What inspires you to live well? To live mindfully?
It’s a question I was asked in an interview recently, and it’s something I haven’t articulately expressed on the blog yet. It’s funny that – I spend three years writing, just under 400 blog posts chattering away (372, not that I’m counting…) – and I don’t quite express what makes me feel so motivated to live in the best way I can.
My response was more of an analogy than anything else; I grew up watching Disney films on VHS, the old classics of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and I wanted to be the princess. Not because she had pretty dresses, not because she ruled a kingdom, not even because she married the disturbingly similar Prince Charming in each of them… It was because she made me feel good.
Instinctively, I knew she was the goodie.
And I want to be the goodie in my own life.
Understanding right from wrong
It’s taken me a while to realise that there are far too many options in life for me to always “do the right thing”. Like, when it gets to 2:30pm on a Thursday afternoon and I still haven’t had lunch, am I going to spend 40 minutes making a salad from local organic shop ingredients in my hazy stupor? No, I go for a horrible mayonnaise-filled sandwich meal deal and enjoy every bite, and then glumly throw away all that packaging.
But, it’s the intention that counts. I think having settled on the phrase “ethical lifestyle” for the way I want to live my life covers most topics; I want to treat others how I’d like to be treated, respect the planet, listen to my body, and generally try to be more conscientious. All of these things give me the same good, warm, tingly feeling in my heart that the Princess does when she makes friends with the forest creatures… or maybe when the Prince kills the evil witch Maleficent. Hmm, maybe I want to be the Prince instead?!
So here comes my guide to being an Everyday Gentlewoman. It’s like being a superhero, except you’re you and it’s all the time and it’s really not that hard. In fact, it’s like the complete opposite of being a superhero – it’s like being a regular normal person, and hoping that if everyone was like you, the world would be a better place.
Treat yourself how you’d like to be treated
Hands up who’s a good, kind, honest person? Who would like to be, anyway? That’s the spirit. It’s important you know exactly how you’d like to be, in the rawest sense. No need to put yourself into a box on how you look, how society sees you, what diet you’re following – this is about how you are. As in, there’s no escape – you’re you every second, every breath, all the damn time.
My first rule is to treat yourself exactly how you’d like to be treated. I know that sounds super narcissistic, but I think we live in a world where we’re all taking a selfies and yet we all feel a little sad inside. The news, politics, road traffic, one of the 365 days of cloud in the UK… there’s a lot of reasons why we can feel sad. But if you can look in the mirror each morning and think that you’re a good person, you’ll probably do good things that day, and maybe even make others feel as good as you do.
Even writing this now, this makes me feel good.
Know you’re worth it
It’s not a product that made you feel this way; and yes, you and you and you were born with it. And this applies especially if you’re a woman, because we do live in a world that makes us feel like sometimes we’re not good enough. There’s plenty that tries to divide us up because of our gender – take the BBC Pay Gap Scandal, that one hurt – but that doesn’t make us any less smart, any less talented, any less confident. We might just have to shout louder, stand together, and sometimes surprise people by our good manners and our steadfast conviction.
For me, I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve had a good education, good employment, and gained a good degree in a field that is definitely male-dominated (business). When disadvantages do take their toll (I can’t take clients out for a “pint”, and sometimes periods are just too painful) I explain this to my team at work, and they’ve helped devise ways of getting round this (going for coffee, working from home). I feel like a man with the same background of me couldn’t do my job any better than I do, and I know my employer knows this too.
Do what feels good
My final mantra is a small progression on that of Adriene Mishler‘s “find what feels good”. Doing what makes you feel good is food for the soul. As you can probably tell, I LOVE writing. It comes naturally to me, and it gives me head space. It puts me in a better mood, it has created so many great opportunities, and I continue to learn and hone my writing every day.
Doing the thing that makes you happy will also translate into the way you approach your life; your food choices, your smile to the people around you on the bus, your little shout-out on Twitter to the company that gave you great customer service. It’s what I do here, and I wish I could spread that positivity further: Advocate for good, kind, honest products and companies, ones that deliver good, kind, honest treatment in employment, ones that source natural ingredients responsibly, ones that are cruelty-free. Find a reason to invest more than just money into the products you buy, invest an emotional connection too.