Usually I have an idea for a blog post, and then place whatever outfit pictures I haven’t used yet within the text, absent of relevance or synergy. Often loosely linked at best.
Last week I had my first blog photoshoot with a professional photographer, my very talented friend Fraser Taylor (@initsrightplace on Instagram) – I paid too, as should you if you hire a creative (p.s go hire him- he’s great). I didn’t have anything particular in mind content-wise, but knew that I had a statement top coming that I’d ordered in the ASOS sale, that I knew could look very cool photographed – a sequinned New Look turtle neck. I said to Fraser I either wanted to do something within a grey/concrete urban space, to create a tonal but textured image, or somewhere where there is light that would reflect nicely off the sequin discs. He sent over a couple of inspirations via Whatsapp that he’d been wanting to try, they were rad, so with complete trust in his creativity, I was happy to go with that.
I found out I was due to head into town for the screening of All The Money in The World (which was brilliant by the way), so I messaged Fraser to see if he’d be free to do a very quick off the cuff shoot before (I’m trying to make the most of my extortionate train tickets where possible). There were a few that came back that we joked had a distinct Bohemian Rhapsody vibe about them, where my face was largely, or completely in darkness…something which I felt very comfortable with.
Since then, and while editing, I’ve thought about the concept of being in the shadows, and realised much of my life I’ve lingered in the darkness, sometimes out of choice, but often because the light has been angled elsewhere, usually onto someone else in my life. But I’ve also realised in recent month’s I’ve been trying to change that.
I’m not someone that craves the limelight, in fact I dread birthdays and put a stop to any sort of celebrations, because I hate the idea of a night being in my honour of, with all eyes and attention on me. Whenever conversation comes to me at family gathering, or at any get to know each-other type social situations, I can’t deflect the conversation away from the topic of me fast enough. Although I think that may be more down to the fact I’m not particularly proud of my current situation or position, so I don’t particularly want to share it or highlight it to others.
When I think back to my time at school there is plenty evidence of this light-dimming behaviour. I would receive high grades in drama class, however I’d always choose to be part of the backstage crew (being the person in black who’d shuffle across the stage with the DIY sets and second hand props). I’d NEVER audition to be in the cast, even now the makes me want to vom. Despite being grade 7 in flute, I’d do anything to avoid performing solo in the concerts, whereas my friend Alice would often volunteer, and receive much praise and applause. Obviously this could be down to nerves, which I’ve always battled with, or the standard fear of failure. But I can’t help but wonder whether I have these confidence issues because of my constant position under away from the direction of light.
Did growing up with a brother who was exemplary in regards to academia, mean that I’ve always felt overshadowed, or at least like a far less impressive human? Achieving top scores in his GSCE’s and A levels, even my good or excellent results would ALWAYS pale in comparison – even if it took me far more more effort for me to achieve them. I remember hearing my mum tell relatives and friends his results over the phone, and hoping that the conversation wouldn’t lead on to how I was getting on. My parents weren’t bragging either, they were never like that. But perhaps that’s part of the issue too. Even when I did achieve big things, they were never given much notice or amplification, and the applause always felt muted. I think it’s important to steer your children to be humble, but perhaps the balance was too far to the other way making me feel that anything I did was never going to be enough. Although I think I was always innately more vivacious than my brother – my shyness came as a result of nurture, I think – he’s always been shy and less tactile than me, but managed to do very well in life. Even now, he’s more than financially stable, has a great home, a lovely wife , and a very cool and impressive career. I have none of these, so this feeling of being the inferior siblings remains, and I choose to be in the shadows as a result, whether or not my parents continue to help putting me there. But a positive to take from his journey is that he proves that it’s not always about being bolshy and loud, and that hard work and talent can do all of your talking, as can focusing on what you want from life. He always ensured the spotlight was on his career, that bulb never blew.
I’ve also often dated people who have higher profile careers than myself. They’re also often jobs that require a large amount of sacrifice on my part…as the supportive and understanding partner. With some, it proved to be an utter waste of time and opportunity, but with other’s you do it. and continue to do it willingly (although with resentment on grumpy or lonley days) because your partnership with them is worth it. Perhaps you also feel like it may be worthwhile for the good of your team in the long run.
I realised that I’ve almost becomes used to being second fiddle, not recognising how often it’s happening, and just what I might be giving up in it’s quiet process. There’s those day to day things I can’t do because of this subtle form of hierarchy, but what monopolises my thoughts is how it will effect how I perceive the success of my life when looking back as an elderly lady. If I allow it to continue, I wonder if I’ll look at it as a pleasant, but unfulfilled life. I might feel utterly bereft for not making sure that I reached, or at least attempted to strive for my full potential. There’s the little things that go unnoticed, like always celebrating their achievements in a big way. Tweeting their big news, bigging up their latest work project, whatever it may be, even if you are similarly plugging away just as hard, if not more, or might need more help in terms of drawing attention to what you’re doing. The fact that your schedule is constantly effected or dictated by theirs. The fact that when you go out as a couple, everyone is way more interested in a what they’re up to and you’re stuck listening and nodding along to something you’ve already heard ten times that day. You get the idea..
