If you're finding yourself repeatedly disappointed by partners who just aren't ready to commit, you're in no way alone. This might be a good opportunity to step back, reflect on what's going on for you, and how you might be able to change things up and break away from the same old pattern that's been getting you down.Read More
A lot of things have happened since I first started writing about and sharing my experience of growing up with a birthmark that covered most of my face when I was young. When I first decided to study Life Coaching and set up my blog, I hadn't even considered that my strawberry marks would ever become a point of discussion - let alone something that would become such a central point of WHY I believe so strongly in what I do.Read More
I want to shift the world out of limiting, and false beauty standards which not only keep us living in fear and shame in ourselves - but that breed fear and competition amongst women. I want us to be able to move beyond the overwhelming idea that our value is determined by the men in our lives, or by the supposedly finite amount of affection, money, opportunity, and attention they can afford to toss our way if we're deemed to be enough.Read More
I honestly hadn't realised how much I'd accepted people throwing negative comments at me until someone stepped in and made it absolutely clear how NOT ok it was.
I hadn't realised how much it meant to me that other people didn't care enough to say anything until somebody did.Read More
Today is International Women's Day, so inspired by my friend Yen over on The Yennipenni Channel, and after saying for months that I wanted to create videos, I've finally pulled up my Big Girl Pants, said, "Fuck it!" and rambled to my webcam for a good 10 minutes.
Obviously, uploading it to YouTube and hitting publish without editing or re-watching it was the only way I was ever going to get this bad-babe out to the world without hitting delete and bailing on the whole idea, and I'm not entirely sure that I was coherent so please, "Go gentle on me, Internet."
You can check out my video here, if you're so inclined:
*If my video triggers any negative responses, or upsets you and you'd like to speak with someone, I've listed some of the services available within Australia, including Lifeline and Beyond Blue. You can find their contact details at the end of the post.
The overall idea was to send a message of things I would like my younger self to have known, and I chose to address my message to Nine Year Old Kym.
I chose that age pretty specifically because that was the age that I remember having absorbed so much of the negativity around me, in the way girls spoke to one another - to me specifically - and internalised it not only as acceptable, but as NORMAL.
Looking back now, having done a shit-tonne of work developing my own sense of self worth and becoming confident in who I am, I can see that whenever I engaged in Girl on Girl Hate (and sadly it took years to truly stop engaging in this kind of behaviour), it was more a reflection of how I felt at the time, than of those said Hate was directed towards.
I think it's also really important to recognise that this kind of behaviour is something which our culture still very much ENCOURAGES. Seriously, think about all of the toxic negativity we see spewing off the covers of trashy magazines, on TV, and out of newspapers. Anyway, this is a big part of why I now make such a considered effort to encourage women and girls to support one another - and why in The Girl Gang, I try to promote the idea that Rad Bitches Stick Together.
I also don't own a TV anymore, and I rarely read the news, because I'm trying to limit my exposure to things which frustrate or piss me off. I never buy trashy magazines and if I feel like indulging in a little pop culture, I stick with titles like, The Collective, Womankind, Yen, Peppermint, Frankie, or Bitch, because they offer well rounded, complex and nuanced representations and interpretations of the world we live in.
I think that this is also part of why I've always felt at home within fringe communities filled with artists, goths, punks and metal heads - even though many of those communities are super filled with dudes, I always felt accepted, rather than competed against.
Over the years, I've learned to be far more patient, understanding, and compassionate, but I still get super worked up about a bunch of issues - most of which tend to centre around inequality and systems of oppression.
I'm super fortunate to know (and know of) a number of incredibly wise and articulate people who frequently write and speak on these topics, so today, I'm going to share links to some of the pieces I feel are worth considering today.
My friend Penny attended Amy Gray's International Women's Day Opening Address during the week, and wrote about 11 Ways Amy Gray Inspired her.
