Why I Don’t Hate My Body

I’ve been privileged in the fact that I have never truly hated my body. Sure I’ve had bad days where I harp on my supposed physical flaws more than normal, but for the vast majority of my life (yes, even including puberty) I have maintained an above-average level of body confidence.

This can be attributed to a few things throughout my childhood, but perhaps the most important one was that I learned to not hate my body through example.

Growing up, my mom was the main female figure in my life. I have always thought my mom was tall, beautiful, and strong. And perhaps this can be attributed to a child’s reverence for their parent but here’s the thing – my mom has never, ever given me a reason to believe that she isn’t any of those things.

I can’t remember my mom ever saying she hated her own body – or even really expressing that much discontentment about it at all. Her body is her body and although she strives to take care of it, it doesn’t consume her life. She’s never acted ashamed of it and has appeared to embrace any scars or imperfections that it endured.

Hold on for a second and think about that. I was living in my mom’s house for eighteen years and in all of that time, I cannot think of ONE time where my mom seemed to be depressed about her body. Not ONE time where her insecurity seemed to get the better of her. Not ONE time where she tried to hide her body out of shame. That was a powerful message for me.

Furthermore, her attitude towards caring for her body was always rooted in feeling rather than aesthetics. My mom loves to run. And growing up, I remember her always coming back from a run saying something like “that felt good” or “I feel so much better now”. It was never about losing weight or shaping her body to fit some sort of ideal. She ran because it FELT good and she enjoyed it. Simple as that. This is HUGE to the way I approach fitness nowadays. The goal for me is never really to look a certain way, it’s to feel a certain way, and the way I look is merely a by-product of that feeling. This makes my fitness habit not only more sustainable, but it makes me look at my body positively no matter what it looks like on a given day, because I learned that the act of taking care of it is what actually improves my mood – not the mirror.

When it came to diet, my family always ate relatively healthy, but my mom has a huge sweet tooth. And if she ate a whole bunch of chocolate in one sitting – she never expressed any real guilt over it, she would enjoy the chocolate and move on with her life. This may seem small, but I realized that I, too, don’t have to feel guilty for enjoying sweets or anything supposedly ‘bad’ for me. I just enjoy it and move on.

Because my mom has always taken such good care of her body – she’s never been limited. When I was little she would be able to wrestle and do tickle fights with me and my sister. She was able to wipe the floor with us in basketball (this one is probably still true), and she could walk or hike for miles if a trip demanded it. Even now, she’s still able to participate in any and all activities our family encounters. Her body never limits her because she looks after it.

My mom is over fifty years old now (I hope she doesn’t kill me for exposing that) and she could still pass for being over a decade younger. She doesn’t work out like a maniac, doesn’t do any crazy diets, she’s had two kids, but she’s still able to be active and participate in pretty much anything that comes her way. So that’s the ideal I learned to strive towards. I don’t ever need to look a certain way, but should strive to feel a certain way and by doing so, I don’t ever have to limit myself in the process.

My mom’s birthday is this week and there is so much to thank her for, but a blog post is merely a blog post so I wanted to focus on something that she probably didn’t even realize she did for me, but that has made a huge impact on my self-confidence. Body image is something that so many women and men struggle with every day and I’m lucky enough to have a mom that protected me from most of the insecurity the media tells me I’m supposed to have.

Happy early birthday mom! You’re killing it.

 

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PC for the first photo: Kiki Moussetis; PC for this photo: Dad. Both photos taken in Greece

 

 

Making or Breaking Your Habits

I’ve been talking a lot about productivity lately, and I’ve mentioned how important my own habits are to my goals and routines. I get comments on those posts like, ‘How do you (workout, practice language, cook, write) every day? It seems like a lot so how do you find the motivation to do it?’ The answer to those questions is simple – those activities are simply habits so my brain and body require less willpower to do those activities. 

The question people really should be asking is ‘How did you form the habit to do ‘x’ in the first place?’ because that’s the hard part. Once something is a habit, it’s not as difficult anymore, portions of it become automatic, the feeling is so ingrained, it doesn’t take as much effort. 

But forming a new habit? It requires a lot of effort. The concept of inertia fits perfectly here. Inertia is defined as matter’s tendency to stay at rest if already at rest, or alternatively, to stay in motion, if already in motion. 

