New Year’s Resolutions: Harmful or Helpful?

It’s Chriiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaas! *Queue the Christmas hits and endless supply of Baileys*. It’s December again, a whole 12 months since I made New Years Resolutions to: read 52 books throughout the year (currently reading 36/52- this goal is out of reach, I have no excuses), stop biting my nails (mostly fail- gross I know, but at least all the handwashing means it’s less gross than usual), drink 2 litres of water every day (half fail), exercise regularly (win) and journal more (smashed it). I personally try to make resolutions every year in the spirit of ‘new beginnings’ and ‘fresh starts’, feeling like a brand new all-improved Kayleigh- for a few months at least. I’ve never ended the year with the ability to gloat about how I’ve achieved all I set out to… so why do I keep setting myself up to fail?

For some, New Year is a marker to encourage pause and reflect on the past 12 months. It’s a reminder to check in with ourselves and decide if there’s anything that we can do to make things better next year and, let’s face it, we’re human and more likely to do this if everyone around us is too. For others, New Year is the ultimate trigger to enhance those self-critical thoughts. It’s a time we see others celebrating their achievements, which can be hard if we don’t recognise our own. Our reflection, even with the best intentions, can lead to noticing the things we didn’t do or awful things that happened that were completely out of our control. No matter what your views of New Year’s resolutions are, as we watch Jools Holland’s Hootnanny and guzzle our Prosecco we’re reminded that many people will be setting goals to make a change for 2022. We can set goals too, if we want to. I think that’s the most important part.

It’s true what they say- we don’t need to wait until January 1st to make a positive change. Any day is the perfect day to change something to make you happier, healthier or more fulfilled. That being said, we have busy lives. We run around all day working hard, supporting our families, exercising, trying to balance a social life with self-care and when we finally have a few minutes peace, it’s bed time and we need to recharge to do it all again tomorrow. New Year is often the nudge we need to stop what we’re what doing and ask ourselves; if next year is exactly like this year, would we be OK with that? If the answer is yes, brilliant. If it’s no, we might want to think about the things we can take some control of and switch it up a bit. Wrap that in tinsel and fairy lights and bam, you have yourself a resolution.

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One of the scariest parts of New Year’s resolutions is that they seem so formal. The whole premise is to give us control over our lives, yet it adds yet more pressure and I get it, we really don’t need the stress. Some people manage this by setting their goals and keeping them to themselves. These people are “work-hard-in-silence-and-let-the-success-make-the-noise” kinda people. That’s fine and dandy until life gets in the way and 12 months later, we could still hear a penny drop. The dreaded feeling of failure creeps back in and either contorts itself in to a new, harder goal as some kind of punishment we give to ourselves or feeding in to low self-worth, making us feel even worse than we did last year. A counter-intuitive resolution doing the opposite of what we hoped it would achieve. On the surface, we think “self-improvement can never be a bad thing, right?”; but becoming obsessed with changing ourselves and believing our value is only determined by our “achievements” can be damaging.

I say “achievements” *air quotes and eye-roll* because what counts toward success for one person may mean absolutely nothing to another. A resolution I set may be something you have always done without a second thought. That’s why we should only set goals if it’ll truly make a positive difference for us and we deem it as important. We will see an influx in detox teas and tummy-toners over the next few weeks- but you don’t need to lose weight or firm-up. You don’t need to do anything you don’t want to do. Imagine you were on a desert island without the beady eyes of consumerism or societal expectations. Your resolutions should be things that you would want, even in these circumstances. Do it for you, not for other people. Often, the goals we don’t achieve are because they aren’t our own, they’re things we feel pressured in to (even subconsciously). So, if nothing jumps to mind and you’re truly happy with everything as it stands, just don’t do it.

