Tag Archives: Self-esteem

One of the Neatest Things

Since last November, I’ve lost 19 pounds.

That’s something I never thought I’d write, let alone be my reality.

It is…one of the neatest things.

Part of me wants to apologize for even writing this post, because how braggy can someone get? Yet if you’ve ever stumbled upon this blog or have followed it for years, chances are, you’ve read a post about depression and self-hatred. You’ve read about the struggle I’ve had loving myself, most particularly the way I look. You’d know I’ve been fighting this battle for a long, long time.

You understand how monumental this feels for me.

So my apologies if I brag here for a moment.

 disney supernatural sherlock marvel dean winchester GIF

Like I have so many times before, last November, I told myself, “You need to lose weight. You need to become healthy. You need to create a body that you can look in the mirror and love.” For my height, the healthy weight range is 140-165. My goal has always been to get to 160 pounds and as the years have gone by, the amount of weight I’ve needed to lose to reach that point has only continued to increase. In high school, I was around 185 pounds, but by my senior year of college, I had finally hit that dreaded (to me) point and passed into the 200 range. I had reached the point where I had to lose 40 pounds to get to the higher end of my healthy weight range. I felt hopeless and discouraged in a lot of ways. That sort of weight loss was impossible to achieve.

Eight months later, I’m at 181 pounds. One more pound shed and I’ll be halfway to my goal. Two pounds and I’ll be in the 170s. If I lose a pound a week, I could reach my goal by Thanksgiving. Of this year.

Friends, I am floored at this progress. At this milestone. Of wanting the same thing for so long and finally actually doing something to achieve it. I’m floored to actually be able to feel and see the difference. I’m floored that, every once in the while, I look in the mirror and I smile at what I see. There is still plenty I want to change, but damn if I’m not stoked at where I’m at right now. The lowest weight I’ve been since I was in high school. Shaping the body that I want.

The journey itself has been a bit of a whirlwind. There were plenty of weeks where I gained weight or fluctuated between gaining and losing the same few pounds. There have been weeks where I’ve killed every fitness and eating goal I’ve put ahead of me and weeks where the only movement I got was reaching into the chip bag while sitting on my couch. It’s been a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t. There’s been times when I’ve had to forgive myself and times I knew I needed to push harder. I know that this journey will continue to change and evolve, as it’s one I’ll have for the rest of my life, because it certainly doesn’t end once I hit 160. I know there will always be hiccups and struggles and roadblocks and setbacks. That’s okay.

But for the first time ever, I’m confident that I’ll also see progress.

That is…one of the neatest things.

So thank you for your support. For encouraging me and challenging me in this journey. For telling me I’m worthy no matter what my size is (because that’s a capital T Truth). And thanks in advance for the future support and the understanding when I decline that dessert you offer or don’t go back for seconds, even though that food was bomb. It’s a lifestyle change that I’m so excited I’ve finally taken control of and I think it’ll always be a work-in-progress, but your encouragement, support and understanding is phenomenal. And I couldn’t do it without you.

Oh, and just for fun (and because I am so frugal and never spend money on anything), I also wanted to share my rewards for the next 20 pounds to lose. I think having a little extra incentive never hurt anyone, especially as I have a feeling the second 20 pounds might be harder to lose than the first.

  • 20 Pounds: New Tattoo
    • Granted, I’d already planned to get this one in August, but I’m going to cheat and count it as my reward.
  • 30 Pounds: Mass Effect Sweatshirt
    • This one might seem silly, but I’ve been eyeing this Mass Effect sweatshirt for many, many months. And it’s $60, which might not be a lot to you, but that’s always been unjustifiable to me. And I think losing 30 pounds is more than enough justification to get a kickass hoodie that I’ll never take off once I own it.
  • 40 Pounds: Die Hair
    • Again, I hate spending money, but especially on “frivolous” things like doing my hair (even though I feel so fantastic after getting it done). It gets expensive and a lot of the time, I just can’t let myself do it when I should be saving my money. But I’ve always wanted to die my hair darker professionally, even though doing so and getting it cut, too, is a bit pricey. But reaching the weight I never thought I’d reach and having my hair look amazing? Yes, please.

If you have some goals or dreams that you’ve always wanted to achieve but never seem to reach that finish line, I really encourage you to take a scary look at what you’re actually doing to achieve them. Before last November, while the dream of loving my body was very real, the actions I was taking to make it a reality were non-existent and thus, the dream was out of reach. And trust me: you want to know what it feels like to work towards what you believe to be impossible dreams and see yourself make progress, with the knowledge that you yourself are the reason you’re achieving them.

It really is one of the neatest things.

Cheers.


The Little Things

When you’re trying to change the way you’re body looks, it’s so easy to get caught up on the numbers on the scale; so easy to get frustrated when you fluctuate between losing and gaining, when you can’t get past that one number or, worse, when you trip up and gain everything back you lost in the weeks prior. It’s easy, when you’re still so far away from your goal, to still look in the mirror and notice all the ways you still need to change and improve; how much work is still ahead of you. It’s easy to maintain old habits and continue to avoid mirrors all together, to get discouraged when your weight goes up instead of down, to feel queasy when you weigh yourself to begin with or to wonder if you’re ever going to reach your goal.

