self love Archives - Stratejoy
#

arrow

Megan Is Excited

 

One of the things I’ve always told myself – as a personal mantra, something that rings so incredibly true for me that I live by it no matter what – is:

I will never apologize for being excited.

(Click To Tweet)

I have the tendency to get giddy over a variety of things, most often dog sightings, a perfect iced coffee, and goals by the US Men’s National Team. This giddiness is often accompanied by strange noises, uncontrollable giggling (to the point where I have to put my hands over my mouth to quiet the laughter), dancing, swirling a scarf over my head, TWEETING IN ALL CAPS, texting with emojis, and silly-faced selfies with obnoxiously long hashtags. I’ve embraced this part of my personality, until very recently. A harsh reality dawned on me.

Do I need to grow up?

None of the behavior I mentioned above is particularly ladylike, mature or professional. After one recent fit of excitement, I thought to myself, YOU ARE ACTING LIKE A FOOL. STOP BEING SO DUMB AND GET BACK TO WORK.

Whoa. Of all the crappy things I’ve ever told myself, this one cut into me. Deep.

After dabbing my misty eyes and writing out how I felt about this whole thing, I took a few deep breaths.

This is fine, I said to myself. It’s all part of the process of figuring out who you are and who you want to become.

My next thought process was, How do I harness my excitement while still being myself?

The answer is, I can’t, really.

At our Elevate retreat at the beginning of the year, we all chose ways of being, and one over-arching theme for the year. One of my “ways of being” was Be Excited, and my word for the year is Fly. How am I supposed to fly when I am consciously reigning myself in? Do I just try to express my excitement in more quiet ways?

But wouldn’t that be against so much of the authentic, live-out-loud, be-yourself wisdom at the heart of what this year is all about? Yes.

So the solution is, as they say, simple but not easy.

Stop worrying about how I look to other people. Ground myself and grind it out when the excitement wears off. Continue to channel my excitement towards work and play.

(Click to Tweet)

Now that I think about it, I get a deeper understanding of where my excitement comes from. I grew up as the youngest of three. I’ve built amazing friendships with tons of people younger than I am, and I’ve loved seeing so many of them grow as people. Now, I am one of the youngest Elevate sisters. I marvel at the wisdom, grace and poise of them all, and am so grateful we’re all on this journey together. I hope to embody those qualities more and more as I take flight.

Growing older doesn’t mean I need to leave my excitement behind. I never want to lose it or take it for granted. It’s what carries me out of bed in the morning, what fuels me at work, it’s a part of who I am. How I express it will probably evolve, but the essence – the somewhat childish, bright-eyed wonderment for something amazing that has or is about to happen – will remain.

And although it can make me question my own adulthood…I accept it, and if it gets me in trouble, I’ll live with the consequences.

 

 

meg 200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Meg , Sports Fan, Dog Lover, 2014 Elevate Sister

Meg is a huge Boston sports fan, who happens to live out her passion by working at ESPN. She’s also a writer, ridiculous dancer, Pinterest-obsessed cook, and dog lover. She feels alive when she’s at a game, at the beach, in her kitchen and in New York City or Los Angeles. She’s never met a cup of tea she didn’t like. She is in love with the focus and friendships Elevate has brought into her life.

LoveLetter

Dearest, dearest, lovely Carly:

You’ve come a long way, my dear. While to you it may seem like time has stood still for the past five years, the truth is you are a much grander, authentic version of yourself. Don’t worry about what hasn’t changed yet, but focus on what has. And especially focus on how much better things are because of those changes.

You were lost for a while there. Things didn’t turn out how you thought they would and you felt as if you were stuck with nowhere to go. As someone who always knew the next step, not having direction threw you off your kilter. But you found your way.

Serious introspection saved you. You didn’t know you were capable of knowing yourself any more than you already did, but you were pleasantly surprised.

 You saved you.

Now here we are. There’s still work to be done and that’s okay. You’re on the right path and taking it one step at a time. You’re no longer a secret, overgrown garden, closed off from the world by lock and key. Instead, you’re figuring out how to spruce the place up and the best way to share your beauty with the world.

 You can do thisYou have done this. Just keep doing it. Digging into yourself to bravely state what you truly want and don’t want is fucking hard. We’re surrounded by thoughts of what we should be doing and seeing examples of what we could be doing. Just remember to do you.

Life is an adventure. But it’s your adventure.

(click to tweet)

 

During your journey I hope you… Be adventurous. Be creative. Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. Be loving. Be careful. Be smart. Be lovely. Be happy. Be authentic. Be you.

 

Be you. Beautiful, radiant, you.

 

Love,

You


CarlyHeadshotWITH LOVE FROM

Carly, Do-er, self-push-er, and Elevate 2014 Sister

Carly is a do-er and activator who lives by the phrase, “Don’t you ever wonder how far you can push yourself?” She pushes herself daily by working towards her concurrent MA/MBA degree, leading the Pittsburgh Local Levo chapter and competing as a flourishing tenor drummer in a competition bagpipe band all while holding down a full time job. Her free time (haha!) is spent snuggling with her doggie-child, Nessie, connecting with others on Twitter (@carlyraepgh) and binge-watching HBO and Netflix with a glass (or bottle…) of wine..

It’s the start of new blogging goodness here at Stratejoy!

We’re bringing back real time stories from real life women.

This time I’m tapping the incredible ladies of my Elevate Mastermind group to share their dreams, fears, successes and failures with the Tribe. Not all of them will be writing (since it’s totally not a requirement of Elevate!), but as I found out at our retreat — over half of them identify as writers! And after getting to known their sassy selves and incredible stories over 4 days in Ojai, I knew we’d all benefit from hearing the ups and downs of their year of ELEVATING!

We’re going on a introduction binge this week — getting you familiar with with the ladies you’ll be hearing from this year.

After that, I’ll be writing early in the week and we’ll be featuring an Elevate Writer each Thursday.

Please join me in lovingly welcoming each of these brave souls!

They are going to be cracking their hearts wide open for us, to remind our entire Tribe that we are never alone.

XOXO

Molly-Sig211


meg 200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Meg , Sports Fan, Dog Lover,  2014 Elevate Sister

Meg is a huge Boston sports fan, who happens to live out her passion by working at ESPN. She’s also a writer, ridiculous dancer, Pinterest-obsessed cook, and dog lover. She feels alive when she’s at a game, at the beach, in her kitchen and in New York City or Los Angeles. She’s never met a cup of tea she didn’t like. She is in love with the focus and friendships Elevate has brought into her life.

 

 

Megan

 

I have what some call “the coolest job in the world” – I work at ESPN as an associate producer on SportsCenter. It’s a huge part of my life and it’s very fulfilling to have something you’re so passionate about, also be your life’s work. When I’m not at work or dealing with all the freaking snow we’ve gotten this winter, I love to cook, dance, binge watch House of Cards and Friday Night Lights, go out to dinner, hike and get coffee.

 

I chose Elevate during one particularly emotional afternoon at a local Starbucks. At the time I was feeling lonely and sad, for no particular reason. It was the culmination of a months-long, inexplainable funk. It was in that moment I realized I was craving DEPTH. Of friendships, of self knowledge, of self exploration. The idea of going to California in January also sounded fantastic. And so I applied and started on this really awesome journey towards meeting these incredible women.

 

And then I meet these incredible women, and my world was blown wide open.

 

They’re beautiful. They’re successful. They’re vulnerable and honest and fearful and brave. They drink wine with you by campfire. They make you laugh deep, soul shaking laughs and cry meaningful, healing tears. They sleep in outdoor yurts with you and dish about their terrible ex-boyfriends. These are the kinds of women I’ve been looking to build friendships with for all of my adult life. They’re my people, my tribe, whatever you want to call it. I just know I’m blessed to know them and can’t wait to see how they kick some serious tail the rest of 2014.

 

I came back from the retreat inspired but also terrified. That I made this huge investment and all these plans and I would arrive in January 2015 the same as I am now. Wanting to please everyone, avoiding conflict, beating myself up over little things, being too emotionally invested in my job performance, and sleeping until 1pm everyday (it’s not as great as it sounds).

 

But there’s already been progress.

 

I told myself before the process, that progress, even of the teeny-tiny variety, is enough. It doesn’t all have to be celebrated, but acknowledging that I made a choice to make my life better, makes Elevate worth it.

 

Going forward, the challenge I’m facing with my goals is the line between hard work and being kind to myself. Of course, sleeping late, staying in with TV and wine, having a cupcake, and celebrating with  champagne are glorious. But there’s something to be said for going in to work early, going HAM at the gym, waking up to write the important email, and having tough conversations that is equally satisfying and necessary.

 

Self love goes deeper than treating yourself, or, as the sage Donna Meagle says, “treat yo’self.” Self love is working towards something that’s meaningful. Self love is making and taking the time to cook something healthy and delicious. Self love is acknowledging our mistakes, learning from them, and moving forward. Self love is celebrating accomplishments that are TRULY special to you, however you define “special.”

 

So, for the next few months, I’ll try and be as honest as I can about what I’m working on. Right now, it’s online dating, researching sprint triathlons, finalizing and paying for a trip to Italy, dreaming about ideas for a new blog, and being the most authentic Meg there is. I’m excited to have you all along for my ride, and the ride of my Elevate sisters.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, Cool Runnings:

Peace be da journey.

 

meg 200x200WITH LOVE FROM

Meg , Sports Fan, Dog Lover, 2014 Elevate Sister

Meg is a huge Boston sports fan, who happens to live out her passion by working at ESPN. She’s also a writer, ridiculous dancer, Pinterest-obsessed cook, and dog lover. She feels alive when she’s at a game, at the beach, in her kitchen and in New York City or Los Angeles. She’s never met a cup of tea she didn’t like. She is in love with the focus and friendships Elevate has brought into her life.

It’s the start of new blogging goodness here at Stratejoy!

We’re bringing back real time stories from real life women.

This time I’m tapping the incredible ladies of my Elevate Mastermind group to share their dreams, fears, successes and failures with the Tribe.  Not all of them will be writing (since it’s totally not a requirement of Elevate!), but as I found out at our retreat — over half of them identify as writers!  And after getting to known their sassy selves and incredible stories over 4 days in Ojai, I knew we’d all benefit from hearing the ups and downs of their year of ELEVATING!

We’re going on a introduction binge this week — getting you familiar with with the ladies you’ll be hearing from this year.

After that, I’ll be writing early in the week and we’ll be featuring an Elevate Writer each Thursday.

Please join me in lovingly welcoming each of these brave souls!

They are going to be cracking their hearts wide open for us, to remind our entire Tribe that we are never alone.

XOXO

Molly-Sig211


ECurlettElevate (1)WITH LOVE FROM

Erin, Adventurer, Storyteller, and Army Wife

Erin grew up in three different countries, leading her to embrace her role as a third culture kid: she loves airports, hates small talk, and feels more at home in a book than in any specific place. Lover of peppermint tea, alpine slides, Stephen King novels, hot yoga, Cadbury chocolate, and karaoke; devoted yet sometimes reluctant follower of Jesus; she lives with her husband, Tim, and their crazy ragamuffin cat, Opal, in a charming blue house in Tacoma, WA. Watch out: she’s bitey (the cat, not Erin).

 

ErinCollage

“In short, I was lonely. I was afraid. I worried I might have made a mistake.”

 

In the spring of 2010, I packed up all of my belongings and jumped into my trusty Honda to start a new chapter in my life.

I had spent the last 5 years in Seattle, Washington, a beautiful, quirky, wonderful city which had begun to feel more like home than any place I’d ever lived. Now, I was leaving, heading to Bethesda, Maryland, to join my boyfriend, Tim, who was in his second year of medical school.We were serious about each other, and sensed a beautiful future stirring somewhere off on the horizon. Tim and I had been together for over a year, but the decision to move came quickly.

Within three weeks of asking my boss if I could telecommute from the East Coast, I hit Highway 90 with Tim by my side, ready to drive cross-country and spend the largest number of consecutive days we’d ever spent together.

It was one of the bravest, scariest, most authentic choices I’d ever made. I knew it was the right move, but it happened so quickly I didn’t realize how much confusion would follow me.

Three months into my new life in Maryland, much had changed.

I had an apartment much lovelier than I’d ever had before – and could hardly afford the rent.

I lived a 10-minute drive away from my amazing boyfriend, but, knee-deep in his second year of medical school, he hardly had one or two evenings to share with me each week.

I was reconnecting with old friends from college who lived in DC, but my Metro stop was a 15 minute drive from my apartment and a 30-minute ride into the city.

I felt freedom and a great deal of grown-up responsibility as a full-time teleworker, but put pressure on myself to be constantly on-call.

The more time I spent with Tim, the more I was convinced I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life, but the demands of medical school made him unable to make the leap just yet.

In short, I was lonely. I was afraid. I worried I might have made a mistake.

Enter Stratejoy and the Joy Equation. . That summer I woke every morning to journal about my fears, my hopes, my dreams, and desires – with no censorship. I visualized myself, 5 years into the future, married to Tim and expecting his child, working for myself, blogging in the mornings, maybe working on a book, and spending my afternoons meeting with friends in coffee shops, having heartfelt conversations.

I was fearless in these journal entries, allowing myself the space to dream, to seek, to yearn. I began slowly putting my goals into action, practicing gratitude, and honoring my core values. I had big, hard, beautiful conversations with Tim. We began dreaming together of the future and all that it held for us, together.

Fast forward three years to October 2013. Tim and I, married 2 years, had just moved back to the Pacific Northwest, into our first house, in Tacoma, WA. It had been 6 months since I had quit my full-time job. After a lovely sabbatical full of travel, adventure, reading, and self-reflection, I was working part-time as a marketing communications manager for an old friend. And I was once again dreaming of the future.

Tim and I had been talking about starting a family sometime in the next year, and for months it’s all I could think of.

The extra room in our new house? A future nursery.

The hot yoga studio down the street I had been so excited to try? Can’t do it – might make it harder to conceive.

Drinks out with friends? Sushi? Training for a new race? Might be too risky.

So each month I’d have a couple weeks of freedom followed by a few weeks of legalism and terror. I was getting tired of the dance. It was causing strain in our marriage, and stress on my body.

I thought what I wanted most, over everything else, was a baby. But in quiet, honest moments, it became clear to me it’s not all I wanted.

I wanted passion and purpose.

I wanted to be writing creatively.

I wanted to go back to school and learn how to help people in emotional pain.

I wanted to go back to school and learn how to talk to people about God in a way that is helpful and healing.

I wanted to begin developing a better relationship with my body, to celebrate my design and womanhood and treat my body with the love and respect it deserves.

I wanted to be fully, unabashedly ME.

I was meeting new friends, getting connected at church, already involved in my community, but I knew it would take time to develop the kind of trust needed to gain true accountability with these new friendships. Then I remembered the clarity and empowerment I gained that Joy Equation summer…and promptly began lurking on the Statejoy website. When I saw the advertisement for Elevate Mastermind, I knew I wanted to apply.

Accountability? Sisterhood? Champagne? Dance parties? Yes, please.

The night Molly announced her call for applications, I stayed up until midnight, typing and typing, fervently wishing and hoping and praying that come January, I’d be sitting in a yurt with 13 other women, risking vulnerability and dreaming big.

When Molly called to tell me I was in, I hung up the phone and prayed. And prayed. And prayed. This was going to be a huge investment – time, energy, money – and I needed to be sure I wasn’t just blindly signing up for something because it was shiny and sparkly and sounded so fun.