Last year, my lovely friends Stevie and Luc - who collectively formed Team Earthling, explored International Women's Day from a vegan perspective, along with some of the ways in which animal rights organisations fail as an intersectional movement, in their podcast Why Intersectionality Matters.
I would also encourage everyone to check out Amy McGuire's piece for New Matilda, All Feminists Are Created Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others which discusses the unique forms and systems of violence experienced by Indigenous Australian Women.
Take the time to learn about the history of International Women's Day and it's roots as a revolutionary movement, and the relevance it still holds today. This article written by Rebecca Winson, was published last year on New Statesman.
I'd also encourage you to learn about what actions YOU can take to prevent violence against women and children, and the ways in which you can offer support to those who are currently experiencing, or have experienced male perpetrated violence through initiatives such as Our Watch.
Check out Annabel Crabb's piece on being a Proud Bad Feminist.
Or learn about the Radical Brownies, based in Oakland, CA. who aim to "empower young girls of color so that they step into their collective power, brilliance and leadership in order to make the world a more radical place."
Now having put my first video up, I'm feeling a little braver about the whole thing, and I've decided that I'd like to send a message to both 17 Year Old Kym, and 25 Year Old Kym.
How have you celebrated International Women's Day this year?
What message would you like to send to a younger version of you?
In the meantime, let's all stick together, learn from, and support one another - even when we disagree - that's the beauty of open dialogue.
Contact Details for support services and resources available in Australia:
Lifeline Suicide Prevention Hotline: 13 11 14
Victorian CASA (Centres Against Sexual Assault): Sexual Assault Crisis Line 1800 806 292. For Sexual Assault Counselling Services 1800 RESPECT
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636, an Australian "national initiative to raise awareness of anxiety and depression, providing resources for recovery, management and resilience."
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Last Saturday morning, Jordan and I loaded up the MINI and drove out to Seville, which sits in the Warburton Valley, just beyond the urban fringe of Melbourne. While everything about the weekend could very easily have set the scene for a sneaky romantic weekend away, we actually went away to celebrate my Lil Sis's Wedding Day. Every part of the weekend was beautiful, relaxed and joyful for all involved. Jordan and I arrived in Seville nice and early and ate a lunch of pasties from the local bakery. We then met up with my Dad, checked into our accommodation at Dalblair Bed & Breakfast (Jordan and I stayed in the beautiful apartment @ Waters Edge), and enjoyed a lazy swim in the pool, before getting ready for the main event of the afternoon.
The wedding was held at Killara Estate, which provided the perfect backdrop for the Lil Sis and her new husband, to celebrate their marriage - with all three of their beloved staffies in attendance. I don't want to spend too much of this post describing the wedding, as I feel that it's a story the newlyweds to share should they wish to - aside from saying that it was such an honour to share in their day, and to celebrate with them.
What I really want to share with you all, are a few thoughts I've had brewing over the last fortnight since posting about Self Care Sunday - and what even is the point of practicing Self Care?
Last weekend was actually the first time that some of our family and friends had really gotten to hang out with and get to know Jordan properly - and definitely the first time they'd gotten to see us really messing around and having fun together as I kicked off my shoes and we started dancing around, giggling and pretending as if we knew how to lindy-hop. I have it on good authority that a few happy tears were shed by those who've known the Lil Sis and I since we were born, at seeing us both so puke-worthily happy.
Now, the reason I'm sharing all of this, is not to be all, "OMG we had this amazing weekend away! Look how perfect my life is!" After we got home on Sunday, and I'd allowed the events to really sink in, I couldn't help but reflect on how much has changed - and funnily enough, I happened to have a photo which totally highlights that.
This rather unflattering photo of me and Jordan was taken at a time when neither of us were particularly healthy, nor very healthy. To be fair, we'd just pulled an epic couple of weeks at Art School, getting our folios together for submission and assessment at the end of our Third Year of our Painting Major Studies towards the Bachelor of Fine Art, so delirium and sleep deprivation, combined with alcohol, and regular job responsibilities had pretty well hit their peak.
