Sunday, September 16, 2018

Friends Can Break Your Heart Too - Toxicity in Friendships

Toxic friendships - how to spot them?

I'm no stranger to fuckboys and heartbreak. Let's face it, I've had the Twitter meltdowns to prove it - and even though, it can feel like the worse pain you'll ever experience, I think the breakdown of these kinds of relationships are a lot easier to accept and deal with because, with these people, deep down, they don't owe you anything and sometimes, relationships just don't work out and you have to let people go so that they can live their life to their full potential, y'know?

But more recently, I realised that sometimes, unfulfilling friendships can leave you feeling just as heartbroken and I don't think it's something I see being spoken about enough...

Personally, though, I feel like it's almost that little bit worse when the betrayal comes from a friend because they're meant to be YOUR friend, your ride or die and when they're just..not, it's a new form of rejection to learn to deal with. I think toxic friendships are especially dangerous because in a normal romantic relationship, the second it starts to enter the toxic danger-zone, you'll more than likely talk to your friends about it and they'll soon help you realise that the behaviour isn't normal or okay and then you can start to make important choices about what you want to do, moving forward. But what do you do when your friends are the problem - who do you turn to then? It can be an extremely isolating situation.

I'm the worst person to end up in toxic situations because no matter what that person does, I feel like I can't leave. I convince myself that they didn't mean that horrible comment, they didn't mean to emotionally manipulate me and anyway, they're definitely not going to do it again - and even if they do, everyone deserves second chances, right? This thinking pattern is not healthy and will only lead you to a long road of misery. I've been there and got the unwanted t-shirt to prove it.

Growing up, I had lots of friends. I was always quite a social person and loved having a big group around me but looking back, none of those friendships were good and most of them were very one-sided and toxic. I could make a video about some of the most shocking moments, like, when my "friend" had sex with my first boyfriend or when another "friend" tried to convince me to break up with my boyfriend because "he didn't like me" JUST SO SHE COULD TRY AND DATE HIM, only to then want to date my next boyfriend too!!!! I try and laugh at these memories now but when you're going through it, it's intense and leaves you feeling very alone and almost like there's something wrong with you.

When you're growing up and you make friends at school, college and then at university, you have it kind of drilled into you that these are friendships that will last forever and these will be the people at your wedding and so, you need to try and keep these friendships alive, no matter what. But I think it's also so important to, sometimes, just take a step back and reassess these relationships and how they actually make you feel because it's so easy to keep someone in your life that drains all of your energy, but it can be the most detrimental thing to your mental well-being.

There's a quote I always see being shared a lot, which says:

"You could meet someone tomorrow that will have better intentions for you than someone you’ve known for years"

And it's SO true. Sometimes, it's really hard to walk away from certain friendships because they've been there, through everything, but if something or someone doesn't have a positive influence in your life anymore, you need to just let it go and walk away. I think maintaining friendships when you're growing up is quite an easy feat, because, you don't even know who you really are yet, you're almost like a blank canvas, just waiting to discover and find yourself. When I think back to the people I was once "best friends" with, I can't even think of a single reason why we were actually friends. We didn't even really have anything in common, we were probably just friends because we attended the same school and it was as simple as that.

Once you reach adulthood, the friendship thing becomes a little more tricky. Not only is it harder to meet friends once you're past the education portion of your life, but the maintaining aspect of friendships seems to become a lot harder too. Let's face it, the older we get, the more trauma we've likely experienced and endured, which means that we all have some form of emotional baggage with us - and it's all about how we choose to deal with this, and ultimately, ensuring that we're not taking our problems out on those closest to us, which can be oh, so easy to do.

Toxic friendships will always be easy to spot...

You dread being around them or them making any form of contact because the experience will always be more draining than enjoyable or fun.

And the common behavioural traits are:

1. They patronise you
This could be about your job, your hobby or literally anything else in between. This is quite damaging in my opinion because it can leave you feeling incredibly small and overthinking everything you've ever said or done.

