An Exciting New Chapter In My Life

An Exciting New Chapter In My Life

How this year has changed me

This pandemic has been challenging in so many ways. None of us were expecting this at the start of 2020. None of us could have predicted this is how our year would be going. I haven’t seen many of my friends in person since my birthday party in early March. I have spent way more time alone in my apartment than I normally would. On top of the everyday anxieties I already face as someone who struggles with anxiety, I have now added a global pandemic to the list of things tone anxious about. It’s fair to say this year caught us all by surprise, and not in a good way.

With that being said, this year has actually been incredible for me in so many ways. It feels weird writing that, and almost a bit selfish. I feel bad saying this year has brought me positive things, when it has brought so much fear and heartbreak to so many others. I’ve always been someone who is able to see the good in any situation; I consider myself to be an optimist, and I am proud of the way I’ve been able to pick myself up and keep going even after the hardest of situations. That is how I am viewing this year. Even though it was completely unexpected, and has brought so many negative things to so many people’s lives, I can’t help but see the positives as well.

For me, this year has brought me the space and time to really work on my self-love, self-care, and just focus on my own needs and passions in life. This year has brought so much clarity for me, I think in part because I haven’t had many of the distractions I used to have. Being forced to spend much of my time alone has been such a great learning experience for me, and has brought a major epiphany about what I want to do with my life, which I’m excited to share in this post!

I have always been someone who, at my core, is a helper and a caregiver. I want to help others, I want to make sure others feel safe, and I care deeply for how other people feel. This has been a blessing and a curse, as it has, in the past, caused me to be quite a people-pleaser and to become too caught up in the opinions and perceptions of others. That is something I’ve worked hard on changing this year. I’ve realized that my caring and selfless nature is a gift. It allows me to build strong and lasting friendships, and it allows me to take good care of the preschoolers I work with. It only becomes a problem when I start to neglect myself and my own needs. Like I said above, this pandemic has given me the opportunity to focus more on myself, and to reflect on the ways I have let me own needs and desires take a backseat in the past.

The new chapter in my life

This time of self-reflection has lead me to have an epiphany about how I want to use my gifts and skills of caring and selflessness to help others, while still helping myself. I’ve decided I want to become a Life Coach, more specifically, a Relationship/Intimacy Coach!

Back in March, I joined TikTok and started sharing my views on topics around relationships, intimacy, and female empowerment. I started hearing from a lot of women who really connected with the messages I was sending out, and who trusted me enough to share their stories and ask for advice. I found other creators who were talking about similar topics, and saw how they used their platforms to make a difference. I realized I wanted to do that too.

I found a woman on TikTok who was a Relationship/Sex coach, and I immediately connected with her videos, and messaged her to find out more about what she did. The idea of becoming a “life coach” was something that had always been in the back of my mind, and it seemed to follow me for a few years, like the universe was sprinkling in hints that this was the path I should take. To see a woman making the kind of videos I could connect with was so inspiring to me, and she told me she had trained and become certified through the Somatica Institute. I did a lot of research on Somatica, and was immediately intrigued. I decided to bite the bullet and sign up for their core training program! This training will run through November, and so far I am loving it. Not only is it a great way for me to get trained on becoming a Relationship Coach, but it is also an incredible personal growth opportunity. I’m learning so much about myself and how to have a happier and more fulfilling relationship in the future.

Once I joined the training program, everything started to click for me. I saw how I could use my passions and interest in topics around relationships and intimacy, to help women who are struggling in those areas. On my TikTok platform, as well as Instagram, and this blog post, I started opening up about my experience with sexual assault and I realized this was an area I could really connect with other women, and focus on helping women like me. My main goals with my coaching practice are to help women let go of the shame, fear, and low self-confidence that comes with being sexually assaulted. I also want to work with women who aren’t survivors, but who have those traits for other reasons. I’ve done so much work, and am continuing to do so much work through the Somatica program, around my own self-growth, and I am so passionate about helping other women live their best lives.

