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How Others See You is None of Your Business

Launching soon…

This article as an extract from the forthcoming title ‘IF: Ironic Fundamentalism’.

IF is an upbeat, alternative perspective on how anxiety can lead to personal enlightenment and be the force that pushes you forwards – rather than a great weight or chain that binds you.

Worrying about how others see you? There isn’t anything wrong with that feeling, it’s perfectly normal to wonder what other people might think of us.  But you should not actually spend a lot of time on these thoughts – it really isn’t any of your business. Honestly, this is not a telling off statement, but instead is one that should free you from feeling any kind of responsibility to finding out. 

Understand, first, the reason why other people’s thoughts or opinions of you are none of your concern. It’s important to remember that just as you have your own personal outlook and experience, so does each other person you meet. Next time you are tempted to eavesdrop, just don’t. You will not learn anything except that you are overly concerned about judging others for possibly judging you, in a situation where you don’t have all the pieces of the jigsaw and it’s guesswork at best. Many famous literary stories including Shakespeare’s Othello warn us of eavesdropping because half-hard, half-understood comments can lead to fully realised tragedy. 

Furthermore, what they think of you is not you anyway – it’s that individual’s impression of you. Their impression is comprised of their own unique biases – formed from their own circumstance, their direct experience with you, and their previous experience with other comparative people. And those people are also just a bunch of biases pulled together to paint an impressionist’s portrait. It’s all rather 2 dimensional!

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us! ”

Robert Burns, To A Louse

My favourite line from my homeland’s national bard. It is part of Scottish schooling to learn and recite Burns from a very young age, where we would win certificates (and the teary-eyed pride of tartan grandparents). In particular, this line struck me like no other, nor any ever since. For as long as I can remember, it has inspired me to think about the concept of ‘self’ and all those other ‘selves’ that engage in a collaborative perceptual illusion of perceiving one another. The notion that there is any ‘self’ to perceive is a seriously iffy concept, as there is really very little consistency to go on beyond memories that link our experiences together across time. But this is a huge topic, so here I’m focussing in on the idea of how we think of ourselves, according to reflections around us – what we see and what we think others see.

Self as a reference

When we look in a mirror or other reflective surface, we see a reverse of that which is arguably ‘real’ and what others see when looking straight at us. Our left becomes our right and vice versa, so right away, we have this entire concept of self – through the filter of our looks – literally quite backwards .

Perhaps this why so many of us find it uncomfortable looking at photos of ourselves – we are the ‘wrong’ way around. Of course, looking in the mirror is always subject to light and how shadows are cast, making dramatic differences in our bone structure and fullness of face – try it yourself, taking a torch and experimenting with different angles in the mirror.

Paranormal enthusiasts often engage in psychomanteum (‘mirror gazing’) where they simply gaze at their reflection to watch their own features morph seemingly in to the faces of departed others, looking back at us through the mirror from some other dimension. Psychology speculates that the perception of our faces morphing is perhaps less to do with ghosts or spirits and instead is due to the Troxler Effect (where our attention starts to fade or blur information surrounding our point of focus) coupled with our evolved sense of facial detection – an innate, unconscious threat finding ability – where possible faces and especially unfamiliar ones, can be seen hiding in any surface.  Better to mistakenly see the face of a lion hiding in a bush and run, than to simply see a quirky arrangement of leaves and get eaten. Mirror Gazing is quite a remarkable phenomenon, and whether you believe in ghosts or not, the morphing will still likely work for you. I have engaged in it and also guided ‘ghost hunters’ in this with interesting results. Give it a go and ‘see’ who you become, and try to determine the exact point at which you are no longer ‘you’…that is the ‘you’ you recognise and assume is correct.

So, who we are is not a constant, and is as changing as the sky upon the surface of water. As Narcissus would testify, gazing too closely and too long can be fatal, yet perhaps the deeper wisdom is that self-reflection ultimately leads to the complete dissolution or ‘death’ of self. Rather than being a cautionary tale or Vanity issue, the story of Narcissus is one of enlightenment – there is no ‘you’. Afterall,  we are all ‘you’ to someone else and there is a point in time and space where any part of you starts to become something else – for example, when we absorb medication or when stroking a cat, which spaces between the atoms and which are the cat? What is giving rise to the shared experience? 

