How I Transformed My Life with the Law of Attraction: My 8 Powerful Manifestation Techniques & What I’ve Learned From It

Lifestyle, Self-Help, Spirituality

But First… A Message to the Skeptics

I am a huge believer in the Law of Attraction, and I’ve seen it completely transform my life over the course of the last four years. And what I’ve learned from talking to others about my experience is that people fall into one of two viewpoints when it comes to this topic… Either they are a believer just like me who have witnessed the magic of manifestation in their own lives OR they’re skeptics – They don’t believe it, they think it’s a load of crap, and they think that the people who preach about it just “got lucky.”

So what do I know about the Law of Attraction?

Four years ago I was the most unhappy I’ve ever been. I was in a town that I hated living in, I was in a toxic and co-dependent relationship, I was losing my hair from birth control, I was depressed, I was broke, I had been betrayed by several of my closest friends, and my job was terrible in every way. That rock bottom time in my life when I felt that I had nothing else to lose, that’s when I committed to using the Law of Attraction.

If you’re just hearing about The Law of Attraction for the first time, it’s among the most popular of Universal Laws, made popular by the documentary The Secret which came out in 2006. Simply put, it’s the idea that like attracts like. It’s the belief that positive or negative thoughts bring about positive or negative experiences into our lives. The Law of Attraction is based on the idea that people and their thoughts are made up of energy and because like energy attracts like energy, a person can improve their health, happiness, wealth, career, relationships and more. It uses cognitive reframing techniques and visualization to replace negative thought patterns and bring about positive improvements, material possessions, opportunities etc. into a person’s existence.

I had been familiar with the movie “The Secret” and had started to finally use the Law of Attraction out of comfort. I had NOTHING that was bringing me joy and happiness in my life, and spending my time visualizing what I wanted and convincing myself that everything that I wanted was being drawn to me like a magnet, was something that I did because it made me feel better. It took the pain away, it made me smile, and it gave me something else to think about instead of just how miserable I was.

What I actually wanted more than anything was to live in Florida. I was sick of the seasonal depression, the snow, and the bitter negative 55-degree weather. I didn’t want to be in the middle of Nowhere, Wisconsin for the rest of my life finishing college and getting a corporate job where I had to wake up at 6 a.m. and sit in front of my special lamp that gave me vitamin D in the winter. No. My dream was to live in Florida. To model. To be a blogger. To visit Costa Rica. To swim under the La Fortuna waterfall. To tour Europe. To drive my dream car – a hard top Jeep Wrangler through palm trees. To be in a loving, happy and supportive relationship with someone who actually had things in common with me. To start a YouTube Channel. To receive an unexpected and large sum of money. To spend my days doing what I loved. To have a little bohemian bungalow to come home to. To have a puppy. As well as several smaller, material possessions.

I had a very, very specific dream back then of what I wanted my life to look like. Today, four years later, this is my life:

This is not bullsh*t. This is not me getting “lucky.” I manifested my dream. My home, my partner, my travels, my large and unexpected sum of money. I manifested my dream life. The life that I prayed for and visualized a hundred times over and over again during that most difficult time in my life. I’ve received 99% of the things that I wanted back then, and the things that I haven’t received are literally just around the corner. Matt and I are hunting for our perfect home right now and we plan on bringing a little fur baby into our lives as soon as we move in. This sh*t is real.

If you still don’t believe me, that’s totally fine, but the Law of Attraction is operational whether you’re a believer or a skeptic. Our thoughts shape our reality. So today, I wanted to share with you my eight powerful manifestation techniques that I’ve used to bring about the life that I have now in hopes that it will help YOU. In hopes that it will help you manifest your dream and live each and every day in a state of happiness, abundance, and gratitude. So without further ado, these are the 8 manifestation techniques that helped me create the life that I had now:

1. Heightened Visualization

Hear me out. I know that you were expecting to see this on the list and it may not be anything new, but I want to tell you HOW I practiced this every day and how I made the most of my visualization practice. The #1 way that I manifested my life is through what I can only describe as intense or heightened visualization. (Yes, I know that sounds ridiculous).

Each and every night for at least an hour a night I would practice visualization. And I wouldn’t just practice it the way you would think – I wouldn’t just imagine something. I would close my eyes and make myself feel as if what I wanted was actually happening. I would feel each and every detail of that moment. For example, with the car that I wanted, I would visualize driving down a street that was lined with palm trees. I would visualize a ring on my hand; how beautiful the palm trees looked against the sky; how the steering wheel felt against my hand; how excited and grateful that I was to be driving it. I would visualize each and every detail as best I could. I made myself feel so happy in the moment that I didn’t even really need the car because I felt like it was already happening. I did this with everything. I visualized swimming under La Fortuna and seeing it for the first time. I visualized being in love with the most perfect person for me. Each and every detail I visualized so strongly and with such happiness that I felt as if I already had it.

2. Overwhelming Gratitude

At the very end of each visualization practice, I would have myself feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. I would thank the universe – because that’s what I call the higher power. You can call the universe God, or Source, or Source Energy, or Creation, or Love – whatever word resonates with you. But I would thank the universe and feel an overwhelming rush of gratitude that was so strong that I couldn’t help but cry. I would also say “thank you,” “thank you,” “thank you,” over and over again. It wasn’t just a subtle feeling of gratitude, it was so strong and I felt in my heart and in every cell of my body. I felt gratitude like I’ve never experienced before. And I would do this after each and every visualization practice.

3. A Daily Gratitude Practice

The third thing that I started to do was introducing a daily gratitude practice. If you’ve read my post, “Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It,” or “My Daily Gratitude Practice,” then you’ve already heard me talk about my gratitude practice a bit. But I can’t talk about this enough because it’s been the one part of my daily routine that has added so much happiness and peace to my life that no amount of meditation or no self-help book has been able to bring me. For that reason, I swear by it.

Each and every night before I go to bed I practice gratitude by opening up a document on my computer and writing IN DETAIL about ONE THING that I’m grateful for. I want to highlight “in detail” and “one thing” the most because SO many gratitude practices stress a specific number of things you should feel grateful for which makes it feel like a chore and makes it more about hitting a number than about the feeling of gratitude. I also say in detail because people say that a gratitude practice should just be one word like “health” or maybe a quick sentence each day like, “today I feel grateful for my health.” However, I believe that those simple and quick practices don’t raise your vibration enough and radiate enough gratitude into the universe to truly transform your life.

For that reason, I pick one thing each day that I am the most grateful for and I write about why I feel grateful about it. It could be an opportunity, a person, an event. I don’t make myself hit a set number of sentences, I write whatever amount feels natural in the moment and I write until I feel like I’ve finished describing it. (It’s usually about two paragraphs, just in case you really need an idea of how much I write each day.)

This practice has helped me reflect deeply on something that brings me true happiness and gratitude. It always shifts my mind away from the stressors in life and puts me in a super happy, and high vibe mood that helps me to visualize what I want. Over time I noticed that I started to feel less anxious, happier, and more peaceful even throughout the day, not just at night. Feeling like this each and every day really sets you up for success with your manifestation and puts you in the right frequency to attract what you want.

4. Creating a Vision Board

Again, hear me out. If you’re really interested in the Law of Attraction, you’ve heard this method a thousand times by now. But, you haven’t heard about my method. I’ve tried creating vision boards for my bedroom many times and found that they just never worked for me. I would always get too critical about whether it looked good and how artistic my board was so it would prevent me from really resonating with it. Instead, I created my vision board the way us millennials do anything else – on my phone.

I created a private board on Pinterest and found beautiful photos that I connected to. Photos that I felt truly reflected the life that I wanted and dreamed of. I created the most beautiful board and whenever I woke up in the morning, or was on a break from work, or was scrolling through my phone, I would pull up that board. It made me feel so happy and would constantly remind me of what I was hoping to attract. I loved it because I already take my phone everywhere, so that way I was able to bring my vision board with me as well.

Whenever I opened the board, I would take my time and look at each photo and imagine what it would feel like to actually have that item or accomplishment. There were photos of Costa Rica, Europe, happy couples in their home together, beautiful bungalows, Jeep Wranglers, and more. I posted pictures that reflected each area of my life like my home, my relationship, and my finances. This technique helped me get back into that manifestation mindset even when something stressful would come up.

5. Commitment

The reason why I believe that I transformed my life and created this much change is because I committed to it and I became pretty much obsessed with it for several months. I think the biggest mistake that people make is that they get really motivated and excited to use the Law of Attraction and manifest their dream life, but then they give up after just a few days. I made this manifestation process my entire life for several months. Every single moment when I wasn’t working or in class or busy, I was visualizing, practicing gratitude, and looking at my vision board. Just like anything else, if you want it to really work or turn out, you have to devote your time and energy to it. You can’t just do it for five minutes right after you saw “The Secret,” you have to make it a daily practice. The universe responds to you if you continue to show up, raise your vibration, and practice manifestation each day.

6. Sparking Joy

One thing that I did throughout this process was I surrounded myself with things that would spark joy and removed the things in my environment that were triggers. (I use the phrase  “sparking joy” to describe this because I’ve been binge-watching “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” this week. However, I didn’t know I was following her method four years ago.) I made it a point to surround myself with things in my environment that made me feel good and made me happy. I did this by adding plants and crystals all over my room and my apartment and putting up decorations or pictures that made me feel really happy and brought back wonderful memories.

I didn’t just surround myself with things I liked, I made it a point to remove things in my environment that we’re trigger items for me and made me unhappy in some way. I removed items that reminded me of a bad time in my life, or a crappy memory, or a fight with my boyfriend at the time. I also made it a point to remove things that I was keeping ONLY because someone else would be upset or offended if I got rid of it. And lastly, I removed things in my environment that made me feel guilty. For example, I used to have several books on my bookshelf that I had sitting there for YEARS, but never read them. And every single time I would glance at them on the shelf I would feel bad and feel guilty that it had been six years since I bought that book and still had never read it, or had any intention of reading it.

Throughout this process, I was amazed by how many things I had in my environment that triggered me all day long and made me feel terrible every time I would look around my room. I had gotten rid of several garbage bags filled with things that made me feel bad. After this process, I was blown away by how the energy in my room had changed. How I felt happy, lighter, and happier just because I was surrounded by items that reminded me of joyful moments or I felt were so beautiful to look at: plants, photos, and crystals.

If you’re trying to manifest your dream life, I think this is an extremely important step that no one ever talks about when discussing the Law of Attraction. Our environment impacts us so much. It’s really important to make sure it fuels positive emotions.

7. Staying Inspired

It’s super easy to feel inspired in the beginning when you first watch a video or read a book about the Law of Attraction, but it’s really important to keep that inspiration going so you continue to practice it with enthusiasm each day. In order to really commit to this process I had to keep myself inspired for many months, and I did this by constantly watching “The Secret. I found that whenever I watched “The Secret” I become so convinced that it was real, I felt inspired, and it put me in the manifestation mindset.

I wouldn’t watch it from start to finish, but I would play parts of the movie so I could hear the speakers as I was getting ready for the day or driving. I also would find quotes through Pinterest that inspired me and kept me thinking about what I wanted and believing that it was coming to me. Staying inspired is probably the hardest thing to do. It’s important to keep an eye out for what speaks to you and surround yourself with whatever keeps you in that mindset. Whether that be a podcast or a book or a movie, because you don’t want to lose that inspiration right as you’re starting to really manifest what you want and make progress.

8. Keeping Secrets

The eighth and final thing that I did to practice the Law of Attraction and manifest my dream life was I didn’t tell anyone. I kept my manifestation practice a secret and didn’t share it until well after I received what I set out to. The reason why I did this is because I have many skeptics in my life, and you may have them as well. Telling other people around you what you’re trying to attract could set you back in this whole process and prevent you from actually reaping the benefits of the Law of Attraction and seeing the changes in your life. If you make the mistake of telling other people, it not only puts pressure on what you’re trying to manifest because you feel as if you have to prove the Law of Attraction to people, but it also throws their feelings, thoughts, and ideas into the mix. Let’s say you tell a friend or family member what you’re trying to attract, they could be putting thoughts out into the universe that are sabotaging your efforts. If they believe that the Law of Attraction is a load of crap and projecting that into the universe, it could backfire for you. You want to make sure that nothing but love, gratitude, and faith is being projected out into the world when trying to manifest your dream life.

The Lessons I’ve Learned

Using these 8 techniques I was able to receive everything that my 18 and 19-year-old self wanted more than anything in the world. I wanted to share the techniques with those of you who also have an unwavering faith that the Law of Attraction is real, but I also wanted to share what I’ve learned over these last 4 years that ISN’T in any of those books, videos, and movies about manifestation. So these are the lessons about the Law of Attraction that I learned from this experience, in hopes that it will help you to better understand what you can expect moving forward in this process:

It works both ways

For as wonderful as the positive thoughts and ideas work for manifestation, so do the negative ones. I noticed that not only does projecting negativity bring about negative things in your life, but it can also postpone the positive things. Whenever I’m in a place in my life where I’m feeling very low and down about myself and I’m focused on what it’s not going well and what I DON’T have, I don’t receive the positive things.

The movie, “The Secret,” does a great job of hitting on this point – that the Law of Attraction can also bring about more debt, more fighting, and more discontent if you’re not careful. For me, it didn’t UNDO receiving my dream life, but it did push things back whenever I started to become pessimistic or overly stressed out. I never received when I was in that place.

You don’t have to monitor your thoughts

For some people, if you still do not have an unwavering faith that your dream is coming toward you, projecting negativity could be stopping your dream altogether. Upon hearing the last lesson, it might feel like you have to monitor your thoughts because that’s how I felt for a while. However, it’s not so much monitoring your negative thoughts as it is making a point of doing what makes you happy and makes you feel good in life.

It’s about making the visualization your dream life SO MUCH FUN that it becomes enjoyable and you don’t want to stop. It’s also about surrounding yourself with things that make you so happy and engaging in activities that you enjoy more than anything so you’re in the positive mindset without requiring monitoring. I don’t just mean going to a bar, I mean doing the things in life that really bring about deeper satisfaction. I started nannying again just because it brought me so much joy to take care of babies. I started doing the things that were on my bucket list just because it brought me inner peace and happiness as opposed to always telling myself “someday” I’ll do that. I started paying for experiences over possessions because it made me feel much happier long term than simply making an impulse purchase. It’s not so much about monitoring your thoughts as it is about making sure you’re in a positive and satisfying place in your life whenever you can and really enjoying the manifestation process along the way, as opposed to feeling like it’s a chore.

Your inner dialog can backfire

I’m not just talking about how you feel about life in general here: whether you’re happy or unhappy, negative or positive. One of the most difficult lessons that I’ve learned throughout this process is that the negative inner dialog and the way that I feel about MYSELF does impact manifestation. Throughout most of this process, there have been things that I wanted more along the lines of accomplishments but I didn’t get because I didn’t feel worthy. If you’re trying to manifest a Range Rover for example, if you feel like you don’t deserve it and have constantly self-sabotaging and self-harming thoughts, you won’t receive it. You have to get to a point where you stop that criticizing voice and find ways to truly love yourself, or else your inner dialog is going to be sabotaging this entire process and (TRUST ME) it will win.

I could write an entire post just about that inner dialog and how to deal with it. But for now, I’ll have to keep it simple: positive thoughts, compassion, and love towards yourself is equally as important as the vision boards and visualization. So do whatever you have to and find peace with yourself. Know that you’re worthy of having your dream to begin with, or else your subconscious mind will make damn sure you don’t get that Range Rover.

Nothing happened in the way I would expect

I honestly thought when I first started this process that the only possible way I could get everything I wanted in life was through winning the lottery. I thought it would take millions of dollars to be able to make everything happen. But it didn’t! Nothing – I mean nothing – happened in a way that I would have expected. So don’t for a second waste your time thinking about HOW it could possibly happen. That’s not your job. That’s the job of the universe.

When I first started trying to manifest back in 2015, I felt that thinking about the HOW would help out the universe in some way by presenting a logical and practical way for me to receive what I wanted. But there was nothing logical or practical to me about it. For example, I used to always visualize my dream relationship and a trip to Costa Rica (separately). I somehow met Matt out at a bar I NEVER go to, with a group of people I NEVER hung out at before,  just people his friend Pat said something funny. A year later his parents gifted us a trip to Costa Rica they had actually been meaning to go on themselves. Well, that’s not how I say my dream happening. I literally thought I had to win the lottery for me to be able to go to Costa Rica back then. The point is, don’t waste a single second thinking about the HOW. All that will do is convince yourself that there’s no way your dream will come true, just because you can’t figure out how on earth it could possibly happen.