Putting in the work

Over the past few months I’ve worked hard to make this dream of becoming a coach, a reality. As you can see if you browse this site, I’ve updated what used to be strictly a blog site, to now be a website for both my blog and my work as a coach. I will continue to update it and add more details, but I’m loving how it looks so far! I also updated my personal brand on Instagram and TikTok. My username used to be shellyrayblog, and I realized this no longer fit or felt right with the direction I wanted to go in. This blog will always be at the heart of my creative projects, as it was the first thing I started back in 2014. But I wanted to come up with a new name that really embodied who I am now, and wasn’t tied only to a blog. My new name on Instagram and TikTok is….ShamelesslyShelly!

On top of this personal branding work, I’ve also been working hard to spread the word about this new career path, and start talking to women who might be interested in working with me, as well as planning out the types of programs I want to have. Right now I’m offering 1:1 coaching, as well as a group coaching program for sexual assault survivors. You can learn more about the group program on this page!

I’m really excited for this next chapter in my life. I’m feeling the best I’ve felt in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of this year will bring!

Finding my voice

Finding my voice

When I was in middle school, I internalized a message I felt I was receiving from peers: you’re too much. Too loud, too hyper, too goofy, too talkative, too whatever. I started to feel like people didn’t like me. Like maybe there was something wrong with my personality. Even though I had great friends and family who I knew loved me, I started letting the opinions of a few dictate how I felt about myself.

After eighth grade, I switched from my small private school to a large public school. I remember thinking it was my chance to start over, to have a clean slate. I only knew one person at my new school, so I thought I could “reinvent” myself and become the type of person people liked.

I went into 9th grade craving validation. I became shy, quiet, scared to say much or show much of my personality, in case people didn’t like what they saw. I just wanted to “fit in.” When I look back at that time, I feel sad because I realize I had this wall up, too scared to truly let people get to know me for fear they wouldn’t like me.

When I got to college, I started to come out of my shell a bit as the years went by. I was still scared to share my opinions or show too much of myself. I was a “yes person”, always agreeing to what others said or believed. I was still stuck on the idea of being liked, and those old criticisms from my middle school classmates still rattled around in my head.

Starting this blog my junior year during study abroad was my first real step in being vulnerable and truly being myself. My first post shared a personal story I had never shared before, and it was the first glimmer of the personal nature my blog has now. When I graduated from college, I wrote a post about my post-grad struggles, and received a lot of positive feedback from other people who were feeling the same way. That was my first taste of how sharing your story can positively impact others! I liked that feeling. Maybe sharing my opinions, and taking up space, wasn’t so bad! Maybe those middle schoolers had been wrong.

Over the past few years I’ve seen myself open up even more, and slowly start to talk about topics I never thought I would talk about. I hardly recognize that scared, self-conscious young girl who thought she had to be quiet to be liked. I’ve finally realized that “being liked” is completely out of your control. All you can do is be kind and be yourself, and the people that are meant to be in your life and be supportive will find you! I’ve also realized that not only was I depriving others of getting to know me during the time when I had a wall up, but I was also depriving myself. It is so therapeutic to be vulnerable, to connect with people through storytelling and writing and sharing my truth. It can help others, but I think it actually helps me the most.

This path to self-discovery and finding my voice has been slow and painful at times, and I don’t think the journey ever really ends. I can’t sit here and say I feel 100% confident or 100% comfortable sharing my opinions in every situation, and I don’t think I ever will. I don’t think anyone ever reaches that 100%. What I do know is that I feel more myself today than I have for the past 27 years. I feel happy when I get to share my story through this blog, my podcast, and my Instagram, and my new TikTok account.

If you are someone who is still afraid of opening up, letting others in, or speaking your truth, it’s okay! It takes a lot of time and practice and patience. You’ll get there when you’re ready, just like I did.

