. Anxiety “sufferers” are reframed, not as victims, but as people with unique challenges and a unique opportunity.

For people who battle with anxiety who have viewed themselves as ‘broken’, ‘sick’ or ‘mentally deficient’ I believe this re-imagining of the anxiety beast can go a long way in rebuilding self-esteem and self-confidence. The author describes how a mental illness is often so all-encompassing that it colours every part of a person’s identity to the point that taking anti-anxiety medication can feel like dulling one’s own self.

Wilson reflects on how her anxiety has been a companion, pushing her towards a life-long journey of questioning, learning and experimenting with various self-improvement techniques. The idea that the ugliness and unpredictability of anxiety (or any negative situation I guess?) can be made beautiful is a concept that I enjoyed weighing up.

Style

To start with the positives, I personally really enjoyed Wilson’s honest writing style. It felt very conversational, almost like a stream-of-consciousness in some parts, a little more logical in others. The actual structure of the book is purposely “meandering”, as she describes it in her own words, designed to reflect the author’s own free-flowing thoughts and overlapping ideas.

Wilson is a writer by trade, and an intellectual at heart. The ideas she explores shift, sometimes effortlessly and sometimes jarringly, between philosophical, (pseudo?)-scientific and physical paradigms. In other words, it’s a bit abstract at times, but grounded in the author’s own personal life experiences.

What I Didn’t Like…

Unrelatable At Times and Just A Little Patronising

Sarah Wilson is an accomplished author, editor, entrepreneur, model, TV host… the list goes on. She wears almost as many hats as barbie herself. One slight problem that I have this this book is that it feels like the author comes from a place of privilege which isn’t fully acknowledged.

The book delves into experiences with expensive therapists and psychologists, yoga classes, meditation retreats, overseas travel as well as extended periods of time out of work. To me, and I’m sure to many others, it’s difficult to relate to being able to lead this kind of lifestyle.

I can understand why many people feel patronised when Wilson dishes out advice such as: getting rid of your car, moving to a ‘slower’ place (out of the city), quitting sugar and taking up meditation. At the same time, however, I personally never got the feeling that any of these suggestions were meant to be straightforward “solutions”. From my point of view, it was just one anxious person trying to share what has worked for her in the hopes that others would benefit, and for me, that’s good enough. For people suffering with severe anxiety without the means to try some of these expensive solutions, the “advice” within this book may not be helpful and possibly add to feelings of frustration and hopelessness. 

“Science”

I know that I’m so guilty of this in my everyday conversations but prefacing any piece of advice with “a study I once read…” isn’t really a good example of due diligence. For me personally, it’s all about the ideas, so I don’t really care where they came from, but if you’re a stickler for facts then maybe this book isn’t for you.

Wasn’t Compelling

After the book gets over exploring the initial concept (making the beast beautiful), the rest of the book kind of just reads like a really long listicle of anxiety remedies interspersed with personal recounts from Wilson’s childhood, adolescence and adult life.

Wilson’s life experiences are interesting and reflective, but because they are sprinkled in randomly and non-chronologically, her life story becomes hard to follow and seems inconsistent. This is probably one of the reasons why I found it so hard to continue reading. At a certain point, it became a bit confusing. Ideas were repeated with no new insights and about halfway through, I felt like I’d learnt all that could be learned.

Final Thoughts

For me, this book felt more like a series of blog posts, some of these more interesting and relevant than others. The idea of reframing anxiety as a possibly beautiful thing and finding ways to thrive as an anxious person was refreshing and interesting to consider. I really enjoyed the way Wilson invited us into her head and learned more about the anxious experience.

I believe it might be possible that people who have a first hand experience with anxiety might find more comfort and solace in this book than I (a “life natural” as Wilson describes non-anxious people) did. If that’s you, I’d encourage you to give it a read and let me know what you think.

Do you have any experience with anxiety? Let me know your thoughts below!

4 Lessons I Learned As An Intern

Internships, placement, work experience, slave labour. Whatever you call it, there’s no doubt that having real-life, often unpaid, industry experience under your belt before landing a paid position is the modern norm in most fields of work.

I’ve undertaken two internships at two very different companies. I jumped into the first internship with a fairly small company out of sheer curiosity- I felt that my university courses were not only heavy on theory but also that the content was simply outdated. I needed to learn about current practices, not so much about Gutenberg’s Press (although this is a topic which holds a very special place in my heart). After realising I could make internships count for credit, I took up the opportunity to do another internship with a slightly larger organisation which gave me experience in many different departments. 