You will receive as you’re ready

You cannot and should not put a date on when you expect to receive something. My move to Florida started to be put in motion THREE MONTHS after I was visualizing about it for an hour or two each night. My dream car I got two years after I began visualizing it. My tour of Europe I got after graduation. Some things happened right away. Some things took longer. But after I looked back at everything I wanted and everything that I’ve received up to this point, I realized that the universe gave me things as I was ready for them. Yeah, it would have been nice to get everything instantly in one day, but it didn’t work that way. For example, I tried extremely hard to find a perfect partner. I went on dates every week and as a result, all that ended up happening was I dated a string of guys for two months each who all just wanted to “have fun.” *insert eye roll here*

It wasn’t until I gave my “sweeping declaration” one night about how I was DONE dating, I loved myself, I was happy alone and I didn’t need another person to complete me when the universe decided I was ready and I was introduced to Matt just a few hours later. It’s no coincidence that I met my partner of two years right after I decided I loved myself and I wanted to give up dating and trying to force a relationship. Things take time, and sometimes the only reason why you’re not receiving something is that you’re not ready for it. For this reason, I believe that there’s also a spiritual connection with the Law of Attraction that none of us understand.

I didn’t have to work for the material things

When looking back at my trips and my possessions I realized that I actually didn’t have to work for them, they were gifted to me. The first thing that I hear from people who don’t believe in the Law of Attraction is that it’s not real because they believe that I wanted something so I worked for it… and then bought it. It’s not manifestation apparently, it’s hard work and money. But the thing is, it wasn’t hard work. The move, the Jeep, the trips, etc. were gifted. I didn’t work for them at all. And yes, that may sound very entitled or self-absorbed to someone who hasn’t met me and is reading this, but my point again that the HOW is up to the universe.

Don’t go into this process thinking, “Oh sh*t, I have to come with $50,000 for that Jeep. I better clock more hours at work.” No. Things will be presented to you in ways that you never expect, the reason why you don’t have them isn’t that you don’t work enough. So take a deep breath, and just get back to your vision board.

You don’t have to PROVE anything to people

It can be frustrating when you’ve transformed your life with the Law of Attraction but then your close friends and family don’t believe you. Trust me, I understand. I spent countless hours for three months visualizing this move to Florida and somehow my dad was offered a job in Florida just months after that. And every single person I’ve talked to about it gives me that forced, fake smile (you know that one were you can tell people think you’re crazy) and says “Ohhhh… that’s nice.” OR, becomes a very vocal skeptic and openly tells me that I’m wrong and everything I’ve received is one giant coincidence.

For a while, I believed that I had to tell the world what happened and that I had to prove that what happened to me was real. However, after having so many of the same encounters with people I finally realized this: you don’t have to PROVE the Law of Attraction to anyone. Why? Well for starters there’s no reward to proving it to someone, but most importantly it’s going to be impossible.

Trying to convince someone that the Law of Attraction is real will be as effective as trying to convert them to your religion. Everyone has their own set of beliefs about life, spirituality, and the mysterious workings of the universe based on their background, upbringing, and experiences. Going into a conversation with someone and trying to convince them that the Law of Attraction is real would be pointless as trying to get me to pray to Jesus, read the Bible, and go to church on Sundays. Or like trying to convince a skeptic to believe in ghosts. Go ahead, as an experiment seek out a skeptic, tell them some of your ghost stories, and see if you can convince them ghosts are real. Or better yet, try to convince a Republican to be a Democrat and vice versa. Do you see what I mean? So don’t feel like you have to PROVE what happened to you. Talk about it with the people who believe in the Law of Attraction, and if they don’t, that’s ok. You don’t have to defend yourself and prove anything. People will think you’re crazy, and that’s fine. Everyone close to me thought (and still thinks) I’m crazy for saying that I’ve changed my life with the Law of Attraction. If history has taught us one thing, it’s that we cannot change other people and their beliefs. Talk about the Law of Attraction with people who understand and support you, and if they don’t, let it be.

Thanks so much for reading!

I really hope you guys enjoyed this post about the Law of Attraction, how I manifested what I wanted, and what I’ve learned from this experience. As always, let me know what you think in the comments! What this post helpful for you? What parts? Have you used the Law of Attraction in your life? What have you been able to manifest and how did you do it? Did you learn anything interesting from your experience with the Law of Attraction?

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Photos by Ray Reyes, IG: @rocketsciencephoto.

Stream of Consciousness Journaling: The Benefits & How to Practice It + INSTAGRAM GIVEAWAY

Self-Help

Did you know that 99% of life’s greatest problems could be solved with stream of consciousness journaling?

Ok, I made that up. But in case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a huge fan of stream of consciousness journaling. It’s one of my favorite pastimes. Journaling has gotten me through my worst days, helped me to realize my passion in life, gave me the courage to be myself, and strengthened my spirituality.

That’s why I’m a huge advocate for using stream of consciousness journaling for self-help and self-discovery. It’s why I mention it in many of my blog posts, talk about it on social media, and recommend it to those who reach out to me for advice.

However, as someone who wants to spend all day everyday writing, I was surprised by how few people actually practice stream of consciousness journaling or know what it is! WHAT? Does not everyone spend hours a day writing? What do they do with their time? So today I wanted to explain what you need to know about stream of consciousness journaling and why this simple activity is so beneficial. I’ll also talk about how to incorporate stream of consciousness journaling into your life for those who are curious about it and are interested in starting.

I really wish that more people would regularly do stream of consciousness journaling. It’s a freeing, introspective, and therapeutic method that helps you work through life’s challenges and improve every aspect of your life for a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. It may not solve 99% of life’s problems but I honestly believe that if more people implemented this simple act into their daily routine, the world would be a much better place.

Make sure to stay until the very end of the post to learn how you could win my Gratitude Journal Giveaway!

What is stream of consciousness journaling?

What stream of consciousness isn’t is a narrative, a story, or a diary. It’s not meant for you to provide a timeline or create an autobiography. It’s not a description of your day.

Stream of consciousness journaling is when you write whatever is in your head, completely unfiltered. You write every thought just as is, exactly how it’s flowing through your mind. Curse words, improper grammar, subject changes and all. You write about anything and everything that’s going through your mind. You don’t plan it, you don’t wonder what you should write next. You pick a topic, like something that’s bothering you, and you write down everything.

It’s meant to be very messy. You don’t worry at all about spelling, grammar, or run-on sentences, because it’s probably the only type of writing that’s not meant to be read. It’s an exercise, it’s a therapeutic method. And if you’re doing it correctly, trust me, you will NEVER want to read it. You’re brain-dumping all of the emotions, all the stressors, the challenges, the problems, the insecurities, and the things you don’t want people to know about you and putting them on paper to clear your mind.

It’s not like any other writing because there’s no structure and there are no rules – no editing, no five-paragraph format, not even an intro or a conclusion. It’s your brain! It doesn’t follow rules! And that’s why the most important thing to remember is to not be critical of it or worry about how it reads because it will never be read! That’s why it’s so freeing.

PRO TIP: Relax about it.

It’s not weird! Stop thinking it’s weird!

I noticed that the one thing that turns people away from journaling is that they associate writing down their thoughts in a journal with a 14-year-old girl writing in her pink “diary” about the boy she has a crush on and the girl she doesn’t like a school. It seems adolescent or immature. It seems like something that isn’t socially acceptable. But it’s not a diary. Trust me, I had diaries as a kid. (Not that there’s anything wrong with having a diary.)

Stream of consciousness journaling is a therapeutic technique that is beneficial for anyone and everyone no matter what their age or gender. However, you won’t reap those benefits unless you calm down and stop judging yourself for doing it. The first few times you do it may be weird, because you’ve never seen your own thoughts on paper before, but it does get easier and it starts to feel more natural and more freeing the more you practice it.

The very real benefits of stream of consciousness journaling

Why is it beneficial? The reason why I preach about stream of consciousness journaling all the time is that I’ve seen so many benefits from it, particularly when I started to do it regularly. By making it a part of my nightly routine I saw that it started to change my mood and my mindset so I felt happier all day, even when I wasn’t journaling. It allowed me to put the challenges and the negativity down on paper instead of carrying it with me. That’s why after making it a part of my daily life, I believe in it wholeheartedly and think that the world would be a much happier and better place if everyone adopted this simple activity.

Here are the top 11 reasons why stream of consciousness journaling is beneficial in hopes that it will inspire you to start today…

1. It allows you to purge

The number one benefit that everyone can agree on about stream of consciousness journaling is that it gets everything down on paper or your computer so those thoughts don’t keep circling in your head. It allows you to take a load off and to get rid of the baggage that distracts you from feeling content and at peace. I didn’t even know how cluttered and chaotic my mind was until I started journaling and noticed how much calmer and clearer my mind was afterward. I didn’t realize how much the thoughts and stressors had been building up and weighing on me until they were finally gone. I had gotten so used to the stress little by little that I couldn’t remember life without it.

2. It stops thoughts from amplifying

You know how when something is bothering you or stressing you out, your mind does this exciting thing where it continues to amplify the problem? You’ll be bothered by something that’s happened to you and suddenly your mind can make it a hundred times worse by building up the problem, thinking of all of the other bad things that could happen, thinking about how other people will think and feel, etc. Your mind goes from worrying about that passive-aggressive thing your boss said to suddenly convincing you that you could be fired, wondering what would happen if you got fired, stressing about bills, thinking about how you would feel, thinking about how a job loss could ruin your reputation, thinking about what your partner will think of you, or thinking about how you should act around your boss. The problem snowballs from one stressor into a full-blown life crisis in a matter of 15 minutes.

What stream of consciousness journaling does is it stops those thoughts from circling and amplifying in your mind. It prevents them from blowing up into something that ruins your day and your happiness with pointless worrying. It also makes you realize how extraordinarily unrealistic those thoughts can be once you actually write it down. That way it makes the problem more manageable and grounds you again instead of keeping you sucked into that miserable anxiety loop.

3. It helps you solve a problem

Stream of consciousness journaling is also incredibly beneficial for problem-solving and helping you make better decisions. And don’t we all need help with that! One way that it does this is by removing that clutter in your mind and preventing the negativity from amplifying, so you’re actually able to figure out a problem or what your next step should be because it removes those distractions. You have space to figure out what to do and come up with solutions.

Often times we’re also unable to figure out the root of a problem. There’s so much going on in our minds that you don’t really know what’s going on. There have been countless times where I’ve had life-changing epiphanies because writing about a problem allows me to peel back the layers and find out what’s really going on deep down in my subconscious mind. This journaling allows you to discover how certain circumstances have been triggered that reminds you of an event or person from your past. What journaling has taught me that your mind is kind of like an onion, and onions have layers. You have to peel back plenty of layers on the top to get to the center of the problem and figure out what’s really bothering you. (If you didn’t get that Shrek reference, I don’t know if we can be friends).

Lastly, stream of consciousness journaling helps you solve problems by discovering what’s actually best for YOU. One of the major lessons I learned in my senior year of college and after graduating college is that everyone and their mother thinks that they are an expert on what is best for me. Everyone seems to think they know the perfect place for me to live, the perfect way to go about finding a job, the perfect career path, the best way to invest money, the best freaking house that I should buy, the best time to get a pet, etc. Everyone has a major opinion about how you, and I, and everyone else should be living our best life.

But here’s the thing, only YOU know what is best for YOU. Other people may have ideas and opinions based on their own experience, but just because something works for another person and makes sense for their life, doesn’t mean that it makes sense to you. Stream of consciousness journaling helps you separate the outside opinions and uncover what makes the most sense for you.

4. It reduces stress

Immediately after stream of consciousness journaling, I always notice an incredible sense of relief. Do you know how you get a runner’s high after a nice long run where you feel refreshed, happy, and uplifted? That’s sort of how I feel after a long journaling session where I release any of the drama, stresses, or insecurities that I’ve been dealing with. By the end of an hour of a long writing session, I feel an enormous sense of relief. It clears why mind and relaxes me so I can feel happy and free of stress.

However, it’s not just immediately after journaling where you’re able to feel this sense of release. By incorporating it into your daily routine and releasing that stress each and every time, you’ll notice that over time you’ll be less anxious in general. You’re incorporating a therapeutic exercise into your life and you’re dealing with your problems in a healthy way so you can be happier, more relaxed, and more fulfilled all the time. I started to notice this feeling after about a month of journaling for half an hour to an hour each night and then following it with mediation. Side Note: Journaling also made meditation much easier so I started to feel the benefits from that practice as well.

5. It helps with self-discovery

One of the most interesting benefits to me about stream of consciousness journaling is how much it helps with self-discovery. I’ve always been an incredibly introspective person, but even I am blown away by how much you can learn more about yourself simply by writing down your thoughts. Engaging in regular self-reflection brings up things that you didn’t even realize about yourself. These could even be things that you thought about your whole life but haven’t been able to figure out.

I’ve spent many nights learning new things about myself that I’ve never noticed before or have been stumped on for years. The most significant one that comes to mind is how I learned of my passion and life’s purpose through journaling. I answered a prompt late one night and used stream of consciousness journaling, as I always do, and suddenly it hit me that my passion was self-help and wellness. At the exact moment, I was laying in bed surrounded by a pile of self-help books that were all highlighted and stuffed with notes. I listened to self-help podcasts, read self-help books for years, and envied the self-help writers that I knew of. But somehow it never occured to me that that’s what I wanted to do. My passion and purpose had been hiding right underneath my nose my whole life.

There are many nights when journaling did not lead to an epiphany, but there were also many nights when it did. Through exploring a new topic or answering a prompt that might not even stick out to you, it can pull information out that you may have ignored or kept buried for weeks, months, even years.

6. It improves mood

You’ll notice that when you get into the habit of journaling every day, you will slowly start to see a shift in your overall mood. You’re engaging in deep introspection that helps you learn about your self-sabotaging patterns, toxic relationships, dreams, hobbies, and past – which is not only rewarding, but also uplifting. After journaling for weeks or even months you’ll start to notice that you’re feeling content and more positive, and if you’re anything like me, you may notice that you no longer feel like you’re in a fog.

You begin to feel free from the things that weighed on your mind before and your mindset slowly starts to change for the better. I know I’m making big statements here, but after spending an hour of journaling each day for months, I saw this change myself. When you dedicate that much time to your mental health and wellness, you do begin to feel much happier and positive. All it takes is committing to it.

7. It helps you to become mindful

After journaling for such a long period of time, the self-reflection helps you to be more mindful. It helps you go about your day with intention and focus rather than letting the day pass you by in a blur of scrolling or stress. It makes each activity you do more thoughtful. It also alerts you to the behaviors or habits that you have that don’t support your health and happiness so you can make better choices throughout the day. Choices like not engaging with a negative person, using your free time wisely, taking care of your body, and saying goodbye to self-sabotaging habits.

8. It strengthens personal discipline

If you choose to start journaling as part of your morning or nighttime routine, you’re strengthening your personal discipline. You’re choosing to set aside time every day whether you’re in the mood to or not to engage in a healthy behavior. That alone strengthens your personal discipline, but you’ll notice that it soon starts to bleed into other areas of your life. By making yourself engage in one healthy behavior, before you know it you’re choosing to eat better, or exercise more, or go outside, or use social media with intention. Making one decision that contributes to your health, happiness, and growth inspires you to make those decisions elsewhere. Again, this is one of those changes that I didn’t notice until weeks of practicing stream of consciousness journaling regularly. A benefit like this doesn’t happen until you’ve committed to making it a ritual instead of an occasional activity.

9. It unlocks your creativity

I believe that purging all those stressors or insecurities through writing and freeing up your mind from the drama gives it more room to be creative. When I started incorporating stream of consciousness journaling into my life, I noticed that I suddenly had more ideas than I knew what to do with. That I was inspired more often and that I wanted to write even more. It’s actually when I put in a month of stream of consciousness journaling that I started to get serious about my blog and wanted to pursue writing as a career. I even started to branch out and write about topics that I don’t typically write about. It unlocked creativity and inspiration within me that I didn’t even realize existed.

10. It allows you to explore and strengthen your spirituality

I won’t dive too deeply into this because this isn’t a spirituality post, but I do want to touch on this subject. I’m Buddhist and believe that we’re all on our own journey and are experiencing this life to learn, grow, and become enlightened in some way. And I believe that self-discovery and self-help work allows you to do that. When I continued to do stream of consciousness journaling I started to evolve and to connect with a higher power like I never had before.

You may not have the same spirituality as me, but every spirituality or religion that exists encourages introspection and self-growth. No matter what you believe, journaling can help you to become a better version of yourself, strengthen your faith, and connect with a higher power.

I believe this happens through deep introspection, but also because once you’re free of stress, anxiety, and the problems amplifying in your mind, and you start to become mindful and it becomes easier tap into spirituality – just as journaling helped me unlock my creativity. Through stream of consciousness journaling, your mind is able to focus on more introspective and soulful pursuits rather than being distracted.

