Heartbreak Part One: Broken

This was the hardest section of this series to write by far. I actually wrote the next two parts to this way beforehand because I just couldn’t bear to face this one for a while. If you couldn’t tell by the title – my relationship has ended. I’m not going to go into the mechanics of why or what happened because this is still a public space and I still respect the relationship and him enough to not share all the details. However, the reason this article was still important for me to write is that I wanted to talk about what it feels like to be heartbroken. I wanted to just kick off this series with my true feelings about how this went down and all the awful things that invade your mind when you’re going through a time like this because heartbreak isn’t as simple as packing up your shit, going out with your friends, and finding someone new. I was with my boyfriend for almost three years. We lived together. We traveled together. We met each other’s families. We were truly part of the fabric of each other’s lives and you don’t just ‘get over’ something like that. It takes time.

For me the first thing that set in was honestly panic. I panic because I had been planning on the relationship lasting. When I thought ahead to the future, the relationship had been taken into account. Future travels, living arrangements, opportunities, etc. But now that the relationship no longer exists, my plans have gone up in smoke. All my plans and my future have to be rethought, different plans have to be made and I’ve lost a key supporter in those plans, so I panic.

I’m not sure what the next feeling is called but basically after I’m done panicking, I have an intense need for closure. Especially with a relationship as long and intense as this last one, I feel that there should almost be a formal conversation, splitting up everything, and a proper goodbye. We did love each other for a long time and I hate breaking up over time, in pieces, because it doesn’t feel right to me. I respect the other person enough to want to face them in person and honestly, I need to be prepared for the last time I’m ever going to see or hold someone I cared about so deeply for such a long time. I feel I deserve a goodbye so I will do everything in my power to achieve that meeting. However, in the meantime, there are two other emotions that are pretty prevalent throughout this whole process as well –

The first is grief. Grief because I’m losing a best friend. I’m losing a lover. I’m losing all the little things we shared – inside jokes, favors, trips, nicknames. I’m losing an apartment. I’m losing a city. I’m losing the people I met through him. I’m losing a whole life I created and that makes me intensely sad. The hardest part about ending romantic relationships in my mind is that one day you’re best friends, and the next day you’re supposed to be nothing to each other. The part that hurts the most is that eventually you’re just supposed to forget each other and knowing that one day you’ll be forgotten by someone who loved you that much causes almost physical pain. There’s a reason people compare breakups to losing limbs because that’s pretty much how it feels for a while.

The second is anger. I can be a pretty bitter and resentful person when things don’t go how I wanted them to and this is true for breakups as well. With this one, in particular, I went through periods of being so angry that I had even moved to Canada, that I had taken a risk on him when I felt he wasn’t willing to take risks on me. I was angry at the way he handled things the last few months and even in the last few weeks before everything was decided. Part of how I have to cope, is finding the bad things in the other person. Somehow prove to myself that I dodged a bullet in the end, so I pick on things about the other person in my mind and I foster anger towards them. I convince myself that they’re a coward and immature and that they don’t deserve my time. These truly are ugly feelings but when I’m emotionally compromised, they’re hard to keep at bay.

Lastly, the nastiest feelings of all – the insecurity feelings. Why wasn’t I good enough? What did I do wrong? What could I have done? Was I stupid for believing him when he said x? Why did I say that didn’t matter? Was I stupid for hanging around as long as I did? Was I stupid to move for him? I know the logical answer to all these questions, but it doesn’t stop the doubt creeping in. Knowing doesn’t stop me from nitpicking everything in the last six months to uncover ‘the reason’ for all of this. Knowing doesn’t stop me from looking at myself in the mirror and tearing apart all the things that could possibly be considered unlovable about myself. I know it’s wrong, but it feels like I missed something. It feels like I was on a sinking ship that I refused to recognize was sinking because I was just too dumb to notice. It feels like I was tricked or betrayed, but I blame myself because it should have been obvious. I know these are irrational thoughts but when someone flips a switch on you like that you blame yourself for not noticing earlier because there must’ve been signs right?

This was horrible to write. If I’d been writing this on paper, there would be tear stains all over this article. I don’t enjoy wading through these feelings especially since normally I’m only ever experiencing one or two at a time, not all of them, because they’re painful. It’s embarrassing to tell people you’re feeling truly awful because someone else broke your heart. You wonder if other people are wondering what’s wrong with you and then you feel even more inadequate.

But the thing is – I’m not inadequate. I’m not stupid. I’m not oblivious and I am way past good enough. But these feelings are there anyways. Creeping around in my head, causing me to sob at work in the bathroom in between meetings, preventing me from getting out of bed in the morning, clawing at my reflection in the mirror.