Putting aside the legal and ethical concerns regarding unpaid internships in Australia, especially for those from regional and low SES contexts (see here and here), my own personal experience with internships is that they have been well worth the time and effort that I have been so lucky to have been able to invest.

The most valuable lessons I’ve learned apply across almost any industry from Media, to Finance to Engineering to Health. Here are my top 4:

  1. No One is Ever Really Done Learning

For those of us who are so over being The Student and can’t wait to finally graduate to being The Master, it may come as a little surprise that even the people who actually get paid to do what they do, don’t always have all the answers. While I was interning, I often felt like I was jumping into someone else’s learning journey. Sure, they’ve been in the game for years and years, but they too are constantly adapting and changing to suit the evolution of the industry.

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Always learning. via giphy.

In fact, it became clear over the course of my internships, that the individuals who invested more time and effort into learning and training, inside and outside of the scope of the workplace, were the ones that continually excelled and innovated. Understanding that gives me hope as a rookie in the workplace, because although skills and experience are super important, an open mind to learn new things is just as critical to professional success.

  1. (Most) People Want to Help You

Just like in almost any context, if you enter a workplace as an intern or a newbie, be warned that you may encounter some not-so-nice people. I’ve met people who had an inflated sense of ego and made me feel like I was wasting their precious time. People who used the fact that I was “just an intern” to get me to do their grunt work, or pay me less respect than they would anyone else. In my experience though, those people are few and far between, and their attitude was definitely more a reflection of them than it was of me.

Nasty people aside, I was truly amazed and humbled by how many people were so willing to take time out of their schedules to sit with me, explain to me what they do and how they do it, show me examples of past work and give me some truly valuable advice. That’s what interning is all about. What’s more, I felt like these industry experts became invested in my success, were generous with constructive criticism and feedback and super encouraging all-around. I think that many industry veterans could remember being in my shoes- a university student who has no idea about what they want to pursue after graduation and were happy for the opportunity to give something back.

  1. Students Do Have Something to Contribute

For the average “entry-level” role, job ads often have an impossibly long list of expectations outside of a tertiary qualification. Reading through the lists of skills and experience that I was expected to have before I even graduated made me feel like I was already so far behind. I thought I didn’t have anything useful to contribute to a business and I just simply wasn’t worth hiring. I used to shudder at sheer number of talented students in my cohort, not to mention all the other graduates from other universities, who surely had way more experience and achieved much better marks than I did.

Through interning, I slowly began to realise that, although they needed some work and development, I actually did already have useful and valuable skills to contribute. Just because I didn’t have the job title and the salary, that didn’t mean that my work was bad or that I was dumb. In fact, my unique “young, hip millennial” perspective and ability to use Google/YouTube to quickly learn new things served me in good stead over the course of my internships. Building that confidence in my abilities was a really invaluable lesson that interning taught me.

  1. Girls Really Do Run The (Corporate) World

I’ve had plenty of positive female role models growing up; my mum, my female relatives, teachers and family friends. Women who just roll up their sleeves and get things done. Women who put in the extra time needed to do things properly. Women who take the initiative and command respect in their own fields. The main difference was, my experience of women was usually in a personal context, not a professional one. Before interning, my work experience, from hospitality, to retail, to private tutoring, told me that leaders and bosses are generally men. Even though I knew that women were bosses too, I hadn’t really had too many chances to see it in practice.

During the course of both of my internships, I had the opportunity to meet, and work closely with, so many certified Boss Women. I’m talking Department Heads, Managing Directors, Senior Management and Chief Executives who brought to the table years of experience, insights, visions, strategies and skills. They could command respect and speak with authority. They had their own side hustles outside of work and were killing it. I learned that women in charge aren’t scary and they don’t have to be aggressive, competitive or masculine like what is so often perpetuated in political discourse. It might sound like a bit of a random lesson, but it’s one that was super important for me.

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Yaas girl. via giphy.

Now it’s your turn! Have you ever been an intern? Maybe you’ve taken one under your wing? Do you relate to any of the lessons I’ve shared above?

Why I’m So Sensitive About My Hair.

I used to absolutely hate my hair. When I was a kid, my mum would chase me around the house and then hold me down to brush my wild hair and wrangle it into a tight ponytail-puff-hybrid while snotty tears slid down my face. I wanted straight hair so badly that I would brush it constantly as it dried, hoping that it would dry flat, only to end up with a frizzy mess.

