Gentrification in Birmingham, UK

Copy of Copy of The ugly truth about self loveOver the last few years, my city has continued to undergo some drastic changes. From luxury apartments, food stores, John Lewis, and a tram system, Birmingham’s city centre is barely recognizable! Having the option to buy vegan hotdogs, or picking up a juice from Jo the Juice bar certainly beats the days of just Nando’s and McDonald’s.

In 2013 they opened up the biggest library in Europe in my city. They are currently in the process of building HSBC’s main headquarters in Birmingham at the end of 2018. The HS2 high speed trains project is predicted to make Birmingham a popular destination to live for professionals over the next few years.

But what people are not talking about is the process of gentrification emerging in Birmingham as a result of these changes. In Ladywood, an area in close proximity to the city centre, housing prices have risen by a whopping 17% in 2017. This is the same area that was ranked as the worst area for child poverty in 2016, according to End Child Poverty Campaign. The irony of this ‘development’ is that many working class, poor communities are forgotten about in the process.

Luxury apartments and hotels are being built everywhere whilst many people struggle to pay their rent. Homelessness is on the rise, as evident simply by walking around the city centre. The amount of people facing the threat of eviction or drowning in rent arrears is a common occurrence. Toppled with a highly competitive job market, cuts to universal credit and low wages,  survival for low-income families is getting harder by the day.

I recently came across a white-owned hipster ‘games shop’ on monument road, a corner that is known for prostitution and drug addicts.  Even though the area is very diverse, I have never seen a local from the community inside the shop- mostly white students and professionals. They stand out like a sore thumb, making no effort to attract or engage with the locals. This is a common example of white gentrifiers exploiting rent prices in poor, working class areas whilst making locals feel like outsiders in their communities. Urban regeneration in Birmingham is starting to mimic the early stages of gentrification that took place in areas like Brixton or Hackney in London.

For the purpose of being nuanced, there are many people who have moved to Birmingham due to the extortionate housing prices in other parts of the country, particularly London. People who have been victims of gentrification themselves have been forced to move to places like Birmingham not out of choice, but as a matter of survival. Essentially this problem is rooted in the class inequalities and government austerity measures that discriminates against the poor.

Whilst I can empathize with those people who have been forced to move for that reason, I cannot support luxury apartments being built within communities that are experiencing high child poverty, lack of job opportunities and high rent prices.

To conclude, it’s time to start looking closely at how this is going to develop in Birmingham and what impact it is going to have on low-income communities over the next few years. Change is a good thing but only when it’s not at the expense of the poor!




Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

A reminder: You are not defined by your mistakes

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You can’t keep holding yourself hostage to your previous wrongdoings. They do not define you but add character to your life’s story. You owe it to yourself to let go and forgive. You can’t beat yourself down about something you know better about now. That version of you no longer exists anymore.

Whilst you have to take responsibility over your previous actions, the only thing you can do is strive to a better version of yourself in the present moment and learn from your mistakes.  Beating yourself up about them will only steal your joy and take up energy that could be used for personal development. Don’t allow guilt to stagnate you or fool you into making the same bad choices over and over again.

Remind yourself that you have full control over your present actions. Use your past mistakes to motivate you to do and be better. Mistakes usually set us up for something more profound if we use them in a constructive way. Maybe one day you can use your experiences to inspire and help others. So let’s be more compassionate and kinder to ourselves mmm kay!

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

You’re too Sensitive!

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If you’re sensitive you’re probably well accustomed to hearing phrases like “it’s not that deep” or “you take everything so personal”. This may be true! However for us sensitive folks it’s much more complex than just simply getting over ourselves. Deciphering between whether our emotional responses are valid verses taking things too seriously is very difficult to figure out (well for me anyways lol).

Hyper-sensitivity feels like being an unwrapped lollipop (weird analogy I know). You feel exposed to everything and easily contaminated. Negative experiences or words just stick to you and you have a hard time convincing yourself that it’s not worth your energy nor concern.

