Over the bank holiday I went to the How the Light Gets In festival. An extravaganza of philosophy, music and if me and my mate Natalie are involved - gin. It was a wonderful heart and eye opening experience that ended with an amazing workshop run by Suzy Greaves editor of Psychologies magazine. The workshop was on finding your inner confidence; we all came away with some great tips for destroying that little part of you that is always a bit scared. The following day I had a think about what that little part of me was actually scared of. I concluded that it was scared of failure and humiliation; exposure and ridicule. I realised that it was scared of other people. It got me to thinking about the fact that toddlers seem to have limitless inner confidence - they say what they want, pee where they like, they're open and happy without fear of judgement. And then we teach them that to think differently. Children don't care what other people think of them until they are told that they need to care and they need to care a great deal but I'm starting to believe that this is simply not true. So my mission this week was to do whatever I please, without considering the judgement of strangers; I wanted to walk through the world with no fear of ridicule. Those that know me may think that this mission was a little disingenuous because I am not exactly a wall flower, I'll dance on a table if I think it can hold me but if I'm honest (and I am) those acts of abandon are quite calculated, sometimes my actions are intended to encourage the gaze of others. This week was not about inviting attention but accepting it.
DANCE LIKE NO ONES WATCHING I had my first opportunity on the way back from the festival. The trains were delayed because of a butterfly sneezing in Nairobi or something so there were many potential passengers crammed into Victoria station like a herd of disgruntled sheep. I don't know if this is a particularly British thing but when waiting for something we have a tendancy to bunch up close to the destination, as if this will make the something happen faster. This tendancy meant that there was a huge empty stretch of shiny station that looked rather like a dance floor.
In the spirit of my mission I decided that it was a dance floor, so I walked right into the centre of the space, put my handbag down and started to dance. I created my own music by loudly singing the chorus of song 'Pump Up The Jam', a tune I felt lended itself to the acoustics. I was shocked by the fact that as I started I felt pure, unadulturated fear - about to be mauled by a bear, fear. Thirty seconds went by and nothing happened. As I reached the minute mark I grew in confidence and added an adapted Saturday Night routine. By the end of four minutes I was well into the swing of things and only stopped with the announcement of my train. No one commented, a few people caught my eye and then quickly went back to the business of pretending I didn't exist; I went home full of disco dancing endorphins.
I LEARNED: You can gain confidence with just a little bit of practice and you can do what you like in central London and no one will bat an eyelid.
SING IN THE STREET Roscoe's going through a phase of hating his buggy but he's also going through a phase of hating walking, which often hampers our progress. With a house at the top of a very big hill and a grumpy toddler, desperate times called for desperate measures. With the full force of my mama lungs I sang The Grand Old Duke of York and it did the job - Roscoe was distracted and strapped into his pushchair and we were on our way. It actually made a miserable situation really fun and many people looked but I decided they were just looking at some really good mothering.
I LEARNED: A few minutes of shame is worth five minutes peace.
TALK TO STRANGERS I was on the train, settled and ready to engage in my usual train practice of reading Grazia and passing Roscoe a steady stream of raisins, when my attention was caught by the conversation between the two guys next to me. They were discussing gay marriage and whilst they weren't being openly derogatory there was an air of mockery in their chat.
'Is your church against it?' said one to the other. Generally I would have ignored them, stayed in my public transport bubble but I abhor discrimination, I have volunteered for Stonewall and I was on a mission.
'Do you not believe in gay marriage,' I said.
'I used to be gay,' said the guy next to me, 'but then I found the church and now I'm straight.' MIC DROP. I told him that coming out, even in this day and age, is not an easy task,
'If you were gay you did not do that for sh*t and giggles. You did that because you enjoy having sex with men.'
'People can change their sexuality,' said the man.
'Yes,' I said, 'but you probably did not. Please tell me you don't have a girlfriend.'
'I'm looking,' he said sheepishly.
'If not sleeping with men makes you happy please don't,' I said, 'but don't pull a woman into it. Promise until you meet someone you really truly love and are attracted to you won't start a relationship with a woman.' He promised.
I LEARNED: Everyone has their story and if you're willing to accept their reaction you might just help to shape it.
ACT LIKE YOU OWN THE PLACE My boy is a special little chap, he doesn't really appreciate the usual toddler destinations - the library, the park are okay but his favourite places are everyhere he's not supposed to go. Any area wholly unsuitable for children is where he wants to be. I spend 72% of my life steering him away from potential hazards and then bribing him with rice cakes to keep him away. Today I decided to let him be because much of the time it isn't about him but me. I worry about where he chooses to explore because it makes me uncomfortable. Walking to Sainburys Roscoe decided that he wanted to check out My Hotel a classy little hotel and bar in town. It's the sort of place where you have to work for a week to buy a cocktail and definitely somewhere that makes this girl feel a little intimidated, especially when wearing tracksuit bottoms and designer eye bags. Roscoe trundled into the bar and had a good old look around before discovering a fish tank and pressing his little nose against the polished glass. I stood back, unapologetically waiting for him to be done. The staff looked at us curiously but not unkindly and no one dragged me out by my ear, as I had feared.
I LEARNED: You can get away with a lot if you act like you belong.
PLAY AWAY Roscoe attends a nursery opposite a beautiful Victorian park. When I drop him off I walk home through it. On this morning I paused next to the playground. The zip wire was tantaslisingly child free. All I wanted to do was climb up there and feel the wind in my 'fro and so I did. Then I went on the swings, I pumped my legs and closed my eyes and in the silent of the morning, it felt like I was flying. Why hadn't I done this before, why didn't I do it every morning?
I LEARNED: How silly it is that I worry about people's gaze even when no one's there. Okay there was a couple of dog walkers but if I'm honest their eyes said, I wish that was me.
|MY SNAZZY PJs|
WEAR IT WELL I love fashion. ASOS is my spiritual home but you know what my favourite thing to wear is? My pyjamas. So I decided that for one day I would wear my favourite outfit all day. I washed and put on my make up and then stepped out the door in my lovely comfies. I'm not talking super chic fashion pyjamas, I mean faded, grungy sleepwear. To be honest it felt no different to when I strutt my stuff in heels and a dress and if I anyone noticed, I didn't notice; perhaps what they've been saying is true and confidence comes from the inside.
I LEARNED: The more practiced you become at not caring what people think the easier it is. And PJs are really comfortable