And the more I prayed, the more it became clear to me that Elevate was exactly what I needed to do this year. It was so clear I laughed out loud. My prayers aren’t always answered so specifically (or so quickly), but that day they were: I knew in my heart, with utmost confidence, that I needed these women who would make up the tribe. I needed to hear their stories and get to know them and learn from them. And I needed to boldly offer myself – in all my beautiful, messy vulnerability – and learn how to practice being exactly who I am and who I was created to be. And maybe, just maybe, they’d learn something from me, too.

It’s crazy to think back now, because so much has changed since that night in October. So much has changed since that magical, champagne bubbly, yurt-loving weekend in January.

I’m excited to see what comes next.

I wanted this year to be a big year, and beautiful year, a year of creation and joy and purpose. I am confident it will be, even if it looks slightly different than the way I dreamed it would be.

 


ECurlettElevate (1)WITH LOVE FROM

Erin, Adventurer, Storyteller, and Army Wife

Erin grew up in three different countries, leading her to embrace her role as a third culture kid: she loves airports, hates small talk, and feels more at home in a book than in any specific place. Lover of peppermint tea, alpine slides, Stephen King novels, hot yoga, Cadbury chocolate, and karaoke; devoted yet sometimes reluctant follower of Jesus; she lives with her husband, Tim, and their crazy ragamuffin cat, Opal, in a charming blue house in Tacoma, WA. Watch out: she’s bitey (the cat, not Erin).

 

Self-Care-vs.-Self-Comfort--What-Do-You-Really-Need

Bubble baths, pedicures, massages, a sweet treat — all self-loving activities you think of when you think of self care, no?

After all, aren’t those sweet rituals proof of care?

Of loving yourself?

They are.

But when “self-care” turns into nights spent curled on the couch with cupcakes watching entire seasons of old shows, you may be walking a fine line.  When the delicious solo glass of wine on the porch turns into the bottle and late night ex-texting, you’ve thrown your care under the bus.  When rewarding yourself with a shopping trip becomes the only way to lift your spirits, your pampering is becoming dangerous.

When caring for yourself turns into distracting or numbing or avoiding, it’s time to pause.  It’s time to check in with yourself — what are you really craving in those moments?

Ask yourself, “What do I really need?

Do I need comfort or care?”

When you need comfort — you’re craving warmth, pleasure, a break.

Treat yourself with sweetness and follow your body’s yearning for “feeling  good.”

A hot bath?  A glass of wine? A bear hug from your partner?  A square of dark chocolate?  A quesadilla with homemade guacamole?  Sex? A TV show? An early bedtime?  A pedicure? A snuggle with your kiddo?

You are soothing yourself from a stressful day.  

You are comforting yourself after a hard conversation with your boss.  You are pampering yourself after a week of doing everything for everyone else. You are rewarding yourself for reaching a goal.

The comforting acts themselves are neither bad nor good.  The intention behind them is the place where comfort separates from distraction, numbing or avoidance.

When you need care — you’re craving self-respect, connection, alignment.

Treat yourself with kindness and honor your strengths and values.  Follow your heart’s yearning for “doing good.”

Write in your journal? Swim laps? Have a soulful chat with your best friend?  Create something? Declare your gratitude? Take yourself on a walk outside?  Go to yoga?  Cook a beautiful meal?  Gaze at the stars? Say no? Say yes?  Have the conversation you’ve been avoiding? Meditate? Get lost in your favorite hobby?  Dance?  Take the first step of your crazy goal? Write a thank you note? Call your mama? Get organized?

You are honoring your highest held values.  

You are making choices that may not be convenient or easy, but are in line with your true self. You are respecting your right to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be present.

There is a moment of choice where you can make a deliberate decision:

CARE OR COMFORT?

(click to tweet that moment of choice)

Both are necessary!

Give yourself what you actually need.  Practice tuning into your cravings.

Sometimes we get so used to comforting ourselves, we skip right to the sugar when what we really need is to take a walk.  The TV can become so habitual that we don’t even realize that writing a blog post is what actually feels better at 9 pm.  We’re so practiced at rewarding ourselves with a massage, that we don’t even consider that a painting class might feel like more of a treat.

And gorgeous?  If you’ve been sliding into the land of distraction, numbness, excessive soothing at the expense of your values — there’s no point in beating yourself up.  Practice some self compassion and let today be the “reset” button.  If the comfort has been gaining crazy momentum, make a different choice now.  Today.  Tonight.

I know you can do it.

(And you can always shout out my Facebook wall if you need some extra encouragement!) 

Molly_Signature

 

nicolegoodbye

And now the time has come to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes – like really hate them. I’ve been known to stay friends with people or stay in relationships far too long because I have such an aversion to goodbyes.

And As my Elevate loves can tell you, I’m a goodbye crier.

I will try my best not to have a tearstained keyboard while I type this, but I’m not making any promises.

When I sat down to write this last post, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this experience. I’ve told Molly so many times how incredibly thankful I am for the opportunity, and I definitely mean it. I just can’t believe we’re at the end already.

For anyone who has been following my posts and entertaining the idea in the back of your mind – please apply when Molly opens the next season up. It really is a fantastic experience. You won’t regret it!

To my Season 7 girls – I adore you! We are all in different points in our lives, but we have these common threads that allow us to relate to one another. My life is infinitely better for having “met” all of you and shared this experience. I hope that we will stay in touch and continue to watch each other reap the benefits of taking this time for ourselves to learn and grow.

To Miss Katie – I adore you as well! You sweet, sweet woman who gives so much of herself to others even when she is unsure of where her own life is headed. You were the perfect blogger momma for us and I’m so happy to know you. And if I ever meet you in person, I will so hug you into infinity. You better learn to like hugs, lady! 😉

Lovely Molly – You know how I feel about you, but I can’t say it enough. You are an amazing person. You have changed the lives of many in the tribe for the better. You have bared your beautiful soul to us and created this space where we can be open and vulnerable and support one another. I really believe you are filled with magic. I’m beyond thankful that you’ve shared the magic with me! Thank you for this amazing opportunity.

When I think about where I am today compared with five months ago, I really am astounded. I went back to my goal post to see if I accomplished any of those goals I set for myself. Some of them I have done more than others, but what struck me was just the tone of my writing and the numerous comments I made about feeling out of touch with myself.

I still don’t have everything figured out, but I’m infinitely more in tune with my own desires and what I want out of life. At the time I wrote the goal post, I could only focus on a few small things because I wasn’t confident enough in anything to actually declare a goal.

I now have a gorgeous goal sheet that is bursting with ideas and hopes and dreams that I want to tackle this year. All of that is because I’ve been given this gift of weekly reflection and writing for all of you.

Thank you all so much for reading and commenting, supporting me during the weeks that weren’t so positive, and making me feel like a NORMAL person. 

Since I really love to write and talk about myself, I’ll be using my writing energy to blog more often on my personal blog, Nicole Loves. You can find me there or follow me on twitter to see how I use all this newfound positive energy to shape my life into the life I’ve always dreamed of.

And now I’ll leave you with a line from one of my favorite movies EVER – Pretty Woman. Ms. Kit De Luca says…

“I gotta split ’cause goodbyes me me crazy – so take care of you.”

Goodbye loves! xoxo

NicoleBioBadge

Image via: Flickr

 

A Note From Katie: I’ve been a hot mess all week. Although life is jam packed with uncertainty, I always knew I’d hear from you every single week and we’d chat it out, talk about our hate for technology. It’s that routine that became so incredible for me throughout this entire season. But YOU have been a bright, cheery addition to this Season, Miss Nicole. I can see how far you’ve come. As I went back and read everyone’s posts from all season long, I noticed too that your tone had changed. You’re still as beautiful a writer, but you’re a bit more clear on what you’re looking for. And that growth is what this experience is all about. I will absolutely be following you around like crazy, making sure you’re doing fine, staying up to date on ALL THE THINGS, and planning + plotting the moment I can tackle hug you. I’d do it for you.  <Insert obnoxious, teary karaoke version of “That’s What Friends Are For” here!> . So many X’s and so many O’s!

240731542552026114_Yb4YysjJAhhh! Interview week!

It’s totally bittersweet for me, but I think this was my most favorite week of the whole season! It was so much fun to see the questions my fellow Season 7 rockstars came up with and I had a blast answering them.

You may learn a few things about me that you didn’t want to know and for that I don’t really apologize…I’m quirky and I’m told its a pretty lovable trait. ENJOY!

Where do you see your self (or hope to be) 6 months from now? A year from now? 

In 6 months, I’m hoping to have a new job as a wellness coach {preferably working from home}. I will have the Elevate retreat, BiSC and a trip to the NC beaches under my belt and be reveling in all the magical memories I’ve made in 2013. I’ll be feeling connected to my authentic self and be fine-tuning my life to reflect that.

In a year, I hope to be feeling settled in my new career, and fresh off of another successful Holiday Council. I’m hoping that next year I’ll be feeling ready for a year filled with peace and enjoyment following all the changes I’m making in 2013. I imagine that participating in Elevate this year will push me well beyond my comfort zone and into that sacred zone of authenticity I’m seeking. So anything I do in 2014 and beyond will just be that much more awesome because it’ll be coming from a place of authenticity and fierce self-love.

What’s the best book you read this year? 

Well since I’m completely addicted to erotica – I’d have to say that Bared to You and Reflected in You by Silvia Day were my favorites. But the Fifty Shades trilogy was a close second. Try as you might, you will not get me to admit how many times I’ve read each of these books, but it’s a shameful amount! {Maybe these should be listed for the guilty pleasure question too!}

Do you feel like blogging about your life made you look at it differently?

Absolutely! I think I benefitted immensely from having to actually articulate my thoughts. While I’m not as good at it as some of my fellow bloggers, I did manage to stumble upon some realizations that I would never have made if I hadn’t been writing for an audience. Knowing that people were reading and possibly identifying with my transition made me dig a little deeper than I might otherwise have done.

Which current living celebrity do you think you’d be best friends with in real life?

I mean, I’m pretty amazing so I think they would all love me. But I have a thing for adorable southern girls. I’m just so fascinated by them and completely enthralled. So I think a spunky southern girl like Miranda Lambert, Kellie Pickler or Jennifer Nettles from Sugarland would be my ideal celeb bestie.

Did anything happen during the season that surprised you? 

Several people that I know in real life contacted me mid-season to say they had been following my posts and really identified with them. I hadn’t expected that! At all.  If I’m being honest, I was surprised when you lovely internet friends commented or tweeted me because I half expected most people to not relate to my self-perceived problems. So surprises all around!

What quote best summarizes what you’ve learned during the season?

“Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you lost time. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.” – Asha Tyson

What is your guilty pleasure? What is it that totally lights you up that you’re afraid to admit to? 

Well I’m not sure some of you can handle anymore guilty pleasure admissions from me…BUT since you asked – I have a thing for really juvenile romantic comedies. Movies like A Cinderella Story, Freaky Friday, What a Girl Wants, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants {1 & 2!}, 13 Going on 30, The Prince & Me, The Princess Diaries, Son in Law, Uptown Girls – all in my DVD library. I’m not sure whether this or my smut addiction should be more shameful. But you can bet I’m not losing any sleep trying to decide!

What is the biggest change you’ve noticed in yourself since we started blogging for Stratejoy?

I’m happier. I’ve relaxed my expectations of myself a bit and tried like hell to lose the guilt. I’m enjoying what I have in the present and not pinning all of my happiness on some future date or accomplishment. It’s fabulously liberating!

How did you fit blogging into your life? – Did you have a routine? Did it add joy or stress? Did you think about it over the week or just sit down and write? Etc.

I have a really random writing process to begin with and I knew it would be a bit of a challenge going into this adventure. I found that some weeks I was really inspired to write and others I was letting all the shit in my head get in my way. All those voices that say I’m not a great writer, no one will identify, my problems aren’t big enough for anyone else to care – they can all overwhelm me and leave me with the worst writer’s block. Add in the health problems I had in the fall and the plague that my little one and I both had twice and you can see why some weeks were more of a challenge. Thankfully, the completely adorable and wonderful Katie is a loving blogger momma and she put up with my incessant tardiness. {Love you sweet Katie!}.

I’d say overall the experience added joy to my life though. While I did struggle at times, the need to write something that seemed worthy of sharing was a great motivator to look more closely at myself and inspired some awesome discoveries! I am forever grateful to Molly for allowing me to be a part of Season 7! For the small amount of stress it caused – it added 10 times that much joy. So I’m pretty sure that’s what winning looks like.

How did people you know react? – did you share it openly, were family and friends supportive, did you censor yourself, etc.

I’m the kind of person who worries what other people think about me and I wasn’t sure how anyone would react – so I didn’t tell everyone I know in real life. As the season progressed, I found myself sharing with more people than I originally did. I didn’t have a single person judge me negatively – everyone had a positive reaction. I was honestly amazed that so many people could relate to my issues – which seems ridiculous to write because the whole premise of Stratejoy is that we all have these things that we struggle with and it brings us together to love and support each other and then realize we are all NORMAL. Why I didn’t think this same premise applied to the people I know in real life seems a little silly now.

Did you dig as deep as you could and open up as much as you could?

The simple answer is no. There just isn’t enough space for me to share all the chaos in my head when I’m limited to 500-1000 words per week. But I shared openly and honestly about the transition I’m going through. I share even more about myself on my personal blog so feel free to visit if you just can’t get enough of me!

When you’re curled up on the couch reading with a mug of something warm, what’s the book and what’s in the mug?

I drink a ridiculous amount of coffee {though I’m strictly drinking decaf now} so I’m sure I’d have coffee in my mug. I’m either reading some of the smut I mentioned in a previous question or some story about a group of girls that travels and has fabulous experiences. Because apparently my life is fueled by coffee, sex and wanderlust! Win!

What’s on your bedside table?

A hair tie, one earring, an iphone dock, a picture of me and the little person when she was a baby and a water bottle. Clearly I need some lessons in styling!

What were you like in high school?  What parts of you have remained the same?

Hmmm…high school. This is a tough one. I feel like high school was a bit of a blur. I went to a really, really small school {like 40 people in my class small} and we were all obsessed with having long-term boyfriends. Mine was older so I spent the vast majority of my time from sophomore year on with people who had already graduated. I didn’t partake in all the fun high school things. I rode a Harley with my boyfriend and watched his band play gigs in bars and whatnot. I was waaay too cool for high school. Of course, looking back I can see I was just a lost girl looking for somewhere to belong.

I didn’t really share my innermost thoughts with my peers. I was nice and had plenty of friends – I was even voted Miss Senior and was on the prom court junior and senior years. But I was more concerned about graduating so I could get married and have babies. I’ll go ahead and insert all the lyrics of “Unanswered Prayers” by Garth Brooks here because THANK GOD those prayers were not answered! I’m not sure I can say that I’m anything like my high school self, but then I’m an old lady. 2013 marks 15 years since I graduated. Wowza, where has the time gone?!?!

Who are the top 5 people on your “list”?  (You know, the list…  Those 5 people you could sleep with if you magically met them and your partner would have to be okay with it, because damn! You just slept with Johnny Depp!) 

Oooh, such a naughty question! I love it. And maybe I’m just boy crazy, but I hardly think 5 covers it!  So…

Sam Seaborn – {West Wing-ers tell me you agree!} He’s pretty much my ideal man. Be still my heart!

Chace Crawford – I don’t even care that he smokes pot. He’s beautiful.

Channing Tatum – Hi, did you see Magic Mike? Gah!

Bradley Cooper – Back off ladies! I get him first!

Ian Somerhalder – Those eyes, that jaw, the smile, OH MY!

And honorable mentions for Patrick Dempsey, Josh Lucas and Gerard Butler. I mean, I’m not going to turn them down or anything.

