2018: Growth, Loss & Learning to Let Go

It’s currently 8:24pm on a Saturday night as I write this.

I have an awful cold and really should be in bed with a cup of lemon tea and a good bit of vapour rub on my chest, but it’s been momentarily sidelined as I’ve come over with an overwhelming urge to write. I don’t even know what images I’ll be using with this post yet, but something inside me just wants to get my thoughts out there.

Over the past few years, I’ve shared some of my most personal thoughts and feelings on my blog; everything from mental health struggles, to issues revolving confidence, self esteem and previous trauma. I’ve often at times been wary of sharing so much for fear of leaving myself completely open, as well as having people I know personally read it, and view me in a completely different way. It’s hard being so openly vulnerable when suppressing thoughts and coping through humour were my ways of dealing with emotional burdens – but equally – I get to see and experience how my words affect others who are going through the same struggles, and I get to (try) and be of help at times, and that brings me solace during the days when I feel low. The following will be me at my most vulnerable, so bare with me, k?

So I guess this post is kind of a ’round-up’ of 2018? I’m not talking about fashion, not talking about the amazing opportunities I’ve been given, I’m not even talking about my blogging/writing/career changes. I’m just talking about me. My emotional and mental wellbeing. The best way for me to, I guess, process everything that has happened this year, is to write it down, and luckily (or unfortunately, depending on the reasons you read my blog), you lot get to read it. Fun!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in a previous post, but the last 18 months or so have been pivotal in my self-growth. 2017 was the year that really broke me as a person and if I’m being honest, a lot of the brokenness did carry on into 2018. My mental health has only started improving during the last 3 or 4 months or so. I have really tried as hard as possible to focus on self-growth this year; in knowing myself more as a person, knowing my likes and dislikes. Before I met my ex in 2014, I was extremely depressed and had very low self-worth.

Coat – Old Navabi // Dress – ASOS Curve

When we got together, I realised that a lot of my self-worth depended on how he saw me. The issues of low self-esteem and low confidence were still present in that relationship and while that relationship was amazing for me, I realised that I never really took the time to value myself, and to acknowledge that I was an amazing woman worthy of being loved and desired. Why? Because I was too busy giving the love I should have given to myself, to my partner at the time.

One of the things I’ve realised in my journey this year, is that I often neglect myself in order to make sure others are okay. Self-care was never a thing I chose to do because I didn’t want to let people around me down. I always put this pressure on myself to be available for others, because I wanted to feel needed and to be needed meant that my existence could be validated. I looked to others’ approval to validate my existence as a human being (not in regards to weight, just as a human being in general) and in order to gain that approval, I would cut pieces of myself and give them away, without any regard to myself and my mental and emotional health. I needed to know that I deserved the affection that I kept trying to pour into others, and that I deserve the highs of happiness, without the lows of sadness. 

Putting me first

This year, truly learned the meaning of ‘putting myself first’. This year I practised self-care and being selfish. A normally financially-tight Steph blew loads of money on things that make ME happy. I bought a Nintendo Switch which I can literally spend hours on. Why? Because video games make me happy. I spent a lot of money on candles and plants and now have a mini-jungle in my room. Why? Because fragranced candles and plants make me feel serene and calm. I said ‘fuck it’ and stayed at a luxurious villa in Bali for 8 days during my birthday. Why? Because I wanted to, and I knew I deserved it. I’ve learned to do nice things for myself and not feel bad about it. I would have done the above in a FLASH for anyone else I loved and not feel bad, so why feel bad when spending it on myself?

This year, I have been focussing on making myself a priority, and a big part of that has been through listening to inspirational and amazing women such as Kelechi Okafor and Chidera who have taught me that prioritising one’s self is the greatest form of self love, because like Black Twitter says, ‘I cannot come and kill myself‘ (which translates as ‘I can’t be working myself to death/doing too much and not concentrating on myself). I’ve learned that nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and that I am worth the effort. 

