While I might be allowing myself to blog without as much self-imposed pressure, Pretty Serious are one range that I will always make time for – even if that time is a little later than I’d have liked. Following up the beautiful Pinup collection of cremes are these bright and beautiful staple shades from Pretty Serious, the Brand New Undies.
There are many sides to me, as I’m sure there are for most people, and they can be split into three broad areas nowadays. There’s the person Hannah, professional Hannah, and there’s Polly. Regardless of the side of myself, I’ve always been my own worst critic. I find the bad stuff easier to believe about myself.
Polly came to be after the other two sides of my life crumbled. It wasn’t that anything traumatic triggered it (though my life hasn’t been without trauma), but I found myself in a period that turned into a year of not being present in my own life. There are lots of things that led up to it that I won’t go into, partly because this isn’t a pity party but also because I am still quite fiercely private about some parts of my life. What I needed was a reason to get past that period in my life, and creating Polly Polish was ‘my thing’. It gave me a reason to get dressed when I didn’t feel like I had any other reason. Looking back I know that this was depression. Yes, depression is a chemical imbalance, and no I have never been diagnosed by a professional and I have never taken medication. I attempted to seek professional help but had the misfortune of being blocked by a useless GP (I have a brilliant one now so let’s not tar them all with the same brush). What I did have though, was a realisation that things needed to change and it dawned on me that I was the only person who could do that. I still didn’t truly realise how far I had let it go at this point though, I just knew it wasn’t how life was supposed to feel.
Polly Polish gave me the focus I needed, and combined with CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and a change of environment in which I am infinity happier, I began to gradually feel like a different person. I don’t use the word ‘depression’ glibly. I am not bandying it about in an ‘oh my gosh I’m so, like, totally depressed’ way. It took being on the other side of that period of my life, and acknowledging how hard I have to work every day to maintain the way my life now is to be able to see it for what it was. I continue to criticise myself personally and professionally, but I am now in an environment that provides enough joy that I have the freedom to recognise those dangerous trains of thought, and the strength to stop them in their tracks.
Another large part of accepting who I am personally, and to a large extent professionally too, was researching introverted personality traits. I am good at faking confidence. I can speak to a room full of people about web design or running an agency without anyone being aware of how terrified I truly am. But people exhaust me. Introverted personalities gain energy from having time alone and lose energy in the company of others, whereas extroverts gain energy by being surrounded by other people and feel less energised when alone. That’s broad strokes but you get the idea. I’d always wondered why I struggled with social situations, why I left parties early or sometimes never even attended. Why going out with people after school, uni or work usually felt like hard work even though on paper it should be fun. Wrapping my head around these things was completely freeing. Suddenly I realised that I didn’t have to be hard on myself about feeling this way. Accepting this about myself didn’t give me an excuse to avoid social situations. In fact it’s made me more able to participate in social activities because I’m more aware of what my limits are, and I try to make the most of these times. It also allows me to use the time I spend alone to recharge.
Polly Polish has not only given me a focus with which to pull myself out of that dreadful year. It’s allowed me to make friends in a setting where it is completely normal to come and go as you please. To be there when people need you, but to disappear when you need a day or two to rebalance. They are people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and geographical locations but who all have a love for nail polish. Nail polish as a product is trivial; let’s be right, in the grand scheme of things it isn’t world-changing. What it’s taught me is far from trivial though. My love for 15ml bottles of liquid joy may one day fade, but my appreciation for what it has given me is priceless. The world of nail polish blogging has provided me with a vehicle to get myself out of a period of my life that I never want to revisit.
In the early days of this blog, Barry M sent me the magnetic polishes. I was blown away because I hadn’t asked to be on their PR list. Barry M is a brand that is special to me not only because Dazzle Dust was my first purchase in that rite of passage for young girls buying their first makeup product. They’re also special to me because they were the first company who noticed me as a blogger, for which I will always be grateful. I’m not self-depreciating enough to not give myself some credit here – I worked really hard to improve my skills and I pride myself on honest reviews which I hope appeals to companies and PR representatives. After Barry M, several other brands followed, some with a continuing relationship, some a one-off interaction. It’s not as though the offers were flooding my inbox, but I’ve had a steady stream that I’m incredibly grateful for.
Then the inevitable happened. The very thing that had helped me was becoming the thing that I criticised myself most for. While I’m better (not perfect, but better) at not over-critiquing my own work in my professional life, or my social characteristics, Polly Polish became something I HAD to be better at. ‘Better’ in this case meant bigger follower numbers, higher analytics statistics and offers of samples from the ‘big’ companies.
The thing about a little bit of success is that it can leave you wanting more. For me that desire didn’t manifest itself in a greed for samples. Don’t get me wrong, free stuff is usually great, but it was more about a constant worry of whether I was doing enough, improving enough, gaining enough followers. Was I still too ‘small’ a blogger for certain brands to think I wasn’t anything but a ridiculous try-hard? The very thing that had given me my confidence back and a reason to brush my hair every morning was starting to leave me feeling miserable and lacking in so many ways.
