How To Prevent Your Self-Esteem From Taking You On A Roller Coaster

Culture & Society, Learning To Love Yourself, Re-framing Your Thinking

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(Originally posted on Hello Perfect)

With all the Insta-pics, tweets, and Facebook status updates, we look like we’ve got everything together. But sometimes, despite all appearances, the reality is far from put together.

In a recent article, author Sarah Varney shared the story of Carlos, a formerly overweight man, to illustrate the idea that despite the fact that someone looks healthy on the outside doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t battle past demons.

You can lose the weight. You can put on makeup. You can get surgery. But sometimes the external changes aren’t enough. Sure, having a great body is good for your self-esteem, but if you base your self-esteem solely on the media’s standards of beauty…well, you’ve seen what happens to girls who do that.

If you base your self-esteem on external factors, you’ll find your self-esteem speeding up and down faster than Roadrunner chasing Coyote. The key is to build your self-esteem from the inside out. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend my time building a solid foundation instead of chasing after my self-esteem like a beginner runner trying to run a 5k.

Cut Out Media

 

Yes, you did just read that. Yes, I know Project Runway and America’s Next Top Model are as addicting as Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream. But if you cut media out of your life (notice that I didn’t limit it to stuff you see on screens?), you get a chance to focus on yourself rather than trying to reach what is most likely an unattainable “norm.”

If that sounds impossible, start small. Cut out one reality show one week. Throw away those old issues of Vogue that are gathering dust on your desk. Watch one episode of Game of Thrones instead of holding a marathon and chowing on popcorn in the process. Media can be fun, but too much of it can be so damaging to your self-esteem.

Talk To Someone

 

            Yes, this goes against my entire do-not-rely-on-external-factors argument, but hold on for a second and hear me out. We are humans, not robots. We can’t do everything ourselves. We run out of steam so fast that it’s not even funny. That’s where talking to someone can help.

Now, when I say someone, I don’t mean anyone. I mean someone you trust. Someone doesn’t need to bring you down to make herself feel better. You might not be a chatterbox, but here’s the thing. The longer you keep your lips zipped, the bigger your problems get. Talking to someone can give you some perspective. You might realize that the thing you’re obsessing over, which seems like the worst thing on the planet a few hours ago, is actually the most insignificant detail in the world.

You don’t need to disclose your entire life story. Just tell someone that you’re having issues, and you need a pick-me-up. Sometimes all you need is a little pick-me-up (that is not in the form of tiramisu) to make you feel better and boost your self-esteem.

 

Focus On What You Do Well

 

I’m not going to pull a Louise Hay and go all self-help book on you, but sometimes we actually do need to focus on what you do well. Do you cook a mean spaghetti with meatballs? Take note of that. Are you the resident Miss Organization that everyone turns to because they know that you won’t lose anything you give them for safekeeping? Write that down. Positivity attracts positivity. Focusing on what you have and what you do well instead of what you don’t have brings more positive things into your life.

And who doesn’t want that? The best part about that is the fact that you can pull out your Things I Do Well list and look at it (if lists are your thing). You can keep adding to it. When you actually take a step back and look at it, I have a feeling that you’ll discover that you’re actually pretty darn talented.

Give Yourself Time To Let Steam Off

 

            If you’re feeling overwhelmed with things, excuse yourself. No, I can’t give you a machine where you can press the pause button on life, but you can voluntarily remove yourself from situations that aggravate you. The more you suppress your emotions, the more the steam builds. And the more you suppress your emotions, the more your self-esteem will suffer.

Let off steam in the best way for you. Write in a journal if that’s your thing. Go run a couple miles in the park if that’s your thing. Do whatever it is you need to do to let off steam. The worst thing you can do when you’re trying to boost your self-esteem is to ignore your emotions. You’ll just feel worse about yourself if you do. No one wants that, right?

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You Are Going To Be A Bundle of Contradictions, And That’s Okay

Culture & Society, Learning To Love Yourself, Miscellaneous Musings, Re-framing Your Thinking

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“You’re too sensitive.”

“Don’t be so dramatic.”

“Just get over it.”

 

Sound familiar?

 

I think if we all were paid a dollar when someone said those things to us, we’d be filthy rich by now. Kids and adults can be cruel.

Okay. You might not think that those things are cruel, but even the smallest things can destroy your confidence, especially if you’re a hypersensitive person like me. I don’t care if you’re Jennifer Lawrence or your neighbor down the street. Everyone goes through those moments when their confidence is ground in the dirt.

