Tag Archives: self-worth

Happiness: To Me, From Me

This post might make me sound a little pathetic…and maybe I am, a little bit. If you read my super personal post the other day, you’ll know that I rely on the opinion of others a bit too heavily. I also rely on other people as my main source of happiness a bit too much. Not saying that I can’t be happy on my own, but there are definitely times and situations where I feel like I can only be happy if X does Y. Whether it’s a friend inviting me to hang out or texting me back, a family member surprising me for dinner or a crush flirting with me, I’ve gotten into the bad habit of letting my happiness come from someone else, instead of creating it from within myself and letting any other source of happiness be a bonus, a complement, to what I create.

This might not make a lot of sense or it might make me seem like a really weird (which is accurate) and slightly sad (hopefully not true) individual. But considering my heart is a bit confused and not exactly whole at the moment, by being really sad over that, I’ve realized how much happiness came from that person…and I’m struggling a little bit to create my own happiness without them.

I realize this is something I need to work on. No matter what type of relationship you’re in, you should never rely on someone that much; to be the main source of your happiness. It puts too much pressure on them, it hurts you when you lose them and suddenly struggle to be happy and, honestly, it isn’t exactly healthy. Happiness should come from within you. Same goes for self-worth, which I also put in the hands of others too often. A friend told me that my affirmations of worth need to come from within me, not from other people. By doing that, it makes it easier for others to see how much value I truly have, instead of me struggling to find any value at all when relationships and friendships become complicated or confusing. I loved that advice. It was really eye-opening.

Obviously, I won’t be making any big mental changes in a day. I’ve had a lot of eye-opening moments recently and I still have a long way to go in becoming the person I want to be. But I wanted to try and remind myself that I can be happy no matter what life throws at me; no matter how lonely I feel sometimes, wishing I was in a committed relationship or missing my friends and family. So below, I wrote out a list of things that I can do to make me happy. As a reminder that I can, indeed, be happy alone. Might be cheesy, might be weird, that I’m posting this, but if I didn’t write this post, this list would never get written. And I think I need it.

So, without further ado:

Happiness To Me, From Me

  1. Trying out a new recipe.
  2. Cooking in general–and that full feeling you get after eating a good meal.
  3. Reading outside.
  4. Feeling the sweat drip down my face as I run.
  5. Getting my first dog someday.
  6. Buying a house! (I’m oddly really excited to do this.)
  7. Writing.
  8. Creating characters and worlds and challenges.
  9. Leveling up in a video game.
  10. Crossing things off of my To-Do List.
  11. Writing letters.
  12. Listening to a song that perfectly encapsulates your mood.
  13. That perfect fall weather.
  14. Wearing outfits that make me feel like a BAMF.
  15. Getting tattoos.
  16. A really hot bath.
  17. Finally working through that plot hole.
  18. Cliffhanger endings.
  19. Leaving the windows open during a thunderstorm.
  20. A clean house.
  21. Really good smelling candles.
  22. Eating popcorn and ice cream during a good movie.
  23. Buying a new outfit or book.
  24. Sleeping in on the weekend–or waking up feeling totally rested.
  25. Painting my nails.
  26. Nailing the side braid with my hair.
  27. Spending the entire day outside.
  28. Reading by the pool.
  29. Going on a walk without headphones and listening to nature.
  30. Having a really productive day.
  31. Clocking out before the weekend.
  32. Nerding out about Tolkien.
  33. Writing in coffee shops.
  34. Finally beating that boss (in video games) you’ve been stuck on for weeks.
  35. Decorating the home.
  36. Eventually planting my own garden!

I had no idea how long the list would turn out to be–and that’s just a list of things that I can do alone to create happiness for myself. It’s not complete. I’m sure there are other things I’ll think of. And that doesn’t even include things I can do with other people.  Don’t get me wrong: I really, really love hanging out with other people. And I love how much joy I get from spending time with those that mean the most to me. There’s no plan to stop doing that (though, as I’ve gotten a little bit older, I have found that those moments are harder to come by, so I’m alone more often than anything else). But I just wanted to write down something, to remind myself that while loving others and finding happiness with them is fantastic, that can’t be my only source. Instead, my main source has to come from me, so that no matter what I go through in life, I still know how to be happy–even if it’s hard sometimes.

Cheers.


As Is

Yesterday, I started reading this fantastic romance, Seven Secrets of Seduction, before work. I loved it and will discuss why I did so on my book review blog later today (as we all know I stayed up until 3am last night to finish it). Not only did it have me swooning in all the right ways, but it had me connecting with the female love interest on a really true level. She could have been me, she had the same personality, quirks and questions regarding her worth. So to see her fall in love was magical and gave me hope that one day, the same might happen to me.