At the time, I was in one of the "On Again" stages of the toxic On-Again-Off-Again, non relationship I had with my ex, I had spent three and a half years dealing with ongoing and complex health issues, and I drank too much too frequently. Shit was very much about to hit the fan, and the next year was to be one of the toughest I've ever experienced.
It strikes me now that so many people (and I know that they're saying this out of love - and partly because they may not have seen me for a while) comment on how happy Jordan makes me. This kind of bothers me a little.
The reason being that while I'm totally happy with Jordan, and I love that he challenges, encourages and supports me, I've worked my freakin' arse off to create a life which supports my own happiness - and I was happy as a Single Crazy Cat Lady.
This, I guess brings me to my thoughts on WHY Self Care Sundays (and self care in general) is so important. For me, self care isn't just about doing one small thing, once a week to make yourself happy. It's about accepting everything about yourself - including the stuff you kind of suck at, and building from there. It's about being the kind of person you love spending all of your time with.
While the purpose of self care is NOT attracting a partner - nor is it about creating the space and opportunity for a partner to come into your life, I have to admit that had I not put the time, effort and consideration into learning to really love the person I am, then I wouldn't have the kind of relationship that I do with Jordan now.
Thus, bringing me to the other big event I attended this week. On Wednesday evening, I headed straight from work to Circa @ The Deck in St. Kilda, for 'An Evening with Lisa Messenger' presented by Suzanne Chadwick of The Connection Exchange.
At that stage (early September), I had literally just started studying Health and Wellness Coaching, and hadn't even set up a blog or Facebook page yet. Lisa was so generous with her time, and her words, and was keen to hear about my journey while she signed my fresh new copies of both of her books. I had already read Daring and Disruptive, but I spent this morning getting stuck into Love and Life, and I've already found myself nodding along with Lisa's story, and feeling as if it reiterates so perfectly what I'm trying to say here.
While I'm not the CEO of a publishing group, nor am I the Editor in Chief of a magazine which is currently sold in 37 countries around the world, one of my favourite things about reading Lisa's work, and especially about having met her in person, is how open she is - and how strongly she believes that anything is possible for any one to achieve - but most of all - how honest and true it feels to hear her say these things.
When rich white dudes in suits with private school educations speak about achieving success, my eyes honestly glaze over and I feel like poking myself in the eye with a fork. When Lisa speaks about possibility, it FEELS genuinely accessible, and those rich white dudes in suits seem less intimidating - she is an Entrepreneur FOR Entrepreneurs after all!
The reason I wanted to share about meeting Lisa, and reading her books, is that she talks quite openly and honestly about establishing and practicing self care as a non negotiable, as it has formed the foundations for her success within relationships, life, and in her businesses. While I have very different goal and aspirations, it's genuinely inspiring to be able to look towards someone like Lisa Messenger and know that her past experiences are not THAT far removed from mine, and that she's just further along in her journey than I am.
Having Rad Bitches to look towards as Role Models, is something we talk about quite a bit within The Girl Gang, and I'd love to know - who are the women who inspire you to live at your biggest and at your best?
PS: I highly recommend checking out The (Renegade) Collective, as well as Lisa's books. They're fun, empowering, and easy to read - even if entrepreneurship isn't something you're interested in.
PPS: I haven't even had a chance to talk about the other amazing people I got to meet and learn about over the last few weeks, but I'm well over a thousand words now! Suffice to say, I've spoken with some incredible women who are up to big things!
PPPS: I've been getting back into hosting coaching sessions, and I'm totally loving it! Speaking with everyone I've held calls with has been so inspiring, and knowing that coaching is totally my jam has really empowered me to get myself out of that icky-funk I'd been in!
*BONUS BLOG POST TIME! IT'S A LONG ONE, TOO - YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED* Tonight I want to share some super personal things with you - things which have challenged me, made me ecstatically happy, left me shaking with rage, some that even made my Mum cry.