It’s easy to focus and nitpick the little things.

The way your legs still look like cottage cheese. Those love handles that stick out over your pants. The stretch marks. The way your triceps are still flabby. How your calves only look slim at certain angles. Your thighs rub together. Your back fat. How no part of you looks good good in pictures.

You nitpick so much that those little things become something bigger, to the point where you get discouraged, you lose hope or you give up all together.

It’s not as easy to focus on the little things that matter.

Like how the scale went down .2 pounds since last time. How you cut off 10 seconds off your mile time or ran for five more minutes. Adding weight when you’re lifting. How you don’t breathe as hard walking up the stairs. The way you sometimes pause to look at how your jeans fit in the mirror. The slight definition you feel in your muscles, even if you can’t actually see it yet. The moment when you buy a pair of shorts instead of capris to wear over the summer or you wear that two piece despite how your love handles stick out. How you can wear a skirt and your thighs don’t chafe, even though they’re touching.

There are two paths of thought being described, here: the path looking at how far you need to go and the path looking at how far you’ve already come. The former can be dangerous, even detrimental, towards achieving your goals. It’s dark, and once you step onto it, it’s very easy to continue on until you don’t remember the light anymore. The latter is well lit and promising, encouraging you to push forward, no matter how long it takes or how small the proof of progress is. It’s also the harder of the two to choose, especially consistently.

But you must.

In my fitness journey, I get so caught up looking at all the ways I still want to improve that I forget to appreciate how far I’ve already come, only six months in. Sure, the progress is small and the journey is still long, but the progress is present. And if I quit now, I’ll have no second, hopeful path to strive towards. Instead, I’ll slip into a third path of regrets, laden with What ifs, as all I can notice is how I went backwards, instead of forward–even if going forward includes fluctuating numbers on the scale, cheat days with sweets, still avoiding the mirror and feeling like you’re never going to make it. Because if you push forward, if you continue to choose hope and work and effort, you’ll make it. You will.

I want to be excited for a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, to be able to see and feel exactly what traveling down the path of little things that mattered helped me achieve; to reach the goals I’ve had for most of my life yet never reached.

Here’s to the little things, both the ones that push me and the ones that try–and fail–to stop me.

Cheers.


The Surprising Insights Amidst Heartbreak

It’s been awhile since my heart broke.

I’ll let you in on a secret: I didn’t miss the feeling.

I didn’t miss the pain in the back of my eyes from the pressure of crying too much and too frequently, resulting in swelling and redness that I usually just tell my coworkers are allergies and they pretend to believe me as a kindness. I didn’t miss the actual pain in my chest or how my mind constantly runs down various paths of What Ifs and Whys as I struggle to understand how I ended up with a beating heart pieced together by strings that loosen with every choked sob. I didn’t miss the sudden teeter-tottering that follows for days afterwards, where I never know how long that happiness I’m fighting to create will last before a surprise reminder of what could have been–what I miss, what I want but can’t have–suddenly snaps and I go into another sad spiral.

Yeah, I didn’t miss any of this. Yet you don’t really get to choose when or how often you experience this type of pain. You do, however, as John Green penned, have a say on who hurts you. And I like my choice.

Image result for john green quote i like my choices

A classic case of bad timing and one person falling more than the other, this current heartbreak is truly just unlucky. It’s going to take a little bit of time to get over and get used to not having a crush again; not having that hope that maybe this time, just this time, things might work out and I’ll finally find that relationship I’ve always dreamed of.

Unfortunately, at this moment, this time isn’t it, either.

But this heartbreak gave me a lot of insight that I’ve never experienced before. And of course, I have to write it down, if only to find another form of releasing all of these emotions aside from crying into my pillow, running until my legs give out or sending walls of texts to my best friend.

So, here’s what I’ve learned:

        1. I am way too judgmental of a person.

That might seem a little bit harsh, but I promise it’s not your typical self-loathing or self-deprecation that sometimes happens after your heart is broken. Though I have never been in a relationship, what I just experienced was the closest thing to it for me personally (and I’m being purposefully vague to protect the other person’s privacy). And before I experienced it, I definitely had some judgments on people who also entered into nontraditional types of relationships. Judgments that were undeserved, because I certainly didn’t understand what they were experiencing or going through; the reasons why people made these choices and why my judging them is completely wrong–it’s none of my business anyway. It forced me to self-reflect and realize that I need to be more open-minded and less prone to automatically, subconsciously pass judgment on a person or situation that is foreign to me; not just with relationships, but in every aspect of life. Obviously, I won’t change overnight, but I like to think that, thanks to this pseudo-relationship and the least-judgmental man I’ve ever met, I can work harder to be more open-minded and understanding of those situations and values that differ from my own.

        2. The world of relationships is not so black and white.

I had a very black and white understanding of relationships. Or perhaps expectation is the right word. You meet a guy (guy in my case, as I’m straight; please substitute according to your sexual preference). You flirt. You get to know one another, slowly. Eventually, he’ll ask you out. You’ll go on a couple dates. You’ll eventually kiss. You’ll enter into a relationship. You’ll grow together. After a couple years, you’ll get married and the rest is a happily ever after. Black and white. Straight-forward. Simple.

(Hint: life is not like that. At all.)

