Thought of the Day: Perfectionism

Perfectionism (3)

Happy Sunday everyone 🙂 How has your week been so far? My week felt pretty slow with nothing happening exciting at work, apart from Wednesday morning, Dr Eziefula presented an introduction to perfectionism which I have leveraged for today’s long Sunday read on the Pineapple Chicken Blog 🙂 I do not know much about perfectionism from a clinical psychological perspective and the potential impact it can have on our mental health; so I thought why not do a little more research and share what I have learnt too? You might want to grab your tea/coffee before we begin… 

What is perfectionism?

A simple dictionary definition for perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. This is pretty simple to understand and probably what most of think perfectionism is. We all have our own standards on what we do or expect and a perfectionism likes it to be “perfect”.

In clinical psychology, however, it differs and perfectionism is defined as a personality trait characterised by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting high-performance standards, accompanied by critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.

Two sides of perfectionism

Perfectionism is a personality trait that is multidimensional, where it can be positive and negative. Personally, I think everyone can be a bit of a perfectionist. The concept of “perfect” would differ for everyone but wanting things to be of a certain “standard” is something we can all relate to. For example, you want a piece of work to be “perfect” before presenting it to your peers. However, using this simple example, perfectionism can easily become a negative trait if “perfect” is an unrealistic goal or unattainable meaning you are spending hours and hours making the presentation beautiful and stressing out over minute details; possibly even missing the deadline because one couldn’t “let go”.

Positive

Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfection is not about healthy achievement and growth – Brené Brown

From my research, I get the sense that perfectionism is not a positive trait to have should not be confused with the desire to obtain excellence. Obtaining excellence is a positive trait to have, as it helps to motivate people to reach their goals and when they reach that goal, then there is a feeling of satisfaction. Unlike perfectionism, the desire for excellence is the desire to do the very best possible, not the quest for the unobtainable.

Negative

Following from above, it means that perfectionism is a negative trait to have. Individuals caught up in perfectionistic thinking or behaviour commonly experience significant personal distress as well as chronic health and emotional problems. Such individuals can also provoke extremely negative reactions from others due to their unrealistically high standards and quest to avoid failure and rejection.

Perfectionism is the belief that unless I am perfect, then I am not okay. This belief is driven by fear, mainly the fear of failure. To me, the pursuit of perfection seems extremely stressful and it is not surprising that it can be a cause of depression. It can also cause anger as well because you are always frustrated at yourself, as you are never good enough.

Dr Eziefula  mentioned that it is possible for perfectionists to be extreme procrastinators, because they are too worried about being perfect – or planning to be perfect that they don’t want to tackle the issue at hand; or if they know they won’t be the best or perfect at the task, they rather not do the task at all. 

In its most extreme form, perfectionism can become like an obsession and manifest into Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”), where everything has to be completely organised, idea that “a place for everything and everything in its place” rings true to these individuals. Prior to the presentation at work, I was reading a heart-wrenching account of how beauty became a perfectionist’s obsession. It was a great insight into how perfectionism can manifest itself and negatively impact an individual’s wellbeing; I highly recommend the post.

Are you a perfectionist?

From the presentation and my readings, the one question that I always had at the back of my mind was whether I was a perfectionist? I found a few quizzes and but, as always you should take the below with a pinch of salt. Regardless, I used the quizzes and the other websites as a guide for personal reflection.

  • Perfectionism test
    • A quite detailed questionnaire and analysis with a breakdown of potential strengths and limitations. Took me about 5 minutes to complete and you can pay for a full report (but I didn’t)
  • Perfectionism
    • I found this to be a good guide to perfectionism if you wanted more detail that is not covered in this post.
  • 11 Signs of a Perfectionist
    • Rather simplistic but a good starting point.

Tips

There is a myriad of posts that provide tips to help with perfectionism. However, from my research and understanding the potential detrimental impact on mental health, if you think you perfectionism is impacting you, I would encourage you to see a specialist first. In spite of this, below are a few tips that I have chosen are good to follow, and not just to tackle perfectionism.

  •  Set realistic expectations – The focus should be on one thing at a time and setting goals that may be “stretching” but attainable. When they are unrealistic, it is demotivating, or worse – self-destructive. I have learnt that goals/objectives should follow the SMART model. Try it out for yourself!

http://www.j6design.com.au/setting-smart-goals/

  • Take time for yourself – I have always preached this. Turn off that computer/put that pen down and listen to your true needs and how to meet those needs. Take time for self-care and be kind to yourself because you are important and worthy!
  • Take a step back – Consider the tradeoffs between making something “perfect” and using that time and energy for something else. Take a step back and ask yourself: what is more important in the grand scheme of things?
  • Perspective – Once you have taken a step back, take a step forward. There are plenty of small steps that, were you to take them, would help move your life forward. Don’t excuse yourself from doing them because the conditions aren’t right or because a better opportunity might come along soon. Do what you can, now. And when you’ve done it, keep it in perspective and be pleased with the result because by looking back you will see how far you have come.
  • Ask yourselves these questions:
    • What am I spending most of my time and energy on right now?
    • Am I doing this because I want to, or because I’m trying to compete with or please someone else?
    • Is what I’m doing making me feel worthy and valuable? If not, how can I stop doing it?
    • Am I doing what I said I would do to reach my goals? If not, is my goal too big or perfectionistic? How can I make it more reasonable?
    • Are my actions more in line with who I want to be today than they were yesterday?

