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*This post contains PR Products from Shark

If you’ve been a reader for some time, you’ll know the tos and fros, ups and downs and backs and forths I’ve had with routines. I’ve never been able to keep em.

Even when I was teaching and my ‘general’ routine was; get up, get ready, schedule tweets whilst walking to the train station, write blog posts on the train, teach, head home – once I arrived home, who knows what I’d do!

Sometimes I only had the energy to pick up a takeaway en route back to the flat and flomp in front of Friends, other days I’d have a burst of energy and whizz round cleaning, tidying, decluttering, (more blogging) and even give myself 15 minutes for a quick cleanse and sheet mask.

Since moving into our house and getting our puppy, I’ve craved more of a routine – which is made even harder when my work week is now all over the place. No more Maths 9-10 and English 10-11 every day – one day I’m creating Insta posts, the next speaking on a panel and the one after teaching the incredible Grow & Glow members all about brand-building.

But with lockdown, where I’ve not been able to get out of slinging a dusting cloth round the house in favour of an iced coffee or three, I’ve managed to create some habits and routines that I know, even with lockdown easing, I’ll be able to keep up.

They say it takes 3 weeks to form a habit right? These ones have been going for nearly 3 months!

Meal Planning

Since purchasing my meal-planning pad from Sighh, and only being able to get an Ocado (due to the local Co-Op being an absolute nightmare), I’ve gotten into the routine of ordering our weekly shop on a Thursday, to arrive on a Sunday and then sitting and filling out the meals for the week.

This means we’re eating healthier – because there are no last minute takeaways available or mad dashes to the shop – and our food waste is virtually 0!

Image courtesy of Sighh

I also really like not having to do that classic married conversation every day of:

“What should we have for lunch?”

“Pasta?”

“Nah don’t fancy it. Salad?”

“Mmm not feeling it.”

– and on and on forever

Or having to rifle through the cupboards wondering what we can sling together and whether mayo really does go with grapes and crackers.

P.S our lockdown favourite meal has been fajitas – the Old El Paso Fiery Jalapeno kit is a FIRM favourite and it’s Ben’s fave dish to knock up whilst I’m probably doing another Instagram Live about personal branding!

Walking

Our house is located not too far from some gorgeous orchards and public footpaths into woodland so we’ve made sure to keep up our daily walks – usually first thing.

Granted, my mind might change around this when it’s December, freezing and wet again but right now, when the sun’s up early and warm at 9am, it’s a delight to explore.

Without these morning walks, I can be guilty of scrolling social media for hours or jumping straight from bed into work.

This gives us time to spend together, think about the day ahead and get that much needed energy boost that my regular frothy coffee from the-lockdown-closed cafe can’t provide.

Cleaning

At the beginning of lockdown, Shark offered to send us their cordless vacuum with Anti-Wrap technology, triple battery which is great for pets.

When I lifted it out of the box, to my delight, it was super-light. Another fun surprise (depending on your idea of fun) was that the battery was already charged. Within seconds I was dancing round the house to some 90s tunes and getting into every corner with this bad boy.

Dare I say it? But I found the whole experience… enjoyable. And for a total cleaning-phobe like me – that is saying something.

We were previously sent the Shark hand-held cordless vacuum a couple of years ago too, and you could honestly eat your fajitas straight off our surfaces now.

I’m massively a carrot/stick type person when it comes to doing things I hate doing (aka cleaning) so coupled with the Shark being a dream to use, I also use the cleaning time to listen to my music or my latest podcast downloads so that means I’m more inclined to make regular time to do this more than just weekly (or sometimes when needs must)!

Shark anti-wrap cordless vacuum

Skin Care

As I’ve spoken about before, in my wedding skin routine blog post, I’d not previously made my skin that much of a priority.

In prep for the wedding, I’d started regularly cleansing, toning, moisturising and… seruming (?) and I’m glad to say, I’ve kept it up!

I don’t see skincare as a thing about wanting to make my skin ‘look better’ but I’ve realised how important it is for me to do little things throughout the day to make me ‘feel better’.

Recently, I’ve been loving getting some bits and pieces from Beauty Pie (you’ll get your first month free with my link and I get a £50 top up – this is available to all Beauty Pie customers!). I particularly love their Japanfusion range for cleansing and moisturising and the Dr Glycolic pads and peels.

After a day at my laptop or after an evening of coaching calls with the G&G team, I enjoy those 15 minutes of quiet time in the bathroom and it means I’m more likely get a good night’s sleep.

Gardening

This is totally a new one for me as I am the ULTIMATE fuss when it comes to being outside. Mud? Nah. Bees and wasps? Can GTFO. Too much sun? Horrendously sweaty mess.

But since we’ve had our little garden sorted, I’ve actually enjoyed firing up the hose (is that even the right term?) and watering my new little herb planters.

Each night, I check on my cuttings, water my new plants and just take a few moments to myself to be grateful and content with the home we’re creating.

And yep, I’ve been known to head to bed and on my head hitting the pillow, jolt upright and say, ‘Piss I forgot to water my Oregano’.

Just call me Alan Vixmarsh.

our garden

Working ‘ON’ the business

Anyone who’s trying to build a solo business or a personal brand will attest to the fact that you’re always doing SOMETHING. Either you’re creating content as part of your marketing strategy, you’re trying to engage with your ideal customers or you’re under a pile of emails and enquiries.

You very rarely make time to work on the bigger picture of what you’re trying to build.

Something my digital marketing coach, Alice Benham taught me a lot about was the importance of working ‘ON’ your business – tackling the bigger picture or more strategical long term plans, rather than the constant day to day grind.

Since implementing this and seeing how much it’s helped my business grow in the last year, I’m a huge advocate of getting into the routine of working on things.

