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Broadening the narrative.

November 4, 2019

Have you ever had that ‘Aha’ feeling happen?

I seem to be having a run on them personally and there’s one that I want to share here.

It was around 1.30am last night, after I’d been in bed for around 2 hours that I woke up hot, agitated and with a head that was quite literally buzzing with answers to the questions that had been bugging me all year.  What on earth should I do next?

It’s not that I don’t like what I do now but it is easy to find oneself in a bit of a rut, stuck. Not for lack of good or interesting projects or ideas, just…. because.  Well that was me until last night.

I have always been the type of girl who has the mantra ‘if it’s to be it’s up to me’ tattooed on her heart but for some reason the flotsam and jetsam of a life turned somewhat upside down due to ongoing family situations be it with mental health, physical health or personal safety had just wrung something vital from my blood.  For the first time in my life I had become a ‘can’t do’ person.

I heard it in my voice last week as I called and had tea with friends after reaching a bit of a cross-roads moment of ‘omg what now?’  It seems melodramatic now but also not, anyone who has a business knows how much energy it takes to keep the balls in the air in spite of everything and so, when they all fell down last week I temporarily fell down too, somewhat quietly though, by that point I was too tired for anything noteworthy.

‘So what’s going on’ you may ask… Why am I so full throttle than stop?  What can be happening to this privileged white girl that has a dream job?  Am I being super self-indulgent?   Let’s just say that the last ten to twelve years of running this business have coincided with some pretty heavy personal shit including, but not limited to some distressing mental health issues within my circle.   When everything is going well these ‘other’ things just bob along like the tides, sometimes crashing in but always making their inevitable and relieving retreat, washing the ground clear and leaving life sparkly again.  It is true, you really do appreciate what you have got when it is almost taken from you time after time.  It’s hard to say any more and I say what I say knowing that this may put some potential customers off but hey ho, I come with baggage but guess what? I also come with so much more besides and that includes a much more nuanced understanding of the darker side of life and how hard that can be to push through. That’s what this is about.

So last night it clicked.  I was stuck because I had made myself stuck – how could I expect my world to change when I was just doing the same old thing the same old way time after time?  I needed to bring my A game and be the change I wanted to see in the world.  Too many cliches and puns yes but this is what happens when you are sleep deprived.

What I’ve been wanting to do is what I thought I had been doing for the last 12 years and that’s broaden the beauty narrative.  What occurred to me at 1.30am last night was that I hadn’t actually been doing what I thought I was, I’d somehow missed my own mark and was sub-consciously seeking ways for other people to make this happen for me.  What a Wally!

Anyway, long story short I am now just getting on with it.

Now it is worth pointing out that I am a very white white woman – so white that sometimes I’m blue and sometimes I’m that really unattractive mottled colour which is rather unfortunate.  Anyway,  I have anglo Saxon heritage and a family history that could not be more Northern European if it tried.  I was brought up in a nice town with nice people who had nice English manners. I lived in the posh part of that town and went to ballet, listened to classical music, learned the flute and had two little sisters, one of whom went horse riding on the weekend (I was allergic, that really shit me to be honest as her gloves always made me break out in hives) while the other learned to sing. I grew up knowing ‘I was worth it’ even when I probably wasn’t and while I wasn’t handed everything on a plate, I was handed a lot by virtue of all this.

With that in mind I look at where I am now and  more closely at the industry I am in.  I really thought I was WOKE for a while there. I was (and am) naturally interested in diversity, social justice and equality. I do try to to see the world from diverse perspectives,  peer into the lives of others and ask MY people to consider these situations with fresh eyes.  Is it right that women in Africa are only allowed to participate in the Shea Butter industry at the lowest rungs of the ladder (and I say ‘allowed’ meaning it loosely, I don’t know what the actual situation is but I do know that the beauty industry loves to tell us that the women picking the shea are receiving ‘fair trade’ wages and ‘nice’ conditions?  My point has always been ‘well why the bloody hell can’t they run ALL of the companies then?  Stuff just picking the nuts, they can do so much more, I’m sure of it.  Only that’s all I did, pose the question then shut up.  I have done the same for palm oil issues, mica mining,  Aboriginal run enterprise,  charitable causes and more.  Please note, I am not saying all this to get a ‘oh but at least you did that’ response.  I know that this is a start but I was actually sitting back thinking I’d done loads and have only just realised that Shining a light then walking away without actively giving more IS a display of yet more privilege by me.  Oh my god my woke cloak just ripped…

So, that’s where I got to in the middle of the night.

I am putting in place a plan and taking some actions that I hope will really broaden the beauty narrative. Rather than only shine a light onto the stories  I tell in my own words, I’m going to hand the light to these diverse groups of people who wish to take a seat at the beauty table and I’ll leave the light with them as they tell their stories in their words.  I’ll put my effort into bringing the networks to them and the power to their elbows.

I won’t be the helper, being the helper implies that these people are deficient and they are not deficient. They are powerful, they have stories to tell and lessons to share.  They can and will change the world themselves over time but I want that time to be now which is why I’m going to do my bit and open a few doors for them.

So who are the ‘them’ that I keep talking about?

Labelling people as ‘others’ is not the done thing so I should stop that right away but I’m saying it to highlight who is not in the beauty tent (and to be honest that’s pretty much everyone).

The beauty narrative is so narrow that ‘they’ could be almost anyone but trying to hold or provide space for everyones stories would be quite tricky for one person so I’m going to start with the people that are affected by the issues I’ve already talked about on this blog. From there who knows what will happen next.

Of course I am still going to run my business in a way that may not seem to be that different to how it has been but just as sand shifts grain by grain so will I. The difference now being that I know where I’m shifting to and, more importantly why.

So what’s all that got to do with me going through heavy stuff in my personal life?

The answer to that is everything.

I know how it feels to be seen as one thing and feel another.

I know how it feels to battle barriers that are very real to you but invisible to others.

I know how it feels to be powerful and have self-belief but to be just so tired.

I know how it feel to be really seen, celebrated and held space for, not at the place where you wish to be but in the place where you are.

Together we’ll grow roots and branches and talk to each other through the soil.

That’s a bit weird but I know what I mean.

Amanda x

5 Comments leave one →
  1. November 5, 2019 2:28 am

    Amanda, you just wrote my favourite blog post… ever by anyone.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      November 5, 2019 5:44 am

      Elise, that’s so sweet. Thank you x and thank you for creating such a gorgeous brand up there in the forests of northern Canada. I’ll have to save up my pennies and come walk with you x

      • November 8, 2019 12:57 am

        That would be lovely! A lot of the themes you touch on in your blog keep us up at night too… what responsibilities come with being a community based business, how can we bridge knowledges and honour indigenous ways of knowing, what benefits can modern economic botany bring to our community, how do we define sustainability, etc. Looking forward to seeing how your journey evolves.

  2. November 19, 2019 2:53 pm

    Hi Amanda, I’m new to your blogs but already I’m hooked. This one, in particular, resonated for me on so many levels and I have to agree with Elise’s comment. Thank you for being real, and sharing so much of yourself. And I just have to add, that I know it’s a bit weird but I know what you mean!

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink*
      November 19, 2019 3:03 pm

      That is so lovely, thank you. I’ll endeavour to keep you hooked for as long as the inspiration flows (which should be quite a while I think).

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