Personal growth

Black Lives Matter

WWQD is saddened and angry at the loss of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor and Belly Mujinga and countless others. Our feelings are not meaningful unless translated into action towards protecting black lives on a structural and individual level.

This post is for non-black people of color, and white people – our allyship is necessary and lacking right now. That goes beyond our social media channels, where we might share an aesthetically pleasing ‘Black Lives Matter’ post. Please read for ways we can support and pay reparations.

In particular, I speak to fellow non-black Arabs and South Asians. We owe a debt to black culture and profit daily from colorism. We can at least begin making minimum payments towards this debt.

A starter pack from Munroe Bergdorf below, on how to help from the UK. Read before reading our post.

Give money generously

Money makes a difference. The below organizations focus on liberating and supporting black people – donate generously. If you were going to get takeout or buy a coffee, donate instead:

  • Black Lives Matter – working to end the violence towards black people with the goal of eradicating white supremacy. Click the giant blue “Donate” button. Apple Pay accepted.
  • Black Trans Fund – Part of Groundswell, focused on supporting LGBTQ+ black people who have been the backbone of trans liberation movements in the UK & US.
  • George Floyd’s GoFundMe – To cover funeral costs, court proceeding costs & living costs for his children.
  • Minnesota Freedom Fund – To pay bail and bond costs to save black lives from being murdered by US police.
  • Follow Shishi Rose and pay for education via link in bio.

Join peaceful protests*

*This content has been updated 8:30 PM on 31/05/20

In high of the below commentary from UK BLM we would like to stress that: (1) no one should be using public transport to get there (2) you shouldn’t be attending if you’re in contact with someone at risk or shielding, e.g. in your household, or someone you intend to meet with up to 14 days post-protest (3) you should wear a face covering and follow social distancing guidelines at the protest. We are still mid-pandemic, countering a virus that is disproportionately affecting BAME people.

Key London dates for peaceful protests and demonstrations of solidarity. If you’re worried about attending alone, email me and we can attend together or arrange for you to meet someone (socially distanced). Please do not attend if you do not have valid Right to Remain in the UK, or are shielding due to coronavirus.

  • Kneel for Floyd – Sunday May 31st @ 1PM Trafalgar Square
  • Peaceful Protest – Wednesday 3rd June @ 1PM Hyde Park
  • Peaceful Protest – Saturday 6th June @ 1PM Parliament Square
  • Peaceful Protest – Sunday 7th June @ 2PM US Embassy

Please wear protective face coverings, bring food & water. These events are expected to be peaceful but you should know your rights, particularly if you are not a UK citizen. Watch the highlight ‘Rights’ on @ldnblm’s profile.

Why is everyone so angry?

A note for those concerned about being kind, wanting to write to MPs instead of protesting, or wondering why protests in the US may have turned violent.

Firstly, question the narrative that protests are coded as violent.

Stop worrying about critiquing the response, criticize the catalyst for such a response (in this case hundreds of years of slavery, decades of police brutality and social disenfranchisement).

“Riots are the language of the unheard”

Martin Luther King

Secondly, realize compliance is never rewarded. Watch CNN reporter Omar Jiminez being arrested live, on air, as he politely and repeatedly asks the police to tell him where to go, and assures them he will comply. Compliance is not rewarded. We accept the excuses of trained police officers ‘making bad decisions’ (read: murder, violence, unlawful arrests) but we expect citizens to remain calm and articulate when faced with a gun.

If your first instinct is to side with the police, read these short slides by @sighswoon.

If you are concerned about anger as a response to racism and cannot understand why black people cannot continue to swallow their pain.

“Any discussion [among women] about racism must include the recognition and the use of anger… We cannot allow our fear of anger to deflect us nor seduce us into settling for anything less than the hard work of excavating honesty. We must be quite serious about [the choice of] this topic and the angers entwined within it, because our opponents are quite serious about the hatred of us and what we are trying to do here.”