Now, I block out every Friday to step away from the ‘content treadmill’, as I call it, to step away from emails and to ignore admin until Monday and focus on the best bits about building a business – the ideas, goals and plans!

I use a program called ClickUp where I list all my ‘On’ tasks and each Sunday now (after my Ocado delivery and meal planning sesh), I sit down and divvy out those big picture tasks for the following Friday.

Sounds weird but I genuinely ENJOY looking towards Friday to see what task I’ll get to tackle next and it genuinely makes the Monday routine of emails and admin way more bearable!

What are the best habits or routines you’ve picked up during lockdown?

Other bits and pieces I love weaving into my week are journalling – which I’ve written about here and reading! I make sure to set some time aside each day or every other day to read a couple of pages of my latest book. It’s a great way to unwind and get me off of social media!

What are the best habits or routines you’ve picked up during lock down?

Come and chat with me on Instagram!

 
gifting influencers graphic 'Gifting = no obligation to post. Obligation to post = advertorial content'

Is there really a problem with gifting influencers? How did it become and problem and what can be changed moving forward…

Let’s rewind to the year 2014, when I first launched this blog, and my view of the influencer industry – as it was.

Back then, the prospect of getting a free pair of jeans JUST because I wore my favourite brand on my blog, and then Instagram felt like the most amazing opportunity. How fun!

Back then, creating content wasn’t a job. It wasn’t a business. It was a hobby that often proved fruitful in terms of gifted items, lavish events and exciting opportunities.

But we’re not in 2014 any more. The influencer industry is predicted to be worth $22 BILLION** by next year. So why are some members of our community STILL only being offered the opportunity for gifting, when there’s so much more money to be paid?

This is a multi-layered and complicated issue but it’s one that has particularly affected Black creators who, in their experience, are disproportionately offered gifting instead of payment over their white counterparts.

So how do we solve the problem with gifting?

Is gifting a BLANKET problem?

Within Grow & Glow, we often teach our creators that a gifting relationship with a brand can be a great way to BUILD a partnership. However, this often gets confused.

Brands are offering and creators are accepting gifting, on a promise that it is the start of the relationship. However lots of creators are finding that they are working with brands for months or even years and that this relationship NEVER progresses beyond gifting.

When we teach gifting to build a relationship, we also mean GIFTING WITH NO OBLIGATION TO POST, which we’ll come back to shortly.

Shouldn’t creators be grateful for gifts?

Herein lies another assumption. That if a creator is a true fan of a brand, who would purchase a product regardless of any relationship, that they then should be grateful for gifting.

And of course, it’s such a nicety to receive gifts from our favourite brands but only without the pressure of work being attached to it.

I’d LOVE free stuff, why are you demanding more? It’s just an Instagram post!

Content consumers or followers of influencers often get confused when creators demand to be paid because they may not understand what truly goes into content creation.

Sure a nice holiday might seem like fair compensation for ‘just an Instagram post’ but it’s this misunderstanding into what actually goes into content creation that further perpetuates the image that creators are ungrateful if they’re unwilling to accept gifting.

So let’s break it down. Often, in exchange for clothes, beauty products, a book, electronic gifts, treatments and more, brands are requesting;

  • Blog posts
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Photography and more

The average blog post takes 3 hours to research, write, optimise, publish and promote. Is it fair to ask for that in exchange for a pretty jumper?

The average vlog can take days to film, 7-9 hours to edit and further hours to optimise, publish and promote. Is it fair to ask for that in exchange for an afternoon tea?

An argument often offered is, ‘well if the product is worth £500 and your rate is £500 then could you just do it in exchange for the gift?’ – which, y’know, can sound reasonable but when EVER does a £500 product actually COST £500 to make?

Let’s go back then… The average blog post takes 3 hours to research, write, optimise, publish and promote. 3 hours at an average hourly rate of £25 = £75 (forgetting all of the other components of pricing blog posts such as link quality, domain quality, volume of traffic etc) – Is it fair to ask for that in exchange for a pretty jumper – which costs £3 to make?

The average vlog can take days to film, 7-9 hours to edit and further hours to optimise, publish and promote. Here we could talk day rates – one day, two days at a rate of £300 a day…Is it fair to ask for that in exchange for an afternoon tea (for which the brand are only footing the cost of the food – bit of sticky white bread and jam?) OR a hotel room, that would otherwise be empty if the influencer weren’t filling it and creating content for it?

These points are illustrative and without even mentioning the value of reach and the relationships with their audiences, that creators can offer, but hopefully you’re beginning to understand.

Gifting ISN’T the issue within itself – it’s the expectation.

In traditional print media, brands send journalists ‘freebies’ or ‘gifts’ with the hope that that editor selects their product to feature within their publication.

If a brand wanted a specific feature for their product, they’d pay the publication thus turning it into an ‘Advertorial’.

Brands saw a way round this with influencers. With an industry that is unregulated – and with no formal training like with what journalists have, they saw an opportunity to get their products into the hands of people with more engaged platforms than magazines and they took advantage.

Gifting in return for content creation – blogs, videos, photos – became the norm.

However, this system is broken. And it’s affecting Black creators (and often those from other underrepresented groups too) disproportionately. 

Whereas white creators are starting to be able to ‘see their worth’ in this industry and therefore ask and demand for more, our Black counterparts are only just being given seats at the table. 

Ask about gifting? Get ghosted by the brand. Ask to be paid? Get blacklisted as ‘difficult’ and not approached again.

We, as an industry, need to reframe how we approach gifting so that a fairer system can be put into place for all creators. And it goes like this…

gifting influencers graphic 'Gifting = no obligation to post. Obligation to post = advertorial content'

‘Gifting = no obligation to post / Obligation to post = Advertorial and therefore paid’ AKA what’s been happening in print media for decades.

This means that as a creator, when you are offered gifting, you assure the brand that you will be happy to try the product and post about it, as you see fit.