2. They make backhanded comments 
This could range from a compliment that's completely backhanded or it could be something like a small dig, that they may try and pass off as a "joke". Jokes in friendships and relationships, in general, can be a difficult thing and the lines of what is and what isn't okay can sometimes, become a little blurred. I think it's important to realise the difference between an actual joke and something that you've said that is low-key mean and offensive, but you've disguised it by claiming it's "just a joke". There's a saying that there's always a little truth hidden behind jokes and that is so true! If you make a "joke" and your friend/acquaintance/co-worker/anyone doesn't find it funny and they're actually a little bit hurt by it, you should NOT argue back and make them feel worse by using the narrative that "they can't take a joke" Just admit your judgment was clouded and apologise, it's as simple as that, hun.

3. The friendship is one-sided 
Friendships or any kind of relationships, need to be a two-way street. However, some people definitely do not get this memo and take and take, without giving anything back. Are you always the one reaching out and attempting to make plans? Do you know everything about their life but they don't ever ask about anything you're going through? One-sided friendships don't always mean someone is a shit person though and this definitely has some exceptions. If someone has recently started isolating themselves in your relationship and/or with other people too, it could just mean that they're struggling mentally and maybe it's time you ask if everything is okay. However, the bottom line is - if your friend only contacts you when they want something and it feels like you're putting in SO much effort and getting nothing in return, it's probably time to cut your losses.

4. They constantly give you criticism 
Honesty is such an important thing in any relationship - and sometimes, the best thing you can do for your friend is simply telling them exactly how it is and what you think. This is such a vital thing for me because I'm someone that doesn't always spot the obvious or maybe I'm just in constant denial about a lot of's probably the latter if we're honest lol AND I need a truthful friend to tell me the real tea. But another really important thing? Kindness. There are some people that will just pick and pick and pick about anything they can. It can leave you feeling like nothing you will ever do will be good enough - and if I'm honest, I think I have been the friend to do this in a jokey way, but again, some people won't find it amusing and it's best to just not do it!!! Instead of saying something that could be potentially harmful, say something you like about your friend. Be their personal cheerleader, rooting for them, through everything - or follow what Thumper from Bambi said "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all"

5. They play games with your emotions
Sometimes in friendships or any relationship, I'm left wondering if the other person is toxic or if I'm just being too sensitive and then they start to play the horrible, emotional games and it just justifies everything that I was thinking. The easiest way to spot this is, firstly, by feeling like you're the only adult in the relationship and the other person is just acting like a child by doing things like talking behind your back, punishing you by giving you the silent treatment or excluding you from all future social situations. This kind of treatment is so toxic and you shouldn't put up with it.

In my teen years, I had lots of "friends" but three gals that I classed as my best friends. As I entered my late teens, I was going through A LOT and I started drinking quite often and I also acted out because I was dealing with undiagnosed mental health issues. One day, I had an intervention with myself and knew I needed to change my life asap or I didn't know where I'd end up. I started staying home a little more and looking after myself, I cut the drinking and I stopped reaching out to those friends and it was weird...the second I stopped making the effort, they soon disappeared from my life - and at first, it really hurt but I soon realised, I felt free without the toxicity and negativity in my life. I also realised that friends that make you question your self-worth and constantly make you feel insecure are not really your friends, at all.

As it stands now, I don't really have a "girl gang" and although it makes me a little sad sometimes, I really struggle to let people in these days. I think I'll do another post soon about "the girl gang" situation because Sex and the City made us all believe that we'd be out every weekend, drinking cosmopolitans with the girls - and for some of us, it just hasn't happened that way. 