Others as a reference

Our relationships also act as mirrors and when our relationships change for whatever reason, we can feel hurt or compromised. We were seeing ourselves based on how those others treated us – Not how they actually saw or regarded us. This way, self-image is built on assumptions about the behaviour of others and their motivations toward us. Therefore, when people leave you, you hurt and feel you must have done something ‘wrong’ to bring about the change – perhaps you are no longer attractive/ useful to them. When they seem not to care, it’s really about them – not you. The chances are it is their reflection of themselves that has inspired the change, not you.

This can be extremely challenging as our sense of self according to others is what often provides our self-confidence. Like two mirrors eternally reflecting each other, trying to establish any truth to reality, is an impossible task. So often as reflections of ourselves change we and to focus on questioning who we are – and often overlook the changes occurring in the perspective holder. Change is reflected, and so we may in fact have an altered perspective of them as well. 

If friends or lovers or relations should ever leave us, it is time for multi-source ‘reflection’. We can reflect on who we are and build a more positive image than ever before by looking at and examining several reflective sources from the past, present, and even our intended future:

  • history of projects/ career (what was the motivation/result)
  • History of friendships (how the begun/ended)
  • What/who is important to us now? (What/who do we think of first In the morning and last at night)
  • What do we aspire to? (Not ambition as this relies on reflection on /and comparison with others… see blog on aspiration V ambition here) and what holds us back or pushes us forward? 

It all leads me to think again that there is little point in worrying about what others think of us – and that anything other than self-acceptance is a reflection of egoic concern and pulling in the opposite direction of growth.

Average is a Mean Illusion! (stats joke!!)

Every body and every mind is beautiful. Fact.

Beauty norms are an illusion. Mental or physical. Every cell that makes up every single body is a unique expression of the universe, creating itself. Regardless of height, weight and other measurable things, immeasurable beauty lives in the whole-ness and joy of every living being. Love your body and know that it is astonishingly exquisite – as this is exactly how it has been made.

What does an average mind or body look like? Where would we find one?

All our notions of ‘normal’ and ideal are illusions – in many cases these are illusions on which we all collaborate! Averages are concepts that only exist because of human VARIETY – how ironic!

Statistics are a great tool for understanding populations or groups – but they do not define any one person in any way! This is where we often get ourselves all wound up. Thinking we should tend toward any ‘average’ or ‘mean’ leads us in fear and to think unkindly about ourselves (and sometimes others too). The ‘mean’ or ‘average’ of any set is more like a numerically derived guesstimate of what’s there – and actually is less likely to apply to anyone involved!

When we ‘deviate’ or differ in some way from the average, we are simply demonstrating that we are all individuals that cannot be accurately charted. So, celebrate being a deviant! It’s natural and ideal!

Sexual Attraction… 

There is a LOT of shame surrounding being sexy and sexual that has led us to live with a cultural mindset of judgement. Sexiness is often considered to be somehow ‘desperate’, deviant or indicating disease or damage.

It’s really odd that celebrities such as pop stars and actors are perceived as being positively sexy – in a kind of permitted sexuality (we might call them ‘professionally sexy’). Yet non-famous people identifying with sexuality are often considered to be unwell or socially unsuitable, even dangerous, and this is especially true for women. Ironic considering that all our mums had enough sex that we can all be here and be ashamed. Women’s sexuality has been denied, suppressed and vilified through the ages leading to persecution and execution.

But here’s the rub, ahem.

Men aren’t perverts and women aren’t shallow. Evolutionary psychology of physical attractiveness shows us that it’s ok and actually totally correct that men should be spellbound by cleavage and thoroughly enchanted by jiggly bottoms.  They also are drawn to youthful faces, long hair and manicured nails. They aren’t ‘perverts’ or shallow or ‘driven by their knobs’ – they are instead driven by an unconscious evolutionary drive to seek women who display certain fertility characteristics that are a physical display of oestrogen.

Similarly, it is totally expected that women would be impressed by a fancy car, nice suit and big bank balance over any other measurement. This is because in our evolution, women relied on attracting a mate who would be able to feed, defend and care for her when pregnant and once their child was born. Put simply, it’s peacock over the other kind of cock… it’s the man with the money that is attractive because he is displaying characteristics of social dominance. Ever wondered why the ‘unattractive’ but funny guys get dates? They have an ability to influence a room – their comedy provides them with social dominance. 

