Is social media guilt destroying your mental peace?

Is social media guilt destroying your mental peace?

If people showed up on your doorstep whenever they thought of you, would you feel obligated to open the door to them? Or would you politely ask them to come back later? What if there were dozens of people doing this, day in, day out?

You’d stop answering the door unless you had the energy, right? You wouldn’t rush to the door all day, just because you heard the doorbell.

So why do we feel like the existence of a messaging system on social media somehow means we must make ourselves available to it? Who asked us whether we WANTED to be available? I don’t remember ever signing up to being emotionally and mentally available just because I enjoyed sharing a stupid cat video! Yes, I want to stay connected with your existence through a friend request, Jane, but no, I don’t want to have to cater to your unaddressed emotional issues. Yes, I want to be in touch with a lot of you wonderful people — but not at the cost of my mental peace.

We must stop accepting that an *existence* of a messaging system somehow means an obligation to cater to the unwritten rules that we have created as a community. Yes, every space has its culture, but not adhering to internet culture only makes you lame in the eyes of people with the emotional intelligence of a leftover sandwich, so what are you really losing out on?

I write this today because Facebook keeps reminding me that I’ve been promising a message catch-up SINCE 2010 and I’m quite honestly pretty tired of carrying a burden of guilt that isn’t necessary. As a result, I’ve been less of a friend to the people I care about — lumping their correspondence in with the guilt-inducing pile of steadily growing messages by people who feel entitled to my attention and energy.

In my entire friendship history, my most genuine friends loved me both when I could and when I couldn’t reply. And my closest friends? They loved me when I didn’t *want* to.

Yes. That is an option. Not wanting to open the door because you quite frankly can’t be arsed to communicate with another human being today — that is an option that you have the right to use. No is a full sentence, and we must stop adding reasons and excuses and lies and softeners in order to avoid upsetting others. We must stop carrying guilt that people do not deserve. Those who actually matter don’t mind, and vice versa — so here it is: your permission slip.

Have you ever considered only checking social media messages once a week? Once a month? Go ahead and do that. Have you considered only replying to the people that you feel good about, and literally not opening the door to people you don’t want in your home? Makes sense. Is your mental health fragile, and would you prefer to create a cocoon that allows you to be at your fullest when you do message people? THIS IS YOUR RIGHT.

“But what about….????”

Work-related conversations that are worth your time will use Google or ask for your email address, and close friends will have your number. Now what?

Of course I’m aware that you are part of society — I’m not suggesting you turn into an awful person who is rude to everyone. I’d like to trust that anyone who has actually read this far and enjoys my content, is also someone who has self-awareness and morals! Of course it’s important to consider other people’s feelings. But in this online world where we are suddenly “connected” to someone with one click, how many people can we afford to consider before we completely lose ourselves in the process?

I say this as the person who feels GUILTY for blocking and muting persistent people who have proven themselves self-absorbed and ingenuine — and if I’m doing it, then I know you might be, too. If I, Ms Piscean Softie of Softeria, can express this, see this as the gust of wind that pushes you to choose yourself over the pressures of social media.

Every message sent out of obligation is taking away from the activities and people that make you feel seen and safe. Every hour that goes to absorption of the uninvited is one less hour of anything you want to invite more of into your life. Your home is sacred — and since the only real home you have is the one that lets you look at the world — so let’s treat it that way.

You didn’t sign up for a pager with 24h availability, so why live like you did?

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I stopped listening to industry experts – and it was the best thing I ever did

I stopped listening to industry experts – and it was the best thing I ever did

Your industry will tell you that you must do things in a certain way.

You must realise that doing things “according to standard” will lead to standard results. I will share some of my wins over the last 10 years of using a camera — not to show off, but to show you what is POSSIBLE. Sometimes, the only thing in the way of your wildest dreams is your own awareness of what is possible.

The glamour portrait industry told me that I must charge a tiny session fee of between $100 and $250 — and then have a sales session that could bring in $5000 on average. Because apparently people can’t see the value of photos until they see themselves in them.

… I don’t do session fees, I don’t charge per photo, and I sure as hell don’t insult the empathy and intelligence of my clients by assuming they won’t trust me to deliver incredible timelessness. My income shouldn’t depend on me being a good saleswoman or having excellent prints displayed in front of them — it should depend on the quality of my work. I have a flat rate, and if someone doesn’t like that they can find a photographer they do like. 🙂

The UK photo industry told me that I need to take down my US-rates and fit in with the £100–300 day rate that so many of my peers here seem to charge. There’s also a burn-out evoking trend here to give dozens of photos without charging extra.

