We’re three months into a new decade, we’ve seen the start of World War III, are currently facing off against a global virus and we’re now minus two prominent royal figures. It’s been a strange start to the year and one that no one saw coming…but today is International Women’s Day. A day where women across the world can feel celebrated, appreciated and acknowledged proudly by each other and their fellow members of society.
With this in mind, I wanted to take a look at my own achievements as a woman. Looking back over the past 10 years, I’m going to be sharing some of the successes that I’ve accomplished, from the personal to the professional, and exploring the paths that led me there. It’s not always easy for women to talk about their own goals, achievements and wins, and even writing this now I feel a sense of immodesty in my bragging. But perhaps that’s exactly why we need to keep having these discussions, sharing our stories and acknowledging our own jobs done well.
1. Graduating university with a degree in Culture, Film and Media
Although in 2020, this might not seem like a big achievement as almost every person I know attended or has graduated from university. It’s almost something that’s taken for granted, that graduating is a small and simple task to complete. But for most of us, earning that degree cost us a huge amount of stress, anxiety and seriously hard work and I’m so proud that I was able to graduate with all of my friends. Looking back on all of the obstacles I faced in both my academic life and my personal life, from heartbreak to mental health problems, finding the time to sit down and finish my dissertation was a massive strain for me. But I managed to pull it off. In my third year of university, I was working a part-time job, writing my blog, doing a part-time internship and trying to get through my course. Multitasking became a necessity to handle it all. Luckily I managed to, and I accepted my degree on stage with shaky hands and a nervous grin as I tried not to trip over my gown. We should still be celebrating graduations as richly as they deserve and I will happily award myself this particular success.
2. Starting my blog
In my first year of university, I sat on my bed in my halls, trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Did I want to work with dogs? Should I go into film? Was I talented enough to become a writer, or could I try to get into the fashion industry instead? After sending off about 100 internship requests to various companies in multiple fields, I was eventually prompted to find my own work experience by writing a blog to highlight some of my skills. So over the course of 48 hours, I set up my very first blog and published my first post. It wasn’t well written or political or even interesting, but I had started something that would continually inspire me for the next 6 years of my life. My blog eventually moved from Blogspot to WordPress, and as you can tell, I’m still writing the posts I love to this day. I’m grateful to myself for pushing myself to keep writing, and my blog has provided me with so much comfort and joy over the years. It’s gotten me invitations to events, made for a great addition to my CV, kept me busy on rainy Sundays and kept me working when I felt like I had nowhere else to go.
3. Speaking out about my mental health
Some people might find my blog and my website a little confusing. I’ve formed an online identity based on freelancing and having bad mental health, two topics that rarely crossover in professional spaces. In some cases, they even contradict one another and there are definitely times when I worry about sharing too much on my platform. But then I look back on everything I’ve done and the person I’ve become since I started opening up about my anxiety. I got to speak on the Metro Mentally Yours Podcast. I got to guest write for mental health publications. I had an article written about my accomplishments in getting over anxiety published in the Nottingham Post. I’ve received messages from people sharing their own mental health stories with me and asking me for my advice on how to start therapy, which CBT strategy they should use and how to start healing from personal trauma. My voice is one of the thousands breaking down the stigma of mental health, mental illness and emotional disorders. I am using the experiences I have had to teach others, help other sufferers and continue conversations about how to make the world better for people just like me. That’s an accomplishment that I will always be proud of.
4. Starting private therapy
I am by no means rich. But over the past 6 months, I’ve been lucky enough to earn the right amount of money to afford private therapy in my city. It’s in the lowest bracket I could find, but I would happily pay every penny I have to continue growing and healing thanks to my therapy. But whilst my therapist is fantastic, I know that my efforts and my hard work have played an even bigger role in reforming my thoughts. From learning how to open up and share my deepest worries with a total stranger to creating the right headspace to work on myself even out of the therapist’s office, it’s a difficult process and I am so proud of my progress. Thanks to starting therapy, I have challenged my unhelpful thoughts, I’ve had unpleasant conversations with people I never thought I would and I’ve become a much better person because of it. I work to help pay for a service that is healing my mind and if it means I have to work a couple of late nights or push myself even harder for that monthly invoice, I will do it gladly.