There is even more good news for the ladies here! As well as being perfectly entitled to admire a man’s bank balance, your figure figures far more than you realise. You see, it’s not the magnitude of your boobs or bum that matters (nor is being thin remotely relevant) – the trick here is in mother nature’s ample wisdom. It’s the geometry of your body that counts as sexy – it’s the ratio of bust, waist and hips that determined attractiveness and that this ‘fat distribution’ across those assets, is most desirable as it tends toward Greek number ‘phi’ aka ‘the golden ratio’ – a ratio that appears to be nature blueprint for creation – we see it clearly in spiral sea-shells, the centres of flowers, the distribution of a galaxy.


Why do we all worry about perfection and presentation? Because we think everyone else is achieving it? Or that despite not being perfect themselves, they will judge imperfection?

Well… if they do, let them. If they are seeking perfection in you… it’s because they lack so much more in themselves.

Focus on being REAL. On being exactly who you really ARE. This is TRUTH. Being your own authentic self does not require competition or validation! I for one am excited to be a continual work in progress and would shudder at being considered ‘finished’ – and up for consumption like a Barbie doll! Real women aren’t immaculately presented in boxes, tied in place by the shackles of consumer demand and waiting on the shelf for false liberation.

Seeking Love

In love, never seek someone to be your ‘better half’ or to ‘complete’ you – be the whole person you already are. YOU are ‘The One’. Only when two whole people come together can lives be truly shared. You both need to have an existing life to share in – not be out to share in someone else’s out of personal lack.

We tend to seek out others romantically with notions of their ‘completing us’ or being the ‘better half…. wholeness/individuality… Ironically, we think we love them but actually it’s how they influence how we feel about ourselves that counts. Finding someone with whom we appreciate ourselves better is the aim – not someone with whom we will always feel inadequacy or anxiety. Or be in search of the ‘one’ based on criteria that can never be fulfilled.

In order to share a life with another we first need to have one to offer – not assume we will share in theirs and become ‘fulfilled’. Two halves don’t make a whole. They remain two individual halves forever bargaining and compromising for their own half to be ‘completed’. Instead, be the whole person you already are, and accept that only a complete other is going to be suitable. Otherwise, what is there to share? How can you ever grow?

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Dis-Comfort Zones

What if your perceived comfort is the very thing that creates your discomfort with your lot in life?

There is an uncomfortable truth lurking in the shadows of our comfort zones: they are more self-made prisons than the personal playgrounds or protective bubbles we like to think.

Despite its name, your ?Comfort Zone? isn?t necessarily a comfortable or happy place. Some people are comfortable residing in a space of intolerance, anger or self-pity; others even seem to thrive in an environment of high stress. Many refuse to leave such spaces despite being miserable.

So, why does recognising the boundaries of our comfort zones matter? Self-esteem.

We are not born with self-esteem, we grow it through positive risk-taking adventures. Through babyhood, childhood, teenage and for the rest of our lives.

As babies, children and young adults we need to be nurtured – ?encouraged to grow?. We need to be encouraged to take those risks to reap the rewards of discovering our own abilities and to do so knowing that we have support, such as going to nursery for the first time, making a new friend, holding a scary snake or petting a big dog for the first time, auditioning for a play, trying a contact sport, riding a bike and so on.

So the same for adults – we need peer and familial support and new positive risk-taking adventures.

When we are not nurtured or simply refuse to be nurtured as many do, and put up barriers or ?defences?, we end up walled in to a comfort zone of fear. We think the walls protect us but they simply keep us captive to our own demons.

We cling to our comfort zones typically because therein we have familiarity and predictability. Even if what is familiar and predictable is uncomfortable – anyone who has been stuck in an abusive marriage for years will tell you exactly that… they were ?stuck?.

So some force is needed to overcome the stuck-ness. This is why the decision to take a risk is crucial. The risk is the force needed.

Everything and everyone we love changes or leaves at some point or at many points, and so do we. From leaving a job, town or relationship to changes of career, lifestyle or mindset. So why stay ?stuck? expecting things to remain familiar? Surely this only can lead to anxiety and resentment? Loss is difficult but also a necessary part of growth beyond those comfort zones. Read more on how loss creates space for gain.

There is a difference between being uncomfortable and being in discomfort. Bring uncomfortable suggests there is something with agency poking at or harming us in some causal way and to be in discomfort suggests a lack of that which comforts us. Ironically, they both hold space for the illusion of a comfort zone. 