If you could give yourself 5 months ago one piece of advice, what would it be? How about you 5 months from now?

Worry less. Don’t lose sleep or sanity about things you can’t change. And stop caring what other people think. Make yourself happy and let the rest go.

In the movie of your life, which actress/celeb would play you? 

If I get to choose, then I totally pick Blake Lively. I mean, could she BE any more gorgeous? And that hair. We’ll pretend like the slight resemblances we have {i.e. long blondish hair and blue eyes} make her the perfect choice. Great, it’s settled. Nice to have you on board!

There you have it. If you have a great answer to one of the questions, I totally want to hear it in the comments below!

Guilty pleasures or “list” candidates anyone???

NicoleBioBadge

Image via: Pinterest!

 

p.s.  The 3rd Stratejoy Essay Contest is open for entries!  Ready to win the $500?  Be featured here at Stratejoy?  Yes!  The theme: “How has a transition revealed a more authentic you?”

p.p.s.  The next Book Club/Tribe Chat Fest is going to be about marriage and partners.  Juicy, juicy. We’re reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed: A Love Story and will be jamming about it on February 13.

The last few weeks I’ve experienced quite a range of emotions – from soul-aching sadness to heart-melting happiness. It has been quite a ride, but I’ve never felt more alive than I do right now.

I would imagine some of you watched Danielle LaPorte’s Goals with Soul video this week {if you haven’t, please DO IT!}. I couldn’t watch live, but I watched the recording the next day.

I cried through much of it. It spoke to my soul. It moved me. It inspired me.

This video she plays of women from all over the world sharing how they want to feel is powerful. Pure, raw emotion. So many beautiful, strong women who just want to feel good. Whatever their version of “good” is. And so many of us aren’t feeling these things that we crave on the most basic level.

I’m so incredibly grateful that we have such beautiful souls in Danielle LaPorte and Molly Mahar to share this gift they have with the world – I honestly believe they are changing the world, one woman at a time. I know my life is forever changed because of them and I’m willing to bet many of you reading can say the same.

Last week I was listening to Molly’s first Holiday Council call and she was talking about releasing the bad things from 2012. We did a visualization where we let the list of bad things go. I had tears streaming down my face. I was so overcome by the pain and sadness I felt in that moment.

But also, I could almost taste the freedom as I was watching the tiny pieces of paper soar down over the edge of the cliff in my mind.

I cried the next day too – some because the pain and hurt from this year were still lingering with me. And some because thinking about my year brought up those raw feelings from losing my sweet puppy, Emma. I laid in my bed and sobbed and sobbed until I had no tears left. I honestly lost track of time.

Instead of feeling weak or silly for crying, I let myself off the hook. I felt my feelings and they made my soul ache.

Since that day I’ve been feeling happy. Unshakably happy. I can’t explain why exactly, but I just feel more confident, more secure in the knowledge that I’m going to get there. Wherever I’m meant to be.

Of course, this was Molly’s intent in having us do such a visualization – we released the bad to make space for the good. I just didn’t expect it to affect me this much.

I was still feeling that happiness and sense of peace as I sat down to watch Danielle’s recording. Then my world was rocked in a major way.

After I finished watching, I jumped in the shower, my mind definitely still reeling. I put Boyce Avenue’s version of Just the Way You Are on repeat because it has been inspiring me this week – I thought it was because I’m a hopeless romantic and it speaks to that kind of overwhelming love I‘m enamored with.

But as I was standing in the shower thinking about my life, my desires, how I’ve gotten to this point in my life –  I began to weep {again!}. I had tears streaming down my face in this deep soul-cleansing crying. I vaguely remember hearing Alejandro Manzano’s voice  amping up – saying:

“Girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are. The way you are. The way you are. ‘Cause girl you’re amazing. Just the way you are.”

In that moment it came to me – I finally believed it. I am amazing. Not because someone loves me so much. Not because I’m beautiful and my hair is perfect. Not because my laugh is sexy, but because I’m me.

I’m amazing. Just the way I am. 

This is one of those life-changing revelations. I’ve been hearing Molly say this for months – on the Fierce Love recordings, the Holiday Council recordings and several other videos I’ve watched. She always says some version of “You aren’t broken. Nothing is wrong with you. You are enough.”

Each time it moves me {usually to tears}. It’s like she’s speaking right to my soul. I’ve tried like hell to believe it. I’ve hoped and prayed that it would sink in. It just hadn’t yet.

But today it did. I stood there in the shower, crying and smiling and dreaming about all the ways I could make this amazing light I have inside of me shine out into the world.

Much like the women in Danielle’s video, I have these cravings for my life.  When I imagine my ideal life or my ideal self – I want to be self-assured. Comfortable in my own skin.

I want to feel beautiful and feminine and sexy no matter what my pant size is or whether I straightened my hair or put on mascara.

I want to delight in the little things. I want to be present in the moments of my life. Connect deeply with my friends and family and truly enjoy the few precious moments we all have on this earth.

I want to feel vibrant and alive and like a life force that can’t be extinguished.

I want to feel powerful. Competent. Courageous. Like I can do anything I want to do.

I want to be spiritual – and not the way I grew up. I need fresh spirituality. A kind that fits into my life and the person that I am now.

I want to take adventures. Stand at the foot of mountains and marvel at the beauty and the massive size of them. I want to experience things that are bigger than myself.

I want to visit places, partake in experiences, engage in spiritual practices that make me realize I’m but a small part of the greater world around me. I want to appreciate the beauty and complexity of the world.

I want to be inspired and then inspire others.

I want to be a force for good. For health. For balance. 

I want to help my daughter grow into a confident, passionate woman who knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. The best chance she has at living that life is if I model it for her.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Image via: derekskey

Well my “ah ha” moment has come and gone. My life hasn’t suddenly turned into a magical wonderland, and I’m still feeling lost much of the time.

I take some comfort in the fact that I have a general idea of where I’m headed because that is way more than I had when I started this journey.

But I want more.

I’m facing some major changes in my life and I don’t like feeling this uncertain.

I wish I was the kind of person who didn’t fear change. I wish I didn’t have a massive fear of failure. I wish I was at the point where I trusted myself enough to make the right decisions. I’m really trying to be that person, I’m just not there yet.

I’m terrified that I’m going to make the wrong decision. I’ve already wasted time and money pursuing a career that turned out to be wrong for me. Then I did it again. What if I’m destined to be the girl who constantly changes her mind? What if I change my whole life to pursue yet another goal and then discover I got it wrong – again? I’m not sure how I would even handle that.

On one hand, I feel like I know myself better now than I ever have. I’m more in touch with my desires, my hopes and dreams, my strengths and even my weaknesses. But what if I’m wrong? What if I’m just so desperate to find myself that I’m inflating my interests into passions?

All of these questions have been rattling around in my head since my public declaration a few weeks ago. I’ve been trying to work through them, but I just haven’t reconciled all of it yet.

What I have done is explore a few options that could lead me to a career with a wellness focus. I applied to a graduate program in kinesiology, and was accepted for the Spring semester. I’ve researched a couple of certificates that I could obtain if I decide that graduate school isn’t my best option.

If I do decide to pursue another degree, there are still some hurdles to jump over. While the program is a great fit for my goals, isn’t exactly perfect for my life. My previous program was completely online so it was easy to fit into my schedule.

The new program would require me to attend class a couple of nights a week – and the campus is a little over an hour from my house. As much as I like the program, that is a big deal {and potentially a deal-breaker} for me.

I don’t mind driving to the campus, but it is far more complicated when I have a little person at home. I don’t know how she would cope with me being gone a couple of nights a week. Also, I don’t want to continue to work on the weekends and miss even more time with her so I’d have to find a part-time job during daytime hours that would work around my school schedule.

There are just so many details that need to be worked out that it starts to feel a little overwhelming. Somehow my “ah ha” moment has turned into a continual spiral of questions that I can’t seem to get a handle on.

The further I delve into my psyche, the looser my grasp on that ever elusive balance is. Instead of clarity I have confusion and fear.

I know I can’t let fear rule my life. At some point I have to choose to jump into the unknown or remain in the same stagnant place I’ve been. I’m trying hard to work up the courage to jump because I really don’t want to be in the same place when November 2013 rolls around.

Image via: Flickr

I have some great news. Like life-changing news. I’m kind of surprised and giddy – and definitely ecstatic as I’m writing this.

You know how we’ve all been searching for purpose – spending our time journaling, blogging, reading and thinking about these big transitions in our lives?

Some of us have put it into words and others have just implied it, but we’re all searching for an “ah-ha” moment – the kind where we see a light shining through the fog of uncertainty. Where choirs of angels sing hallelujah and we suddenly have a whole life plan planted in our brains by some divine intervention.

Well that may be a tad dramatic, but hey if you didn’t already know this about me – I kind of have a flair for the dramatic. {Don’t judge me!}

Anywho, I’ve very recently had one of those coveted “ah-ha” moments. And now that I’m past it, I can’t even believe I didn’t see this sooner.

I’m not sure I would have gotten here if it weren’t for doing all the wrong things leading up to it. So now I can celebrate those things instead of regretting mistakes and missteps in my path thus far. I can’t tell you what that does for my sanity.

I feel lighter. I feel happier. I feel a little less lost in the big world with no idea where to go.

I’d been feeling like I was on the verge of this since I’d started blogging here at Stratejoy – I even told Molly so when we were discussing Elevate. It was so close I could almost taste it, but then it simultaneously seemed like I was never going to get there.

And then I did. And no choirs sang or lights shone. No secret life plan magically appeared. But with this clarity came peace.

Leading up to this, I’d spent a ton of time thinking about things that make me light up. The things I really enjoy doing that I could possibly turn into a career. It ended up being a decent sized list, but many of them aren’t things I actually want to pursue for one reason or another.

Next I made a list of the things I want out of life – I know I want to travel, have flexible work hours, possibly work for myself at some point, and I want to feel like I’m helping others. I want to empower someone else to improve their own life, especially women and young girls.

I feel really strongly about this particular demographic because I grew up with low self-esteem. I know what it feels like to feel bad about yourself, how hard it is to change when you don’t have a positive female role model who you really relate to.

Even into adulthood I’ve struggled with knowing who I am, what I want and how to love myself even when I don’t know the answers to these things.

I’ve longed to be a woman who felt she belonged in the world and had some positive contribution to the world. I want to change lives – and not because I want some glory or admiration for myself. This isn’t about me.

I want to show young girls and other women that their lives matter. That being comfortable in their own skin and taking good care of themselves is far better than chasing the latest trend and trying to be someone else.

I want to be a model of a woman who loves herself, who finds joy in ordinary places, who celebrates her individuality – and I want to pay it forward.

So what exactly was this “ah-ha” moment, you ask? Because I know I’ve been leading you on a little bit. And that is somewhat intentional and somewhat not. I’m not holding back for dramatic effect, but rather I’m indulging my natural tendency for storytelling.

I never realized this about myself until I was writing on a fairly regular basis. I’m not usually someone who can write informally and just pour out my thoughts. I’m a storyteller. I can see it when I look back over my posts thus far on Stratejoy, and on my personal blog. So this post will be no different.

I remember being in nursing school and absolutely hating it. I am completely enthralled with the human body and all that it is capable of. I could read for hours about the intricacies of each system and how they are all so interconnected. The problem, for me, arises when the focus turns to treating disease in the human body.

After I finished my bachelor’s in nursing, I thought that public health would be a good fit for me. It was less focused on the patient lying in the bed and more on the population as a whole. Public health focuses on preventing disease or restoring health after disease, but again it is on a broad scale – focusing on improving the health of the population.

This was better than nursing for me, but it still didn’t feel quite right.

After all this soul searching, talking to close friends, sharing with all of you and journaling my little rear end off – it clicked.

I’m passionate about wellness. I want to help individuals prevent diseases caused by poor diet, lack of exercise and high stress levels. I want to help young girls make health a priority and develop habits that will carry into adulthood.

I’m never more impassioned that when I’m discussing my latest workout regimen, sharing how to eat a cleaner diet, or thinking up ways to alleviate stress.

I haven’t settled on a specific job yet, but I have a ton of ideas.

Maybe I’ll work in corporate wellness – designing programs to encourage wellness behaviors and working with individual employees to achieve them. Maybe I’ll open my own gym or wellness center in the future. Maybe I’ll start a running group in my city. Maybe I’ll found a non-profit that focuses on the health of younger girls and gets them moving.

Who knows. But I’m excited to explore all these options, set some goals and get started.

Cue the angels, please!

Image via: Flickr

I was so excited to be chosen for Season 7 here at Stratejoy. I was surprised and could barely form a coherent sentence when Molly called me because I was so giddy.

As soon as I got the email with information about our first few posts, I got to work. I was excited to be writing, and had so many ideas and thoughts pouring out of me. Sometimes more ideas than I could fit into 500-1000 words.

As luck would have it, the universe decided to throw me a curveball after I wrote my third post. I’d just outlined my focus for the next few months and I was ready to get started on the things I’d challenged myself to do.

Then my sweet little boxer, Emma, got sick. Really sick. I’ve been dreading the day for many years because I knew it would be overwhelmingly painful for me. She has been my companion for eight precious years. But I couldn’t let her suffer so I sent her off to doggie heaven {as I told the little person}.

Naturally I was very emotional for the next few days. I didn’t venture out of the house. I ignored everyone’s calls and just let myself be sad.

I went to work that weekend and tried to get on with life. In the back of my mind, I was starting to get nervous. I’d been avoiding journaling because I wasn’t ready to write the story yet. I was avoiding writing my next post because everything I could come up with seemed trivial and uninspired. I was getting behind on my posts and it was stressing me out.

I started my usual spiral of negative self-talk. I told myself that I was going to fail at this. That I said all I have to say in the first few posts. That I was fooling myself by thinking I could write anything of value.

Sometimes it’s really ugly in my head. I don’t know how any of us can get to the point where we treat ourselves so horribly. I would never talk to one of my friends the way I talk to myself. Yet I continue to treat myself this way.

As the days slipped by and I still couldn’t write anything, I turned to my journal for inspriation. Maybe I’d find something in there that I could expand on. I reread a few entries and stumbled on one talking about my inner critic.

And there was Molly’s voice in my head telling me not to blindly believe the critic. To voice the bad thoughts so I would understand they aren’t the truth – and then move forward with the actual truth.

The truth is my inner critic was twisting my fears into factual statements. I am afraid to fail at this, but I don’t believe I have yet. I believe I’ll continue to rise to the challenge. I believe continuing to learn and grow is the purpose of blogging here – and I’m doing just that. One baby step at a time.

I watched a video recently of the lovely Nicole Antoinette speaking at WDS 2012. Her overall topic was running, but she discussed how big sexy goals are accomplished one tiny unsexy step at a time. {Obviously this applies to areas outside of running, as well}. Talk about the perfect time to stumble upon the video!

I didn’t take any giant leaps this week on my journey, but I did take one tiny unsexy step. I was able to recognize the negativity running rampant in my head and stop the cycle.

I know, life isn’t always going to go perfectly. In fact, it will likely be filled with many unexpected challenges. My hope is that I can get to a point where those challenges don’t set off a negative mental spiral. A point where I can treat myself with the love and forgiveness that I would show to others.

I definitely have a ways to go before I accomplish that goal, but I plan to continue on with all the baby steps. One foot in front of the other until one day I realize I’m living the life I’ve been striving for.

Photo credit: ME

 

I’ve always been a pretty private person. As I’ve matured and gained some confidence, I’ve become less of the shy introvert of my childhood.

Many people in my life would be surprised to learn that I still consider myself a private person. I will readily talk about myself in the company of others, sometimes to the point of over sharing.