This also means, as a creator, when you are offered gifting but are TOLD how, when and what to post, you push back and demand to discuss being paid.

WHY THIS WORKS

  1. If you are a true fan of the brand and you really love the product, it’s highly likely you’ll post about it anyway. But you’ll do so in a way that is comfortable to you and not forced.
  2. If this becomes an industry standard, no creators will be left feeling pushed out or devalued because each creator has their own autonomy over how and when they feature gifted items.
  3. If this becomes an industry standard, Black creators will not be shunned for being ‘difficult’ when their white counterparts are also towing the party line.
  4. Confusion over whether you’ve featured something just because it’s been gifted or because you truly love it disappears – you’re only going to be featuring gifted items that you love because you’re not obligated to post about them.
  5. Brands will have to rethink their approach to influencer marketing. They will have to value creators time, efforts and energy more so than they often do now.

What about smaller brands who can’t afford to pay creators?

No brand should be throwing product at an influencer without due diligence. That is a conversation for another time. But a brand’s influencer marketing efforts don’t fail because influencers don’t post their products – they fail because they attempt influencer marketing haphazardly.

Furthermore, I’d like to ask – what happens if a brand can’t afford a product photographer? A website designer? An SEO specialist? A copywriter?

All brands should cultivate relationships with influencers they like and should truly trust that the influencer they want to work with IS a fan of that brand and WILL post about them – whether they’ve paid them to or not.

Moving forward, I am putting a call out to all creators in the UK influencer industry.

Do you promise to stand your ground and assert, ‘GIFTING = NO OBLIGATION TO POST’.

Do you promise to push back to a brand who is directing how, when and what you post with the stance that ‘OBLIGATION TO POST = advertorial’?

Change can only come as a collective. And it could start today.

Below is some wording you could use in your responses with brands.

‘Thank you for reaching out to me with regards to the collaboration with X. Can I ask whether this is a paid campaign or gifting only?’

In the case that it is gifting only – ‘Thank you for your response. I’d like to highlight that I’m working within the industry-wide agreement that by accepting gifts, I retain full creative control over how, when and what I post in regards to x product. Please confirm that you’re on board with this.’

In the case that it is gifting only but the brand demands certain content – ‘Thank you for your response. I’d like to highlight that I’m working within the industry-wide agreement that by accepting gifts, I retain full creative control over how, when and what I post in regards to x product. This means that I would happily receive xyz but I cannot agree to your directions of abc without a discussion into turning this campaign into an advertorial one. If you’d like to have input and direction into how I feature xyz, are you willing to discuss the budget that is available for advertorial content.’

In the case that it is gifting or nothing. Take nothing. Learn to say no. Work together for change.

Gifting doesn’t pay the bills anyway, right? How badly do you need the product?

This change is just one of the many changes we can act upon to bring parity to the influencer industry. Are you in?

Say it with me…

‘Gifting = no obligation to post / Obligation to post = Advertorial and therefore paid’

the problem with gifting pinterest pin
 

(Ad-Gifted: This post contains PR sample products)

Let’s be honest: I’m definitely the most shining example out there of eco living.

My kitchen isn’t zero-waste.

I’m not vegan.

My bathroom cupboard isn’t plastic-free.

However, like a lot of people, I have had a flame put under my arse in recent years to make some sustainable changes. Thanks for that, David Attenborough!

But seriously, I do think that we each have a responsibility to look after this place that we call home. I also agree with Anne Marie Bonneau that “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly”.

With that in mind, I wanted to share 5 of the easiest eco switches I’ve made recently. These changes aren’t going to single handedly save the world, but they have made my daily routines more sustainable. And it all adds up!

5 Everyday Eco Changes I've Made blog post graphic for Pinterest

Patch for cuts and injuries 

Plasters are one of those things that we don’t really look at through an environmental lense. Myself included until recently!

However, those little strips of plastic are not biodegradable or recyclable, meaning that they’re likely to sit in landfill for years and years to come.

Don’t worry though, you don’t have to start being ridiculously careful not to get a paper cut to avoid plasters altogether.

I’ve recently discovered Patch: The plastic-free plaster made from bamboo.

Bamboo is a hell of a lot better for the planet than a lot of materials, since it’s a rapidly renewable resource that requires less water and doesn’t need pesticides or herbicides to flourish. Plus, of course, it’s biodegradable.

The power of plants, eh?

Patch also offers plasters in different skin tones and formula variations for everything from burns and blisters, to grazes and splinters.

Safe to say my medicine cabinet is now well and truly stocked!

Method cleaning products 

With #Hinching still taking the online world by storm, I’ve defo been tempted to buy a different product for every doorknob, light switch and floorboard in my home. But I also know that that’s probably not the best for the planet. Nor will it make me want to actually clean my house…

One switch I’ve made towards more eco-friendly daily habits is opting for sustainable cleaning products. Specifically, Method!

If you’ve tried their Wild Rhubarb anti bac, you know why I’m a total convert.

Their packaging is recyclable, their products are 100% cruelty free and vegan, they use greener production processes AND they actually get the job done. All whilst smelling incred.

Reusable cloths instead of cleaning wipes

Did you know that most cleaning wipes (and makeup wipes!) actually contain plastic? I know. Mind blown.

So whilst I love the convenience of an anti bac wipe, I knew it was something I wanted to switch out. It definitely takes a bit more work, but reusable cleaning cloths, alongside my Method sprays, are the best solution I’ve found.

I use them and then always wash them on a high heat to kill any germs.

Colour coding my cloths has also made the process much easier for me. Ethical lifestyle blogger Bethany recommended this method and it changed the game…

Blue = Loo

Pink = Sink 

Green = Glass 

Every other colour = Everything else 

It just makes sure everything is hygienic, which was something that worried me at first.

