Like many of us, BAME entrepreneur Henrietta Shirazu, a diversity and inclusion image consultant, had the Spring and following months mapped out in terms of business opportunities. Then COVID-19 put paid to
Shaving through the Blitz
I recently learned about the book “Shaving through the Blitz” from a friend who had the good sense to make a connection regarding what the world was going through then and what is happening now. It’s a (very) old book (1944), but it somehow seemed to capture something I was struggling to put into words without even having read it. After a very quick Google search of the synopsis, I decided this was not a book for me. A book about the last World War I do not consider light reading! But a few days on, I was still thinking about the book, despite not being interested in reading it.
So why can’t I forget about it? It turns out that the title struck a nerve and rightfully so. At the start of COVID-19, I was not taking it seriously; I carried on working and acting as though everything was normal and when it finally dawned that it was not, I began to feel a little ‘lost’, for want of a better word.
I stopped working or eating anything that resembled a nutritional meal and then eventually stopped dressing. As a personal stylist, I am very aware of all the benefits that come from dressing well (Find out more: WHY DRESSING BETTER CAN GET YOU A HIGHER PAYCHECK) and the importance of how the way you look affects the way you feel and vice versa. And yet I sat in my living room and had meetings in my PJs, with a straight face while telling people how important taking care of oneself was. What a hypocrite, you may think, and how absolutely right you would be.
Sign of the times
One of the first signs that there is something wrong with a person (for me anyway) is appearance – if you don’t look good on the outside things are clearly not going well on the inside either. And that was clearly the case for me, especially when it came to my business.
I know its crass to mention money, but there is a pandemic so here goes, to put it bluntly, I was expecting to make £XXXX.XX excluding VAT in March from styling my clients (face-to-face) and from a Diversity and Inclusion workshop I was doing for a top-five firm (also face-to-face) that has been in the works for quite some time. I had already invested a considerable amount of time, effort and – yes – money into getting these projects lined up, so when March came and went, and I made exactly £0000.00 including VAT I was admittedly somewhat miffed.
When Netflix is no longer the cure
Did I cry about it? Absolutely — but when that failed to work (as it inevitably does) I made the conscious choice to take a mental break from trying to have the most profitable month ever in my business (we have all seen those quotes/memes about how this is an opportunity to sell, sell, sell!). Instead of pushing for sales/clients, etc., I think I should strive to be as helpful as I can to people in these trying times by providing whatever value I can (in the safe space of my home, of course, because- #stayinside).
I understand how lucky I am to be able to do such a thing, but that is not to say I will be twiddling thumbs waiting for a handout. I think it’s time for me to get a job. This is because in times of hardship, a regular income is always a bonus (bills don’t stop) and also for the sake of my sanity. As someone who struggles to keep sane at the best of times, spending all day every day at home staring at my toes will definitely send me over the edge. (I ran out of things to watch on Netflix on day six of the lock-down.) Once you have run out of stuff on Netflix, it’s probably time to come out of any mental funk that’s keeping you there. (I’m not saying it’s going to be easy, but it has to be done.)
Wellbeing in unprecedented times
I am in the middle of accepting my new ‘normal.’ I watched something that said, ‘Now is not the time for hope’ and for some reason that made me feel a lot better (don’t judge me on this too quickly). I understand this is a strange sentiment to preach but please bear with me: As you have no doubt heard “We are living in unprecedented times”; no one knows when or how this will end or what will happen when it does. When I say don’t live in hope, I simply mean we should stop wasting time wishing for things to go back to normal, because honestly who knows when it will, or what the new “normal” will look like.
I instead urge you to do what many brave people are doing and first accept the situation, and then look outside of yourself. This is the time to work on you while knowing that it is not about you. Work on yourself so you can have the strength to carry others through this.
A guiding hand
The following are small words of advice that I try to follow daily myself (the operative word here being ‘try’). The first implication from the title is that it’s important to keep up the self-care routine as much as possible. It may not seem that important at a time like this but so much research, such as one from ScienceDirect, shows how self-grooming is a massive part of our wellbeing in difficult times such as this. So this should be your number one priority. No one is saying dig out your ball gown and wear a full face of Fenty. But please take a shower – start there. I would applaud you if you take it a step further and get dressed afterwards; it really makes all the difference.
Secondly, find a way to help at least one other person a day. It could be posting something positive about your day, or it could be shopping for your neighbour. Heck, it could be not going to the shop to get snacks you know you don’t need: #stayinside saves lives. By foregoing your snack trip to the shop, you are basically a hero! (Or, ‘Shero’ for all the ultra-feminists out there.)
And thirdly – this is my favourite one: take this time to learn. You are never too old to learn; it doesn’t matter that you are grown or that you have many certificates for stuff you already know about – why not read a book on a new subject? If you don’t like reading, then listen to an audio-book – the first one is free (on Audible anyway). Outside of books, you can listen to Ted Talks, podcasts, or watch tutorial videos; the possibilities/resources are endless! (Could you imagine if this happened before the internet? Visualise a shocked face emoticon.)
Still shaving my legs
So I for one will be ‘shaving my legs’ in my own way through COVID-19, and I suggest you do the same and take it one step further and do what you have to do to support the NHS troops battling it out every day. All this will be made that bit easier if you keep your own standards of appearance high. It will do wonders for your morale and the morale of those you live with if you are lucky enough to be trapped with your loved ones.
PS. For those of you wanting more information on the link between your appearance, wellbeing and income here
Henrietta Shirazu is a Diversity and Inclusion Image Consultant with over five years of experience helping women of colour succeed with style by building confidence and strength with personal branding. Henrietta helps them embrace their culture in the workplace and teaches the importance of taking up space. She also works closely with organisations to bring awareness to inclusion in the workplace, with the belief that living as your authentic self is the key to limitless success. To book Henrietta for private consultation or workshops, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or any of her social media platforms.