The world is a lot more gray than that (^^) fairy tale; one I’d foolishly believed was the only real option for romance. Instead, there are so many different types of relationships and ways of falling into–or working towards–being with someone. And no one way is better than the others (as the judgmental part of me believed). Instead, what matters is that the people involved in the relationship are open, honest with one another and comfortable. Everything else can be worked out.

(Another hint: having all this gray is a good thing.)

        3. I rely way too much on other’s approval. 

When I first starting veering towards what was, to me, a very weird type of relationship I’d never thought I’d be in, I was terrified to tell my friends or my family, because I was certain they would frown upon it (in retrospect, it was partly because I usually frowned upon these types of relationships because I didn’t understand them and it “wasn’t how it was supposed to be done” ((see fairy tale))) and then they would advise me to stop, because that was not how you were “supposed” to fall in love (and though I didn’t actually fall in love here, I was definitely working my way towards that). And I didn’t want to stop. I was first surprised by the openness everyone responded with, which was the first slap in the face that I need to fall off my high horse and stop being so judgmental. But then I was punched in the face when I realized that I rely way too much on these opinions of others–even those closest to me–instead of doing what makes me happy–not what I think I am supposed to do or what will make my parents or friends happy. I need to start making choices for me, because of me.

(Notice how those first three tie together really well? Yeah, I have a lot of work to do.)

        4. I still don’t love myself enough. 

I never wanted to believe the saying that you can’t love someone until you love yourself, but I’m starting to see the value of it. Not because you can’t love that person. I think it is totally possible to love someone else and not yourself. But if you don’t love yourself, you come to rely on their love as your main source of self-worth. You start searching for affirmations from them until they grow tired of reminding you of the truths you should already know, but refuse to believe. Sometimes, they could grow angry. And before you know it, you’ve pushed someone good away because they spent the entire time trying to convince you to love yourself and that their feelings were true instead of simply loving you and being loved by you.

Although this isn’t the culprit behind my latest heartbreak, there were definitely signs that I need to continue to work on loving myself and creating affirmations within myself, instead of searching for them from someone else. That’s just not a healthy lifestyle and strains all types of relationships, not just romantic ones.

        5. I’m not needy, but I do have needs. 

Though I want to work on being more open minded, I do know that I need a stable, exclusive relationship to be happy. I don’t like sharing someone. I don’t like being someone’s secret, someone’s fling, someone’s fun. None of these things are bad, if that is the type of relationship you are comfortable being in. But I realized that I need more than that. I want to be able to brag about my boyfriend to my friends. I want to be introduced to his family. I want to enter into a relationship hoping that we can creature a future together. I want serious. And that’s okay to want and fight for and even give up someone you really care about because you need more. That’s okay.

        6. Love is not a checklist. 

My track record with guys is pretty nonexistent. Before this past year, I didn’t really try. And I was really, truly convinced that I would never find love; that I was meant to be alone. After trying, I’ve struck out twice, but I do believe now that love might be out there for me; that I deserve it; and I’ve realized that I can’t search for it by creating a checklist of desires or expectations and turning away everyone who doesn’t meet all of them with flying colors.

I joined an online dating website for a few months, where you could tailor your matches down to desired physical and lifestyle traits. And I know for a fact that the man I just lost would never have matched with me, based on how limited/specific my “match criteria” was. Yet he’s the man whose made me the happiest I’ve ever been (in regards to romance). My standards don’t need to be lowered, but this idea in my head that the one meant for me needs to be X, Y and Z definitely needs to go out the window. Love cannot–and should not–be contained to checking off boxes on a list. It’s about connection and growth and risk and communication and work and choosing that person every single day.

So…yeah. Right now, my heart hurts. I lost a really good guy thanks to bad timing and unrequited feelings. Frankly, it sucks. But no “relationship” has taught me more than he did in the briefest of times. By stepping out of my comfort zone and taking a chance on him, in a weird relationship and situation I never thought I’d be in, sure, I came out with my heart broken. But I also came out as a better person, with a clever vision of what I want in love and who I want to be as a person. That alone is why every tear right now is worth it and not a single regret is felt. Doesn’t mean that I’ll won’t probably be bonding with a pint of ice cream later tonight and my pillow won’t be drenched in tears for a while as I cry myself to sleep, but for this heartbreak and the experience that caused it, I am nothing but thankful–and hopeful, as every hopeless romantic is, for what my future love life holds…even if it takes me a while to get there.

Cheers.


My Gut Tells Me To Apologize For Writing This (But I’m Not Going To)

Apparently, I apologize a lot.

I’m not just talking about when I actually need to; when I’ve messed up and I need to own up to my own mistakes. I’m talking about all the time. The phrase “I’m sorry” is apparently one of the main elements in my lexicon, to the point that I hardly even notice how often I use it; how that phrase encompasses and follows every aspect of my life. I’ll apologize for what I just said. How I act. What I think. Things out of my control. I never realized how often I apologized, until a friend of mine snapped, “Damn, quit saying “you’re sorry” all the time.” His snap caught me off guard and I’m sure, the intuitive human that you are, you guessed how I responded. Instinctively, without a blink.

“Sorry,” I muttered.

And he just stared at me, his expression the very definition of incredulous as he responded, “Seriously?”