5. Sharing my side hustle with the world
Over the past few months, I’ve been building up a small but incredibly meaningful business all by myself. Working from an idea I had one cold wintery day, I put a plan into action and have been pushing myself to meet my deadlines every single week. I wanted to create beautiful things that people would want to buy, I wanted to be in charge of shipping and sales, I wanted to handle customer feedback and use the marketing skills I have to competently share the word about my online store. This has meant spending hours on end sanding lumps of clay into delicate earrings, getting my fingers glued together with varnish, covering my favourite jeans in splatters of paint and almost breaking my back bending over my designs in every spare minute. It’s hard work but it’s also work I love, and it’s something I want to keep getting better at as the business grows. Check it out here!
6. Coming to terms with losing my job
In the same breath, as I talk about my anxiety, I also talk about losing my job. For the longest time, I was so scared to put it out there into the world, in case people thought badly of me or that it stopped clients from working with me. But it hasn’t. Now, over 18 months later, I’m learning to come to terms with it. I’ve gotten on with my life and I’m reaching a perspective where I can see not only the mistakes I’ve made but the ones the company did too in how I was handled. I’ve been able to look retrospectively at my employment there and it’s helped me to become more aware of toxic work environments, how to manage people empathetically and how to balance mental health with a productive working day. I’m pulling apart the pieces of employment that I enjoyed about it and I’m using them to push my business forward and succeed in my own way. Although there are some days where I feel the triggers of it, even flashbacks to that humiliating day, I can look past them and see myself for who I am today.
7. Finding love.
I didn’t grow up in a conventional household. I didn’t have two parents who loved each other and I didn’t have a big warm happy family around me every day. My weeks were divided by two houses, sometimes each as chaotic as the other, and I was witness to some of the most unhealthy relationship dynamics at a very early age. Finding a person who actually treats me nicely and is my best friend and who wants to date me…that’s a pretty huge achievement for me. But the best part of this win is understanding that I am entirely independent from my past. That I am not held back by my past traumas, that I am not my parents. I am me and my relationship is guided by who I am now. It’s happy and fun and exciting and such a contrast to the environment I grew up in, and I did that.
8. Moving into my own flat
Following on from the themes of independence in this list, I have to mention finding and renting my very first flat. After a bad break up, I needed a place to live by myself and had struggled for months before eventually stumbling upon the beautiful space I live in now. I took one look at the high beamed ceilings, iron balcony and airy skylights and signed the application form before even leaving the kitchen. I loved it and I still love it to this day. Living alone was something I’d always wanted to do, even before I started university and I was finally getting the chance to do that. I was cooking the food I liked, I could decorate it to my own tastes and I could do whatever I wanted. As a huge admin nerd, I loved setting up the wifi and organising the bills and that feeling of getting my keys for the very first time is one I’ll never forget.
9. Travelling around the world
When I was younger, travel was one of my biggest fears. My anxiety had snowballed into genuine terror every time I had to leave the house and travelling anywhere beyond the outskirts of my town was a nightmare. With that kind of intense fear, my mental thought patterns began to form, teaching me that travel was bad, that I couldn’t do it or that I would always have panic attacks if I ever left my comfort zone. Although there are still some anxieties around travel that I’m working on, over the past few years I’ve been able to go to so many places and take so many journeys – ones I never thought I would be able to do. From Dusseldorf to Brussels, from Belfast to Amsterdam – these may seem small to the adventurous types, but for me, these are amazing achievements. I got on a plane by myself, booked the tickets and flew. I went to Amsterdam with my boyfriend and had the most fantastic time. I spent a night in London alone and survived! Now all I can think about is where I want to go next!
10. Setting up my own business
In my last job, I was told that I wasn’t suited to freelancing. Today, I am proving them wrong. Every single aspect of my business is one I have built from the ground up – designing my website from scratch, pouring my heart into proposals and pushing myself daily to keeping working on even the most difficult of tasks. I pay my own taxes, I put money into my pension fund, I go to meetings, I work from home, I plan my own schedule and I work for myself. It might not be a perfect life, but I love it so much. Sometimes I get the chance to talk about my work and my achievements, and it just helps to remind me that I got here by myself, and I’ve built the life I love. I worked for the money to live in this beautiful flat. I worked to get this client. I put the hours in to allow myself to work from home, or from a coffee shop, or from a hotel in a different city, and I’m proud of that. My work ethic is better than it ever has been and I can’t wait to see where it goes next. Watch this space!
What are your top ten achievements?