ali moore BeMoore

Reconnect Your Life & Find Your Roar!

Meet Ali Moore!  One of the most inspiring women I know.  Ali is inspiring on so many levels – ali moore reconnect your life
what’s she’s achieved in her life to date personally and for her business. How many plates she spins and doesn’t manage to drop a single one!   She’s an empathetic and engaging public speaker, as well as a published author of Reconnect Your Life.

She’s passionate about clothes and her signature style.  Ali also describes herself as a compulsive shopper who doesn’t want to be cured!  But that’s enough from me, let’s hear Ali’s story.

Ali – Please introduce yourself

Hi – I am Ali Moore, founder of Bemoore which is a private therapy and coaching practice; specialising in the science of self- esteem.  Working with women to restore that self- esteem platform and feel fabulous about being them.

I am a community Celebrant  and author of Reconnect Your Life – more about those later!

I am married to my Alfie and between us we have 5 children. My girls are 22 and 19 my step children 13 and 11. We also have our joint venture who is 4.5 years old!

Tell us about your childhood and your teenage years

My early years were really quite normal – a good middle-class family. Just before my teenage years however I experienced an awful period of bullying which led not only to me being home schooled for a while but also developing social anxiety and controlling my eating. It wasn’t a great time, but the homeschooling actually was a real blessing and I am forever in debt to the teacher I had and the introduction to topics such as mindfulness and yoga.

You met your first husband at just 15 and soon had two amazing girls while juggling a corporate career.  How did you manage to keep all the plates spinning?

I was fortunate that both sets of grandparents were fully involved.

I had to go back to work financially.  We owned our first home by the time I was 18,  I was young when I had the girls, so in those early days there wasn’t an option to be a stay at home mum.

I think like many women you just get on with it and make it work. You get organised and I did actually love working alongside being a mum.  I think the girls gained from it in different ways.

ali moore radio presenter

Sadly, your first marriage ended after 21 years, what was the catalyst for this?

We got together, as you said,  at a very young age, we had grown up and become different people.

Our son was still born in 2007 having diagnosed with a life preventing condition and I strongly believe that there is no relationship which cannot be impacted by this loss.

We grieved very differently, and I was forever changed as a person. I made a decision about 18 months after that it was best all round we separated.  He has remained very close to the girls and very involved in their lives.

What was your coping mechanism after losing your baby?

Initially my coping mechanism was work.  I went back to work 2 weeks after the funeral. There was no support really offered.

The GP never visited or checked in.  A midwife did come and visit in the first few days – but she was very newly qualified and out of her depth.  I made her a cup of tea if I remember rightly!

I didn’t know about any type of therapy or counselling and it seemed as though we were expected to just ‘move on’ with life!  After a while I was prescribed anti -depressants but overall, I just got on with it. It was later that I realized I hadn’t dealt with it at all.

When your first marriage ended, how did you build the next stage of your life?

I had never been on my own.  I didn’t really even know who I was outside of the marriage and relationship.

But I will be honest and say I threw myself into this next phase. Learning to manage bank accounts and the house things which I had never done.

I persuaded my boss to give me a project in a new role in a brand-new location .  I wanted a fresh start. To not be ‘the women whose life was a car crash’.

I totally changed myself as well, joining a gym and changing my hair.  I qualified as a Life and Business Coach. It was full on in those early years.

I needed to be financially stable to keep the family home for the girls – that was my driver.

ali moore reconnect your life

arrival of the chimp

I am very comfortable now with telling this.  It’s part of who I am and there is no shame in mental health challenges.

Firstly I was very happy at this stage of my life.  Most of the drama was all done. I went out to feed the cats one morning and had a panic attack.  Firmly believing that a chimp had escaped from the nearby safari park !  Convinced this chimp would be in the area and would attack the girls on the way to school.

I knew this was crazy talk, but I also couldn’t step away from the panic.   This wasn’t an isolated incident – it kept happening.  I would have to pull over to check the boot of the car, look under beds in hotel rooms.

We talk about ‘the chimp’  in people’s heads the chattering monkey.  But for me there was a real chimp out there and he meant business.  It was my (now) second husband that helped to persuade me I needed to get some help.

BTW I do know how crazy this sounds but that was the point really wasn’t it! :0)

What steps did your recovery take?

I contacted a local hypnotherapist who had advertised I the local paper for a number of years. I thought she could hypnotise it away!  But she didn’t, instead she made me talk about it.

My interest in therapy was starting to take shape.  I had explored counselling.  I was a trained mediator and of course coaching was now in my life.  But talking therapy and cognitive therapy was pivotal for me.

My next journey started as I decided I would look to train as a therapist.   That initial therapy helped me put the chimp away. But I have continued to explore therapy in different forms.  I  continue now to work on my sense of self.

2013 was a major year why?ali moore reconnect your life

It was a busy year!  The start of another new journey in my life.

My partner asked me to have a hand-fasting (pagan wedding) – I said yes.  A couple of months later we made a big decision.   We wanted a baby of our own.   Interestingly we’d not mentioned  living together neither were we planning our wedding.   But curiously  I felt very secure and it wasn’t even on my mind.

To have another baby was huge… to be able to trust someone that much, to risk allowing myself to be that vulnerable again.

Initially I wasn’t sure I could go through that again.  Or put my family through it again.  But when you trust someone and you are able to be really honest with them it is a wonderful feeling.

So, in 2013 I fell pregnant with our son who was born in the following May.

I also agreed to move my family into one house, sell my house that I’d fought so hard to keep.  I also accepted the change to my whole financial situation, by becoming a parent again after 16 years!

How did it feel to lose your financial independence?

Terrifying!

It was the biggest block for me.  It was the main reason I hesitated and didn’t launch my business initially.  I even took another employed role even after I had set everything up.

I need to be able to contribute.  It was also about feeling secure enough that I could trust this would work.

Previously I had been in a position to take on all the financial burden. If this relationship didn’t work out, then I would not be in the same place.

I like my independence and my own money.  I will not ever have a joint bank account again.

reconnection program

This actually started from a selfish point of view.

I had run a very early version of my FindYourRoar workshop, and the women mentioned about feeling like they wanted to stay together.

It got me thinking that I was really missing that community I had in my corporate life.  I wasn’t a coffee morning mum type of person, I loved networking but that was business.  I wanted someone where to meet new women and to have good conversation.

So, my women’s group open to women from all backgrounds started. It has been slow process to get set up.  This is probably because there is nothing else really out there like it in the evenings.

We pick a self-development topic every month. We chat, discuss, share book reviews and importantly make new connections. I now have an established group in Bedford and Milton Keynes and am considering the next steps to expand this community.

DESPITE A very BUSY LIFE, yOU STARTED A DEGREE in 2017!

I am always learning.  I always have a course going on!  But going to University was a real dream for me. I really wanted to have a Uni Campus experience.  It would be very 1960’s Cambridge in my head – but I didn’t have that option!

There was also the fact that I didn’t have A levels and was refused by a certain University!  Even though I had numerous higher diplomas and was running my own business.

So, I contacted the Open University and they were happy to support me so I’m now studying Clinical Psychology.   I want to do a massive shout out here for those that are learning in this way.

There is nothing easy about an Open University degree course. You are basically self-teaching, self-motivated and self-reliant. I do feel stressed as the schedule is tough.   But I am committed and I loving it!  The other major benefit is being able to help my clients through the additional learning.

celebrating life!

This has been another life changer actually. I have always had an interest in faith.  While I’m a   Pagan I’m hugely interested in other faiths and in the new form of spirituality that’s emerging.

I had attended a very dear friends funeral a couple of years ago and a Celebrant had conducted the service.  It felt really personal, but I was surprised that it contained religious pieces.  I thought it had to be Humanist and this would not be right for me. But I discovered you can be a multi-faith celebrant.   The primary benefit is to give your community a wonderful option of how to conduct those important life transitions.

I am now building up my business and my community, in which to practice.  Once agin I’m  connecting with some new and amazing individuals.

Reconnect your life

In December 2018 I became a published author as part of an amazing collaborative project.

Writing is something I love to do, so after being involved in a collaborative project,  I decided to write my own book; Reconnect Your Life, which has just been published.

I was discovering so many stories and bringing together some great material as I built out my Reconnection Programme it seemed like a wonderful way to share with a wider audience.

Determined not to write a book which just focused on my challenges, but to focus on  something that really gave something back in a useful way.

Reconnect Your Life isn’t meant to be aimed at an academic audience but at real people.  It is not designed to replace true therapy support, but it does give a great start to some of the cognitive practices people can do to improve their sense of self.

ali moore published author reconnect your life

Running A business Networking Group

Running two reconnection groups with everything else on your plate would be enough for most women, but you’ve also found time to take on running a business networking group too!  What is this about and what motivated you to get involved with this project?

I seem to just keep adding to my plate, but actually I see this a lot with business women.  We are used to juggling and we like to have lots of diversity in our days.