Also, it gave me a bit of surprising confidence.

Later, during my work shift, a conversation with coworkers led to some reconnecting with friends on Facebook. During this reconnect, I noticed my friend was friends with a pretty attractive gentleman that caught my eye. Innocently, I creeped on his profile and determined that yes, he was definitely attractive and yes, he was single. What a surprise.

Now, normally, that would be the end of that. I would move on and continue living my life, berating myself for being creepy and odd and weird. Yet something made me pause. I figured, what would be the harm in mentioning to our mutual friend that an introduction between us wouldn’t be opposed of by me, if such an instance arose? The worse thing that would happen is that, well, nothing happens and I continue life as usual. Or, a connection could spark and who knows what would happen after that. All because I took a leap of faith and put myself out there, instead of waiting for someone to find me.

So I mentioned something, casually, trying to be smooth but feeling totally out of my element, to my aforementioned friend.

And nothing happened.

*whistles as she goes back to her eternally-single life, carrying her “Participation (But Not Really)” medal*

Except something did happen immediately after I sent that message to the cute stranger and I’s mutual friend. I felt the need to do two things: go to the gym and find a better Facebook profile picture, lest the creeping got turned back on me after my friend checked their messages. I stared at my profile picture, immediately picking out every potential flaw, as the gym was impossible to reach at that moment. I tried to think of where I could find a better photo, how I can make myself look more appealing, more beautiful, more attractive.

Only a manner of seconds passed before I realized how truly messed up that was.

Yes, the gentleman in question is an attractive dude; probably out of my league, if such measuring system possibly exists. Yet that shouldn’t matter. The size of my hips? Shouldn’t matter. The fact that it is obvious I’d rather get a second helping than work out 24/7? Shouldn’t matter. That my profile picture leans more towards cute instead of drop dead gorgeous? Yeah, shouldn’t matter, especially as I happen to really like that picture. That’s why it is my profile picture (and those of you whom are friends with me on Facebook know how often I change that thing ((hardly ever)).

Why, when I felt an odd courage to put myself out there on the dating marking, did I feel the immediate need to change myself; to subscribe to a predetermined ideal of what is considered beautiful, immediately doubting that someone I found attractive could look at me as is and have the same reaction? It’s no secret that I long for a relationship. Yet that doesn’t mean I want a man who is going to look at me and only see the things he wishes were different. I don’t want a man who I can’t be comfortable around, always wishing I was something that I’m not; something that, nine days out of ten, I don’t actually want to be. I want to be me: human, flawed, imperfect, but damn if I’m not trying. I want someone to love me as me, as that is something I want to do.

After putting myself out there, immediately feeling like I need to go and change–improve, as it were–myself isn’t the way to find a man who will love and appreciate me as is.

I always tell myself that I’ll try and actively look for someone once I’m skinnier; after I’ve been to the gym for a few months; after I learn to love myself fully; after I am financially fit; once I’ve moved into my own apartment; after I deal with this bout of depression. After, after, after. Though the small leap I took yesterday with a rare showing of courage may not look like much, it was a major step for me. And though nothing changed for me romantically, something changed for me mentally.

Perhaps…I dunno, perhaps I don’t have to wait until I have a body I love perfectly to go searching for love. Perhaps I don’t have to wait until I get my life together. Perhaps I don’t have to love myself entirely before I pour so much love into another soul. Perhaps I don’t have to wait for love because I am waiting until I have “improved myself enough” to deserve it. Perhaps, I am just enough as is; as me.

Perhaps, after 23 years of waiting for love, I can go and search for it. Whatever the hell that looks like.

Cheers.


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.


Measuring Worth, Recreating Mindsets and Dealing with Desire

Y’all ready for a personal post?

Brilliant.

I’m sure I’ve shared snippets of this in previous blog posts, so feel free to peruse and search to your hearts content if you want to know more (also, apologies for beating a dead horse) but recently, I’ve been struggling with body image and how that translates regarding self-love, worth, desirability, etc. I say recently because it has been heavy in the forefront of my mind, but that does not mean this is a recent battle I’ve just started fighting. I’ve been fighting it since I was kid. When I was in middle school and started noticing other girls were wearing jeans and dresses and skirts, their faces enhanced with make-up, I started to compare myself, a tomboy unintentionally-raised who didn’t wear jeans until the end of high school–same with wearing my hair down–and still doesn’t wear make-up to this day, at all. Around 7th and 8th grade is when I started to notice the choices I was making that made me different, regarding my appearance. It wasn’t long after that I started to notice my large, soccer-sculpted thighs or the first shadows of the muffin top; started noticing the lonely nights and the lack the dates; the pressures and bodily expectations of young girls and women (and young boys and men, let’s be honest) in society.