The Pursuit of Good Enough

If perfection an illusion, if this is the case then why do we continue to pursue it? It is okay to be good enough? Haversat discusses this in her  TED talk and uses some key examples we see today in politics. She focuses on compromise and refers to Voltaire’s statement – “Perfect is the enemy of the good”. Worth a watch!

On your 80th Birthday

Dr Eziefula’s presentation ended with an open question and I will pose this to you to end this blog post.

On your 80th birthday, what would you want people to describe you as?

  • The person that answered all emails on time? 
  • Amazingly beautiful presentations? 
  • Beautiful/Perfect – not a hair out of place? 
  • Someone who lived by their values? 
  • Someone who built a legacy

I don’t have an answer to the question, just yet, but I know which direction I want to go.

With Sweet & Sour Love, 

Pineapple Chicken

P.S. I hope you found this post helpful, as always, I would love to hear from you!

Art: Martin Parr – Only Human

Hi everyone!

I hope you are well and enjoying a positive week so far. This Thursday’s art instalment on the Pineapple Chicken Blog is on the latest exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (“NPG”); Martin Parr – Only Human. I am a big fan of photography, this is why I started taking photos several years ago. Though I am still very much an amateur and lately I have been too lazy to carry my gear around – my favourite photography style continues to be street photography and portraiture.

NPG is somewhere I go back to time and time again because they always have great photography exhibitions (also a worthy mention is the Barbican Centre).  The Martin Parr: Only Human exhibition was another great opportunity to broaden my horizons and see the works of another artist to inspire my own photography. The exhibition is available until 27th May 2019 and costs £18 per adult or half price with the Art Pass. If you are under 25, the exhibition is only of £5 every Friday! (when the gallery is open until 9 pm.)

After Don McCullin’s exhibition at Tate Britain, I realised that I do not know many British photographers and as usual I walk into this exhibition not knowing very much about Parr. I think I should start a project on iconic British photographers, what do you think?  

Martin Parr

He is a British photojournalist and is one of the “best known” (oops!) and “most widely celebrate photographers”.  He is known for his satirical and anthropological look of modern life, in particular documenting social classes in Britain and exploring British identity. 

He seems to live and breathe photography (which is awesome). According to Wikipedia, he wanted to be a documentary photographer at the young age of 14 and went on to study photography at Manchester Polytechnic. After that, it seems like nothing could stop him. He is a prolific photographer and by just doing a quick search on Amazon you will quickly find a vast number of published photobooks by him. On my to buy list is “Small World”, which I had a quick flick through at the exhibition shop. The book is a portfolio of photos he took internationally as a critique of mass tourism. Considering that I love to travel, I thought would be good to have this in my collection 🙂

Only Human

Only Human exhibition captured a different perspective on everyday lives. The exhibition was surprisingly large and took an hour to walk around. Each room was individually themed with appropriate props and walls painted in very vibrant colours. For example, there was a room with photos of people dancing had a giant the disco ball in it. One of my favourite rooms was the room with beach photography, where one of his photos was used as a wallpaper and the adjacent walls in a shade of bright yellow, and just a deck chair in the middle.  What was most surreal was in the middle of the exhibition there is a room converted to a “greasy cafe” (which I grew up with in London) where you can order cakes and teas that were stereotypical of “English” tradition. 

Parr has an amazing eye for capturing humorous moments, making his photos inquisitive and engaging. There were some that just made me laugh, particularly his collection of self-portraits when he travelled, taken by the typical “tourist trap” photos in traditional gear and/or with weird backdrops.

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For his own photos, he uses vibrant (close to being slightly oversaturated) colours which reminded me of William Eggleston’s photography. Coincidentally, I saw back his exhibition back in 2016 at the NPG as well. Eggleston’s photos are more ethereal/whimsical, I think Parr’s photos have more of an edge to them. For many of his photos, they may look humorous but as you look a little longer, you realise there is more than meets the eye such as inequality, his photos are not critical, but they definitely brush being “political”.

Parr travels around Britain to try and capture what it means to be British, and of course, includes the hot topic – Brexit in the final room of the exhibition. I really enjoyed the photography in this room, because for me as a British born Chinese living in London, there is no one “look” for being British. I laugh at some of the sensibilities and traditions but recognise that a lot of being “British” is very much part of who I am too. One of his photos, though simple, captured two Muslim girls working behind the counter of a traditional Fish and Chip shop.  