But I’m selective about the things I share.

Many of my innermost thoughts have never been voiced. To anyone. 

I’ve held back because I’m terrified of failure and rejection. I don’t want to be viewed as different, or display my weaknesses to others. I don’t think anyone will relate to my issues. I don’t want to burden others with my problems.

At some point, I have to choose between continuing to let my fears rule my life, or taking a risk that other people will accept me and all my self-percieved flaws.

Since I’ve found myself at a major transition point in my life, I think now is as good a time as any to take that risk.

I have the opportunity to reinvent myself – to shed the layers of my thought process that haven’t been working for me and find what does work for me.

Maybe it’s the benefit {or burden} of maturity, maybe it’s my aging parents and my increased awareness of our mortality -whatever it is, I’m more concerned about living a life that I’m proud of than I’ve ever been.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I’ve spent all my precious time trying to make everyone else happy while neglecting myself. Surely I can find a better balance between the two.

I want to create a life that honors my authentic self. 

I’m so thankful to have found Molly and Stratejoy. Each time I visit the site, I find myself immersed in a culture of positivity, courage and unconditional support.

You wonderful women of the tribe are so brave – many of you working to overcome much larger obstacles than I am – yet you share your struggles freely and help to build each other up.

I am in awe of you. I’m honored to be able to share my journey with you.

I cannot put into words the relief I feel knowing that I’m not the only person to have felt this lost. Seeing that other women have faced these same fears head on and found a way to overcome them gives me hope that I can too.

Recently, I’ve worked my way through Fierce Love, and would highly recommend it to anyone who needs to kick their self-love into gear. I’ve learned amazing things about myself through the weekly challenges and felt so empowered by Molly’s genuine compassion and unfailing encouragement. {I heart you, Molly!}

I’m still struggling to regularly practice self-love because it doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s really hard to overcome 32 years of bad habits and negative self-thinking – but I’m going to do it! I deserve to treat myself better than I’ve been doing pretty much my whole life.

I still don’t know what shape my dreams will take in my life, but that’s ok. I’ve taken a huge step by giving myself permission to discover what makes me thrive. I’m confident the manifestations will come in time.

Image via flickr

We talk about self-love quite a bit ‘round these parts. My last few months here at Stratejoy have been rife with trying out new rituals for being more present in my life, sitting in cafes working on the Fierce Love course, and commenting on my wonderful fellow bloggers’ posts telling them how absolutely IN AWE I AM of their newfound self-love.

If you had asked me earlier what I expected to get out of all this exploration, I probably would have said, “Confidence? Being a little nicer to myself? Uhh…some other stuff, maybe?”

What I never realized is how much a few months dedicated to self-love could really result in a huge bump in my other-people-love. Struggling to embrace my own flaws has made me so much more cognizant of all the negative projecting and [insert other psychology term here]ing that I’ve been doing with regard to everyone else.

Learning to be a little bit kinder to myself has made me see just how unkind I’ve been to others – not to their faces, necessarily, but in my own head. I have a tendency to assign motivations without knowing the full story and otherwise just think the worst.

I’m not even referring to silly situations, like silently judging the woman walking down the street for wearing some kind of hideous/tacky/revealing outfit (I still do this, but I’m trying reallllly hard to stop). But even when it comes to my own friends, I’ll think, “This person just wants attention,” or, “That person doesn’t care about anyone but herself.”

No one can look objectively into his or her own life and I’m certainly no exception, but I have a strong feeling that all the ugly motivations I’m attributing to others are manifestations of my own insecurities. Maybe I’m just jealous that someone is getting more attention than I am, or maybe someone wrote that Facebook post because they’re happy, not because they’re trying to boast and shove something in everyone else’s faces.

When Sarah wrote her post about radical acceptance, she mentioned how we’re often so much harsher with ourselves than we are with others.  And it’s completely true. I often beat myself up over the fact that I’m going on 7 months of being unemployed, despite the fact that I’m trying REALLY FUCKING HARD to get a job. But if I saw a friend down in the dumps over the same thing? I would be as reassuring as possible, reminding her that the job market sucks and it’s not a function of her inadequacy.

It’s so strange, then, that I can have so much compassion for my close friends in some circumstances, but lack that same compassion in others.

But this is all changing, slowly but surely.

The process of accepting my flaws hasn’t so much made me accept the flaws in others as it has made me realize that sometimes those flaws don’t even exist. Opening myself up to that vulnerability thing I keep talking about and embracing who I am, imperfections and all, has made me be more open towards others as well.

And you know what? People have surprised me. Not in a way that means they were acting out of character, but in a way that made me realize that the people I know and love have kind of always been even more awesome than I thought they were.

Like when I assumed one friend wouldn’t be receptive to listening to me vent about a problem I was having. But instead, she was not only supportive, but insanely helpful. And afterwards I wondered why I ever doubted her in the first place.

There have been countless examples like this over the last few months.

I’ve learned a lot of lessons over my time blogging for Stratejoy (which you’ll hear about in a few short weeks because our time here is almost over and NO PLEASE DO NOT MAKE IT END ACK CUE PANIC FREAKOUT SADNESS), but this has definitely been one of the best. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised by the interplay between self-love and love for others, seeing as, you know, we interact with others throughout most of our daily lives, but somehow it caught me off guard.

I always expected – or at least hoped – that I would come away from this time in my life with a new appreciation for the things that make me ME. You know, like the weird way I eat Lucky Charms or the fact that I sometimes like to listen to the Jock Jams Megamix while working out (remember that, 1995?). But I’ve also gained a new appreciation for others, because I’ve been able to see that if I withhold my judgments, especially the pre-judgments, people can be so much more amazing than I thought they were.

So from now on, I’m going to focus on looking at others as I want them to look at me – free of judgment, open to whatever awesomeness they have to offer the world.

The self-love has kind of turned into everyone-love. And I’m totally infatuated.

 

Photo credit: kk+

 

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.

After being inspired by Arielle’s post on Beauty, I had a brain dump on paper.  This is a cleaned up version but it’s still a little all over.  Beauty is an expansive subject.  This is barely the tip of the iceberg.

Beauty is like this expensive gem that some 90 year old woman threw in the bottom of the big blue ocean never to be found again- like a smack in the face, MWAHA, no one else is beautiful because if I can’t have it at 90, you can’t ever have it!  Ok, a lot exaggerated.  But really, no matter how beautiful that gem was, if I had that, I would never wear it because it is clunky, people would look at me all the time, ask me where I got it, did I get it myself (then I must be rich), or that someone rich gave it to me (which will then turn into them trying to take my rich man away from me).  I just don’t see the attraction in it!

When I refer to something as beautiful, I’m looking at meaning.  I’m searching for pure raw emotion.  If I’m overlooking a peak in the Garden of the Gods at broad landscape, it takes my breath away.  Not because I find rolling meadows and electric poles against a blue sky that attractive but because it’s overwhelming.  In my head, that landscape juxtaposes life and all of its possibilities.  Here I am, small and looking out over what will be my life.

Beauty is not in clothes.  It is not in jewelry.  It is not in a made up face or manicured hand.

If I find something beautiful, it is because it made me feel something. 

The opening of Up is beautiful.  Not the characters, but their story.  The little failures and successes that made up their life.  Life is beautiful.  Enjoying life makes us beautiful!

When I see Dita Von Teese or Ruby Joule dance, I’m entranced.  They’re attractive women, sure, but “stripping” at the height of their intelligence using not only their bodies as expression but also their props and costumes to add to it.  They know what they want the audience to see and feel.  Note: I don’t swing this way but I know how to appreciate  and you should to- no, really, it’s so much more fun than living in constant jealousy!  These women make me feel empowered and that my body can be both a weapon and a gift.  It’s not because they are “beautiful” but because they know that it takes more than just a pretty face to put on a really good show.

“Beauty”, in the societal sense, can only get us so far.

“Beauty” also has an expiration date.

I don’t wear make-up but maybe a few days out of the year.  It’s partly because I don’t have the patience to learn techniques and it’s partly because I know I don’t need it.  I actually love my face the way it is, zillions of freckles smothering freckles.  Even the one creeper freckle on my very white and bare eyelid.

I don’t want to do yoga because it will help me age gracefully.  I want to do it because it makes me feel good right now.  The rest are just benefits.

I don’t want to be involved in the fat acceptance movement.  I am overweight, but it’s one thing to accept my weight as is, and it’s a whole other thing to not do anything about it.  I accept it, I accept others, but I do believe healthy is what we should be aiming at here. I’m going to climb that damn volcano!

And while I’m on the subject of fat, what the hell is it with plus size fashion?!  I know how to coordinate a colored camisole with a sweater.  You do not have to sew them together!  I’m fat, not stupid!  And another thing, fashion designer, putting your brand deliberately across your product does not make me personally look better so stop it.  If someone likes your design, they will ask me where I got it and I will happily tell them so they, too, can look awe-some.

When my beau looks at me, I don’t want him to see my clothes, or my make-up, or get sidetracked my shiny jewelry hanging from my ears.  I want him to see my blue eyes, my glowing, healthy skin.  I want him to see my intelligence, my talent, my passion for life.  I want him to see me.

Because I’m pretty wonderful.

Why would I want to hide that?

 

With my move coming up and currently being knee deep in packing materials, I’ve been slacking on my Fierce Love course. I love doing the work for the course, yet at the end of a long day of work and packing, all I want to do is lay in bed and watch HGTV. But, one of the biggest ideas of Fierce Love has been lodged in my brain lately, self-love.

My cousin posed a concern to me the other day…how will I handle living 3.5 hours away from her and my close friends when I need someone to go have coffee with and vent to. Or if Mr Paul Child and I have a fight, who will I be able to go have a glass of wine with and pour my heart out to? Where will I be able to go to unwind from work, needing to filter some balance into my life with yoga? Are there any wine bars there?

All valid points and things I’ve been considering. I mean, Yuma doesn’t even have a Victoria’s Secrets, let alone a Trader Joe’s or Apple store…there aren’t really any farmers markets, gourmet cheese shops, or wine bars. It’s kind of out in the middle of nowhere. It’s scary to think about, leaving life in a metropolitan area for small town existence. I know some of the wives of Mr Paul Child’s coworkers, but they aren’t really my nearest and dearest. What the hell am I going to do?

Normally, these question would have sent me into a tail-spin of panic. But for some reason, I’ve been calm about it. (I know, I was shocked too!) Where I normally would be running to my friends, lamenting my situation, I’ve been trying to be positive and look for what good things are going to come from this move. Accepting that, yes, things are changing, and trying to be “deliciously kind” to myself.

In my pondering of my move, and the self-love I need to make sure I stay mentally healthy, and keep making progress in my quest to really love myself and make some time for me, I’ve made a couple notes of how I want to keep progressing and giving to myself in my new surroundings.

1. Yoga – I’ve found two places to try yoga classes. The one looks like a defunct dance studio, where angry stage moms would scream at their daughters or sons, to plié better than the bun head next to them. Though it’s not the uber-modern chic studio I’m used to, there could be a totally amazing teacher and space for a work out.

2. Find some space for me in the house – I crave a place where I can go, to be alone, write, read, work. I haven’t fully figured out where this space will be, and have resigned myself to the fact that I may have to fashion a shabby chic box fort out of all my storage items in the guest room, but honey, I will do it if I have to, to get my me space.

3. San Diego – This will be my go to place. It’s two hours away, one of my close friends lives there, it has farmers markets, wine bars, restaurants, and Victoria’s Secrets (yes, undies!). Loading up on cheese, gourmet goodies, some chill time with my friend, and grabbing some new undies, I’ll return to Yuma happy and healthy.

4. Skype dates – I will be requiring all my friends to download Skype for in-person wine dates to talk, laugh, complain, and console. Wine a must, pants optional.

5. Running – It’s something I’ve always wanted to take up and with the lack of a plethora of hiking trails, I’ll need to replace those long hikes with something. I’ll be lacing up my Nike’s and hitting the streets to conquer a lifelong goal of becoming a legit runner.

6. My work – I feel like this is almost a cheat. Work shouldn’t be included in your self-love list, but it is for me. I get to create like I’ve never done before! I get the shell of a place and the freedom to bake, build, hire, create the place that I know will succeed. These kinds of opportunities don’t always come around and I’ve just been handed the golden goose of jobs.

7. Stratejoy and my Fierce Love – Thank God I have an online support system in place to keep me moving forward and encouraging me.

I don’t know how this whole moving to be with someone works. I’m new at it and frankly, scared silly. I like my me time, and when I’m home, getting to focus all my attention on whatever endeavor makes me happy. This whole moving in with someone, putting someone else on my priority list, is a bit strange. But I want to keep moving forward in my self-love process. I want to keep this great momentum I have in my self-happiness, rolling. I am seriously loving who I have become and what I’m after in life.

How do you get your self-love on in a new situation or space?

“Home is the dearest spot on earth. It is the center though not the boundary of the affection.” ~M.B.Eddy

This is a quote my mom always said to us as kids. Basically, my parents taught us to not view just one place, one physical structure, as our home.

When I went off to college, my mother handed me a note, jotted on a piece of notebook paper, with this quote and a note about how proud she was. She urged me to find home, even so far away from family. That’s just what I did, creating a family of friends. We would have potluck dinners at my shared apartment, eating a delicious hodge-podge dinner and then playing charades. It was simple, but we made it our home.

 

I’ve been struggling lately. Feeling a little lost and not knowing which way to step in my life. I have the most amazing boyfriend, who I am madly in love with. I have a business that I’m working on getting off the ground. But I’m in a constant state of discomfort and unknown. I live out of suitcases on the road.

My conversations of late are peppered with the word “home.” Where is home and how do I get home? Currently, I’m in this place I like to call “So Unknown.” I realize that this is most of life, being unknown, but right now it feels more edgy for me. With Mr. Paul Child looking for a new job, we don’t know where we will end up. I look at houses all over Phoenix-area, unsure if we will even end up here. I’ve committed, to moving where he finds a great job. We want to be in Phoenix, but we don’t know where we will land.

I’m anxious. I want to get my business rolling, but now it’s in this so unknown place, because what if we have to move? I can’t keep uprooting my business to different areas. It’s not impossible to move my business, it’s internet-based, but to move it is still a challenge, so I’ve been holding off. In the same stroke, we could be waiting a year before Mr. Paul Child is able to find a job in the Phoenix-area. Can I really put my dreams on hold?

It’s frustrating living between two cities. We are constantly on the go. We cram a life together into a weekend. Planning our lives so far in advance doesn’t leave a lot of freedom for when our friends call with last minute plans.

I feel unsettled, not knowing where our home will be. It’s frustrating knowing that this hinges on his job. We wait, anxiously, for an interview, and when he gets one, we wait for days, for a phone call to give us the outcome. Lately, he’s always too over-qualified for the job. One after another, they trickle through our hope. I try to stay positive for both of us, keeping up the morale, and looping strands of hope and promise, around us.

I recently discussed with Mr. Paul Child, moving to his small Arizona town of Yuma, after he asked me to stay with him. I searched all over town for a restaurant job for myself. It seemed that there was nowhere except for chain restaurants that I could work…I started to feel really depressed about my options. Finally I found a place that wouldn’t hire me till September, but that was basically the nicest restaurant in town.

Proud and excited, I came home to tell Mr. Paul Child, who didn’t like that I would be working the exact opposite schedule as him, and that I wouldn’t be off work till at least 10 pm at night. I appreciate that he loves me so much, that the thought of not seeing me when he gets home from work, upsets him, but honestly, it made me upset that he wasn’t immediately excited at this potentially good career opportunity for me. I have never hidden who I am, and what I want from life. I love working in restaurants. I’m a chef, and this is the life. I have dreams. Big fat dreams!

