My Fullest Self

A couple of weeks ago, I started work on this. In case there's the tiniest chance you haven't seen one of the million times I've mentioned it on Instagram and Twitter, this is something Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said on Woman's Hour last year, in response to the question, "What is the most important thing we can teach our daughters?" Adichie replied:

"Your job is not to be likeable, your job is to be your fullest self."

Obviously, this struck a bit of a chord with me at the time. Well, more of a direct radio punch, actually. Especially when she said that women must "reject the idea of likeability". You can hear this bit of the interview here and also watch Adichie's brilliant "We Should All Be Feminists" TED talk, here.

It came to mind again, recently, when I was thinking of ways to raise more money for Refuge, alongside my London Marathon attempt! So, I'm selling prints and postcards of the finished artwork (still a work in progress, but almost done!), with all the profits going to Refuge with the rest of my London Marathon fundraising. Buy yours by 3pm on WEDNESDAY 29th MARCH, and you might even win the original artwork! In a frame and everything! Please visit my shop to have your very own bit of Adichie inspiration on your wall and support this amazing charity.

The best thing about creating this particular piece of art is that, somehow, I think Adichie's words have finally sunk in; really deep in, to my heart or gut or subconscious, or wherever it is that you have to keep things so you just know them. As though in carving out letters from paper, they've marked themselves on my bones, too.

And finally, I watched this video last week. More than anything I've heard or read, this best describes my experience of how it feels. I think because it's non-specific, it doesn't make me think, "well, of course it wasn't as bad as that", which I used to think all the time. A friend nailed it when she said to me, "no one wins any prizes for being in the most abusive relationship. It's either abusive, or it's not." So, if you're reading this and thinking, "well, things aren't that bad...",  that's already quite bad enough. There's a list here, if it helps; just ONE of these, or something similar, is bad enough. Please tell someone what you're going through. You are worth so much more.

BE YOUR FULLEST SELF. It's taken me a long time to find out who my fullest self is, but I finally feel like me again. It's the most wonderful thing.

Remember, one in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence in her lifetime, Refuge is running an amazing campaign with Avon at the moment, all about what you can do to help a friend suffering abuse. It's really worth checking out, here. That could be you in the video, holding out the umbrella.

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Running for Refuge

It is astonishing, the speed at which it's possible to go from idly browsing Refuge's website, looking for fundraising inspiration, to receiving a London Marathon running vest in the post.

Because the amazing thing about running is that even when you're completely stationary, sitting at your desk with a mug of tea, the endorphins can still get you. Like the rhythm got Gloria Estefan. Like listening to Nina Simone sing Here Comes the Sun can make it feel like the sun has come up in my heart. I only had to imagine I was running down the Mall, the crowd cheering wildly, and, before I knew what had happened, I'd not only submitted the application form but actually got a place!

I'm so proud to be running the London Marathon for Refuge. Refuge is committed to a world where domestic violence is not tolerated and where women and children can live in safety. They aim to empower women and children to rebuild their lives, free from violence and fear. They provide a range of life-saving and life-changing services, and are a voice for the voiceless. I'd be so grateful for any donation you can give, you can find my fundraising page here.

I've been running fairly regularly since the Bournemouth marathon last October (although rarely more than 10k), but I still definitely wouldn't call myself a runner. I fling my arms in the air for fun when I'm going downhill, sing/gasp along to Taylor Swift (judge me if you will) as I go, and fantasise that I'm being interviewed on Woman's Hour when I probably should be focusing on... who knows? My gait? Nutrition strategy? Instead I listen to Girl on Fire and pretend that the actual spirit of Maryland is calling me or Modern Love, which transports me to New York, where I zig-zag the streets like Frances Ha.

In reality, I'm mostly zig-zagging round horses and tractors while desperately trying to stop Gladys from dragging me into the ditch on the opposite side of the road.

So, only when I'd got my vest and sponsorship form, taped a training timetable over my desk and bought myself some jazzy new leggings did I realise how much harder this marathon business would be this time (besides the February sleet and soggy trainers), because now, I'd need to ask people to sponsor me, just for me.

I've written and re-written my fundraising blurb a MILLION times. I wake up in the middle of the night to do it. I tweak it over breakfast. I move commas at lunch. I email it to friends and family to ask them and, if someone does make a donation, I panic about which version they've seen and what they will think. I've been trying to write this blog for a whole month.

But now there are only SEVEN weeks to go til marathon day and it's time for action!

So, basically, this cause is very important to me because, like plenty of other women out there, I know how it feels when a relationship becomes abusive, no matter whether the abuser does it consciously or not. I know how hard it is to identify what is happening, how impossible it is to explain. That's why I'm doing this, because I want it all to have been useful for something. I want other women to know they aren't alone. I want to raise lots of money for this brilliant, life-saving, awareness-raising, attitude-changing charity.

Every woman should be aware of the warning signs of an abusive relationship and know when to trust her instincts. This is why the work of Refuge is so important, they can give a woman the strength and support she needs to leave an abusive partner, when she feels at her most worthless and powerless. And they'll be there to help her rebuild her life, too.

Something I'm working on, inspired by  this interview . Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says women must "reject the idea of likeability ... you have girls who are abused, but they're thinking about the feelings of their abuser."

Something I'm working on, inspired by this interview. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says women must "reject the idea of likeability ... you have girls who are abused, but they're thinking about the feelings of their abuser."

In their lifetime, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence (this doesn't just mean physical abuse, but controlling, manipulative behaviour too). This seems almost incredible, until you slowly start talking to people and then you begin to understand how real that statistic is. Which is really why I want to try to talk about it, because domestic abuse affects women of every age and background. Every week in England and Wales two women are killed by a current or former partner, and recent research by Refuge indicates that over half of young women (18-21) have experienced at least one violent incident from a partner.

Refuge can help. Not only do they provide safe, emergency accommodation and run the National Domestic Violence Helpline in partnership with Women’s Aid, they also offer services for children, individual and group counselling for abused women and community based outreach services. Refuge runs award winning media and advertising campaigns to raise public awareness of the issue and lobbies for better provision of services for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

So, this is why I'm giving this marathon thing another go. Please give anything you can. I have other fundraising plans too - so watch this space!