This struck a chord with me because, to me, this is true Britain and how I see my home – a multicultural society. I grew up with my parents running a fish and chip shop and my uncle running a stereotypical Chinese Restaurant (with little lanterns and fortune cookies), but now I work in the City of London and my sister works in a startup in Covent Garden. There really is no template. Don’t get me wrong, we have SOOOO many issues, as captured Parr’s photos exploring how Upper-Class White Males still run many of our institutions – “The Establishment”, but I appreciate that Parr explored this and encourage debate about this.

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3.75 out of 5 Pineapples

I enjoyed the exhibition and the topics it covered but, overall, I was not particularly blown away by Parr’s photography, so if you aren’t really into street photography, you may not enjoy this. For those who would like a deeper understanding of everyday Britain, I think it is worth giving it a go. 

Are any of you familiar with his photography? Who is your favourite photographer? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Thought of the Day: Finding Your Passion

Finding Your Passion

Happy Sunday Everyone! 🙂

I hope you had a wonderful weekend, as usual, Sunday on the Pineapple Chicken Blog is a long read on what has been on my mind as I continue my search for positivity. This week’s post is inspired by my boyfriend, though he has not blogged recently, behind the scenes he has been working really hard working on his trading strategy, and a business plan, on top of his day job. He is a doer: when he has his mind set on something it becomes all-consuming (which can be a positive and negative thing). I can feel his neurons firing away. For me, this feels like true passion which is very inspiring.

I realised that I have not felt like this in a long time. I feel like I have no true passion. This might explain the slight undertones of melancholy I have been experiencing over the past few months. I love learning and always in search of the next thing that I can work on or become better at. I mentioned to my boyfriend I felt like I have stalled. Recently, I feel like I have lost a bit of passion, or I was not sure what my passion was…. Do I have one? What is passion? These were all big questions, and honestly, it floored me.

With deeper searching and inward reflection, one potential cause for my little funk might relate to my job where I am now very “comfortable” and I am not sure what the next steps are and how I want to grow. Do I even want to stay in my industry? Or it might be something completely different entirely and I have not stepped outside my comfort zone to explore/discover? Or am I not being grateful for what I have and always in this constant search for something new and shiny?

As any girlfriend would, I relayed my concerns to my boyfriend and his usual supportive self, asked me the following:

  • What do you mean you have “stalled”?
  • Are you sure that you have even started, let alone “stalled”? (ouch!)
  • Is it because you do not have the headspace to think about it? Do I need to give you space?
  • With regards to your job, no one can tell you how to develop your own role/next steps. You need to decide this for yourself, don’t rely on your manager to guide you!

These were very painful truths but I think that was a kick up the butt I needed. I realised that I have been sitting in the backseat of my own life and was waiting for “passion” to land on my lap. I have also recently discussed this with my best friend and she mentioned that when her sisters felt comfortable, they would do something drastic just to switch it up, like quitting a job. Maybe this might be something I need to do.

What is passion?

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

I associate passion with something that is exciting and positive. If you are passionate about something you would have an unlimited motivation to keep working at it. I am sure you have all heard – “Find something you love to do and you’ll never have to work a day in your life”.

Being passionate sounds amazing! The burning desire to make something happen because you care about it. When was the last time you were passionate about something? Personally, I can’t really remember and I really struggled to answer this question when my boyfriend asked me. Even when I told him that I am going to write a blog about passion, he noted that it would be difficult for me since I don’t seem to have one (ouch again!).

After my trip to Chamonix and seeing my friends from my master’s degree, I remembered what passion felt like. During my time at university, this was my sole focus, my “role” was to be a student and work hard towards graduating with a good grade and developing a network of like-minded and passionate individuals. To get me out this funk, I did what every other person would do in this situation and googled “How do I find my passion”? lol!

How do I find my passion?

I was hoping that my Google Search would provide a step by step guide to finding my true passion. I was ready and prepared to do something positive about it. There were a few wishy-washy ones like this article and this one. Somewhat frustratingly a lot related to careers, I did not want to look at what I could do as a job, there were a few articles that were interesting but ultimately, I wanted to learn more about myself. There are a few quizzes out there as well, but they never are any good (for those that clicked on the link, I got: Lifelong Learning).

Unfortunately, I did not find it very inspiring, so I kept digging. The more I searched, the more I realised that there were more articles and posts like this:

I was genuinely shocked by the turn of events as I was expecting rainbows and unicorns and a lot more positivity. In the hours of research and reading for this post, there were some key messages that came up time and time again.

1. Passion is an emotion

Passion is not something that drops out of the sky as some people believe – i.e. forget the ‘Eureka!’ moment. Maybe you are the lucky few that this might happen to, but for most people, you got to work for it. It is a bit like falling in love, your dream man/woman is not just going to casually walk into your life. You need to create the opportunity, pluck up the courage to speak to the other person, engage and court etc. etc. etc. – we can all agree – dating is hard work!