Heartbreak & Grief

2018 has also been the year of grief. Even though I didn’t expect for it to carry on to this year, still having the grief from a failed relationship in 2017 has been incredibly overwhelming. This year I learned that it’s okay to mourn, and that it’s okay if the grief lasts for some time. Last year, i tried to place time limits on how long I was allowed to feel heartbroken for, but quickly realised that the Universe (and love) doesn’t work like that. Are there days when I still think about that situation? Absolutely, but it’s gone from thinking about it several times a day, every day, to thinking about it once or twice a week. I guess when you love hard, it’s expected for the heartbreak to hit you just as hard. I’m slowly beginning to see my worth as a woman again, after months and months of feeling ugly, unwanted and not worthy of love. My self-esteem and confidence are slowly increasing and I’m *trying* to get myself out there again. I’d be lying if I said the dating game wasn’t a cesspit of fuckery, so this part is still a work in progress tbh. 

A confidence boost

This year, I’ve been trying to take proactive steps to improve the confidence that was lost during my heartbreak. Not only confidence in my body, but confidence in me as a whole. When that event occurred last year, I felt like Voldemort being ripped from his body after trying to kill baby Harry (Xmas time means re-reading Harry Potter so apologies for this analogy). I thought I’d share with you some proactive confidence boosters that have really helped me this year:

  • Using positive language where possible
  • Looking people in the eye/maintaining direct contact
  • Remembering people’s names (honestly it sounds insignificant but it works!)
  • Saying NO when you need to
  • Knowing/drawing out a list of your personal goals
  • Smiling more often
  • Seeing a problem as a challenge
  • Balancing a good work/life priority
  • Having a ‘to-do’ list
  • Getting out more
  • Standing/sitting straighter

The above may not work for all, but they have really come in handy for me. I ‘ve always had issues with looking people directly in the eye at times, as I can ‘sometimes’ have a thing about people looking at me (I feel like all they see when they look at me are my Steve Buschemi eye sockets, flared nostrils and gapped teeth), but I’m slowly trying to overcome it. I’ve learned not to wait until everything is ‘just right’ in order to attain confidence: there will always be obstacles, challenges and less-than-perfect conditions. So what? Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled and more self-confident.

Losses can be gains too

I started Nerd about Town when I was reading Law at University. As time went by, I became a tad complacent with it where content was concerned. Why? Because I was working full time, and never had the time to create the kind of content I wanted. There were times when I wanted to delete the blog altogether because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with the other influencers in the community, which therefore meant my content was shit. During my relationship, I worked at a huge marketing agency, and a Law firm. Despite the opportunities that presented themselves to me and my blog, and the fact that all I wanted to do was write full-time, I began to get more and more complacent. I slacked on the blog to make more time for work, family and my relationship. My ex used to take all my blog photos. I was frustrated that I had to work full time when my heart was really in writing and creating content. 

All of a sudden, I was broken up with, I moved back home temporarily and I lost my job at the Law firm (I had a heartbreak-fuelled meltdown and became extremely depressed). I was broke and had nothing for MONTHS. I even started a Go Fund Me at one point to help out with rent. They were some of the saddest moments of my life. I started self-harming again. I developed anxiety and would get attacks if I ventured into certain areas or areas where my old flat used to be, I would talk to myself and cry in public. It was…a bad time. But! It forced me to dig deep within myself and to try and carve out some kind of career/life for myself.

I literally had nothing to lose as I had lost it all already, and so I started applying for all the PR/marketing jobs and blog-related opportunities. I would spent almost 16 hours a day just applying for roles, writing blog posts and creating content. It was during that time I found my amazing photographer Kaye and started shooting content with her. I worked my arse off and found a position as a PR intern, and slowly worked my way up to PR exec while working hard on my blog.

Cut to December 2018 and I am signed with a literary agency on track to writing my first book, I’ve been featured in a magazine spread, I’ve written for some amazing publications, I’ve spoken in Parliament, I’ve been nominated for a blog award, I WORK FOR MYSELF, and I’m now in a position where I get paid to write and create content about the stuff that I love every day.

