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It’s interview week here at Stratejoy! Here is everything you never knew you wanted to know about me.

How has your perspective shifted over the past five months? How have you grown?
I think I’ve grown into a more confident person because I’ve really tried to take the unofficial Stratejoy mantra of “I am enough” to heart. I’m no longer imprisoned by this feeling that I have to wait until I’m thinner/richer/whatever-er to truly start living my life.

What do you wish you’d known before you started your QLC journey?
I wish I had known it was coming! I’m usually so even-keeled and un-emotional that I felt completely blindsided by this period of time where I felt like all I was doing was crying 24/7.

What little things in life right now make your toes curl with happiness?  Big things?
Little things
: the delicious cherries that my mom sent me home from New Jersey with, rediscovering a pair of funky earrings from years ago, finally rocking that fedora in public, getting pumped for a Barenaked Ladies/Blues Traveler concert next month.
Big things: one of my best friend’s upcoming bachelorette party (and later, her wedding), my super relaxing trip to Martha’s Vineyard this past week, and the fact that after a mostly silent summer, I’m finally starting to get some responses to my job applications again.

In the movie of your life, who would you want to play YOU?
I’d want someone who has a girl-next-door kind of look as opposed to a candidate for Maxim’s Hot 100. Someone like Drew Barrymore.

What goodies (books/music/travel/quotes/ideas…) have you found over the past few months that are helping your inspiration and creativity?
I address some of this in later questions, but I wanted to give a special shout to my girl Cassie. Cassie and I have struggled with some of the same issues and we’ve had some chats about them (that have been too few and far between!). She’s come so far since we started blogging and has such a great attitude about herself and the world around her that I both envy and am inspired by her.

If you were able to start over and start blogging for Stratejoy right now, what would your “Goals” post look like? What do you hope to accomplish by the end of 2012? How is it the same/different from your “Goals” post from earlier this year?
First off, I want to apologize to my fellow bloggers because I wrote this question and it’s like 600 questions rolled into one. Oops. A lot of my goals from 5 months ago still stand. They were:

– Volunteer twice a month. I’ve been doing that and definitely want to continue.

– Be more proactive about my love life. I’ve made minimal improvements here by going on one scary date and joining another online dating site. But I need to stop pre-judging all the guys and actually go out with some.

– Develop healthier habits. I am totally kicking ass at this – working out more and eating better, but still allowing myself to indulge. I am very happy with the admittedly slow pace at which I’m getting in shape.

– Get a job. Uhhh yeah, still need one. Anyone in NYC looking for an awesome Operations/Project Manager? =)

– Learn the Single Ladies dance. I learned about 45 seconds and then lost interest because it is a REALLY hard dance to learn by trying to mirror Youtube videos.

– Go to one adult gymnastics class. EPIC FAIL. Gotta get on that.

To this list, I would also add: start writing personal essays that would go into my book if I were to hypothetically write one (life goal life goal!), and work on getting more freelance writing assignments. So in general, write more.

Name 5 things you absolutely positively could not live without.
1. Cold beer on a hot day
2. My Brooklyn Public Library card
3. Cheesy top 40 music
4. Hoodies
5. My journal

Who are your top 3 celebrity crushes of the moment?
Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And in case you were wondering, I would totally switch teams for Kendra Wilkinson, Nicole Scherzinger, or Christina Hendricks.

If you had to dedicate your life to one cause, what would it be? Why?
I would love to work for Planned Parenthood. I think they’re an organization with an amazing mission and I fully support all the services they offer to women. I believe that reproductive health is extremely important, as is a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body.

What is one of your favorite memories?
I turned 18 in October of my freshman year of college, right at the point in the semester when you stop obsessively trying to hang out with any and everyone and start figuring out who your actual friends are. I was pretty upset because I hadn’t yet solidified a group of friends and thought I might be celebrating alone. The morning of my birthday, I found a huge chalk drawing outside my dorm in my honor. I got tons of AIM messages (remember those?!?), phone calls and notes on my white board, and a big group of people surprised me in my dorm room with a cake. It was one of only two times I can remember crying because I was so happy (the other was the day I found out I got into Tufts. An hour later I was still so excited that I locked myself out of my car with the keys still in the ignition and the motor running).

