My Secret Struggle With Binge Eating

My Secret Struggle With Binge Eating

“Talk about the shit you don’t want to talk about.” That was one of the quotes that stuck with me from the Netflix documentary I Am Maris: Portrait of a Young Yogi, the story of a woman who overcomes an eating disorder and finds joy through yoga and sharing her stories online. I was struck by this concept of talking about the topics you don’t want to talk about. I have been pretty open on this blog, talking about some tough topics. But this one has been something I’ve been too scared to talk about until now. My main goal with my blog has always been to help other people not feel so alone with what they’re feeling, so if me talking about this subject can help just one person, it will be worth it.

I can track the start of my issues with binge eating back to 2014, when I was studying abroad in Spain. There were difficult things that happened during my time abroad which left me feeling lonely, sad, and angry. What I turned to in order to cope with my pain was food. I remember walking to the grocery store around the corner from my host family’s home and buying cookies and chips, which I would then hide in my closet or under my bed, to eat in secret when I was alone. My host mom cooked meals for us every day, and these were by no means small meals. Even when I left dinner feeling stuffed, I would go back to my room and eat from my secret stash. There were days when I felt so sad and alone, and eating gave me some kind of temporary comfort. I think this is when I developed a connection in my brain between sadness, stress, anxiety, and food. I began using food as a form of self-soothing, to try to cope with my emotions.

This habit never truly left over the past six years, but some periods of time have been worse than others. l continued into my senior year in college, when I was living with one of my best friends in a small two bedroom apartment. I would go to the store and buy groceries, including a lot of snacks (chips, crackers, cookies, chocolate, you name it). Like I did in Spain, I would hide them in my room and eat them alone while I studied or watched TV. Like in Spain, these binges often were tied to an emotional release. I’d notice myself craving junk food when I was stressed about an upcoming exam or my thesis project.

The summer and fall of 2015, after my senior year, the binging continued. I was still not acknowledging it or really aware it was an issue. I was in a long distance relationship, and I remember driving from Austin to Fort Worth to see my boyfriend, and eating on the drive. Sometimes I would start the drive determined not to snack, but at some point I would pull over at a gas station (even if I didn’t need gas) and buy candy and chips and a soda for the road. It sometimes felt like I literally couldn’t make that drive without snacks. Even if we had plans to eat dinner when I got there, I couldn’t help myself from snacking. I would arrive in Fort Worth with a stomach ache, feeling disgusting. My boyfriend had no idea.

2017 was one of the hardest years of my life, which caused the emotional eating to hit a new level. I went through a breakup, changing jobs, and my parents getting divorced all within a few months, and I didn’t know how to process or cope. Once again, I turned to food. I was living by myself, so it was extremely easy to get away with my bad habits. There was a little convenience store right down the street, and on days when I was feeling particularly sad or stressed, I would go to the store and buy a couple bags of chips and some candy, and I would eat all of it that night. Sometimes that’s all I would eat, but sometimes I would also go and get fast food, and then I would still eat a lot of the snacks afterwards.

Finally, slowly, over the past few years, I started to realize I had a problem.  I wanted to stop. But it was a vicious cycle. I would do really well and not binge for a week or two, but then one day, as if I wasn’t in control at all, I would find myself back at that store, hating myself even as I chose to buy the food. As I was binging I would say to myself, “This is the last time!” Just as an alcoholic swears this will be their last drink. Or I would convince myself I could buy snacks and control my eating, just as an alcoholic convinces themself they can have “just one drink.” Every time I was proven wrong.

One of the hardest parts of this complicated relationship with food is the negative self-talk that comes along with it. There is a voice in my head constantly telling me things like: “Nobody else has this problem. Everyone else has no trouble eating healthy and not overeating, why can’t you? If anyone knew this about you, they would see you differently. Everyone can see you’ve gained weight. You don’t look as good as you did a few years ago.”  On the other hand, there’s an equally negative voice trying to reassure me I don’t have a problem. “You don’t starve yourself. You don’t purge. You’re fine, stop being so dramatic. You’re at a healthy weight. Everyone indulges in junk food sometimes, what’s the big deal?”

I wish I could say I’m writing this as someone who has it all figured out, but I’m not. Though I’ve been doing much better lately, and the binges have become much less frequent, they still happen from time to time. I’m not writing this as someone who has completely healed or moved past it, but as someone who is ready to admit they have a problem, and commit to making a change, one day at a time.

I’m writing this in the hope that other people can relate. I feel a relief settling in me as I write this. It doesn’t need to be a secret anymore, I can choose to make a positive change in my life and move on. I’m writing this in the hopes that maybe it will help someone feel less alone. I’m also writing this to help myself. Maybe when it’s out in the open it won’t feel like such a dirty little secret, and I can finally move forward.

