Finding balance

A few months ago, I wrote an article for Best Kept Self about what I had learned from my eating disorder.

The therapist I saw to help me work through this told me that recovery for eating disorders is typically 5-7 years. Initially, I found this statistic discouraging and felt a little hopeless every time I thought about it. 5-7 years? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

However I will say I’m glad she told me this for a couple reasons: firstly, when I feel like I move forward and then two steps back, it helps to know that relapses are normal and part of the recovery process. And secondly because I know that every new day I have the opportunity to work on it and continue to learn to find balance.

Balance is tricky. We hear often ‘everything in moderation.’ I think this is a great motto to live by, but I also think what Oscar Wilde says about moderation is important too:

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

Moderation can easily be turned into a pursuit of perfection. Trying to find the exact amount of fruits, veggies, grains…but also indulging…it can be easy to get caught up in attaining the absolute perfect balance, something that is just as real as the Tooth Fairy (hope I’m not offending any believers out there).

Keeping this in mind, I will say I’m a lot closer to healthy and balanced eating than I was before. Here are a few things that have helped me:

1. Exercising.

I know, you’ve all heard this a million times before. The thing is, you hear it so often because it’s true. When you exercise you do something good for yourself. This act prompts you to do more good things for you. It’s like Newton’s Law of Motion: an object at rest will stay at rest, an object in motion will stay in motion. (I know, look at me, bringing in science and stuff). But this law really applies to us as well. The effort and time you give to and for yourself makes it easier to make good decisions that also serve you thoughout the day. I worked out off and on during college, but since I joined (and started paying for) the gym here in Charleston, I’ve gone 5-6 times a week almost every week. And this has helped me to 1- allow myself to indulge on my own terms without feeling guilty and 2- do more good things for myself. There are so many benefits to exercising regularly, I know you know what they are. But in case you need another one, remember Newton’s First Law of Motion.

2. Finding enjoyment in eating healthy foods.

One of my pitfalls in college was trying so hard to eat healthy without worrying about how it tasted. The thing is, whether we want to admit it or not, we have taste buds. And I think we have them for a reason and we should honor them. Instead of forcing ourselves to eat broccoli if we hate it, or beets or okra (we call it no-kra in our family), eat foods that you actually like to eat. Yes, this may mean adding dressing or butter or salt or even spending $6 on a deliciously overpriced green smoothie, but it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Depriving yourself will only work for so long, I promise. Try new foods and new recipes, healthy eating doesn’t just happen. It requires thought and effort, but there definitely is a way to eat well and enjoy it (cue Hannah  Montana’s Best of Both Worlds).

3. Control the thought spiral.

If it were possible to have a PhD in downward spiral thinking, I would have it. One small, potentially negative thing happens and suddenly everything’s a mess, I’m the worst, I hate everyone and the world is ending. When I realized I had this tendency to immediately run to the worst possible (and often highly illogical) conclusion, I was able to see how self-destructive and generally unhelpful it is. If you get a note on something you could improve on from your boss, that doesn’t mean you’re getting fired. Likewise, one unhealthy meal, or even a week of meals does not mean ‘everything’s ruined’ and that you need to compensate for it by only eating rice cakes for the next month. Now when something upsets me, I stop and think about why I’m actually upset (being hungry/tired/stressed doesn’t help) and how this can be fixed if it really needs to be. I like to think about some of the things I’m grateful for in that moment too. The truth is, our initial emotional reaction to an event or decision, often prompted by the ‘lizard brain,’ is far from the reality of the situation.

I think it’s important to note that balanced eating isn’t really something you achieve once and then you’re done (sadly). It’s a way of thinking and decision-making that happens daily. The more we are able to make healthy (do not read perfect) choices for ourselves, the easier and more habitual it becomes.

And if you ever get discouraged about where you are in your search for balance, just tell yourself this:

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Lessons I’ve learned since graduating from college (with a little help from The Office).

Lessons I've learned since graduating from college

I always think of college as a little bubble. Your campus becomes your world and everything outside of it seems completely separate and foreign. Graduating from college reinforced this parallel for me when I was suddenly in this really big world with lots of people I didn’t know, a million decisions to make and an ‘every man for himself’ mentality.

It’s a little scary.

What I've learned since graduating from college

Even though it’s only been a few months, I’ve learned a couple of important lessons since entering the ‘real’ world.