What’s your hidden talent?
This is a pretty lame talent, but I’m really good at functioning on little to no sleep. I’m also great at making t-shirts for events using iron-on letters, I can do a perfect cartwheel, and I’m excellent at finding free stuff in New York.

What was the last book you read that made an impact on you, and what effect did it have?
I recently read The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter – And How to Make the Most of Them Now, by Meg Jay. I would recommend it to anyone, male or female, going through a quarterlife crisis or other period of uncertainty. The driving point of this book is about not wasting away your twenties with an attitude of “Oh, I can just get started on my adult life in my thirties.” It’s about pursuing passion and fulfillment now, setting a jumping off point for the rest of your life.

What quote best represents you or motivates you in your current place in life?
I think the Linkin Park quote that I mentioned in my post about quitting therapy has been pretty representative of most my adult life: “I will never know myself until I do this on my own.”

What are three things that you are totally obsessed with right now?
At present, I’m devouring The Girl Who Played With Fire, absolutely adoring the MTV show Awkward (seriously, watch it), and getting so insanely excited to participate in The Color Run next month!

What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?
I’d get rid of the “Keeping up with the Joneses” attitude that so many people have (myself totally included). We spend so much time comparing and contrasting and judging that we lose focus on who we are at the core.

If there is one gift you could give to a stranger, what would it be?
I’d give a confidence boost to a stranger that needed one. All the self-exploration I’ve been doing over the last few months have made me realize that confidence is a huge component of finding happiness in nearly every aspect of life.

If super heroes are real (and they are), what super power would you have?
Flying. Easy.

What do you see when you look into your own eyes?
I see a weird combination of blue and green with a zig-zag circle of yellow going through it (wait, was I not supposed to take that literally? Ha!).

What songs are you loving right now?
I’m pretty obsessed with Girl Talk’s Feed the Animals album, which I shamefully didn’t own until about a month ago. And I can’t forget my Shut Up and Be Happy playlist.

What 3 lessons will you take with you from over the last 5 months?
1. If you can cut negativity from your life, do it. No one is obligated to keep anyone or anything around if it doesn’t make them happy.
2. You are enough. If there are areas in your life in which you want to grow, by all means work on them. But don’t change yourself to fit anyone else’s standards.
3. Life is better when you make yourself vulnerable. There are more ups and downs, but it’s so much more fulfilling to put your true self out there for others to see.

As I flipped my wall calendar over to July, I was hit with the memory of No Alcohol May. During my several weeks of not drinking, I counted the days of my sobriety by writing numbers on my calendar, and because this is really the only thing I’ve ever written on any wall calendar I’ve ever owned, I couldn’t help but think of it.

I realize now that aside from the post I wrote after I fell off the wagon, I never wrote anything about that month (well, 26 days) away from booze. For awhile I suppose it was just a little too painful – too embarrassing that I hadn’t made it as far as I wanted, and too disheartening that my sobriety ended on a pretty terrible note. But now that some time has passed, I’ve seen what my life has been like post-sobriety, and I would be doing myself a disservice if I didn’t publicly acknowledge that yes, taking those few weeks off from drinking was a good thing.

In fact, it was an awesome thing.

The main lesson that I learned from my brief period of sobriety, aside from obvious things like “I spend less money when I’m not buying drinks at the bar,” and “If I’m counting calories, not drinking means I can eat more and who doesn’t love food YAY,” is that life without alcohol is okay. I don’t mean “okay” like “meh, it’s alright.” I mean it as in, “life goes on”. I had anticipated all sorts of emotional consequences from not drinking – namely, not having any fun and being a huge party pooper who either sat around her apartment moping and doing nothing, or went out with friends and sucked the life force out of everyone by being that girl who’s opting for Diet Coke over a shot of Patron.

