kimmykeep: Freelancing

What does it mean to be freelance?

In the ever-changing world of being self employed, what does it mean to be freelance? Here’s a day in the life and my three killer freelance pearls of wisdom ….

As I freelance in Leeds a couple of days a week alongside other projects, my other days are spent sifting through the good ol’ Keep Real stuff. ‘To-Do’ lists, planning/doing workshops, running pop ups and more. We completed the ‘Heading Out’ live music show on mental health awareness week earlier this year…so what does the rest of the year look like?

I use the ‘Notebook‘ app on my phone, which allows me to keep a record of all the thoughts in my head, and compartmentalise them into sections of my work. Mine are ‘Keep Real’, ‘Freelance’, ‘Personal’, ‘Events’ and ‘Writing’. The app also allows me not just to tap away some bullet points, but to voice record, take images, draw or attach documents into each category.

8:30am is a lie-in, and I relish in it. As soon as I am out of bed, the kettle is on, the tea is about to brew and I flip open my laptop to check through emails, check instagram and our socials.

8:30-9:30am: In the Keep Real category lies a sea of swirling thoughts. The next stage of the business is to focus on events for 2020. The last month was spent redesigning the website, doing the social media schedule and completing the photoshoot.

10:00am: I take a scheduled call from a mental health professional to talk through our individual plans and how we can look at working together on Keep Real. I write down some notes and follow up on email.

10:45am: I whip out the filofax. Yeah…that’s right. Without it, I would probably crumble into the dust of sporadic thoughts, half remembered dates and made up meetings. If I put all the things I do in my google calendar, I will 100% forget. There’s just no two ways about it. I grab it from my bag and check my notes of the day, and look at the week ahead.

11:00am: Look over initial concepts for 2020, web testing and updates on content. Will new designs reflect the the web design for the relaunch on World Mental Health Day? How can service users navigate with ease? How do we best advertise/promote our events next year? As I am not a digital wizard, testing and content takes time. I pop the kettle on for another brew.

1:00pm: Lunch. I try take a break from my laptop, but I end up moving my lunch to the side of the laptop and scroll mindlessly through the internet. Take a look at trends and the news. Is there anything I can schedule in for Keep Real’s feed? If things catch my eye, I retweet or share.

1:30pm3pm: Social media scheduling always comes on a Monday. I plan out the weeks content and make sure our ‘Real Stories, Real People’ blog post goes up on the Tuesday which happens every week. I create the posts, add graphics, navigate automatic posting times (yuck). I also plan for the months ahead, any national days that are important to highlight, what events needs promoting the most.

3:00-4:00pm: 3pm means brew o’clock. I try take a break here. Sometimes I find it difficult to switch off, so I try take a moment while the kettle is boiling. Most of the time, it’s for my brain to simmer away with what’s bothering me the most. Today, it’s grant applications. I’ve submitted…so the waiting game begins. As I wait for a brew.

4:00pm-5ish: Writing and/or designing. I’ve been trying to write more and more about mental health as well as designing for upcoming Keep Real products in the store. At the moment, I’m sketching out ideas for the second installation of the Keep Real Colouring Book. It’s a whopper of a design project personally, as only in the last month I have acquired a graphics tablet.

(Yes…all the design work so far in my Artist journey has been pen/paper and scanning my work in.)

So what tips do I have as a freelancer?

  • Don’t turn the TV on: Oh how tempting it is to watch Sky Movies or an old episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Today is a day of work…not distraction. Try write out your key goals for the day. Stick to them if you can.
  • Find your flow: I work best in the mornings, especially with trying to keep on top of my emails. If I get things done in the morning, I feel more productive and in my flow creatively. Especially as a creative myself, I can’t force design work or writing. Quick and gratifying tasks are best done in the morning for me. Find your flow what works best for you when you start your day.
  • Relish the ride: I am still trying to follow this myself. Freelancing comes with it’s set of trials and tribulations. Work and finding work, isn’t always linear. You do however, find that hunger and drive to go on. My favourite quote I go back to is by my favey woman Patti Smith, “Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.”

4 Books Under £10 That Keep It Real

Reading has always been the constant in my life that allows me to explore privately the worlds and minds of others. Whether that is fiction, non-fiction, poetry or illustrative comics; it’s something other than my thoughts. It’s an escape…and it is an endless stream of discovery, page after page.

