An ode to the fabulous Standard Issue magazine. Sign up for their podcast here
I have spent most of my life wondering why I wasn’t up to ‘standard’. You know, the average standards, that your average girl aspired to be. Of course, your average girl could never have actually reached those standards. Mainly because they never existed.
But that doesn’t stop us – it certainly never stopped me – aiming for whatever we interpret these standards to be – and when you’re anxious and awkward, the path to them can be even steeper.
I have always felt like an outsider. I was the only girl who didn’t make the school choir aged five and I was so shy as a teen I sat in the pub in utter silence (until I found what a bottle of Lambrini could do for my non-existent confidence).
Part personality, part anxiety, part media. All of it plays a role in our confidence. And the pressure that’s on us – all of us – hits us in many different ways.
I started writing about my anxiety in April 2016. It kind of felt like when I point out my own giant zits to the rest of the office floor. If I told the world how awkward I am, rather than the world telling me, I would feel more confident, more in control. So I said: “Hello world – my name’s Lucy, and I have anxiety. Sometimes, I sit shaking on the bed scared I am going to die. It’s not pretty. But I can and do live with it.”
By October 2016, I was writing for Standard Issue. And just weeks later, I had a column. I was out to play a part in proving that we all meet the standard. Even those girls in Cosmo (not that I ever interviewed them, but successful comedians, actors, public speakers and hipsters were all profiled in my column sharing many different challenges, traits and hiccups in life).
I knew I wasn’t alone when it came to mental illness. I had already joined Time to Change as an ambassador and had been open with many friends and acquaintances who lived with various mental health problems.
But with or without diagnosed mental illness, there are so many others pressures in life. They might trigger mental illness but, even if they don’t, they’re about as good for our health as Brexit is for the country’s.
Be skinny. Be beautiful. Be a sex goddess. Live like a bastard Stepford wife oozing perfection, manicured nails and a Hollywood smile. Keep on top of your Brazilian, take herbal hair remedies to make your mop shiny and never leave the house looking and behaving anything less than film star glamorous. In fact, don’t even open your front door when you hit 35 – it’s checkout time (at least that’s what the leader of the USA would have us believe).
But then came Standard Issue. The fabulous Sarah Millican farts, the gorgeous Taryn Brumfitt has curves and the wonderful Fiona Longmuir sweats. This is standard. This is real life. And nobody is ashamed of nature any more, we celebrate it. Loudly and proudly.
Aside from feeling that I finally meet expected standards – my new expected standards – Standard Issue has given me a voice, a platform. I’ve since had bylines in the i newspaper and the Independent, and I’ve even drafted a book (watch this space – says my new-found confidence). It’s made me feel that I am worth something.
Oh, and loads of other people have responded to my writing and said they totally relate, they totally get it; anxiety it happens to them/their kids/their partner too.
But by saying I am standard does that make me average? Absolutely not. I meet new standards that I now understand are the real ones. Basically, to be real and human and fucking happy about it.
The Standard Issue community and all the wonderful articles and conversations with contributors, editors and readers on social media made me realise that none of us are average. We all meet the standard. But we all do it in our own wonderful ways.
We all have unique potential and ambitions and aspirations. And that’s OK. Because the Standard Issue community listens and supports that. And makes us roar with pee-inducing, wrinkle-creasing laughter along the way.
So thank you Standard Issue. Thank you Sarah, Mickey, Sam, Jo and everyone else who has written, shared and laughed with me. I’m all woman – not just the bit the other magazines report on. And now I know that, I’m all the more delighted – and delightful – for it.
Long live the Standard Issue legacy. Chin, chin wonderful ladies. I salute you.