Through journaling I came to profound realizations that I used to read about in books, but had never fully understood because my mind was too busy. For example, I was able to comprehend how everything and everyone is connected, that we must let go of our stories to become our highest selves, that coincidences and universal signs happen all around me, and that each experience (even painful ones) are helping me to evolve and become the person that I was brought to this planet to be. It also helped me become aware of divine intervention and trust that the universe has my back, because through writing I could reflect on how circumstance, people, and events are slowly shaping me to become the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

11. It improves your writing

Don’t let the stream of consciousness technique fool you. Just because stream of consciousness journaling isn’t necessarily formal writing, with proper spelling, structure, and grammar, that doesn’t mean that it won’t help you to become a better writer. After I put in hours of journaling, I started to realize that I began to find my voice. My writing became even more conversational, vulnerable, snarky, and honest. I found my own style that didn’t conform to what I had learned in school my whole life. But just as Pablo Picasso once said, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

The other way that it helps with writing is by forcing yourself to write every day, no matter what it is, writing anything becomes easier. When you write any paper, blog post, report, depiction, etc. it’s so much easier to do because you’ve been using those muscles regularly. You become a better writer even accidentally because you’ve been practicing each day, even if it didn’t feel like you were.

Ok, I get it, but what do I write about?

The biggest issue that people tend to have about this type of writing is that they don’t know what to write about. Many people struggle about what to write because the vast majority of people don’t write unless they have to for work or for school when there’s someone telling them what, when, and how to write. But the beauty of stream of consciousness writing is you can write about anything. You can write about your family, relationships, stressors, your day, traumas, your bucket list, your perfect day, your dreams, your goals, etc. You can write about anything that you feel pulled to write about that day.

I personally like to write about whatever is stressing me out or weighing on my mind. Whatever is bothering me that day is what I’m writing about, and by doing that I feel like I’m liberated from all those negative thoughts once I write them down. I’m not a huge fan of journal prompts because they don’t offer me that same benefit which is purging the clutter and chaos in my mind, but occasionally I use them to help me with self-discovery on the days when I feel like being more introspective.

But prompts can still be incredibly beneficial, especially if you’re new to journaling. One of my followers and readers I talked to about stream of consciousness journaling was overwhelmed when I told him that you can write about anything and said that he needed more direction to get into journaling. So if you are having a difficult time figuring out what to write, consider picking a prompt first to get you warmed up. You can still do stream of consciousness journaling and “brain dump” even if you’re using a prompt for inspiration. Writing about anything could seem intimidating and this type of writing can be particularly difficult to get used to if you’ve never journaled before. Luckily there is no shortage of journal prompts available to you.

If you’d like to check out journal prompts, head over to my “Self-Discovery” Pinterest Board. I regularly pin prompts to help you with introspection, self-love, discipline, and motivation, so you can always use that as a resource. For now, here are some of my favorite prompts to help get your writing flowing today…

30 Journal Prompts to get you started

  1. How are you… really?
  2. Something I thought a lot about as a child was…
  3. One thing that I really need to work on is…
  4. Describe one thing that you are the proudest of yourself for.
  5. Describe one person that you admire the most today and why.
  6. The quality I admire most in others is…
  7. When I was little I wanted to be…
  8. What would you do if you won the lottery?
  9. What would you do if you knew for certain that you wouldn’t fail?
  10. If I could be a go-to person for anything it would be…
  11. One thing that I am the most passionate about is…
  12. Who are you the most envious of and why?
  13. When people first meet me, I hope they feel…
  14. What do you need more of in your life?
  15. What skills do you wish you had the most?
  16. What do you love about yourself?
  17. What are your priorities at the moment?
  18. The last time that I truly felt alive was…
  19. What hobbies would you love to try?
  20. What can you do to take better care of yourself?
  21. At the end of my life, the legacy that I want to leave is…
  22. Where do you see yourself in six months? A year? 5 years? 10 years?
  23. How can you feel more fulfilled in your life?
  24. Set 3 short term goals and 3 long term goals for yourself and write why you chose them.
  25. What are your 5 favorite ways to relax and fill you up?
  26. What limiting beliefs are holding you back from fulfilling your dream life?
  27. What actions can you take to simplify your life?
  28. What does happiness mean to you?
  29. What is your dream job?
  30. If you could be anywhere in the world, where would you be and why?

Bonus: End with Gratitude

Now, if you really want to see the maximum benefits from journaling as I talked about above, I recommend ending each and every stream of consciousness journaling practice with gratitude. There are countless testimonials, studies and experiments that prove that incorporating gratitude into your daily life can improve your mental and emotional state and help you become more successful. That’s why thousands of successful people, celebrities, influencers, and change makers swear by a daily gratitude practice and owe their accomplishments to their simple gratitude ritual.

Even Oprah has a daily gratitude practice and swears that her daily gratitude journal has brought her the most joy, allowed her to keep up the stamina to build her empire, and attract a fan base that completely aligns with her message. Her gratitude practice is simply writing down 5 things that she feels grateful for each and every day – even if it’s something incredibly simple. Today, there are thousands of articles and videos that you can find online where successful people share their gratitude practice and open up about how it impacted their life and allowed them to be happier. Each practice may be slightly different, but it proves that incorporating gratitude practice or a gratitude journal into your routine improves your life in more ways than one.

My gratitude practice

Personally I’ve found that jotting down 3, 5, or 10 things that I’m grateful for is not enough for me. Writing down a bullet point isn’t enough to bring me that overwhelming sense of gratitude that has the potential to change my mindset and my life. Many people swear that their bullet journal changed their life, but I’ve had no success with it. Instead, I incorporate gratitude in my own way. At the end of each journaling session, I pick one thing that I’m grateful for that day and write about it in detail. It could be an insightful conversation with a stranger, or my partner, or an accomplishment – but whatever it is I write at least a paragraph about it. I write about what it is I’m grateful for and why I feel so happy to have this thing in my life. By writing in detail about one thing in particular it helps me feel a heightened sense of gratitude and completely shifts my mindset towards a positive one. It’s impossible to feel crappy after I finish my own gratitude practice.

It’s GIVEAWAY Time!

Since I’m such a huge believer in practicing journaling and gratitude each and every day and I’ve been wanting to write about this topic for months, I decided it would be the perfect opportunity for another Instagram Giveaway! I will be giving away a beautiful and super colorful daily gratitude journal to one lucky winner on my Instagram @heather.ione. It’s a gorgeous and lightweight journal that you can take with you anywhere to make it nice and easier to get yourself into your own daily gratitude practice! Make sure to head over there today to see how you could this beautiful little book, that I completely fell in love with because it 100% reminds me of my favorite book, Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I really hope that you enjoyed learning about stream of consciousness writing, the benefits, and how to incorporate it in your daily life. And I hope that you can take something away from it that will be beneficial to you. I’ve seen this simple ritual impact my life like nothing else before. I swear by stream of consciousness journaling and I believe in its ability to improve our mental stage and make us happier. It’s a topic that I’ve been wanting to write about for many months on the blog in hopes that it could help others and inspire them to start journaling too.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Was this post helpful to you? Did you learn anything? Do you do stream of consciousness journaling? Did you see any benefits of your own? If so, what were they? And do you have your own gratitude practice?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photo Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

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Battling Imposter Syndrome While Chasing a Dream & How to Overcome It

Self-Help

Imposter Syndrome: referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Let’s talk about the issue of imposter syndrome. I realized I’ve been going through it personally for a year or two, without even knowing that I was or what it was called. All I knew was that I would think back to the accomplishments I achieved, like creating a smoke-free policy on my college campus or landing a job and think… well, I just got lucky, or I had help. I couldn’t have landed that job if it wasn’t for so-and-so looking at my resume. I wouldn’t have created that no-smoking policy if it wasn’t for other people. Why should I take credit? I couldn’t admit to myself that I had done something to be proud of. Until I came across a post on LinkedIn.

A girl around my age was accepted into the Harvard Business School, something she had dreamed about for years. In her happy post, she opened up about how she was dealing with imposter syndrome and worried that she didn’t belong there like everyone else. That’s when it hit me–I was experiencing the exact same feeling!

The accomplishments that I did have I couldn’t take credit for, and when I pursued a dream or a project I would have an overwhelming fear of people discovering that I was a fraud. That I, in fact, had no idea what I’m talking about. That I was not nearly as smart or creative as I led people to believe.

I’ve been following all of the wellness bloggers, influencers, and content creators for years and stared at their work in awe. They were not much older than me, and they directly impacted the lives of young women all over the country. It was my dream to be like them, but I continue to think to myself, “Who do I think I am? I’m me. Heather. I don’t have 100k followers. I don’t have a book deal. I don’t have a podcast. Why would anyone want to learn from me and my wellness journey when they could learn from someone else?”

This is my passion. This is what I envisioned myself doing for years before I started Lost Online. Yet I keep having fears that others think I’m not cut out for it. Since learning more about imposter syndrome, I realized that I don’t just do it with my creative endeavors and my passions, like my blog. I do it with work too.

Throughout college and after graduation my plan was to be in communications within the health and wellness industry. Very recently I landed a position as a Wellness Ambassador. In this position, I’ll be writing blog posts, creating social media posts, coordinating events, interviewing people, developing promotions, and speaking on podcasts. It’s a position that I’m more than qualified for. I’ve done so many of these duties before and I was clearly excited about this job. It had even felt like I landed a job that had been perfectly designed for me, but the day after I was offered the position … imposter syndrome seeped in. Those thoughts started to gnaw at me. “What if my new boss thinks I’m terrible? A phony? A fake?”

So, what is Imposter Syndrome? How does it manifest?

Imposter Syndrome is a widespread phenomenon that occurs when you believe that you are not as competent as others believe you to be. Seems simple enough and easy to understand, right? Well, it turns out it gets even more complicated than that. After reading other articles and blog posts, I realized that many people have imposter syndrome and don’t even know it, or have imposter syndrome that manifests in different ways. There are actually five different types. If you struggle with imposter syndrome, let me know what type you are in the comments and what you do to manage it when you feel those feelings manifest! WARNING: this list might lead to a deeper understanding of yourself and a life-changing epiphany about your own mindset and behaviors.

1. The Perfectionist

The perfectionist is someone who loves to set very high goals for themselves, but then experiences major self-doubt when they failed to measure up to their own standards. If you look up perfectionist in the dictionary, it will most likely list me as an example. Perfectionists like us are often called “control freaks” by friends and loved ones, are accused of micromanaging, have a difficult time delegating, have insanely high standards for ourselves (standards that other people would never expect from us), feel like we have to be perfect 100 percent of the time, compare ourselves to others, have difficulty celebrating accomplishments, and often take on so much that they burn out. Perfectionists create a reality for ourselves that’s filled with so much pressure for no good reason.

I believe that we perfectionists also lean toward a fixed mindset because having a growth mindset is something that requires people to be OK with making mistakes and learning from them. I know that I tend to not want to do or try anything that I know I wouldn’t be perfect at because it shows how inadequate I am.

2. The Superman/Superwoman

The superman types can be very similar to the perfectionists. The supermen push themselves to work harder and harder to measure up to others. They are often called “workaholics” by friends and loved ones; they are the last one to leave the office; they get stressed out and feel unproductive when they have downtime; their work and their career is their hobby; they could have multiple jobs and be in multiple groups or clubs; they feel like they haven’t earned their titles making them work even harder to earn it; and they could find it difficult to receive constructive criticism.

Supermen and superwomen put themselves at high risk for burnout and their work can often affect their own mental health, physical health and relationships. I believe that these types of people often have a very hard time saying “no,” even if they are having serious problems from overworking themselves. It can be hard for them to stop and relax even when their body is telling them to slow down.

3. The Natural Genius

The natural genius believes that their competence is based on how smart other people perceive them to be and how quickly and easily they can come up with information and facts, as opposed to the efforts they put in. The natural geniuses set their own bar very high and feel deep shame and self-doubt if they don’t know, understand, or get something right on the first try. If they can’t do something quickly and effortlessly, it upsets them. They often have a track record of a 4.0 GPA, A+ assignments, and honor rolls. Their friends and loved ones call them “the smart one,” they swear off the things they think they’re bad at, they’re in all AP classes, they may not like having a mentor because it reflects their own incompetence, and they have a very fixed mindset.

I don’t know about you but I know some natural genius types that say something confidentially and pass it off as a fact, even if it’s just a hunch or a guess. Sometimes the types will even defend their best guess when they’re wrong because they are scared for people to know that they, in fact, don’t know everything. In my opinion, I believe that the natural geniuses question their own identity if they’re not viewed as a genius or a smart one. Receiving a bad grade or constructive criticism can be soul-shattering. I remember that my natural genius friends back when I was in a private middle school would cry over an A- on a test.

4. The Soloist

The soloist is the type that cannot for the life of them ask for help, even if they need it. They feel that asking for help from others shows people their inadequacies and exposes them. Asking for help is a sign of failure to them. They have a problem delegating. They’re often the person in the kitchen who does all the cooking and won’t ask for assistance. If they’re a leader or a manager, they will do most or all of the work and they’re often referred to by friends and loved ones as being “independent” or a “lone wolf.”

5. The Expert

Experts base their competence off of what and how much they know. Just think of Reed from “Criminal Minds.” They’re the friend with all the random facts and statistics that you have no idea where they came from. They constantly seek out training and certificates so they know more. They’re always trying to build their resume. They often have an advanced degree and they don’t apply for a job unless they perfectly meet all the requirements. Experts feel as if they never know “enough” and they actually don’t like being referred to as an expert because they don’t feel as if they can live up to the title. They may still feel as if they don’t know enough even in jobs they’ve worked for years.

Did you learn something about yourself?

I don’t know about you, but after reading this list, I realized that I don’t fall right into the perfectionist category like I thought I did. I’m actually a bit of a mixture, and I think many people are too. Imposter syndrome can manifest in so many ways. Maybe you’re a perfectionist and a superman? We as humans are messy and don’t just fall into one particular label.

It may surprise you to know that you have imposter syndrome in the first place, or that it’s such a common issue that people struggle with. Many people may struggle with imposter syndrome but not even notice that they have difficulty internalizing their accomplishments. It does require a level of self-awareness that not everyone has.

When I researched online, I saw so many statistics about how many people have imposter syndrome. I feel that most people have it, regardless of what the numbers in online articles say. I would be willing to bet that most people deal with imposter syndrome and struggle with it in private. No one’s fragile ego is protected. Even celebrities.

Why do we feel this way?

I have a theory. Imposter syndrome is so widespread largely because of the internet. Everyone looks perfect through Instagram filters. Social media has distorted our understanding of ourselves and of the world around us because other people seem to be rich, famous, successful and stupid happy all the time. We watch highlight reels while we’re having a bad day, sitting on the couch wearing no makeup and destroying a bag of chips. The results are that we think there’s something wrong with us and everyone else is flawless and has their sh*t together.

In the article, 21 Proven Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome,” by Kyle Eschenroeder, he says, “This problem is only getting worse as more of us rely on our online presences. We’re in this weird culture where you’ve got to sell yourself aggressively while remaining ‘authentic.’ You think you need to be perfect but you also need to feel free to fail. You need to be yourself and more! It’s all set up to make you feel like a fraud.” I couldn’t agree more.

Today it’s also expected that we look “professional” and “hirable” all the time and that we’re always moving up career and corporate ladders. The pressure to have a “good job” and bring home $100,000+ this year is enormous. We’re always trying to keep up with the Joneses by constantly moving up socio-economic brackets. We tend to feel inferior to other students, co-workers, neighbors and peers, forcing us to try to reach higher.

Unfortunately, as soon as we do reach an accomplishment, nothing really changed. We don’t feel like we’re complete, we don’t feel as if we’ve made it and we worked hard, and we don’t feel proud. Instead, we immediately focus on the next goal. (Side note: I know I’m like this with milestones in my blog. As soon as I accomplish something or make progress, my mind instantly goes to the next project or post that I have to do to make it better.) Our restless minds want to jump to what’s next, instead of slowing down.

Last, there’s social expectations and family expectations. This is the kind of pressure that we get about how we should be living our lives, the hobbies we should have, the food we should eat, the house we should buy, the way we should behave, the things we should say, the things we shouldn’t say, the opinions we should and shouldn’t have. There’s all this pressure to meet expectations from the groups around us. It can be too much. We’re so busy trying to fit an image that others want us to be that when we do reach accomplishments, we’re so wrapped up in the outside world it’s hard to calm down and just feel proud. Probably because we do things for the external validation (from society, family, and friends) hoping that it will bring us internal validation in the end, while being able to view everyone else’s success 24/7 on our smartphones … but it doesn’t work that way.