What speaks to me the most, is the depths and intricate patterns of highly celebrated lives. One of the largest influences on me in particular, is Patti Smith. I could read her memoir, and ode to her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe ‘Just Kids’ ten times over. In fact, it’s the most read book on my shelf.

I want to share with you my favourites, in the hope that they will inspire and uplift you in whatever journey you are going through.

  1. Patti Smith – Just Kids: A true tale of survival, friendship, art, music and love. Patti Smith is not only a celebrated artist, poet and musician, but a true rebel that delved into the creative New York scene from an extremely young age. This book leaves me feeling inspired to create and perservere, every single time I read it. I cannot recommend enough for any creative out there searching for inspiration. (Purchase here)
  2. Cash – The Autobiography of Johnny Cash: The life and music of the one and only. From his roots in Tennessee, to his ongoing battle with addiction and love for folk music. It’s a tender memoir from the Man in Black. Another book I have lost count in how many times I have read, but one that breaks down the barriers of mental struggle and how to overcome. (Purchase here)
  3. DO/PURPOSE – David Hiatt: A quick, engaging read by Hiatt Denim Founder, that flicks through page by page inspiration of having ‘purpose’. This is one aimed at all my fellow entrepreneurs and ‘why brand with a purpose do better and matter more.’ My favourite quote from the Do Series is “Do one thing well, it’s enough.” (Purchase here)
  4. Why We Sleep – Matthew Walker: This book puts everything you thought you knew about improving your wellbeing, and flips it over to be as simple as possible: Sleep 8 hours a night. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker puts myths and reason into perspective into why sleep is so vital to our mental health, productivity, physical health and more. The use of an analogy in this book is absolutely brilliant! Thank you Dr Walker for making sleep science easier to understand! (Purchase here)

Stop ‘The Arts’ Stigma For Mental Health

Stop the Arts Stigma for Mental Health

Being creative. It’s innate. Then why is there a stigma surrounding ‘creativity’ and ‘being creative’, especially in relation to mental health? And what impact does that have on access and support from the young person’s perspective?

Recently I found myself exploring this question more, after a conference I hosted exploring the arts and mental health regarding young people. When asking young people about the limitations in accessing the arts, and how it has impacted their mental health; the topic aroused a collective response of stigma surrounding the word ‘creativity’ and ‘arts’ as a whole.

My personal fascination with art and mental health, stems from my own experiences of how cathartic and beneficial art was (and still is) a vital lifeline for my mental health. This has flourished over time to include music, photography and other creative outlets. I even went so far as to explore creativity and mental health in my final year dissertation studying Counselling. 

My panel of inspiring young people, navigated a conversation full to the brim with personal experiences and individual journeys of education. There was a notion that to be ‘creative’, was to place a veil upon the arts, because some (and many, as I find out…) feel that to be creative, is to narrow the arts down to stereotypical subjects, where only the outwardly creative could draw the curtain back on.  

So…What Is Creativity?

When we talk about creativity, an over-arching word which loosely describes, well, pretty much everything a human being is- is stereotypically seen as ‘art, music and drama’ related careers from a young person’s perspective. The dictionary term is ‘the use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.’

Inventiveness, can be argued as being an innate part of the human condition. So…’creativity’ is just part of us all. Cognitive processes, expression, the ‘creation’ of anything from thought.

As a young person, we associate this with the stereotypical ‘drama kids’ or the ‘art kids’ from our initial experiences of ‘creativity’ in an educational setting. The creative subjects rounded up as expressive, exclusive and separate entity based on talent. However, there’s creativity in everything we do. Absolutely everything. We need to re-evaluate how we can bring ‘the arts’ into every subject, and every part of our lives.

Identity & Expression

From a young age, we look at our identity and fall into social groups that support us in defining our strongest traits. When I was at school, I associated myself with the ‘arts and drama kids’, where most of the classrooms dedicated to creative subjects clustered into one corridor. 

We see young people utilising these subjects to openly reveal themselves, delve into worlds that are subjective and expressive. What happens to young people who feel they don’t stereotypically ‘fit in’ to these educational subjects? What happens when these young people struggle with their mental health, and feel disassociated with how the ‘arts’ can benefit them?