For 26 days, I led more or less the same life I would normally lead. I had dinner at wine bars, went out drinking with my kickball team for endless rounds of flip cup, and danced to 80s music while getting spilled on and bumped into by sloppy amateurs who couldn’t hold their liquor (and not that this is normal for me, but I even went on a date! Ack). Except I did it all while drinking water. And I had fun. I often went home earlier than I might have if I had been drinking, but I really can’t complain about those extra hours of sleep and the hangoverless mornings.

I would be lying if I said my post-sobriety drinking habits are vastly different than those of pre-sobriety. I still drink quite a bit, but the anxiety that I had before is gone. There are no more feelings that I NEED to turn to alcohol when I’m upset, I no longer stress that people will think I’m weird for not drinking, and while I may be more fun with some vodka in me, I am totally still fun without it (see: above paragraph about tolerating getting beer spilled on me).

As I said, I do still drink quite a bit, but the fact that I no longer freak out about the prospect of not drinking means that, when I do feel like cutting back a bit, I can. With ease. There have been days where I’ve been out at a bar but didn’t want to drink because I wanted to be healthy, or because I wanted to wake up and actually be somewhat alive in the morning, and so I just didn’t. The old me would have panicked about this, but now I just don’t care. I drink when I want to and abstain when I want to and it has never, ever been an issue.

Maybe I shouldn’t have needed 26 alcohol-free days in order to gain the strength and confidence I needed to go into a social situation and not drink, but booze has been a crutch for me for over 10 years now and it’s hard to just turn your back on the unofficial sport of single people in New York City (number of people I know here who don’t drink: zero). So while I don’t often employ my newfound ability to say no when someone offers me a beer, when I do want to use that ability, I know it’s there. And that’s about as valuable a lesson that I could have hoped to learn from this whole thing.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds

 

I loved school.  It was so easy to know I did the best.  Either I got an A, or I didn’t.  Either I set the curve, or I didn’t.  Either I did well, or I didn’t.

As a gold-star lover, school fed my desire for outside reassurance.  If I worked hard and dedicated myself to my studies, I earned that A.  Not only that, but I earned my teacher’s respect and gold star, something I clung to and used to bouy my self esteem.

I was addicted to good grades.

Every B felt like a kick in the stomach, knocking all the air out of my lungs.  A B?  Bs are so…average.  Bs mean satisfactory.  I never wanted to be satisfactory.  Where’s the accomplishment in that?

I remember my complete and total meltdown after my freshman year of high school when one solitary B+ marred my perfect A record.  I went into a funk, lying on the floor of my bedroom, listening to Matchbox 20 blare out of my stereo speakers, wondering where I went oh, so, wrong in World Civilizations 1 that resulted in a B+.

Another time I was so hellbent on showing my teacher how much I learned that instead of answering the question as posed on my history final, I proceeded to write an essay explaining and analyzing everything from that year in minute detail.  When I finished scribbling page after page of wisdom, I reveled in my academic prowess.  So when all I got back on that paper was the dreaded SEE ME, I just about died.

Why didn’t you just answer the question? my teacher – my favorite teacher – asked me.

Why?  Why did I go above and beyond?  HAVE YOU MET ME?

I don’t just do anything.  I do it big and crazy and above average.

Of all my high school memories, those two incidents stand out more than awkward dances and pointless fights with friends over stupid stuff.  And that makes me sad.

I don’t have many memories of fun, teenager times of sillness.  Because I spent all my time trying to be the best.  And it cost me nothing but heartache.

In some ways, as a toddler-mom, I feel I’m getting the chance to re-do that child part of myself that got lost in seeking As and perfection.  My boss, a three-foot-tall, animal cracker eating tyrant, doesn’t give out many sparkling reviews.  And she gives me no time to make anything perfect.  She only gives me 10 seconds to figure out what I’m going to do and act accordingly.  I make mistakes often, and I make up everything as I go along.