And in those moments, it’s easy to look to the person you idolize. Yes, you know who I’m talking about. Those people whose Twitter accounts you stalk, whose magazine covers you buy the second they hit the newsstands. The ones you want to be.

Sure, they may look like they have everything, but that doesn’t make them immune to pain. Despite their “perfect” image (thank you very much every news outlet ever), the truth is that they’re far from perfect.

 

 

 

See? Case in point.

 

Social media has allowed us to filter our lives so much that it’s very easy to think that we are the only ones in the world who suck at life. We have become so gosh darn obsessed with the number of likes, tweets, and followers that we judge our value based on those superficial numbers.

 

You don’t have to be Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, or Selena Gomez to say something in today’s world that you’ll get flack for. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best singer in the world since sliced bread: Anything you do or say will be picked apart. You can’t please everyone. If you try to please everyone, you’ll end up becoming a doormat. And becoming a doormat is the easiest way to lose your sanity.

 

The only thing you can do is to try to please yourself. Just because you’re a little dramatic doesn’t mean that you have to put duct tape over your mouth every time you come across the person who called you a drama queen.

 

So what if you don’t think that One Direction is the best band to hit the radio waves since The Beatles? You don’t have to bend over backwards to memorize their names and listen to all their albums in one day just because you want to appease your friends who happen to spend their hard-earned money on concert tickets. You don’t have to justify your decisions or tastes to anyone.

 

You’re still young. We will always be students of life. You can believe multiple things. Your tastes will change and grow with you. You can be a drama queen and still be a mellow, relaxed person. You can like the Beatles, Patti Smith, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift & Demi Lovato all at the same time for different reasons, no matter what anyone tells you. You don’t need permission from anyone.

 

Finding what you like and what you believe is a process. Believing in yourself is not an easy, straightforward thing. You will always be a bundle of contradictions, there’s no way around it.

 

I’m going to try my hardest not to pull a Louise Hay on you, not because I have my doubts about the self-help industry, but because when you’re young, it’s really hard to believe that your flaws make you interesting, when all they seem to do is help you dig your own grave. Yes, your favorite celeb can help, but no matter how many times you listen to their songs on repeat, you’re the one who has to believe that your quirks make you who you are. And it can be really hard to turn Negative Nancy’s voice off.

But who else but you thinks the way you think, likes what you like, and does what you do? All of the stuff (good and bad) that you’ve been through has made you who you are. You might not be able to just shake it off (thank you, Taylor Swift for getting that song stuck in my head). You might let things change you, but that doesn’t mean that you’re any weaker than the next person. You can make the choice to use the obstacles and changes you go through as fuel. Or you can let them remain walls.

And we know what happens with walls.

 

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Image Credit

 

It’s a lot better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are, anyway. I’ve tried being something I wasn’t; it was by far one of the most painful things I have ever done. It was a lot of lying. A lot of crying. A lot of pulling my hair out. A lot of filtering. A lot of hiding.

It took me more than ten years to realize this, but if you just put yourself out there, and KEEP doing it, the right audience will find you.

When you shed your mask, share your story, and be yourself no matter where you are in life, you encourage others to do the same. People will see their flaws in you and realize that it’s OKAY to be flawed, that you DO NOT have to have everything figured out, that you DO NOT have to hibernate like a bear waiting for spring. You can be a role model for others without going on American Idol or winning an Olympic medal. You can do that by living your life, quirks and all. Yes, you heard me. You may be someone else’s Demi Lovato, Taylor Swift, or Emma Watson. You just might not know it yet.

I’m not saying for you to blast Shake it Off and let criticism roll off you like water; you can do that if that’s your thing, but I think there’s still a lot to be learned from criticism. The important thing is not to let it get to you, because your haters will ultimately make you better. They will help you grow.

Take in what you want to take in, improve what you can, and keep living your best life.

And for those who just don’t give you the time of day?

Shake ‘em off.

Screenshot Credit: YouTube

Bullying: From Victim To Badass

Culture & Society, Learning To Love Yourself

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Originally posted on Honesty For Breakfast

We’ve all heard that classic saying, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Whoever coined that needs to call me. I have a really big bone to pick with them. When I finally track them down, I’ll give their number to all you ladies out there who want to give him a piece of your mind. Just ask me for it.

All jokes aside, bullying sucks. When you’re growing hair in weird places, and sporting glasses AND a metal railroad across your teeth it gets even worse. I remember crying a river when all the lights were turned out as I replayed the school day in my head. I got a lot of phone calls from my classmates. But those calls weren’t to discuss homework or arrange the next trip to the movies. They were prank calls. They called so often that I became afraid of the phone. One thing led to another, and I eventually found myself on a therapist’s couch dealing with a cocktail of emotional issues and sporting a huge label that said I was disabled.