– Audre Lorde (black lesbian feminist), The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House

“Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury, when the actions arising from these attitudes do not change. To those women who fear the anger of women of color more than their own unscrutinized racist attitudes, I ask: Is the anger of women of color more threatening than the woman hatred that endangers all of our lives?”

– Audre Lorde, The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House

The basic ask here is that you weigh up whether it is riskier to allow murder to go unchecked, or whether it is more important to stop those shouting about it being wrong.

Further resources

For help educating yourself, the below post is a good starter pack.

The below post is a fantastic pack. Rachel provides a vast bundle of (free) anti-racism resources (tap link in her bio to access and make a payment).

View this post on Instagram

To show up you must come forward boldly with three things. KNOWLEDGE + (radical) EMPATHY + (radical) ACTION. • My heart is so heavy. The weariness I see in the eyes of my people is crushing me. Breath is short and sighs are long and optimistic hope is feeling fleeting. • I’m going to log off for a while but I wanted to leave this here for the thousands in my ear asking what actionable items they can take. • Here is a resource dump, the only thing I can cough up at this point — I haven’t the energy to engage much more at the moment but I hope you’ll make the choice to DO something. • In the words of Angela Davis “it is not enough to be not racist, you must actively be anti racist.” • I implore you to remember — the point of AntiRacism work isn’t to make white people feel they are “doing better” in their positions of privilege and power within this immoral system— it is for them to hold themselves and their white community accountable for addressing and attacking the very system that needs to be destroyed in order for black people to stay alive and to be well. • #RevolutionNow • Head to the link in my bio to find links to all of the resources featured in the sides. I updated my Racial Justice Research Doc to include recent murders. • Support the people you are learning from. Whether it be me or my hundreds of thousands of brothers/sisters/comrades who are on the front lines physically, emotionally or intellectually. • Cashapp: $rcargle PayPal: Venmo: @rachelcargle My non profit that provides mental health care access for Black women and girls: @thelovelandfoundation My monthly online learning platform: @thegreatunlearn

A post shared by Rachel Elizabeth Cargle (@rachel.cargle) on

Required reading, texts by black women who have helped build safer worlds for all women of color:

  • ‘Feminism is for everybody’ by bell hooks
  • ‘The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House’ by Audre Lorde
  • ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This post will be updated regularly with further recommendations, posts and texts.

Also, defund the police.

– Aimen

Personal growth

Dealing with Negative Self-Talk

Now more than ever, in these unusual and unprecedented times, in this tough time we are all… sorry, let me start again without sounding like every marketing email you’re getting.

I’ve been dealing with negative self-talk recently. In pre-pandemic times, I had a lovely therapist called Kim, who took me through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). We met up once a week on Thursdays, I’d hit her up for some midday mental peace, then get fried chicken at Jollibee with my husband right after.

Without Kim’s patient ear and unwavering support, I’m using CBT principles (and common sense) to counter my own negativity these days. I want to share these tactics with you, and hope these are useful to you.

*While I aced AP Psychiatry, I have no formal qualifications. Take this as a starting point, not a replacement for qualified medical support.

What is negative self-talk?

In very simple terms, it’s when you trash-talk yourself or put yourself down. An important distinction: negative self-talk is usually biased, rooted in moments anxiety or low-self esteem. This is different to self-awareness, which can be based on more objective consciousness of your weaknesses or shortcoming.

Negative self-talk can be called a ‘Cognitive Distortion’, because its typically unrealistic and biased towards being harsher than necessary.

What are common examples of negative self-talk?

One of the first skills you’re taught in CBT is to identify your negative thinking. Once you realize what you’re doing and when, you can stop it. Here are some common types of negative self-talk – I’ll take you through a few.

Mind Reading: Assuming we know what others are thinking (about us) without evidence.

Example: I’m giving a Zoom talk on design thinking. I see furrowed brows on my boss. I think “Fuck, I’ve said something stupid and she’s realized I’m an idiot and this talk is shit”.

