Monday, April 30, 2012

Trust in your amazing strength

Originally posted November 8, 2011

Trust means I have faith in my ability to survive and thrive.

I've been reading "A Year of Living Your Yoga" by Dr. Judith Hanson Lasater. I recommend it. On August 8th I read the above quote followed by this:
"Living Your Yoga: We want to trust others, but we are afraid they will let us down. Today instead of focusing on trusting others, remember that there is something bigger; trust your ability to be okay even if things are not okay."
I can't get this idea out of my head. I'm in love with it. I suppose at this point I haven't much left to hide on this blog, so I'll tell you honestly that I sometimes struggle with fear of the future, of heartache, and of the unknown. I know it isn't really rational, but I often stress that something horrible is around the corner. I worry about losing my husband in a horrible accident or to sickness. I worry about watching Cormac suffer. I worry about my new little one and having something horrible happen during pregnancy or birth.
There are a lot of wonderful people in my life who have had to deal with horrible heartbreaks. I look at what they have gone through and marvel at how strong they are. I wonder if I'd be able to come out on top the way they seem to have.
Now don't worry, I have never gotten to where this fear has crippled me from doing the things I want to do, but it is still a negative drain on my energy. And I know that there are those out there who are ruled by fears. With that in mind, think about this quote a minute. What a beautiful idea: "trust your ability to be okay even if things are not okay."
The human mind and body is incredibly resilient. No doubt you've dealt with pain and heartache already in your life, and while it may not have been as extreme as losing a loved one it was likely a challenge nonetheless. You adjusted. You made sacrifices and changes, but you made it through. And things were okay. Even in the less than fantastic circumstances.
So I've been trying to change my attitude. Instead of thinking about how on earth will I survive if the worst should happen, I've been working on trusting that I will be okay if that does happen. I'm a strong, confident, resilient woman. And while I hope to coast through life will all my loved ones in great health and no heartache, the truth is, that just isn't very likely. But it's okay because I'll be okay. I have my faith, my family, my friends, and my own stores of strength to pull from.
And you? Do you have resources to help you through a crisis? Do you trust yourself?

Cormac has something to tell you

Originally posted on August 8, 2011

This may explain a few things. Maybe. Maybe not. I'm 12 weeks today. It has been a long, sickly 12 weeks. Between that and our extremely sketchy internet I haven't had much desire to try and get online to blog. I just haven't had the patience or the drive. I apologize.

 When I first tried to get a picture of Cormac in his Big Brother shirt this is the look I got:


Perhaps this is a bit more accurate? I guess time will tell.

On Falling in Love With Yourself Every Day

Originally posted July 14, 2011

I am excited to introduce the amazing Mara from Medicinal Marzipan. She has graciously agreed to grace us with her presence here today. Enjoy!
Have you ever been so busy running around, striking things off of your to do list, taking care of everyone around you, that you forget to take a second to celebrate the things that make you unique? Sometimes I will find myself storming around, “being productive,” but so out of touch with myself that I completely forget I have needs outside of things I need to get done. Thus, this summer, I have promised myself that I would cut myself a little slack and dedicate some time everyday to love myself. This is a major self-esteem booster, but it also helps to remind you to slow down, create your own space, and remember that you are important too!
1. Buy yourself a new CD. Create yourself a stellar Pandora station. Make yourself a new playlist of all of your old favorites. Turn off the voice that says your favorite song just isn’t cool, or the one that tells you what you really SHOULD be listening to. Crank the radio up to top volume. Jump around, dance by yourself, scream your favorite lyrics at the top of your lungs.
2. Find yourself an outfit that makes you feel like your very best self, whatever that may mean to you. Do you have a secret hankering to feel sexy? Sturdy? Butch? Girly? Adult? Find or buy yourself something that fits and flatters your body. Get dressed up. Strut. Repeat.
3. Play with children, animals, or your friends. Run around with reckless abandon. Remember what it feels like to get called in off the playground, sweaty and ready to fall asleep the minute your head hits the pillow. Take your shoes off, and feel your toes in the grass or sand. Play a game that you haven’t played since you were a kid. Get out the chalk and draw yourself up a hopscotch board.
4. Do something nice for someone else, without expecting anything in return. Bring them flowers, make an old school mixtape with all of their favorite songs, clean up their room, or do their laundry. Making someone else feel loved boosts your own self-love. You are a generous, loving, and wonderful person! Give your love freely and without wondering what goodies you’ll get in return. I promise that when you’re selfless and forthcoming you will get that back tenfold.
5. Tell your family how much you love them, whether they are nuclear, extended, or adopted. Forgive people for those grudges that you’re holding on to with a clenched fist. Free up the energy that you’ve been keeping wrapped up in anger and frustration. Hold a mini (safe) bonfire and burn up all those love letters from an Ex who dumped you. Clear out old stuff cluttering up your living space. Let it all go.
6. Do something that really makes you feel special. Invest in your talents. Buy yourself the most perfect sketchbook that you’ve been coveting from afar, or the AV cable that you need to stream your I-pod to your car stereo. Spend the afternoon learning how to use HTML to make your blog even better. You are so worth it - revel in that feeling.
7. Tell all of your friends about something that has been really inspirational to you. Read a little blog that doesn’t have many followers? Had a session with a therapist that changed your life? Found a delicious new snack at the grocery store? Tell EVERYONE. Share the wealth.
What are your favorite things to do to make yourself feel special and loved?
Mara blogs (almost) daily over at Medicinal Marzipan about body image, self-love, and authentic living.  She can be found rabble rousing on facebook and twitter, and in your very own inbox. Don’t hesitate to hit her up with any of your body image questions or comments! xox