The bullying continued every day for 2 years, until I made the decision to switch schools. The new school was a much better fit, but the damage had already been done. I could spend the rest of my life wishing I could jump into a time machine and do everything over again with what I know now as a twenty-something college graduate but what’s done is done, and honestly, I think that the most painful experiences of your life can be the most powerful teachers. And bullying is no exception. Looking back now, I’ve realized that it’s made me grow in more ways than one…

It Makes You Develop Empathy For Others You’re probably thinking I’m insane right now, but yes, you did just read that headline correctly. Anyone who’s seen the documentary Bully knows that bullying is damaging. It can make you cynical. It can make you a recluse. But it can also make you empathetic. It allows you to relate to others and put yourself in other people’s shoes. Being bullied isn’t a prerequisite for being empathetic, but if you understand that everyone goes through pain, you can be kinder to yourself and others. And who doesn’t love a nice person?

You Develop A Thick Skin That brusque lady who snapped at you as you waited in line at the grocery store? Maybe she had a bad day. Maybe there’s something going on in her life that she’s distracted by. Maybe she’s just not a morning person. This is not to say that you’ll never be bothered by ANYTHING that is said to you if you’ve gone through bullying. You’re a human being, not a robot. Words can (and do) hurt. But you get good at picking your battles. You take in what you want to take in, and let the rest roll off. Easier said than done, yes. But I find that it’s a hell of a lot more fun going through life without worrying about what sort of ridiculous rumor the resident Regina George started about you behind your back. And all that experience dealing with your school’s version of the Plastics has given you plenty of practice, wouldn’t you say?

You Get to Focus on What Makes YOU Awesome Just because your bullies call you fat doesn’t mean you are. I mean, come on, not all of us have Cara Delevingne’s brows, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t just as awesome. Break out a piece of paper and pen and write down the things you love about yourself. Do you speak 2 languages? Love how beautiful your hair is? Are you unwaveringly loyal to your friends? Keep adding to it. Ask your closest girlfriends what they love about you, and add those things to the list. Put it up where you can see it. Focus on it. Re-read that list when you’re feeling down. Focusing on what makes you awesome not only boosts your self-esteem, but it’s also the most powerful “[insert expletive of choice here] you” to your haters. By focusing on what YOU rock at and pursuing your dreams, you can go to bed knowing that you busted your butt to get to where you are. And it’s still entirely possible that those bullies are still camped out on their couches looking for someone else to pick on. Who knows? You just might appear on their TV when they sit down for their next channel surfing session. Wouldn’t that be awesome?

It Shows You Who Your Real Friends Are You might have 500 Facebook friends, but that doesn’t mean that they’re REALLY your friends. When you’re being bullied, it’s easy for those around you to drift away. Not because they’ve suddenly decided that you’re worth less than their morning Starbucks, but because they’re afraid of becoming targets. Not everyone is going to stand up for you when you’re being bullied. But the ones that do? The ones that support you? They’re special. They’re the ones you should keep around. Actions do speak louder than words. Knowing who your real friends are keeps you happy. And when you’re happy, life is just better. And as for those who drift away? It’s their loss. You’re awesome.

How To Accept Compliments Without Feeling Guilty

Culture & Society, Learning To Love Yourself, Re-framing Your Thinking

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(Originally published on Hello Perfect)

I’ve always had trouble accepting compliments. Growing up, I learned that in order to be a “good” girl, you had to turn down compliments. So I did – but that only served to grind my self-esteem in the dirt.

 

Sure, it took me more than a decade, but I think I’ve finally figured out how to take a compliment without feeling crummy afterwards.

 

Say Thank You

 

In a recent New York Times article about dealing with digital cruelty, author Stephanie Rosenbloom ended the article with a quote from James O. Pawelski, who acknowledged that we are  “really bad, typically, as a culture about accepting compliments;” Professor Pawelski went on to point out that compliments are “meant to be taken in and really appreciated. They’re meant to be gifts.”

 

 

People don’t have to waste their breath paying you a compliment, but they do. They believe you’re worth it, and that’s worth acknowledging, even with a simple “thank you. “ Don’t you think?

 

Look For Things You Like in Others

 

I know, I know. Easier said than done. Sometimes people are mean. Many of us move through life reacting to what we’re told. But if you look for things that you like in other people, it’s easier to find things that you like about yourself. Sometimes the things people compliment you on are admirable traits that you can learn to like in yourself too.

