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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The truth about your self-worth

The truth about self-worth

As my dating fast comes to a close, I want to share a few more things I’ve learned from these last few months.

I think the biggest thing is actually pretty obvious, but not necessarily easy to feel all the time.

You really can’t determine your self-worth from a guy.

I know, crazy right?

It wasn’t until several months into the fast that I began to understand fully how deep my need for affirmation was. The second I considered a guy as more than a friend I immediately questioned if I was good enough for him. If I was pretty enough, smart enough, funny enough, successful enough…Instead of wondering if he was the type of person that I should invest time in, I wondered if I was worth his time.

I believed that if I received his attention and affection then I would know, that I’m worthy. I felt all my insecurities that I hadn’t thought seriously about in a while come rushing back and threaten to overwhelm me.

Not fun.

The truth is that kind of thinking is completely backwards. Looking to someone else to fulfill your need for affirmation is a dangerous game to play. Not only is it unfair to expect that person to see and understand your need for affirmation, you’re also using them to satisfy this need instead of loving them.

Use ≠ love

And the even worse part is that if your affirmation needs to come from other people, you will never be satisfied. You might feel good for a little while after you receive a compliment or get asked out on a date, but that feeling will eventually fade and you’ll start anxiously waiting for the next sign of affirmation.

And then, when that person doesn’t tell you what you need to hear, you’ll get upset and your insecurity can start a fight or turn inwards and fill you with doubt and frustration.

You have to know, really know, that you’re worth it. You’re worth being taken out on a date, you’re worth pursuing, you’re worth spending time with.

So of course, the question is, if you don’t find self-worth in other people then where do you find it?

Great question.

What I’ve come to understand recently is that there are two aspects to self-esteem. One is what you know and the other is what you feel.

What you have to know is this: you are here for a reason. Out of all the possible combination of genes, you are the one that was born and no one else is the same. You have a unique set of talents and gifts that no one else has. You have a unique role that no one else can fulfill. I know it sounds cheesy and cliche, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. You are valuable because you are one and only. If you don’t do what you are meant to do, no one else will because no one else can. It is up to you to realize what you have to offer the world and let go of your insecurities in order to pursue your purpose.

So maybe you already cognitively understand this, but you don’t feel it. And maybe because you don’t feel it, you decide this isn’t true.

The thing is our feelings can be misleading. Our emotions are constantly changing, they really are just a primal reaction to what happens to us or a thought we have. You might feel bad because you didn’t have time to accomplish everything you wanted, that doesn’t mean you actually have a valid reason to be guilty. Right?

So what do we do about this?

First of all you have to accept that we won’t always feel great about ourselves, that is just part of being human. But just because we don’t feel worthy and valuable, doesn’t mean it’s true. Then there are also things you can do to help when you’re dealing with feelings of low self-esteem.

Feelings ≠ truth

#1. self-care is essential.

It really is. Exercising, eating foods that are good for you and sleeping should be non-negotiables, at least most of the time. Also wearing clothes that fit well and reflect your style, not to impress others but as a gift to yourself. Additionally, doing the things you love is vital to have a healthy relationship with yourself. Make time to read, write, walk your dog, play tennis…that is an important part of who you are.

#2. community.

Friendships are really important. Having people on our side who care about us reminds us of our value when things get dark inside our minds is essential to our self-worth. Our heads aren’t always the best place to spend all our time, even as an introvert I urge you to find people you enjoy spending time with.

#3. take the focus off yourself.

Our culture is very narcissistic. I mean, selfie was word of the year in 2013. And as much as I value self-care, the reason I value it so much is because it enables us to be our best selves and to offer the world so much more than our exhausted, run-down, insecure person. If we always are thinking about ourselves, it’s no wonder we experience so much insecurity. You’re the only thing on your mind. I’ve noticed that if I turn my focus to more of what I can do today and long-term to be of value to others, I stop worrying so much about my own self-esteem and think more about how much I have to offer the world.

I hope this helps anyone who is battling with self-worth, it’s a tricky issue! Feel free to comment or send an email if you have any questions or notes about this topic, or anything!

xx

Miranda

 

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.

The dangers of being a perfectionist

The danger of being a perfectionist I used to take pride in the fact that I was a perfectionist.