Taking Back My Power: My Sexual Assault Story

Taking Back My Power: My Sexual Assault Story

I was 14 when a man broke into my family’s house. My friends and I were having a sleepover, and after hanging out in my backyard talking until late at night, we snuck back in to go to sleep, and I forgot to lock the door behind us. I was about to slip into sleep when I heard the back door open, footsteps walking in. I was sure of what I heard, but I didn’t understand it. It didn’t make sense to me. Who would be coming into our house? My body and mind froze. I couldn’t think or move. I lay there until I finally fell asleep. My dad woke us up a few hours later to tell us someone had broken in and robbed us. Before any other questions entered my head, the first thing I thought was: Is this all my fault? I forgot to lock the door. For months after that incident, I lay awake at night afraid it would happen again. I got up in the middle of the night to double, triple, quadruple check we’d locked all of our doors. To this day I have to double check my door is locked before I can fall asleep. Even when I’m positive I’ve already locked it, I sometimes lay awake in bed and then have to get up to go make sure it’s really locked.

Is this my fault? I forgot to lock the door.

I was 19 the first time I was sexually assaulted. I had always been a romantic, a believer in fairytales and love stories. I had only kissed a few people, and I wanted to be in love before I experienced anything else. That choice was taken from me. “Do you want to go further?” “No.” He disregarded that no and went further. And further. My body and mind froze. I froze and just laid there, as I had at fourteen. Even as I knew what was happening, I felt like I couldn’t stop it. I just hoped it would end quickly. I couldn’t understand what was happening. It didn’t make sense to me. So many questions flooded my mind. Why would he ignore the word no like that? Why would he do this to me? But one question floated to the forefront of my mind, clearer and louder than the rest: Is this my fault?

Why would he ignore the word no like that? Why would he do this to me?

I was 20 when the nightmare happened again. And again. The word no seemed to hold zero power and I felt my understanding of love and sex and intimacy slipping away. I told them no, I made sure to emphasize and explain and implore they listen to me. They looked me in the eyes and told me they understood, that they wouldn’t cross that line. That the person who did that to me in the past was an asshole. But then they did exactly the same thing. Why were they doing this to me? How do I get back what was taken from me? And again, that question rose to the surface louder and more defined than the rest: Is this my fault?

The word no seemed to hold zero power and I felt my understanding of love and sex and intimacy slipping away

I was 26 when I was groped walking to my car after work. I felt him following me, looked over my shoulder a few times, convinced myself I was imagining things. And then he grabbed me. I spent weeks, months, checking over my shoulder every day walking to my car to make sure I wasn’t being followed. I recounted the incident to the police, standing in my apartment. I reported it. I reported it for my 26-year-old self, for my 20-year-old self, for my 19-year-old self, even for my 14-year-old self. I reported for every version of me I had been, and every version of me I would be in the future. I reported for every other person out there, who has ever wondered, “Is this my fault?” For the first time in my life, that question hadn’t crossed my mind. After all these years, I was finally done letting them steal my power. I was finally done blaming myself. It was finally clear to me: none of it was ever my fault.

I reported it for my twenty six year old self, for my twenty-year-old self, for my nineteen-year-old self, even for my fourteen-year-old self. I reported for every version of me I had been, and every version of me I would be in the future. I reported for every other person out there, who has ever wondered, “Is this my fault?

My power and control were taken away from me during each of these moments. I’m finally taking it back the only way I know how. By talking about it. By reporting it. By standing up for myself. By sharing my story. I still don’t feel safe until I’ve double or triple checked my door is locked at night. I still have a hard time letting people get close to me, physically and emotionally. I still walk faster and clutch my keys in my hand like a weapon when I see a man walking near me on the street. I still wonder what someone’s intentions are, and if I can trust them, or feel safe with them, when we start to date. But what I don’t do anymore, what I refuse to do anymore, is blame myself. It wasn’t my fault. It was never my fault.

If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment or anything that made you feel violated or uncomfortable, I want you to know it was not your fault, and you’re not alone. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need to talk to someone.

The difference between ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging’

The difference between ‘fitting in’ and ‘belonging’

I recently listened to Brene Brown’s audiobook Men, Women, and Worthiness and she touched on a subject that really struck a chord with me. She talked about the difference between fitting in and belonging, and clarified that you really cannot truly belong if you are trying to fit in. “The greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in.” The idea of fitting in is about assessing a situation or environment, and changing yourself to become who you think you need to be in order to be accepted. “Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

At 27 years old, I feel I have finally reached a point in my life where I am belonging. I no longer strive (at least not as much as I used to) to fit in. I make my opinions and beliefs known to my friends, family, and social media audience. Though I’m always learning and growing and trying to be the best version of myself I can be, I am doing that in a way that first acknowledges that I am enough. I am not attempting to change parts of myself, but rather to get better acquainted with the parts of myself I have kept hidden for so many years.