 

Change Your Inner Dialogue

 

I’ll be frank here: I’m still working on this. It’s not like you can snap your fingers and your negative thoughts will dissolve. However, if you take a minute to say to yourself, “Wow, he/she thought I was [insert compliment here]. That’s awfully nice of them,“ instead of, “OK. Why did they say that? They don’t know what I’m dealing with,” you’ll feel a lot better about yourself.

 

 

Do you have any other good tips for accepting a compliment without damaging your self-esteem?

 

How To Glow With Good Self-Esteem

Learning To Love Yourself, Re-framing Your Thinking

 

howtoglowwithgoodselfesteem(Originally published on Hello Perfect)

I was the girl in school who was picked last for any game involving a ball. While I was never yelled at for not getting an A on my report card, my family expected excellence. They often recounted their own childhoods, what they were doing when they were my age.

 

Those stories only served to make me feel like I was an ant being ground to a pulp under the heel of their favorite pairs of shoes.

 

I used that feeling of inadequacy to push me. I kept telling myself to look at people around me, to try to better them. In a structured, academic environment, it served me well.

 

Without the structure, I flailed. I had to build my self-esteem in a way that didn’t rely so much on external factors.

 

Intimidating?

 

Yes.

 

Impossible?

 

No.

 

How did I do it?

 

Cut Out Friends Who No Longer Serve You

 

We’ve all had that one friend who likes to make themselves feel better by bringing us down.

 

During my sophomore year in college, a friend from my hometown and I decided to be roommates. One we started living together, I quickly discovered that her sarcastic sense of humor that I had once loved was borderline cruel.

 

I started avoiding her while I was on campus and at home, even when she dropped the classic, “We should hang out,” because I knew that she made me feel inferior when I had no reason to feel that way.

 

I’m not saying that you need to have friends who tell you that you’re the cat’s meow every day; it’s good to have friends who challenge you. Sure, you might love that person’s sense of humor or the discussions that keep you engaged, but if you leave a get-together feeling crappy, they’re not worth keeping in your life.

 

Block that individual on all social media accounts. Erase their number. Sit down and talk to them if you can and make it clear that you don’t want to be friends with them anymore. You don’t have to go into the specifics about why if you don’t want to.

 

You’ll find that ridding yourself of toxic relationships makes you feel so much better about yourself.

 

Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Good

 

If you’re comfortable and confident in your clothes, people will sense that. They will be attracted to that easy confidence. But more than that, you will start to feel comfortable with YOURSELF, which goes a long when you’re developing self-esteem.

 

So if you absolutely KNOW that wearing a dress to a big event will make you want to vomit, even if you’re feeling pressured to wear one, don’t. Find something that flatters you and that you feel comfortable in.

 

If you spend an entire event worrying about how uncomfortable a garment makes you feel, you won’t be able to live in the present and enjoy the moment – and learning how to enjoy the moment goes a long way in helping to build your self-esteem.   

 

Create Your Own Standards

 

I’ve found that building your self-esteem can often mean refraining from subscribing to the standards of others. Such standards are often unrealistic.

 

In order to deal with my depression and keep it at bay, I exercise for an hour a day a few times a week. A good day for me is where my symptoms are controlled, when I’m not triggered by anything around me.

 

Sure, to some people, that might not be their definition of wellness. Some people go lift weights for an hour, go to a Pilates class, and finish with a run on a treadmill.

 

I may not work out to that extreme, but I can go to bed knowing that I’ve accomplished something, and that feeling goes a long way in helping me to build my self-esteem. Knowing that I’ve done the best I can for myself, without worrying about what other people expect, makes me feel pretty invincible.      

 

Do Things That Make You Feel Powerful

 

Doing things that make you feel powerful goes a long way in building your self-esteem. You stretch yourself. You do things you never thought you could do. That feeling that you get as you relish in an accomplishment? Hold on to it.

 

A few years ago, I traveled to Japan with a parent for a family event. My family wanted me to say a few words at the gathering. I was petrified, but I calmed down once I was assured that my speech didn’t need to be 15 minutes long.

 

The day of the event, I woke up a ball of nerves and with a stomach ache. I tripped and tottered my way through the crowded Tokyo streets to the restaurant, where more than 30 immediate family members greeted me.

 

Each one of them sitting at the giant table proceeded to give a “short” speech. As I listened to them, I could feel my face start to whiten. These speeches were not 2 minutes long.