When I think about my groups of friends and the dynamics within them, I can’t help but notice that I’m never the most vocal or prominent participant in our social activities. In fact the opposite is often true. As I think about it now, I can’t decide whether it’s because I’m shy, actually take a lot of pleasure in listening to people, or because I’ve had to become that way because of the friendship groups I tend to form. There have definitely been a few occasion where I’ve felt stifled because of the sheer volume of others, and the amount of air-time they wish to use. I remember on one gutsy day at art school I dared to challenge a friend of mine that ALWAYS interrupted me (rather rudely, but with no malice or awareness). I just said ‘can you hold on a sec, I was just saying something?’ in a very calm way, but blimey it did not go down well. She made it out as if I was being unreasonable or even worse bitchy, and I remember at that point thinking I wasn’t going to bother standing up for myself, or the words I wanted to say. Back then, I felt I’d rather be hushed or talked over, than have someone shout at me. Having someone direct their words at me with force meant that the focus was on me, in an all too big and dramatic way, and as we know already, I’m not about that life.
If I think about some of the industries I’ve worked within, this idea of being a less important being has definitely been enhanced. As an artwork assistant at McQueen, we wouldn’t get credited for our designs, and dearly departed Lee would of course get all the praise – he was a genius of course, but there’s a lot of people involved. At a fashion magazine, an editor made me feel very bad about getting the wrong brand of bottled water, even though she never stated a preference. As a stylist assistant it’s about the model/celebrity, or the often terrifying stylist you’re supporting. Even in the past when I have secured really good presenting and interviewing work, where there’s been make up artists making me look camera-ready, and a proper crew, it’s not long before you are reminded that the band you are interviewing are the important people here, not you. You are simply there to help extract words from the people the audience actually care hearing from. Again I don’t seek fame or attention, so this is totally cool with me, but it’s an interesting thing to mention while on this theme. Then I think about a lot of my friends who happen to be in successful bands. Out of support for them and the music industry we all will of course tweet when they have albums or singles out, or a tour on sale, telling our followers to make sure they make a purchase and support their ventures. Do these people do the same for us in our jobs. Largely no. Again our lives and careers are given less wattage.
I’ve had a few meetings in the last year, that haven’t been one on one, but group scenarios. I’ve noticed a shift in how I behaved within them since my decision to step out from the shadows. For years I would have put up with the fact that I wouldn’t get a word in edge-ways, but now I make a point of fighting for some time within the slot, even if I have to cut in now and again to ensure I do. I’ve learned that sometimes we don’t get much opportunity to showcase who we are or what we can do, so it’s vital you make the most of the moments you get, and attempt to grab the most out of the situation.
I guess one of the greatest things about YouTube and blogging is that it gives the shy, stifled, beaten-down people a voice. I’m never going to be the person confident to say all the jokes out or funny comments that come into my head out loud in a group scenario (unless your my closest friends and you the most confident version of me). Meaning, I’ll always feel a bit disgruntled when someone else does, and they get all the laughs, but at least I have some type of outlet these days. I now have somewhere where I can say those all those things I regret not saying in that perfect moment in real life. I can also be vocal about those more controversial things I haven’t been confident enough to say in a group setting. If you feel like your real life involves a lot of overshadowing, a lack of opportunity to say what you want to say, or shine as brightly as you feel you deserve, then you can at least do it via the internet.
I think my mental health has had a huge influence on my tendency to maintain a low-keyness about everything I do too. Things I should publicise and exploit, I keep quiet because anxiety makes me terrified to put myself out there. You worry that people won’t celebrate your success, or that think it’s not worthy of success, even worse that they’ll think you’re a bad person to want to tell people about the success. In short, you overthink EVERYTHING. This fear of saying or doing the wrong this has also meant that rather than be at the helm of a conversations, or being that memorable person holding fort at an event, gig or party, that I slink out, and attempt to do everything unnoticed. Completely stealth, like a high ranking FBI agent, I often arriving unannounced and leaving without any type or goodbye. The worst thing with that is some people take that approach as rudeness, which is the last thing you’d ever want! Depression and chronic illness can also have a monumental effect on your general confidence too, so things you want to strive for, and are fully capable of achieving, seem intimidatingly daunting, or even impossible. This sometimes leads you to giving up on putting the focus on your own goals, dreams and ambitions and instead you investing your time in others, thus shining a light away from you and on to them. There’s something less scary about helping someone else achieve the life they want isn’t there? Even if it means we risk being regretful in our old age.
I’m not saying we all need to become more publicly vocal, extremely loud to the point of being obnoxious, or be completely exhausting to be around. I’m not claiming we need to become selfish and stop supporting other people’s dreams and pursuits. We don’t all have to suddenly want to become stars of the stage and screen either. But life is frighteningly short, and trust me as one of the older bloggers, that candles burns out a lot quicker than you ever thought it would. Live a life that will likely emit that amazing aroma even when the flames gone out. Don’t put it off as long as I have, after-all we want as much time as possible in our lives basking in bright light, a warm glow, or a beautiful ray. But it’s never to late to reposition yourself under that metaphorical spotlight, or make sure you are as well lit as you desire (I’m happy with dim but flattering lighting). This year I’m going to make sure me and my partner revel in a shared and radiating illumination, which will hopefully set both of our separate careers ablaze. I’m going to try and shine a torch on those small achievements and moments that I used to keep quiet for fear of being labelled a bragger or self congratulatory. I wonder if the world would be a more luminous place if we all allowed ourself the opportunities to dazzle and shine?
I really hope I’ve sparked something in you to become more than an silhouette. Step out of murk and show everyone the amazing features that make you who you are. Say something, do something, you deserve to be seen and/or heard.
Top – New Look at ASOS – https://rstyle.me/n/cwftrjccv6p
Jeans – ASOS – https://rstyle.me/n/cwfts5ccv6p