*EDIT: I wrote the above paragraphs about a month and a half ago now. I couldn’t bring myself to release it or start this process until I felt a lot better. Part of me felt like posting this would put a stamp of finality on everything that I wasn’t ready to commit to. I’m at a much different point in the process than I was when I wrote this, and I’m definitely feeling a lot more stable now. However, I still thought it was important to release it in it’s more raw form because heartbreak can be ugly. The feelings associated with it are ugly and uncomfortable and even just feeling them can cause guilt on top of everything else. But when you’re in pain, rationality can sometimes take a backseat and that’s ok if that’s what it takes to get better. It’s important to recognize that no matter how ridiculous the feelings, you’re still feeling them, and they still affect you and it’s necessary to acknowledge them so you can eventually pull yourself and move forward.

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Beautiful shot taken by my sister at Knossos in Crete

 

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How to Get a Promotion

When I first started out in my career, I came across a ton of articles about how women were consistently passed over for promotions for a startlingly simple reason – they didn’t ask for them. Whether these articles held much truth or not is another matter, but they affected me in the fact that I became hyper-aware of the promotion structure and my own abilities related to it. I wanted to make sure I was taking my career into my own hands and that I was being proactive instead of simply waiting for people to notice all my hard work. I’ve since asked for and received a promotion and I know this first step when you’re starting out can be hard so I wanted to share how I did it.

The first thing you should do is examine your work ethic. Inventory your recent endeavors and be critically honest with yourself. Have you been putting in the work? Have you been meeting your deadlines and quotas? Do customers and clients like working with you? Are you making the company money? Are you truly adding value? Ask yourself all these questions and examine your answers. You may find that you’ve just been skating by and that means you’re not ready. If not, you should still dig deeper and figure out why. Maybe you hate this job or the company or maybe you’re simply bored, but either way, your work isn’t reflecting what you’re capable of and it’s not deserving of moving up.

Next, try to get feedback from others. Performance reviews can be ideal for this but oftentimes they don’t occur frequently enough to be valuable. Ask people you work with frequently, ask your boss, ask the people you manage. Ask your clients. Whoever you feel comfortable asking – ask them! Tell them you’re always looking to improve and ask what you could be doing better. This will help add color to your self-assessment and help you see if you are giving yourself the same amount of credit others are.

Alright, so let’s say you have been working your butt off, adding value like crazy, clients and colleagues love you and you’re itching to take on more – now you’ve got to pitch yourself. You know you’ve been working hard, other people know you’re good at your job, so you’ve got a solid foundation to pitch. First thing I did once I got to this point was write down all the things I’ve been doing right lately, and I also wrote how they compared to how good I was at them when I started. Showing growth and improvement is a huge plus because it demonstrates that you are coachable and will most likely continue to improve. Have a good handle on all your positives, but also write down the things you can improve on and create high-level plans for getting better at those things. You want to focus on your positives, but you also don’t want to be taken by surprise if someone throws one of your lacking points back at you. You should be self-aware on all fronts before moving to the next step…

…which is is to schedule time with whoever the relevant party for a promotion is. Mine was my direct manager. Promotions and personnel changes ultimately go through C-suite management at my company, but my boss was the one I had to convince to fight for me at that level. I scheduled a specific time with him to talk about my progress thus far. My strategy was to approach this from a learning perspective. I knew I had been putting in good work, but I had to ask how he thought I had been doing, and what he thought was necessary for me to do to progress to the next level.

The thing is, I wasn’t comfortable yet just marching in and saying I deserve a raise and here’s why. Maybe someday I will be, but being so young in my career, I felt it was more advantageous for me to come from the perspective of wanting to improve and learn, rather than seeming entitled, no matter how much I really believed I deserved it. This approach took a little bit longer than maybe it would have otherwise, but it ultimately worked. I got proper feedback on my progress, my improvement points, and was able to prove that I deserved to move up.

Lastly, no matter how great you are or how deserving you may be of a promotion, it’s also important to realize that there might be external factors that could influence your progress. Your company may not have the budget to increase headcount or offer raises at the moment, there may be some management turmoil going on that you’re not privy to, they might be trying to restructure company hierarchy so promoting people doesn’t make sense at the moment. There are tons of things that could be happening so it’s important to be able to have those conversations as well.

If your manager declines your pitch, then you should ask why not. The answer to this question is important, because if it’s something as simple as title rearranging, then maybe you are ok to wait, but if they don’t give you a clear answer or vague feedback, then that could also be a sign that you’re in the wrong environment for your progress. Don’t be afraid to judge your managers and superiors just as critically as they may be judging you. You don’t ever have to offer that feedback, but it’s important to recognize it so you can change your situation if necessary.