 

They were 15 minutes long.

 

How was I supposed to give such a long speech in my second language with a stomach ache?

 

I started debating the option of delivering the speech in English. I knew I could do that for 15 minutes. Most of the people at the table spoke some English. They would be able to understand most of it. After all, it was the thought that counted, right?

 

All these thoughts went out the window after I registered the loud whispers being exchanged among my family.

 

“Is she going to do her speech in English?”

 

“Her Japanese wasn’t that good the last time she was here.”

 

When it was my turn, I delivered my speech entirely in Japanese.

 

Was I nervous?

 

Yes.

 

Did people laugh at me when I fumbled over my words?

 

Yes.

 

But the expression on my family’s faces as I put them in their place was worth the fumbling and the excruciating stomach pain. More importantly, I felt powerful. I had done something that I didn’t think I could do.

 

I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I now believed that I could do things that I didn’t think were possible.

 

You don’t have to make a 15-minute speech in a foreign language to feel powerful. You just need to push your boundaries, prove to yourself that you can do things you didn’t think you could. Building your self-esteem starts with small victories. Count them. Write them down.  As you grow and evolve, things around you will change. But those feelings of power and self-confidence will stay with you even after the things around you disappear.

 

How have YOU built up your self-esteem over the years?

Why I’m On The Fence About The Self – Help Industry & The Key To Making The Changes You Want To See

Culture & Society, Re-framing Your Thinking

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I’ve been through 2 self-help programs. These programs told me I was going to “find my inner beauty in 3 months” and “find the career of my dreams (or something along those lines) in 8 weeks.”

These programs claimed that they would “fix” my life, in a sense.

Have I embraced my inner beauty or gotten my dream career?

Nope. Not yet. I’m in the process of doing those things.

Sure, these programs have helped me somewhat, but they are not a quick fix. They are advertised to make you THINK they are.

This is why I have a problem with them:

You can’t develop confidence in 8 weeks or whatever else these programs advertise. Building confidence takes years. Your career is a constantly evolving journey. Your “purpose” is going to change as you change. You have to put effort into instigating the changes you want to see.

These programs in the self-help industry don’t fix your problems. You do.

I’m going to say that again. We fix our problems.

In response to the New York Times article that discussed young girls and the fact that they use YouTube to validate whether or not they’re physically attractive, one reader left the comment:

“Sounds more like our culture is the issue-again. It says a lot when the standard for approval and acceptance for young girls is physical appearance-but not so much for young boys.”

Guys go through the ringer too, you know.

I don’t think our culture is entirely to blame here; our society is made up of individuals who have the opportunity to help shape our rules. So yes, that twisted society that we always say has to change?

You help make it too.

I’m not trying to make you angry and say that everything that happens in society is your fault. I’m just asking you to consider the fact that you might be engaging in little things that are helping to create a society you don’t want to see.

Gandhi was right. In order to change the world, you have to BE that change.

What sorts of changes do YOU want to see in today’s society?

 

 

 

 

How To Turn A Bad Day Around

Re-framing Your Thinking

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You know those days where everything that could possibly go wrong actually does?

You roll out of bed past your alarm. You spill coffee on your work clothes. You can’t find your keys. And when you finally do find your keys, you go to work, only to lock yourself out of the car. You’re sitting in traffic on the way to the airport. You miss your flight. The days where you constantly find yourself thinking, This is not my day.

 

We all have them.

 

I just had one a short time ago. Except this time, it wasn’t an endless ring of fiery hoops I had to jump through. I created this obstacle course with one mistake that could have been easily avoidable.

 

Not even finding a very uplifting post from one of my all-time favorite blogs could cheer me up. And this was while I was listening to music.

 

I was playing the “should have, could have” game for a good while. But we all know that that doesn’t do squat.

 

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Let Yourself Feel Frustrated

 

You might say, “So you missed a flight. Big whoop.”

 

Actually, to some of us, it DOES seem like we were crushed under a boulder, thank you very much.

 

Sometimes it’s hard to let things go. Sometimes the littlest thing can seem like the end of the world, especially if you’re a sensitive person like yours truly.

 

It took me a good half hour (or more) of writing in freehand to free myself from the grip of a panic attack. And even then, my old insecurities surfaced. And I let myself feel them.

 

You could say that the universe was trying to teach me something. And maybe it was. But in those moments of frustration, sometimes the last thing you want to hear is a cheesy line like “Everything happens for a reason.”