“True belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Brene brown

I started seeing a psychiatrist for the first time in December 2019, and in our first session he asked me a question that caught me off guard a bit. He asked me “When was the last time you really felt like yourself.” I hesitated for a few seconds, and then the honest answer bubbled to the top of my brain. This honest answer also answered another question: “When did you last truly feel like you were belonging rather than trying to fit in?” My answer? 8th grade.

In 8th grade, I was on the volleyball and basketball teams at my school. I had three best friends, and the four of us became inseparable over the course of that year. I was outspoken, silly, talkative, and a bit (or maybe a lot depending on who you ask) moody. I didn’t hold back. I was unapologetically me. I felt a sense of belonging from my group of friends, from the sports teams I was a part of, from the way I wasn’t trying to be someone I wasn’t.

8th grade besties before our school dance

Towards the end of 8th grade, something started to shift. Like I detailed in my blog post Finding My Voice, I started getting negative messages from my peers. That voice that has followed me through my teen and adult years started creeping in “you aren’t enough.” Or, perhaps, “you are too much.” I started to fear that my method of belonging was not the right move. That I needed to start fitting in. I had not yet heard the life-changing idea Brene Brown presents in her audiobook, that belonging is actually what we need to strive for, and trying to fit in will only hinder our ability to find belonging. I had reached that state of belonging without even trying in 8th grade, and the years that followed would set me back a few paces as I searched for answers in the world of fitting in.

The idea that middle school was the last time I felt like myself scared me at first. As I sat in that psychiatrist’s office, finding it hard to meet his gaze, I wondered if my answer was “typical”, if there was something wrong with me for saying I felt it had been about 13 years since I was truly myself. Of course, that was part of what brought me to his office in the first place. To see if medication might help me feel and act more like myself. I have felt more alive and more myself these past six months since I started on medication to help with my depression and anxiety. But I think something else has changed in these six months. I think something shifted inside me in that psychiatrist’s office when I realized I had been living in a state of inauthenticity, trying to fit in, trying to be someone I wasn’t. I realized I didn’t want to live that way anymore.

I made the decision (mostly sub-consciously) to start being more like Eight Grade Shelly. The Shelly I once thought I needed to fix, became the Shelly I admired, the Shelly I now strived to be more like. Eighth Grade Shelly was my new idol, my new muse. I was Eighth Grade Shelly’s newest, and greatest, fangirl. I’m smiling and tearing up as I write this, because I know that younger me would be proud. And she’d be so happy to know that someone thinks she’s perfect just the way she is. That she has achieved something, a sense of belonging, that many people spend most of their life trying to obtain. She has lessons I need to learn. She has the key to Present Day Shelly’s happier and more fulfilled life. Those voiced from her peers are the voices of people who do not yet understand that fitting in is detrimental. That being unique is cool. That standing up for what you believe in is important.

These past six months, something has shifted inside me. I’ve started being even more open on social media and this blog. I started a podcast called Vulnerable Views where we talked about, you guessed it, vulnerable topics such as dating and mental health. I’ve started being more honest with myself and others about what my true passions and goals are in life. I joined TikTok and post videos that are about as authentic as you can get. I’ve had people reach out to me to say my videos have helped them or inspired them or made them feel less alone. I really feel like I’ve found a sense of belonging on TikTok, where I’m applauded for being completely myself. I’ve found a sense of belonging in my friends and family, who allow me to be my imperfect self. I’ve finally come full circle back to being that outspoken, silly, talkative, and a bit (or maybe a lot) moody girl I was before. It feels good to belong.

I’d love to hear your experience and opinions on this topic. When was the last time you felt like yourself? Do you think you are belonging or just fitting in currently? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Opening Up About my Mental Health

Opening Up About my Mental Health

Starting when I was about five years old, I used to say to my mom, “I’m sad but I don’t know why.” Even as a child, I recognized the common response to “I feel sad” was “Why?” But what if I didn’t know why? What if that was just how I felt? I can still remember those times so clearly. That feeling of sadness welling up inside me, often seemingly out of nowhere with no real trigger, and the frustration I felt trying to figure out what was causing it. Most of the time, I couldn’t pinpoint any “reason” for my sadness. It was just there. Sometimes it would last for a long time, sometimes it would be gone within minutes. My mom tells me I went through a phase in first grade when I would cry and throw a tantrum every single day. She’d hold me until I regained control.

Some of my most vivid memories from elementary school are of feeling scared about things that, as an adult looking back, most other kids my age probably didn’t even worry about. I started wearing glasses when I was three years old, and I remember every time I would get a new pair of lenses, I would be so nervous the night before going back to school. I thought everyone would make fun of me or say they didn’t like my new glasses or say I looked weird. I remember feeling genuinely terrified to step into my classroom wearing my new glasses. And every time, as you can probably predict reading this, literally nobody noticed or cared. My close friends might notice, and say something like “I like your new glasses!” All my fears were for nothing. The same exact thing would happen when I got a haircut (normally a trim that my dad probably couldn’t even tell the difference after). I can still remember that feeling of panic I experienced every single time, and how I would convince myself that something bad was going to happen. Because I got new glasses or a new haircut.