To Helmer and back

Originally posted July 13, 2011

Helmer, Idaho that is. My little one and I had to take an unexpected trip up to see my parents. My mom was in need of some assistance. A few weeks ago my mom was catering a big party. She picked up a roasting pan that was filled too full. The boiling water started to pour over her hands, but she was standing near a bunch of children and wasn't able to just drop the pan. She's lucky she didn't need skin grafts. Originally we thought the burns would heal in just a week, but a week came and went and the burns were still horrible. So Cormac and I packed up to go help out. I don't think we were much help, but we were glad to be a distraction to my mom from her pain.
Where is Helmer, Idaho? The middle of nowhere. I spent the whole week unplugged. It was nice, but I'm sorry I didn't give you a heads up that I was leaving. But the truth is there are times in our lives when there are more important things that have to take over. Cormac had a wonderful time, but he missed his daddy terribly. I missed his daddy too. We are glad to be home. It's a good 12 hour drive. Mom has a long way to go before she'll be all the way better, but she is getting more movement. I was going to post pictures of her hands, but on second thought they are pretty gruesome, so I'll spare you. Anyway, I'm back. And I have a special guest post for you tomorrow. It's good to be home.

Finding someone to click with

Originally posted June 30, 2011

I have been unable to write since Tuesday's post. I'm struggling to move past it. I think I need to elaborate on one point so I can rest easy with what I said. Namely this paragraph:
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that our health is entirely personal. No one should tell us what is and isn’t best for our bodies. Doctors can make suggestions. We can read the books on good nutrition. We can learn how to move our bodies to exercise that we enjoy from a teacher or instructor. But none of these resources (who are likely just trying to help) live in your body. . . You are the only one that knows what feels good and what doesn’t.
Let me be very clear, I do not believe that seeing a doctor or nutritionist is ever a bad idea. Nor do I believe that you should just assume you know how to do an exercise without the proper training from a teacher or instructor. No, these professionals do what they do (for the most part) because they care about people and want you to be well.
What I mean by doing what feels best has more to do with finding a doctor or health professional that clicks with you. Find someone who listens, truly listens. You need to be able to communicate with this person when something they prescribed just doesn't feel right. And it's okay to seek a second opinion as well.
Listening to your body is about finding solutions that work for you. And that includes finding a doctor that cares about what you care about.

The different faces of health

Originally posted June 28, 2011

 I have been ruminating over the fact that "health" looks different on every person. Just like no two people look the same, no two healthy lifestyles look the same. Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that the healthy way we live is the healthy way everyone should live, but this isn't necessarily the case.