Ultimately, if you’re only after a promotion for a title change or more money, then you probably shouldn’t be pursuing it. A promotion usually means those things, but it also usually means more responsibility and you should be ready to grow and change accordingly. This is why I felt it so important to learn about myself from this process so that I could truly be ready for that extra accountability when the time came. If they had given it to me when I hadn’t been ready, then I probably would have floundered under the pressure and that’s ultimately a loss for me and a loss for the company, and nobody wants that.

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The beautiful Calgary Library. I don’t live here anymore, but the library is still kickass

What is Sexy?

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of fanfiction. THAT’S RIGHT, go ahead and judge me. If you don’t know what fanfiction is, it is when someone takes either the story or characters (or both) of a certain piece of work, whether it be a novel, tv show, movie, etc, and create their own story based on it.

Now, the reason I bring this up is because there’s a lot of sex and romance in fanfiction. People grow attached to certain characters, and certain character relationships, and want to create a space for those feelings. Unfortunately, because anybody and everybody can write whatever and however they want, there are a lot of bad sex scenes written out there. We are talking BAD. Worse than Fifty Shades of Gray. Worse than those period novels with half-naked men on the front. Worse than a Twilight fever dream.  Just bad.

Although some of these scenes are bad because the actual word choice and syntax is bad (who knew there were such terrible synonyms for ‘thrust’?), I also think some of them are bad because they focus on the wrong things. Obviously, I’m no expert, I just read a lot of these stories, but what I’ve noticed is that people like to focus too much on the actual sex part.

See…the thing is…sex isn’t actually that sexy. Sex is messy, animalistic, and if you think about it for too long – gross. The sexy part of sex is in how it feels, not what it is. But these writers focus on graphic portrayals of the act, rather than the feelings, which ultimately leaves the reader feeling detached and often cringing at the crude descriptions instead of losing themselves to the material.

As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert at writing these scenes (although, now I’m thinking I should give it a shot…), but the scenes that truly get your heart racing have perfected something that the others completely miss.

Anticipation. Apprehension. Tension. Uncertainty.

Maybe it’s just me, but the ‘will they? won’t they?’ feeling is where it’s at. One character noticing a flash of skin on the other. Eyes looking at lips. Lips brushing but not touching. Pulling close, pushing away. This can be maddening to consume in media, because you just want the characters to get on with it, but the tension it creates makes that eventual sex scene so much more believable and gratifying.

The feeling all this build up creates is similar to hanging out with your crush. Remember having a crush? Remember when we were all fifteen and hormonally imbalanced and everything felt extra EXTRA heightened? There were all these little things that happened before you eventually kissed. Hands brushing, lingering hugs, wandering eyes. Your heart beats unnaturally fast, your breathing is shallow, and there’s all this tingling in your stomach and below.

Movies and TV have a leg up on writing in this respect because they can simply show us the characters, and build up the tension through good editing and music. Reading forces a little bit more imagination into the mix which means these scenes must be treated that much more delicately.

So why am I writing this? Most of us probably aren’t trying to figure out how to write smut better in our spare time (no judgment if you are though), but I’m writing this to explain why the sex can never be the only sexy part of the journey. In media, and in life. It’s the hunt, the anticipation, the tension, the foreplay, that ultimately makes sex truly sexy. We often dismiss these feelings as merely a means to an end, but if we actually examine ourselves closer, we’ll find that we enjoy them. We want to work for it, we want the uncertainty, we want the chase, we want to go after things just out of our reach to see if we can catch them, and when we do, it’s just that much more satisfying.

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Me, attempting to be sexy. PC: The extraordinary Clara Yu

 

 

 

Overpromising & Underdelivering

A while ago I was working on a project with a client and I was getting great feedback from them but I couldn’t figure out why. Quite frankly, I hadn’t done anything extraordinary or above and beyond recently, yet the client seemed especially impressed and appreciative of my work. So I went and asked someone else close to the project why they thought I was getting such positive feedback and her answer was almost embarrassingly simple, she said – you do what you say you’re going to do.

At first, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why there was such a positive reaction to simply doing what I said I was going to do when I said I was going to do it. That sounds pretty basic to me. However, she explained to me that that is actually a pretty rare quality, and the reason I was getting so much positive feedback from the other person was because he wasn’t used to working with people like that on his team.

Now, this sounds pretty ridiculous. I got positive feedback for just doing my job? Maintaining the status quo? But then I thought about it a little harder, and you know what? Actually doing what you say you’re going to do IS a rare quality.

Think about your average day for a moment. How many commitments do you make? Sure, I’ll have that report to you in an hour; I’ll call you right back; I’ll meet you at 6 for dinner; Of course, I’ll try that new recipe you sent me; etc. But we’re selfish creatures, if something else comes up, or if we get distracted, sometimes things fall off of our radar, or we’re late, or we completely forget about them.