… I no longer take on clients for less than £1100, and at that rate I give a REALLY limited amount of images (while my bigger packages include no image limit). I mean… it took me working my ass off, years of feeling like a failure, multiple moments of wanting to give up (in more ways than one), and a lot of trying and failing…. so that’s also something to keep in mind before you glamourise or envy my position.

The general business industry tells me that I must charge according to the market in my area.

… I don’t suddenly go down in quality because I happened to move to a place where people value photography less. I charge the same rate in any location, don’t feel guilty for it (unless portraiture was suddenly at the bottom — along with Lamborghinis and trips to Bali — on the hierarchy of needs??). I also don’t stick to borders I am in — if a client in Tokyo wants me to come over, why do we limit ourselves to thinking that we must stay within the pond we call “home”? I must stress over and over: if you provide a service that 1) has a flavour dependent on who you are, 2) is not a necessity, and 3) is all about quality: you deserve to charge whatever will allow you to be your BEST for your clients. Anything less than that is actually a disservice to your audience and the world in the long run.

The marketing industry told me that I need to make content every single day “even when I don’t feel like it”, that SEO is important, that I must manipulate others by reminding of their “pain points”, and post pictures of myself in Facebook groups with “value” that are pretending not to be an invitation to check out my profile (c’mon guys, let’s be real here).

… I don’t know about you, but I like clients who are emotionally intelligent. Which means they’d see through my group posts, my forced content, and manipulation from a mile away. Don’t get me wrong… I’ve tried that format. I practiced it for a bit. I was left feeling grossed out with my lack of authenticity, and I stopped. Most of my clients show up because they love my expression, who I am, and what I bring to the table SIMPLY BY BEING MYSELF. I don’t post unless I feel like it. I don’t express unless it’s real. It’s a slower form of growth, but all my clients become my friends, and are people I genuinely admire.

The coaching industry told me that I was not enough for just my personal expression — I needed to express how I was going to change a person’s life. I spent so much of my career trying to CONVINCE people my work would be transformative.

… My current sales page is short and to the point. If my work doesn’t give you a visceral reaction and instantly pull you towards me, then we are probably not a great fit — and that says nothing about you OR me. There is space for everyone in every industry — which automatically means that you cannot be the right fit for everyone. Ma$e was right: Breathe, stretch, shake, let it go.

I remember constantly being told not to use certain Photoshop tools because it destroys pixels and is technically amateur.

…I dodge and burn some pixels until they’re utterly destroyed — and have been known to occasionally go wild with the paintbrush and disrespectfully paint some pink into a sky that originally was completely blue, or — gasp — even add a little bit of paint to hair to shape lighting in a way that suits me. Not ONE client has demanded a refund because of the Photoshop tools I so wrongly use.
Note: I apologise to professional retouchers who may be feeling nauseous or offended — I’m aware of why you do what you do, and respect your craft and ways! This was not a knock on your immense skills and 32412543654 hours spent in Photoshop. My point here is that “the right way” for your industry isn’t needed by my clients, and so I don’t spend time doing it when I could be spending time on what truly matters to them.

The scholarly side of the photography industry values technical knowledge and “correctness” over doing what feels right.

… After years of trying to stick to doing things according to what the books and forums and teachers told me — I noticed that the highest-paid artists were the ones who didn’t give a hoot about the rules. They saw what was considered possible, and said “Fuck that”. A metaphor, for those who are willing to see it.

The End.
… Or, the Beginning.

If you’d like to find out more about who I am, what I do, or why you may be avoiding my work: click here.

Don’t surprise me  - acknowledge me instead.

Don’t surprise me  - acknowledge me instead.

Surprises are great.

I’m an absolute sucker for them. I mean, I was raised by a mother who obsessed over them. Each year, she’d try to find a way to make a surprise for my birthday that I didn’t expect. At that age, I was already pretty good at “reading” faces — so I’d quickly understand that she was hiding something. But I kept it to myself, because I understood intuitively that the pleasure was also hers to experience.

As an adult, I understood that idea in a practical way — while I’m awful at keeping secrets, the joy I felt when I got to give something unexpected was always very gratifying. Perhaps this was also because I had been raised within a “surprise culture”, who knows.

But while I love surprises, as they make me feel very cared for — I found myself doubting my need for surprises within relationships.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me to describe the safest I had ever felt with a man. I decided to list out the characteristics of how that person made me feel — and then apply those things to myself, since I should treat myself the way I expect others to treat me. One of the main things I listed first was ‘acknowledgment’.

