Monday 5: This dress & other things I’m excited about

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Happy Monday! I hope you’re starting off the week well-rested and hopeful. I mean, if watching Michael Phelps swim another (and possibly final?) incredible race doesn’t inspire you, what can?

This weekend was fun and had quite a lot going on, including a photo shoot! Some pics are already up but more on that coming soon.

Here are the 5 things I’m excited about this week (remember to make your own list!):

This J.Crew dress.

Even though I bought this dress a few weeks ago, I had been waiting to post about it until I had some good pictures because I love it so much and wanted to do it justice! So pretty, summery and classy, the second I saw it I knew I had to get it. I love this style and think it is so classic- and a good fit for pretty much every body type!

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As you know, my main mission with FCA is to ‘bring classy back,’ and though not the end-all, be-all, how we dress is an important part of that. I really believe the clothes we wear are a reflection of our personality, dignity and beauty as women. So, being picky about the clothes we buy is absolutely essential! Finding pieces I really love and are a good fit is really hard. So, when  I found this dress and it fit so well, it was super exciting.

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80’s Mercedes by Maren Morris.

I heard this song for the first time this weekend and immediately became obsessed. Since then I’ve probably listened to it approximately 15 times. It is so catchy and fun! I also think the message is a good one. Feeling like a ‘hard-to-get starlet’ is something we should all embrace! Although I drive a Honda and not a Mercedes, I still jam out to this song while I’m driving (or at the gym…or in my house) and love it.

Lemon blueberry muffins.

I have a thing for muffins. Especially blueberry ones. And I love lemon. Like, love it. So when I found a recipe for lemon blueberry muffins in this cook book, needless to say I was very excited about it. I’m trying it this afternoon and can’t wait to see how it goes! I also love baking, so extra enthusiasm for that, too.

Returning to Best Kept Self (sort of).

Earlier this month I left my full-time job; as scary as it was, I know it was the right decision. I wanted to have more freedom to work on FCA and dedicate my time to other things I’m passionate about. Serendipitously, my boss at my previous internship approached me last week about helping out with editorial again! I loved editing while I was there and am excited to do it again, even though it isn’t an internship but more of an as-needed basis. If you haven’t read their articles already, I highly recommend stopping by Best Kept Self– they have some wonderful contributors who really get self-care.

My rosebush.

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Part of the mindufulness training course is taking care of a plant. This was perfect for me as over a year ago I planted a rosebush in the front yard that then died (or appeared to) pretty soon after. Not surprised by this (I’ve never exactly been much of a green thumb), I resigned myself to the fact that I would just never be a successful plant caretaker. However when the opportunity arose for me to try again, I decided to give the rosebush another shot. I replanted it in better soil and have been really consistent about watering it (probably things I should have done from the beginning); and it now has not one – but two roses on it! This may seem like an odd thing to get excited about but there is something really gratifying about seeing something you care for and put effort into, grow. Now every morning as soon I start my coffee, I run out and spend a few minutes caring for the rosebush- it has become something I really look forward to.

Monday 5: Boundaries & other things I’m excited about

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Woohoo it’s Monday!
I’m sure this is exactly what crossed your mind this morning when your alarm rudely interrupted your sleep.
It’s true that Monday’s are not fun; but I think a good attitude can change the most dire of situations…even a serious case of the Monday’s.

Monday’s are a #cleanslate. We start a new day, a new week with new opportunities to grow, change and accomplish our goals. It’s exciting!
I know that excitement can feel a little out of reach this morning…to help out I make a list of 5 things I genuinely feel enthusiastic about. Even though you and I may not be excited about the same things (although if you are, you’re like, really cool) this list may help bring to mind a few things you’re excited about!

  1. Boundaries.

    I love to give. Give my time, give my advice (whether others want it or not), give my energy and encouragement…however, recently I’ve been learning the importance of knowing my own limits: both physical and emotional. An important part of self-care is being aware of and respecting your own limits and working with them; not against or around them. Whether that means saying no to a friend when they want to get coffee so you can have some ‘me’ time, or refusing to let yourself get pulled into someone else’s pity party, or declining to eat cake even though your sweet grandmother is insisting on it…whatever the case may be, it is important to have some boundaries around yourself. You (and no one else) are responsible for taking care of you; and part of that is guarding yourself (your time, your energy, your emotions) from the demands of others. This book is helping me learn to do just that.