Beeswax wraps 

Tin foil and cling film used to be my absolute go-tos whenever I had leftovers or had to take food out with me. However, in both cases, they’re not recyclable.

That’s why I also switched to beeswax wraps. Essentially, these are sheets of cotton that are covered in beeswax. When you warm the wrap up with the heat of your hands, it sticks to itself like cling film and tin foil. Difference is, it can be washed off and used again and again.

When it does reach the end of its life, it’s completely biodegradable.

Absolute win-win, am I right?

Lost sheep coffee pods

Bloody love an iced coffee, me. 

But it doesn’t take a genius to know that coffee pods are pretty bad for the planet.

Recently I was kindly gifted these biodegradable and plastic-free coffee pods by Lost Sheep. Not only are this company super green, but they’re based locally to me in Kent and all of their beans are ethically sourced.

Plus, they make a mean iced latte…

How have you been making your day-to-day more sustainable recently? Or have any of these switches inspired you?

 

I too spent ££ on a brand new Papier bullet journal, only to spend 4 hours setting it up and NEVER using it because a) perfectionism and b) *gestures wildly to look around at the world*.

But to be honest, I knew I had everything I ever needed in a journal in my Vibe + Flow 90 Day Manifestation + Mindset Goal Setting Journal which was created by my friend Chloe Slade.

I first met Chloe via an introduction through Alice Benham, marketing coach extraordinaire and a mutual friend. We connected on Instagram and would regularly send each other messages of encouragement and general Game of Thrones related chit chat.

I ordered the original journal straight away, Chloe became a G&G member and I joined her Manifestation membership. After this bout of mutual empowerment and support, we met for the first time and totally hit it off. Y’know when someone is just frigging SOUND – that’s Chloe.

90 Day Manifestation Journal

Journal 1.0

We had moved to Kent, I had set the spare room up as my office and my journal (1.0) took pride of place next to my desk – every morning that I got to work, I’d spend 5-10 minutes filling it out. Or if I went into London, I’d fill it out on the train with a coffee – it felt like such a treat!

The way it was set up was that it had a morning and evening page. The morning page you’d fill out to get you in the right mindset for the day and the evening one would help you download all of your thoughts, going to bed with a clear mind.

Now the overall aim of the journal is that you set your 90 day goals and write out all of the inspired actions you’re going to take to achieve those goals. Then every day you’re checking in with yourself that you’re on track.

It’s based on the principles of the laws of attraction and manifestation but it’s so practically written that it makes you feel like everything you are wanting to ‘manifest’ is actually tangible and actionable.

For someone as oft-unfocussed, riddled with doubt and sometimes anxious as I – the journal honestly changed my days around.

Rather than procrastinating for hours over what to get done – the journal made it clear. Or rather than going to bed with some unhelpful thoughts swirling in my head – I could ‘download’ them all on paper and have a more restful night’s sleep.

What it helped me with

The first 3 goals I set with Journal 1.0 were; 300 members in Grow & Glow, to exercise every day and to expand the G&G team.

I achieved all of those within the 3 months I outlined and I truly believe it was because the journal helped keep me on track so I could consistently work towards making them happen.

It also helped pull me out of so many shit spirals. If I woke up feeling crap or like I had an overwhelming amount of work and that I just wanted to fuck it all off, go to sleep and not bother with life – I’d pull myself to fill out that day’s page and within moments my mood would change and I’d have much more grace for myself which motivated me to get my 3 things done for the day and then binge the life out of my high vibes list…

How the journal is set up

If you’ve got this far and you’re ever more curious about how the journal is structured, I’ll run through it now!

Chloe recently released the new version of the journal (2.0) which I’m currently working through (need to get a new one soon actually) so I’ll show you this one…

Life Audit

First you rate the different areas of your life and then free-flow write how you WANT to feel. This is a great section to come back and reflect on to see, within those 3 months, how much you’ve progressed.

Prep Steps

The most fun bit to fill out is the Prep Steps section.

It comprises of pages on;

  • Best Average Day planner
  • Free flow reality
  • Manifestation goals
  • High Vibe list
  • Release list
  • Falling in love with the process
  • Gratitude list
  • Visualisation list

Your best average day is where you get to reflect on what your ideal day would look like, broken down into a time frame. It’s crazy for me to look at this and see how closely aligned my every day is with this day – which I then practise a whole lotta gratitude for.

Then you write a free flow reality of what your life will look like in 90 days. I’m reading back over this as I write this blog post and again, it never fails to blow my mind just how much I’ve managed to align with this – this journal is bloody magic, I swear.

Then you manifest 4 goals from a place of having them, so I write, ‘thank you for…’

Now the Corona virus has unfortunately interrupted two of my goals – in terms of member numbers for Grow & Glow and the retreat I was planning but the two other goals I set out around creating new offers for the Grow & Glow business have already come true and I’m so sure that the other 2 goals would be true too, if this whole situation hadn’t happened – so reflecting now, I’m feeling good!

Then the best bit – the high vibes list! The bit where you get to list every simple pleasure that automatically makes you feel better – for me it’s reading a book, swimming, iced coffee, Diet Coke, listening to a podcast, banging out a soundtrack from the musicals (or my epic 90s/00s Spotify playlist).

It feels actually productive to figure a high vibe thang into each day!

The release list is where you get to note down every belief you hold that is a negative one or that’s not serving you. So things like, ‘I don’t have enough money,’ or ‘I won’t achieve x because of y’ – this is SO USEFUL because you then reflect on how you sound and your higher self tells you to stop being a knob and not to listen to those beliefs.

‘Falling in love with the process’ is where you can write about exactly how you’re going to inject those high vibes into the next 3 months alongside other things you can look forward to, so that the whole process over the next 3 months is filled with joy.