And we also just have fun.  Fun without an agenda.  We do stuff for the heck of it.  Not because it’s in a parenting handbook or approved by the Academy of Pediatrics.  Just about nothing in my day turns out perfectly.

I struggled as a mother when Kate was a newborn because I kept searching for someone to give me that A at the end of the day.  To prove I was the best parent.  But in parenting, there are no As.  And, really, just keeping that kid alive and living to see another day is as close to 100% as one can get.

It’s tough for me to let go of those gold stars.  Perfection.  Striving for 100%.  Staying as above average as possible.  But what’s average, anyway?  And what’s wrong with doing just enough?  Just good enough could be just perfect.

“I think ‘inner beauty’ is a term ugly people made up to feel better about themselves.”

I’m reluctant to tell you all where this horrible quote comes from, but if I didn’t I wouldn’t have much of a post.

Because the quote is mine. I wrote these words in my Joy Juice journal less than a month ago.

The crazy thing is, I don’t even believe them. Inner beauty is real – it just happens to be very different from outer beauty.

I think these words stemmed from the bitterness I felt as a result of examining beauty and the role it has in my life. I spent most of the Joy Juice “Beauty” month uncovering how I can’t see myself as attractive unless others do, and how I might love certain parts of me – like my eyes or my smile – but I never love the whole. And while Joy Juice usually helps me understand my perceptions of myself and then align those perceptions as necessary, 10 journal entries just wasn’t enough this time. I got through the part where I sort out my thoughts just in time for the month to be over, and was left with a whole lot of unbridled negativity. And so in the final journal entry of the month, I lashed out.

Clearly this issue is a work in progress.

As much as I wish that I didn’t let external factors influence my definition of beauty, the fact that my size makes “society” see me as unattractive has clearly had a hugely negative effect on me. In one of my journal entries, I tried to list everyone who has ever called me “beautiful.” Here’s the list:

1. My mother. See also: my grandparents, my dad, and any family member who is obligated to say this sort of thing.

2. A girl on my high school volleyball team. She used to find the most awkward moments to tell me how attractive I was. I would be standing in the locker room in a sports bra and then this would happen:

Teammate: Where’s your family from?

Arielle: Well, I was born here and so were my parents, but my grandparents all came from Eastern Europe. Mostly Poland.

Teammate: I knew it. Polish girls are always so beautiful.

That’s it. Other people have certainly paid me compliments, like the biker who rode past me the other day and yelled, “You’re like Adele, only hotter!” (Thanks?) But to use the word “beautiful” as opposed to “cute” or “hot” seems more meaningful. My life has been devoid of that.

I’ve had a tenuous relationship (at best) with my own attractiveness. There’s the part of me that occasionally struts around my bedroom in a fancy dress and impossibly high heels just because I feel like it, and then there’s the part of me that wants to yell, “Okay New York City women, you’re all hotter than me I GET IT AND WILL STOP TRYING,” followed by raising my white flag and resigning myself to life in yoga pants. Because it hurts so much less when I present this “I don’t give a shit” attitude to the world than it does when I TRY, when I do my hair and put on makeup and pick out a cute outfit only to still feel like the ugly stepsister.

One good thing that came out of my beauty journaling, at least, is the realization that there’s a huge link between confidence and attractiveness (See? Inner and outer beauty, together in harmony!). If you act like you’re beautiful, people will think you are.

So here’s a question: if there’s a vicious cycle where I’ll feel more confident when people find me attractive and people will find me attractive when I’m more confident, how do I jump aboard this crazy carousel?

The answer, it seems, is with baby steps.

A few days ago, I took an unintentional baby step when I dyed my hair red. I’m totally obsessed with it and even if every single one of my friends told me they hated it, I wouldn’t even mind because I can honestly say that I just don’t care what anyone else thinks. Being a redhead makes me feel fiery and sassy and totally badass.