 

Because it’s hard to find a reason when you’re immersed in the moment, riding an unwanted emotional high. Actually the word “hard” is an understatement. It’s beyond difficult. It just sucks. You feel like an ant that’s been crushed under someone’s heel.

 

It’s going to take time to let your emotions pass through you. Sometimes you’ll feel better after an hour. Other times, you can take the whole day. Let yourself take that time, no matter how long you need.

 

Once you let the emotion pass through you, you’ll feel a little better. And then maybe you’ll be able to shift your perspective and focus on the good things in your day. You have to feel bad before you begin to feel better. Yes, it sucks, but unfortunately, there’s no beating your way around the bush.

 

 

Don’t Add Salt (Or Give Someone Else A Chance To)

 

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Who would want to add salt to that yummy cappuccino?

 

Sometimes the things people have to say just aren’t what you want to hear. Sure, honesty is great, but there’s a time and a place for it.

 

That place is not when you’re having a bad day.

 

You might come to realize the value of what someone is saying after sufficient time has passed.

 

But rubbing salt in a wound and pointing out the obvious is not the way to support them.

 

Know who you can trust to give you encouragement and pull you out of your rut. Cut unsupportive people out of your life if you can. If you can’t, try to distance yourself from them or find a way to interact with them in a way that doesn’t open all your old wounds.

 

Learning how to support yourself is key. Relying on other people to dictate your emotions places the power in their hands. It’s like handing over a puppet and its control to someone else.

 

I’m not going to say that there’s ONE WAY to learn how to support yourself because I’m not going to pretend to speak for everyone else out there who may have different coping mechanisms. Do what feels right for you.

 

You aren’t a puppet. You’re human.

 

 

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Appreciate Little Things

 

Yes, even if you don’t feel it in the moment.

 

It feels GOOD to get a text message from your best friend saying that she believes in you.

 

It feels good to hear the flight attendant say tell you that you’re not the first person in the world to miss your flight once you calm down enough to turn the drama queen switch off.

 

Appreciate those things. Focus on them. They’ll make your day so much better.

 

I promise.

 

 

What do YOU do to get over a bad day?

 

 

 

How To Feel Powerful & The Hard Truth About Overcoming Negative Feelings

Re-framing Your Thinking

IMG_0208“It is doubtful that we came to feel undeserving on our own. We were helped to feel unworthy. We were taught it in a thousand ways when we were little, and we learned our lessons well.”

 

I think all of us would agree. We’ve all felt like the lowest thing on the planet at some point in our lives.

 

Not good enough. Not capable enough. Not pretty enough. Not [insert your word of choice here] enough. The list goes on and on and on.

 

In case you’re wondering, I am in the process of doing this. Every week, as per my coach’s instructions, I’ve been doing 2 things a week that make me feel more powerful and capable.

 

Here’s the kicker though: It can’t be something I would normally do. So even though lifting weights at the gym makes me feel powerful and capable, she wouldn’t count it because it’s been part of my normal routine for a month now.

 

Yes, I was groaning loudly when she said that.

 

What have I learned from this experience, you ask?

 

 

There Is No Easy Way About It

 

 

So how do you go about feeling more capable/good/pretty/fill-in-the-blank enough?

 

You do things that make you feel that way.

 

No, sorry. There is no way to beat around the bush. There just isn’t. I wish there was, but if it were easy, none of us would ever feel like a fly on the wall. It’s just like overcoming a fear: you have to do the thing that you’re scared of so that you build a new association with it.

 

Do 2 new things every week that help you build that feeling that you feel you’re lacking.

 

Want to feel more capable and powerful? Do 2 new things every week that make you feel capable and powerful.

SashaCohenquote 

 

Go Easy On Yourself

 

What makes someone feel powerful varies from person to person. Your version of powerful might be doing something small (like connecting with someone you’ve never met over social media) or it might be something big (like lifting 300 pounds over your head). Acknowledge what you’ve done, even if it seems insignificant. What’s important is that it’s significant to YOU.

 

 

The Little Things Count

 

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: acknowledging yourself for the little things is important.

 

The things I did that made me feel powerful may seem insignificant to others.

 

For example, I tagged a celebrity in a post on Instagram, and they commented on my photo (the closest I think I’ll ever come to having a fangirl moment-see if you can find it!). Anyone who knows me knows that I am not the girl with posters of celebrities plastered on their walls, losing my voice screaming at concerts. (One concert in boy-crazy Japan was enough to cure me for more than a few lifetimes.)

 

I’d say that counted as going outside of my comfort zone.