Until we move, take a risk and see what?s beyond our boundaries we won?t recognise either the agency responsible or what we lack, and we will continue to be our own captors.

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Loss(t) in Space

Loss occurs in many ways. It hurts, but must we always Iose?

In the past year I?ve seen friends and family experience different losses – the loss of loved ones (through death, dementia, divorce and even unresolved dispute), the loss of personal ability and opportunity as changes occur in health, job position, home or career move, others have gained in beautiful ways (having children) and yet lost a sense of their own identity. It has me wondering? 

What is loss? 

All losses involve some sense of a loss of control. Loss always takes the form of an event (or series of events) in time, that marks significant change, generally creating anxiety or/and sadness. So, in spite of all the anxiety and sadness, what opportunity does loss create?

It occurs to me that maybe in thinking of loss as an event in time, we take it to be one that reveals ?space?, creating opportunity for growth.  The old space-time continuum conundrum of life. I can think of times when this has been true – the freedom felt after the break-up of dysfunctional relationships,  in not gaining acceptance to one thing we are often led to more original projects and so on. In each case, we have been granted space (or had it thrust upon us) to reflect, because of a loss.

Why space? 

When we lose someone or something, we often feel a sense of space on a scale – either vast or restricting. For example, we often feel lost, afraid, vulnerable, alone, empty, that we might float away in silence to some forgotten zone of nothingness. But sometimes, it?s the opposite and we feel trapped, crushed or suffocated? Either way we become overwhelmed by ‘space’  – in either direction by the amount of space we perceive. Too much and we are lost in the vacuum or, too little and we are crushed.

Either we fear the loss (of control) and have too little space to breathe or we fear the loss (of control) and we have too much to stay anchored. Sometimes we swing from one to the other. Either way, we ultimately feel we won’t cope and might not survive the event.

Perhaps the person, pet, role or circumstance we have lost was in fact ?holding space for us?, whether we knew it or not. To put this expression in context, therapists often ?hold space? for their clients and this means that they take on a role of being a ?container? that holds empty space – like an empty bucket in to which the client can pour their feelings and thoughts (without judgement). The feelings and thoughts are thus ?contained? within the space (and time-slot).  

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed day to day and need another person, role, project or outlet to pour our overflowing selves in to. Those special people, roles and outlets are our containers. When they are lost or taken away, we have nowhere to pour. Or, contrastingly perhaps we were the containers, holding space for others who have gone e.g. a friend or relation who needed us in their sunset, communities or projects that gave us a sense of purpose, identity and so on.

Having the ?wrong amount? of space. 

So, when our losses occur, it can feel that our personal space has been compromised. 

Resolve can come from acknowledging and managing our mental and emotional volumes, by adjusting our perception of the space we occupy we can feel more comfortable just being with our emotions and, where there is overflow be willing to pour in to new containers – art, sport, animals, meditation, others, community groups… 

Space is not a tangible asset that comes and goes. It is a perceived concept formed across our senses and emotions. Someone or something departing cannot take space with them, nor all that you poured in to it nor can they take away what they shared, when you held space for them. When a loss occurs, the space does not go with that person or circumstance.

The grieving party can therefore choose either: to avoid the space or explore it.

Our losses can lead to our most precious gains.

We create our spaces as we project ourselves in to them. By exploring, we expand into that space, fill it and grow. Space is created by us as we perceive it.  Just as when we pour in to those containers, we are projecting into and filling that space.  The space is never lost.

Ultimately, when we lose we also have opportunity to gain. We may lose our ‘containers’ and grieve or be angry for this but if we move in to the space that was held, we grow.


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Aspire to be without Ambition

Ambition is rather IFFY….

It is often seen as something to be proud of – or a personal quality that would ensure ?success?, whatever that is… but it?s all so hypothetical and future-dwelling. 

I say it?s time to put ambition on hold and be inspired in the moment.

Ambition involves competition and therefore comparison to others, with that comes fear of not being ?first?, resentment, envy and self critique hammering on self esteem the success of ambition is measured through unhelpful comparison to the perceived superiority or inferiority of others and their achievements.

Contrastingly, aspiration dispenses with the external yardsticks and focussed inwardly on personal potential and  the realisation of growth.

In moments of mindfulness, we can uncover how we really feel, now in the present and see what we want. The answer will likely be far less complicated than that ambitious road or destination fraught with limits set by others. It might look simply like ?I want to feel I contribute to a better community? or ?I want to express my creative ideas? or ?I want to be a dedicated parent? or ?I want to provoke change in my area of interest? and so on. It is a place of harmony within yourself and not some convoluted series of comparisons with others. 