A message to my fellow dreamers out there

The ironic thing about imposter syndrome is that it limits your potential. You would think that it makes you work so much harder so you’ll able to accomplish more and reach your goals, right? No.

Constantly telling yourself in your mind that you’re a fraud, you’re not capable, you’re stupid, and you’re not worthy of your dream will prevent you from ever reaching it. You’re literally sabotaging yourself every moment of every day. The time that you wasted thinking about how you’re not worthy would be much better spent lifting yourself up, working hard and being your own damn cheerleader.

I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction. If you’re constantly telling yourself that you don’t deserve success and you’re a phony, then you’re making that your reality. I also want to add that you’ll likely have bad days. It happens. Honor them when they come, and let yourself work through it. But don’t let that become your everyday life. Silence that negative voice in your head or it’s going to be an extra weight that you have to carry up the mountain of being successful.

It gets worse before it gets better (everyone’s a critic)

So this is probably not a surprise to anyone, but the moment you decide to really go for what you want in life people will try to stop you. People will question you, people will judge you, people will tell you “you’ve changed,” and people will be confused. You’re becoming a person that is so different than the quiet friend or family member that went along with what they thought they were supposed to do.

They’re probably going to lose their minds because people do NOT like change. They’re going to be thinking, “What the f*ck is going on? This person in front of me is different than the person I know. They’re no best-selling author, they’re no Emmy winner, they’re my cousin, sister, daughter, brother, niece, friend…”

You’ll take concerned, nosy questions from family members like bullets. You’ll be unfollowed by friends and acquaintances on social media. People don’t want that whole “new me” stuff clogging up their feed!

Why? Because everyone’s a critic. Everyone has an opinion and everyone is an expert about what’s best for you.

But … look at the bright side

Any person who was ever successful in their life went through the same thing. Everyone, at some point, was a nobody following a dream while people stared at them thinking, “Who the f*ck do you think you are?” Ask any successful musician or news anchor or influencer or celebrity. There was a time before they were hot sh*t when no one else believed in their dreams.

I just watched “Bohemian Rhapsody” a little while ago, so I’ll use Queen as my next example. (Such a good movie by the way.) There was a time when a few guys in college had a dream of being musicians but had nothing of their own and no real support. There was a time when Farrokh Bulsara wasn’t Freddie Mercury. He was viewed as a weird, strange, big-toothed kid whose own family didn’t believe in him but was trying to turn himself into a somebody. Imagine if they weren’t crazy enough to believe that they could be stars. Imagine if they let imposter syndrome and outside opinions run the show. The world would have never been blessed with “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Somebody to Love,” “We Will Rock You” or “Another One Bites the Dust.”

The point is, the world is going to throw critics and opinions and negativity at you. Don’t do it to yourself too. Regardless of what you thought up until now, regardless of what your ex said to you, or what your family thinks, or what your grouchy 65-year-old professor thinks, you have f*cking potential. You’re capable, you’re worthy, and you’re going to do great things. Let that be the thought you tell yourself when imposter syndrome breaks in and starts making a home in your head.

What can you do?

So now that I’ve explained to you what imposter syndrome is, what types there are, and shared my own perspective, I want to give you some concrete pieces of advice. Here are my 11 steps for battling imposter syndrome while you’re chasing your dream. And you can start this right now!

1. Know this: No amount of external validation will make it go away

Imposter Syndrome is an internal issue. It doesn’t matter how many followers you get, how many messages you get, how many people ask for your autograph, how much money you make, or how many people say they’re proud of you or tell you, “good job.” So don’t go looking for anyone or anything else to feed your ego. You might feel good for those 3 seconds, but it doesn’t last and it actually makes the problem worse. Having people constantly tell you that you’re great will only add to the fear of being exposed as a fraud.

2. Remember that everyone has it

Imposter syndrome is just another one of those things that’s part of the human experience. We’re all human and we’re all going to have fears, doubts, depression, sadness and insecurity. It’s not like you’re on a planet by yourself dealing with imposter syndrome while everyone else in the universe is living fabulous and free of fear. You’re not alone in this. The reality is that we all live in our own reality. We all have our own experience and our life experience is so small compared to everything else that exists in the world. It’s easy to be so focused on ourselves and forget that there are billions of other people struggling through these emotions too. Sometimes just reminding myself that this problem is not unique to me is enough to make me feel better.

3. Focus on what you can do for others

Every successful content creator and business person will tell you that you have to focus on what you can do for your target audience and I think that’s great advice – not just for making money but for real-life challenges too. If you find yourself worried about yourself and what other people will think of you, shift that attention on to your audience, whoever that may be. Instead of worrying about what people will think of your blog, worry about what you can do to continue to inspire and help your audience. Instead of worrying about your clients suddenly waking up and discovering you suck, focus on what you can do to improve for your clients and make them happier. Shift the attention away from yourself and make it about how you can HELP. It takes the pressure off, I promise.

4. Keep a folder of the nice things people send you

I learned this piece of advice from influencer, podcaster, blogger, and photographer, Jenna Kutcher. She keeps an album on her phone of screenshots of all the heartfelt messages her fans send her. Not every single one of them, but the messages or emails that speak to her and showed her that she’s accomplishing what she intended, she’s helping people, and she’s making an impact. Whenever she gets a hateful comment or has a really bad day, she goes back and looks at the lovely things that people have taken their time and energy to write for her and it makes her feel so much better. So I started doing that! Every time I get a very flattering message or text from someone I save it to my album and look through it if I’m ever feeling really down and wondering if what I’m doing is really worth it.

It’s not weird or creepy or self-absorbed. It’s a reminder that you are capable and so many people love you, support you, and look up to you. I just read through some of my saved messages the other day and it immediately put a smile on my face.

5. Remind yourself that there are 8 billion people in the world

So this is a really weird thing that I’ve been doing for the past few months whenever I find myself feeling like I have no place here. When I find myself thinking, “Why would anyone care about me when there’s millions of other bloggers, writers, influencers, and wellness warriors out there?” When I find myself thinking that there can’t possibly be a tribe out there for me, and there can’t possibly be people who would want to buy MY books or read MY blogs, I tell myself, “There are 8 billion people in the world.” That thought instantly shuts off any doubt and worry I have.

Anytime I think I’ll never be able to get readers, I tell myself that there are 8 billion people out there. That thought instantly reminds me of all the possibility and potential for success. Obviously, my target audience exists and there are people who would connect and relate with me more than they would with other writers. There are so many people! They just haven’t found me yet. But they’re out there. There are 8 billion people out there, some of them are bound to like me and want to support me. Some of them are bound to want to subscribe to the blog. Some of them would love to buy my future books. Some of them would absolutely love what I’m doing and be fierce readers until the end. There’s 8 billion potential readers, followers, and supporters. I’ll be just fine. My tribe is out there waiting. It’s silly to imagine that it’s not.

6. Remember you don’t get a repeat life

All of us get only one lifetime. At the end of yours, do you want to be the person who didn’t do everything they wanted to do when you were younger? Will you look back and see that you were too concerned about pleasing others and just did what others expected? Will you regret that you didn’t give yourself permission to do what you really wanted to do? Time is the universe’s most precious commodity. Spend it wisely and make it count.

7. Try stream of consciousness journaling

Just for one day, take some time and sit down and do stream of consciousness journaling. Don’t just write about anything, write especially about your accomplishments and how you made them happen. Write in great detail about everything you did until you have reached your outcome. Write about what you’re most proud of yourself for and why. Write about all of your mistakes and write about how they helped you grow. Writing unfiltered and in great detail about your accomplishments and why you’re proud could help you see the distortion and discrepancy between the amazing things you did and the thoughts contaminated by imposter syndrome. As long as you make an effort to be positive instead of using it as another opportunity to sh*t talk yourself, you’ll be fine. It might feel odd at first forcing yourself to write unfiltered about how accomplished and proud of yourself you are, but once you do you realize that’s the truth. Not that negative feedback loophole that plays in your head.

8. Talk to supportive people

There’s nothing that helps more than talking to someone supportive. Someone who can relate to what you’re going through. We all have that person we reach out to when we need help and real advice, not clique answers like “you’ll be fine,” or “just relax.” Call that person! Friends can sometimes see us more clearly than we see ourselves. You might be thinking you’re a fraud, but they will be there to remind you of everything they admire about you and what you’re doing right. Don’t feel nervous and uncomfortable about it! People are flattered when you confide in them and you will feel so much better.

9. Take a moment to just feel proud

Whenever you think of it, or whenever you start feeling really down about yourself, take a moment to yourself to just feel proud of yourself. I know this seems too simple, but it works. Whenever I start feeling that imposter syndrome is taking over, I make myself sit down, close my eyes, calm down and think of everything that I’m proud of. Let me tell you it feels so awkward and forced in the beginning, but that feeling goes away. Within a few minutes, all that negativity will dissipate, and you’ll be reminded of how wonderful you are and of the good that other people see in you. No matter how awkward it is in the beginning, push through it and really give the exercise a chance.

10. Do NOT hold yourself back

Whatever you do, never let imposter syndrome keep you from going for what you want. You’ll feel so happy that you really went for the life you wanted. Once you do take the leap, you actually start to see yourself becoming the person you wanted to be. When I first started blogging, I felt like a huge imposter, and I felt like no one would ever be interested in what I had to say, but now over a year later, it doesn’t even faze me. I pushed through the initial awkward period and eventually saw myself becoming that person I wanted to be. It will happen to you too. This tough moment could just be a phase and nervousness about starting a new endeavor, so don’t let it prevent you from getting to the good part!

11. Consider a social detox

Now that we live in a time where we see how great everyone else’s life is 24/7, you’re not going to want to expose yourself to that if you’re going through a period of self-doubt and uncertainty. Sometimes it’s best to just put the phone down or else you could just fuel the fire. If you want to learn more about talking a social media detox, read my blog post, “How to Have an Instagram Detox.” I take a little detox whenever I find self-comparison is taking over and I need some clarity.

Thanks for reading!

I really hope that my experience helps you and I hope you learned something about imposter syndrome that you didn’t know before. Maybe, like me, you didn’t even know that you had it or how you expressed it. I hope that my dropping vulnerability bombs, as usual, helps everyone to understand this issue is super common. You don’t have to suffer with it in silence.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Was this post helpful? Have you struggled with imposter syndrome or are you struggling with it now? How does it manifest for you? What type do you have? And what advice would you give to others who struggle with it too?

If you like what you read here, remember to go down to the bottom of the page, click that “+” symbol, and type in your email where it says “follow blog via email.” You’ll have all future blog posts sent right to you! Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

My Positive Approach to Hurtful Online Comments & Why They Don’t Faze Me

Digital Dilemma, Self-Help

I’m happy to announce that my website has it’s very first internet troll! Yep, you read that right.

As of February 19, 2019, my blog, Lost Online, received its first random and unwarranted negative comment, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I promise I’m not crazy, and I don’t enjoy fighting with strangers on the internet! It’s just that I have a much different perspective when it comes to online trolls than most people.

For starters, you know what a troll is, right? They’re shadow people who lurk around the internet and wait for an opportunity to whip up a mean comment that has the potential to ruin someone’s day and destroy a person’s confidence in just a few flicks of their fingers and the click of a button.

You see, we live in a time where technology has made it so incredibly easy for us to have, do, or say whatever we please, without any repercussions. People would NEVER say the things in person that they say to each other online. Because if you did walk around treating people like that, you’d be hit with a restraining order and charged with harassment. But something about typing up mean comments on the internet, seems like it’s not real to people. And it seems like it doesn’t really count. Like somehow it’s not really them. The internet also makes trolls so much braver and callous because it allows anyone to make up a random username and hide behind it. Before the internet, if you wanted to ruin someone’s day, you couldn’t do it from behind your keyboard and in the comfort of your own home. You actually had to have the balls to walk up to someone and say whatever you were thinking to their face and then deal with the real life consequences that follow.

But today, mean comments have become a bit of an epidemic, and it’s one of the biggest challenges that the internet has brought to us. It’s caused teenagers to take their own lives, it’s ruined careers, and it’s broken up families. Nasty comments seem so harmless to the person who’s leaving them. And I’m pretty confident that maybe internet trolls even view it as a game. Unfortunately, it can come with consequences.

In my case, someone found my blog, read a post, saw an opportunity to comment something nasty, and typed it up for me to have a nice little surprise at 6:30 am before I walked out the door for work. But I would be willing to bet my life, that the person who left it would NEVER walk up to me in person and say to my face what was so easy for them to say online.

Now, this view may seem strange given how wrong I think cyberbullying is, but I was actually happy to see this comment appear. Here’s why…

1. It was bound to happen

December 2018 is when I got serious about blogging. I was no longer treating my blog like a hobby, I was treating it like a side hustle or a new business. I had an amazingly talented photographer to help me, I was now whipping up content every week and promoting my blog on every one of my social media platforms. When I made that decision to pursue blogging seriously, I knew that negative online comments were bound to come my way.

That’s the time we live in now. It’s unavoidable. By putting yourself out into the world, sharing your stories and voicing your opinions, you’re going to attract at least a little bit of criticism, judgement and jealousy. I knew it wasn’t a matter of “if” I would someday get negative comments, it was just a matter of time. I didn’t feed those thoughts and give them my energy to manifest, I just simply knew that as a content creator, it was going to happen. It’s an occupational hazard.

With that thought in mind, I made the decision that someday when I did get a negative comment on my blog, I would make it as positive of an experience as I could. I was going to be happy about it! Why? Well, why should I waste my time being upset over a person I’ve never met? If that many people are finding my blog to the point where I start receiving all types of comments, both positive and negative, both supportive and mean, that means I must be doing something right! People are finding me and they’re taking the time to read what I have to say.

If I’m creating enough content to attract mean strangers, then I should be proud of myself! I have over 30 blog posts by now, 600 plus Instagram posts, and 8,000 viewers on Pinterest. I put a lot of hard work into what I do and I’m constantly pumping out graphics, posts, or pictures somewhere. So statistically speaking, I’m bound to get some haters based on the amount of work I’m doing online. If I didn’t attract some sort of feedback at some point, I’d be worried.

2. In order to be a successful content creator, you have to “attract or repel”

I like to follow well-known blogger, podcaster and influencer Jenna Kutcher. She’s an incredible person who has built a following of over 2 million by educating people about how to grow their brand, become a successful content creator and make money doing what you love. One thing that Kutcher always shares is that as a creator, your brand has to “attract or repel” the people that click on your website or social media. If you talk to anyone who is a successful business person, they’ll say the same thing just in different words.

So why is this? Why would I want to repel people, Heather?! I want people to like me!

Because in order to become successful, you need a niche. That means that your message appeals to a small, specific, specialized sub-group of the greater population that shares the same interests as you do. This may seem strange, but in order to make meaningful connections with people, you must zero in on a specific market that you’re going to speak to. By speaking very broadly to a large population of billions of people, you inherently connect to no one. However, by blogging to a very specific group of people with a unique set of interests, you actually end up reaching more people.

So that’s the long-winded way of me sharing that my message is both attracting like-minded people AND repelling the ones that don’t align with my message. So, I must be doing something right!

One of my favorite quotes that I’ve shared in a previous blog post, “How I Freed Myself From the Opinions of Others,” is: “You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches.” And you’ll probably hear me share that again at some point.

3. Every successful person gets hate comments

The third reason why I was happy to see this negative comment appear one morning is because every single successful podcaster, blogger, YouTuber, and influencer gets negative comments. Regularly. It’s part of their daily life. They have so many freaking eyes on what they do that obviously mean, envious, and unhappy people are going to see their work at some point. It’s not like the nice people and the mean people live in two separate worlds that are invisible to each other!

Back in January, I actually told myself, “I’ll know that I’ve made it once I get a hate comment.” I think I even voiced it to Matt, too. Not because I want to read terrible comments about myself, but because I knew it was bound to happen the moment my story started to appear on screens all over the world. Receiving a nasty comment here and there shows that I’m making progress, I’m being seen. With how many posts I have and how many readers are starting to show up, at some point one of my posts with strike a nerve with some people, even though that’s not my intention.

4. If you’re not pissing people off, you’re doing something wrong

Seriously, if you’re not upsetting at least someone out there you’re doing something wrong. Anything worth living for is going to make people mad. Quitting your 9-5 to pursue a dream is going to piss your parents off. Marching with a sign during a protest to create a change in your community is going to make smoke come out of someone’s ears. Standing up and saying, “I’m a woman and I deserve to have the rights to my body.” Yeah, that will make more than a few people angry. Losing 40 pounds and getting a six pack is going to make your haters hate you even more. Becoming a famous celebrity who earns $30 million a year, yeah someone will hate you for that too. Or even just opening yourself up online and being super vulnerable in a blog post in hopes of helping people struggling with similar issues, that will make someone angry too.