When I put ‘arts’ into inverted commas, it is to question the ideas surrounding what the arts represents for us as individuals. My personal thought, is that it encompasses creativity in all its forms. From drama and art all the way to technology, engineering and business. 

Where traditional forms of therapy can restrict some who experience mental health problems, the process of art therapy bypasses the speech-language issue with the brain. And not even in the ‘art therapy’ sense, but in every part of our lives. The act of creation, externally captures thought, feeling…emotion. 

As the Arts, Health and Wellbeing Inquiry Report states, “The conundrum that we have found ourselves pondering is why, if there is so much evidence of the efficacy of the arts in health and social care, it is so little appreciated and acted upon.

It embodies everything, and is the most inclusive part of ourselves we should all dip into. Every human being benefits from experiencing this.

We need to change the perceptions of what being ‘creative’ is and what ‘the arts’ encapsulates. 

‘KimmyKeepReal’ The Blog, Is Back!

KIMMYKEEPREAL THE BLOG, IS BACK.

It’s been a minute, huh?

I took a break for a long time with writing/blogging on the ‘kimmykeepreal’ platform about mental health.

Now, I hope it can provide a place of support, comfort and an open door into my tiny world. Not just in my personal stories, but through the work I do in the day to day with Keep Real and freelancing.

I don’t aim to have a ‘theme’ or ‘uniform’ of photos streaming your way, because… well, it isn’t real. My reality doesn’t come with a filter, nor does my content. Just honest reads, photographs of moments and the realest approach in the North to kicking mental health stigma.

As a self employed woman, my work has evolved into writing about mental health, consulting on wellbeing related projects in the North and running Keep Real. This platform will document my journey, and highlight the work I continue to do.

Thank you for following me on this journey! Here’s to the realest, fullest account from all my experiences combined.

Some things scratch the surface while others strike at your soul.

– Gianna Perada,

Keepin’ Up or Keeping It Real?

Am I keeping up or keeping it real?

Brandishing the mental health blogger brush within the social media realm, has allowed me to explore my outlook on wellbeing to the many. I even have the opportunities to discuss my journey in workshops, panels, events and every time I do a pop up with my business Keep Real.

I submerge myself in mental health news, keeping up with the latest articles and wonderful folk who are fighting stigma and openly discussing the topic more. Lately however, I forget to look at my own mental health when I am focused on finding everything out about everyone else. The constant need to feel updated.

This past week, I got-to thinkin’. Am I ‘keeping up’ or am I ‘keeping it real’? Priding myself on the brand I have created, has given me permission to explore its true meaning, and why two years ago I needed to create an extension of my ethos to stay true for mental health. 

According to Online Lang Dictionary, to ‘keep it real’ means “to stay true to one’s self; to resist the temptation to be fake.”. My brand/ ethos literally hits the nail on the head right there. So why do I feel lost in my own manifesto?

Recently, I dropped my phone into a toilet (pre-wee thank goodness), to which it never repaired (bet you didn’t think this would be my revelation story!). The journey of not having sustained access to all the news, the latest, the messages and scrolling habits- literally sunk to the bottom of the bowl in a mighty *th-lunk*. 

My reaction to not having a phone, was yes, inconvenient. My first thoughts (to my surprise) was not ‘Holy moly! I have to update my instagram/ twitter! How can I possibly scroll through the internet now?!’. It was a concern for safety…and my online train tickets I couldn’t retrieve. For the 5 days without it, I didn’t feel as upset as I thought I would be. 

The journey of not having sustained access to all the news, the latest, the messages and scrolling habits- literally sunk to the bottom of the bowl in a mighty *th-lunk*. 

The largest inconvenience of not having any digital communication, was while I was sat on a delayed train for 4 hours trying to get into Leeds. I even asked the train guard to borrow their phone, who looked at me in utter disbelief when I asked, ‘Excuse me, I don’t have a phone, may I borrow yours so I can ring my work?’. No technology to hand? Sacrilegious. 

I tend to back away from my phone a lot during a commute, with a priority to reading (currently it’s Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker) and going through my filofax diary. You know…trying to keep it real.