After so much encouraging of his career, I was a little hurt, and wanted to pose the question, “what about mine?” After me pounding the words, “choose a job you love” into his head over the past few months, I felt empty. Guilty for wanting a job that I love, that would end up keeping me away for long hours from the man that I love. He is very supportive of my pastry business, but after his dismay at the restaurant hours I would have to work, I worry that he doesn’t fully understand the time and dedication that goes into a business, let alone a food business, and that scares me. On that note, I harken back to my first blog post

I’m not waiting on his job anymore. I can’t wait for us to get into one city. It would be perfect if the stars would align, and we would end up in the same city, amazeball jobs, and found the perfect house…but life doesn’t work like that. Mr. Paul Child is the love of my life, but I’m going ahead with my plans, and creating the business that I want. Remember my first Stratejoy post? I am not waiting! I love Mr. Paul Child, but I want to create a career I enjoy, and I never want to resent my lovely boyfriend! Someday, we will find our home together, but for now…so unknown.

 

 

I’m the mother of a two-year-old.

How’d that happen?

I feel like just yesterday I was crying at breastfeeding support group and wondering when I’d ever sleep again.

Hmm…I’m still wondering about that sleep thing.

I always wanted to be a mother.  No should-I or shouldn’t-I feelings.  But what I wasn’t prepared for was how emotionally frazzled I’d feel.

I tried taking everyone else’s advice before I learned to listen to my heartLost and found myself and lost again and re-found my identity.

Parenting challenged everything I thought I knew about myself, my beliefs, how I saw my every day life.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s been the most rewarding and frightening job I’ve ever held.

So tomorrow I am the mother of a two-year-old.  An opinated, boots-wearing-in-80-degree-weather, applesauce loving, dancing enthusiast two-year-old with the fierest giggle I’ve ever heard.

The other day as I watched Kate put together a puzzle and name all the animal pieces complete with sound effects, I wondered, what have I learned this year?

Everything.  And absolutely nothing.

Kids are tricky like that.

Okay, I’ve wised up in a couple ways.  Here’s what I’ve learned about myself, parenting, and life over the past 12 months:

1.  Messes are so not a big deal.  I let Kate do all sorts of stuff in the name of fun.  I never thought I’d be that kind of mother.  Let my child paint with pudding?  Why yes, why not?  We rip up magazines, paint and douse her creations with glitter.  She refuses to wear bibs, and I don’t fight it.  Sometimes I have to change her outfit after every meal.  And I don’t care.  And sometimes I let it go and don’t care that we trapse around town with blueberry guts and ketchup smeared shirts.  She’s a kid.

2. Go with the resistance.  She wants to wear long johns and boots.  And it’s 80 degrees?  Fine.  She wants to wear purple shorts and a sparkly red shirt?  Cool.  She wants to eat applesauce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Great.  I let her wear pajamas to the park, watch The Fresh Beat Band two times in a row so I can go to the bathroom alone and shove something to eat down my throat, and let her help me put the laundry away even though it takes me twice as long.  I save my efforts for things that matter to me: holding my hand in the parking lot, getting in her carseat, saying “please” and “thank you.”  The other stuff just isn’t worth it.

3. Every day is a new day.  When I worked camp, I passed on this piece of advice to my fellow counselors.  Don’t hold a grudge against any kid.  No matter what they did the day before.  Treat each day as a new day.  Give them another chance.  And another.  And another.  Treat every day with them as a clean slate.

4. Take each day hour to hour (or minute to minute).  I’m a total planner.  My idea of a good time is sitting down with my paper planner and Google calendar/tasks and organizing my days with no room for any variations.  Toddlers barrel right through those neatly organized plans with a fistful of cheezey puffs and furry.  It’s okay to make plans.  But leave room for error.  And even more room to allow for all those unexpected things that are just part of being a member of this world.

As the mom of a two-year-old, I’ve learned not to take myself so seriously.  It can be fun to do the unexpected, be silly, and eat apple sauce for dinner.  Why not?

I was going to wait until June to make this confession, but circumstances have changed and it needs to happen early.

I never really intended to not drink for the entire month of May.

Before you come at me with pitchforks, I should explain. I was willing to abstain from drinking during Cinco de Mayo, Memorial Day weekend, flipcup games with my kickball team, and even a daytime food-and-drinks extravaganza here in Brooklyn. But there was one event – a big mashup dance party on a boat – that I knew I just couldn’t attend sober.

My grand plan was to take a one-night hiatus from sobriety to have a fun yet uneventful night on May 19th, get back on the wagon on May 20th (which, as I’m writing this, is today), and then report back on my booze-less month with a brief little sidebar: “Oh by the way there was one night where I drank but it didn’t impact my experiment or anything so yay me and yay not drinking and shh let’s pretend this one night didn’t happen, okay? Okay.”

My plan was working, at least for a little bit. I picked out an outfit, flat-ironed my hair and put on the heavy black eyeliner that I reserve for nights out. Around dinner time on what would have been my 27th alcohol-free day (because my first alcohol-free day was actually April 23rd), I started drinking.

To spare you all the dramatic details, I’m just going to pull a Seinfeld “yadda yadda yadda” and say that 5 hours later, right around the time I should have been boarding my boat, I traded my little black dress for some fleece pajamas and cried myself to sleep.

I’m bummed that I didn’t end up attending a party that I had been looking forward to for a month, I’m crushed by the events that led me to miss it, and on top of all of that I just feel really, insanely fucking stupid. I’ve devoted a lot of lip service to this sobriety experiment and the benefits I was getting out of it, but as soon as I abandoned it I realized that I haven’t come that far at all. While there was no way I could have predicted what ended up happening last night, I’m ashamed at how it took hindsight to see how this “one night hiatus” was a bad decision borne out of weakness. And of course, as is the case with all bad decisions, it wasn’t worth it. Instead of having a triumphant story of taking a full month away from alcohol, my record is marred by a night where I got wasted and had nothing to show for it but the tracks my eyeliner made as it ran down my face.

I know I should be proud of the 26 days where I successfully didn’t drink, but frankly I just can’t help but feel like I let myself down. If everything had gone well last night, I would have resumed abstaining from alcohol today and made it through the end of May, which would have brought me to 38 sober days, not including my one night off.

Now, as I sit here nursing the hangover from my night that went nowhere, all I want to do is give up. I want to put this experiment behind me, cap my sobriety at 26 days, and drink this day away. I want to visit the bar where my roommate works and bitch to her about last night while she supplies me with an endless stream of vodka. Because despite all the progress I thought I had made, I am really fucking upset and I know of no other way to make myself feel better.

I realize now how naïve I’ve been. What I thought was my new, self-love-fueled upbeat attitude was just a brief period that happened to be devoid of the usual bullshit. It wasn’t me getting better; it was life temporarily not sucking.

I just feel really beaten down. Not drinking for almost 4 weeks made me feel amazing, like I had really accomplished something and taught myself a lesson or two. Giving that up early and having my life immediately revert back into a state of beer tears feels like garbage. I hate that I didn’t have the strength to power through the full month, I hate unnecessary drama, and I hate that I don’t know if I can find it within myself to pick up the pieces of this crappy day and take out my frustrations at the gym instead of at the bar (update from later that day: I went to the bar, obviously. But at least I walked the 2.5 miles there).

As far as where I’ll go from here for the rest of the month – I have no idea. I failed yesterday and I failed again today, but tomorrow is a new day. Maybe I’ll take a lesson from Cassie in bouncing back. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of May drinking as much as possible and making up for lost time (I’m really going to try to NOT do this).

I know I’ll get through all the bullshit and the setbacks. I just never thought it would be this hard.

 

Photo credit: kevin dean

Radical acceptance has a best friend.  And that best friend is self compassion.

While I’m all about my newfound appreciation for radical acceptance, I’m still finding it doesn’t quite get me in the frame of mind I need to be in to accomplish my goals and feel good about myself.

This is how I think:

Ugh, Kate won’t stop fussing.

I’m getting annoyed.

It’s only 8:45 a.m.

Today is not going well.

I don’t like today.

Today makes me want to rip all my hair out and scream so loud the people in the next town hear me.

She’s still fussing.

I’m getting beyond frustrated.

Why isn’t today going right?

Wait, wasn’t yesterday kind of like this, too?

I think it was.

And now today seems worse that yesterday.

So every day is getting worse?

Yes!

Everyday is worse than the day before!

It’s because I’m the world’s most terrible and horrible mother.

That has to be why.

Not only that, but I’m a terrible person, too.

I never accomplish anything worthwhile.

Never.

That book I want to write?  That didn’t happen yesterday.  I should have written an entire book during Kate’s nap time.

But instead I went through Google Reader, cleaned up the chicken nugget debris off Kate’s high chair, and thought about replying to emails.

That proves it.  I never accomplish anything.

I am a worthless person.

And there you have it: The Sarah Dispair Cycle.

If I don’t accomplish a certain number of things I decided are worthwhile, then, therefore, I am worthless.  As one could imagine, my list of approved accomplishments are far and away more than any person could accomplish in one day.  Especially a person who cares for a toddler 12 hours a day.  And accomplishing anything with a toddler is akin to trying to operate a motor vehicle while blindfolded and one arm tied behind your back while Elmo’s World plays at peak volume.

So why am I so hard on myself’?

I think it’s because that’s all I know.

When I was a student, being hard on myself served me real well.  It made me motivated, encouraged me to do better and be better.  Set the curve.  Collect those As.  I told myself you can do better and I could because it was between me and my textbook.  That’s it.

Now, there’s miles and miles of life stuff between me and what I want to do.  There’s the toddler and the husband and the dog and the 1958 rambler.  It’s not just me.  Life’s much more complicated and messy.  My time is not my own.

But even though Logical Sarah knows this, that working within the confines of my current life stage doesn’t allow me to write a poignent memoir in a day, Emotional Sarah comes swooping in with the judgements.

Oh, how Emotional Sarah can beat herself up.  You didn’t use your time effectively today.  What’s that, you needed a mental health break after playing at the park for three hours?  Pshhh!  Please.  You don’t deserve a break.  Every minute you aren’t spending with Kate, you must devote to your writing/making something from Pinterest/all that email.  And if you don’t do it all?  Well, then you’d better be ready to accept a big fat zero for today!

That’s kind of rough, huh?

But that’s how I think!  And it’s so wearing.  It doesn’t make me want to do better.  It makes me want to hide in my bedroom under the covers and hope Emotional Sarah can’t find me.

When I told this to my mom, she asked me if I would say those things to a friend of mine.  Would I tell a good friend of mine that she wasn’t doing enough?  That she wasn’t worthwhile because she didn’t accomplish a major life goal in a day?

Absolutely not.  I’d tell my friend she’s doing the best she can.  That not everyday can be filled with major accomplishments.

And I do tell my friends just that.  Seeing as I am the Type-A type, I’ve got heaps of Type-A friends who are also judging themselves by their To Accomplish lists.  I tell them all the time: be gentle with yourself.

So maybe it’s about time I turn that self compassion inwards.

Maybe it’s time I work on some fierce love.

If being mean to myself hasn’t made me feel like a more accomplished woman, then maybe it’s not the answer.  But being kind and loving towards myself?  I think that could be just the ticket.

 

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.

October 24, 2007. My 24th birthday.

I was walking home from work when my cell phone rang. “Hi, I have a delivery for apartment 20. I’m downstairs in your building.”

A delivery? For me? HOORAY BIRTHDAY PRESENTS! I ran the remaining 2 blocks to my building, grabbed the massive, unwieldy package from the man’s arms, and hoofed it up my 5 flights of stairs.

I set the package down on the kitchen table. It was a huge basket from Edible Arrangements with tons of fruit shaped into flowers, resembling an actual bouquet. I hunted around for a card so I could figure out who sent this awesome present. I finally found it but I didn’t see any “From” field on it. I flipped it over – nothing on the other side either. I decided to just read the card and go from there.

My eyes scanned the words. And then again. And again. There were only 6 little words on this card but it took what seemed like hours to process what I was reading, for my brain to finally kick in. Yes, Arielle. It really does say what you think it says.

“Eat some fruit, you’re getting fat.”

That’s what the card said. The card on my BIRTHDAY PRESENT. I immediately knew which of my friends had sent it, and that this was his idea of a joke. I knew he didn’t mean to offend me, but, well, he had.

I ran to my room and cried into my pillow. At some point I cleaned myself up and went downtown to the birthday dinner I had planned with a few friends. I acted like nothing was wrong, too hurt to even think about retelling the story. I came home from dinner and continued crying until I fell asleep.

——

I still hate that story. I cringe thinking about how one of my closest friends thought he was making an innocent joke and instead ended up going for the jugular (we are no longer friends, though not because of this incident). It was like someone cut to the core of everything I’ve ever hated about myself and summed it up in the world’s most painful 6 word memoir.

I now live a few short blocks from an Edible Arrangements store in Brooklyn. I pass it on my way to the gym, and every time I see it I think of that birthday and how miserable that stupid fruit bouquet made me feel. I recently decided that in order to stop feeling hurt and rage every time I walked by, I needed to replace that terrible memory with a better one.

I went to the Edible Arrangements website to pick something out for myself. I wanted to buy the exact flower arrangement that I had received in 2007, but my friend had apparently shelled out way too much money in his quest to give me a hurtful birthday present, so I settled on something more affordable – a small box of truffles, tiny pieces of fruit that were half coated in chocolate.

Then came the hard part: writing the card. Lots of vengeful phrases came to mind, fighting words that I had never used against the friend who made me feel so awful.

Fuck you, asshole!

At least I’m not a miserable human being like you.

You’re probably going to die alone, douchebag.

For some reason this didn’t seem productive. I shouldn’t focus my energy on being bitter, I should focus on me, right? Suddenly, I knew what I had to do.

——

During week 1 of the Stratejoy Fierce Love course, there’s an assignment to write a love letter to yourself. After reading my love letter aloud to Molly, Katie and my fellow season 6 bloggers on a Google+ hangout a few weeks ago, Molly challenged me to read the letter every day for a few weeks.

Writing this card was the first real test of whether or not my attitude toward myself had changed since I started Fierce Love. Was I truly starting to love myself for who I was, or was I going to continue letting external negativity bring me down?

On April 24th, the day I turned 28 and a half, I walked into the Edible Arrangements store and picked up my truffles. I came home, ignored the fruit, and even though I had written it myself, went straight for the card. It contained a teeny excerpt from my love letter.

“You are amazing. You might still be waiting for a few of your doors to open, but I have no doubt that they will, eventually. You have so many wonderful, exciting things in store for you, and I can’t wait to be there with you, watching you kick ass. I love you. And don’t ever forget it.

-Arielle”

The best part about this whole thing is that I really believe it. I still have insecurities and still need to work on my confidence, but I truly believe that I’ll get there. Because I am amazing, and I am going to start kicking ass one day soon.

Now, walking past the Edible Arrangements store just makes me smile.

 

Photo credit: QuinnDombrowski

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.

If growing up in the Midwest taught me anything, it’s manners.  Take your shoes off at the front door; always address adults as Mr. and Mrs.; say “please” and “thank you.”

“Thank you” is a big one.

Fun fact: I used to say “thank you” to my hands at night before I went to sleep.  Then, I would say “thank you” to my feet so they wouldn’t feel left out.  Seriously.  I was five!  They did things all day!  And I had impeccable manners!

Bring on a vengeful growth spurt and an ambitious overbite, and those body manners get hidden behind a killer case of teen angst and insecurity.