Very quickly, I realized that I didn’t fit into those expectations. And so began a dark spiral down into the depths of depression and self-loathing, simply because I wasn’t thin or skinny or, in the terms that society has labeled, pretty. I don’t know when I started to measure my own self-worth in terms of my jeans size or how accurately I fit into the mold required to be a beautiful woman, but it reached a point where I didn’t think myself worthy of anything because I was curvy, I was fat, I didn’t prescribe to make-up, didn’t wear heels.

And that was 50 pounds ago.

This battle with depression has had its ups and downs. Since dropping out of grad school and moving back home, entering into the job-world post-college, I’ve mentally tried to switch my beliefs that a person’s worth is not associated with their body image or body size. Because that is what I have always ascribed to, myself. Never with anyone else–I may notice a person’s size or lack-there-of, but I’ve never thought of a person’s worth based on that observation. Only my own. Very hypocritical and harsh, I know. So I’m trying to mentally switch my brain to a much healthier–and much truer–mindset: a person is so much more than their body and should not be defined by their curves, their edges, their narrowness, their chubbiness, their style.

And I’m finding that transition in mindset to be very difficult, because of how aware I am of everything around me.

//:

Obviously, the standards upon which beauty is measured by our society is, in the most blunt sense, very fucked up. For both men and women, the standards and expectations are not only unhealthy and unrealistic, but they are also inescapable. The billboards, the commercials, the magazines, the social media debates, portrayals in art, literature and film, the fad-diets, the pressure, the undertones, the overtones; inescapable. Everywhere. It is impossible to ignore and impossible not to be aware of where you fit in this spectrum, particularly in the summer time. Bathing suits and shorts: the horrors that have plagued a lot of my summers, as I purposefully avoid invitations to pools and only buy capris, temperature be damned.

Despite pretending not to be bothered by my touching thighs, back fat or muffin top, these things are always on my mind. When I walk past my mirror in the bathroom, I purposefully try to not look. When I put on clothes, I come up with outfits that do the best job of covering up skin, even in the summer months where they don’t make sense. Walking past someone on the street, I wonder how they perceive me and that carefully-constructed outfit. How do they judge me? Where do they find me wanting? Because I am obviously wanting. And then, of course, there are the evenings, where I am alone and the sun goes down, and all I can think about is the fact that I am alone, and wonder if I didn’t eat that extra helping of mashed potatoes or would have walked for another ten minutes, if my body would have changed enough for a man to find me desirable.

Even on the days where I love the way I look or it isn’t on the forefront of my mind, the reminders–everywhere and ever-constant–don’t stay ignored for long. From the whispers of society to the natural urge to compare myself to the people surrounding me (and always find myself wanting), it is truly difficult to switch my mind to not worrying about my body and how it is perceived; the only aspect of myself I hate. Because how do you ignore all the reminders? How do you ignore the constant complaints of those around you, claiming they are “so fat” and “need to lose weight” and “wish they were skinny,” when in your eye, they already are? How do you not jump to the conclusion, listening to them, that if they think they are fat and grotesque and they are smaller and prettier than you, what must they think of you? How do you get yourself to accept and love your body as is when you are constantly bombarded with other people not loving theirs; when you are constantly bombarded with standards you should be meeting, with reminders of why you aren’t?

 :

Of course, I take it one step-further. Not only do I devalue myself because of my size, but I also have a very intense desire to be loved. Not loved by family and friends. I have this aplenty and am grateful for it every day. Loved by a man. Desired by him, cherished by him, chosen by him. This desire is spawned from multiple things: my natural belief that love, in all forms, is the most powerful force in the world. My age is definitely a factor: being 23, a prime age amongst my friends to be moving forward in their relationships, with marriages and proposals. My relationship history, being that I’ve never had that relationship, that first kiss, that first date, those nerves meeting/introducing the parents and friends, the double dates. And, just like the body image standard, seeing people in love all over, in films, reading books, on the street, amongst my friends.

These are the two things I think about constantly, that empower my depression: my body size and my eternally-single state. And how the two must correlate. And thus, spawns the slowly growing fear that eternal is the perfect descriptor to attach to my single status; the growing fear that no matter how my body looks, no one will love me the way I desperately crave to be loved. I’m meant to be alone forever.