This, I realize, is the core of that whole confidence thing that I wrote about in my journal all month. It’s finding something that makes me feel beautiful, however insignificant, and running with it. It could be a new sundress, a turquoise pedicure or a hair color that makes me look like The Little Mermaid. It could be a dance party in my room, or carrying a bright umbrella in a rainstorm. But whatever it is, I have to find it and work it. I mean, WORK IT. With attitude and finger snaps.

Finding something that makes me feel beautiful isn’t easy. Dying my hair red was fun, but once the novelty wears off, what’s next? Beauty isn’t always going to pop up when I need it.

I need to live a little more consciously – to pay closer attention to my surroundings, focus on what makes me happy, and bring those things into my life. Because these things that make me feel beautiful on the outside will bring me confidence, which then communicates to the world the beauty I have on the inside (either that or I need to run around constantly yelling “I swear everyone, I may not be super skinny but I’m totally smart and funny and stuff!”).

Isn’t that what it’s all about, really? Accepting our limitations while embracing our strengths? Sure, I could be thinner. And I could continue letting that get me down, thinking I’m not worthy of love or affection. Or, I can find whatever it is out there that makes me hold my head high and say to the world, “Let’s face it, guys. I’m pretty awesome.”

The best of what’s outside showcasing the best of what’s inside – that’s my goal. Because that’s what beauty really is.

As I adjusted the microphone on my head and snapped my tunebelt around my waist, my body started to shake with nervous energy.  My mind screamed at me.  I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I can’t do this.

I’ve been preparing for this moment for weeks and weeks.  Months even.  I went into my BodyStep training strong, having memorized all the tracks and presented my heart out.  I got a five, the highest score possible.  My gym hired me on as a group fitness instructor.  I spent afternoons going over and over my choreography, watching the instructional DVD, checking my notes.

By all accounts, I had prepared to the fullest.

Yet my palms sweated, my knees knocked together, my heart thumped in my ears as I stared out at the 35 people waiting for me to present.

This was my first time on stage in front of an actual class.  My Step mentor and friend, Kim, invited me to team teach with her during her Saturday morning 8 a.m. class, a class I’ve been attending for years.  The final steps towards my certification requires team teaching and a video assessment, so Kim took me under her wing and suggested I teach half the class and she teach the other half in preparation.

It seemed like a good idea on Thursday.

But by Saturday morning, I almost panicked and ran off stage.

But as soon as I heard the music, my body started to move as if on autopilot.  I smiled through my nervousness and worked to stay present in the workout.  That was the toughest 55 minutes I’ve experiences in a long time.  During parts of the workout I felt exhilarated and strong.  And other parts I was pretty sure I was going to keel over.

After that first class, part of me felt proud for pushing past my fears and presenting the tracks with all the confidence I could muster for my very first time.

But that other part of me, that judgy part, felt I could have done better.  I didn’t have the straighest arm lines.  My jumps could have been better.  Sometimes I didn’t pre-cue fast enough.  At times my personality fell flat.

Even though I felt a rush for being on stage, part of me never wanted to do it again.  I decided I wasn’t the best.  So why bother?

But the following Tuesday, I had another chance to get back on stage when another instructor offered me the opportunity to teach again.  Again, part of me couldn’t wait.  And other other part of me wanted to run scared.  But my love for group fitness won out, and I told her I’d do it.

While I still felt some jitters in the pit of my stomach, that morning I felt more centered.  I remembered to take some deep breathes, remind myself this is just group fitness, not brain surgery, and I let my body lead me through.

My performance was 800x better than my first.  Not a little bit better.  A lot better.

And another instructor offered me a chance to practice again.

And that performance was 1000x better than the second time.

And soon I had another opportunity and another.  Each time better than the last.

Then one day I got a call from the group fitness manager asking me to fill in for another instructor.  In two hours.  And I had to do the entire class by myself.

I wanted to say no.  No, I couldn’t.  I’ve never taught a class all by myself.  Surely, I’m not the one to do this.  I’m still learning.  I’m not good enough.