Anyone who has known me for any length of time - especially if they knew me as a kid, will tell you that I'm a pretty outgoing person, with a "Screw what anyone else thinks" attitude. For the most part, they'd be right on the money. I love getting up on stage and performing in front of an audience, I rock up to my Nannying job in Black Milk leggings covered in Monsters, and on one occasion in my early 20's I went out to party wearing a tiara created with my own hair. All of that said, I only enjoy being the centre of attention IF I'm doing so on MY TERMS.
What many people don't know, is that I'm actually absolutely TERRIFIED of being LOOKED AT.
You know that feeling when you rock up to a class or a meeting five minute after it started, and EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the room stops what they are doing, and STARES AT YOU? You get so nervous that you kick someones chair on your way passed, accidentally drop your pencil case as you take your seat, and you just KNOW that you're making so much noise while you're getting settled, that everyone is super annoyed with you. Your mind starts playing tricks on you as ridiculous thoughts race around your head.
"Oh crap, they're all still staring! Shit, why are they ALL staring at me? Is my dress tucked into the back of my undies? Do I have a booger hanging out of my nose? There's totally a booger hanging out of my nose, isn't there? I don't even have any tissues with me! Gah! Stop looking at me, dammit!"
This is exactly how my mind worked, pretty much all of the time, right through school, and it still does every now and then.
So from the minute I decided that it would be a good idea to hire a professional photographer and have a series of portraits taken for this blog, my stomach instantly started doing somersaults. One night, I bit the bullet, and sent off an enquiry email at about 1am. I barely slept and spent the next day exhausted, running on adrenaline as I got through my Buddy Coaching calls.
In the following days, I started to feel a little better about my decision and tried to step into a space of genuine excitement, by thinking about how this meant I absolutely HAD to get a hair cut, and that I could totally pick out some new outfits for the occasion! I shared the news of the impending photo shoot with a few friends, and my business coach with an air of nonchalance, as if this was the sort of thing I do every day. Really, I was telling them for an added level of accountability, so I couldn't back out!
As the day crept closer, that little voice inside my head started getting louder, and more specific, until it was practically SCREAMING my deepest insecurities at me.
"Just who do YOU think you are, hiring a professional photographer?"
"Really Kym? YOU'RE doing a photo shoot? In PUBLIC?!?! HAHAHAHA! This is a joke, right? What is the photographer going to think? As if he'll even want to shoot you!"
I did my very best to ignore that ridiculous voice, and replied to every email as we planned and nutted out the details of what I wanted. I told myself I was being ridiculous, I'd met Ben before at a friends wedding, he'd taken a photo of Jordan and me that happens to be my favourite one of us together. I knew he understood my style, and that he'd be able to take photos that would help me stand out from other Life Coaches.
When Ben first arrived, I felt slightly ridiculous posing in my lounge room, but we quickly figured each other out, I calmed heck down - Lucy the Hell Kitty and The Sassy Ms. Honey B even came out to play for the camera!
Well it turned out, that THIS was a particularly sunny Sunday afternoon, so just about every man and his dog was out and about. We wandered slowly by crowded cafes and distracted traffic at busy intersections, before I posed on park benches or leaned on quaint little bridges, thoughtfully watching ducks and geese go about their business.
Of course I was laughing at how silly we must have looked. But inside, I was registering every single person who looked at me, trying to quiet that voice in my which was scolding me for being so ostentatious and flamboyant, and ignoring the thought that everyone was judging me.
We rounded out the shoot with a few more shots back at The Kitteh Palace, and with me feeling super proud of myself for actually DOING the shoot at all, and especially for the fact that I had FUN!
The next day, Ben sent through all of the proofs for me to choose from. This freaked me right the hell out. So much so, that I procrastinated getting back to him for about a week. I ummed-and-ahhed for days, tearing apart and scrutinising my appearance in every photo, before FINALLY deciding on 10 images.