Fast forward to my freshman year in college. I went through a period where I couldn’t drink alcohol (even just one drink) without ending the night hysterically crying for no apparent reason. Alas, the old “I’m sad but I don’t know why” and regular temper tantrums were back in full force! Aren’t I too old for these? At first I thought the alcohol was to blame, but that didn’t explain the times where I’d go from having a great time with my friends, to feeling irrationally annoyed, or unbearably sad, all while completely sober. Just like I remembered from childhood, these feelings of sadness didn’t appear to have any specific rhyme or reason, and they were often gone in the blink of an eye.

I finally decided to try therapy. The therapist helped me work through and talk about the main things I felt I was struggling with. I had trouble falling asleep at night because I had so much on my mind, I would lay awake worrying about future scenarios, and replaying past events in my head over and over again. Just like I had in elementary school, except instead of worrying about my new glasses or haircut, I was worrying about conversations I’d had or tests I’d taken. I also felt nervous in most social settings, and generally stayed quiet around people I didn’t know. I wanted to be able to put myself out there more, make more friends, and not be so afraid of what other people thought. By the end of my first couple of sessions, the therapist told me she felt I had moderate depression and anxiety, and that I would benefit from medication. The thought of medication scared me, and I decided against it. I didn’t think needed it. Sure, I probably had depression and anxiety, but so many people have it way worse! I had never thought about killing myself, I had never experienced a panic attack. To me this meant it was not bad enough to warrant medication.

After only one semester of therapy, I took a break from it for the rest of college. Partially because I genuinely felt like I was in a better mental place, and partially because it was expensive and I felt bad making my parents pay for it if I didn’t really “need” it. (Note: I’m planning to write a whole blog post about why I think everyone “needs” therapy, so stay tuned for that.) Looking back, I’m not sure that was the right decision. Though I was feeling much better emotionally, and my social anxiety and random crying had all but gone away, without therapy, I found my own ways to fight my demons. And most of them were not healthy or helpful to my healing. I started denying and pushing aside a lot of negative feelings and traumatic experiences I went through, putting them away in a box until I was ready to unpack them. It took me years, up until this past year to be exact, to even start to unpack some of it. I also started some coping mechanisms such as emotional eating, which I am still dealing with to this day. I’m planning to write a separate blog post that goes into that more in detail as well.

Fast forward to my post-grad life, starting about five years ago. I experienced a lot of change all at once: starting my first full-time job, moving out on my own for the first time, and navigating my first serious relationship (part of which was long-distance). Though by most accounts my life was going well, I was suddenly attacked by my old demons. I would get annoyed at my boyfriend for the smallest things, and the annoyance would often escalate into a fit of tears. Unlike my childhood, I could usually pinpoint “why” I felt upset, but the reason didn’t always make sense, and I often felt like my reaction did not line up with the situation. I had moments where I felt like that first grader again, lying on the floor crying, this time with my boyfriend comforting me instead of my mom. I felt totally out of control and at a loss for how to cope with these experiences, and when this pattern continued for several months without getting better, I decided it was time to give therapy another try.

I started seeing my therapist, the same therapist I still see to this day, in the spring of 2016. It’s hard to believe it’s been four years now! What started out as a need to process and try to “fix” the emotional behavior I was experiencing in my relationship, turned into a way to process the countless other aspects of my life, and the many changes I encountered. This therapist has been with me through changes with my jobs, relationship status, living situation, family dynamics, friendships, hobbies, interests. I’ve found it extremely helpful to talk through what I’m feeling and experiencing. There have been times where I wanted to quit therapy because I didn’t feel I needed it, just like I did in college, but I’ve stuck with it and instead of quitting outright, I’ve taken small steps to make changes. While I used to see my therapist once a week, I’ve now cut back to twice a month. Eventually I want to shift to once a month, and then maybe on an as-needed basis.

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me over the past few years, especially when looking back at my childhood and early adolescence at some of what I described in this post, is that my struggle with mental health has not been situational. My mental illnesses have been with me since birth. They’re as much a part of me as the color of my eyes and the freckles on my skin. Feeling sad for no reason and throwing tantrums were possibly the first signs of depression, and my fear and obsession with small changes like new glasses and haircuts was anxiety. Today, I still experience a lot of those same basic feelings and behaviors. There is no cure for them. Small things can feel astronomical to me. I worry about things I shouldn’t worry about. I feel irrationally annoyed and get moody with people I’m close to. I still have moments where I feel like a scared child and I don’t know how to cope. Just yesterday morning, I woke up feeling sad, and, you guessed it: I didn’t know why.