Sad story time: I distinctly remember my parents taking me to a hairdresser when I was probably around 8 years old for a haircut. I had washed and de-tangled my hair the night before and was super keen for the hairdressers to work their magic. While they sat me in the chair, I watched the all-white hairdresser crew in the mirror behind me argue over which one of them had to “deal with” my hair. My little 8-year-old heart fell.

The one who eventually had to take on the gruelling task of cutting my thick hair rolled her eyes and scowled as she surveyed my hair. “Did you brush your hair? It’s very knotty,” she said as she tried to run a FINE TOOTHED COMB through it. “I’m going to have to wet it and put some conditioner in it”. “Your hair is very dry, do you even use conditioner?” “This is going to take a lot longer than normal…” In the end she charged my parents an extra ‘detangling fee’ and ‘thick hair surcharge’. It may not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but even now as I think back to that day, the same feelings of worthlessness, ugliness and guilt resurface and I feel like crying the same tears that my 8 year old self fought so hard to keep inside.

Yes, it is that deep.

Everyone, from my naturally straight-haired mum to my friends at school seemed to be itching to tell me how I could “solve” my curly hair. Constantly being told that I didn’t brush it enough, that I should use more conditioner or that I should stop eating bread crusts (?) just further reinforced the idea that my natural hair was a curse and I wasn’t enough.

I started regularly straightening my hair when I was around 12. It was just like that scene in the Princess Diaries when the ugly gross normal teenage girl suddenly becomes worthy of her royal title after a makeover which basically consisted of removing her glasses and straightening her unacceptably frizzy hair. (A problematic and honestly lazy trope which is recycled all too often in popular culture).

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Amazing.

When my hair was straight, I finally felt like I fit in with the pretty girls and was one step closer to being accepted into normal human society. Both of my parents (and what felt like the whole world) agreed that I looked better and more presentable with straight hair and had often encouraged me to straighten it, especially for occasions like weddings and birthdays where pictures would be taken.

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A more accurate meme has never existed.

In search of a more permanent solution, I started experimenting with keratin treatments and at-home relaxers (my aunt would get me the extra strength kits from Sudan where they could use higher concentrations of the active ingredient). After a 5-8 hour application process, I’d always wash my hair hoping that it would dry straight, but alas, none of these products seemed to be able to tame my super curly hair.

When I was 16, my dad took me to get my hair chemically straightened using the brand new, super expensive, Japanese Shiseido method as a Christmas present. Now, I didn’t have to spend hours straightening my hair and I honestly felt like my life was complete. I kept on shelling out about $300 every 4-6 months (basically all the money a 16 year old has) to get my curly roots touched up. (If you’re interested, Check out Chris Rock’s comedy/documentary, Good Hair, where he delves into the billion dollar hair relaxer industry.)

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Me circa 2013 “If it’s not straight, I send it back”. Oh also, I used to be a genie.

I kept this up for a few years until I moved overseas for a year and let my natural hair start growing out. Being all alone in a foreign country made it kind of hard to find a salon that offered the Shiseido treatment, let alone explain what I wanted in my broken German. I decided to use this time as an opportunity to start going through the awkward half straight-half curly transition stage (the worst). I was curious, it had been so long (5 years!) since I’d seen my hair in its natural state. My super dry and damaged ends were begging for a haircut but I wasn’t quite ready to part with my length.

While my hair was in this awkward dead/dry/straight on the bottom, frizzy/curly on the top state, I started researching and learning about natural hair ‘transitions’ through blogs and various Youtube channels. I watched as so many gorgeous women told me my exact story back to me- years of straightening, keratin treatments and perming- until they finally decided to give it all up and dare to embrace their natural curls. If you’re considering a “big chop” check this video out. I was amazed at how the simple act of cutting off the dead ends brought her natural hair back to life.

The rest of the story is fairly simple: I spent a few days looking for a hairdresser in Sydney who specialises in cutting curly hair. I cannot emphasise this enough, the right haircut is more than half the battle. I went to Kamil’s Hairdressing in Town Hall where the amazing Lena skillfully chopped off my dead ends, shaped my hair (so it doesn’t dry into a triangle), and recommended products just for my hair type.

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The day I finally chopped all my hair off!