Okay.

There are so many things wrong with my mindset, I’m not even sure where to begin. And this post is already long enough as it is. But, ever onward…

One: Your Worth Isn’t Defined By Your Body Size

I know this. I know this. Yet it is a hard mindset to switch into believing constantly, when I have believed the opposite for too long. And it is so hard to find a positive present concerning body image, regardless of the size of the people I surround myself with. Everyone is so focused on finding fault. Then, of course, I always think of my non-existent romantic life. Sure, I haven’t been romantically involved in anyone, but that does not mean my body size is the direct cause of that. Perhaps it was a missed moment. Perhaps I simply haven’t met him yet. Perhaps I’m unwilling to date anyone who isn’t willing to love as completely as I plan to love them. Perhaps my standards are too high (newsflash: they aren’t). But even if I never find him, my worth isn’t devalued because of my singleness. My worth isn’t devalued because of my curves or my rolls. I have friends who support me and friends who love me. Family, too. Coworkers, sure. Random people I have connected with on the internet, you bet. Some of those people know my size. Others, don’t. Yet I really, really love myself. I love the woman I have become and the steps I need to take to continue working on who I want to be.

So why do I let my body size get in the way of loving myself completely, especially when if I take how others perceive me out of the equation, I actually don’t mind my body. Would I like it to be bit slimmer and a bit tighter? Yep. But if I don’t think about how others respond–or how I believe they are responding, rather–or how I am “supposed to” look, I’m actually quite content with my body. I can go on walks with my dog. I can play a pick-up game of soccer and feel like I’m going to die afterwards, but still have fun. I like my eyes and my collarbones and the way my biceps flex sometimes. I like my tattoos and my hair when I put effort into it (and the new messy up-do I’ve adopted). I could be perfectly content with my body if I could just stop worrying about how others perceive me or stop convincing myself that everyone who sees me believes me to be ugly or unattractive.

Two: Everything is Subjective 

Nothing is truer than that statement right there and nothing do I need to remember more. I recently realized that truth in regards to writing and it helped me deal so much with the rejection process. How did it take me so long to realize this in regards to everything else in life, especially body image and size and the perception related to that? My bathroom mirror never changes. Yet on the days when I accidentally see myself in the mirror, some of those days, I actually think, “Damn, girl,” and pause to admire my curves or the way my stomach is shaped or the length of the legs. My mirror hasn’t changed. My body either. It’s just my perception in that current moment. Or I’ve gotten into the lazy habit of putting my hair up into a bun-type situation where my curls fall down the side of my head, looking like a mix between a waterfall and Medusa unleashed. And half of the time, I love the way it looks. Some outfits, I absolutely adore.

But as soon as I think about what others might think, my response immediately switches from praise and approval to reprimand and calculation, nit-picking everywhere fault can be found.

Of course, some people are going to think I’m unattractive. But not everyone. It’s just like how I think the most attractive men on the planet are Kit Harington, Sam Claffin and Olan Rogers. Half of my friends don’t understand my celebrity crushes and pit up their own contenders. That is just difference of opinion and difference in taste. That disagreement doesn’t mean that one person is right and the other is wrong. Likewise, just because I believe someone might perceive me as ugly doesn’t mean that they will and, if they do, that doesn’t mean they are right. It is their opinion, their subjective opinion.

Another example is how you can be a size 16 in one store but a size 12 in another; an XL at Target but an XXXL at a designer store. For so long, I refused to wear XL clothing because I hated being associated with that size. I wanted to be smaller, so I wore smaller clothing. Which, in turn, looked worse on me and didn’t fit right, as opposed to XL sizes, which fit properly, looked better and actually made me feel confident. Instead, I was being ruled by letters and numbers prescribed by society as a labeling system. That’s all they bloody are. Letters and numbers to help you know which clothes will fit better. Not a value-measuring-system.

A friend also brought up a great point: Aphrodite, the goddess of love and passion and beauty, reflected the ideals of her time period of what a beautiful woman looked like. And it is not at all what we ascribe to now. Her pictures and statues from that time period are complete with rolls, with curves, with fat.

Before, a beautiful woman was a woman with weight–because that meant she could afford to eat–and who was pale–because that meant she didn’t have to work outside to earn her living. Today, we have transitioned to starving ourselves, harming ourselves and transfiguring ourselves to reach an impossible standard. Go back a couple 100 years and I would have had the beauty of the goddess. Today, I don’t even met the bare minimum.