Realizing that my mental health has always been, and will always be, something I have to work on, has been oddly comforting to me. It also allowed me to take a major step in the process of getting myself the help I need: getting on medication. From the first time my first therapist suggested medication, I was terrified of the idea. Maybe it goes back to that fear of the unknown, or fear of change. But about six months ago, I finally found a psychiatrist and started on a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI), which helps me manage my depression and anxiety. It hasn’t been a quick fix or a cure-all. Nothing is. But the way I would describe it is a breath of fresh air. A weight lifted off my shoulders. Small changes every day that help me live my life a bit fuller. I’m no longer quite so bogged down by small changes and decisions. I find I can recognize and move past moments of sadness or fear a little easier. When I feel myself getting irritated with someone, I just let myself feel that and let it pass. The best feeling is when something happens and I react in a way that I know I never would have a few years ago.

I’m writing this post for five-year-old Shelly, throwing tantrums every day for no reason. For ten-year-old Shelly, worried everyone would make fun of her new glasses. For 19-year-old Shelly, ending a fun night with her friends by crying herself to sleep. For 23-year-old-Shelly, brave enough to give therapy a second chance. For 26-year-old Shelly, letting go of the fear and starting medication. And lastly, I’m writing this post for myself, right now, as I am, working on bettering myself and becoming the best version of me, while understanding that there was never anything that needed fixing. That I have always been whole exactly how I am. And that I was always, and will always be, worthy of love and of getting the help I need to feel the best I can feel.

If you’re struggling with a mental illness, or you’re unsure if you should start medication or start seeing a therapist, please feel free to leave me a comment, or reach out to me on Instagram @shellyrayblog! I want you to know whatever you are feeling, you are not alone. And you will get through it. ❤️

Fighting past writer’s block during a pandemic

Fighting past writer’s block during a pandemic

I’ve had a bit of a writer’s block lately. What do I write about at a time like this? So many thoughts and feelings and ideas, but also self-doubt and worry. It’s as if I feel like whatever I write during this time needs to be insightful and sensitive and powerful. Until I have the perfect blog post, I better not post anything. I realized today that I am putting too much pressure on myself, on this blog, even on my readers. You all don’t need to read something that is perfect, right? You just want to read something.

Today I decided to put aside all of my doubts and hesitations and just write. So here I go….

The last blog post I wrote was about my intentions for this year. The funny thing about writing what you want to do in a year is you don’t really know what other factors will come into play. I obviously could not have predicted a global pandemic. I had no idea I would be on my 6th week of not going into work, and of mostly staying home and not seeing friends. I could not have predicted the complicated set of emotions and struggles and coping mechanisms that would come into play for me during this time. We can never predict anything in life, and life sure does have a way of keeping us guessing!

In my last blog post I talked about how the message I want to focus on and manifest in 2020 is confidence. I started the year off strong in this arena by starting my own podcast! It’s called Vulnerable Views, and you can find it on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Podcasts, and Stitcher. This took a lot of confidence to say “I think my voice is worth sharing. I think I have opinions people need to hear.” Putting myself out there in this way has been so rewarding, and I am so proud of myself for doing this project. But I can’t lie and say this pandemic hasn’t made it harder for me to stay confidence and focused on the podcast. “There’s a pandemic going on, do people really want to hear what I have to say right now?” Thoughts like that infiltrate my mind on almost a daily basis, and similarly I wonder the same thing about this blog. I’m trying to set those negative thoughts aside and continue to create, because it makes me happy.

Finding things that make me happy has been another hurdle to get past during this time of social distancing. I’m learning to appreciate the simple things in life like blasting Taylor swift while driving with my windows down on a sunny day; walking around my neighborhood and being active and connecting with nature; talking with friends on video chat and laughing together; taking a hot bath at the end of a long day; seeing my parents and sister (from 6 feet away). For me, writing and being creative has always made me happy, so continuing to write blog posts and create Instagram content and put out new podcast episodes makes me happy as well, so I want to push myself to continue to be creative during this time.

Although I’ve found ways to stay happy, of course I still have my fair share of struggles and down days and moments of sadness and loneliness and fear. One of the biggest emotions I’ve noticed myself having is guilt. Some people have it so much worse than me. I should be grateful I’m healthy and can still see family and am doing relatively well. But the thing I keep reminding myself over and over again is: Someone else will always have it worse than you. That doesn’t mean you can’t feel sadness and loneliness and hopelessness and anger and fear. You can appreciate what you have, while still mourning what you have lost. The two are not mutually exclusive. Beating yourself up or feeling guilty for not appreciating what you have 24/7, or not being happy all the time, is not productive or helpful to you in any way. I keep reminding myself of this, and I think it has finally started to sink in.

I have so many ideas about topics I want to write about in the future, and I hope I can continue pushing myself to write new blog posts in the midst of this traumatic time we are all experiencing. I hope this blog post finds you well, whoever you are. Thank you for reading this and I will talk to you soon!

What Does Self-Care Really Mean?