The habit of working out is the best example. Before you are in the habit of working out, it takes a huge amount of willpower, effort, and motivation to make yourself go to the gym – your body wants to stay at rest. But once it becomes a habit – your body is in motion – and it wants to continue that way so it becomes easier. 

So how do you do this? How do you form a new habit? I’ll use my own decision to seriously commit to practicing language without the rigor of a classroom to turn to since graduating university. 

First you have to answer the ‘why?’. Why is forming a new habit important to you? Is it to improve your health? Is it to learn a new skill? How will it better your life? I chose to start my personal language journey with Greek. It was specifically important to me to improve my speaking skills in order to converse with my family more easily. That goal kept me going and expanded my language practice to my others of Mandarin and Spanish. 

Next, you gotta have a plan right? What we be the actual habits you practice to achieve the goal of starting in the first place? For my goal this meant practicing with Duolingo and flashcards that I made, every single day, as well as having a weekly lesson with a paid tutor (putting some money on the line helps any goal), and outlining my goal to my dad who makes a concerted effort to speak in Greek with me even though English would be far easier for the both of us. 

Lastly, find something to hold on to when it gets tough – because it will get tough, especially when you’re first starting. For me, I reflect after every tutoring session on how accomplished I feel and I hold onto that feeling. Every time I ever even consider skipping a day of practice or skipping a tutoring session, I remember how good I feel afterward and that’s enough to get me to push through.  

Like everything worthwhile, habits are hard to form, and in the early stages, they are also easy to break. But if you can find that thing to keep you going, habits also have the double edge of being difficult to break once they’re ingrained within you.

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New York Public Library – taking a quick two day break from my habits 🙂 

Hello? Yes it’s the High Standard Police

I wrote this post a couple weeks back about how much I get done in a day. I got quite a few responses on and offline showing interest and/or amazement at my strict productivity routines. 

These routines come at a cost though. Yes, I get pretty much every single thing I want to get done – done. But it requires a huge amount of planning, little room for error, and almost zero room for true spontaneity. 

Consider for a moment what your life could look like if you implemented my routines. Maybe you’d feel productive, motivated, fit, busy. Now imagine what it must be like to live with me. 

Structured, strict, intense. 

When I was younger, believe it or not,  I was even more uptight, so my sister bore the brunt of my unyielding need for routine. For example, I needed to be half-hour early to school (elementary school) – don’t ask why, there was no good reason – and if my sister put this arrival time in jeopardy, I lost my mind. I started screaming, crying, yelling at her to hurry up. 

I have since mellowed out in my responses on the surface to unpredictability, but it still causes a sense of panic internally all the same. 

My routines also require a huge amount of discipline. It’s not easy to make myself workout, study, work, prepare, and plan every single day. I hold myself to a pretty high standard. I basically want to be good at everything – and this pressure on myself is ever-present. 

If I happen to be in a relationship, I treat it the same as my other endeavors – I prioritize it, make time for it, and work on it. But I also end up holding my partners to the same standards I hold myself, and when my expectations aren’t met, disappointment is inevitable. 

Consequently, I always feel caught. I know putting my expectations on others is unfair, and a surefire way to experience disappointment more often than satisfaction, but I also feel like I deserve someone who also holds themselves to high standards. I feel like if the other person doesn’t want to hold themselves to a similar bar then the relationship is doomed to fail anyway, because I will always be pushing forward on myself, on the relationship, on everything –  no matter what. 

I haven’t really figured out how to feel about this part of myself yet. I know that holding myself to high standards is one of the things I like best about myself, but it might be hindering my relationships with others and causing unnecessary frustration. 

For now, I’m not planning on backing off – I do have a lot of shit to do – but I do want to spend some time learning about the areas where I am willing to compromise because ultimately, sweating the small stuff won’t get me anywhere.

How I Plan My Life

I get a lot done in a day – I workout, I practice language, I read, I write, I do a full work day, I spend time catching up with friends and family,, I drink three liters of water, I have a religious skincare routine, and usually am still getting about 7 hours of sleep per night. 

Over the course of a week, I fit in even more – work on my blog, working on my new business, progress on my long term goals, social events, running errands, meal prepping/cooking, cleaning, and laundry. 