Graphing Paper With Text

If, like me, there are a few things you’d like to change- go for it, but be kind to yourself. I don’t know much about manifestation (other than it is ridiculous to assume the universe will provide us with something if we ‘manifest’ it, without changing our actions), but I am aware of the psychology behind us being more likely to achieve our goals if we articulate them. In that respect, I will completely selfishly share this years resolutions over on Instagram in a few weeks time. If this is you too, remind yourself that just because you have recognised areas in your life you’d like to change, that doesn’t mean you aren’t exactly where you need to be right now. Our wishes and expectations of life change as we do, and that’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s growth and the epitome of personal-development. When you set a resolution you’re setting an intention with a 12 month time limit which immediately provides the opportunity for us to fail but, let’s see failure as a chance to learn. It doesn’t mean we didn’t work hard enough or are unworthy, it gives us time to look at what made it difficult and make a new plan. It might even prove to us that what we thought was important, wasn’t really a big-deal all along. These things shouldn’t come as a surprise to us as we reach December. By checking in with ourselves and monitoring our progress throughout the year we have time to come to terms with the fact that things may be slower than expected or give us the push we need for the final sprint. Again, it doesn’t have to feel so formal; it could be an app on your phone (I used Goodreads to track my reading progress), a vision board or journal.

Sticky Notes on Board

I’m the type of person who always wants to learn something new and better myself, which is exactly why despite my annual ‘failures’, I keep making resolutions. I make New Years resolutions and I also make smaller resolutions all the time to work toward short-term goals throughout year. I achieve some of my goals, others go on hold and some I discard of all together. I’ve learned that not achieving resolutions means less about my character than my intentions whilst making them, and I’ve also learned change isn’t so scary. We all make purposeful change on a daily basis. We recognise we’re tired, we make a ‘resolution’ in our head to go to bed earlier. We work a lot and miss our family, we make a ‘resolution’ to call them at least once per week. And, if you’re sat there thinking “I never make resolutions anymore because they did more harm than good for me”… you’ve made a resolution right there and hell, you’re sticking to it.

Christmas Gift Guide: From Women-Owned Small Businesses

It’s that time of year again. As winter approaches we grab our cosy jumpers, guzzle hot chocolate, arrange movie nights in and BAM, the man in red is on his way. In an attempt to avoid the dreaded December stress and empty shelves, I’ve started my Christmas shopping early. Even better, I’ve done the majority online from small businesses founded by women.

Did you know that only 5.6% of UK women have successfully started their own business, compared to 11.2% of UK men?

These statistics are taken from The Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship conducted by the UK Government in 2014. No matter what people say, misogyny still exists in the UK meaning women face more challenges and barriers on their entrepreneurship journey than men do. Couple that with the devastating impact of the global pandemic on all small-businesses, these past few years must have been a nightmare. It’s now more important than ever that we support our sisters, and what better time to start than in the festive season.

Here are 7 of my favourite women-owned small business’ that I discovered in 2021:

(I have been a loyal customer to some since 2020, but did that year really exist anyway?)

*Discount codes are provided for some of these brands from previous collaborations (because who doesn’t want to save money?) but this gift guide is not part of an advertisement. I just genuinely love these products!

1. Oh My Gold LDN

Photographs copyright of Oh My Gold LDN.

Oh My Gold LDN is a brand showcasing handcrafted, bespoke metallic portraits and prints. Founded and ran completely by Jade, a creative genius, these gifts are sure to put a smile on your loved ones face. Jade is super friendly and more than happy to answer any queries over on their Instagram or visit their FAQ page.

“Oh My Gold LDN are symbolic of my desire to create diverse, empowering, uplifting, beautiful and accessible art for all”- Jade.

2. Incollection UK

First 2 photographs copyright of Incollection UK.

Incollection UK is a relatively new brand. Stephanie set up her Etsy shop back in January and has been creating new, beautiful products each month to add to her already vast collection of inclusive fashion, accessories and custom gifts. Stephanie designs and creates these pieces independently from her own home. You can find out more about Stephanie (probably one of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting online) and her products over on her Instagram.

“I started Incollection UK in January this year. I wanted to create a brand that represented all bodies and celebrate feeling good in the body you have. The media constantly throw in our faces that we are not good enough. So Incollection UK is a brand that celebrates you.”- Stephanie.

For 10% off all orders, use code KAYLEIGH10.

3. OneOhSix

Photographs copyright of OneohSix.