But that stronger part of me knew I could do it, that this was my chance to show myself what I can do when pushed to my max.  So I agreed.

I did feel those nervous shakes.  I worried I would make a mistake.  But I chose to push those thoughts out of my mind and remember all the improvements I’ve made, how far I’ve come.

I delivered that class with all my heart.  Yes, I made a few choreography mistakes.  At times I felt myself start to fall flat.  But I dug as deep into my heart and pushed myself to the end.

Two years ago, I would have never thought I could be strong enough, determined enough, fit enough to lead a group fitness class.  At during my training, I doubted myself, wondered if I had what it takes, felt my confidence fall to an all-time low.

But after teaching that class – all by myself – I knew I had the confidence I needed all along.  It was in there, waiting for me to have the courage to let it out.

 

Have you heard? The Stratejoy Book Club has officially launched!

We’ll be holding our first LIVE chat discussion.  May 21st, 2012. Grab your girlfriends, some drinks, some snacks, and jam with Molly about this month’s book, MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche.

Find out about the book, the live chat discussion, and how to host an event or attend an event right over here on the page with all of the juicy details.

I Believe in the Transformational Power
of Adoring Ourselves.

And the gorgeous women who contributed to this guide do to!  As you probably know, I spent two weeks in February hosting a Fierce Love Blog Crawl to start a lively conversation across the internet about the meaning and practice of self-love. This is the aftermath of the experiment…

A 74 page guide with 26 inspiring essays written by 26 inspiring women exploring self-love in its many iterations, sharing personal stories, and empowering *YOU* to practice Fierce Self-Love in your own world.

DOWNLOAD the ABC’s of Self-Love Guide HERE

Why?

Fierce Love is the first step to an authentically joyful life.

Your journey to live life on your own terms demands a lot from you, dear one. You’ve got to be courageous. You need to stand up for your own desires in the face of others’ expectations. You must be dedicated to sharing your gifts and finding your voice in the world. Sometimes, you’ve got to cut your losses and move on, to leave outgrown friendships, demand more from your work, and realize you’re deserving of true love. You may need to recommit to your health, your dreams, your creativity, or your own happiness.

All of this? It starts with Fierce Love.

You are the voice, the heart, and the one who brings this conversation to life. Without *YOU* this guide languishes in the recesses of the internet, a lonely PDF experiment without life, without spark, without consideration.  Thank you for reading and using the wisdom within as juicy fuel to spark Fierce Love in your world, on your terms!

DOWNLOAD the ABC’s of Self-Love Guide HERE

Prefer to surf around the internet to read the essays?
You can do that to!

A is for Acceptance by Molly Mahar “Acceptance isn’t handing the reigns of your live over to fate, but relishing the present moment.

B is for Beauty by Rebecca Bass-Ching “I now revel in the awe-inspiring beauty of courage, generosity, gentleness, kindness, sacrificial love, compassion, vulnerability, motherhood and respect.”

C is for Celebration by Dani “Stand in front of the mirror and point out all the things you love about yourself. Instant self-love!”

D is for Determination by Ash Ambirge “Want success? Make more decisions, choose more often, gain more control, and then take responsibility over your success. Period.”

E is for Enough by Amy Kessel “The resistance to loving ourselves disappears when we know, really know, that we are enough.”

F is for Freedom by Jenny Blake “A fallacy of freedom is that we must not allow ourselves to be tied-down, lest we lock the cage on our ability to fly.”

G is for Growth by Justine Musk
“It’s how you grow through and out of it – the meaning you make of it – that can not only shape yourself and your creative work (and your life) — but inspire others.”

H is for Honoring by Randi Buckley
: “The deepest honor in the name of self-love shines light onto the whispers in the heart.”

I is for Integrity by Sarah Peck “Integrity is a consistency of action, over time, that builds in what you say, believe, and do.”

J is for Joy by Hannah Marcotti “Joy can live inside of you, at all times. It is your option.”

K is for Kindness by Erin Haslag “Celebrate you. Love you. Be kind to you.”

