Archive | confidence RSS feed for this section

Impractical shoes and a mother’s voice

27 Aug

I didn’t used to be able to make a single decision without worrying what my mum would think, way beyond my teenage years and far into adulthood. It would drive me crazy.  I’d go to get a clean towel from the airing cupboard, and I’d stand there for 10 mins trying to decide which colour and length of fibre, what type – beach, hand or bath my mother would choose.  I’d hear her scolding me for losing my house keys because I would just never learn to put them in the same place.  I’d catch a disapproving whisper “not the liquid eyeliner, too harsh” when applying my make up or a low, amused chuckle when choosing between two sets of shoes that I knew my mother would think equally impractical. I’d replay ten arguments in my head as to why I had made that decision, or this decision regarding my children’s food/clothes/birthday presents, even though it was only in my own head that my choices were ever questioned.

I used to chide myself for it. Why couldn’t I just trust my own instincts? Why did my mother’s opinion on absolutely everything I did as a 30-something still matter? Why was it even more important than my own opinion? In truth I often didn’t even know what my own opinion was, my mother’s voice in my head was so loud.

But now I love it.  Where once it infuriated me, now it only makes me smile. It reassures me, a calming familiarity in a world that is otherwise so changed. Warm, tender, teasing. And it’s in exactly the words she would have used, in her slightly staid tones and with a scent of a New Zealand accent.

And I listen to it now, just as I listened to it then.  Because it’s protective and wise and it knows me. And now I get that.

Spell M-A-N!

13 Jul

“Let’s go round the table and introduce ourselves”.

Oh isn’t this always a really interesting part of any project kick-off meeting?

Personally I get a bit nervous at this point and start writing notes; usually I’m still trying to work out what I do and how I fit in, sometimes what my workname is if I’ve had a particularly early start with the children (married/maiden/mum, it can get confusing),  so i just say something mildly funny and pass to the person sitting next to me. There are those that are specific and straight to the point “I am going to deliver X for this project” – concise, relevant. Some give a little bit more detail, but then there are those that launch into full-on self sales mode. How much they made for their last employer, how many people they have working for them, how big their package is, their golf handicap, that type of thing.  It’s like a luminescent confidence light-show in a drab meeting room with luke warm coffee. And these self-proclaimed work-Jehovas seem to be the only ones not a bit embarrassed by it, not thinking it’s a little over the top. I’m always half expecting them to leap frog over their swivel chair onto the meeting desk and start doing pelvic thrusts to Bo Diddley’s I’m a man  “Spell M-A-N”.

Or is it me that’s missing a trick here? It’s that difficult line between the confident, the not-so-confident and the scarily self-assured. Like at school when you came out of an exam and there was “A-grade Annie” bleating on about how badly she’d done, while “Ego-Eric” was already patting himself on the back for coming top of the class.  Of course Eric always failed miserably, while Annie went to Oxford.

None of this ever equates to any real ability. In fact the cleverest in business are never at the top.  The ones with the biggest balls are. As my dad used to say “It’s all margeding”.

Truth is, you might be able to sell £200 pet insurance to a nervous goldfish breeder, but doesn’t mean you can sell yourself to the e-enablement project team.  If you’re no good at selling yourself, they’ll just have you taking the minutes again, while Gerald demonstrates his finely tuned lambada.


11 Mar

Isn’t it funny how some people tie you up in knots from the minute you go to open your mouth? Not because you’re embarrassed or nervous particularly, nor because you secretly fancy the pants off them. There’s no obvious explanation for it, except that words never flow freely when you try to engage.

There are those where the conversation is effortlessly fluid, seamless, easy. All the words come out in the right order; you sound confident, articulate and persuasive. Conversation bounces back and forth in perfect tandem, easily and playfully. You feel as if you’ve known them for a lifetime and you never have to explain yourself to get them to understand. In their precense you are Joan Collins – sassy, confident, sharp.

There are others where you always go to speak at the same time, and follow it up with awkward silence. Where the right words are never at hand, and you grapple around until having to make do with the vocabulary of a pre-schooler. Where you can’t make them understand however hard you try; you just feel and behave like a schmuck without them doing or saying anything.

Is this what they call “interpersonal dynamics”?