Take for example napping during the day. There are some who simply function better with a nap. Pregnant women, for example, often need that extra sleep to keep them going. This is not to say that it is lazy or unhealthy in these people. No, they just need a nap. But in someone else needing a nap to get through the day could be a sign of serious illness or depression.
One of the best examples I can think of is water intake. While I think it is true that most of us (me included) do not drink nearly enough water (not diet soda folks, water) I do not think that the recommended 8 glasses of 8 oz is necessarily true for everyone. There are some individuals who probably don't need as much. And I know for a fact that some people need much more (especially those working outside in the hot summer sun).
There is really no "one size fits all" when it comes to everything about health. A vegetarian or vegan lifestyle might be incredibly healthy for some, but others might be using that lifestyle as a form of restriction fueling an eating disorder they have yet to address.  We are often quick to judge when someone does something we disagree with, but who's to say that for that individual eating meat isn't exactly what their body needs in order to thrive? Oh I agree there are things that are clearly unhealthy and things that are clearly more healthy than others. But on a large scale perspective do we really have a right to judge the health of another person because they choose differently than we do in a few areas?
Size is the biggest debate for most when it comes to health. We see a curvy woman and assume that she never exercises, eats potato chips, drinks soda, and has simply given up trying to be healthy. But this is an unfair judgement. Sure there are folks out there that fit this description, but there are a lot of skinny people who could also be categorized as such. No, there are many fantastic curvy people who are leaps and bounds above some of their thinner peers on the health scale.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that our health is entirely personal. No one should tell us what is and isn't best for our bodies. Doctors can make suggestions. We can read the books on good nutrition. We can learn how to move our bodies to exercise that we enjoy from a teacher or instructor. But none of these resources (who are likely just trying to help) live in your body. None of them knows that after running or doing heavy cardio you get migraines and can't see straight for the rest of the day. None of them gets that you aren't being lazy by taking a nap; your body just requires more rest than the average person. You are the only one that knows what feels good and what doesn't.
It's time to stop looking around to figure out what is healthy. It's time to start turning inward and asking your body what it wants and needs. Trust me, it knows. With a little practice you'll be able to figure it out, and your life will be more full and much more healthy because of it.

When Family Just Doesn't Understand

Originally posted June 27, 2011

Today we are privileged to hear from the talented and wonderful Dr. Ashley Solomon. She is the mastermind behind Nourishing the Soul. I have really enjoyed reading her thoughts and my association with her since starting this blog. Dr. Solomon is a therapist who specializes in treating eating disorders, body image, trauma, and serious mental disorder. And without further ado here are her thoughts for us today. Enjoy!
The daughter lifts her gaze and with eyes swollen from tears looks at her mother, having just revealed her year-long struggle with her eating disorder. The mother, rocked inside, but in a controlled and loving way, wraps her arms around the one who will always be her little girl. She murmurs gently that she will help in any way she can.
Music rises and lights fade. Made-for-television special goes to commercial.
As most of who live in a world outside of one constructed in Hollywood know, sharing our deepest secrets and enlisting the support of others doesn’t always come quite so easy. And when we’re talking about parents… well, things can be downright painful.
It’s often said that first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem. Well, the second step is seeking support outside of yourself. Whether we’re struggling with depression, stress, addiction, a trauma, or eating issues, we need the support of others to help facilitate our journey to a more healthy life. The fact is, not only do we not need to go it alone, but we shouldn’t.
The importance of social support in recovery is well-established both by research and anecdotally. Various studies show that being bolstered through the tough times can speed up recovery from a host of illnesses. In fact, researchers in one study found that patients who had experienced a heart attack who received high levels of support from family and friends had less chest pain, a better quality of life, better mental and physical functioning, and fewer symptoms of depression compared with those who received little support.
When it comes to mental and emotional difficulties, however, garnering support can at times be difficult. Unfortunately, while our culture is moving slowly to a more comprehensive understanding of mental illness, stigma remains (despite the fact that over 44 million people experience a mental disorder each year in the U.S.).
When parents learn that their child – even their adult child – has a problem, they can sometimes react with hostility and defensiveness rather than the compassion that we would hope to see from them. While this can be incredibly painful to experience first-hand, it can sometimes be helpful to put these reactions in context.
For centuries, parents, and especially mothers, have been put at the center of the ring of blame for their child’s maladies. Despite a wealth of evidence indicating that mothers do not cause eating disorders, for example, stereotypes hold fast that leave many mothers feeling that their child’s life-threatening condition was caused by their short-comings. Because this is too difficult – unbearable even – to believe, some parents react with defensiveness and anger. It’s a way of protecting themselves from the enormity of the pain.
Regardless of the reasons, however, it can be devastating to not have one’s family on board when one is ready to tackle the issues and make major life changes. It can be extraordinarily helpful to participate in family therapy with an experienced clinician who, from his or her safe and objective seat, can help creatively bring a family to a shared understanding.
Unfortunately, some families will simply never be able to to be there in the way that we might hope. In those cases, it’s vital that we recruit additional support, while also grieving the fact that we may not have the families we’ve always wanted.
Finding support may mean taking an uncomfortable step and making ourselves vulnerable to allowing others in. It may also mean being open to support from unexpected places, such as coworkers, members of your spiritual community, neighbors, and even online. It may involve finding a mentor. It’s important to remember that just because we may not be blessed with families who understand us doesn’t mean that we are left to be misunderstood.