I was keen to take the word about my business further towards London. I love the Busy Women Networking groups I attended and love collaborating with the owner Aruna Rao.  So rather than join another new group it suited us both for me to open a St Albans based branch.

ali moore empowerment day

How do you maintain any level of self-care?

It’s a hectic life! But I thrive on this, ensuring I get time to myself during the day. Clearing my diary if needed and recognising the signs that mean I am feeling overwhelmed. I eat healthily and practise yoga most mornings.

I surround myself with people who are of a positive nature.

Plus, my husband is super supportive.  He enjoys cooking and I love eating so that’ s a winning partnership!  We share the home responsibilities … and sometimes nothing is better than a glass of bubbly in the bath!

If you had the opportunity to advise your 15-year-old self what would that be?

Gosh that is a big question! I would say … life is going to be an adventure- there will be wonderful moments and there are going to be times you feel you are drinking the bitterest of lemon juice … but you will rise, and you will shine … stay strong!

WHAT’S NEXT?

My overall dream for the business is to establish the Bemoore Foundation. A place for women of all ages and backgrounds to feel comfortable coming to, for support.   With teenage programmes and funding available alongside the private practice.

We are just launching our first Roaring4Life teenage programme in a local Milton Keynes school, so the future is already starting to emerge.

reconnect your life and connect with ali

As I said at the beginning Ali is one of the most inspiring women I know.   If you’d like to find our more about   Ali’s work then follow her at the BeMoore foundation

 

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getting dressed up

When Did You Last Get Really Dressed Up?

Do you remember the last time you really made an effort and got dressed up?make up feeling dressed up

I’ve got a confession to make – I’m not dressed up!  I feel a bit of a fraud sitting here in jogging bottoms and a t-shirt writing this!!  But my excuse is that I’ve just applied a liberal dose of fake tan!    I was feeling a bit pale and wintry but a slap of St Tropez has made me feel so much better!

However I’ve been carrying out a little experiment over the past few weeks and it’s proved my theory.  I have been applying make up even if I’ve got a day in the office.  I also add add jewellery and a nice pair of jeans/top.  Result I feel better and am attracting more clients.  Somehow I don’t think that the two are disconnected.

 

Most Of Us Feel More Confident When We Look Fabulous.

For many of us this means wearing an outfit that really makes us feel good.

business suit getting dressed upReading a  forum thread on this subject it was interesting that many of the guys commenting said how much more confident they felt when wearing a decent suit.   Many women feel empowered when they wear heels.  But so often we dress down and find ourselves relaxing into a casual/comfortable look.

Look back at photos from the 1950s/1960s and it seems like people made more effort and really dressed up when they went out.    I remember that even in 1960s my father never visited the pub without a cravat and shirt.

Now it seems a greater social faux pas to be over dressed rather than under dressed.   Is it because we have a real desire to fit in or we don’t really have dress codes any more – other than ‘smart casual’?  A term that strikes terror into many of my client’s hearts!  How do you define smart casual or is it just a cop out?? A subject for another blog, methinks.

So why don’t we get dressed up anymore?  I personally believe that there are a plethora of reasons as to why our approach to getting dressed up has changed.    I thought I’d explore a few here and then invite you to comment.

1. Price of Clothes And The Value We Place On Themfast fashion dressed up

Fast fashion has seen clothing getting ever cheaper and as a result I believe we don’t value it as much.  When we place less value on something we treat it with less respect.

Go back 50+ years and people would have only had a couple or handful of outfits to wear when they were going out. They took more care and pride in their clothes.

2. Cultural Changes

Undoubtedly the huge cultural shifts from the 1960s onwards had a massive impact on fashion.  At first this was a trend towards breaking cultural norms in fashion.

Fashion became more about standing out and making a statement.  Pop culture, to glam rock, power dressing from 1960s to 1980s.    All about making a statement and for most people unless they worked in fashion, PR or the creative arts, a distinction was needed between a work wardrobe and a dressed up look for going out.

The grunge and gothic look of the 1990s started to then set a more casual trend.

3. The World Got Smaller!laptop lifestyle dressed up

Well of course it didn’t physically but in terms of how we started to copy others’ dress cultures it certainly did.

This seems so relevant to the workplace.   A European influence of men not wearing ties, to the US ‘dress down Friday’  – that’s now become more Monday-Friday both having a huge impact.  This has come not simply from films and TV influences but also US and European companies coming over and setting up in the UK.

Also, as more people work from home whether for an employer or self-employed, the dress down culture goes hand in hand with the laptop lifestyle.

4. Activities Valued Differently

It used to be custom for people who traveled by air to get dressed up. Air travel was a privilege and was treated as such.  Cheap airlines and flights have put paid to that particular trend and now (quite rightly) comfort is key.

Although from experience I know that when I traveled for work and took a change of clothing with me on the flight. I felt better if I’d made the effort to put on make up and change my outfit before we landed.

Recently a keen theatre going friend and I were discussing why going to the theatre is no longer an occasion where you get dressed up.  I personally don’t believe that this is about theatre tickets being relatively cheaper.  But, especially in London, I believe that many of us combine a trip to the theatre with other activities.

5. Athleisure Trendsneakers dressed up

This sports style dress down look of trainers; jogging pants and gym wear doubling as Streetwear started a few years ago.  It started to really gain traction in 2014, and industry statistics show it started to take market share from the jeans market around this time.

The growth in health and fitness trends has undoubtedly also had an influence on this lifestyle trend as well.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if we did make more effort to get dressed up occasionally?

getting dressed upClothes can be so powerful in terms of impacting the way we feel about ourselves.

In Brutally Honest by Melanie Brown, she describes how putting on sexy figure hugging dress transformed her.  She discharged herself from hospital against her doctor’s advice.  The dress and make up meant she was able to take up her role as a judge for the 2014 X-Factor Final.

So I’m inviting you as we enter the Festive Season to think twice and get dressed up!  Put your sparkly dress on and celebrate with family and friends.  Your Onesie or Christmas Jumper won’t be offended if they end up back in the wardrobe!

Why not leave me a comment to let me know any reasons you believe we don’t get dressed up anymore?

 

Finally…..

My top tip…. If you want a very simple way to get dressed up then simply put on a simple plain dress or top and put on some sparkly accessories to complete the look!

 

 

 

 

 

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inspiring women bonnie s. hardie homeless for two years

Being Homeless Is It Your Worst Nightmare?

Is the thought of being homeless your worst nightmare?  I know it’s mine.inspiring women bonnie s. hardie homeless for two years

Heck I can’t even entertain the idea of doing The Big Sleep Out.   Incidentally, a friend of mine did it last year and said that it was incredibly hard.   She also shared with me that they had it ‘easy’ with hot food before and after the event, a ground sheet and an insulating layer of plastic bubble wrap….

The image of homelessness conjures up an image and we often associate it with substance abuse or mental health issues.  But what if you became homeless through a perfect storm of circumstances?  You’d been in full time employment, been living a comfortable life and then it all changed.

My latest inspiring woman interview is with Bonnie S Hardie.   Bonnie is a bubbly, confident entrepreneur, supporting business owners, with her services as a Virtual Assistant and Social Media Expert.  Bonnie lives in Florida with her two gorgeous kittens.  I was speechless when I discovered she’d been homeless for nearly two years (2015-2017).    Her story of resilience and determination is simply inspiring.

What Were The Circumstances Leading To You Becoming Homeless?

Several things led up to my being homeless.  I sustained a severe knee injury at work. I was working in a restaurant and so had to give up my job.    Unfortunately the knee injury had revealed more extensive problems with my knees. While I was cleared to go back to work after the injury I struggled to find a job.

I applied for benefits but it’s an extremely long and arduous process in the US.  I had no choice but to give up my accommodation, as I could no longer pay the rent.

A neighbour and I made an agreement.  I would move in with her and help her with her mother who had Alzheimer’s.  In return for helping her mother at night, when my neighbour worked I would live rent-free.    Sadly only about three weeks into the arrangement her mother passed away.

We then made a new agreement that I would pay one week’s rent and she would pay the next week.    This only lasted about a month before she decided to move to another state.   I was unable to pay for the full amount of the rent on my own after this.

 

homeless living in a tentWhy Didn’t You Consider Yourself Homeless When You Lived In A Tent?

I didn’t consider myself “homeless” because I had a roof over my head and a bed to sleep on.  I was living in a tent and sleeping on an Air Mattress. Instead I looked at it as being on an extended camping trip.  Albeit without some of the comforts that we often take for granted on camping holidays.

What Was The Worst Thing About Being Homeless?

Having to deal with possums, raccoons and snakes coming up to my tent at night to chew on it!

Being regularly asked if I had any drugs or alcohol (I don’t smoke, drink or do drugs).

Other people. Those who judged me, showed a complete lack of respect and were rude, simply because of the way they viewed someone who was homeless.