I don’t list out all of these things to brag, I list them out to provide context as to what the texture of my day to day and week to week end up looking like. Because there would be no way for me to get all of this done if my real talent weren’t time management. 

First of all, I’ve never been a procrastinator – I was always that kid who did homework as soon as it was assigned. I have been an obsessive planner and organizer all my life.

So to be fair, although I’ve never had to fight an uphill battle against my nature to get things done, there are a few extra things I’ve learned along the way that almost anyone can apply to try and get more done in a day. 

  1. The Lists – I keep many different lists because it allows me to get all my tasks and thoughts out of my head and then I’m never in danger of forgetting anything. The most common lists I keep are as follows – 
    1. The Daily To-Do List – I make this every night before bed and doing it every night at that time allows my mind freedom to sleep without worrying I will forget something by morning. This list includes mundane things, work things, as well as don’t-forget-this things. 
    2. The Planner – I keep a planner to allow me to look ahead on a monthly and weekly basis. The Daily List is always built from the planner. 
    3. Miscellaneous – I also keep other lists on my phone for wish list items, books I want to read, and recommendations I receive. It allows me to keep it all in one place, refer to them when I need it and once again – not forget anything!I
  2. Productive Distraction – If I’m feeling a bit distracted at work, or my mind needs a break from a task. I will switch to working on one of my personal projects for 15 or twenty minutes. Rather than scrolling through social media or distracting my coworkers by chatting them up, I will work on my blog, work on some writing, or follow up on things for my external projects during this mini-break. When I return to my day job tasks, I am more efficient, but I also fit in some of my own goals in the process.  Even this post was written during a couple of those little spurts. 
  3. Prioritize your Time – This is a more advanced build off of the to do list item. Usually there are things that are more important to get done in a day. You have deadlines, meetings or other commitments that are more fixed as opposed to other work. I tend to block off specific times to get these done. Meetings are easy – block off the meeting time, plus whatever time you need to prep. If you have a deliverable due, block off a relative time block for the five days preceding to work on it and make sure it’s good to go. You get the idea. Certain things in life deserve more attention and that’s important to know and plan for. USE YOUR CALENDAR to your advantage!
  4. Habits – The reason I’m able to work out, read, write, drink water, study language, and take care of my skin every single day is because those things are all habits for me at this point. If you make the things that are super important to you a habit, then you start breaking down barriers to doing them all the time. Your body will want to work out, your mind will want to spend some time on writing, etc because, without it, your day will feel strange. 
  5. Get Up Early – I know, I know, I’m obnoxious. The reason I add this in though is because usually mornings are the only guaranteed uninterrupted time we can get in a day. I’m up by about 5:15 every morning during the week and usually by 8am on weekends. A vast majority of the things I listed above are done between this time and when I go to work because I don’t have to answer to anyone else at this hour. Evenings may be easier on your sleep schedule but for me they are harder to stick to. Evenings get consumed with social events or reacting to things that happened throughout the day, and the things we wanted to do before fall by the wayside. 

At the end of the day though, you do YOU.  I cannot stress this enough. I have a different brain and predisposition that you do. So what works for me may not work for you. Maybe you already think you’re getting everything you need done. Maybe you’re more productive at nights or on weekends, or your goals are way different. Do some of your own research, there are tons of productivity tips out there, and try some out. Maybe blocking social media on timers helps you. Maybe working out after 10pm is easier for you rather than working out at 5:15am like me. As long as you’re getting done what YOU want to get done, then you’re on the right track and you don’t need my tips or anyone else’s.

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My typical weekday breakfast.

 

Something New

A couple months ago I realized I hadn’t updated my blog in over two years. Two years! Two years ago I was still living in LA, just about to move to Calgary. I had barely been at my very first job for a year, I was still in the beginnings of my past relationship doing long distance. My life looked entirely different. The pictures and layout of the site reflected what I was doing then but it stopped feeling like me a while ago. I had all these categories that didn’t even have any content for because I didn’t actually like to write about them that much. Back then, I genuinely thought that this blog didn’t have a direction, but I was wrong.

So I’ve decided to switch things up. If you view the new site on a computer the header is video which I think is pretty damn snazzy. The aesthetic is a little darker, and a bit simpler because I’ve realized over the past few years that there are a few topics that I trend towards – travel, goals, relationships, and my own personal writings that I’ve begun to publish more of. Feel free to read through the categories, or you can click here for a complete archive of all my posts in the past few years.