It’s still hard for me to let go of the deeply ingrained idea that straight hair is the ideal and that natural curly hair= lazy, messy, even a little bit crazy. It’s all over pop culture if you open your eyes to it. But diverse representation is on the rise too. Through user driven content platforms like Instagram and Youtube, curly girls everywhere are now able to share their experiences and swap styling tips. Even in big time TV shows and movies, curly-haired girls are no longer only confined to the “quirky best friend” or “desperate new girl in need of a makeover” roles. 

Nowadays, I love my curly hair. I’ve found a good hairdresser, the right products, a routine that works for me and I get compliments on it all the time.

Sometimes, when people make comments like “you are so lucky to have hair like that!” I want to shake them and scream “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’VE BEEN THROUGH”, but I normally just smile and say “thanks” instead.

If you want to learn more, check out https://www.naturallycurly.com/ or follow these curly youtube channels that I love:

Joy Before Her

Ayesha Malik

Curly Penny

Have you got curly hair? Do you love it or hate it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

10 Reasons Why Peep Show is a Gift To Us All

Although being wary at first that U.K. sitcom Peep Show, starring comedy duo David Mitchell and Robert Webb, would be an uncomfortably erotic hole-in-the-wall experience (as the title suggests), I’m so glad that I did finally give in and give it a go.

The TV series has been described as a grown up version of the Inbetweeners, and while that’s accurate in some ways, I feel like this show was just that much more outrageous and clever (and fried).

If you haven’t yet seen it, then first of all, where have you been?

Second of all, please immediately clear out your weekend and scab your best friend’s Netflix password because you’re in for a healthy 9 series, 54 episodes, or roughly 21 hours and 36 minutes of socially awkward, self-conscious, self-centred, British comedy gold at it’s finest.

Here are 10 reasons why I think the cult-classic Peep Show is due for a re-watch:

  1. Mark’s brutally self-aware internal monologue,
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2. The unwavering and unapologetic hedonism of Jez,

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3. And who could forget, Super Hans’ classic one liners.

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4. It’s the definitive guide to relationships in your 20s and 30s…

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credit: sofeminine.co.uk

5. …And the characters model a balanced approach to health and fitness.

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6. Viewers are blessed with plenty of sage career advice…

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credit: Channel 4

7. …And there’s no doubt that the show taught us everything we know about Modern History…

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8. …All while we learned about responsible family planning!

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9. It deals with some pretty deep existential truths…

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10. But best of all, Peep Show isn’t afraid to face the really BIG issues and tell it like it is

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credit: gifer.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you a fan of Peep Show? What’s your favourite episode? (Mine’s the one where everyone gets sectioned).

7 Honest Truths I Will Probably Never Tell My Little Sister.

I have a little sister, Olivia. She is small and very funny (Charlie and Lola, anyone?). Actually, my little sister is thirteen, and not so small. Precisely nine and a half years younger than me.

We talk a lot. We are sisters after all. But, like any close relationship, there’s a lot that is left unsaid.

Here are 7 honest truths I’m too nice (and too awkward) to tell my little sister.  

Dear Olivia,

  1. We Were Fine Before You Came Along

Kicking this off with nice warm and fuzzy feels, I’d just like to remind you that our family was doing just fine without you. Before you came along, we were the perfect nuclear family. Mum and dad, a brother and a sister, a tabby cat named Tiger. I had my swing set in the backyard and a cubby house and, when Josef wasn’t causing trouble and breaking all the things, basically the undivided attention of mum and dad. It was a great time. I was the youngest and enjoyed all the benefits that come along with that. That is, until you decided to be born.

It all started with Tiger. Mum was scared that our crazy cat would scratch The Baby like he had scratched all of our furniture and family members by this point, and decided he had to go (he was here first so…?). From that point on, I knew. Everything had to be about The Baby, (oh btw, I called you “The Baby” or “It” up until about a week after you were born).

While it was the tiniest bit exciting to be getting a new baby sister, I’ll still never forgive you for coming in and turning everything upside-down.

2. You Were The Most Annoying Baby

I don’t know who you thought you were, but you came in like a wrecking ball. Firstly, the crying. You did not stop crying. But it wasn’t just crying, it was screaming. Constantly.

I thought maybe we could be friends and I would rock your crib and sing lullabies to you, but I guess the demons within you just couldn’t be quieted. There was one particularly memorable car trip where all five of us were driving to a far-away baby store to buy a fancy three-wheeler pram for you and your ungrateful baby butt did not stop screaming on the forty minute drive there, nor the forty minute drive back.