Since I became single last year, I've been less concerned with dating someone new and I've been making new friends instead and it's made me so much happier than going on failed dates. However, there is a certain friend that I've made, who at first, I really adored...but as time went on, I realised that they had such a toxic and negative impact on my life. The patronising, the small digs, the unfunny jokes at my expense - all very draining. I had to distance myself for my own sanity. If you related to any of this post and have someone in your life that drains you, maybe it's time to distance yourself too. It can seem impossible to cut ties with these types of friends, especially if they haven't done anything *too bad* but if you constantly feel drained, you probably need to take a step back, for your own mental well-being.

If you read this and you're thinking "shit, I think I'm the toxic friend" Don't beat yourself up, I think we all go through experiences in life, where we don't realise how our behaviour or comments can make someone feel. Just apologise, learn from it and move on.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Unrealistic and Staged Content

This week, blogger and YouTuber "Scarlett London" set her latest collaboration live. Now, for an online influencer, this isn't really that out of the ordinary. You may even think, okay - why is this even news? And you're not wrong. Why is this news?

It all started on August the 31st, when a Twitter user under the name of @hintofsarcasm shared the image above and captioned it "Fuck off this is anybody's normal morning. Instagram is a ridiculous lie factory made to make us all feel inadequate." He then went on to tweet how this idealistic view is very different from his actual morning routine. Now, I'm not disputing his comment at all, anyone is free to have their own views, especially on the internet, it's full of opinions and I'm so here for it. I love seeing people have important discussions about various different topics.

However, this wouldn't just be a throwaway comment that no-one would remember the next day. The tweet quickly went viral, with thousands and thousands of people adding to the thread - and some even felt compelled to go over to Scarlett's Instagram page and comment something directly, to ensure that she would see it. Now, again...opinions are FINE and great but there is a pretty mighty fine line between what is and what isn't okay to say to someone. I think this is one of the biggest problems that we face when putting ourselves out there online, the "audience" we have sometimes seem to forget that we're actual real-life people, with feelings. The comments I've seen regarding Scarlett this week have been insane and far from acceptable.

It's okay not to enjoy staged content but death threats will never be okay, in any context.

 So, let's discuss the underlying issue - the rise of staged online content. Is it as terrible as it seems? 

Once upon a time, Instagram was probably, ironically, one of the most unfiltered social media platforms out there. The images uploaded didn't need to be heavily produced, you could just snap a picture of whatever you were doing at the time, pop a filter over the top and BOOM, all your pals would like it and that would be that. Over the years, with the influx of new bloggers and vloggers and other online creatives,  the quality of what is expected on Instagram seems to become greater and greater, every single day. It almost does feel impossible to keep up and this only got worse when Instagram decided to mess around with the algorithm, which makes it nearly impossible to grow on the platform anymore. 

But I don't think we should hate on this overly produced content. After all, photography and filmmaking have always been considered as a form of art, so why is this suddenly picked apart the second it comes from a woman on the internet, making some money from it? It's a question I would really love the answer to.

I'm only a tiny person on the internet. I don't have brand deal offers in my inbox, every day of the week but I have had my own experience of doing them in the past...

The second you accept a sponsorship, you are accepting to do a large amount of work. Brands will look at your writing, your videos, your photography skills and they want you replicate that sort of content, featuring their product. When influencers tag their posts with #AD, it means exactly that - it's an advertisement. 

Now, there are so many examples of advertisements and how they create an idyllic image, that you will want to buy into. For example, when "" wanted to promote their latest summer pieces, they created an advert that showed an idealistic view of the festival season, so you'll watch and buy into that image. In real life, festivals aren't that perfect. You'll be met with overly persistent gross men, be knee deep in mud and let's not forget the horrific toilet situation but, of course, they don't show you that because then you wouldn't want to buy into the image. It's just straightforward marketing. 