I’d also like to say a quick thanks to the people that are regulars here. I don’t do this to make money or to promote myself, it’s just a creative outlet for me, but I appreciate all the feedback I get so much, so if you’ve ever liked a post, written a comment, or even just read one article, thank you.

PC: Kiki Moussetis

Summer Favorites 2019

This summer has been a weird one for me. I quit my prior job and moved out of Calgary in the spring, spent some time in Japan and then finally moved to Chicago and started a new job during the summer and it’s just been crazy getting used to everything since then. In any case, there are a few things that I have grown rather attached to throughout this new season of life, so if you’re looking for new recommendations on anything and everything – check out the below list!

Beauty/Skincare

Shiseido Sunscreen – started using this right before Japan since I spend way more time outdoors when I’m on vacation and I think I finally am able to stick to the whole sunscreen everyday thing. This goes on super thin and smooth and it has SPF 50 as well as being sweat and water-resistant. Perfect for summer, and perfect for me all year round. 

Son & Park Beauty Water – a recommendation from my lovely friend Clara. She let me use this along with my next favorite when I was visiting her back in May and I woke up with my skin glowing. It’s a toner/essence that’s super light, but whisks away impurities without stripping my skin at all like toners usually do for me. 

CosRx Snail Mucin Essence – paired with above, my skin looks amazing. This stuff does feel slimy at first, but a little goes a long way, it goes on thin, and locks in moisture like none other. 

Atelier California Clementine – my favorite perfume at the moment. Smells like someone bottled summer oranges and I can’t get enough. 

Sweat Block – these little wipes do the impossible. You apply them before bed one night a week and they severely reduce sweating. I am a person that sweats, and using them on my armpits has been amazing for summer
Food/Snacks

Peet’s Coffee French Roast – Those of you close to me know that I worked as a consultant for Peet’s coffee for over a year and turns out I really miss it because I started buying their coffee in stores. Their Dark Roast French Roast is just amazing. One of the few coffees I’ve ever made at home that leaves no bitter taste on the finish at all.

Goat Cheese on everything – Creamy goat cheese of any type has been amazing to use in my summer cooking. Goes well with summer fruit, baked onto stuffed peppers, on my avocado toast, everywhere.

Shows

It’s been hard for me to focus on books for the last few months, but I have still been consuming shows at the same rate. Below are some of my recent favorites. 

Fleabag (Amazon Prime) – only 12 episodes total, this is maybe the sharpest, wittiest show I’ve ever watched.

Good Omens (Amazon Prime) – A six episode mini series based on the book of the same name – this show is just well executed fun.

Patriot Act (Netflix) – political comedy shows never get old, and Hasan Minaj is my new favorite commentator on our current plights. 

The Chef Show (Netflix) – a sort of behind the scenes look at the recipes in the movie Chef. Very lowkey, but fun to watch and introduced me to my new favorite pasta recipe. Pasta aglio e olio. 

Miscellaneous

Tim Ferriss Podcast – This podcast has been around for a while but I am just now getting into it. The thing that separates Tim’s podcast from other interview podcasts I’ve listened to is how specific it gets. If someone says they eat a protein bar each day, he asks them which exact one they eat. He interviews a huge variety of insanely successful people and really gets to the nitty-gritty of how their journey progressed and how they live their lives today. The episodes are long, often more than two hours, but I listen to them while I run and just pick up where I left off each time. 

Candles – I found this article earlier in the summer, and have been slowly working my way through some of the scents it recommends. So far I’ve tried the Brooklyn Santorini Candle, and the Jenni Kayne Basil Candle. The Jenni Kayne one might be my favorite candle I’ve ever owned, it smells incredible. 

Google Drive – Not a new invention but now that I have two laptops instead of one, google drive has become invaluable to me to work on my personal writing and projects when I don’t want to carry both devices with me. 

Yoga w/Adrienne – Working on my flexibility has been an irregular part of my fitness routine but I’ve been trying to amp it up. This YouTube channel has a huge range of videos for all abilities and activity types and Adrienne has a self-effacing style that doesn’t feel too hippy-dippy for someone as cynical as me. 

