As you will know by now if you follow me on social media or if you've spent any time on my website, my mission is to motivate and inspire people to be who they are and love who they are. All my current work is on this theme - based on quotes or messages that remind us to be joyful, be brave and to embrace the mistakes we will make along the way.
But change can be big and scary, and getting our of your comfort zone to embrace new things is so much easier with the support of friends - and that is the inspiration for this painting. It is the belief and encouragement from my friends which has got me this far - and which has kept me going when I was a defeated heap on the floor.
So, this is my homage to them. A thank you from the bottom of my heart for their love and friendship - and a reminder that I am here for them too, always.
And it is a reminder for us all to make sure we surround ourselves with friends who build us up (not knock us down!), who we can trust and lean on when we need to (and who can do the same with us) and when we find them we need to treasure them and be grateful for them because they are worth their weight in gold.
Let us celebrate our friends.
'Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they're always there'
I can recall with frightening accuracy times in my life when people said things that left a massive dent in my confidence – like the times at High School when the cool girls would warn me against jumping in the pool at swimming lessons because I was so fat that all the water would come out, or the time one of my University tutors bluntly told me I couldn't draw. And there are many more times I could tell you about – and perhaps you too have clear memories of things that people said or did, possibly many, many years ago, that were less than flattering.
And I bet, like me, you remember them like they were yesterday. And maybe like me, instead of just denting your confidence, they also become evidence to feed the self-doubt and the crippling overthinking. I look back now, and with my older, more confident head on, I don't have any anger for the people that said these things, but I am so bloody annoyed at myself for listening.
Not only did I listen, I replayed these things time and time again. I wore them. I wore them like a badge. A really, really shit badge. I had so many fantastic badges to wear. Big, shiny, colourful badges, representing all the good things people said and all the amazing things about me. But I chose not to wear those ones. I hid them, lost them – was too timid to wear them. But the tiny, shit one – I chose to wear that one. And that is the brutal truth. I chose to wear it. Nobody made me.
And that is my point – we can never control what is said or done to us. But we can control how we deal with it. I think it is so important that we all work hard to love who we are to the point that negative or hurtful experiences can be dealt with without lasting damage – and that we are so proudly wearing a vast collection of big, bright, shiny, badges that any rubbish ones soon get hidden and forgotten about. In fact, we need to build up that collection of big, bright, shiny badges so much that they become our suit of armour – a proud confidence in who and what we are that makes us more able to cope with the bad stuff, and in some circumstances, to give us the strength to fight back because we know we don't deserve it.
We need to give ourselves permission to love who we are and be proud of it – and we need to build up our children to do the same. Yes, we will always potentially come across times and events that challenge us but we have to make sure we don't give them more of our time, attention and belief than we do the positive and uplifting times. Replay the compliments, the successes and the things that deserve to be celebrated.