How much time do we spend in comparison – driven by ambition –  when we could already be breathing in our inspiration and breathing out as we aspire? 

Breathe in, Breathe out… is literally to inspire, aspire…

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Doubt creates Hope – An anxiety hack.

IF you are anxious then you are using doubt, a lot. If you are to give any credibility to your doubt and test it’s validity then you need to apply it in a parsimonious way – that is, apply it radically and fairly to everything… including itself.

When you apply doubt to doubt itself, you create hope


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Why burlesque could be good for you.

Why burlesque could be good for you.

Shadow of the Mind. ?K. L. Allan

In the face of ever-evolving social and artistic controversy over burlesque as a form of entertainment, I?d like to volunteer my tuppence-worth on an overlooked aspect of participation. ?As someone who has meaningful experience in both the promotion of burlesque theatre and mental health interventions, I believe that burlesque can be more than just good fun ? it can be good for your mental health.

As any wellbeing practitioner and therapy-frequent flyer will know, most of our statutory and established practices for overcoming and managing ?common mental health problems? (including depression and anxiety) are based on a ?CBT approach? – that is an approach that is rooted in evidenced-based ?cognitive-behavioural therapy?. As the name suggests CBT focusses on the relationship between a person?s cognition (their thoughts and thinking styles) and their behaviours (what they do and equally what they are not doing).

Many people experiencing low moods and worry tend to get stuck in vicious cycles where negative and intrusive thoughts collude with harmful habits (or inactivity) ? to form a symbiotic relationship of emotional distress and psychological turmoil.

Note: For the purpose of this blog, I?m taking a simplified CBT model as the basis of good self-help practice and is intended for reader relevance i.e. those a) experiencing lower levels of anxiety or depression and b) those who might be interested in the celebration and exploration of gender and body confidence. It is not aimed at those currently in?crisis or experiencing severe psychological distress or psychosis. Please consult your mental health professional or?approach your GP for advice, if you suspect you are in need of help. This is an article of personal experience and not based on any official advice or guideline.

In the case of anxiety, there is an underlying unyielding intolerance to uncertainty ? a desperation to feel in control of that which we can?t even predict. This leads to ?checking behaviour? all the time ? checking things are safe, checking how many ?Likes? we have on a FB post or Instagram image, checking that we haven?t upset our friends (by repeatedly asking obscure questions to the point of irritation), checking our email has sent and was word perfect, checking that our multiple alarm clocks are correctly set, our doors are locked, and so on? I?m sure I am not the only one to have had the very modern compulsive need to check the on/off switch of a suspect pair of hair straighteners – ?that are sure to explode killing everyone, when you least suspect it?. (If you want to know my solution to this? just ask, it?s ridiculously simple.)

Experiencers of depression and anxiety typically hold a low opinion of themselves and of their personal ?worth? as a member of their wider community (often by unhelpful comparison with others). Consequently, they experience excessive worry (or even obsessions) about what others think of them. These emotional states and negative thoughts are often confounded further by feelings of guilt about self-care and doing anything ?just for me?. Ironically, in not doing anything for themselves they have no way to gain a positive self-appraisal or consider their worth as a contributing member of their community.

They feel that their worth is defined by others ? either in comparison to (?I?ll never be as a good as Jeannie McTwinkletits??) or, in service to the needs of others (family, work, village hall and so on). As a result they find themselves avoiding self-care and cease any investment in the self. They stop going out socially and, where their mood ultimately takes a nose dive, they also disengage with their own hobbies and interests taking on a sense of general pointlessness (and worthlessness).

In theatrical terms it?s a lighting cue for a fadeout to black.
Exit: The leading lady?
Enter: The shitty understudy.

Unlike most theatrical practices, burlesque ?breaks the fourth wall? and in a beautiful metaphor for mental health awareness, it allows the protagonist to call out directly to the audience and tell it like it is – as the hero(ine). This is what burlesque is supposed to do ? give a voice to the voiceless, the repressed and the misunderstood through the medium of satire.