I had surprised myself in my innate response to the lack of a personal device. We are so accustomed to accessing all the information, all of the time. No one forgot about me. No one cared that I didn’t update my social platforms. The only important things I couldn’t do, concerned my work and peace of mind if I needed immediate help. Not social media, not ‘keeping up’ like I thought.

Remembering why ‘Keep Real’ exists, eliminates that fear within that I have to keep up. I do what I do now, because I’m proud to navigate reality and the digital world within my small strides. 

We are so accustomed to accessing all the information, all of the time.

Having your own pace, is so important. Being a self-employed ‘go-getter’ if you will, does not mean I have to keep pushing to know more, do more, be more. Neither should you.

Keepin’ it real suits me fine. 

I’m hosting a Mental Health MOT & Mindset Workshop with Scrivener, Wednesday 5th June at Leeds Postal Service! FREE tickets here

Retail & Mental Health

Working in retail this time last year, really affected my mental health. Having now experienced this year not working in a retail environment after 5-6 years of doing so, has made me realise how deeply it affected me. But you can get through this. Here’s how.

If you’re working in retail right now, you’ll be doing the Black Friday slog and the run up to Christmas. It’s peak time, you’ll be working more hours to keep the store running and obeying the inpatient demands of the general public. You’ll get the lovely regulars with a mix of extremely inpatient customers- but all in all, the magic of Christmas can be beautiful…yet for some, very hard to enjoy. 

Image by Suzanne Wright Photographer

Customer service is rewarding, and building those relationships can be some of the best parts to the retail world. Every job comes with its trials and tribulations, but when you work in retail- you don’t really have the option to take time off during the busiest part of the year, or the option to not smile and have a bad day. So when your mental health is suffering, what options do you have?

I loved where I used to work and I still love them. I have learned that my mental health deteriorated in the slope to Christmas, and even though the end of the year is always the most magical, it is also one of the most stressful and in my experience, the hardest to get through. I remember one specific night two years ago, leaving from a late night, and literally running and crying all the way home because I just wanted to curl up and have a day off.  It was raining, I was tired after getting a 2 hour commute home and I ran the last part home. RAN. Then I woke up at 5am the next day to do it all over again.


So What Can You Do?

Share your concerns with your Manager. Let one of your superiors know how you feel, whether that’s your supervisor, floor manager or whoever. Tell a colleague, but remember you need the right support from your employer. They’ll be able to see what they can do for you. Also remember, they are human! They are working in retail at the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Stick together and ask questions like, “Hey, I wondered if you had time at all this morning or later in the day for a quick chat?”, “I’d love to run something by you in private, if you have time today?”. Even if they can give you a quick 10 minutes in the back when it’s becoming too much- as long as they are aware…you’re in safer hands. Don’t struggle in silence.

If you need a mental health day…take one. To do a good job, be productive and also be a wonderful part of the team- you need to take care of yourself. Being at work and knowing you’re not feeling your best, isn’t helping yourself or any of your colleagues…that’s both physically or mentally. Try not to feel guilty (I’m with you on trying/failing at that!). Your best self is a cared for self. Take the time you need.

Christmas is a mush. Give your mental health some structure. You may be working long as heck hours, different shift patterns and days can pass in a stressful blur. Making a note of how you feel can be really important in trying to track what you’re going through mentally. Assign colours to different moods (blue- ok day, yellow-happy/smooth day, black- terrible day etc) and see if you can spot some patterns. The Mental Health Foundation have some great tools on how to support mental health at work. 

Know your rights. This is so important. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly by your employer, know that you have a right to challenge discrimination. Time To Change set this out clearly and can signpost you to the correct services, especially when it comes to legal stuff and action to take. Unsure of what the Equality Act covers? You can check out the types of discrimination here on Mind’s website.


It’s hard to keep happy during the Christmas period, just know you are not alone in feeling that way. Please check out Keep Real’s list of careline that are available.

Paving The Way For Support

Recently, I was a guest at Leeds Drawing Club for their last ‘Creative Social’ of 2018 as a speaker discussing all things Keep Real. It was absolutely wonderful to get involved with the folk who attended, and share my story on why Keep Real exists, and what we are currently doing to support more people in the community when it comes to mental health.