But it’s not just the phrase “I’m sorry” that reflects how often I apologize. I’ll say things like, “Sorry to bother you, but…” or “I don’t mean to distract you,” or “I know I’m burdening you, however…”. The most ironic thing? I usually say these things when I’m texting someone. When we’re simply talking. I never realized how often I did this, because it was so instinctual; a reflex, more than anything else.

Now that I notice, I see how harmful it is.

I’ve always struggled with my own opinion of myself, but I’ve grown and made a lot of strides in loving myself. Yet this is a very clear sign that there are still some negative thoughts and opinions rooted deep, expressed by my apparent need to apologize for my own existence (because now that I’ve noticed it, I apologize for everything). I know I’ve never had a lot of confidence, but it really shows here.

Which is sad, because I should have a little confidence. I should believe in myself more than always feeling the need to apologize for things that, half the time, I’m not even actually sorry for or ashamed about. Instead, subconsciously, I feel like I should be, hence the apology, e.g., That text was more than two lines, so obviously you’re being too much of a burden. Apologize. You’re wanting to talk about something that’s been on your mind and it’s taking up a lot of their time, so obviously you’re bothering them. Apologize. You’re eating pop-tarts they specifically bought for you because you’re hungry and they offered. Apologize. You sneezed. Apologize. 

I hope you’re catching my drift, here.

It’s a bit ridiculous, to be honest.

I’m not saying I need to become this cocky arsehole that is full of herself, but I do owe myself a bit more confidence that this meek, apologetic projection that I put off. I actually really like who I am. I like my quirks and my naivety (lack of street smarts) and my nerdiness and my traditionalist mindset and my positivity and everything else in-between. So why am I constantly apologizing for it, especially subconsciously? Not only am I doing a disservice to myself, projecting a person that I don’t want to be, but it’s also exhausting and at times, infuriating, to those who have to listen to the apologies the most. They shouldn’t have to constantly reaffirm their good opinions of me or remind me that it’s okay, I actually didn’t do anything wrong and the apology is unnecessary. Instead, that affirmation should come from within me. I should know that I’m not burdening my friends when I want to talk. I should know that when I’m texting someone and having a conversation, I don’t have to apologize for blocks of text. Hell, we’re actually just doing what friends do: communicating. So what if my humor is a little weird and my interests are a lotta nerdy? I should take pride in those things. Always.

So I’m glad I realized that this is an area of improvement that I can focus on; a lingering effect from all those years of me hating myself and thinking–and believing–too many toxic lies about myself. I know I’ll still apologize for a lot of unnecessary things, but now I can at least actively work on it as I continue to strive to love myself in every aspect and capacity. Thanks for listening, friends. (<–Last line written after backspacing a sentence apologizing for the need to write this post in the first place.)

Cheers.


The World Ahead…

Friends! Today* is my birthday!

Birthdays are crazy things, especially as you get older. I turned 24. My age is only reflected in the amount of bills I owe and the amount of “real world job experience” I have on my resume, as physically, some people still mistake me for a high school student (why? just why?), emotionally, I have the spirit of a Grandma while most of my interest and hobbies will always remain in the realm of a teenage gamer. But, the reality of it is it, I was born in 1992, 24 years ago. And it has me all contemplating.

Naturally, another year older, I looked back at the year I lived as a 23 year old. It was definitely a crazy, emotional and eventful year for me: graduated from college; went to grad school; move out of state; dropped out of grad school; moved back home; wrote four books; read hundreds more; became a more dedicated gamer; got my first post-college job; got my first apartment and the bills that follow it; became a bit more introverted and a little bit more of a loner as an adult. So many life changes, so many adventures, so many challenges, so many regrets, so many memories, so much happiness and heartbreak and stress and relief.

Of course, now that my birthday’s over, I’m thinking about what the future year might bring and I am utterly clueless. How many jobs will I end up working? Will I advance in my career or stay stagnant? How many books will I write? Will I query at all? Will I become represented? Will I renew my lease or have a change of scenery? Will I fall in love? Will my dreams come true? Will I cry myself to sleep? Will I…?

The list is endless.

I do know this, though: I want to be better to myself. I want to be more genuine in reflecting who I really am. I want to be fearless.

My life, like anyone’s, has been built upon ups and downs and has been shaped by so many aspects. Along the way, it has taken a really, really long time to discover myself and who I truly believe I am. The past few years, especially, I have discovered leaps and bounds about myself; about what I want in life; about who I want to be. And it’s taken me a long time to realize that I shouldn’t hide that woman from the world, nor should I apologize to the world about who exactly that woman is.

Because, truthfully, I love her.
Yet, just as truthfully, I have spent so much of my life hating her.
Hating myself.

A year from now, if I live to be 100, I’ll have lived a quarter of my life. A quarter of my life, gone and lived and in the past, like a blink. I refuse to spent the rest of it degrading and damaging myself simply because I refuse to fit into a mold society wants to me to fit, thus supposedly deeming myself lesser, unworthy, not good enough, because of that deviation.

No bloody longer.