Well, I can lend testimony to this as my personal motivation to perform was born of a desire to challenge my own body anxiety. Of course, most would not think that turning oneself in to a public spectacle of ironic nudity would be a natural solution to this issue, but here is why I say it is so…

Over 15 years ago I started a performance company (Ministry of Burlesque) on this very same wellbeing hunch ? of directly challenging negative self-perceptions with ?positive risk-taking?. This (then considered bewildering) mission of mine helped at least in some small part, to launch a beautiful movement. Now looking back I can clearly see that my intuition on this was not just personal recklessness, wishful thinking nor a spurious justification to ?dance? around Glasgow in my oversized frilly pants.?Nor was it part of my ?secret sex-worker agenda to pay my University tuition fees? as The Sun* unhelpfully misinformed the public at the time. Oh the anxiety that caused.

Mal Magazine cover

So? in briefs, here is a quick outline of what I have observed. I hope it is interesting and perhaps it might fuel a bit of discussion, debate or even experimentation?

Performing (or even attending as a purveyor) burlesque hits all the marks for a good piece of CBT homework, if done with positive intentions and sensible judgement. Doing so challenges your thoughts, prompts you to do something different or, to do or look at something familiar, differently.?After all, it is in our differences that our individual beauty is reflected.


Performing burlesque involves the following:

  • Positive risk-taking.
    Not reckless risk taking! But intentionally taking positive ones calculated with reason – which can be scary and new to us all the same. In taking risks, we create opportunity to reap rewards and expand our own boundaries. When we don?t push ourselves out of our comfort zones, we don?t learn anything new about ourselves. It is ok to try burlesque and decide ?it?s not for me?, in fact this is just as good an outcome as deciding that you love it. Either way, you grow.
  • Challenging your own preconceptions.
    Challenging your own long held ?NATs? (negative automatic thoughts) about body shaming, gender roles, nudity and social propriety is essential to growth. These are the miserable or nasty thoughts that seem to just pop up and plague you, as though they come from somewhere outside yourself like ?women shouldn?t wear so much make up it looks tarty?. They often come with ?should? and ?ought to? statements in them?)
  • Accepting uncertainty.
    On stage and off stage. Will it be all right on the night? From Costume malfunctions to tumbleweed responses, you will build resilience to the uncertain nature of the world in which you live. The onstage is reflected offstage too and not just preparation, backstage and online but in your regular life aspects too, what once seemed like uncertain terrors might now be put in to perspective. What’s the worst that can happen? Really? Is that likely? Find out what is the best that can happen?
  • Social Engagement and Acceptance.
    You can make friends within a bustling community that celebrates body and gender differences, at a pace you can manage. You can take dainty toe-steps or you can wade in both on the ?scene? in clubs, expos and meetups or, online. These people too share something in common with you and are happy to accept you as you want to be – yourself or even as an ?avatar? or stage-persona, allowing you some breathing room behind a costume or alter-ego. The caveat to this though is to remember that you are doing so and that others may be doing the same. You may not be making genuine authentic friends with anyone, as you are still in many respects ?performing? in a fantasy world. Taking to extremes, this can be an issue ? but that is for another blog.
  • You will be an outlier, a heroine, a pioneer!
    You are part of a movement that challenges the status quo. Being an outlier with a purpose means that you are making a massive contribution to the community ? be at the arts, social or political. You will in tandem become more resilient to criticism and, can better deal with the world?s jerks and trolls.
  • Quick gains.
    Burlesque as a performance form is very inclusive and accessible that doesn?t have prerequisite skills or training to start.
  • Physical exercise.
    Exercise like dancing helps to tackle body confidence issues with toning the muscles and of course benefits your body and mind from improved cardiovascular function to endorphin release. You get those happy hormones and lasting feel good effects 🙂
  • Enhanced Creativity.
    Flexing your creative muscles in creating an act involves as much or as little time and effort as you want to put in. Having this purpose gives you permission to take time out to do the following:

Listen to music to be inspired?
Watch old movies?
Go to the theatre?
Design and make costumes
Dance, sing, play etc
Learn new skills – clowning? Aerial? Singing? Make something disappear somewhere interesting?
Research beautiful, weird and wonderful things – all guilt free!

Of course, there are always risky-risks involved in any risqu? risk-taking and so here are some practical guidelines to make it as positive as possible.

Your issues laid bare?

