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

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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

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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. 

Photo by Allen Fajardo.

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!

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

Self-Help

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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. 

Here’s 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! 

How I Broke My Bad Habits: Netflix, Junk Food, Procrastinating, and Shopping

Self-Help

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Let me paint you a little picture of what my evenings used to look like for a long time…

After I was done for the day with school, internships, or work, I would always pass the time in the same way — I would climb into bed with whatever junk food I felt like eating at the time and would sink into the Netflix hole. You know the one where your computer asks you if you’re still there? That one. It wasn’t pretty. This time would also be spent online browsing and shopping for things that I did not need at all and getting to stupidly high levels of Candy Crush. My levels on both the Soda Crush app and the original Candy Crush would shock you.

Until one day, in one of this Netflix black holes, I came upon a documentary called “Minimalism.” If you know me at all, you know that I’m the exact opposite of a minimalist. I’m 100% a maximalist. But I watched this documentary and instantly became inspired by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Seeing how they stepped out of traditional lives, sold all of their possessions, and lived with intention was uplifting. I’ve been reading their website and books and listening to their podcast ever since. I believe I’ve talked about them in past posts as well.

Anyways, I’m definitely not a minimalist, but I’ve found that listening to what they advocate for helps me to recharge and refocus on what’s important. Their conversations about digital media and consumption have helped me tremendously to curb the shopping habit and make sure that what I spend my time and money on adds value to my life. Their message came to me at the perfect time, towards the last year of college before I would be thrown into the real world and would have to decide for myself what I wanted my life to look like.

However, a major turning point in my life happened when I was listening to one of their podcast episodes. I heard the episode many months ago and I remember Joshua asked his listeners to do a little exercise as a way to show them how people often spend time in ways that do nothing but fill the hours. His exercise showed that as a result of bad habits and (let’s be honest) laziness, people prevent themselves from becoming the best version of themselves they could possibly be.

I did his exercise back then, and because of that day, my life has completely changed. I was able to break so many of my bad habits and slowly become a better version of myself. One that doesn’t waste all of my precious time eating junk food, Netflix binging, procrastinating, candy crushing, shopping, and Instagraming. So today, I’m going to show you how this exercise worked and how I executed it in my life to get on the right path. Side note: This happened so long ago that I can’t find the exact episode. Therefore, this may not be the exact “minimalist exercise.” However, this is what I did and this is what I recommend if ever you find yourself slipping into bad habits and farther away from your ideal self… If you want to see how this could work for you too, get out a pen and paper and follow along.

Step One: Write down every one of your goals

Think about everything that you’ve ever wanted to do and accomplish. All of your life goals. The BIG things. The things that might even be so embarrassing that you’ve never told anyone before. Like a backpack through Europe, become a full-time travel blogger, launch a company, become a famous athlete, or write a New York Times Best Seller. Those dreams and life goals that you wouldn’t want to tell your mother because she would roll her eyes and say it’s unrealistic. Spend some time thinking about what you really want out of life and be completely honest with yourself. Most of us are so busy going through our day to day routine that it’s easy to lose sight of what we really want. This exercise will help you refocus on those goals that may have been forgotten.

Step Two: Write down your values

This one is super simple, and all you have to do is write a few words on a separate sheet of paper. Do you value your health, relationships, creativity, community, family, travel? Take a few minutes to really think, what do I care about the most? Anything that comes to mind that you personally value, jot it down.

Step Three: Write a schedule of your average day

Now, turn the page. Create a full schedule of what your average day looks like and don’t hold back. If you do this right, then it might be even more embarrassing than the first step. You have to be brutally honest with how you spend your time from day to day. Like if your alarm goes off and 8 am, but you stay in bed hitting snooze until 9 or 9:30. Or you come home from work and play on your phone for an hour while sitting on the couch. Or you go out to a bar every evening and drink wayyyy to much. Or maybe you binge-watch Netflix every night from 7 pm until you’re so tired you can’t keep your eyes open. Write it all down, the good and the bad.

