Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me...

Are we still saying that to our kids? Are we still standing around saying things like "kids are so resilient" when something bad happens?! Because do you know what, 'resilient' little kids grow into adults with coping mechanisms - some are healthy, and some...not so much.

Some of you have been asking Andrew "where's Becca?" I haven't been active on our social media for a while now, and I'm not sure if it was a conscious or subconscious decision.

The last few years haven’t been easy and although I would never normally blow my own trumpet, I am an absolute master at papering over the cracks and pushing on. People comment “you just get on with it, I don’t know how you do it”…and the truth is, well, I don’t and its not very pretty.

Things have changed recently, and with the encouragement of a few close friends, it's time to tell you why.

So, for the first time in 20 years I'm opening up...this is me...

Be honest

If you're really honest…how happy are you? No, not surface happy, not superficial happy, I mean happy-happy. How content are you? Because honestly, I haven’t been for a while now.

If you know me through work, you’ll know that I’m a business owner and I’ve worked in the recruitment industry for most of my career, building a niche in mid to senior level finance recruitment in Aberdeen…tick.

If you know me personally you’ll know I’m from Peterhead, I'm married to Andrew (who I met at work when I was 19), we have a little boy called William and we started Vero together in 2019. You’ll also know that a little over a year ago, we made the move from Maryculter to Dubai.

Covid threw us all a curve ball; I prepared for the possibility of losing people I loved, I prepared for chaos. But what I hadn’t prepared for, was losing myself.

I was one of the unfortunate women who suffered side effects of the vaccine and it’s taken years, misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis and test after test to finally get me to a point where we know what’s going on and how to tackle it. The physical and emotional stress of it has made me completely withdraw from everything, and everyone, and made me lean on coping mechanisms I had hidden for years.

I thought I was coping, but it all started to unravel. Ugly home truths, big fat tears and hard conversations are thankfully paving way to me finally getting back to where I was, and who I was (or, as close as I’ll ever be).

Exorcising ghosts

A few months ago, 20 years’ worth of papering over the cracks led to me finding my absolute rock bottom, brought about by such a ridiculously insignificant thing.

You see, when I was young, I was bullied, badly, and had to move school. I think anyone who has ever been bullied in their youth, if they’re being completely honest, knows that a part of it sits inside you forever. Some of us are indeed ‘resilient’, but that wasn’t the case for me – I retreated inwards, anxiety became my unwanted lifelong friend, and my form of resilience came from developing coping mechanisms to hide my, well, weirdness (and in my mind, unlikability). Ironically enough some of those coping strategies made me far less likable!

It also led to me never really feeling safe, or comfortable, in a group of girls. And the truth is, it’s hardly surprising when I spent half of my childhood as a tomboy – shooting, fishing, DIY, up to my elbows in muck in boiler suits. Making new friends has never come easy to me, and it’s been hard trying to navigate that as an adult, so far away from home, in a place like Dubai (but more on that later).

Back to that rock bottom. It happened recently when I was faced with a ghost from the past. Seeing them, and hearing their voice, brought me straight back to a specific time and place when I was at my most vulnerable; within moments all of my insecurities resurfaced and I tried to do everything I could to remain in control, in a room full of people as I felt the heat rise from my feet to my forehead and the room spin. Deep breaths, some extra lipstick, smart comments, maybe two minutes longer in the bathroom than strictly necessary, and I was ok. Until later when my chest felt like it was imploding, my hands were shaking, and my body felt like it was floating.

The tears came later, a few days later in fact, and they were big ugly tears saying things I’d spent a lifetime trying to hide. Although I always knew I’d never really dealt with my insecurities, I had no idea just how much they affected me. Strangely, there were times I genuinely believed they were like a super-power – propelling me forward and helping me always strive for ‘better’ and ‘more’…but it was all just surface stuff. Trying to make myself bulletproof I guess!

I couldn’t explain, even to Andrew, just why I wouldn’t let him take my photo or put a video up on our socials to promote something. Because it sounded pathetic. If you've ever been with me at a time when someone has suggested "lets get a photo", you'll know just how quickly I can move myself to the opposite side of a room. And when I don't quite make it there in time, I look like a rabbit in the headlights. Because that voice (and others) would be there with me every single time “you’re not good enough, you look ridiculous.” Whether that's when I'm in front of a camera, hearing my own voice in public, preparing for an important meeting, or sometimes just getting ready in the morning. Even scrolling through my own phone looking for a picture to accompany this blog, I'm always pulling a funny face or doing something daft. It's the only way I feel comfortable.

Admitting it was the hardest thing. I'm a grown woman FFS, it was a lifetime ago, I'm a different person now. Previously, I’d just poke fun at myself pretending it was normal self-deprecation, and in truth it was almost comforting somehow. Not good eh…

But something inside me shifted when I finally said the words out loud.

Why can't I be like her?

Ok ok, we all know social media is BS, but I really do struggle with it.

As a woman in business, if you want engagement on social media (and yes that includes LinkedIn), it’s thirst trap pics, show just enough cleavage, get yourself some “tweakments” and load up on the filters. Every now and again there might be something heartfelt, but most of the time nope, it’s back to the old “sex sells” thing. I’m not, nor will I ever be, one for that. If my sales drop you aint going to be seeing any bikini pics on a beach in Dubai, strategically placed LV bag in the corner, or a Rolex flashing in an Emirates business class seat.