My name is Nicole. I’m 24 years old. I’m a writer by birth, a storyteller by trade. I am weird, odd, quirky. I claim the title nerd with honor and pride. I am a walking juxtaposition in so many regards. And as early as middle school, I have hated myself, mostly influenced by my physical appearance, but also because I didn’t think the person I was, the person I have grown into and become, was worthy of anything; even though deep down, I knew that I loved myself. I wanted to love myself. But how could I, when society constantly spoke otherwise; when I allowed myself to be ruled by numbers on a scale or on clothes; when depression reared and loneliness overruled?

This is my life and I am so tired of being ruled by fear, being boxed in by societal expectations and categories that I don’t fit, of hating myself when all I want to do is love. My body is curvy and my face is plain. My opinions are stubborn and my views spoken. My hobbies are passions that are expressed with enthusiasm. My soul is old and my beliefs traditional. I love fully and intensely. My skin is inked. My conversations are in-depth. My standards and expectations are high.

All of these aspects of myself, I have hated, feared or questioned because of how the world responds: with distaste, with dissatisfaction, with disapproval. There are plenty more that didn’t make it into that list. Yet they are also all aspects that, if I am so totally and utterly honest, I actually love about myself. Deep, deep down, I knew this. Yet I never gave myself permission to fully accept and embrace this self-love; to express myself without apology or explanation for who I am to my core and ooze confidence powered by love.

Dammit, I am 24 years old. I think it is high time I allowed myself to love myself.

I have no idea what my 24th year will bring; what my future holds, how my life will change or twist or contort or challenge me or reward me or break me or mold me. But I do know this: I am sick and tired of hating myself when I am worthy of love. Not only love from my friends–which is felt–or my family–which is cherished–or from a soulmate–which is craved–but from myself.

Which is deserved and desperately overdue.

Cheers.

* So I posted this technically on the 4th, even though my birthday was on the 3rd. And regardless of when I posted it, you could be reading this at any point, so the statement is pretty much null and void no matter which way you look at it. So sue me.


Discovering My Own Toxicity

I write about self-worth a lot. I think about it a lot. It is such a difficult thing to deal with. It’s something so easy to be hypocritical about. I constantly tell others why they deserve the world, why they are amazing human beings, why they should love themselves and what it is about themselves that they should love. And I always mean it. Yet when I look at myself, it’s never the same. There is always something lacking. There is always something that I could improve. There is always something that could be different.

It wasn’t until recently that I realized that this self-depreciation has influenced almost every aspect of my life, but particularly, in what I believed I deserve.

My first truck was a 1984 Chevy Shortbed. I loved that truck and it was perfect because it was cheap. With the help of my parents, I saved up for it and was able to purchase it outright for $1,500. But it was cheap because it sucked. It didn’t start half the time. It didn’t have A/C or heat. It couldn’t go on the highways because you couldn’t go faster than 65 MPH without it breaking down. When people would comment about it, I would label that it had character. Doesn’t start? Teaches me humility and to be thankful when it does. No A/C or heat? That’s what windows are for. No highway travel? I get anxiety driving anyway. She lasted me two years before we sold her for scraps, as she was beyond the point of repair. That was my senior year in high school.

I didn’t get my next car until senior year in college.  It was a 2001 Buick Regal. I thought it was a gem, first buying it from a used car lot. I was able to negotiate, after putting $1,000 down, to get my payment down to $116.08 a month (that eight cents is important), and “only” owed $5,000 on it. It was a reliable car and a definite step up from my first truck, and had a payment that didn’t break the bank. I named her Smaug. Soon, I learned about her more interesting characteristics: the A/C and heat worked, but was temperamental. The right window in the back didn’t roll down. The left door in the back didn’t lock. The right door in the back didn’t open from the inside. The CD player wouldn’t play burned CDs and if you hit a bump in the road, the radio would go out. Again, people would point out her flaws. Again, I would say, “She just has character.” She lasted me until this past summer, almost two years. But after three trips to the shop and her breaks giving out, I was forced to buy a third car.

She’s the first car I bought from a dealership. She’s a 2015 Chevy Sonic. Her A/C and heat works beautifully. Automatic windows. All the doors open, close and lock. She can go on the highway and I don’t have to worry about the threat of her breaking down. She drives smooth. The radio…oh gosh, the radio (talk about that bass). Her name is Dovahkiin. She costs $285 a month. It’s a gut-punch financially, for sure, but for the peace of mind, she’s worth it.

When I first moved away from home and went to college, I moved into the cheapest dorm I could find. It also had character. It was filled with asbestos, often had leaks, broken A/C units or other various problems required for maintenance repair. But it was cheap and it was home. I lived there for four years. My first apartment, I had to sign a lease for remotely. I was moving 12 hours away from home and there was no chance to go and look. I got a studio apartment that was 300 square feet for $500 a month. When I arrived, they had forgotten to put in my bed (it was furnished). It had no A/C and the heat, I learned later, didn’t work (thankfully, the hot water did). There was no stove but a hot plate. I wasn’t allowed to hang up pictures or burn candles. But it was home and I could afford it.

“It has character,” I would say. Or other times, “I’m used to it.”

My parents gave me my first phone when I was 16. It was a red flip phone. I loved it. I can’t remember when I upgraded to a Nokia, but I kept it for five years. At its end stages, the back had fallen off, the frame had snapped and it was held together by two different colors of tape. But it was cheap and it worked (until I dropped it one-too-many-times volunteering and was forced to finally get a smartphone).

