Category Archives: Lifestyle

How to embrace your beauty

I have always been fascinated with beauty. I am attracted to beautiful people, I like to surround myself with beauty at home. I like to read, learn and talk about beauty. I admire beautiful women… (my friends happen to be gorgeous, by the way). To put it in simple terms: beauty is what I require in my life. But until relatively recently, I did not allow myself to be beautiful, I mean truly unapologetically beautiful.

Me surrounded by beautiful women
Me surrounded by beautiful women

It is the first time I share my views on beauty publicly. I have often felt that this is somewhat of a taboo subject, surrounded by many judgements and opinions. I myself had many judgements and fears around beauty. On many occasions, I witnessed how beauty was being mistaken it for vanity, lack of internal depth, arrogance, emptiness, unattainable standard gifted to a privileged few, especially when it comes to female beauty, and I allowed these opinions to influence me to treat beauty with caution. Who wants to be any of those things?

I tried to adjust to different society’s views on beauty as I changed countries. The more opinions I heard, the more confusing it got.

One thing I learned is that it makes little difference what people think about me, what I feel inside was so much more important. There were periods in my life when people considered me pretty and attractive, and surely that felt good for my ego, but I didn’t feel beautiful, so none of it mattered.

When I began to allow myself to be who I really am, regardless of the external opinion (good or bad), I began to feel more beautiful. And then came the guilt. Beautiful women are often said to be lucky, life is just so much easier for them. Who was I to allow myself to be lucky and allow things to be easy for me when other people have to work hard? But the biggest block of all was the fear of being seen as arrogant if I allowed myself to be and to feel beautiful, especially around other women.

I am sharing this because I know there are many women out there who experience at least some sort of struggle with beauty too. I learned that many of the beautiful women out there “dim their light” because they feel guilty that they haven’t done anything to deserve being “lucky” or “special” and because they don’t want to not be liked by others. I learned that a small percentage of women feel truly beautiful, regardless of what others see in them. I now truly believe that every woman can be beautiful if she only allows herself to be beautiful and truly loves herself. 

I decided to find out why something so amazing causes us so much pain. I decided to let go of all my pre-conceived notions and learn afresh about beauty. I went to art galleries, fashion talks, talked to a famous fashion illustrator, talked to women and men in my life, did research. I don’t yet know everything there is to know about beauty. What I do know is that true beauty is magnetic, deep, open, authentic, vulnerable, strong. True beauty is never only external. Beauty is an essential part of our existence, it is part of nature. The beauty I am talking about here is not some manufactured standards or a perfect fairy tale ending. It does not fade, it changes form. It does not stop existing when society and media adopt a new set of standards. Female beauty standards change every 10-20 years. Who would want to keep up?

Beauty does not equal perfection. True beauty is real, unique, a magnetic external expression of the internal.

Patrick Morgan, a renowned fashion illustrator who has worked with top fashion designer houses, such as Tom Ford and Chanel, told me at his solo show in March that he is much more interested in the real face of fashion – what happens backstage, behind the scenes, who the iconic designers and models are as real people. Being real is what makes them beautiful and attractive, not “the clinical end result”. What Patrick said really resonated with me

“Beauty is in reality, fairy tale ending is boring”

More recently, I heard the king of glamour, iconic designer Valentino Garavani, sharing at the Vogue Festival in London that an elegant beautiful woman is “down to earth” (I hear “real”). As a designer of some of the world’s most gorgeous dresses, he believes that “a woman has to lead, not her dress…”

Could we as women allow ourselves to release all judgements and fears and feel beautiful?

I have recently made a choice for myself to allow myself to be beautiful (understanding that saying this publicly may invite all kinds of judgement). My life already has more joy, pleasure and beauty in it, as a result. I encourage you too to consider allowing yourself to be beautiful and allowing yourself to be seen in your beauty, despite all fears and judgements.

1. Make a choice to be beautiful today, now.

Whether or not to be beautiful is a decision only you can make. Only you can choose how you feel inside. When we accept our (inner and outer) beauty, we can stop seeking external approval and begin to feel good.

2. Spend some time looking at your own reflection in the mirror and notice lovingly every curve, every feature. Tell them you they are beautiful and that you love them.

Natalia

3. Connect with your inner beauty by looking yourself in the eyes in the mirror.

You will be amazed how powerful this is. Have you noticed that when we look someone in the eyes, we don’t see anything else but their beauty. Why not gift the same experience with yourself to yourself?

