Lessons in My 20’s

Growing up I was always considered a “nice” person. As a child, I had (fortunately) never really experienced what it felt like to be left out, or actively disliked. So when I arrived at University, it was a shock to learn that not everyone was as nice as me. That just because I was kind, did not mean others would be kind back; a lesson I’m sure we all have learned along the way. As an adult, I was even more shocked to learn how often rude and patronizing people somehow ended up as managers. This made me wonder, do nice girls and guys really finish last?

Over the last few years, I have unfortunately heard stories and seen firsthand adults be publicly embarrassed in the workplace, only to be left on the brink of tears. I remember earlier this year on my Monday commute into work, I had a similar instance – albeit not in the office. There I was, smiling and standing patiently at Marylebone Station on a cold Winter’s morning, completely unprepared for what was to happen next. There had been issues with the ticket barriers that day – a nightmare for any London commuter. As a result, this meant pandemonium erupted among the hundreds of people who were rushing to get to work. When it was my turn to go through the gates, the employee checked my ticket only to realize I had the wrong one, and reacted as if I had tried to cheat the whole of Transport for London. She shouted at me as if to make an example out of me, utterly humiliating me in the process in front of a crowd people. I remember my face began to feel hot, my eyes began to well up with tears, and my blood began to boil. I was completely taken aback by her overreaction and this moment of humiliation. I then became increasingly aware of the eyes of onlookers watching this moment of drama unfold, all before it was even 8 AM.

It had in fact been totally her own fault, rather than mine (which I suppose so often is the case in these kind of scenarios) as I had told her as I approached, about the ticket dilemma. However I managed to hold it together, and calmly called her out on her behaviour. I stood up for myself, correcting her on what had actually happened with ticket-gate (excuse the pun) and told her there was absolutely no need to treat me, or anyone else like that. I then proceeded to complain about this to one of her team members. Whether this was taken seriously I do not know- I certainly did not receive an apology. Nonetheless, I was proud of how I handled this stranger’s outburst and that I had kept myself mostly together. In that moment, I empathized with those who may experience such behaviour in the workplace. Thinking about this now, I wonder how this kind of scenario may be playing out in a remote setting. I also wonder if I would have reacted the same way if it was my boss speaking to me in such a rude manner, rather than a complete stranger. How would I act, especially now, where there is an increasing amount of anxiety around job security? I sincerely hope that I would have the courage and resilience to deal with this, or that a kind colleague would step in and show me some support if needed.

2020 has been a tough year on many levels, and whilst I may not have all the answers, I know that being nice does not cost a thing. I remember reading an article on The Everygirl about protecting your heart at work, which emphasized just how important emotional resilience is. Although I still have so much more to learn and I know inevitably there will be more hurdles to overcome, here are some of the lessons I have learned in my 20’s so far…

  1. The company I keep both in an out of work is important
    The people we surround ourselves with have a direct impact on our wellbeing and outlook on life. Take a look at those nearest to you and figure out if they add value to your life and if they build you up as a person.

  2. Other people’s opinions of me do not validate me
    Whenever I catch myself ruminating about silly thoughts like what I said earlier that day, I stop myself. Instead I try to focus my energy on my own goals, rather than wasting energy on needless worry.

  3. Showing my “true” self can be daunting but liberating
    I used to differentiate my identity between my “work” self and “true” self, and now count myself lucky to work somewhere where I feel I can and want to, bring my whole self to work. This also means I feel more authentic in my choices and am able to bounce back easier on days which are challenging.

  4. It’s better to be understood than to be liked
    Not everyone will like me, and that’s fine, despite the people pleasing voice I have in my head!

  5. Not everyone shares the same ideas or outlook as me
    As obvious as this, really taking time to digest and understand this has made a huge difference. This was also summed up really succinctly for me in the Everygirl article,

    Most people see interactions as swift, emotionless transactions ; whilst this is true in many businesses, it doesn’t mean you have to be the same, just recognize that there are others like that”.

  6. How people act and respond to you often comes from them projecting their own feelings from what’s happening in their own life, rather than in response to the actual content of what you have said.

  7. Being smart and kind will always be cool

  8. Always trust and listen to your gut

  9. Feel the love

  10. Nice people certainly do not finish last
    Being nice isn’t a weakness, it is a strength.

I’d love for you to share some of your tips or lessons you have learned with me in the comments below!

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Opening Up | How I REALLY Feel

I have always loved Autumn and the changing of the leaves. As a child, Autumn always denoted for me that it was time to go back to school. I remember being so excited when I could finally wear my brand new school shoes (although they didn’t stay shiny and new for too long). As an adult that excitement has been replaced with wrapping up in layers, going out to Bonfire Night displays, and lovely trips down to the pub. Sadly this year, these Autumnal rituals look slightly different. During the first lockdown I shared with you a post about how I felt one month into the pandemic here in the U.K, so it only seemed right to give another update as we go through lockdown 2.0.