In Dubai, you’re under a microscope ALL.THE.TIME. Even at the school gates. And although you know the truth is that most of these women spend thousands on treatments and have weekly maintenance appointments, I still look at them and feel like I don’t measure up. My friend and I were having this chat a few weeks ago and we commented, “I wonder…do Shetland ponies ever look at racehorses the way we look at some of these women? Christ I hope not…poor Shetland pony.”

Beauty standards these days, not even to be a model, just to be looked at as “not a troll” are insane. And the funny thing is, when you see some of these people in the flesh, they look nothing like the pictures. And as neurotic as this is to think (let alone admit), I will STILL look at the pictures and feel like a swamp creature in comparison…psychology is a strange thing! I was taught a hard lesson in that just before I moved to Dubai when I succumbed to the whole tweakment trend and, you guessed it…my forehead collapsed. FOR SIX MONTHS. I looked like a Klingon (and no, I'm not exaggerating)!!

It’s not nice being stuck in a constant flux between "I should just be happy the way I am" and “why can’t I be like her?”.

Before having William I was probably the most comfortable I’ve ever been in my own skin, not “happy” per se, but I could look at myself in the mirror. I had a job I loved, and I got a lot of confidence from that; standing on my own two feet and I felt, for once, really being good at something.

I’d always promised myself I would finally take care of myself and eat properly when I was pregnant – that I’d nourish my body the way it deserved. Well, that did not happen. In fact, it was the opposite and my years of disordered eating caught up with me. As someone who is 5ft 2in (if I stand up nice and tall), I was like a Weeble, and I wasn’t happy. There was NO glowing…just tiredness, sickness, stress and very puffy feet. And to be fair, I’ve never really forgiven myself for punishing my body the way I did at that time and not taking better care of myself.

Finally making friends

I thought I preferred my own company but the truth is I don’t, I just don’t feel comfortable with many people.

Since I was very little (around 5 or 6) I've just wanted to be liked. I was the weird kid with the freaky memory who would always seem to overstep or say something strange, or at the wrong time. I'd try too hard, and when I was inevitably excluded from things, I would try even harder. Over time that turned into different things, and now what everyone calls "people pleasing", and it's an absolute bugger to break away from!

Sometimes I come off as aloof because I'm closed off (which I hate), but if we click, you’re going to get the "full oversharing Becca experience, coupled with fierce lioness-style protection and a cheerleader for life" (well, that’s what my new pal H told me recently).

Making friends, as I said, isn’t something that comes easy or naturally to me. I made a promise to myself before we moved to Dubai that I’d try to just be myself, and honestly it was really hard – I met an amazing group of women who had also recently relocated and tried so hard to fit in and keep up, but ultimately, I couldn’t. I'd get close to someone and then I'd start to distance myself, a self-protection thing I always thought, but it was more like self-sabotage.

But the strangest thing has happened since I started to change; by being my weird-self, I’m attracting other weird women and I've realised I'm not alone in feeling this way!

Instead of champagne brunches and dancing on tables, my tribe enjoys early morning power-walks, evenings at the cinema watching re-runs of Notting Hill drinking mocktails, car discos, and snuggling up on the sofa with a hot chocolate bonding over brain fog stories.

Without realising it, these women are healing me and helping me find a ‘me’ I never knew existed. I know that sounds deep and a bit ridiculous, but they are.

They're helping me see past what I feel like I 'should' be, and just letting me be,


Now I have the most perfect little blonde boy, who has his own quirks. He is his own little person and he’s starting to navigate life for himself now. You see, he’s at school with a group of multi-national kids, and well…he’s different. As the smallest kid in his class, he’s attracting a few “short”, “baby”, “little” comments, and it’s getting to him.

It breaks my heart because he’s perfect, and I know kids aren’t being cruel (not at 5/6), but I can see it really gets to him. He asks me questions and looks at me with these perfect blue-green eyes and I want to talk to him like an adult but I can’t.

Selfishly, I feel 5 years old myself when he says these things, transported back to the day I started school in primary one and realised I was a head shorter than everyone else (and stayed that way for, well…forever I guess). But I promise myself, and him, I’ll try harder and we will work it out together.

"Never let anyone dull your sparkle"

Someone said this to me a few months back and they completely caught me off guard. Not because I’d lost said sparkle…but because I never realised I had one to lose in the first place. It sat in my throat and it wouldn’t shift.

Maybe I don’t need to ‘change’, maybe just being ‘me’ is enough…I just need to show everyone who that person really is. Years of masking and having an answer for everything made me look like, well…a bit of a tool if we’re honest.

Facing up to everything, admitting to myself and those around me that I’m unhappy was very freeing. Realising just how much I had withdrawn from everything and everyone, painting on a smile and pushing on for far too long was incredibly hard, I wont lie.

But I’ve made some promises to myself and for the very first time –

  • I promise to nourish my mind and body the way they deserve, instead of punishing them for everything they are not
  • I promise to use my voice and stop staying silent
  • I promise to block and mute anything on social media that feeds my negative internal voice and makes me feel like I come up short
  • I promise to spend my energy wisely
  • I promise to be present, at all times
  • I promise to focus on what’s really important instead of wasting hours of every day giving energy to things, and people, who aren’t

This isn’t a ‘new year new me’ thing (if you know me you know I hate that), it’s more of a ’20 years of unhappiness is enough Becca’. I’ve tried to do this so many times before, but fear has held me back. For some reason, I’m not quite sure why…this time feels different.

The girl I was long before I started to put others first and lived a life of people pleasing is slowly resurfacing.

And I’ll tell you something…she will never let anyone dull her sparkle, ever again.