But I almost never do that. From a professional perspective, I’m painstakingly organized, so it’s never like I’ll forget to do something. Additionally, I have a level of work ethic that I simply expect of myself. I don’t make unrealistic promises so if I say I will have something done by this day or this hour, it will be done by then no questions asked. From a personal perspective, I view it as an insult to waste someone’s time so I don’t like to be late or to cancel or reschedule things last minute. Furthermore, if I say I will take someone up on an invite or a recommendation, I will actually do it. I will actually come to see you, read the book, watch the show, or try the food you recommend because I view it as a perfect opportunity to try new things and strengthen relationships.

Maybe most of us don’t realize how many promises or committments we make in a day. We use words like ‘for sure’, ‘definitely’, ‘absolutely’, so that we technically can’t be told we promised to do something, but they still create an aura of accountability. When we don’t hold up our end of these proto-promises, it still creates these little micro disappointments. You can see them on your bosses face when you tell him you couldn’t get to something but you’ll do it now, or when your friend asks if you read that book she was raving about to you and you say you totally forgot about it.

I do what I say I will do. It’s done when I say it will be done. If I set a goal for myself, it gets done. I show up when I say I’ll show up. These things sound simple, but maybe they’re not. Maybe we’re all in the habit of overpromising and underdelivering and we’re afraid to face our actual productivity capabilities in a day? Or maybe it’s the socially acceptable thing to do – take on more than you can deliver? Or maybe none of us think hard enough about the little things we commit to others?

I can’t say how I developed the skill of doing what I say I’ll do. In my mind, if I say I’ll do it, there’s just no other option. Turns out, that earns me a lot more respect than I thought.

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AMAZING hot chocolate at Dandelion Cafe in SF – courtesy of Ashley Chung who never underdelivers as a friend 🙂 

Your Fitness Goals Are Working Against You

Recently I’ve been having a lot of conversations about fitness with a bunch of people (hence last week’s post), and they have been telling me their goals and asking for tips on how to achieve them.

The thing is, fitness is not rocket science. You want to lose weight? Eat fewer calories than you burn. You want to be skinny-fat? Eat less. You want to be bulky? Eat more and lift heavy. I know I’m oversimplifying here, but so often I find that these are not the actual hard parts of fitness. It’s not that difficult to work out or to plan a food regime. The hard part is all mental.

However, most people’s fitness goals, have little to do with fitness. They’re usually exclusively aesthetic. People want to be thinner, more muscular looking, or have certain measurements. Obviously, there are ways to accomplish any of these, but the problem that I have with them is that they are exclusively focused on outcome. As in, if this person doesn’t achieve that certain ‘look’ or size, they will have failed. Furthermore, this type of goal setting implies that there is an ‘end’ and fitness never ends. It is a lifestyle. Of course, if you’re trying to achieve something for a specific competition or event then those can act as an endpoints, but most people consider a body type their endpoint.

However, achieving this body can leave a hollow feeling because work to maintain it would have to continue, you can’t just stop when you reach your goal weight and go back to old habits or you won’t keep your supposed ‘goal body’.

I bring this up because I believe this is one of the major reasons people become frustrated and disillusioned with working out or eating healthier. It becomes only about the outcome, and they view everything in between as necessary suffering to achieve said end result. This is particularly difficult because an aesthetic outcome can often be a hollow pursuit and the journey there can have many false starts. Changing your measurements doesn’t occur in a straight line so when people don’t see immediate results, they don’t view the ‘suffering’ as worth it anymore and they stop. Furthermore, it creates no relationship with the journey of becoming healthier so then even if people do reach their ideal body, they aren’t sure how to proceed in keeping it because their entire relationship with fitness has been with that specific outcome this whole time, not with fitness itself.

So when people ask me what they should do to lose weight or look a certain way, the first thing I ask them is why they want to look this way. This makes people stop and think because generally, the reason they want to look a certain way is because they feel they are supposed to look a certain way. Society or someone in their lives has made them feel as though their current appearance isn’t cutting it. Ok, fine, I understand. However, I then caution them that having an aesthetic as their goal can be really demoralizing, especially if they’ve already struggled with body issues in the past. Then I ask them to think not about what they’d like to look like, but what they’d like to be able to do.