How to Counter: We need to acknowledge that we do not know what the other person is thinking. Introduce other possibilities if helpful. I don’t actually know what her expression means. She could be digesting what I’m saying, or trying to understand a difficult concept. This could be her resting expression. It could be disapproval, but I have no evidence to suggest it is.”

Overgeneralisation: Making predictions of the future based on isolated pieces of evidence from the present or past.

Example: When moving house, your favorite table is broken. You think “Typical. Shit like this always happening to me, haha!”

How to Counter: Acknowledge that a negative event happening once is not a predictor of it regularly happening again. “Well, it’s a bit shit that this happened. But my track record of having my stuff broken while moving is no higher than the average person, and its unlikely that I will regularly experience broken belongings in future”

Minimization: Being dismissive of our contributions, strengths and positive qualities.

Example: Having finished a complex digital illustration project you receive a compliment on how good it looks. You think or say “Yeah but I think it was a pretty easy brief to begin with, and anyone could have done it”.

How to Counter: We must realize being dismissive is disrespectful to ourselves, and acknowledge our achievements even if this is uncomfortable. “Thank you! It was difficult, and I am happy with the result” “It was not that the task was too easy, but that I had the skill and talent to complete it”.

Maximisation: Catastrophising based on our errors or flaws, blowing them out of proportion.

Example: Your new friend’s been talking to you about her brother being annoying. Later in the week, you ask your friend if her sister has been any less annoying. “Damn. Now she’s going to think I never pay any attention to what she’s saying and don’t care about anyone but myself”.

How to Counter: Acknowledge we’ve made a mistake, as all humans do. We must realize the true scale of the error, apologise and move on. “I’m sorry – my bad! How’s your brother now?” “I forgot something in this instance, but our friendship is likely to move past it. This doesn’t mean I have acted irreparably or ruined my friend’s entire impression of me”.

I’m guilty of doing all of the above, and more. However, identifying what I’m doing in both speech and thought helped me counter these thoughts and move past them.

Challenging negative self-talk more generally

Specific examples are helpful, but its important to address negative self-talk as a mentality. When I am talking shit about myself, to myself (or others), this comes from moments of anxiety and low self-esteem. I say ‘moments’ intentionally – I am not anxious nor do I have low self-esteem, rather these are things I experience, and can deal with. Distancing ourselves can be useful, as it helps humanize us instead of blanketing ourselves as “I’m always anxious, this is just how I am and that’s never gonna change”.

So, let’s address this process more generally. How do we counter our anxious, negative thinking? While the example might seem dramatic, its honestly reflective of things I say to myself.

Example: “Well then. Just woke up. I’m a sack of shit. Entirely untalented and probably not good looking. 2/10 max. Can’t even cook. My life sucks. I’m never gonna find a job”

Here are questions we can use to challenge these thoughts.

“Is there substantial evidence for what I’m thinking?”
It is highly unlikely I am entirely untalented, given I have done XYZ in my life”

“Is there evidence contrary to my thought?”
“I can cook, I actually made a pizza from scratch the other day. Sometimes cooking goes wrong for me, but not always.”

“What would a friend think about this situation?”
“My friend would likely tell me she’s not in the habit of forming friendships with sacks of shit. Ergo, I am unlikely to be a sack of shit”

“Am I interpreting this situation without all the evidence?”
“Yes – I am forgetting about these accomplishments, skills, talents, kindnesses…”

“Will this matter a year from now? Five years from now?”
“Probably not. You can learn skills. You are unlikely to be unemployed forever. You can get better at cooking. If you’re uncomfortable with how you look, you can accept it or change it”.

Thanks, I’m cured

Well, probably not. Nor am I tbh.

I hope reading this helps you acknowledge that negative self-talk is common, and not something you’re condemned to putting yourself through eternally. You can stop talking shit about yourself and become your own cheerleader. It is a process, and one blog piece is unlikely to change it.

But, it’s a decent start.


The Girl Who Did More Than Clap for the NHS

Happy Friday! We’ve started the day with some good news for a change, as we note London’s infection rate is starting to fall.* This headline’s overly optimistic, but the news in there is valid.