It’s always great to open out to a Q&A towards the end, and receive feedback on how we can create more interventions about mental health. One guest asked if I thought Keep Real’s way of business could be the future for mental health support. What a wonderful idea! We have some great events coming up, you can take a look here

In light of it being World Mental Health Day, I wanted to reveal some of my recent favourites when it comes to self care. Here’s my Top 3, which I hope you can take away with you and share.

  • Fiona Thomas: As well as being a mental health writer and author, Fiona utilises her creative talent into developing supportive materials such as the You Got This Zine duo. The ‘You Got This: A Motivational Zine’ is aimed at folk who struggle with depression, and shares her story, as well as others about how to get stuff done through the hard times. She explains what ‘being kind to yourself’ really means and opens up the conversation with Jana Dowling, Rachael Watson and Amy Holland. There’s also the ‘You Got This: A Feel-Good Zine’ where Fiona open up her soul and shares her thoughts on anxiety, feeling ‘meh’ and how creativity can support your wellbeing. The work she has produced hits every note and candidly discusses dealing with mental health issues, and the day to day struggles we all feel.

I feel like more zines and sweet materials like this can just break it down in your own home. It doesn’t feel clinical, it shares the struggles we can all relate to and it embodies the small things we forget. Like how sometimes we don’t want to shower or clean or take care of our selves. We sometimes lose that, and the work by Fiona Thomas ties up all those loose strings we feel we can’t hold onto, and ties it all nicely into these pages. I’m so excited for her book launch ‘Depression in a Digital Age’ (Pre-order here!)

  • Podcasts. Oh man. So I was a podcast hype for a while this time last year, but I lost myself within them and couldn’t find the right fit. When it comes to hearing people talking for a long time, some didn’t appeal to my tiny ears as much as I’d have liked. However, some of my favourites are the pivotal Russell Brand ‘Under The Skin’– there’s a great episode called ‘Mental Health Crisis: Is Community The Answer?’ (Listen here). I go into podcasts with an open mind and I also LOVE ‘Made of Human with Sofie Hagen‘. She covers a range of topics, discussing this with amazing people from comedians, journalists to bloggers. It’s one of my favourites this year because it collates so many wonderful topics all in one, not just mental health but feminism, how to adult, LGBTQ issues, #MeToo and more.
  • Home is Where The Heart Is. Since moving back home in June this year, I found myself twisting into old ways from when I used to visit home during my University years. That means leaving clothes everywhere, leaving mess everywhere, cups EVERYWHERE (gal loves a brew) and all the things in-between not pitching in. But lately after leaving my job, I’ve been learning to respect my surroundings more. I’m not perfect, but I know why I get so distracted and leave things everywhere. It’s an extension of myself. My bedroom is my happy calm place. It’s small, but it brings in a lot of light, is fresh with plants (and copious amounts of books) and I feel like I can relax there. When my space is messy, I feel messy, unproductive and no schedule. So with World Mental Health Day, take a look at your room/house/flat and see if keeping it tidy/clean supports you.
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You Are Relevant

Do I write about what’s going on in my head? Do I write what I think people need to hear? Do I write down what’s going on? How I feel?

Here’s what you and I need to read. Period.


There’s nothing that goes against my grain, than too many positive quotes coming my way. The circulation of those hashtags, the classic #mondaymotivation and #fridayfeelings when those feelings don’t circulate in myself. So many wellness platforms telling me how I can feel better, too many corporates riding the wellbeing wave, looking to bank on my bad thoughts.

Is it just me?

Sometimes the social platforms we have just become so saturated; we feel the pressure to be relevant, if we are to keep on the digital pedestal we gotta post and share opinions and create the best content and share share share.

Not any more.

Your devices have switch off buttons. To stay relevant we have to rely on the now. Look up, look around and stay in focus. It’s hard to type that and become the hypocrite. I’m typing away while life goes on. But this is important right now.

You are important right now.

Brush off the pressure, take off that comparing coat and remember that you go at your own pace. Yeah, we’re living in times that are hard. Being a human within this world is harder than ever. It’s all plastic, poverty and too much power.

Just take this as a sign that you’re gonna make it. There’s beautiful days you haven’t seen and there is love you haven’t felt yet.