Let me explain – Sometimes my shoulders make me insecure. They’re pretty broad and muscular, and there are lots of tops I feel I can’t wear because they’re too delicate or don’t stretch right across the muscle.  When I look at magazines, I see women with slim, sometimes even dainty shoulders and everything from necklaces to sweaters seems to just hang so perfectly on them. So sometimes, I think about trying to lose the muscle and making my shoulders and arms very slim. But then I think about what my shoulders can do. They were built on swimming for hours every day, and now I can lift heavy things, rock climb, do all sorts of exercises with my own body – including pullups, I can lift suitcases into overhead bins for old people on planes, I can move furniture around by myself, the list goes on and on.  They’re really strong muscles. In order to slim down my shoulders, I’d have to lose some of the muscle, and I wouldn’t be able to do the same things I can do now. And that’s not worth it to me. Once I come to that conclusion, I realize being insecure about my shoulders is fruitless because I wouldn’t be willing to compromise their abilities for looks anyways. I take pride in my strength and as a result, I also take pride in how I look.

Consequently, this approach to your body works for two reasons – one, it takes the pressure off what you look like. Your looks will fluctuate from day to day, as your mood changes, how much you ate on one day, as you age, and we all know logically that it makes no sense to compare ourselves to people who have been redone and retouched. Two – it forces you to think more about the journey of your body than the outcome. If you’re thinking about what you want your body to be able to accomplish, whether it’s dancing, being flexible, lifting heavy, or running far, you start to enjoy the journey so much more because that progress truly is trackable and more rewarding than dropping pounds or inches. And honestly, if your goal was aesthetic in nature, you’ll probably end up accomplishing it anyways based on your functional goals.

I have met people who have been successful in their fitness journey through aesthetic goals, but I would say they are in the minority. Of course it can work, but I think it takes a type of mental fortitude that most people don’t have when it comes to fitness and body image. But if that’s what gets you going, then you do you! But for myself, and for most other people I meet, it can be so discouraging to focus only on how your workouts are translating to your appearance. It is so much more satisfying to realize you’re able to run farther, do that crazy squat jump move, or have more energy in a day, because that’s what makes the journey fun too. It also forces you to think about the pride you have in your body, what it can do, and what it needs. Once you’re proud of what you’re body can do, it’s a lot easier to be proud of what it looks like as well.

 

 

 

The Hardest Part of Working Out Isn’t Working Out

The hardest part of working out is not when your muscles burn from that last rep, and it’s not when you feel like puking after sprints, it’s starting the workout in the first place. When asking someone how they feel after a workout, you might get adjectives like tired, sick, or dead, but if you ask someone if they regretted doing it, they almost never say no. Because no matter how winded you are after a hard workout, there is a sense of accomplishment and of self-satisfaction that you completed it. Once you’ve started a set, chances are, you’ll finish it.

So the hard part then, is starting. It’s overcoming the mental blocks to getting to that point. Once you’re in the swing of things, it’s almost like pure momentum can carry you the rest of the way – you want to keep going. But when you come home from work and you’re tired and grimy, in that moment, the last thing you want to do is put on your workout clothes, go to the gym and do a full-on workout. If you really think about it, it’s not the workout itself that is the dreadful part, it’s all the parts in between, the admin parts, the drudgery. No matter when in the day you work out, there is always a tiny voice that says, ugh, it would just be so much easier to not.

So here are a couple ideas if you’re having trouble getting through that chasm of minutiae before your workout.

Idea number one – make things as easy as possible for yourself. When I used to workout in the morning, I would sometimes sleep in my workout bottoms, and put the rest of the clothes right next to the bed so I could change without having to even get up. I have a friend with a long commute who works out in the evening so I recommended that she change before even leaving the office so when she’s home she’s already ready to go.

Number two – Don’t lose your momentum. On busy days, I almost feel more motivated to workout because I’ve just been running from one commitment to another and the workout would just be another thing I could check off. But if I stop moving, it’s like I lose all of that momentum and just crash. If you’re having a peppy day, don’t stop moving. Don’t come home and flop on the bed, just keep your momentum and push straight on through to your next plan, it’ll be so much easier than stopping and then trying to get the momentum back.

Number three – Take the pressure off. I got this idea from a book*, but basically, it’s to do everything in your power to set yourself up for success and then give yourself permission to stop. So for the gym that means if you’re not feeling it, you have to make yourself get dressed and get to the gym, but if you’re not feeling it once you get there, you give yourself permission to skip your workout. This may sound counterproductive, but you’ll find that if you do all the prep work and set yourself up right, you almost never will actually take yourself up on this imaginary offer. That’s because you already did the hard part, but you gave yourself permission to skip what your body perceives as the hard part. In the end, it almost feels like getting a reward for setting yourself up so well. This one works really well with idea number one as well.

So often, it’s overcoming the mental hurdle of doing something good for ourselves that prevents us from moving forward. I firmly believe that the mental game is what keeps people coming, as well as what keeps people away from developing a fitness habit. The steps above are just a start for when you’re not feeling particularly motivated but you still want to go. The real trick is to find positive reinforcement for yourself. Whatever it truly is that keeps you wanting to come back, harness it, focus on it, and use it to feed your motivation.