Then there was the constant maintenance. Who would have known that babies need to be watched all the time, fed, changed, bathed, dressed, burped, walked. And when mum and dad had a bit too much on their plates, guess who the responsibility fell to? (We both know our brother was useless). No Year 5 kid should have to come home, finish their marine life diorama, write out their spelling words (look, cover, write, check), and then change a dirty nappy and run a lukewarm bath.

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Me. (via pinterest)

3. You’ll Never Know The Struggle

Mum and dad came to Australia with two kids and $50 in their pocket (ok I’m exaggerating here but you get the gist).

We used to have one car, a 1987 Toyota Corolla. We would each get one present for Christmas, plus a chocolate Santa (I would, without fail, trade my toy for Josef’s chocolate). Our pocket money was $1 a week. We went on holidays once a year to some sleepy coastal town and stayed in MOTELS, Olivia! Do you even know what those are??

Josef and I slept in a bunk bed. We only had one bathroom in the house back then. All of our clothes were hand-me-downs from our older cousins. Name brand food was not a thing in our household. And McDonald’s? Nah fam, there’s food at home.

The one computer in our house was a cube. So was our TV. We had five channels to choose from, and whatever mum picked was what we all had to watch (actually nothing much has changed there). There was none of the Foxtel, Youtube, or Netflix choice of today. And if I wanted to talk to my friends after school, I’d have to wait until whoever was using the dial-up internet to be done, only to not be able to reach my friend because HER dad was using the internet.

These days, as hard as mum and dad try not to spoil you, you still live in a world where you have significantly more choice, not just in which Youtube channel you’ll waste your time on tonight, but even in what you choose to pursue. Mum and dad worked their butts off, day in and day out, so that Josef and I could have piano lessons and play soccer on the weekends. For you though, it’s not such a big deal.

4. You’ll Never Be Me, So Don’t Even Try

I know you look up to me. You include it in every one of those exercises at school where they make you write about someone you look up to (or maybe you’re just trying to play the system and get extra points by writing this mushy stuff). I know you come and hang out in my room when I’m not around (weird much?). I know you steal my expensive hair products and play with my makeup (at least you used to a couple of years back). I’m glad you see me as a positive role model, but it’s also a bit scary because it’s a huge responsibility.

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“She is kind and takes time to help people while working really hard” Hehe, nice lies Olivia, they’ll never know the truth.

The fact is, you’ll never be me. But you know what, you’re you, and that’s infinitely better in my opinion. You have your own unique gifts- natural confidence, musical talent, quick wit, determination and the crazy ability to make friends everywhere you go.

When you were a toddler, this old lady on a bench at Parramatta station told Dad and me that you would one day be a famous speaker. You were constantly talking, asking questions and had no problem walking up to strangers and delivering earnest lectures on what you had for breakfast that day. When I was a kid, I was super shy and preferred to watch the world go by from the comfort of my pram.

You’ll never be me, you’ll be better.

5. When I’m Mean To You, I Really Don’t Mean it

You will have noticed by now, Olivia, that “I love you” isn’t really in our family’s vocabulary. Instead, we say things like “your nose is a bit flat, but nothing surgery can’t fix” (Dad), or “You’ll never get a husband” (Mum), or “Why is one of your eyes bigger than the other?” (Josef) and “You’re literally the most annoying person I know” (Me).

When I tease you endlessly for mispronouncing one word, or make quality memes out of that picture where you’re only blinking with one eye, when I tell you to get out of my room and roast the fact that you’re still too uncoordinated to spread nutella on your toast, please believe that it’s the unhealthy way I’ve learned to say “I love you”.

When you get 98% on your science test and I ask about the other 2%, I hope you can see that I’m really, really proud of you. When you come first in the 100m sprint and I tell you that no one cares, what I’m really saying is, get out of my room so I can text my friends about how awesome my sister is in peace. I just can’t bring myself to say the words because… ew.

You just have to read between the lines around here. Sorry.

6. You’re Actually A Really Talented And Cool Individual

High school is a weird time. Cliques and stereotypes abound and before you know it, you’re in the Popular Girls or the Band Nerds or the Sporty Group or The Couples That Spend All Of Lunch Time Cuddling And Staring Into Each Other’s Eyes Only To Break Up The Next Week Club.

Everyone is insecure, trying to forge their unique identities, going through puberty at varying speeds and desperate to fit in. It’s easy to find a group that accepts you and then assume the ‘role’ that you feel you have to play.