This affects different aspects of your life, especially when it comes to expressing your feelings in relationships (Family/Friends etc). There’s a fear of not being taken seriously or having your feelings undermined. Trying to build and maintain emotionally healthy relationships can often get complicated and draining. This can also have negative effects on your self-esteem. It can make you distrust of your own feelings and intuition, causing you doubt who you are as a person.

But despite the challenges, I believe being a sensitive person makes you extremely empathetic. Within a world that’s callous and unjust, being sensitive can be used as a tool to make a positive impact on the world. Growing up I was constantly told that I had to be ‘tough’ in order to survive and for the longest time felt like my sensitiveness made me a liability. Now I’ve started to see it as a blessing not a curse. When I get told that I’m sensitive, I can confidently admit to it without feeling shame or guilt about who I am. What has helped me get to this point is exploring ways to deal with it especially when I get overwhelmed by emotion.

For my fellow sensitive ones, I’ve thought of a few coping mechanisms that have helped me along the way:

  1. Establishing boundaries in relationships– People who are sensitive often have a hard time creating appropriate boundaries for themselves. There’s so many times that I’ve felt bad for saying what I will and will not accept because I felt like I would be considered “extra” or “too sensitive”. This led to me accepting unfulfilling relationships and caused a lot of distress.  Realize this, you decide what you will and will not accept within your relationships! Your needs are important no matter how trivial someone else may think they are. Don’t be afraid to set appropriate boundaries. It will save you a lot less emotional turmoil and constantly doubting yourself.
  2. Own your sensitiveness- The next time someone calls you sensitive to derail your feelings, turn around and say “yes I am sensitive”. Be proud of it! That way when someone tells your you’re being sensitive it will have minimal affect on your mood because you’ve already accepted that it’s part of who you are. Remember that your sensitiveness is a blessing not a curse.
  3. Find an outlet to express your feelings- I write my feelings down to filter through my thoughts and understand them better. This is really helpful especially when you have to make important decisions or confronted with conflict. Instead of reacting based on our immediate feelings, we get to make more informed and rational responses. If writing isn’t your thing, find a means to express your feelings, whether that’s confiding in someone, making music or painting etc. Do whatever helps you to deal with your feelings in a healthy, productive way.

Are you a sensitive person? How do you cope with your feelings?

Is there anything you would add to this list?  I Would love to know your thoughts..x

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

Think Piece: Wellness industries and Capitalism

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I must confess that I’m a HUGE fan of all things self help. I often spend my mornings watching Lisa Nicols videos and looking at P’Diddy’s tweets to get me riled up (don’t come for my fav lol). On many occasions reading a self-help book made me feel powerful and installed faith in me that I am the driver of my own destiny. Despite all of the positives that self-help/ wellness industries offer, I can’t seem to turn a blind eye away from the hyper-capitalism and naivety that plagues the industry.

I think that it is necessary to understand that self-manifesting can have its limits based on socio-economic realities and histories. Structural inequalities including classism, racism, gender oppression, transphobia and so forth play a huge role in our inability to self-actualize to our fullest potential.

Under capitalism, especially if you’re poor, being told things like “if you work hard you can manifest anything you want”  can feel like a slap in the face. There’s plenty of ways to dispel this logic  but one problem is that there’s plenty of hard working people with jobs who are still struggling to make ends meat. Conditions under capitalism such as austerity, lack of upward mobility, low paying jobs make the idea of attracting “abundant finances” feel like a fantasy.

Living within a society which is very anti-wellness i.e. climate change, GMO foods, poverty, materialism, the narrative of wellness/ self-care ideologies cannot seek just individual solutions to healing but collective and structural transformations too.

