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

Self-Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Living well is the best revenge.”

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

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

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

But here’s the real issue…

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

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

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

How We Can Change

1) Listen

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Be Supportive of Others

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

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

3) Remember That We’re Not in Competition 

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

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

4) Keep Your Opinions To Yourself

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

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

5) You Cannot Take Someone’s Testimony Away

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

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

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

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

Photo by Matt Rutski.

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

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!

Photo by Ken McBride.

How I Freed Myself From the Opinions of Others

Self-Help

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?

Photo by Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.

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Unplug and Ashtanga

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

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

The Physical Changes 

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

The Mental Changes 

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

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

Disconnecting From My Devices

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

The Emotional Changes

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.

Practicing Self-Love (No Lush Bath Bombs Needed)

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

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

Why is self-love so important?

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

What self-love isn’t…

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

How to practice self-love:

Step One: Stop Criticizing

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

Step Two: Do What Makes You Happy

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

Step Three: Come Up With A Mantra

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

Step Four: Take Breaks

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

Step Five: Exercise

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

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

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

Photo by Kendid Visuals.

Embracing Wabi-Sabi: The Art of Imperfection

Self-Help

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photographer: Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.