Affirmation is addicting

When we’re in school we constantly get feedback. Every test, every assignment, every presentation is given a concrete evaluation. And generally in school, if you study a fair amount you’ll most likely do well and if you don’t, you won’t. (Unless you’re one of those awful people that does well without studying in which case I really don’t like you). In the working world I’ve found that feedback works a lot differently. You don’t get feedback for every little thing you do, and a lot of times we get a lot more negative feedback than positive feedback. This is because in terms of the good of the company, negative feedback is a lot more important. When we mess up or fail to meet certain standards it is vital to the company that we know. But if we do it right then it’s not as urgent to let us know.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal until you work really hard on a project and all you hear back is the couple of things that needed to be fixed. In school, you can mess up a few things but still make an A so you feel good about it. In work, you don’t have a grading scale so all you hear about are those few things that weren’t perfect. When this happens it’s easy to feel ill-used and frustrated because you feel like you’re working so hard and no one is recognizing it.

I realized you have to be confident that you are a good worker, if you need others’ affirmation about this you’ll be waiting in vain and getting upset when it doesn’t happen. Don’t take the criticism personally and know that hearing what you did wrong is the only way to improve. A good boss will tell you when you do a good job too, but don’t depend on their affirmation. Do your best and do it because you want to do things the right way, not because you want a pat on the back.

Self-care is actually really important

One of my internships is with a self-care company. We urge/help/encourage entrepreneurs to take care of themselves. If you say you ‘don’t have time to go to the gym’ then you’re saying you’re not important. I’m saying you are. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or a health nut but taking some time every day to move and making the effort to eat well most of the time will help you so much. I’m not going to go on about the benefits of eating well and exercising because you already know them. But you should do it. Get the amount of sleep you need (not what you wish you needed or what you ‘have time for’), find a form of exercise that you can enjoy (dancing, kickboxing, climbing… whatever floats your boat) and make an active effort to eat good food. This is a relative term, I know, but you know what makes you feel good, not just what tastes good and is convenient.

When work is super stressful or my family is driving me crazy or I’m just having one of those days, working out, drinking a yummy smoothie or just reading a favorite book for a little bit are the best remedies.

Humility makes us better workers

Graduating from college is an awesome accomplishment, and definitely something you should be proud of. But relative to those who graduated 20, 30, 40 years ago…you’re a baby. Understand that your college degree doesn’t mean you know everything. You have a lot to learn and that is a good thing. As you get more experience you’ll have more and more skills/knowledge to bring to the table. Right now you have your degree, your willingness to learn and your super attitude.

What I've learned since graduating college

Efficiency>looking good

Similar to the ‘need for affirmation’ thing, it can be tempting to want to get there early, stay late, respond to emails on weekends or after work hours etc because you want your coworkers/boss to be impressed. Here’s what is actually impressive: getting it done well and in less amount of time.

It’s not worth spending your life trying to impress others, eventually you will burn out and your work will suffer. Not to mention those feelings of ill-usage we talked about earlier. Work hard, yes. Stay focused, yes. By all means if you’re behind stay late and get their early but don’t do it for the sake of looking good.

What I've learned since graduating from college

Community is everything

Although your job and your career are uber important, your relationships can largely determine your quality of life. One of the first things I did when I moved back to Charleston was look for a group of people that I felt I could be a part of. Good friends are hard to come by, but if you actively look for groups that meet regularly and that you have something you feel is important in common with, it will be a lot easier to have a good support system.

If you love to run, join a running club. If you love to play an instrument, join the community orchestra. If you love reading, look for a book club. If you go to church that is also a great place to meet people, join a small group or a young adult group. There are communities for everything. You may not make best friends right away but as you spend more time in a community that you feel is welcoming and enjoyable, you will find that your life is greatly enriched.

I know after a long day at work the last thing you want to do is go meet people or spend time with a group you’re not fully comfortable with yet, I get that. But we need people on our side, people to make us laugh when we need it, to encourage us when we’re feeling down and to remind us how awesome we are every now and then. Unfortunately, (at least for us introverts) relationships don’t just fall into our laps, we have to go out there and show individuals what they have to gain by having us in their lives. Which is a lot.

What I've learned since graduating from college

High Standards: why I have them and why you should too

High standards: why I have them and why you should too.

I’m going to go ahead and give you the key takeaway from this post:

You should have high standards for yourself, your relationships, your career and your life because you deserve them.

I just saved you five more minutes of reading; so, you’re welcome.

Here’s the deal: high standards and being a perfectionist are NOT the same thing. I already wrote a post about the dangers of being a perfectionist and I stand by what I said.