Forever Fabulous

Originally published June 24, 2011

I bought a new shirt this week. I loved the way it made me feel in the dressing room. I love the style of the shirt. I love the material. As I stood there in the dressing room I felt cute. Maybe even a little sleek. In a word I felt fabulous. I bought it.
Later I was wearing this same shirt and caught a glimpse of myself in some full length doors, and it happened. I had a bit of a panic when I saw that maybe this shirt wasn't the most flattering for my specific body type. A little self-doubt crept in. Maybe I had no business wearing such a shirt.
As I thought about it later I decided that I was being ridiculous. Didn't the shirt make me feel fabulous? Then if I felt fabulous in the shirt I must be fabulous. Think about it. If you see someone wearing something that obviously makes them feel good don't you think they exude confidence? I think they do. They do, indeed, look amazing. Their self-confidence is evident, and beautiful.
We do this a lot. At least I do. I can wake up one morning, look in the mirror, and think, "not bad," or even, "looking good." But then instead of  letting myself feel fantastic I go jump on my scale. What could have been a wonderful day where I felt great about myself gets destroyed by my needing some outside validation. And here's the thing, the numbers on the scale are actually getting smaller, but it is very slow and sustained (you know, the healthy way to lose weight), but because the scale doesn't show a significant drop off I start to feel down. And frankly it can be triggering for me. As soon as I step on the scale I start wondering if I should indeed go on another diet. Maybe the newest fad would work for me. Or maybe I should start working out long hours during the day.
By the end of the day I have usually talked myself out of these things with the realization that I am so much happier when I eat intuitively. I feel good about myself when I move my body in ways that I enjoy; rather than punishing myself on a treadmill. No, it's not worth it. But I sometimes waste a whole day reminding myself.
So I have made a decision (I think). I think it's time to throw the scale out. I mean all the way out. I want to do it. But I'm still a little chicken. Then I remember that the next time my husband pays me a compliment I want to just feel great for the day. I don't want to use it as an excuse to step on the scale just to see if what he says is reflected in numbers. Yes, I think it's time for the scale to go. And I think it's time for me to only wear what makes me feel great as opposed to what I'm "supposed" to wear for my body type. Because there is no reason I can't feel fabulous every single day. You on board?

The ins and outs

Originally posted June 23, 2011
Did you know that before I was about 13 I had never heard of the "internet." And I wasn't an anomaly, you see, there was no internet. I have had this great tool only a little over half my life. There was a time when I even hand-wrote papers for school. Granted I was in elementary so how hard could the papers be, but friends, I didn't learn to type until I hit the 7th grade. I had no need for it before that.
In the last week my internet has been out twice for nearly a day each time. The first time I was ready to throw my computer out the window I was so frustrated. I can't get on the internet? How is this possible? What am I going to do? Okay, maybe not throw out the computer, but I was frustrated.
Last night and this morning it was out again. What's a gal to do when she happens to have insomnia one night? No internet. I suppose I could have worked on my brochures for the yoga business, but it was 3 in the morning. I was more in the mood for writing a blog post or aimlessly wandering around looking for blogs I could get into. Ya know?
Ah how quickly we become dependent on things that we used to do just fine without. Blows my mind a little. It's kind of like how we start to use food or other such things as coping mechanisms. Which is something we never needed to do when we were young. Or maybe how we suddenly feel we must have make-up on in order to be seen by anyone. There was a time in each of our lives when we could function without those crutches. I think we often forget that we were born with all the tools we need to succeed and live a happy, healthy life.
Food for thought. Now I think I'll go get out the kiddie pool. It's way too hot to be in my house right now. And it's certainly too hot to be outside dry. Time to wet us all down. Do you remember when we were complaining about how cool it was? Yeah, well, it got hot. Whew.