It amazes me that so much can be going on below the surface, and that it can impact even before you make any physical or verbal contact. Body language, gesture, eye contact, power struggle – facets of behaviour and comparative self-perception that are largely unconscious but can drive every single interaction we have with that person. And so out of our conscious control.

I find it unnerving and it frequently frustrates me. Why can’t I be Alexis Carrington all the time?

Milk’s hips don’t lie

20 Jan

This morning I lost all the remaining dignity I possessed (and believe me as a mother you’re not left with much).  And guess what? I frickin’ loved it!

No I didn’t go to work with my skirt tucked into my pants, or feel my hold ups slip to my ankles as I pounded the city streets  (that was last week). No, this morning  I tried Zumba.

Oh my God dear lovely Milk readers – it is absolutely amazing. I am so excited I feel like a 5-yr-old loaded up on e after a birthday party.

It’s a mixture of dance styles – latin, african, caribbean. It is as high-energy as a nun on steriods, as raucous as a donkey on heat, as embarrassing as pole dancing  in front of your granddad. But my God is it liberating.

It reminds me of a time when I was travelling in Mexico and we’d decided to take a short, unscheduled hop across to Isla de Mujeres in Belize. An amazing place with a real laid-back caribbean feel. We’d ended up at a bar on the beach, 3 white girls attracting some attention. One particular smooth belizian man was coaxing me into dancing with him, hands on my hips guiding me this way and that. “Loosen’ up ladeee, feel the rytherm”. Let’s just say within 5 minutes he’d handed me back my drink. My european ass just didn’t move like he wanted it to. More cement than sweet syrup.

In any case, I’m sure this is exactly what I looked like this morning. A caucasian nerd with as much rythym as an ageing lab rat. In my head I was Shakeera, all snake hips and bouncing booty. To the mirror, a pole-dancing nun. More Asamoah Gyan than Justin Trousersnake.

20 years ago I would’ve run out of that gym covering my face with my hands and shouting “shame”, but now that I’m in my 30s, I embraced my inner dork with gusto.

Just be sure not to tell Dita that Milk’s on the prowl, there’s no saying what might happen.

Milk’s reckless 2011

31 Dec

So, what has 2010 taught me? That I can be far  too conversative (little c, little c)  a bit staid, careful, fearful. That I have experimented far too little and worried far too much.  That you really should stop once in a while and really take things in. That meticulous planning isn’t always the best way, and that sometimes,  just sometimes it’s better to lie down with no clothes on and wait for something to happen.  With that in mind here are my new year’s resolutions for 2011…

1) drive the shopping trolley recklessly in busy supermarkets, laughing in the face of anyone that dares to tut loudly

2) make it a mission to embarrass my kids frequently with my out-of-time dancing.

3) paint my nails a colour that’s way too young for me.

4) say “*ck it” more often, and really mean it (but not in front of the kids, obviously).

5) have totally ill-advised and nutritionally empty breakfasts – coffee and a cigarette leftover chocolate cake.

6) wear shorter skirts, naughtily short, and impossibly high heels I can’t walk a step in.

7) wear more eyeliner – in hardcore ’80s colours (preferably while rocking enormous shoulder pads).

8 ) take up yoga – and pass loud, joyous wind while doing it.

9) have more arguments – passionate, raging arguments with overly-dramatic reconciliations.

10) do much, much more public snogging.

Reckless? Well it’s best to start small…

Happy New Year everyone!  Thanks to everyone who’s stuck with me.


Grown up bully

26 Nov

I got bullied once. Well actually I’ve been bullied a few times in my life, but only once since I was an adult.

I’d just started working for a big company. It was a pretty big step up for me, and I was nervous. £10k added onto my salary and with a lot to prove. To be fair, I probably did go in a bit forceful, false courage, acted bravado. Not that I was some kind of testosterone-fuelled head chef or agressive female stand-up intent on knocking heads with the big boys. I probably just didn’t adopt the “new girl I must flatter all who i meet with my pretend meekness” obligatory first-day persona.

So she took an instant dislike to me. Top girl meets new girl. She started talking behind my back, the odd stare, dirty look, hushed whispers. But then she started ignoring me in meetings and encouraging others to do the same. Sniggering in the boardroom. Muttering under her breath.