The most frightening aspect was not having anyone to trust.

What Were Your Positive Takeaways From Being Homeless

It was down to me I only had myself to rely on.

I am a very resilient person so I dug deep and this helped me to stay strong.   I managed to detach myself from the situation, to appreciate that it was happening for me and not to me.

Luckily I had neither animals nor children, so with no dependents it was easier.   I really learned to appreciate what I did have.  It was a great opportunity to learn a lot about myself during this time.

I met a lot of different people who were also homeless.  They all had fascinating stories about how they’d become homeless.

Very often other homeless people were accommodating than non-homeless people.    They were not judgmental.

 

If People You Knew Found Out You Were Homeless How Did They React?

I did not tell too many people about my situation because I was embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was homeless.

Those I did tell were people at places where I hung out during the day (Library, Grocery Store, Coffee Shops) and they were generally nice.

It certainly helped that I made an extreme effort to stay clean (showering every day at a campsite). I was always polite to everyone I met and this meant others responded to me more positively.

 

What Impact Has Being Homeless Had On You As A Person?

I am more empathetic and sympathetic towards other people.

Before I was homeless, I got to know several homeless people.  They would come in to the restaurant where I worked.  I was always nice to them and treated them with respect. But being homeless has meant that I’m even more empathetic and sympathetic towards others.

It’s also fair to say that I am much more appreciative of what I have now.

 

It Is Easy To Judge People In A Negative Way Who Are Homeless How Did You Cope With That?

There were always a few “Negative Nellie’s”!   Some people would insinuate that I was: lazy, a scammer, a bum and so on.  So I just did my best to ignore them.

I am the only person who knows everything about what happened during the 2 years that I was homeless. I tried my best to do what I could with what I had.

Has Your Attitude Towards Homeless People Changed?

I was always empathetic to homeless people, even before it happened to me.

How can you judge someone when you don’t know his or her circumstances?  You don’t know the story of why they became homeless.

What Would Be Your Advice To Anyone Facing Homelessness?homeless reframing

Just stay strong.  I know that might sound easier said than done, but try to reframe your negatives into positives.   So for example:

  • I considered that sleeping outside meant I was getting plenty of fresh air;
  • While I had no car, I did have a bike and that meant I got plenty of exercise;
  • Although I had no shoes I had a pair of flip-flops. This helped me to develop a cool tan line!

Are There Charities In The US Who Support The Homeless?

Currently in the county I live in there are no homeless shelters.  There are a few Churches who help the homeless.  But transportation is often a barrier to getting to the facilities.

I applied for and was granted Food Stamps, which helped me to buy food.  But with no cooking or refrigeration facilities my choices were limited as to what I could eat.  Hot dogs or pasta out of a tin were regular meals for me.

How Did You Turn Things Around?homeless mindset and self-belief

It was a long process.

I had to do a lot of Mindset work to get my confidence back.   I had to believe that I had gifts to share with the world.

Luckily I was able to connect online with an awesome Mindset and Business Coach – Liz Hancock from England.

Liz believed in me more that I believed in myself.  It was through her that I recovered my confidence and self-esteem. Without her help I wouldn’t be where I am now.

Liz and the other people in her private coaching group were very supportive of me and they always encouraged me.

We figured out what my Zone of Genius was & I was able to start offering Virtual Assistant, Social Media Marketing and Research Services on Facebook.  I’m now proud to say that I have a great business with international clients and am in a much better place.

Care Bags For The Homeless

A project that I am working on right now is : “CARE BAGS FOR THE HOMELESS” — Putting the following in plastic bags: water — socks — hand sanitizer — tissues — lip balm — snacks ,etc. These can be filled for about $5 each.  My plan is to hand out at least 150 of them.   If you wish to donate follow the link: :

Do You Have A Story To Tell?

I’m looking for inspiring women to feature on my blog for 2019.  You may think that you’re not very inspiring but I can promise you that the adversities we overcome and the challenges we deal with in everyday life are often the most inspiring.  If you’re interested in being interviewed for 2019, please click fill in the form below.

By providing your personal details we will only use this to contact you in connection with your enquiry about my Inspiring Women Blog and Vlog Series

 

 

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inspiring women Claudia Crawley Bells Palsy

Bell’s Palsy Absolutely Made Me More Ambitious

How would it be if, within 24 hours, your face became paralysed? You could no longer eat or drink, your right eye would not close.

Imagine the terror and how those feelings would be for a young woman? How would it feel if doctors were initially unable to diagnose or offer treatment?  This is what happened to Claudia Crawley when she suffered from Bells Palsy.

For many women this would have been catastrophic. But if you’re an extremely capable and resilient woman like Claudia Crawley you don’t let Bells Palsy stop you!

Claudia enjoyed a successful career before setting up her own coaching business.   Awarded Mentor of the Year in 2017 by City University of London.   A published author and in her spare time Claudia is a stand up comedian!

Claudia Crawley suffered from Bell's Palsy

Claudia, Please Introduce Yourself To Our Readers

I’man Executive Coach, Career Coach, accredited Master Coach, Mentor of the Year, 2017 (City, University of London). A co-author of ‘Winning in Life and Work’, ‘The Power of Being a Woman’ and author of‘Ordinary Women Doing Extraordinary Things: 5 Steps To Add Extra To Ordinary’.

I enable women to drive their own ‘careers’,whatever their challenges, current status, or feeling they have run out of road. I help them to get ahead and stay ahead.

What Inspired You To Set Up Your Business?

I’d been a trained social worker and manager with an MBA, for a long, long time, working mainly with women in a female dominated profession.

In the late 90’s I applied for my dream job as a diversity consultant.  I  failed to get it through inadequate preparation.  After that, very disappointed, I lost my way.

In 2009, I had a great job as a knowledge, learning and professional development manager.   This was in a social work organization called CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).  But I was feeling unchallenged and down.   I’d become stuck in my career.

When a woman from another department took out a grievance against me, unsuccessfully I might add, I got myself a coach to help me deal with the stress.

She was a blessing in disguise. Because through this experience I found coaching and realised it was a powerful way of enabling change within individuals.

I decided to train to be a coach and used it to work with managers in the organisation.

When I was made redundant, in 2010, it seemed a no-brainer to use my newly acquired coaching skills.   I wanted to work with women like myself who were stuck or who were managers, dealing with challenges in the role.

What Do You Believe Are The Major Factors That Hold Women Back On The Corporate Ladder?

I support the findings of Tom Schuller in ‘The Paula Principles’.

He found that although globally:

  • Girls tend to leave school with better qualifications than boys.
  • Women graduate with better degrees than men
  • Women are more likely to develop themselves once in the work place

But generally women were operating below their level of competence.

He found a number of reasons for this:

  1. Discrimination – we’re denied jobs or higher pay because we’re women.
  2. Structural issues e.g. getting affordable childcare.
  3. Lack of confidence. Women often lack the confidence to put themselves forward for a job, even when well qualified for it. Men, on the other hand will go for it even when they don’t have all the requirements.
  4. Lack of networks. Women don’t have the same rich network connections as men that can help them climb the career ladder.
  5. Desire for a better quality of life. Women may not want the stress of being at the top. They may consciously decide in favour of a better quality of life and go for a lateral rather than a vertical career. Were the challenges women encounter at the top less stubborn, more women might opt to climb further.

What’s clear is that the world is missing out on the skills and talents of competent women. Studies have shown that the more women at the top the better the organisation’s health.

Can You Tell Us About Your Hobby?Claudia Crawley Stand Up Comedian

My hobby is stand-up comedy, which I discovered by accident.

My life had become a bit dull, full of hard work and long hours and very little fun. When a close friend encouraged me to do a stand-up course at the Comedy School in London, I was a bit hesitant.  I thought, ‘Moi, serious Claudia, do stand up?’

When my partner twisted my arm by paying for the course, well, I had to do it, didn’t I?

Doing my first gig, at the end of the course was like magic.  People actually laughed – a lot. It was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was incredible.

I well and truly fell in love with stand-up. I’ve done several gigs since then.  I’m currently on another course, which is helping me develop my skills further.

The key thing I’ve learned is that stand-up is not just about standing on stage making people laugh. It’s an art.  There are certain rules.  It has to be worked at and developed if you want to be a real success.

My aim is to use it to take my message into organisations, and make the unpalatable palatable.

 

You Suffered A Frightening Health Problem Can You Tell Us More?

It was a long time ago. I was in my mid-20s when I suffered from Bells Palsy.

The condition came on gradually over a 24-hour period.  It started with a severe headache at the back of my head.  This moved around to the right side of my face.

Simultaneously, I experienced throat paralysis. When I awoke the next morning one side of my face was totally paralysed. I could neither eat nor drink nor close my right eye. I looked as if I’d suffered a stroke.