  2. These Jacks.

    This was another sweet buy during my shopping trip in Atlanta last weekend. This wonderful re-sale shop called Labels has 3 shops in the same block- one of which is just for shoes. I found these Jack Rodgers there and have absolutely loved them. Cute, comfy and completely versatile, these are definitely a new favorite.

  3. Chocolate banana bread

    My friend introduced me to this recipe for chocolate banana bread this weekend and I can’t wait to try it out. It was super delicious and only a little unhealthy. #yesplease.

  4. sky-gazing.

    We’ve all heard of star-gazing; and if you’re like me, it makes you think of a romantic scene like in Nicholas Spark’s ‘A Walk to Remember’ with a dreamy guy and hot chocolate to accompany the activity. However, a friend of mine introduced the idea (via Instagram) of ‘sky-gazing.’ As the term implies, this consists of  just laying on your back and looking up at the sky. This weekend I tried this at Mepkin Abbey (a monastery about an hour outside Charleston) and immediately was amazed at the therapeutic value of this. There is something miraculously healing about this; of remembering how small we really are and how temporary our problems, our feelings and our fears are. The truth is you are just one person, responsible for your life and no one else’s. Not your friend’s, not your parents’, not your boyfriend’s…just you. All you can do is your best (knowing sometimes we will fail even at this) and accept the high’s and low’s that make life the rich adventure that it is.

  5. Johnny Stecchino.

    One of my favorite parts about college was taking Italian for 4 semesters. I love learning about different cultures, and Italy certainly has a satisfyingly rich one to accompany it’s beautiful language. As part of the classes, the Italian department at Clemson (go Tigers) would put on Italian movies throughout the semester for us to watch and discuss. One of these was Johnny Stecchino. One of my absolute favorites, there are few things that have made me laugh as hard as this Robert Benigni film. Last night, after several months of pleading, my family watched it with me; definitely worth a watch if you haven’t already (just make sure you get a version with subtitles).

Hope these things help brighten up your Monday, or at least make you think of things that do. Here’s to a fresh start!

xo

Miranda

The most important commitment you’ll ever make

man on hillToday we hear a lot about young adults and our fear of commitment. As a generation, millennials tend to switch jobs more often, wait longer to get married and to buy a home. Various sources list different reasons for this. Some say it’s because we value lifestyle over economic stability (i.e. we’d rather be able to have a job that allows us more flexibility than get paid more), others say that we simply can’t afford to get married, or buy a car or a home (potentially due to our emphasis on flexibility > pay). And then there’s those who say it all comes down to our fear of commitment itself.

As a millennial who knows a lot of other millennials, I would say that each of these reasons may factor in to an extent. And while the fact that we may have a fear of committing- especially to other people- is slightly concerning, there is another commitment I’ve come to learn is actually more important.

Commitment to ourselves.

Ooooohhh, what’s that?

I’ll tell you.

As an avid reader myself, one of my favorite online publications is called Verily Magazine. All about lifestyle, relationships & health. I love how the contributors offer refreshing perspectives on today’s various issues and challenges and how we can face them with grace and a good attitude.

A few months ago, I emailed one of the Verily contributors named Zach Brittle. For a while I read Zach’s column called Intentional Marriage. I love his style and the great advice he offers as a marriage counselor. Even though I am not married, I  have always found relationships fascinating and love learning about what makes for a healthy marriage (#goals, amiright).

I decided to email Zach because I had recently entered into my first relationship and had a question that  I felt required a more experienced perspective. My question was this:
How can I be more selfish?

I know that may seem like an odd question – it kind of is – but it is also one that I feel is highly relevant and valid. When we start dating someone, I think a lot of us have a tendency to make the other person a priority over pretty much everything else…including ourselves. Family, friends, extra-curricular activities and self-care take the backseat as we focus on this new person who we want to learn more about – which requires a fair amount of time and energy.