Step Four: Compare the lists

The next step is fairly simple. Compare what you saw between those three lists and really study it. Then wait for that ah-ha moment… You see, when I first tried this exercise, that’s when I really noticed what the problem was. Those three steps were enough to wake me up to how I was spending my time and what I really needed to do to turn my life around, be successful, and make myself proud. To feel happy and fulfilled with the work I was doing and how I was spending my free time. My values showed health, relationships, writing, etc. and so did my goals, but my day to day activities didn’t reflect that.

It was like a lightbulb went off over my head and I finally found the motivation that I needed. I didn’t want to look back and realize that I never fulfilled my dreams and accomplished the things that I wanted to do, all because I watched too much Netflix and played too much Candy Crush. And neither do you! You don’t want to wake up one day and realize that you never started your dream company and now are unhappy and upset with yourself for not really going for it. Notice the difference between your day to day life and the dream you have, and prepare to make changes.

Step Five: Replace the bad habits

Now that you’ve noticed the little things that you’re doing to fill your time rather than becoming the person that you want to be, you need to replace those habits with better ones. I use the word replace because I believe that one of the biggest problems is that we encourage people to stop their bad habits instead of replacing them with healthier habits. I once went cold turkey and tried to stop all my bad habits in one day which did not work at all. I didn’t think far enough ahead about what I would do instead. This step involves studying your day to day activities and then creating a better daily schedule. For me, the time that I used to spend laying in bed, playing on my phone, and online shopping I now spend reading, writing, listening to podcasts, and meditating.

Figure out what you can do each day to incorporate your goals and your ideal way of life into your daily routine. Play close attention to when you hear yourself saying “I should…” statements. I should write, I should read, I should exercise, I should call…, I should plan…, I should learn… All of those things that you tell yourself you should do but have been putting off for whatever reason, start to do it now. Do just a little bit every day. Soon, you’ll look back and do so proud of everything you’ve accomplished once you started to spend your free time with intention instead of distraction.

I hope this exercise works for you as well. Seeing as it’s been such a tremendous help in my life, I wanted to share it in hopes that it would help someone else get on the right track. And if you were coming here in hopes of some quick and easy tips for breaking a bad habit, I’m sorry to disappoint. I believe that we could use all the hacks and the tricks in the world to help us stop bad habits, but none of that works as well as self-reflection.

Did you try this exercise? Did you notice a difference between your goals, values, and habits? What were some of the bad habits that you had to replace? What did you replace them with? Let me know in the comments!

Photographer: Ken McBride.

How I freed myself from the opinions of others

Self-Help

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Let’s talk about criticism

Today, I’m writing about something a little bit different than usual. I’m writing about a problem that deeply affected my happiness over the last year. It’s a problem that I have faced almost every day that has caused fear, tension, anxiety, and all sorts of other icky feelings.

In this blog, I’ve shared how my whole life used to be dictated by the opinions of other people and self-comparison, especially through social media. But what happens when it’s not online and when it’s not in your own head? When someone takes the time to criticize your life decisions, to sabotage your happiness, and steamroll you? What happens then?

My experience

This past April, I’ve graduated college and have been busy creating the life that I know would make me happy. I knew I was finally becoming a full-fledged adult: graduating from college, starting out a career, setting down with my partner, and getting my own place, etc. But I’m unlike most people that you’ve probably met… Because unlike most people, I’m bound and determined to do what I want to do for my own joy and happiness. And that meant making a lot of decisions that were just for me.

That meant going on a month long trip through Europe with a group of people that I’ve never met. It also meant starting a blog where I regularly write about topics that I’m passionate about. It meant making a decision to move to Tampa with my boyfriend. And it meant patiently waiting for the right apartment and a job offer that I’m really excited about (not taking the first one that comes along). I should mention that these were all wildly unpopular decisions with just about every person I talked to.

Like I said… I’m not like most people. I’m one of those crazy, nut jobs that believe that we have one life, and we should do what genuinely makes us feel happy and fulfilled regardless of what others think. But what I’ve learned throughout this transition period more than ever, is just how critical others can be. I’ve learned just how eager people can be to try to control the lives of others.

You Are A Badass.