You see, the safest I’ve ever felt was with a man who acknowledged my every word, every feeling, and every thought as though it was both lovable and sacred. I could send twenty useless texts and he would even reply to the emojis. I could feel jealous, or ashamed, or any of these emotions that we often want to hide — and he would accept these feelings as being valid (even if he didn’t agree with the source of those feelings). I could speak about what was on my mind, and if he was able to absorb, no thought was too silly or too strange to share.

As I created this list for the purpose of my self-love, I found my mind wandering, as I thought about how these qualities would apply to sex.

I suddenly realized that my adoration of surprises translates differently in the bedroom. Now, I’m not speaking about the occasional thoughtful surprise — surprises are great, and still make me feel absolutely special and adored. I should also add that I am speaking from a cishet perspective — so perhaps your experience may differ from mine.

But here’s what I believe: a man who focuses on consistent and constant surprises in (and out of) the bedroom, is a man who would make me very unhappy, indeed.


Well, I’ll try to break it down for you in a way that makes sense outside my head (I struggle with that sometimes).

A man who surprises me constantly would need to have an air of mystery to him. It would be difficult to constantly surprise me within a relationship if we had a bond with complete openness and transparency. Of course, a surprise for a special occasion would work, but if a man was able to constantly surprise me with bigger and greater feats, I would wonder whether he was trying to distract me from who he is, by creating ways for a relationship to be interesting.

A relationship can be exciting all by itself — without constant surprises and prior secrets. How much of that effort spent on surprises, could’ve been used on simply connecting with me in an honest and open manner? To me, that’s the height of excitement: seeing someone naked, as they are, without extras.

In the bedroom, I find it a more obviously ominous trait. After all, would you prefer a partner who constantly shared tricks with you, designed to exclaim, “Oh WOW, look at you GO, you absolute BEAST!”? Or a partner who takes their time understanding every moan, every gasp, and every change in breath — and then applying small changes to their behaviour in response?

When a partner is “good in bed” the first time, is that because they are truly that wonderful, or because they have had to build up a few tricks to make up for the lack of intimacy they tend to showcase?

When a potential partner is charming and perfect, is this because they match you, or because they’ve spent time learning how to match people — to avoid truly connecting with others (and themselves)?

Neither of these questions has a concrete yes or no. But they are questions that deserve to be asked.

Am I enough for you now?

Am I enough for you now?

These are the words that went through my head for most of my teenage years and early 20s. They sometimes still do, and I have to remember that I am not pathetic because of my thought patterns. I have to remind myself that sharing this level of vulnerability will only irk those who do not matter.

I have never been racially pure enough for any of my claimed communities. I feel like an Indian fraud, desperate for acceptance, with memories of “but she’s not Indian” when I took part in Desi beauty contests (which are another problematic tale). I’m too brown for my white people, who call me exotic and say that I speak surprisingly good Dutch — while I tense up in white stores and feel guilty whenever I have to fish for something in my bag. I am never ever African enough, despite it being the only place three generations of my family have ever been able to call home. All of this is part of a larger pattern that matches the inherent pandemic of “not enough” that plagues the human race.

This photograph is difficult for me to stomach. Even though I took it. Even though I’m in it.

It looks like an image of beauty, but I don’t see that.

I see visual echoes of a moustache that had the Dutch kids taunting me, and caused childhood worries of secretly being a boy without knowing it — despite my 20 year undercover friendship with a shaver and thread.

I see an image that may evoke sexualised feelings that I cannot control. I feel the realisation that strangers will now know the form and view of my naked body — a concept that has been sacred to me for 20 years. I feel the conflict between my Indian desire to hide my skin, and my Westernised logic that I should be able to do whatever I wish with my body without fear. I feel worried “aunty” musings — that my future husband, whoever he is, will lose respect for me because my vessel has now been tainted and corrupted by the filth of the public gaze.

I hear whispers on the internet about my privilege, along with the idea that I don’t have a say in the body positivity conversation — because of my privilege as someone who externally fits into Western beauty standards. Whataboutism disguised as social justice. But that narrative denies the very human concept of body dysmorphia in its various forms. We must be able to create space for all cries of pain caused by social conditioning. I am aware of the thin privilege and pretty privilege that I possess — but, please, allow me to also grieve and mourn my own internal deaths.