On that note of positivity, I wanted to share another uplifting Friday story: my sister’s! She surprised our family group chat last week, when she shared a few photos of beautiful, handmade cards and mini-care packs for her local paramedics.

She’s worked really hard on these quietly, so I wanted to surprise her by sharing her gorgeous art with you. She’d been telling me every week that while clapping was a nice way for the entire country to showcase their appreciation, she wanted to do something practical to help, no matter how small.

The level of detail and texture in these handmade illustrations…girl. I think anyone who receives these will be touched to see that effort and love went into making them. 👏🏼
She made 22 cards, and hand delivered them along with some sweets to her local paramedics in Epsom. 💚

…and that’s all folks! I wanted to share a sweet, positive Friday story to kick off your weekend on a good note.

– xoxo, aimen 🤓

Career Personal growth

Burnout: (The luxury of) prevention and recovery

What is burnout?

The WHO defines burn-out syndrome specifically in a work context with the following three characteristics:

  • feeling depleted or exhausted
  • mentally distancing, or feeling negative and cynical about your work
  • reduced professional efficacy.

In my case I learned about burnout while going through it. My experience of burnout was influenced by factors like gender, my profession and relatively young age, cushioned by class and my support circle.

I want to help women prevent and recover from the signs of burnout – we’re at a higher risk across professions. I can only speak to my experience as a creative and knowledge worker – a relatively privileged place to speak from.

Why do people burnout?

Speaking through my own lens: I’m 24. I worked full-time in product marketing and run a print & digital design practice on the side. In my pre-COVID free time? I DJ’d. I produced music commercially and for myself. I devoted my time to mentoring junior colleagues out of hours and helped friends with anything from their personal sites to semi-commercial ventures.

Here’s the problem: I can guarantee at least one person is reading this thinking “Coool. Juggle it all hun. American Dream”. That’s the attitude that left me emotionally depleted, cynical about my day job and unable to produce anything creatively in my passion projects.

Here’s how I went from faux cool “sorry I’m just too busy!!!” texts to having regularly scheduled 15-minute sob sessions at work:

I missed every opportunity to take holidays. I rolled over two years’ worth simply because I was too young and inexperienced to realize I didn’t need to be on every single new, exciting project at work to be successful

I monetized every single one of my hobbies. Having a side hustle is great. But creative work is ultimately work: it’s demanding and challenging. When I wasn’t at my 9-5, I was producing websites or making music. As a result, when I tried to enjoy making music or illustrating – I couldn’t. It felt reductive when I wasn’t being paid for it. This toxic attitude left me unable to undertake the exploratory ‘unproductive’ experimental work that is so crucial to creativity. I lost the ability to use my creative work as solace because I added the unnecessary pressure of making things “commercially viable” in an already competitive landscape.

I didn’t advocate for myself. I set unreasonable expectations in a bid to challenge myself. If I could produce a project in a day, I’d try to do it in half a day next time. I accepted more freelance projects than any reasonable one-woman setup could handle. If I could manage 4 people, I’d try to be responsible for 6. If I could go from working til 7PM to working a set til 2AM, I’d do it again. But my fuel tank ran empty eventually.

In short – you burnout when you regularly push yourself beyond a sustainable level of effort or stress.

When you do not balance rest, postpone fun and take on more than you can manage, you become depleted. When we read our maximum capacity for work as an inherent weakness, and try to bulldoze past it, we end up overloading ourselves. Incidentally, we also become completely unpleasant to be around.

When we read our maximum capacity as an inherent weakness, and try to bulldoze past it, we end up overloading ourselves.

How do you prevent burnout?

Balance. While working in a toxic culture or environment wasn’t a great starting point, I could’ve changed my approach.

I should have:

  • Taken regular breaks, even in the form of single days off
  • Taken at least one extended holiday a year
  • Fully switched off from work at some point in the day
  • Been mindful in accepting a sustainable workload
  • Been careful about monetizing my passions
  • Acted my age!