It took the doctors a while to reach a diagnosis and at the time they had no way of treating it.  Had I been treated, I might now have 100% movement in my face. As it is, I have about 85% movement.

So, now, I can’t raise my right eyebrow.  My right eye is smaller than my left.  That same eye weeps when I eat. My mouth is a little lopsided, which affects my smile.

The nerves in my face seem to operate a bit weirdly. For example, when I blink with my right eye it triggers a tick lower down my face. This gets worse when I’m stressed or nervous.

 

Having An Asymmetrical Face Is Pretty Scaryinspiring women Claudia Crawley Bells Palsy

The whole experience was traumatic, all the more so, because in this image conscious world, your face is the first thing people see on meeting you.

Imagine waking up one day to find that one side of your face for which you’d been complimented all your life had dropped and was paralysed. Imagine the horror!

So, my self-confidence plummeted and for years I felt ugly.

The worse thing was that it took away my smile, which of course is crucial to forming new relationships. I learned to live with this new identity – I had no choice. But I had difficulty seeing past the damage whenever I looked in the mirror.  Looking in the mirror was something I hated doing.

I also hated being photographed and if the photographer insisted, it would have to be on my ‘best side’. This may explain why I’ve found doing videos a turn off – although I’ve done a few. Possibly a matter of needs must.

Last year I had a session of Rapid Transformational Therapy with Dr Cheryl Chapman. Whilst my face is slightly better, the key thing I gained was the confidence to finally accept myself for who I now am and for how I look.

I no longer notice my facial imperfections in the same way and I’m no longer obsessed by it.

Interestingly it never got in the way of my personal relationships. This is an indication that the problem was mine, rather than other people’s approach to me.

 

How Did You Deal With The Emotional Impact?

My husband at the time was incredible supportive. I couldn’t have got through it without him.

My first instinct was to hide away. But how can you live a life in hiding?

Especially when you’ve a large network of friends. I’d no choice but to be upfront with my friends and family about what had occurred. It’s not an illness you can hide after all. But by being open I gained their support.

Did Having Bell’s Palsy Impact Your Confidence And Self-Esteem?

I’ve often wondered why Bell’s Palsy happened to me. What did I do to deserve it?

It’s as if I lost my looks through a nasty cosmic joke. But it’s not the worst affliction I could have had.  Although I thought it was for many years.  Now I’m in a better place emotionally, I recognise that I’ve so much to be grateful for.

Did Bell’s Palsy Impact Your Career?

I guess that unconsciously my career success was compensation for ‘losing my good looks’.  I was ambitious and driven and put everything into climbing the ladder.  However, I couldn’t shake off the self-consciousness that a lop-sided face gave me.

So perhaps I may have been more successful had I not had this experience – who knows?

Has Bell’s Palsy Had An Impact On Your Role As A Mentor And Coach?

If anything, Bell’s Palsy has made me sensitive to the plight of other people, especially to those with disabilities.

I met a man recently who’d experienced Bell’s Palsy and I felt an immediate connection with him. I was able to share my story and empathise. We became good friends as a result.

What Is Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy is a form of facial paralysis. This is what I found on the internet: “Bell’s Palsy is a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. It is named after the Scottish anatomist Charles Bell, who was the first to describe the condition”.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

Here’s what I’ve learned about the cause of Bell’s Palsy.  It’s when the seventh cranial nerve becomes swollen or compressed, leading to paralysis or facial weakness. The reason why this happens remains unclear, but there seems to be a connection with viruses (including herpes, influenza and respiratory tract infections), stress and a run-down immune system.

The following groups are at risk of getting it: pregnant women; babies; those with diabetes or lung infection, or a family history of the illness. In my case, none of these applied.

Can You Make A Full Recovery From Bell’s Palsy?

Most people make a full recovery within three to six months.  It may take longer for more severe cases of Bell’s Palsy.

In rare cases, like mine, the symptoms may return or may be permanent.

I’m one of the unlucky few.

Did You Get Support From The Medical Profession And In What Form Did That Take?

I got very little support from the medical profession at the time.  The doctors weren’t terribly sympathetic. I felt that they saw it as a cosmetic issue. They did not seem to realise it was one that could affect a person’s mental health and sense of self.

In the absence of a structured treatment package, I was left to deal with it alone.

I tried alternative medicine over a number of years, including physiotherapy, acupuncture and cranial osteopathy, but nothing brought permanent change or enabled the return of my old face.

What Has Been The Most Challenging Thing You’ve Had To Deal With Regarding Bell’s Palsy?

My own feelings: about my looks and my resulting lack of confidence. I’ve only just got to a place where it no longer bothers me thanks to Rapid Transformational Therapy and Dr Cheryl Chapman.

Do You Feel That There Is Enough Awareness Of Bell’s Palsy And If Not What Could Be Done To Increase The Understanding Of The Condition?

Between 12,400 and 24,800 people per year are affected by Bell’s Palsy in the UK.

But there’s insufficient awareness of the condition and insufficient research.  More research is needed into diagnosing, treating and managing Bell’s Palsy and facial palsy generally.

What Would Your Advice Be To Anyone Who Is Diagnosed With Bell’s Palsy?

Seek medical advice and see your GP immediately.

Go to the website of Facial Palsy UK and get as much information as possible about the condition and how to manage it.

The absence of information was one of the most frustrating parts of the illness for me. Had this charity existed when I was first diagnosed, I believe it would have reduced my panic and despair.

Are There Any Charities Or Support Groups That Help Sufferers Of Bell’s Palsy?

The charity, Facial Palsy UK, was established in 2012 with the aims of:

  • Increasing awareness of the condition and its consequences;
  • Improving the physical and emotional health of those with facial palsy ;
  • Promoting diagnosis, acute and long-term management and rehabilitation of people living with facial palsy.

One of their roles is to fund raise for world-class research.  When Facial Palsy UK was launched in 2012, very few research projects investigating the prevalence, causes and treatments of facial palsy existed.

Facial Palsy UK has established a Facial Palsy awareness week that runs from 1-7 March each year.  Look out for it in 2019.

Click this link to find out more from Facial Palsy UK.

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Alopecia Areata Julie

Alopecia Is Not Just About Losing Your Hair

At 14 years old Julie Williams was diagnosed with Alopecia Areata.

When I met Julie last year I was struck by her positive upbeat attitude and endless energy for campaigning and raising awareness of Alopecia.

Julie is mum to two beautiful children, wife, compliance manager, volunteer with Alopecia UK and Changing Faces.  Julie writes a blog about alopecia, autism, parenting and life in general.

Alopecia Areata Choice Of Hairstyles

What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia is a general term for hair loss affecting any part of the hair or body.    There are different types of alopecia ranging from small patches of hair loss (Alopecia Areata) to total loss of all body hair (Alopecia Totalis).Alopecia Areata

Alopecia can affect the hair on your head, eyelashes, eyebrows, beard and body hair.

What Causes Alopecia?

Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disorder, where your body sees certain hair cells as foreign enemies and attacks them.   It’s not fully understood why this happens or why localised areas are affected. Nor it is understood why hair regrows again.

If you have Alopecia Areata you may be more likely to develop other autoimmune conditions.  Such as thyroid disease, diabetes, vitiligo for example.    But it is not always the case.

Alopecia can affect children, women and men of any age.   It is not catching nor is it related to diet or nutritional deficiencies.    Very stressful events such as bereavement or separation may trigger alopecia. 

Is It Possible To Make A Full Recovery?  

There are treatment options for alopecia which have varying degrees of success for different people. Treatments such as steroid creams, steroid injections or light therapy may be offered to patients through their dermatologist. 

Alopecia sometimes comes and goes.   Alopecia Areata for example, may vary in how many patches of hair are not growing at any one time.  It also varies where on the body those patches are. For some people, alopecia is permanent, whereas others may only experience it for a short period of time. 

There is a genetic predisposition to alopecia, although it is more common in people with other autoimmune conditions.  However, there is no evidence to suggest it is passed down generationally. 

Were You Bullied About Your Alopecia?

I probably was bullied to some degree.  I tend to block out bad experiences and laugh them off so it’s hard for me to recall the detail. Certainly I received more attention than I would have liked as a teenager trying to blend in.

I think for the most part, there was very little awareness of alopecia at the time.  Other children were curious and concerned. They wanted to know if they could catch it, if my wig would come off unexpectedly, that sort of thing. I don’t remember anyone being actively mean to me and I do remember some people being exceptionally kind. I think it’s tough for everyone when you don’t understand why something has happened. 

What Was The Emotional Impact When You Were Diagnosed?

It was very upsetting:

  • I didn’t understand it.
  • Nor did I know anyone else who had experienced it.
  • It was scary because I didn’t know what to do about it.

I felt terrified at the prospect of going to school as I was losing my hair.  When I started to wear a wig. I think it really shook my sense of self. It took me a long time to be properly comfortable with myself after losing my hair – almost twenty years.  Looking back now, I see how much it has affected my self esteem and self worth over the years.