You know what passion is? Passion is an emotion. It’s an emotion without an action. Passion will get you nowhere. Inner drive will get you nowhere unless you act on it. You have to act on your passion. You have to act on your inner drive. Don’t let those feelings stay inside you. You gotta know what to do with them. You gotta know how to make them work to get what you want. – Michael Jordan

2. Do Something

As mentioned above, you need to do something, how will you ever find your passion if you sit on your laurels. Dweck and Greg Walton of Stanford recently performed a study that suggests it might be time to change the way we think about our interests. Passions aren’t “found,” they argue. They’re developed.

Try spending 20 minutes each day thinking about the things that have interested you recently, or any opportunities that you have spotted. Maybe try thinking back to when you are a child, what did you care about? What did you enjoy doing – is this something you can do now as an adult? Have you done something that made you lose track of time because you enjoyed it so much? It is a journey of discovery and it is exciting!

3. Grit

Closely correlated with doing something is that once you found something you care about – you have to keep at it. For the long term, come rain or shine. You don’t necessarily have to be good at it but you need to have grit and persevere with it. Don’t give up!

When you develop competence in something you enjoy, you build more confidence to help you tackle larger challenges, and you continue to grow, which fuels more passion to repeat the process. – Ayodeji Awosika

Angela Lee Duckworth’s video is really short and engaging about grit – I highly recommend clicking the play button!

4. Read

Once you have identified something that might be of interest. Read all about it and read some more. Do your research – websites, blogs, books, anything you can get your hands on! This is because there is probably someone out there in the world that is passionate about the thing you are. Read up about it, they probably have already done a lot; so learn from their experiences, enhance your knowledge.

My Passion

As I researched for this post and talked to others about my concerns and the little funk I have been in. I realised that I have been ungrateful (I feel like this might be a future topic to write about!).

This blog is definitely a passion of mine and I had failed to recognise that. I absolutely love seeing art, travelling and researching for the Long Reads. It has been such a joyous journey and I have learnt so much during the process. Yes, there have been times where I dragged my feet and didn’t want to make the effort. There have been times when I had a creative block and didn’t have content. Nevertheless, the blog has taken me to places I have not been to before and I have learnt about myself in the process.

In Chamonix, my boyfriend told me it is time to get serious about the blog. If this is my passion then I have to work for it! I am not yet there to quit my job and become a blogger full time – though that would be super awesome, possibly in the future. However, I am going to keep up with my posting schedule and take myself out the comfort zone and bring my dearest readers (you!) more interesting content on art and positivity.

Whoop, you have made it to the end, I hope this post inspired you to go out there to find your passion (if you don’t already have one). For those, who have found their passion – keep up the great work, persevere because what you are doing is awesome!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Travel: Chamonix Mont Blanc

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Happy Mid-Week everyone! I was busy enjoying the French Alps that I had forgotten to post a BRB announcement last Sunday – so sorry about that! I had a wonderful five days breathing in the fresh mountain air and trying snowboarding (again) with my boyfriend which I want to share with you first. We will resume our usual Pineapple Chicken long read this Sunday 🙂

Chamonix Mont Blanc Wedding

Though I have skied in the alps when I was younger this was my first-time visiting Chamonix Mont Blanc. The main village is at a height of 1,035m with cable cars going up to nearly 4,000m. Fun fact: Aiguille du Midi has the highest altitude difference of 2,807m. The town itself is bustling with a main street filled with stores and restaurants. I was genuinely surprised how large it was and with a vibrant après-ski scene of bars and pubs. Personally, I would love to come back because it is a large valley with several other “villages” and mountains to explore, including the possibility of going over to Italy. They even have their own app, which I recommend for all those who like to be up to date with the latest skiing conditions.

The raison d’être to travel all the way to Chamonix was to celebrate one of my university friend’s wedding. They are a fantastically joyful couple full of laughs and I was very honoured to have been invited to celebrate their marriage. It was my first experience of a “winter” wedding was wonderfully intimate and quaint. The ceremony took place outside under the breathtakingly beautiful snow-capped mountains and the remainder of the reception was held in a cosy cabin. I was grateful that my boyfriend and I could make it as it was an extraordinary event!

Where we stayed

I wanted to stay close to “central” Chamonix so that we were close to the shops and close to the couple/rest of the party. As a result, we selected a boutique hotel – Hotel Morgane. Overall, the reviews for the hotel were decent and the fact it had a pool attracted me in the first instance. We booked the deluxe room so that we could also have a little bit more space than just the bed. I am so glad that we did. The room was large with a separate bath and toilet, bedroom with a huge bed and TV; in addition to, the living room with a desk, wardrobe and pull out sofa bed (excuse my Instagram video below as I didn’t take proper photos!). My only feedback is that the bathroom was small, and the bath seemed old compared to the rest of the room. Other than that, the room exceeded our expectations.

The staff at reception were incredibly friendly and helpful. The hotel also offers -20% discount at the ski rental shop near the hotel which was a bonus. Furthermore, if you hired them they would deliver all your equipment to the hotel and place it in a locker located on the ground floor – now that is great service!

