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Turning 33

On Monday it was my 33rd birthday. Of course any major date in the calender elicits a certain amount of reflection; particularly if you are an introspective type like me who often gazes at markers in the sand and imagines where they thought they might be at that time.

I mean, if there's one thing you learn in your 20s (or 30s, for those who dig their heels in and resist it - yes, me again), it's that life very rarely goes to plan. But the life that does arrive usually just has a way of working out, of sometimes even being a better fit. This takes time - to fit, to wear it long enough to grow accustomed to it. Right now I am at that stage where I'm still folding up the sleeves, tilting my head in the mirror and slowly but surely, making it my own.


I am learning to shed expectations - from others, from society, and most difficult of all - from myself. Society taught me that 33-year-olds have crisply ironed white shirts, own three-bedroom houses with a subway-tiled kitchen and original fireplace and have two or three angelic little children toddling around them and a rugged, bearded husband who can chop wood and soothe the children with equal aplomb. I do not have any of this, and worse - I could have done and I walked away. (Not just for me, but for both of us).

But life is not a recipe where subway tiles + swarthy husband + seaside semi-detached = happiness. And thank god for that, as it means that happiness can be cultivated by the many, not just the few who are lucky enough to have those in their life (though God knows instagram doesn't always make it feel like that). In previous years I've worked so hard to try and find happiness, in new houses, in new hobbies, in Lush bath bombs and cosy blankets - feeling like it was an unachievable quest, like pushing a huge rock uphill only to watch it roll back down again. Everything always felt heavy, and difficult and I would wake with this feeling of a huge, hard stone in my stomach and a dark cloud over my head.

I'm not looking back to that time any more, it was another life, another time. And in the last few weeks I've noticed a feeling of lightness, of ease. I'm no longer weighed down, I feel content, and calm. In April I was diagnosed with 'home related stress' and placed on anti-depressants (Citalopram) which I think have helped. When I look back now, it was stress I was suffering from and probably had been for some time - not sleeping, feeling exhausted all the time, constantly worrying and feeling anxious and on edge, being ratty and over-sensitive and over-thinking and over-analysing everything.

This weekend in particular I just woke with a big smile on my face. I'm now living in a beautiful light, airy house with all my books, crystals, millions of clothes and my comfy sofa. I live in a cool city with yoga classes, vegan cafes, a lovely beach and parks in which to walk Bodhi dog. I have people in my life making me happy, a job I enjoy and time for blogging and tackling my to-read pile. I've been on a journey of self-discovery and dabbled in aromatherapy, shamanism, tarot, astrology, crystals and law of attraction. But I learned that life is not about the ingredients, and none of this matters, really. What matters is giving myself the grace and kindness to grow and make mistakes, to let emotions come and go as they please and to know that whatever happens, I am enough.

So I guess, on my 33rd birthday I didn't wake up in a house I owned, with a baby cooing from a nearby bedroom, with a high-flying career under my belt and a bulging savings account but what I did wake up with was a sense of contentment, of ease, of love and light. And that matters more.
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Body confidence in swimwear

It's mid-July, a beautiful balmy summer evening on the south coast of England.  My Mum and I are strolling along the seafront with Henry eagerly sniffing out cuttlefish and pulling on his lead when he spots other dogs.  We wander down to the shore with my camera slung over my shoulder and my Mum kindly offers to take a few snaps of my lovely new swimwear from Marks and Spencer.  After a few photographs of a comfy, loose navy playsuit, I yank it over my sandals, and giggling, ask her to take few photographs of the swimsuit.

Navy appliqué playsuit, Marks and Spencer, £19.50*
Straw Bucket Shopper, Marks and Spencer, £15*

Because it's an unusually warm evening, groups of people are ambling along the promenade with dogs, runners are sweating and puffing in the heat and couples are enjoying fish and chips on fading green benches.  There are many, many sets of eyes that could potentially judge my thicker than I'd like thighs, my bum that pokes out of the sides of my costume, my failed attempts to suck in my stomach and tense my upper arms - but I don't care.  This is a new feeling for me, a sense of abandon and a quietening of the inner voice that tells me that everyone is looking, laughing, averting their eyes.  I am that person that prefers loose-fitting clothing, that gets changed in the toilets at the gym, that wears a t-shirt to bed and that usually cringes at the idea of being seen in swimwear.  When I express my anxieties at being seen in my swimming costume my Mum points out a group of people splashing around in the sea and reassures me just how normal it is, and how really, no-one will notice.

And I feel good.  Let's be honest - a good swimming costume makes a lot of difference.  And as soon as I tried on this stunning Marks and Spencer's number I knew it was a keeper (and - read on for how you can win a hamper of Marks and Spencer goodies too!).  With 30F boobs I've never been able to wear 'off the peg' swimwear and have always been envious of those friends who could grab a size 10 bikini and not have to worry that the back would fit but their boobs would be spilling out - so to find this one is an absolute game-changer.  It nips in and slims in all the right places and - frankly, made me feel a million dollars.

Secret Slimming Foulard Print Swimsuit, Marks and Spencer, £35*


I heard a quote once - 'in your twenties you worry everyone is looking at you, in your thirties and forties you learn not to care about those people looking at you, and in your fifties and sixties you realise no-one was really even looking at all'.  It's a tough, and prolonged lesson to learn that no-one really is looking, or judging, or commenting on what you look like (most people are either too wrapped up in what they look like - or on their phones!) Another tricky lesson is how to calm that inner 'mean girl' - and trust me, mine is particularly vociferous - that tells you you're hideous, you shouldn't wear that, you look terrible, that everyone will laugh, that you can't wear something that short, or tight.  But no-one is as hard on yourself as you are, and you do really internalise all of those horrible things you say about yourself.  It's currently my life's work to be kinder to myself and talk to myself as I would a close friend or a child, with love and compassion.

Dipped hem shirt dress, Marks and Spencer, £29.50
I think of all of the times I've been on holiday and not done things I would have loved to because I was self-conscious about my body.  Whilst in Thailand some years ago the group that I was with stripped to their underwear and dove into a waterfall for a cool off whilst trekking in the jungle.  I simply couldn't do it - and I regret it to this day.  From now I'm resolving to 'hang up my hang ups' and seize those opportunities with both hands.  (And it helps that I have a selection of stunning swimwear and cover-ups from M&S to help me on my journey).  I'm off to a hen do in Palma at the end of August and all of these beauties will be getting packed in my suitcase!

So - I promised earlier that you too can be part of this awesome campaign and win some gorgeous M&S swimwear goodies.

All you have to do is share your favourite holiday memories on social media using the hashtag #noholidayhangups.  I'd love to hear your stories of when you felt most confident or comfortable, and when you swept aside any hesitation and hung up your hang ups!  I'll announce a winner in a week's time and they'll receive their own holiday shop package.

Ts and Cs are.....
  • Runs for 7 days from 2 August
  • Entrants 18 and over, UK entries only 
  • Entrants must use #NoHolidayHangUps and tag me in their entry 
  • A winner will be chosen by me and announced on Twitter on 10 August
Can't wait to see all of your entries!

How do you try and feel more confident on the beach?

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