Let’s Talk About This
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Let’s be more open about these things & beat the stigma
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Us girls are pretty good at talking about most things.
I know me and my girlfriends bare no bones when it comes to chatting about relationships, break-ups, work-place disputes and general celebrity gossip.
We do like a good chin-wag, let’s face it.
But there’s some things that for some reason, we just don’t talk about.
Whether it’s because we’re embarrassed, or we feel we’ll be judged, or that it’s just not commonplace.
I know from personal experience, these topics are subjects that I used to feel very conscious about mentioning, for fear of how the other person would react.
Nowadays, I’m an open book and I’ll talk about literally ANYTHING to anyone who will listen.
So many of you who are personal friends will have heard each of the stories below.
But these topics are things we need to get more comfortable talking about, because they’re super important.
Photography by Kaye Ford, Little Trousers & David Mitchell
UTI’s/General Vagina Talk
Perhaps this is a British thing (apparently we’re prude), but I honestly didn’t know what a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection, FYI) was until I had my first one.
And boy oh boy, I then knew about it.
Although when it came on for the first time in the middle of the night, I didn’t know that the hideous burning pain had an actual name.
In fact, I distinctly remember furiously googling ‘MY VAGINA IS ON FIRE’, while blinking back tears.
The internet confirmed it was indeed a UTI and offered up some seemingly quite helpful home remedies.
Cranberry Juice, a warm flannel, having a bath, a hot compress.
However the only potential solution that I had the ‘ingredients’ for at the ungodly hour of 3am was: “Use natural yoghurt.”
It didn’t specify where, how, why. I was pretty sure eating it was not what they were suggesting.
So it was for that reason that at 3.30am on a Tuesday morning, I found myself rubbing the only available yoghurt variety in the vicinity – Strawberry Activia – on my nether regions.
Anyway, the point behind me telling that story was that if I’d have known about UTI’s before this fateful incident, I might have not panicked quite as much.
I was 19 and still didn’t know what this was and how to deal with it.
Mostly, because we don’t talk about our vaginas enough.
We don’t talk about what’s normal (FYI, everything – they come in all shapes and sizes) and we get a bit funny about talking about vagina health.
Hey, even periods were pretty taboo until very recently.
TV ads couldn’t bear to put real blood in the visual demonstrations of how sanitary products work, so instead they used blue gel.
We could all do with talking about this a little bit more. Because when you talk, it becomes less taboo.
Another taboo, rather stigmatised subject is our bowels.
I mean, this is probably partly due to the fact that they have such a unsympathetic name – bowels. It’s not a great word, admittedly.
But as someone who suffered hugely and does still suffer with a chronic bowel condition, I am continuously campaigning for us to be a bit more honest and open about this subject.
It isn’t dinner table conversation, let’s admit.
But we often mask indigestion, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, gas and pain, we hide it or generalise it as ‘I feel sick‘ or ‘I have stomach pains‘.
Did you know that 1 in 5 women in the UK suffer from regular bowel related symptoms or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). And that the majority of those women are newly diagnosed in their early 20’s?
That’s a lot of us!
And so I think it could only be a good thing to talk about it a little more often, or at least be honest. Because honesty de-stigmatizes it and removes the embarrassment of it.
I always felt like I had to hide behind ‘tummy troubles’ because it wasn’t ladylike or because it would be deemed ‘disgusting’.
Well here’s some news, we all poo!
And everyone is different in terms of frequency.
If you are suffering from any different or unusual symptoms that continue for more than 3 weeks, you should consult a doctor.
I read an awful story recently about a girl in her twenties who tragically committed suicide because she was so embarrassed about her bowel condition.
A young girl emailed me last week about the fact that I was the only person she’d told about her symptoms because she felt no-one would want to listen to her about such a ‘trivial’ sounding condition. She felt she’d be dismissed as pathetic.
I don’t want anyone to suffer in silence about this topic in particular.
Here’s me practising what I’m trying to preach and talking about bowels… (yay!)
Jealously quite a normal emotion to feel.
When we see another individual who has achieved greater success than ourselves, perhaps at an endeavour we were also taking part in – we can often feel jealous. Or envious.
I don’t think there’s any shortage of jealously examples online.
However we very rarely talk about feeling jealous and how we project this.
Because I think jealously and envy can be used to fuel, inspire and motivate us, rather than stand as a negative emotion.
If we let jealously consume us – and we allow the green eyed monster to project negativity on another individual, that’s our own problem.
And very rarely do we openly admit to this.
Without generalising guys are typically more vocal about their competitiveness.
They might have a word, a joke or perhaps even a bit of a fight. But they usually vocalise it and come through the other end.