How’s that for subjectivity?

Three: It’s Okay to Crave Romantic Love

I have been struggling with accepting this for a long time, now. Like I said, I crave a relationship. I crave to find a man to love me and accept me. I crave to find a man I love and accept. Yes, I obviously crave the physical benefits being in a committed relationship includes. Who doesn’t want someone’s hand to hold when they are walking along the road or someone to kiss when they say goodbye or someone to snuggle with before they go to sleep? But I want the emotional connection just as much, if not more. I want that person who I can confide in, who I can depend on, who I can count on, who can challenge me and appreciate me in ways that no one human has been able to; the way only a boyfriend or husband can.

Yet I’ve always felt guilty praying for this man to appear in my life. I’ve always felt guilty for wanting a relationship so badly. People always tell you to appreciate your singleness. You need to be independent and not depend on anyone else, especially a romantic partner. You need to love yourself first–only then can you love someone wholly. And maybe there is some merit in those ideas. But I believe that I can be an independent human and still have someone else to depend on. I can be a broken soul who struggles to love herself and yet still love him all the more for it, totally and utterly. And I believe, though I struggle with it, that it is okay to desire romantic love, a romantic connection with every core of your being.

Lord of the Rings:

This post is by far the longest I’ve written. I applaud you for reading this far. It is filled with ramblings, with musing, with struggles and personal outpourings of doubts and fear. It is very vulnerable and uncomfortable and heavy. I don’t have any neat way to wrap it up or any conclusion as to what needs to happen next; as to where I go from here. I think this will be struggle I deal with no matter what body size I have, how many people I’ve loved or what societal trends arise. But writing about it helps. Talking about it helps. Who knows, perhaps it might help you if you struggle with the same things or make you wonder who in your life does. Perhaps this post opens up a dialogue, opens eyes or serves a reminder of things people already know, a reflection of what you’ve already experienced. I dunno. If you need to talk about issues related to this, I’m here. I’m ready and I’m listening.

Life is hard, friends. But life is so, so good. Love each other and by God, accept and respect one another. Make one another feel comfortable in our own skin. Listen and be heard. And while we’re at it, how about we start destroying the body standards we are supposed to subscribe to, huh?

Cheers.


Inspiration from a Bastard Named Kip

Well, how’s that for a catchy title, eh? Eh?

So I believe in my review of The Broken Eye I posted a few weeks ago, I made a reference about writing a post about how a certain character inspired me and how I hoped to “use” him as motivation. That character is Kip Guile. You might have heard of him, if you’ve read the books. If you haven’t read them, I will try not to spoil too much for you (as you will read them, if you’re smart and enjoy fantastic literature), but Kip is a bastard–a royal one, but a bastard nonetheless–who is fat. Kip knows this. Kip accepts this, usually making the jokes before anyone else can make them. And sometimes, he seems okay with this. It is what he is. Yet more often, he is ashamed by this. Always, he is aware and thinking of it.

And boy, have I never resonated with a character so well as him.

When I first discovered Kip, his awkwardness and his rolls while reading The Black Prism, as a writer and a reader, I was excited that he was fat. Kip was the hero of the story! Finally, a fat protagonist. Though, after reading the first three books out of a five book series, I don’t think there is a cut-and-dry protagonist or hero or villain. There are many players at work, yet Kip is no mere secondary character. He’s a mover and a shaker and he’s fat. And I was excited about that, mostly because I understand him. Finally, a character who I can resonate with because of our mutual struggles regarding our appearance. After my initial excitement, however, I became sad. Because I understood.

I understand knowing what it is like to constantly be thinking about your size, constantly being aware of your own body, but only because you’re constantly worrying about others perceive you. That is my life, 100%. Now that it is summer, it has only gotten worse. And least in the winter, I can hide under large sweatshirts. Here, let’s go inside my head:

Swimming or no swimming this year? Swimming requires a bathing suit and bathing suits require exposing skin, so…yeah, probably not. Oh, I love this tank-top, but my bat wings make me self-conscious. Time to throw on that cardigan, because I’m to sweaty to wear a t-shirt alone. Dammit muffin top, you’re ruining everything, including any chance at confidence or someone of the male variety to be interested in me. Stop that. Your biggest size is large? Guess I won’t be buying anything from you. Oh, I’m going to buy this online…and now it doesn’t fit. Of course. 

Then, when I’m around people, like Kip, I feel the need to point out the obvious before someone else does it. Like Kip, I don’t do it tactfully, though I’m not as brave as he is. I usually say “curves,” as if the word makes the rolls and jiggling more attractive. Right.