That last point is interesting. By this, I mean I should’ve realized that our twenties are when we can afford to spend time figuring out what we enjoy. By pressuring myself to “Be PuT tOgEtHeR” by the arbitrary deadline of 25, I set up a destructive environment where nothing felt fun unless it was advancing me in some capitalist, quantifiable way.

Finally…realise if you’re a young woman in rooms full of men, you’re expending a great deal of energy fighting to be taken seriously whilst not being ‘too assertive’. This is draining. Find allies. Delegate and share this burden.

Well, thanks but I’m already burnt out. How do you recover?

Recovery is harder than not being burnt out in the first place. While what you actually do is going to vary, you’ll need to introduce balance and restful activities into your life.

If you’re a fan of extremes…

I quit my job and factored in two weeks of free time before starting another. I spent these two weeks accepting zero freelance projects, making absolutely no music and producing nothing of value. I went to a lot of museums, slept and actually spoke to my cat instead of treating him as furniture. I had my husband cook me fresh, delicious meals and spent time with him. I drank my tea while it was still f*cking hot. In short, I healed by quitting cold turkey. I took this newly-gained habit of slowing down into my next job, so I was able to avoid full-blown burnout next time.

If you’re mellower…

Introduce boundaries and acceptance into what you do. At risk of sounding fluffy – really do one restful, peaceful thing a day. Gradually accept the idea of time off as a necessity instead of an option. Learn when to stop working against yourself. Give yourself control. If it feels like you’re forcing yourself to do something, question the necessity of the task instead of yourself. If you’re balancing heavy personal circumstances with a demanding job, prioritise your energy. Take back your hobbies. You don’t need to start an Etsy for your embroidery – you can just enjoy it.

The luxury of burnout

I know, oxymoron. But it’s easy to read points of view like mine and think they’re the only lived experience of burnout.

Being able to identify and plan recovery from burnout is a luxury in itself. Simply by being in the UK, having internet access, three meals to eat a day and a roof over our heads: we have an immense degree of control in determining how our narratives go. It isn’t quite as simple with factors like poverty or immigration status at play. Being able to think about a work-life balance is a luxury.

Being able to think about a work-life balance is a luxury.

Some professions demand a high degree of emotional labour and place us at higher risk of burnout: healthcare and service work included. The language and tools available to us in combatting burnout are a luxury. We should respect this.

If you’re a healthcare worker, we’re working on a piece specific to you soon.

xoxo aimen 👽

Personal growth Relationships

Don’t ask women when they’re having kids

As a woman in your twenties, it’s likely you’ve been asked when you want to have kids. It might be something you’re thinking about, exploring or even trying to do. It might also be something you really don’t want to do. 

When I got married, I noticed people asked me one thing a little too often: “So, when are you having kids?” I’d been asked this before, but never so persistently. As it turns out, there’s a whole lot of reasons this question is at best: stupid, and at worst: really damaging to ask. 

It’s asking when, never if

In my experience, the question is always “When are you having kids?”. Not ‘if’. When.

This assumes the person you’re asking wants kids. Bit presumptuous. In the year of our lord 2020, motherhood is still seen as aspirational and expected for most women. This loaded question makes it harder for me to go “Actually – I don’t want kids”. 

While we should’ve moved past an institutionalized desire to reduce women to walking wombs, this hasn’t happened yet, so it’s still unsettling to society when women simply don’t want children. Our reasons don’t matter because they’re not really listened to. 

9/10 times I’ve told people I don’t want kids, it’s a dice roll between the following responses. Seriously.

  1. Is it because you’re overweight / have PCOS / have endometriosis / your husband’s infertile?
  2. Is it because your husband doesn’t want kids?
  3. You’ll change your mind. It’s different when its yours! Just wait and see
  4. Don’t you feel bad for your husband / parents / next door neighbor / Mark Zuckerberg who’s entire social network is now based on moms posting photos of their kids, and mom memes?