There is love you haven’t felt yet.

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Question Mark: A Millennial Feeling

Folks, this is a biggie. We’ve heard of the ‘quarter-life crisis’, especially from articles in circulation that states “Research finds that more than half of millennials are going through a quarter life crisis” (See article here)- but actually feeling like this is happening, is a much larger problem in our society. I’m sharing my story.


*

I’m definitely having one. One of those ‘quarter life crisis’ things. And y’know what? A lot of my loved ones at my age are too. It isn’t just me, it isn’t just you. This is something I have noticed that’s happening to us as young people. That post-university, the ‘what-am-I-doing-with-my-life’ years are sadly becoming a reoccurring thing. We have financial pressures, we’re bombarded with media that tells us to spend, spend and yes- s p e n d when payday hits, get the dream job, and the pressure to have it all figured out right now. YES! RIGHT NOW!!

Where is it coming from?

I think as we’re exposed to lot of more information than our predecessors, we’re simply questioning everything. What career do I want? Do I have to work 9-5 for a company that  has one ambition- to just increase profit? Do I want to be in this relationship? Is there more than this? Why am I checking my phone so much? Is this is what I want right now?

So.

Many.

Question Marks,

???????

It leaves us feeling like a question mark. I sure as heck feel like one, this past week that’s all I have been feeling. From the outside looking in, you would think I have it all figured out. But actually, no one does- I really don’t. I’m questioning everything at this stage- where do I want to live, if my personal choices are the best thing for me right now. To smaller questions like do I continue to write a blog, is my artwork good enough etc etc. I wake up some days, and I have no clue what I am doing or how I am feeling.

Do not feel alone in this.

It’s ok to start reflecting your choices, even though it’s so scary. We’re in a world where we’re searching for more meaning than ever. It’s ok.

 

It’s ok.

 

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Imposter Syndrome

Doubting yourself is part of growth. It depends on what situation I am in, but recently when it has been intimate/ small meetings I tend to seriously doubt why I should even be there. Why lil ol’ me? My body language shifts, I try cover up the adrenalin/ nerves/excitement as my body blushes and I’m constantly thinking “Don’t go red, don’t go red! Get your words right!”…

Well, I have to remember ‘lil ol me runs a business and it’s time to grab life by the lady balls and realise that my opinion is valued. We’re all human.

I had a meeting last week for something that it being put together in Leeds, which I happen to have the pleasure of being on the steering board for. I sat down with a wonderful mixture of health professionals, each taking it in turn to introduce ourselves and what we’re all about. Each person there was absolutely incredible. Doing amazing things for folk, highlighting elements of health and wellbeing they would like to be improved. Then it was my turn and I felt that prickly red heat spreading over my body before I opened my mouth. 20180821102643_img_3753-01

I’ve spoke about Keep Real many times, in various settings. I’ve done it in small meetings, groups of over 50, even on stage to over 100 people. Small meetings are a struggle for me.  Sometimes I’m in a great headspace and can talk about it easily and freely. Others I can be a big walking rashy queen. It’s a case of mind over matter, I can get so caught up in my body’s reaction that I completely lose track of my thoughts, which are obsessively saying “You’re going red!! Not again!”, “Your neck is getting really hot now, they’ll all notice!“.

But do you know what?

The other wonderful folk in the meeting who spoke after me had the same thing. I noticed they were just like me. The man next to me even said “How do I follow that?!” after I spoke about Keep Real.  The folk after me blushes as they spoke- and I was relieved. Absolutely relieved. 

So it isn’t just me! It wasn’t necessarily the notion of comparing myself to these inspiring people, it was more a case of feeling undeserving.

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Sometimes we have to open our eyes to the fact that it’s ok. It’s ok to feel that way, we can recognise it and move forward. I recently read an article on Forbes around overcoming that ‘imposter syndrome’ feeling (read it here).

I messaged my friend and advisor Catherine about feeling this way, and she even said that she still feels like an imposter at work and every time she’s put in the position to lead a meeting. So, no. No it isn’t just me, and it isn’t my age either in this entrepreneurial world. It in fact, happens to everyone. And that’s ok.

Have you ever felt like a bit of an imposter? Let me know if it’s happened to you!