The gratitude list is where I’ve listed everything in my life I’m grateful for – husband, home, family, Olive, health, this space, Grow & Glow members, my job, chips, The Office – I mean the list is endless and ever expanding.

Finally, the visualisation list is where you get to make a list of all the things you visualise you’ll have within 90 days – and again, looking back at this list, I can see I have nearly all of them – which again totally lifts my mood!

The Daily Logs

Then you get into the daily pages for the journal.

You can plan how your day will look using the timetable – which, as someone who can get lost in a scroll hole, finds incredibly useful. This means I make sure I get to do the things I want to do (even if I don’t keep strictly to the hour).

I also love setting my daily intention because I know if I’m having a down day that as long as my intention has been met, I can rest easily!

Then I’ll write about the things on my to do list I’ll get done that ‘align with my goals’. For example, with my goal for the retreat, I’d list, ‘book venue’, ‘approach guest coaches’ etc because those were inspired actions that would get me closer to the goals.

Then I have great fun listing the few high vibe things I’d figure into my day – a long walk, hot shower, face mask, iced coffee, which podcast I’d listen to.

Before bed, I figure in time to ‘download’ my day.

I’ll list a couple of wins – however big or small – and write 3 things I’m grateful for from that day.

Then, handily, there’s a bit to write your to-do list for tomorrow. This eliminates A LOT of overwhelm for me, and I never go to bed anxiously playing over in my mind what I need to get done.

And if I need it, there’s a bit to do a mind dump – just a bit of space for reflection where new thoughts, ideas or actions come to mind.

More Chloe Goodness

Because I was so impressed with the journal, and Chloe became such a good pal, I then invested in her other offerings too – which are just as bloody brilliant.

There’s the 90 day wall planner which I had in the office (finished it, need a new one!)

This is linked with the journal but means you can lay out your top 3 goals more visually and then break them down into smaller, more actionable steps.

I’m also a member of the Vibe + Flow membership. This is where I learned all about manifestation and the laws of attraction because Chloe created really easy to watch and digest trainings.

As part of the membership I get weekly emails with prompts and resources which I enjoy digging into for a bit of headspace.

Chloe also sent me her newest product – the journal prompts – to have a look over before she shared them more widely and again, was totally in love.

Apart from her journal, I find it tough to keep up with other planners and journals but every so often when I need a bit of headspace or quiet time, I dive into these journal prompts, pick one or two and do a little bit of free flow writing – either at my desk, on the train (pre March) or on my phone in bed, to help me get back in alignment.

As you can tell, I’m a bit of a Chloe fan girl – and it feels great to support such a brilliant friend in her business – because her products really have brought so much value to my life!

Go and check out everything Chloe does with Vibe + Flow here and defo give her some love on Instagram, here.

 
perfectionism is self-sabotage

I am a true Virgo, with a Virgo rising and a Virgo setting and a moon that’s so fully nestled into Virgo’s perfect frigging bosom.

That’s probs not accurate as I’ve never looked into all of the aspects of my star-sign but you get the point. And what are Virgos infamous for? Perfectionism.

Now when you look around my house and see the dust from Olive’s paws strewn across the sofa cushions and the floordrobe that hasn’t got any separation between the stinky clothes and the freshly washed and clean clothes, you’d be hard pressed to accept me as a perfectionist.

And that’s exactly what I thought too.

When friends would tag me in Virgo memes I’d laugh along at the stereotypes of being a know-it-all, anti-authority and the total lack of patience and respond with a quick, ‘DAT ME’ before thinking, meh but I’m defo NOT organised or even very particular when it comes to myself or my surroundings.

But a convo with a fellow Virgo opened my eyes to the fact that perfectionism isn’t just about colour co-ordinating a capsule wardrobe or being on top of your diary but that it spills into so many other aspects of life too.

It was after this convo that I sat back and looked over all of the things I’d been telling myself I was useless at, couldn’t finish or got distracted from and realised that my perfectionism had actually fucked it all up.

So here are 7 ways perfectionism can actually be self-sabotage, with a little bit about how we (my fellow perfectionists) can turn it around.

perfectionism is self-sabotage
Photo by Minh Pham on Unsplash

one | Perfectionists’ standards are impossibly high

Sound familiar?

Whilst we might be sitting around a virtual hovel, we sure as hell notice when things are out of place elsewhere.

Or we may put people who we believe to be ‘perfect’ on pedestals, idolising them for the way they appear (and only appear) to have everything we believe to mean something.

The issue arises when perfectionists turn into nags and critics.

You didn’t put that where I wanted. Why did you do it like that? Why hasn’t this been completed in time?

But when, ‘where we wanted’ is the exact co-ordinates of a dining table to 3 decimal points and our time frame is humanly impossible – it kinda sucks for all involved.

What we can do differently

The running theme of this post is – to chill the fuck out – but in a way that’s more helpful…

We need to regularly remind ourselves to ‘spot the good’. If we catch ourselves about to criticise, we can instead stop, take a breath and wait for a positive – reframing our feedback to something kinder.

We can also reflect on what we’re asking (demanding) of others to see if it’s reasonable – and in a normal scope of reasonable – not a perfectionist’s version.

two | Perfectionists overthink EVERYTHING

Probably how much they overthink things too.

I remember planning a gallery wall for the spare bedroom once.

I scoured the internet for the exact prints I wanted – ones that really stood out to me.

Before stopping in my tracks and wondering if they needed a colour theme.

I switched out a few that didn’t ‘go’ with the rest, but then stopped to think that they should all be a similar style – retro and modern, feminine and bold – was it too all over the shop?

So then I decided to hit Pinterest.

And suddenly thought about whether to get all the same frames, all different or just slightly co-ordinated.

After probably about 5 hours of these mental gymnastics, I gave up, exhausted at the prospect of creating a gallery wall and deciding it wasn’t really going to work in that room any way.