The thing is, you can’t expect to enter into a relationship with someone and not expect your life to change. So where do you draw the line? How do you ensure you’re being fair to the other person and your relationship while also staying true to who you are and what you need. We can’t expect to be fulfilled by the other person; to do so would be a) not possible and b) unfair to the other person – so essentially incredibly unhealthy and a recipe for disaster.

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Zach’s response was both very wise and very generous- not to mention super helpful. His main point was this:
Before you can commit to someone else, you have to be committed to yourself.

What does this mean?

In his words: ‘Crafting a plan for how to take care of your mind, your body, your heart, your soul.’

Genius, right?

How are you committing to yourself? What is your plan to challenge yourself intellectually, your plan to take care of yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually? A plan that you make and stick to. A commitment you make to and for yourself- not for anyone else.

Zach emphasized that really my question was about self-care, which is NOT selfish because it allows us to love the other person without any strings attached. 

You’re no longer looking to the other person to feel confident or to make you happy (again, not possible), but rather appreciating them simply for who they are. After all, isn’t that what we want, too?

We don’t want to be needed, we want to be wanted.

This topic is supremely important to me and a challenge I’ve decided to accept whole-heartedly. I hope you’ll consider doing the same, as your future (or current) s/o will thank you. I may even post this plan at a later date- please feel free to share any commitments you make for yourself! I’d love to hear about it.

Yes, our generation may face a fear of commitment, but that won’t end until we learn to commit to ourselves first.

Thanks, Zach.

Lizzie McGuire and what she got right about our thoughts

What are you thinking about right now?

I’m sure part of you is focused on this article and wondering where this is going. You may also be simultaneously asking yourself if you’re hungry enough to eat the rest of your breakfast, or if you should stop reading this and do something more productive (definitely not), or regretting not going to the gym this morning, or worrying about work/school/your family…

My point is you’re probably not just thinking one thing at any point in time. Our thoughts tend to jump around from one thing to the next so quickly and often overlap so that we can do one thing while thinking about at least one other thing that is completely unrelated.

If you grew up in the 90’s, you most likely came across a show called Lizzie McGuire. Just your typical teen girl, Lizzie struggled with all the things normal teen girls go through like buying your first bra, the dreamy (but sadly oblivious) guy and the mean girl who somehow was super popular despite her mean-ness.

In the show, Lizzie had a cartoon counterpart- we’ll call her Cartoon Lizzie. So when Lizzie was in the middle of a conversation or event we would get insight into what was really going on in her head through Cartoon Lizzie’s (much more honest) reaction.

Often I feel that I have my own Cartoon Lizzie living in my head who talks and reacts relentlessly. In fact sometimes I feel more in tune to my inner voice than what is going on around me.

I became more aware of this tendency recently when I started reading ‘Mindfulness: An 8-week plan for finding peace in a frantic world‘ (highly recommend it, btw). I’ve increasingly noticed my ability (or vice) to be having a conversation with someone while thinking about something or someone else entirely.

While this may seem harmless (if slightly rude), the chaotic stream of thoughts is what often causes the anxiety and uneasiness we experience in our day-to-day lives. Instead of focusing on what is currently happening we live inside our heads, controlled by a constant, frantic stream of thoughts that is often unrelated to reality.

As hard as it may be to wrap our heads around, our thoughts are not truth. And you are not what you think. This is crucial to grasp because I think too often we accept our thoughts as matters of fact instead of what they really are: just thoughts.

This can be dangerous when you have thoughts like…

I look like crap right now.

I’m not good enough for him.

I shouldn’t feel this way…why do I feel this way

I shouldn’t have eaten that

She’s prettier than I am

This is not going to go well

Whether they’re anything like these or completely different, we often have thoughts that are pessimistic and self-defeating that we quickly accept without question.

Thoughts ≠ Truth

If we don’t learn to live in the present moment and forgo the constant stream of thoughts, we leave ourselves to the mercy of something that will never serve us or allow us to enjoy our lives.