Welp, I’m not an insecure, angst-ridden teen anymore (or, um, at least not a teen), and sometimes life comes full circle.  So, I’d like to say “thank you” again – to the whole kit-n-kaboodle this time.

Without further ado, a thank you note:

 

To my body,

You, my dear, are a pitch perfect combination of elaborate jigsaw puzzle and fridge worthy artwork, sprinkled with fairy dust and sunspots.  You have your good days and your bad days, but you’re always exclusively mine.

Thank you for waking up in the morning, going to sleep at night, and everything in between.

Thank you for committing to that half marathon.  Yeah, you were holding firm onto that freshman-15 due to a rock steady love of pizza and beer, but you never felt stronger than you did right after crossing the finish line.  You made me realize the superiority of feeling great over looking great.

Thank you for loving to nap topless.

Thank you for that piercing gut feeling you give me whenever something is wrong, and whenever something is right.  I still can’t explain why it was so important for me to full on sprint to my car that one night, or why God him/herself couldn’t talk me out of taking so many quantitative biology classes as a liberal arts major.  You, gut feeling, lead me to those decisions.  I am inexplicably confident that choices like these shaped, and continue to shape, my life in ways I’ll never know.

Thank you for giant morning shits.

Thank you for being picky about the people with whom you are intimate.  Whenever I become determined to live up my slutty twenties, your defense mechanisms kick in.  You make it so that sleeping with a stranger is like trying to fuck a hot stove.  It makes the times I do have sex so much more satisfying.

On that note, thank you for orgasms.  I’d also like to send a special shout-out to whoever invented the clitoris.

Thank you for cooperating with my love for animals/the environment and feeling like a superstar when I eat vegetarian, or vegan, or whatever level of PETA I’m feeling that day.

Thank you, eyelashes, for catching my sweat (any Regina fans?).

Thank you for my awkward phase.  Oh, boy, did I hate you at that time.  Looking back, I can graciously acknowledge that those ugly duckling years were the best thing that could have happened.  It forced me to develop a personality, and to shut out superficial thoughts about other people.

I suppose now is as good of time as any to submit a formal apology for shaving your eyebrows before Homecoming.  Forgive and forget?

Mostly, thank you for sticking with me, even when I scrutinize everything about you.  You, Body, are the best friend a girl could ask for.

I promise to send you more love notes in the form of long runs and chocolate cake.  I promise to stand up straighter.  I promise to appreciate your unique beauty, and to be a loving spouse in this marriage between body and soul.

Exclusively yours,

Jill

 

 

photo credit: shut up holli☮

 

I can’t believe that it’s been over a year since I wrote my last post for Stratejoy. It feels like a lifetime has passed. Baby number 3 came and now he’s crawling. The little girl now has ponytails, not just curly puffs that sit on top of her head. The oldest, well his outstretched arms reach the tops of my shoulders.

I too have grown. Pushed past edges. Actually practiced some radical self love and wow! what a difference. It wouldn’t have been possible without Stratejoy. There is so much that I want to say, but it came out in a poem. Go figure.

And so Molly, Katie, the girls from Season 3, the ones before me, the ones after me, and you–the Stratejoy community–this is for you.

 

I want tell you how vibrant I feel.
That I bought shirts in purple and teal.
That my husband says that my eyes are bright again.
That there is a new glow to my skin.

Thank you.

I want to tell you how much more connected I am.
That I made new friends, joined new groups, tilled new land.
That my feet feel firmly planted.

Thank you.

I want to tell you how much louder I am.
That I went from a whisper to a soft roar.
(That I expect to be at a full roar soon.)
That I love my voice.

Thank you.

I want to tell you that for the first time, in a really long time, I am happy to be a mother.
That I understand that these seasons in life are constantly changing.
That I forgave myself.
That I learned how to breathe through it all.

Thank you.

I want to tell you “thank you”
For believing in me,
For giving me your ears,
For giving my your eyes, and
For giving me your hearts.

Thank you.

 

*photo courtesy of artnoose

 

 

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!

[This post is part of the curriculum for the digital, self-paced Fierce Love Course for women who to want to cultivate a strong sense of self-worth, inner resilience, and delicious kindness for themselves.]

12-rules-of-inner-confidence

WANT TO RULE YOUR WORLD?

Life gets easier when you genuinely feel an inner confidence. Not cocky self-absorption or a fake-it-til-you-make-it attitude, but true comfort in your skin, radiant openness with others, and an understanding of your uniqueness.

You are amazing, babe!  It’s time for you to own it.

In my coaching practice, I’ve found a lack of trust and self-confidence can distract even the most vibrant woman from truly enjoying her life. And I want you to enjoy your life! We are made for celebrating! And laughter! And soul level clarity! And feeling damn good about our abilities and ourselves.

Inner confidence is a gift that plays out in so many ways. And best of all? It’s something you control.

So what are the secrets to Owning Your Amazing? Read on, woman, read on.  I’ve got 12 rules for you to try on for size.

12 RULES FOR INNER CONFIDENCE

#1 PRACTICE POSITIVITY

Do you think of hope as a combination of crossing your fingers, looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, and sending your wishes out into to the Universe? I used to… and then I found out that hope is something we can all practice; it’s something we could learn to use. Hope is a positive thought process (not an emotion) that boosts your self-confidence.

Hope helps you to keep putting in the hard work, even in the face of adversity, because we believe we are deserving of good things. Optimism makes it easier to get up, brush ourselves off, and start again with even more determination because we believe we are capable.

Practicing your positive outlook reinforces your sense of personal power. You are powerful, gorgeous. You can create change in your world. You can accomplish your sparkly or wild or daring dreams.

(Click to tweet)

Positivity is not naive — it’s a sign of strength. Practice it in your self-talk, the way you share with others, your assumptions about the future, and by graciously accepting compliments.

#2 CONCENTRATE ON STRENGTHS

You are blessed with strengths. When explored and nurtured, they can be used to achieve inner confidence and activate your Amazing. Expression of our strengths makes us feel like our real selves. It invigorates us! It excites us! It makes us crave more ways to use those strengths!

And concentrating on our strengths is so much more fun than trying to force ourselves to become better at things we usually suck at, right?

A strength may come naturally to us, but we do need to make the choice to use it. Even if we are naturally creative, or brave, or diligent, or playful, or fair, we must still craft our lives so we get the chance to express our signature strengths on a daily basis.

We can absolutely find ways to use our strengths in work, love, play, and parenting when we are conscious of them. It’s just a matter of clarity and activation.

Turn it ON, hot stuff!

#3 STEP INTO YOUR PERSONAL POWER

Personal power is not about using force or manipulation to overcome, but rather, it’s about realizing our natural state of goodness. It’s about trusting our worth. It’s about harnessing our energy and confidence to make a positive difference in the world by simply being ourselves.

The incredible thing? You are already immensely powerful.

Perhaps you don’t feel it yet. Perhaps your natural radiance is muddied up with years of bottling your own opinions, of trying not to offend, of working desperately to shore up your “weaknesses” instead of expanding your innate talents.

But let me say this again: You are already immensely powerful.

When we believe we are good at a core level, it becomes more comfortable to function in this crazy, stressful world. We know how to treat others. We know how to treat ourselves. We know how to weed out the bullshit and return to the pure basics of the “good life”.

#4 STOP COMPARISONS

When you’re on a quest to rev up your confidence and Amazing, indulging in the comparison game and allowing it to fill you with envy is one of the worst things to do.

When you look at someones life and wish you had their cash flow, or partner, or adorable house, or amazing talent to seduce bartenders, there are two things that can happen:

1) You feel worse about your own life and resentful towards that person. You assume they have their shit together and you don’t. You get envious. Your successes seem to pale in comparison. You spiral into jealousy and a feeling of hopelessness. Why don’t you have what they have? You’re more deserving! It’s not fair!

2) You feel inspired. You think that it’s awesome that they have “that” in their lives. You take a moment to consider if it’s something you want in your own life. Does it fit into your definition of success? It does! You realize that if they can do it, so can you! You study. You plot. You start taking action. The dream stays alive and vibrant in your mind, because you know someone who has it/has done it!

The action is the same — comparing yourself to someone else. The reaction is the moment of choice — will this harm or help you? Most often, we have no clue how to use comparison to inspire us. In that case, it’s time to stop the comparisons.

#5 SPEAK UP

How often do you answer questions with “I don’t care” or “You decide” or “Whatever you think”? If you find yourself continually passing the ownership on decisions, you are telling your inner self that YOU don’t matter. You are sending a signal that your opinions or preferences don’t need to be stated.

(click to tweet)

I’m not saying you can’t express love or compromise by letting some- one in your world decide where you eat tonight or the proper format to present the big idea to the boss, but I am saying if it’s a habit, you are losing chances to build your confidence.

You’re a person. You have an opinion. And your opinion matters. You won’t always get your way (and you shouldn’t!) but you should know where you stand on things and be able to share that with others.

Speaking up is an easy way to practice fully inhabiting your life. Pick the movie this weekend. Choose the flavor of ice cream. Make the choice of what to do for girls’ night.

You’ve got this, babe!

#6 DO THINGS YOUR WAY

You, just as you are, are incredible. You, with all your freak flags flying or quirks on full display or idiosyncrasies rockin’, are perfect. In a tiny frame or with lush curves. With straight A’s or working hard to scrape by. When you tip your barista or when you turn down a party invitation. No matter! You in full force is what the world needs.

I don’t want you to let the notion of being nice or being liked or being popular hold you back from being You. Ditch the masks! Stop hiding behind others ideas of who you should be! Do things your own way and your inner confidence will soar.

Yes, there are a million photographers and bloggers and teachers and lawyers and artists and service reps out there. There are continents full of mothers and daughters and lovers and wives. Streets packed with dancers and letter writers and pie bakers.

But there is only one YOU.

You make a gorgeous impression in this world. Gifts and flaws, moments of grace and gutter balls, triumphs and let-downs. Really getting this concept can rock you to the core.

Talk about owning your Amazing!

#7 DITCH DOUBT

What might happen if you took away your fear of failure, your anxiety about making the wrong decision, or your self-doubt? Can you imagine what beautiful adventures you’d have? What kind of art you’d create? The positions you’d run for? How quickly you’d quit your mind-numbing job and find your real purpose? The difference you’d make?

The amount of brilliance you could put into the world blows my mind! You are capable of so many magical things right this moment, sugar.

We each need to learn how to face our fears and trust our choices. It’s not about eliminating your fear; it’s about recognizing that it’s present, understanding that it won’t kill you, and taking the big step/ chasing the brilliant dream/stretching what you think is possible anyway. It’s about beginning before you think you’re totally ready, when the idea is still tender and precious. It’s about stretching our capacity for uncertainty.

Clarity and knowledge come from action, not ruminating on doubts or unknowns. The only way to really know what is possible and how much you’re actually capable of is to just start DOING.

(click to tweet)

It’s time to stop doubting yourself and your desires. It’s time to DO. Eat those fears for breakfast, baby!

#8 LET THINGS LIGHT YOU UP

As adults, we tend to shy on the side of underwhelm. It’s not cool to be excited about the Sting concert or new neighbors or the fact that your grocery store is finally carrying sesame butter. It’s not hip to dance around in celebration of your new client. We bottle our emotions or only share complaints because it’s so much more acceptable to be critical or sarcastic or blasé.

Allowing yourself to go gaga for a new recipe, an amazing line in your novel, a new crush, or your brand new website feeds your childlike soul. Showing enthusiasm towards anything is a gift to you — a way to guarantee that you won’t fall into a too-cool-for-school slump of apathy.

Let things light you up! Share your passion! When you get excited about the little things in life, you’re reminding yourself that your delight is important.

And any reminder that YOU are important fuels your inner confidence.

#9 IGNORE THE HATERS

When you are living your life on your own terms, you’re going to have haters. By challenging your life’s status quo, you’re going to make others feel uncomfortable because they see your change, your sparkle, and your bravery as a direct judgment on the choice they are making to stay small, unhappy, or unhealthy.

Vocal haters will speak up and question your declarations, call you names, make a big fuss about the choices you are making in your personal life. Sneaky haters will try to sabotage your efforts, question your motivation, and smile to your face while whispering behind your back.

None of this “hate” is about you. It’s about how your choice to make deliberate decisions, to stretch, to declare that you are enough just as you are, and to own your Amazing is making them feel about themselves. Your haters are feeling threatened, scared, bewildered, or self-righteous. They’re lashing out at you because they’re not sure how to address the inconsistencies or lack in their own life.

That’s not on you, honey, that’s on them.

Your job? Ignore the haters. Feel empathy, or pity, or amusement — but do not let them get under your skin. It’s not your duty to please others; it’s your duty to honor yourself in whatever way feels authentic.

#10 GIVE WEIGHT TO INTEGRITY

Integrity. Wholeness. Honor.

Big words, eh? With them comes big responsibility. Building our inner confidence requires us to take accountability for our actions and reactions. When you stand up in your life and declare your intention to live fully, love hard, lead responsibly, honor your joy, you’re also declaring your intention to take responsibility for your choices.

It may not always feel this way, but we always have choice.

Choices to wake up with a positive attitude. Choices to be generous with our love. Choices with how we live our lives and what we stand for. Choices to follow through with our word. Choices in how we treat others. Choices in how we treat ourselves.

Truly realizing our ability to choose and honor our integrity helps us claim freedom in our dreams, our actions, and our quest to live intentional lives. Give weight to your word and your actions, lovely. The effort is worth the self-respect it creates.

#11 MAKE ROOM FOR OTHERS’ AMAZING

When you are gorgeously confidant in your own gifts and ways of expressing yourself in this world, you can celebrate the awesomeness of everyone around you without feeling threatened or lacking. You can cheer your competitors on! You can celebrate the wins of your colleagues! You can have genuine admiration for the brilliant ideas of your gal pals! You can appreciate the genius of your partner!

The flip-side of that statement is true as well. When you celebrate others’ Amazing, you are sending hints — little love bombs of inspiration — to your psyche. When you appreciate someone’s compassion, spunk, or productivity, you’ll discover compassion, spunk and productivity in your own life.

What we notice and celebrate in others will show up more often in our own world…

Build your belief in abundance, the power of support, and the beauty of individuality by truly treasuring the amazing people in your life.

I’m betting it will come back to you in bold, beautiful ways.

#12 SHARE YOUR GIFTS

Looking for a mega dose of confidence-building juice? Share your gifts. Use your talents to give back to your community. Start a side hustle that allows you to offer your strengths to people who need them. Give out and give generously with your time, energy, and talent.

The world needs you to bring your Amazing to the table.

Removing the “me” from our concerns and interest for a bit (whether it’s for an hour, day, or week) fuels our soul and sense of connection in a miraculous way. By sharing our gifts, we are confirming the fact that we have something worthwhile to contribute, that we make a difference, and that our presence is appreciated. All of which is juicy proof for building our inner confidence.

Putting ourselves out there by helping a neighbor, volunteering for a cause we care about, teaching a child how to do something we love, or starting a business honoring our true calling is good for us and good for the world. Win-win!

Are you Ready to Own your Amazing?

Ready to rock your inner confidence? Ready to step out into this big, brilliant world of ours armed with Fierce Love and an electrifying sense of self? I’m ready to witness the fireworks, shifts in the Universe, and wild dance parties that will undoubtedly happen because…

YOU ARE READY.

Own it babe!

Molly Mahar is a coach, speaker, and writer. She is also the founder of Stratejoy, a positive corner of the Internet that provides thousands of women the tools, strategies and camaraderie to lead authentically joyful lives. She empowers women to live life on their own terms, celebrate their worth, and change the world through individual fulfillment. Molly’s work is delivered through several live and digital group programs, focused on creating YOUR joyful world.