5 Tips for Getting Out of a Body Image Rut

Originally posted June 20, 2011

I'm excited to introduce another guest today. The following was written by Margarita Tartakovsky, MS who is the associate editor of Psych Central. She writes her own body image blog for Psych Central called Weightless as well. Be sure to check her out. She is fantastic, and I'm so excited to have her here on LITM today.
Regardless of how you feel about your body, everyone has a bad day. A day when we feel like the ugliest person on the planet. A day when we’d rather wear sweats. A day we’d rather spend underneath the comforting shelter of our favorite covers.
It’s natural to feel blue about your body sometimes. But fortunately, there are many things you can do to rise above a rut. Here are five ideas.
1. See the bigger picture.
Remember that this is just one bad day or several of many good ones. Instead of letting yucky feelings overwhelm you, focus on the bigger picture. Body image has its ups and downs. A positive body image is a daily process. Just remind yourself that even though right now you don’t love your body, you refuse to get caught up in a harmful cycle of nit-picking and negative thoughts.
2. Consider what’s really brewing.
Ask yourself what’s really underneath your rut. Are you angry over a fight with a friend that you’re taking out on your body? Are your hormones running amok? (A good possibility!) Do you just feel bloated? Are you stressed out? Is something in particular bothering you?
Years ago, whenever I saw a huge monster staring back at me, it had nothing to do with my appearance, of course. It was that I was unhappy with my life. I was anxious, tense and sad—all reactions that contributed to my feeling uncomfortable in my own skin. And instead of asking myself the important questions, I kept things on the surface, thinking that getting thin was the answer. (It wasn’t.)
Sometimes a rut might be telling us something. That something isn’t to lose weight or change our appearance. It’s to take a hard look at what’s going on and dig deeper.
3. Do an activity that makes you happy.
When we’re in the midst of a body image rut, the last thing we want to do is take action. It’s much easier to wallow in our misery and bad feelings. But doing something that focuses away from our negative thoughts is immensely helpful.
In fact, make a list right now of the things that you love to do. Keep it handy, either in your purse or on your desk (or on your forehead, which is where I feel like I need it!). The next time you experience a rut, take it out and start going down the list. Fun and fulfilling activities boost your mood, put life into perspective and alleviate stress—all of which can improve your body image.
Your list may include anything from taking a walk to journaling to drawing to watching a funny movie to talking to a friend. Try to include a good mix of quick activities and longer ones that you’re passionate about or just make you smile.
4. Get out.
When a rut sets in and we think we look terrible, the last thing we also want to do is be with people and, let’s be honest, see the sunlight. (It’s as if the covers are calling us!) But getting out of the house, smelling the fresh air and seeing all the beauty around you has a way of making you feel better.
See if you can meet up with a friend for lunch or for the whole day. Choose someone who’s not only positive but also doesn’t engage in fat talk. The worst thing to do when you’re in a body image rut is to commiserate over each other’s supposed body flaws.
5. Be grateful.
Counting our blessings also boosts mood and happiness—and it’s a huge help for lifting a sad body image. When you’re feeling down about your body, make a quick list of all the things you’re grateful for. Also, include the many things your incredible body helps you do!
For instance, I’m grateful for:
My amazing family,
Being able to practice Pilates,
Having the endurance to do tough workouts and bike many miles,
Being able to play with my 16-year-old cat,
Books, books and books,
Watermelon, berries, smoothies, chocolate, ice cream, fettuccine Alfredo, seafood and potatoes,
A job that’s fulfilling and helps me grow constantly.
How do you overcome a body image rut? What makes you feel better? What tips do you have? Please share!
P.S., Melanee, thanks so much for the opportunity to guest post! It’s an honor.  And happy blogaversary!!!

The un-impartability of self-worth

Originally posted June 21, 2011

When I see my son I know how amazing he is. I know that he worth more than the riches in the world. I know he is special. I know he has a wonderful body that is capable and needs no "improvements." I know that my son has much to offer the world. I know he doesn't need to change or conform to standards that others may see fit to place upon him. I know that. But what about him?
Granted at the moment he is only 20 months and (I hope) entirely clueless of the pressures he may find himself under later. He does not doubt his worth or the love of those around him. He is not insecure. And oh how I wish I could keep that confidence and happiness with him always. I don't ever want him to feel any self-doubt or low self-esteem.
The word "self-worth" is an interesting one. It is called that because it is something that only the "self" can have. It cannot be shared. I heard a wonderful speaker once say that we can tell our children of their worth. We can tell them how wonderful they are. But all that means to them is that mom (or dad) loves them. I've been thinking of that ever since.
If we can't teach children their own self-worth how is it learned? Heaven knows the world won't even attempt it. What is a loving parent to do? Here are my thoughts.
  1. Parents need to know their own self-worth. Children watch. If they can see that mom or dad think they are less than worthy the kids will find those same faults in themselves. We can certainly teach doubt, but we can also teach confidence just by having it. You cannot change other people, only yourself, but making this change could influence your children's lives for the better.
  2. Teach divine worth. When children understand that they are special, that they are children of Heavenly parents, and that their worth is eternal they can feel that worth from a higher power.
  3. Give some trust. Few things are more empowering to anyone than to be trusted. And it may be something as simple as trusting your child to clean the bathroom or to always pick up the mail on their way in, but that bit of confidence empowers children. It shows them they are worthy of trust. George Macdonald said, "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved." I believe trust creates a sense of worth in individuals. If you know you have the trust of others you know you must be worth something.
  4. Teach service. Happy is the person who can lose themselves in the service of others. By showing love to others love pervades all around. The individual who serves is happy. The individual who serves sees the worth of all beings no matter their circumstances. The individual who serves is blessed to know personally that the beggar is as worthy of love and care as the rich man. Teach you children to serve, and you will be placing a critical block for self-worth to develop.
So while we may not be able to hand over a helping of self-worth on a silver platter to our children we can place the stepping stones that will help them learn it themselves.
Have more? Excellent! Please keep the list going in the comments section. I'd love to know your thoughts on this subject.