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Told myself I had to take this picture for this blog post to get myself to the gym. Once there, I actually did a longer workout than I had originally planned. Trick yourself. 

*the book is “How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big” by Scott Adams. I LOVE this book and highly recommend it to all

Skincare That’s Not Skincare

Isn’t it interesting that at the same time as the rise of the full face, highly contoured, structured eyebrow look, skincare and wearing as little makeup as possible is also having a moment? Companies like Glossier have built their whole brand on the no makeup, makeup look, and skincare companies are cropping up left and right.

Personally, I used to be obsessed with makeup. But that might’ve been in part because I used to struggle a lot with acne, skin discoloration, redness, and undereye bags. I never had anything extreme, like cystic acne, but it was just enough to make me insecure in my skin and enough for me to not only become obsessed with trying to cover it up or distract with dramatic eye makeup, but also to try any and every over the counter product I could get my hands on to make my skin better.

Over the years, I have cured just about all the above mentions (except the undereye bags, they will haunt me forever), using a variety of products, but the things that made the biggest impact on my skin actually weren’t skincare products at all, they were simple lifestyle changes. And no, I’m not talking about eating veggies and exercising, because I was doing those things even when my skin was bad, I’m talking about even SIMPLER things –

If you’ve ever suffered from acne, you’ve heard the tip to not touch your face with your hands. But have you ever thought about all the other things that touch your face? Pillowcases, towels, other people’s hands/faces can all have an impact.

  • Towels in public places like hotels or gyms are usually washed in huge machines with industrial cleaners to ensure their sterilization. However, these types of detergents can sometimes be too harsh on the skin and can cause irritation. Stopping my use of gym towels on my face made a huge difference in breakouts on my forehead and near my eyebrows.
  • When was the last time you washed your sheets? Even if you’re on top of this, I’m still betting you don’t wash your pillowcase often enough. Your face touches that thing for up to eight or nine hours every night and even if you wash your face right before you go to bed, it’s still collecting bacteria and germs every day. Once I started washing my pillowcase every three nights, my skin texture improved dramatically.
  • This is kind of a strange one, but other people’s oils can affect your skin as well. For example, if you have a significant other and you spend time kissing them, the contact with their skin and/or facial hair can also cause irritation. This was never something I actively tried to change, but it’s good to be aware of nonetheless.

Hormones are a real thing and they really do affect your skin. Hormones fluctuate up and down and those surges or dips can often wreak havoc on your skin. When you’re going through puberty, there’s not too much you can do about this, but I found that when I went on birth control, my skin got markedly better. The hormones in the birth control ended up regulating my skin and now the only thing I have to worry about is what will happen to my face when I finally stop taking it one day…

Last but not least, stress can be a major factor in irritating your skin. Every single time I go on vacation, I stop doing all the ‘healthy’ things. I don’t eat that healthy because I want to try all the new foods of a place, I don’t do any formal workouts, and I don’t sleep as much since I’m trying to cram everything into a few weeks at most. However, without fail, every time I go on vacation, even though I’m sometimes treating my body pretty badly, my skin clears up. One time, I was in France and basically lived off of wine, cappuccinos, and a few hours of sleep, for three days and I fucking glowed. I think vacations clear my skin because of the dual effect of letting go of my typical stress, and of being outside so much more than I am normally. When I go to new places, I love to explore and I think my skin reacts well to being outside, especially in arid climates.

It may seem trivial, but taking care of your skin can be a huge confidence booster for both men and women. You’ve heard it before, but your skin is your largest organ and just like the rest of your body, you’re pretty much stuck with the same skin for life – the least you can do is wash your freaking pillowcases.

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I tried not to talk about products in this article but sunscreen is a HUGE factor in improving skin evenness and preventing aging. PC: Kiki Moussetis

The Art of Vulnerability

If you’ve met me, even for only a few minutes, the first few words out of your mouth to describe me would not be anything along the lines of delicate, vulnerable, or emotional. You might say that I sometimes come off as a bit…aloof. This is partly because of my appearance (tall, athletic, with RBF of course), and partly of my own making. For years, I thought I had to handle everything on my own without ever betraying the difficulty of doing so. I thought that displays of excessive emotions, whether good or bad, demonstrated a lack of control, and asking for help? Oh my god, that was PEAK humiliation for me. I was pretty much this way all the way through my first year of university. I would bestow tough love advice on friends who got caught up in their feelings, and related the most to people, who, like me, didn’t rely too much on others.

This way of living took it’s toll though. I found that I would put a lot of pressure on myself, and I would implode frequently at home crying with my mom or venting to my sister. I suppose I only allowed myself to be vulnerable with my family because they were the only ones whom I completely trusted to actually support me without viewing me as weaker. In addition, there were many times when relying on others would have helped me do something faster or more effectively, but instead, I viewed it as safer to go it alone.