4. Do something that brings you pleasure.

I like to buy myself flowers, dance to my favourite music or go for a walk in the park. What brings you pleasure? When was the last time you did it?

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5. Allow yourself to be visible.

Wear a dress that makes you feel beautiful, put on a bright scarf, wear new make up if it calls you or, if you want to really embrace visibility, consider booking a photoshoot, as I did recently in San Francisco. However you choose to be visible, remember visibility and beauty is a state of mind before anything else. You are leading, not your outfit to rephrase Valentino.

This is from my Californian photoshoot
This is from my Californian photoshoot

6. Tell someone they are beautiful, do it openly and sincerely.

Last week in California I told one very beautiful woman how gorgeous she was. It was an amazing experience that made me realise the more I can appreciate beauty in others, the more I am able to appreciate it in me.

Ready to allow yourself to own your real beauty and step into a new level of confidence and visibility? Join me on a free discovery session here.

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Have to vs. want to

Sometimes I think life is a constant struggle between what we have to do and what we want to do. Or is it just me?

I have to go to work (this used to be one of the biggest ones until recently), I have to tidy up, I have to do the dishes, I have to see that friend of mine who I said no to twice and now I have to even if there is no time in my schedule.

Recently, I have committed to doing more of what I want in my life by taking responsibility for it and committing to experiencing it every day. It all comes down to making conscious choices. Having gone through some small and big changes (leaving my day job and deciding to move into a new home), I began to feel happy and free. But the oh so familiar voice telling me “you have to…” managed to find its way back into my head and took over, erasing all the good work I have done. I told myself: I am moving home, this is different, it’s ok to feel a lot of pressure and do what I don’t want to do, be stressed, overwhelmed and unhappy. But that didn’t feel right.

I don’t know how about you, but whenever I tell myself I have to do something I don’t feel excited about, my first response is procrastination. I usually procrastinate with tasks I dread until there is enough time pressure to send me into an adrenalin rush doing mode. Then I stress, get things done and feel exhausted after. And the cycle continues…

Procrastination can take many forms: from finding something else (equally important to do),  to getting unwell (our bodies’ natural response to pressure), to simply doing nothing. I experienced all three last week when instead of packing, selling furniture and arranging my move, I was in bed with fever, taking care of other less time sensitive issues and feeling so overwhelmed that doing nothing seemed like the only way forward. Have you been there?

This time, however, I caught myself just in time before going into a stress-fuelled adrenalin rush, which endangers our health and well-being, and allowed myself to take a break and then deal with my tasks in a way that is enjoyable to me. I cannot take credit for this entirely though. A weekend in magical Venice (where I went last weekend) has the power to transform anyone from struggle mode to pleasure mode.

In full pleasure mode in Venice
In full pleasure mode in Venice

How to stop procrastinating and enjoy doing what you want to do:

1. Recognise that in most cases you don’t have to do that thing you dread, you actually choose to do it

Let’s take my example. At a first glance it looks like I have to pack all my belonging in less than two weeks and move them into the new flat. I don’t actually have to do this. I could ask all my friends to come and help or hire a moving company to pack for me or pay my cleaner a day rate and get her to do it for me. The truth is I actually want to pack my clothes and books and other personal belongings by myself. I enjoy going through my clothes, trying them on while listening to music or flicking though my books before deciding what to keep and what to leave behind. For things I don’t feel as excited about when it comes to packing, I will bring in help.

What do you feel you have to do that you don’t like? Maybe it’s going to the gym. There are other ways to feel good and stay fit. Maybe it’s going to work every morning instead of having the day to yourself. Well, you could quit, start your own company, find a job where you can work from home, find an alternative way to make a living. Allow yourself to see other solutions. Then make a choice. In some cases you will notice that what you felt you have to do is your choice. This change of perception will empower you.

2.  Set daily intentions

To have, do, experience what you want, it is important to know what it is first. Decide what you want to experience each day by setting daily intentions. It’s not only about goals and what you want to accomplish. We get so focused on goals and achievements in our culture that we forget to experience life daily. This is in fact one of the main reasons why people procrastinate even with what they like doing – too much pressure coming from achieving vs. failing. Think about what you want to enjoy and how you want to feel. You can set intentions about specific tasks, but remember to focus on what you want to experience. Tara Marino, a well-known coach, a fashion designer and a very inspiring woman, has an excellent video about how to set intentions and focus on the experience.