Do you notice a trend, here?

I always blamed it on money. I had to go the cheapest route because I never had enough money to do otherwise. And that is a very real truth. Though frugal, I haven’t always had jobs that make the most money and so I went with the cheapest thing. It just made sense to me. The trend was financial necessity, not because I didn’t think I deserved to have nice things; not because I didn’t believe, unconsciously, that I wasn’t worth having nice things.

Right?

Okay, let’s take the financial element out. I started watching Outlander last night. Obviously, I have fallen head over heels for a certain Scottish outlaw (I mean, c’mon, how can you not?). Of course, after watching a few episodes, I started planning my trip to Scotland to find myself my own highlander, because the American men just weren’t cutting it for me anymore (sad part is, I’m only half joking). But then I started thinking, on my commute to work today, “Don’t be foolish, Nicole. Even if you could get there, what are the chances you could find a highlander interested in you? Even if there was a real man like Jamie, he’s too attractive for you. You’d just be crushing your own foolish, aiming-too-high heart.”

Before my thoughts started going down darker avenues, I finally realized what I was unconsciously doing to myself. Because I believe myself to be worth so little consciously, I have unconsciously let that influence a lot of elements in my life; namely, the type of things I own and the type of people I could date. Until this summer, I’ve only searched for and owned shitty cars, shittier places to live or held onto electronics until their last breaths (my first laptop I kept for five years, before it ran so slowly it stopped functioning). I always blamed that for financial reasons and those definitely were–and still are–a factor. But it wasn’t the name one.

I didn’t think that I deserved to have nicer things.

I’ve been single all my life. I turn 24 this November (I am getting old). Though I am the biggest advocate for love and in every vein a hopeless romantic, I have never found it. There are times I’ve tried. Other times, I haven’t. The times I haven’t have been for one of two reasons: one, the guy I’m interested in is a cherished friend and I don’t want to lose his friendship by asking for something more (though that was more during high school that that happened). Two (and more lately), I don’t even go after someone because they are “out of my league.” They are “too attractive” for me. And I don’t just mean physically, though that is definitely the easiest to judge when it comes to a stranger. But even great guys who aren’t bombshells physically but still amazing human beings, I don’t go after. I’m intimidated by both attractive men and great men. Not just because I’m scared of being turned down. Not just because I’m insecure and I’m so tired of rejection (especially when all I want is to love someone with my entire being and to be cherished in the same manner).

Who am I to be worth an amazing man and his love? Compared to so many other women, why would he pick me? Why would I deserve such a love that I crave?

Damn if our own emotions can’t be so toxic, sometimes.

As I write this, I’m using a laptop my Mom got me last year as an early graduation gift. It’s a very nice, reliable laptop. I drove Dovahkiin to work today and, after escaping from a dark thought path, I jammed out to some music while I turned the A/C down. My Mom let me have her old IPhone recently, so I just got a “new” phone, albeit used, but it is definitely the nicest phone I have owned. I just signed a lease to a gorgeous apartment that comes with a washer and dryer, in the freakin’ apartment. All of these things, on top of bills and student loans and just generally living, is going to make money tight. But not impossible. It is totally doable, in my current situation. They are all really nice things. And they are mine. I have them.

Me.

The fact that I am flabbergasted by that fact shows how harmful my own view of myself and my worth has been. I have been toxic towards myself for years and not even realizing it, masking it as the natural life of a pauper or struggling artist. And I don’t even know why I judge myself so harshly. It is simply because I’m not skinny? Does it go deeper than that? Yes, I have flaws. That’s obvious. I’m stubborn. I could work on being a better friend. I have baggage and self-esteem issues and anxiety and depression. I overthink.

Yet does any of that justify the idea that I don’t “deserve” nice things? Does any of that rationalize why I don’t believe I’m worthy of a good man’s love (or even a bad one’s love, some days)?

No. Absolutely freakin’ not.

I’ve been working on self-love for quite some time. Some days, I’m successful, other days, not so much. Discovering another toxic layer and learning how to remedy it is just one step forward in learning how to better love myself. Because at the end of the day, I’m worth it. I deserve it. No qualifiers necessary.

Cheers.


The Power of Perception

This is a post I have wanted to write for a long time. Yet I have held back, because I know it might possibly offend people. Or maybe offend isn’t the right word. Maybe make people think I am judging them or their lifestyle, somehow exerting dominance over them because the mindset that I am going to talk about in this post, I have, whereas they do not. And I will be advocating for said mindset. So before I even get into the topic, I want to have a disclaimer right off the bat: I am not claiming that in any way, shape or form that I am better than anyone else or that I am judging anyone. Because I am not. Do I have some people in mind when writing this post? Yes, I do. But I am writing this because I want to help them, not put them down in any fashion or sense. But because I have been worried about how this could be negatively received, I have put off writing it. And even though I am not claiming that anything below is life-altering or drastically new in theory or thought, I do think it can be eye-opening; a reminder of how much power the mind holds and how much power we hold over the mind.

So, my topic/the problem I want to “solve”: how to make yourself happier; how to be happier.

My solution: you choose to be happier.