If you lived your life to make other people happy, you would literally never accomplish anything. You’d never make any progress, you would never grow, and the only words you could speak would be please and thank you.

In one of my posts, “Thoughts after one year of being a blogger,” I shared something about myself that I was not proud to admit. I shared that there was a beautiful, positive wellness blogger that I knew who I was extremely envious of. She was very similar to me and decided to pursue her dream of being a blogger. So she built her website, inspired people, posted beautiful photos, and shared her story. And it made me mad! Because I dreamt of being a blogger for FIVE YEARS but I was too petrified of what someone would think to actually do it. And there she was, just living her best life and going for it. (And no, I don’t feel that way anymore in case you were wondering).

Anyone who really goes for what makes them happy or really tries to create positivity in the world is bound to take harsh comments and envious stares from others. Because while most people are good, everyone has those not-so-wonderful sides of themselves. The sides that we don’t want people to know about, the sides that you’d never even know existed.

So when someone posted a hateful comment on my blog about my love story, it didn’t faze me. Me falling in love with my boyfriend upset someone! And I’m not going to live the rest of my life refusing to be in a relationship because there will be some sad, lonely person out there who gets angry at the fact that I’m in a happy relationship.

5. They picked me!

One of the reasons why I was happy to see this little, mean comment is because an online troll decided, for whatever reason, to waste their precious energy and mental capacity on my website! They could have spent that time on anything else, insulting any other person, on any other blog. But they chose me! How nice of them.

It really is flattering in a way. Think about that next time someone direct messages you or leaves a mean comment. There’s something that’s so special about you, they had to focus on you to direct their insecurity. You’re doing so well in life that people see their own insecurities mirrored in you.

Again, this was not at all my intention! But why not be flattered that they took the time to comment on my post rather than let it bring me down?

6. It inspired the blog post that you’re reading right now!

The fifth and final reason this comment was a blessing is because it inspired this post! It inspired me to spend my day writing – the one thing that I love most! It inspired 2,500 words to flow effortlessly from my fingertips. It actually broke a bit of writers block I was having the last two weeks! Thank you, mysterious online stranger for providing me with inspiration and fresh content! I, and the readers of Lost Online, appreciate you.

Lastly, I just want to leave you with a few takeaways.

Take a good look at your actions and your habits and see if they align with what you really want from life. The person who left me the comment I’m writing about today has a very positive blog all about the Law of Attraction. If you know anything about the Law of Attraction, that’s not how it works! That angry, negative message is the exact opposite of what you will learn from any book, blog, or documentary about manifestation.

-Second, the best way to get anywhere is life is by making connections, talking to other people who share the same passions as you and by being supportive. Not by tearing other people down. That’s adulting and good-human-ing 101.

-Third, and a tip for bloggers out there – you have the ability to set up your blog in the back end so that all comments have to be approved by you! I automatically hit “delete” to any negative comments or spam that people leave me. On my homepage, I said that I started this blog to be a safe haven in cyberspace for myself and like-minded people, so I will always make it a point to clear out all of that negativity, so you don’t have to see it! And I recommend you do that too. This world needs more love, support, positivity and less judgement and cruelty. Isn’t life hard enough as it is without getting insults in your inbox?

And finally, this is not an open invitation to roast me. I do have a positive outlook on hateful comments because I know that those words come from a place of deep insecurity and unhappiness. However, that doesn’t mean I like hearing mean things about me. No one does. So, when you leave this post or this site today, remember to be kind.

I will not be sharing a whole blog post every time I get a negative comment, but I wanted to share this message about cyberbullying in hopes that it will a) remind people to be nice b) show people how pathetic it is to leave mean comments online because you would never do it in person c) give you a positive outlook if you receive or have been affected by trolls d) be an example for people who are terrified about what others think and take outside opinions to heart.

“If speaking kindly to plants helps them grow, imagine what speaking kindly to humans can do.” – Tara Mackey

As always, thank you so much for coming to Lost Online and remember to tell me your thoughts in the comments! Have you ever dealt with negative comments or cyber bullying before? What was said? How did it affect you? What was your perspective on it? How do you think we should deal with this issue going forward? How should we monitor it? And should there by repercussions?

If you like what you read, remember to scroll down to the bottom of the page, hit that “+”, and fill in your email address to be sent weekly blog posts directly!

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

I Interview Best-Selling Poet Jennae Cecelia: Answers to My Burning Questions on Self-Love, Social Media, Pursuing Passions, & Body Positivity + Instagram GIVEAWAY

Interviews, Self-Help

Discovering Poetry

Have you ever been bored in the very late hours of the night, and before you know it you’re sucked into the abyss that is Amazon.com? Well, about a year ago, I was having one of those nights. I had just read Rupi Kaur’smilk and honey” and her new book “the sun and her flowers” just came out. It was also around the time when Allie Michelle’sExplorations of a Cosmic Soul” was published as well. So I was in a serious poetry mood. And I kept falling victim to that sneaky little section that says “Customers who bought this item also bought … ” Unlike most times, it was actually one of the few nights where I didn’t regret those extra purchases.

After I first started to read poetry, I knew that I had found something special. There was something about it that was just so real, so vulnerable, and so unapologetically authentic that I found myself turning page after page of poetry books while the tears kept flowing. We live in a time when everyone and everything is so curated, so perfect, and so ridiculously happy, that I loved how I finally had the chance to read someone’s hidden emotions. Where I could identify with someone who was also going through a moment of depression or a breakup or struggling with self-confidence and cry with them and say to myself, “Yes, I feel it too.” Poetry made me feel like I wasn’t alone in the messy moments of life that lay between the filtered photos. The times when I fought with family when I was too scared to be myself and follow a dream, and the times when I seriously doubted myself.

Poetry is raw and it tells the truth. The truth that people so rarely speak out loud and that we rarely find on social media. One of the gems I found that night was a book that jumped out at me, that I still pick up and leaf through to this day, Jennae Cecelia’s, “Uncaged Wallflower.”

Meet Best-Selling Poet, Jennae Cecelia

Unlike many poetry books, “Uncaged Wallflower” has a very uplifting message. One that was written by a fellow introvert “for those who need an extra dose of positivity in their day and push to follow their dreams.” So obviously, I devoured the book in one sitting. There’s nothing I love more than a good “follow your dreams” message. I still remember that I was so excited about the new find that I actually looked up Jennae on Instagram and followed her account. Since then, I’ve been a loyal follower and fangirl of hers.

Jennae is unlike many influencers out there today. She continues to post, speak, and write about self-love, self-care, mental health, and body positivity. She posts vulnerable content that many wouldn’t share because it’s not “insta-worthy” and she actually talks to her audience like real people.

I followed and liked along as she shared photos of her acne, her stretch marks, and her no- makeup selfies. I watched her rally other young women to be vulnerable and love themselves even though they may be “flawed.” I watched her share her self-love journey, her struggle with anxiety, and her passion for poetry and photography. I watched her in awe. It’s so rare to see others being so real and so themselves through a screen.

Over the last few years, Jennae has put so much good out for her readers on social media, published five different poetry books, and became a best-selling poet. Her authenticity, her poetry, and her positivity are what finally lead me to reach out to her and ask for an interview.

I’m so grateful and honored that Jennae was not only willing to have me interview her for over an hour on the phone AND that she was so understanding when my recorder gave up and she had to write out her answers for all of you (:

What I learned in the time we spent talking was that she is just as friendly, positive, and real in person as in social media. She opened up to me about her self-love journey, struggling with judgment and criticism from family and friends, her decision to follow her passion, her persistence to inspire other young women, and how she stays sane even while being a social media influencer.

Here are Jennae’s answers to my burning questions! I hope you enjoy, and I hope her message sparks inspiration in you too. Make sure to stay until the very end for a special GIVEAWAY!

Uncaged Conversations

Q: How old were you when you started poetry? And how did you get into it?

A: I was in high school when I first started writing poetry. It was my way of expressing the emotions I was feeling during hard times. I didn’t start taking it more seriously until my third year of college when I started taking creative writing classes. Then when I met my boyfriend I told him about all the poems I had written and he told me I should make a book out of them. So I did!

Q: Did you know at the time that you had discovered your passion? Or did it build slowly?

A: I always was very passionate about writing, but I didn’t expect it to be much more than a hobby for me. When I first started sharing my writing on social media I just did it in hopes someone else would find comfort in my words. Never did I even think to imagine what it could become.

Q: What happens with a lot of people who go into a creative profession is they take a lot of backlash from people. Did you receive any criticism or judgment from people when you decided to become a poet?

A: My family and friends were supportive at first. They were excited I was writing books and that I was seeing success. However, when I told everyone I was going to be a writer as my full-time job I received so much criticism for doing so from these same people who claimed to support me. They supported it being a hobby, but not a career.

Q: Was it difficult opening up publicly in the beginning? Or not so much? I know I felt super vulnerable once I started to share my voice, not just as a random girl on Instagram, but as a blogger who focuses on mental well-being and my journey.

A: It was hard at first, but mostly because I was afraid of what people I personally knew would think. I am the type of person who can talk to a group of 200 people I don’t know very well about super personal topics, but I would be so anxious talking to a small group of close friends about the same topics.

Q: You obviously write a lot about self-care and self-love. I’ve read so many inspirational self-love messages from you, and I’ve even seen images where you’ve shown very real things like acne scars or stretch marks. I’m wondering, what was this self-love journey like for you? What was it like learning to love yourself and your imperfections?

A: I always say, “self-love is a journey with ever-changing scenery.” The things I didn’t like about myself when I was a teen, I have grown to love now. Now there are new things I find myself critiquing myself on. Loving yourself fully is not easy. However, I have started thanking my body every morning for all the amazing things it does. I always say three things like: I am thankful for my hands that allow me to write words of inspiration; I am thankful for my legs that allow me to go on long hikes with my boyfriend; and I am thankful for my lungs that allow me to take deep breaths in and out when I get anxious.

Q: Today, you seem like such a confident person who pursues their passion and inspires other people to follow their dreams, embrace the journey, and love themselves. But were there ever times that you felt really unsure of yourself and struggled with self-discovery as you were trying to navigate through all these different outside influences (societal norms, social media, family expectations).

A: Oh yes. I constantly say that the 15-year-old me would probably roll her eyes in annoyance at some of the things I say now because I have become such an optimistic person, and it was not always that way. From 13-20 it was all about self-discovery. Learning who I did and didn’t want to be. Making lots of mistakes. Doing things just to please friends and fit in. However, as much as I am not proud of some of my choices in life if I didn’t do those things I wouldn’t be this person I am today. That doesn’t mean that I am doing everything perfect now, but I do have a better grasp on who I am which allows me to make choices for myself and not just to please other people.

Q: We live in a world that’s very filtered and photoshopped and curated to absolute perfection. Were you really nervous or hesitant to share that side of yourself with people online? The side that maybe wasn’t so #InstaWorthy.

A: I was at first, again mostly because I was afraid of people I personally know seeing my posts. When I shared a picture of my stretch marks I was scared to post it but I knew someone out there needed the message that went along with it. Same with the post I made showing all of my acne scars. Also, I have never once heard anything from the people I was worried about seeing it so it honestly just stopped mattering to me if they saw my more raw and personal posts.

Q: In my blog, I write a lot about how digital media, particularly social media, was the biggest challenge and obstacle for me. I noticed that it caused the most comparison and negative self-talk, and made me fixate on my looks and how I appeared to other people online. Did you have a similar struggle having grown up online?

A: Definitely! I was a senior in high school when Instagram started becoming popular. However, it was to post pictures of your food using the Valencia filter. Social media has changed so much in the last 5-10 years. I feel like I have gotten over comparing myself to others on social media because I know that what most people post is not the whole story. I can’t imagine being in high school or even early college now and having that pressure of taking perfect pictures and looking perfect in them. Especially when you are at an age where people liking you matters so much. I mean, it still matters to people but that age you take it way more seriously.

Q: Does being an author and a content creator pose any challenges?

A: Being an author for me now means two things. Making time to do the creative side AND the business side.  For instance, today I had 15 emails I needed to reply to however, the creativity was flowing in my mind and I really just wanted to write. It can be hard to balance marketing, emails, social media, etc. and still set aside time to be creative. Luckily, I like the business side of being an author. I love it actually! But, it does take a lot of time away from doing my number one thing I love, just freely creating all day.

Q: Looking back at everything that you’ve gone through to become the person that you are today if you could give any advice to your 14-year-old self, what would it be?

A: I would tell her this: all the roads you cross, the potholes you hit, the dead ends you reach, are shaping you into the person you are meant to be. Nothing is a coincidence, and mistakes are perfectly fine. Your beautiful soul is needed here more than you will ever know right now.

Q: How do you stay sane and stay grounded as a young woman during this overwhelming digital age? Do you have any practices or habits that make it easier?

A: I really enjoy meditating and gratitude journaling. They help me so much with keeping my mind more peaceful and reminding myself to forever be grateful.

Q: If there was any piece of advice that you would give to Lost Online readers who come to this platform for inspiration and to hear how they can stay sane during this overwhelming time? What would you say to them?

A: It is easy to get Lost Online, but don’t forget to wander through your real life.

Q: You have another book coming out soon! Any hints as to what it’s about?

A: It is a book focusing on self-care this time! I am super excited because it is a topic I am very passionate about.

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

I don’t know about you, but every time I read her words it puts me in a feel-good mood. If you’re ever in need of extra positivity or inspiration to follow your dreams and be unapologetically you, I would definitely recommend checking her content out. You can find Jennae on her website, on Instagram @jennaececelia, or on Amazon.

I’m also super excited because Jennae is starting a blog too! And I have no doubt that it will be wonderful. Make sure to stay in the loop with her so you can read it when it’s published! Jennae also has two more books coming out very soon, including “Losing Myself Brought Me Here.” I’m so excited to read it!

GIVEAWAY Time!

I will be hosting another Giveaway on my Instagram this week @heather.ione. Jennae has generously donated a SIGNED COPY of her Best-Selling Book “Uncaged Wallflower” to one of my followers! Make sure to go to my Instagram to read the details on how to win.

Lastly, I wanted to end with my favorite poem of Jennae’s from “Uncaged Wallflower” called “Command Your Passion.”

Remember to comment below! What’s your favorite poem or quote of hers? Which books have you read of Jennae’s? What do you think about her message? Which parts of this interview stuck out to you the most?

If you liked this post make sure you scroll to the bottom, hit that little “+”, and type in your email where it says “Follow Blog Via Email.” The next post will be sent right to you!

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Reflecting on 2018: 13 Journal Prompts and My Answers

Self-Help
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I can’t take credit for this blog post idea. This post was inspired by a good friend of mine, Kaleigh. She’s a yogi, a healer, a model, a content creator, and one of those badass women that just makes you feel good to be around. Kaleigh had invited me and my partner, Matt, to a class at Kilo’s Kava Bar where all of us could practice yoga, try new CBD products, mediate, and journal to honor the Winter Solstice. It was a wonderful night filled with all of my favorite things. It started with enjoying some Kratom, a meditation practice, CBD treats, yoga, and then finally my favorite part – journaling.

We all huddled inside on the big cozy couch next to a random dog that was wrapped up in a blanket like a burrito and didn’t budge for hours. He must have been very interested in our conversations. Once we all got settled and went up for more tea, Kaleigh asked us a series of journal prompts to help us reflect on the last year and set our intentions for 2019. Kaleigh does these questions herself every year and I can understand why. I normally do a stream of consciousness journaling, but I usually don’t do prompts. But these ones really helped me feel grateful for all that happened in 2018, that I wanted to share them with you!

If you have some time before you get thrown back into your daily routines and head back to work, I recommend answering these journal prompts yourself. It’s so easy to forget how much can happen in a year. It’s good to quiet your mind and really reflect on 2018 and how you plan on growing in the new year. It leaves you with such a feeling of hope and possibility for the year that lies ahead. The first 8 prompts are from Kaleigh, and I added another 5 at the end I that I wanted to reflect on to get me in the right headspace for 2019. I wasn’t planning on sharing all my responses with you, but I thought it might help you all get to know me on a personal level by learning about some of the ups and downs I’ve had in the past year and my plans moving forward. If you try some of these prompts yourself, please share your reflections with me! I would love to read them!

1. What went well for me in 2018?

I feel so lucky that a lot of things went well for me in 2018, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time. 2018 was the year when I learned that everything happens for a reason. Things that felt like the end of the world always ended up leading me down a path of self-growth and better opportunity. The biggest thing that comes to mind was graduating and moving in with my partner. I was scared out of my mind to enter the dreaded “real-world” that everyone always talks about. I was scared to have to support myself, to work a full-time job, to live with someone new, and to even find the right job for me. But as stressful and nerve-wracking as it was, it went well. Matt and I both had each other to lean on and we got through the transition just fine.