What’s more, the whole school system is in on it. When you get your report at the end of the term and it says A for English and C for maths, you start to put yourself into a box and limit yourself to what your teachers and your marks determine is true about you.

Don’t let anyone else decide who you are except you. You’re not just “The Pretty One”, “The Nice One”, “The Funny One” or “The Smart One”, you can literally be anything you want to be.

7. And The Seventh Thing, I’ll Probably Never Tell You, You Make Me Love You ❤

Yup. It’s true.

No matter what you do, and where you go, I’ll always be there for you.

Always trying to convince you you’re adopted.

Signed,

Your big sister Layla.

Do you relate to my family’s dysfunctional communication style? I want to hear about it in the comments!

One Week on the Ketogenic Diet

It’s 1pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I’m sitting in the living room in my fluffy pink robe, ignoring the boring Netflix comedy special I’ve started, in favour of scrolling through my generic Instagram feed. I’m at home and not at work because this pesky thing called uni is back on for semester two and I need to attend a class later on. Without a regular routine and busy schedule, I’m a bit of a mess. It’s probably been about an hour since I had my breakfast- a whole packet of chocolate cream biscuits dunked in coffee- and I’m thinking it’s time for something savoury.

As I rip into a packet of Shapes (chicken crimpy, takes me back), it hits me that I probably can’t continue living off packaged foods for every meal. Not only do I feel bloated and ‘blergh’, but I also notice that treating myself to a sugary-carby snack here and there leads to cravings for more only a few hours later, becoming a never-ending cycle.

I decide right there and then (right after I finish this box of shapes) that I need something of a “cleanse”. A fresh start to help me break the blood-sugar spike addiction and motivate me to practice the good eating habits which I know are buried somewhere deep down inside. Enter: keto.

What is Keto?

The ketogenic diet, ‘keto’ for short, is a high fat and extremely low carb diet (ideally <20g) that is *supposed* to change your metabolic chemistry so your body starts running on fat instead of carbohydrates- don’t ask me how it works.

I’ve been curious about this diet for a while, with a few of my friends (including a certified medical doctor) swearing by it for rapid weight loss, eliminated cravings and higher energy levels, all while chowing down on full-fat cheese, bacon, eggs and avocado.

On the other hand, going without any form of bread, potatoes or rice for an extended period of time not only sounds like some form of cruel and unusual torture, but raises flags around the safety and sustainability of this particular eating style. I decided to put these concerns aside and road test keto for myself. Here’s how it went:

Day 1- Wednesday: It Begins

Breakfast: I wake up and make myself scrambled eggs with cheese. So far so good. I enjoy it so much that I miss my train and arrive to my first 9am tutorial at 9:25. Luckily the tutor is Italian and seems to have arrived about 5 minutes before me.

Lunch: I leave the cosy cafe I’m studying in at and move outside in the sun to eat my lunch. I’ve brought half a packet of pre-mixed kale salad in a box and a tin of tuna (hence why I’ve moved outside). I also eat a few slices of Gimbap (a Korean version of sushi) which my cousin gifted me a few days before and subsequently realise I’ve just eaten white rice. Oops. I consider giving up for the day and starting fresh tomorrow but instead decide to just keep it up and act like that didn’t happen.

Afternoon snack: Protein shake while walking between classes.

Dinner: I’m super hungry when I get home but I can’t seem to locate anything without carbs or added sugar. I make a mental note to go grocery shopping tomorrow night to pick up some protein and veggies. I snack on cheese slices and roast beef in the meantime.

I go to the gym and then meet up with my best friend for dinner. except she’s having dinner and I’m eating a small tub of YoPro that I smuggled in, plus a pot of peppermint tea.

Day 2- Thursday: Struggles of Eating Out

Breakfast: Today I’m at work so I skip breakfast because I’m barely awake when I leave the house.

Lunch: Mornings are always hectic and I don’t get a chance to eat anything before lunch time rolls around. Today I’m having lunch with my team at a picturesque bowls club up the road from work. I order a chicken salad which is covered in dried cranberries. Not strictly keto because they’re high in sugar but I’m not going to sit here and pick them out.

Dinner: Tonight is date night! I resign myself to the fact that wherever we go and whatever I order, it’s going to be more expensive since this diet is all about the extra protein. After much back-and-forth (no Italian- can’t do pasta or pizza, no burgers, no ramen, no sushi) we decide on a Middle Eastern restaurant since they’ll definitely have meat. I ignore the basket of fried lebanese bread and hummus (actually my two favourite foods) and enjoy a filling chicken shawarma plate and some sujuk.