I almost dreaded getting the final high resolution images back from him, knowing that I would have to start sharing them!
I've essentially had the first half of this post drafted in my head and ready to go ever since the photo shoot, although I was still tossing up whether or not to actually share it.
There have been a number of really significant events this week, which have convinced me that I HAVE to share these photos, as well as the following stories.
For those of you who don't know, when I was a little girl, I had a hemangioma or Strawberry Mark, which at its' peak covered about 90% of my face, neck and along my sternum. While Strawberry Marks are not uncommon, mine was at the time, one of the most severe known cases in the country, as it affected so much of my face, as well as my airways, and my throat. Due to the internal swelling, I wasn't able to swallow food, or breathe through my nose, so for the first few years, I lived with a feeding tube into my belly.
Given that my parents were the first of all of their friends to get pregnant, there was a LOT of anticipation and excitement about my birth - so it turned out that we had a massive group of family and the kind of friends you think of as "Family" who considered me "their" baby, too.
There were plenty of ups and downs along the way, but ultimately, I was a really happy little kid. I was proud of my Strawberry Marks and thought they were pretty. I have vivid memories of standing in front of the bathroom mirror when I was tall enough, finding the flowers in the pink lumpy shapes on my cheeks, thinking to myself just how cool they were. Seriously, how lucky was I to have pictures on my cheeks just like My Little Ponies had pictures on their rumps, or Care Bears had on their tummies?
All of that said, I was born smack-bang in the middle of the 80's, and at the height of AIDS hysteria. People were afraid of anything they didn't understand (and still are), and my Mum once told me a story of some guy dragging his kid off a carousel in a shopping centre and telling her off for taking me out in public, as if I posed a danger to his kid.
I can remember a photographic assistant at the Children's Hospital admonishing Mum for letting my sister and I look at the photos in MY medical records, as if photos of my own birth mark were too graphic for us to look at, or something?
I can't even imagine how difficult that must have been for my Mum (Who for the record is extremely humble, unassuming, and nowhere near as outlandish as I am), or for my Dad - but they NEVER hid me away from anyone. Every year, Mum and I would line up with everyone else at K-Mart for our annual Pixie Photo session. Every year, she would order a deluxe package with blown up portraits, laminated calendars with magnets glued on the back for both sets of grandparents, and all of their friends. I'm actually pretty sure she still has a calendar from 1990 on her fridge.
As I started to grow, I turned out to be that kid who'd be out on the dance floor at every party - rocking out to whichever band was playing - on my own half the time, but having a blast. I was out there, doing my thing, dancing to blues guitar and singing along to words I didn't even know yet, and not giving a shit who cared. Not once did Mum or Dad try to stop me, no matter how uncomfortable they might have felt.
Now the reason I'm sharing all of this, is because during the week, I've come across two articles, written by two different mothers whose daughters were also born with Strawberry Marks.
The first article, by Beth Seaver appeared on xoJane, was titled 'My Kid Has a Big Red Dot on Her Face, Here's How Not to Be a Dick'. Naturally, it warmed my heart and it made me so unbelievably happy to read, so I posted it on my personal Facebook, knowing that Mum would read it. As fate may have it, I was catching up with my parents, as well as all of Mums siblings and a few of my cousins that night for family dinner, so the article came up in conversation. We all agreed it was amazing, and I highly recommend reading it. Mum found herself agreeing with many of the points raised in this article, and today she told me that no matter how challenging or unfair things felt at different times when I was in and out of hospital, she always came home feeling lucky knowing that I was relatively healthy, and that I was going to be fine.
On Wednesday, following on from my posting 'How Not to Be a Dick', I was tagged in a Facebook post by Mia Freedman's blog MamaMia, (although the article was originally published on The Huffington Post). To say that the experience of reading the article was a stark reminder of exactly why I NEVER read any thing on MamaMia, would be an understatement. I felt physically ill for having read it, and it brought up some very painful memories.