Guaranteed, the homeware I get the most compliments on are those from OneOhSix. This brand is the work of Casey-Rae, a woman with such amazing taste and talent, specialising in up-cycled and pre-loved furniture, and additional home accessories and gifts. If I could, I’d buy it all. With each piece, I feel I’m one step closer to the ultimate Insta-worthy home. You can find OneOhSix on their website, Etsy store and Instagram.

4. Novo Candles

Photographs copyright of Novo Candles.

I know I sound dramatic when I say this but… I’ve never smelled candles quite like these ones! Keely, the creator behind the amazing Novo Candles, started this passion project to share the scents from her childhood memories growing up in the countryside. These hand-poured aromatherapy candles don’t only make your home smell beautiful but are great for your wellness and completely sustainable. Browse Novo Candles products on their website, Etsy store and Instagram. (P.S. The Christmas collection has just launched too!).

“From blackberry picking to baking apple pies, the scents I choose are all inspired by those memories. I always struggled to find scents inspired by these memories surrounding nature that also helped with my wellness. That’s why Novo was born. These familiar smells help me to stay in the moment and remind me to take care of myself.”- Keely

For 10% off all orders use code KAYLEIGH10.

5. Lytton Rose Botanical

Photographs copyright of Lytton Rose Botanical.

Dried flowers and vintage home décor from Snowdonia, UK, to your front door. Dried flowers are all the range and I completely understand the hype. Beautiful, low-maintenance and so pretty- I’m obsessed by everything Lytton Rose Botanical have on offer. Paula, the creative behind this beautifully unique brand, prides herself on ensuring every single product is developed sustainably and handmade with love. You can find them over on their website, Etsy and Instagram.

“I am a Snowdonia based designer and crafts-woman and have been creating and designing at a professional level for the last 16 years. Originally trained in fashion and textile design, I have a keen sense of trend, design, colour, form and structure and have a passion for flowers in every form; from seed, to their finished form, back to seed.”- Paula.

6. LYNA London

Photographs copyright of LYNA London.

LYNA London launched in July 2021 and have already taken the internet by storm. Founded by two sisters, LYNA London is an affordable jewellery brand allowing everyone to experience that little piece of luxury we deserve. The range of products available is mesmerising, the packaging is beautiful and I can guarantee there’s something to suit everyone’s taste. Have a browse over at their website and Instagram.

7. Inspiring by Emma

Photographs copyright of Inspiring by Emma.

Emma is an amazing artist who helps me to make my family smile several times a year with her hilarious and super cute handmade greeting cards. Inspiring by Emma is now my go-to for cards throughout the year. They’re so beautiful, high-quality and thoughtful as you choose a card based on your friends and families favourite movies and characters. You can find Emma’s massive selection of cards over at her Etsy store and Instagram.

“Made with a sprinkling of fairy dust”- Emma.

50 Things That Scare Me More Than Halloween

Halloween, witches, devils, vampires, zombies, it’s all pretty scary stuff, but these things scare me more than Halloween ever will…