How Did You Deal With The Emotional Impact?

My parents were incredible, they listened, supported me, got me some great wigs.  It was very hard for them too to see their little girl lose her hair.  As a parent myself now, I think it must have been as hard for them as for me. Some of my friends were absolutely wonderful.  They very much had my back at school which made a huge difference.

One of the most helpful experiences I had was meeting the lady I got my wigs from.  Due to the nature of her job, she had met many people with alopecia.  When I was in her shop I remember not feeling so alone. 

I have been dealing with Alopecia Areata for most of my life and by far the biggest support has been the charity Alopecia UK.  I only found the charity a couple of years ago and my acceptance of alopecia has changed significantly since then.  It has been incredible to meet so many other people who look like I do and have been through similar experiences. 

Did You Get Professional Support?

Not a great deal, I was sent to a dermatologist when I was first diagnosed and tried a cream for a while but when that didn’t work.  The only option at the time for Alopecia Areata was steroid injections.  I don’t like needles and the the thought of having them in my head was terrifying!

Alopecia UK are doing great work trying to raise awareness of alopecia with GPs.  They are working to ensure GPs receive training on the condition.  I sincerely hope that makes diagnosis easier for people in the future. 

Has Your Alopecia Impacted How You Feel About Yourself? Julie competing in #british10K for Alopecia UK

I’m sad to say that it has had a very negative impact on how I feel about myself for most of my life. It absolutely crushed my self esteem. It has always been there, distracting me, I’ve spent so much time hiding bald patches in my hair, worrying that people will notice I’m wearing a wig, worrying that the wind will blow – the list goes on. 

I’m happy to say that things have changed for me though, since setting up an Alopecia UK support group in North Herts and meeting many inspiring people with alopecia both through that and the wider social network.  I am very much embracing my alopecia.

I can’t say that I am always happy with the way I look, the patchy headed look takes some adjusting to!  But I like the freedom I have given myself in terms of choice in recent years.  From my collection of seven wigs and a number of scarves / buffs / hats I can choose how I want to look every day.  I can decide whether to put my patchy head on show to the world, or rock up with a perfect wig, or with a nice warm hat.

I like that it is now on my terms and I am in control. Alopecia has become a part of my identity and has led to meeting some wonderful people.  I have some amazing experiences that I doubt I would have had if I hadn’t had Alopecia nor embraced it as part of myself.

How Do You Feel About Wigs?  

It very much depends on the mood I am in!

I find them reasonably comfortable most of the time. I’ve always found it better to try them on and see what feels right on me.

I also think it helps to get them cut to suit my face – I really need a fringe and I am lucky to have a wonderful hairdresser friend who will happily cut my wigs to suit me.

They can get hot in summer, or just a little annoying by the end of the day. I often whip mine off when I get through the door at the end of the day.  But I only liken that to friends who can’t wait to take off their make up or bra once they’re home!

I feel fortunate that I’ve got to a place now where I know I can choose my look each day, if I don’t want to wear a wig then I don’t. 

Are Your Wigs An Extension Of Your Personal Style? 

Oh definitely!

When I was a terrified teenager, I just wanted hair that would make me blend in – as much like my natural hair as possible.

When I was in my late teens, I was much more experimental and had some very fun hair.

Now I’m in my thirties, I have a number of styles and colours and I choose what I’m in the mood for and what goes with my outfit. I mostly wear synthetic wigs which require no styling so my perfect hair takes seconds, I love that. 

How Do You Feel About Not Wearing A Wig?  

I am very comfortable with it now but I wasn’t always.

When I lost enough hair to have to shave it again in my thirties, I didn’t wear wigs for the first year or so as my daughter was still a baby and I worried she might just pull it off when I was carrying her!

I wore scarves for a while but eventually I got comfortable with getting my patchy head out for all to see and I have only had positive experiences with people asking about it (or not asking about it).

I’m glad to have had a lot of positive experiences with children at my kids school and in the wider community about it too, it’s great that they will grow up knowing about alopecia and it won’t be unusual to them if they know someone who develops it.  Awareness really does make all the difference. 

What Reaction Do You Get If You Don’t Wear A Wig?  Modelling For Rebecca Violette UK

Honestly, people are kind and considerate on the whole.

I rarely get questions from strangers and when I do, I try to remember that they are just curious.

The hardest thing for me is when people assume I have cancer and I always find it awkward to have to correct them.

I also suspect that the more confident I have become in myself, the less I notice the reactions of others. I think I used to look for it, and see the worst, whereas now I am usually too busy with my children / work / life to pay much attention to what anyone else is doing!  I’m pretty sure they are too busy to pay much attention to me either! 

What Has Been The Most Challenging Aspect Of Your Alopecia?

My self esteem has been very hard to rebuild over the years.  This has been my greatest long term challenge.

There are some things that have surprised me too such as the impact of losing eyebrows and eyelashes.  I really lost definition in my face without eyebrows (mine are now microbladed).  Without the protection of eyelashes I get things in my eye more than other people.  They also seem to dry out more.  Don’t even get me started on a lack of nose hair in hayfever season! 

What Is Your Advice To Anyone Diagnosed With Alopecia?

Two things:

Push hard with your GP and dermatologist to get the treatment and support that is right for you. And don’t give up pushing for it.

Take a look at Alopecia UK and find a way to connect with other people who have alopecia.  You can do this either online or by joining a local group. The knowledge and experience from people who have alopecia and have been though similar experiences before you is invaluable. 

Please Tell Us About Alopecia UKAlopecia Areata Julie

Alopecia UK is a small charity in the UK which aims to raise awareness, provide support and encourage research into alopecia. 

There are local volunteer led support groups (for adults and children) across the UK, online support, annual conferences and trips, lots of helpful videos and factsheets, suppliers directories, and they help to fund research into alopecia – and a lot more besides! 

How can people help Alopecia UK?

Take a look at alopecia.org.uk and follow Alopecia UK on Facebook, Instagram or twitter. Like and share their campaigns – it’s the quickest and easiest way to raise awareness of the condition. 

They are a very small charity and any fundraising / donations are always very gratefully received – more details on the website of how you can help in this way. 

Like to read Julie’s blog then check it out here

 

Would You Like To Improve Your Body Confidence?

If you are suffering from low self-esteem or would like to improve your self-worth why not check out my tips to improve your body confidence today.

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Looking Good, Feeling Great Workshop For A-T Society

A-T Family Day Looking Good Feeling Great

I’d never heard of A-T until earlier this year when I’d been invited to take part in a workshop for the A-T Society.

The workshop was entitled ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great’ for a very special group of people.  It was part of the Society’s Annual Family Weekend.  It was humbling to be inspired by so many amazing people.

Colour Analysis For The A-T Society

What Is A-T?

Ataxia-Telangiectasia, (or A-T), is a rare and complex genetic disorder.  A-T gives rise to increasing physical disability, while deficiencies in the immune system can lead to frequent colds and infections and the gradual emergence of lung problems.  There is an increased risk of cancers, particularly leukaemia and lymphoma.

So who gets A-T?

A-T is caused by a defect, known as a ‘mutation’, on a particular gene, known as the ATM gene. A child born with mutations on both copies of the ATM gene cannot produce a protein, called the ATM protein, which is important in many processes in the body’s cells.   The parents are unknowing carriers.  When they both carry this mutation, the chances of a child developing the condition are 1 in 4.

 How does A-T manifest itself?

Ataxia means that a child’s co-ordination may be impaired.  Balance is affected and while they may be able to walk, they may often be wobbly and fall over.   Increasing impairment means that many end up in a wheelchair.

Their speech and swallowing may also be affected.  It can be hard to pronounce words and may struggle to eat.   Deterioration may continue until they are about 10 years old.

They may also develop other symptoms such as involuntary spasms. Postural issues and spinal problems are also common.  Then there is fatigue, suffered by many with A-T because the muscles are working so hard to compensate for co-ordination and balance problems.

There are different variants of A-T and sometimes people are not diagnosed until they are adults.

Looking Good, Feeling Great Workshop

Living with A-T has many challenges and the A-T Society does a fantastic job of supporting families and carers as well as those suffering from A-T.

So when I was asked if I would take part in the workshop I welcomed the opportunity to get involved.  The idea of the workshop was to offer those living with A-T the chance to have a pampering session, culminating in a photo shoot as individuals, not defined by their condition.

 

I was offering colour analysis, so that everyone taking part learnt the best colours for them.  Colour analysis has many benefits, not only does wearing  the right colours make you look healthy but it also means people look directly into your eyes when you are communicating with them.  Given how A-T impacts speech this is a massive help for those living with A-T.  Many of the girls taking part love shopping and so they really appreciated the handbag-sized swatches they could take with them for their shopping trips.

Each participant then had a chance to have their hair and make up done, before joining Frances the photographer. Frances had set up a studio area so that she could take photographs of everyone as the amazing awesome people that they are.