L is for Lucky by Susan Hyatt “You ARE the shiny. YOU are the honey. The sooner you align with that basic truth, the luckier you are going to get. Romantically and otherwise.”

M is for Moxie by Alexia Vernon  “The more we recognize and embrace our moxie, the more we shift into seeing fear as a reminder to listen to our inner voices.”

N is for Natural by Michelle Ward:  “Equally scared and excited? It means you’re guaranteed to learn, to grow, to take away – and that is always The Right Track.”

O is for Ownership by Tiffany Moore “Taking ownership of your life is the ultimate step in self-care.”

P is for Pleasure by Rachel Cole “With pleasure as my carrot I don’t need a stick. And neither do you.”

Q is for Questioning by Tara Sophia Mohr “It’s sometimes said that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our questions.”

R is for Release by Julie Daley “You are beautiful because the core of who you is beauty itself.”

S is for Strength by Pam Slim“We are all capable of so many things. We can endure challenge, tragedy and heartbreak and come out clearer, stronger and more loving on the other end. Trust yourself.”

T is for Truth by Amber Rae “With honesty, there is unlimited potential for growth.”

U is for Understanding by Andrea Owen “This is a place where no one is broken. We are human and messy.”

V is for Values by Tanya Geisler“See, as juicy as values are, they are so foundational to self-love that it’s almost impossible for me to uncollapse the two.”

W is for Worth by Tara Gentile “Your self-worth isn’t a number. Your earning potential doesn’t indicate your living potential.”

X is for X-Rated by Kelly Diels“Being an X-rated woman means deliberately choosing who you will please.”

Y is for Yes by Sarah Von Bargen “Yes to monthly pedicures with my BFF.  Even in the winter.  Even when my toes are inside boots all day long.”

Z is for Zen by Amanda Oaks “Zen is the gateway into showing you what it is to fiercely yet gently love yourself.”

Inspired? Electrified?  Ready to practice Fierce Love in your own world?

I can’t wait to witness the flames of your love.

It’s all about *YOU* and that’s a damn good thing.

XOXO

p.s.  Dig this Guide?  Find out more about the Fierce Love Course!

Molly Mahar is a life coach, speaker, writer, fierce love advocate and joy enthusiast. She is the founder of Stratejoy, this positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of women the tools, strategies and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives.  Molly’s work is delivered through several live and digital group programs, focused on creating *YOUR* joyful world. She works one-on-one with clients who are ready for soul-level personal alignment and big transitions.

Molly also laughs loudly, swims naked, and wears a lot of costumes. And she’s expecting a tiny boy person on June 2, which will her give her loads of opportunity to practice fierce lovin’.

She’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook. Connect away!

Elle Canada ran an article in their June 2011 issue about cheating men. Normally, this is the sort of article that I would idly flip through and smile to myself, reassured in my relationship. It’s not that Mike is the perfect husband (’cause he ain’t). It’s that Mike is honest, almost to a fault. When he’s unhappy, I’m the first to know; the same goes for any other emotion or need.

Seriously. Asymmetrical knowledge is not his style.

So, while I was reading through the article — waiting for something to upload on my client’s FTP server — I noticed something strange. This was Real Journalism. Peadar de Burca spent five years interviewing men that cheated on their partners, trying to figure out motivations, personality type, and even what kind of woman the “other woman” happened to be.

I was intrigued.

I read on.

And then the showstopper.

In five years of interviews, I would always ask what the “other woman” was like: appearance, personality, profession. There was one constant. Longer hair. (Now you know why women compliment other women after a haircut: another rival out of the equation.)

Reeling, I placed the magazine on my desk and stared at the wall for a little while. Long hair and the elusive nature of femininity is a deep well of hurt for me. For a long, long time, I had a hard time feeling female. Gender dysphoria, although rarely discussed in polite company, is something that was a real issue for me growing up. There were instances where I felt like I had genuinely been assigned the wrong gender. I’ve identified far more often with the masculine in the past.