Though Kip lives in a different time and age, I saw the parallels in our thought processes and our ultra-awareness of our size went hand-in-hand. While I avoid taking pictures at all costs–and if I have to, definitely neck-up only–Kip doesn’t have to deal with that. But I know he would react the same way. Just like I know, if I was forced to join The Blackguard–an ultra elite bodyguard group where fitness and being skilled in being fit is everything and essential to making the cut–I would be terrified, too. Kip and I, we are kindred souls.

kip_guile_by_avisnocturna-d82ir77

Artwork Credit here

I’ve included some fanart of Kip, just so you all can get a reference. You notice I didn’t include any of myself. Purposeful, that. However, I’ll describe myself for you, in case we’re only internet friends. I’m roughly, what, 200 pounds, perhaps (gosh, that hurts me to write and publish)? I have non-existent triceps that cause my arms to flab and look horrible in pictures. I have what I label as a doughnut as a waist, comprised of lower back fat, saddlebags on the side, a nice pouch in front. My thighs touch and I wear size-16 jeans. I’m this awkward combo of fit and overweight. For example: I have nice biceps and shoulders and calves, because I used to play soccer and I used to work-out more regularly. Yet having those features, paired with the features that give away my love for Southern food and extra helpings, makes me a weird looking individual. I’m not ugly, but I’m nowhere near gorgeous, either. Of course, I know plenty of people, lovely-hearted souls that you are, who would disagree with this description of me. But this is how I see myself, complete with a lens tainted by society. Like Kip, only I can change my perception of myself, regardless of whether I’m right or I’m wrong.

Come to think of it, I think Kip is actually bigger than me, but his pain and struggles are very similar. And that’s why Kip is such an inspiration.

You see, without giving away too many spoilers, Kip is forced to join The Blackguard. He is forced to run, to train, to fight. And he does. And he fails. Yet he also succeeds, but not immediately. Throughout the three books, we follow Kip on his journey and his journey isn’t to get skinny, though I’m sure he thinks it would solve a lot of problems. His journey is to discover who he is, discover his role in a very complicated world and to make it into the Blackguard, which requires hard work on his part–often times, putting in extra work, hours and effort compared to his comrades. Does he make it in? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out.

Reading about his journey inspired me in more ways than one and gave me some important reminders. Despite Kip’s size, he made friends. He had people who loved him. We even have similar situations regarding the romance department (similar until the end of The Broken Eye, in which case, Kip, good luck with the headache you got yourself into, bud. You know who I’m rooting for). He could be successful and use his size to his advantage or be successful despite of his size. And though he does tone up a bit, I think Kip learns to slowly accept himself as he is.

I would love to do that. To sound cocky, I kinda love the person I am. I like my awkwardness, my nerdiness, my quirkiness, my personality, my beliefs and values. I hate my body. I hate how self-conscious I am about it and how much I hate it. I want to love my body. I want to accept myself regardless of my size, my curves, my fat. Yet I haven’t gotten there yet. But it is something I want to work towards. And though I know I have supporters and friends and family who will love me no matter what size I am, reading about Kip and seeing those same type of bonds was a good reminder.

Kip also taught me that you can overcome your obstacles, even if it feels impossible. He reminded me it takes hard work. It takes determination. It takes sacrifice. It takes the desire to want it and then acting upon that desire. You can’t just want it and do nothing. You can’t just complain and expect change. Also, it is okay to fail. It is okay to have a bump in the road. But more importantly, he showed me two things: focus on your goal and remember the realistic time it takes to reach that goal. You see, Kip’s ultimate goal wasn’t to get fit. It wasn’t to get skinny or become hot. He wanted to join The Blackguard. He wanted to do something for himself and make Gavin and Ironfist proud. Becoming more fit was a requirement to reach that goal. And that didn’t happen in one chapter. It took three entire books and it isn’t over yet. He’s still going.

1034 … lighbringer 14-18 kip guile 04 _ Full post: http://mais365coisas.blogspot.com/2014/12/1034-lighbringer-14-18-kip-guile-04.html

Artwork Credit here

We’re surrounded by the desire for instant results. We expect to be able to workout and suddenly be ten pounds lighter the next day. And we always give ourselves a deadline, when trying to get fit: I have to get fit before summer, I have to drop ten pounds before the wedding, I have to get into size ten jeans before school starts. Or, almost worse, we compare ourselves to others: I have to workout so I can be as pretty as X, Y and Z, because I can’t be considered pretty unless I am like them. Yet those aren’t healthy motivations, expectations or goals. And Kip reminded me of that.