Looking Good, Feeling Great Workshop for A-T Society

As Saturday Approached

I don’t mind admitting that as the weekend drew closer I had a tight knot in my stomach.  It was fear of the unknown mixed with a nervous excitement of being part of something incredibly special.

But my worries were unfounded and instead I found the whole experience to be amazing.  It was great to have a small influence on someone’s life that will make a big difference to them.

As I worked with each of the participants I learned a little about their amazingly strong characters.  I started to understand how despite their frustrations and challenges they really know how to ‘get on with life’.  The stigmas they face from some people who simply don’t understand or are embarrassed.

One amazing woman is undertaking a Sky Dive later this year to raise money and more awareness for the charity.   Another lady was telling me about her love of swimming and visits to the gym.

One young man was really excited about his forthcoming trip to Silverstone for the British Grand Prix.   I learnt about special wheelchairs for dancing and trips to shopping centres.

There was a real upbeat energy in the room with lots of love and banter.  Most of those attending (apart from those recently diagnosed) attend every year. They have fun and as one woman told me ‘it’s my opportunity to ‘feel normal’.

The A-T Society

The A-T Society is clearly held in very high regard by those living with A-T along with their families and carers.  Not only does the Society offer support and practical advice, it tirelessly fundraises and commissions research.  It is completely funded by grants and donations.

If you would like to find out more then visit the A-T Society’s website.

 

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about eating disorders

About Eating Disorders: Do You Know The Symptoms?

Last week at a networking event I used my member spotlight to talk about Eating Disorders.  The response I received was overwhelmingly supportive. One attendee said that she had goose bumps listening to me speak.

about eating disorders

I speak from my heart, as someone who battled anorexia for over 20 years. As a result I am passionate about raising awareness of eating disorders.

It’s my belief that we need to keep improving our understanding about eating disorders.

The more we understand about these mental health conditions will help others. Both in terms of those who are suffering as well as their loved ones. By educating ourselves we make it easier to look out for others.

I feel very strongly that some professions need to have a greater awareness about eating disorders.  For example fitness instructors, as exercising to dangerous levels is symptomatic of an eating disorder, particularly anorexia.

But today I want to talk about a demographic not automatically associated with eating disorders, older women. There is still a misconception about eating disorders.  They are something that happens to adolescents or teenagers. They are a young person’s disease associated with puberty. Eating Disorders have no boundaries in terms of age, socio-economic group, race or gender.

About Eating Disorders And Older Women

It is difficult to assess how many women suffer from eating disorders from mid-life through to senior years. As, on average, people take up to 3 years to seek help.

A study in Australia in 2006 among women 60-70 years of age, 60% said they were dis-satisfied with their body. 4% met the criteria for an Eating Disorder diagnosis.

Women who are diagnosed with eating disorders as they get older, fall into one of three categories:

  1. Those who have secretly battled with eating issues for years, but have never been diagnosed or sought treatment.
  2. Women who were treated for an eating disorder as a young woman and the symptoms resurface
  3. Those who have not previously suffered from an eating disorder.

There can be many reasons why older women start to suffer or why an eating disorder resurfaces. I was 44 when my father died. He’d been my rock since a child and we had an incredibly close relationship. As I grieved I became conscious that I was slipping back into old patterns of behaviour. It took a lot of willpower to realize that wasn’t the solution.

Why Do Older Women Start To Suffer?

Let’s be clear eating disorders are not about food. They are about a loss of control in someone’s life. They manifest in the perception that by controlling food intake the sufferer regains control.

eating disorders are not about food

This was something that I took a long time to realize about myself. I thought for ages that it was about my desire to be the slimmest, the fittest and most desirable.

It was years after my recovery that I realized that I felt out of control in aspects of my life.   When I was 13 my mother was diagnosed with MS, then suffered a complete nervous breakdown. I felt out of control and unable to help her.

Catalysts for eating disorders are often several stress factors.  The stress leads to the sufferer feeling out of control:

  • Death of a parent
  • Parenting troubles
  • Divorce
  • Children leaving home
  • Menopause
  • Fear of aging
  • Financial difficulties
  • Career stagnation
  • Isolation and loneliness

Add to this Society’s perception of the desirable body shape.   How we admire and respect celebrities and public figures that look amazing despite their age. It’s a cocktail that has the ability to reap havoc.

So What Should I Look For?

Anyone who suffers from a compulsive or addictive disorder can be extremely good at disguising his or her behaviour. In my case, not even my husband knew the full extent of what I was doing to myself. He was not always aware of the extreme levels of exercise that I undertook.about eating disorders and exercise

For example, we were out with friends for the day and returned to their house for a late afternoon barbecue. I insisted on driving home to feed the cat before we started the barbecue. While I was there I put on my trainers and went for a run!

The ability to hide signs and symptoms is backed up by new statistics from a survey conducted by YouGov. The survey questioned UK adults’ knowledge when it comes to spotting the signs and symptoms of an eating disorder:

  • 34% were unable to name a correct sign or symptom
  • 23% listed physical signs only
  • 79% couldn’t list a psychological symptom

Signs and symptoms of eating disorders can be categorized into behavioural, psychological and physical signs.

There are several types of eating disorders and by nature of this the signs and symptoms will differ for each.

BEAT which is the leading UK charity on Eating Disorders has a detailed list by eating disorder type on its website.

 

BEAT Is Calling On The Government

Each year as part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week, BEAT focuses on an aspect of Eating disorders. The charity campaigns to raise greater awareness. This year the campaign is focused on early intervention and is called #whywait

On Tuesday 27th February, Parliament will be debating eating disorders and early intervention. The Charity is campaigning to get as many MPs as possible to attend.

Beat is asking you to contact your MP as your voice in Parliament to ask them to attend the debate.

By completing the form on Beat’s website, you will send an email to your MP asking them to attend.

The sooner someone gets the treatment they need, the more likely they are to make a full recovery.

Thanks for reading this post. If you feel brave enough to share your own experiences, then please feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

 

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clothing choices confidence

Clothing Choices: How To Have A Great Day

 

clothing choices confidence

I left the house today for a series of meetings and wanted to make an impact.

It was hot and I was going to be spending a lot of time in the car and wandering around.  So I chose a sleeveless sundress which wouldn’t crease when I got hot.   There’s nothing worse when you’re wilting in the heat to think that your clothes are dissolving into a heap too.  I also chose some distinctive sandals.

But there were deeper reasons why I decided on this particular outfit.  The last time I’d worn it had been to a fashion event in London and I’d received some great complements.  I’d worn it before at a networking event and several people had told me I looked lovely.

Complements make us feel good and give us confidence.  While basing our clothing choices purely on the opinions of others isn’t a great idea, there’s nothing wrong in having our own decisions about our wardrobe ratified.

It worked! Five minutes after I’d parked the car I was stopped by a lovely gentleman who told me what a beautiful dress I was wearing.  He went on to say how he loved to see people when they really made an effort to dress well. Result?  I had a very successful first meeting (not with the gentleman who had commented I hasten to add!).

My second meeting was also a great success and by the time I got to my third meeting of the day I was flying high as a kite (nothing to do with the quantity of caffeine ingested!).

Conversely do you find yourself resorting to well-worn comfort clothes when things aren’t going so well?  Our clothes can have such a big impact on us that it can distort our thoughts and judgements said Professor Karen J Pine.

The clothes we wear affect our behaviour, attitudes, mood, confidence, and how others respond to us.  Termed “Enclothed Cognition“ by Adam Galinsky and Hajo Adam.

clothing choices impact our behaviour

Let’s consider each of these elements in turn.

 

The Way We Behave

Take my example today.  I had just received a complement about my appearance, which reinforced my decision on my outfit, but more importantly made me feel fabulous.   The energy I exuded was positive and bubbly and helped to build the rapport quickly with the other party.

I’m not the only one testing this theory!  There have been more scientific studies have been carried out than my example today!

In one such study 50% of students taking a cognitive test were asked to wear a white coat. They were told that the coat belonged to a doctor. The students wearing the coat performed better in the tests than those who were not wearing the white coat.

We attach a symbolic meaning to our clothes. So using the doctors coats as an example. We associate doctors as:

  • Careful
  • Meticulous
  • Rigorous
  • Educated

 

Our Attitude

Today my outfit choice meant that I was feeling really positive.   I didn’t have to try hard I could simply be myself in meetings, feeling confident will automatically help us to relax.

Again this theory has been tested by psychologists.  In a study carried out at Harvard, this was tested by giving participants a pair of sunglasses.

Half of the group had been told they were wearing genuine designer sunglasses. The remaining members of the group were informed that their glasses were fake designer sunglasses.

The group was then given a competitive game as an exercise.  Those who were told they were counterfeit glasses were more prepared to cheat in a game that the group was assigned. They were also more suspicious of others!