We managed to check out the spa area by only looking into the pool area. It looks smaller than on the website, but I think it is great that a hotel in the mountains offered an indoor pool. Unfortunately, given our busy schedule, we did not get to enjoy the facilities. Obviously, I will have to visit again so that I can enjoy the facilities (hint hint). I highly recommend this hotel if you want a home away from home, with a good size room, friendly staff and convenient location. 4.5 out of 5 pineapples!

Where we ate

  • Bartavel – just off the main shopping street, this was a restaurant we found by chance when we first arrived at Chamonix. With a glass terrace and an Italian menu, we thought it would be worth trying; we were hungry by this point, so minimal thinking was involved. The menu is simple and surprisingly yummy. Your usual comfort food was executed well and piping hot (just how I like it). They also seemed to be famous for their ice cream sundaes as well. If you are looking for simple and casual eating, and not for ambience, then totally check them out! 3.75 out 5 pineapples.
  • La Ferme – When in France I always crave crepes and this restaurant was conveniently located right next to the hotel. I loved it so much that my boyfriend was dragged into it twice. I didn’t have their savoury crepes, but the sweet ones were super yummy. I drool as I type this… Small and simple establishment but does what it says well. 3.5 out of 5 pineapples.
  • Josephine – I was initially drawn to the restaurant located in central Chamonix on the edge of a small plaza. It reminded me of Paris and was filled with patrons enjoying the sun. I am a sucker for Parisian Cafes and it was exactly as expected; beautifully tiled floors and lights. We managed to grab a seat by the window, so I could people watch. The menu is not particularly vegetarian-friendly as their speciality was seafood. Nevertheless, the food was good and portions generous. I thought it leaned towards the expensive side, so it only gets 3.25 out of 5 pineapples.
  • Little Boxes – is perfect for a quick bite to eat, their menu is made of pizzas and burgers. Located right by the Chamonix SUD bus station and Aiguille du Midi cable car, it is easy to find. I ordered the veggie burger and it was extremely yummy; though one of the best things were their fries! Nice skin on chunky chips, a perfect remedy against the cold. There is not a lot of seating inside and it got full quick at lunch, but I am not surprised why – the pizzas also looked awesome! 3.75 out of 5 pineapples.

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  • Le Comptoir Nordique – My boyfriend and I were extremely tired after our first snowboarding lesson, so we thought we would give the hotel restaurant a go. It had good reviews and was a bit smarter which suits for a romantic date night. The food was extremely fresh and well done. We had the Nordic Menu which was anything a-la-carte for three courses at €42 per person. We both started off with a selection of salmon and the ribs for mains. Though pricy, I thought it was worth it and was a welcome change to burgers and pasta that we had throughout the rest of the trip. The staff was extremely friendly, and the restaurant was quiet, so we managed to enjoy each other’s company in peace. 4 out 5 pineapples.

Things to try next time 

My boyfriend and I had a wonderful time in Chamonix; I had forgotten how wonderful it was being amongst the mountains and snow. Now that I am back in London and back to the usual routine, I am missing the scenery and planning on when I go back up to the mountains. I would love to spend more time in Chamonix and the following will be on my to-do list:

Hope you found this guide to Chamonix helpful! Have you been before? Do you have any recommendations for me if I go back? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

 

Art: Don McCullin

Hi Everyone!

https://www.christies.com/features/Don-McCullin-6777-1.aspx

How has your week been so far? Work has been slow for me and the weather has been pretty miserable in London, but I am grateful for some downtime. Moreover, I have something really exciting to look forward to this weekend! This probably also explains why I have mentally checked out at work. My university friend is getting married in Chamonix, France, so I am going to go snowboarding for the first time (last time was about 10 years ago so I will consider myself as a beginner again!) and see some friends that I have not caught up with since I graduated!

Last Sunday, I went to the latest exhibition at Tate Britain – Don McCullin, it will be available until 6th May 2019, for those with an Art Pass, it only costs £9 or £18 for a normal adult ticketI love the Tate group and I think Tate Britain is one of the most beautiful art galleries in London. I highly recommend wandering around the free exhibits if you ever have the time!

Don McCullin

I love photography exhibitions (see my previous post on Diane Arbus) and as I am still working on my own photography, I was excited about this specific exhibition. I did not know much about Don McCullin, so I thought it was a great opportunity for me to learn more about him and see whether his photos would inspire different techniques of my own.

For the past 50 years, he has travelled the world capturing the horrors of wars in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. During this period, he was shot and hit by a bomb in Cambodia; an individual was standing in front of him and took a majority of the shrapnel, unfortunately, the Cambodian male died shortly after. He has been imprisoned, expelled from a country and even had a bounty on his head. I am completely in awe of him – he had the courage and bravery to go where other photographers didn’t and, most importantly, he ensured that every photo he took was with compassion and respect.

