Finding my voice…

One of my biggest achievements (and challenges) in the past year has to be starting to find my voice. I didn’t think it was possible to have my own thoughts and opinions let alone be able to voice these out loud. It is certainly still a work in progress but if I were to picture myself a year ago, I wouldn’t recognise me.

I didn’t even know what I liked or disliked until not that long ago and I had become petrified of speaking up, instead hoping I wouldn’t be asked anything or would not have to choose anything. So being forced to stay in and not mix during lockdown was fairly comfortable for me as it took all of these kinds of decisions out of my hands. However, when the lockdown restrictions started to ease, I had to start stepping outside of my comfort zone. I remember hoping that everyone on my course would vote to keep our classes online rather than face to face but the majority voted to go back into college. We were given a choice to join remotely but I knew that that would put me at a disadvantage and so I had to take a deep breath and go in and meet people face to face.

It took a while for me to start coming out of my shell and it is very easy to hide behind my girls by using them as an excuse not to socialise e.g., by not going for a drink after classes because I have to get back even though they are already in bed. I think what really broke the ice for me was when I spoke up for the first time and explained why I had been so quiet.

That was definitely the best thing I have done this year and it seems to have given me more confidence and taken some of my barriers down with my fellow course students and in general. I worked up the courage to ask someone if they wanted to meet up for a drink and we had a great time including breaking my pornstar martini virginity! (I didn’t even know what one was!) Since then I have been for drinks after college, spoken to everyone on the course socially, shared a lot about myself and even told them that I have some child-free time in the summer and that it would be good to meet up. I have now been put in charge of arranging a night out – if I have an alcoholic drink or two, they will definitely see my hidden side that they have only heard about so far!!!

I used to lose sleep over the smallest things, I would always put things off, avoid doing things and make things bigger than they were. Now don’t get me wrong, I still do these things sometimes as it is hard to break a habit of a lifetime, but I am getting there, and it feels good.

I have spoken up at college when we have not been provided with information or had things clarified, I have chased things up, made enquiries, taken risks, decided not to worry about things that are out of my control, and I have started to believe in myself rather than always worrying that I am doing something wrong.

I would always hope that people feel able to ask for help yet I am pretty rubbish when it comes to this, and I suppose to some extent see myself as a failure by asking for help. I put a lot of pressure on myself to be 100% strong and independent and that less than that is not good enough. (I do not know where that comes from).

This is probably why when I first escaped from my abusive relationship and money was very tight instead of asking for help, I used to just eat any leftovers from my girls. I didn’t even feel able to go to the local food bank as I knew there were people worse off than myself. However, with my eldest daughter starting school in September and having to buy her school uniform and shoes etc, when I saw a charity offering for people to apply for second-hand uniform, I thought that I would apply. I didn’t expect to hear anything, and I didn’t ask for everything but a few days ago there was a knock at the door and there was a delivery of school uniform items. I was very touched, and it brought a tear to my eye.

Part of me is embarrassed/ashamed to not be able to dash off and buy everything new and order cardigans with the school logo on but equally the items that have been donated are like new and some even have the labels on. I feel lucky to have been given this donation and so the first thing I did was send them a message to let them know how grateful I was.

There are a few things going on this week that may require me to speak up…so I am working up the courage! However, I have faith in myself, after all, why should I be anxious about asking questions or sticking up for myself?!

Lockdown part 3…. Week 18

1 week to go until the majority of lockdown restrictions are eased! This week marked the announcement of foreign travel rules with the new traffic light system which will also begin on the 17th May alongside the return to life as normal as it is likely to be for a while.

There has been a lot of confusion and frustration over foreign travel, and I don’t feel it’s much clearer after the recent government announcement. I know some people are desperate to travel and may not care about the potential risk of bringing new variants of Covid into the country but then there are others (like myself) who would rather the government do everything within its power to keep new variants out.

As it stands the government have decided which countries are on each of the green, amber, and red lists and have said that these lists will be reviewed every few weeks. This seems to make sense as we know how quickly things can change when it comes to the spread of Covid, however I also appreciate that this doesn’t help people when it comes to planning a holiday and may have left people in limbo. Some people may have booked holidays or decide to book a holiday in a country on an amber or red list with the hope that it will be moved to the green list in time but with a lot of companies not being able to provide refunds unless holidays are cancelled as well as people having to book time off work, pay for tests etc it seems more hassle than it’s worth right now.

We have been told this week that anyone coming from a green list country needs a negative pre-departure Covid test and they will also have to take a PCR test on day two after their arrival. (I am not quite sure what would happen if this were positive once they’ve arrived on holiday!) Isolation is not required for people returning from green list countries.

If people decide to travel to an amber list country, they also need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two AND day eight. They then have to isolate at home for 10 days on their return, however, they can use the test-to-release system on day five and if they have a negative test result, they can end their quarantine immediately.

Finally, people visiting red list countries need a negative pre-departure Covid test, have a PCR test on day two and day eight and stay in a hotel for managed quarantine for 10 days which cannot be cut short.

The government have said that no one should travel to amber and red countries for leisure, but I can’t see the majority of people following this advice. However, unless the government allow people to purchase PCR tests anywhere instead of through limited and expensive companies then this will put some people off as it will significantly add to the cost of a holiday.

The first countries to be added to the green list are: – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, Israel, Jerusalem, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, Portugal, including the Azores and Madeira.

However, I had to laugh because I have no idea why the government has produced this list as only Portugal and Gibraltar will allow British tourists to travel there without quarantine or vaccination requirement and Iceland and Israel will only allow entry if people have had their vaccinations. So really the green list consists of four countries!

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I decided to set myself a challenge this week which took me way out of my comfort zone. I am aware that I don’t like to speak in front of others and so I am the quiet one on my counselling course when it comes to whole class work. There are people who are happy to take centre stage, so this has made it easier for me to take a step back, but I realised that I didn’t want people on my course to think that I didn’t want to contribute or judge me for not speaking up often. I also thought how much more difficult I would find standing up in front of them and talking about myself for 10 minutes if I didn’t take the opportunity to voluntarily speak up beforehand.

So, I thought about what I wanted to say and built up the strength and courage to do this. I am proud that I did speak up and that I was brave enough to share with the group how I didn’t value my voice so why would others and that this had stemmed from my abusive ex where I had no voice or say in my life. I couldn’t look at anyone as I spoke and felt myself getting teary (which isn’t what I wanted).

When I finished speaking, I was taken aback by the response I received from the group – I wasn’t the only one with shiny eyes. One person told me it was the most touching thing they had experienced; I was told how brave I had been, how people like hearing my voice and when I do speak up how valuable my contributions are and how touched people were. My tutor asked me to say what I needed afterwards, and I said that I needed a hug but certainly didn’t expect one given the restrictions but ended up getting a group hug! I was surprised how much it took out of me, but I am pleased I did.

I have always been a private person but know that sometimes it’s important to share and to take yourself out of your comfort zone. I’ve been left realising that I need to have more belief in myself as well as what others say about me without almost shrugging it off (not in a nasty way as I was very touched by the comments, but I struggle to take compliments).

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Finally, this week me and my girls re-designed our front window with a summer theme. We may be the only house that is still decorating our window, but I have received such positive comments about how much people love to see our window and how much children enjoy walking past our house so of course it had to be done!

131 Confidence Quotes To Help You Believe In Yourself