I am typically a very “glass half full” type of person, but here we are seven months later and things seem the same as they were in many ways back in April.

During the first lockdown, work and exercise remained as my constants; a routine which kept me busy and sane. I also tried to remind myself of the other positives, such as how much more money I was saving and how much more rested I was feeling. Thankfully the U.K. had an abundance of sunshine this Summer too, which also meant lots of time spent outdoors. As time passed, I was eventually able to enjoy socially distanced meet-ups and walks with friends. However, I couldn’t help feeling a bit anxious that things were opening up far too soon, inevitably causing a delayed reaction in the Winter (lo and behold, here we are). Throughout this, I continued to work remotely and although there were days where I missed the ease of asking my colleagues questions without the need for a video call, the working from home life was “working” for me, so to speak. I even managed to go on a late holiday abroad and felt very safe with all the precautions that were taken.

Then after 2 weeks being back from holiday, it hit me. Life wasn’t going back to normal. Even though this time I had a support bubble, life seemed a bit gloomy. Was it just the holiday blues, I wondered? I didn’t think so. I felt demotivated and disconnected from myself. However I still couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong. At this point, the clocks had also gone back meaning shorter days and less daylight. I found myself going to bed earlier because I simply could not bear the long, dark hours of the evening ahead. I had also watched everything interesting on Netflix and it seemed that exercise only lifted my mood temporarily. I now realize that this was a very delayed reaction to the realization that we are still living in a worldwide pandemic. I was digesting that we will be living like this for far longer than I initially anticipated.

After accepting this, I am now taking each day as it comes. Although I realise just how ironic this blog post may seem for someone who wants to share some positivity, it is important to be open about the days where you may not be feeling so great too. I know that there may be many more days ahead which may feel a bit dark and challenging, but it’s important to speak out and not brush those feelings aside. There is something very refreshing about someone not answering the question “how are you?” with “fine, how are you?”.

As we move through November, I encourage you to check in with your own family and friends (especially the quiet ones) and of course, most importantly – with yourself. If like me you question whether you have the right to feel like you do, try to remind yourself of the below.

Melissa Parkinson on Instagram: “WE ARE NOT IN THE SAME BOAT ... I heard  that we are all in the same boat, but it's not like … in 2020 | Storm  quotes, Boating quotes, Storm

Remember, we got through lockdown once and we can do it again. Look after yourselves!

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Working From Home Tips | Mental Health Awareness Week

You may be aware that last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme concentrating on kindness. Mental health is not an easy topic to approach, but I really wanted to get involved and join the conversation – despite this late upload! Mark Rowland (Chief Executive, Mental Health Foundation) shared an anecdote of just how powerful the simple act of kindness is, particularly in today’s circumstances. He recalled how whilst he was waiting in line to enter a supermarket, “One of the staff noticed we were getting wet. He scurried away to find a pile of umbrellas, carefully disinfected the handles and passed them out with a smile. To my surprise, my eyes started to well up. At a time when I felt alone, I suddenly felt connected”. This story really resonated with me and reminded me of a moment I had earlier last week. I woke up on Monday morning momentarily feeling disheartened at the challenge of getting through another week. Another week, working from home, not being able to go out and see family and friends. Yet again. Working as a Recruitment Coordinator, I really enjoy meeting new people and having a direct impact on the candidate experience. I miss not physically seeing any new, as well as the regular faces around the office! It was 8am and I was sat by my desk in my bedroom, drinking a cup of tea. I was checking my work messages from colleagues based in America and Asia, to see if they could support with some upcoming interviews. Over the weekend, they had come back promptly, apologizing for the delay and gladly expressing their support, as well as their gratefulness to me for getting these organized so quickly. At this moment, I found my eyes welling up. I felt really moved by this simple thank you and the mountain that was the week ahead, suddenly felt easier to climb.

I tend to get a lot of my energy from being around people and so have often found it quite difficult having limited social contact during lockdown. Some days I experience brain fog, lack of concentration, and some days I am just caught in the motions. I have beaten myself up for not using every waking moment of this time to be my most productive, creative or <insert your own superlarative!> self. If I’m honest, I’ve been so up and down I could be my own roller-coaster. However I’ve been trying my best to be open and transparent about these feelings; acknowledging them, riding them out, sharing them and it turns out I am not alone. And you know what? The saying, “A problem shared, is a problem halved” is really true.