He does not want to be known as a “war photographer” – just a photographer. Personally, I think he is much more than this; it really is no surprise that he is so critically acclaimed. He is described as a “legendary” photojournalist or “one of our greatest living photographers. I do not think my words in my post today will do justice in trying to explain how his photos made me feel – “impactful” had been used to describe his photography but I think this is woefully inadequate.  

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

Exhibition

The exhibition spans from his first photos that were printed in 1959 that captured the gangs (The Guv’nors) in North London, to most recently, the war in Syria. It is split out into 23 sections and I was very surprised how large the exhibition was, as it highlights McCullin’s extensive experience in capturing key moments in our modern history, in addition to, his more artistic photos of still life and landscapes.

When coming up to the exhibition entrance, note the disclaimer on the side. There are photos of deceased people and extreme starvation. I didn’t pay it too much attention and I thought that I was a tough cookie and could view the exhibition without too many issues. How very wrong I was! I was shocked myself that I could even give an outward display of emotion. Therefore, this is a warning to my readers: the exhibition is not for the faint-hearted, (this is also why I have not shared my favourite photos in the blog) be prepared to be moved to tears, particularly his work on the Biafra war.  My tears reflected McCullin’s astonishing skill as a photographer; he was able to capture emotions or “the moment” that seems to be unparalleled by others. My personal favourites were his portraitures where I found myself captivated by the individual and wanting to know and understand the story behind the photograph. Though the topics were heart-wrenching, McCullin did everything to capture the truth and let the photographs tell the story.

“Photography has given me a life… The very least I could do was try and articulate these stories with as much compassion and clarity as they deserve, with as loud a voice as I could muster. Anything less would be mercenary.”

Given the topics that are covered, it was obviously not an uplifting exhibition, but very much an important one. It was a stark reminder of how terrible we, as humans, can be to each other and it is a topic that we cannot, and should not, shy away from. It is photographers like him that tell the unheard story and forces us to face reality, take action, and learn from the past. One of the best quotes I have heard from a speech summarises this perfectly:

“We seem to be able to all agree on the future, but we always argue about the past” – Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres.

I think that McCullin does just that. His photography is sensitive and poignant. I will revisit this exhibition before it closes in May. I managed to walk through the exhibition in an hour, but it was slightly rushed because I was meeting a friend after. There is a “slide show” nearer the end of the exhibition showing the photography that has been in The Observer and other newspaper outlets, unfortunately, I didn’t manage to sit through that.  I think for the second time around I am going to leave more time so I can enjoy the photos for longer. This is why this exhibition gets 5 out of 5 pineapples.

Have any of you been to the exhibition or have heard of Don McCullin? As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.

With Sweet and Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

P.S. for those who want to learn more, there are other great reviews of the exhibitions in the link below:

 

Thought of the Day: Sleep & Creativity

Hi everyone!

Lazy Sundays

How has your weekend been? Hope you ready for another long read on the Pineapple Blog. Following on from last week’s topic of boredom and its impact on creativity, I wanted to talk about sleep and creativity this week. I have just finished Matthew Walker’s “Why Do We Sleep?” [not an ad] and I highly recommend this book; it is filled with eye-opening information backed by scientific facts and experiments. I had a lot of “oh that’s why!” moments when reading the book.

I am continuing the theme of creativity as I am on a journey to try and find more ways to use the other side of my brain. Working in finance with numbers and analysis, I am noticing more and more how my job lacks creativity. Since I have started writing this blog it has made me realised how creativity is very important to me and brings a lot of positivity.

Sleep Cycle

There are two distinct parts to sleep: Non-Rapid Eye Movement (“NREM”) and Rapid Eye Movement (“REM”). This can be then further broken down to several stages of NREM before entering REM, making the sleep cycle as follows:

  1. Stage 1 NREM sleep is when we change from wakefulness to sleep. This stage only lasts several minutes and it is light sleep where your breathing and heartbeat slows and muscles relax
  2. Stage 2 NREM sleep moves us from light sleep to deep sleep. Body temperature decrease and eye movement also stop (hence, NREM).
  3. Stage 3 NREM sleep is the deep sleep that ensures that we feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs more in the in the first half of the night. This is the time where it is very difficult to wake you.
  4. REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after you have fallen asleep. Your eye movements begin to rapidly move side to side (hence, REM). Breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. This is where dreaming and creativity occurs. Your limbs are paralysed so you don’t act out your dreams.

Recently, I have purchased the Fitbit Charge 3 (again, not an ad, but it is pretty cool!) and wear it whilst I sleep so that it is able to track/guestimate my sleep cycles. Got to love a bit of data! Unfortunately, this week I have only been averaging around 6 hours of sleep which is not enough, but below was Friday’s night sleep cycle, starting at 11pm. You can see my first bit of REM (4 mins 30 secs worth) at exactly 12:30! Totally geeking out about it 🙂

Sleep

REM Sleep & Creativity

For today, I wanted to focus on REM and its impact on creativity. During NREM sleep research has shown that memories captured by the hippocampus are replayed during NREM sleep, and as we detect similarities between them, that information gets stored in the cortex. During this stage, both parts of the brain communicate with each other and are in sync. The hippocampus prefers to replay things that are similar or thematically linked, it encourages us to find those links and use them to form schemas or organizing frameworks. This is why NREM sleep is associated with consolidating and strengthening memories.