 

It made me realize that I could do little things and still realize that I could stretch myself. It proved that I am capable of taking a risk.

 

And that made me feel pretty darn powerful.

 

What do YOU do to help get over negative feelings?

The 3 Best (Not-So-Pleasant) Lessons of Travel

Travel

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I remember watching an interview for the film Saving Mr. Banks where Richard Sherman described his interactions with P. L. Travers as “coming out a wonderful, yummy, warm shower, and you feel very good and happy and up and somebody comes in with a bucket of ice cold water and pours it on top of you.”

 

That experience for me was Suzhou, China.

 

After Beijing and Shanghai, where all I got were incredulous questions when I didn’t respond to the locals in perfect Mandarin and icy glares when my American chaperone had to answer for me, followed by the icy question of “ She’s not Chinese?” I was looking forward to going somewhere else. Sure, I liked those cities, but I wanted to see more of China. And that meant going beyond tourist-y shops, and The Great Wall.

 

After all, I loved traveling. I loved going outside my comfort zone.

 

And the impression I got wasn’t a very good one. But those ten days will stay with me for a lifetime because of it. And not just because of the memory of hundreds of peddlers assaulting our tour bus, yelling at us to buy their wares and shoving their stuff in our faces.

 

The Welcome Carpet Won’t Always Be Rolled Out

 

It could not have been clearer that my host family had been expecting a life-sized Barbie to come walking out of the bus. Dinners consisted mostly of awkward silence. The moments of conversation we did have were few and far between despite my attempts to get to know them. You could say that they just didn’t know what to do with me, and that my Mandarin was basic, except for the fact that the grandparents spent every meal I ate in that house glowering at me, watching my every move. Other than that, the family stared right through me during meals like I didn’t exist.

 

To say that I was uncomfortable was an understatement.

 

My host grandparents looked at me and saw Japanese people, people who had caused them pain. It didn’t matter that I had an American passport.

 

You are not your heritage. Some people won’t want to know you; that’s just how the world works. You are not any of the labels society puts on you. Just because someone doesn’t want to know you doesn’t mean that everyone doesn’t want to know you.

 

 

Some People Will Just Want to Order Panda Express

 

As an adventurous eater, I’ve always liked trying food from different cultures. I am the kind of girl who tries the things that other people wrinkle their noses at. It’s great fodder for stories. And if you don’t like it, you can at least say you tried it, right?

 

Let’s just say that in China, there was one individual who leaned over our giant table during lunch one afternoon and asked, “Laoshi (Teacher), how do you say orange chicken?”

 

This individual proceeded to try to order orange chicken in halting Mandarin, only to receive a blank stare from the local waitress in return and 17 additional pairs of eyes staring at him. You could tell we were all thinking the same thing:

 

Panda Express? When you’ve traveled halfway across the world? Really?

 

For the rest of the trip, people proceeded to bother this particular individual.

 

“Come on. You’re in China. WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?”

 

I’m not saying to order the local delicacies every time you go out and travel. But it’s more than likely that you’ll encounter people who aren’t as comfortable as you are about doing certain things. Not just when you travel, but in life in general.

 

Sure, you can have your own opinion about the things someone does, but that doesn’t mean that you need to force your opinions on them or make them feel guilty.

 

If someone you know wants to order Panda Express in China, let them order their Panda Express (or the equivalent). It’s their life, their experience. You have no control over that.

 

 

Staying In Familiar Territory Doesn’t Have To Be Bad

 

I’ve talked about finding your tribe, people who can support you. Up until this trip, I had always thought that if you weren’t pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you weren’t making the most of the experience.

 

But after being virtually ignored by my host family and nearly passing out on the Great Wall of China, it was a welcome relief to chat with classmates on the tour buses and share our experiences. They were able to offer sympathy to those of us who were struggling. We bonded over the fact that we slept on beds that consisted of two-by-fours covered by a sheet. And yes, when we were really homesick, we found a Pizza Hut.

 

I had always been irritated by foreign students who came to the US, found a group of people from their homeland, formed a clique, and refused to leave that security blanket. It took me going to China to realize this, but I finally understood why foreign students form cliques and are so often afraid to branch out.

 

Sometimes experiences just don’t go the way you envision they will in your head. And it’s okay to admit that you didn’t like something. Traveling to a foreign country can be scary. Having a community that can offer you support as you navigate through your experience and speak your native language with you isn’t bad.

 

What are the most valuable lessons YOU’VE learned from a not-so-stellar travel experience?

