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

Self-Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. The Perfectionist

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

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

2. The Superman/Superwoman

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

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

3. The Natural Genius

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

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

4. The Soloist

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

5. The Expert

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

Did you learn something about yourself?

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

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

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

Why do we feel this way?

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

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

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

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

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

A message to my fellow dreamers out there

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But … look at the bright side

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

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

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

What can you do?

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

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

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

2. Remember that everyone has it

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

3. Focus on what you can do for others

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Remember you don’t get a repeat life

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

7. Try stream of consciousness journaling

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

8. Talk to supportive people

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

9. Take a moment to just feel proud

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

10. Do NOT hold yourself back

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

11. Consider a social detox

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

Thanks for reading!

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

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

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

Photos by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

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

Digital Dilemma, Self-Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. It was bound to happen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Every successful person gets hate comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. They picked me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

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

Interviews, Self-Help

Discovering Poetry

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

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

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

Meet Best-Selling Poet, Jennae Cecelia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncaged Conversations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for coming to Lost Online!

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

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

GIVEAWAY Time!

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.

Reflecting on 2018: 13 Journal Prompts and My Answers

Self-Help

IMG_5791

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