I’ve now been blogging for over ten years. Who knew that when I was lying in bed in my old flat in Gospel Oak in the autumn of 2006 that signing up to Blogspot would change my life within a year?
Even so, things were very different back then. I kept my blog anonymous. Very, very anonymous. I used a generic blogging platform so I wouldn’t have to register a domain under my real name, set up an anonymous Gmail account, and never, ever posted any images of myself. I was determined that my identity would not leak, not because I was doing anything controversial, illegal or scandal-worthy – after all, I’m no Belle du Jour, but because I was terrified of being judged.
The idea of putting my thoughts out there with my name attached to them, along with photos of me in my outfits and with my purchases, was laughable. Remember, back then no one was broadcasting their breakfast, bowel movements, or baby’s birthday party. And, because no one was doing any of these things, to stick one’s head over the digital parapet would have felt akin to placing myself in front of a firing squad. I’ve always suffered from social anxiety, to the point where leaving the house can be a problem, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with online criticism.
I finally gave up my blogging and social anonymity in February 2011 and it was such a huge weight off my shoulders. Not because I disliked being anonymous, but because I didn’t receive a single derogatory or nasty comment. No one judged me, no one was, frankly, disappointed that I was me. Turns out that people can actually be lovely when you’re putting yourself out there with a name and a face attached to your work. They’re kind, engaged, supportive and just plain nice.
They chat to me about Lettice and my sister, and ask my advice on everything from shopping to recipes, and no one has ever made me feel bad about talking about my life, whether I’m putting out the bins, going shopping, or walking the red carpet at Cannes.
Last year I spoke on a panel about the business of blogging at the Good Roots festival along with friends from the digital world, Melissa Hemsley, Madeleine Shaw, and Niomi Smart. Towards the end of the discussion there was a question from the audience on confidence and dealing with insecurity when you operate in the social media space. I talked a little about how my crippling social anxiety had lessened with the success of LLG over the past ten years, how it’s important to learn to advocate for oneself, and how women, in particular, need to stop being scared of talking about, in particular, money and success.
But the day after the festival, when the adrenalin had worn off, I realised that, for all my fine words up on the stage, I still worry about being judged, still have that ‘good girl’ fear of being thought to be showing off (hello anonymous blog for four years), still think that because I hate seeing myself in photographs, and quite often hate myself, that I don’t deserve to talk about my successes, however big or small.
And that, whilst I have achieved so much of which I am proud over the past six years since I gave up my blog anonymity, I have so often not acknowledged the things I have done, won or been commended for on the blog, on my numerous social feeds, or even to my friends, because I don’t think I really deserve them, or because they are lessened because of the way I view myself. At best, I sometimes manage the odd very stilted private FB post. And that’s about it.
When I won a Red Woman of the Year Award in 2011 I didn’t even blog about it because I felt a bit odd about the whole thing. I couldn’t quite believe it had been me up on that stage looking down at a room of women, many of whom I had admired for years, and I just couldn’t own it. Even though I went to Downing Street, for Christ’s sake, and have a lovely engraved Perspex slab in my office.
And so I decided to stop being so damn English, to start being proud in public, not just behind closed doors. To do more than just publish the odd pic with a furtive caption so people can infer I’ve done something cool, to actually acknowledge publicly the wonderful things that occasionally happen to me and to the blog, rather than just letting them slide into memory without public acknowledgment. To actually blog about the cool stuff instead of being faintly embarrassed about it. To own my small success, and be confident enough to use it to achieve more.
Because it’s okay to be proud of our achievements, and it’s normal to celebrate our daily wins, whether that’s being given an award or finding the perfect saucepan on sale. The happiness engendered by getting round to doing the filing, lifting a big weight at the gym, or bagging the perfect shopping bargain is a good thing: why not share it, and the joy that comes along too?
And so when my friends at TK Maxx said that they wanted me to talk about bragging as part of their #RidiculousPossibilities campaign I knew I had so much to say. Because bragging, done nicely, can be life-affirming. And, after all, when it comes to bragging rights, nobody gives you more license than TK Maxx. Why not celebrate the joy of stumbling across that perfect – although potentially unexpected – item?
(And I should know – I’ve been shopping there for years, thanks to the online offering, the excellent Banbury store near my mother, the ginormous one in Milton Keynes near my father, and the handy one ten minutes down the road from me here in London on Charing Cross Road. My flat and my closets are full of TK Maxx bargains, from the pretty embroidered linen on my bed to the sushi knives in my kitchen.)
TK Maxx offers unbelievable value at up to 60% less than the RRP of department stores or on the high street, and their regular deliveries through the week bring up to 10,000 new items to the store, so there will always be something amazing to discover, and I always love that you can find something whatever your budget – take the pretty black cotton kaftan I’m wearing in these photographs that we took at the weekend which I found online last week for just £16.99 – now that’s something to brag about. (In fact I actually bought five kaftans because they were such good value, and I always need them for my travels.)
So TKMaxx and LLG would like to give you the space to brag about YOUR achievements: we’ll give one person a £100 TK Maxx gift card to enable them to go in store or online and find an item that they feel happy to brag about.
So tell us: What is the thing you have done recently of which you are most proud?
Simply leave a comment below this post and the recipient of the £100 TK Maxx gift card will be informed one week from today.
SUMMARY TERMS & CONDITIONS
UK, ‘ROI’, DE, AT, PL and NL. 16+ only. No purchase necessary to enter
Prizes: 1 x £100 TK Maxx Gift Card
Promoter: TJX Europe, 50 Clarendon Road, Watford WD17 1TX.
Full terms & conditions for the giveaway can be read here