Ode to Dads

Originally posted June 20, 2011
I realize up front that not everyone has an ideal situation when it comes to a father figure. I realize that not everyone agrees on what "ideal" even means. But in my life I have been blessed to be surrounded by wonderful fathers and feel that this has been influential in my life.
The father's in my life haven't come just in the form of my own great and amazing dad, but in my uncles, my friend's fathers, my amazing father-in-law, my dear brother-in-laws, and of course, my own husband. These men are great.
My father with my son.
I am so thankful for a father who was supportive of my dreams. For a father who loves me and wants me to be happy. I'm thankful that he taught me to work. That is a priceless lesson. I can't tell you how much fun my siblings and I had jumping on top of dad and using him as a trampoline. My own son has started doing this with his dad. It takes me back to those days. I thank both my parents for enabling me to live the life I want.
To my husband, I'm so excited to be taking the journey of parenthood together. What an experience it has been so far. I am blessed to have overwhelming support from him. I mean, how many men do you know that would give up their shop and move into the chicken coop so you could have a yoga studio? He's amazing.
I guess with all of this I'm saying, thanks to the men in my life for being wonderful fathers. I hope you have a father figure of some form in your life. And I hope they felt celebrated yesterday. Isn't it great to have family.

It takes guts to be your kind of awesome

Originally posted June 16, 2011

The first time I went skydiving I felt brave. At least that's what I told myself. I told myself I had guts. I was a brave gal. What I was really feeling was peer pressure and a whole lot of freak-out. But when you are strapped to someone larger than you who is headed for the door you kind of just go with it. When I landed I was elated. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
But bravery? Maybe not.
When I think of the word "bravery," I picture war heroes, cancer patients, and firefighters. But then there is another group: people who are unapologetically themselves. Now that, friends, takes guts. It takes insane amounts of courage to be exactly who you are. Think about this with me for a minute.
  1. These authentic beings do not let the fads of culture sway them.
  2. They do not allow peer pressure to make them do crazy things (like jump out of planes, unless they really want to), or be anything other than what they are.
  3. These folks have tried new things. How else could they find where their true passion lies.
  4. Authentic individuals do not apologize for who they are.
  5. Even when faced with loneliness or being alone these people cannot betray who and what they are.
All of these things take incredible courage. It's hard to let the opinions of others roll off our backs. It is hard to look in the mirror and be fine with what is there. Especially when the world may argue that the way we look is wrong. It's hard not to make excuses for being different. It's hard to just be you without justification. It is so hard to think that being you could alienate you from some. And it takes a lot of courage.
And then there's that whole trying new things bit. If you've always been marginally interested in karate, but never attended a class assuming it's not really for "your type" you are cheating yourself. You are taking away a chance to discover something that could light up your life and make your heart sing. But holy cow it's hard to walk through that door.
Trial and error is one of the great gifts of this life though. When we try new things we may fail. We may despise our karate class, or we may find a new true love. But until you master your fears and find the courage you need to step forward you may never actually meet the awesome person that you are.
Let's just say it like it is: It takes one brave person to be unapologetically themselves. I like those people. Here's hoping I find the courage to become one.
This post was written as part of the Self Discovery, Word by Word series. This month's marvelous hostess is Dr. Udall-Weiner from The Body and the Brood. Check out her post on the word of her choosing, "Bravery" here. Want to participate? Click here for details.