Now…would any of this have happened if I were still in my relationship? Probably not. I could never see it at the time but sometimes, losses in one area of your life can spur you on to succeed in other areas. Yes, the dissolution of the relationship was emotionally and mentally traumatic for me, but it inspired me to work hard in the areas I was neglecting and to make something of myself. I may not be where I want to be emotionally/romantically, but career-wise, your girl is doing bits and I’m really proud of that.

Photography – Lauren Dudley

Letting go of pain and processing trauma

Even though I have trauma dating back to year dot, the last couple of years have been when I’ve really been trying to focus on processing a lot of it. To me, successfully processing/getting over trauma is when I can talk about it without feeling emotional or sad. A sort of detachment I suppose. Now, I don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing, but it seems to work with me. I can talk about the bullying, physical abuse and fat/shaming I experienced as a child and not flinch at all, but ask me to talk about my previous relationship and I still cannot talk about it without crying, which tells me that the wound is still trying to heal but not quite there yet.

Holding onto past hurts often relieve the pain over and over in your mind. Sometimes a person can even get “stuck” in this pain, in this hurt, in this blame. The only way you can accept new joy and happiness into your life is to make space for it. If your heart is filled full-up with pain and hurt, how can you be open to anything new? Now. I realise that I am being a ABSOLUTE MASSIVE HYPOCRITE here because my heart is closed up tighter than a miser’s purse strings. I am still at a point where I refuse to trust anybody, however it doesn’t mean that I haven’t let the hurt go. I have just learned that the only person I can depend on is myself, and so I am fiercely protective over who I allow in my space and who I choose to interact with. 

With that being said, I have picked up some ways in learning how to let go, which I thought I’d share below:

1. Make the decision to let it go.

Things don’t disappear on their own. You need to make the commitment to “let it go.” If you don’t make this conscious choice up-front, you could end up self-sabotaging any effort to move on from the past hurt.

Making the conscious decision to let it go also means accepting you have a choice to let it go. To stop reliving the past pain, to stop going over the details of the story in your head every time you think of the other person or situation. This is empowering to most people, knowing that it is their choice to either hold on to the pain, or to live a future life without it.

2. Express your pain — and your responsibility.

Express the pain the hurt made you feel, whether it’s directly to the other person, or through just getting it out of your system (like venting to a friend, or writing in a journal, or writing a letter you never send to the other person, OR WRITING IT ALL ON A VERY PUBLIC BLOG POST). Get it all out of your system at once. Doing so will also help you understand what — specifically — your hurt is about.

We don’t live in a world of black and whites, even when sometimes it feels like we do. While you may not have had the same amount of responsibility for the hurt you experienced, there may have been a small part of the hurt that you are also partially responsible for. What could you have done differently next time? Are you an active participant in your own life, or simply a hopeless victim? Will you let your pain become your identity? Or are you someone deeper and more complex than that?

3. Focus on the present — the here and now — and joy.

Now it’s time to let go. Let go of the past, and stop reliving it. Stop telling yourself that story where the protagonist — you — is forever the victim of this other person’s or situation’s actions. You can’t undo the past, all you can do is to make today the best day of your life.

When you focus on the here and now, you have less time to think about the past. When the past memories creep into your consciousness (as they are bound to do from time to time), acknowledge them for a moment. And then bring yourself gently back into the present moment. Some people find it easier to do this with a conscious cue, such as saying to yourself, “It’s alright. That was the past, and now I’m focused on my own happiness and doing (this that and the third).”

Remember, if we crowd our brains — and lives — with hurt feelings, there’s little room for anything positive. It’s a choice you’re making to continue to feel the hurt, rather than welcoming joy back into your life.

Nobody’s life should be defined by their pain. It’s not healthy, it adds to our stress, it hurts our ability to focus, study and work, and it impacts every other relationship we have (even the ones not directly affected by the hurt). Every day we choose to hold on to the pain is another day everybody around us has to live with that decision. And feel its consequences.

So do everybody — and yourself — a big favor: Let go of the pain. Do something different today and welcome happiness back into your life.

Onwards and upwards to 2019, which is finna be lit AF!

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