Kittie by Jessica Dougherty

I?m sure we have all heard someone comment on /scoff at a performer who appears to be ?working out their issues on stage?. This is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact the process may be cathartic or experimental for them. Just like all other areas of artistic expression, mental health is a huge motivation, inspiration and influence. However, this needs to be considered with some caution as laying bare your soul can make you very vulnerable to the interpretations and criticisms of others – others who do not know you, your story nor understand your intended sentiments (which let’s face it, might not be as clearly expressed in dramatic form, as you intended). We all grow and refine our expression over time whether it’s burlesque, writing or painting, so be kind to yourself and keep your stage message simple and clear.

  • Therapy.
    If you are in professional therapy, then it?s important to discuss your interest in burlesque/ intention to perform with this professional and what might be involved for you to participate. For example… you may need to consider gradual adaption to new behaviours or gradual exposure to triggers is advisable, e.g. If there are body issues then nudity might not be the best first port-of-call. If there are social anxiety problems then a crowded backstage might not be good for you to dive in to.
  • Teachers.
    As therapeutic as performing burlesque might be, that doesn?t make burlesque teachers ?therapists? in any way. It is important to have good guidance not only to maximise your personal potential in performing but in gaining wider opportunities for personal development. Therefore it is crucial that you do your homework on teachers. As a fairly new and largely nonspecifc genre interns of skill sets, many teachers are riding the bandwagon and have made up their accolades. I am aware of two who have built up seemingly credible businesses based on careers they have fabricated and awards that don?t exist/were never given to them. Good teachers don?t need/or want to do this. They will be honest with you about their own experience and limitations – it?s about what they can and can?t do for you. Be wary of those who talk a lot about their amazing careers. If it?s genuine, and exists why do they need to tell you? Also be wary of those who talk about ?empowerment? and self-esteem. Very rarely are dance teachers also qualified therapists. Good teachers won?t waste your time talking about themselves nor try to recruit you in to newcomer showcases /contests (how could they possibly know what?s right for you before you even begin?) Sadly I?ve seen women damaged by so-called teachers (who had no business selling burlesque never mind burlesque as some sort of therapy), bullied them in to tassel twirling and stripping at their ?graduation shows?.
  • Filming.
    Often these performances are filmed without consent and put online (this is not ethical but many don?t or won?t see the problem). Such videos can go on to create more anxiety e.g. With work colleagues and family members seeing it. Public comments can be cruel and often those who were bullied might draw their persecutors attention again… relationship problems etc
  • Competitions.
    These talent contest format events are generally not healthy. For a number of reasons but most obviously that in taking part, you are permitting strangers to judge you. Why would you give anyone that power? On what authority is ANYONE to judge you? Is this fun?
  • Bullies and trolls.
    I?ve been on the hot and pointy end of this stick many times, especially in the first 10 years. The rumours spread have been astonishing ? from my use of ?mind control powers? over the best performers and my ?manifesting? myself as a ?dark spirit? in to the bedroom of a detractor, to my ?hiring assassins? to wipe out other promoters?. You wouldn?t believe it, although incredibly, some people did!
    My experience was on the extreme end of things. I had death threats, harassment and have been stalked ? even by my own customers who have since set up as teachers and promoters of burlesque (caveat emptor). But then, I was a visible figure at the forefront of something interesting creating something (MoB) that others desired to be part of. I couldn?t please or include everyone and those I didn?t please felt justified in bullying me and copying my work to the point of direct imitation. That?s life – life through a jealous lens. ?Don?t be scared by the trolls ? if I can find this hilarious in hindsight, you can tread the boards already laid out for you, any bumps underfoot just remind you to keep it real.?This was the calculated risk I took – and for me it was worth it as I have also met amazing people who have inspired me and have been privileged to have been part of others? journeys; and I continue to meet people today with whom I?m honoured to coach.
    Here is my advice in another blog post, on dealing with dafty trolls and bitches:

    Gossip: A Bitter Pill – but only poisonous if you swallow it…


In conclusion, I think it is fair to reiterate that it is important to recognise that burlesque is not in itself any form of therapy and its proponents are not therapists, however, embarking on your own burly adventure has all the capacity for therapeutic self-help.

A good example of what I term ‘creative wellbeing’, burlesque is an opportunity for personal development. ?Positive Risk and Reward? are positively correlated and that where reason and sense should be employed in safeguarding yourself against the pitfalls, the same sense and reason should equally be used to encourage a sense of derring-do. The key to wellbeing success in burlesque is to find creative ways to peel back the layers of self-doubt, to let your mind dance freely without restraint and your authentic spirit shine in the spotlight of your unfolding life.