Now, let me elaborate. I use to be a very depressed, negative person. I loathed myself and viewed the world though a very negative lens. Yet I didn’t have any reason for it, not really. It was mostly centered around my appearance, as I am curvy in not necessarily all the “right” places. Yet I was blessed, very blessed, as I still am today. I am still working on the whole appearance acceptance thing, but I am doing better. So, in high school, I was “happy”, but only sometimes. But I was definitely depressed. Now, fast forward to college: I’m happy. I am one of the most positive people you will ever meet. Hell, Positivity is my number one strength on StrengthsQuest. I am so positive, my outlook is so bright, I have had people accuse me of being fake. But I promise you, all of it is genuine, absolutely pure to who I am and what I believe. It really is this 180 story, from high school to college, transforming to naturally depressed to naturally happy. Sometimes, people who know my story, they ask me how I did it. And I tell them that I chose it; chose to be happier.

This is where the scoffing comes into play. What, you just chose to be happier and BOOM, suddenly you go from crying your eyes out every night to sprouting unicorns out of your head? No, not exactly. Yes, I made the choice to be happier and yes, now, I am happier. But it took almost two years to make that mindset stick, to make this positive mindset natural. But for a long time, it had to be a conscious choice. I had to constantly tell myself that I wanted to be happier, so I needed to stop viewing things negatively and start viewing them positively. When I started feeling down or started to get angry, I had to stop myself and work, and work hard, to make myself see the positive light in the situation. Because there is one, always. And sometimes, I couldn’t do it. Sometimes, it didn’t work. But I didn’t let myself get down on the fact that I slipped up. I started over the next day and then the next. And I still slip up, sometimes, although now those times are few and far between, especially compared to be daily breakdowns I used to have. Now, though, I automatically think of the most positive thing. I always view the glass as not half full, not have empty, but over-flowing. I always look for the best in people, in situations, in everything. It’s a natural state of mind for me. My work has paid off. And I am happier because of it.

Sure, you say. I’ll buy into it that you worked on it for a while and made the switch. But how did you do it? Well, see, that’s the simple part. You recognize that you can make a choice and then make the one that allows you to be happier. It’s the transition of making that happier choice unconsciously and immediately that is difficult to do. Everything we do in life is made from choices. I am sure you have heard of that before. But I don’t think a lot of people associate the choice of changing their mindset, as well, before going into situations. And that’s the key to a happier life — in my opinion and experience.

Lemme give a few examples to make it clearer. You have a job, okay? You may love your job. It may be your dream job that you cherish and have worked towards for years. Or, you may hate it. You may hate what you’re doing or find it meticulous and boring. It may not be in the field you want or the only reason you are working there is to pay the bills. Either way, it’s a Monday morning. You wake up early. You slug around, dragging your body out of bed, hating the fact that you have to get up. You try on seven different outfits, pissed that you can’t figure out what to wear. You hate that you have to commute and speed all the way there. And as soon as you walk in the door, you are pissed that you have to go to work. And so you spend the entire day waiting until you can go home. And then, once you get home, you spend all night complaining about how bad work was or how much you are dreading going into work the next day.

It doesn’t matter whether it is the job you’ve always wanted or a job you hate. If you wake up in the morning dreading to go to work, you’ve already set yourself up for a negative experience. And I guarantee, no matter what kind of job you have, we’ve all done this. If you dread going to work every day, of course it is going to suck. You’ve mentally chosen, unconsciously, for it to be that way, no matter what kind of job you have. And you may be in the latter category, where your job truly is not exactly the greatest. And you may really hate it. But you are not doing yourself any favors by dreading going to work every day. By doing that, you are mentally creating or supporting a negative environment.

Instead of treating it like a dreaded chore, you could treat it like an opportunity; a chance; a blessing. We all have bills to pay. With this job, you can pay yours, even if you don’t love it. By viewing it as an opportunity denied to many others, you realize how blessed you are. By recognizing that you still have the chance to go to work, you remember that you’re still alive to even complain. But we live short lives. Why waste breath on complaints and negativity when you can experience something so much greater?

I work a second job at a library on campus. All last semester, I honestly dreaded going into work, even though I was only able to work once to week due to cutting back hours. At first, I couldn’t figure out why I dreaded it so much. I got to go to the library — a habitat that I love — and work with ancient books that most people don’t even get to touch, because they aren’t in my position to be allowed to do so. For me, that should have been Heaven; bliss. And for the first year, it was. I loved it. So why was I hating it so much? It took a whole semester to figure it out, but I did: I was pissed that working at the library was taking away time from my homework. Instead of working on four hours of research for my thesis (which, let’s be honest, was my entire semester last semester), I had to go to the library and work. And then I realized I was doing exactly what I described above: before even getting to work, I was dreading the fact of being there and counting down the hours to get back home and back to my studies, to truly maximize my time. Before even stepping foot in the door, I was already putting a negative twist on it. By doing so, I was ruining even the chance of anything great happening, because I had already, subconsciously, decided on how the work day was going to go: shitty.