Learning to love my body

Learning to love my body

I remember the first time someone told me I had “curves.” I was in eighth grade hanging out with my three best friends after an afternoon of shopping. We were all trying on the clothes we’d bought, and while showing off my new jeans my friend said “Shelly, you’ve got curves!” I remember immediately assuming it was a bad thing. “Is that…good?” I asked hesitantly. “Yes! I wish I had curves! I have no hips and no butt, my body basically looks like a boy’s still! You’re so lucky!” I was genuinely baffled by this. I thought my friend’s body was perfect. I wished I looked like her. To me, she was perfect. But evidently, to her, I was perfect.

In high school I started to accept, and even like, my curves. But I started to worry I wasn’t “proportionate” enough. I had big hips and a big butt and a tiny waist like J Lo and Kim Kardashian, but they had big boobs and mine were small. I remember reading magazines giving advice on “dressing for your body type” and I didn’t feel I fit into any of the categories they provided. The “petite” girls were shorter and skinnier than me. The “athletic” girls were taller and more toned. Even “curvy”, a word I had grown to accept for myself, didn’t quite fit. Those girls were bigger than me. Was there something wrong with my body? I just wanted to fit into a “body type”, to feel like I belonged, to feel like my body was accepted by society. The problem with that was a magazine could never tell me I’m beautiful. Society is never going to give me the validation I craved. And even if it could, it wouldn’t matter if I didn’t see it for myself.

When I got to college I started seeking validation from a different source: guys. I started dating and getting more attention from boys and I figured, “If all these guys are interested in me and wanting to date me, my body must look pretty good!” But then when I would experience any sort of rejection, I’d wonder if things would be different if my boobs were bigger or my legs longer or my hips narrower. Just like seeking validation from magazines, seeking validation from others wasn’t really working for me either.

Over the past couple of years I’ve gained a little bit of weight. When I see pictures of myself from college, I find myself thinking “Wow I was so skinny back then! I look so much older and bigger now. Why didn’t I appreciate what I had back then?!” I’ve spent so much time wishing I could look the same as I did when I was in college, even though I’m approaching 27 and I’m a completely different person than I was back then. I’m not the same on the inside, so why should I expect to look the same on the outside? It wasn’t until recently that I started to finally have a new perspective on my body. I started trying to appreciate it and love it for exactly what it is in this moment.

I don’t need my friends to tell me I should love my curves. I don’t need a magazine to tell me what kind of clothes I should wear. I don’t need some guy to tell me I have a hot body. None of that matters if I don’t love my body. If I don’t see it for what it is, which is more than an aesthetic object. My body is my own. My body allows me to pick up and hold and run and play with children all day. My body allows me to do yoga and go on walks and hikes and dance at weddings until my feet are sore. My body is beautiful for so much more than what it looks like. It may have taken me this long to realize it, and it may still be a struggle every day, but I am finally learning to love my body.

What does it really mean to be vulnerable?

What does it really mean to be vulnerable?

Vulnerability is a word you probably hear thrown around a lot, but do you really know what it means? I recently watched Brene Brown‘s Netflix Special, “The Call To Courage”, and it opened my eyes to a new perspective on what it means to be vulnerable. Real vulnerability is achieved when we feel scared but push through the fear and do it anyway. When we feel ashamed about our past, but we choose to talk about it instead of hiding it. When we say “I love you” without knowing for sure if the other person feels the same way.

One of the defining characteristics of vulnerability is the presence of some kind of risk. According to Brene, “Vulnerability is the feeling you get when there’s uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure.” If you don’t feel a little bit uncomfortable or scared in your life, you may not be letting yourself be vulnerable often enough, and this can actually have a negative effect on your ability to connect with others and have a fulfilling life!

One of the main misconceptions about vulnerability is that it is a sign of weakness. However, it’s actually the opposite. As Brene says, “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage.” It takes a lot of courage to be truly vulnerable, because it usually means making a decision that could lead to failure. Asking for a raise, starting your own business, telling someone you have feelings for them. You don’t really know if you will succeed in any of these moments, and in fact, you are likely to fail. But if you never try, that’s the real failure!

In Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on vulnerability, she says the word courage comes from the Latin word cor, which means heart. The original definition of “courage” is: “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.” I absolutely LOVE that definition! I’d never thought of courage that way before, but it makes total sense. It takes great courage to be authentically you, to let people in to what you’re really thinking and who you really are. To tell your story. That’s vulnerability!

One of the main things that hinders vulnerable is shame. Shame is a feeling we all experience, and the only people who don’t have “no capacity for human empathy or connection” according to Brene. We’re scared to be vulnerable, because we’re ashamed of ourselves, ashamed of our past, of our feelings, of our desires. We’re afraid of being judged, of coming across as weak, of not being liked. But in order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to really be seen. We have to harness that courage, push past the fear and shame, and let our voice be heard.

As I wrote about in this post, it’s always been difficult for me to open up to people. This blog has helped me with that immensely, and has been a great source of comfort for me when I need to get things off my chest. Finding my voice and being vulnerable isn’t easy, and I still struggle with wanting to bottle everything up and be the person I think people want me to be. Watching Brene’s special and reading more about her thoughts on vulnerability has been a huge eye-opener for me, and I feel ready to fully embrace my vulnerability moving forward! I know it won’t be easy, but nothing that’s worth it in life ever is.

What does vulnerability mean to you? When was the last time you felt truly vulnerable? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

How to stop breaking promises to yourself

How to stop breaking promises to yourself

Lately I’ve realized I haven’t kept a lot of the promises I’ve made to myself. I tell myself I’m going to do something, and then go back on my word as if it didn’t even matter. I think it’s harder to keep promises we make to ourself because, unlike promises we make to our friends or family, there isn’t another person to call us out when we don’t follow through. We’re on our own and have to have self discipline and will power in order to successfully keep our promise, and that’s not always easy. 

Some of the promises I’ve made to myself that I’ve had a hard time following through on include: 

  • Exercising regularly 
  • Eating healthier/not binging on junk food 
  • Learning to cook and eating at home more often 
  • Writing frequent blog posts
  • Learning more songs on the piano 
  • Journaling and listening to meditations before going to sleep

I keep telling myself I’m going to start doing these things, but then I go back on my word. When I look at everything listed out like that, it can feel overwhelming and I have a habit of starting a cycle of negative self-talk that sounds something like this: “There’s so much I’m not doing! Why aren’t I doing it? What’s wrong with me? At this rate I’ll never accomplish all of this! I’m just going to continue letting myself down!” When I get really overwhelmed I tend to shut down, and decide to just not try. “I can’t do all of this, so I guess I’m just going to do nothing.” 

I’ve recently realized one of the keys to breaking this habit is to go easier on myself. While I do want to hold myself accountable and stop this habit of breaking promises, I know I’m not going to succeed if I’m being overly critical of myself. Instead, I’ve decided to make a goal of following through on at least one small promise every day. I saw the concept in this Instagram post and it really hit home with me. I don’t have to do everything every single day, but if I practice following through on at least one promise, I’ll get in the habit of not letting myself down! Even if the one thing is just playing piano for 10 minutes, or listening to a sleep meditation before bed, I can go to sleep knowing I succeeded at something that day. 

I’ve only employed that concept for a couple days now, but I’ve already noticed a weight lifted off my shoulders. It’s not about doing everything, it’s about putting in the effort to just do something! I got out of my comfort zone and tried two new workout classes, and I listened to guided meditations before bed two nights in a row. I also practiced a song on my keyboard earlier today, and now I’m writing this blog post!

The neat thing is, I’ve noticed once I accomplish one small thing, I feel more motivated to keep going and get even more accomplished. I came home from my workout class tonight ready to knock a few more items off my to-do list, because I knew I’d already kept one promise to myself. On the flip side, if I had skipped the workout and started beating myself up about it, I bet I would have just ended up just watching TV and going to sleep feeling dejected, and would be more likely to do the same tomorrow.

I’m sure I will still have days where I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything, and that I broke all of my promises to myself. And that’s okay, I’m human and can’t expect to be productive every single day. I’m never going to be perfect. But I think making an effort to at least keep one small promise each day will help a lot, and will lead to feeling more satisfied with my life.