Day 5- Sunday: The MVP at Subway Saves My Night

Breakfast: By the time Sunday comes around, I’ve already noticed a huge reduction in my appetite and cravings. I’m not hungry this morning but it’s Sunday so I make myself scrambled eggs and sit down to eat with my family.

Mid-morning: My church is running a bake sale to raise money for a charity project. In the face of several tables laden with delicious home baked desserts, I feel absolutely no desire to have any. I give my little sister money to put in the donation bucket and laugh as she bites into a choc chip muffin that turned out to be a banana choc-chip muffin. Sucker.

Lunch: Our big group decides to head to the park for a picnic lunch. I bring a bag of meatballs and a packet of blue cheese from Woolies plus my mini bluetooth speaker because ⁓vibes⁓. We stretch out in the sunshine and play extreme Uno which makes everyone angry.

Dinner: With no suitable food in the house (I should probably get around to buying those groceries), we decide to head to Subway for a salad. I ask for a chicken salad with double meat, extra cheese, avocado and extra jalapenos. The server doesn’t charge me for any of the extras and I think he’s my new best friend.

Day 6- Tuesday: Chocolate Cravings Strike

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese and ¼ avocado

Lunch: I set myself a long to-do list and then proceed to ignore it and instead go get my nails done and pick up some groceries. As I walk into Coles, I’m greeted by the amazing smell of fresh bread and melted chocolate. I casually realise in this moment that I NEED CHOCOLATE NOW. I head to the health food aisle and spend an eternity reading nutrition labels until I’m satisfied that I’ve found keto chocolate.

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When you want that summer body but you NEED chocolate.

I try the protein stix (stick?) right away and while it’s not chocolate, it’s actually not bad. I save the sugar-free dark chocolate for later. I pick my sister up from school and we eat some left over roast chicken and green salad (no dressing for me). I snack on nuts throughout the afternoon.

Dinner: My brother and I head to the gym and I do a basic leg workout and go for a jog on a high incline treadmill. For once, I’m prepared for dinner tonight and cook up some atlantic salmon with broccoli. Simple, filling and definitely feels healthier than the fried halloumi I had for dinner last night.

Results after one week

While the first few days had some accidental carb-consuming hiccups, I’m actually feeling pretty good after one week following a keto style diet. According to the scales, I’ve dropped about 1-1.5kg and have definitely experienced a massive reduction in appetite and cravings. For now, I might keep it going to see just how far I can take it. So far so good right? Stay tuned for an update coming soon!

Pros: reduced appetite, reduced cravings, weight loss, easy to stick to after a few days,

Cons: limited food options, hard to find suitable food when out, low energy in first few days, expensive, requires will power at the beginning, can be low in fibre.

What have you heard about the keto diet? Let me know what your thoughts are by commenting below!

Why Impostor Syndrome is Holding You Back

The first time I ever read about impostor syndrome, I recognised it in myself immediately. If you haven’t heard of it, impostor syndrome is defined as “an individual experience of self-perceived intellectual phoniness”. In other words, feeling like all of your accomplishments and successes come down to either somehow having cheated the system or just plain luck.

The phenomenon was introduced by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978. It’s since been described as feeling like a fraud, feeling like praise is undeserved or wrongly attributed, feeling like any second, everyone is going to realise that you’ve been faking it this whole time and you’re actually a talentless, a try-hard, over-privileged sham.

Impostor syndrome is often associated with high achieving women with perfectionist tendencies. I’m not really sure why that is. It could be that we feel we have something to prove and so work harder, only to then feel like all that hard work was somehow ‘inauthentic’. It could be that we compare ourselves to other women, discounting our own accomplishments because they don’t fit what society seems to value in women.

Men also experience impostor syndrome. Again, it’s usually the high achievers, the ones who link their accomplishments with their own intrinsic self-worth. The ones who can never seem to be good enough.

The funny thing is, impostor syndrome isn’t just about thinking you’re not good enough. It’s also about thinking you’re so good that it can’t possibly be real. This weird combination of low self esteem and hubris makes it even more confusing to approach.

What it looks like

We try to rebrand our fear of putting ourselves out there as modesty. We work extra hard to attain good grades or excellent feedback but can’t be proud because we probably put in twice the effort of anyone else. We know that we deserve that promotion but we’re also sure that someone with real ‘natural talent’ could easily overtake us if they wanted to.