So, what I am going to do with this inspiration, you ask. Well, I’m going to start working on changing my lifestyle and my mindset. Getting healthier, walking more, working towards a better lifestyle, without a deadline. I don’t want the pressure a deadline brings or the mentality of, “Once I lose ten pounds, I’m done.” I want to be healthier for the rest of my life and I want to do it so I can love myself wholly, not love myself except for my appearance or weight or body size.

I made a tank top that says, “Training to Join the Blackguard” on it. My plan is, while I’m living at home, to walk the family dog every day (because the pup could afford to lose some pounds, too) for at least 30 minutes. Today marks four days in a row for us, average 1.75 miles a day. And, I joined a “Walking to Rivendell” challenge that started today and goes until Mid-August, to help me stay accountable with others and walking every day.

Once I move into my own place, I’ll start running at the gym, also 30 minutes a day. By that time, the walking will have strengthen me up to running. I’d love to lose 40 pounds, whether that takes a year, two years, five years, ten. And at each 10 pound weight-loss mark, I’ll make a new tank top (one will say “Training to Save Thedas” and another “Training to Save Skyrim” because the female characters I created in those games are basically aspirations of what I wished I looked like). The fourth tank top will say, “Training to Join the Mighty.” It’s another reference to Kip, but one I won’t explain so I don’t ruin it. However, I will say this: the significance of it means that I made it. I did it. And I absolutely cannot wait for the day, years from now, when I post on this blog a picture of me wearing my “Mighty” tank top, telling you all I followed in Kip’s footsteps and I persevered, despite it all.

Until then, I plan to work. I plan to fail. I plan to try and love myself, even if I never lose forty pounds–even if I gain ten more. I plan to try and build my confidence and start working out not to lose weight–though that is a goal–but to live a healthier lifestyle. Focus on that, not the numbers, not the scale. Focus on improving. Because, like Kip has taught me, while others may define you by your body size, you are so much more than that. You don’t have to be limited by your body size and you don’t have to hate yourself, regardless of how big or small you are. You can love yourself, even if it is a struggle.

Here’s to loving ourselves, fat rolls and all.

Cheers.

 


Listen: You Matter

This post is directly inspired by this recent post by blogger M.A. Crosbie. Her site is M.A. Crosbie and I think before you go any further, you should read her post and then give her a follow.

In her emotional and open post about some of her struggles, she was kind enough to tag me as one of four bloggers that she believes “share inspirational advice, writerly wisdom, and intriguing book reviews.” So first off, M.A., I must say thank you. I can’t tell you how utterly flattered I was to receive not only such a compliment, but also that you linked back to my blog. It was humbled and inspiring (obviously, as it is resulting in this post :P). Yet it wasn’t just that honor that inspired me, but your ideas; more so, your fears:

“My default thought when it comes to blogging is that I don’t have anything useful to contribute. I’m just a lil’ snowflake squeaking in the midst of a blizzard. There are far more interesting blogs and topics out there, and better writers to do the writing.”

After reading that line, I had a few reactions. First, I was nodding my head. I have the exact same fears. And I know a few others who have expressed the same. Sometimes it is so crippling that a person won’t post on their blog because they don’t feel they have anything to contribute, because someone else has already written it and written it better. And if they haven’t, somebody else will. Yet even if someone conquers that hurdle, often times their post will begin with some sort of caveat, explaining why they are writing that post, even though they have just spent a paragraph explaining all the reasons why they shouldn’t be writing it or qualifying why they are anyway (I am very guilty of this).

That reaction led to my second reaction, which snowballed into this blog post: you matter. I matter. We matter. So many times, I’ve posted something on my blog and I’ve wondered why anyone would want to read it, whether it is a life update or writing struggles or just a story I wanted to share. I’ve had to mentality talk myself into posting it, even though I felt I didn’t deserve to, because who am I to write about my own life? Who am I to give advice about writing when rejection has been my constant ally? Who am I to write quirky book reviews? Who am I when compared to all these other amazing and successful human beings?

The answer: I’m still me. I’m still the stubborn dreamer, the perserverant writer, the stressed out pseudo-adult, the nerd-out-of-the-closet. And my voice, my words, my opinions, despite my own reservations and my belief that, in comparing myself to others, I’m always found wanting; they matter. I matter. And it’s important to recognize that.