Jen Sincero, a New York Times Best Selling Author talks about this issue in one of her books, “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life.” In my favorite part of the book, which actually inspired this post, Jen writes:

“Very few people are even aware of what’s available, however, because we live in a fear based society that loves to get all uppity toward people who wake up from the Big Snooze, blast out of their comfort zones, and follow their hearts into the great unknown. Oftentimes, taking great leaps of faith is labeled as irresponsible or selfish or insane (until you succeed of course, then you’re brilliant). This is because: Watching someone else totally go for it can be incredibly upsetting to the person who’s spent a lifetime building a solid case for why they themselves can’t.”

Side Notes: “the Big Snooze” is Jen Sincero’s term for the Ego.

Opinions

One of my experiences with this issue over the past year happened to me while sharing that I was taking my dream trip to Europe. I received heavy criticism for my decision to book a graduation tour through EF College Break. Let me share with you some of the comments and criticisms I heard from family, friends, neighbors and complete strangers…

  • Taking this trip was dangerous, irresponsible, and selfish.
  • A trip like this would be a huge waste of money.
  • I should wait until I’ve established a career, got married, and had kids to take this trip.
  • I could be killed by a terrorist.
  • I would be sold into sex trafficking.
  • A stranger could throw acid on my face like a girl they saw on the news.
  • I could be drugged and assaulted by some guy on my tour group.
  • I would be lost in some foreign city and not make my way back.
  • I would be “Taken.”
  • I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the tour and I would want to come home.
  • It was going to be scary.
  • It would be a bad decision to go.
  • It would be smarter to stay at home and focus on finding a job instead of taking a graduation trip.

Very few people acted excited for me and encouraged me to go. And excuse me while I add… Isn’t finishing five years of college worth celebrating with a vacation? Isn’t now the perfect time in my life to take this trip? Wouldn’t a trip to Europe expand my mind and get me out of my comfort zone? Wouldn’t it be an incredible experience that I can look back on my entire life? And doesn’t this decision affect me, and me alone?

Fast forward to now…

I’m back from my graduation trip, I’m on a waitlist for the apartment I want, and I’m about to move to Tampa. All of those people that gave me such heavy criticism liked all of my social media pictures from my trip, left wonderful comments on them, and told me how incredible the trip looked. But… now there are new decisions I have made, that are getting just as much backlash. People are even going so far as to have arguments with me about the mattress that I would like to buy! As if somehow the mattress I sleep on at night impacts their life in any way.

This pattern of making a decision for myself and my own happiness, and then being harshly judged by others has caused incredible stress, anger, and confrontation. To say the least, I’ve had a very difficult time dealing with it. That is until I started reading “You Are A Badass.” Jen Sincero made me realize that I’m not the only person that has ever had to deal with this issue. This happens to people all the time throughout every stage of their lives. Other people will criticize you based on what major you choose, whether you breastfeed or use a formal to feed your baby, for your decision to become a vegan, for which school you send your kids to, for which neighborhood you live in, etc. It happens to everyone all the time, and it’s not worth taking offense to. It’s human nature to avoid risk and change, so much that it makes other people nervous when they see others doing it.

Jen Sincero writes, “…one of the first things you might have to deal with when you decide to wake up from the Big Snooze and make massive positive changes in your life is disapproval from other people who are snoring away. Especially the people closest to you…”

So what now?

Now that I’ve realized this, I feel a lot less angry and stressed out over what other people think about my decisions. I have also figured out how to liberate myself from everyone’s two cents. And it’s so easy that you could do it too.

Step One: Just go for it and don’t hold back

That thing you’ve been wanting to do that you think about all the time… do it. Buy the ticket, move to that city, start that business, go vegan, whatever. If the opinions of other people are the only things holding you back from doing what you want, that’s insane. You will never be able to make everyone happy. Even if you do take all of their advice, live like a hermit, and avoid risk and change at all costs. Humans are naturally judgmental, that’s not going to change. So what would be the point of trying to keep everyone happy then?

One of my favorite quotes is, “You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who hates peaches.” Point being, don’t change yourself and the course of your life in hopes that it will make everyone else happy, it’s impossible to make everyone happy.

Step Two: Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing!