REM sleep, on the other hand, the hippocampus and cortex do not seem to be in sync. As a result, the cortex is now free to replay stored memories in any combination, regardless of whether they are similar. By doing this the brain is able to make different connections, and may not be linked at all (essentially, thinking outside the box). The brain is able to blend together abstract thoughts in novel ways.

Benefits of REM Sleep

Many have described how dreams inspired them, such as Paul McCartney’s story of how his hit song “Yesterday” came to him in a dream or of Mendeleev’s dream-inspired construction of the periodic table of elements. Otto Loewi design of a simple experiment, supposedly by dreaming. He eventually proved something he had long hypothesized: Nerve cells communicate by exchanging chemicals, or neurotransmitters. This, in turn, resulted in him winning the Nobel prize. As alluded to above, REM sleep is beneficial for the following reasons:

Time to sleep

After reading Matthew Walker’s book, I have realised the importance of sleep. This has been talked about by others too (see video). Given its importance, I think we should all consider incorporating time to wind down and give yourself a good night’s sleep. I definitely do not need to be told twice to jump into bed!

For those that struggle with sleep, here are a few tips recommended by Matthew that might help:

  1. Make sure your room is dark and that you are not looking at bright light sources i.e. your phone around 1 to 2 hours before you sleep. This also links back to my previous post, don’t reach for the tech to fill in time when you’re bored, in this case, particularly around bedtime. You may want to also dim your lights around the house in earlier parts of the evening to stimulate sleepiness.
  2. Have a set routine – go to bed and wake up around the same time. Currently, I am trying to be in bed by 10:30pm for shut-eye at 11pm so that I am up for 6am for work and the weekend.
  3. Keep the temperature cool in the house at night. This is because your body temperature needs to drop at night to sleep.
  4. If you have trouble falling asleep or wake in the night feeling restless, don’t stay in bed awake. Get up and read in another room (don’t stare at a screen!), when you start nodding off, then go back to bed.
  5. Don’t have caffeine late in the day or an alcohol-infused nightcap as these will interfere with sleep!

I hope you all enjoyed this blog post, maybe it even sent you off to sleep –  I am not offended at all!  I wish for all my readers sound sleep to stimulate creativity and positivity. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and I hope you all have an awesome start to the week.

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x

Travel: Paris

Hey everyone!

I hope you are having a wonderful week so far, the weather has been pretty miserable in London, so it is great that I can reflect on my last long weekend away in Paris in this blog. Taking me back to happier memories.  I am so grateful that I can travel between two very different cities within a space of 2 hours – just gives me the fix I need when I need to get away from London.

Where we stayed

The reason for my trip to Paris this time around was to help my friend move her suitcases from Paris back to London. My manager said that this was a tenuous excuse to travel all the way to Paris, I completely agree, but any excuse to go to Paris! We wanted to stay quite central, and where is better than close to the Galerie LaFayette at The Dream Hotel Opera. Though the location was really convenient, I really do not recommend this hotel. The rooms were clean but the lift is shockingly small. For those who are claustrophobic, I really advise that you either stay on lower floors or find alternative hotels because, for someone who isn’t scared of refined spaces, I was very uncomfortable. Considering how much I paid for the hotel, it was not worth it at all! 2 out of 5 pineapples.

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Day 1: Gastronomy Galore

It was a rather girly weekend where it was filled with food and shopping. The most memorable part of the holiday was going to one of the best Boulangerie I have ever been too – Du Pain et des Idées. It is probably one of the most Instagrammed bakeries in Paris and for good reason. The best pastries I have had and they also do these wonderfully warm savoury rolls. I am salivating as we speak. Honestly, 5 out of 5 pineapplesIt is also conveniently located next to the canals and would be considered the “hipster” part of Paris with quaint boutiques. This is where I bought my first purchase of the trip on Rue de Marseille 🙂 

As we had some time to kill before our picking up my friend’s bag, what is better than continuing eating? We wanted somewhere close to where we were and a quick Google search led us to Le Marine on Quai de Valmy, right by the canals. One thing I love about Paris is they always have a good menu of the day, comforting main and scrumptious desserts. It is your typical Parisienne cafe, with the monochrome tiled floors and super small tables. If you are looking for a quick and affordable bite to eat, I recommend it if you are in the area, but nothing to go out your way for. 3 out of 5 pineapples.

After picking up the suitcases from the French suburbs, we made it back to the hotel… up the super tiny lift and into our .. super small room. As you can imagine, I wanted to get out of the hotel as soon as possible and we made our way to Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. Though it is filled with tourists, it is a beautiful building which I recommend at least seeing once, Just look at the amazing dome below. This was also where I bought my second purchase of the trip, worth the detour to have a look inside, so I give it 3 out of 5 pineapples.