While Cartoon Lizzie certainly added humor and even some honesty to Lizzie McGuire, I don’t think we should let our inner cartoon run our lives. Staying grounded to (the often less dramatic) reality and living the moment instead of thinking about it is definitely something I want to learn through mindfulness.

After all, I’d rather live my life than just think about it. Wouldn’t you?

xoxo

Miranda

 

Five lessons I’ve learned from (really) happy people

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If you think about why we do the things that we do, most often we do them because we believe they will make us happy. Somehow eating that brownie, getting that job, starting that relationship, making that friend, etc. will bring us happiness. We want to be content, joyful and at peace so we make decisions we think will bring us those things.

Seeing as it is one of our primary motivators, I think it’s safe to say that experiencing happiness is something we as a society and as individuals place great importance on.

I mean, like big time.

Somehow, though, happiness seems to be pretty elusive to us as well. According to the NY Times, 30 million Americans are currently on anti-depressants.

Yikes.

As someone who is prone to anxiety, I’ve experienced this fruitless search firsthand. Even when things are going really well, I find myself worrying and feeling uneasy with no specific reason to, or for reasons that are not 100% logical (pretty much zero logic involved). Especially recently, having acquired some of the important things that are ‘supposed’ to make you happy, I was finding myself more anxious than ever and unable to justify (logically) why I felt that way.

It got me thinking to what actually makes us happy and why it seems so unattainable to so many of us. To help myself out, I thought of a few people who I believe to be genuinely happy (not just appear to be on Insta) and looked for what some of their common denominators might be. This is what it came down to:

Happiness is a choice. 

It’s easy to think that happiness is something that naturally happens to us when things are aligned just right (i.e. we have the dream job, dream guy, dream house…) But I think the reason that we acquire those things and don’t feel completely happy is that happiness is something we create for ourselves. It’s a mindset that we deserve a good and fulfilling life to serve ourselves and others. My housekeeper who is the smallest, most cheerful woman I’ve ever met, shared with me: “You know who can make you happy? You.”

#truthbomb.

And this is coming from someone who cleans other people’s messes for a living. We need to accept that we are allowed and entitled to live in a state of joy and from there decide to live that way.

Happiness requires consistent self-care.

I know I stress this in pretty much every post I write, but I cantstopwontstop because I know how crucial it is. Even though it’s hard to fully communicate it, being well-rested, well-fed and active are integral to our happiness. Scientific studies show that exercise especially enables people to feel more excitement and enthusiasm. I think eating well (at least in general) is a sign of respect for ourselves that makes self-love and self-confidence concrete; after all, love is a verb right? When we make self-care a priority we are able to better care for others and offer the world the best of who we are.

Happiness takes time.

What is something you know brings you joy? Maybe it’s cooking/baking, writing, reading, walking your dog, going to the beach, painting…whatever it is, you need to make time for it. It’s easy to fill our schedules with things we have to do (work, groceries, washing the dishes) and things other people want to do (coffee with a friend, date night, going out with friends for drinks). While those things are good and necessary, it’s also vital to set aside time to do things that bring us joy and fulfillment. Set aside time in your calendar to bake that cake, write in your journal or just play with your dog (silly as that might seem) and be true to yourself by keeping that date even if another offer comes up. Joy isn’t something that just happens to us or can be given to us by someone else, it’s something we bring to ourselves when we design the life we want.

Happiness is found in your purpose.

Especially at this age (college/recent grad), existential crises are a real thing that can be super scary, like the adult version of the boogie monster. I think few people know what they’re supposed to do and why. I’ve found that it’s more about trusting that where you are is where you’re supposed to be and to do the best that you can now even if it doesn’t seem like the ideal situation. When we push and challenge ourselves in our current situations, it makes finding fulfillment a lot easier. Boredom breeds unhappiness and dissatisfaction which can turn into anxiety and even depression. Find ways to make whatever you’re doing now (even if you’re waitressing) a challenge for yourself; an opportunity to do your absolute best. Your purpose is your present.

Happiness is in your surroundings.

Make an active effort to find beauty in your world. The trees on your drive in to work, the people you interact with, the clothes you wear…fill your room, your office, your car with things that inspire and encourage you. Read blogs (*cough cough*) and books that are uplifting, put pictures on your wall or board (or Pinterest board), change your screensaver…fill your world with good and beautiful things.