When you’ve made the decision to do something that you want to do for your own happiness, don’t tell anyone! Not unless you know that the person you’re talking to will support you. That friend or family member that thinks plastic surgery is the devil… don’t tell them you’re getting a boob job. Refrain yourself from telling people those things that you want to do for your own satisfaction if you know that it’s only going to cause an argument, bring on criticism, and make you feel bad. Save it for later, once you’ve already gone to that festival, transferred to that new school, taken that yoga retreat, or sold all your possessions and moved into a tiny house.

This seems so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I could have saved myself a lot of stress over the past year had I learned this earlier. Now, I have some big changes coming up in the next few years that would cause even more upset than my trip to Europe! And they’re all going to be surprises. Unless I know that someone will be immensely supportive of me, I won’t be divulging my plans. I shouldn’t have to feel like crap, justify my decisions to others, and ruin my excitement for the sake of other people’s opinions. And neither should you.

Step Three: Don’t be that person

Once you’ve decided to live the life that you’ve dreamed of and not hold yourself back, you want to make sure that you don’t become that person. That person who used to jump on you about your decisions. Be extra conscious that you don’t accidentally make the same mistake with others. Have an open mind and avoid looking at people’s decisions through a lense of concern, fear, or judgment. When friends or family tell you something, have a conversation without immediately sharing your own philosophies and opinions. People who are judgemental suck all of the fun out of life for the rest of us and cause people to go their entire life having never accomplished their dreams.

 

Thank you for reading! Comment below and tell me about a time when you made a decision for yourself and received harsh criticism! Which groups of people criticized you the most? How did you find ways to liberate yourself from their opinions and live the life that you’ve been dreaming of?

Photographer: Allen Fajardo

Unplug and Ashtanga

Self-Help

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About a year ago I started taking an Ashtanga yoga class at Flagler College, taught by an amazing teacher with years of experience. It started out as a random class that I took for fun. It was only one credit and for a few hours every week I was able to relax and enjoy myself. Lucky for me, it ended up being so more than some random elective.

I used to practice yoga every once and a while, and although I liked yoga I didn’t really believe all the hype. I didn’t understand how this one particular form of exercise was raved about as if was life transforming. It seemed that it was more of a fad than anything, just like kale or green smoothies. But over the past year, I’ve been practicing at least twice a week, and I can finally say that I understand why people love it so much.

The Physical Changes 

It didn’t happen immediately. I didn’t reap the benefits of yoga in one week, in the same way, you don’t lose ten pounds your first week at the gym. It was slow and subtle, but eventually, I had realized how much those few hours a week was benefiting my mental and physical health. It started out small and was mostly physical in the beginning. Each week I became a little stronger and more flexible. I was able to get deeper into postures and hold them for a few moments longer. I remember the first physical difference that I noticed was that I was able to hold down dog for longer each time, and it became more and more comfortable.

The Mental Changes 

Once I started to notice the physical changes, that’s when my I began to have the unexpected mental and emotional benefits from practice. I’ve found that through regular practice I’m able to shut my mind off during class. I’m able to get rid of that voice in my head that always going, and always criticizing me. I completely relax and focus on nothing but my movement and breathe. The inner critic, the stress of deadlines, finances, the future, and personal dramas all melt away. Once I step onto the mat, it’s like flipping a mental switch. This was the first time in years that I was able to completely disconnect from my stressors.

Most of the time, even if we’re doing something fun or relaxing at home, those unwanted thoughts still creep up to disturb you. But during yoga, none of that happens. The mental chatter stops altogether. This was the most beneficial aspect of yoga, because once you have that one hour to yourself where none of your stressors or worries can get to you. You leave feeling refreshed and recharged, the same way you would after a vacation.

Disconnecting From My Devices

Aside from disconnecting from any negative thoughts, it also allowed me to disconnect from my phone and computer. With other exercises I’ve done, like running or weightlifting, I still use my phone throughout the exercise. But with yoga, no one has a phone next to them in class. I don’t check my notifications and emails, or scroll through social media the way that I do when I go to the gym. It gives me an hour a day just for myself where I’m free from the distractions of my devices. I get to completely unplug.