This is just one example of how we overthink ourselves into a mess.

Ever sent a friend a text that didn’t come out quite how you wanted it to and then spent several hours replaying various different scenarios of their reaction in your head?

It’s such a waste of time and energy that could better be served doing the DAMN THING INSTEAD.

What we can do differently

Let’s do a little bit of work around trusting our gut some more.

Often enough we cycle back to the initial reaction, thought, feeling or idea anyway so why not practise going with that and seeing what happens?

After enough times of our gut reaction and action proving to be the right one, our brain will start to learn that it’s OK to trust the gut and go with the flow.

three | Perfectionists cannot relax

I mean, sure, 6 hours a day playing Animal Crossing SOUNDS relaxing, until you realise you’re obsessing over having your island totally in order and the thought of not digging one of those holes leaves you awake at night.

A perfectionists to do list is never done.

There are 24 hours in a day and a perfectionist could fill those with their never ending to do list.

Because nothing is ever enough.

I remember when I got married and I was dreaming up my wedding dress. I pored over Pinterest (recurring theme, maybe Pinterest is the problem?) and when it came to finally trying it on, I felt incredible and so excited for my ‘big day’.

But then when I got home I returned to Pinterest. Maybe the sleeves could’ve been a different style. Was that the colour I REALLY wanted? Could I ask the dressmaker to add another layer of tulle to get the exact amount of pouffe I needed?

It’s the same with work! I’m forever striving to make Grow & Glow the best community it can be so I’m constantly coming up with new idea after new idea when really, what we have at the foundations is bloody brilliant as it is!

But there I am, sat at my desk for 4 hours without blinking, making sodding graphics on Canva, AGAIN.

What can we do differently

Break. Shit. Down.

This is why I’ll forever extoll the brilliance that is Chloe Slade and her ‘Vibe and Flow’ journal.

Each day I fill out the 3 things I absolutely must achieve PLUS some of the ‘high vibe’ things I’d like to do too so that once those 3 things are done, I make sure to switch my attention to my ‘for fun’ things so I am NOT sat at my desk indefinitely.

It’s also good to have people around you that get it. A husband that’ll ask if you want to take a break and go for a walk or team mates who’ll tell you that you’ve done LOADS today and it’s OK to switch off for the evening.

four | Perfectionists are ‘black and white’ thinkers

People are either right or wrong. Good or bad. The work you do is either brilliant or crap. Your to do list is either overwhelming or complete.

The absolutes in which we often think can be super detrimental to our mental state because we don’t allow forgiveness or grace.

Perfectionists seek perfection and anything less than that is bloody useless.

And it. is. exhausting.

Relationships, careers, self-image and self-care can be TOUGH for perfectionists – they’ve been bloody difficult for me at times.

Y’know like there’s no point in having a bath, exfoliating and washing my hair tonight because I STILL won’t look like Jessica Simpson, circa Newlyweds, so what’s the point?

Or I will fail if I start this business venture because it won’t be the new Apple and I’ll not be the next Steve Jobs, so what’s the point?

This thinking is obviously linked to those bleeding high standards too!

What we can do differently

Here’s that ‘chill the fuck out’ term again but honestly…

We need to learn about grace.

It was the single biggest lesson I learned in 2019. To have grace.

To accept that if people have made mistakes, they’re not bad or wrong.

To give myself grace if I fuck up – it doesn’t mean I’m the worst person.

five | Perfectionists don’t like asking for help

Because…duh-duh-duhhhh people might realise we’re not actually perfect!

Seriously though, asking for help feels impossible. It feels like Audrina trying to make Justin Bobby commit – it’s a strain.

We believe that if we ask for help, we’re admitting we’re lesser than and that we don’t know it all.

This can lead to us being held back in lots of endeavours because we couldn’t figure out our next steps on our own but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to ask for guidance.

Ever gotten defensive when someone tries to help, and actually been quite rude, all because you didn’t want to admit you just didn’t know? SAME.

Or ever let the ball drop at home because you’re trying to juggle life, business, friendships, hobbies, drinking all that water and avoiding the coffee headaches but freak the FUCK out when the people around you ask what they can do to lighten your load or even try and voluntarily take things off your plate?

She says as she’s writing a blog post at 7pm, so engrossed that she knows it won’t be done for an hour but it’s her turn to cook dinner and clean up from lunch and snaps when her husband asks if he could just cook dinner…

What we can do differently

Seek out a mentor you trust.

Someone that you look up to but can feel vulnerable with. Someone you know isn’t judging you or doesn’t believe they’re better than you.

It could be a therapist, a coach, a pal or a colleague but identify them and then don’t be afraid to turn to them when you need it.

And also loosen up around your family. If they love you, they’re asking to help because they want to take care of you NOT because they’re judging you for your ineptitude so let your bloody husband cook dinner because he’s frigging better at pasta anyway.

six | Perfectionists procrastinate

Why start that hobby if you’re not going to be a pro at it? Why create content if it’s not going to go viral? Why put yourself out there if the reception will be tepid to warm at best?

We put off trying new things, going for goals, being creative or putting ourselves out there because we’re afraid of things not being perfect right away.

It’s not that we shy away from hard work. Or appreciate steps need to take place to achieve success, it’s just all of that sounds fucken EXHAUSTING.

What we can do differently

I learned about burning my bullshit from the wonderful Sophie French.

Sophie taught me that I have a huge evidence bank of all the things that have gone right for me and that every time I let a thought of stalling to do the next thing creep in, I should refer back to this evidence bank and ‘burn the bullshit’ around it not working out perfectly.

So get yourself an evidence bank and abundantly burn bullshit every time you want to procrastinate from doing something!

seven | Perfectionists are self-critical

We often think that ‘being hard on ourselves’ can increase productivity and motivation but let’s all be honest – we know it does the opposite.