Top 5 Ways to Love Yourself Now

Originally posted June 14, 2011

I am super excited to introduce you to Dani today.  Dani is the creator of www.PositivelyPresent.com. After twenty-five years of living with a negative attitude, Dani decided to turn her life around and start focusing on the positive. In 2009, she launched Positively Present, a blog focused on living positively in the present moment, and since then her personal development site has grown and it continues to touch people around the world.
Hard as it can be to realize sometimes, no matter what you think, you are good enough. With the onslaught of picture perfect images in the media, and culturally defined ideas of what we "should" look like, sometimes it's so hard to just do one of the most basic things -- love ourselves. To me, loving yourself is the very first step to living a positive and present life. If you can't love yourself, you're going to have a hard time truly loving the world around you and enjoying the life you're living. However, loving yourself is no easy task sometimes. It actually takes a lot of hard work, which is why I've come up with the top five ways you can start loving yourself right now.
Top 5 Ways to Love Yourself
1. Stop comparing yourself to others. The entire world encourages us to compare, to want what others have, to want to be like others. In the post I wrote back in 2009,  Stop Judging: 4 Reasons, 5 Things, 6 Ways, I talked about how much we lose when we waste time judging others and ourselves. If you truly want to love yourself, you must stop your comparisons. Focus on you and what's great about who you are, what you have, and what you do. Don't waste any more time comparing yourself to those around you. This is the first -- and most important -- step to loving yourself now.
2. Focus on your achievements -- big and small. To often, we focus on the things that went wrong (or could go wrong) and not on the things we did right. We'll dwell forever on a conversation that went poorly, but hardly think at all about a wonderful interaction we had with someone. Likewise, people are often more likely to focus on their failures than their achievements (probably as some sort of self-protection in order to avoid future failures). It's okay to acknowledge the things that didn't go swimmingly, but if you really want to love yourself, you have to spend most of your time thinking about what you did/said right. And, remember, even the little things deserve a pat on the back.
3. Look past the mirror to your true self. It's all too common for people to define themselves by the way they look. Remember: you are more than what you look like. Yes, it cannot be denied that appearance is important and has some merit, but it is not everything. The way culture is set up, it's hard to remember that sometimes. Next time you look in the mirror and find yourself filled with negative thoughts, remind yourself that you are more than what you see in that reflection. Your worth is more than the way you look. Once you convince yourself of the truth in those words, it will become much easier to love your true self.
4. View yourself from another perspective. We all have the tendency from time to time to get wrapped up in our own minds. Our thoughts and ideas take over and we tend to forget that there are millions and millions of other opinions and ideas out there in the world. The next time you find that you're giving yourself a hard time, take a step back and try to look at the situation -- and yourself -- objectively. You may soon realize that the way you were looking at yourself or the situation is not the way that others would. Taking a step back and looking at yourself with fresh eyes will help you to realize that you are worth more than you realize -- and you are certainly deserving of your own love.
5. Make a list of all your awesome traits. Feeling like you're not quite up to par? Stop. Drop what you're doing. Grab paper and a pen. And get to work. The activity might seem like a silly one, but seriously, taking some time to write about how great you are will help you to realize that, no matter how you might feel about yourself sometimes, you really are pretty awesome. And if you find yourself struggling with this exercise, enlist the help of friends and family. Hearing their input about your awesomeness will make you realize that, hey, if all of those people can love you, you can certainly love yourself!
As I said, loving yourself isn't easy. It seems like the kind of thing that should come naturally, but I think most people are filled with reasonable amount of self-doubt and, as a result, their minds fill with self-deprecating thoughts from time to time. It's okay to struggle with self-love, but it's not okay not to give it a really solid try. You deserve to love yourself because, no matter who you are, you are awesome. So start embracing your awesomeness and use the five tips above to start loving yourself now. There's no time like the present to learn to love yourself!
Wasn't this amazing? I think I'm going to paste it to my mirror so that I can remind myself of it daily. Thanks Dani. Don't forget to check her out at PostivelyPresent.
P.S. Still time to enter the giveaway. Today's the last day. I'll announce the winner tomorrow and the new giveaway (that's not a book, go figure). Please remember to leave a comment. If you "liked" or started following us I need to know that you are also interested in the giveaway. You guys rock:)