And this sort of thing can be found anywhere, by any brand. Another popular example is fast food adverts. They make their food look like the most exquisite, appetising thing that will ever touch your lips - and the intention of their advert works because you'll soon experience the most intense cravings for that food because, in your mind, it will be just as incredible as it was on screen. However, the reality is quite sobering and every single time, the food looks nothing like it did on TV. The worst culprit for this has to be McDonald's. Their adverts always look incredible but when you actually buy their food, it kind of looks like someone has been sat on your meal for at least 20 minutes, before handing you your order. The disappointment is real. 

Now, you could argue that the difference between advertisements with well-known brands and influencers is that you expect bloggers and online creatives to be much more relatable and that's totally valid. I think the relatable factor was what made so many influencers popular in the first place. I remember being a young teen and being obsessed with Zoella because she was just a normal gal but obviously, over time, money became no object to her and her posts were more centred around herself living in her £1million house, with her dog. That is no way relatable to me, so I stopped watching. 

Earlier this year, I was going to write a post discussing whether bloggers were still relatable but I never hit publish, for some reason. In that post, I sort of realised that it's impossible for a blogger or anyone online to be deemed relatable to everyone because we're all so different, our realities are not always going to align. When scrolling through Scarlett's Instagram, on the surface, of course, it isn't relatable to me but I also think she uses her Instagram as a creative outlet, which should always be encouraged. On the other hand, if Scarlett had have done a much more realistic spin on that sponsorship, I just honestly don't think it would have done as well, in terms of engagement and likes. YouTuber "Brittney Lee Saunders" recently posted on her Instagram stories, where she said how she often gets comments from people saying that they want to see real life and relatable content, but the more produced and staged posts are the ones that usually do the best - and it's true. I personally never see minimalistic posts do as well as the more produced style of content.

I've seen many comments which say that Instagram feeds that show unrealistic and staged content are a huge contributor as to why young girls struggle mentally...because they're comparing themselves. I've thought a lot about this statement and I just don't think I agree. The first time I started showing signs that I was struggling mentally, I was 11 years old. Instagram didn't exist and I don't think I had any social media accounts, apart from maybe a Bebo account but let's all pretend that never existed. I do think social media is quite a toxic environment for anyone, no matter how young or old you are and I think you can easily fall trap to comparing yourself to everyone, it can be a pretty vicious cycle.

I saw a tweet from Vix Meldrew and she said "If you feel inadequate looking at images like this, and then feel the need to belittle Scarlett on social media then it says a lot about you as a person"

And I have to agree. There will always be people who seem utterly perfect. It's like whatever you can do, they can do it so much better. We will also always have FOMO, we will probably always compare ourselves to some aspect, but if I've learnt anything this year, it's that you need to safeguard yourself and do what you think is best for your own sanity. Sometimes, you will come across people that make you feel insecure or they might trigger certain memories or feelings and every time you see their name pop up, you forget how to even breathe. It happens. But you don't need to be venomous and spread unnecessary hate. Just unfollow/mute/block and move on. It's really that simple and don't ever feel guilty for the steps you have to take to get through the day but remember: it's never okay to be so nasty over something as silly as an image on Instagram. 

Everyone always talks about how many bloggers and influencers there are around these days and it's always said in quite a negative light, like, maybe there isn't enough room for us all, but I think it's a good thing. That means there are bloggers out there for us all. If you don't like the staged and unrealistic content, there will be the perfect lifestyle blogger out there, waiting for you. Don't waste your time following people who make you question your own worth. 

If you have any thoughts on this topic, feel free to leave them below in the comments!
Saturday, September 01, 2018

A Fresh Start.

pipdig OPULENCE blogger template

So, hi! I'm back again, after a little break...

Lately, I've been thinking about how much I just absolutely loved blogging back in 2014. There were Twitter chats pretty much every night of the week, I had just bought my first proper camera and my own domain too! My little hobby was so new and fresh and exciting. That year, my Grandad died and soon after that, my long-term relationship ended too. I'll be honest, after all that, I was kind of on a downward spiral and I was so depressed. I don't think I really mentioned it too much online at first but I was pretty much dead inside. I had no energy, I could barely do anything. I would always try and try to get back into the blogging thing again because once upon a time, it saved me but it seemed almost impossible. My mind would constantly be blank, I had no creative juices flowing, ever. I would turn on my camera and when it instantly didn't look like a Pinterest image, I would turn the camera back off again and tell myself that I couldn't do anything.