I mean, surely wanting things to be perfect is a good thing, right? Perfect grades, perfect body, perfect behavior…perfect life.

Who wouldn’t want that?

I loved watching movies and TV shows and reading books that depict what I liked think was the standard to strive for. The beautiful girl with a perfect family who finally gets the perfect guy by the time the show/movie/book ends. I always gravitated toward friends who seemed to have it all together. They were, (and still are), high-achievers with a lot going for them.

I knew that I compared my life to that, to other people, whether fictional or not. After every movie, book, encounter with someone I admired, I felt I had a better idea of what it meant to be perfect and what I needed to work toward.

Somehow I never took into account my high-achieving friends’ flaws, or the fact that the movie/book/show wasn’t real, the characters and their lives weren’t real. Even though I understood it was fiction, or that my friends weren’t actually perfect, I didn’t consider that when I compared myself to them.

This, of course, led to a lot of unhappiness. We all know “comparison is the thief of joy,” especially comparison to a standard that isn’t real. But I refused to see that, I thought that any unhappiness I felt was because I wasn’t enough, I wasn’t working hard enough to attain my standard. And I felt that when I finally did, I would be happy.

During my therapy sessions for my eating disorder, this search for perfection surfaced. It had never occurred to me that this was a bad thing, much less the reason for my continual feelings of unhappiness and inadequacy…and even my eating disorder.

I think that a lot of us struggle with this issue. The little voice in our heads that continually tells us we are not enough, we need to work harder, we need to be perfect, and when we hear it we accept it as truth.

It’s not. That whisper is a lie from Hell. This is the truth:

“I praise you, Lord, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:13-14.

God made us; intentionally and unequivocally. You have been on His mind for all of eternity. And He made you specifically for a unique role and purpose that no one else can fulfill.

“Perfect” is a lie that you can never attain and that will steal your joy and prevent you from fulfilling your purpose and understanding your beauty and value.

The Catechism tells us that “Human is the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake”,220 and he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God’s own life. It was for this end that he was created, and this is the fundamental reason for his dignity.” CCC 356.

It is the fact that God made you that you are valuable, not because of what you do or don’t do, say or don’t say etc.

I tell you this to keep it in mind next time you feel that how much you accomplish or how well you do something or how you look determines your worth. You have worth and dignity because you are human.

Understand that you are valuable, worthy, beautiful and loved.

Not because I say so but because it’s true. No one is perfect, the sooner we can embrace this and accept ourselves flaws and all, the sooner we can move forward to grow in virtue and fulfill our unique role.

Wilmington, NC (Looking back on an amazing summer).

Earlier this summer I posted about my first photo-shoot and talked about self-acceptance. I’m still working on this but I definitely feel I’ve made some strong progress (yay for self-improvement!)

It’s still hard for me to accept that summer is over, it really was an amazing couple of months and even though the school year is going well I still find myself reminiscing about the warmer days.

These pictures are from my mini-road trip to Wilmington with my friend Maria. Luckily for me, in addition to being an incredible friend, she is also a super talented photographer. She also has a blog which you should definitely check out.

Here are a few of the pictures!

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Here’s to a fall as wonderful as this past summer.

xx

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Confessions of a Serial People-Pleaser

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Do you ever say or do something to get someone’s approval? I don’t. Wait, no, I do. All the time. (sigh). Whether it’s agreeing to watch a movie I don’t want to see, sacrificing time that I could be studying/working to accommodate someone else’s schedule, eating something I don’t really want to so the other person doesn’t feel badly about eating it…the list goes on. I am a first-rate people-pleaser.

I like people to like me, (I know, crazy), and I like the people I’m close to to be happy with me. Because of this, I often find myself putting others’ needs and wants above my own. What it comes down to is the fear of rejection. I worry that if I don’t do or say what I feel someone wants me to, they will no longer love/like/want to be friends with me.

Just typing this I see how ridiculous it is, yet it doesn’t feel that way in the moment. When someone is asking me to do something, I feel so much pressure to go with it, even if the person isn’t trying to pressure me. I talk myself into doing whatever it is they want me to do thinking “what’s the big deal? If I study a little less now I can always do more tomorrow,” or some other excuse along those lines. The thing is, it usually isn’t a big deal. No one asks me for a kidney or to commit murder for them, it’s usually small things here and there. But small things add up and I’ve noticed that if I do little things for someone that I don’t want to repeatedly, I start to resent them and wonder if they would do the same for me.