I believe that there needs to be a balance between acknowledging certain histories and structural inequalities whilst understanding that we have agency over the trajectory of our own lives. If we see ourselves as passive victims we begin to impose certain limitations upon ourselves. We are not merely passive victims and I refuse to let that narrative consume my reality. I think we owe it to our predecessors/ancestors and those who constantly fight against the odds to see ourselves as victors not victims. It is truly in personal and collective power that we can transform society into one which values self-actualization. Oh and just before I end, BUN CAPITALISM!!!

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

Feeling Invisible and Overshadowed

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In a world with so many huge personalities, it’s easy to feel overshadowed and invisible. This can cripple us into thinking we aren’t good enough or even worse, that hardly anyone cares about our existence. I just want to remind you that you are not alone.

I believe that living in the shadows gives you a unique vantage point to the rest of the world. It can be used as an opportunity to do a lot of internal work and gain greater awareness of self.  Whilst we shouldn’t accept the narrative of being invisible as our destiny, we can use it as a tool to become better people and most importantly work on validating our own existence. Also, other people’s inability to recognize us never will determine our worth. If people don’t recognize your greatness, it’s always their loss not yours. Being slept on is upsetting, but I always try to remind myself that the people who matter will always pay attention and will never make you feel invisible.

So for those of us who battle with feeling invisible- lets’ try to be an example of someone who will commit to being brave enough to be themselves, regardless of being recognized, to remind the millions of people who feel the exact same way that we are all worthy of existing.

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

Seeking Validation from others

Everyone desires some form of validation. Being validated by others provides us with a  sense of recognition, value, and belonging.  Within a world that constantly reminds us that we aren’t good enough, positive validation helps with our emotional well-being and self-esteem. The lack of approval from our peers can often make us feel undervalued and invisible.

Before I begin, I’ve decided to make a distinction between two types of validation; healthy and unhealthy forms. The first is sought from reciprocal relationships that value and encourage your authentic expression (seek to inspire and push each other). The latter is one where you base your self-esteem and self-worth solely on being validated by others.

With that being said, Validation isn’t just about seeking approval from others. It is also about acceptance of your emotions- thoughts and feelings. For example; acknowledging you’re unhappy about X and then making the necessary shifts in your life to validate those feelings. An unhealthy practice would be to continue doing something you’re unhappy about or denying it altogether.

I’ve experienced both healthy and unhealthy forms validation. I must admit that I’ve battled many times with unhealthy practices, even though I’ve not always been aware of my actions.

It has taken many forms for me over the years. In particular, I often felt the pressure to constantly display how much I know about certain issues relating to my field of study (Intl Politics) in order to feel knowledgeable enough to be within political spaces. In the past, I’ve also relied too heavily on certain friendships for approval of my actions when I should have sought it within myself.

Social media has caused an unhealthy obsession with gaining validation from others. For example, obsessing over likes, buying followers, doing the most to achieve an ‘Insta baddie’ look.  There’s also an obsession with perfection and having to look a certain way i.e. slim thick bodies, immaculate makeup.  I’d like to just add that there’s nothing inherently wrong with having or wanting to attain those things.  This desire for wanting to achieve certain physical aesthetics has existed for centuries and it isn’t new to social media. Instagram is just a hyperbolic representation of these standards of beauty through images. The problem is, when we are constantly being exposed to these types of images, whether consciously or not, we find ourselves conforming to these standards.

Much like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have become plagued by this need for approval. These sites, in particular, are becoming infamous for people using activism to boost their social status and gain validation from said communities. Activism has, therefore, become voyeuristic with people using social ills as a means to gain a sense of belonging and importance within activist circles.

Unfortunately, I’ve begun to find that certain ‘safe spaces’ weren’t free from this constant desire for approval and validation. I constantly felt pressures to prove my knowledge of feminism and black issues, or having to dress a certain way to makes me look ‘edgy’ enough.

Whether it’s a pressure of having to take an ‘Insta baddie’ photo or show how ‘woke’ you are, it’s essentially the same desire for approval.