 

 

 

How To Be Okay With Being Different & Accept Yourself For Who You Are

Re-framing Your Thinking

Demi #reallydon'tcare

Watching the documentary Bridegroom made me cry because the documentary is a harrowing example of the power of love; it’s also proof of the fact that some people just don’t accept others for who they are.

 

Seriously. Watch it if you can.

 

I’m no expert on this stuff, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in this journey, it’s that you have to love and accept yourself before you can do that for someone else.

 

Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions, but it’s worth noting that EVERYONE deserves acceptance. I don’t care if you’re gay, straight, lesbian, bi-sexual….okay, I’ll stop before I go into rant mode.

 

Accepting yourself can be hard. Hard with a capital H. People may look like they have everything together, but the reality is they’re probably just as confused as you are.

 

Which is why accepting others for who they are is just as important.

 

There’s so much pressure in today’s society to look a certain way, think a certain way, do things a certain way. And if you don’t do it the way you’re “supposed to,” you stick out like a sore thumb.

 

Being different (with a capital D) is one of the hardest things to do, particularly when you’re in school. Don’t tell me you don’t have those middle school/high school horror stories.

 

I’m going to own up to it: I’m still working toward accepting myself for who I am. I’d be hard pressed to find someone who’s completely happy with who they are, someone who’s just stopped evolving.

 

And I doubt you’re that person. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

 

 

So what do you do in order to (start to) accept yourself?

 

 

Go With Your Gut (And Put Earplugs In If You Have To)

 

You’re going to be told what you want to do is just wrong sometimes. There are no ifs and buts about it. You can’t get everything right in your life.

 

Sometimes those reality checks are warranted. Like when you’re inches away from doing something drastic. Like making permanent decisions based on a temporary state of mind.

 

But severe issues aside, the truth is that you know yourself better than anyone else in the world. Yes, that list includes your best friend that you’ve known since you were 5 and your parents.

 

They may not understand why you do the things that you do; but the important thing is that you follow your inner compass.

 

Because sometimes the places you take yourself are better than where you thought you’d end up.

 

“I really regret going with my gut.”

 

Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve NEVER heard anyone say that.

 

 

Look Back On Your Accomplishments

 

Or if you can’t think of any, write out a list of the awesome things you’ve done/ are doing.

 

My friend (read: second career coach) made me write out a list of all the cool things I had done in my life. And even though I filed it away in the depths of my laptop, I pull it out every now and again when I need a reminder.

 

Because everyone needs a reminder of how awesome they are.

 

This is not to say that I stare at this list for hours and let my head inflate; it’s just a nice reminder to have to bring you out of the cyclone of negative experiences we can get ourselves into.

 

We’re all human.

 

The accomplishments don’t even have to be accomplishments. They can be highlights of your life.

 

My list of awesome includes (condensed and shortened for personal reasons):

 

  • Getting a college degree.
  • Studying abroad in Australia.
  • Traveling abroad to England, Ireland, China, Japan, and Mexico to expand my horizons
  • Recovering from childhood trauma
  • Meeting Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

 

Keep adding to it as you get older. I have a feeling you’ll realize that you are a lot more awesome in real life than you are in your head. Your list of highlights won’t be the same as ANYONE ELSE’S. That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?

 

Find Your People And Surround Yourself With Them

 

For those of you who have been following the blog for a while now, you’ve probably gotten sick of hearing me say this, but it makes a world of difference.

 

 

You feel validated if you’re around people who you relate to. Your dreams don’t sound impossible.

 

And that’s one of the best things in the world.

 

Because when you’re with people who all feel different, you don’t feel that different yourself, right?

 

 

We’re all different in our own ways. That’s what makes us human. We all deserve love; it just takes some of us a while to realize it. As the documentary says, “it’s not a gay thing. It’s not a straight thing. It’s a human thing.”

 

 

Use Your Story To Help Others

 

I’ve said it before: You may not believe me, but your story matters. It does. It doesn’t have to define you. You can use it as fuel.

 

It takes time to find out how your story can help others, but it can.

 

I used mine to start this blog. Shane Bitney Crone uses his story to be an advocate for equal rights. Demi Lovato uses hers to be an anti-bullying and mental health advocate.

 

I can’t speak for either one of them, but I can say for myself that the people who have reached out to me with encouragement, and said that I’d helped them in some way through my writing, is more rewarding to me than anything.

 

And that sense of accomplishment, of giving back, has allowed me to begin to accept my story, and myself, that much more.

 

 

What have YOU found most helpful in learning to accept yourself?

 

Image Credit: Demi Lovato VEVO Youtube account