While I would love to talk about this with a trusted friend, or even a respectful stranger – the overly casual “When you make babies?” doesn’t lend itself to warm, friendly discourse on such a personal topic.

So: you shouldn’t ask when, because you’re throwing a bunch of societal expectations at someone who may well not want to stick to them.

What I always want to see on one of these pee sticks

It’s personal and invasive

Picture this. You’re at a family barbecue. You just grabbed some juicy wings fresh off the grill. There’s sunshine and good music. And then, your great aunt walks over with “Hey so, when are you getting your front butt waxed?” 

Hopefully, you’re thinking “Woah, that’s really personal and invasive, Auntie! My butt waxing routine is totally not your business! Let me eat these wings in peace, damn!

While butt waxing stands out as an invasive, rude and downright inappropriate topic for family conversation, the same scenario with the question “So, when are you having kids” really doesn’t. I’ve been in that scenario at least fifteen times. I’ve always had to justify a really personal decision that ultimately is for my partner and I to make. And really, it’s mostly mine. How. Uncomfortable!

While the butt waxing stands out as an invasive, rude and downright inappropriate topic for family conversation, the question “So, when are you having kids” really doesn’t.

It doesn’t affect anyone whether you decide to reproduce or not (barring your partner and other children, if they exist). The ferocious determination aunties pour into this question might make you feel like their entire happiness depends on your vagina – but it really, truly doesn’t.

The extent to which this question is so normalised (and usually well-intentioned) really belies how much of a personal decision it is to have children. I feel as uncomfortable discussing my reasons for not having children with my extended family, as I would discussing a butt-waxing routine. 

It’s insensitive, and potentially triggering

I have PCOS and endometriosis. With 1 in 5 women diagnosed with PCOS in the UK, it’s really not so uncommon. Both conditions affect your fertility. Here’s the thing: I’m grateful for this because its nice to know I’m less likely to fall pregnant accidentally. 

But if you’re someone in your twenties struggling to conceive – this question really rubs it in. While working in fertility telemedicine, I was lucky to speak to women from all walks of life, struggling to conceive. A huge trigger for lots of them: being asked when they’re having kids, or whether the “plumbing is faulty”.

Especially around Christmas, I’d see a spike in demand for mental health services, as women were asked invasive questions at the dinner table about why their bodies were failing them. Our service received several questions on how to cope with this triggering time, where it seemed like everyone and their mother was quite literally asking women when they’d produce children. 

So. Imagine experiencing the grief of miscarriage, or sinking thousands of pounds into IVF while trying to conceive. Dealing with this incredibly, lonely and private issue. And while trying to eat your sprouts in peace, being asked why you haven’t yet accomplished what you’re so desperately trying to. 

Don’t be insensitive. As with all things, you don’t know what someone is experiencing. So, don’t ask when they’re having kids because for all you know – they’re trying really hard to. With 1 in 7 couples struggling to conceive in the UK, you’re likely to really hurt someone’s feelings when they’re already low.

It’s not just infertility that could make this triggering. Reasons like being a trans woman, being gay and struggling to adopt, having too low an income, having a disability…there’s a laundry list of why this question can be so hurtful.

Normalise our power to choose what we do with our bodies

If you’re feeling bad because you’ve asked your friends when they’re having kids – don’t. Feeling bad is besides the point, just don’t do it again. 

However, knowing my own group of loving friends where nothing is off limits – TALK ABOUT IT. Really, ask your friends if they’re okay to talk about wanting children. Accept it (really, accept it) when people don’t want kids, but let them talk openly about their reasons if they want to. Talk to other women about the expectation that if women want children and a career, they’d better grow 8 extra limbs and train themselves to sleep an hour a night because “men simply aren’t the primary carer”. When we talk respectfully, and really listen, good things happen.

And that’s a wrap. I hope you can kindly call out great aunt Beverly next Thanksgiving when she whips out the ol’ “When are you spawning?” over the turkey.

xoxo, butter girl 🥞