On top of all these things, when I see this image, I note the deliberate lack of nipples — Photoshopped out to appease social media censorship — but also, to reflect the fakeness of my silicone breasts. Breasts that the majority of the world think are real. Breasts that have had surgery forum members asking whether this is my “before” picture. Breasts that have me blurt out the truth in a panic during romantic nights, out of fear that I’ll be rejected when a man feels that they aren’t real. Breasts which have had me simultaneously feeling like enough of a woman — but also, like less of a real woman.

But what is a real woman?

If you ask my white side, the answer will differ from my African-Indian side.

We speak about decolonising, but let’s also focus on removing beauty destined for the (predominantly) male gaze from our vocabulary and our ideals of gender — in all our cultural influences. My lack of curves meant that I wasn’t woman enough for my brown side. I wasn’t “well developed” — a disgusting phrase in itself — enough. I was a woman according to archaic white textbooks, hiding my blood-stained clothing during primary school gym class, while simultaneously having to pretend I was ok with being nude as a 10 year old. My white ex-army gym teacher had me do athletic movements for an hour in my underwear — the punishment for forgetting one’s kit — and laughed at me when I tried to cover my nipples. After all — I was 10 and I had no breasts. According to my European textbooks, those would develop at puberty between the age of 13 and 18.

But they never grew.

At 18, I did a classic teenage thing with my “new Dad” — a father who had never been allowed into my life but suddenly had full responsibility, at a distance, over a teenager with trauma. I manipulated him into getting my way. I was so clever, I thought. I would ask him whether I could have a piercing…. or a boob job. No way he’d say no to a piercing now!

Except he did.

And he said he understood if a woman with no breasts felt uncomfortable, or like less of a woman. Like any dad who had never been a dad before, in a time when the conversation on gender was merely a whisper, he reluctantly agreed when my immature self yelled out that I’d do more research on breast surgery — K THANKS BYE! — before I hung up and obsessively did my research.

Oh, how I wish I could time travel back to that girl. How I wish I could tell her that we would reach an age where people would be creating hashtags about small breasts, and that there is such a thing as body positivity. How I’d love to teach her that gender is a spectrum, that your body does not make you more or less feminine, that her standards of what a woman should be — which came from a place of pain — were imprinted on her by boys who didn’t matter anyway. How I wish I could’ve held her hand when she sat with the most beautiful surgeon she had ever met after the first one almost destroyed her, and pointed out that she, too, didn’t have breasts. Most of all, I yearn to let her know that at the lowest point of her depression — the most important thing to cut into was her poor health, deep self-hatred, and low self-esteem — but not her physical form.

Those wishes would be futile. I had zero breast tissue, my first surgeon said, and therefore a drastic enlargement was going to be difficult. He emphasised the zero, which made 18 year old me even more adamant that this was necessary. I would have curves, and I would be a real woman. I would be enough for the male gaze, even if it killed me. I almost got my wish when my first breasts oozed with yellow, deep into my chest.

I distinctly remember weeping after my first surgery, because my breasts were still invisible. I remember looking at curvier women of colour and wondering how I could be enough, just like them. I recall forcing myself to please my man mere days after surgery while still on painkillers, and smiling to myself about how “enough” I now was, praying that this man’s gaze would not turn from me, once my offering of agony and sacrifice didn’t match up to the realness of the women I constantly compared myself to. I remember obsessively spending hours disguising my comparison as “admiration” as I trawled through images of “ideal beauty” on display — much like many of us now do with influencers on Instagram today. The ideals may shift with time — but the disease that rots at the roots of our behaviour does not.

I am now 29, and I love my breasts just as much as every man who has had the honour of witnessing them. They are somehow still members of the itty bitty titty committee after all that agony… but they are a part of me now. They are my first experience with breasts, my only experience with puberty, and a badge I got to wear to prove to myself that I deserved to call myself a woman — back when I had zero awareness that my gender had nothing to do with my physical form. Before I discovered that my beauty had nothing to do with what others thought of me.

But I write this today, despite my discomfort and growing nausea, for others who don’t feel “gender” enough. Colonial beauty standards are a problem, but so are our cultural standards — on all sides — of what is good enough to fit into our idea of what it means to be a certain gender. I write this today, in full discomfort, to let you know that our brown culture, as well as that of the colonisers, should have zero say in whether our physical form matches the form our gender takes. We are not here to please anyone’s gaze but our own. Our bodies match whatever label we identify with (or don’t) from the gender spectrum — regardless of what we change, or don’t change.

Would I have had breast surgery if I had known all this?

That’s a difficult question to unpack. I wouldn’t know a definite answer unless I had a time machine.