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This weekend was also to celebrate my friend’s birthday and her favourite cuisine is Japanese, so we obviously had to try and find one of the best restaurants in Paris for her! Nodaïwa is a very quaint and zen restaurant near the Louvre that specialises in eel dishes and comes up in nearly every Japanese food guide to Paris. We were luckily able to get a table at 7 pm as it opened. It was a great experience with the staff being super friendly. The menu is limited, so if you aren’t going to enjoy eel, I would not recommend it. We started off with sea bass sashimi and ordered the Sakura set. They were both very well executed and I recommend getting the sashimi – super fresh and a light white fish as a starter. We ended the meal with black sesame ice cream (must order) and their special dessert of the day: Yuzu Soya Panna Cotta (don’t order). Unfortunately, the texture of the pannacotta was gritty because of the soya rather than luxurious creamy jiggle you get with a normal one. I will give it 4 out of 5 pineapples.

Day 2: More Shopping

The best morning starts off with a great breakfast. Conveniently located near the hotel is La Gramont, which I have visited before with family. This is on the main street of Boulevard des Italiens and perfect for people watching. The beautiful terrace of Le Gramont makes it one of my favourite spots in Paris. They do a quaint breakfast – coffee, orange juice, croissant or baguette with confiture (jam) – yum! I was being greedy and ordered scrambled eggs with cheese as well. I am not sure why, but the French seem to enjoy their eggs really “bitty” and lumpy, rather than the smooth texture in the UK. Not sure whether I am a fan, to be honest. Regardless, a lovely little cafe, so it gets 4 out of 5 pineapples.

The remainder of the day was spent wandering the streets around Opera and going high street shopping, where I ended up with my third purchase of the trip. Along the way, my friend mentioned the prettiest Starbucks in Paris (3 Boulevard des Capucines). It was worth making the detour for. The beautiful ceilings and different reading areas and a long working table. Wish we had something like this in London!

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We continued with the Japanese cuisine theme and had a late lunch at Aki. A casual Japanese restaurant specialising in okonomiyaki. I am not a big fan, but they did have other set menus which meant that you can have half portions of soba and rice in one meal – which is a dream. The food is average but the price is reasonable; this is probably why it is a favourite amongst locals often with long queues outside. A casual eatery but nothing special, it gets 2.5 out of 5 pineapples. For dessert, we headed up the street to the bubble tea joint – The Alley. There has been a lot of hype around this brand as seen on my Instagram, but there isn’t one in London, so I was really surprised to see it in Paris. The queue was also long here but seemed to be more reasonable than the ones I have seen in Hong Kong. Is it worth the hype? – definitely, one of the best bubble teas I have tasted. I tried the famous brown sugar bubble tea, whilst my friend got the classic but hot. Not too creamy or sweet, it was super yummy – 4.25 out 5 pineapples.

We continued our shopping journey, to one of the most beautiful places in Paris, Jardin du Palais Royal. Even in winter when there are no leaves on the trees, it is still worth a visit. Surrounding the gardens are these elegant archways with boutiques on the side. Nearby there are also other shops (this is where I bought my fifth and final purchase of the trip 🙂 ).  

We ended the evening walking past the Louvre and along the River Seine, passing the Notre Dame to the Shakespeare & Company bookstore. I highly recommend this route as you see so many beautiful and iconic buildings along the way. I had never been to the bookstore before and I highly recommend it as it is one of the few places to find books in English. However, the feel of the store is really special. The old bookcases and all the various nooks and crannies to hide away. You can understand why it is so famous and also why you see their famous “tote” bag along the streets of Paris. Personally, I think it is a must visit!

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Of course, we had to have dinner, so of course, you need a double crepe dinner! We didn’t have anywhere particular in mind, but Crêperie des Pêcheurs came up after a quick search. It is along a very touristy street, but once you enter a very quaint restaurant, decorated to look like the hull of a ship, with sails on the ceilings. Personally, the savoury crepe was disappointing, but the texture of the sweet crepe (just butter and sugar filling) was super yummy and with Chantilly cream just made it dreamy. Quaint little shop, don’t go out your way to go but if you are in the area, do stop for a sweet crepe! 3.5 out of 5 pineapples.

Day 3: Lunch then homebound

Our Eurostar back to London was in the afternoon, so just in time for a spot of lunch before we left. We wanted to stay close to the hotel for an easy exit. We wanted to go to Le Strogoff but they were already closed for breakfast (11 am), so we walked to Café Le Brebant which had this beautiful interior and terrace. We wanted to enjoy a simple meal and watched the world go by. The service was good, unfortunately, the food was average, so it only gets a 2.5 out of 5 pineapples.

There wasn’t much culture this time around, but I am sure I will be back in Paris soon enough. Where is your favourite place to eat in Paris? Do you have any recommendations for my next visit? As always, I would love to hear from you!

With Sweet & Sour Love,

Pineapple Chicken x