But this is the ultimate way perfectionists self-sabotage and is linked to increased depression, anxiety and shame.

When we tell ourselves we’re lazy for not working 16 hours a day. Or that we’re never going to ‘make it’ if the 100 things on our to-do list doesn’t get done – this doesn’t motivate us to be better (more perfect) it does the opposite!

What we can do differently

Compassion. Grace.

Being kind to ourselves when we screw up. Taking a break when we feel things are going wrong. Understanding that we’re trying and that trying is bloody great.

All of these assurances help keep us motivated, happier and shame free – so shall we try THAT once in a while?

How do you, as a perfectionist, self-sabotage? Or what’s it like to NOT be a perfectionist? I can only imagine…

 
first time puppy parent 1

It’s quite hard to put into words what being a new puppy parent is like because it’s so many contradictions.

It’s your heart tugging with more love than you ever imagined at the same time as a tug for the life you had before.

It’s putting another being’s needs before your own but getting them for your needs in the first place.

It’s tiring and invigorating.

It’s easy to forget a life without this little life and hard to settle into a new way of life.

It’s wanting to believe that you’re doing your best whilst fearing that you’re actually being the worst.

An emotional rollercoaster that’s for sure.

And the worst thing? Everyone else makes it sound easy. They talk to you like you’re bizarre for finding it hard. It’s isolating but you have a new companion who’ll never leave your side.

So let’s dig into what it’s really like shall we?

first time puppy parent 1

Life Pre-Olive

Ben and I have wanted a dog ever since we met Ben’s family cockapoo Lily. 

We enjoyed trips to the pub, runs along Camber Sands, snuggles on the sofa and the sheer joy of seeing her after a little while and being covered in kisses.

We envisaged a similar life. A new buddy to get us off our arses of a weekend. Someone (somepup) we could play with, shower with love and take on adventures.

In our minds, we’d greet her downstairs each morning, tail wagging, feed her breakfast, take her for a walk, play with her and have her sleep by our feet whilst we got on with jobs, chores and our marriage.

To say we weren’t prepared for the reality of a puppy is an understatement.

Meeting Olive

The day we met Olive we went to meet the family who’d just had a litter, initially with our eyes on a sable coloured girl but when we arrived and cuddled 3 of the puppies, Olive stole our hearts.

Her coat was so soft, she kissed us both on the nose and fell straight asleep on my chest and in Ben’s arms – we were smitten.

It’s as cliche as it sounds – they really do choose you!

Getting ready for Olive’s arrival

Some weird sort of maternal instinct kicked in as soon as we had agreed to give Olive a home.

That evening I came home, signed up for insurance, registered her to the local vet, ordered everything she’d need from Amazon and began reading tons of puppy training books.

I got addicted to Zak George’s channel on YouTube and suddenly the realisation of what we’d be in for started to kick in.

I learned that there’d be biting. Frequent toilet trips. That they couldn’t go out straight away. That the stairs were bad for their growing joints. That they’d whine and cry. That cockapoos in particular needed to be around you all the time.

But as the internet tends to do, everyone who wrote the books, filmed the videos or contributed to forums made it look so, so easy.

‘Just take them out for the toilet frequently’

‘Distract them with a toy when they’re biting’

‘Leave them for 30 seconds and build it up’

‘Keep them in a crate overnight’

Ok, I thought, we’ve got this, we’re prepared, it’ll be a breeze.

Reader: it is not a breeze.

Olive’s arrival

On her first day, we brought her back and let her explore her new home.

Her waggy little bot strolling around our living room told us she was excited.

That first day of bliss was punctuated with cuddles, snoozing on the sofa, play and kisses.

She took to her food straight away, slept in her new little bed during the day and seemed so happy.

That evening we’d made the decision to make a puppy pen in our bedroom with water, towels, a puppy pad for midnight wees, a comfy bed, a blanket from her mum and clothes from Ben and I.

We took her up and put her in, fell asleep shortly after and was awoken with small cries at around 5am to be taken to the toilet.

Oh my god, we thought, we’ve got the dream puppy!

The next night wasn’t the same.

Olive aged 8-16 weeks

For the next 4-5 nights Ben and I were awoken every hour to two hours with wailing, whining and trying to scramble up over the pen. 

We took her, in turns, to see if she needed the toilet but most of the time it was to play or be near us.

We tried putting her in her crate downstairs at bed time but she’d scream for 10 minutes before we couldn’t bear it any more.

We were both absolutely shattered.

During the day all routines went out the window.

I was awake from 5am, unable to take her out for walks and having to try a mixture of play, taking her to the toilet, feeding her, giving her toys to get her brain working, training her and trying to get her to sleep.

At the same time I was being relentlessly bitten – on the toes, fingers, ankles and more times than I care to admit – nipples. Cue having to wear a bra when working from home. Not ideal.

If she wasn’t being directly engaged with, she was chewing everything she shouldn’t, in sight.

Everything my life was went out of the window. There were days where I couldn’t even go to the toilet or shower until Ben came home because she’d pull something down or chew another massive hole in our skirting board.

And everyone kept telling me to put her in her crate for half an hour whilst I got on with things but the cries, screams, barks and whines were unbearable.

Work pressure piled on because I felt like I didn’t ever have more than 5 minutes to myself. The house was a state during the day and I felt desperately isolated being at home from 6am til 7:30pm when Ben came home – just me and this little shark.

I was beginning to feel desperate.

Again turning the the internet to hear, ‘they grow out of it’, ‘it’s normal’, ‘it’ll stop when she’s 6 months’ and thinking – how can I do this for another 3 months?

first time puppy parent 2
first time puppy parent 3

What changed 

Again, being a total Virgo/type 3, I read, read, read and researched everything I could.

