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!

A Thank You Letter To myself

A Thank You Letter To myself

Dear Shelly,

Thank you so much for everything. I don’t show my appreciation for you enough, and I want to change that. This letter is a step towards acknowledging everything you’ve done, and everything I’m grateful for.

Thank you for always keeping creativity, writing, connection, and storytelling as a key focus and passion. Thank you for using your creative outlets as a way to not only connect with others, but connect with yourself on a deeper level as well.

Thank you for pushing past fears and stepping out of your comfort zone even when it felt impossible. So many amazing experiences have come from pushing yourself to do the thing you knew you wanted, even if it felt scary.

Thank you for having a caring, kind, giving heart and for always helping others and making an effort to understand how they feel and what they need. You sometimes see this trait as a negative, but it is one of your greatest strengths. It has allowed you to be a great caregiver for children, has allowed you to form strong, lasting friendships, and has allowed you to connect with new people on social media. So many people value your opinions and advice. You have helped so many people feel heard and feel less alone, and you will only continue to do so.

Thank you for remaining positive and optimistic even when everything felt like it was crumbling around you. Thank you for getting me through the dark times, always seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, and being able to daydream about a brighter future. Your ability to get back up after falling down has been such a lifesaver.

Thank you for being my best friend. My support system. The one person I know I’ll always have by my side, and will always be able to count on. I know I haven’t always shown it, and I can sometimes be incredibly critical and hard on you, but I always love you and see you for exactly who you are.

I love you. Thank you for everything.

– Shelly

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!

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.

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!

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! 

26 Lessons I Learned This Year

26 Lessons I Learned This Year

Last year on my 25th birthday, I wrote a post called 25 Lessons I’ve Learned in 25 Years. It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year, but I’m back with a similar post in honor of my 26th birthday. This time I thought I’d share lessons I learned this past year specifically. It was a year of a lot of change and personal growth, so I found it surprisingly easy to come up with 26 lessons I wanted to share with you all.

So, in no particular order, here are 26 things I learned this year:

  1. I learned to embrace all parts of myself, especially the parts I try to hide, suppress, or deny. In Jungian psychology, there’s something called the “shadow”, which essentially refers to the things we don’t like about ourselves. Those personality traits we wish we didn’t have. This year I’ve finally learned to embrace my shadows and listen to the gifts they are trying to give me.
  2. I learned that putting myself first is not selfish. I finally started looking out for my own best interests, and standing up for myself.
  3. I learned I need to take responsibility for my own happiness. I can complain all I want, and feel sorry for myself when things don’t go my way, but at the end of the day I am the only person who has control over how I’m feeling.
  4. I learned that not doing something for fear of failure feels much worse than trying and failing. I had my fair share of “failures” this year, but I also had a lot of moments of courage that paid off. I always regret non-action more than I regret trying and failing.
  5. I learned everyone has a different timeline for their life. My life might not follow the exact same path, or timeline, as my friends. And that’s okay. I believe everything happens for a reason, and I will get everything I want in life exactly when I am meant to.
  6. I learned that every year will bring new friendships. I always like thinking about the people who helped me celebrate my birthday this year, versus last year. Each year brings so many amazing new friends into my life.
  7. I learned forgiving others and forgiving yourself can set you free. Holding grudges causes so much stress, and really weighs me down. This year I finally learned how to let go of the past, from things others have done wrong to things I have done wrong.
  8. I learned to use my voice to stand up for what I believe in, and share my opinions. I spent so many years feeling afraid to be vulnerable and talk about how I really feel. This year I finally realized people want to hear what I have to say.
  9. I learned there’s always someone else going through something similar. Talking about what I’m going through (on this blog, social media, or in person) can help others feel less alone.
  10. I learned therapy and life coaching only gets me so far if I don’t make the effort to help myself. I’m unashamed to say I’ve utilized therapy and coaching this year, and both have helped me a lot. But they are certainly not a cure. I have to find ways to help myself.
  11. I learned feeling better on a daily basis is as simple as doing more of what makes me feel good, and less of what makes me feel bad. One of the ways I’ve started helping myself is by doing more “self-care” which just means doing more of what lifts me up, and less of what brings me down.
  12. I learned most things in life aren’t black and white, and most situations and people are way more complicated than they seem. I changed my perspective on a lot of topics this year by being more open-minded and realizing not everything is as simple as it seems.
  13. I learned that a simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way. There were plenty of times this year where I messed up and was worried I couldn’t fix it. But in my experience, just saying sorry was the key, and people are more forgiving than I expected.
  14. I learned past traumas will follow me until I stop avoiding or suppressing the memories. I finally started acknowledging, and more importantly, talking about past experiences I hadn’t been ready to confront in the past. It really helped to stop bottling it up.
  15. I learned it’s okay to be vulnerable. People really appreciated it when I opened up more this year and wasn’t afraid to be emotional or talk about difficult topics.
  16. I learned I can’t predict or plan how my life will go. I have to just live in the moment. I’ve always been a planner, and I hate not knowing what’s going to happen in my life. But I took a step back this year and learned to appreciate the unknown.
  17. I learned my intuition is almost always right, and I need to listen when that inner voice is telling me something. I’m the queen of second guessing myself, but this year I started to get the hang of trusting myself more and not ignoring my gut feeling.
  18. I learned some of the best memories will be the simple moments. This year was filled with game nights, deep conversations at coffee shops, going on walks with my mom, weekly dinners with my dad, happy hours with friends. The simple times are the moments that stay in my mind.
  19. I learned it’s okay to ask for help. I’m the type of person who always wants to figure things out for myself, and I always feel hesitant to admit I need help. I’m finally starting to break that habit.
  20. I learned not every job will be the right fit, and I deserve to find a job that makes me feel happy and fulfilled. Job satisfaction is something I’m still striving for, and this year made me realize I need to make it a priority.
  21. I learned it’s okay to be single. I was single this entire year, and I learned a lot about myself and finally got to a point of seeing the benefits of being alone.
  22. I learned I want to see as much of the world as I can. Travel is such a passion for me, and I’m glad I made an effort to travel more last year. I intend to do the same in 2019!
  23. I learned being my own worst critic doesn’t do me any good. Beating myself up always makes things worse. I might as well be my own biggest supporter!
  24. I learned exercising and eating healthier really does make me feel better. It seems obvious, but I spent a long time avoiding it and finally started embracing a healthier life towards the end of 2018.
  25. I learned everyone else is just as confused and scared as I am. Whatever I’m feeling at any given time, there are countless others feeling the same way. We’re all just doing the best we can!
  26. I learned a year goes by just like that, so I can’t waste a single day. Here’s to the best year yet!

Which lesson(s) do you relate to the most? What are some lessons you learned this year? Leave a comment and let me know!

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!