Let’s take happiness out of the hands of others and out of the hands of the world and into our own control.

“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” – Frederick Keonig

Here’s to choosing happiness and making it our own.

xoxo

Miranda

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.

Why I’m taking a break from Netflix

Why I'm taking a break from NetflixNetflix is the perfect example of double-edged sword.

Of course it is a wonderful thing to have hilarious shows and great movies at your fingertips, available whenever you want to watch them; but its also a little dangerous.

Not in a ‘safety hazard watch-your-step’ kind of way, but more in a ‘it is possible to watch too much TV’ kind of way.

I think just about any person can admit to having used Netflix as a form of procrastination. In college it was my main form of avoiding work. And it worked very well, I must say. Hello, Gossip Girl isn’t going to watch itself!

A few weeks ago, after seeing it pop up on my Netflix home page repeatedly, I decided to try ‘El Gran Hotel.’

A period drama that takes place in Spain in the early 1900’s, the story centers around a beautiful couple who is not supposed to be together as she is the daughter of the owner of the hotel and he is a footman. Add in some murders, theft, betrayal, beautiful clothes, incredible scenery and it turned out to be a vividly exciting watch.

I successfully watched 66 45 forty-five minute episodes in 10 days.

Moderation is key, and I definitely did NOT succeed in practicing moderation with ‘El Gran Hotel’, I do not advocate watching a whole show in less than two weeks. Seriously.

But that isn’t really the point of this. You can say that in moderation, Netflix, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and good ole’ regular TV aren’t bad. The problem is that sometimes we unconsciously let what we watch on TV or are exposed to on social media come unbidden into our thoughts and expectations about the world around us. The real world.

For example, the forbidden love between the protagonists in ‘El Gran Hotel’ is full of perfect moments in a beautiful place with music playing in the background, poetic (and uber dramatic) phrases and way too many scenes with them speaking way too close to each other, (seriously, who stands that close to someone while they’re talking?) While it was thrilling to watch, I had to remind myself that it wasn’t real. 

Too often we see the shows, the movies, the posts, the Tweets and unknowingly process it the same way we do anything else. As reality.

In fact, our brain cannot tell the difference between an experience you are having and an experience you are merely watching.

Therein lies the power of media. We like to see beautiful couples on TV because our brains have a rush of endorphins the same way as if we were the beautiful couple. Then our conscious mind kicks into gear and differentiates what you are watching from what is your reality, leading to the instigator of much distress: comparison.

In fact, there recently was a study I read about that showed that women who spend more time on Facebook are more likely to be depressed. Because they process what they are seeing as reality only to then perceive a dissonance between the happy, upbeat posts of others and their own lives. And women who spent increased amounts of time scrolling through the ‘Beautiful People’ tab on Pinterest actually experienced a shift in what they considered to be beautiful; (a heavily edited picture of Kate Middleton is not the definition of pretty, okay people!)

My point isn’t to ban you from watching your favorite TV show or from ever going on Pinterest ever again, but to remind you of the influence what we see, hear and read can have on us. I encourage you to do (what I am doing now) and to take a break from the inflow of information that doesn’t speak truth. Not only is that detrimental to our emotional health (and potentially productivity levels), but it also can become a crutch. Something to lean on when you are upset/irritated/lazy instead of facing the issue head on.

Entertainment is not therapy and is not a solution to any of your problems.

Watch a documentary or a mystery show (along the lines of Sherlock) instead of Pretty Little Liars. Ditch the romance novel and seek out a biography of someone you’re interested in, a memoir, or a book on spirituality, health or wellness.

Watch YouTube videos that inspire you, and every time you open Instagram/Twitter/Facebook, remind yourself that often what is posted there is designed for us to perceive individuals as they want to be perceived instead of how they actually are.

Live your live and thrive on the richness it is to be you, don’t wish away your problems after watching one too many episodes of Gossip Girl. Be thankful for what you have and who you are; there is more beauty in that than in any amount of ‘Beautiful People’ pictures or romantic scenes between actors.

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.