Dig this post? Find out more about Molly’s Fierce Love Course!

Sitting in a bright red Ikea chair at a local coffee shop, it hit me. The deadline smacked me across the face like the icy wind on the walk to the shop, and I knew, I was screwed.

It was the day I was supposed to unleash my brilliant, value-packed, fabulous new email opt-in on the world – and my manifesto wasn’t done. At least not totally. After weeks of hashing it out, scrapping sections, and letting my heart pour on to the page, it still. wasn’t. done.

Balls. Suck to the 10th power. FML. I had worked and worked and put in the hours and my best, and I had failed to meet my own stupid deadline.

This could have been the part where I gave up. But, the thing was, I had already done so much. After diving into painful memories from my past and listening intently to the stories of other women who , my philosophy has risen. Through all of the hurt and anguish and labels and expectations I saw so many women going through, I found where my truth had been hiding in plain sight. Who knew my universal truth would be found in my story – and more importantly, be reflected in the stories of others?

The manifesto I wanted to write wasn’t done – but there was a lot that was. So I edited everything into a short 14-page PDF, and I called it the Undefinable You Manifesto. Designed in Word and put together in about a half an hour, it was perfect. It wasn’t I had planned, and somehow, that made it even better.

It’s really hard to describe how I felt in that moment – vulnerable, but in my power zone. Crazy, but totally in my element.

Well, duh. How could I feel anything else? This manifesto was everything I wanted for the world. And of course I’d release it like this! It was so me. And I guess that was really the point, wasn’t it?

I’ve never really felt like I had a life’s mission before I hit the publish button on this thing. Not one that was huge and big enough for my tribe to get behind – but yet, here were these people reading what I had to say, ready to believe in me if I could just rise to the occasion. And when the time was right, it dawned on me – I wanted to build my business up so I could give it all away.

The ever-fleeting life mission? I want to give a million dollars or better a year to women’s empowerment causes. And not just money. I want to work side by side with an organization to help get women the skills they need to succeed and being self empowered. Because once they become empowered, they can self-actualize.

And then? They can unleash their dreams on the world. Beautiful. Legendary. Audacious. Because that’s what’s it all about for me. My message is to never settle – and my mission is an extension of that. If ever I’ve felt joy, this is it.

My big holiday wish for all of you is for you to find the same peace out of fear, joy in the hard moments, and love so deep for yourself that you can miss a deadline and be okay. Happy holidays everybody!

I’ve done a few silent meditation retreats in my life. Each time I’ve learned so much about who I am. With nothing but time to listen to my thoughts, I really got to see how harmful they can be. They weren’t nice. They told me that I’m not good enough. They told me I am ugly and weird and totally inferior (My thoughts are pretty rude.).

At my first Vipassana retreat in Australia, I listened to these mean thoughts for days. Eleven days. Eleven silent days. Finally, when I got a private moment with a monk to work through my process, he asked me if I loved myself. I burst into tears and accidentally threw a pen at his head. Of course, my thoughts hated me for that. I spent the rest of the retreat thinking myself an asshole. But the monk didn’t bat an eye. He sat staring at me lovingly through the silence until the end. I guess he’s used to dodging pens.

That was in January of 2009. At that point, I could not even fathom Self-Love. How could I love myself? Gross. Me? I was weird. And not as good as most other people. Love? No way. Then I spent nine months traveling and thinking about that. By the end of my trip, I had successfully completed another eleven days of silence with no pen problems and less harmful thoughts. I was getting somewhere!

After starting school for spiritual psychology, I came to realize that Self-Love is just as important as air. My lack of it had completely controlled my life up until then. It affected every relationship, job, and communication. How could I expect a man to love me if I didn’t love myself? It sounds cliche, but when I looked back at my relationships, I realized that I had bent over backwards in every single one– thinking that I needed to be MORE than myself in order to be loved back. I didn’t love myself how I was, so I was convinced I had to give more.

Oh.

Self-Love! What a concept. I’ve spent so much time since then cultivating that. And now I do love myself. I even love my body, which took me a LOOOONG time! A long time. A really long time. I spent probably 24 of my 31 years worrying about every little inch of it. Now, after accepting my body how it is, I realize that I’m lucky to have it just as it is. Now I’m naked every chance I can get (not in public)! Hooray! My body!

This is where I hit a road block though. Society doesn’t like people who love themselves. If you post a picture of yourself in a bikini on Facebook, it’s narcissistic. If you tell people how great you’re doing, you’re bragging. Imagine telling a guy on a first date, “I’m so beautiful inside and out.” I doubt it would go well.

Isn’t that crazy? Self love is looked down upon! WHAT?! No wonder it took me so long to find it. One of the most important parts of life is not accepted in our society!

When I sat down to write this post, it was going to be a love letter to myself. Ashley published one here a few weeks ago, and it inspired me. I thought this would be a perfect forum for me to profess my new love as well. And so I started it. And I wrote it. And then the thought of sharing it made me uncomfortable. I can tell myself all the good things about myself, but there is some societal rule that creeps in and tells me I shouldn’t “brag.” I don’t like that. I want society to change. I want people to exclaim from the hills that they’re beautiful. I want it to be acceptable to post a picture of our bodies if we love them. It’s a feat to love your body, dammit! I want us to be allowed to revel in our pride without it being avant guard. Come on!

But we are where we are. And I’m here, writing about how hard it is to publish a love letter to myself rather than the letter itself. It’s okay. Little by little. In the meantime, I am posting a picture of me in a bikini. Because I am proud– not of my body but of my ability to love it. I used to measure my pasta and count every calorie. I’ve come a long way. And boy, do I love that about myself.

I feel very fortunate to be able to set my goals here where this amazing tribe can keep me on track. In the most gentle way possible, of course. Gentleness. That’s a big one for me.

Two weeks ago, when the first Stratejoy post was revealed, I read my first entry from a cubicle in an ad agency. There had been an emergency, and a friend had called me in for a ten-day job. I didn’t want to go back to that environment (16-hour days and people hating on your work for most of those hours), but I did because I freaked out about money.

And I felt like such a hypocrite! Here I was on Stratejoy proclaiming that all I want to do with my life is write meaningful things. And on the very day that post was published, a creative director was asking me to write scripts about how going to a popular fast food restaurant is now a beautiful experience that can change your life. It made me feel gross.

I was mad at myself. I felt stupid. And like a failure. Like I had taken a step back. Yeah, everyone does a job they hate when it comes down to the end of their savings, but in my mind this was the worst. I was pissed at myself and everybody. I stayed for fourteen hours that day. Thankfully, some (perhaps Stratejoy) angels changed the budget, and they couldn’t afford me another day. I got fired after just a day. Phew!

But the lesson I learned is that I must be more gentle with myself. My new writer life won’t appear RIGHT NOW like I want it to. And it’s okay if I admit to needing money. It’s okay if I go back to my old ways once in a while. I am now using that job when I need it. It is not owning me like it did five years ago.

Aaaand that is the long winded way in which I will get into my goals for these five long months:

Go easy on myself I have built up this belief that tells me I’m 31 and therefore I need to be at a certain point in my life. I need to have proven myself. I need to have ‘made it.’ And every time I find myself veering off that track, I’m not so nice to myself.  I would like to treat myself like I would a friend or family member– with compassion and love. Which brings me to…

Trust When I actually sit down and listen to my thoughts, I feel calm. Every failure I’ve ever experienced has taught me something, so I know deep inside that everything always works out. I want to remember that. I would like to always trust that I am right where I am supposed to be.

Feel pretty I would like spend more time on my appearance. I know it sounds like the opposite of what I’m supposed to say, but I just want to feel pretty. I spent this whole year rolling out of bed, putting on whatever clothes were on the floor, and going to write in a cafe. I’m sending the wrong message, and I don’t feel good about myself. I just want to make more of an effort to eat better and maybe wash my hair once a week. I owe it to myself to take care of my body.

Connection My computer knows me better than anyone, and I’d like to change that. I want to make it a point to ask more questions and have more lunches and simply be in the presence of my friends and family more often. I want to cultivate more of a community in my town and through phone calls with my family. I want to be a better friend.

Get Romantical I want to make dating a priority. I don’t want to make it a goal to ‘have a boyfriend.’ My goal is to simply enjoy the dating experience, meet people, say yes to new things, revel in heels, flirt, and have dinners. I have been seeing dating as a chore, and I want to change that.

Time Today I pressed snooze a few times, got on my computer in bed, started working, and forgot to eat until 1pm. No more! I owe it to myself to make time to meditate, to be grateful for what I have, to listen to my thoughts, to see the beach, to go outside, to LIVE!

Open I am the opposite of spontaneous. I always have a plan and a full calendar. I am so jealous when people invite me to a last-minute weekend camping trip. I never say ‘yes’ because I always have plans. I’d like to keep my schedule more open. Even if I have to PLAN to be spontaneous, I’ll do it!

Step into my path This is less a meaningful personal goal and more of a real life success goal. But I want to put it out there. I spent this last year writing a book that means so much to me. I know it will help everyone who reads it to know more about suicide and family and only children and love and lots of good things. I TRUST it. So… at the end of these five months, I would like to have a publishing house behind me, a printed hardback in the works! Eeeee! I said it. It’s out here. Oh my gosh. It’s GOING to happen! Right?

If it doesn’t, I will be gentle.

[Photo credit : my friend, Ramu. This is the last time I wore heels!]

Happy Monday.

You might be thinking, “uh, where’s Molly Mahar?” and to that, I say “She’s in Greece. Having a fabulous time. Living boldly. Completely unplugged. Completely overjoyed with spending time with her family. And yes, I do need to call her by her first and last name because, honestly, how much cooler could your name get? Molly Mahar. ”

I digress.

You probably remember me, Katie. I was a Season II’er. I swooped in a few months ago to check in. I’m dropping in again because, well, I just love it here. Plus, since Molly is off being Greece-y, I didn’t want Mondays to be completely barren. We all need a little Monday inspiration sometimes.

Also, I wanted to take this opportunity to share a little somethin’ somethin’ with you guys that I’ve been working on for the last week or so. Non-stop. All day. All night.

The backstory: About 40 or so days ago, I joined a group of over 30 women led by our own Molly Mahar. “The Council”, as it was called, was a 40 day commitment to ourselves. A commitment to each other. A commitment to change something. Or a lot of somethings. We all got something different out of it. (I learned a crap-ton of stuff about myself, and I made two amazing friends, who are now big parts of my heart, and just ‘get me’).

One of the main focuses of the Council, (and of Molly’s post from last year), and the thing that was most difficult but beneficial to me, was learning how to love yourself in all of your perfectly imperfect glory. I learned how to accept my weaknesses and embrace them. I learned that my weaknesses don’t make me less of a person. I learned that I don’t have to change a damn thing about myself to be “more of a person”. I learned that I Am Enough. Just as I am. Right now.

This, my loves, is my declaration that I am enough. This is my “I Am Enough Manifesto”

I Am Enough

I’m intelligent, and can never learn too much. I’m witty and playfully sarcastic, and can never hear too many jokes. I wait for others to walk before I do, I hold the door open for people behind me, I have conversations with strangers.

I’m committed to my family, friends, clients, and colleagues. I’ll go to the ends of the earth for anyone who needs me.

I lose interest in jobs, projects, and people if I am not mentally stimulated. When I find a job, project, or person that I care about, I am 115% committed and won’t stop working, trying, and accomplishing…ever.

I’m a mover, a shaker, a true Libra, an ISFJ, and a sucker for the laugh of a child.

I need to feel needed, and if I don’t feel needed, I feel less than adequate. To gain the feeling of adequacy, I will often do things that I don’t want to do, in order to gain the respect and desire of others.

I’m still enough.

When I set my mind to something, I will do it. I’ll fall off the wagon, I’ll make a mistake or seven.  But I always get back on the horse, no matter how long I’m in the mud.

My story is one of true courage and will-to-survive. It is an inspiration to others, and I love when people tell me that they’re proud of what I’ve overcome.

Sometimes I reach for a pint of ice cream, a bottle of wine, a few peach pills, a box of chocolate to feel more at ease and to relieve stress. I cut corners when there is something else that I’d rather be doing. I watch a lot of TV. I leave important tasks up until the last minute because I work better under pressure. I make up excuses of why I didn’t exercise. I break promises, I’ve said one thing and have done another.  I’ve lied to myself. I’ve lied to others. I’ve hurt myself. I’ve hurt others.

And I am still enough.

I swallow my emotions more than I express them, but I have a true desire to be more open and honest with my feelings.  I can be inspired by a quotation, an episode of Sex and the City, or a conversation with my family or friends. When I am truly inspired, nothing can stop me. I am passionate about psychology, counseling, and helping others. I have a truly beautiful mind.

I believe in the power of love to conquer all. I want to feel the warmth of a true, honest, healthy relationship. I have faith in people that most people don’t have faith in, but can also lose my faith quickly in a friend who betrays, lies, or misleads me. I build emotional walls to keep people out, and I don’t let many people in. But when I do, they’re often inside for life.

I have not always liked myself. I’ve hated, punished, and spoke poorly of myself more than I’ve loved, rewarded, and commended myself.

Right now, just as I am today, I am enough. I’ll be enough tomorrow. I’ll always be enough. I always have been enough. I am the one that I’ve been waiting for. I’m everything I need, I’m worth it.

I am Katie. I am enough.

[photo credit: myself. (appropriately)]

 

Today is June 1st. Today is a line in the sand. Today is when I begin to shape what the rest of 2011 will look like. Today is about new beginnings and self-care habits.

Today I make a commitment to myself. For the next 60 days, I’ll be following a new workout program. An over-the-top workout program called Insanity…all because an informercial intercepted my afternoon of couch-lazing and sugar-hazing about four Sundays ago. I never watch infomercials, but I watched this one. Today I open my mind to the possibility that maybe a completely different, hard core, gimmicky workout program is exactly the “cold shower” I need to come to my senses. Maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what I need to kick-start a new body-loving routine.

Today I treat myself to some joy. I sign up for Molly’s Joy Juice prompts and I commit to reflecting for 30 minutes a day. On joy prompt days, I’ll write. If on the other days I don’t feel like writing, I’ll read. I’ll sit, enjoy my coffee and toast, and focus on myself before I start focusing on the clients, emails, and to do lists that await. Today I break free from the habit of waking up my brain before I wake up my soul. Today, I acknowledge that what I really want is for that wake-up process to happen in reverse!

Today I celebrate 11 years with my love, my Hunny. Eleven years ago today, we laid on my bed talking and basically had a “So?” “So?” “Do you wanna?” “Do you wanna?” type conversation. Except, we weren’t talking about sex. We were talking about becoming official. It felt like a big leap for us at the time, but we’ve never looked back. What’s so unique about today is that it’s kind of our last June 1st together. Because after our wedding on November 12, that’ll be our day. Today, we bid farewell to one relationship status and starting counting down to another.

Today, I have a new business plan. After weeks of plotting, wondering and musing, my business partners and I have a plan to take us through the next seven months. We’re more clear on who we are and what we want to achieve than we have been all year. Today, we truly, once and for all, commit to owning it! Our vision for the work we want to do and how we want to do it becomes a non-negotiable. Today, I read that business plan to myself, and mark in my calendar to do the same thing next Wednesday. Because it’s time to live it, breath it and know it, inside and out.

