Shamed.

shame

NOUN

a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour.

My counsellor recently said to me that the best way of confronting shame, is to disarm it immediately. To call it out. So here it is. 

On Saturday 15th February, I had tickets for London Fashion Week. I went up there, full of nerves and anxiety, being there on my own. When I arrived, there were girls in big groups or gaggles, and I was one of few there on my own. However, something within me dug deep, I found the confidence to show up as myself, talk to other people and enjoy the experience.

I left on a high and met my husband for dinner in Borough Market. Halfway through dinner, excitedly chatting about the day, I received a text from my friend Katie. Three words… “Omg. Caroline Flack.”

My heart sank. I felt sick. Before I even had the chance to open my news app on my phone, something in me already knew what had happened. 

I felt absolutely devastated and could barely speak. I immediately felt like I had lost a friend.

Those who have followed me for many years, will know what a huge impact Caroline Flack had on me. She gave me confidence years ago to chop my hair off into a blunt bob, to experiment with Dr Martens, camo print, leopard print and dungarees for the first time. 

When I had a big family wedding to go to in 2019, I treated myself to a rather extravagant Rixo dress that she wore.

When I had my first editorial photoshoot in December, I wore a Choose Love tee inspired by her.

You see, to some, Caroline Flack was just another TV presenter. But to me, and so many of my clients, she was a style inspiration.

I have never followed many celebrities on Instagram, but I always followed Caroline. I loved watching her stories where she was on girlie holidays in Thailand, juice retreats, sweating it out in the gym with a hangover or cuddling her pet dog Ruby.

When she launched her River Island clothing collection, I was on holiday in Devon. At 8:00am I found the one bar of 3G on my phone to order the shirt she had designed.

As I boarded a plane to Australia two years ago, I asked my friend to send me a photo of what Caroline wore in the Love Island final as I would miss it. It sounds extreme, but Caroline had a big impact on me and to me and others she felt like a friend. You could imagine going down the pub with her, telling her your problems and she would cheer you up with funny memes and messages.

To learn that someone so vibrant, so loved, privately and publicly, had felt lonely enough to take their life, absolutely destroyed me. I know she has a close family, a twin sister and a niece she doted on. 

People were quick to point fingers. They pointed fingers at her friends for not being there for her, the press, the CPS, her ex boyfriends, her management, and so on.

When someone commits suicide it’s complex. Sometimes they can be surrounded by people, surrounded by love and support, yet it’s still not enough to prevent the torment they feel.

To speculate on the “final reason” for it happening, is none of our business when we didn’t know her and we may never know. 

However, as an observer and someone who followed her on social media for a very long time, I saw a significant amount of hate increase over the months before her death.

Social media can show you the best of people and the worst. I have made good, close friends via social media who I see on a regular basis, I hear from people on social media every day who I may never meet, who support me, make me laugh and I feel on some level that I know them.

What has struck me over the last few days, is the overwhelming amount of posts out there about “being kind”. 

When I started my business and had about 5 clients to my name, I started to receive hate and abuse from an individual. She would post about me on Twitter 2 or 3 times a day. She would laugh at me, laugh at what I looked like, laughed at what my family looked like and told her friends she was going to attack me if she ever saw me. She used to post on Twitter that she saw me on the motorway driving to Bluewater and that she was “watching me”.

This went on for 2 years. I never posted about it, I never reacted, I suffered in silence, except telling close friends and family what was happening.

My anxiety got so bad that I had a panic attack on the motorway once, where I worried she could see me. I was driving in the middle lane and suddenly all I wanted to do was slam my brakes on and stop my car. I started shaking, I went dizzy, I nearly blacked out and I haven’t been back on a motorway since. I now drive through country lanes to get to Bluewater.

Two days ago, the individual who put me through this torment,  posted on Instagram about being kind, spreading kindness on social media and how unfair it is when people are treated badly. 

It got me thinking, how do the trolls see themselves? Do such people always somehow justify what they say and do?

I wonder how the people are feeling now, who posted hate on Caroline Flack’s posts, calling her every name under the sun, when she was allegedly dating Harry Styles. The people who said she had “dolphin teeth”, the people who told her she was skanky for always wearing the same “smelly boots” or “should put her legs away at her age”.

Where does this utter hatred come from? And how can they justify it?

Trolling doesn’t even have to be as blatant as that. In my eyes, trolling is anything you say that is less than kind.

By sending that message, will you make that person’s day better or worse?

I receive so many messages in my email and Instagram private inbox. The message usually tells me how “disappointed” they are with something I have said. I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge to know the meaning behind every word out there, and most of what I am saying is in jest, usually about myself.

I actively never slate another woman on my social media, so much so that I only ever post the great outfits from red carpets. I have strict rules in my Facebook group that only positive comments are allowed on the women brave enough to share photos of themselves.

I am so often shamed by people. I am shamed about my business, shamed about what I wear, what I read, what I do and how I do it.

I have been threatened with comments such as “If you don’t email me back about this I am going to post about you and what I think of your business, that’s quite frankly, not worth the money, on Mumsnet”.

I am tired. I am sick of this open forum where people jump on your every move. I am sick of being shamed. I am sick of seeing other people shamed.

Laura Whitmore is a prime example. Only on Sunday she was labelled a hero for her (quite frankly amazing) piece on the radio about being kind, after her friend Caroline died. Everyone came out in support for Laura.

However, last night, Laura went to the Brit Awards. No sooner had her post gone up of her outfit, than everyone started tearing her apart, saying how insensitive she was for going. “She’s got over that easily” was the common theme.

Billie Eilish collecting her award at the Brit Awards last night, said she feels hated at the moment, and was close to tears. She feels hated because of the vile venom people comment on her Instagram posts. She’s an 18 year old woman with more talent in her little finger than the rest of us.

Her songs move me, make me want to dance and her style is just incredible. For this talented 18 year old who has won 5 Grammy awards to feel hated, terrifies the rest of us. “If people like Billie and Caroline, what hope is there for the rest of us muddling through?” is what someone said to me today.

None of us are perfect. None of us are complete, none of us are the finished article, and probably never will be. We all make mistakes, we all mess up, we all do our best. 

The tabloid newspapers will always be around and social media will always be around. The only change we can make, is how quickly we judge others and how we treat them. We need to be accountable for our OWN actions and words. 

When you point the finger at someone, whether it’s a person you knew in real life, or a celebrity, think of all the times you might have messed up, said something cringeworthy or been just a little bit flawed. Would you want someone judging you in the same way?

As I have been urging people since I started my business, please only comment if it’s kind. Please only message if it’s kind. Because we are living in a world where shaming people is the norm.

The answer isn’t to shut down social media, throw our phones in the bin or stop reading the news.

The answer is to be kind. Don’t send that message, don’t shame someone, don’t make their day worse. 

Make their day better. Make their day more positive. Make them look forward to opening their inbox, not hold their breath like I do when I open mine. I have sometimes held my breath while reading a message, just waiting to see if it’s good or bad.

We are affected by Caroline’s passing as she was only 40 years old, she seemingly had everything, we wanted to know her, wanted to party with her and never thought someone like her could be ground down to despair.

I think my life will always feel affected by Caroline Flack’s passing, the way others felt about Princess Diana. 

I will miss you Caroline. Thank you for bringing me confidence. I always hoped one day we could meet and I could thank you in person. I hope you have found peace, you have the sun on your face, your iconic Ray Bans on and Despacito playing on the radio.

I’m going to keep fighting for positivity and kindness, in the hope that just one person might change the way they judge others.

And you never know, maybe one day I might make it back on the motorway. Something I always have, is hope. 

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