Our Mood

How do heels make you feel? Most women feel more powerful when they are wearing heels, they act more confidently.  I certainly do although wearing heels was not even a consideration for  me running around between meetings in 27 Degrees!

So can our clothing choices have the opposite effect?

One woman I know has a ‘grumpy jumper’.   If she’s going through a low period she allows herself to put on the grumpy jumper and to allow herself to work through the emotions. When she is ready to face the world again the grumpy jumper gets consigned to the back of the drawer.

We can choose to dress for the way we feel when we get dressed. Alternatively we can dress for the way we want to feel.    I work from home a lot and my clothing choices around the house are pretty casual when I’m at my computer all day.  But when I come back from a meeting although I do get changed into jeans, shorts etc, I’ll usually leave my jewellery on.  It’s amazing how different this makes me feel.

clothing choices heels

Our Confidence

Who has heard of the Red Hat Society?   The idea originated from Sue Cooper in 1997.

Sue  bought herself a red fedora from a charity shop for $7.50 as a present to herself to celebrate her 50th birthday.

She immediately noticed how confident, liberated and playful she felt when she wore her red fedora. So Sue started to buy her friends a red hat for their birthdays. They added a purple outfit to their red hats and so the Red Hat Society was born.

With over a million members globally the Red Hat Society is a sisterhood. It’s a powerful social group which has helped to empower women. They spread their playful and positive approach to aging across the world.

A date for your diary – 25th April – The official Red Hat Society Day.

clothing choices red hat society

How Others Respond To Us

A study carried out at University of Hertfordshire, participants volunteered to have their photo taken in roughly the same body position.

The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their mood at the time they got dressed that morning.  After they had been photographed the research team pixelated out their faces from the images.

A second group were given the images and asked to determine the subject’s mood purely from the clothes they were wearing.

The study revealed a high level of accuracy in being able to determine the wearer’s mood by sampling looking at the clothing choices.

 

So how can we give ourselves a confidence boost every time we get dressed?

 

Know Your Colours

If we wear the right colours we look healthy and radiant. Other people are drawn towards us and want to engage with us.

They won’t necessarily know why they are drawn to looking directly into our eyes.

This can be really powerful if you’re meeting with someone and want to ensure their attention!

Conversely if we wear the wrong colours we can look tired or unwell. The colours may overwhelm us and people can be distracted by what we are wearing.

Have you ever been asked if you’re feeling okay, but until that point you’d been feeling fine?  What’s your reaction? Do you surreptitiously start feeling your forehead? Or do you make an excuse to disappear to the loo and poke your tongue in the mirror?

Well don’t – chances are that you’re simply wearing the wrong colours!

finding your style recipe

Understand What Suits You

Sadly most of us spend far too much time worrying about what we don’t love about our bodies.

80% of women are unhappy with their body image in the UK

87% of women opt out of an activity due to the way they feel about their body

These statistics are frankly frightening.  These findings are from the survey commissioned by Unilever as part of the Dove BeReal Campaign.

Wearing clothing that flatters your body is going to make you feel more confident. This applies to all of us, regardless of gender.

Style is a game of illusion. We can use styles, patterns, prints and textures to draw the eye in certain directions and change our shape. Conversely we can draw unwanted attention by wearing the wrong thing.

Take one very simple example. If you are a petite woman with an oversized handbag, this will have the effect of making you look even more petite.

Equally if you are a large scaled woman, and you carry a small clutch bag you will look bigger.

 

Clothing Choices Are Just About Colour and Style?

Not really we also need to think about our personality and how this is visible from our clothing choices.

With seconds to make that vital first impression, how much easier is it when someone ‘gets us’ immediately.

93% of communication when we first meet someone is non-verbal.

While our clothing isn’t the main factor in that non-verbal communication, it has more than a bit part to play.  So how do we express ourselves through our clothes?

By thinking about our clothing choices and what they say to the world.

Someone who is looking to appear calm and serene is hardly likely to rock up in a neon pink jumpsuit.   This is an extreme example but illustrates the point.

clothing choices reflect our personality

Discovering Your Style Recipe

When you’re thinking about the messages you want to communicate I’d recommend you start by doing this exercise. Keep a journal based on you, your wardrobe and your clothing choices.

The things you will be taking note of on a daily basis are:

  1. What Was I Wearing – remember how your clothing choices made you feel. Are there some pieces that are your ‘go to outfits’, in which you feel really confident?
  2. Do some items in your wardrobe attract complements when you wear them? They might not be clothes but could be accessories. Note these down too.
  3. Are there some colours that you wear that attract more complements or make you feel happier when you wear them?

Do this exercise for at least a couple of weeks.

When you’ve done this see what emerges. You will see some patterns emerging from your clothing choices. Whether it’s colours, shapes, fabric textures.

Take photos of the clothes that make you feel special and the ones you receive complements when wearing.

Look at the images – what words spring to mind? Become more mindful of the clothing choices that make you feel fabulous. This in itself will do wonders for your self-confidence!

I’d love to hear from you about your experiences of the way your wardrobe can help you to have a really fantastic day.

If you’d like to explore how I can help you to discover your style and make clothing choices that help you to feel fantastic, why not book a 30-minute call with me?

 

 

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Off The Shoulder Top

How To Embrace The Look: Off The Shoulder Tops

Off the shoulder tops are a trend that is showing no sign of going away.   A really big trend that started to emerge in 2014/15 and has just got bigger and stronger for 2017.

While I’m not into following trends for the sake of it, fashion does to some extent govern buyers choices.  Therefore it’s useful to look at what’s available to buy and think about how to wear it.

Nordstrom Off The Shoulder Top

Nordstrom Off The Shoulder Top

 

A hint of hedonistic summer fun and a slightly hippie vibe is one picture that off the shoulder tops conjure up.  They suggest festivals or summer holidays with sun-kissed shoulders!   Off the shoulder tops can be a great way to show off some skin, without feeling over-exposed.

However, despite reading a few blog posts suggesting this style is for everyone I am yet to be convinced and this week’s post gives the reasons why.

I’m also going to give you a quick trip round the shops and some styling ideas for off the shoulder tops.

 

Top Tips For Off The Shoulder Tops

strapless bra house of fraser

House of Fraser – Ultimo

Strapless Bra

You need to feel comfortable wearing a strapless bra. For women with large bust wearing a strapless bra is simply not comfortable. Equally women with a very small bust may struggle to find a strapless bra that works.   One option is to look at a bra with clear straps but personally I’m not convinced this looks good!

Skin Tone

Good skin tone is helpful self-confidence is even better! If your shoulders and neck area are toned then an off the shoulder top will look great. But if you’re self-conscious about your neck and décolletage then off the shoulder styles are not for you!

Keeping Your Cool

If you do feel comfortable wearing sleeveless tops or showing off your upper arms then off the shoulder tops are a fabulous option for warmer weather.  They will help you to feel cool as your shoulders are exposed and avoid you feeling self-conscious about your arms.

Go Cold Shoulder

Coast Cold Shoulder Top

Coast Cold Shoulder Top

If off the shoulder tops are not comfortable, because you can’t find a strapless bra that feels good or you’re too self-conscious, why not consider cold shoulder?   Cold-shoulder tops, depending on the style, will allow you to wear a bra with straps.   They are also not as revealing as an off-the-shoulder top.

Stop Your Top From Moving

So how do you keep an off the shoulder top in place?   Off the shoulder tops are great for standing around and not using your arms! But do something with your arms and the top rides up around your ears. Not a good look! This tip with hair ties is a tried and tested method.

 

So Are Off The Shoulder Tops Just For A Medium Sized Bust?

Oasis Off The Shoulder Top

Oasis Off The Shoulder Top

No, providing you are comfortable that your bust is supported and that you have the confidence to wear an off the shoulder top, just bear in mind these basic points:

If you have a large bust

An off the shoulder top with added ruffles really isn’t going to be a great look. This may be stating the obvious but I make no apologies for that. Instead look for off the shoulder tops that flatter your lovely curves with more shape. Alternatively cold shoulder tops are a good option.

If you have a small bust

More detail around the top will look good. Detail will add volume to your top half. It will also balance your shape, if you have larger hips.   If your shoulders are narrow also look for puffed sleeves, as these will broaden your top half. Just be careful if you are petite that the details around the neck are not so big, as to overwhelm your frame.

Can You Wear Off The Shoulder Tops For Everyday Wear?

If you want to wear off-the-shoulder tops they can work for most occasions.   It’s a case of pairing them with the right clothes to complete an outfit and following a few basic styling principles.

At the end of the day, though, it’s still down to your confidence and if off the shoulder tops make you feel fabulous.

Off The Shoulder Top - Office

Office Suggestion – Buying Guide Below

For The Office

Not recommended if you work in a bank or a professional office. If you are going to feel remotely self-conscious wearing an off the shoulder top in the work place simply don’t do it!