I ordered toys that would keep her busy.

We had a dog trainer come to the house to show us different ways to train her to not do the things we didn’t want her to do.

Ben bought bitter apply spray to stop her chewing our entire house down.

We learned about teething and got her the things she needed to gnaw on.

Ben’s Mum looked after her so I could go and work in town and also so she could socialise with Lily, their dog.

We started sending her to doggy day care so she could socialise with other dogs, have more training, get to know more adults and run around all day whilst we both work.

We let her sleep in our room without the pen and finally she’d be able to make it through the whole night 9pm – 6am without waking us up.

We got into a routine of: up, poop, walk, feed, play, sleep, up, poop, train, play, sleep and so on – which gave me snatches of longer periods to be able to work.

A semblance of balance was returning.

What it’s like now

Still hard at times but the absolute best.

Cockapoos by nature are extremely clever, and Olive is no exception – she knows that she wants my attention all the time and she knows that if she eats mud, chews the wall or splashes her water bowl – she’ll get it, so we’re still working on ignoring her naughty behaviours and rewarding the good.

She’s calmer. Since socialising with tons and tons of other dogs, her biting has completely stopped. Just like those smug-experienced-puppy-parents told us it would.

She’s still my shadow. Which makes doing things around the house or working from home quite difficult and distracting – but we’re getting there and I see improvements all the time. I can shower with her amusing herself now.

She can go for walks which tires her out which means she’s not so needy during the day – still needy but not desperately so like before.

I’m always terrified.

I began noticing a car hanging around our new housing estate and got paranoid that they were coming to steal her.

On walks, I get worried that she’s going to run away or be attacked by other dogs.

If she makes a weird noise, I’m convinced she’s really ill or hurt.

My anxiety, which I’ve worked all year on getting rid of is back in full force.

So what’s next?

The more we settle into this new way of life, the more mature she’ll get and hopefully the less paranoid wreck I’ll be.

But our routine now is getting way more settled. She’s at home with me three days a week, with both Ben and I another three days a week and then once a week with Ben’s mum or at day care with her puppy besties whilst I have meetings or go into town.

And if you’re still reading this saga of ‘Vix got a puppy she was woefully underprepared for but is actually doing a semi-decent job of not totally fucking it all up’ then I’ll share with you a quick list of the best things we’ve done or bought for her that we’d definitely do again or wish we’d done this time:

Spent more time in the house but away from Olive

Leave the house and pop her in her crate for 20 mins, not a problem. Try to take a wee for 2 minutes – house is screamed down.

Completely on us and the next thing we’re working on but I don’t think I’d have felt as overwhelmed as I did/do if I could just get work done in my office whilst she amused herself elsewhere.

Doggy day care

It’s so lovely to see the pals she’s made, the tail that wags ferociously as soon as we pull into the drive and the smiley videos we get sent when we pop her there.

It’s great so that I can get work done but it’s even better for her socialisation so she’s familiar with other dogs.

Furthermore, being around other dogs helps puppies learn bite inhibition and I’m convinced it’s what nailed her biting early on.

Poo bells

Sounds ridiculous but from day 2 of her being home, we put bells on the back door and every time we took her for a wee or a poo we tapped her paw on the bells – within 2 more days she’s completely mastered it – she then tapped the bells and sat by them herself to signal she needed the toilet.

After a couple of months of bells, we took them down (couldn’t bear the racket of her whacking them to go out and play) and now she just sits quietly by our back door, or climbs it more like, to be let out.

Taking her out before 12 weeks

Puppies shouldn’t really go on the grass/cement where other unvaccinated dogs may have been incase she picked up doggy diseases or worms but from 9 weeks we began carrying her in dog friendly cafes and pubs so that she could meet as many new people as possible.

Now she loves meeting adults and children and is well behaved and friendly towards strangers.

Getting grubby clothes, shoes and towels

I made the error of taking her out into the garden or on walks in ‘nice’ clothes and promptly got them chewed or muddy – same with towels.

As soon as I realised this mistake I pulled out loads of old leggings and jumpers I wasn’t too bothered about and ordered myself some wellies for walks and now I’m not bothered about how messy she gets.

Puppy proofing the house

Before she arrived we made sure that nothing was dangerous or could fall on her and that there were no loose wires she could chew on.

But we didn’t anticipate quite how much she’d love chewing on skirtboards or the wall corners.

I also wish we’d sorted the drawers and floordrobes out so that she didn’t nick as many socks or get to some of the stuff we hadn’t yet managed to pop in the loft.

Now everything is 100% safe/unstealable, I’m much more relaxed about letting her roam about the house whilst I’m working and not as worried about her chewing the things she shouldn’t.

Our trainer

We couldn’t book Olive into puppy classes as they were fully booked and the only time available would’ve been once she was too old.

For the same price, we’ve had a trainer come to the house twice.

Once for training Ben and I how to manage any misbehaviours at home and once to show me how to confidently walk her off lead.

As new dog owners, learning from the experts has really helped us with our confidence – even if I still worry all the bloody time.

Teaching her ‘leave it’

We started this command when she was young but still haven’t perfected it.

This would’ve saved the skirting boards, our socks and Ben’s trainers from being chewed.

It also would mean that we wouldn’t panic every time she went into the garden that she was going to eat stones.

It’s an on-going training lesson that we’ll have mastered soon, I hope.

There are just a few things I wish we’d have done or am glad we have done so far!

If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, or have one on the way, I hope this post hasn’t terrified you!

The truth is, things DO get better but the honest truth is, it is bloody hard at the beginning and even 6 weeks later, I’m still finding it difficult but the love, fun, laughter and companionship is (almost totally) worth it.

Lastly, please feel free to reach out if you’re struggling as a new puppy parent as we could do with more of us admitting that it isn’t plain sailing and slobbery morning kisses.