  1. The dark.
  2. The Tory’s proposed ‘Policing Bill‘ which would lead to harsher penalties for damaging a statue of a man, than for attacking a woman.
  3. The fact that 73,223,369 people actually voted for Donald Trump to become president.
  4. Global warming.
  5. Britney Spears being under a conservatorship and having her rights taken away from her for 13 whole years before anyone did anything about it.
  6. Trainspotting the movie (When the baby is on the ceiling? You know the part).
  7. How the pandemic has taken over our lives, but we’d never heard of it back at the start of 2019.
  8. The fact that 84% of women in the UK are on hormonal contraception despite horrific side effects like Depression and increased risk of Breast Cancer, yet male contraception is yet to be approved just in case it “blunts sex drive or reduces erections”.
  9. Other people tagging me in Facebook photos unexpectedly.
  10. Losing my job.
  11. The fact that society has normalised dressing up as a “naughty school girl” as though that isn’t completed perverted.
  12. People who don’t like reading.
  13. It’s getting colder so spiders will be trying to join our lovely warm homes, rent-free.
  14. People that refuse to use others’ preferred pronouns.
  15. Using a toilet away from home that refuses to flush.
  16. The fact that there’s no barriers to stop us falling on to train tracks.
  17. Misogyny.
  18. That UKIP even exist.
  19. The energy bill increase.
  20. That Zoe and Zoey are pronounced the same but Joe and Joey aren’t, and nobody is questioning it.
  21. Homophobia.
  22. What is happening over in Afghanistan.
  23. Every single one of the Redhanded podcast episodes.
  24. People who snoop on your social media but don’t actually follow you.
  25. “Charities” who don’t give money to the actual cause.
  26. People who spit on the floor as they walk.
  27. How underpaid nurses are.
  28. The fact that people take drugs without knowing exactly what’s in them.
  29. When it’s dark outside but you’re in the house, so people can see you but you can’t see them.
  30. How small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things.
  31. Standing on a plug.
  32. The fact that there’s more publicity for Caucasian victims of crime than there is for other ethnicities.
  33. Photoshop, filters and editing used purposely to be mistaken as reality.
  34. Racism.
  35. People who don’t like cats.
  36. In the year ending March 2020, 5.5% of people aged 16-74 in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse.
  37. When your Netflix ‘Continue Watching’ list is endless with no way to erase it.
  38. Toxic diet culture.
  39. Losing my friends and family.
  40. Walking home alone, especially in the dark.
  41. The fact that Johnny Depp has been accused of 14 assaults, with 12 of them being proved on the balance of probability, yet people still gush over him on the new Dior advert.
  42. Listening to my own voice back.
  43. Monday mornings.
  44. Going to the dentist.
  45. Terrorism.
  46. Saying something to offend someone (of course, completely by accident).
  47. The fact that there aren’t enough hospital beds in UK hospitals and we aren’t yet in the always difficult winter months.
  48. The noise of gun-fire and shouting (when the men in my family are gaming).
  49. The fact that gun-fire and shouting is some people’s reality.
  50. That this list was actually rather easy to write… scary.

Biancha

The Ultimate Playlist for Empowered Women

If you’re anything like me, your phone will have a million different playlists specially curated to match your mood, no matter what. Our playlists say a lot about us. I have a soundtrack for being sad, needing motivation, working out, feel-good songs, bath time, driving; you name it, I’ve got it. A category often forgotten about, however, is “feminist bops”; essential listens for women. It was hard (almost impossible) to narrow it down, but here are my top 10 songs for empowered women.

10. Run the World (Girls)- Beyonce

Does this one even need an explanation? Queen Bey did it again, representing the women. With lyrics like, “Make your check, come at they neck, disrespect us, no they won’t” and “how we smart enough to make these millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business”, Bey sings about women as we really are, super heroes with no limits.

9. Like a Girl- Lizzo

Lizzo is the ultimate self-love guru as she encourages us all to believe in ourselves throughout this song, whilst celebrating other amazing women for their success. With reference to Serena Williams, Chaka Khan and Lauryn Hill, Lizzo reminds us that women should be celebrated for their talents and achievements rather than beauty (although these women truly are beautiful inside and out). She has also written some of my favourite lyrics ever, “Woke up feelin’ like I just might run for president, even if there ain’t no precedent, switchin’ up the messagin’, I’m about to add a little oestrogen” and “only exes that I care about are in my fucking chromosomes”. Love it.

8. The Man- Taylor Swift

The entire premise of Taylor’s song ‘The Man’ is so important and, after the way she has been portrayed in the media, the song packs even more of a punch. It’s true- women are slated and cancelled for doing things that men do on the daily. This song perfectly calls out the double standards in the entertainment industry (and life in general). “What’s it like to brag about raking in dollars, and getting bitches and models, and it’s all good if you’re bad, and it’s okay if you’re mad? If I was out flashing my dollars, I’d be a bitch not a baller, they’d paint me out to be bad, so it’s okay that I’m mad.”- yes, it’s absolutely OK to be mad. I’m mad too.

7. Woman- Kesha

Whenever I achieve something I worked hard for, this is something I want to scream from the top of my lungs. “I’m a motherf**kng woman!”. Kesha has spoke openly about the inspiration for this song being Donald Trump’s vile “grab em’ by the pussy” comment which repulsed women everywhere, including her. She said, “That made me infuriated, as a hardcore feminist”. At least one good thing came from that comment- this song! I am here for it, and all the F-bombs.