Logically I know the rationale; I don’t blog for a living, it’s a hobby. I should be clear in what I mean by this though. I am not suggesting for a second that the most popular bloggers simply ‘have time’ to blog more often and improve their skills. Some of the most widely known nail bloggers are not full-time bloggers, and they undoubtedly work their arses off. However, the correlation between available time and the ability to actively blog is undeniable. I simply don’t have the time that I used to have because I run a digital agency with my partner. We have eight employees across three countries now, and though I don’t talk about it much it is a huge part of my life. Regardless of a necessity to earn a living, I have made the decision that my job and the company is more important than blogging about nail polish. But in the struggle to become ‘better’, I constantly felt a desire to justify why I wasn’t painting my nails or doing crazy nail art as often as I wanted to, or (more to the point) as often as I felt I should. I would see other bloggers posting multiple nail art looks in a single day and until recently I would be filled with a sense of panic about how I could ever be able to get to that point.
Then one day I asked myself why I cared so much about it all. Why did I need more followers, why did I need to post so many times in a week, why did I need to bag that PR relationship? Why did it matter to me if other people knew the reasons why I wasn’t as prolific a blogger as someone else? I couldn’t come up with a good reason.
Speaking to other bloggers, of various ‘sizes’, the encouragement to just do what makes you happy is evident. Most people encourage others to value the enjoyment of their blog more than focusing on numbers. But while most of us are supportive of other bloggers, I don’t think many of us are that supportive of ourselves. And by putting pressure on yourself to perform to a certain level, I think it inadvertently puts the same pressure on others. That’s not to say that anyone else is to blame for how I feel about my blog. The pressure on my blog to perform to a particular level comes from myself. I can’t help feeling though, that many of us operate with double standards. We believe that it’s OK for other bloggers to chill out and to focus on enjoying their blogging, but when it comes to our own blog we’re not as forgiving. So when we see others berating themselves for not doing more, it triggers the sense of panic that we are also not doing enough.
I had lost sight of why I started blogging. Sure, it’s nice to be successful even if it is a hobby, but my alter ego Polly was created from a need to find something in my life that gave me a no-pressure environment. Realising that I was the one putting the pressure on myself and that there really is no benefit in comparing myself to other bloggers has allowed me to stop being such a harsh critique of my own blog. I don’t know what other bloggers have going on in their lives. They could be a rich housewife with all the time and money in the world to faff about with their nails, or they could be working even harder than I am in their real-world job, or they could be a full-time blogger who earns an actual income from nail polish. I don’t judge other bloggers for not posting things regularly, I don’t unfollow someone for posting a picture of their dog every now and again instead of their NOTD, and I don’t put expectations on them to have a particular number of unique monthly visitors. So I’m not going to do that to myself either.
It’s more than likely that every now and again I’ll slip, and berate myself for not posting a sample swatch quickly enough. But just as I changed the way that I think as personal or professional Hannah, I’m changing the way I think as Polly. When I feel those ugly demands rearing, I stop and remind myself that I have other stuff going on in my life, and I don’t need for anyone else to know why I haven’t posted anything this week, because I know why I haven’t and that’s ultimately all that matters. And if a PR agent doesn’t like my figures, that’s fine. In fact, sometimes it’s great because it means I might have a chance to spend the small amount of time I now have for painting my nails using polishes that I’ve actually bought because I love them. I’m also not buying polish because I think it will ‘look good’ on my blog. If I don’t love a polish, and the company doesn’t want to work with me, who is going to benefit from a desperate attempt to post a new collection as soon as I possibly can? Nobody, that’s who.
So what does all of this mean for Polly Polish? Not much really. I might not post for a few weeks, or I might post twice a day. Whatever I post though, I will be posting it because I want to. So maybe that does mean something noticeable will change on this humble little blog. Maybe it means that when you read my words, you’ll know that not only are they still honest reviews, but that the person attached to these mid length, ordinary nails is happy. And happiness is what nail polish should be about.
Some lovely staple colours today from Kiko’s Daring Game collection.
Swatch & Review OPI Nordic ‘Do You Have This Color In Stockholm’ and ‘Valking in a Vinter Vonderland’
I love the inspiration behind OPI’s autumn collection. The Nordic polishes all look lovely, and while not necessarily super exciting, they are wonderfully reliable cremes in some rich tones that avoid the stereotypical (though much loved) autumn leaves inspired shades. Two of the purple based colours were my first picks when I saw the collection so I have them to show you today.
Illamasqua’s new collection, ‘Once’, is a lovely and delicate offering for Autumn. Rather than the traditional burnt oranges and browns, Illamasqua have created a collection of muted greens and peachy beiges that feel ethereal and evocative of the French Renaissance. The single nail polish from this range is ‘Melange’, which I’m assuming is from the French for ‘mix’, which goes a long way to describing this polish actually.