Writing my daily intentions is part of my routine
Writing intentions is part of my daily routine

3. Delegate

We are so used to relying on ourselves that we forget it is possible to delegate some of our activities. Is there something you dread doing that you could delegate? 

4. Be creative and find new fun ways to deal with tasks

If you don’t like doing something but there isn’t anyone to delegate it to or it simply needs to get done, think if there is a way of doing it that would be enjoyable. It is easy to get bored and begin to procrastinate with routine tasks. For example, I travel a lot, but I really don’t like packing. Looking stylish is a must so I dread the process. Last time I travelled, instead of just picking up random clothes and putting them into a suitcase around midnight (time pressure is key here), I wrote a vision for my trip where I imagine what I will be doing, how I will be feeling and what I will be wearing. I got so inspired that I managed to pack in 30 minutes (my personal record).

Going back to my move, one of the things I wanted to do was de-cluttert my wardrobe and get rid of other belongings to feel lighter in my new home and sell what I don’t wear (or have never worn). I was procrastinating listing on eBay because this did not excite me. Last week I realised that the most exciting way for me to do this would be to organise a stylish wardrobe sale party. If you are in London and are interested in attending, contact me for details.

Excited about our wardrobe sale party
Excited about our wardrobe sale party

What can you change in your routine tasks that will make them more fun? I would love to hear your thoughts.

 

A day without a plan in London

Living in London is living a dream for me. It is fun, stimulating and exciting. Culture, aesthetics, architecture, people are only a few reasons why London is such an amazing city. But I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that living here is 100% perfect. Like any big city, London living comes with stress, constant speed, which nobody seems to control, and constant pressure to do something, see someone or be somewhere. While I love experiencing all that London has to offer, I won’t pretend it is not tiring. London more than any other European city seems to embrace the “doing” approach of living and “result-orientedness” that defines modern western culture. 

Most recently, having spent two weeks in a non-stop doing mode – work, networking, workshops, business travel – I woke up after a 9 hour sleep still feeling exhausted. Doing my morning pages, a very effective journaling tool I learned from the creativity guru Julia Cameron, I realised that deep inside I am tired of always having a fully booked diary and pressure of “doing” that comes with it. I knew that no amount of sleep would fix that. So I decided to do something radical by my standards: ignore my to do list, reschedule/cancel all appointments, put work on hold and go about my day without a plan (those who know me will know this does not mean watching TV while lying on my sofa all day). I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I new I wanted to enjoy myself and be completely spontaneous.

While doing my morning ritual of thinking about my day and sipping on hot water with lemon, I began to get ideas about what I desired to do and get really excited. I dressed up for the occasion – light greys and pastels to celebrate the arrival of spring – and walked out of the door without the usual rush.

My first stop was Ottolenghi in Islington, one of London’s most exciting residential areas, where I am very lucky to live. They do great breakfast and I simply love their style – I highly recommend it (but do book in advance if coming on weekends). My shakshuka was delicious and my yellow chair was a perfect reflection of my mood.

Next, I remembered that I received an email about a birthday gift waiting for me at Space.NK and decided to pick it up. It turned out to be a beautiful facial rosewater mist. What a lovely treat!

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On my way to Space.NK I decided to stop by a lovely local boutique called Diverse. It stocks on stylish brands, such as Acne, Marlene Birger, Isabel Marant and Maison Scotch. I simply love shopping at independent boutiques without the stress of being on a busy high street. In fact, I love popping into boutiques just to see what they have without always needing to buy something. This time, I could not resist the opportunity to update my spring wardrobe.

After satisfying my food, style and beauty requirements, I felt like going for a walk. Another advantage of living in Islington is being close to the Regent’s Canal, one of London’s best kept secrets. It is my favourite place for walks.

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Walking by the canal and spending time in nature can seem like such a luxury in London. And yet it is one of the simplest ways to instantly add some calm and pleasure to our day.

I suddenly felt called to visit an art gallery for some creative stimulation. I have to confess it had been a while since I visited a gallery. Parasol Unit in Wharf road had a very interesting exhibition of works by Turkish artist Canan Tolon. Her style, using a variety of media, and unusual, at times seemingly random technique really drew me in.

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A painting by Canan Tolon

Next door to Parasol unit is the Victoria Miro gallery, one of the top commercial galleries in London. Here, I saw another stimulating exhibition – a video installation by London-based artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien. It runs until 1 March and I highly recommend stopping by if you have time.

Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro
Enjoying the terrace at Victoria Miro

On my way back home I noticed a book that caught my attention in a shop. It was about Paris. I saw it as a sign that it’s time to visit the city of lights and went in to get it in preparation for my trip.