What Does Self-Care Really Mean?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of self-care recently. It has become quite a popular concept, one that I see mentioned on social media all the time. But what does it really mean? And how do I know if what I am doing is “self-care” or if it is actually having the opposite effect?

I recently had a lightbulb moment where I realized self-care is really very simple. It is anything that makes me feel better, lifts me up, puts me in a better mood. It is anything that helps me recharge, as opposed to something that drains my metaphorical battery. So I started paying attention to what lifts me up throughout my week, and what brings me down.

Things that lift me up

  • Spending time with friends and family
  • Exercising
  • Getting outside on a nice day
  • Crossing things off my to-do list

Things that bring me down

  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Spending time with negative/toxic people
  • Overeating or eating when I’m not really hungry
  • Binging Netflix to avoid responsibilities

I had this moment of clarity last week when I realized, if I just do more of the first list and less of the second list, I should feel better on a daily basis! It seems really obvious, but I think a lot of us, myself included, tend to give in to what we want right now instead of stopping to think about what will actually make us feel better.

For me, self-care is all about treating myself with the same kindness and respect as I would treat others, and keeping in mind my Future Self and how she will feel about the choices I’m making right now. I may be tempted to eat a bunch of junk food when I’m feeling sad, or spend my entire day watching TV, but I know that’s not going to actually make me feel happy. Instead, I could choose to go on a walk or text a friend and ask if they want to do something fun.

My new goal is to take care of myself every day by doing more of what I love, and less of what I know isn’t good for me.

What lifts you up and what brings you down? Leave a comment and let me know!

My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

My Gratitude List: Thanksgiving 2018

I hope all of my United States friends had a great Thanksgiving! I always take the time around this holiday to reflect on what I’m grateful for, and this year I’m happy to say I am thankful for a lot. It’s easy for me to get caught up in what I’m not happy with in my life, and what I wish was different. Writing this blog post has been a great exercise to remind myself of everything I am grateful for. I would encourage you all to write a gratitude list of your own after you read mine! 

  1. I’m thankful for my family, who supports me, inspires me, and loves me unconditionally. My family is so important to me. I know the holidays can be a stressful time for some people who may not get along well with their family, so I’m feeling grateful to have a family I genuinely love spending time with. 
  2. I’m thankful for my friends, both old and new, who I have shared so many fun memories with this year. My friends inspire me to get out of my comfort zone, open up and talk about my feelings, and just live life to the fullest. I have made new friends, reconnected with old friends, and kept existing friendships thriving this year. Friendships really are one of the most beautiful parts of life. 
  3. I’m thankful for a job that gives me opportunities and luxuries that not everyone has. This year I was able to travel to Costa Rica, Seattle, Laguna Beach, and Orlando. I moved into a house and am able to save my money and feel financially stable. No job is perfect, but there is a lot for me to be thankful for with this one.
  4. I’m thankful for my body. I went to a yoga class this morning for the first time in a while, and was reminded that my body is so strong and gives me so much. It’s easy to get wrapped up in how our body looks, but I was reminded this morning that how we feel is so much more important. 
  5. I’m thankful for my mind. I’ve worked hard over the past couple of years to maintain a healthy mind through therapy. Though mental health is always a work in progress, I feel lucky to be feeling relatively healthy in my mind and soul. 
  6. I’m thankful for the city I call home. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and I feel so lucky to still live here now. Every week there are new events going on, from live concerts, to pop ups like the FOMO Factory, to art installations like the Waller Creek Show
  7. I’m thankful for music. I started teaching myself to play the keyboard this year, and have gotten back into singing as well. Music has always been an important part of my life, and I’m happy I’ve found a way to keep up my passion.
  8. I’m grateful for travel. As I mentioned above, I was able to travel quite a bit this year. I’m so grateful for all of the memories, life lessons, and new friendships that have formed from my trips. I can’t wait to travel even more in 2019!
  9. I’m grateful for myself.  I am often my own harshest critic, but deep down I love myself and am so proud of everything I have accomplished, and the person I have become. I’ve heard people say you should be your own best friend, and this year I have really made that happen.
  10. I’m grateful for this blog, and for each and every person who takes the time to read what I write. A little cheesy, I know, but it’s true! I started this blog on a whim almost five years ago, and I am constantly grateful to have an outlet for my creativity, and people who care about what I have to say. 

What’s on your gratitude list this year? Leave a comment and let me know! 

Dealing With Feeling Left Out

Dealing With Feeling Left Out

In my last blog post, I wrote about trying to be more vulnerable. I want share my thoughts and feelings about a variety of topics on this blog, in the hopes that some of you can relate. So with that in mind, today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind a lot lately, which is the idea of feeling left out.

In the spirit of vulnerability, I’m going to start by sharing one of my most vivid childhood memories that deals with feeling excluded. In fourth grade, I had become very close with a girl in my class. We would wear matching outfits to school so we could be “twins”, and were attached at the hip for most of that year. Then suddenly, my friend started spending time with another girl. I noticed the two of them walking to classes together and playing on the playground without me, and I started feeling jealous and hurt. I was worried I was losing my best friend.