Today, I dive into a new family budget. Today, I start keeping gas receipts and grocery receipts. Today, my pay cheques go into the same bank account that Hunny’s pay cheques go into. Today, I start a monthly debt pay-off plan and a wedding savings plan. Today, Hunny and I start getting a weekly allowance. Today, I remove the mental and emotional barrier of “my money” versus “his money”. Today I leap, with nothing but trust and good faith, that together we can make more progress and more conscious spending decisions.

Today, I commit these things to you. Today, I ask for your support. I so desperately need these things, yet I’m so desperately afraid I won’t be able to stick to them.

Today, I reach out to you like never before, Tribe. Please help by sharing your tips, tricks and advice for how you hold yourself accountable. Because right now, my heart and soul really needs today to stick.

{Photo credit}

As you probably already know, Molly is launching an exciting new program any day now, called Joy Juice. As one of the beta testers, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at what this gem-of-a-joy-strategy is all about. I won’t reveal the specifics of the prompts I got to see (you’ll have to drink the Juice yourself to find out!). BUT, I am delighted to share with you this little nugget of self love and acceptance that one of the Joy Juice emails yielded:

Hey World!

You know what? I am awesome. My name is Laura – or Big L for short – and I bring a lot of awesomeness to the table.

For starters, I’m smart. I’m a thinker. I come up with a lot of ideas. I can always be counted on for that. I’m one of those people who knows a little bit about a lot of things, which comes in handy, really. Whether it’s news, celebrity gossip, movies, music, business, or sports, I can help keep the conversation going. And aside from love, conversation makes the world go round, doesn’t it?

You know what else? I’m a lover, not a hater. That’s some awesomeness that you can appreciate, I know. I see goodness in lots of things and creatures. I mind my manners, am conscientious, have lots of compassion and empathy to offer, and I hand out smiles real easily. I’m sure the people at Starbucks, my friends and family, and my fur babies love that. They’re on the receiving end of lotsa smiles.

Speaking of smiles, I’m great at making people laugh. Not in a shoulda-been-a-comedian kind of way, but in an honest, cute, witty kind of way. I think people who make me laugh are awesome, so that must make me awesome, too.

I’m brave, confident, often fearless, and put unwavering trust in a lot of people and things. I know for a fact that’s something other people find awesome about me. “You inspire me!” they claim. “You’ve got balls!” they declare. As far as compliments go, those are pretty juicy ones, don’t you think?

I’m a darn good dancer, too. I don’t know if that counts as something you benefit from, world, but dancing makes me feel damn awesome, so I’ll count it anyway!

I’m creative in a lot of ways, dancing is just one way I express it. Whether I’m scrap booking, collage-making, brainstorming, writing, or problem solving, I’ve always got something crafty or innovative up my sleeve. I know my family, friends, colleagues, and clients have all benefitted from that in one way or another. Creativity is a pretty awesome vibe to bring to the world. Most days, we don’t rely on it enough, I don’t think.

So there it is, world. Some of the ways I bring my awesome to you – right there, in black and white.

Big Hugs,
Big L

 

We’re all awesome in so many ways, aren’t we? The key is to remind ourselves of it often. To spell it out, even if it seems silly. Trust me, doing so can bring a lot of sunshine to an otherwise gray day.

{Photo credit}

I disliked him right from the start.  Even though it was 3:30 in the afternoon, his slacks were still freshly pressed and his shirt was wrinkle free.  His bald head shone under the flourescent lights.  When he uttered my name, our eyes met but he did not smile.  Every doctor should smile.  The office was claustrophobic, crowded with moving boxes.  I squeezed inbetween the edge of his desk and the two office chairs and took my seat.

The appointment was quick.  (I can’t believe I have to pay this guy $173.92 for 26 minutes.  That’s a heck of a rate!)  Before I left he slid the prescription across his desk and shot out “See ya in three weeks!”

I knew this day would come.  It was inevitable, really.  Pride and confusion about what is and isn’t in my control kept delaying the decision until I found myself on the edge.

I have penchant for everything melancholy–I always have.  I don’t think I sought it out as a child, but when you’re so young and have already had a lifetime of “good-byes,” and an immeasurable amount of confusion,  I think it would be hard not to be just a teensy bit sad.  And, unfortunatley, depression runs in my family.  Damn you, genetics!  At age 14 I had my first major depressive episode.  Some window cleaner, bleach and a random sampling of items in the medicine cabinet resulted in nothing more than a bad stomach-ache and a long nap.  (Thank goodness!)  For some days after, I would come home from school, take a few Tylenol PM and check out until the next day.  I somehow managed to get over it.

That was my first–and only–suicide attempt.  But over the past few years, some dark thoughts have haunted me.  My lows have been low–lower than low, and there have not been very many highs.  Chronic fatigue, a short temper and high anxiety do not a good Mommy make.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Some of these feelings are a direct result of choices I made.  Choices that were at war with my values. At times I was nothing short of dying of confusion.  There were many days when I chose not to care.  I chose to give up.  I threw water on my flame.

But then there were the days when that little bit of my soul that was on fire–burning for change, burning for dreams, burning for life–couldn’t grow no matter how hard I tried to stoke it.  That’s when you know you need a little bit of kerosene.  Or, in this case, some Wellbutrin.

I finally realized that the choice to go back on medication is not an admission of weakness.  It is a testament of strength. It is an act of self-love.  Maybe that’s what this whole quarterlife crisis thing is about: learning to love yourself.

(photo credit)

I disliked him right from the start.  Even though it was 3:30 in the afternoon, his slacks were still freshly pressed and his shirt was wrinkle free.  His bald head shone under the flourescent lights.  When he uttered my name, our eyes met but he did not smile.  Every doctor should smile.  The office was claustrophobic, crowded with moving boxes.  I squeezed inbetween the edge of his desk and the two office chairs and took my seat.

The appointment was quick.  (I can’t believe I have to pay this guy $173.92 for 26 minutes.  That’s a heck of a rate!)  Before I left he slid the prescription across his desk and shot out “See ya in three weeks!”

I knew this day would come.  It was inevitable, really.  Pride and confusion about what is and isn’t in my control kept delaying the decision until I found myself on the edge.

I have penchant for everything melancholy–I always have.  I don’t think I sought it out as a child, but when you’re so young and have already had a lifetime of “good-byes,” and an immeasurable amount of confusion,  I think it would be hard not to be just a teensy bit sad.  And, unfortunatley, depression runs in my family.  Damn you, genetics!  At age 14 I had my first major depressive episode.  Some window cleaner, bleach and a random sampling of items in the medicine cabinet resulted in nothing more than a bad stomach-ache and a long nap.  (Thank goodness!)  For some days after, I would come home from school, take a few Tylenol PM and check out until the next day.  I somehow managed to get over it.

That was my first–and only–suicide attempt.  But over the past few years, some dark thoughts have haunted me.  My lows have been low–lower than low, and there have not been very many highs.  Chronic fatigue, a short temper and high anxiety do not a good Mommy make.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Some of these feelings are a direct result of choices I made.  Choices that were at war with my values. At times I was nothing short of dying of confusion.  There were many days when I chose not to care.  I chose to give up.  I threw water on my flame.

But then there were the days when that little bit of my soul that was on fire–burning for change, burning for dreams, burning for life–couldn’t grow no matter how hard I tried to stoke it.  That’s when you know you need a little bit of kerosene.  Or, in this case, some Wellbutrin.

I finally realized that the choice to go back on medication is not an admission of weakness.  It is a testament of strength. It is an act of self-love.  Maybe that’s what this whole quarterlife crisis thing is about: learning to love yourself.

(photo credit)

I have a confession to make.  That’s not really me in that bio picture at the bottom of the page.  I mean, it’s me, but it’s not.

In the Black hair community they call it “The Big Chop.”  I had contemplated it for over a year and on one cold night in January, I did it.  I took a pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer, quietly closed the door to the bathroom and went to town.  With several bold snips I went from about 14 inches of hair to 1/4 of an inch of hair.  Now, why in the world would I do this?

First, a very brief and incomplete Black history lesson.

Remember the landmark segregation case <a href=”http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/brown/brown-brown.html”>Brown v. Board of Education</a> case?  They used this study in their argument:

Dr. Kenneth Clark Conducting the “Doll Test”

In the “doll test,” psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark used four plastic, diaper-clad dolls, identical except for color. They showed the dolls to black children between the ages of three and seven and asked them questions to determine racial perception and preference. Almost all of the children readily identified the race of the dolls. However, when asked which they preferred, the majority selected the white doll and attributed positive characteristics to it. The Clarks also gave the children outline drawings of a boy and girl and asked them to color the figures the same color as themselves. Many of the children with dark complexions colored the figures with a white or yellow crayon. The Clarks concluded that “prejudice, discrimination, and segregation” caused black children to develop a sense of inferiority and self-hatred. courtesy of The Library of Congress website

It is hard to believe that with all of the social progress we’ve made over these past 50 years, this sense of inferiority and self-hatred still exists.  Being Black was never beautiful.  And our hair?  Not acceptable.  It’s hard to change the color of your skin, but you can change your locks, you hair, your mane, or whatever you choose to call it..

Let me use an analogy that may be more relatable.  The media bombards us with images of women with photoshopped bodies and faces.  Our subconscious convinces us that is what other “real” women look like so we develop eating disorders and pay thousands of dollars for creams, undergarments, (dangerous) drugs and surgeries to become this supreme version of a woman.  This is what black women do with their hair.  We spend thousands of dollars on very, very dangerous chemicals that are applied to  our scalp to achieve that straight and silky look.

Ok.  So here is why I pulled a Britney.

RE-DEFINING BEAUTY.  I wanted to raise a big fist to The Man; to make it known that I now realize that I have been lied to.  My hair–the hair that grows out of my head–is good hair.  It is good hair because it is my hair and I want to love all that is me.

HEALTH.  Relaxers contain corrosive chemicals.  Corrosive meaning that they can disolve fabric, plastic and skin.

FREEDOM.  I needed to be free from the emotional baggage that was attached to that hair.  I believe that your hair holds energy and a lot of this energy was negative.  As I started to cut away, I felt lighter and lighter and lighter.  And when it was all gone, I felt so incredibly free.

MY DAUGHTER.  My little girl is bi-racial.  I have no idea what her hair is going to look like.  But I want her to be proud of it (and her eyes, face, body, mind).  I need to be an example of a strong and proud woman.

These reasons are sound pretty righteous, right?  And I really do believe in them, however. . . . The truth is, that over the past couple of months I started to hate my hair.  I was not prepared for the psychological battles I would have to fight.  You should have seen the looks on people’s faces when they saw me post-chop.  I could see them searching for the right words; afraid to say the wrong thing, they often said nothing at all.  Each morning I stood in front of the mirror trying to comb through my thick, coarse hair, frustration mounting with each tug and pull.

Lately I have been tempted to go back to the relaxer, convinced that with straight hair I am prettier, sexier, more sophisticated.  But as my resentment continued to build, it seemed as though more and more people started to comment about my daughter’s hair.  “Wow, if her hair stays likes this, she’ll be so pretty,” they said.  “Her hair is so soft, it’s so pretty.  I wonder if it will stay this way?”  Hearing that over and over again reminded of why I needed to stick through this.  Growing my hair out in its natural state–loving myself and my hair because it is genuinely me–is one of the greatest examples of self-love that I can display for my daughter.  Because, what if her hair doesn’t stay that way?   What if it changes and becomes as coarse and thick as mine?  I want her to know that she is still beautiful despite the texture of her hair.  I will no longer consider my hair to be a burden, a dreaded task through which I must suffer.  No.  It is my labor of love.  It is process of self-care and self-love that will continue to teach me and inspire me to stay true to my self.

Self-Love---I-am-enough-and-you-are-enough
Most of you know a good chunk of what I do here at Stratejoy is coach lovely ladies like yourself.  It’s an immensely rewarding part of my business.  I am continually stretched, inspired, and in awe of the women I talk to on a weekly basis. And I’m forever learning new truths.

Which brings me to this:

Part of this authentic joy we talk so much about seems to start with truly believing and owning the fact that “I am enough.”

It wasn’t something I thought too much about at the beginning of Stratejoy.  I thought that our current situation, the current status of our life, was a base level to start with, to improve upon.

Self-love?  Self-worth?  I would get there eventually…

My seeking brain loved to remind me — of course I’m not enough! I haven’t built an empire!  I haven’t made all of my dreams come true!  I don’t eat all organic!   I should shave my legs more often!  Tell my friends I love them!  Stop watching hulu.com!  Be more patient with my kids! Express more desire for my husband!

And on and on…

Well, I’m allowed to change my mind.

I am now firmly on the “I am enough” bandwagon.

(click to tweet)

Does that seem at odds with a personal development site dedicated to “helping women reinvent themselves” or “gaining clarity for meaningful forward movement?”

Nope.

Before any reinventing or forward movement, we must start from a strong, loving, secure base of self-worth.  If we don’t believe we are deserving of a big bold bright existence, it will never happen.  And what I’m finding and exploring more and more is that this self-love, this ability to believe we are deserving, boils down to the ability to declare “I am enough.”

Try it.  Say it out loud.  I am enough.

What comes up?  Do you feel like you’re faking it?  Do you immediately start adding buts, or sometimes, or ifs?

Part of the time I still can’t say it.

I have a long laundry list of things about myself I’d like to be “better.”

I’d like to call my parents more regularly.  I’d like to conquer my fear of failure.  I’d like to practice yoga everyday.  I’d like to be on of those girls who can sport dreads, ripped jeans, a nose ring and look unbelievably hot.  I’d like to stop feeling slightly nauseous when I look at my bank account.  I’d like to volunteer more often.  I’d like to always have a clean home, sexy underwear in the drawer, and an art project underway.

So much pushing.  So many mores.

When I think of that list, it’s hard for me to get behind the “I am enough” statement.  But the days I can’t believe it?  Those are the rough days.  Those are the days when a hater email makes me break down into tears. Those are the days I can’t shake off the fog.  Those are the days I start doubting my path.

You’d think I’d have learned by now, eh?  Because the days I can say, “I am enough, just as I am, right this very moment, with all my quirks and foibles, in all my ridiculous glory?”

Those are the days that feel the best. Those are the days I find peace.

I should probably start shouting it a little louder, with more emphasis.

My name is Molly and I am enough, just as I am, right this very moment.

I shall now launch into my Enoughness Manifesto!

(I’m sharing this not to brag or dance a little narcissistic dance in the mirror, but to inspire YOU to write your own.)


I am enough.

I am full of sparkle and compassion.  I genuinely want to make the world a better place. I love hard. I practice kindness. I’m not afraid of the truth. I am loyal, adventurous, supportive, and surprising.  I am a woman. I am enough. I make mistakes, but I own them and learn from them.

Sometimes I make a bunch of mistakes.

I am enough. I am open, juicy, artistic, full blast.  I am also vain, emotional, demanding, and looking for answers. I am a woman who is open to mysteries, accepting of miracles. I am diving in, devouring, loving, protecting, peeling back the surface of petty desires to the hunger for connection, for belief, for truth.

I am less concerned with doing things correctly than I once was and more concerned with showing up and loving hard.

(click to tweet)

I accept that a sense of wonder is something to cultivate. I accept that I sometimes self-medicate with alcohol, with filling my life full of busyness, with going into self imposed isolation.  I accept that I crave financial abundance, a freedom to do what I want, when I want it.  I am still enough.

I am a lover of ripe mangoes, stars in the midnight sky, stories around the campfire, the smell of rich coffee, laughing until I can’t breathe, having someone reach for my hand, swimming naked. I am a lover, a mama, a sister, a storyteller, a daughter, a mentor, and a student.

I am enough.


And I know in my deepest heart — You are enough too.

Molly_Signature