This year, was the year that changed everything for me and I don't even know how it started to get better. It was just like, one day, something clicked and I was a different person. If you're currently struggling yourself, please know that one day, it will get better. Life is hard and super weird. You can be sad for 250 days and then all of sudden, everything feels a little bit lighter again. Healing isn't linear though and of course, I still have days where I don't feel great but I think I'm in such a better place now.

I've been really enjoying blogging again this year but there was always a small little niggle, in the back of my mind, like, I wasn't entirely happy with my blog anymore and I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was or why. The time came to renew my domain, I was going through the checkout and I just got one of those weird feelings that I shouldn't do it. I wasn't happy with "Belle Chaton" anymore and I didn't want to commit to another year, under that name. I first made this blog when I was sixteen, I've obviously changed a hell of a lot since then and it was about time my online space had a much needed refresh.

If I'm totally honest, I don't think I ever really loved the name "Belle Chaton" and sometimes, I get asked where the name actually came from and I'll tell ya the story now! In 2011, I fell in love with all of the big beauty vloggers and quickly became obsessed with those types of videos. I so badly wanted to make my own, but I was too anxious and I also remembered when everyone in my year at school, found out that the new girl made YouTube videos and so they bullied her and would play her videos, all of the time in the school hallways and looking back, that's pretty insane behaviour, just for a harmless video about a bloody BUTTERFLY. If you're a school pal, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!! Kids are so mean for such pointless reasons.

Because of all that, I didn't feel like YouTube was an option and then I found the world of blogging and couldn't wait to start my own. As I didn't want anyone from school to find it, I couldn't just have my actual name. This was also 2011, the time period where everyone made sure that their blog names included some really bad French, translated via Google aka probably not correct AT ALL. If you can't beat them, join them and SO I DID! I also wanted to incorporate cats in my URL too, because let's face it - I will never love anyone more than my cat, obvs. My boyfriend at the time, suggested Belle Chaton and I went with it because I didn't think the name would be too important but I always low-key hated it.

I would always worry that people would find my blog and I thought it was simply the blogging aspect that I was embarrassed about, but I later realised that it wasn't that at all and it was mainly just down to the fact that I just hated the name. I remember when someone I knew in real life asked me "what's belle chaton?" MY LUNG COLLAPSED. 

My YouTube channel has always just been my name and it felt right that everything should be changed to match. I also got a lovely new theme from 
pipdig and I'm really starting to love my little blog again. Side note: if you're looking to buy a new theme, definitely go with pipdig!!!! Phil is SO lovely and helpful. The last time I purchased a theme, it was from Etsy and the girl was just so rude and unhelpful. I have NO CLUE what I'm doing when it comes to HTML, if I'm buying a theme from you, you should have no problem answering my questions, babe. pipdig have so much information readily available but if you do still have a problem, they always help answer all your questions and I think that is why the brand is so successful. Another thing I've noticed with companies that provide services for bloggers and other online creatives is that they treat you VERY differently, depending on your follower count, which is craaaazy! If someone is paying you for a service, you shouldn't give them a bad experience just because they're not promoting skinny teas on their Instagram stories...

I won't set a blogging schedule and say I will commit to posting tons and tons because I really don't want to force content anymore, but I definitely have my motivation back and have so many ideas for posts! I would like to post at least once a week but we shall see! If I go a while without a new post, I'm either busy with work, busy editing a YouTube video or I'm just a little bit sad and overthinking my entire life, y'know? 

If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading and I hope you like the lil makeover!
RIP Belle Chaton xoxo