Having high standards doesn’t mean you, or everything you do, is perfect. It doesn’t mean you’ll never mess up, it doesn’t mean you’ll never fail or never disappoint yourself or someone else. You will oversleep, you’ll miss the gym, you’ll eat too much, you’ll forget something important for work and you’ll wear your shirt inside out. (Hopefully all of this won’t happen on the same day, but, you get what I’m saying).

Having high standards means having goals for yourself and your relationships that are worthy of who you are.

Having high standards means taking care of yourself. Always aiming to get enough to sleep, stay active and eat well, even if that doesn’t always happen.

Having high standards means dressing in a way that reflects your personality, your love of beauty and most importantly, your dignity.

Having high standards means only being friends with people who love, care and respect you and treat you in a way that reflects that.

Having high standards means knowing your talents and pursuing a career that enables you to use them.

Having high standards means knowing your worth as a person and not allowing any relationship in your life question, undermine, or contradict that.

The thing about our standards is that you only live up to the standards you setMeaning if you are afraid to go for what you really want and work hard to get it, you won’t get it. In order to achieve something we have to first recognize that it’s possible. Unfortunately people often close the doors on their dreams because they tell themselves it’s unrealistic and that’s that. I know that you are completely capable of achieving whatever you want, but to do so, you have to raise your standards to the level you ultimately want to reach.

People will challenge you. People want to feel better about their decisions, so they try to make yours more like theirs. This is an important reason why I always have surrounded myself with friends who inspire me to be better. Look around, are the people you spend time with encouraging you or bringing you down? It can be hard to face but letting go of the people who affect us negatively is crucial to success.

What do you really want? What kind of lifestyle do you want to have? What kind of relationship do you want to be in? Take the time to think about what it is you want, it can be scary to admit because it seems so out of reach; but I’m here to tell you that it is completely possible, you just have to raise your standards and start working to reach them.

Lies the world tells us

Lies the world tells us

Romans 12:2 says:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 

Unless you live under a rock, you probably have regular contact with the outside world. Not just your friends and family but also outside of that. People who are different from you, maybe some of them seem to be doing a lot better, maybe you feel like you have it all together in comparison to others. There are a lot of beliefs out there that may influence how you see and evaluate yourself. 

It’s good to be part of the world, to interact with different people and to impact your community. However inevitably we are also affected by our world. Whether it be individuals, the culture, or experiences we have. Sometimes things we go through, people in our lives or society in general can cause us to believe things about ourselves that aren’t true. For example, you see a smiling couple on Instagram and suddenly you feel lonely, a model on a TV ad makes you feel insecure, your friend’s A on a paper makes you feel inadequate. 

In the moment these doubts and feelings seem perfectly rational and tangibly real, that’s why we should know that they aren’t true. These are lies that the world tells us:

You will be happy when you are in a relationship:

We see smiling, radiant couples and it is easy to convince ourselves that when we meet someone all of our problems will disappear. How can you possibly be unhappy with a cute guy by your side? While it can be a exciting and fun, a healthy relationship also brings all our personals struggles to the surface. It is important to understand that happiness isn’t found in someone else, it is found in God. And your value is independent of your relationship status.

If you don’t have it all figured out you won’t be successful:

Graduate from high school, pick a major, stick to it, graduate from college (Summa Cum Laude) and then go get your dream job. That is the formula we know and compare our journey to. We see friends, (whether it be our close friends or ‘friends’ on social media). appearing to follow this pattern and flourish while maybe you don’t know exactly what you want your career to be. Discernment is important, it can be frustrating when you don’t have exciting things to tell your family or friends or Instagram followers but it is also better than choosing a path that feels wrong instead of taking some time to try things out. If you look at the story of Steve Jobs, or J.K. Rowling or even Pope Francis (he was a bouncer at one point), you’ll find that they lived very unique lives that led to their success in an unconventional way. None of them graduated from high school and followed a carefully laid out plan. 

So and so’s life is better than yours:

I think that is one of the greatest dangers of social media: comparison. With Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter we all share the edited highlights of what is going on our lives and there are many times when it seems that someone else’s life is more fun/interesting/exciting/lavish than ours. The truth is that that picture, status or tweet isn’t necessarily an accurate representative of their life as a whole but just part of the persona they are trying to create. Not to say everything on social media is a lie, just to keep in mind that it isn’t the whole story. We all have problems and struggles that we don’t necessarily want to share with others.

Having said all this I just want to encourage you guys to know that what you come across whether it be in social media or other encounters you have isn’t always the whole truth. It isn’t good to compare ourselves period; but especially not to unrealistic standards. To battle these feelings and doubts always make sure you take time to renew your mind in prayer, self-care and genuine interactions with real people who love you.

Peace,

Miranda