The worst part of all of this in my opinion, is that we’re so afraid of failure, that we refuse to even try in the first place. We say things like “Who do I think I am to be applying for this position?”, “Who am I to offer advice?” and “What’s the point of starting if I’m not going to be the best?”

See, therein lies the problem. We’re not satisfied with trying and failing. We’re not satisfied with average. We think that if we’re not at the top, then we’ve wasted our time, embarrassed ourselves and ruined our reputation. While people are always trying to frame perfectionism as a good thing, I think it’s actually holding so many of us back.

We think that holding ourselves to higher standards means that we’ll do better work, but the reverse is often true. Being afraid of failure means that we’re less likely to seek help and advice from people who could seriously help us improve. We hoard the work instead of delegating and end up stressed, burnt out and frustrated. It comes as no surprise, then, that impostor syndrome is linked to depression, generalized anxiety and low self-esteem.

How to overcome it

Impostor syndrome is hard to overcome. It’s very nature is illogical, so simply talking yourself out of it isn’t going to cut it in most cases. Just like overcoming any fear, I think it may be helpful to confront it head on with these actions:

1. Talk To People To Realise That Everyone Is Faking It

Whether you’re going for a professional role, inspired to start your own business or put yourself out there in some way, opening up to someone and admitting that you feel out of your depth can help take some of that pressure off. In most cases, you’ll be surprised to hear the other person tell you that they also have no idea what they’re doing. The fact is, everyone has their flaws and challenges and no one is perfect. When you take down that façade, you open up brand new potential for learning and growth.

Communication is key. Have you ever spoken to the CEO of your company? Have you ever had a conversation with a successful business owner that you admire? The chances are that if you did take the time to reach out and have that chat, you’d realise that behind all the titles, corporate suits and personal branding, there’s a person just like you who shows up every day and gives it a go. They might even have experienced a touch of impostor syndrome too!

2. Give Yourself Permission To Fail

This is a trick that I used to use before every high school exam. I would ask myself: what’s the worst that could happen? If I score less than my desired mark, will it be the end of the world? No. If I fail this exam, will it be the end of the world? No. At the end of the day, I still have my health, a family that loves me. And yes, I’m sure I’ll still pass the exam.

A scientist doesn’t throw in the towel when she gets results that aren’t in line with her original hypothesis. She simply makes some detailed notes, might adjust her approach, reset the experiment, and do it again. It’s nothing personal, it’s just science.

Practice failing on purpose. If you’re uncoordinated, sign up for a dance class. If you’re a terrible singer, go to a karaoke bar and get up on stage. The purpose isn’t just to learn something new, but also to learn that failure isn’t the end of the world. So what, your surfing instructor said you were the worst student he’s ever taught- you’re still closer to success than the people wading in the shallow end.

The truth is, most situations are not life and death. A lot of the stressing that we do and extra effort that we put in- staying up studying for hours or putting in overtime at work- probably has a very minor, if not negative, effect on our results. I’d challenge you to honestly ask yourself:

“What’s the worst that could happen if I politely decline checking my emails outside of hours?”

“What’s the worst that could happen if I leave this ‘urgent’ task until tomorrow?”

Even,

“What’s the worst that could happen if I start the business and then it fails?”

Maybe your concerned about what other people will think. In reality, people don’t judge us half as much as we think they do, and even if they did, isn’t that their problem and not ours? In any case, even when we do make mistakes and fail, we end up learning something new along the way, bringing us ever closer to success.

3. Just Do It.

I admire people who just jump in and strike while the iron is hot. People who don’t worry about what others will think or what could possibly go wrong. People who trust their intuition. Yes, some people are born fearless, but if you’re a serial overthinker and contingency planner like me, this doesn’t come naturally.

Set yourself a challenge to step outside of your comfort zone: start that blog/website/YouTube channel or side business. Apply for that job that’s just a little out of your reach. Send that random unsolicited email to that person whose career you admire. Put your hand up for promotions and awards.

Set yourself a date and time. Get your equipment ready. Make yourself a to-do list. Give yourself the same respect that you would give your employer by showing up on time and giving 100%.

If you fail, you fail. At least you can say you tried.

Do you suffer from Impostor Syndrome? What’s something that you’ve been holding off from trying due to feelings of inadequacy? Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips on how you overcome it!