As women, we can often internalise jealously and this can impact our own self confidence, how we perceive ourselves and it can impact how we treat others.
The next time the green eyed monster approaches, ask yourself why are you feeling this way?
How can you use it to inspire and motivate you?
Remember, blowing out someone else’s candles won’t make yours shine any brighter.
When we stick together, show support and kindness and empower others, great things can happen.
It makes you feel good and them feel good.
Turn your flicker of jealously into appreciation and project positivity.
You’ll turn something that could eat you up, into something that brings yourself and another up.
But are you jealous of my amazing Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea spread though? It’s available at the Sanderson hotel and you can make it ‘tipsy’ in the evenings during December…
Check it out on their website here.
My Instagram feed isn’t a true reflection of my state of mind, my mental health or even my life.
It’s a highlight’s reel and it’s important not to compare someone else’s ‘best bits’ with your own reality.
However I do try and keep things real and honest by inserting a caption that tells the story behind the picture. Because as much as a picture tells a thousand words, sometimes they aren’t the right words. Let’s be Insta friends, follow me here.
I think mental health in general is something that we as a society need to get better at talking about, not just us women.
Despite it regularly having worldwide coverage, we still forget to understand and empathise with others.
I don’t think the online world helps at all, because ‘trolls’ rarely consider the other person’s feelings when they don’t have to face them and look them in the eye.
However I think in general, we need to get better at ‘walking in others shoes’.
And what I mean by that is being kind not only to ourselves but also others, even if you know nothing about them.
Because you never know what another person is going through, how their background and prior experiences have led them to this moment and why they might be acting a certain way.
If you have time and an ear to listen, offer it to someone.
A friend, a parent, a stranger, a colleague.
Because usually when you do stop to learn about other individuals, you realise that everyone is fighting their own internal battles, however big or small.
We’ve become very sympathetic as a society, but not empathetic.
We might think that saying ‘oh don’t worry, you’ll be fine’, is going to help.
We might not know what to say to help.
But listening in itself and talking openly about our own battles, again reduces this stigma.
I remember once a person wrote me off when I started opening up.
They said: “What on earth have you got to worry about? Just don’t panic. You wait until you get a mortgage, house and kids, then you’ll have real problems“
Not only was this incredibly patronising but immediately, it shut me down.
I think they had good intentions, but it probably wasn’t the right thing to say.
Luckily, I’m still very open and it didn’t deter me from ever speaking out again. But we do need to consider others.
Dream big, but not too big.
It’s the message that I believe us women are given from a young age.
As kids a boy being assertive is ‘a leader‘, a girl is ‘bossy‘.
I’ve always been referred to as ‘bossy‘ or a ‘perfectionist‘.
Personally, I’m totally happy with being those things but I’d also like to be known as driven, hard-working, assertive and passionate.
I also want to remove the assumption that just because you care about your appearance and dress a certain way, you cannot also be a seeker of success.
I’ll never forget the day I was told I’d missed out on a head-girl role because I was told I ‘dressed as though I was on my way to a nightclub‘.
FYI, I didn’t. Everything went past the knee and my hair and make-up was always kept professional.
I’ll also never forget a wonderful friend I had who had worked incredibly hard to get a PHD in Research Science, only to be shunned in her first job because she enjoyed wearing make-up and hair extensions.
Can we please stop associating the two? They are not mutually exclusive.
However you want to dress, wear your hair, your make-up and whatever your hobbies are, does not assume your intelligence, your aspirations and your drive.
Again, like the above – let’s give one another the benefit of the doubt first!
Never judge a book by it’s cover.
And dream big, as big as you can.
In the words of S Club 7, reach for the stars.
And finally, a taboo subject for generations – we need to get savvier, smarter and more openly honest about money.
Whether it’s how much we earn, money troubles, money advice, mortgages, blogger prices or actually BEING PAID FOR OUR WORK AS A FREELANCER, we need to get better at talking about money.
I am the world’s most honest person when it comes to this (probably too honest), but I’m certainly not perfect at it.
Personally, I’d never treat anyone differently because they had money or a lack of it, but I know some women especially live in fear of this happening.
Wanting money isn’t a bad thing. Money doesn’t bring you happiness, but it brings security, opportunities and opens doors.
It’s greed that should be the dirty word, not money.
In fact, to hear more about this subject, listen to Emma Gannon’s podcast CTRL, ALT, DELETE episode with Jen Sincero here, because it’s brilliant and raises some key issues around why we should seek to earn as much as we can!
Do you think there are any other topics I’ve missed out on? Do you openly talk about any of the above? Or are you quite reserved about any? I’d love to know what you think!