But I do know this: I now believe in having surgery for the sole purpose of making myself happy — not because I want to be enough in someone else’s eyes.

Because I was enough all along. Indian enough, feminine enough, white enough, mixed enough, woman enough, beautiful enough, and most importantly — good enough.

I was enough, I will always be enough, and I am enough for every label I identify with, in whatever form my body manifests, through choice or through circumstance.

I. Am. Enough.

And so, dear reader, are you.

I now use my work to help others feel like they’re enough with my photography experiences. To find out more, click here.

Why you succeed at failing

Why you succeed at failing

Here’s a picture of me at my worst.

I had spiralled down into absolute failure.
Being self-aware meant that I KNEW I could be doing better — but had to watch, seemingly helpless, as I destroyed myself more and more every day.

This image was part of one of my many failed projects.

I had decided to do a daily self-portrait. I did 6 (including this one).
I can’t tell you how many plans I’ve made, that have failed and never come to fruition.
I didn’t even complete my degree!
I was a failure, destined to never complete anything.

Fast-forward to now.

I’m not perfect.
I still slip up.
But the difference is that I now understand a very important idea that I think may help you too:

Whatever you’re doing every day is what you’re succeeding at.

Whether it’s being unreliable, or being consistent.

Whether it’s eating healthy, or giving in to things that affect you negatively (hi, processed sugar).

Do you really think that the successful consistent people out there were always that way?

Do you think you were always bad at whatever it is you currently feel you are bad at?

I’m pretty sure there was a time you weren’t.
Just like there was a time that many successful and happy people were once in your shoes, if you’re struggling with consistency.

So look at the things you’ve been doing every day.
Zoom in.
Look at the types of thoughts you’ve been giving in to, the types of people you’ve been spending time with, the types of things you’ve been saying.

Just like drugs, “just this one time” is a slippery slope.
Just like sugar, “just this one time” is a path you don’t want to go down.
Anyone who has managed to eat clean for sometime and then suddenly had sugar knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Sugar can sometimes be the devil.

But so can your thoughts.
And your actions.

Are you constantly letting yourself down?
Well, bravo!
That’s what you’ve become good at!
You’ve been practicing so long, that it’s become a part of you.
And it started with that “one time” you thought it would be ok to let yourself down.
A few days in a row.

It’s not that everyone is improving while you aren’t…
It’s that you actually improved skills that harm you, while others made a daily conscious choice to choose habits/skills that served them.

And while it may look like some have it easy, you’re never really going to have the right to say others have it easier than you do, unless you literally live inside their heads for a week.

So wake up…
And stop becoming really good at skills that are only going to hurt you.

I want you to know another very important principle:
Whenever you feel bad or good, the opposite side of the spectrum always feels SO far away.
But it never is.
All it takes is consistent action in the direction you want to go.
Not for 10 years.
Just a few days of consistent action could already have you feeling better than you did yesterday.

Because that’s what matters.
Not the longterm plan.
Not the massive goals.
But the question that we forget to ask:
Is today better than yesterday?

If it is, keep going like this.
If it isn’t, make a small change.

And then one day, you’ll look back and realise that you’ve practiced good habits so much, that they are now an effortless part of you.
All it takes is that first step.

Letter from 29

Letter from 29

310414 –

How are you? How is the planet? All is well here on 29, but things are shifting faster than most of us in this space are ready for.

I had a thought today, and between my work shifts I figured I would write you a letter. How incredible is it, that we can do this? I saw your letter in my journal, by the way. I appreciated the boost. I am not sure if they were just words, or whether you had the capacity to understand the weight of your lettering — but I thank you anyway.

I digress.

Today I thought about your doubt in the ways of the Universe. I thought about all the moments you worried that you needed to control the rhythm, the times you felt like you needed to hold on when you’d been asked to let go… and I saw it the way I saw a book. You do still love to read, don’t you? So perhaps this may help you.

Imagine a book that has wonderful characters, and one of them is your particular favourite. You’re, say, on chapter 5. There is no mention of this character — let’s call him 1041 — and the entire chapter is just about the scene of a small town that was just introduced.

As you read this chapter, do you find yourself revelling in the sights and sounds within your mind, so beautifully described by the person creating this new world? Or do you find yourself frustrated, wondering why on earth the scene is being set when truly, you just want to find out what is happening to 1041 in this fictional moment?

The latter sounds silly to you now, because you are far removed from this story. You lack the emotional attachment to realise that I’m describing a pattern in your behaviour that you often feel afraid to let go of.