I remember one day in particular, we were walking to PE class. I saw my friend and her new bestie walking in front of me. I tried to catch up with them, but they turned around, looked at me, and walked faster to avoid me. Not only did this make me feel even more sad, but it also made me angry. In fact, I still remember exactly how angry it made me feel, and I would argue to this day that is the angriest I have ever felt in my entire life. I was so angry that when we were running laps in PE class a few minutes later, I ran behind Friend Stealer and pushed her down! Or rather, I attempted to push her down. My skinny, weak self only managed to make her stumble.

Moving on to current times, I think social media has only made it easier to feel left out. I recently checked Instagram, only to see some of my friends hanging out without me. Granted, I already had plans that night, but I still got that familiar pit in my stomach when I saw their Stories. Social media makes it so easy to see what other people are doing at all times, so it’s easy to feel left out or get FOMO. When situations like this come up, I notice that my first internal reaction is similar to how I felt in fourth grade. I start to think negative thoughts like, “am I losing my friends? They probably don’t want to hang out with me anymore.”

Now, I want to be clear that deep down, I don’t truly believe those kind of negative thoughts. When I try to take my emotions out of it and just look at the situations logically, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation that does not involve people purposefully excluding me. But that’s the thing about emotions, isn’t it? You really have no control over how something makes you feel. The only thing you have control over is how you choose to react. Luckily, as an adult, I have gained the ability to stop myself from outbursts like pushing someone down when they exclude me. I no longer feel the overwhelming anger building up inside me, but I do still feel the sadness.

Feeling Left Out IG Post.png

When I experience situations where I feel left out, I choose to focus on the positive side of things. I remind myself of all the friends who are making an effort to spend time with me. Instead of letting the negative self-talk consume me, I attempt to change the narrative in my head. I think about all of the fun times I’ve had with friends recently, and remind myself that those fun times aren’t going to end just because a few people hung out without me. Sometimes by just thinking a little more logically about the situation, I’m able to make myself feel a little better.

It’s fascinating to me how, although we undoubtedly mature as we age, we still face many of the same emotional struggles as we did when we were kids. We just learn how to handle them better. Instead of pushing someone down, I’m choosing to get my feelings out in a blog post, and focusing on the positives in life. Yay for being more mature than my fourth grade self!

Do you have any childhood memories of feeling left out? Do you still have moments of feeling that way now? Let me know your experiences in the comments!

Finding my voice: a journey to vulnerability

Finding my voice: a journey to vulnerability

I’ve always been a private person, which I know may surprise some people considering I have a blog, and have talked about fairly personal things on here in the past. But generally speaking, I have a tough time talking to people about the difficult things that I’ve been through or am currently going through. I also have a hard time sharing the exciting and wonderful things that are happening to me. I just tend to keep a lot to myself and process things internally.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to try extra hard to convince myself to share things with people. My earliest memory of this is when I was in second grade, and finally, (after months of her prodding me), admitted to my mom which boy in my class I had a crush on. I can still remember that feeling, of almost sheer panic, as I said his name aloud, as if I was giving away something I could never get back.

Fast forward to my college years, where this pattern continued. I joined a choir my freshman year, and I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me an entire semester to tell any of my friends I was in choir and invite them to one of my shows. About a year later, one of my best friends said to me, “You never tell us anything! I feel like I don’t always know what’s going on with you.” She didn’t say it in a rude or accusatory way, her tone was more of disappointment at the things she was missing out on knowing about me. This has stuck with me all this time, and it’s been a constant reminder for me to try to be better at letting people in.

“It’s very hard to put yourself out there, it’s very hard to be vulnerable, but those people who do that are the dreamers, the thinkers and the creators. They are the magic people of the world.” ― Amy Poehler, Yes Please

Much like my personal life, I think I could stand to open up more with my blog as well. I feel as though you, as my reader, are like college friend, who just wants to truly know me. I want to start letting you in more, to show you the truth of my life, in the hopes that you may be able to relate or at least learn something. I have so many ideas for topics I want to write about, from mental health to relationships, but there’s always a voice in my head telling me “you can’t talk about that. You can’t share that on the Internet!” 

Consider this post my official proclamation that I am going to start ignoring that voice, and start listening to the other voice that’s telling me “Go for it! You have something worth sharing, and people who want to listen.” In the coming weeks and months, expect to learn a lot more about me and the things I believe in. Project Let People In begins….now!

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” ― Brené Brown

Do you have a difficult or easy time being vulnerable with people in your life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

25 Lessons I’ve Learned in 25 Years

25 Lessons I’ve Learned in 25 Years

A little over a week ago I turned 25, and something about this age has made me reflect on everything I have learned in my life up until now. Don’t get me wrong, I know I am still very young in the grand scheme of things, and I have a lot more to learn about this thing called life. But I also feel that I have learned a thing or two on my journey thus far, so I thought I would share 25 nuggets of wisdom today, in honor of the 25 years I’ve been on this earth.