The Emotional Changes

The last change that I noticed through regular yoga practice was the emotional changes that came with it. These changes were the most unexpected, but my absolute favorite. All of that newfound strength and flexibility that I found in yoga was melting into other aspects of my life once I’d left the mat. I began to feel stronger and more flexible in my personal and work life. I noticed that I became more self-confident and less worried or anxious whenever I encountered a new challenge. I was willing to try new things that I normally wouldn’t let myself do because I was afraid I would fail. I even began to feel more inspired and creative than usual which lead me to start painting again, writing blog posts, pressing flowers, and even doing videography.

Through my yoga practice, I started to understand why yoga is loved by so many. It’s not just a form of exercise or some fad. With regular practice, it can transform the mind and the body in a way that weightlifting, running, dancing, rowing, and other forms of exercise just can’t do. Once you start regularly doing yoga, it’s amazing to be able to look back and see how far you’ve come in so many different areas.

So if you’re like me and you feel like you need a change in your life – you’re looking to put down the iPhone and do something to better yourself, I strongly recommend trying yoga. To end, I would like to share one of my favorite quotes that my yoga teacher reads at the end of our practice. I hope it inspires you to begin practicing too.

“The yoga pose is not the goal. Becoming flexible or standing on your hands is not the goal. The goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noises it creates. To make peace with who you are.”

Tell me what you think about yoga! Have you practiced yoga before and seen these changes as well? How long did it take to start noticing them?

Photographer: Allen Fajardo

Practicing Self-Love (No Lush Bath Bombs Needed)

Self-Help

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I thought that I would be the very last person in the world to write about self-love, it seemed like such a cheesy concept. I had it on a list of my blog post ideas that I brainstormed, but would always ignore it. Recently though, I had an unexpected life-changing moment where I was able to get to the root of why I treat myself the way that I do. It was similar to a breakthrough that someone would have during therapy, and it made me realize why I have that voice inside my head that’s always criticizing me and pointing out my flaws. I’ll spare you the details of what happened, but I realized was what lead me to somehow believe that I am an awful person who is unworthy of love, friends, happiness, and success.

Once I realized this, I became aware of how insane it was to measure my self-worth and my right to live a happy and fulfilled life off of what a few people had thought of me. With that realization came an overwhelming feeling of self-confidence and happiness that I had never felt before. For once I felt that I was finally worth it, and my place in the world was just as important as anyone else. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and I have to continue to remind myself every morning to stop criticizing and intentionally practice self-love.

Why is self-love so important?

Loving yourself and treating yourself with respect makes every day easier. Life is more peaceful when you’re not constantly feeding yourself negative thoughts. Practicing self-love has made me feel happy, healthy, confident, and strong. I don’t hold myself back anymore because I don’t think I’m smart enough, pretty enough, popular enough, strong enough etc. to do whatever it is that I want to. I can now do things that I normally wouldn’t because I was holding myself back.

What self-love isn’t…

For the longest time, I thought that self-love meant using Lush Bath Bombs, putting on face masks, doing my nails, binge-watching re-runs, shopping, etc. I got this idea from the media that I was consuming throughout my teen years. I can’t even begin to count how many tweets, Instagram posts, and pins that had a picture of a gorgeous girl using lavish toiletries or bath bombs with a caption said “self-love.” (Edit: I just saw another one today!) So during my free time, I would practice “self-love,” but it wasn’t real. Buying expensive products and constant pampering isn’t self-love. It’s not something that you can buy or do to make yourself prettier. It’s not Yankee Candles and online shopping. It’s something that you regularly practice for your mental health.

How to practice self-love:

Step One: Stop Criticizing. Every time you catch yourself thinking of something that you don’t like about yourself or comparing yourself to someone, stop. Make a conscious effort to stop the negative thoughts in their tracks and think of something that you appreciate about yourself instead. This will take time, but with regular practice, it will get easier.

Step Two: Do What Makes You Happy. I don’t mean watching Netflix, online shopping, or playing video games. Do something that makes you feel so happy and fulfilled without spending any money or staring at a screen. Something like hiking, painting, and writing. One of the best ways to practice self-love is by doing things that fill yourself with happiness and gratitude.