When paying the bills is too much

Originally posted June 13, 2011

I'm excited to introduce the first of several guest bloggers I have lined up for you to enjoy: Kendra. Kendra is the mastermind behind Voice in Recovery. She shares her story and walks you through recovery. She is insightful and cute. Here she talks about how if you are struggling with abuse in one area it usual permeates to other areas of life as well. Including finances. Enjoy!
When I was struggling with alcohol abuse, eating disorders, self harm, panic attacks, saying my life was unmanageable is an understatement. Life revolved around my struggles, and everything else I could not handle. Everything seemed too hard, too challenging, and would lead to panic attacks. I was unhealthy in my body, mind and soul, and my life, career, finances, all became too much to handle. I could barely pay a bill, let alone open an envelope without getting crippling anxiety.
I was fortunate to have my parents, who I was able to assign as people who would handle my finances, while I could get healthy. I went into treatment, residential, and asked them to take care of what I could not handle myself. When I got out of residential, I took some time to focus on me, my treatment, going to support groups, and eventually getting a job. Four years later and I not only handle all of my finances and have a job, but my life is indeed manageable and full. It has been a journey, just as any other struggle, to take back over my finances and learn to budget, pay bills and save money.
I am an accountant by career, and so I am knowledgeable in what I needed to do in order to take over my finances. I am looking to buy a car in a few months, and had to sit down, make a budget and make a serious plan about what I needed to do in the next year.
Here are my 5 Tips to Handling Finances:
1. Know what money you make and spend in a month.
The first thing I recommend anyone do, is to download a month of their banking detail into excel. I know Bank of America has an option to choose the date range, and export the data to excel. I then would recommend downloading a simple budget spreadsheet so you can see what comes in and goes out. You won’t be able to budget anything until you know what you make and spend.
2. Determine your fixed, variable and negotiable expenses
Fixed expenses are what must come out every month and are the same amount. This can include your mortgage, rent, car payment, student loan payment, hulu, cable, Netflix, etc. Variable expenses are ones that are monthly expenses that you must pay, but vary, such as gas, groceries, pet food, cleaning products, etc. Negotiable expenses are what I consider my “wants” versus my needs in the fixed and variable categories. Negotiable expenses for me have included restaurant dinners, movies, clothing, iTunes, books, concerts, etc. When I did a few months of my monthly ins and outs, I was shocked to see my negotiable category was ranging from $700-800 a month. WOW. I had no idea exactly how much I was spending, but it was making me only able to live paycheck to paycheck, and unable to save, put money to 401k, etc. I immediately made changes, and stopped spending so much on my wants, looking for ways to save in my variable category (shopping during sales, using coupons).
3. Credit Card and Credit Score Management
Credit cards have high interest rates, and are a huge struggle for people in this country. I didn’t have credit cards for years because I wanted to only spend what I made; I never wanted to owe more than I was making. I now am trying to rebuild my credit. I would recommend you sign up for a free service where you can get all three credit reports so you know exactly what is on your credit report and see if everything there is valid, or needs to be put on the budget to be paid off. I recently got a very low credit card, for just $300, and spend about $100 a month on it, money I know I can spend and pay off completely each month. If you are trying to build credit, pay off what you spend every month to avoid high interest fees. If you are terrible at credit card management, consider closing all your credit cards and negotiating settlements with the card companies to pay off in installments.
4. Utilize automatic payments
If you're as bad as I am, I like the security of knowing all my bills are on automatic payments. It takes out the questioning of trying to figure out what bill is due when, and since I have enough money to handle my fixed and variable expenses, I set up these automatic payment withdrawals from my account to avoid late fees. I have lost a LOT of money in the past just by forgetting to pay bills I meant to pay.
5. Make monthly and yearly financial goals
Is your goal to save for a car, a house, or is it to build your 401k, savings, or pay off your student loans? Knowing where you want to start is important. As Suze Orman will say, always pay off your student loans, because even if you get in financial distress and enter bankruptcy, your student loans will always be there. Since I want to buy a car, I am learning a lot about credit unions, interest rates, my bad credit, and facing what struggles I will come across when applying for loans, especially with high interest rates. I have to be accountable for my past, as well as realistic with my goals now. I know I am always learning and learning to approach one goal at a time financially.
For me, financial independence has taken time, patience, and learning along the way. I am still learning, and utilizing the web, my family and people who are knowledgeable to help guide me. I also am lucky I am an accountant and understand these basic principles. I know people who may say “if you are an accountant how did you get in such trouble?” Here is the thing, when you are struggling in life, everything, including the most simple of tasks seems overwhelming. I had days where I struggled showering. There is nothing wrong with me, or anyone else who is fighting with a struggle and taking their own time trying to find new ways to manage their lives. It takes time. But it is possible. Never give up, and be open to learning and asking a lot of questions along the way.
P.S. Thanks again to Kendra for sharing her advice and experience. Take the time to check her out at Voice in Recovery.
P.P.S. There is still time to enter the giveaway. Click on over for there for the rules.
P.P.S.S. Be sure to check back, I have some more amazing guests lined up for this week as well as another giveaway (and this one isn't a book, something kind of new for me:)