  1. If you’re afraid to do something, I ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” This is what my mom always asks me when I’m feeling nervous. Something about acknowledging what I’m really afraid of helps me think logically about the situation, and often makes me realize there isn’t much to be afraid of in the first place.
  2. If you want to get to know someone better, they probably feel the same way about you. Ask that coworker to eat lunch with you. Reach out to that new friend you just met to see if they want to grab dinner. After all, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
  3. Everyone is too busy worrying about themselves to be judging you. This is something I like to tell myself when I’m worrying too much about what others think of me. If you feel like you made a bad first impression on someone, I guarantee that person is thinking the same thing about himself/herself.
  4. Don’t put things off. If not now, when? I’m just as guilty as the next person of procrastinating, but I always feel so much more satisfied when I get things done. Speaking of which…
  5. Write to-do lists. I write lists of what I want to get done both at work and in my free time. I’m looking forward to crossing write blog post off my list after this!
  6. Try to say yes more. I’ve been testing this out a lot lately, and I’m already seeing positive results. In the last few weeks, I’ve said yes to going on a trip to Costa Rica in April, going to a trivia night for the first time, and attending an event with my coworkers where I ended up making some new friends! But with that being said…
  7. Know when to say no. As much as I am an advocate for saying yes, I have also been working on knowing my boundaries and when I need to say no. For me, that normally manifests when I find myself doing too much for other people and not paying enough attention to my own wants and needs.
  8. It’s important to get “me time” every week. I have a fairly busy schedule between work and my social life, and I’m the type of person that needs time to recharge. That’s where saying no comes in, as I sometimes have to turn down invitations from friends in favor of staying in and relaxing for a night.
  9. The most important relationship you have in life is the one with yourself. Be your own best friend, your own biggest supporter, and your own #1 fan. When you truly love yourself, others will love you even more.
  10. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. I’ve written about this quite a lot. From my time taking an improv class, to starting a YouTube channel, I’ve been pushing myself to do the things that scare me more and more as I’ve gotten older. And the kicker is, I never regret it!
  11. Don’t ignore your passions. Find ways to do more of what you love. A recent example for me is that I’ve started teaching myself to play piano again, after not playing for many years.
  12. Be selfish sometimes. My first instinct is to think about the other person and how they feel or what they want. This is a great quality to have, but I often need to remind myself I deserve to get what I want sometimes too.
  13. Don’t dwell on the past. In the end, this only brings you more pain, and holds you back from truly appreciating what you have.
  14. Always remember to be grateful. When I’m feeling down, I like to remind myself of all of the positive things in my life. No matter what you’re going through, there is always something to be grateful for.  
  15. It’s okay to fail. Nobody is perfect, everyone messes up from time to time. Plus, failures often teach us the best lessons and help us grow more than our successes.
  16. The logical and emotional parts of your brain don’t always agree. Sometimes your head knows something is a bad idea but your heart doesn’t want to listen. Or vice versa. The best thing you can do is just go with your gut instinct.
  17. Spend as much time outside as possible. Nothing makes me happier than going on a walk on a nice sunny day. Nature can truly feel healing at times!
  18. There’s no shame in going to therapy. You always hear people talk about exercising and taking care of your body by eating right, but we still don’t talk enough about taking care of our minds. Don’t be afraid to talk about mental health!
  19. You’ll have bad days, weeks, months, and even bad years. But there is always something good amongst the bad. Focus on the good.
  20. Feelings aren’t facts. Just because you feel one way, doesn’t mean everyone feels that way. At the same time, just because someone feels differently than you, doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Nobody can control how they feel.
  21. Hindsight really is 20/20. It’s the unfortunate truth that situations and events in life become much clearer when they’ve become history. Don’t beat yourself up for not seeing something in the moment. Be thankful you can learn from your mistakes and move on.
  22. If someone annoys you, they probably remind you of yourself. This is a lesson I learned from my dad. We don’t like to see ourselves mirrored in others, which is why opposites can attract in friendships and romantic relationships. Whenever I express dislike for someone, my dad always asks me “what about that person reminds you of yourself?”
  23. Don’t be afraid to let people really know you. I’ve been trying to push myself to share more of my life with friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers who read this blog.
  24. Be fearless in the pursuit of your goals and dreams. I truly believe I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I try to set a lot of goals for myself, both in my personal life and my work life, so I always have something to be working towards.
  25. Never stop learning. I’m sure in the next 25 years of my life I will learn many more valuable lessons. And who knows, maybe I’ll still be sharing them on here!

Thanks for reading! Leave a comment to let me know your thoughts on these life lessons, and share some of your own!

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