Do you have a hard time following through on promises you make to yourself? What are some small promises you think you could start following through on every day? What helps you feel more motivated? Let me know in the comments! 

A Career Change From the Heart

A Career Change From the Heart

For the first time in my career, I made a decision with my heart instead of my head. I took a chance. My intention for this year was to have more courage, and this definitely took a hell of a lot of courage. It’s not easy to make a big change, and I’m so proud of myself! I feel as if a weight has lifted off my shoulders, and I want to shout from the rooftops, “I DID IT!”

A little background

I have always been an over-thinker, preoccupied with wondering if I’m doing the “right” thing. I like to feel like I have everything figured out when in reality I rarely do (nobody does). When I was in college I spent every summer interning at a different company because I thought that was what a good college kid did. All of my internships ended up focusing on social media marketing, so I decided that was what I would do when I graduated.

I still remember my last semester of college as if it were yesterday, frantically applying and interviewing for jobs I felt completely qualified for, only to be rejected or “ghosted” by all of them. In hindsight I wonder if that was the universe trying to send me a signal. “Do you really want to go down this career path or do you just think it’s your only choice?” 

I finally got a job about five months after graduating, worked there for a little over a year, decided I hated it, moved on to another job a few months later, decided I hated it and got fired…I see now it was a vicious cycle I needed to break, but it just took me a while to come to terms with that fact. I think deep down I’ve known for years that social media and marketing wasn’t fulfilling me. I didn’t feel challenged or satisfied, and I felt a sense of dread every Sunday when I thought about going back to work the next day.

A discovery period

I knew I was ready for a change and was optimistic that there was a better career fit out there for me, so when I was fired a few months ago, I took the time to do some soul searching. I applied and interviewed for a lot of different types of jobs, from event planning to recruiting. I was waiting for an epiphany to happen, where I would suddenly realize what I was wanted to do. It felt as if it would never come, but then, when I was least expecting it…

BOOM! Suddenly it all became clear. I want to work with kids! Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved children. Starting around age 10 I worked as a “Mother’s Helper”, then a Babysitter, then a camp counselor. I’m the type of person who will stop and stare at a cute baby on the street before I notice the cute puppy. Being around children brings me a certain joy, similar to how I feel when I’m outside on a beautiful sunny day. When I thought about working with young children, I felt happy. It felt right.

But I was still scared. Am I crazy? Should I really make this big of a change in my career? CAN I really make this big of a change? Will anyone hire me? What if I don’t like it after all? All of these questions ran through my head over and over again, but I knew I had to give it a try.

And boy did giving it a try pay off! I applied and landed an interview, and then a position as a sub, at a preschool here in Austin. They let me try out subbing for a couple weeks to get a feel for the school and see how I liked it, and to see if they thought I’d be a good fit.

The preschool is unique because it was created with a yoga-type philosophy, focusing on social & emotional development, play, and mindfulness. I really resonated with the mission of the school, having gone to the Austin Waldorf School when I was young, which has very similar values.

A new chapter

As of last week, I am officially an Assistant Teacher at the preschool, working with the youngest group, ages 18 months to 2 years! I’ll be completing trainings over the next few months, and will get the opportunity to do yoga teacher training this summer. I love everyone I work with (kids and other adults) and I’m so glad I took this leap!

I feel happy at work. HAPPY. This weekend I actually felt excited to go back to work on Monday. EXCITED. No more of that familiar Sunday Dread. I feel challenged every day, and no day has been the same. I’m constantly learning and growing and observing. I can already tell the kids are going to teach me just as much as I teach them. I’m just feeling genuinely content with where I am, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds!

If you’re feeling unhappy at your job, maybe it’s time for a change. Don’t feel stuck just because you have a certain college degree, or you’ve been doing one kind of job for years. It’s never too late to change course. What do you love to do? What skills do you have? When you close your eyes, what job can you imagine yourself truly enjoying? I promise you have more possibilities than you might think. You just have to be brave!