However, if you are a in a relaxed office environment then off the shoulder is fine, unless you have an HR policy stating differently.

My recommendation for styling an off the shoulder top in a work environment would be to pair with tailored skirt or trousers and smart footwear.

Looks For Weekends

Off the shoulder tops look fabulous with jeans.

If you are wearing a full off the shoulder top then this will look best with skinny jeans. They give jeans an instant glamorous look. Add a pair of ankle boots or fun sneakers and this is a great look.

An off the shoulder top can also look amazing with an A line or full skirt to give it a real vintage rockabilly look!

Team with a straight maxi skirt for the ultimate festival or holiday vibe.

Off The Shoulder Weekend Look

Weekend Look – Buying Guide Below

Evening And Occasions

Wearing a plain off the shoulder top with the same colour trousers will create a jumpsuit effect. Try this look for a summer party.

For a glamorous look wear an off the shoulder top with culottes or ankle grazers and heels.

Palazzo trousers and an off the shoulder top is a really relaxed look for a summer evening.

The best way to create a really glamorous look for an off the shoulder top for the evening is to wear a statement necklace to really finish off the look.

Finally

I’d love to hear from you.

If you like to wear off the shoulder looks, what styles and outfit combinations do you go for?

Do you prefer cold shoulder tops? If so what’s your best look?

Do you dare to bare your shoulders this summer?

 

Buying Guide

Office Suggestion
Off The Shoulder Top – Nordstrom  , Culottes – Warehouse Shoes – Karen Millen , Handbag – Karen Millen Necklace –  Nordstrom
Weekend Look
Off The Shoulder Top – Mint Velvet, Jeggings – River Island, Ankle Boots – Elia BBag – Oasis   Necklace – John Lewis 

 

 

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large bust styling tips

How To Embrace And Love Your Large Bust

This week’s post looks at how to embrace your large bust and how to dress to love your curves!

large bust wardrobe malfunction

A large bust can create a number of problems. Not least of all a desire to hide it away. Women with a large bust often suffer from;

  1. Unwanted attention, from men who are fascinated by a large bust;
  2. Not being taken seriously by others – particularly in the workplace
  3. The potential for wardrobe malfunctions
  4. Many women with a large bust suffer from back pain
  5. Women with a large bust sometimes find it difficult to lie on their back.

So how do you get comfortable with a large bust, not just physically but also in terms of styling it up?

large bust styling tips

A Good Fitting Bra

It goes without saying (or at least I hope it does) with a large bust you must wear a well-fitted bra.
It’s very important that you renew your bras regularly. Don’t just keep hanging on to a bra because it’s comfortable. Chances are that the more comfortable it feels the less support it’s providing.

This does not just apply to women with a large bust but I always recommend getting your bra fitting checked every time you buy a new one. Different styles, brands and your body all change. That’s a lot of variables to consider in terms of the fit.

For example I took a bra back recently that I’d only bought two weeks ago

I might have felt awkward had I not known that you can fluctuate bra sizes. This can be due to the a number of factors from the stage of your menstrual cycle to the temperature in the changing room

Large Bust Style Tips

Now that’s where the general advice for women with a large bust stops! Why? A large bust is not the only thing that defines your clothing choices. While it may seem like it at times! You need to primarily consider your body shape, scale and proportion. With these factors in mind you then need to consider your large bust.

I will share with you some key styling tips for women with a large bust. But I will point out, where applicable, the differences for body shape and height. If you are not sure which body shape you are check out my guide to determining your shape.

dress for a large bust marisota-jd-williams

Marisota – wrap over dress with V-neck

Dresses

If you have a large bust, you probably struggle to find a dress that fits? When you do find one to fit your bust, it’s likely to be too big everywhere else.

But hopefully I can show you that it’s not all gloom and doom. The first thing to consider is that you want to show off your lovely curves and so you do not want to hide in a big voluminous shapeless tent.

You want to consider stretchy fabrics that will flatter your figure and enhance your shape.

If you are an apple body shape and carry weight around your tummy then look for A line styles that fall from the bust line but have shape.

An hourglass body shape look for styles that will flatter and show off your curves. If you are an inverted triangle body shape, you want to create curves. For both body shapes a wrap dress is perfect.

With a V-neck and an asymmetric style this will show off your large bust and perfectly enhance your curves. You can also add a belt to emphasize your waist.

If you are comfortable wearing a one-shoulder dress this will look fabulous with a large bust. The asymmetric neckline will flatter your curves. However, you need to be comfortable that you have a strapless bra that will give you the support.

The most flattering sleeve length regardless of your body shape is three quarter length. Avoid sleeves that end in line with your bust as this will simply make you look broader.

Jackets and Coats

coat for large breasts curvissa-coat

Curvissa – single breasted coat

Keep lapels narrow on jackets.

You want to flatter your silhouette and show off your shape, but not add width. Single-breasted jackets are a good option with a deep v. neck.

Perhaps you find that a jacket that fits on your bust may be too big everywhere else? If so, choose styles that can be worn open, but still offer some shape.

For example an edge-to-edge shape jacket will create vertical lines to elongate your shape.

Avoid anything that has no shape, or is a chunky fabric, this will simply make you look much bigger.

In terms of jacket length, this will depend on your body shape.

Jackets should not end on the widest part of your body. Equally you don’t want a jacket that is too cropped and ends just below your bust. It will simply make it look larger!

For coats a similar principle applies. You want shape – cocoon or blanket coats are simply not for you. You want some structure. If you are an apple shape then look for the structure to come from just above the tummy. If you are an hourglass, you want coats with a belt to emphasize your waist. For an inverted triangle look for coats that have a belt to create a waist.

If you are petite then consider coats that end above the knee line.   If you are taller then wearing a coat with a hemline below the knee will elongate your shape.

 Tops

blouse for large breasts bounteousV-Necks are your best friends and will enhance a large bust.  V-necks will elongate your body and draw the eye upwards. A deep curve will also look good.

Figure hugging wrap-over tops are a great option and will flatter your shape if you have a large bust.  If the V-neck is a bit deep try wearing a cami top underneath.

Avoid anything with details around the neckline – ruffles, bows and cowl necks are not great looks for anyone with a large bust. Avoid breast pockets. These all add unnecessary bulk to your large bust.

I would not advise wearing a turtleneck. It simply makes your large bust look even bigger because of the expanse of fabric from your chest to your neckline.

The exception is to wear a turtleneck with a scarf or necklace, One potential danger of wearing a scarf, is that you get too hot with the turtleneck and remove your scarf.

If you have a large bust then blouses in a traditional shirt style are a real challenge and represent a serious danger of a wardrobe malfunction. Gaping or worse still a button coming undone will just mean total embarrassment.

One option is to invest in a handmade shirt, designed for a large bust. These are not a cheap option but if you want a tailored look for special occasions this may be an option.

Alternatively if you have a smaller frame with a large bust, check out my link below to Bounteous, as an option.

Choose fabrics that will show off your curves and avoid those that are too light and will create volume.

 

Accessories

Jewellery

You can also add jewellery to draw the eye upwards to your face, but avoid long pendant necklaces that sit in your cleavage and require fishing out! Also avoid big chunky necklaces, which lie on top of your bust.

You want to choose necklaces that finish above your bust line and add detail.

You don’t want anything that is too delicate. This will simply make your large bust look bigger as the necklace will look smaller. A large pendant from a short chain is a fabulous look.

 

Belts

Depending on your body shape, adding a belt may help to draw attention to your waist and away from your large bust.

If you have an inverted triangle body shape, a belt will help define your curves. Or if you are a curvy hourglass body a belt will help to further define your curves.

But if you are petite (regardless of body shape) avoid a belt in a contrasting colour as this will simply add a horizontal line and make you look shorter.

 

Handbagsbags for large bust zulily-handbag

If you have a large bust then avoid a handbag that sits on your shoulder and ends in line with your bust.

This will simply create width at your widest point. Instead look for will simply create more bulk at your widest point. Instead look for bags that end at your waist.

You will probably find cross body bags uncomfortable, but even if they do work for you they are not going to look great with a large bust.

 

Shopping Guide

Bras

Brands to consider for large busts are: Bravissimo Elomi Royce

Blouses

Handmade tailored blouses Cast

For a petite frame Bounteous

All Items

It’s also worth checking out a site called Zulily.

Zulily caters for all sizes, menswear and children. It is an American site which features up and coming designers.

The stock is heavily discounted (up to 70% off) and is only available for only three days.

Items ship from America, but they handle the import so you just receive items as a UK delivery. If you need to return goods you return to a UK address.

The lead-time is the only drawback, but from my experience the wait has been worth it.

Conclusion

Embrace your gorgeous curves.   You are beautiful and you will draw attention if you have a large bust, so make sure you’re making the most of your beautiful body!  If you have any shopping suggestions then please share them in the comments below.

 

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