Impulse purchase that revealed  my true desire
Impulse purchase – so revealing of my true desire

I decided to end my afternoon with a beautiful cup of tea and a snack at my local cafe and allow all the ideas, positive emotions and inspiration from this beautiful day to sink in.

Even though all these activities are very simple, I was surprised how much fun I had. The interesting thing is: I enjoyed all these activities because they were not on my to-do list, there was no obligation to do anything, I was treating myself out of inspiration rather than because I thought I had to. This subtle difference creates a very different experience.

The most surprising part, however, was how energised and invigorated I felt all day. Often when we are overwhelmed by too many things on our to-do list, work and personal commitments, leaving it all and simply having some fun seems like the least sensible thing to do. But this is precisely what works. Try it for yourself and see how much energy, motivation and inspiration you will have as a result. Sorry to mention result again, this is my Londoner speaking. Forget the result, take a break and do whatever you feel like with only one purpose – to enjoy.

What do you think of this approach? Please share your own suggestions.

Thoughts on the power of style

As London Fashion Week is approaching, style and fashion is the topic of the moment. Many people are excited to celebrate the time of creative expression through design. But many simply ignore it, claim they have no interest in it or use it as an opportunity to judge fashion as pure vanity. Regardless of what each of us thinks of the fashion industry or even LFW itself, I believe something needs to be said in defense of style and individual desire to look beautiful. Here is a note on the power of style in my life…

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On a grey and wet Monday morning a couple of days ago, I was feeling equally grim. As I was rushing out of the door to make my dentist appointment before going to work, I felt overwhelmed by all I needed to do even before properly starting the day. My promise to myself to stay calm, grounded and slow down this week went out of the window when I couldn’t find my travel card as I was already running late.

At that moment I became very aware of how tired I feel of this long winter, wearing the same clothes for the past three month and wearing multiple layers to keep warm, yet still feeling cold. At the beginning of the season I enjoyed winter fashion. I had fun mixing patterns, colours and textures – soft cashmere in different shades, silk with thick wool – to create new sweater-skirt combos, my favourite look this season. But after nearly three months of winter I have worn every possible combination and I am bored. Last week, noticing that I was slipping into a style rut, I promised myself to be better at honouring my desire for style in my life every single day (even when I am tired or uninspired). I finally found some creative solutions working around my busy schedule to have my dresses ironed and high-heeled boots re-heeled – so I could no longer use excuses that being stylish is too time consuming when I have to rush out in the morning.

On that Monday morning I had a choice: to wear flat boots I am so tired of wearing so I walk faster to make it to my appointment on time or to wear my recently re-heeled stylish suede black wedge heeled boots. I was stressed and late but something inside me spoke in favour of a more stylish choice. As I put on the boots admiring myself for a quick second in a mirror, I noticed a coat I hadn’t worn in months and decided to put it on. It went perfectly with my new burgundy hat. I no longer felt bored of my look. This may seem irrelevant: I was running late and there were more urgent and important things to do than throwing together a stylish outfit. But bear with me…

As I walked into my dentist’s office (she ended up being more late than I was), I was immediately showered with compliments: “Look at how stylish she is!”
“Let me see your handbag!”
“What a hat!”
“You look like a model”

The morning wasn’t so grim any more. I gracefully accepted the compliments and walked out without a hint of rush. Walking at a normal pace (as opposed to my typical speed walking) I saw that  several people in the street were noticing me. It didn’t feel inappropriate. I was surprised at how peaceful and empowered I felt, even though I was still running late for work, where a long to-do list was awaiting me, the weather was still wet and cold and my travel card was still missing. But none of this mattered because I felt beautiful both on the inside and the outside, and there was an incredible sense of empowerment from expressing who I am through style. I kept this awareness throughout the day. Choosing to honour my need, my desire for style in my daily life even when there appeared to be no time for it (regardless of how other may judge it) made my day.

What are your thoughts on style? Does it empower you?

How to avoid post-holiday blues

January is known as the most depressing month of the year, at least in the northern part of the northern hemisphere. Holidays are behind, spring is still months away and all we have is cold weather, work, long to-do lists and the pressure of keeping up with strict new year’s resolutions, such as going to the gym 3 times a week and starving ourselves with post-holidays diets, while staying in to save money after holiday spending. No wonder people are feeling miserable in January!

But just because holidays are over, does not mean that enjoyment and pleasure have to be too!