I’ve watched you lose track of your symbolic 1041, and immediately get angry that all the focus in the story isn’t on him. You fret, and worry, and tear yourself apart because you want something in front of you that just isn’t available. What you don’t realise, is that the book isn’t finished. You’re so focused on the chapter you want chapter 5 to be, that you’ve forgotten that the author created this story to fill up your heart. You forgot to trust that the chapter you need, is probably just a chapter you haven’t read yet.

When you focus on what isn’t currently within your grasp, do you realise that you’re missing the setting of the scene in which you can have it all? Are you aware that the dinner of the gods cannot have a table set for a king? Do you understand that your desire for fool’s gold is blocking your ability to receive diamonds?

Be patient, young one. Your time will come. For now.. enjoy the view, close your eyes and allow the process. One day, you will aim for castles higher still, and you may just yearn for those moments you could breathe in the grass, staring at the sky, your dreams like the clouds upon which my castles now live. Those moments when you naively doubted you could have and be it all.

I miss that naïveté in my own life sometimes. You may think that’s funny, but it’s true.

What is worse than a lack of understanding? Being filled with understanding, then watching yourself sink to the bottom of despair, with your hands clenched into unwilling fists. The higher the castle we conjure, 310414, the bigger the desire to anchor our feet into the pits of hell.

Until we reconnect,


A Letter to my Body

A Letter to my Body

Dear Body:

Today you decided that you have had enough of my abuse. I recently said to Laura Brown that I have been neglecting you, but that’s not true, is it? No, I’ve been hearing your screams begging me to stop certain things — but continued to do them anyway.

You tried to tell me once before. You had been asking me for a conversation when I got into an abusive relationship, but I ignored you — even though you had shut down my womanhood — until you screamed into my brain for me to literally, stop — with a stroke.

Today I had 8 cups of coffee. Even though you don’t like coffee. And then I added in some natural stuff to calm you down. I figured, instead of confronting the root of the issue — my abuse — I would do another quick fix to shut you up.

But you’re tired of my quick fixes, aren’t you?

Now, as I write this from my bed, feeling your discomfort, unable to move, tears streaming down my face — half your relief and half my shame — I remember. I remember the times you’ve begged for sleep and I’ve prioritized others’ opinions of me. I remember the times you’ve begged for water and I’ve sadistically taken dehydrating substances. I remember the times you’ve begged for mercy as I dealt blow, after blow, after blow.

But most of all: I remember that you are the best friend I’ve ever had. The type of friend I’ve been looking for, but who was with me all along. You carried me and held me when I hated you for not being beautiful enough, for not being strong enough. You moved gracefully despite the drone of my incessant criticism at how your movements weren’t the way I wanted them to be. You supported me when I showed nothing but anger and meanness to you.

I spend so much time trying to be good to the world but I forgot to be good to the one who needs me most.

I’m sorry. I love you. I need you.
Thank you for showing me how to be a friend. Now, it’s my turn.

Confession from an Ostrich

Confession from an Ostrich

I have a bad habit of running away and hiding from the people who mean the most to me when I am at my worst, because being an ostrich is my go-to response. Seriously. I’m like “THIS PERSON DESERVES MY BEST – THEREFORE I WILL NOT REPLY UNTIL I AM AT MY BEST”….. you can guess what ends up happening.

I keep logically telling myself: Hello, hi, they would prefer a small dose of replies than complete ghosting….

But my fear gets the best of me. And suddenly I haven’t replied in weeks, or months. Sometimes years.

To be fair, it’s not just one person, but multiple people. And to be fair, I sacrifice self-care as well as friend-care when I’m anxious about work-related deadlines.

But it still sucks to know you adore people, but somehow your actions say otherwise.

I’m learning.

Life Lessons from Once Upon a Time: S1 E1

Life Lessons from Once Upon a Time: S1 E1

What part does belief play in our reality? Is hope unhealthy, or necessary? Here are the things I learned from S1E1 of Once Upon a Time.

Belief is necessary for something to become.

I can’t bring up this lesson without also sharing a profound goosebumps-inducing clip from an underwhelming movie based on a brilliant book. What am I talking about? Why, Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, of course! In the clip, Death — a surprisingly loveable character in the Discworld series — explains what would’ve happened to the world if he and his granddaughter (played by Cousin Mary from Downton Abbey, fun fact!) hadn’t saved the world. He then goes into a beautiful speech about how important belief is for humanity. I would have simply quoted it here, but I’d rather have you watch the video.

Keep tissues handy.

I digress.