2. What did not go well for me in 2018?

The one thing that did not go well for me in 2018 which actually started in 2017, was my anxiety. With such big transitions coming up I started having bad anxiety and for some reason, it gets triggered now by public speaking. And I LOVE public speaking. All throughout my schooling I have loved public speaking and would actually get excited to give speeches. I even took public speaking early in high school because I just couldn’t wait to take it and I thought it would be fun to take the class with the older kids for an extra challenge. (Yes, I realize how abnormal and strange this sounds). But since I have gotten anxiety, I can’t give speeches without my heart pounding out of my chest, feeling like I have to throw up, feeling blood rush to my head, and my whole body getting sweaty. I hate that something that I loved to do so much has now turned into one of my biggest fears. So that is something that definitely did not go well for me in 2018. And if any readers have suggestions that could help me with this issue, I would love to hear from you!

The other thing that did not go well is I started to experience depression again while I was in-between jobs. I had bills stacking up, but no income which was incredibly stressful. It affected my confidence, my relationship, my writing, and my motivation. It was a difficult period, but luckily it didn’t last too long, and I’m finally feeling like myself again.

3. How can you change that?

I’ve done many lifestyle changes to help, so the anxiety and depression have gotten better. I don’t have anxiety attacks and public speaking is not as crippling as it was before, but the problem is still there. I think that continuing to meditate and do yoga will make a difference, as well as finally seeking help.

4. What accomplishments did I have?

If there’s one year that I’ve been the proudest of myself, it was 2018. This past year I made Flagler College 100% smoke and tobacco-free, helped people get access to free cessation services, and inspired students to give up smoking for good. I also wrote the Flagler College Smoke and Tobacco-Free Policy! It was the first year where I ever accomplished something that made an actual impact in my community which felt so fulfilling. I also graduated from Flagler College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Strategic Communication. I took a graduation trip where I visited 8 countries, 11 major cities, and made life-long friends. I went on my first vacation with Matt to Costa Rica, a country I’ve been wanting to visit for years! I also got my first real job out of college, moved to Saint Petersburg, and started a life with Matt. Lastly, I started becoming serious about my blog and spent weeks coming up with Social Media Strategies, writing my heart out, and creating amazing images for my readers.

5. How did I improve my life?

I didn’t realize how much I had done to improve my life until I heard this prompt. So thank you, Kaleigh! This past year I completely gave up dairy which was on the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I also became very interested in health and fitness and worked out for 47 days straight. I’m now in the best shape I’ve ever been in! I’ve been seeing a Chiropractor for months now and my scoliosis and “text neck” has gotten so much better, so I no longer have to live in constant pain. I moved out of my parent’s house which gave me the space I needed to really decide who I want to be in this life and what I want to accomplish. And for the first time ever I got rid of the fear of what people think of me and pursued my dreams without holding myself back. Until this year I was terrified of what people thought if they read my blog, saw my modeling photos, and heard my beliefs about topics like spirituality. I kept so much of my interests and passions a secret for fear of what other people would think of how I live my life. But for the first time ever, I grew into my own and let go of that. I even spontaneously flew across the country to visit my best friend and take a spontaneous helicopter ride which has been on my bucket list for years. And lastly, I started practicing acro-yoga. All the things that I was too nervous to do before. I found my strength in 2018.

6. How did I improve my relationships?

In 2018 I was lucky enough to meet some new girlfriends who I can open up to and call when I need support. I think I improved these relationships and invited these new ones into my life because I opened up and shared myself with them without fear. Without worrying that I would scare someone away if I talked about my anxiety, or going through depression, or struggling with this big life transition. I think that’s the best thing that I did for my relationships was just being honest and being myself. But also, stepping away from the toxic relationships that were holding me back and preventing me from reaching my full potential. 

7. What do I wish I had taken more time for?

One thing that I wish I had taken more time for was seeing friends. I always get so caught up in what I have to do that I forget to nurture my relationships with friends that live in other cities and other states. There are several people I met this year who I really connect with, but I rarely keep in touch because I just don’t remember to pick up the phone and call someone in my free time. I usually just pick up my computer and start writing. I also wish I had taken more time to do yoga and journal because those two things make me feel a million times better. I always come out of that flow feeling calm and feeling a jolt of inspiration and creativity that I have never experienced from anything else.

8. 19 things I want to do in 2019!

The last question from Kaleigh she heard through one of my favorite Podcasts that I recommended to her a few weeks back. The Podcast is called “Happier” by Gretchen Rubin, a happiness and habits expert. For the new year, she asked her listeners to create a list of 19 things that they wanted to do in 2019. This one was my favorite prompt because it gave me such a sense of possibility and hope for the new year. It also gave me an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I’m healthy and have a whole other year ahead of me to better myself and accomplish my dreams. So here is my 19 for 2019 list. I’ve added some more since then so it’s more of a 25 for 2019 list, so I won’t share all of them. But I hope that it inspires you to create your own 19 for 2019 list, and if you do, please share it with me!

1. Donate or volunteer with a charity that helps women who have been sexually abused
2. Practice acro-yoga every week
3. Learn more about Ayurveda and incorporate it into my everyday
4. Learn how to do a split
5. Get a yoga membership
6. Attract more like-minded & spiritual people into my life
7. Take a trip out of the country
8. Get back to daily journaling
9. Call a friend once a week
10. Try something new
11. Make time for friends
12. Learn how to be more patient & manage anger
13. Meditate & oil pull every day
14. Master a handstand yoga pose
15. Master a headstand
16. Visit the springs
17. Grow Lost Online to 1,000 followers or subscribers
18. Stick to my social media marketing plans
19. Post consistently, every two weeks for all of you!

And now, a few of my own journal prompts I’ve done that helped me reflect on 2018 and the year ahead.

9. 2018 Was the year of…

After jotting down notes for a while, I finally decided that the one word that best describes 2018 is: transition. 2018 was the year of transition. Graduating, moving out, starting a life with Matt, getting a full-time job, starting new hobbies, pursuing this blog, and changing my life-long dietary habits to become healthier all happened this past year. I feel as if 2018 was a stepping stone into a better version of myself. The much healthier, more confident, grown-up version of me who will go on to do wonderful things over the next few decades.

10. 2019 Will be the year of…

Creation. This year I’m focusing my energy on Lost Online. I used to come to this platform over the last year and write whenever I felt like it. I posted when the inspiration struck, and I shared random images and had no social media plan. It was just a side hobby that I absolutely loved but never thought would possibly turn into anything. But this year, I’m lucky enough to have found a fabulous photographer, Ray Reyes, who believes in my message and wants to help me spread the word about how we can stay grounded during the digital age. We’ll be creating photos together for each blog post. I’ll also be creating Instagram stories, Instagram posts, tweets, and countless Pinterest graphics. And I’ll be creating new posts every other week, instead of randomly when the mood strikes. I’m diving head first into this platform that I’m incredibly passionate about, making this year my year of creation… and if I’m being honest with myself, the year of hustle.

This year will also be the year of creation as I’m pursuing new creative interests by enrolling in a six-week yoga course to start the year off on a positive note. I’m practicing acro yoga 1-2 times a week, and soon will be starting pottery. As someone who was always terrified to express myself in any creative way, I’m so happy to be breaking out of that headspace in 2019 and declaring it a year of creation. 

11. This year will be the best year ever because…

Well, I have to say, 2018 will be a very tough year to beat. A lot of firsts happened in 2018, but I’m not going to let that make me believe that my best year is behind me. 2019 will be the best year ever because I’m finally able to be me and live authentically. I’m out of school, in a new city, and finally making a regular income. This is the first year of the rest of my life. I can pursue my passions without taking constant negativity and judgment from my family or my professors who think 1) that they know how I should live my life 2) think that they understand my life path more than I do 3) think that my dreams are stupid because they aren’t the same as theirs 4) think that none of my ideas or opinions are worthy of sharing and 5) think that anyone who lives slightly differently than they do is wrong and ignorant.

I can finally for the first time in my life practice yoga at a studio without getting into screaming matches about how it’s a waste of money. I can finally eat dairy-free without getting into fights because for some reason that I will never understand, it makes my family so angry that I don’t eat the same as them. I can write a blog without taking on constant judgment for expressing my personal beliefs and life experiences. I can model without having to get into fights because people think that a photographer will use my pictures to sell me into sex trafficking.

2019 will be the best year ever because I can finally be surrounded by people who lift me up! People who think my that opinions, my beliefs, my hobbies, my dreams are valid even if they are different from their own. I can go to classes and meet up with other creatives without catching eye rolls and passive aggressive comments when I come home. I can finally make simple choices without having to constantly justify myself. I can simply be me without judgment and criticism or without my family thinking it’s a phase because they’ve never taken the time to really get to know and accept me. 2019 will be the best year ever because I can finally have the space to be completely and unapologetically myself.

12. What do I want to manifest in 2019?

This year I want to manifest my dream. My dream of creating content that inspires people every day. On the same note, I want to manifest a tribe of friends, readers, and supporters who can come to Lost Online to share their experiences about how they live well during the Digital Age. A tribe of people who lift each other up, encourage each other and help each other stay grounded during such an overwhelming time.

13. I will show myself compassion in 2019 by…

If there was ever a person that needed to be more compassionate towards themselves it is me! I’ve struggled with negative self-talk and self-doubt my whole life without realizing how much harm it was doing me. But now that I’m growing into myself and have lots of plans for the future, I can’t afford to continue to treat myself the way that I do. This year I will show myself compassion by no longer getting down on myself about not being able to do it all. I expect myself to read, write, meditate, oil pull, workout, stretch, journal, use a foam roller, learn something new, listen to at least one podcast, take supplements, and more, all while constantly achieving goals that I set for myself. If for some reason I can’t do it all in a day, I feel as if I’ve been extremely lazy and I’m not well. I beat myself up and feel guilty all night. This year I will no longer expect myself to accomplish everything all at once. I’m not superhuman and I no longer have the same amount of free time that I did in college. This year will be the year I will be less hard on myself about what I can get done in a day especially since I don’t have alone time to fully immerse myself in my old rituals. I will do what I can and simply feel happy and proud of myself even if all I had time to do was meditate or stretch before bed.

That’s it for my 2018 reflections! I know that was a lot. I hope this post inspired some of you to sit down with a journal and reflect on how 2018 went for you and what you want to focus on in 2019. And if you did your own reflections or came up with some other prompts feel free to reach out or let me know in the comments!

Finally, I want to end with a quote that I’m loving right now from Mel Robbins, “You are not supposed to be the same person you were a year, month, day, or even five seconds ago. You are designed to grow.”

Photo by Ray Reyes. @rocketsciencephoto

Happy New Year, Everyone!

My Favorite Lessons and Quotes from Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Big Magic (The book that inspired Lost Online)

Self-Help
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Hello friends! It’s time for me to disclose another embarrassing and rather private truth about me for all of you to read: I used to think I wasn’t good enough to express myself creatively. I desperately wanted to express myself my whole life and I tried dozens of new projects hoping that I would stumble upon my thing. The one thing that I was automatically extraordinary at and passionate about. I tried writing, pottery, acrylic painting, flower pressing, decoupage, collages, poetry, drawing, watercolor, photography and many more. But the same thing would always happen. After one day of trying out my new project, I would get in my own head, and it would go something like this…

I would suddenly feel inspired to begin painting (or some other artistic endeavor), but I told myself that I couldn’t do it. After painting for all of ten minutes I realized that I’m not talented enough to be “a painter.” I don’t have some sort of natural, God-given ability to paint incredible works of art without struggle. And if I was going to be “a painter” I’d have to incredible at it and be taken seriously as an artist. I’d have to be talented and get my paintings in museums. I would have to be known by friends and family as Heather “the painter.” I couldn’t do that.

There’s no way I could paint or model, or take photos, or blog, or do pottery unless I was known for it. Unless I was acknowledged and recognized for it. My mindset was like this throughout every single creative idea I’ve ever had. A simple idea that I would have to take a photo, or create a painting, or write an article, or do poetry, meant that I had to be really good at it. I couldn’t possibly do it for fun, just because I felt like it.

Until I came across the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I bought it and loved it so much that I finished it in one day. I couldn’t put the book down for a second. Not only did I absolutely adore Gilbert and her voice, but the message of this beautiful book inspired such a change in my life that I view it as my bible.

Gilbert’s book gave me the courage to try several new pursuits over the last few years. It inspired me to follow my creativity just because I wanted to. To be creative for me and no one else. To create a blog because it made me happy, to create a decoration because I wanted to, and to model just because I felt like it.

Without Big Magic, I would have never gathered the courage to launch Lost Online in the first place. For anyone who hasn’t read Big Magic, I highly suggest it! So in honor of my blog’s one year anniversary (as of this past Thanksgiving), and in honor of my recent relaunch… I decided to talk about the book that inspired it and the lessons that I learned from Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Big Magic.

“I think a creative life is the most marvelous life there is.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

1. Being Fearful Kills Creativity

The first truth about creative living and the one that I think is important for everyone to hear is that fear can kill creativity. Fear causes people to get in their heads and think about all the reasons why they shouldn’t do something, which prevents their wonderful ideas to take shape. One of my favorite parts of Big Magic is when Gilbert lists off dozens of different reasons about why we’re fearful of living a creative life. Reasons like having no talent, getting embarrassed, and upsetting family. Something struck a cord when I read this list.

Gilbert shared these fears because they’re nothing new. These are the same fears that millions of other people experience that paralyze them when they try to create. Think of all the people who have decided to not create artwork out of the fear of judgment. And for what? Just out of their own anxieties. We prevent ourselves from living a creative life because we’re scared of the reactions or the outcome, but it only leaves ourselves disappointed. So why bother getting so worked up about our fears? Why let them keep you from pursuing a dream? If everyone lived in fear of sharing their own creations, life would be so boring and so bland. There would be no movies, music, paintings, or books because everyone would be too scared to put themselves out there.

2. We Are All Creative Beings

I don’t know about you, but there are many days when I believe that I don’t deserve to be a creative person. As if it was a right that only a few are born with. Big Magic helped me to get over that ridiculous idea I had made up in my own mind, by making me realize that everyone in the world is creative. It’s not reserved for only a certain kind of person. It’s not reserved for the “emo” kids that used to go to my high school, it’s not reserved for the famous, it’s not reserved for the people who have their work hanging in museums. We are all innovative, gifted, original, quirky, unique individuals who have been born to express ourselves creatively however we please.

Gilbert shares that human beings have been creative for a very, very long time. It’s a natural impulse for us. So much so that the earliest form of recognizable human art is over 40,000 years old. On page 87, Gilbert shares one of my favorite lines, “Which means that somewhere in our collective evolutionary story, we decided it was way more important to make attractive, superfluous items than it was to learn how to regularly feed ourselves.” And we’ve been making artwork and pursuing our creative interests ever since. There’s no need to consider whether or not we can or deserve to become a creative person because we already are. All of us. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do for a living, you are born to be creative and have a right to create just as much as anyone else.

3. You Don’t Need Permission to Live a Creative Life

Growing up, I used to think I needed someone’s permission to live creatively. Whether it was my friends, family, teachers, or followers. I thought I needed someone else to agree that I was a half-decent creative individual who was allowed to express themselves. I believe I got this idea because when I would express myself, people didn’t seem to understand why and would usually pass judgment. So I grew up believing that in order to be creative you had to have permission somehow. That you had to have societies stamp of approval. That you had to be a creative genius in order to have the right to do what you please. FALSE.

You don’t need anyone’s permission to be creative. You’re parents, friends, significant other, followers, professors, or dinner party guests, don’t need to understand why and how you choose to express yourself. People will try to talk you out of being creative for the rest of your existence, so waiting for another’s permission is the kiss of death. Don’t wait for someone to give you permission or else you’ll be disappointed and never have the pleasure and fulfillment you receive for doing what you want. If I waited for other people’s approval to do what I please, I would have never done any of the amazing things that I’ve done over this past year. Like traveling Europe, doing acro yoga, taking a helicopter tour, starting a blog, modeling, starting to write poetry. This year was the best year of my life because I stopped waiting for permission to do the things that brought me joy.

4. Creativity Should Be Folded Into Everyday Life

In Big Magic, Gilbert talks about how creativity is something that should be folded into your everyday life. If you have a passion or a calling to try something new or pursue a creative endeavor, you don’t have to quit your job, move somewhere else, and devote every second of every day to it. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they couldn’t be creative in their current situation. That you have to find a way to break free of all of your responsibilities and obligations so that you can live a life spent in a state a perpetual creative bliss. Unfortunately, that’s not true and definitely not realistic. Yes, it would be lovely to not have to do anything besides listen to music while I sit in my apartment writing blog posts and doing yoga for the rest of my life. But who has the luxury or the time to drop everything and focus solely on their art?