6. Just Fine- Mary. J. Blige

This song is the ultimate reminder of how good it feels to be content. Blige considers that there are ups and downs in every day, but there’s always something to feel good about. One thing we can have control over, is how we feel about ourselves. The greatest message I take from this song is that of self-love. We can achieve anything when we love ourselves- mind, body and soul. We all deserve to get to the point where we’re like… “So I like what I see when I’m looking at me when I’m walking past the mirror. Don’t stress through the night, at a time in my life, ain’t worried about if you feel it.”.

5. U + Ur Hand- Pink

“I’m not here for you’re entertainment, you don’t really want to mess with me tonight… just keep your drink and give me the money, it’s just you and your hand tonight”- ladies, who else can relate? Not only is this song an absolute bop but I find the lyrics hilarious. If you’ve never listened to this song, you have full permission to stop reading right now and go listen. I feel heard. It should be compulsory for women out on a ‘girls night’ to listen to this before heading to the bar- reminding us that we have every right to say ‘no’ without trying to rationalise it. No is no, even for something as ‘innocent’ as a drink or a dance.

4. Independent Woman- Destiny’s Child

You guessed it, it would be immoral to miss Destiny’s Child off this list. The ultimate girl gang we all want to be a member of. My Nanna introduced me to the film ‘Charlies Angels’ during a sleepover, which means she also introduced me to this song. It may have felt insignificant at the time, but having kick-ass role models like the Charlie’s Angels and listening to lyrics like this, I was taught that I don’t need to depend on a man for anything. It’s not just the little boys who are ‘strong’ and ‘brave’. “Try to control me, boy, you get dismissed, pay my own car note and I pay my own bills, always fifty-fifty in relationships”. If I ever have a daughter, you know she’ll be listening to this song.

3. Just a Girl- No Doubt

I love that Gwen Stefani didn’t intentionally write this song as a feminist anthem- but that’s exactly what is has become. She speaks her mind through her music and in doing so, has given us all a platform to sing along and rant about how simply being a girl leads to people trying to confine us and shut us down. “Oh, I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite, so don’t let me have any rights… cause I’m just a girl, I’d rather not be, they won’t let me drive late at night”. OK, sorry, but I’m glad Stefani’s parents didn’t let her go driving late at night if this really is the entire inspiration for this song.

2. Can’t Hold Us Down- Christina Aguilera and Lil Kim

There is so much greatness in this song, I’m not sure I can do it justice with such a short summary. Christina and Kim call out misogyny from women being coined a “bitch” for speaking her mind whereas men are deemed ‘confident’ to the double standards of sexuality, “the guy gets all the glory the more he can score, when the girl can do the same yet you call her a whore”. They touch on language used commonly every day to minimise women’s ability- such as telling people to “man up” to represent strength and remind us that it wasn’t too long ago that men were taking women’s ideas and advertising them as their own. I wonder how many pieces of artwork, books, songs, inventions and discoveries were actually the work of women, yet we’ve grown up attributing them to a man? This is actually a song directed toward men, to remind them that we are just as worthy and deserve to be respected. We are not “to be seen and not heard”- we have every right to speak out loud. Together, they can’t hold us down.

1. Hard Out Here- Lily Allen

It has to be said that Lily Allen is a genius. Her music is so easily deemed ‘controversial’ when in reality she calls people out on things others are frightened to- because patriarchy still exists. In numerous interviews about this song Allen talked specifically about the male-dominated music industry and how controlled women in the public eye truly are. She raises awareness of the immense pressure on all women to be ‘thin’ to be accepted and how, despite wanting to discuss these things publicly for so long, she was called “mouthy” and told people wouldn’t take her seriously or they’d laugh at her. Making a stance against double standards, stereotypical gender roles, objectification of women and reclaiming language often used against us; she has smashed it. After listening to this song so much, my boyfriend & I now naturally say “grow some tits” instead of “grow some balls”. Lily Allen battling internalised misogyny in households everywhere since 2013.

So there we are, my top 10 songs for empowered women! Add them to your music library and play them loud whenever you need a reminder that you are enough.

Biancha