You see, this blog, it is an outlet for me that is very important. Sure, I could simply journal, but I know myself well enough to know journaling isn’t a consistent enough medium for me personally. By posting it on a blog, I’m held accountable.  Because people read my blog. People follow it. Not only do I use my blog to help me work through whatever is happening at that moment in my life, I also hope that someone might stumble upon a post and it helps them. Or it makes them laugh. Or it makes them think. It makes them respond, in some fashion. Perhaps they’ll comment or we’ll share a joke; become closer, even though we’re strangers. But at the end of the day, I blog for me. I blog because writing is my most natural, my most organic, form of communication and writing in this way helps me stay sane. It helps me process and helps me improve as a person. Others just happen to get to read and experience that process along to way.

Sure, there are blogs much more popular than mine and writers much better than me. That’s life. There will always be someone superior to you; someone better at sports, better at multitasking, better at writing. Yet there is a lot we don’t see. Perhaps that parent you always compare yourself to–that perfect Mom with flawless hair and well-behaved kids–perhaps she cries herself at night because she knows her uptightness causes her to not be as close to her kids as you are with yours, and she’s jealous of that. Or perhaps her childhood sucked and she works endlessly to make sure she does the best thing for her kids, yet it looks flawless to you. Maybe she had a great childhood and is simply emulating that. Maybe she got lucky.

Another example: you follow a blogger whose sentences seem outlined in gold, each so beautiful it could be a stand-alone poem and make millions. They talk about the latest NY Times Bestseller they wrote and about the inspiration they just got from the videogame they binged on, because they don’t have to go to the day-job. They are living the dream. They have 10,000 followers and while you love reading their blog, you don’t see how you could write about your successful short story, compared to that. Who would care? Why would it matter? Yet who knows how many rejection letters weigh down the floorboards underneath their bed. Who knows how long they spent on that blog post, rewriting words and phrases until their nails were chewed away, stressed to the max of constantly trying to impress thousands. Who knows how many stories were rejection. Who knows how many years they spent working at a job they loathed, but paid enough to allow them to write in the evenings. Who knows the full story.

We can’t know everything about the people we compare ourselves to, no matter what aspect in our lives we’re comparing: work, family, writing, health, beauty, relationships. Someone may seem superior to you and maybe they are, in theory. Maybe they have done two-a-day practices for the past ten years when you only played on the weekends. Maybe they have sacrificed a social life to hone on their craft. Maybe someone is really good at appearances and the parts of their life where they struggle–the part that is always on display in your life, yet you never see in theirs–they just happen to hide really well. Or maybe they are just really lucky, have good genes or just did the right thing at the most opportune time. Sure, you may compare yourself to someone and see them as superior and that may be true. Yet that doesn’t mean they think they are superior. That doesn’t mean you know the full story.

And superior is in no way synonymic to worth. 

To be reminded that so many writers and bloggers are insecure, nervous or feel “not good enough” to write their own experiences, thoughts, opinions, dreams, goals, stories, failures on their blogs was a sad reminder. It’s something we shouldn’t experience. It is something no one should experience. There are so many bloggers whose posts I love and yes, I think they are better bloggers than me, whether its comparing follower count, the frequency of which they post, the quality of their posts, etc. Yet I would be so disheartened if they stopped posting because they were constantly comparing themselves and didn’t find worth in their own work. By doing so, I would feel robbed of the posts I’ve come to enjoy so much. But worse, they would be robbing themselves of their own expressions, the chance to impact someone else positively and continuing to learn about themselves and grow.

You are worthy. I’m worthy. Comparing ourselves to others and putting ourselves down isn’t healthy. You should only compare to learn, meaning that you look at what you’re doing, compare that to someone else and then use that as motivation, inspiration, an example, to improve. Not because you have to, but because you want to. As bloggers, we shouldn’t be afraid of what we say and question our worth or the worth of our words. Hell, as people, who shouldn’t let our comparisons to others hinder us or breed fear or self-loathing. Everyone has something useful to contribute. Everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard and listened to.

So thanks, M.A., for not only inspiring this blog post, but for having the courage to be so open in your own blog post and the courage to write it, despite feeling that you don’t have anything to contribute. I’m hear to tell you that you do, despite my gut feeling to qualify that statement with the accompanying, “even though I’m this random 23-year-old struggling young professional.” That qualification isn’t necessary, just as your fears–all of our fears–that we don’t have something worthy to contribute are unnecessary. Write those blog posts. Write those novels. Chase those dreams, writely or otherwise. Be fearless. Be heard. We, and our voices, matter.

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/