It wasn’t until I entered adulthood that I started to come to terms with womanhood. And, at least for me, hair has always been a huge part of that transformation.

When I read about the “other woman” and her long hair, I temporarily panicked. Mike had often commented that he missed my long, chestnut hair (in my own defense, the long hair was the result of my own laziness to get it cut… and that was six years ago). For our wedding, I relented and grew it out. The wedding pictures, although beautiful, are the Idealized Me (minus my weight gain). The Me that people expect me to be.

The Real Woman with Real Womanly Hair.

You see that picture down there? With the short hair? That’s the woman I see myself as. The punk rock look may not exude glamour but what it lacks in sophistication, it makes up in (strong) personality.

Rationally, I know that femininity is subjective; it means different things to different people. It’s fairly universal (at least in my experience) that many men prefer women with long hair — something about it screams, “I’m beautiful. I’m feminine. Come love me up, baby.”

Short hair is intimidating. It shouts, “I don’t need you. I’m strong and confident all by my lonesome. You’re welcome to come along for the ride, though.” Truth? It’s part defense mechanism. If I don’t let people believe that I need them, then I don’t have to be disappointed when they don’t show up.

Whether or not long hair is the definitive feminine form, it’s just one part of the whole. Hair changes. People evolve — and, in some cases, devolve. I defiantly stand behind my choice to chop my hair and be who I am.

After all, as Gaga says:

I am my hair.

Image found via Image Spark.

I want to talk about The Voice for a bit.  You know. THAT VOICE… the one in your head that tells you things like

You suck.
Why are you trying this? It’s stupid.
Oh, Big Deal.  Like that’s even important.
and one of my faves…
Your parents will be so disappointed.

We all have this voice in our heads (if you don’t, god bless ya, please share with the rest of us that we may bask in your glory) and it usually pops up when we are starting to get really excited about things.

I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring this voice, especially as part of my new dedication to Self-Care and through my creativity coach training, but it still manages to creep in at inopportune times.

Here’s what happened to me the other day:

Several months ago, I entered the Writer’s Digest Poetry Competition for 2011. It was the first time I had ever sent a poem off for potential publication, even though I’ve been writing poetry for many years. Up until recently, I would never have tried to be published at all, even though it was one of my secret desires (the deep down ones that you don’t even tell your husband until after a couple of margaritas.)
So, this contest.The past few years it’s gotten well over 3,000 submissions, and only the top 3 win any prize money.  The top 50 are published in a compilation.  I figured the odds were bad enough for me that it wouldn’t be much of a risk to send a poem out… I could just practice the act of submitting a poem and forget all about it because there was No Way I’d Win Anything.

Fast forward to a few days ago, when I got a notification that my poem had gotten 43rd place and I’d be receiving a certificate and an honorable mention. Oh, and, my poem would be published.
MY POEM WOULD BE PUBLISHED. Normal reactions to this news range from jumping up and down in your home office and baking a celebratory pie to calling everyone you know and popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly.  Alas, these normal reactions were not to be mine, because that VOICE, the little bastard, popped up almost immediately.

“43rd place?  And you’re supposed to be excited about that?  Please. 42 people did a whole lot better than you.”

I mean, seriously?! I got this really exciting news, something I never thought would happen, and my brain tried to rain on the parade almost instantaneously.  Luckily, because I’ve been practicing talking back to this voice and allowing myself to be comfortable with success a little more, I was able to respond this time.

JEEZ WOULD YOU FUCK OFF ALREADY, YOU JERKFACE?

Ok, it wasn’t the most eloquent response.  But you know what?  It felt awesome. I didn’t feel like jumping up and down in celebration right away, but gradually opened up to the idea of this Honorable Mention being pretty cool. A little while later, I called a few people to tell them, and then sat down for some celebratory tea. The Voice tried to show up a few more times, but I just yelled at it until it went away again.

Little by little, that voice is going to learn that it doesn’t want to mess with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[photo: charliedayartist]