It may be the start of another week, but I hope you make some time today to check in with yourself and acknowledge whatever it is you may be dealing with. No matter what battle or challenge you may be facing, particularly during this pandemic, your feelings matter. Ignore the small voice in your head that tells you that person x has it “worse” or “harder” than you. Your challenges are yours alone and the intensity of them may be heightened during this very abnormal time. Give yourself the love and kindness you deserve and would give to others.

If you are in need of a bit of self-kindness, I thought I’d share just a few of the things I’ve been doing more regularly, that have been helping me cope over the last 10 weeks and look after my own mental health:

  • Goals; I jot down daily/weekly goals that are achievable. Simple things like reading for 20 minutes or painting my nails have been on this week’s list. This helps find a sense of direction for the day
  • Go outdoors; Whether it’s for a walk in your neighbourhood, in a park or even just sitting in the garden! Going outside really lifts my mood and helps clear away some of that brain fog
  • Listening to podcasts or the radio; I miss physically socializing and podcasts are great to help you feel like you are a part of a conversation and keeping you engaged
  • Read; One of my best friends bought me the book, Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and it has been really beneficial in changing my perspective and regaining some positivity – I’d highly recommend this book for anyone who likes a bit of Psychology mixed with Self-Help
  • Exercise; I’ve been prioritizing my physical health this year and have been making time to exercise more regularly. I have chosen to do workouts that I enjoy and thus am more likely to do again. I haven’t worried about how “easy” or “hard” they are, or personal bests etc. Instead, I’ve been focusing on how they make my feel and it’s the first time in a long while I have stuck to exercise regularly and have definitely noticed results!
  • Challenges; Pre-covid life, the freedom of choice, trying and experiencing new things and places was plentiful. Some days, lockdown has been exhausting as it can seem like one day merges into one. Therefore to establish some differentiation (like my life pre-covid had), I’m trying to initiate new challenges for myself, such as taking time to bake or cooking new meals. Last week I cooked a chicken katsu curry for the first time!
  • Talking; Making time to Facetime friends, family and even co-workers just for a chat like I would have done in the office has helped cheer me up. On the flip side, I know how meaningful these check-ins have been for them too
  • Alone time; Importantly, I’ve also really enjoyed spending time with me! The pandemic has removed a lot of noise and distraction, that my life used to have and has forced me to spend more time on my own more than ever. Yes, it’s cliché but I’m getting to know myself and am identifying the things I both want to and don’t want to do in the future

Although there are days I can be self-critical I try to recognize this behaviour, flip my perspective and be kind to myself instead. According to the MHF, “Kindness is an antidote to isolation and creates a sense of belonging… it reduces stress, brings a fresh perspective and deepens friendships. Kindness to ourselves can prevent shame from corroding our sense of identity and help boost our self-esteem”.

I hope that you are each looking after yourselves the best way you can and that you make a special effort to be kind to yourself.

#KindnessMatters 

#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

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Kindness Doesn’t Cost A Thing

Last year I wrote one of my most honest posts on Opening Up About Mental Health on my blog. I really appreciated the warm reception I received from those who read it. I am not sure what I was expecting if I’m honest, but I do know that it felt good to talk about it all, and good to be heard by others. To know they went out of their way to show support, and for some to even open up about their own lives was truly heartwarming. It made me think that although none of us really know what anyone else is really going through, we do know the power of kindness.

Every now and then, some thing happens in each of our lives which pops the little bubble we put around ourselves. It can leave us with a mix of emotions but also serve as a reminder that life is precious and very short. Sadly it often takes loss to remind us of this. To shake us up and realise that in life, nothing is for certain and life doesn’t wait for anyone. Rather than letting this eat you up and swallow you whole, I implore you to remember that the world is lucky to have you, for “There is no one alive that is youer that than you” (Dr Suess).

At times we may feel moments of insignificance; what impact can I alone, have? But remember that your words have power and influence, for good and for bad. We all have those memories that sting, those words that someone to said that made your stomach drop. The way that someone treated you, judged you before knowing you or even gave you a chance.  But also, the fond memories; how you laughed so hard your stomach began to hurt or when someone saw you as strong and as a positive light, although you saw yourself otherwise. There are also those actions you made that touched others in ways you may not even be aware of. The smile you gave to the stranger on the bus, or perhaps the glow you created in someone else when you asked how they are, giving them them your total undivided attention.

I keep this “Feel the Love” card I got from a jewellery brand on my mirror. Every day it serves as a reminder to myself, to feel the love on the days I feel blue. To love myself both on the in and the outside; flaws and all.  To see past the depressing evening news and feel the love in the world. To remember that even when life throws lemons and life is lost, it is just like the night breaking into sunrise, there will always be love and light.  To remember that those feelings on your down days are temporary, but it is important to feel them out – cry, speak, share and work through it. Above all be kind to yourself. You are strong.  You are resilient.

Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, so spread it everywhere; it’s one of the few things in life that is free.