Then, finally, in my second year of university – two huge things happened.

First, I went to Shanghai to study abroad. I could literally write a book on how much this experience changed me, but for the purpose of this topic, it’s relevant because I couldn’t access my usual support system as easily. The time difference between Chicago and Shanghai is 13 hours so calls could only happen when planned. Furthermore, even though I had already gone across the country for school, it was quite another feeling to be across the globe. In California, I had always had it in the back of my mind that my parents could fly out and get me if things got bad. In China, I felt truly on my own.

The second is that the living situation in Shanghai was extremely close quarters. There were roughly 45 of us in the study abroad program, and we all lived in a couple buildings in our own mini campus. We were pretty much all living right on top of one another. Consequently, it was difficult not to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of every single person. At Pepperdine, there were quiet spaces you could go if you actually needed to be alone, but in Shanghai, even the most private areas were still public to an extent. So if you were going through something, you almost had to share it with at least a few people.

This was extremely uncomfortable for me at first. I felt as though I couldn’t escape the constant clamor of others and I’m sure I came off rude and distant more than once. But slowly, I realized that for the first time in my life I found myself surrounded by people who I recognized as happy, disciplined, and ambitious, but who also consistently asked for help, and consistently displayed emotion around others.

Never before had those two ideas been reconciled in my mind. But never before had I been able to observe my friends in such close quarters and truly realize that behind every face, no matter how tough, there is a story.  Nobody can be in control, happy, or strong ALL the time, including myself. The most amazing part was that when I did start opening up a bit more, nobody thought less of me for it. They still viewed me as a capable, strong person.

Although this was a huge personal breakthrough for me, the reason I just wrote almost seven hundred words on it is because this type of thinking is a skill. Recognizing vulnerability in others, and tying it to your own is a form of empathy than can be used in any situation. Of course, this is indispensable when it comes to your personal relationships, but it can be amazingly helpful professionally as well. For example, if a client or boss comes down much harder on you than normal, before getting angry or defensive, just take one minute, sixty seconds, to think about why. It’s actually super easy to do this because (if you’ve done this right) you’ve already spent time analyzing why you yourself get angry, frustrated, or disappointed. If you know that you get snappy when you haven’t eaten or right after you’ve talked to your mom, then you can afford the same grace to someone else. It doesn’t get much credit in buzzy business articles because it’s a soft, subjective skill, but I can promise you from personal experience that when people feel like you ‘get’ them, that goes a loooong way.

 

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You can be strong and vulnerable at the same time.

Feeling like a loser? That’s because you’re thinking like one.

Most people are resistant to change right? Do you know why though? Do you know why we get this anxious little feeling in our stomachs when someone tells us things have to be different? It’s because we really don’t like to have our status quo upset (STICK TO THE STATUS QUO! We could learn a lot from High School Musical, honestly). We don’t want to change because the current situation is the known situation. The current situation is safe. The current situation works, even if it’s not ideal.

In my mind, there are two types of change – forced change, and sought change. The first type is when your circumstances change beyond your control. Like when your company decides to start a huge initiative, or when harsh weather alters driving patterns, or when you get broken up with. Although all these changes are outside your control, it’s important to note here that in almost all scenarios, you still have choices. For example, if your company starts a new initiative, you can either stay and get involved, stay and be passively supportive, stay and be passively against it, stay and be outspoken and against it, or you can leave the company altogether.

The second type of change, the far more common type, is sought after change. We seek out change more than we realize and yet we still have the audacity to be offended by it when things actually do change. We look for new jobs, we apply for those jobs, and then we agonize over whether to take said jobs. We look for new people to date, we date them, and then we agonize over next moves in the relationship.

I know exactly zero people who have not sought out any changes in their lives. Change truly is an inevitability of life and yet there are some people out there who resist it at every turn. But as I mentioned above, most of the time, the change was sought after in the first place. So it’s not as if people don’t want to improve and change their lives, it’s that they are desperately afraid to turn their back on the known entity that is their current situation.

Why do we want to hang on to the situation we’re already in? Because it’s fucking hard to change. Not only are the logistics of change hard (i.e. moving states or countries is expensive and time consuming), but the mental and emotional impact of change can be brutal. It’s not fun to be out of your element, to be the ignorant or inexperienced one, especially if you’re used to filling that role in your current life. It’s tough to give up the things you are already confident in to replace them with potentially better, yet still unknown things.