It wasn’t as if it progressed much further than the subtle, but it had an impact. I was signed off work for for a month and presribed Prozac. Not bad for a few hushed giggles.

Needless to say things improved, and much to my amazement we ended up being friends. We never talked about it. What would we have said? We had both made mistakes, hers worse, but it was a long time ago when we’d both had a point to prove.

In the end, in truth, it was one of the best professional lessons I’ve ever learnt. How to run with the politics and about-turn the clashes of personality. It tested me, and I came through, older, wiser and more able to shrug things off.

Perhaps it’s just part and parcel of a landscape where the pretense of objectivity is propped up by insecurity and ego. Do we just have to learn to navigate through the adult playground in exactly the same way we did at school, in order to get ahead? Is life quite simply for living and learning, or is it a lesson I should never have had to learn?

Read this and your life will be easier…

26 Oct

Frickin’ hell, i’ve sold big there haven’t i?

Good golly let’s hope this one measures up. Here goes.

Ban the words “should” and “ought to” from your vocabulary. Substitute in “would like to” and “am going to”.


Yes, that’s really it. Pure genius.

Well actually it is. Try it. The next time you think “God, i really OUGHT TO clean the bathroom” wipe that thought from your mind, and think “Do i WANT to clean the bathroom? Will it give me pleasure once it’s done?” If the answer’s yes, then do it. Willingly. If you don’t fancy it, don’t do it. Sit on your arse and watch the brand new series of Dating in the Dark instead.

Likewise if your “big brother” voice kicks in with “You really SHOULD go out tonight. Mary/Betty/Damian will be so disappointed if you don’t”, tread that *stard of a voice down with one swift stamp of the foot, and think instead “Would i LIKE to go out tonight?”. This simple yes/no question will be answered with ease.

What’s more, you won’t end up out with Mary/Betty/Damian cursing your decision to go out with this boring bunch of losers (why are they still your friends anyway?) and behaving like an utter prick just to spite them.


Yeah i thought you would be. And what’s more, just because i love you, here’s one more pearl of Milky wisdom for free. Knock yourself out.

Learn the words “I’ve done enough now” and use them. Daily.

Smile please. No really, can you smile please.

5 Aug

In my early twenties when plastic surgery started to become more well known, i used to consider that i would probably never have it done, but it scared me that one day i would be the minority, and just how would i compete? Of course, i didn’t need it then. But now when there are certainly a few things i could improve, i still know that i would never do it.

It’s true i’ve always gone for a more natural look. I’ve never worn much make up. Never shown much cleavage. Or leg. A bit of midrift i think in my pre-child days when crop tops and baggy bottoms were all the rage. (oh yes, they were, once). I’ve never had my nails done, never used fake tan, and never dyed my hair.  So i’m probably not the most likely candidate for plastic surgery to be fair.

It’s not that i don’t like glamour. I’ve just always been a bit shy of glamming it up. To be honest, now i’m in my 30s, I think i probably should have played around a little bit more, had a bit more fun.  In fact i am having a kind of rebirth, and have found myself buying dresses, good god.

But i still stand by the fact that natural (with a bit of help) is best.

And i have never seen a single person who didn’t look anything but bloody ridiculous with botox. I just don’t get it. Surely it is character that elevates someone above pretty to attractive? Charisma that creates sex appeal? Yes you can look stunning but if you have no personality, what is the point? I spent much of the other night sitting with my jaw on the floor watching The Rachel Zoe project with morbid fascination.  Why hasn’t anyone told her she looks ridiculous? Oh yes,  because she employs them.

Why would anyone want to wipe all evidence of character from their faces? Blank canvas taken too literally. A steely gaze.

I don’t have much more time for other forms of plastic surgery either. Except where it’s done to correct a deformity, or make a difference to someone that is severely hampered by low self-confidence. I’m talking someone who’s been born with an unfortunately large nose, or a lady who has failed to develop at all in the chest region.  Or poor women with huge breasts whose backs are crumbling. I can even see the benefit in uplifting breasts that have fallen to belly button height from breastfeeding. And gastric bands. To me, these are worthy cases.

But messing about with a perfectly acceptable face because it isn’t quite perfect. Or 15 yr old jessica who only has a b-cup and “needs” to look like Jordan.