When you practice self-validation, it allows us to gain a greater sense of control and understanding of our needs and desires, providing us with a strong sense of identity. It’s the effort to better understand ourselves by validating our feelings, experiences and accepting them. Ultimately it’s about living our lives as an authentic expression of our internal self-validating process.

Reflecting on this topic, I’d like to propose a few questions that we could ask ourselves:

How much do my decisions reflect my authenticity?

How can I meaningfully validate myself in a society with so many expectations?

How can I seek meaningful relationships that value liberation and not superficiality?

How can I work towards validating myself and controlling my expectations of others to build my self-esteem?

I think it’s time to start having more honest and open conversations about this topic.  Part of my own self-reflection has been asking myself questions like this constantly. It’s easy to fall into the trap of doing the things I mentioned above. I can honestly say I’m guilty of probably everything I’ve stated. As uncomfortable as self-reflection may be, it is necessary towards gaining greater self-awareness.

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved

The Ugly truth about Self-Love

There were no traumatic events that led me to depression but I felt at more times than once that I wasn’t going to survive my inner turmoil. It was through experiencing constant low moods and overwhelming thoughts of self-doubt that I decided embarked on a self- love journey.

During this constant search I became easily frustrated. Attaining self-love appeared to be so easy for others. Seeing images of people with captions like “self-love//self-care” made me feel even worse. And I know you shouldn’t compare your journey to others but I found it difficult not to whilst drowning in perpetual self loathing. This would often make me wonder whether something was inherently wrong with me or whether I’d even experience genuine self-love.

I’d even try acts of self-care like treating myself to something nice or binge watching Netflix. Although these things were valid and fulfilling at the time, they filled me with temporary gratification and made me feel like crap afterwards.

After feeling constantly beaten up by my inner chaos, I began to think more about self-love as a concept and practice. I had a realisation that my definition of self-love was limiting this whole time.

This realization launched me into a relentless search to attain meaningful self-love.

Self-love is more than just buying yourself nice thing or having a long bath with candles. I found out that there’s so much more to self-love than any material acquisition or gaining external-validation.

I finally realised that self-love is a journey not a destination. It requires practice and patience to unravel its truest potential.

Here are a few things I’ve learnt (and STILL learning) along the way,

1. Brace yourself for crappy days, weeks or even months; Part of the process of self love is acknowledging the fact not everyday will be your best and allowing yourself the space to feel a wide range of emotions. Self love is about finding coping mechanism when you’re feeling low and being capable of acknowledging you are not okay. The most important thing to always bare in mind is despite how many times you might fall on this journey, there’s always an opportunity to rise up and start again.

2. It’s yours to define; Self love doesn’t look any particular way. You have to decide for yourself what it means to you. I tried putting my natural hair in twist outs and wearing more fashionable clothes because I saw those projections of self love. It didn’t take me long to realise that I’m too lazy to do twist outs and plus I find shopping to be a tedious task these days. I must add though that I have nothing against people who do that but it wasn’t authentic to me! My advice is to make moves that are organic to you and cater to your own personal needs and desires. Self love can’t be defined by anyone other than yourself.

3. Not everyone will understand it; It may cause you to loose friends in the process or grow further away from others. But you will also gain people who understand your journey and are willing to support you. Personally I become more introverted at one point and as a result I found myself missing out on a lot of social events. It might not be the best way for everyone but I found it necessary for me to take time away in order to focus on myself. Likewise, only you will know what’s necessary for you to get to where you want to be and you have to trust that your instinct is leading you towards that place.

4. Fundamental self-love work begins and always ends with your mental and emotional well-being; Even though material possessions can make us feel good, it provides us temporary gratification. In the age of social media, it’s easily to put emphasis on the physical “glow up” instead of doing the internal work that really takes a lot of effort. Focus on loving yourself internally without having to find it through external objects & people.

Copyright © AshAlves 2018, All Rights Reserved