*I refer to such publications as ?noise-papers? rather than newspapers as they scream out unintelligible obscenities from the gutter shelf, rather than communicate news.

Please note that help is available through the NHS to tackle issues of mood and anxiety, don’t suffer – start your progress today by talking to your GP. Many of us have been there already, you are not alone.

For anyone experience crisis please know that there is help available on many resources helplines and services including in presenting yourself to A&E:


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Anxiety – It’s Nothing to Worry About

Often when we are anxious, we worry about everything. But…. Everything of course, is no-thing in particular.

Furthermore, we fixate on our version of past events or future possible mishaps – and fail to see that the only time that ever exists is the ‘now’. Quite literally we worry about nothing.

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Gossip: A Bitter Pill – but only poisonous if you swallow it…

Gossip is a bitter pill indeed – but it’s only poisonous if you swallow it.  

🤢 The irony is that it is not just the target who must avoid swallowing. For gossip to spread and be effective, it needs carriers. Those who spread it – gladly swallow it whole – and become embroiled in unnecessary unpleasantness. They don’t see it but they too are being poisoned.  

😔 Those who spread gossip become the (unwitting perhaps) apathetic foot soldiers of the offender. Offenders rely completely on the gullibility or neediness of apathetic people – to do the dirty work for them. It’s easy to make such people feel included in a ‘secret’ or that they themselves are important to have been shared the ‘information’. Their egos make them a target. They are being lied to and used – yet they they don’t see it perhaps not even until it’s too late and their own shame of participation is exposed. They don’t realise the irony that in spreading gossip, their leader does not respect them, in fact they are being used to target someone else of more significance.  

🤮It thus becomes easy to spot trouble makers – the initiators and the offenders – as they form a ‘circle of sick’. A poisoned well, a murky pool of emotionally sickly people. Such people don’t even realise they are being deliberately poisoned. They are kept unaware as they are enjoying the toxin’s immediate emotional effect of social inclusion.   Get perspective – stand back and see the bigger picture. Don’t be drawn in to the drama you never wanted.  

⭐️ Advice:⭐️  

If you are being bullied (because gossip is bullying), my advice would firstly, to recognise that it’s not truthful and that it won’t change who you are – it also won’t change the perception of who yo are to those are conscious/smart enough to see the bigger picture.  

🥰 The truth will out to those who actually care. These are your followers, your friends, your ‘tribe’. These are the people you care about too. The rest aren’t involved in your life.  

👑 Secondly, to take all this effort as a back-handed (though back-stabbing) compliment which suggests that you are in fact perceived to be worth the time and effort. You must be a threat or, be holding enviable traits or, are feared to be in the way of some goal or other. i.e. for some reason, you matter more to your bully, than all of those muck spreaders put together.  

🙈🙉🙊 Thirdly, move beyond any involvement – it’s poisonous. Don’t spend your time in it. Any retaliation or interaction you provide your bully with, will be seen as a success for them – and will encourage their behaviour. Just don’t participate. Why would you even want to?  

🌈 Instead simply share your truth with those who deserve your time.  

🧚‍♀️Reflect on everything you’ve intentionally built to get you to this point of being seen and known… and that at some point in the future you will laugh about this, if you even remember. How interesting, how characterful, how powerful you must have been as a disruptor in some way… and you weren’t even trying. The old adage is true – gossipers are jealous people.  

💪 *Remember* – all bullies (including gossips, stirrers, stalkers who you don’t even know) want to possess your attention. Don’t give it. Don’t feed the trolls….  

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Egos can hurt…

Ouch! When someone is inexplicably mean it is often because they are licking an unconscious wound…. Damage to our self-image can take many forms and wounds can be inflicted in any ways. From deliberate insult to personal failure, typically a bruised ego affects only the owner who feels tender(ised) on the inside… but a broken ego can shatter in to a thousand shards that leave others walking on broken glass.

Beware of your own fragility too, we are all subject to our own sharp tongues and thoughts brought on by a defensive ego!

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Passive-Aggressive Wellbeing quotes…

Whilst there are many millions of great motivational quotes to be shared, there is an unhealthy trend for disgruntled folks to post wellbeing word memes as a form of thinly veiled bitchy commentary – don’t fall for it! If you feel uncomfortable seeing one, ask yourself why? Afterall they are INTENDED to uplift, right? Don’t fall for their misuse – or the peer pressure to share it!