In the beginning of the episode, Henry says to Emma that all the fairytales in his book are true. She scoffs, obviously, and then he asks her to use her “superpower” — she claims to be able to always know when someone is lying — and she is silenced for a moment.

“Just because you believe something doesn’t make it true,” she says.

To which Henry replies:

“That’s exactly what makes it true.”

I could probably wax on for hours on what truth is, but I’m not here to get philosophical.

I will say this though — the theme of belief being necessary for things to become is both a philosophical and spiritual idea, and I would urge you to chase up after this in your research (if you feel compelled to).

Having said that, this sort of idea always brings up arguments in the form of Rachel Anne Dolezal, which is often used as an argument for people to invalidate claimed identity by marginalised individuals. I’d therefore not like to get into this discussion — not because it shouldn’t be had, but because all truths can be untrue to some — but this doesn’t invalidate its absolute truth for others. We are still navigating the tenets of identity and its subtleties, as a species, and so I’m only stating what I know to be true. That doesn’t mean it has to apply to everyone.

“Giving in to one’s dark side never accomplishes anything.”

Archie Hopper, the real-world equivalent of Jiminy Cricket, tells Henry this lightly when he bumps into him with Emma. Emma seems a bit weirded out after the chat related to fairy tales, but this line plays a large role in the overarching theme in the series — that one always has a choice between the right and wrong thing.

Note: “giving in” is very different from “embracing”, the latter being necessary for integration of seemingly out-of-control parts of the self that one might not like. Complex stuff, but… OUAT covers it in future episodes. Watch this space!

“If you love them and they love you — they will always find you.”

At first glance, this might seem like an unhealthy and cheesy line, but I see it as something simpler — and simultaneously more profound.

We often find ourselves chasing unavailable lovers, people who aren’t ready to love or be loved — for various reasons that can include self-worth issues (that “not enough” syndrome is a beast, huh?).

This line, said often by Snow White in various forms, is a reminder that the right relationships will occur because both parties will make equal effort. And sometimes, when you aren’t able to make that effort on a particular day, you can trust that the other party will meet you halfway.

Clever girl, that Snow White.

Art imitates life which imitates art and… back again?

“How’s a book supposed to help?”

“What do you think stories are for? These stories… the classics? There’s a reason we all know them. They’re a way for us to deal with our world, a world that doesn’t always make sense.”

This particular series (if you’re reading this on my blog) is called Mimetic Mirror — named after the concept of mimesis, whereby it’s claimed that art imitates life. I tend to feel that the relationship between art and life is mutual, hence the word “mirror” — and so this series is all about how we can learn truths about life from art.

I feel like this quote is an apt reminder that art — and story-telling art, specifically — help us make sense of the world. When we look at stories, from fiction with its massive fanbase (and resulting celebrity culture), to religious books, we have a consistent stream of inspiration — if we know where to look.

I strongly believe that we can find the answers we need in ourselves, or in the tools we select in front of us. Whether that’s a cartoon, a series, a novel, or a Bible — there is wisdom to be found, if you keep your eyes and ears open to it.

This series is my ambitious but passionate contribution to the pool of resources you might find. A translation of truth, if you like.

Hope is more important than we realise.

“Look, I gave the book to him because I wanted Henry to have the most important thing anyone can have… Hope. Believing in even the possibility of a happy ending is a very powerful thing.”

It’s so easy to speak of positive thinking, and tell people to simply be positive.

Sometimes that is difficult.

But there is a step between the landing of utter doom and the clouds of sunny optimism — and that is hope. Hope can be a great stopping point while you gather your energy and strength, and in many cases can be lifesaving.

While some realists may disagree with giving people hope in certain situations, I really believe that it ends up being the saving grace in impossible situations at times. There’s such a fine line between hope and belief, I find, and I think a gentle hope in the back of the mind can be nothing but positive in terms of how it influences our behaviour. Just as long as that hope doesn’t take us over — and become the only driving force in our lives.

As Snow White says above, believing in the possibility of a happy ending can be powerful — just as long as we don’t define that happy ending too specifically. The key — as always — is to act without expectation of specifics. Any sort of happy ending will do (er).

Sometimes people leave for our own good.

”You dont have to be hostile. I know you like me. I can tell. You’re just pushing me away because I make you feel guilty. It’s ok. I know why you gave me away. You wanted to give me my best chance.”

Have you ever looked at someone you had once cried over, and realised that their departure was a gift in some way? It could be for the simple reason that it made you grow — or it could be because they turned out to be an awful fit.