As i write this post Gordon Ramsay is all over the news with his new stick on dentures and airbrushed face. All set for the American market.

“But if it makes you feel better, who are you hurting?” I hear you cry. Well i’ll tell you who. The next generation of girls who need to know that confidence, strength, knowledge and passion are what will get them through this life, not fillers and veneers. At some point, we need to start setting the right example.

And today it is being reported that the government has refused to enforce the labelling of airbrushed pictures. The genuis being interviewed all over the news tonight is Marie O’Riordan, editor of Marie Claire.

And she says, to quote “Magazines present a view of perfectionism for people who want to be exported from their everyday lives”. No, love, your magazine isn’t celestial art, it doesn’t open a window to heaven  like Blake’s poetry or Michelangelo’s art. It’s a fashion magazine whose sole purpose is to present fashion and beauty for people to lust after, and it seems nowadays, false, unrealistic images for readers to compare themselves against in a fit of self-loathing.

I wrote a comment on another blog the other day describing my disbelief that health and beauty companies were allowed to advertise their products using false representations of their effects. Hair extensions to portray glossy hair after shampoo use, digitally enhanced eyelashes to represent the effects of the latest mascara. If the financial services market is so tightly regulated to ensure we are not enticed to invest money without proper information, surely it should not be open season to entice consumers through misleading them about a product’s effects?

Looking back to the fears i had in my 20s about plastic surgery taking over the world. Well, it certainly hasn’t yet. There does seem to be a little of a “them” and “us” thing going on.  A team of ladies who will never be swayed. Thank God. But it is becoming a lot more prevalent. And the perfection it strives for has certainly taken over the media world.

I just thank my lucky stars i no longer need to compete.

If you show me yours…

25 Jul

Show me yours, and i, well actually, i might not show you mine after all

During my brief (ahem, *blogger’s midlife crisis*, ahem) summer break, i worked out what it was that was disconcerting me a little about this whole blogging business.* I’ve always been quite an open, honest person. I’m the first person to disclose a secret, offer a personal bit of information to put another person at ease, in the hope they might feel more comfortable about opening up. Talking about something that’s troubling them. Or just to help them realise we’re all in the same boat.

Trouble is, not everyone wants to open up. Be completely honest and divulge their innermost secrets. They’re quite happy pretending they’re doing just fine, thank you very much, they don’t want to have to openly admit their imperfections. They’re more comfortable that way.

You’d think i’d have learnt my lesson by now. I’m frequently putting myself in a vulnerable position only to be rebuffed. The emotional equivalent of being kept hanging when you go to high five someone.

Remember, the time it happened to me in post natal classes?

Well the equivalent has been happening to me a bit in the blogosphere. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of lovely ladies (and gents) out there perfectly happy to guffaw at our shared parental failings. But there are also those that want to keep some things hidden.

My mum actually said to me when i started writing this blog. “I’m not sure i’d want to put all that stuff out there. I’d much rather keep people believing i’m coping, doing a perfect job”. I was adamant that that was the whole point. Why i had started the blog in the first place. To show people that we all feel we are failing as parents, employees, friends, sisters, most of the time. If we could just talk about it a bit more, be a bit more honest, maybe we wouldn’t all feel so pressured to be perfect.

But i think in hindsight i might have been a bit naiive. Just because i’m willing does not mean everyone else has to be too. And that really is okay. I need to get more comfortable with that.

Just don’t expect a dinner invitation any time soon.

*worked it out with a little help from a special someone.

Toughen up bloggy

24 Jul

Addendum 25/07: To be read in the style of Marge Simpson. (some people were taking this post way too seriously and were worried it reflected the onset of Schitzophrenic-type hallucinations. I mean, really.)

Dear Milk

So you think you can just write what you like and get away with it? You can’t go writing about poos and shoes and expect everyone to be okay with it. If you’re gonna get all judgy mcjudgealot on us you’re gonna have to expect a little of your own medicine back.

So you need to decide. Are you 0.1% fat “might as well be water” milk, or are you full fat, cream floating on the top, “slightly past its best” milk?

If you don’t like it, go write about what a lovely day you’ve had making fairycakes.


Mirror Milk