Instead, creativity should be worked into everyday life during our free time. All it takes is setting aside a little bit of time every day to do whatever you feel called to do. Gilbert was very much inspired by her father, who was a chemical engineer but spent his free time as a Christmas tree farmer, beekeeper, and goat farmer. He had no training, no experience, but just simply started his new interests whenever he had the time. Most people don’t drop everything and devote their lives to their creativity, they use “scraps of borrowed time” as Gilbert would say, and follow their passions whenever they get the chance. My favorite example Gilbert shares is her friend Susan, who decided to start figure skating at 40 years old simply because it brought her joy. She didn’t quit her job to pursue a career in figure skating or attempt to go to the Olympics. She simply bought a pair of skates and woke up early three times a week to twirl around on the ice and enjoy herself. For me, I do it on my days off and in the evenings when I can sit alone a quiet room and write until my heart is content. And that’s all it has to be. You don’t have to make a living doing your hobby, you can simply just do it because you want to.

5. Don’t Expect to Become “Successful”

One of the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to living a creative life, is that they become focused on success. I’m not pointing fingers, trust me I do this too! People often expect that by being artistic or following their hobbies, they should eventually reach fame and success. By doing this, they’re demanding that their creative interests fulfill them AND provide them with purpose, while simultaneously paying the bills, attracting a fan base, and bringing them massive “success.” I’ve seen this the most with musicians who have an end goal of becoming rich and famous through their music. Not that there is anything wrong with them for wanting that, but that’s a lot of expectation and pressure on a simple creative impulse! What a burden for creativity to carry! Now, if they don’t achieve their expected outcome, there’s the misconception that they have somehow failed and shouldn’t have bothered making music in the first place.

“What does any of that have to do with the quiet glory of merely making things, and then sharing those things with an open heart and no expectation?”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic taught me that I shouldn’t ever expect my passions and creative impulses to support me, or bring success and money. When I first started blogging, I thought I had to make money and becoming a “successful” so-called “content creator.” But I don’t have to, and I can show up on this platform and write just because I want to. And you can too. You can make music, write a book, make paintings, figure skate, design jewelry, start a garden, or whatever you want to without putting pressure on your creativity to bring you success or outside validation.

6. What Others Think is None of Your Business

You cannot and should not care about how others perceive your artwork and the way that you choose to express yourself. Everyone has some kind of creative impulse that exists inside of them, and the point of us having these impulses is not to impress other people. It’s to make ourselves happy. To feel alive. It’s to create simply because it brings us joy and adds color and excitement to our lives. Caring about what other people think, will only dampen your own happiness and ruin the fun in the work that you choose to do.

Let me tell you, no one I’ve been close to has ever once understood or was supportive of what I chose to do for fun or to express myself. If I listened to them, I would be miserable right now. I now pursue whatever creative impulses I have, even if it’s short-lived. Without these creative outlets, I would live a plan, dull, unhappy life, just because someone else didn’t approve of what I created in my own personal time. Funnily enough, once I let go of what other people thought, I actually got better! And in turn, people started to respect my creative endeavors more. Worrying about what other people thought only turned out to be a waste of time and energy that I could instead put into my hobbies.

“The greatest prison that people live in is the fear of what other people think.”

– David Icke

7. Art Doesn’t Have to be Important

Another common misconception that Gilbert shares is that art has to be important. Believing that will only weigh you down and hinder your ability to reach your highest potential and create something wonderful. And it’s ok for art to be completely and utterly frivolous. I love Gilbert’s quote, “Your own reasons to create are reason enough.” You don’t have to justify why you want to pursue a hobby or creative interest by deciding that your work has to help people, or be important, or move people to tears. It could be simply to entertain yourself. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece that’s admired in a gallery while wealthy people stand around and drink champagne. It doesn’t even have to be incredibly original or helpful.

This may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising that when we go to create something ourselves, we set the bar a hundred times higher than we do for others. Which we do intentionally because it helps us to justify why we’re creating. Unfortunately, this will only set us up for failure.

I know that I’m no Hemingway, or Picasso, or Rumi. I will never be a world-renowned anything. And I’m completely ok with that. I express myself in ways that I want to and no longer feel like it has to contribute to the world in a major way. My work doesn’t have to change the world. Letting go of that mindset was like taking a weight off that I’d been carrying forever.

“Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

8. Inspiration Will Come and Go

Inspiration sometimes will hit you like a ton of bricks. I’ve had to suddenly hop off a treadmill, or pull my car over, or hang up the phone because the inspiration came so suddenly. I love when these moments happen. The inspiration appears easily and gives me a rush of creative excitement that keeps me preoccupied for a whole day. Other times, the inspiration doesn’t flow so easily. Sometimes as much as you want to create you can become stuck in a rut and find it difficult to get the inspiration back. I used to be hard on myself when this would happen, but Gilbert helped me to realize that it’s a normal part of creative living. It happens to everyone, even the New York Times Best Selling Authors like herself! Sometimes the creative juices won’t come when you want them too. Sometimes you’ll struggle to come up with your next big idea or project. It shouldn’t lead you to believe that inspiration has abandoned you forever.

“Holding yourself together through all the phases of creation is where the real work lies.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

9. Ideas Are Alive

One of my favorite lessons from this book is when Gilbert shares her belief that ideas inhabit the world in the same way that people, plants, or animals do. Just as we are walking around this planet going about our day, so are ideas. Ideas are born and they float around the world searching for a human to collaborate with to be brought into fruition. If you’re lucky enough, a brilliant idea will choose you and you’ll have the pleasure of bringing it into existence. If not, then you will simply let it go and pass it off to someone else. But either way, ideas are out there dancing around us, waiting for someone to grab hold and nurture it until it’s finally recognized.

This took some of the pressure off of being creative because it makes me feel as if the ideas that come to me are not completely mine. I don’t feel guilty or bad if I’m not able to create something that I thought up because it wasn’t really mine, to begin with. If I couldn’t help bring this concept to life then it will simply move on and find the best person to collaborate with who will bring it to life. Those ideas didn’t first originate in my mind before it did in anyone else’s mind in the world, and it will continue to visit others after me.

10. Ideas Won’t Wait

One of my favorite parts of this magical book is when Elizabeth Gilbert shares that ideas will not wait for you. Ideas float around and look for a willing person to grab hold of it and see it through. If we get consumed by our own negative self-talk and get caught up in life’s distractions, the idea will simply move along to someone else. Someone who will be willing to nourish it to its potential. That’s why sometimes you’ll be watching a t.v. show and suddenly a movie trailer came on that you swear you came up with the idea for. Or you’ll see a commercial for a product that you swear you thought up. Maybe you’ll find a book at Barnes and Nobel that you planned on writing someday. Ideas are real and they desperately want to be brought to life, even if it means moving onto someone else. Ideas will grow impatient.

11. Creativity is Magic

My last lesson and most favorite lesson from Big Magic is that creativity is magical. The proof is simply in the way that we feel when a magnificent idea comes to us. Our hairs stand up on our arms, our hearts race, we feel dizzy and excited — almost like we’re falling in love as Gilbert explains. We’ve all felt it from time to time. You feel the inspiration coursing through every cell of your body. How could a simple creative impulse cause such feelings if it weren’t magic? And when this happens the universe will arrange itself in order to help us to pursue the new idea. Coincidences and synchronicities start to happen. We may just happen to meet the right people when we need them and notice signs in our daily lives.

“And when I refer to magic here, I mean it literally. Like in the Hogwarts sense. I am referring to the supernatural, the mystical. the inexplicable, the surreal, the divine, the transcendent, the otherworldly. Because the truth is, I believe that creativity is a force of enchantment — not entirely human in its origins.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

Another way that you can recognize just how magical creativity and inspiration are is through “flow.” Flow is that state you’re in when you’re completely absorbed in creation. You lose all sense of time and awareness of the surrounding world. You fully lose yourself and become immersed in what you’re doing. It makes you forget to eat, shower, or sleep. The only thing that exists is the pen or paintbrush or the movement of your body while you’re dancing. That’s a state of flow. The best feeling in the world in my opinion. There’s nothing that feels so mystical and so lovely as becoming lost in a creation. Gilbert describes the feeling of flow perfectly when she writes, “I can feel myself being gently propelled by some exterior force. Something is carrying me along — something powerful and generous — and that something is decidedly not me. You may notice this feeling. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve made something wonderful, or done something wonderful, and when you look back at it later, all you can say is: ‘I don’t even know where that came from.’”

“Perhaps creativity’s greatest mercy is this: By completely absorbing our attention for a short and magical spell, it can relieve us temporarily from the dreadful burden of being who we are.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

And the reason why this feeling when we create is so important is that….“We all need something that helps us to forget ourselves for a while.” It’s a relief to be free from ourselves and our own complicated minds for that one moment. 

There you have it, my top takeaway from my all-time favorite book, Big Magic. I’ve read it cover to cover at least six times and will probably be reading it many more. This book came to me a perfect time when I wanted to express myself so badly, but I didn’t have the courage. Without this book, I would still be in a pile of self-doubt feeling frustrated that I didn’t create what I had a burning design to do. If you’re a creative person or have a desire to try new things, this is the book you should read. It’s inspiring, uplifting, and funny. I hope the book will bring as much magic into your lives as it did to mine.

Photo by Allen Fajardo.

“A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life.”

– Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you read Big Magic? What are your thoughts on the book? Did you have any big takeaways? Did it help you overcome some kind of hurdle or self-doubt? Let me know in the comments! I love hearing from you!

Life After Graduation: Dealing with Uncertainty and Unemployment

Self-Help

Dépaysement (n.) when someone is taken out of their own familiar world into a new one

If I had to pick one word to completely describe my life right now, it would be this one. I truly do feel that when I walked across the stage to receive my diploma in April, I came out on the other side and was propelled into a different dimension. My life has completely changed in the last few months and has been filled with so many wonderful experiences. Since graduating, I launched a campaign that I’ve been working on for a year, I won an award from the American Cancer Society,  I traveled Europe for a month, I moved to Saint Petersburg, I started a life with my boyfriend, and I spontaneously visited my best friend across the country. I’ve also used my new found time to get more serious about my blog, make new friends, get in shape, and focus on my mental health. It really has been an incredible few months, and I feel blessed that I had this opportunity to better myself and have new life experiences.

But, life after graduation is not all glamours.

My entire life I had always known what was coming next at the end of the school year, but for the first time, I had no idea what to expect or what would happen. As much as life has been filled with wonderful life experiences, life has been equally filled with the unknown, uncertainty, and unemployment.

In the months leading up to graduation and in the few months after graduation, I could not have been more thrilled to move out and move on with my life. Then, something happened. The closer I got to approaching this major life change, the more I was starting to have anxiety about the future. It’s funny how you can go your entire young adult life dreaming about the day you get to become an adult, but when the day finally comes, you start to panic. With each passing day, the excitement slowly went away and my fears grew louder. My inner voice started to sound something like this…

What if I’ll never be able to travel again?
What if I never find a job?
What if I get stuck doing something I hate?
What if I drain my savings paying my bills?
What if I don’t make friends?
What if I don’t ever find my way around?
What if Matt and I hate living together?
What if I become a boring adult who doesn’t have fun anymore?
What if I don’t make enough money to cover my rent?
What am I going to do with my life?

On a few occasions, my fears about the future were crippling. I would lay in bed with anxiety that was so bad, it was physically painful. Combined with the anxiety that I was already experiencing, the job hunt was not going well. The first few months after graduation was exciting, but now my time was spent paying bills with my savings and collecting rejection emails. I just couldn’t find a position that met my qualifications and interests. And when I did, nothing would come from it. Every job I applied for turned into a dead end. I’d get nothing in return other than an email that said, “Sorry, we’ve moved on in the hiring process.”

Slowly, the stress from this big life change and being unemployed was starting to affect my daily life. I started to feel lazy, unmotivated, slightly depressed, and self-conscious. It felt like I had nothing to do with my life and no sense of purpose. So, I coped with these stressors in the usual way, writing about them, and talking to just about anyone who would listen.

Everyone tried their best to cheer me up and give me a pep talk. They would nod along to what I was saying, because they too have dealt with moments of uncertainty in their lives, especially after graduation. But a common theme that I’ve noticed during my conversations, was people saying, “You shouldn’t be feeling this way, everyone goes through this.” Or, “You shouldn’t be so anxious and hard on yourself, you’re doing the best you can.” Or, “No one can really plan for the future, so there’s no sense in you being worried about it.” Followed by the usual comments like, “relax,” “calm down,” or “just breathe.” I will say that these are all thoughtful, rational comments that I received. I appreciate everyone who tried to cheer me up and take the ease my worries about the future.

But as much as people tried to make me feel better, I often left these conversations feeling worse than I did before. I heard the same cliques over and over again about how I should relax. Fun fact, no one has ever told me that I should relax, calm down, or “not be so hard on myself,” causing all of my negative emotions to evaporate into the wind – never to be seen or heard from again. That doesn’t happen.

And for some reason, these conversations always began with someone telling me why I shouldn’t feel negative emotions like anxiety, nervousness, sadness, etc. I know that this is how we naturally want to comfort others. From an outsiders perspective looking in, you can see when a friend or family member is being overly hard on themselves and making the problem worse. You can tell when someone is feeding the negative emotions, and you want that person to calm down and see all of their amazing qualities and potential. Although it comes from a place of love and good intention, it often makes the problem worse by telling someone they shouldn’t be anxious, depressed, or angry. It’s the complete opposite of what they need to hear.

Why?

Today, we’re surrounded by thousands of images and videos of gorgeous, rich, smiling, and happy people on the internet. My generation in particular shapes our views of ourselves and the world around us based on what we see online. So, there’s already so much pressure to look perfect, have our lives figured out, and be as happy as everyone else looks on Instagram. Then, at the end of the day when we talk to those around us about feelings of uncertainty and stress, hearing statements like, “You shouldn’t be anxious,” contributes to the problem. In the world that we live in, people are made to believe that we’re supposed to be happy all the time… because everyone else looks happy all the time (at least from the outside looking in). So, if we feel depressed or anxious, then there’s something wrong with us.

But that’s far from the truth. Sadness and depression are both parts of the human experience. Negative emotions are part of the human experience. Feeling uncertain, scared, nervous, fearful – all part of the human experience. And wondering what your life plan is and facing challenges… all part of the experience. Wouldn’t it be bizarre if everyone was born immediately knowing what they wanted to do with their lives and were comically happy all the time? It would actually be pretty creepy. Something meant for movies about alternative universes.

How to really deal with the uncertainty…

1. Know that your feelings are valid

Those icky feelings that creep in when you don’t have a job or don’t know what your next step in life is, are all ok. It’s completely ok and completely normal to feel nervous, anxious, and uncertain. Even feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated, and unfulfilled are all a part of it. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that these emotions are unacceptable. Because then, you’ll still have all the other feelings as before… now you’ve just thrown guilt into the mix! Why make yourself feel guilty for feeling anxious? What good will that do you?

2. Do what you can

Don’t push yourself too hard to a point where you make the situation worse. It’s important to take breaks and clear your head. When I was looking for a job I always felt like I didn’t do enough. Whether I sent out 10, 20, 30, or 40 job applications, I always felt like I should be doing more. As if I’m a robot whose sole purpose is to fill out my address 150 times a day on applications and write a never-ending stream of cover letters. But it was just overkill. As important as it is to work hard and do what you have to do to pay your bills, it’s equally important to stand up, go for a walk, take a break, and clear your head. Just do what you can and allow yourself to step away.

3. Do something that your future self would benefit from

No matter how terrible or stuck you may feel in your current situation, you must take care of yourself. It’s normal that when we feel crappy, we want to reach for comfort food, avoid the gym, sleep all day, etc. Don’t! Continue to eat well, sleep well, and exercise. Letting yourself give up on those things, will only make you feel worse later. So do something that your future self will thank you for. Don’t let the running shoes collect dust in the back of the closet. Use them. Taking care of yourself physically will make you feel better mentally too. Plus, it could be the difference between feeling confident in a job interview or behaving timidly and blowing your chance.

I’m happy to share that I now have a full-time job as of this week! So all that anxiety is behind me, just as I’m finally posting this blog. Sorry for the delay (: But I hope this helps if you’re currently dealing with uncertainty and unemployment. Graduating college and transitioning into a new world comes with some many life experiences, challenges, and emotions. Oh, so many emotions…

Photos by Mohammad Khalil.