I bumped into an awful ex of mine two days ago. One of those small men who gets a kick out of jokes at other people’s expense, a boy who lets his lack of self-awareness affect those who he can’t touch. A fellow who invests so much importance in his style because he needs to cover up the lack of character that lives inside. You know the kind (well, I hope you don’t).

He made a mumbled comment, we hugged amicably with a meaningless “how are you” as I was a bit distracted by the fact that I was on Voxer. As he walked away, hurrying to catch up with the two ladies he was with, he turned around and pointed at his face, saying (with a smile), “Wow! You’re a bit red in the face!” (I have a skin condition called rosacea). It reminded me of the “joking” comments he had made about my music career, body, and clothing in an equally juvenile way.

As I looked at him with my face scrunched up in the face-scrunchy version of an eye-roll, he laughed to himself and walked off. And I realised at that moment that I was so grateful he had ended things, and that his toxic behaviour was as far away from me as possible. He clearly hadn’t grown in the 2 years since we had connected — and I was grateful for the gift of his absence.

So while Emma left with a conscious awareness that her departure would be better for Henry, sometimes people’s absence is a gift that you only truly understand much later.

I hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the lessons learned from the characters in Once Upon a Time — let me know if you watch the show too, and whether this was helpful!

Apart from finding life lessons in TV shows and films, I also create unique photography experiences for gentle souls. Click here to find out more. If you’d like to hear from me in your inbox, click here.

When you find yourself avoiding creativity

When you find yourself avoiding creativity

“I get this feeling that you’re lying about something, Melissa. Like you’re just not telling me something.”

I sighed deeply on the phone.

“You’re right,” I slowly admitted, “you’re right, Daddy.”

It had been over a year of me making up excuse after excuse on why my website wasn’t up. I was starting to worry my friends, my acquaintances — and now my family.

Somehow, it had been over 5 years since I had written just to write. I could rattle out copy for other people with zero effort, and I could create an emotionally honest Instagram/Facebook post while half asleep. But the blogging I had done for years with the ease of a baby dolphin in water — well, that had somehow become so difficult that I had found every excuse under the sun.

But the truth was that I was scared.

“Why?” asked my ever-patient dad.
“Is it failure you’re afraid of?”

I started crying. It wasn’t any old future failure I was afraid of, but confirmation of my current failure.

“I’m afraid that I’m not good enough,” I began.
“I’m afraid that I’ve lost what I once had, and that I’m no longer a writer.”

Saying those words out loud was like a release, if only because they sounded so ridiculous to my ears. My father seemed to think the same thing, because he chuckled and told me not to be silly.

“You can’t lose things like that, Melissa.”
I rolled my eyes, thinking he didn’t understand, as I listened to him continue.
“I may not be in the same industry, but I have this sometimes, too. The trick is this: You just have to start.”

His last words rung in my ears, with a familiarity that only a lesson you already know could have.
“Just begin — let it fail, even. You’ll figure it out. You’ve read so much. It’s in there already — it’s just a matter of it coming out.”

Little did my father know just how much truth he had just spoken. Was he aware, that day, that he had saved me? Probably not.

Because here is the truth, dear reader:

After the marketing industry had just about killed my inner artist, whenever I thought about writing, I was filled with inner-critic thoughts about the final product that I needed to create. I had forgotten that my best work was created by simply starting, and letting my trust in myself take me over. No great work has ever been conceived in its entirety before it was started. The point of art is in the journey, to different degrees, and stopping that flow is what is killing artists and stopping their success before it even gets a chance to become.

So today I’d like to challenge you to start that thing you have been putting off — and remember that your only two tasks are as follows:

  1. Begin anywhere.
  2. Trust yourself to do what is right — whether that is continuing with it, or quitting prematurely. There is no wrong answer.

I wrote this in honour of Father’s Day. My father had an 18 year old rebel dumped on him after having been denied the experience of being a father for most of my life. Despite our massive differences — he is a logical engineer, I am an artist who lives in a fantasy world — he has shown patience, growth, and understanding that can only be matched by some of the best people in the world. He is a simple man in some ways, and yet has guided me better than any person with my complexity ever could have. While many men choose to run and hide from what they fear, my father chose to take on the baggage of an adult he couldn’t raise as a child, with all the problems that could come with someone who (at the time) suffered from chronic physical and mental illness. I owe him gratitude and love, as much of who I am today is thanks to a man who chose to do the right thing — every day — even when he could’ve chosen otherwise. I am glad I got to witness what it means to be a good father.