This is no bueno. Resentment and the feeling of ill-usage are dangerous when it comes to relationships, those feelings build over time and cause fights that seem completely out of the blue to occur; or even worse, passive aggression. As I’ve gotten older I’ve become more and more aware of all the times I say “yes” to those who are close to me (and even to those who aren’t) because I am afraid of letting them down. The more I do this, the more resentment I grow toward them along with frustration at myself for being unable to say “no.” Not only is it frustrating, it is also emotionally and physically draining. Now that I am aware of this I have no excuse and am determined to make a change.

Putting your needs first isn’t selfish, it is self-love. If you don’t have compassion for yourself first then you will be unable to have it for others.

Learning to say “no” is going to be a challenge, to help myself (and hopefully you), I’ve come up with a few guidelines:

1) Compromise. “yes, I would like to get dinner but tonight I have too much work, how about Saturday instead?” This is a specific example but generally speaking, change or set the circumstances of the situation so that you can say “yes” without feeling like you’re making a sacrifice.

2) Stop explaining. A long-winded excuse as to why you are saying “no” is unnecessary and can often sound insincere (even if it’s not). “I wish I could but (today/tomorrow etc) doesn’t work for me” is enough.

3) Make a plan, Stan. If you make time in advance to go to the gym, do school work, clean, etc then you can work other people around that. You will be so much more relaxed spending time with others knowing there isn’t something else you should be doing instead.

4) Be strict with yourself. Once you have your schedule set up, stick to it. I know it can be hard if, for example, that cute guy from Biology class wants to get coffee during the time you have yoga class, but be strong. Suggest a different time instead and if he really wants to go out with you, he will meet you halfway.

When you value your time, you value yourself and teach others to value you as well. 

I’m going to challenge myself this week to practice self-love and put myself first a little more often.

Do you have any tips for  how to stop being a people-pleaser?

Happy Monday and have a great week!

 

Miranda

You are Amazing

 I hope everyone had a good, relaxing weekend, I know I did! I went to visit my godmother/aunt in Atlanta and stayed with her family, we got mani-pedis, ate amazing food and just generally had an awesome time. My aunt also has a very cool blog about organizing, called Neatsmart, definitely go check it out! On a more serious note, today’s post is about something that I think is really important and a topic that not enough people out there address.

For many years I struggled from a lack of confidence. It’s not a fun experience. As I got older I realized that this was an issue I needed to overcome. Confidence is extremely important to becoming the person you want to be and often a strong determinant of success. To be confident, one of the most important qualities that you must have is self-acceptance. I know I’m not the only person out there to have suffered from low self-esteem so here are some tips that helped me become more accepting of myself, thereby increasing my confidence:

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  1. Know that you are loved. First of all, you have to realize that there are people out there who love you for exactly who you are, you are not perfect and that’s okay! No matter what always remember that there are people out there who care about you deeply and that is all you need.
  2. It really doesn’t matter. Knowing that you are already loved means that you don’t have to make everyone love you. You actually can’t. I promise, so never worry about what any one else thinks about you. Be YOU, do what you think is right, wear the clothes you love and don’t apologize if you aren’t a clone of everyone else.
  3.  DO NOT under any circumstance, ever, for any reason, in any situation compare yourself to someone else. This was such an issue for me and seriously it doesn’t even make sense. You can never be like anyone else because you are YOU and you don’t want to be anyone else because you are amazing! Become the best version of yourself, not anyone else.
  4. Figure out who you who you want to be. This is probably easier said than done, learning the kind of person you want to become is a life-long process. However it’s hard to tell whether or not we’re making any progress if we don’t have any guide lines to follow. So sit down and think about where you are now and what you want to change. We all have the potential to become the best version of ourselves, but before we can do that, we have to figure out what that version actually entails.
  5. Take care of yourself. I know I’ve already talked about this before but, seriously, it’s important. To feel and look your best you have to get sleep, exercise, and eat healthy at least 80 percent of the time. Accepting yourself will be so much easier if you make feeling good a priority. If you haven’t ready my post on why it’s important to take care of yourself, go check it out!

Let me know what you guys think!

Have a great week!

Miranda