Having had years of bad cases of post-holiday blues, I know what I am talking about. This year, however, is different. My January is surprisingly non-gloomy. Having spent nearly four weeks away from London, two of them in beautiful Mexico, I should be going through a period of feeling down, sad and unhappy to be back to winter weather, lack of day light, packed trains on my daily commute to work and a very stressful work schedule. But thankfully this is not the case.

What has changed? This year (ok, starting at the end of last year) I made a conscious decision to focus on my daily requirements and make them my priority, starting with establishing healthy boundaries that protect my needs from the demands of a busy city lifestyle.

So here are my tips on how to make simple changes to your daily life and your mindset to help you avoid post-holiday blues. I do not like the commonly used phrase “beat the post-holiday blues” because to beat something you need to come in contact with it. My intention is to avoid it altogether.

1. Create a daily routine that suits you

I start my day with a cup of hot water with lemon and ginger, then I do 10 minute of light stretching and breathing exercises, finishing with a short meditation, often involving colour. Having 15 minutes of calm and stillness while setting my intentions for the day really helps to reduce my stress levels. Then, only after I have taken my shower, applied all my moisturisers and chose what to wear, do I allow myself to turn on my phone and emails. Beauty and expressing myself through style is important to me, so I honor it before I attend to anyone else’s request.

Do you know what is important to you on a daily basis? Do you honor it? It’s not about simply copying what a celebrity from a magazine you read does, but about allowing yourself to be authentic and honest about your daily lifestyle requirements and desires. And of course we can use other people’s daily practices for tips and inspiration. Check out this website for ideas.

2. Forget about diets

Instead choose to listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs. Mine told me it needed a cleanse. So I decided to go gluten, dairy, caffeine, sugar and alcohol free for two weeks. This may sound very scary and limiting, but for me it is not about deprivation, but about finding new interesting recipes, new flavours and new yummy foods to enjoy while my body is benefiting from lighter meals. I have started to feel better after the first four days. Your body may tell you something different. Check out this blog I discovered recently for recipes.

My breakfast starts with a delicious green juice or smoothie every morning
My breakfast starts with a delicious green juice or smoothie every morning. Try it for yourself!

3. Treat yourself, indulge all your senses

Many seem to think that post-holiday period is the time to deprive ourselves after the festive season and treats are a taboo during the January weight loss programme. But treating ourselves daily is an essential element of quality lifestyle. There are so many experiences to enjoy with all our sense – from tasty food to walks in a park. Since coming back from holidays, I have introduced a daily treat ritual in the afternoon. It can be a small piece of raw chocolate or my new favorite – a cup of warm almond milk with cinnamon (always in a beautiful mug). Another part from my daily routine are short walks (can be as short as 5 minutes) when all I do is enjoy all the beauty around me, be it London architecture, nature in parks or stylish people. This is time to be fully present to enjoy and receive the pleasure of experiencing beauty, no thoughts about daily problems allowed. Another thing I decided to treat myself to in January is a weekly massage with essential oils.

Almond milk with cinnamon in a lovely mug I brought from Mexico
Almond milk with cinnamon in a lovely mug I brought from Mexico

4. Spend time outside and in nature

Lack of light is one of the main reasons we feel depressed in winter. It is especially noticeable after holidays, and, if like me and many of my friends, you sent your holiday in a sunny destination, the contrast will be striking. Make sure you get enough daylight every day. I go out for lunch for at least 30-40 minutes every day, no matter how busy I am. This is a non-negotiable. Daylight and sunshine are essential for our moods and immune systems. Daily walks I mentioned above is a great excuse to be outside.

Spotted on my morning walk today. Spring is on its way!
Spotted on my morning walk today. Spring is on its way!

5. Focus on your desires for this year

Many of us are not completely unhappy but most of the people I know would like to change at least one area of their life or improve their current lifestyle in some way. This is especially obvious in January when we set new plans and resolutions. These plans can be overwhelming and may seem very far away from where we are now. No wonder so many people drop them too soon. I have done this many times.

This year, by choosing to focus on my desires for 2014 and the lifestyle I would love to create for myself, instead of thinking about what I don’t like and don’t have, I am able to remain in a creative state. Being in this state allows me to take small yet inspired daily action to make these desires reality.

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Do you get post holiday blues? If so, how do you deal with it?

Do you know what lifestyle you desire to create for yourself this year?

If you would like more clarity on what lifestyle suits you, get in touch with me here for a free discovery session.