As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments! Are you currently dealing with uncertainty in your life? How have you coped and learned to accept the stress that comes with it? Thanks for reading!

My Daily Gratitude Practice 

Self-Help

The holidays are officially here, bringing lots of love, traditions, old and new memories, smiles, and laughter. It’s the time of year that reminds us all to forget about our problems to reflect and feel thankful for all that we’re blessed with. One of these times is that delicious Thanksgiving dinner when we gather hands and share with our loved ones what we’re the most grateful for. So in honor of it being Thanksgiving, I wanted to talk about gratitude!

The word gratitude is one of the biggest buzzwords in the self-help community. Every self-help blogger, speaker, yogi, influencer, YouTuber, entrepreneur, and innovator talks publicly about gratitude and how it has transformed their lives. After all, even Oprah swears by her daily gratitude practice. Since then, the daily habit of practicing gratitude has become trendy. It’s right up there with juicing and brewing Kombucha. We all know what it means, we all understand why it’s important, right? But because gratitude is mentioned so frequently in self-help and so frequently during the holidays, has it become more of a concept rather than a daily practice?

In the words of Jim Kwik, has it become “shelf-help” rather than self-help? Is it like the Kale that we buy at the store to feel healthy, but then slowly rots in our refrigerator? Do we sit around the table at Thanksgiving dinner, but come Monday do we forget about how blessed we are? 

I’ll admit it, I forget to feel grateful. I go about my day not thinking at all about how lucky I am to have a home, a family, and a partner. I don’t eat breakfast in the morning and think, “I’m so grateful for this food and for not having to worry where my next meal will come from.” No, I go about my day thinking about the next thing on my to-do list while complaining about traffic and how many blackheads I have. Although I don’t think it’s possible to fill yourself up with the feelings of gratitude all day, 24/7, it is possible and hugely beneficial to incorporate gratitude into everyday life.

What Practicing Gratitude is so Important 

Since I started my own daily practice, I’ve noticed a huge shift in my mental and emotional state. Especially after I kept the practice going for a few weeks, I noticed that my mood was improving a little bit each day. It made me happier, helped me sleep better, and shifted my attention away from things that were materialistic or superficial. The more that I practiced at night, the more I felt those feelings of happiness and gratitude naturally and noticed what I was thankful for throughout the day. 

Also,  according to the internet, grateful people have higher income, get better grades, have fewer fights, are more satisfied with their relationships, get fewer illnesses, and live longer. And we all know that everything you read on the internet is true. 

“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject – so you know you’re getting the best possible information.” – Michael Scott (The Office)

How I Practice Gratitude

Many months ago, I decided that I would completely change my bedtime routine so that I was spending that time in ways that were beneficial for my mental health instead of numbing myself online. One way that I did this was by creating a gratitude practice right before I fell asleep at night. 

Each night before bed, I open up a document on my computer and I start writing about something that I’m grateful for. I don’t just pick a topic like health and write about how I’m thankful to be healthy and happy. It’s never general or basic. I make sure that I’m writing about something specific rather than a broad topic, and that it pertains to my day. By doing this, I’m able to connect with what I’m writing on a deeper level and have stronger feelings of gratitude. 

For example, I’ll write about how thankful that I am for having a deep conversation with a good friend of mine. Or I’ll write about how thankful I am for my boyfriend taking care of me when I’m sick. Or about how grateful I am to get a job. It can be big or small. It can be a simple gesture that someone did that made my day, or it can be a big life change. I write as much as I feel like writing on that day. Most of the time it’s one paragraph. Other times, the words keep flowing and I write a whole page. When I feel that I’m done writing, I close the computer, shut my eyes, and meditate on those feelings of gratitude. 

When I do this before bed, all of the negative self-talk, the stressors, and the conflicts from my day all melt away. It’s impossible to hold onto negative emotions when I’m doing this exercise. I’m able to drift off in a state of happiness, gratitude, and bliss. That’s what I fall asleep to – not self-comparison, not my to-do list the next day, and not what I have to buy at the grocery store. All I remember before I fall asleep are these feelings of love and gratitude. 

The Other Methods

This is how I personally was able to work gratitude into my daily life in a way that works for me. This way might not work for you. I’ve heard of dozens of different ways that people practice gratitude daily, and everyone who practices has there own technique. Most people usually do it in the morning so they start their day off on the right note. But I’m not a morning person AT ALL. I will sleep in until the last possible second and be in a rush all morning. So adding something else to my morning would not work for me, but it may for you. 

Some other techniques I’ve heard include: 

  • Write down one sentence about what you’re thankful for.
  • Write down everything that you’re thankful for and don’t stop until the page is full. 
  • Write down two things… 
  • Write down three things…
  • Write down five things…
  • Do it first thing in the morning.
  • Do it right before you go to bed.
  • Repeat it to yourself throughout the day. 
  • Buy a gratitude journal that you only use for this practice. 
  • Write down what you’re thankful for morning and night. 
  • Visualize and meditate to three things that you’re thankful for right when you open your eyes in the morning. 

You get the idea. There’s a lot of different ways that people make this practice work for them. It’s important to figure out which method you enjoy, what time of day, and how much time you want to spend on it. You don’t want to use someone else’s method if it doesn’t resonate with you and bring about those heightened feelings of gratitude. Otherwise, it may feel like homework. Your practice could look completely different than mine. But as long as you find what works for you, you’ll be able to stick with it, and feel thankful every day of the year – not just on the holidays. 

Remember

For most of us, being grateful every day is more of a concept. It’s something that we think about during the holiday season or randomly when we’re reading a self-help book. On occasion, an influencer might open up about their daily gratitude practice and how it’s helped them, which inspire us to try it for a couple of days. But, it’s almost always forgotten about as we get back to our regular routine. I think that noticing our blessings and feeling thankful for the little things is important even after the holiday season or after the initial inspiration has passed. I would love for everyone to find their own method for incorporating a daily gratitude practice into their lives. I can say first-hand that this simple 5-minute practice can be so beneficial for emotional, mental, and physical health. 

Thanks for reading! Do you have a daily gratitude practice? What is it and when do you work it into your daily routine? Have you noticed any benefits? Let me know in the comments!

Photo by Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.

Why We Don’t Want Each Other to be Happy & How to Change it (One Conversation at a Time)

Self-Help

In a previous post, How I Freed Myself From the Opinions of Others, I wrote about my own struggle of sharing my aspirations with the people in my life. And I shared that there’s a simple solution to this problem… not telling anyone. Let me just say that this tactic has worked wonders. I now have the freedom to pursue what I want to do in life without taking on wrath from those around me. I’ve taken so much criticism in the past for following any dream or creative project that I’ve ever had. So I’ve gotten used to this idea that if you have a dream, the best way to keep it alive is to keep it a secret. One of my all-time favorite quotes is from Steve Harvey when he said, “The quickest way to kill a dream, is to tell it to a small minded person.”

However, in the last few months, I’ve noticed this same phenomenon in other aspects of my life. I recently decided to cut out several bad habits and replace them with better ones in an effort to become healthier, both mentally and physically. The two that I’m talking about specifically involved my decision to go dairy-free and my decision to exercise every day. (I’ll be talking more about these changes in later posts). But what completely baffled me was the negativity that I took from those around me for making those changes. I used to think that it was only the big decisions that people got up worked up about, but I’ve been experiencing this criticism in everyday conversation. 

Somehow, my decision to stop eating cheese and to peel my butt off the couch and go for a run, brought on lectures about why I’m making bad decisions. According to others, the changes were drastic, unhealthy, and unnecessary. I’m met with comments and criticism about how eating a little bit of dairy is healthy for me (even though I’m lactose intolerant). I have people trying to force me to eat dairy, trying to trick me into eating it, trying to get me to say that I hate being dairy-free and wish I was eating dairy again. I’ve also had to listen to people discuss “how the body works” and why I shouldn’t be exercising daily because it’s “unhealthy.” I’ve been also been told that my decision to switch up my exercise routine with weights, ab exercises, running, walking and cycling is somehow wrong. Everyone seems to have their own ideas about how my personal workouts should be done and what my diet should look like. 

Yet all of these people add into the conversation “I could never give up diary” or “I could never exercise every day.” So it’s obvious that they wish they could muster up the will-power to do what I’ve done in the last few months, but they don’t want to. After going through this with just about everyone I talk to, I have a theory that will most likely be dismissed for its negativity by anyone who reads this post. But here is it anyway:

I believe that we do not want to see each other be happy.

I know that this theory makes us out to be evil creatures, but the truth is, humans are naturally competitive with each other. We simply do not want other people to be healthy, happy, successful, and accomplished. It reminds us of everything that we are not, and everything that we wish we could do. When we see someone else accomplishing something, we stack it up to our own accomplishments. Similarly, when we see an attractive person, we compare our looks to theirs. People are naturally competitive and want to out-do others. It’s biologically ingrained in us. Not only do we want to be successful and happy, but we want to be more successful and happy than others. 

Before anyone gets upset about this, I don’t think this is that off-base. It’s why I’ve come across dozens of quotes online that say things like:

“Admire someone else’s beauty without questioning your own.”

“Someone else’s success does not take away from your own.”

“Living well is the best revenge.”

“Supporting another’s success won’t ever dampen yours.”

“The best revenge? Happiness, because nothing drives people more crazy than seeing someone actually having a good life.”  

It’s why we get jealous when someone we know publishes a book or a blog, starts a podcast, wins an award, travels the world, loses weight, wins money, gets an appearance in a magazine, has a stay at home job, etc. It angers people if someone is living happily and unapologetically. 

But here’s the real issue…

The problem is that we’re all capable of making ourselves proud, of being a better version of ourselves, and of following our dreams. However, it’s hard. It takes courage, motivation, and above all – self-discipline. Not everyone has those traits. Which means that it’s easier to — talk someone else out of exercising, to peer pressure them into drinking, to spew advice about how they should be living their lives, or to convince them to start eating cheese and junk food again — than it is to make those changes ourselves. Our precious ego is protected and we don’t have to do any extra work.  

I’ve felt this way for a long time, but I always wondered if maybe I was being too harsh or too negative. But after going through this pattern for years, I’m finally convinced that people do not want each other to be happy. It’s the only way to explain why people get angry or annoyed and try to stop me when I’m bettering myself, or pursuing a hobby or dream. 

The reason why I’m sharing this is because I want to do something about it. I want to use this platform to help educate people about a major flaw in our society: we don’t support each other. But I believe that we can change it if each and every person decided to take a step back and resist their initial impulse to argue or compete. 

How We Can Change

1) Listen

Have you ever spoken to someone that really listened? Who you poured your heart out to and you could tell that they cared deeply about what you had to say? With someone who had no judgment at all in their voice? Isn’t that the most incredible feeling when someone soaks in your words like a sponge?

How lovely and how rare is it to simply be heard…

However, when people are having a conversation, most of the time we’re busy thinking about our response instead of what the other person said. Other times, we interrupt and cut each other off in the middle of a sentence. When we do this to someone, we’re not fully understanding or comprehending what the other is saying. We’ve approached the conversation with a closed mind and a closed heart.

Our minds have already been made up based on past experiences, personal opinions, biases, and what we want to say. It becomes obvious when we care more about our opinion than listening to another. It’s as if we’ve become accustomed to approaching each conversation as a debate, rather than a polite conversation. Of course, not everyone does this, and not every conservation is this extreme or one-sided. But many of us engage in this bad habit more than we think.

Here are a few things to remember if you find yourself being a bad listener:

  • Think about what they’re saying. Don’t think about how you’ll respond to their story, opinion, or feelings. Sit quietly, look them in the eyes, and focus on their words and their words alone. Don’t jump ahead.
  • If the other persons’ mouth is open it means they’re not done talking. It’s a simple trick that a friend told me, that I remember when I find myself becoming too eager to jump in. It may make you feel like little kid telling yourself that, but it works and reminds you to be polite.
  • If you noticed you cut someone off, apologize and ask them to continue. It’s easy to think it will be less awkward if you just keep talking, but it actually makes it worse. By acknowledging that you cut someone off and apologized it shows that you respect them. A lot of times someone will let you continue to speak, but greatly appreciates you taking a moment to step back and acknowledge them. 
  • It’s ok if there is a pause. We tend to think it’s awkward if we pause in conversation because we’re not used to the silence. But by pausing after someone is talking, it shows that you’re focused on listening to them which they will appreciate and admire about you. 

2) Be Supportive of Others

Next time someone is talking with you about their decisions, their dreams, and their choices, remember above all to be supportive. Trust me when I say that having no emotional support from the people closest to you does affect mental well-being. Having to keep your spiritual beliefs, life plans, and creative endeavors a secret from friends and family is completely emotionally exhausting. 

Imagine a world where you should tell anybody your political and spiritual beliefs in conversation without being met by harsh criticism and judgment? See what I mean? Simply supporting each other and not being met with negativity could cause so much good! Yet it’s so rare to come across. It’s as simple as keeping our opinions to ourselves and offering kind words. You don’t have to agree with someone to be nice and show support. Remember that it won’t take away from your day or your happiness.

3) Remember That We’re Not in Competition 

It really is a natural instinct to compete with each other. Don’t believe me yet? Have you ever had to outrun someone on the treadmill next to you? Lift more weight than the person who was on the machine before you? Buy a nicer car than your neighbor? Own a more expensive handbag than the girls at school? Make more money than your sibling? We all do this in some way, even it’s not obvious to us. And believe it or not, these competitive attitudes come out in conversations. Like when your single friend tries to convince you to break up with your boyfriend. Or when your family who has never been out of the country tries to convince you to not take a graduation trip. Or when an overweight friend tries to get you to stop working out.

Although it’s a natural human instinct to compete, that doesn’t mean it should stay that way or be acceptable. This one can be tricky for many people to do because it involves being self-reflective and self-aware. It involves noticing when those insecurities, personal dramas, and competitive tendencies start to manifest in normal conversation AND shutting them down when they do. It also helps to remind yourself that someone else’s life decisions and plans do not really impact your life. It takes regular practice, but with time it will change. Soon, being supportive will be the automatic reaction. 

4) Keep Your Opinions To Yourself

I think it’s safe to say that we have all been met with unwarranted and unexpected criticism in our lives. We all have been through the experience of someone else thinking that how we live is their concern. In reality, how someone else chooses to eat, exercise, or live is really no one’s concern. Therefore, people don’t appreciate hearing your opinions on it. For example, when someone tells you that their vegan, that is not an invitation to share your offensive opinions about their lifestyle. I believe that social media has amplified this problem in recent years. People are so used to sharing their opinion on Facebook and Twitter and automatically receiving likes from those who agree with them. Therefore, we think every opinion that crossed our mind is golden and should be shared at any given moment. False. 

It has created the illusion that everyone wants to know our opinions when in actuality they don’t. If someone wanted to know your opinion about their lifestyle or diet, they would ask you about it directly. Them simply speaking about themselves is not an invitation for judgment or lectures. Otherwise, you’ll be added to the list of people that they keep secrets from to avoid drama. 

5) You Cannot Take Someone’s Testimony Away

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend who said something that stuck out to me. He said, “You cannot take someone’s testimony away from them.” I believe that this simple phrase is something that everyone needs to hear. It means that someone’s life experience is their own. It’s not mine, it’s not yours. It’s not the neighbors. You did walk in their shoes or live through all of their experiences. Which means that you cannot tell someone that their experience and their feelings are wrong. Yet many people will try to do this regardless. 

For example, I have shared with people that I feel better not eating dairy. When I do, people try to tell me that it’s not true. Or I have told people that I’ve seen full body transformations since working out daily, yet people have told me that I’m “over exercising,” therefore my body would be incapable of having progress. Or, I’ve shared that I’ve experienced side effects from a prescription drug, yet people tell me that I’ve imagined it. These are all personal experiences that only I have ever experienced, therefore, no one can take my testimony away from me. How could someone else know better than me how I’m feeling or what is going on in my physical body? They can’t. 

Since hearing this, I’ve noticed myself even making this mistake. We’ve become so focused on sharing our opinions from our experience, that we try to take away from another. It’s important to remember that you did not live someone else’s life and share the same experience as them, EVEN if you have been a part of their life for a long time. 

I know that it may not be a popular opinion that humans are competitive with each other and don’t want each other to be happy. But I do believe it. However, I don’t believe that every single person is like this. Unfortunately, due to our natural instincts, sharing opinions on social media, personal dramas and insecurities, this problem is becoming more apparent. I believe that it can be changed simply by keeping these five things in mind.

Photo by Matt Rutski.

Do you believe that people don’t want to see each other be happy? Or do you have a different perspective? Have you seen someone’s competitive nature come out in conversation before? I would love to hear your experiences. And what are some of your own suggestions about how we can be more supportive of each other in conversation? Comment below!