Personally, I really try to embrace change as much as possible. Of course, there are things I would hate to change – I would hate to give up my friends, family, or boyfriend. But I try to be as open as possible to new career opportunities, new social opportunities, travel, cultures, and locations to live. This comes at a cost though. Each change carries its own emotional weight. *Moving to a new city, state, or country is not easy. Starting over is not easy. Traveling alone to a new place is not easy. Dating new people is not easy. Starting a new job is not easy. And even though every single one of these things that I’ve done has been really hard, they’ve also been supremely rewarding. If I had not actively sought and embraced these changes, I would not be the person I am today. I would not be as independent, I would not be as empathetic, I would not be as intelligent or open-minded, and who knows what else I wouldn’t be! So even though I am fully aware of how difficult change is, I still seek it out, over and over again, because I know that it makes me more confident, and I am absolutely sure that there is always something to be gained.

If you’re struggling with making a change, then try flipping your perspective. All change and situations have two sides, but it’s up to you as to which side you want to view those.

 

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My sister and I are both masters of embracing change. Thanks mom and dad?

 

 

 

How to Create Your Personal Style

An idea that always intrigued me from the time I started receiving glossy, overstyled Seventeen magazine, was the idea of personal style. There would always be articles about people who found a perfume when they were twenty and it became their signature scent, never changed in years to come. Then there were women who never left the house without heels on, and men who always wore blazers no matter how casual the look. Now the concept of a uniform has re-emerged, popularized by the likes of Zuckerberg and Jobs, and I’m seeing articles about people who wear almost the same thing to work every day – something classic and comfortable that they feel confident in.

It is interesting to me that this idea of finding a personal style is able to exist right alongside our rapid consumer culture. Stores like H&M and Zara change their inventories weekly in an effort to stay ahead of trends (which also seem to come and go by the week), and to persuade their customers to buy more. Every fashion magazine you pick up during any month will have at least one list of ‘must-haves’ for that moment, that list, of course, being ever changing if not also numerous.

The idea of personal style used to weigh on me because I was consistently distracted by all the different options that were possible, yet I still wanted to develop a sense of who I was through my appearance and maintain it. I’m still a long ways away, but I think at the age of twenty-four I’m finally figuring it out.

How does one cultivate a personal style? Number one rule is to pay attention. I don’t mean pay attention to trends, magazines, or influencers. I mean really pay attention to how the things you already own make you feel. Instead of just always paying attention to what the next best thing is as dictated to you by social media, pay attention to how you feel while wearing certain outfits or looks. Pay attention to how different cuts and fabrics feel against your skin and form to your body. I don’t mean just do a cursory glance in the mirror to make sure it looks fine, you should enjoy your appearance when you look in the mirror and anything less means these items may not be right for you.

For example, I never wear yellow. I always find that yellow looks washed out on me, and I don’t like the color all that much to begin with. I don’t feel good when I wear it. I feel sallow and unsure of myself, especially when I compare it to how I feel when I wear red or green. So I don’t care if ‘mustard’ or ‘neon’ is in at the moment, you couldn’t pay me to start buying yellow dresses.

Number two rule is that it is necessary to have style inspiration but with a caveat – you shouldn’t pick someone you can’t actually emulate. Rihanna is widely regarded as a supreme style icon but she is an impractical one to follow for numerous reasons. Her wardrobe is ever changing, extremely expensive, and not suitable for most of us to wear on a daily basis. It is still possible to draw inspiration from her looks, but it would be hard to pin down a more manageable version of what she does. Doing just a little bit of research into the people you admire can help you find the ones you’d actually want and be able to channel in your life. One extra step you might take here is finding icons as close to your body type as possible so that you can get a better idea of how certain styles might look on you. I know this can be hard for many, as fashion is a grossly underrepresented industry, but if you have the option it can be super helpful.

Last rule is that as long as you keep to rule number one, there’s no reason to actually find a personal style or follow any style icons. Part of the fun for you might be trying out different looks or having different outfits for different moods. Your style might have its personality in the fact that it is ambiguous and ever-changing. As long as you are still paying attention to what makes you feel good rather than what other people say, then you have still found a style that works for you and there is no reason to change. For example, I’ve also started to be inspired by aesthetics, seasons, and locations rather than specific people. In the summertime, I want to feel Mediterranean. I wear a lot of blue, white, flowy, easy fabrics to match, but it’s not based on anyone specific. I am trying to evoke a good feeling within myself through my appearance rather than try and copy one of my favorite fashionistas.

The basis for my personal style development is wanting to look polished no matter what the occasion. We’re talking lots of neutrals but in nice fabrics. Basics but better. Color in my wardrobe is minimal, but if worn, it is designed to be noticed and those pieces make me feel super confident. I take a lot of inspiration from the airport looks celebrities wear, and ‘french girl’ style as well as locations and seasons as described above. Slowly but surely, I’m getting to the point where I love everything in my closet and really feel like it represents me, not somebody who I thought I should be.

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A perfect example of my style being influenced by my surroundings