I literally cannot believe summer is pretty much over. I don’t know about you guys but it FLEW by for me. Fall is my second favorite season though so I’m not too sad about it. If any of you have any products, books, movies, anything that you’ve been loving lately, I’d love to hear about them, I’m always looking for recommendations.

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At the Chicago Art Institute Garden Party PC: Kirin Upadhyay

 

My Perfect Morning

The alarm only gets to blare for a second before my hand reflexively reaches out to shut it off. Even in my half-asleep state I know I only have a minute to decide if I’m going to set the snooze or blink the sleep out of my eyes before slipping back into sweet sleep.

I decide on the blinking. It’s Monday and I’m refreshed from the weekend. The world is still dark, but my eyes adjust quickly and I work up the gumption to pull back the covers so I can change. My limbs have that jelly feeling from not having moved in a full eight hours so it’s time to get the blood flowing through them again.

I pull on my gym gear with sleepy fingers, grab my headphones and head out. It’s a full body circuit today. Sprints, weights, jumps, repeat. Before I know it, I’m flushed, sweaty, fully awake, and in the shower. A cold shower. My body hasn’t had the time to cool off from it’s early activity so I force the issue. 

Upon exiting, it’s all creams, lotions, sunscreen, and makeup until I feel silky and glamorous enough to take on another day. My body has moved, now time to make my mind move for a few minutes. I open my notebook to practice a few minutes of Greek and a few of Mandarin. If I don’t practice my languages I’ll lose them. But now I’ve worked up an appetite. 

I set the kettle on for french press coffee, and prep the rest of my meal. Avocado, egg, and goat cheese on sourdough toast with some salt, pepper, and spice to taste. My coffee is cool enough to drink now so I pick up the book I’m in the middle of at the moment and read for a little while. If an idea strikes me, I may do some writing as well. 

I set everything down and give myself a few moments of complete peace while I only focus on finishing my coffee. I watch other people get their commute started outside my window. Breathe in the smell of dark roast a few more times, and steel myself to face the world. 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This is what an ideal weekday morning looks like for me right now. I keep a pretty strict routine, usually waking up around 5 and heading straight to the gym to get started and then finding time to get in a few self-improvement hobbies (reading, language) while I’m preparing and eating my breakfast. I hit this routine usually four out of five weekday mornings, so I’ve been pretty consistent. Sometimes I adjust to do an early call or to do a workout later in the day, but for the most part, this is my morning routine.

It may seem strict, but that’s only because I’m prioritizing the activities that are important for me. I know I need to workout, practice language, read, and write to get to who I want to be so I make sure I have time to do those things, and the only uninterrupted time I can guarantee in a day is the time before anyone else is awake. So if I get all this done in the morning, I can go to work with a clear head, and I can leave my evenings free for things that come up throughout the day or for social plans. This arrangement means I rarely have days where I don’t get to check everything off my to-do list and that feeling is worth the early wake-up calls. 

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Lake Michigan at 5:30am – courtesy of one of my early morning runs

Define Your Own Experiences

I’m a huge food person and one of my favorite things to do is try new restaurants and new types of food. I’m up for anything, and I mean ANYTHING. Strange animal parts, flavor combinations, texture foods, you name it, and I’ll try it at least once.

Every so often, a friend will take me to a place I haven’t been to but they have. I’ll find something that sounds interesting on the menu and they might say something like “Oh that’s not very good, it’s overhyped.”

A simple response might be to just change what I was going to order or ask what they recommend, but whenever I find myself in a situation like this I treat it like a crucial juncture – am I going to let this person define my experience for me?

 

I haven’t tried this dish, maybe I read online that it is really good and I’m super interested. Should I just defer to my friend because they offered their opinion?

My answer? No, I shouldn’t. It was something I’ve been wanting to try and I don’t care if they didn’t like it, I still want to try it so I can form my OWN opinions.

This is a simple restaurant example, but the idea can be extrapolated to much larger and more formative experiences. If you travel to another country with someone and you’re excited to visit museums and cultural sites but all they want to do is go out all night and sleep away the day, one of you is going to end up defining the experience in a negative way for the other and that’s not fair to either of you.