Before I post the link to this article, I want to make it EXTREMELY CLEAR that I am NOT attacking the author of this article for the choices she made. I'm absolutely certain that she felt that she was making the very best decision she could - with the information available to her at the time. I want to acknowledge how courageous she must be to speak publicly about what was an extremely difficult and painful decision for her to make at the time - especially when she must have known how her decisions would come across to an audience who have never been faced with the situation she was.
Now, as full disclosure, I DID undergo cosmetic surgery as a child. I had a facelift in 1991 at age 6 (when elective cosmetic surgery was still relatively new), and about a year later I had laser treatment under a General Anaesthesia (I woke up screaming afterwards, and was sick for the rest of the afternoon). I want to stress that my Strawberry Marks had mostly disappeared by this time, and that deciding to put me through both of these procedures was very difficult for my parents - especially considering that I was well and truly OVER the whole hospital thing by that point.
I can only speak to my own experiences here, but the article I'm about to link to paints an extremely vivd picture of what I felt when I underwent a "test patch" without anaesthetic. It was by FAR one of the most traumatic and physically painful experiences of my life so far. From being on the receiving end of laser treatment, I felt that the sensation was a metric f*ck-tonne more painful than a flick with an elastic band, and I'm beyond furious that the same comparison that my parents and I were told of, was then fed to these parents across the world, a whole FIVE YEARS LATER.
I'm furious that they were advised that the procedure would be beneficial on an infant from the age of 13 months old.
And I felt physically ill at the thought that the procedure was REPEATED again and again, WITHOUT ANAESTHETIC.
I'm angry that procedures like this are being sold to concerned parents who want to protect their children from potential bullying or cruelty - as if removing a birthmark (one which generally disappears by its own nature) is an appropriate way to go about that.
I don't want to go into the other issues this article raised for me - although there are MANY - including how f*cked up I find it that girls like me were sent messages that something about our physical appearance that we were either proud or unaware of, was inherently wrong and needed to be corrected or removed.
Ultimately what I've learned from reading both of these posts, is just how important it is for me to show up, allow myself to be seen, and LOOKED AT - even on days when I feel like I look kinda crappy - let alone on days when I feel totally amazing, and I'm posing for professional photos.
I'm not conventionally "pretty", but I'm ok with that.
I regularly take and post "No Make Up Selfies" on social media - sometimes with bed hair, often while I'm still in my pyjamas.
I'm still learning to think of myself as beautiful, no matter how many times I hear other people tell me I am, but I'm getting better.
I'm unique, and I love that what makes me stand out these days is not my wrinkles, or the few reddish spots on my face, it's my personality, and the confidence in who I am and what I can do because of the experiences I've had.
It's important for me to be seen, so that parents facing these decisions either now, or in the future can see just how amazing us Strawberry Marked Girls grow up to be.
It's important for me to show up and share my stories, so that girls with Strawberry Marks know that they're not alone, and there are more of us who've been through similar experiences to you. I want for all of you to know that you are beautiful exactly how you are, and please don't you EVER let anyone treat you as if you are less deserving of the wonderful things this world has to offer.
Don't ever settle, compromise, or allow anyone to ignore your voice.
I want to thank Ben Gunzburg of BENSHOOTSPEOPLE for the amazing portraits he took, and for helping me to feel so relaxed during our session. It was a lot of fun, and I totally look forward to working with him again in the future.
But most of all, I want to thank my parents (and I know that my Mum will have been crying through this entire post) because reading these articles has reminded me to be grateful every day for just how f*cking incredible they were, and still are. I want them to know that they were not just doing "what mums and dads do", they were doing what OUTSTANDING Mums and Dads do.
I want my Lil Sis to know how amazing she is, and how much I still appreciate those two years when she would ditch her friends on the playground if they didn't want to include me in their games.
Thank you to everyone who's read this post, sincerely. There is a huge part of my soul that has been poured out and into these words tonight.