Step Three: Come Up With A Mantra. This is another thing that I used to think was cheesy and clique, but coming up with a mantra that you tell yourself throughout the day actually helps keep you on track. You’re less likely to slip-up and revert back to old ways when you repeat a self-love mantra. It doesn’t have to be anything special, just a quick sentence that you can repeat to yourself when you need it.

Step Four: Take Breaks. When you notice that you’ve spent hours working and you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed out, step away. The truth is that no matter how hard or long you work, there will always be something else that has to get done. There will always be another email that needs to be answered, another meeting to set up, another homework assignment, another shirt to be sewed, a lightbulb that needs to be changed, something to be cleaned, more laundry to be done, etc. There will never be a moment where every single little task that you need to accomplish is all done, so there’s no point in getting mad at yourself about it. Remember that you don’t have to be on top of everything all the time, and it’s ok to step away and take a break.

Step Five: Exercise. Any self-help blog or book that could be found will tell you that one of the best ways to better yourself is by exercising. I had to mention it because the physical changes that are made through exercise bleed into other areas of your life. When you’ve been exercising consistently and suddenly you notice that your stronger and faster, that feeling gives you the confidence and reassurance that you can accomplish other things in your personal and professional life.

I hope this inspires you to begin practicing self-love too. What are your suggestions for practicing self-love? Happy Valentine’s Day!

“and i said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath. and replied ‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.”
-Nayyirah Waheed

Photographer: Kendid Visuals

Embracing Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection

Self-Help

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In one of the Ted Talks I listened to recently, I learned of a Japanese concept and aesthetic known as Wabi-Sabi. It’s the idea that beauty can be found in the imperfections of life and by accepting the natural life cycle. It’s not about seeking perfection, possessions, or popularity. It’s about appreciating everything the way that it is. It’s the idea that less is more… It’s choosing wildflowers over a dozen roses… It’s going to the Sunday farmer’s markets over expensive trips to Whole Foods… And it’s thrift store finds over shopping sprees at the mall.

The most perfect description of Wabi-Sabi that I’ve read is: “It’s the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It’s the beauty of things modest and humble. It’s the beauty of things unconventional.” This concept of Wabi-Sabi stuck out to me because I believe that this is a philosophy that needs to shared during the digital age. Humans have always attempted perfection in everything from our clothing to architecture. We try to create and surround ourselves with objects that are brand new and flawless. But now we live in a time where our lives are documented on social media, and people can even manipulate their content to make their entire life appear perfect too! Of course, with the use of social media comes the inevitable social media envy.

The unfortunate part of social media is that people then view another’s post and compare themselves and their lifestyle to what they see online. The pressure to be and look perfect has never been so difficult. I don’t know anyone my age that has said they don’t compare themselves to someone that they follow.

I think that we can learn something about the philosophy of Wabi-Sabi that could help us tremendously during the digital age. It’s by remembering that no matter how hard we fight for perfection, it’s impossible for anyone to achieve… no matter how great their Instagram photos look. What you see online, is not reality. No one has the ability to make their entire life flawless. In reality, people take dozens of shots to get that perfect picture, they plan out the outfit and setting beforehand, and then edit the photo ruthlessly before sharing it. What we don’t see in photos anymore are signs of individuality, brokenness, flaws, and blemishes. The idea of Wabi-Sabi is that wisdom comes from accepting and making peace with our imperfect nature.

I really wish that Wabi-Sabi would become popular online. I think it would be cool to create a social media movement we people embraced what makes them unique instead of trying to mimic another’s lifestyle. The movement would revolve around people being authentic and would celebrate everyone’s individuality. Of course, that would be in an ideal world where I have to power to create a social media movement that would remind people to be real online and eliminate some degree of social envy.

But maybe it could start small. More and more people slowly come forward to talk about who they really are as a person, what their flaws are, what they’re passionate about, and they want to be known for. I don’t know when something like this will happen, but I’m sure in the near future we will see some kind of change in the content that people share. At least I hope so because it’s exhausting trying to create a life of endless perfection.

Wabi-Sabi: “The Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered – and it reveres authenticity above all. It celebrates crack and crevices and all other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet – that our bodies, as well as the material world around us, are in the process of retiring to the dust from which we came.” (author unknown)

Photographer: Allen Fajardo