An even bigger example from my own life was when I moved to Calgary. Because I immediately moved in with a boyfriend who was actually from that city, nearly all of my experiences were defined by him. He showed me how to navigate the city. He drove us to the mountains. He taught me how to ski and how to mountain bike. He showed me his favorite restaurants and bars and his friend’s favorite spots.

At first, this was great! A built-in tour guide. A person I can ask questions to and who will gladly take me to spots they already know are good.

Unfortunately, I realized too late that this is not a sustainable way of moving to a new place. I had failed to define my own experience of Calgary. I spent almost a year there before I really started pushing for trying things that were new to the both of us and by then it was too late. I felt that I had no agency over the city. I didn’t have anything that I had discovered and defined for myself and it really messed with my perception of that city and how successful I could be there.

Maybe some of you already know this, but for me, it was a huge lesson in self-ownership. Partners, friends, family, co-workers will hand you their unsolicited opinions and advice all the time, sometimes to your benefit. But I’ve discovered it’s important to realize when your entire experience is being defined by thoughts from another rather than your own exploration and decision.

Own yourself, and own your experiences, because if you don’t, other people will do it for you.

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Miyajima Island, Japan. A trip I took alone and although I met people along the way, was defined by my own experience.

Invisible Success

We’ve all seen the rise of the presence of ‘success’ social media accounts posting pictures with quotes like “I woke up in beast mode” or “Want it? Work harder”. They go on and on about how they’re grinding all day and living this super successful life. They post pictures of flashy cars and clothes and many times, they’re also selling a guide for how to achieve an amazing (read: wealthy) lifestyle.

I think these accounts are complete bullshit. I believe the vast majority of people behind those accounts aren’t doing half the things they’re preaching, and their business model is to sell ‘success guides’ when they really have never built anything. They are literally trying to make it selling a mere idea, not actual success.

Because unfortunately, the idea of success isn’t enough. Maybe its enough to get you started, maybe even keep you motivated as I’m sure those accounts will claim is their purpose, but it’s not enough to truly achieve anything. Because building something successful takes work. And what these accounts are trying to do is glamorize the ease of that work. They’re trying to make you believe that by buying a guide and selling a couple things, you’ll be on your way to seven figures a month in no time. They’re selling ‘fast success’ like supplements companies sell ‘fast weight loss’. It’s not real.

Real success, in any arena, is slow, unglamorous, and does not follow a straight line. Sure it’s cool to say you started a company, but it’s not really cool to say that you had to spend last Friday night working late on itemizing expense reports since you’re the only employee at your new venture.

It’s frustrating.

It’s cool to say you qualified for the Olympics, but it’s not cool to give up every single weekend to training and competitions.

It’s tiring.

It’s cool to say that you’re a venture capital backed start-up, but it’s not cool to spend weeks agonizing about whether you’re going to get your next round of funding or not.

It’s stressful.

These are the parts of the journey that are way more prevalent than fancy cars. And this journey just isn’t appealing on social media.

Do me (and yourself) a favor. Look up actual successful people. Look up Bill Gates. Oprah. Richard Branson. Sarah Blakely. The Rock. Serena Williams.

These people have active social media, but they’re not posting ‘motivational quotes’ every day. They’re not posting e-guides to their success. They’re posting things that social media was intended for – snippets from their lives, thanking their fans, promoting new initiatives they’ve spearheaded, shining the spotlight on things they enjoyed, etc.

They’re not shoving how much money they make, how fancy their car is, or their expensive vacation down your throat. They worked hard to get where they are there’s no doubt about that, and from time to time they may promote a book they wrote or offer a piece of contextual advice, but their whole presence to the world isn’t defined by pushing ‘the grind’ at people. These people each have their own empires that are based in real concrete accomplishments – entertainment, software, air travel, athletics, philanthropy. They’ve become super successful by actually producing something tangible, not just by trying to sell the idea of creating something.

So the next time you’re scrolling through your feed and you come across one of those accounts, just remind yourself what the presence of an actual successful person looks like. Remember that those ‘motivational’ accounts are trying to prey on those who crave the idea of success. Remember that success does come from hard work, but it’s ok if it’s not glamorous, and remember that as long as you focus on yourself and bettering your ideas, you really can’t be doing it wrong.

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A dreamy night in Crete, Greece. Greece always makes me remember to not get caught up in my own ambition – there are more important things in life than being rich.

 

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