After realizing that, I took a step back and realized what the library gave me in return for my efforts: a definite boost on my resume; extra cash that I desperately need, now that I have a car payment that takes up my entire paycheck from my other job; I’ve made a ton of friends and networked so much through working there; I rediscovered an author I loved as a kid; it has definitely helped me out with my schoolwork; and even though it was bothering me then, it gives me break from school and lets me help others, whether it is training new employees, helping students on their own research, helping the librarians with projects, what-have-you. I gain a lot from a job that I only get to work four hours a week at. And after looking at everything — looking at why I was dreading work, what I gained from it and everything in-between, I realized that I truly do love this job. And if I go into each shift realizing all the benefits and how lucky I am to still have that job after a year and a half, I give myself the opportunity to enjoy it ten times more than if I go in dreading work each day. This semester, I have worked to switch that mindset back. And although I have only worked a couple shifts, I have already enjoyed these shifts ten times better than any shift I had last semester (even the day that I had to shift maps, which lemme tell you, is really not easy), all because I gave myself the chance to enjoy it.

Now, I am not saying that if you truly loathe a job, if you start going into it each day with a positive attitude, you are going to instantly start loving it. The shitty boss will still be there. The filing that drives you nuts will still be yours to complete. But honestly, what do you have to lose from going into work with a smile as opposed to hating every moment from when you wake up until you go back to sleep? You have the choice to look at it in a positive way and you lose nothing by making this choice. Instead, you have everything to gain.

You see, making the choice of mentally trying to choose a more positive mindset, is all about the power of perception. If you go into anything with a negative mindset, you are lessening your chances of enjoying what you’re doing or what is going on around you. If you go in thinking negatively about yourself, you are choosing for external, outside forces to have to come in and change your mindset for you, instead of actively making that choice yourself, e.g., on a rainy day, you decide that it has to be a shit day because it is raining. Because of that negative mindset, you are forcing your happiness to be dependent on something that is completely out of your control: the sun. By choosing the negative mindset, you are losing agency and the power of control. But by picking the positive mindset, keeping up the positive outlook, you are giving the power back to yourself.

Perception is a truly powerful thing. And perception of the self is an underrated power. We have the power to decide how we feel about what is going on around us and how we feel about ourselves. For example, like I said earlier, I really struggle with how I look and my weight. I started working out two weeks ago. Two weeks in not near enough time to completely transform a body I have been creating and shaping for the past 22 years; two years is a more accurate timeline for noticeable, realistic change. However, because I have been working out, I feel so much better about myself. I don’t think about what my body looks like as much, oddly enough. I have more confidence because even though my body hasn’t changed much yet, I feel skinnier, even if it isn’t true (yet). I can feel my body changing, slowly but surely. And because I am working towards it, my mind is starting to believe that my goal is within reach. That voice in the back of my head, constantly whispering, You’re ugly, you’re fat, that muffin top is real attractive…not, is slowly fading away, flickering out like a dying flame. Instead, I am viewing myself as a constant improvement, always working on being better. My perception of myself as changed, because I have decided to stop letting my mind convince me of all the reasons I can’t work out, and instead show myself all the reasons why I can.

Obviously, perception is a big deal. And you are constantly bombarded with the perceptions of others, even when they don’t say anything to you. Wanna know how? By comparing yourself to the rest of the world. Walking around the Mall, if I look at a size ten girl and then suddenly look back at size 16 me, and consider myself less than her because I am bigger, then I am automatically assuming that she perceives me as fat or overweight. I put her perception of me on the forefront of my mind — a perception that might not even be true! Instead, I can challenge myself to keep up the mindset that I love myself, regardless of how other people view me. I can create my own perception and focus on only that, instead of constantly bringing in others. And when others offer their opinions and criticisms, I can listen to them and learn from them, of course. Some will be beneficial and others will be pointless. But at the end of the day, the power is in my hands: self-love, self-esteem, self-confidence…they all contain the same element; the most important element: the self. Me.

Happiness, and achieving happiness, is the same way. Everyone’s life is different. There will always be someone “better off” than you. Likewise, there will always be someone “worse off” than you. So why is it that we always focus on the former, always comparing ourselves to those who have it “better”? Why is it that we let our minds control our emotions, setting ourselves up for negativity, depression, anxiety and stress? Why not, instead, control your own mind and decide what you want in life: how you want to feel, what you want to do, where you want to go. It’s not easy. It doesn’t come natural. It takes work. But it is worth it. Oh goodness, is it worth it. Take control. Push the negativity aside, remember that you’re blessed and choose the positive mindset. You lose nothing by doing so. And you have the world to gain.

Cheers,

Nicole

PS: I would like to point out, though, that this is nowhere near the “cure” for depression. I think, for certain types of depression, this can change a person’s life and actually help them stop being depressed. But not all depression is just a trick or poisoning of the mind, like mine was. Sometimes, depression is so hard-wired in a person, it is born through a change in the chemical make-up within them. They have no control over that. If you have that type of depression, seeing someone — a psychiatrist, a therapist, a doctor — a professional, is the way to help you. Therapy, medicine or other treatments may be needed. And that’s totally okay. But I also think that trying to work on changing your own mindset, can’t hurt, either.

PPS: Also, if you need help or a reminder of how blessed and how great you truly have it, take this quiz; talk about perspective and perception:

http://thoughtcatalog.com/aleanbh-ni-chearnaigh/2015/01/what-score-would-your-life-get-right-now-a-quiz-for-perspective/