I'm not typically a fan of new years resolutions or appraising my life based on constructed intervals of time. Let's be honest, life doesn't tend to fall conveniently into allotted weeks, months and years. However, I believe it is important to evaluate one's progression, the good, the bad and the ugly and to do so openly and honestly. So here goes, in 2018 I...
💎Overcame imposter syndrome and gained a shit tonne of confidence. I started off 2018 feeling very unsure of myself. I had just graduated, was new to the industry and to London. I don't know if it's because it's fashionable to shit on people my age, but I was convinced I didn't deserve my new job and that my expectations were too high. I had grown up and felt comfortable around CEOs, business leaders and powerful men and women, yet I was terrified my peers would think I was a phoney. What if I got fired? What if my boss hated me? What if I wasn't good enough? What if I wasn't doing enough? What if I was poorly and needed some time off? I didn't have a penny to my name, in an exceedingly expensive city (still don't lmao) and was in receipt of all sorts of horrible careers advice: "be aggressive", "never leave the office before your boss" and so on. Thankfully, I was able to get out of that funk.
Reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck felt like a defining moment, it solidified the notion that I need to protect my time and energy in order to be my best self and that I need to relinquish control over things that are out of my hands. However, in reality, it was probably a number of micro actions and moments coming together to make such a seemingly impossible feat my reality. The support I received from my loved ones, from my colleagues and the wider digital & tech community definitely helped, so did working out loud on Twitter. I'm well aware confidence should come from within, but external influences don't hurt. Meeting so many phenomenal women at the Web Summit who had not only heard of my work, but said I inspired *them* was a wake up call. It reminded me that the work I do in my spare time to increase the visibility of womxn in tech, is not only worthwhile but gaining momentum. Getting promoted proved to me that I'm good at what I do and gave me much needed evidence that others think so too. In turn, when I started my new job instead of feeling like an imposter for months, I felt overwhelmed for a couple of weeks max. And when I did feel overwhelmed, I dealt with it healthily: by writing, by meditating, by exercising and confiding in others. This was a fundamental shift in my behaviour, and I believe my new found confidence is at least in part, due to this shift. I preach a lot about taking care of your mental health, but for the first time in my life I actually followed my own advice. Even writing this now feels cathartic. Anyway, starting to believe in myself is probably my proudest accomplishment of 2018.
💎Improved my relationship with food. Towards the end of 2018 I came across @unfattening and his insights have really helped me get better at managing my relationship with food and exercise. My story is the same as pretty much every woman's story: for as along as I can remember I have always considered myself fat and ugly. I recently came across some photos of myself from when I was in my teens and could not believe how slim I looked, and if I remember correctly I was always a size small in clothing, but even then I thought I was fat. It probably didn't help that my dance teacher drilled into a fair few of us Every Single Class that we were actually fat or massive sluts. It's been quite amusing following her instagram account years later to see her talk about "female empowerment" and "body positivity". Here's hoping she's changed her ways and stopped giving her dancers so much grief they end up bulimic or anorexic. I should probably unfollow her actually, she definitely scarred me and a couple of my friends quite considerably. But anyway!
My relationship with food and exercise has come on leaps and bounds. I have started counting my calories again, but have stopped using MyFitness Pal, which imo is a really problematic app, and instead use an app called Lose It. This time the calorie counting is more about learning about different foods and the energy they give me. When I go over my calorie count I really do not give myself any grief and this has helped mitigate some guilt. I no longer have foods I cannot eat and my mindset with "naughty" food has changed quite considerably. Before, if I had a cookie I'd think to myself "oh well, calories have gone out the window now, may as well eat the whole pack" which would make me feel sick and depressed. If I have a cookie now, I'll add it to my calories and think "oh cool, one cookie is 200 calories, which hasn't fucked me up for the whole day/ week/ month so I'll enjoy this cookie and save the rest for another day". @unfattening has taught me that the only real rule for losing weight is consuming less calories then you expend, and that there's no diet that trumps that rule. This has really given me peace of mind - it might work for some people to be keto/ paleo/ no carbs/ high protein - but I've found the more rules I add the worse I feel. He's also taught me that before you start calorie counting you've got to be in a decent head space, and I think I am now: I've stopped being embarrassed of the space I take up and have stopped being ashamed of my body, I DO want to lose a bit of weight but if I don't I'm no longer going to hate myself for it.
p.s. whats up with the word 'fat' having so many horrendous connotations. ugh.
💎Learnt a load of new skills, but took on way too much and realised I have a truly unhealthy relationship with guilt. There is a lot of exciting stuff happening in my industry at the moment, I'm inspired almost daily to start a new thing or learn a new skill. While this is something I'm proud of, it definitely got a bit out of hand. I rarely spent a night at home after work during the week and I can count the number of weekends I actually spent resting on one hand. I learnt to code, learnt to ski, started mentoring, joined a whole heap of communities, started volunteering, made lots of new friends, moved house, started a new job in a different department, interviewed a lot of womxn for my #InterviewSeries, visited five countries and other shit I can't remember right now. So, it's not surprising that I have had a number of breakdowns. I'm a passionate person and I love learning, but I've come to realise I can't do everything at once. I know I've done myself a diservice by taking on too many side projects and I have found it difficult to be present because there's always something else I need to be doing and somewhere else I need to be. I don't want to be the epitome of "jack of all trades, master of none" but I also know I'll never be satisfied doing just one thing. What this semi burn out has taught me is that I need to get better at saying no, setting boundaries and taking time to rest. If I do those things I can mitigate feeling too overwhelmed to engage and that way I'll be more present and less likely to drop out of things last minute.
2019, a mood:
💎Got acquainted with my privilege. I talk a lot about women in tech and I've always known gender isn't the only diversity problem in the industry, or society for that matter. This year I've spent some time learning about intersectionality. Intersectionality is the point at which one social category such as race, class, gender or sexuality interacts with another. For a poor, black women the discrimination she might face from her various social categories don't act independently - she could simultaneously face racial, class and gender prejudice. This works the same way for privilege: a rich, white man simultaneously experiences a number of privileges throughout his lifetime, rarther than independently. In my mind, this means discrimination/ privilege compounds either way. As a woman who has been sexually abused, I have faced discrimination that has certainly prevented me from doing and experiencing certain things at certain points in my life. However, I am white and come from a wealthy family and it's important to me, that I recognise the privilege this has afforded me. I have always wanted to help people, but this year I've spent some time thinking sincerely about HOW I want to help people. I've arrived at the conclusion that the best way I can create meaningful, lasting social change is by using my privilege to teach other people skills and by using my platform to tell their stories in their own words. I'd like to think I do that with my #InterviewSeries but I know need to get much better at representing womxn of colour. I think the most important lessons regarding privilege I've learnt this year are to apologise when I get it wrong, LISTEN to the people I'm representing or talking about and if a friend pulls me up on something it's because they care about me.
💎Managed my finances really badly. There's not much more to it tbh. I'm shit with money and I always have been. Growing up in Dubai doesn't help, money doesn't feel like a real thing there, or at least it didn't for me and I've found it hard to transition from a poor student to a working adult. I've got overdrafts and maxed out credit cards and I get really anxious when I do have money because I can't figure out how to spend it wisely (I know, fucking dumb). I used to be super embarrassed about this, but like with everything else I've learnt this year, the worse I feel about something, the worse my attitude towards managing the thing becomes. So, I'm being open and honest, even though I've got a well paying job, I'm completely fucking broke. To give myself some credit I haven't been paid right recently and London is extortionately expensive, but even so, I shouldn't be as broke as I am. My one defined goal for 2019, is to get my shit together financially.